Saturday, January 10, 2015

Loving Scripture Rightly Is Loving Jesus

Jon Zens has written some helpful materials on organic church, particularly his rebuttals to critiques by Ben Witherington and others of Frank Viola's and George Barna's book "Pagan Christianity" (which is a lousy title for a fine book). He calls himself an "itinerant encourager of relational communities", which I can appreciate. And as I spend more time thinking about being the church and what that is supposed to look like, I find myself spending time in, say, Facebook groups of people who have left institutional churches, either to join or start an organic church or to become that which seems best described as "lone-wolf Christians" (in some cases, revealing that they hold to heretical doctrine). As I watch the way many of such people talk and the things they say, it would appear that the reason many of such people have left churches is because they cannot stomach biblical theology or serious study of God's Word. This strikes seriously against how things ought to go.

Adding to the noise is an article by Zens to which I was directed in one of these groups. I am alarmed at the poor grasp of of the relevant issues that it exhibits, so I'd like to bring forth a response here and urge those who are disgruntled with or who have left institutional churches to cling tenaciously to and contend for the faith once delivered for the saints (Jude 3). We should be the church in the way that God has commanded and exemplified in His Word and as a result when our local churches assemble together, we ought to obey Scripture.

However, if you jettison Sola Scriptura, you are left rudderless, relying on nothing more or less than human tradition at every single turn, and you have no way to adjudicate between competing proposed traditions. The result could be a group of people that may or may not describe themselves using the word "church" but that does sort of resemble a gathering of people whose professions are at least sort of Bible-y, but it could also be further down the spectrum toward someone who says "I'm a Christian" and yet affirms child sacrifice and sexual immorality (hey, as long as "the Spirit leads", right?) and disaffirms the Trinity and/or the doctrine of Hell or of the severity of sin. Or you could have the Roman Catholic, Mormon, or Oriental Conciliarist (aka the "Eastern Orthodox") church or the Watchtower or the Branch Davidians or Aum Shinrikyo or Unity Church or Christian Science or Seventh Day Adventism or...

Imagine with me a hypothetical - two men meet each other and begin discussing religious ideas. One believes it is obligatory to affirm that Jesus is God and uncreated. The other believes it is obligatory to DISaffirm those statements. Each of them claims that God spiritually led him to say what he says. Each of them accuses the other of quenching the Spirit (which the New Testament commands people not to do) (as if we're bound to obey Pauline writings or something).

Which of them is right? Is there a way to know which is right? They both claim to be Spirit-led.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Nature of Preaching and Some Implications Thereof

Below you can find the results of an exhaustive concordance search through the New Testament for words related to preaching and proclaiming, to find their referents. I found that the Greek words kerusso (κηρύσσω) and euagelizzo (εὐαγγελίζω) were by far the most common words that communicate the idea of preaching or proclamation.

Normally in a modern American institutional church context, we think of "preaching" as that which the pastor does from the pulpit during the Sunday morning gathering, which forms the backbone of the teaching and theological education and confession of believers in the church. We can see in the NT, however, that there is no unequivocal reference to “preaching” in connection to what is done during the assembly of the church, while there are tons of references to preaching being an activity by which Christians reach out to unbelievers. (It would seem that “teaching”, didasko [διδάσκω] and the like, would be more along the lines of what the NT authors thought ought to be done by believers with other believers, but that’s another analysis.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

So many atheists are ruled by emotion

It's amazing how easy it is to reduce atheists to a miserable mass of quivering feeling, devoid of reason or common sense.

All I did was tweet this:

And got a firestorm!
My favorite tweet in the ruckus was this one:
And then it got even better:

I had to bow out after somewhere around 50 attempts on my part to get these atheists to reason consistently. Canard after canard after canard... I don't think a single one of them had ever even thought about my challenge before. I didn't have time to keep up with all of the shambling inanity, so this combox is an open invitation to anyone who would question me on the matter.

Monday, November 17, 2014

In which my tweet about the Herald Society is vindicated

On my "to listen to occasionally" list of podcasts is Tony Miano's "Cross Encounters". I can't remember which episode it was, but some time before the November 2014 Herald Society conference, he spent some time hyping the conference and encouraging listeners to attend. My interest was piqued when he specifically stated that this year's HS conference would not feature very much street evangelism or open air preaching (OAP), but would rather focus on sermons wherein the conference attendees would sit and listen to someone talk from the stage.

This struck me as a bizarre waste of time and energy - could not sermons like these be recorded beforehand, or preached at one's own church or something in some sort of collaborative effort, and later made available for download to whoever wanted them? The whole point of calling your conference the Herald Society would seem to be to get heralds together. You get however many dozens of people interested in OAP, doesn't it make a ton of sense to actually go out and herald the Gospel all over the place?

If an OAPreacher is a candle illuminating darkness within our culture, what happens when you get 50 of those candles together in one place? That much more brightness and illumination, right? So when we read things like Matthew 5...

14“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

...wouldn't it be a good idea to go ahead and shine that bright light to those who are in darkness? How is it a good idea to take that light, all those OAPreachers, and hide them behind the walls of a building, using all their time to preach around 20 (probably pretty lengthy) sermons in 2 1/2 days?

CR, are you around?

CR, if you see this, please email me.

Thursday, November 06, 2014


It's not often that the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (Luke 12:1), is so obviously displayed as it was here recently.
Thankfully, abolitionists' attendance of Bellevue Baptist Church on Sunday caused something of a stir, which is one of the things we were hoping for. That the hearts of Pharisees revealed themselves afterward is a bonus.

Even through the cold, cruel screen through which you view these words, you can feel the flow of love and warmth, the Christian charity.

Forget all the times we have repeatedly rejected the word "protest" with respect to the Church Repent project. Forget the fact that all we did was attend the service quietly and then afterwards offer pamphlets to people, then when security stepped in and, in a break from their normal pattern, pushed everyone out of the auditorium and called the cops to make us leave even though a simple request would have sufficed, we merely sang "Amazing Grace" and then left. Forget that if we had been there to protest, there would have been zero doubt that we were there to protest! Forget the fact that abolitionists specifically and explicitly reject violence, whereas John Brown didn't. And forget the fact that OR wasn't violent either, and yet Butler's and Miano's pastor looked the other way while a member of his church sent sheriff's deputies to beat the tar out of and break bones of OR volunteers.

Fred Butler did us all the favor of stripping the niceties from this debate. Tony Miano and his acolytes love to talk about "unity in the Gospel", and Butler and others will say the same when they don't dislike you enough. They'll even reach across denominational lines and make sure everyone knows that Presbyterians, Lutherans, Arminians, and such are their brothers in Christ, because we all hold to the same Gospel. But poke at one of their sacred cows - the institutional church structure - and suddenly the false veneer vanishes.

Apparently to them, location matters. You can criticise Bellevue Baptist pastor Steve Gaines all you want for his arch-anti-Calvinism and his crazy support for altar calls and sinner's prayers, as long as you do it from afar. Dare to defile the sacred ground of the church building and suggest that maybe there are false converts inside its walls and that maybe something ought to be done about that, and these Gatekeepers of Evangelical Purity will make sure your backside is smarting.

The Gospel we preach is not fundamentally different. Miano professes faith in the Gospel, and I believe the Gospel. I think there's more unity in the Gospel than these men do. Butler thinks there was no unity to begin with.

But many Pharisees can profess the Gospel quite well. That's part of their charm. It's by their fruits you will know them. Though it may hurt a bit to see people we may admire reveal the sin in their hearts, let it be a helpful reminder that we are not to put our trust in men.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Preaching at the University of Memphis

At the University of Memphis five days ago.
130 abolitionists converged on the campus to expose the evil of abortion and call students to repent and believe the Gospel and obey the law of Jesus Christ. In the afternoon the conversations continued, and a good opportunity to preach presented itself.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Long back and forth with a Satanist

Someone claiming to be a Satanist wrote in to the Abolish Human Abortion contact page. I reproduce our conversation here for your edification:

His first email:

I beg a pardon, but I couldn't help but notice what seems to me to be a slight hypocrisy in the reasoning that backs the opinions stated on this site. As a Christian organization (or at least a predominantly Christian organization) your holy book of choice is obviously the Bible---a collection of texts that boast astonishingly little concern for the welfare of children, even for a series of writings jotted down in the Bronze Age. The book of Proverbs, for example, recommends beating one's offspring with rods (staves) in response to defiance (Proverbs 19:18, Proverbs 22:15, Proverbs 23:13-14) and tells parents not to allow themselves to feel pity for their child's crying. This book supposedly being written by king Solomon---the wisest person ever to live and a godly man, by the Bible's account. King David, Solomon's father, and someone Yahweh describes as "...a man after mine own heart..." sung songs by harp about his hope that soldiers would someday invade the enemy country of Babylon and that the citizens of that place would be made to witness their children---presumably innocent, just like the unborn---crushed to death against stones by the invaders (Psalms 137:9). His predecessor Saul performed a complete genocide of the Amalekites, slaughtering men, women, children, and "sucklings" all on Yahweh's explicit command. (He even forbids Israel from sparing any of the Amalekites' pets or livestock.---1 Samuel 15:3)

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

On Holding on Viola, Part 2

Continuing with Holding's review from last time...

This is just more of the same errors Viola makes throughout: Blaming the "institutions" instead of the people

People institute and maintain institutions.

ailing to credential this alleged "functioning headship" of Christ (Mormons and others say they have it too)

What is Holding's obsession with these comparisons to Mormonism? Of course they CLAIM those things. But those claims are empty. This is like doubting real US dollars exist because counterfeiters have gotten very good at their craft.

For Viola to describe himself and others as "daring" just because, e.g., they got bored with church and left,is offensive.

1) I don't recall any self-ascribing of martyrdom on Viola's part. So Holding is being unnecessarily shrill.
2) If it's not daring to follow one's convictions in the face of a great deal of traditions and peer pressure to the contrary, what word would Holding prefer? I'm not saying it's the best thing anyone could ever do, but why isn't it daring?
3) What is really offensive is Holding's strawman - "they got bored with church".
"With church and left" - but Viola specifically tells certain readers NOT to leave their institutional churches, and for the rest he recommends... church! He's not calling people to walk away from church, least of all b/c they're "bored". He is calling them to embrace a more biblical form of church.

House church for Viola's purpose is idividuals trying to satisfy THEMSELVES.

1) Not house church. Organic church.
2) What is Holding's evidence for this assertion? Shouldn't he have proof of this sinful attitude before making the accusation?

(Org)anic unity can be achieved anywhere by people willing to give up themselves as a priority. A house church may seem to succeed in this regard (as may a Sunday School class or church sub-group) because you're gathering together a group of people who disagree on the same issues; and so the illusion of being an "organic entity" can be perpetrated.

Viola makes this exact point in his book. Did Holding read it carefully enough to note it?

I sense a persecution complex when Barna says people cry out "heretic" when suggestions are made to change practices

Ironically, Holding contributes to the justification of a persecution complex with this accusation, which is based on nothing more or less than his "sense".
Also ironically, Holding has already several times poked fun in this review at what he thinks is Viola's centering on his emotions and sensations, whereas here he does the same thing. Maybe I could insert a comparison to Mormons to make it fair and square.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

On Holding on Viola, Part 1

My attention was recently directed to JP Holding's review of Viola & Barna's Pagan Christianity, a book that I read recently and which edified me significantly.

I'd like to write a full review of it. I don't have time to go through the monstrous article in its entirety at the moment, but I would like to offer the following review of the introduction, leading up to the subtitle Preface in the review article.

He portrays himself as an advocate of "natural and spontaneous expression" that allegedly comes from "the divine life that indwelt the early Christians" [xix]. Really? Mormons call that a "burning in the bosom," and it is epistemically a disaster area.

I honestly do think this statement misunderstands Viola.
Mormons cite "burning in the bosom" for proof that the Book of Mormon is true. I see no comparative claim in the book.

"Natural and spontaneous expression" looks far too much like a rationalization to turn a church meeting into a widespread counseling and storytelling session

I don't think this is fair. Yes, Viola is a bit charismatic for my tastes, maybe a bit goofy, but nothing he says in the book **necessarily** leads to this characterisation.

in which it is only imagined that Jesus is the "functional head"

But why is it "only imagined"? No, the Bible doesn't lay out a specific set of do-this and don't-do-thats... that's how Jesus is indeed the functional head, for everyone plays a part in fulfilling NT commands and love.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Interested in discussing vaccines

I come from a family that is pro-vaccine as far as I can tell, and I have participated in vaccines in the past to a pretty thorough extent. I find myself strongly questioning the wisdom and propriety of vaccines in the modern West, but I would like to sharpen my understanding by talking to someone or more than one person who is pro-vaccine. I consider myself at this point just to the right of neutral on the question, just a shade more anti-vaccine than pro-.

A few questions I'm asking follow. Please pardon my ignorance. I learn best when talking to people, so I'd appreciate a modicum of respect in answering, though of course there is no requirement:

1) Why is it that reports continually emerge that vaccines contain ingredients that are poisonous, such as formaldehyde, mercury, aluminum, and the like?

2) Is there a good reason for parents of vaccinated children to be concerned if unvaccinated children attend the same government school as their vaccinated children? If so, why?

3) How is it justifiable to inject children with the body parts of other children who were murdered?

4) Why wouldn't the slow response of the medical community to things like the Gardasil debacle give a parent pause?

5) Why is it important to inoculate against minor maladies like measles?