Monday, March 31, 2014

The false ecclesiology of Gospel Spam

...as represented by one Larry Bray, a contributor to the Gospel Spam blog.
See if you can count how many challenges and rebuttals he leaves unanswered or simply dismisses and ignores. This is the prevalent attitude with these quasi-papists.

  • Larry Bray Toby Harmon, you go out preaching the gospel....and yet you are not an Elder...please show me in Scripture where someone other than an Elder is called to preach.
  • Larry Bray If God has appointed Elders for His Church...and if Elders are to "oversee" the things of the Church, then how can you justify not having Elders in your church?
  • Venchenza Settles Hey Larry Bray, I'm out at the mills sharing the Gospel with women who came to kill their child. Because I'm not an elder (which is not biblical in anyway shape or form....) does that mean I shouldn't be doing that? I'm asking...
  • Larry Bray The great commission was not given to the general disciples of Christ but to the Apostles only. This is evidence enough that all Christians are not called to preach.
  • Larry Bray Venchenza Settles, all are called to share the Gospel, but that is much different from preaching.
  • Rho Logy Larry Bray,

    With all due respect, brother, please let me correct these things.

    \\Scripture says that we ought not cease from preaching: Act 5:42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.\\

    Citing what happenED in Acts as a prescription for today is an exegetical fallacy.

    \\Toby's church says that they have no Elders or Deacons:\\

    They don't have one NOW. They DID until that elder admitted he was unfit and left the church.
    There were three churches and other examples in Acts that didn't have elders, too.

    \\Scripture says that we are to have elders in every church:
    Tit 1:5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you--\\

    But don't you see that you need to prove that Paul meant to talk to everyone and not just Titus in that?

    \\A true Church has historically been defined as one that\\

    With all due respect, was the church at Laodicaea a true or false church?
    Why does Jesus call them a true church?
    Also, push back 500 years - someone could have told Martin Luther that "A true Church has historically been defined as one that submits to the Pope" or something.

    \\It is impossible to rightly preach the word if they have no sermons and no Elders to preach.\\

    But how do you know that?

    \\It is impossible to rightly carry out discipline when there is no ecclesiastical authority invested in the Elders.\\

    Elders are mentioned ZERO times in all of the NT's church discipline passages.
    ZERO.

    \\And it is impossible to rightly administer the sacraments apart from Elders administering them.\\

    Please demonstrate from the NT that the sacraments were ONLY administered by elders.
    Why did Philip baptise the eunuch in Acts 8? He was a proto-deacon.

    \\The great commission was not given to the general disciples of Christ but to the Apostles only. This is evidence enough that all Christians are not called to preach.\\

    That is not true.
    Look at Luke 24. It was more than the apostles.
    Acts 1 - same deal.
    Also, the apostles are all dead. You don't believe in apostolic succession, do you?

    \\This is evidence enough that all Christians are not called to preach.\\

    What does "called" mean, here, and what NT passages use that language that way?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Pulpit and Pen - On Fred Phelps

http://pulpitandpen.org/2014/03/20/imprecatory-psalms-and-fred-phelps/

Joel McDurmon almost apologises for the worst of his article on Ray Comfort

I am relieved to see that Dr McDurmon has in part come to his senses and, while not expressing the contrition I'd like to see for the severity of the charges he made, not only without, but in fact against all available evidence, I guess I can take him at his word that he really does think he sinned.

The main charges against Comfort were of money-grubbing and indeed extortion. Dr McDurmon apologised for saying "money-grubbing", yet didn't say anything about extortion in his apology article. That is a shame.

Dr McDurmon goes on to say:
And be sure, had I seen any of this, I would not have transgressed on this point.

This is a tacit admission that Dr McDurmon wrote his article in ignorance, which I pointed out earlier was likely. One hopes he will reconsider how much research he does in the future before dashing off such kinds of accusations against faithful brethren.

I searched the apology in vain for any mention of speaking so disrespectfully and flippantly about Comfort's street evangelism, for his calling it "high-pressure" (whatever that means), "hidden-agenda, stealth-attack approach", or "needl(ing) people on the spot about their sins". Sadly, nothing.

Speaking of which, there are a lot more areas in which this article is lacking.

No apology for attacking the video based on what he wanted to see in it.

No apology for implying that Comfort endorses an approach to evangelism that is summed up in, as Dr McDurmon put it, "nothing matters more than saving souls".

No retraction of the unhelpful (at best) line: "A gospel with questionable ethics is no gospel at all."


No apology for calling everything else Comfort has ever said into question, when he himself has demonstrably twisted Scripture in the past, thus tempting the objective reader to ignore all of Dr McDurmon's own writings.

No apology for accusing Comfort of hypocrisy.


All that to say, I am unimpressed at the apology, but my impression from watching and listening to many hours of Ray Comfort is that he is a deeply gracious man, who will doubtless be fine with Dr McDurmon's apology. Dr McDurmon would do well to follow such an example.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Joel McDurmon's hit piece on Ray Comfort's "Noah"

About week ago I bought and watched the digital download of Living Waters' "Noah and the Last Days" video. As with earlier LW movies like 180, Evolution vs God, Genius, etc, it was pre-launched in that format, for $20, before it was to be launched for free a little later. I have no problem supporting Living Waters' ministry, so I went ahead with it. 
To be honest, I found it to be the weakest of all of their movies so far, but I still applaud the effort and as always appreciate Ray Comfort's zeal to share the Gospel with the flakes, fruits, and nuts of California, the Cereal State. 
To my displeasure, a friend sent me a link to Joel McDurmon's recent attack piece on Ray Comfort and the movie, so I'd like to address it here. Let me cut to the chase first - Joel McDurmon has sinned against Ray Comfort in his article, and he should publicly repent and apologise for what he has said. It is even worse than his unhelpful critique of James White's debate against Bart Ehrman, which suggested even those years ago that there may be an unfortunate sort of pattern to Dr McDurmon's train of thought.
Disagreeing with someone doesn't obligate them to apologise. Dr McDurmon seems to be mostly correct in his review of the content, except for the way he dealt with 2 Peter 3, which was quite unclear to me. I don't see how 2 Peter 3 refers to 70 AD at all, and Dr McDurmon seems to imply that it does, though I wasn't too sure about what he meant in those sections.
It's the accusations of dishonesty and especially of money-grubbing that he should apologise for. A commenter made it quite clear that Dr McDurmon missed the boat on that one, badly, and he should repent.

-----------------------------
Michael Earley says:
When you paid for the movie, did you miss this?:
“Those of you who took advantage of our pre-release download offer on “Evolution vs. God” enabled us to fund the production of “Noah—And the Last Days.” We would be grateful if you would consider doing the same with this movie, and in turn help us to continue producing similar projects in the future.
When you download this movie for $19.99, you will get a free downloadable Companion Guide (valued at $4.99) containing further evidence for the Ark and the worldwide Flood, plus a special video message by Ken Ham, “Creation and the Last Days” (valued at $12.99). “Noah—And the Last Days” will be available on YouTube and DVD starting March 28.”
I request you withdraw your slights about money. You sir, are in the wrong on that…
-----------------------------
This commenter Michael Earley is 100% right to say that and Dr McDurmon, in comparing Comfort to the Word of Faith heretics, acts sinfully.
The movie will be available on YouTube. That means it will be free of charge. Just like all the other Living Waters movies.  And you can buy their DVDs for like $2 apiece on March 29. That's money-grubbing? If Dr McDurmon resents it so much, he should contact LW; I bet they'd let him withdraw his charitable donation, if he wants to be such a jerk about it.
I knew precisely what I was getting when I paid my $20 - a video of Comfort evangelising people all by himself with a chest-mounted camera and handheld mic, and using his theme as a bit of a hook to talk to people. I was not expecting a volume of systematic theology. I was not expecting Russell Crowe engaging in hand-to-hand battle with CGI sharks or herding dinosaurs onto a big CGI ark. If Dr McDurmon was expecting that, he is ignorant of LW videos anyway and should have kept his mouth shut, so that his critique would not be tainted by valid accusations of a hatchet job. If he has a problem giving $20 to such a ministry, nobody put a gun to his head to do it. I have zero problem playing a small part in funding Comfort's ministry, and I don't think anyone should. It wouldn't've killed Dr McDurmon to delay his critique until March 29, the day after the movie comes out for free on YT.

Dr McDurmon says:
I will show you there is no other explanation short of a cavalier sloppiness with the text that would disqualify anyone from being a public teacher of Scripture.

Fine, fine. Comfort is not the best exegete any of us have ever seen.
Now, prove your charges of dishonesty. He can't and he doesn't do so. So he should repent of this sinful accusation.


Comfort begins with the claim that “according to Jesus, the events surrounding the life of Noah are directly related to you.” He refers to the text where Jesus says, “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:37; Luke 17:26–27). This all, of course, assumed Jesus was talking to you and not His audience, but more of that as we go.

Yet that is poor exegesis of Comfort's remark here. Part of Comfort's claim is that the end will come suddenly upon people, and while I agree with most of Dr McDurmon's discussion of how most of those passages refer to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the obvious parallel and principle remain, which is what Comfort alludes to during his evangelism efforts later on - the urgency of repenting now à la Hebrews 3.


an entire quarter-length of that very short time is devoted to a surprise gospel attack, not addressed at all to the subject the movie purports to be about. This is deceitful.

No, it's not deceitful. Dr McDurmon is just ignorant, and I would presume he didn't watch the trailer either. This is how LW movies are. If he doesn't like them, fine. "I don't like it" is not equivalent to "This is deceitful".


But this kind of hidden-agenda, stealth-attack approach is the very thing that turns away more people than it saves

I am amazed at how foolish this is. Dr McDurmon is supposed to be a Calvinist, and yet here he sounds just like the milquetoast evangellyfish he (rightly) critiques so much in other areas of his life. How precisely do people who are dead in sin get turned away from God more than they were before? And what is his evidence that more were turned away than not? What does he make of the many thoughtful conversations that Comfort had during the movie? Why does he imply that the approach is that which saves? This is just sloppy support for his sinful accusations.


It does not deliver what it promised...it borders on fraud...

Where precisely did it promise something that it did not deliver? Dr McDurmon seems to exegeting his own preconceived impressions of the movie. He judges it by what he thought it would be or wanted it to be and finds it so wanting that he accuses a godly man of deceit and money-grubbing dishonesty.


Some people will say that it’s OK because we should do anything we can do to save souls.

Dr McDurmon disingenuously implies that Comfort or other LW personnel have said this, when in fact they have a long history of saying precisely the opposite and have biblically defended their preferred methods of evangelism at length. Where is Dr McDurmon's refutation? What is Dr McDurmon's preferred method of evangelism? How "effective" is it? How "well" does it "work"? How often does he do it?


This “nothing matters more than saving souls” approach takes more away from Christ’s Commission than it wins.

But who said this? When? Where?
How did Dr McDurmon extract this intention from the hearts of Comfort and other LW personnel? Some private correspondence between Dr McDurmon and Comfort, where Comfort said "Yes, you're right, Joel, I'll do anything to save souls; it doesn't matter what"? What is Dr McDurmon talking about?


It shows the world that Christians will lie and extort in order to do what Christians are allegedly supposed to do.

Now it's not just money-grubbing. Comfort is extorting money from his viewers. Somehow Comfort found a skeleton in Dr McDurmon's closet and forced him to pay $20 to watch a half-hour film, and yet forgot to demand that Dr McDurmon not write a hatchet job review about how much he hated it.
Dr McDurmon should repent of this sinful language.


A gospel with questionable ethics is no gospel at all.

1) So Dr McDurmon believes that the sin of the man proclaiming the Gospel can in fact destroy its power. If I were American Vision, I'd want to check up on that pretty closely.
2) So I guess that means that the only people who should be proclaiming the Gospel are perfect preachers. Maybe we should all walk around like "Brother" Jed Smock and proclaim our sinlessness; at that point Dr McDurmon might say "OK, maybe you can preach the Gospel".
3) In fact Dr McDurmon himself has violated proper ethics in his sinful language about this faithful brother.


If a preacher is willing to twist scripture so transparently like this, how can you trust anything else he says?

Probably the same way Dr McDurmon presumably would like people to trust what he says even though he delivers poor exegesis at times. For example, not long ago he compared the charismatic church to a "wheat field with tares in it".
Yet in Matthew 13:37-38, Jesus explicitly states that the field is not the church, but the world.
And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one..."

Dr McDurmon twisted Scripture. I guess we should never trust anything else he says.

Or, maybe, he'd ask where our charity and patience with a brother are to be found. So I ask him the same question with respect to faithful brother Comfort.


What about hypocrisy in dozens of other areas? For example, say, Christian ministries bordering on false advertising and selling videos filled with half-truths and hidden agendas?

Again with the harsh accusations against brethren. I can't figure out what has prompted this sort of language from Dr McDurmon.
False advertising - where?
Selling videos? That will be given out for free in a week and a half?
Hidden agendas? You mean like sharing the Gospel and encouraging others with a video of how an experienced and skilled evangelist does it?


It was at this point, at about 21:10 through the video, that Comfort turns to his brand of high-pressure evangelism for the rest of the flick.

Perhaps the reason behind all of this is that Dr McDurmon's stomach turns when he thinks of approaching people you don't know on the street in order to share the Gospel with them. One is left wondering why. Could he not at least pat Comfort on the head and say "That's your calling, but not mine"? Why oppose this faithful evangelist in this way?
The very next line, he weakly protests "While I support evangelism, obviously", but it comes across as less than forthright.


I did not pay twenty bucks to watch Ray Comfort needle people on the spot about their sins. I paid to hear about Noah and the Last Days.

And there it is. Dr McDurmon did not want to support LW and their ministry and work. He wanted to be entertained.
And clearly he is not the kind of guy who finds entertainment in people being confronted with the truth of the Law and the Gospel. For my part, I like it a lot. I don't really fault Dr McDurmon for disliking it. I do fault him for his evil speech in his article.


he has to know exactly what he is doing.

My question is: How is it that Dr McDurmon doesn't know exactly what he is doing in this smear?


I want at least 25 percent of my money back.

If it would make Dr McDurmon feel better, if he values his Andrew Jackson that highly, I will personally send him $20. Just say the word, sir, and we will make it happen.


UPDATE: Dr McDurmon sort of apologises.

Joel McDurmon's hit piece on Ray Comfort's "Noah"

About week ago I bought and watched the digital download of Living Waters' "Noah and the Last Days" video. As with earlier LW movies like 180, Evolution vs God, Genius, etc, it was pre-launched in that format, for $20, before it was to be launched for free a little later. I have no problem supporting Living Waters' ministry, so I went ahead with it. 
To be honest, I found it to be the weakest of all of their movies so far, but I still applaud the effort and as always appreciate Ray Comfort's zeal to share the Gospel with the flakes, fruits, and nuts of California, the Cereal State. 
To my displeasure, a friend sent me a link to Joel McDurmon's recent attack piece on Ray Comfort and the movie, so I'd like to address it here. Let me cut to the chase first - Joel McDurmon has sinned against Ray Comfort in his article, and he should publicly repent and apologise for what he has said. It is even worse than his unhelpful critique of James White's debate against Bart Ehrman, which suggested even those years ago that there may be an unfortunate sort of pattern to Dr McDurmon's train of thought.
Disagreeing with someone doesn't obligate them to apologise. Dr McDurmon seems to be mostly correct in his review of the content, except for the way he dealt with 2 Peter 3, which was quite unclear to me. I don't see how 2 Peter 3 refers to 70 AD at all, and Dr McDurmon seems to imply that it does, though I wasn't too sure about what he meant in those sections.
It's the accusations of dishonesty and especially of money-grubbing that he should apologise for. A commenter made it quite clear that Dr McDurmon missed the boat on that one, badly, and he should repent.

-----------------------------
Michael Earley says:
When you paid for the movie, did you miss this?:
“Those of you who took advantage of our pre-release download offer on “Evolution vs. God” enabled us to fund the production of “Noah—And the Last Days.” We would be grateful if you would consider doing the same with this movie, and in turn help us to continue producing similar projects in the future.
When you download this movie for $19.99, you will get a free downloadable Companion Guide (valued at $4.99) containing further evidence for the Ark and the worldwide Flood, plus a special video message by Ken Ham, “Creation and the Last Days” (valued at $12.99). “Noah—And the Last Days” will be available on YouTube and DVD starting March 28.”
I request you withdraw your slights about money. You sir, are in the wrong on that…
-----------------------------
This commenter Michael Earley is 100% right to say that and Dr McDurmon, in comparing Comfort to the Word of Faith heretics, acts sinfully.
The movie will be available on YouTube. That means it will be free of charge. Just like all the other Living Waters movies.  And you can buy their DVDs for like $2 apiece on March 29. That's money-grubbing? If Dr McDurmon resents it so much, he should contact LW; I bet they'd let him withdraw his charitable donation, if he wants to be such a jerk about it.
I knew precisely what I was getting when I paid my $20 - a video of Comfort evangelising people all by himself with a chest-mounted camera and handheld mic, and using his theme as a bit of a hook to talk to people. I was not expecting a volume of systematic theology. I was not expecting Russell Crowe engaging in hand-to-hand battle with CGI sharks or herding dinosaurs onto a big CGI ark. If Dr McDurmon was expecting that, he is ignorant of LW videos anyway and should have kept his mouth shut, so that his critique would not be tainted by valid accusations of a hatchet job. If he has a problem giving $20 to such a ministry, nobody put a gun to his head to do it. I have zero problem playing a small part in funding Comfort's ministry, and I don't think anyone should. It wouldn't've killed Dr McDurmon to delay his critique until March 29, the day after the movie comes out for free on YT.

Dr McDurmon says:
I will show you there is no other explanation short of a cavalier sloppiness with the text that would disqualify anyone from being a public teacher of Scripture.

Fine, fine. Comfort is not the best exegete any of us have ever seen.
Now, prove your charges of dishonesty. He can't and he doesn't do so. So he should repent of this sinful accusation.


Comfort begins with the claim that “according to Jesus, the events surrounding the life of Noah are directly related to you.” He refers to the text where Jesus says, “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:37; Luke 17:26–27). This all, of course, assumed Jesus was talking to you and not His audience, but more of that as we go.

Yet that is poor exegesis of Comfort's remark here. Part of Comfort's claim is that the end will come suddenly upon people, and while I agree with most of Dr McDurmon's discussion of how most of those passages refer to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the obvious parallel and principle remain, which is what Comfort alludes to during his evangelism efforts later on - the urgency of repenting now à la Hebrews 3.


an entire quarter-length of that very short time is devoted to a surprise gospel attack, not addressed at all to the subject the movie purports to be about. This is deceitful.

No, it's not deceitful. Dr McDurmon is just ignorant, and I would presume he didn't watch the trailer either. This is how LW movies are. If he doesn't like them, fine. "I don't like it" is not equivalent to "This is deceitful".


But this kind of hidden-agenda, stealth-attack approach is the very thing that turns away more people than it saves

I am amazed at how foolish this is. Dr McDurmon is supposed to be a Calvinist, and yet here he sounds just like the milquetoast evangellyfish he (rightly) critiques so much in other areas of his life. How precisely do people who are dead in sin get turned away from God more than they were before? And what is his evidence that more were turned away than not? What does he make of the many thoughtful conversations that Comfort had during the movie? Why does he imply that the approach is that which saves? This is just sloppy support for his sinful accusations.


It does not deliver what it promised...it borders on fraud...

Where precisely did it promise something that it did not deliver? Dr McDurmon seems to exegeting his own preconceived impressions of the movie. He judges it by what he thought it would be or wanted it to be and finds it so wanting that he accuses a godly man of deceit and money-grubbing dishonesty.


Some people will say that it’s OK because we should do anything we can do to save souls.

Dr McDurmon disingenuously implies that Comfort or other LW personnel have said this, when in fact they have a long history of saying precisely the opposite and have biblically defended their preferred methods of evangelism at length. Where is Dr McDurmon's refutation? What is Dr McDurmon's preferred method of evangelism? How "effective" is it? How "well" does it "work"? How often does he do it?


This “nothing matters more than saving souls” approach takes more away from Christ’s Commission than it wins.

But who said this? When? Where?
How did Dr McDurmon extract this intention from the hearts of Comfort and other LW personnel? Some private correspondence between Dr McDurmon and Comfort, where Comfort said "Yes, you're right, Joel, I'll do anything to save souls; it doesn't matter what"? What is Dr McDurmon talking about?


It shows the world that Christians will lie and extort in order to do what Christians are allegedly supposed to do.

Now it's not just money-grubbing. Comfort is extorting money from his viewers. Somehow Comfort found a skeleton in Dr McDurmon's closet and forced him to pay $20 to watch a half-hour film, and yet forgot to demand that Dr McDurmon not write a hatchet job review about how much he hated it.
Dr McDurmon should repent of this sinful language.


A gospel with questionable ethics is no gospel at all.

1) So Dr McDurmon believes that the sin of the man proclaiming the Gospel can in fact destroy its power. If I were American Vision, I'd want to check up on that pretty closely.
2) So I guess that means that the only people who should be proclaiming the Gospel are perfect preachers. Maybe we should all walk around like "Brother" Jed Smock and proclaim our sinlessness; at that point Dr McDurmon might say "OK, maybe you can preach the Gospel".
3) In fact Dr McDurmon himself has violated proper ethics in his sinful language about this faithful brother.


If a preacher is willing to twist scripture so transparently like this, how can you trust anything else he says?

Probably the same way Dr McDurmon presumably would like people to trust what he says even though he delivers poor exegesis at times. For example, not long ago he compared the charismatic church to a "wheat field with tares in it".
Yet in Matthew 13:37-38, Jesus explicitly states that the field is not the church, but the world.
And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one..."

Dr McDurmon twisted Scripture. I guess we should never trust anything else he says.

Or, maybe, he'd ask where our charity and patience with a brother are to be found. So I ask him the same question with respect to faithful brother Comfort.


What about hypocrisy in dozens of other areas? For example, say, Christian ministries bordering on false advertising and selling videos filled with half-truths and hidden agendas?

Again with the harsh accusations against brethren. I can't figure out what has prompted this sort of language from Dr McDurmon.
False advertising - where?
Selling videos? That will be given out for free in a week and a half?
Hidden agendas? You mean like sharing the Gospel and encouraging others with a video of how an experienced and skilled evangelist does it?


It was at this point, at about 21:10 through the video, that Comfort turns to his brand of high-pressure evangelism for the rest of the flick.

Perhaps the reason behind all of this is that Dr McDurmon's stomach turns when he thinks of approaching people you don't know on the street in order to share the Gospel with them. One is left wondering why. Could he not at least pat Comfort on the head and say "That's your calling, but not mine"? Why oppose this faithful evangelist in this way?
The very next line, he weakly protests "While I support evangelism, obviously", but it comes across as less than forthright.


I did not pay twenty bucks to watch Ray Comfort needle people on the spot about their sins. I paid to hear about Noah and the Last Days.

And there it is. Dr McDurmon did not want to support LW and their ministry and work. He wanted to be entertained.
And clearly he is not the kind of guy who finds entertainment in people being confronted with the truth of the Law and the Gospel. For my part, I like it a lot. I don't really fault Dr McDurmon for disliking it. I do fault him for his evil speech in his article.


he has to know exactly what he is doing.

My question is: How is it that Dr McDurmon doesn't know exactly what he is doing in this smear?


I want at least 25 percent of my money back.

If it would make Dr McDurmon feel better, if he values his Andrew Jackson that highly, I will personally send him $20. Just say the word, sir, and we will make it happen.


UPDATE: Dr McDurmon sort of apologises.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sin Detector, Part 2

At the end of Part 1, I was about to say that we are all in this together, but the problem with that statement is that it is false. All those who truly belong to Jesus cry to Him that “the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want…Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:19, 24-25). And yet there are those who “have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord” (Jude 4), who “went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). How can we tell them apart? Jesus answers: You shall know them by their fruits.

But practically speaking, how are we to know by their fruits those who are never challenged in their alleged walk with Jesus? The unregenerate man cannot and does not desire to live his whole life for Jesus, so somewhere in there, his dead heart will make itself known. He may preach some semblance of the Gospel, be a churchman, stroke the right egos, and keep up a good appearance as a Christian college president, but then maybe he’ll lie extensively and publicly about his past, then use Bible-y words to justify himself when called on it. He’ll appeal to Bible-y-sounding words like “authority” and “submission” to cow those around him who might be concerned about his behavior and attitude. If no one loves such a man enough to go to him, will this deception not continue unchecked?

It is loving to confront a brother or sister who is sinning, even if you think the sin is small or insignificant. Yes, of course, confront them with love and grace and kindness. Of course. That goes without saying. But do confront them. What if they are a false convert? What if they are mired deep in self-deception? How will that self-deception be exposed, otherwise? Shall we wait around and hyper-Calvinistically hope that the Holy Spirit will magically snap His fingers, or shall we do what we ought to do and step forward to be used as His prescribed means for resolving this issue? If they are servants of the enemy who are bringing reproach and blemish upon the Bride of Christ by their presence, their poor choices, their unenlightened minds and hearts, their worldly comments in Sunday School or Bible Study, their stirring up strife, etc, then they are heaping up judgment and further wrath on themselves. Far better for them if the cancer be exposed now (Eph 5:11) than that they never hear the law and Gospel applied to them. Perhaps they will turn and repent. Perhaps they will stop bothering the church. Either way, the outcomes are all better for the confrontee than if they were to be left alone.

It is loving to the church to do this as well. How can your church fail to be negatively affected if, fellowshipping with you, there are those who are in rebellion to the God you love, worship, and serve? Do you not have the same view as the apostles and prophets, who wrote so strongly against the “false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage” (Gal 2:4), who “are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 12-13)?

Those who do not love the Lord Jesus must be removed from among the community of the faithful if they will not repent. Division for the sake of truth is holy and righteous, which is why Jesus sowed division in John 6 after promising He would do so in Matthew 10. Are you going to wait until your friend has already gone so far into his sin that he has fornicated with his girlfriend, or will you ask him now how he’s doing with his purity, his computer habits, and the fact that there seems to be an awful lot of physical contact between him and her? Will you wait for your deacon to molest five children before you talk to him about his strange behavior and, yes, his computer habits? Will you wait for your cousin to split a church by her evil words before you talk to her about her gossip?

Will you wait for your pastor to embezzle thousands of dollars or wrongfully excommunicate godly members before you ask him about his arrogant heart and invulnerability to correction?

When we are properly settled in our convictions on this matter, we can love the brethren more effectively and more effusively. When our minds are set on the proper identification of this category of the Christian life, we will not be moved even when Christian men, street preachers, or pastors suggest or even declare that there are certain categories of Christians who are not to be reproached if in sin, or who are not to reproach certain others given this or that reason. We will not be dissuaded by empty reasonings from loving our neighbor as ourselves in this way, for we will recognise wholeheartedly that we would desire to be corrected if we were on a path that leads away from the loving Savior who bought us with His own precious blood.

Which brings me back to the friend I mentioned earlier. When I approached him, his response in repentance was immediate, and it turns out he had been languishing in a spiritual doldrum for some weeks or even months, when at times he had even nearly despaired of his own salvation and relationship with the Lord. No man can keep hiding these things forever, and he was no exception. My coming to him in loving concern was, by God’s grace alone, the means by which my friend was encouraged anew, convinced again of the Father’s loving discipline upon His legitimate children (Heb 12:4-11), and strengthened to take up his cross and run the race so as to win. He was glad that I reached out to him.

I invite you to examine yourself and your church as I am seeking to do the same. Will you let your brethren simmer in iniquity, when it is in your power perhaps to agitate them to be free from sin? Will you do as Jesus did and get to the heart and root of the issue with those who along with you profess the matchless Name?

Friday, March 07, 2014

Sin Detector, Part 1

The other day in the upper-right corner of my Facebook feed I noticed a brief activity notification by a friend whom I’ve known to be a solid believer in Jesus, a faithful husband and father, an abolitionist, and a street evangelist. Commenting on a page about one of his hobbies (say, mountain biking), he used some language that was borderline coarse in that group of people who are no doubt mostly unbelievers (since at least ~90% of this country’s population is unregenerate) (if you don’t believe me, ask yourself why there are never any traffic jams on Sunday mornings at 10 even in cities in the buckle of the Bible Belt). With concern in my heart for his well-being and witness, I decided to approach him about it, and so I did so with as much grace as I could muster simultaneous to what I prayed was appropriate firmness.

American church culture in large part militates against believers taking the initiative to approach each other about sins they perceive when those sins are small, even respectable. Such a pattern sets a dangerous precedent, some say. It breeds arrogance and a superiority complex. It sets the approacher over the approachee. It causes divisions and bitterness within the church body, they say.
I left a medium-sized SBC church not long ago. The pastor, a frequent visiting contributor to blogs with “SBC” in their name, a published author, and a protegé of a well-known senior member of the SBC’s Good Ol’ Boy network, likes to say that the church doesn’t need “Sin Detectors”. He and the other elders cultivated the attitude mentioned above. It may be coincidence that numerous men in the congregation, including one who had been a discipleship group leader and was married and another who was a published Christian author and who still as recently as a year ago was publishing articles at Dave Miller’s blog, ran headlong into gross homosexual sin. It may be coincidence that a married deacon, father of three, molested numerous children on the church campus over the course of several years. It may be that nobody noticed anything out of the ordinary in any of these men’s lives before the sheer ick factor of their sin became too big to hide. But maybe there is another explanation.

It is very difficult to consider the case of Louisiana College and Joe Aguillard, or for that matter of Ergun Caner, without reflecting on the lost opportunities of so many around them. It takes time to construct the Mountain of Lies that Caner has erected. A devoted, consistent follower of Jesus does not simply wake up one morning and desperately accede to blackmail demands to cover up what he has done. What would a faithful Christian have worth covering up?

Imagine if, the very first time Ergun got up on stage and started “speaking” Arabic, he had gotten seven phone calls and three personal visits from friends, godly men who knew him, with grave concerns about the lie he told while engaging in a fearful responsibility – public speaking about the work of God in the life of a sinner. Would his conscience be as seared as it is now? Might he have repented at that time? God only knows.

Imagine if, the very first time Joe Aguillard said something that hinted at being magnanimously grandiose about himself and how important loyalty to Joe is, he had been taken aside by several who fear nothing but God and sin and tremble at the Word of God, and lovingly reproved for the sake of his soul, that he might not fall into the trap of pride and self-aggrandizement. Would the investment in his edifice of evil be as rich as it is now? Would he have felt nearly as great an urge to protect his fake empire as he clearly does now?

Maybe these descents into darkness could have been cut off before they ever began, were the brethren surrounding these men willing to come forward earlier.

Those who keep silent, who don’t want to be called “Sin Detectors” by those who are only willing to detect the sin of being a Sin Detector until their hand is forced, do no favors to those to whose sin they turn a blind eye. When a wound would prove true friendship, they instead contribute the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6). When they could save a soul from death, they choose to leave the sinner in the error of his way (James 5:19-20). When someone is committing adultery against our great Redeemer and Husband, causing rupture and disease, they do not call for repentance but instead refuse to even attempt to restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Thus they rob all concerned of the opportunity to look to themselves, lest they too be tempted, and to fulfill the law of Christ by bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-2).

There is a reason why we are many times commanded to examine ourselves in the Scripture, to distrust our hearts, to watch diligently against temptation, to struggle against the fleshly desires that wage war against our souls. It is because of what Jesus said in Mark 7:21-23 – “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” Further, to fulfill the many “one another” commands in the New Testament is to, among many, many other things, detect sin. How else can we forgive each other (Col 3:13, Eph 4:32)? How else to be devoted to one another in love and honor one another above ourselves (Rom 12:10), and indeed if we are not seeing even “warts” and blemishes on one another at times, can it be said that we are really devoted to one another? How can we fulfill the debt to love one another (Rom 13:8) if we substitute a necessary “wound” for the kisses an enemy would give? How can we build each other up (1 Thess 5:11) in reality, provoking one another toward love and good deeds (Heb 10:24) unless we point out that which is lacking? And how is it even worth saying that we ought to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21) if all we ever say to each other are syrupy-sweet nothings that we want to hear, that indeed tickle our itching ears?

To be continued…

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Preacher's Authority

"(A preacher) has authority only to the degree that he correctly interprets and clearly proclaims the truths of Scriptures." -- Paul Washer

Just thought that quote was worth mentioning aloud.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

KJV Bible Caption



"Sure! We have a KJV for those who are ignorant enough to think it was breathed out by God! Plus, whole sections of its text are incomprehensible so the force of its message is softened because you didn't understand what it is saying, which is why for someone like that I wouldn't recommend an NASB or ESV, b/c in that case you'd actually understand it."