Thursday, December 17, 2015

Kill The Infidels?

A friend asked my thoughts on this article by one Chuck Baldwin. Its beginning and middle are of pretty poor quality, but toward the end it starts to improve.

--Muslims aren't "a people".  Islam is a religion. Its adherents could be any ethnicity.
What binds Muslims together (to the extent that they are indeed bound together, which is not a whole lot when you think about all their wars between Muslims throughout history and the present day) is Islam, which styles itself as a complete system of LIFE and RELIGION and (get this) GOVERNMENT.
Thus I'd actually argue that Islam is very plausibly an inherently anti-Constitutional force, intrinsically devoted to the destruction of the American republic.

--Why is it bigotry or hatred to say that we need to control immigration better or close it off, as Trump says? Such Baldwin asserts, but doesn't argue for. I think that sort of language is at best sloppy and at worst really biased.

--He claims people are in a frenzy. Where are the resultant shootings of Muslims in the USA? Come now. That's just hysterical language. Sounds to me like the one in a frenzy is him.

--I watched the footage of Cruz's heckling, and while I wouldn't say he "stormed off stage" (the dude is a politician. Come on), it still wouldn't surprise me if he held a poor understanding of how the USA ought to relate to Israel. But I don't see how that connects to the previous paragraphs in the article or why I should care all that much.
(Note I'm not saying I agree with all that Cruz said in the video. The heckling seems to have begun with "Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state." The hecklers were right to object to that sort of statement.)

--Baldwin seems upset about Cruz's action, contending that "These were Christians who are being persecuted by Muslims and Jews".
1) What makes Baldwin think that THESE particular Christians were persecuted by Jews? Is there some sort of mass Christian refugee exodus from Israel of which I am unaware?
2) If I were a Christian in the Middle East I'd much prefer Israel's "persecution" to the mass rapes and massacres that ISIS is perpetrating. It is disappointing that Baldwin would equate the two situations.

--Baldwin asks "Mr. Cruz, are you standing with Israel when it stoned Stephen to death in Acts 7?" What an amazing statement.
1) That wasn't Israel. It was the Sanhedrin.
2) Lots of Jews became followers of Messiah. Why aren't they the ones Baldwin calls "Israel"?
3) Stephen was part of "Israel", being himself Jewish. (In fact, since he had faith in Messiah, he was part of the true Israel as well as being Jewish by blood.)
4) There is an enormous difference between the Jewish people of the 1st century and modern Israel.

--Baldwin claims "As justification for their bigotry and hatred, Christians love to quote passages from the Koran that speak of jihad against “infidels.” But, it never ceases to amaze me that these same Christians seem to have never read the Jewish Talmud."
It is very difficult to know how the Talmud is at all pertinent.
The quotations he provides are not even analogous to the usual citations from the Qur'an, which seem to a great many people to be prima facie, unqualified incitements to violence against unbelievers. These Talmudic quotations are not anything similar.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Using your language

So there's this:

Then there's this:

And then there's this:
Facebook search for #bethedocumentary

Twitter search for #bethedocumentary

Yet it's Shane Dodson and Marcus Pittman who are changing the conversation? Some movie that 30,000 people, most of whom apparently ignored or forgot what it was trying to communicate, have seen?

But Pittman's main point probably isn't wrong. It's just funny who he thinks is winning.

Friday, November 13, 2015

15 defenses of open air preaching

One Daniel Courney wrote the following on Facebook. I heartily endorse almost all of this defense of that which needs no defense and so reproduce it here.

Though there are many more reasons, here are 15 defenses of street/open-air preaching I wrote out this morning in response to a brother's request:
1. Street preaching is the foremost method God has used throughout the Bible to communicate His Word (our Lord and all the apostles and prophets were street/OA preachers; probably all five of our Lord's sermons recorded in Matthew were in the open-air (at very least the Sermon on the Mount in 5-7, the Sermon on the Parables of the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven in 13, and the Sermon on the Mount of Olives, 23-25, which are explicitly said to have occurred in the open air), most of the recorded sermons of the prophets and apostles were open-air sermons.

2. Street preaching turns the world upside down; it makes the church's presence felt by the world and demands a response. It is the most controversial form of evangelism and thus cannot be simply ignored by the world. It is, by its very nature, a publicity stunt.

3. Street preaching is one of the greatest antidotes to lukewarmness; it challenges our faith like no other spiritual exercise.

4. Street preaching is the form of evangelism most consistent with the definitions of the Hebrew and Greek words for "preach" (קרא; κηρύσσω), "evangelize" (בּשׂר; εὐαγγελίζω) and "boldness" (παῤῥησία) in the Bible.

5. Street preaching, because it is the bravest, boldest, and most intrepid form of glorifying the Lord and spreading His Word, is thus the greatest antidote to being ashamed of the Gospel or confessing His Name before men. It literally glorifies the Name of the Lord the most, in the most rigid sense of this concept -- God's glories and Name being trumpeted on the rooftops.

6. Street preaching invites the opportunity for faith-refining persecution like no other form of ministry.

7. Street preaching is the most aggressive, most militant, and fastest method of world evangelism and thus hastens the return of our Lord; whereas preaching in a church house can reach a 100 in a year, street preaching travels a 100 souls per hour.
I will add to this that, biblically speaking, when you are talking inside a "church house" (or a house church), that's not preaching, no matter how loud you talk or how much "authority" you project. Preaching is, biblically speaking, what is done out in the culture to lost people. So I would edit Point #7 to "whereas teaching in a church house" or "whereas lecturing", as well as fleshing out the very real differences between "reaching" someone with a lecture among Christians vs reaching someone with the Gospel in an open air preaching context.

8. Street preaching is more authoritative than one-on-one evangelism; its sermonic and rhetorical nature ensures that those who refuse to listen the gospel in a dialogue must hear it from the monologue of street preacher.

This is not a great point, as it trades on a dubious definition of the word "authoritative". Take that way, though, and it's a good point.
9. Street preaching is the form of evangelism most complementary to the doctrines of grace; only a true Calvinist with a high view of God recognizes the win-win scenario of God being glorified in the salvation of the elect and in the hardening of the reprobate to the vindication of His justice.

10. Street preaching makes the presence and power of the church known in the community like no other form of outreach, as it is most literally fulfilling the commands to set our light upon a lampstand, being a city set on a hill, and proclaiming from the rooftops what He has whispered in our ear.

11. Street preaching is the most inspirational form of evangelism; it is a double-edged sword in that it not only saves the elect outside the fold but greatly motivates and inflames the esprit de corps and morale of the army of God, the church. Many a lukewarm Laodicean Christian has been motivated to commit themselves to Christ, personal holiness, and world evangelism more seriously due to a street sermon more directly intended for the lost.

12. Street preaching is the most superabundantly fruitful form of evangelism. Ask any veteran field preacher.

13. Street preaching is the most manly form of evangelism; it takes most literally the command to "take dominion". Western culture has been emasculated, and sadly it seems as if the church has not been spared the effects of this neutering it seems. Now is the time for men of God to arise and to fulfill the command "Stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13).

14. Street preaching is the most angelic form of evangelism (the root word of evangelism being aggelos or angel); see Rev. 14:6.

15. Street preaching is safeguard against the erosion of freedom of speech; the day may soon come when America becomes a totalitarian state when the luxury of the constitutional right of freedom of speech is overturned by the SCOTUS. While you have the freedom to preach openly without the possibility of criminal prosecution or any life-threatening violent persecution may you seize the initiative!

Thursday, November 05, 2015

By the authority vested in me by the State...

The ceremony of my marriage was carried out inside a building that most people refer to as a "church".
The ceremony mostly occurred on the same platform from which the pastor man usually lectures the same people every Sunday morning and evening.
The ceremony was officiated by a clergyman who had also performed premarital counseling for my fiancée and me, who had told us early on that if were engaging in any hanky-panky beforehand, he would not officiate our wedding.

At the end of our ceremony, our covenant of marriage made and vows expressed, this officiating clergyman pronounced us married by the authority vested in him by God and by the State of Oklahoma. Then he signed his name to a document that my wife and I had obtained from the governmental office that manages such affairs, affirming in the eyes of the State that we were legally married.

What did these various words, spoken and written, spoken by the various participants, accomplish?

Did not the vows spoken in the sight of God (and, in our case, other witnesses) actually bring the marriage covenant into being? Given that, what role did the "officiating" clergyman play in the true substance of that day, which was to join two people in marriage? None that I can see.

When the clergyman "pronounce(d)" us husband and wife, who would argue that his pronouncement was anything more than a recognition of the covenant already brought into being? (Not that he said anything wrong or false that day other than that.) This raises some questions, though, as to why he prefaced his not-pronouncement pronouncement with the statement "by the authority vested in me by God and the state of Oklahoma":
-Where did God grant this authority to this man or this class of man, to create marriage covenants? (Obviously, if he simply meant that he had authority to understand and acknowledge a covenant of marriage, it barely merits saying such a thing; anyone can understand and acknowledge a marriage exists.)
-Does this not implicate the clergyman in any sin that may surround the couple (as in a recent incident involving Doug Wilson)?
-Does this not give all concerned the wrong idea of what marriage is - something to be conferred and (if we were to take it to the logical conclusion) which can be dissolved by a man?
-Does this not give all concerned the wrong idea of what marriage is - something to be conferred and (if we were to take it to the logical conclusion) which can be dissolved by the State?
-Why did he, an ostensible servant of Jesus, take onto himself the power of creating marriages in the eyes of the State? (And on what biblical reasoning would this sort of arrangement be based?)

It seems to me that this clergyman, like all others who take on the role of State-marriage-makers, is opening himself up to a significant danger from that State. If he opens his church and his clergy role to creating marriage relationships that the State also recognises as legally binding, does this not mean that he must create marriages in accord with the State's commands?

Thus, what if he were told by the State to marry whomever the State says should be able to marry? Would this man not be obviously exposed to charges of discrimination for marrying the people he deems fit to marry inside "his" church (though the church is not his, but rather belongs to God, and a church is not a building but rather a gathering of people who belong to God, and the building does not really belong to him ultimately but rather to the State if his church organisation is legally a 501c3 entity)?

Given all of these considerations, and given that the Bible specifically and repeatedly says things like "What God has joined together, let no man separate" of marriage covenants, would it not be by far the best course of action for clergy all over the country to stop officiating weddings, or at least to cease any cooperation with the State in creating legally binding marriage arrangements?

Would this not push responsibility back to the husband and wife?
Would this not remind all what a real covenant is? Who creates them? Who joins people together in marriage?
Would this not also allow clergy to more plausibly escape certain Statist ramifications when they push other definitions of marriage? If the clergyman were to renounce his licenses as an agent of the State, he would be under no obligation to marry people whom he does not want to marry, for he does not marry anyone!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Relationship evangelism

Jason Engwer made the following excellent observation:
I recently heard somebody commenting on how Christians often use Facebook, Twitter, and other media to do things like post photographs of their children and discuss sporting events, yet say nothing about subjects like God and the Bible. I've been astonished by how many people's Facebook accounts are a form of evangelization for secularism... They have so much to say about their children and grandchildren, friends, music, movies, television, sports, their jobs, politics, travel, food, etc., but so little to say, if anything, about matters like God, theology, and apologetics. When people see something like your Facebook account, blog, or Twitter page, do they see a secular, or nearly secular, lifestyle?
I'd disclaim that there are very important matters we should be discussing, and a lot, other than theology and apologetics, such as national sin, Christian obligation in response, and how we are confronting the culture with the Gospel. But a charitable reading of Engwer's remark could subsume those things under his having mentioned God, so let's let that go.

A friend responded on my Facebook wall:
It is called relationship evangelism. I see Facebook as a tool to build relationships. When you build a relationship with someone and get a deep look into their everyday lives, then people feel comfortable coming to you and talking to you about other things including religious beliefs. Why would anyone want to come to you for support if they feel you are going to judge them?

We let others know we are sinners too and our hope for a better tomorrow doesn't come from what we do but instead because of what Christ did for us.

I am not a better person because I go to church, abstain from certain things, or preach more than someone else. I am a better person because my heart is right with God because of what He did, not because of what I do.

"In the last days many will come to Me saying, didn't we preach in your name, heal the sick, raise the dead, and I will say to them, depart from me I never knew you" Jesus said.

We have to be careful that we do not preach to be seen by men but only speak to people as led by God. If a person's motive for posting is so others see you as a "good Christian" they will have their reward with men. If their motive for posting is because the Holy Spirit put it on their heart, the reward will be from God.

I have serious, serious reservations about this notion of "relationship evangelism". A few reasons why:
1) By aiming not to offend with too much overt Jesus, you show that you are willing to not be all about Jesus pretty much all the time. And that provides an example for others to follow. They can justify also not being all about Jesus because you aren't.
2) Most of the time, "relationship evangelism" is used an excuse NOT to share the Gospel. People never get around to it.
3) When/if you do get around to it, how credible will your profession to love Jesus be since you rarely talk about His being the King of your life?
4) Relating to people is not exclusive to being overtly all about Jesus. What you're actually doing is relating to people who are not convicted of their sin, while those who just might be convicted of their sin don't know that you are all about Jesus because you don't act or talk like you're all about Jesus. You're dealing with swine, in that case, and not even finding out that they're swine.
5) How can you avoid talking about Jesus all the time if you belong to Him? Where is your heart?
6) Where in the Bible do we ever see anything that looks like the relationship "evangelism" you propose?
7) When *do* you preach the Gospel? When you said "preach", did you mean "talk to someone one on one"? Did you (God forbid) mean something that a "pastor" does on Sunday mornings within the walls of a church building?
8) How is it the act of a friend to withhold the most important message that you have ever heard from them, the only news that can save them from Hell and eternally suffering the wrath of God?

You said:
\\I am a better person because my heart is right with God because of what He did not because of what I do.\\

I'd be really careful with that sort of language. You're not better. Anything good that you have or are you received from God by pure grace. It would be far better to say "I am better off". Saying "I am a better person" calls attention to yourself rather than Jesus.

You said:
\\We have to be careful that we do not preach to be seen by men\\

True, but ironically, your notion of relationship "evangelism" *AVOIDS* preaching so as to be seen (and esteemed) by men.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The negligible danger of making evangelism one's mistress

UPDATE: Tony Miano is on a downward slide into a very dangerous spiritual position and is leading his family down that path as well. As I said in my review of his book, "I sometimes honestly fear for him at the time when (not if) the elder(s) of his church fail him."
Well, now I fear for him even more. See here and then more importantly here. Lord have mercy. He who has presumed to lecture so many, block them on social media, and sow division between them and other believers on the basis of ecclesiology, "pastoral authority", "the authority of the local church", and whether one has been "sent" to do evangelism has shown himself to be an immature nomad, tossed about by winds and waves of doctrine.
Psalm 9:15 - The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made; In the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught.
Proverbs 29:6 - By transgression an evil man is ensnared, But the righteous sings and rejoices.

And yet...
Proverbs 24:17-18 - Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; or the LORD will see it and be displeased, and turn His anger away from him.

Pray for the man. Pray he will repent of all his bombastic rhetoric and realise the massive piles of hypocrisy in which he has engaged the last few years.

Certain street preachers of some popularity take every opportunity they can, it seems, to warn their readers/listeners against making evangelism and open-air preaching a "mistress" (here for example) and thus neglecting family, marriage, and the more "mundane" (as it were) aspects of church membership.
Yes, that happens, here and there. Yes, nobody should neglect their family or other responsibilities while they do other good things. Yes, it is a warning well taken. Yes, it should be stated here and there.
But is that a relevant warning to the vast, vast majority of professing Christians in America? Are we in the middle of a huge movement of men spending forty hours per week at work and then another forty out on the street or at the abortion mill preaching and evangelising while their families languish at home? No.
So, forget a "huge movement" - are we witnessing even a significant minority of the professing Christians of America doing so or anything close to it? No.
As conceded above, of course to do such a thing would be bad and sinful. But there's something else that is bad and sinful, which *is* in fact a vice shared by the vast, vast majority of professing Christians in America - a profound and vast complacency vis-à-vis the fact that people, BY THE THOUSANDS, are dying and going to Hell and murdering their babies, every single day, and that same vast, vast majority is doing nothing about it while they pursue their leisure, vacations, book studies, sports and fantasy sports, and potlucks.
These men are like doctors who during your annual checkup make a big deal out of your chronically stuffy nose while not even mentioning the fact that your aorta is 99% blocked and that your blood pressure and cholesterol are way too high. Upon coming to one's senses and a full realisation of the actual situation and its dangers, one would abandon that physician and warn others about his neglect and/or incompetence.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Church Fathers

(This is intended as a companion piece to Dustin Germain's excellent article.)

People everywhere within Christendom want to claim the "Church Fathers" as supporters of their own position. Eastern Orthodox cite Chrysostom against Rome, which counter-cites (sometimes-imaginary quotes from) Augustine, whom Protestants then cite against Rome, who then counter-cites Irenæus, who then gets claimed by the Eastern Orthodox... on and on it goes.

For the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, it's understandable that they do this, for a few reasons. One is that their concept of spiritual authority is pretty murky and leaves room for "Church Fathers" to hold sway in persuading people. If Basil of Cæsarea believed it, well, who am I to question such a Great Man? Another is that for a great deal of the distinctive doctrines of Rome and the East, there is no legitimate or remotely convincing biblical proof, so really all they have are quotes from church history and naked appeals to their own authority.

But for the adherent to Sola Scriptura, the usage of the appellation "Church Father" is puzzling and unnecessary and should be jettisoned. Further, Sola Scripturists ought to take great care in how they cite "Church Fathers", for what reason, and in which context. Let's explore this more.

First of all, the word "Father" has to do with generation and origin, parenthood. In no way are any of the men usually referred to as "Church Fathers" actually fathers of The Church. The Father of The Church is God the Father. The Founder of The Church is Jesus Christ. He who inducts people into The Church is the Holy Spirit.
Jesus handpicked men who would be the first preachers of His Church. Their names are recorded in the Gospel accounts and Acts. There are twelve of them, give or take one.
"And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons. And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder”); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot..."
--Mark 3:13-18

Throw in Paul and maybe Matthias, subtract Judas, and you have your human Church Fathers.

Second, there is no reason for confidence that we in modern times, so far removed from the context in which these "Church Fathers" lived, taught, and wrote, have sufficient understanding of their writings. Here are some challenges to hubristic overestimation of what can be gleaned for our use today from their extant writings:

Monday, July 20, 2015

Greek, and the imaginary biblical support for the office of deacon

Translator bias is a very real possibility when we evaluate Bible versions, and that bias can have very substantial and practical implications for how we live and do church, who believe the Bible to be the Word of God.

Consider the case of perhaps the grossest bias I have yet discovered in my years of reading the Bible among Bible translations that are usually considered to be reliable, conservative texts, leaning much more toward formal equivalency than dynamic - that of the inconsistent treatment of the word διάκονος (diakonos) (a noun) and its verb form διακονέω (diakoneō) in the major English versions.

The English word "deacon" is usually explained as a transliteration of the noun diakonos from Greek into English. I lack the resources to dig into the etymological history of the word "deacon", but suffice it to say for our purposes that it appears as early as the Wycliffe Bible, and that probably means it had been part of regular ecclesiastical English usage for quite some time before. I would not be surprised at all to find that it is a holdover from Roman Catholic language, thoughtlessly brought over into the Reformation tradition by men who got much right but also left much unreformed.

I will argue that this traditional language has slipped past the guard not only of pastors and religious service providers, lecturers, and theologians of the past 500 years or so, but even worse, past the guard of Bible translators. I can see no sound reason why either of these Greek words ought ever to be translated with the word "deacon" in any English text of the Bible. To claim "deacon" belongs there is to hold to this translating tradition that is actually at odds with consistent translation and contextual practice. The conclusion that it is translated this way in all these Bibles because of the tradition-colored bias of the translators is very hard to escape.

The Data

In the Greek NT, there are 27 occurrences of διάκονος. The NASB renders those as "minister" or "servant" every single time except Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:8 and 3:12. The ESV similarly says "deacon" only those three times and "minister" or "servant" every other time except Matt 22:13, where it reads "attendants".

In the Greek NT, διακονέω (which is the verb form, you'll recall) appears 32 times. The NASB and ESV render those as "administer", "minister", "wait on", "serve", "take care of", and suchlike. They read "serve as deacon" only twice, in 1 Timothy 3:10 and 3:13.

Thus we find that the NASB and ESV translators continued an established tradition, whose backing we will go on to question, that led them to render 11% of the occurrences of διάκονος as "deacon" and 6% of the occurrences of διακονέω as "serve as deacon". That's a very small amount; when the majority of the translations of a given word are a more general word like "servant" or "minister", but in certain situations one wants to change it to something more specific, one needs a good argument to do so, whether etymological, contextual, whatever.

All the New Testament occurrences of each word can be found at Blue Letter Bible, which is a wonderfully helpful resource:

Thus you can review each text in context. It will probably also be helpful to take a look at διακονία, "ministry", which has the same root, a very close relationship to the other two, and note how many times (out of 34 occurrences) it is translated with anything like "office" or "deacon" (never).

Now, let's take a look at some specifics.

The Epistles to Timothy

Of some note is the fact that neither render διάκονος as "deacon" in 2 Tim 1:18, despite the fact that it's the same author as 1 Timothy, Paul, writing to the same recipient, Timothy. Why the different translation?

Even more noteworthy is the same phenomenon in 1 Timothy 4:6. Note the way the  NASB translates the three verses in 1 Timothy that employ διάκονος:
--1 Timothy 3:8 - Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain...
--1 Timothy 3:12 - Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.
--1 Timothy 4:6 - In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.

Here in the very same letter, just a few sentences down from the other two appearances of διάκονος, the NASB translators use a different English word. One may object that the context calls for that different word. Fine; I invite anyone to show me how the context is appreciably different such that one could know that Paul is referring to some sort of specialised office or something that demands the creation of a new English word in the third chapter, but just a little later when identifying what Timothy will be if he does these things, suddenly it's a different meaning entirely. I don't think that argument is sustainable. The only reason one would say this is if he had a pre-existing commitment to the existence of a thing called "the office of deacon". The Greek text certainly doesn't lead anyone to that conclusion, taken by itself, which is pretty much what we're supposed to do if we want to go ad fontes as good Sola Scripturists.

Just Who Is A διάκονος?

I don't see a reason not to render διάκονος consistently across the board. To whom is διάκονος applied in the New Testament?

--Phoebe (Rom 16:1)
--Tychicus (Eph 6:21; Col 4:7)
--Epaphras (Col 1:7)
--Apollos (1 Cor 3:5)

Interestingly, I think most people would think of Apollos as more of a teacher or something, and that doesn't fit the traditional "deacon" role.

But it gets better.
--Old Testament prophets (1 Peter 1:12)
--Paul (1 Cor 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6, 6:4, 11:23; Col 1:23-25)
--Jesus (Rom 15:8)

So, does the word mean "deacon" or doesn't it? If you're going to go to the trouble of creating a new English word (back 600+ years ago when it was created, I mean), why wouldn't you apply it to every occurrence? Are these people deacons or not? I can't think of anyone who would contend that they are, with the possible exception of Phoebe. Phoebe is often the center of "can women be deaconesses?" debates, and of course the reasoning behind those debates is that there is an office called "deacon" in the New Testament.

But wait, there's more!

Not only are these individuals referred to with διάκονος; other individuals such as Onesimus (Philemon 13), as well as all believers, are said to engage in διακονέω (the verb), in Hebrews 6:10 and 1 Peter 4:10-11! If Phoebe is possibly a deacon, then so are Jesus, Paul, Apollos, Amos, Jeremiah, Daniel, and everyone else who believes in Jesus.

Also, don't forget that Jesus Himself said that the greatest among His disciples shall be διάκονος (Matthew 23:11). One wonders, then, why deacons don't occupy such a lofty position in modern churches, as usually it's the pastor who's the greatest among the disciples.

A Third Church Office

Now that we mention 1 Peter 4:10-11, it would appear we have approximately equal biblical support for saying that "steward" is an office in the church.
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves (διακονέω) is to do so as one who is serving (διακονέω) by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)
If we're going to go around willy-nilly creating church offices out of thin air based on isolated passages in which we translate words in a way that is inconsistent with the way we translate it everywhere else, why not do that with "steward" (οἰκονόμος), given the way Peter uses it here in 1 Peter 4, in the context of local church life?

What's the difference? It is that "steward", in the course of medieval Roman Catholic and proto-Protestant history, never came to be thought of as an office. If it had, I have no doubt the modern pastoral zeitgeist would ensure we're all teaching and seeking men to fill the three church offices of which the New Testament speaks, and there would be whole sermons where the Scripture is butchered to "support" the establishment of the office of steward as we now see for the office of deacon.

You see, holding a church office allows men to feel important and achieve recognition, which is a basic (and usually sinful) human desire. It also allows for people to, when convenient, parry questions about their behavior and teaching, since they have a Badge of Ecclesiastical Approval, to which the hypothetical inquiring "layperson" has not attained. It's the "Touch Not God's Anointed" syndrome, which is common, many claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

Deacons and Women

Further evidence that the Apostle Paul meant something other than to be setting out "qualifications" for "church offices" in 1 Timothy 3 appears in verse 11.

The claim is that Paul is saying "if a man has the following qualities, he can be a candidate for the office of 'overseer/elder/pastor/bishop/presbyter/whatever else' or of 'deacon'." While this is less a question of translation proper, it raises questions with reference to the backing tradition that brought the translation about that included "deacon". If these are indeed qualifications for offices, why do we see parallel sentence structures in verses 2, 8, and 11?

Verse 2 - An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach

Verse 8 - Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain,

Verse 11 - Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.

Is "woman" a church office? I know of no one who thinks so, but one of the most significant arguments in favor of these church offices is the language in 1 Timothy 3, and if "overseer" and "deacon" are offices, then "woman" would seem to be one as well.

A Better Suggestion

Bible translations ought to communicate as clearly and faithfully as possible the meaning of the original language text. I'll just say it like it is - inserting the word "deacon" in 1 Timothy 3 and Philippians 1, instead of sticking with what διάκονος actually means, which is "minister" or "servant", is an unhelpful and false translation that stems from the traditions of man rather than properly passing on the meaning of the Greek text.

The inconsistencies we have seen already. Of course it is preposterous that Jesus be a deacon. Of course it is preposterous that all women hold a "church office", leaving churches that are majority "clergy" and minority "laypeople". That's the point. Whoever it was who thought of the word "deacon" should have cared about these points, enough to not transliterate διάκονος into English. Later translators should have corrected that error - such a thing has been done numerous times, but not in this case. Rather, translators and theologians and the like have, up to this very day, perpetuated and promulgated this mistaken notion and thus led churches into error.

My proposal is simple - remove "deacon" from the English text and replace it with "minister" or "servant", like the word is translated in pretty much every other occurrence. Let us rejoice that the Lord has given us yet another opportunity to be semper reformanda and throwing off the false practices, structures, and teachings that Rome bequeathed to us.

Then, let's consider what 1 Timothy 3 actually means, since it doesn't mean "holder of a church office called 'deacon'", bear fruit in keeping with repentance, walk in the truth in all things, and reform our churches to match true biblical teaching.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Cage stage anti-abolitionists

The claim is also absurd on its face as it runs counter to all the (overwhelming!) evidence that AHA evinces a very strong "in-group / out-group" mentality in both speech and in writing.

AHA's proponents' rhetoric drips with contempt for its ideological foes both within the pro-abortion and pro-life spheres.

One wonders to what "overwhelming" evidence this CR individual refers. I've seen worse, personally, in Reformed circles like the Reformed Pub Facebook group, where in some ways if you don't homebrew your own beer you're not part of the cool kids crowd. But status as alcohol connoisseur aside, the term "cage stage Calvinist" exists for a reason, and quite a few people have gone years in that stage. Same with covenant theology, or one's preferred eschatological position, or cessationism, or pretty much anything. Does CR decry the same among the Reformed? Does that mean Reformed theology or covenant theology or amillennialism is an organisation?

Of course not. Those are ideologies. Like AHA is an ideology. There are people who adhere to amillennialism. There are people who adhere to Reformed theology. There are people who adhere to Abolish Human Abortion ideology. They're called "abolitionists (of human abortion)". This is only complex to the intentionally obtuse.

At any rate, if someone wants to show a very strong "in-group / out-group" mentality, it would be wonderful if they could
  • prove it
  • demonstrate it is relatively stronger than other comparable examples
  • show how it is inordinately strong and not just a more or less average outflow of the natural human tendency to cohere among like-minded people
I bet CR would claim his own church has an in-group/out-group mentality. He would probably say it is justifiable. I would probably agree with him. So why does he object to the same among abolitionists?

As for "dripping with contempt", I simply say: May the Lord protect us from harboring contempt for other people. That would probably be sinful, though not always; Scriptural examples could certainly be forwarded of godly people and even the Lord Jesus treating especially false professors and false religionists with contempt. I mean, God straight up laughs at the wicked in the second Psalm.
But of course, each instance needs to be judged on its own merits. If CR loves abolitionists, he ought to call us on our sin. I pray he will do that, so that if we have indeed sinned, we may repent of it and be holy as our Father in heaven is holy.
(Side note: What are the chances he'll actually do that? Yep; I agree that they're probably pretty low. Snide swipes from afar as a barely-pseudonymous [mostly anonymous] commenter are much easier than actually laboring with brothers in love, as I tried to do with Steve via email.)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Intransigence and Steve Hays

So Steve Hays decided to post his side of our email correspondence. I wasn't going to do that, but I might as well give the full context. Notice the way Steve refuses to take correction, how he speaks so harshly, in such an unbrotherly manner. I tried to reason with the man. Sometimes he just can't be reasoned with. It's kind of sad, actually.

Also, this might help before we get into the correspondence:

I realise that I might have lacked some needed specificity in this interaction when I used the word "group" at times. In my mind, I was equating "group" with "organisation", and those are not exactly the same things, but they are close. Steve could have chosen to enter into a constructive conversation with me in an attempt to come to a common understanding that edifies everyone, but he chose not to.
Keep in mind that he and I have been acquainted via email and blogs for probably around 7 years, maybe more. I used to contribute to the Triablogue; I thought Steve was a friend. I was wrong; I don't know what he was looking for when he said I could contribute, but I guess he got what he wanted and then has dispensed with me.


It's really sad that you are doing this. Trying to point out actual flaws is one thing. You're just on a vendetta.

May the Lord help you, man.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lack of balance and monovision in James White

No, I don't actually think James White lacks balance or has monovision.

However, his most recent Dividing Line focused solely on responding to a British charismatic Christian about same-sex marriage.

If someone were to listen to only one single Dividing Line broadcast like that one, which focused on narrowly-focused subject matter,


if someone were to refuse to listen to any rebuttals on his part or search out whether he has written or spoken on any material that's not related to conservative Christians talking about same-sex marriage,


one could say that James White is an "unhinged little micro-group" (after all, there are two men that run AOMin, which is a very, very small group, but still a group) that lacks balance vis-à-vis his churchmanship. After all, I didn't hear him say anything about his church membership or anything during the entire Dividing Line broadcast. Not even once! He had a whole hour to talk! He could've even done a jumbo or mega DL, thus taking longer than an hour.

Could not one say that he is a "one-string banjo, zealous for the one note he has learned to play on what is supposed to be the orchestral symphony of God's truth"? Couldn't one conclude that his narrow focus is "just sad"?

Again, don't bother me with evidence of the other things he has said or written about. I'm only going to pay attention to a small slice of life and intentionally and willfully ignore the rest. I'm going to insist that White is a caricature so that I can dismiss all the other things he says and pretend he has monovision on this topic of what British charismatic Christians think about same-sex marriage. Then I'll berate him for being a one-string banjo; that way I can be safely pre-insulated from anything else he might say that might ever convict me or persuade me to change my ways.

And if you still cry foul, I'll just say that I learned my method from White himself.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A/the church/Church

Here's a chart I created to help people understand how to use the phrases "a church", "the church", "the Church" (and its close cousin "The Church").
It's not exhaustive, but it offers some clear thinking on the topic. It's hard to find people who use these words correctly on a consistent basis.

Friday, May 08, 2015

"Be lukewarm and spewed"

Steve Hays renews his ill-advised critique of immediatism by... branching off into all sorts of issues that are not all that pertinent to immediatism.
\\It's revealing how abolitionists think their agitation gives them bragging rights\\

It's an uncharitable and in fact incorrect interpretation of my words to think that I/we have some sort of bragging rights.
Yet let the Lord protect us from such an attitude, to be sure!
Perhaps Steve thinks that the Apostle Paul was trying to claim bragging rights in Philippians 3 or 2 Corinthians 10-11.

\\Abortion isn't the only important issue that Christians need to be involved with\\

Nobody has said it is. Yet we have made the case again and again why the murder of 60 million and counting humans over the course of 42 years and counting should take a very, very high priority over even something like whether the gaystapo gets to tell 501c3 organisations whom they should marry.
Euthanasia - get back to me when it's legal to shoot senior citizens in the head willy-nilly and the death rate surpasses a few thousand a year. I'm not trying to sound callous here, but I actually think Steve is the one who is being callous and turning a blind eye toward child sacrifice. Nobody is saying that we should do nothing about those other things - those ought to be combated with immediatist calls to repentance and the Gospel of Jesus Christ the same as abortion ought to be. The Word of God is the weapon.
Steve also misses the fact that all of these are intertwined in many ways. Attack the powers of darkness in one area and you diminish it elsewhere too. But you have to use godly weapons and wisdom, not the worldly kind.

\\We need to resist secular totalitarianism in its various manifestations.\\

Ironic that Steve says this in defense of the pro life movement, which "resists secular totalitarianism" while teaming up with atheists, papists, eastern conciliarists, and other pagans.

\\the church has different body parts. Different members have different gifts. All Christians don't have the same duties or calling\\

Have this kind of discussion long enough with people and you can see this coming a mile away.
Steve runs afoul of the Bible at this point.

"Calling" is not the same as "gifting". And Steve needs to prove, not assume, that
1) variously gifted people can't address abortion with the Gospel
2) variously gifted people shouldn't address abortion with the Gospel
3) certain giftings mean you don't have an obligation to love your preborn neighbor who is being murdered down the street.

\\There's a need for Bible scholars, ethicists, and apologists.\\

A few, sure. Most churchgoing people are not in position to be those things, and that majority is too busy watching movies, amusing themselves, and "attending services" to do much of anything about anything, let alone sacrifice for the good of their neighbors being taken away to death.

\\Anti-abortion activism isn't the only way of loving your neighbor. \\

What about your preborn neighbor, 1.2 million or more of whom will die this year alone?

\\Visiting shut-ins and nursing home residents is a godly activity. Or caring for enfeebled parents.\\

Is Steve assuming these are mutually exclusive?

\\Moreover, it's very time-consuming just to be a breadwinner, as well as a husband and father\\

1) What does this have to do with immediatism, again?
2) Don't I know it! I have three children, one a newborn with Down Syndrome, two jobs, a 35 mile commute to the main one, and all the worries and difficulties of anyone else. I make time to speak up for my preborn neighbors, and all around me I see armchair QBs like Steve who whine they don't have time.
3) And this:

Alexandra and accusations of lying

In which someone posts on the AHA page, says a bunch of nonsense, then reveals herself to be nothing more than a troll.

We have had both T. Russell and Toby on our page recently. They are both cowards. They both lie. They acknowledge that your group is made up of many criminals who have had their children removed from their homes, all while trying to control women. They fight churches and communities with no thought of a reconciliation. Why work with people when they can get press and money for being liars? And, most importantly, they have admitted that this is not a charity. All money for merchandise or donations goes to them. Directly to them. No rules applied. Love the sheep that accept this. Good luck to you idiots!
Like · Comment · 
  • Rhology @Alexandra Stone, this is a very serious set of accusations. I am part of the same church that Toby and Russell are, and if what you are saying is true, I would very much like to call them in front of the church and rebuke and discipline them for their lies. Lies are not fit for the mouths of those who claim to serve Jesus, and Jesus is not pleased with those who lie. The Bible says that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire, and because I love Toby and Russell I want them to repent of whatever lies they have told so that they may perhaps escape the lake of fire and find forgiveness. 
    Please provide evidence of these lies so that we may examine the situation more closely. Thank you.
    Like · Reply ·  · 1 hr
  • Rhology Just a couple of other things also, since the truth is so important, as it clearly is to you:

    \\They acknowledge that your group is made up of many criminals\\

    I'm afraid you've misunderstood quite a lot. 
    1) AHA is not a "group". 
    2) My particular abolitionist society, as well as the one of which Russell and Toby are a part, has exactly one convicted criminal - Toby - and Toby makes no secret of his past sin and of his repentance of that past sin. His life is totally different than his past sinful way of living, and it has been for many years. 
    3) You may be thinking of other repentant criminals who call themselves abolitionists, like Michael Plaisted and Jered Ragon. That makes three total, but you said "many". I'm not sure what you could mean. Four or five out of hundreds isn't exactly "many". 
    4) Michael and Jered are also open about their past sin and their repentance and rejection of that past lifestyle, just as Toby is. I don't understand why you would try to use this as a rebuke of abolitionists or abolition. Did you know that Jesus Christ forgives repentant sinners and washes them clean? 

    \\who have had their children removed from their homes\\

    I can think of three people who call themselves abolitionists of whom this is possibly descriptive. One of them is currently deep in sin against other abolitionists, and I have publicly rebuked them for it. Another has done no abolitionist work in over two years, and another for over one year. I'm not sure to what you refer. 

    \\all while trying to control women\\

    I'm afraid I have no idea what this could mean. Why does proclamation of Jesus as Lord and the reiteration of His law against murder equal controlling women? Help me out, please. 

    \\They fight churches\\

    I'm afraid I don't know what this means, either. If you mean that abolitionists call churches that are sin to repentance, well, it's true we do that, but that's not fighting. That's loving. Please read the New Testament. 

    \\most importantly, they have admitted that this is not a charity.\\

    Well, that's right. I'm unsure why you seem to think this is a problem. 

    \\All money for merchandise or donations goes to them. Directly to them. No rules applied. \\

    I hate to break it to you, but that sentence applies to charitable organisations as well. And the rules that apply are those that apply to running for-profit businesses, so the AHA Gear store has to run its business transactions honestly and forthrightly and provide the agreed-upon goods or services in exchange for whatever payment the customer pays. 
    This isn't rocket surgery, Alexandra. I'm really afraid that your blind hatred of what we stand for is leading you to all sorts of unfair and wicked statements. Please back up, repent, breathe, and examine us in fairness. Feel free to ask any questions you want. I will answer them openly and honestly, as long as they are reasonable and don't, for example, pry into things which you have no business knowing like deeply personal matters or something.
    Like · Reply · 1 ·  · 1 hr
  • Maddie Davis What page is it that they're commenting on?
    Like · Reply · 1 hr
  • Maddie Davis Rocket
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · 1 hr
  • Rebecca Wood you really put all the money you make back into your own pockets?

    I did not know that. Why aren't you donating to charities that help pregnant women or something?
    Like · Reply · 47 mins
  • Rhology Rebecca Wood Thanks for the opportunity to clarify. The answer is no - the Gear store actually puts virtually all its "profits" back into making more gear. The goal of the store is to seed the culture and aid abolitionists. 

    \\Why aren't you donating 
    to charities that help pregnant women or something?\\

    We talk about that fairly often. 
    1) Most charities collude with enemies of the Gospel. 
    2) Tons of them will go with pragmatic interests instead of being faithful to the Word of God. 
    3) A 501c3 status is highly morally problematic. 
    4) People ought not to pay a third party to love their neighbor for them, whether it's individuals paying or churches paying. 
    5) And these charities enable that sort of thing, because it's a major part of their ability to exist. 

    Everyone ought to be contributing to their churches and their churches ought to be sacrificially loving people in need, not paying someone else to do it for them while they comfortably pursue the latest and greatest lights and video equipment.
    Like · Reply · 2 · · 39 mins
  • Gideon Athenagoras Alexandra Stone,

    When people who are wrong realize that they are wrong and have no ability to prove themselves right or convince others to be wrong with them they turn to just bold faced lies and accusation. 

    When people cannot answer the questions of their opponents or defend what they believe in the face of critical opposition, they turn to slandering their opponents in hopes that people will just be led away from the truth by their lies.

    This is what you are doing right now.

    Its weak and pathetic and any body with any sense at all sees right through it.
    Like · Reply · 22 mins
  • Alexandra Stone "convince others to be wrong with them they turn to just bold faced lies and accusation. "
    Like · Reply · 13 mins
  • Alexandra Stone Except Rho unwittingly just backed up everything I said.
    Like · Reply · 12 mins
  • Rhology \\Except Rho unwittingly just backed up everything I said.\\

    What are you talking about?
    Like · Reply · · 12 mins
  • Rhology Alexandra - evidence please. You made an accusation. Please provide your evidence.
    Like · Reply · · 11 mins
  • Alexandra Stone Other than the bizarre semantics of "group", he has verified that there are multiple criminals, verified that they take the money and spend it how they wish, etc.
    Like · Reply · 11 mins
  • Alexandra Stone "We talk about that fairly often.
    1) Most charities collude with enemies of the Gospel.
    2) Tons of them will go with pragmatic interests instead of being faithful to the Word of God.

    3) A 501c3 status is highly morally problematic.
    4) People ought not to pay a third party to love their neighbor for them, whether it's individuals paying or churches paying.
    5) And these charities enable that sort of thing, because it's a major part of their ability to exist.

    Everyone ought to be contributing to their churches and their churches ought to be sacrificially loving people in need, not paying someone else to do it for them while they comfortably pursue the latest and greatest lights and video equipment."

    As for this cop-out, I call balderdash. And it is topped with the point that people should give to the church. Gee, what tax exempt status do many churches have?
    Like · Reply · 10 mins
  • Alexandra Stone Ah, the "morally problematic" one. Good for the church, but not good enough for AHA.
    Like · Reply · 10 mins
  • Rhology \\ he has verified that there are multiple criminals\\

    Not in "our group", though. So you're wrong there. 

    \\verified that they take the money and spend it how they wish\\

    I didn't say that either. I said what I said and anyone can read it. 
    Alexandra, I'm getting the feeling you're not engaging in good faith here. Please provide the evidence that Russell and Toby lied. False accusations like that are against our page rules, so please provide the evidence or you will be banned.
    Like · Reply · 10 mins
  • Alexandra Stone Nice try, Rho. You are right, anyone can read it.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 9 mins
  • Rhology \\As for this cop-out, I call balderdash\\


    \\And it is topped with the point that people should give to the church. Gee, what tax exempt status do many churches have?\\

    1) Not to "the church". I don't even know what "the church" means. Which church? There are good ones and bad ones. 
    2) The astute reader will note that I obviously don't think churches ought to be 501c3. Why else would I say "A 501c3 status is highly morally problematic"?

    \\Ah, the "morally problematic" one. Good for the church, but not good enough for AHA.\\

    This makes zero sense. Nowhere have any of us said that we think churches ought to be 501c3. We frequently say the exact opposite. And that's why no abolitionist society or group is 501c3. 
    I don't know what's unclear about this, for those who want to see the truth.
    Like · Reply · · 6 mins · Edited
  • Rhology Alexandra, since you're obviously also watching this thread closely right now, I must insist you provide your evidence BEFORE you post anything else. 
    Fair enough?
    Like · Reply · 7 mins
  • Rebecca Wood Oh. So only people that believe in God deserve help.

    I understand now.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 7 mins
  • Rhology \\So only people that believe in God deserve help.\\

    Rebecca Wood Blatant misrepresentation and word-twisting like that are otherwise known as "trolling" and violate our page rules. Do not do so again or you will be banned.
    Like · Reply ·· 6 mins
  • Rebecca Wood Why doesn't AHA donate it's money to it's church of choice that it trusts so that it can be given to people that need help? 

    You aren't selling your T-shirts at cost. There is profit being made. If you want to end abortion so badly, why not help the pregnant women in need so they don't feel they need abortion? 

    Is spreading your message THAT much more important than saving a preborn child?
    Like · Reply · 3 mins
  • Alexandra Stone Sorry, Rho, unlike your sheep I don't follow your orders. Feel free to block me. I have found that is generally what this page does with truth and dissent. And ask your "brothers" about their lies. Although, based on their track record, I wouldn't expect a full accounting.
    Like · Reply · 2 mins
  • Alexandra Stone "So only people that believe in God deserve help.'

    Unless you are Catholic, lol!
    Like · Reply · 2 mins
  • Rhology \\Why doesn't AHA donate it's money to it's church of choice that it trusts so that it can be given to people that need help? \\

    AHA doesn't have any money, since AHA is an ideology and not a group or organisation. Please pay attention. 

    If you're asking about individual abolitionist societies or whatever, ask each one. In the case of the AbSoc of Norman, we don't know any churches in our area that we would entrust with that, and there's only 30 of us, so we use the resources we have to directly help women. 
    Why would we outsource loving our neighbor to someone else?

    \\You aren't selling your T-shirts at cost.\\

    1) Actually, recently they HAVE been doing just that. 
    2) Nowhere has anyone claimed that the store is non-profit. It has to make some money to invest in creating new resources. 

    \\why not help the pregnant women in need so they don't feel they need abortion?\\

    We do. It must be so embarrassing to keep saying false things instead of asking for the actual facts of the matter so you can make an informed and fair judgment.
    Like · Reply · · Just now
  • Rhology \\ unlike your sheep I don't follow your orders. Feel free to block me.\\

    Like · Reply · Just now