Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Long back and forth with a Satanist

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

His first email:

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

User-Friendly Churches

I’m sure that most of you are familiar with the terms “seeker-sensitive” or “seeker-friendly” to designate a certain category of church. The term is ubiquitous in circles like those in which the Pulpit & Pen runs. It is used of a gamut of churches, from entirely heretical Lakewood Church in Houston and milquetoast Six Flags Over Jesus-type experiences like and Relevance Church to blood-and-guts guns-and-profanity-and-sexual-innuendo get-a-DWI-then-step-down-then-wait-four-weeks-then-just-start-“preachin'”-again Heath Mooneyham’s Ignite Church.

Many trees have given their lives and many pixels been darkened discussing the nature of seeker-friendly churches, their motivations, their attempts at biblically justifying their existence and modus operandi, the ways in which they blow through millions of dollars in valiant attempts to entertain people who hate God and stay only a few years behind the world’s trends. One of the main voices in this venture has just gone to his reward in the arms of the Redeemer, but the Lord has raised up others to speak truth to itching ears, such as Chris Rosebrough and, if we may be so bold, the Pulpit & Pen program as well, among many.

Because of their visibility, the discerning Christian is well-served to spend time calling out the sins of the false teachers and false prophets that lead these churches. The Word of God also sets a significant priority on exposing and warning of them, so it is a commendable practice, to be sure. To expose the evil of these false teachers is to (if you do it right) proclaim truth from a public stage, illuminate darkness, and set in starkest contrast the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets did it. We should probably go ahead and follow their example.

However, partly because the false teacher at the head is such an obvious target and partly because of the relative vagueness and inaccessibility of the congregants, the criticism and call to repentance usually begins and ends at the Head Wolf, rather than extending to any significant extent to the wolflets, without whom the Wolf can’t survive.

This leads into a crucial point – nobody chooses false teaching in the stead of the adherent. The adherent may be manipulated, may be lied to, may be love-bombed; any number of influences may play a part in the person selecting his worldview. But the person chooses what he will believe. Notice who is the subject in such passages as 1 Tim 4:1, 2 Tim 4:3, and Prov 1:20-31. It is the person who believes the false doctrine, rather than the false teacher himself.
Notice the language of choice and of willful deviation from the commands of the Lord. The lost have no one to blame but themselves for their choices and self-reinforcing depravity. False teachers derive their power from the consent of the deceived. They have no power that their followers don’t give them. How many false teachers have come and gone, having made no mark on history? They weren’t able to gather a large enough following to enrich themselves significantly, so instead of becoming rich and powerful like a TD Jakes or Joyce Meyer, or forming their own identifiable religion like a Joseph Smith, they scraped by. They needed to be enabled by disciples, and the disciples didn’t stick around in sufficient number.

Thus, what we have here is exactly what 2 Tim 4:3 tells us – the wolflets seek to get their itching ears scratched. Someone who has paid to sit in the floor section at Lakewood is using JoelO to get his spiritual high and/or his standing in the community. JoelO, of course, is only too happy to take his money, show his rear end in a seat on TV, and use him right back. It’s a mutually parasitic relationship. We don’t recognise the name of the guy occupying the paid floor seat at Lakewood, because his face doesn’t get on TV or the covers of books in Mardel, but he himself bears plenty of guilt for using the religio-social apparatus that Lakewood or whatever other church provides to get what he is looking for.

If he were looking for Jesus, he would seek out a group of believers who are walking with Jesus and who actually love the Scripture, because “the sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3).
Allow me to let you in on a little secret. We who love the Scripture have allowed these wolves and wolflets to subvert the language of Scripture. It’s happened plenty of times.
  • Papists have stolen the word “catholic”, which means “universal Christian”, though the Roman Catholic Church is far from universal.
  • Eastern conciliarists have stolen the word “orthodox”, which means “correct doctrine”, though the Eastern Orthodox Church’s doctrine contains many fundamental errors.
  • Mormons have stolen the words “church” and “of Jesus Christ” and “saints”, though they do not constitute a church, do not follow Jesus, and are not saints.
  • And now, in that same line of thinking, we have “seeker-sensitive” or “seeker-friendly”.
Yet what does the Scripture say about who seeks whom in the man-God relationship?

John 4:23 – But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

So, the lost man does not seek God. God seeks the lost man. But these wolves and wolflets use the word “seeker-friendly” because they want to pander to the wants and felt needs of people who hate God, whom they call “seekers”. Yet there are no seekers. There is only one Seeker: the Creator of the universe. Thus a true seeker-friendly church would actually be that which devotes itself carefully and entirely to the Word of God in order to attempt to be friendly to and please God, the Seeker, in every way.

Let’s take back the terms “seeker-friendly” and “seeker-sensitive”. Instead, since these churches are merely amusement parks for the rebellious who are at enmity with God and who are seeking to leverage the experience, the status, and the visibility for their own personal pleasures and gains, I propose this much more accurate appellation: User-Friendly Churches.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

On Holding on Viola, Part 2

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

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

People institute and maintain institutions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

On Holding on Viola, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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