Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Home churches, Non-Calvinist authors, Memes from false teachers, Contrarian commenter?)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


What is your view of home/house churches?

My approach to home churches – small groups of Christians who meet in someone’s home to have a worship service together rather than attending an established local church- is:

  • I urge extreme caution when considering a home church
  • Start/attend a home church only as a last resort when you can’t find an established, doctrinally sound church within achievable driving distance of your home.
  • View the home church as a church plant (the home church will grow into an official, established church, rather than staying a home church)
  • Have a proper, biblical ecclesial structure (a biblically qualified pastor/elders/deacons, conduct worship gatherings according to biblical parameters, etc.)

I elaborated on this issue a little more in my article Six Ways Not to Forsake the Assembly:

I want to be clear that I advise [starting a home church] only as a last resort after exhausting every possibility of joining a biblical established church. I have known of people who withdrew from established churches because of doctrinal problems, and instead of searching for a sound, established church, decided to form a house church, which then fell into other doctrinal problems of its own. House churches can be very vulnerable to doctrinal error.

If you must meet with other believers outside of an established church, make sure whoever is pastoring the group is biblically qualified to do so, and that your home church carries out all of the components of a biblical church: Bible teaching, worship, prayer, care for members, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, and church discipline. There are many wonderful, trustworthy resources such as sermons, Bible teaching, and Bible study lessons available on line for free. Take advantage of them. You may also wish to contact your denomination’s headquarters, a reputable missions organization, or a doctrinally sound church planting organization and ask about the possibility of a missionary or church planter coming to plant a new church in your area.

In countries with governments which outlaw Christianity, underground home churches are the only option. That is not the case in America and most Westernized countries yet, though we are headed down that road. Until that time, I would strongly urge Western Christians to join with an established, doctrinally sound local church (keeping in mind that no church is perfect, and most won’t meet all your preferences), and if there isn’t one in your area, either contact a church planting organization or move to an area where there is an established, doctrinally sound church.

Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians


Are there any non-Calvinist/Reformed authors you would consider solid?

There are probably scads of them, but – and it might surprise you to hear this – I don’t check to see whether or not someone is Calvinist/Reformed before deciding whether or not to read or listen to his materials, and consequently, I often don’t even know which soteriological label he wears. All I care about is whether or not he rightly handles Scripture and behaves in submission to Scripture.

I’m frequently on the receiving end of the accusation, “You just think anybody who’s not a Calvinist is a false teacher!”. It’s simply not true. That’s not something I consider an automatic litmus test of someone’s doctrinal soundness. The vast majority of the churches I have personally been a member of have not even had a Calvinist/Reformed pastor.

I’m sorry I can’t provide you with any specific names. Read people who handle Scripture correctly. That’s the best counsel I can give.

(Just a reminder, readers, I don’t allow Calvinism vs. Arminianism arguments in the comments sections of my articles. Comments like this won’t be posted.)


Just wondering how you respond to quotes/memes, etc from unbiblical teachers when it appears there’s nothing wrong with the quote/meme? A family member of mine often posts memes like this on Facebook. Most of them deal with being kind to each other, or continuing to trust God and rather simplistic things. I don’t disagree with that particular message but don’t want her to get caught up in false teaching.

I’m taking this to mean something like Lysa TerKeurst sharing a Bible verse meme or Beth Moore sharing a meme that says, “Prayer is a vital part of the Christian life,” or something like that. In other words, the content of the meme itself is in line with Scripture, but it has the name of a false teacher attached to it, and that’s what makes it problematic.

There could be a couple of different things happening here. It could be that your family member follows and is a fan of the false teacher she’s reposting. Or it could be that a Facebook friend of hers or some sort of “inspirational quotes” page she follows shared the meme and she is just re-sharing it having no idea who the false teacher is or what she teaches.

I would suggest contacting her privately in an e-mail or private message on Facebook (even if this is someone you see face to face regularly, because an e-mail or message is less confrontational and emotional, and also allows you to provide information more easily) and very lovingly, gently, and briefly say something like this:

Hi Laurel-

Hope you’re having a great day.

I just wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know how much I appreciate your heart for encouraging people on Facebook with the memes you post. So many people are hurting these days and are in need of a kind word.

I’m sure you didn’t realize it, but you’ve posted a couple of memes from Priscilla Shirer and Christine Caine, both of whom teach and do some very unbiblical things. As a Christian, I know you would never want to lead anyone astray from Scripture, even accidentally, so I thought I’d pass along this information on them to fill you in on where they’re coming from. If you have any questions or want to chat about it, just let me know.

Priscilla Shirer: https://michellelesley.com/2015/09/18/going-beyond-scripture-why-its-time-to-say-good-bye-to-priscilla-shirer-and-going-beyond-ministries/

Christine Caine: https://michellelesley.com/2016/03/04/chhave-no-regard-for-the-offerings-of-caine/

Love,
Kristy

And then I would leave it at that unless she brings it up and wants to talk. You can lead a horse to Living Water, but only the Holy Spirit can make him drink. :0)

Four Reasons Why It Matters Who We Share, Pin, and Re-Tweet

Words with Friends by Amy Spreeman

Words with Friends at A Word Fitly Spoken (several great resources in the show notes)


Several years ago I had a falling out with a friend when I warned her about a false teacher and she vehemently disagreed. Since that time, she has begun following more and more false teachers, and has started a blog which centers around extra-biblical revelation. Recently, she asked me to subscribe to her blog. Is it proper for me to get involved with a blog with which I will be in total disagreement and arguing theology probably constantly? Should I join and be the only voice of Biblical reason?

It’s interesting, knowing your disagreement with the false teacher you initially warned her about, that she would ask you to subscribe to her blog. Is it possible she just sent out a blanket invitation to everyone on her e-mail list or to all her Facebook friends, forgetting that you were on that list? If you think that’s the case, and she wasn’t really inviting you personally, I would just ignore the invitation and go on my merry way.

If, however, this really was a personal invitation to you, my counsel would be to drop her a note (similar in tone to the one in the section above) saying that you really appreciate the invitation to subscribe to her blog, but that you find much of the subject matter of her blog to be unbiblical. So if you do subscribe, you will feel compelled – fairly often – to comment with biblical arguments against what she has written. And because of that constant state of argument, you don’t think it would be a good idea for you to subscribe to her blog.

As a blogger, I can tell you that I don’t like it when a person takes it upon herself to constantly argue against or attempt to correct my theology, and if that person keeps it up after being warned, she usually gets blocked or banned. My thought is, “If you’re so diametrically opposed to what I write, why in the world are you following me? Go find a blogger to follow whom you agree with and enjoy, or start your own blog for sharing your opinions.” So, since I know what that feels like, I try to extend that same courtesy to others. I don’t generally* follow blogs, social media accounts, etc., that I strongly disagree with and constantly argue with them. It rarely does any good or changes anyone’s mind. Better to hang on to your pearls and stay out of the pig pen.

You may find some of my thoughts in my article The Mailbag: Should I attend the “Bible” study to correct false doctrine? to be helpful since this is a similar situation, but I would still lean toward encouraging you not to follow your friend’s blog and argue constantly.

*(In the interest of full disclosure there is one Twitter account I follow – LifeWay Women – which I strongly disagree with most of the time because they promote false teachers. This is an agency of my denomination, not an individual, and I occasionally tweet refutations to/about them in order to make my fellow Southern Baptists on Twitter aware of the false teachers/doctrine their own denomination is promoting, and because my previous attempts to contact LifeWay privately have either been ignored or rebuffed. Still, I try not to constantly barrage them with argumentative tweets.)

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Benny repents?, Brother Lawrence, Why the Calvinist label?…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


I saw this video making the rounds on social media. It appears as though Benny Hinn is repenting of teaching the prosperity gospel. Is this true, or too good to be true?

Briefly, it is not true, and his behavior and teaching bears this out. He has made similar claims in the past and continues to teach the same old lies from the same old pit of Hell. The YouTube video making the rounds is 4½ minutes long. What it doesn’t show is that for an hour and a half prior to this 4½ minute snippet Benny conducted one of his regular “healing” services. Furthermore, prosperity teaching is not the only heretical aspect of Benny’s theology, so even if he had repented of teaching the prosperity gospel, he would remain a heretic to avoid.

Repentance doesn’t just mean a blase admission that something is wrong. Repentance is a total change of lifestyle. If Benny were to repent, what we would see would be genuine, long lasting grief over his sin. He would step down from, and dismantle his “ministry,” cancel all of his tours, crusades, and speaking engagements, take all of his books out of print, shut down all of his online platforms and do everything in his power to scrub the internet of his false teaching (at the moment, he has said he’s planning to keep his “most popular” teachings available online for those who want them), return the money he has scammed from people, and park himself in a solid church so he can learn the gospel, be saved, and be discipled in sound doctrine.

If you’d like to believe Benny has repented, OK. Check back up on him in about six months and see if he has done any of the things above to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”

For the longer version of the answer to this question, see the resources below.

Benny Hinn and the Fruit of True Repentance at A Word Fitly Spoken

(Be sure to get and read both of Costi’s books if you haven’t already.)

WWUTT 1030 Q&A Benny Hinn, Couples Studies, Christian Fiction? at WWUTT

No, Benny Hinn Has Not Repented by Gabe Hughes

Benny Hinn’s nephew ‘encouraged’ by uncle’s rejection of prosperity gospel, calls for ‘genuine repentance’ at The Christian Post

Benny Hinn and the Fruit of True Repentance at Voice of Reason Radio

Benny Hinn Renounces His Selling of God’s Blessings. Critics Want More. at Christianity Today


[In your “Welcome” tab,] you describe yourself as…….A genuinely regenerated Protestant, Southern Baptist, Calvinist/Reformed Baptist…I am just getting in on the Reformed Baptist conversation. As a Southern Baptist, why do I need to add all the other titles. Why or what did you reform? I am confused. Why can’t you just be Southern Baptist?

You don’t need to use a bunch of labels if you don’t want to, I just want to be specific and clear to my readers what my theology is in case they’d like to know, and so they will know what to expect when they read my articles.

Reformed Baptist theology is different from Arminian (or what Southern Baptists like to call “Traditionalist” theology). If you are Southern Baptist and unfamiliar with Calvinism, you are most likely in a Traditionalist church (you may want to ask your pastor). I think you’ll find the answers to many of your questions in this article (be sure to read the additional resources at the end, too.) I’d also encourage you to read the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.

(Just a reminder to my regular readers, I don’t engage in or allow Calvinism/Arminianism debates and arguments in the comments sections of my articles or on social media. Please review my comment parameters at the “Welcome” tab at the top of this page before commenting.)


I am, for now, the choir director at my church. I lead the choir and my husband leads the congregational hymn singing. In one question I read [on your blog], I should not be doing that- the answer to the question of whether woman should serve as worship leaders or music ministers was a simple “no”. It would help a great deal to have an extended answer, and then I’ll know whether to tender my resignation and find another way to serve. I can happily go back to just singing in the choir. Thank you for your insight.

It’s so encouraging when I hear from women who want to do the biblical thing! I’m not sure which of my articles you were reading where I simply said “no” to the question of whether or not women should serve as worship leaders, but I have addressed that question in greater length in this article (see #4).

Of course, this article doesn’t address a woman only directing the choir, but rather, serving as the minister of music. I can see some situations in which it might be biblically OK for a woman to only direct the choir.

For example, if it’s an emergency situation like the minister of music getting sick at the last moment on Sunday morning and he has been the one to lead the choir through rehearsals, explain the text of the music to them, etc., and the only person capable of stepping in and directing the choir that morning (just the choir, not the congregation) is a woman, I don’t think that would be a problem. Another example: At my church, the choir occasionally does anthems that center around a tenor solo, which our minister of music (who directs the choir) will sometimes sing. He will step up to the pulpit to sing the solo, and a lady in the choir will direct the choir part of the anthem. I don’t think that’s problematic, either.

Of course, you will need to pray about it and talk it over with your husband and pastor, but, for what it’s worth, my thought on your situation is that if your husband is Scripturally qualified (as well as musically qualified) to step into the pastoral role of minister of music (because men should not hold positions of leadership they’re not biblically qualified for either), and he is overseeing the choir – selecting the music, leading rehearsals, etc. (all the pastoral type things mentioned in the article), then it would not be a problem for you to simply direct them on Sunday morning. Especially if, as it sounds like might be the case, the two of you are temporarily filling in until a permanent minister of music can be found and hired. But, really, the best case scenario would be for your husband (and/or another biblically qualified man to) lead the congregation and the choir. And it would probably be a load off your shoulders!


I have a question that I haven’t been able to find a clear answer to including in your blog. Can women teach men in Bible study say on a Thursday night?

The 1 Tim 2:12-13 Scripture points to Adam being created first then Eve therefore, therefore I would deduct that women should not teach or exercise authority over a man whether it be in church, Sunday School or in a Thursday night Bible study. Am I wrong?

DING! DING! DING! You are absolutely RIGHT! Tell her what she’s won, Johnny! :0)

Yes, you’re correct. You’ll notice in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 that there’s no exception for any day of the week. The prohibition against women teaching men is for any day ending in a Y.

And, you didn’t say where this Thursday night Bible study is meeting, but those types of gatherings of the Body often meet in homes, and there’s no exception for meeting in a home (or anywhere else) versus meeting inside the four walls of a church building, either. When 1 Timothy was written, there were no church buildings. The church was largely meeting in people’s homes. I say “the church was meeting,” because the church is the gathering of Believers, not the building in which they meet. So it’s not OK for women to teach Scripture or preach to a co-ed gathered body of Believers, whether that’s in a church building during worship service or a smaller class or group, or at a Christian conference, retreat, parachurch event, or at a Bible study at someone’s home on a Thursday night.

You’re also correct that I’ve never addressed this specific question directly, but I have touched on it here, here (2nd question), and here (#7 – I just hopped over to this article and added home, workplace, and coffee shop Bible studies to question 7). So let me grab the salient points from those articles and put them together in a more helpful way:

“Teaching” includes any situation in the gathering of the body of Christ in which women would be giving instruction to men in the Scriptures and/or on spiritual matters (which, in a biblical church gathering, would necessarily include Scripture), whether in an official position of teacher (pastor, teaching elder, Sunday School/Bible study teacher, or other leadership position) or any other situation requiring exhorting, teaching, or explaining of the Scriptures.

We need to remember what the definition of “church” is. The church is not a building, it is a body of born again believers gathered for the purpose of worship, prayer, the ordinances, and/or the study of God’s word. Those things can take place in a church building, a home (as with the first century churches in Acts), in a campus or office building, outdoors, in a conference center, in a sports arena, or anywhere else. So, when a body of believers comes together for these purposes, regardless of the building in which they meet, or whether you call it “church” or not, they are the church, and the biblical parameters about women teaching and holding authority over men applies.

I don’t mean this to sound facetious or anything, but sin is sin no matter what time of day or day of the week it takes place on.


Today, I came across a book I had purchased in the past – Practicing the Presence of God from Brother Lawrence. Taking a quick look at the book, I’m inclined to throw it away. It reminds me of Buddhist thinking or New Age garbage. As a monk, Brother Lawrence’s Catholic theology conflicts with biblical Christianity.

Before I became a Christian, I was into New Age thinking and practices. Just reading bits and pieces of this book makes me think New Age thinking instead of what I know from the Bible. I’m going to throw it away…I don’t see any redeeming Christian theology in it thus far. I don’t want to expose anyone else to wrong theology. Just wondered if you have any thoughts on this book?

Unlike the vast majority of books I’m asked about, I have actually read this one. However, it has probably been ten years ago or more since I read it. All I remember is that it was fairly short (which is probably why I read it), and that one of his main points was keeping our thoughts focused on God at all times. And I mean all times. Every waking moment of the day, we are to be consciously, actively thinking about God or we’re not pleasing Him. I remember trying to put that into practice. Even while doing something as mindless as washing the dishes, it was impossible and exhausting. (It did, however demonstrate to me how much of the time our brains are on auto-pilot.)

You’re correct in your assessment of the theology of the book. Brother Lawrence was a Roman Catholic mystic. Roman Catholic doctrine – as it is laid out in their own documents – is patently unbiblical, as is mysticism. Christians should not receive any sort of spiritual teaching from someone with that theological pedigree.

Thank you for throwing the book out instead of passing bad theology on to others.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Calvinism/Arminianism, Mailbag

The Mailbag: God loves everybody?

 

You stated that God loves each and every one of us. Can you help me understand that in terms of election? I had understood that He loves His elect, although it is His desire that each one be saved. I’m having trouble reconciling those two things! Thank you!

That is a super question. I love it when women dig into the deep questions of theology!

I’m not sure if I can help you understand that or not, because I’m not sure anybody out there has a complete grasp of that concept. God’s ways and His thoughts are much higher than our ways and our thoughts, and there are things He chooses not to reveal fully to us. This is one of those things. So if you ask this question of several different people, you’ll probably get several different answers. And anybody who thinks she’s got this completely figured out…well, I’d be a bit concerned.

All I can do is give you my perspective and the Scriptures (click the hyperlinks) I base that perspective on. My perspective isn’t based on Reformed theology treatises, but rather on my understanding – limited and flawed by sin as it is – of the nature and character of God as I’ve come to know it from the Bible. I’m sure I’ll get plenty of disagreement from both my Calvinist/Reformed brethren and my Traditionalist/Arminian brethren, and that’s fine. (I would just remind you to please review my comment parameters before commenting. In addition to those parameters, I don’t participate in debates over Calvinism in the comments sections of my articles or anywhere else. Ever. It’s fruitless.)

Let me start by saying that in the discussion of God’s love for people, my understanding is that people are talking about, for lack of a better way of saying it, God’s heartfelt feelings towards people. His emotional affections toward people. Not any way He might act toward them, position them, bless or not bless them, etc. So as I talk about God’s love in the remainder of this article, that’s what I mean, because that’s what I understand the question to mean.

Do I believe that God loves all people without regard to whether or not they’re elect? Yes. But I don’t believe God loves all people in the same way. Why? Because I’m a parent. And because God frequently and intentionally reveals Himself to us in Scripture as Father, and because we, being made in His image, demonstrate His communicable attributes, there are some things we can observe in our own relationships with our children that reflect – albeit through a glass dimly – God’s posture toward both sinners and saints.

My husband and I have six children. (For the purposes of the point I’m about to make, we will stipulate that he and I created all of them.¹) I love all the children I have created. Some of them are saved, and some of them are not, but I still love all of them regardless of their spiritual state.

But my love for my children who are saved is qualitatively different from my love for my children whom I know are not saved. There is a deeper bond between my saved children and me because we are not only familially mother and child, we are also spiritually brothers and sisters. We’re not just related by flesh and blood, we’re also related by the blood of Christ.

My unsaved children and I only have the love of familial affection between us. And not only that, while there is nothing in my saved children that wars against the Holy Spirit who resides within me, the sinful nature of my unsaved children does. Furthermore, there is the burden and longing in my heart for my unsaved children to know Christ. With my saved children, that burden and longing is replaced with joy that they are walking with the Lord. But none of that means I don’t love my unsaved children. It just means I love them in a different way than the way I love my saved children.

God personally created every human being in His image. So, strictly in that broad, creative sense – reflected in the way that when a man sires offspring he is their father and they are his children – God is the Father of all people, and all people are His children. And in the same sense that I love all of my children though in different ways, I believe God loves all of His created children though in different ways. Those who are saved (elect) are doubly His children, in the creative sense and in the spiritual sense, so there is a special bond and intimacy there that is higher and qualitatively different from those who are unsaved (not elect), because God is only “related” to them as Creator. Additionally, as with the way I love my own children, though God already knows who will and won’t be saved, the longing of His heart is for His unsaved children to repent and be saved, and the joy of His heart is His saved children who are walking with Him.

We see part of this idea a bit in the parable of the prodigal son (and remember, Jesus is the one who came up with this story). Let’s peel back the main spiritual point of the parable for just a moment and look at the structural elements of the story from an earthly perspective. Jesus intentionally chose a father and his two sons to build this story around. The father represents God. The older son represents “righteous” people, and the younger son represents “sinners”. Both boys are the father’s sons in the sense that he created both of them.²  Nothing in the story indicates that the father only loves the older, righteous son and doesn’t love the younger, sinful son. I would argue that this father loves the younger son in the same way I described loving my unsaved children, and I believe the father’s reaction to the younger son’s return (starting in verse 20) supports this. You don’t hate your own child for months or years on end and then, in a split second, show this kind of heartfelt love toward him. This is a dad – representing God – who loved his kid without regard to his spiritual state.

There seems to be a line of thought among some Calvinists that starts with taking mainly Romans 9:13 – “Jacob I have loved, Esau I have hated” – at least a little bit out of context and understanding it to mean that God feels the emotion of hatred toward (detests, is passionately hostile toward, dislikes to the ultimate degree – that’s the way most of us define the word “hates”) everyone who isn’t elect. I have a few thoughts on that:

• If you read Romans 9:13 in context, it’s obvious that the “love” and “hate” mentioned in verse 13 are not about God’s emotional feelings toward the elect and non-elect. The whole point of the passage is that God is sovereign and He decides, based on His own reasons that have nothing to do with our behavior, who is elect and who is not, and that He draws a very clear line between the two. He uses the words “love” and “hate” for contrast very much like we would say, “this is a black and white issue”. What this verse means is “This group over here (Jacob), I have set apart and chosen. This group over here (Esau), I have not.” If you read the cross-references for this verse, it becomes even more obvious that God is not talking about emotions here, but about His right to set apart for salvation whomever He chooses, as well as the position of the elect versus the position of the non-elect, which He metaphorically compares to the positions of Jacob and Esau respectively.

• God chose Jacob and Esau to illustrate this point. Isaac was Jacob’s and Esau’s father. Isaac didn’t demonstrate any sort of feelings of hatred toward Esau even though he knew Jacob was the “chosen one”. In fact, Scripture tells us it was Esau, not Jacob, whom Isaac “loved”. (Remember, we’re still talking feelings, here.)

• Compare Romans 9:13:

As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

with Luke 14:26:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

The same Greek word translated “hate”, μισέω (miseó), is used in both verses. Is Jesus saying that we have to despise our closest and most beloved family members and even our own lives in order to be His disciple? Of course not. Again, it’s a contrast statement He’s using to make a point.

The way this verse is usually explained is that the love we have for Christ is to so far eclipse our love for anyone or anything else that our love for them seems like hatred in comparison to our love for Him.

But the love we have for Christ involves far more than mere feelings of affection. Loving Christ enough to follow Him means your loyalties lie with Him regardless of the cost. You cast your lot with Him to the exclusion of anyone or anything else that gets in your way. It’s almost like the part of the wedding vows that says, “…and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him as long as you both shall live.” It’s not like you completely cut everybody out of your life except your husband and decide to feel hatefully toward them. It means your highest earthly loyalty, love, dedication, priority, and commitment are reserved for him. The same way our highest spiritual loyalty, love, dedication, priority, and commitment are reserved for Christ. Which is the same sort of way that God’s highest loyalty, love, dedication, priority, and commitment are reserved for His elect in Romans 9:13.

The question then arises, “But the Bible says God’s wrath abides upon the unsaved, and He is going to send them to Hell. Doesn’t that mean He hates them?”. Again, going back to our parent-child motif, my answer would be no. Let me proffer some examples: I can be extremely angry or wrathful toward my children for defying me and yet still love them. If I have a prodigal child who sins in every imaginable way, shakes his fist at me, curses me, and whatever other abominable behavior we could imagine, I could tell my child he’s no longer welcome in my home or at family gatherings unless he repents. But it would be heartbreaking to do because I would still love him. If I have a child who is constantly and unrepentantly breaking the law, and I have an opportunity to turn him in to the police, knowing that he’s going to go to jail, I’m going to turn him in. And I’ll do it with tears streaming down my face, because I love him.

I’m just a finite, sinful parent living in a fallen world. God is our perfect Heavenly Father. His heart is much bigger than mine. His character is much holier than mine. And He is able to be perfect in all ways simultaneously. He can be perfect in wrath and perfect in love, perfect in judgment and perfect in compassion, toward the same person at the same time. We may not be able to completely understand how He loves, but we can trust that however He loves, He loves perfectly.


¹For the purposes of being accurate, our two oldest children are my step-sons.
²Some will argue that both were sons in the sense that both were elect – the older son being saved at an early age, and the younger son saved later in life. I’m not sure we could use that argument because, while the younger son (the “sinner”) becomes a Believer in the story, the older son mainly represents the scribes and Pharisees, and when we see Jesus interacting with the scribes and Pharisees in the gospels, He generally regards them as unbelievers. And since Jesus is God, He knows whether or not they’re elect.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag, Top 10

Top 10 Mailbag Articles of 2018

I always enjoy the annual “year in review” articles and TV shows that run in abundance in late December, so I thought I’d contribute my own. Several Mailbag articles were among this year’s most popular, so I decided to make two separate lists. Check out my top 10 non-Mailbag articles of 2018 tomorrow. Here are my ten most popular Mailbag blog articles from 2018:

Potpourri (Calvinism, Baptism, Modesty…)

LT calls Calvinism heresy…my views on baptism…Why isn’t 1 Timothy 2:9 emphasized as much as v. 12?…responding to a rude e-mail…


MLM-ing Essential Oils at Church

I don’t care how much of a go-getter saleswoman you are, there are some lines you just don’t cross. And I can’t believe I’m actually having to explain to grown up, adult people that you don’t go church hopping to make sales and recruit people to work for you…


False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

Are there any CCM groups, artists, or songs I should avoid?
Can you recommend any specific doctrinally sound artists or groups?


What is the New Apostolic Reformation?

Since there’s no official NAR creed or statement of faith, beliefs and practices can vary from church to church, but, loosely speaking, the NAR takes the Word of Faith (prosperity gospel) heresy and kicks it up a notch with outlandish “supernatural” manifestations, blasphemously attributed to the Holy Spirit…


BSF (Bible Study Fellowship)

While I totally support the idea of delving deeply into the Scriptures with other women, there are a few of aspects of BSF that concern me… 


Should Christians listen to “Reckless Love”?

Remember, everything we do should be governed by Scripture, not our opinions and preferences, or whether we happen to like a particular song or not…


Do you recommend these teachers/authors? Volume 1

Jennifer Kennedy Dean, Lisa Harper, Karen Kingsbury, Rebekah Lyons, Raechel Myers, Shauna Niequist, Jennifer Rothschild, Susie Shellenberger, Sheila Walsh, Amanda Bible Williams


Do you recommend these teachers/authors? Volume 3

Jill Briscoe, Lauren Chandler, Tony Evans, Rachel Hollis, Chrystal Evans Hurst, Brenda Leavenworth, Leslie Ludy, Bianca Olthoff, Wellspring Group, Jen Wilkin


Do you recommend these teachers/authors? Volume 2

Jennie Allen, Lisa Bevere, Rachel Held Evans, Heather Lindsey, Ann Graham Lotz, Kelly Minter, Nancy Leigh (DeMoss) Wolgemuth


What did you think of Beth Moore’s “A Letter to My Brothers”?

If I had to sum up this article in one word, it would be “vague.” I have more questions than answers after reading it…What, specifically, is the church supposed to do in response to this nebulous accusation of misogyny?…


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Calvinism, Baptism, Modesty…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!


I was very troubled by a recent stance the discernment ministry Lighthouse Trails has taken – calling Calvinism heresy – and wondered if you had seen it. It’s one thing to just have a difference of opinion on Calvinism, but to put it this category?¹

Yes, I saw it when they made the big announcement on social media a few months ago. I expressed my disappointment to LT and have decided, going forward, not to use their materials or point readers to them as a trustworthy resource. There are several reasons for this:

1. The tone used in most of the LT anti-Calvinist posts, comments, and articles was derisive and condemnatory at best. There is no place for that among Believers, regardless of their stance on Calvinism (frequent readers will note I don’t recommend Reformed resources that take this sort of tone either).

2. It was clear from the LT materials I read that they don’t even have a complete and accurate understanding of what Calvinism is. Indeed, some of what they addressed was not Calvinism (which is biblical Christianity) but Hyper-Calvinism (which is heresy). That does not speak well of a discernment ministry. You must have a correct understanding of a doctrine before attempting to address it biblically, especially if you’re going to come to the conclusion that something is “another gospel” (heresy) as LT did with Calvinism.

3. Addressing a doctrine they haven’t thoroughly researched, as well as anathematizing something that is clearly biblical Christianity (even if they don’t agree with it), calls the discernment and biblical understanding of the entire organization into question and casts doubt on LT’s previous and future evaluations of doctrine. In other words, if they’re going to make this egregious an error over such a simple – and settled – biblical construct, how can any of their conclusions on other, more nuanced aspects of theology be trusted?

Here are some additional resources you may find helpful:

What is Calvinism? by Maurice Roberts

Calvinism & the Bible by Brian Godawa

What’s the Difference Between Arminianism, Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism? by Tom Ascol

Calvinism Is Not Hyper-Calvinism by Josh Buice


I had viewed the Gospel Message video embedded on your site and had concern for the presentation. It is apparent you have hermeneutical concern for today’s God study, so I wanted to clarify what your view may be on baptism.

I hold to a Reformed Southern Baptist, credo-baptist understanding of baptism. You can find further details at these links:

Statement of Faith (tab at top of this page)

Basic Training: Baptism

(Remember, the search bar and the tabs at the top of the blog are your friends! :0)


I have only recently come to understand 1 Timothy 2:12. However, why do we so passionately receive verse 12, yet neglect verse 9? Why do people choose which parts of the Bible to obey?

No Christian should be making a conscious choice to disobey any command(s) of Scripture that pertains to Christians. Willful disobedience is sin which needs to be repented of, and might even indicate that the person is not saved. Genuinely regenerated Christians desire from the heart to keep God’s commands.

I am not sure whether your question is based on your own church (or local churches you’re familiar with) in which women embrace their biblical roles but are dressing immodestly, or if you’re seeing a lot of attention focused on verse 12 (in books, online articles, conferences, organizations, sermons, social media, etc.) and not as much on verse 9.

If it’s the latter, I would say that you’re seeing a lot of attention focused on verse 12 rather than verse 9 for the same reason you see firemen hosing down a house that’s on fire rather than hosing down one that’s not. When the day comes that celebrity “Christian” women get up on stage dressed immodestly, write books about how dressing immodestly is perfectly biblical, form organizations to push the immodest dress agenda, hold conferences extolling immodest dress, and encourage other women to dress immodestly as they worship, I think you’ll see the same kind of pushback with verse 9 that you’re seeing now with verse 12.

If what you’re asking about is women at your church who embrace their biblical roles but seem not to be obeying verse 9, first make sure you have a correct understanding of what verse 9 is talking about:

likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair
and gold or pearls or costly attire,

a) The context of 1 Timothy, including chapter 2, is instructions for the gathering of the church. So, while Christian women should dress in a way that glorifies God at all times simply because we belong to Christ, this particular verse is about how we dress for church, not for a gala, the beach, or the gym.

b) “Braided hair and gold or pearls” are examples – much like head coverings – of specific things that were considered immodest in the time and culture in which 1 Timothy was written. If a woman comes to your church with her hair in a French braid or wearing an understated pearl necklace, she is not necessarily dressing immodestly. There is nothing intrinsically immodest about gold, pearls, or braids, but rather the meaning a culture attaches to them or the statement they make in a particular venue.

c) The term “modest” has more than one meaning in this verse. It does mean to dress in a way that is not sexually provocative (“respectable apparel”). But in the same way we would use the phrase “a modest income” or “a modest home”, it also means to dress in a way that’s not flashy (which, in the first century meant bling like gold, pearls, and extravagantly braided hairstyles), and that doesn’t attempt call attention to yourself or show off your wealth (“costly attire”).

So, in this sense, a woman who walks into the average American church wearing a dress she got at Target is probably not dressing immodestly, whereas a woman who walks in wearing uber-expensive designer clothes, shoes, and handbag, and dripping with jewels probably is, necklines and hemlines notwithstanding. That goes for outlandish apparel or clothing that’s meant to grab attention as well. If your hair is three shades of green and fashioned into a unicorn horn, that’s going to be immodest in most churches. If you walk into church wearing scuba gear or a space suit, that also fits what this verse means by immodest.

In a nutshell, we’re to fit in, not to be a distraction from worship with our clothes and coifs. You are not supposed to be the center of attention in church, God is.

If this is an issue with the women of your church in general, or with one woman in particular, set up an appointment with your pastor and get some counsel from him on the best way to address the situation.


I have a bone to pick with you.

This is a verbatim quote of the opening line of the reader’s e-mail. Normally, I would just hit “delete” without giving such rudeness the time of day, but I thought I’d make an example of it instead. Ladies, rudeness and displays of self-centered anger dishonor Christ, and if you’re e-mailing someone like me who struggles against the sin of impatience, you’re not only tempting a sister in Christ to sin, but you’re probably not going to get a hearing.

I have personally known [female Bible teacher you’ve written about] for over 30 years.

The name of the teacher is irrelevant, but it is not someone I’ve warned against nor whom I consider a false teacher. Additionally, this reader bases her defense of said Bible teacher (below) on knowing her personally and on the reader’s personal opinions and experiences, not on what Scripture says, which does not speak well of what she has learned from the Bible teacher. I don’t think the reader’s rudeness or her lack of biblical understanding are a fair representation of this particular teacher, so that’s another reason I’m leaving her name out.

She gets permission from her husband and her pastor [and the male head of her ministry] before she teaches with men in the audience…I have met some of the men on the board and they have no problem [with her] lecturing with men in the audience.

Please point me to the passage of Scripture, chapter and verse, that says a husband, pastor, or ministry head or board can give a woman permission to do something God has prohibited. No one has the authority to say “yes” where God has said “no.” I’ve addressed in detail this idea of a woman teaching men “under her husband’s/pastor’s authority” in my article Fencing off the Forbidden Fruit Tree.

Additionally, it does not matter how many people give approval to something or how important they are – that is not what makes something right or biblical. God is the arbiter of right and wrong, biblical and unbiblical, not people.

When you see the men in audience she is giving a lecture not teaching.

But you just said in the previous sentence, “She gets permission from her husband and her pastor before she teaches with men in the audience.” Which is it?

Furthermore, it doesn’t matter whether you call it preaching, teaching, lecturing, sharing, proclaiming, exhorting, or delivering a soliloquy, if it’s instructing men in the Scriptures in the gathered body of Believers, it violates 1 Timothy 2:12, and it’s sin.

The men chose to listen to [her] lead the lectures.

That’s true. That means that they are also guilty of violating 1 Timothy 2:12, not that they are guilty and she is not.

You need to come to [one of this Bible teacher’s events]. You will see what is actually being done and said.

When I wrote the article you read about this Bible teacher, I provided videos of her teaching, quotes from her materials, and other objective, verifiable evidence of what she says, does, and teaches. That’s not “what is actually being done and said”?

I am basing my evaluation of this teacher’s words and actions on Scripture, not on my personal experience. I don’t need to be physically present at one of her events in order to do that.

[This Bible teacher] and other teachers: When [this Bible teacher] gets an invitation to speak she asks God if she should do it or not. So you need to ask God if [she] is sinning because she only goes wherever God sends her.

I believe what the reader is addressing here is that I have pointed out as unbiblical that the Bible teacher in question has joined in ministry activities with demonstrably false teachers.

God has given us His written Word. Whatever He might subjectively “tell” us in prayer does not override what He has objectively told us in the Bible. God gave His answer to her question about 2,000 years ago in 2 John 9-11, Romans 16:17-18, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, and many other passages. If someone is invited to partner in ministry with false teachers, her answer is to be “no.” God is not “sending her” to partner with false teachers because He has already instructed her not to do that in His written Word. And if she is so learned in the Scriptures that she’s qualified to be a Bible teacher, she should already know that without having to ask Him. And if you’ve known her for thirty years, she should have taught you that by now as well. I don’t need to “ask God if she is sinning,” I only have to open my Bible and read what He’s already said about it.

Before you say anything about a Christian speaker you need to do more research and go to that ministry personally.

“More research” meaning, “keep researching until you agree with me”? I did multiple hours of research on the article you read. I sufficiently substantiated every point I made with Scripture and accurate, verifiable evidence from the teacher’s own words and actions.

As I previously stated, my conclusions about the Bible teacher are not based on my personal experience, so there is no need for me to visit the ministry in person. If you’re alluding to Matthew 18:15-20, that passage does not apply to commenting on and evaluating a teacher’s publicly available statements and materials as I’ve explained in detail in my article Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections (#1).


¹Please note, I do not participate in, nor provide a forum in the comments section for, Calvinism-Arminianism debates. Please refer to the Welcome tab (top of this page) for comment guidelines before commenting.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.