Church

Throwback Thursday ~ Axiom Questions, I’ll Tell You No Lies

Originally published May 1, 2015

axioms

Why do churches do church the way churches do church?

Ever thought about that? Moreover, have you ever thought about why churches take for granted that they have to do certain things or do things a certain way? Is there an unspoken assumption at your church that you have to have a sermon outline in the bulletin (or for that matter, that you have to have a bulletin), that Vacation Bible School is a non-negotiable event, or that the deacons absolutely must wear ties when serving the Lord’s Supper? Has it gone on for so long that now “it goes without saying”?

Don’t get me wrong- sermon outlines and bulletins can be very helpful, VBS is a great outreach, and I’m in favor of more men wearing ties to church, period. And I’m not talking about irrefutable biblical truths, either, such as, “faith in Christ is the only way of salvation,” or “God created the world,” or “women are not to instruct or hold authority over men in the church.” What I’m trying to get at here is that there are lots of church practices, preferences, and philosophies that we take as axiomatic. We never question them. We just assume they’re true. We act on them as though they’re immutable laws of physics or something. And every once in a while, somebody notices this and wants to change things up.

When it’s an axiom that’s been around for a few decades, the people who hold to that particular ideal are often chided (sometimes deservedly, sometimes not) by those who are pressing for changes. They’re called “inflexible” or “enslaved to tradition.” They’re labled as the “We’ve never done it that way before,” or “We’ve always done it this way,” people.

But have we ever stopped to think that, in many cases, the changes people seek to make today are the outmoded preferences of tomorrow? Often, we’re not making the church better or more biblical, we’re just adding a new premise here or trading one axiom for another there. Like rearranging deck chairs on a cruise ship. Or the Titanic.

Let’s take a look at some of those new axioms that have materialized over the last couple of decades and are now assumed to be a “given” when it comes to ecclesiology.

1. Pastors need to “cast vision,” and churches need a vision/mission statement.
No, they don’t. Christ is the head of the church, the CEO, if you will. Therefore, He is the only one whose place it is to have a vision for the church and to set a mission statement for it. And He has already done that for us. It was one of the last items on His agenda before leaving earth. It’s called the Great Commission:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

2. Churches have to be attractional.
Should you invite people to church? Absolutely. Should you be kind and welcoming to visitors? Of course. But that’s not what “attractional” means these days. Attractional means assimilating church into the culture so that lost people will think it’s a cool and groovy place and will flock through the door in droves. That’s why you see pastors coming out onto a stage and giving a Tonight Show-esque monologue while dressed like a teenager at a concert, churches playing music that sounds like what you hear on the radio (sometimes music that is on the radio) accompanied by bands that mimic whichever artist is popular at the moment, no choirs, no pews, no crosses, no pulpits, no hymnals, but a Starbucks in the lobby. Everything a sinner is used to in his daily life. Everything that will make him perfectly comfortable.

Where is this model of doing church found in the Bible? If you answered, “nowhere,” you’d be correct. The church, by definition, is made up of believers. Christ Himself is what is attractional to people who have genuinely been born again. And when we meet together, we have one purpose: to worship and grow in Him. The Bible never tells the church to make itself look like the world to bring lost people into the church. Christ tells us, believers, the church, to go out and make disciples, to go out into the highways and byways and urge the lost to trust Christ so that His house might be filled…with believers.

3. Church should be fun.
Nope, not going to find that one in the Bible either. Worshiping Christ should bring us the deepest joy we can fathom, but that’s not the same thing as rock concert, bouncy house, stand up comedian, outlandish props and gimmicks, music video back up dancers, cash and prizes giveaway, “fun”. Church should be joyful, welcoming, warm, and pleasant. It should also be reverent, solemn, and, often, serious. Worshiping Christ, handling and learning His word, partaking of communion and baptism– these are not frivolous things, and the climate of the church should reflect that.

4. When it comes to the size of a local church, bigger is not only better, but more spiritual.
I see articles from denominational leaders and church growth gurus all the time that start with the presupposition that if your church isn’t constantly growing until you’ve reached thousands in attendance and have to go multi-site, you need to get on that problem, pronto. Or that if your attendance numbers are “stuck” around the 200 or 300 mark, it’s a crisis that needs to be addressed. Pastor, you need to do something about that. It’s assumed that you want to do something about that.

Says who? Says people who have made a lot of money selling church growth materials and want to make more, that’s who. The fact of the matter is, mega churches are the exception, not the rule. The average size of a church in the U.S. is 186 people, and 94% of church goers attend a church of under 500 members.

There are many perfectly legitimate and biblical reasons why a local church might be small. Smaller churches foster intimacy in fellowship, accountability in discipleship, and make it easier for pastors to shepherd individuals and small groups. Certainly, a church should welcome any newcomers wishing to join and should seek to minister to the surrounding community, but if zeal for the gospel is in place, there is no shame in being a small church.

5. Our worship music has to be contemporary.
Why? No, really. Why does it have to be pop-contemorary style? Because we’ll lose or fail to attract young people? First of all, there are plenty of young people who, believe it or not, like hymns and traditional worship music. Why aren’t we concerned about alienating them? What about the older people who like hymns? What about the young people who like country music, or classical music, or rap, or screamo, or death metal, or opera? How come we don’t cater to any of their musical preferences (assuming that’s the basis on which you choose the genre of worship music) during the worship hour?

Up until the early ’80’s or so, when you went to church, you expected to sing hymns out of a hymnal. There’s nothing wrong with adding new songs here and there to the church’s repertoire, but there is something wrong with trying to replicate what’s going on in the world in order to entice lost people into the church. When people go to a funeral they expect to hear funeral music. When they go to a fais do do they expect to hear Cajun music. And have you seen how incensed people get when somebody tries to put a fresh spin on the National Anthem? It’s perfectly all right for church music to sound churchy. We don’t need to apologize for that.

6. Leaving a church (or deciding not to join one) because you don’t like contemporary worship music is selfish, petty, and reeks of spiritual immaturity.
Really? I thought you just said we had to use contemporary music to get young people to join and keep them from leaving. Are they selfish, petty, and spiritually immature for having their music preference catered to? Why don’t they have to suck it up and sing hymns? Would you go to a church that used only a genre of music you hate, like rap or opera? Does that make you selfish, petty, and spiritually immature?

It’s time we stopped shaming people for wanting to leave a church that has changed to a genre of music or a worship style that they hate. There will be times in every church when a particular song (or maybe even several) is sung that you don’t like. That’s normal no matter which genre your church uses. But music is a huge part of our worship services, and if, even after making an effort to embrace the music, you are so distracted by the genre that you’re incapable of focus on Christ, you need to go to a church- a doctrinally sound one, mind you – where you can worship.

We make a lot of assumptions about the way we should do church. Maybe it’s time to start questioning some of them.

What are some other church axioms you’ve noticed?

Worship

Tuneful Tuesday

Today, I thought I’d share with you some of the music I’ve been listening to lately. Enjoy!

That’s What the Bible Says by The Collingsworth Family
“I don’t need no signs and wonders to know that God is real..” Gotta love it!

Send the Light by Acapeldridge
This is a little different version than I’ve always heard, but I like it!

He Giveth More Grace by The Living Stones Quartet
Like a lullaby for a grownup. Just try to listen without a Kleenex. I dare ya!

I Know that My Redeemer Liveth by George Frideric Handel
Yes, Virginia, there are other songs in The Messiah besides the Hallelujah Chorus, and this is a lovely one.
Step of Faith by First Call
Yes, I was a First Call fan in the 80’s. Don’t judge. :0)

I do not necessarily endorse all of the songwriters or performers listed here, the churches/organizations they represent, any other songs they may have written or performed, or their theology. If you decide to follow any of these people or groups, check out their theology first to make sure it’s biblical.


What are you listening to lately?

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (“Potty Prayers,” Women as Children’s/Worship Pastors, Solid churches with heretical music, Eternal Security)

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


I know this is going to sound silly or troll-like, but I’m serious! I have a habit of praying a quick prayer when thoughts cross my mind, like “God, please help Aunt Pam to feel better from her cold today,” or “Lord, thank You for providing that salary bonus I needed.” Sometimes those same kinds of thoughts and prayers cross my mind when I’m using the bathroom. Is that wrong? Should I wait until I get out of the bathroom to think that little prayer? What about what Deuteronomy 23:14 says about using the bathroom, “that God may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you”?

I don’t think that’s a silly or troll-like question at all, and I’ll bet there are bunches of Christians out there who do the exact same thing and now, after reading this question, are wondering the exact same thing.

First Thessalonians 5:17 instructs us to “pray without ceasing,” which means our hearts are to be constantly oriented toward prayer even though we’re not consciously praying every moment of the day. (Kind of like your compass’ needle always points north even if it’s just sitting in a drawer not being used.) For most Christians, that means we’re intermittently speaking to God, just like you described, throughout the day as things happen, as random thoughts cross our minds, as we see various things. And this becomes such a habit (a good one!) that it doesn’t occur to us to think about where we are or what we’re doing as we utter those prayers in our hearts. Honestly, I think that mindset of reflexive prayer is pleasing to God, because it embodies what it means to pray without ceasing.

Deuteronomy 23:12-14 is part of the Old Testament ceremonial law regarding, in this particular case, the way Israel was to set up camp. When you give the law a good, thorough reading, you’ll notice that the underlying principle of most of the laws is that Israel is to be set apart and holy – different – from the pagan nations surrounding them. And He gives them laws to this effect that touch every aspect of their lives so that, at every turn, throughout the course of their day, there are little reminders, through the law, to “Be holy for I am holy.” This law is just one more of those little reminders: Don’t act like animals like the pagan nations around you, Israel, and just potty willy nilly in the street or the front yard or wherever you take a notion to. Step it up and keep your camp to a higher standard, because God is with you and you are His people.

The Deuteronomy passage is not about offending God by relieving yourself. God has seen every single time every person on the planet has ever relieved himself/herself, because God is omnipresent. If that were offensive to Him, He would not have designed your body to work that way.

Although I don’t think “bathroom time” should be the only time you pray, I don’t see anything in Scripture indicating that God considers it offensive for you to reflexively pray even though you happen to be in the bathroom at that moment. However, if it offends your sensibilities, wait until you get out of the bathroom and then pray.


Would you read 1 Tim 3 1-7 to read women can’t be “overseers/leaders/official” as in they can’t be “Children pastors” or “Women Pastors” in the church with those actual titles or even as directors? The verses only say men and state guidelines on how to choose. I’ve noticed some red flags in my church with a woman Worship Leader, which I don’t agree with since she sometimes teaches in between songs, but they are also giving women the pastor title, but only for children and women.

If I’m understanding correctly, you’re asking:

  • Is it biblical for women to hold a position of leadership over the women’s ministry or children’s ministry of a church?
  • Is it biblical for a woman to be the worship leader of a church?
  • If so, is it biblical to give those women leaders the title of, for example: “Pastor of Women’s Ministry” or “Children’s Minister”?

Here are the fast and dirty answers. Below are a couple of links where I’ve discussed these issues in more detail.

Assuming the woman is doctrinally sound, has a godly character, her husband (if she’s married) is on board, and she’s otherwise qualified for the job, it’s fine for a woman to lead women or children in the church as long as the position she holds (which will vary from church to church) doesn’t require her to preach to or teach Scripture to men, or hold unbiblical authority over men.

No, it is not biblical for a woman to be the worship leader of a church. This is supposed to be a pastoral position.

No, churches should not give any woman on staff the title of “Pastor” or “Minister”, even if she isn’t violating Scripture in her position. Because Scripture doesn’t permit women to be pastors/ministers it is misleading and confusing, and will probably give people the impression that she is violating Scripture and that that’s OK. Neither should the converse be true – churches should not have women on staff in any capacity that violates Scripture (preaching to/teaching men, holding authority over men) and try to conceal that fact by giving her a title (instead of “pastor” or “minister”) like “facilitator,” “coach,” “associate,” “director,” etc.

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

Rock Your Role FAQs (see #16, 21)


We have been searching for a doctrinally sound church in the area we moved to, and unfortunately it has not been easy! The few that we have found still use a Hillsong, Bethel or Elevation music. I usually cross a church off the list quickly if they sing from those artists. But like I said, now I am finding even doctrinally sound churches are throwing some of those songs in. Do you have any insight to this dilemma?

It can be really difficult to find a doctrinally sound church these days. Unfortunately even some churches that are fairly solid use music from these groups. The first thing I would recommend is that you check out the Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page, just to make sure you haven’t overlooked any doctrinally sound churches in your area. There are lots of church search engines there and other resources that might help.

My counsel would be to find the most doctrinally sound church you possibly can (following your husband’s leadership, of course, if you’re married, {and assuming, in this particular case, that he’s saved}), attend for a while to get a feel for whether or not it’s a fit for your family, and set up an appointment with the pastor to ask any questions you might have (check out the articles under “What to look for in a church” at the “Searching…” tab for suggestions of questions you may want to ask). (I would recommend the appointment with the pastor regardless of how perfect the church seems.)

If the church uses Bethel, etc. music, this would be the time to gently and lovingly address it with the pastor, but let him know that this is a reason you’re a bit reticent about joining the church so he’ll understand the seriousness of the problem. I would approach the subject giving him the benefit of the doubt that he simply doesn’t know the problems with these groups (the vast majority of pastors are ignorant of things like this – they shouldn’t be, but it is what it is).

If he seems open, you might want to ask if you can send him some information. (You can find links on all three groups at the “Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends” tab. Pick the 2 or 3 most convincing links for each group and send those rather than sending him the link to that tab. For someone who’s ignorant in the area of discernment, opening up that tab would be information overload, and he’ll tune it out.) If he says yes, send the links and then touch base with him again in a couple of weeks to get his reaction.

The only other counsel I would offer you is to remember that no church is perfect, and God may put you into a particular church to help it with those imperfections.

I would now like to take a moment to highlight this reader’s question for pastors and ministers of music. This is yet one more reason it is detrimental to your church to use music from Bethel, Jesus Culture, Hillsong, Elevation, any musician connected these groups, or any other musician who isn’t doctrinally sound (after you have thoroughly vetted him/her/them.) regardless of how biblical the lyrics of any particular song of theirs that you’re using might be. You could potentially be turning away solid, mature, discerning Believers who might otherwise be interested in joining your church. The woman who sent in this question is not the first to ask me something like this – not by a long shot. This issue is increasingly of concern to Christians looking for a solid church.

When a visitor walks into your sanctuary for the first time, your worship service is the “face” of your church to her. What kind of a first impression are you making? When you use music by doctrinally unsound musicians, it does not say, “We’re really a doctrinally sound church – honest! We only use songs from these groups whose lyrics are biblical.”. It says, “This church has leaders who aren’t discerning,” or “If this church uses music by these heretical groups, what other doctrinal problems does it have?”. Why put that stumbling block out there when there is plenty of music available with biblical lyrics written/performed by doctrinally sound musicians?

The Mailbag: False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

Why Our Church No Longer Plays Bethel or Hillsong Music (or Elevation or Jesus Culture), and Neither Should Yours

Hillsong’s Theology of Music and Worship

The Mailbag: Should Christians listen to “Reckless Love”?


Hello there. I read your blog about Priscilla Shirer being a false teacher. Read some parts of your blog. Found your recommended preachers with sound doctrine. I don’t know what denomination you’re in. But I just wanted to ask if you believe if we can lose our salvation?

Hi there! I’m a Reformed Southern Baptist. You can read more about my denomination and my beliefs at the Statement of Faith tab and the Welcome tab (both in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

No, I do not believe genuinely regenerated Christians can lose their salvation because that’s not what the Bible teaches. I discussed this at length, including the relevant Scriptures, in my article The Mailbag: Can unforgiveness cause you to you lose your salvation?.


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.

Worship

In My Humble Opinion…The One with the Modernized Hymns

I don’t often share my personal, completely subjective opinions with y’all. I figure there’s enough of that in the world and what’s sorely lacking is unambiguous biblical truth. So that’s what I try to share instead.

But today, I have an opinion. I’m sure it’ll be wildly unpopular and generate a bunch of hate mail, but that’s in my wheelhouse, so here goes:

I don’t really like most modernizations of hymns.

I didn’t say, “I don’t like modern hymns.” There are several of those I like, and contemporary hymn writers like the Gettys are doing a bang up job of writing lovely new, doctrinally sound hymns. Frankly, we need more theologically rich contemporary hymns.

What I mean is that I don’t like some well-meaning hipster to pick up How Great Thou Art and go, “Hey, those words – most of them anyway…or…at least a few of them – are cool, but that melody, harmony, tempo, and syncopation? Haul out the mothballs! We can’t be singing THAT in church! It’s gotta sound like something on CCM radio! Relevant! Fresh! Cutting edge!”. And then they proceed to put their grubby little paws all over someone else’s hard work and mangle it into something barely reminiscent of the work of art it once was.

It’s kind of the same reason I hate modern remakes of movies of yesteryear. It takes something that was great the way it was and ends up diminishing it to make it palatable and marketable to today’s consumer.

Hymn modernizers are often melody driven. They take a melody they like and force the original hymn lyrics to fit it – leading to awkward phrasing or the need to change words – rather than letting the lyrics lead and crafting a melody around them.

What’s wrong with the original music? I mean it. What on earth is wrong with the original music to the hymn? Nobody’s clamoring for the modernization of Gregorian chant or classical music or big band or 50’s rock, or 60’s folk music, or disco. People listen to those genres and appreciate them for what they are, and if they want to listen to a different genre, they switch genres, they don’t play musical Silly Putty with the current genre. If every generation of people had taken the hymn modernizers’ approach, we’d currently be listening to the 21st century version of Nebuchadnezzar’s horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, and bagpipe.

To me, it’s functionally musical plagiarism even if it doesn’t fit the technical legal definition. They take an existing piece of someone else’s work, change at least 50% of it (sometimes more if they change some of the lyrics in addition to the music) and popularize it under their own name. Whatever happened to “Keep your eyes on your own paper and do your own work.”?

Most of the hymns now being modernized were written at a time when people sang like normal human beings, which nobody seems to know how to do any more. Today, when listening to modernized hymns, you have two choices of “artists”: the wispy, breathy ones who sound like a stiff breeze would knock them over, or the moany, growly ones whose vocalizations are more fit for a Barry White ditty (let the reader understand) than a hymn.

But…but…but…

Yes, I know all the exceptions to everything I’ve just said. I know various hymns have been modernized from time immemorial. I know lyrics of songs are often changed to fit existing melodies. I know some people like modernized hymns and growly or wispy singers.

But that’s kind of the point of why I posted an opinion today. This is my personal preference. I get to like what I like and dislike what I dislike as long as I’m within the confines of Scripture. So do you. So does everybody in the Body. And that’s OK.

Varied personal opinions and preferences – not biblical truth, mind you; we have to know the difference – are not things to divide over. We need to make sure we’re listening to each other, understanding each other, and valuing the unique quirks and characteristics God created in each other. God put each of us together differently for His glory. Those differences show the kind of creativity and diversity He is capable of.

So you have your subjective opinion and I’ll have mine, and we’ll love each other and have those opinions to the glory of God.

Just keep your mitts off How Great Thou Art, if you please.

Random Ramblings Ruminations Resources

Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources

Great balls of fire, the world has gone ya ya and we haven’t had a 4R since last July. Goodness. Well, we’ll fix that faster than a Costco shopper on a pallet of toilet paper.

Let’s jump into some Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources, shall we?

Photo Credit

M-m-m-my Corona(virus)

The other day I asked on Facebook if y’all wanted an article about Christians and the Coronavirus or something else. The overwhelming response was, “Something else! Anything else!” It seems many of us have reached out saturation point when it comes to hearing about the virus:
But there were a few hardy souls who wanted to hear a Christian perspective on how we and our churches should be reacting to all the ramifications of quarantines, social distancing, and church closures. So here are a few brief thoughts I had:

😷Wash your hands like your life depends on it, because it might. Instead of singing a song while you’re washing your hands, recite your memory verses. Or if you’re in a public restroom, share the gospel with the poor sap lady who’s washing her hands in the sink next to you. You know she’s going to be there a while- captive audience!

😷You shouldn’t have to be told to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. You should already be doing it. That is basic home training and basic loving and serving your neighbor.

😷Stay home if at all possible (I thought this was just called “being normal, but it turns out I’m an introvert. Or a hermit.). The sooner this thing stops spreading, the sooner we can all get back to church, work, and normal life (which, for me, is staying home if at all possible – it’s the circle of life. Or something.).

😷Christians are not hoarders. Christians are sharers. It’s one thing to lay in a reasonable supply. It’s a whole ‘nother animal to buy into the mindset that purchasing huge amounts of supplies will somehow magically ward off harm. It won’t. That’s superstition. It is failing to trust God to provide for you. Do business with God and discern whether or not you’ve been hoarding. If you have, repent, and make like Zacchaeus and give it away to people who need it. 

😷If you have a godly pastor, he has probably agonized over whether or not to cancel worship service or modify your church’s regular activities. It doesn’t matter what decision he makes, somebody is going to be unhappy about it and give him an earful. Don’t be that person. Give him some love and encouragement (from a safe social distance). He probably needs it now more than usual. And on that same note, whatever decision he makes, just roll with it for the time being, OK? We’re all playing this thing by ear right now, including your pastor. Don’t make me go all Hebrews 13:17 on y’all.

😷If you think nothing of skipping church for frivolous reasons, it’s hypocritical to complain now about your church’s services being canceled or modified for a much more important reason. (I’m not talking about First Amendment stuff here, I’m talking about your heart.)

😷”Online church” can be a blessing in an emergency situation like this, but this virus is going to pass and things are going to get back to normal. Do not fall into the fleshly mindset of, “Online church worked out just fine during the crisis, so I’ll just keep doing that instead of physically going back to church.” Uh uh. That’s spiritually lazy, and it’s sinfully forsaking the assembly. For Christians, Church is Not Optional, and that’s Non-Negotiable.

😷Have you ever stopped to think that this whole quarantine and limiting of meeting sizes thing could be God giving us a dry run of what it’s going to be like when real persecution comes, our church buildings are shuttered for good, and we have to meet in small groups in secret? That’s already real life for many of our brothers and sisters across the world. Maybe we should quit complaining and use this as a drill.

😷Where are Benny Hinn, Todd White, Bethel, and the rest of the faith healing crowd in all this? Time to put up or shut up.

😷Take reasonable precautions, but look for opportunities to help others and to share the gospel. Let your faith in God be greater than your fear of illness.

That’s pretty much my take on the whole shebang. If you haven’t had enough of all things Coronavirus, here are some more good resources:

Coronavirus Articles at The Cripplegate

Coronavirus and the Christian Faith on The Sword and the Trowel Podcast

The Coronavirus Pandemic – Bringing Hope to Those in Fear on Voice of Reason Radio

Q&A Corona Virus, Saturday Podcast, the Bible Project? at When We Understand the Text

Wisdom, Not Worry on Relatable with Allie Beth Stuckey

Kudos to one of my followers, Camille, who has been hard at work curating the best Coronavirus memes on the web, part 1 and part 2. (This is meant to be lighthearted and funny. If you only do serious, please don’t click.)

Get Your Worship On

This kind of goes along with my TBT article from yesterday, God’s Not Like “Whatever, Dude,” About The Way He’s Approached in Worship. (Also meant to be lighthearted and funny, so please don’t click if that’s not your bag.). And some of you youngsters wonder why us old codgers like hymns so much!

The Real Deal, or the Fake Heal?

I was reading Acts 3, the story of Peter and John healing the lame beggar, and it struck me how starkly different this account is from the chicanery of New Apostolic Reformation “faith healers” today…

💥Peter and John didn’t have a “healing ministry”, they had a “preaching the gospel ministry.”

💥The lame beggar didn’t show up at “church” (i.e. the temple) to be healed, and didn’t seek Peter and John out for healing.

💥The lame beggar asked them for money rather than them asking him for money.

💥Peter and John had no silver, no gold, no Rolexes, no mansions, no private jets…

💥Peter said, “…what I have, I give to you.” The beggar was not asked to “sow a seed” into Peter and John’s ministry.

💥Faith isn’t mentioned once prior to the healing. Peter didn’t tell the beggar that if he just had enough faith, God would heal him.

💥No faith or money was required. The beggar played no part in “earning” his healing with his own good works. God healed him for His own glory.

💥The beggar was healed from a lifelong, obvious, eyewitnessed disability, and his healing was immediate and permanent.

💥Peter downplays both himself and the miracle and points to the Miracle Worker, Jesus.

💥Peter uses the opportunity of the gathered crowd to preach the gospel.

💥The gospel Peter preached was not, “Come to Jesus for miracles,” but “Jesus came to you, and you killed Him. Repent.”

💥Peter didn’t make crazy prophecies that didn’t come true. He pointed to the prophets of Scripture, and their prophecies fulfilled in Christ.

NAR preachers and faith healers want us to think they’re just like the apostles – even calling themselves “apostles” – but their words and actions don’t match up with what the apostles said and did.

They Aren’t Heretics Because You Disagree with Them

Of course not. So I’m not going to call Jared Wilson – who I have no reason to believe is anything other than a good, solid brother in Christ – a heretic because I disagree with the thrust of his article, They Aren’t Heretics Because You Disagree with Them. But, with genuine respect, I am going to call him “perhaps under educated” and “possibly somewhat lacking in experience” when it comes to the depth of the seemingly bottomless pit of false teaching and heresy out there.

Or perhaps our experiences are just different. Perhaps, in his world, there are throngs of people running around calling Presbyterians heretics because they believe in paedo-baptism. Or who cry “Heretic!” on anyone with a different eschatalogical view from their own.

That’s not the world I – and I would guess, most Christians – live in. In my world, the people who get called heretics and false teachers have generally earned the label by their biblically demonstrable false teaching and sinful behavior. There might be a few Baptists calling Presbyterians heretics and vice versa, but in my experience they are the rare exception, not the rule Jared’s article – putting the best possible construction on it – seems to be trying to address. And I get the feeling I swim in these particular waters much more frequently than he does.

I would certainly agree with Jared that the aforementioned types of issues are not matters of heresy, they are secondary issues on which Christians in good standing can disagree. But he lumps in some other issues (the role of women, extra-biblical revelation, yoking in ministry with “people who teach wacky things”) we cannot “agree to disagree” on because they are sin or false teaching that undermine the authority of Scripture, the sufficiency of Scripture, and the spiritual health of the church.

Jared has made the same categorization error regarding “secondary issues” that I believe Al Mohler made in his article on “theological triage” (which Jared links to in his article) – namely, that issues of sin (disobedience to clear Scripture) are not the same thing as secondary theological issues. Sin belongs all in its own category: sin. (I discussed this categorization error at length in my article Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue.)

Jared uses no Scripture used to back up his opinions, making them no more valid than the “opinions” he critiques. He cites the Baptist Faith and Message (the statement of faith of the Southern Baptist Convention), but the BFM is not Scripture, and we are Christians first, Baptists second. We are Bible first, BFM second. So anywhere the BFM might contradict Scripture, go beyond Scripture, or not rise to the level of Scripture (and it does not rise to the level of Scripture regarding the role of women in the church, restricting only the office of pastor, but not the function of preaching), it is moot and useless.

Does Jared not recall that Scripture says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”? And that we are to “cleanse out the old leaven…and celebrate with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth“? Yet the thrust of his article seems to be akin to saying, “Don’t worry about that little misshapen mole on your arm. It’s just your arm having a ‘different view’ of skin. Only rampant, stage 4 cancer should be called cancer and treated.” That is not a biblical approach to false teaching.

How would Jared have advised Old Testament people who had a “different view” of worshiping household gods alongside God? Or offering strange fire in worship? Or syncretism and idol worship taking place inside the house of God? Or marrying and divorcing foreign wives? Or, in the New Testament, Ananias and Saphira? Or those who forbid marriage and certain foods? None of these are soteriological heresies, and yet look how strenuously God dealt with each situation. Most involved the death of the perpetrators.

As much as many Christians would like us all to get along and play nice with anyone and everyone who names the name of Christ, we cannot do that and still be faithful and obedient to the Word of God that tells us to contend for for the faith and silence false teachers. False teaching, even non-soteriological false teaching, is a big deal to God, and it should be to us, too.