Thursday, May 25, 2017

Tony Miano Repents (?) of Anger

Tony Miano says he is walking in repentance of unrighteous and consistent anger. Let's just say it comes as no surprise that he has had anger problems for years. I am glad he acknowledges it as sin, but as far as whether the repentance is real and/or anywhere near complete, color me hopeful but unpersuaded. One need only check the archives of this very blog to see his devolution over the course of time, from one perspective.

For his sake, I definitely hope it's true. One reason I'm not optimistic it actually is true is the way he characterises what happened when he moved to Iowa.

"a man who was once a close friend began a relentless and vicious attack against me and Pastor Mike Reid."

Here is the "attack" Miano references. He still apparently doesn't understand that calls to repentance are not attacks. That makes me think that his repentance is either fake or incomplete. He hasn't begun to apologise to any abolitionists, so I'm very skeptical. 

Given what is known about this Mike Reid fellow, I certainly hope that Miano's new soft and loving side isn't due to any weird stuff on Reid's part or any funny business going on with any of Miano's female family members. I wish I were joking.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Vox Day Thinks My Death Is Imminent

The occasionally-interesting bloggings of Vox Day attract my attention from time to time. This post caught my eye the other day and was so beyond the pale of biblical reasoning and human decency that engagement in the combox proved too attractive a proposition to resist.

Vox Day and his Alt-Right/Alt-White/Alt-Whight crowd let slip their racial superiority every so often in a clear and unambiguous way. It isn't just Black Redneck Culture they (rightly) despise. It's that they think that the white ETHNICITY is superior in ways that make segregation essential and wise and miscegenation a sin.

So... apparently a white couple rescuing brown babies from their frozen In Vitro Fertilisation incarceration or from perpetual orphanage is a good reason to mock and accuse of the made-up crime of "cuckery" anyone whose heart is moved by mercy. And my willingness to speak up in opposition to such mockery means this:
I'm thankful at least that anyone reviewing this thread will see who is full of hate and who is full of mercy. Y'all are making it easily visible.

As are you. You won't survive long once the killing season begins. There will be no mercy for your kind.
I paste here my response in particular, but the conversation throughout the combox was interesting and enlightening enough that it may indeed merit review.

1) You don't even know "my kind". All you know is that I take seriously the many biblical commands to love neighbor and to rescue the fatherless from death because we live in a culture of death.
While we're on the subject, though, you Alt-Whight folks keep focusing on one symptom of the problem (with dubious substantiation) rather than taking an axe to the root, which is our society's wholesale denial of Jesus' kingship. You're like "hey we don't want OUR (white) PEOPLE to die" and yet white people are doing a way better job at killing themselves off through child sacrifice than any Muslim invasion ever could.

2) I am well aware that followers of Jesus are promised that death is a very realistic consequence of their allegiance.
And while I'm on THAT topic, y'all are not followers of Jesus. You can mock "(((Judeo-Christ)))" all you want; you'd be smeared in a debate on the topic. It would be zero contest. But OTOH it would be fun and educational. Fun for me, destroying you on the topic of "Alt-Whight is essentially biblical", and educational for errbody else, to see a white-skinned, red-bearded, happily married (to a white woman, since y'all care so much about that) (LOL), monogamous, anti-big government, street preaching Christian abolitionist reconstructionist wipe the rhetorical floor with a proponent of the Alt-Whight position. Educational, because in the minds of many, we are of a kind. But we aren't. You are on the side of the Muslim invaders - you serve the Devil, and I serve the Risen Lord Jesus Christ.

3) I couldn't care less that you think I'd be among the first to be killed in some sort of societal overthrow. Maybe I would be; the Bible believer remembers that eternal treasure lasts a lot longer than the food, gold bullion, and ammo in your bunker. And my Lord and Savior is a lot closer a friend than your militia.

God have mercy on all of you. Do not mock God.
Such a debate would indeed by quite illuminating, yet for all their bravado, I don't expect any of the so-called "Dread Ilk" to show up for it. All their courage is illusory and based on imagined superiority.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Chick tracts

Some abolitionists recently wondered aloud whether Chick tracts are good to use. Here are my thoughts, which can succinctly be expressed in two words: No, no.

1) They feed into the sinner's prayer mentality.

2) They consciously teach KJV Onlyism.

3) The main message of at least two of their tracts is how the KJV is the only legit Bible and all the other ones are evil.

4) Thus when you buy Chick tracts you perpetuate KJV Only ism.

5) And you also perpetuate and reinforce their fundamentalism which is quite literally anti-abolition, for it is a call to remove oneself from the world and take shelter under the pastor and the local church.

6) And if anyone takes a Chick tract and should like it and think "this is good stuff", they would probably have thought the same about a tract that was actually good, and additionally now they might go looking for more Chick materials and fall under IFB sway.

7) The drawings of demons are more like children's Halloween costumes and their conversations are exactly what I'd expect in a 1950's era KJV only IFB church. Pretty much nothing like actual demons.

8) The storylines are clearly trying to be edgy, but, again, 1950s fundy kitsch. They're cheesy and laughable.

9) Thus you educate the culture on what Christians think is actually quality material. If you are handing these out, you are saying "This is material I believe in, and you should too", and so what else are unbelievers supposed to interact with and engage?
Personal anecdote - on a bus in Madrid two weeks ago, I glanced to my right and saw a guy looking up chick dot com on his cell phone. He got off at the same stop as me so once off the bus I intro'd myself and asked him if he was an evangelist, b/c I'm one and am looking for teammates. He said that he is anti-creationist and is into comic books as well, and he uses material he finds on tracts to prepare material counter to creationism.
...
dot dot dot
dramatic pause

So this educated cosmopolitan Spaniard wants to destroy creationism, and the best resources he can find to champion Bible ideas is Jack freaking Chick. It's disgusting and shameful. Chick is a placeholder for actual apologetics, and when people hand out Chick, they are NOT handing out GOOD material that they COULD be handing out.

10) Chick tracts are demonstrably inaccurate in numerous of their anti-Rome tracts. The stuff about how much of the Roman Mass is a direct derivative of Babylonian mystery religion and stuff is dubious at best, and it's not even close to a strong argument against Romish theology. Further, it's needlessly offensive to Romanists.

11) A very substantial number of their tracts pictorially represent God the Father, giving Him a vaguely human form, thus violating the 2nd commandment. God the Father doesn't look anything like that. How do I know? Because He doesn't "look like" ANYTHING. He dwells in unapproachable light, Whom no man has seen - 1 Timothy 6.

12a) I repeat that you could be giving out good material, but if you choose to give out garbage, you are neglecting the good you could be doing.
12b) For cheaper than Chick, you can print out tracts that I wrote myself - I'll give you the file for free.
For prices comparable to Chick, you can get AHAGear quads.
For decent tracts that are 100% free, check out http://www.wmpress.org/read-booklet/booklets-available/

There are no excuses for Chick tracts. I'm sorry to burst anyone's bubble. If you should find one in public, take it for yourself but don't leave for anyone else to find, is my suggestion.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Authority of the (Local) Church, Part 1

The assertion that churches or church leaders carry authority is common among today's Reformedigelical establishment, and, interestingly, is used in much the same way as papist* and conciliarist** plebeians and their overlords/hierarchs to support their claims and counter-claims of ecclesiastical ascendancy. For as much noise as modern Western Reformedigelicals like to make about the Protestant Reformation, their incessant references to "the authority of the (local) church" and "the authority of the elders" when poked in just the right spot and when divorced from a context of engaging in apologetics against papists and conciliarists can be very disturbing, as in doing so they much resemble papist and conciliarist opponents of the Reformation. Are these claims to "authority" and such biblically justified?

In assessing this question, two important questions must be dealt with:
1) Does the Bible employ the word "authority", and if so, how?
2) Does the Bible employ the concept of authority, and if so, how?

The intent of this article is to examine the first question mostly and the second in some ways, leaving more of the second for a later time. Let us examine the words and their contexts that are translated using "authority" or similar words, or which are claimed to express the teaching that "authority" rests in elders/churches and should be exercised in the way that it is claimed they can and should exercise it. Let us begin our examination in this article with Strong's number 1849 - exousia (ἐξουσία). The word is used over 100 times in the New Testament and the KJV translates it with "power" in two-thirds of its occurrences. During my own survey of each occurrence in its context, my classification is that the words are used to express the following ideas:
  1. Apostles have authority to cast out demons
  2. Authority in a confusing sense (from 1 Corinthians 11:10)
  3. Authority in a general sense
  4. Authority in a household, slaves
  5. Authority in the sense of rulers
  6. Become children of God
  7. God has authority
  8. Jesus has authority
  9. Liberty
  10. Military/governmental authority
  11. Paul has authority to build up
  12. Power in a general sense
  13. Power of apostles to impart the Holy Spirit
  14. Power of darkness
  15. Right in a general sense
It is outside the scope of this article to attempt to forward more specific details than these about this word. Suffice it to say that G1849 is actually never used in reference to anything remotely related to church or so-called church officers possessing "authority". The closest categories to this concept would seem to be the fact that the apostles possessed authority/power to impart the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:19, the only NT occurrence in this category) and the fact that the Apostle Paul possessed authority to build up believers (2 Corinthians 10:8, 13:10). This latter point is of course useless to the modern authoritarian unless paired with a robust doctrine of apostolic succession whereby Paul's authority transfers through the generations to 21st-century church officers.

Thus "exousia" gives no support whatsoever to the concept of "church authority" but this is merely the end of the beginning. Let us move now to other NT words that use the same root and deal in similar ideas.

Don't Be Like the Rulers of the Gentiles: Matthew and Mark

Matthew 20:25-28 -
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it (G2634 - katakyrieuō, κατακυριεύω) over them, and their great men exercise authority (G2715 - katexousiazō, κατεξουσιάζω) over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:42-45 -
Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it (G2634 - katakyrieuō, κατακυριεύω) over them; and their great men exercise authority (G2715 - katexousiazō, κατεξουσιάζω) over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Note how the second word (2715) of interest in this pericope has as its root exousia. Here, in the context of inter-Christian relationship, the Lord Jesus instructs His apostles that their posture toward each other is not to be like that of the Gentile rulers, who lord it over and exercise authority over the peons. This is a very important point. Whatever these words mean, they characterise the precise opposite of the way in which Christians are to act toward each other.

Given that, the first word (2634) enriches our understanding even more, as the other two NT occurrences are Acts 19:17 and 1 Peter 5:3.
In Acts 19:17, the possessed man engages in katakyrieuō against (the NASB renders this "subdued") the seven sons of Sceva.
1 Peter 5:1-4 is even more interesting:
Therefore, I exhort the elders older men among you, as your fellow elder (older man) and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over (katakyrieuō) those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders older men; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble".
First, a note on the way I have rendered the passage using "elders older men": the NASB like other translations is inconsistent in its treatment of the Greek word used there, and interestingly translates it with more honesty in 1 Timothy 5:1, where, just as here in 1 Peter 5, the author is drawing a parallel between how those of differing ages ought to act with respect to each other, rather than indicating some sort of ecclesiastical official relationship. The NASB correctly indicates the fact that the passage is referring to older men vs younger men and older women vs younger women. 1 Peter 5 likewise mentions younger men, and with no other contextual mandate to change the translation, the English rendering ought to be consistent; thus "older men".

This passage is often appealed to, however, by authoritarians as a prooftext for the authority of elders. They point to words like "shepherd" and "oversight", which deserve attention at some later point in time. For now, though, let us note that in this passage supposedly about "elder authority", Peter specifically declines to bolster such a notion, reminding the reader about how the Lord Jesus told him and the other eleven that "it is not this way among you". They do not exercise authority among Christians. So whatever "oversight" and "shepherd" mean in this context, if anyone should assert that they have anything to do with "authority", they have all their work in front of them. Peter uses the very word that Jesus used and which carries a strong relation to the word most clearly translatable into English as "authority", and denies that is what anyone ought to be doing. As a helpful reminder, he drops an Old Testament quote, commanding all to be humble rather than proud, for allocating oneself authority is most unquestionably an exercise in pride, especially when Jesus kept saying stuff like "serve others", "don't take the best seats", "it is better to serve than to be served", and "don't call other people 'Father'".

Don't Be Like the Rulers of the Gentiles: Luke

Luke 22:25-27 -
(Jesus) said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over (G2961 - kyrieuō, κυριεύω) them; and those who have authority over (G1850 - exousiazō, ἐξουσιάζω) them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves."
Note basically the same words are used in this passage, in a slightly different form. They are used elsewhere in the NT, though, so let us take a look.

2961 is used in the following texts:
  • Romans 6:14 - For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
  • Romans 7:1 - Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?
  • Romans 14:9 - For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:24 - Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm.
  • 1 Timothy 6:15 - which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords...
1850 (reminder: the same root word as 1849, exousia) is used in:
  • 1Co 6:12 - All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.
    1 Co 7:4 - The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
What do we see from this passage in Luke 22? Whatever it looks like to be mastered by sin, to be under the jurisdiction of the law, to be under the Lord Jesus, and whatever it looks like to have authority over the body of one's spouse is the opposite of how any Christian ought to relate to any other Christian, according to Luke 22. Note also how 2 Corinthians 1:24 contains Paul's explicit denial that he would act this way toward anyone else - Paul, an apostle of the Lord who wrote half the New Testament.

Note also Jesus' reference to the disingenuous way in which Gentile overlords demand to be addressed. He says they insist on being called "Benefactors", just like authoritarians insist on disingenuously referring to their ideas of elders/pastors as "servant leaders" and simultaneously demanding that all acknowledge the authority of the same to tell the Christians under them how to believe and how to act.

"With All (Commandment)" - Titus 2

Another candidate for the distinction of authoritarian prooftext is Titus 2:15, which verse the NASB renders thus:
These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority (G2003 - epitagē, ἐπιταγή). Let no one disregard you.
Let us examine the way the NASB renders the other NT occurrences of this Greek word.
  • Romans 16:26 - but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith;
  • 1 Corinthians 7:6 - But this I say by way of concession, not of command.
  • 1 Corinthians 7:25 - Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy.
  • 2 Corinthians 8:8 - I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.
  • 1 Timothy 1:1 - Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope,
  • Titus 1:3 - but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior,
  • Titus 2:15 - These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
It is unclear how such a verse buttresses the position against which we are arguing here. Notice first how Titus is specially designated for the task in Crete by the Apostle Paul because of a specific situation - a domination of false teachers and widespread confusion about the actual content of the apostolic message. Titus was given particular authority --yes, authority-- for this mission, by a guy who actually has authority (and yet still disdained using it to lord it over people - see above comments on 2 Corinthians 1:24) by virtue of being a legitimate prophet of God during a time when people were receiving prophetic revelation to write Scripture. But nobody's pastor today was given authority by a prophet, very few modern situations are particularly analogous to Titus' in Crete, and even if they are, the argument still falls apart because Titus was supposed to correct doctrine with the tool of the apostolic message, not make stuff up from his own "authority" - delegated authority to repeat what God has already said. Thus the authority, crucially rests in the message, not the messenger.

Further, "with all authority" is a pretty questionable way to render a word that six other times was translated as "command(ment)". It is even more questionable when one remembers that the same word is translated "commandment" in Titus 1:5. The problem is not that there is some enormous difference between the concept of "commandment" and "authority" or that "authority" wouldn't also fit in Titus 1:5. The problem is that the idea the word expresses is not what the modern ecclesiastical authoritarians mean when they say "church authority". Thus a misleading translation leads to poor conclusions that actually contradict other passages that are not poorly translated.

Conclusion

Thus upon biblical examination, we find the phrases "church authority", "authority of the local church" (which local church, by the way? I always wonder that), and "authority of the pastor(s)/elder(s)" to be without biblical support. The last stands for the authoritarians would seem to be Hebrews 13:17, which passage is covered in detail here and found to be of no help to the authoritarian position, and 1 Thessalonians 5:13, which uses the word proïstēmi (προΐστημι). I intend to examine this word and its usage in a later article. In the meantime, please stop using those phrases and stick to biblical terminology when discussing these matters. They are too important to either make up terms out of thin air or to use language loaded with such heavy baggage. Ad fontes!



*Also known as Roman Catholics, but of course they are not catholic. "Papist" or "Romanist" is a preferable general appellation.
**Also known as Eastern Orthodox, but of course they are not orthodox. "Conciliarist" or "oriental/eastern conciliarist" is a preferable general appellation.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

To Whom the Epistles Were Written

An important support of the modern phenomenon of excessive emphasis on visible local churches at the expense of the doctrine of the Invisible Universal Church is the allegation that the epistles of the New Testament were written to visible local churches and thus that the New Testament doesn't make sense without keeping this in mind. "Paul wrote to the (local) church at Corinth/Rome/Colossæ," they say. "That means local churches with identifiable leadership, membership, and schedule," they say. If they're really bold, they throw in "...and street address." Let us examine, though, whether this is actually the case.

TWO KINDS OF PEOPLE, TWO CHURCHES

The Bible teaches that two kinds of people exist in the world - those who remain in slavery to sin and the devil, darkness, and rebellion, who are headed for Hell, and those who are redeemed, born again, liberated from sin unto slavery to Jesus Christ, repentant, and being sanctified during their lifetimes by the Holy Spirit until the Lord rescues them from this body of death and takes them to repose and later a sure and final victory.

These in the latter category constitute what is known as The Invisible Universal Church, that ekklesia/assembly/congregation spoken of in passages such as Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 5:23-32, Colossians 1:18 and 24, and 1 Timothy 3:15.

And when these slaves of Christ gather together, the New Testament also labels that gathering an ekklesia. In a vacuum, that is an obvious sort of thing, for obviously those who have been redeemed from the useless things of this present world would want to fellowship and worship and serve with other believers on a regular basis for many reasons, not the least of which is that the New Testament commands such. But there is a problem - not all who profess slavery to Jesus are indeed His slaves. False conversion and profession are significant enough problems that they merit many mentions in passages such as Matthew 18, 1 Corinthians 5, Galatians, Titus 3, 2 Peter, 1 John 2, and Jude.

Specifically, 1 John 2:19 informs us:
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

Galatians 2 explains further:
Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

False brothers sneak in, sent and inspired by the devil and other fleshly motivations. This is an ubiquitous phenomenon. But how to identify them, and what should be done once they become known?

CONVERGENCE OF THE TWO CHURCHES - DISCIPLINE

The New Testament describes and prescribes various elements of a process usually labeled church discipline. Those people in whom the spirit of God is at work will indicate by the fruit of their lives and of their professions that they belong to Jesus and not to themselves. But if the fruit is not in accord with the profession of faith in Jesus, the profession is to be considered a false one and the person is to be taught closely, reprimanded, and eventually expelled from the assembly if they continue without repentance. Thus, the spies of the devil, as it were, lose their access and influence among the people who truly do belong to Jesus.

However, it can take time first to identify, then to gather evidence and bring to bear witnesses, then finally to confront, teach, rebut, and ultimately expel from the fellowship a person who proves by their life and profession to possess an unrepentant spirit. Sometimes these false brothers can even remain concealed for many years, which means that there exists an excellent chance an unregenerate person is gaining and exercising influence in any given local assembly, of which fact Paul and Peter were doubtless aware.

DEPRAVITY

If these Epistles are written to everyone, both lost and regenerate, then the Apostle Paul is engaging in communication and activity that just doesn't make sense. Do Paul and the Holy Spirit who breathed out His Word through Paul expect unbelievers to act like believers and to be devoted to Christ? Do unbelievers warrant being addressed with passages like these?

Galatians 3:3-5 -
Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain— if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith...?
Do unbelievers hear with faith? Has the Spirit been supplied to them? Have they begun by the Spirit?

Romans 6:17-18 -
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness...
Romans 8:9 -
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
This is important because the New Testament describes over and over the fact that people who are not regenerate simply can not submit to God nor even understand his word very well.

For example, 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 -
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.
These "natural (men)" are otherwise known as outsiders, those whom the Apostle Paul reminds us we are not to judge in the same way nor by the same standard as those inside the church; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 -
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.
To expect an outsider, a natural man, to grow in holiness and grace, knowledge of the Scripture, and zeal for good works as defined by the Scripture, is a complete category error. Natural men don't even understand much of that, much less desire to be made like Christ in their behavior, priorities, and dealings, so the principal emphasis between Christian and unbeliever must be on repentance, the change of mind and heart that accompanies regeneration by the Holy Spirit, transforming a natural man to a spiritual one. You must be born again.

Let's turn our attention now to a different angle of this matter.

EXPLICIT GREETINGS

To whom did the epistolary authors send their letters? Let's find out from their own pens:

Romans 1:1Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God...7to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.

1 Corinthians 1:1Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:
  3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  4I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia...7and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

Ephesians 1:1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:1Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.

Colossians 1:1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae.

1 Thessalonians 1:1Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. 2We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; 3constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, 4knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you.

2 Thessalonians 1:1To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; 4therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.

1 Peter 1:1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood...

2 Peter 1:1Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ...

Notice how each letter is sent expressly to people whom the author identifies as born again people. There can be no doubt by the way he describes them each time - saints, faithful, obedient to Jesus, hoping in Jesus, being chosen by God, etc. All these descriptive phrases are indicative of the intended recipients of the letters - the regenerate, people in the Invisible Universal Church. Surely Paul and Peter didn't momentarily forget the concepts related to the natural/unregenerate/lost man and spiritual/regenerate/reborn man dichotomy as they were writing their opening salutations.

Consider the man who was committing immorality with his father's wife, described in 1 Corinthians 5. He was still part of the local assembly just as much as anyone else at the time Paul wrote the epistle, and that is why Paul had to specifically tell the rest of them to expel him from their midst. So, are verses 4-8 of 1 Corinthians 1 true of this man?
I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Was this man enriched in God? Was the testimony concerning Christ confirmed in him? Was he a partaker of spiritual gifts? Was he awaiting eagerly Christ's revelation? Was there any reasonable expectation he would be confirmed at the end and blameless? No! The epistle is partly about this man, not written to him. And he was just as much part of that local church (if you will) as anyone.

I have omitted Galatians because the opening salutation is so short and the Apostle Paul is clearly engaging in internal debate during the course of the letter as to whether the Galatians are indeed born again, for regenerate people will not ultimately fall prey to deadly heresy and go so far as to deny the very Gospel itself while affirming the sufficiency of the quality and saving power of their own works in the sight of a holy and jealous God, thus revealing they consider the cross of Christ to be devoid of power, a mostly needless gesture on God's part.

WHO IS ADDRESSED


Obviously it would be very strange to propose that these epistles are addressing anyone other than true believers. And that's the point here. To address "a local church" like, say, the church at Galatia is to address:
1) some people who were true believers and who were standing firm,
2) some who were true believers but who were wavering (in whom the Spirit of God had not yet brought to completion His work of sanctifying them unto rejection of the false Judaiser gospel),
3) some who appeared to be true believers but who would soon follow after the Judaisers and leave the truth, and
4) the obvious false teachers which were the Judaisers themselves.

Yet none of the content of the epistle is addressed to the two latter groups. It is about the three latter groups and is only addressed to the two former or at best the three former, the people whom Paul considers to be possibly (or certainly) truly regenerate.

So, since the epistles are addressed to the regenerate and not the unregenerate, and given that virtually every local church contains some unregenerate people, how can we say that they are written to local churches rather than to the Invisible Universal Church, or if you prefer, to the very people of God no matter where they are?

Even those who insist that these epistles were written to local churches do not act like it, for they take the commands and proscriptions therein to be applicable across the ages to their own local church context thousands of miles and thousands of years away. They aren't part of the church at Ephesus during the 1st century, yet they read Ephesians 1 and deduce Calvinistic election and Ephesians 5 and infer proper marital roles and 1 Thessalonians 4 and see a teaching about the Rapture. But these letters were not addressed to these modern folks making these deductions!

Or were they? Did not the Holy Spirit know that they would be read by all, even far removed from the original recipients, by time and distance? Why then did the Holy Spirit take such pains to warn readers of the fact that false conversion is a thing, that false conversion sometimes takes a long time to recognize, and that often it would require significant sacrifice and determination (not to mention painstaking time and procedure) to root it out? And yet He speaks to the regenerate about the unregenerate. Why? Because He intends His message for those who are truly His children, not those who hate His children but are pretending to be His children so they can destroy His children.

Thus in reality, one who agrees with the argument as laid out in this article holds to a higher doctrine of the church than one who disagrees, for I am denying that God sent such important information as New Testament letters to people who hate Him and deny His Son.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

CARM Recommends Church Repent Exhortations

Let me say this up front - CARM does a lot of good work and is a blessing for the most part to the people of God. And I come here to praise CARM even now!

On CARM's "Tracts" page, they suggest the following:
Tract to pass out at a church regarding women pastors - A free tract, double-sided, 8.5 x 11, to pass out in front of a church that would support and/or have women pastors.


Read that again - to pass out in front of a church. CARM's tract page is offering free resources for Christians to take it upon themselves to defeat misinformation and challenge unbiblical ideas "out in front of a church". There is no way to interpret this suggestion than that they have in mind that a Christian would take a stack of these materials to the sidewalk in front of a church building before, during, or after a "worship service" (most probably Sunday morning) so as to distribute them to the congregants either going in or coming out.

Which sounds suspiciously like exactly what abolitionists do when exhorting churches during so-called "Church Repent project" activities.

The page lists no caveats along the lines of checking with elders/pastors/overseers/bishops before taking such radical and visible action. The page does not suggest double-checking whether said church "preaches the Gospel" before taking to the sidewalks in front, dissenting literature in hand. It simply and commendably suggests you download, print, locate, and go. Sounds to me like an excellent idea. But see, plenty of other people (including people associated closely with CARM in many ways) have objected, sometimes vociferously, to abolitionists' exhortation of churches. They say it lies about the church to the world. They say it is divisive. They say it makes abolition into the Gospel. On and on, with objection after objection which we abolitionists have defeated and refuted countless times; it never matters to these people that they have lost the argument. It only matters that they be seen in public standing against such wicked people who want the church to be salt and light. We abolitionists must be stopped!

Which is why it's confusing to me that CARM recommends the same thing abolitionists do, but nobody is crawling all over the Interwebz to denounce CARM the same way they denounce abolitionists. One wonders why not.

One might object:
But a church with women pastors doesn't preach the Gospel!

Such a proposition overlooks five key items:
1) Many churches hold to mutually inconsistent doctrines, where one doctrine is biblically legitimate but another one, simultaneously adhered to, is unbiblical and also, taken to its logical conclusion, vitiates and denies the aforementioned biblical doctrine. One example - the biblical doctrine of the exhaustive knowledge of God of all things, past, present, and future, and the unbiblical doctrine of libertarian free will. A second example - the biblical doctrine of Sola Scriptura and the unbiblical doctrine of ongoing authoritative prophetic revelation. A third example - the biblical doctrine of Sola Scriptura and the unbiblical doctrine of refusing to countenance the possibility that your elders/pastors/overseers might be wrong about something significant. Many people hold to both. They don't even acknowledge or understand that they are at odds.
2) Many of the same objectors to the so-called Church Repent project contend that "preaching the Gospel" signifies that the church in question teaches sola fide and the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, while holding at least to some semblance of substitutionary atonement. Plenty of churches with women pastors teach such. Churches in the charismatic strains are examples of this.
3) One of the major biblical proofs against the idea of women pastors is that the so-called "lists of qualifications" for overseers in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 seem to assume that only men are in view, for it is, admittedly, difficult to imagine how a woman could be the husband of one wife.
Yet male-ness (or, if you will, husband-ness) is merely one of the qualifications in those passages. Many other churches have pastors that are not above reproach, not only-once-married, neither temperate, prudent, hospitable, nor temperate. Many are addicted to wine or pugnacious, many visibly love money, many do not keep their children under control, many are conceited, and many are lousy teachers. What makes female-ness the deal-breaker?
4) This literature is even for churches that "support" women pastors, not just churches that employ them, thus widening the scope even more of but-that-church-preaches-the-Gospel candidates for exhortation.
5) In the vast majority of churches, not a single person has ever preached one single time.

Now, perhaps nobody or virtually nobody has ever actually followed CARM's recommendations as given on this page, using this downloaded material. If they had done so in a halfway visible manner, especially if they were to leverage social media to publicise and expose their actions to the watching world, perhaps the same folks who gripe about abolitionists' Church Repent actions would use the same criticisms against CARM and those who followed CARM's advice.

Then again, maybe they would not. You see, this isn't about CARM at all. Again, CARM is giving good advice and providing useful material unto godly actions for Christians to do. As a matter of fact, I'd personally argue that following CARM's recommendations here would be a much better use of time than attending most Sunday morning "worship services". Of course, one could simply take one Sunday per month to spread this propaganda to churches with women pastors while attending Sunday services the other three or four Sundays per month.

This is about those who complain loudly, demanding to know how abolitionists dare exhort fellow professing Christians outside their church buildings on Sunday mornings to love and take action to protect their preborn neighbors who are being regularly destroyed, 3500 per day, in the United States. Abolitionists are smeared with labels such as "cultist", "apostate", "wicked", "divisive", "Pharisaical", etc for daring to do such a thing, for daring to attempt to disturb the complacent status quo. Yet when CARM suggests doing the same thing vis-a-vis women pastors, nobody says anything. Could this be because there exist double standards in the minds of most critics of the so-called Church Repent project? Because CARM gets some sort of pass in their minds for whatever reason?

To be consistent, James White, Jordan Hall, Jon Speed, Marcus Pittman, and the other critics of the CR project should call CARM a bunch of wicked divisive apostate cultists Pharisees. All the more because CARM recommends such drastic action as this in the face of what is, let's face it, a minor matter relative to the ongoing slaughter of innocent children in this nation. If it is evil to exhort "Gospel preaching churches" about their abortion apathy, it must be doubly evil to exhort them because their pastor is the wrong sex.

All this does make me wonder though - what does Jon Speed think of it? When it comes to speaking out against pastrices, I mean, where is the church?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Interactions With Fred Butler, ShepCon Repentance

All too predictably, Grace To You employee Fred Butler became very upset when abolitionists suggested out loud that the vast majority of pastors in the United States probably need to repent of abortion apathy on some level, and did so in person just outside the property of his boss' church buildings during the famous Shepherds' Conference 2017. That's the same church whose buildings thousands attend for Sunday service and which is located less than 10 miles from no less than three abortion facilities with empty sidewalks all 'round them all week long, week after week.

Let's give credit where due - at least Fred accepted one of the abolitionist pamphlets instead of flatly rejecting them like the majority of church people do. At least he put up the initial impression of wanting to be a Berean. Unfortunately for him (and everyone), the Bereans are praised in Acts 17 not only because they examined the Scriptures but also because they came to correct conclusions regarding the Scriptures they were reading and the oral message the Apostle Paul and his team were delivering. Fred at least gives it a shot but ultimately fails in his alleged quest for biblical accuracy. With respect to the contents of the pamphlet, see the review here and an abolitionist reply here.

In light of the fact that I think it is 51% probable that my comments on Fred's relevant note will be deleted, I reproduce the conversation here in which Fred and others discuss their badly skewed and groundless opinions about what AHA is and who abolitionists are. Thankfully, Pulpit & Pen's supposed chief editor (the real chief editor is Jordan Hall), Jeff Maples, stopped by to demonstrate that he, like Jordan, never understood AHA either despite his repeated claims to have been an abolitionist. It's always gratifying when "abolitionists" expose themselves as pro-lifers, ecclesiolaters, and willing deceivers in public so as to reduce the likelihood they deceive anyone else.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Jason Wallace Misrepresents Abolition

Jason Wallace is a religious service provider at an OPC branch in Utah. Unsurprisingly, James White mentioned him specifically as a personal friend in a recent Dividing Line program. In recent social media interactions he has shown himself to be, much like Rich Pierce, a closed-minded sower of division who cares not at all when he willfully misrepresents servants of the living God despite numerous corrections.
Since I'd say the odds favor his eventual deletion of one of the notable threads in which he amply demonstrates his evil thinking, I'll reproduce it here. First, though, his 13 objections to AHA, which will be followed by rebuttals.

UPDATE: Before the fold, though, I'd like to throw in a sideways sigh toward JD Hall, who refers obliquely to this article in his copy+paste of Wallace's 13 points.

He even mentions me specifically and the fact that I criticise the points here, but unsurprisingly doesn't link here so people can evaluate the 13 points and their rebuttals. He does take time to make the assertion that my statement that "Virtually all abolitionists are part of faithful visible churches" is a "laughable inaccuracy", and of course, though he has been corrected on that many times, gives no indication that he cares about correction, truth, or fairness. Nor does he give any evidence that the statement is inaccurate, let alone laughable.
And since JD reads this blog, I will now make another plea to him directly: Jordan, let us be brothers again. You invited me over to your house! You left me alone in your house where I had access to anything I would have wanted to steal or sabotage or whatever you think a dangerous church-hating cultist might do. You called me "closer than a brother" in public not long after, and then less than two months later were tossing me aside in public as a cultist. I guess better a cultist than a jihadist...

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tony Miano Sinning Against Abolitionists Yet Again

The hate is strong with this one...



A commenter on the video says:
Watching this video with a purely analytical eye, here's what I see. A man is reading the Bible out loud, apparently to himself. A person walks up and says, "That's for you," interrupting him to the same degree as a Denny's waitress, a church usher, or a StarBucks barista delivering a latte (and who hasn't read their Bible in a coffee shop?). The man is neither annoyed nor offended by this and is about to return to reading the Word, when a second man also interrupts the reading to inform the first man that he has been given an unwelcome tract. Instead of proceeding with the reading (you know, out if respect for God's word) the first man then himself interrupts the word of God, having apparently decided that it would be in the interest of the greater good to pause and use the moment as a platform to make accusatory statements about the philosophy represented by the person who initially said, "This is for you."

Very true.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A street preacher's thoughts on "BLM are racist thugs" at the University of Oklahoma

On November 16, 2016, two street preachers of some infamy appeared on the campus of the University of Oklahoma to make a name for themselves. I am to some extent familiar with these men as we run in some of the same circles both in real life and on social media. I am compelled to offer some commentary based on a great deal of experience in similar situations, as a preacher, as an alumnus, and as an outside observer, given that the behavior, speech, and underlying theology of these men are awful and the student, faculty, and police response was approximately equally bad. The astute observer is thus left dismayed at how the main victims of the day were truth and righteousness.

First and foremost, any cursory review of my social media presence will reflect that I do frequently engage in street preaching and other community agitation. I stress here that I refuse any and all brotherhood or fellowship with men such as these, and I have done so for a long time (see here for a collection of links and videos substantiating such, notably this video), even to the point of experiencing challenges in mutual friendships I hold with other men whose discernment I would call dangerously immature. I have come into conflict with Larry Street, the preacher wearing a cap and sunglasses, while I was preaching and he was preaching at an Oklahoma City Black Mass. I first met "Brother Jim" Gilles around 1997 when he was preaching in front of OU's Dale Hall and I was a student at OU. As his preaching then is about the same as it is now, I rebutted him in public, especially on his claims that he no longer sins, that he is sinlessly perfect. My arguments were not wrong back then as far as I remember, but I have learned how better to combat ideas such as his in the 19 intervening years.

I have no part with these men and believe them to be dangerous false teachers. Their main message amounts to "stop sinning, sinner", which is far from the content of the main message of the Bible. As if his public proclamations weren't sufficient, Street's Facebook profile is even facebook.com/StopSinning. Gilles for his part denies numerous fundamental biblical doctrines, such as the doctrine of the Trinity. He affirms that works of man (such as water baptism) (in the name of Jesus only, by the way) are necessary pre-requisites for justification, the new birth, the forgiveness of sins, thus perverting the Gospel; in short, he is a Oneness Pentecostal, a heretic. In addition, as mentioned previously, he exalts himself as a sinlessly perfect man, rather than exalting the cross of Christ, thus setting himself up over all the holy men and women recorded in the Scripture (the best of whom, apart from Jesus Christ, are said to be righteous/blameless, which is not equivalent to sinless perfection) and violating numerous Scriptures, not least 2 Corinthians 4:5 and Galatians 6:14.

In keeping with their strategy of self-exaltation, these men consider that attracting a large crowd is an end that justifies whatever means required to achieve it. This is why Jim wears t-shirts declaring "Allah is Satan" with red dashes oozing drops of blood near the neckline, saying "cut along dotted line". This is why they print up needlessly offensive signs such as "BLM are racist thugs" and take them out in public. Their main interest is not to glorify Jesus Christ by saying the things Jesus did and acting the ways He acted. Neither Jesus nor the apostles nor the prophets are ever recorded taking a relatively minor societal movement and making it the centerpiece of social agitation. Rather, they generally focused on major, enormous sins that were common to most or all of society, such as child sacrifice, and often proclaimed the biblical response to that evil, the cross of Christ, repentance of sin toward God, the resurrection of Christ, and taking up one's cross to follow Him, leaving behind worldly ways.

Clearly their main desire is to puff themselves up and make people angry rather than to exalt Christ. That is one reason why they took cynical advantage of the shallow idiocy of the majority of our modern culture, leveraging the foolish Black Lives Matter movement and the mass of emotion surrounding it, to criticise the few leaders of that movement. This is not an objectively persuasive argument; while the message on the sign is true in the main, it is irrelevant to the justice of the BLM cause. Far better to demonstrate the hypocrisy inherent in the BLM ideology vis-a-vis its behavior, such as how BLM demonstrators usually take the most action after an incident of supposed police brutality while ignoring the fact that 1/3 of all black babies are aborted in the USA every day. No, they chose to restrict their offense to that which they calculated would maximise the emotional overload. They even calculate the way they talk and the things they say (such as "I don't let women tell me what to do") to enrage and trigger brittle, immature people.

Note also the (unsurprising) inability of liberals to respond in any substantive way. University president and former US Senator and governor of Oklahoma David Boren felt the incident important enough to address the mob in person, which is interesting in and of itself. Boren's speech is full of inane lib-speak. Consider these paraphrased nuggets:


"OU is a family."

A family which one pays to be part of. A family in which sexual assault and immorality are rampant. Hazing, drunkenness, hatred, opposing factions, totally opposite worldviews... apparently families exist where someone merely proclaims they exist.

"These preachers have no right to be here."

Yet the university is public, supported by Oklahoma taxpayers like Larry Street, and its outside spaces are a traditional public forum for free expression of ideas. On what basis does Boren remove that right?

"They preach division."

Jesus did too. Boren conveniently ignores those passages of Scripture so that he can put forward his own ideas of the foundations of unity and what unity is supposed to look like.

"I request as a human being - leave."

Apparently it is "human" and good to plaster over divisions and perpetuate ideas of false peace.

"Diversity is our strength."

The amazing irony is evidently lost on Boren as he preaches diversity while removing dissenters from the grounds of the public university by threat of force. This is the oft-observed tolerance of the intolerant. Diversity for me, not for thee.

Of course, it should surprise no one whose eyes are open that liberals have no good, grown-up answers to problems like police brutality or racism; nor can they countenance enormous problems like the abortion genocide against black people. Yet the saddest part of this entire episode is the response of "Christians" to these preachers of wickedness. It is no surprise that a church culture that itself won't even try to offer real answers to systematic child sacrifice has prepared none of its 20 year old students to deal biblically with men and situations such as these, but it is heartbreaking. That the church people see fit to stand with the liberals and say the things they are saying tells us all we need to know about the health of the churches.

At some point an apparently professing student-athlete and church person by the name of Najee Bissoon stood up to take the megaphone. His message? "There's only one thing that can conquer hate, and that's f*cking love."

As that sinks in, consider that he apparently went on to lead a post-mob prayer circle in which they repeated the same liberal nonsense that Boren had affirmed, frosted lightly with christianoid verbiage. Very little in the way of biblical response is in evidence. Bissoon himself barely even blushed to offer his obscene reply to the preachers' words, yet put himself forward and allowed his to be seen as the Christian and commonsense response. Whether dropping an F-bomb in public in the name of Jesus is as bad as preaching what Larry and Jim preached is beside the point. Bissoon showed what is in his heart (Luke 6:45). When under pressure, it wasn't Holy Spirit that was squeezed out; it was wicked, foul language. I hope someone has gone to Bissoon to call him to repentance, as the profanity came out of him smoothly, by all appearances after much practice. I wonder why no Christian stood up to oppose these men and preach a message of true fidelity to Jesus' Gospel, neither partaking in the lies of the culture as encapsulated by President Boren nor the lies of self-righteous religion as demonstrated by Larry and Jim.

As one who ministers fairly regularly in roughly the same spot as these men used, I wonder now how this incident will affect other preachers like me going forward. Usually agitation at Dale Hall goes without opposition from campus police. Apart from that question, how will the student population be pre-disposed to judge anyone who stands in public and raises his voice and says stuff like "sin" and "Jesus"? As a crazy, racist, self-righteous moron, right? But I am none of those things, by God's grace, while Larry and Jim are. Yet Larry and Jim make themselves more visible by their disgraceful behavior.

Humanly speaking, therefore, true Gospel preachers will be viewed with unmerited suspicion by these people who have been exposed to Larry and Jim. In a sense the throngs reveal their hearts in that when righteous agitation exposing things like the sin leading all to Hell and the child sacrifice Holocaust comes their way, they largely ignore it, but when unrighteous agitation on a relatively minor topic crosses their path, they flock to interact, persecute, and be near. Ironically, this is a fulfillment of prophecies from the Apostle Paul -
1 Tim 4:1-2 - But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.

2 Tim 4:3-4 - For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
Usually those passages are cited to make sense of the huge followings of the likes of Joel Osteen and TD Jakes. The likes of Larry and Jim make a mockery of the Gospel just as JoelO and Jakes do, just in a different way, and people flock to them for similar reasons - to flee from the truth, embrace delusion, and feel justified in doing so.

2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 - those... perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

It is actually a manifestation of the wrath of God that crowds flock to surround men like Jim and largely ignore righteous Gospel preaching. They can't even be bothered to actively hate the message; they just flit from one entertaining attraction to the next, indifferent, apathetic, and complacent. Wickedness comes in many forms. May God bring Larry and Jim to repentance, and may He deliver us all from all wickedness in all its shapes.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Warning Signs - Avoid Jordan Hall

Jordan Hall has done all us the favor of informing us why he and his ministry should be strictly avoided. It turns out that he displays many of the signs of a cult, so watch out!

Just joking. He's actually warning about the Abolish Human Abortion movement, the movement about which he let me stand in his church building and talk to his congregation literally two months ago, only now to throw me away. The man dispenses with friendships quicker than most anyone I've ever met. Just the other day I was "a close friend" of his. Now I'm an anathematised cultist. That sort of turnaround you can't find every day. The man has some problems. Instability, probably some paranoia going on. It's sad, really it is, but it would appear that while I tried (and probably failed in some ways) not to enable his flaws while he still thought I was his friend, he just picks up enablers to surround himself with. Out with Tom Buck and in with Justin Pierce. Out with Dustin Germain and in with Bud Ahlheim. Out with Gene Clyatt and in with Brandon Hines. It will continue, I figure, until God should mercifully intervene to, I hope, break Jordan's heart unto repentance.

But as it turns out, Jordan's self-made, self-serving, ad hoc list of "cult warning signs" isn't quite what he probably hoped it would be when he wrote it, for it exonerates groups that really are cultic while incriminating Jordan's own ministry endeavors as well as, strangely enough, the earliest Christian church of the apostolic era. To see how, let's explore them one by one, but not before you peruse the pre-requisite reading here and pre-requisite viewing here.

1. Sub-Christian sects often purport to be the only authentic believers, and characterize all others as sell-outs, compromised, or watered-down imitations of the real Church or of real Christians. This tactic has been particularly powerful since the Restorationist Movement in the mid-19th Century. They will speak of “restoring” the church and going back to the “real church” that was lost in the Apostolic Age. This belief eventually causes them to reject the Visible Church.
Did the apostolic church of Jesus purport to be such? Yes. So, cult.
Do conservative Bible-believing Christians purport such, over and against liberalism, ecumenism, Rome, and other challengers? Yes. So, cult.

Strangely, an organisation like the LDS Church often does not claim to be the only authentic believers, for various reason. So, I guess the LDS Church is not a cult. 

2. Sub-Christian sects focus on proselytizing believers rather than evangelizing the lost. The false teachers the church was warned about in Acts 20:30 come into the church, appearing to be disciples, only to “draw men after themselves.” Satan desires to destroy Christians, and typically leaves the pagan alone. Sub-Christian sects, like their lord and master, Satan, spends most of their time trying to proselytize professing, church-going Christians rather than win the lost.
Where did Jordan get this idea? I'd be interested in sources for these thoughts of his. It seems like he just made them up, and yet while I have quite a bit of experience with cults myself, I don't know of any special counter-cult background Jordan has that's more substantial than my own. To what cult study is he alluding?

Do Pulpit & Pen and the Polemics Report focus on proselytizing believers rather than evangelizing the lost? Yes, they sure do. So, cult.
Do the vast majority of American churches do the same? What about Jordan's own church? Yes. So, cult.

Interestingly, this pervasive inward focus is one of the main problems for which abolitionists call churches to repentance, but Jordan wants to blame abolitionists for it. And if you're going to try to indicate cultic tendencies on this count, it doesn't make a lot of sense to try to point fingers at a movement that is made up of people who are generally extremely active in public evangelism like AHA.


3. Sub-Christian sects spend an inordinate amount of time lobbying for approval of the church-at-large, desperately asking (or demanding) acceptance. Of extreme strategic importance to the schismatic is having established churches lend the sub-Christian cult credibility or to embrace them as orthodox. A massive amount of time and resources of the sub-Christian sect will be spent trying to project themselves as orthodox. Those within orthodoxy simply don’t have to spend much – if any – time desperately trying to gain acceptance by the established church, but sub-Christian sects have to.
Jordan demonstrates his extremely poor understanding of AHA yet again on this point. In literally no way are abolitionists lobbying for approval of anyone. And if we were, we are amazingly bad at it; you don't generally make friends by calling for repentance of major sins, of apathy, and so on. What facts led Jordan to think that anyone is desperately asking for for acceptance? I can't think of a single one.
Rather, when abolitionists say stuff like "Repent with us", we are inviting others to walk more closely with Jesus and to forsake their sin just as we are trying to do. It is a benefit and a loving act to them. They need to repent. They need to get closer to Jesus and love their neighbor and stop not loving their neighbor. This is a blessing for them. Jordan has never understood that about Church Repent though it has been explained to him numerous times by many people, including myself. That he still complains it's unclear does not speak well to his acumen and/or intellectual honesty.

But don't Pulpit & Pen and Polemics Report fit this description? Yes, they do. They love to keep pastors like Emilio Ramos comfy and happy where they are. They love to accept invitations to conferences like NorCal Fire and put on conferences like Reformation: Montana. Other people whom they admire, like Dr James White, regularly mention (almost as a badge of honor) that they don't get invited to "the big conferences", that they're just small fries, and then when they review the stupidities uttered by some Big Shot, they shake their heads and mutter "theology matters." Why do they do that? Is it because they are a cult?

And don't P&P and PR spend a "massive amount of time and resources" on trying to affirm orthodoxy in contrast to others? It sounds like this is true of them.


4. Sub-Christian sects engage in victory-by-victimhood, projecting themselves as virtuous and long-suffering victims of marginalization or mistreatment. These sects “cry foul” at every given opportunity, clinging to the status of victimization in order to signal help from unsuspecting Christians who are drawn in at the accusation of mistreatment, playing on the good but naive intentions of believers. It could be called the “Servetus Syndrome,” in which five-hundred years after the death of a heretic, people still give sympathy and credence to one who (although he should not have been burned at the stake) was still a heretic and should have been marked as a schismatic and shunned from society. Every accusation against the sect is met with charges of “slander” or “persecution,” a martyr-syndrome that manifests itself in crying for help from well-meaning believers.
All it will take is a little bit of time watching someone like Jordan Hall, or BibleThumping Wingnut, or Matt Slick, or James White, to know that this description fits them perfectly.
As for abolitionists, I suppose it isn't false that when strawmen are erected, we like to point them out. How is this a bad thing or the mark of a cult, precisely? Is it true that abolitionist cry foul at every opportunity? Can Jordan document such a thing?
Also consider the Catch-22 here - if abolitionists didn't try to show why false accusations are false, wouldn't those who are determined to oppose us jump up and down and claim victory? "I suggested that ___ and ___ were true, and the abolitionists didn't deny them!"

Finally, it's a commonly known fact of history that the apostolic church faced not only persecution but also lies from within and without. Many of the New Testament writings are meant to overturn falsehoods arising even from within the ranks of the believers. I guess the earliest church was a cult. They should never have spoken up to define true doctrine or call for consistency on the part of their opponents. Since they did, though, they were a cult.


5. Sub-Christian sects engage in double-dog daring “are you saying I’m not a brother in Christ” strategy designed to force the critic to anathematize or accept them. A very popular tactic, these schismatics will demand that you call them a “Brother in Christ” or a “fellow Christian” or dare you to say they aren’t. If you concede they seem to be a fellow Christian because the confess orthodoxy on certain soteriological matters, then their charge is that you’re “attacking fellow Christians” and YOU will be made out to be the schismatic. If you say they aren’t Christians, then they’ll demand you explain why, given they agree with this point of theology or that point of theology. They’ll then make you to be an uncharitable curmudgeon. Don’t fall for this. You are not obligated to affirm or disavow anyone’s salvation based upon their profession alone (heretics lie).
I'd like to see Jordan document that this is a common occurrence. I don't think it is. I rarely see such a thing. It's one thing to ask if someone thinks someone else is a brother in Christ. It's quite another to demand or dare the same.

This double-talk on Jordan's part is so sad because the accusation takes a virtuous action and calls it evil. Just because someone disagrees about a certain tenet of abolitionism, for example, doesn't mean that they are unregenerate, and I don't know of any abolitionists who think it does. So when we say "We're brothers in Christ, aren't we?", it's an appeal to the commonality of the Gospel and the Word of God to which we all hold. Yet Jordan loves to chide abolitionists for equating the Gospel with abolitionism, even though we don't. And the proof we don't is that we seek common ground with others who profess the Gospel. But Jordan here uses that against us.

It reminds me of Matthew 11:16“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, 17and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 18“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ 19“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

Jordan says: "You are not obligated to affirm or disavow anyone’s salvation based upon their profession alone."
Fine. Should we give someone the benefit of the doubt, at least, when they profess the Gospel, without evidence that they don't actually love Jesus?
 
6. Sub-Christian sects make their beliefs as nebulous and ill-defined as possible, so as to confuse their opponents and make them harder to discern. They claim “straw man” at virtually every criticism, yet don’t define their convictions clearly enough to be properly understood. Schismatics do not like confessions or exhaustive faith statements, because they like to have beliefs that are fluid and ill-defined. Because their goal is achieving for themselves their own disciples, they find that a wide and shallow theology is more conducive to accomplishing their goals, as it is less exclusive as to who can follow them.
It's hard to take this seriously, since there are probably hundreds of hours of abolitionist lectures online and our myriad websites include tens of thousands of words describing what we believe and why. Many abolitionists are on social media a lot and are immediately available to answer questions almost 24/7. The amount of literature about abolitionism dwarfs the relatively paltry offering of, say, the London Baptist Confession of 1689.

Further, this objection once again exonerates the LDS Church or the Watchtower. I guess they're not cults.

And would Jordan go so far as to say that most American churches are cults, since their online professions of faith definitely qualify as "nebulous"? If not, why not?

Finally, it's laughable to suggest abolitionists seek a wide and shallow theology. That describes the pro-life movement! You know, the thing against whose ideology abolitionism is at war?

7. Sub-Christian sects commonly twist words and phrases from their intended meanings (also known as ‘equivocation’) to make themselves appear orthodox. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses advertise celebrating Easter, but only speak of the crucifixion because they don’t believe in a bodily resurrection – and yet, people seeing their fliers at Easter time assume they believe in the resurrection. AHA speaks of their protests (which include picket signs and disrupting church services) as mere “exhortation.” Andy Stanley claims he believes in “inerrancy,” but means that term far different from the way others understand it. Again, this is to fool people into assuming their orthodoxy.
The blindness this paragraph indicates is amazing. Jordan regularly redefines words, including "cult" and "organization", just because he has some bizarre motivation to slander abolitionists. He also redefines "preach" like the rest of American churches do, in a very self-serving way I might add, and "deacon". He also regularly cites Hebrews 13:17 and inserts the word "elder", even though that word does not appear anywhere in the entire epistle. He regularly confuses the concepts of the invisible universal church and visible local churches in his discussions of ecclesiology, to a degree and with a frequency that suggests nothing short of extreme ineptitude.

Ultimately, what you believe about who gets to define terms will decide whether you think this point has merit. If you think that Muslims get to say that "Jesus" is a mere prophet, if you think that Mormons get to tell you what "monotheism" means, if you think that Jews get to tell you what "Temple" means, then I guess you'll agree with Jordan here. But if you think that it is important to understand what your interlocutor believes before you engage their position so as to avoid erecting a strawman, you'll think that Jordan's point here is foolish. Abolitionists do not believe they are protesting churches. We are exhorting them as fellow Christians. Jordan doesn't like those words, but that is not our problem. He needs to argue, not assume, that his definition is the one that ought to be used. He can assert "equivocation" all he wants; he needs to demonstrate it is equivocation.

8. Sub-Christian sects are dishonest about the details of how their organization or ‘fellowship’ operate. They want to purport that their sect is just another church, but in order to continue the charade, have to conceal the real truth regarding the details of their organization. Those who follow after them will find out the details after they’ve already been inducted. Pay close attention as to how many people leave the organizations once they’ve joined. Often, the sub-Christian sects have “large back doors” through which a sizable proportion of their converts leave after being within them long enough find out their real beliefs.
Oh, does that mean that Jordan has already released or is willing to release at a moment's notice the financial details of his church, his salary, and the expenditures involved in Reformation: Montana? I'd like to see those put out there.

To what facts would Jordan point to indicate that abolitionists are dishonest about these details? All anyone need do is ask. AHA is not an organization. It is a movement. There are churches and abolitionist societies that adhere to the ideology. They all operate somewhat differently. There exists a store that so far is the main provider of so-called AHA Gear, but that could change in the future. It is run out of Norman, OK, in a retail space that it rents that sometimes our church also uses to assemble and inside of which sometimes we make videos. How is any of this mystical or weird?

Jordan says: "Pay close attention as to how many people leave the organizations once they’ve joined."

Yes, pay close attention to how many have left Jordan's church.
How a former elder has tried to get Jordan fired. How a former deacon has also caused major trouble for him at his church. How his church is shrinking. Look at how many people who used to blog for P&P no longer do - Kofi Adu-Boahen, Tom Buck, Dustin Germain, Cameron Dobbins, Gene Clyatt, and more. I guess Jordan is part of a cult. Large back door and all.

Jordan makes a major blunder in saying: "They want to purport that their sect is just another church".
This is wrong wrong wrong wrong. Nobody is saying that AHA is a church! We don't even say it's an organization! We say it isn't one! What we keep saying is that AHA is a movement among people of God, and thus since we are regenerate people of God, it is part of the Bride of Christ that is rising up. Literally nobody is saying that AHA is a church.

Finally, this seems to strike against one of the mainstream, and actual, definitions of what constitutes a cult. One of the real markers of a cult is the manipulation by leaders and peers of those who might show a wavering allegiance to the cult, so pressure is brought to bear to make sure they don't leave the fold. As a result, cults usually have small back doors. This is further evidence that Jordan is just making this stuff up as he goes.

9. Sub-Christian sects portray their beliefs as common or ordinary as a means to deflect criticism. Theonomists – those who believe the Mosaic judicial law (including penology) is obligatory for all nations and times – will say that the term “theonomy” is limited to its etymological definition of “God’s Law,” when in fact it means far more than that. AHA claims that the organization is synonymous with abortion abolition, when in the fact the majority of its work is directed towards converting Christians to Sectarian Minimalism and following after their leaders. These sects reduce their beliefs to a simple, often-repeatable mantra that lacks controversy, hiding their actual beliefs and intentions.
It is very difficult to see how this point can be harmonised with points #1 and #4. 
Further, Jordan here condemns the Apostle Paul, of whom it says in Acts 24:

10When the governor had nodded for him to speak, Paul responded:
      “Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense, 11since you can take note of the fact that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12“Neither in the temple, nor in the synagogues, nor in the city itself did they find me carrying on a discussion with anyone or causing a riot. 13“Nor can they prove to you the charges of which they now accuse me. 14“But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; 15having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16“In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men. 17“Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings; 18in which they found me occupied in the temple, having been purified, without any crowd or uproar. But there were some Jews from Asia— 19who ought to have been present before you and to make accusation, if they should have anything against me. 20“Or else let these men themselves tell what misdeed they found when I stood before the Council, 21other than for this one statement which I shouted out while standing among them, ‘For the resurrection of the dead I am on trial before you today.’”

Jordan says: "AHA claims that the organization is synonymous with abortion abolition"

Not only have abolitionists claimed that, but we have argued for it. Where are Jordan's counterarguments? Or is he twisting the word "abolition" because it sounds cool and he wants to be an abolitionist too, just without the icky parts?

Jordan says: "when in the fact the majority of its work is directed towards converting Christians to Sectarian Minimalism and following after their leaders"

Jordan has been told that the majority of abolitionists do not hold to an ecclesiology that would match his "Sectarian Minimalism". He has been told numerous times. He does not care.
I challenge anyone to review our website, our material, our videos, and our public proclamations to see how true this is. It isn't true. I personally can't recall a time I discussed ecclesiology for more than a few seconds with anyone on the street! Not even once! Where is Jordan's evidence?

Finally, the notion that we try to inculcate some sort of unthinking obedience to leaders is beyond laughable. Not even Jordan thinks this! Otherwise he wouldn't attack us for "Sectarian Minimalism"! You can't have both unquestioning obedience to leaders and "Sectarian Minimalism". You have to pick one accusation and stick with it. That Jordan tries to pin both of them on abolitionists is more evidence that he is not arguing in good faith.
In point of fact, "following after their leaders" is precisely what he tells us over and over that we should do. In this matter, he and his church and P&P and PR are a lot more cultic than abolitionists, for they seek to establish and maintain a church structure in which the leaders hold a very powerful sway. Listen to how papist Jordan sounds in this podcast and tell me I'm wrong.


Jordan asserts: "These sects reduce their beliefs to a simple, often-repeatable mantra that lacks controversy, hiding their actual beliefs and intentions."

So Jordan evidently believes that abolitionists' real aim is to get everyone to agree with the ecclesiology to which only some within even the body of abolitionists in Norman, OK adhere. We are sure doing a good job of hiding our real aim in that case! Such a good job that it virtually never comes up.
 
10. Sub-Christian sects prefer to project themselves as movements or ideologies rather than as organizations, in order to insulate themselves from criticism. Almost every sub-Christian sect in the last 170 years (since the Restorationist Movement) has claimed that their sect was just a grass-roots or “organic” movement, repudiating “organizationalism” or “insitutionalism.” They repudiate the label of organization (or denomination, etc…) even though they fit the qualifications of such. This way, they can argue that it is a move of the Holy Spirit and not the subtle guise of spiritual schemers. This also insulates the organization from criticism regarding the claims of more honest members, who are sure to be radicalized and ostracized for their unorthodoxy.
Or maybe it's because AHA actually is a movement/ideology and not an organization. In what real way does such a setup actually insulate anyone from criticism, anyway? Jordan doesn't seem to have had difficulty figuring out who at least some of the leading / most influential abolitionists are. We get criticised all the time. I'd love some of that insulation I ordered right about now, please. I want my money back.

Jordan claims AHA fits the qualifications of an organization. How so? Let him bring forth his evidence. Let him show also how Calvinism isn't an organization by the same standards.

Leaders of institutional churches insulate themselves from criticism all the time by hiding behind their office and their "authority", and Jordan is no exception. This is thus a hypocritical accusation.

Jordan makes a prediction: "regarding the claims of more honest members, who are sure to be radicalized and ostracized for their unorthodoxy."
So... P&P has never tried to insulate itself from criticism by former contributors? Sure it has. This is hypocrisy yet again. But as for AHA, we can only guess what Jordan means by "radicalized". Does he mean that certain members might become even more peacenik and non-violent than they currently are? God forbid such a terrible thing!

11. Sub-Christian sects have a tendency to rove in packs in social media, and they call for help from fellow sectarians in the event of argumentation.  Infiltrating one social media group at a time, the sect targets seemingly vulnerable subjects and strategically “run together” to intimidate, annoy, or in some way coerce Christians into either following after them or risk being abused, shamed or shunned if they speak out against them. This is a very successful and common strategy, as it appears the movement is far larger, when it only has a small handful of highly motivated adherents.
Does Jordan mean like #the15? All you need do is listen to some older Pulpit & Pen podcasts to hear Jordan refer repeatedly to how he is able to marshal together social media followers to involve themselves in some social media skirmish. Jordan put together just such a social media takeover of at least one running hashtag (one example: #askrickjoyner). So I guess Jordan is part of a cult. What hypocrisy on his part! His hypocrisy is furthered by the statement "This is a very successful and common strategy, as it appears the movement is far larger, when it only has a small handful of highly motivated adherents." Such is precisely true of P&P and #the15! Does Jordan care?

In reality, there is nothing wrong with this. So many people have access to social media; why not use it to contend for truth? The fact that most people adhere to false beliefs is no reason not to speak up for that which is true!

Jordan says: "the sect targets seemingly vulnerable subjects"
Where is his evidence that this is something abolitionists have done and focused on? It just sounds like unsubstantiated well-poisoning.

Jordan says: "to intimidate, annoy, or in some way coerce Christians into either following after them or risk being abused, shamed or shunned if they speak out against them"
As if most people don't look at P&P and PR as exercises in intimidation, annoyance, or coercion that lead to abuse, shame, and shunning. Is Jordan even reading the words he is writing?
And what would be some examples of abolitionists intimidating or coercing people into some sort of action? I'd like to see that. If he means a few people holding signs outside a church building on Sunday morning, making no move to go inside, making no threatening gestures of any kind, all the while vastly outnumbered by the congregation as well as the police officers that the congregation usually summons (in violation of 1 Cor 6, by the way), then there is little to say in response to such limp-wristed foolishness.

Finally, the Bible tells us that we are to admonish and teach and sharpen each other and help each other to grow in understanding of the faith once delivered to the saints. Often one person will not be able to think of all the pertinent angles to a given question or challenge, which is why it can be helpful for others to chime in and offer their own thoughts. That's just Bible. What's wrong with that? How is it a mark of a cult? Do JWs or LDS do this? I've not met many, but I've seen a lot of Reformed people do it. Are they cultists?

I've seen a lot of abolitionists get intimidated and coerced to pipe down about AHA in numerous Facebook groups, like the Reformed Pub and the Pulpit Bunker, lest the admins kick the offenders. By Jordan's standard, these admins are cultists.


12. Sub-Christian sects often try to win arguments through a victory-by-volume approach to argumentation. The schismatics produce an over-abundance of blogs, articles, books, videos and (in 2016) Internet memes to simply repeat over and again the same talking points. Schismatics, because they are by nature law-oriented and works-focused (as opposed to being Gospel-focused) are highly motivated (their righteousness depends on it), deeply fanatical, tireless individuals who will dedicate the many hours upon hours necessary to win a single argument. Their goal, after all, is building up their organization. Schismatics often believe they’ve won an argument simply because they’ve used more words.
Such as spending 114 pages in pdf format to talk about one single debate like Jordan did? That a guy who has made a name for himself by writing long articles and doing regular podcasts could say this with a straight face doesn't speak well of his objectivity. Do P&P and PR repeat over and again the same talking points? Yes, they do. Is that bad? No! But Jordan says it is a mark of a cult, so I guess he is a cultist.

Jordan asserts: "because they are by nature law-oriented and works-focused (as opposed to being Gospel-focused)"

Where is his evidence? His mere say-so should not suffice for any lover of truth.

Jordan says: "Schismatics often believe they’ve won an argument simply because they’ve used more words."

That may be. What is his evidence it is true of any abolitionist?

Amazingly, Jordan says: "Their goal, after all, is building up their organization"

Yet in his post from April 2016 titled "Goodbye", Jordan said this:
"There’s Gospel to preach, souls to save, kids to rear, a wife to adore, animals to hunt, guns to shoot, lawns to mow and a church to pastor."

What he means is: He has among familial responsibilities and leisure, an organization to build up. So it's OK for him, but not OK for abolitionists, do I have that right? (And no, AHA is still not an organization.)

Notably, Jordan is obviously ashamed of this post, because even though it was live on the Internet as of the morning of 24 September 2016, the URL now redirects to a totally different article. He is trying to erase the past. Tell me that's not cultic behavior! Fortunately, the article lives on at archive.org and in my personal hard drive.

Notice also from the same defunct article:
"If I had one regret (and trust me, I have many), it would be that our polemics has not been seasoned with enough grace."

It doesn't seem he meant it, for he has moved in the course of just over a month from calling me a "close friend" to a cultist and anathema. That is not how stable people act, and it isn't biblical behavior.

To sum up, Jordan Hall's article is an ad hoc, self-serving mess and is devoid of any serious love of truth. The heart and mind of a man who could write such a thing is in several ways laid bare by that which he expresses. God help him. I truly greatly fear for the soul of a man I once trusted and counted a friend.