Wrong Doctrine, Mystery, and Faith

The Introduction of Bondage of the Will is summarizing Luther’s words on two main issues of salvation:

1. Can man save Himself outside of God’s willing it and making Him saved? Luther’s answer is no.

2. How can God send people to hell for doing what God made them do? Luther doesn’t know.

On both points, the conclusion is that God does stuff that doesn’t make any sense to us. In fact, God often does stuff that contradicts Scripture.

I kid you not, that’s what the Introduction says: God does things that contradict Scripture. Of course he tones it down a bit to say “it seems” like it contradicts Scripture, but let’s be real here. Luther says stuff that contradicts Scripture is clearly what is being said.

Here’s a quote from Luther:

If I could by any means understand how this same God, who makes such a show of wrath and unrighteousness, can yet be merciful and just, there would be no need for faith. But as it is, the impossibility of understanding makes room for the exercise of faith.

The author of the Introduction then says in the sentence after this quote:

And it is here, when faced with appearances that seem to contradict God’s own word, that faith is tried; for here, reason rises up in arms against it.

I already had trouble with what Luther has said about free will. I already thought Luther contradicts Scripture on any number of points. But to hear him come right out and admit that he does, AND FURTHER, to say that he has to contradict Scripture in order to have faith is unreal.

Let me throw one verse at you to contrast with the two quotes above, one of my favorite verses because it clarifies so much, Romans 10:17:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

According to the Bible, God’s Word, faith means listening to God’s Word, believing exactly what God says.

According to Bondage of the Will, Luther’s word, faith means what you have when what you think disagrees with God’s word or when you don’t understand it.

It’s always amazing to me to watch people believe things and then struggle with how what they believe does not agree with the Bible. This is where “mystery” comes in.

Back to the Introduction:

Everything that God reveals about Himself transcends man’s comprehension; every doctrine, therefore, must of necessity terminate in mystery, and man must humbly acquiesce to having it so.

This is completely false. If everything God reveals is revealed to make no sense, then why did He reveal it? What’s the point of God revealing things if even after revealing it we don’t understand it?

God reveals things to be understood; that’s kind of the point of revfelation. The secret things belong to God; the things that are revealed belong to us.

Are there aspects of what God says that leave us with wonder and further questions? Certainly, but to assert that every doctrine God reveals leaves us sitting here not comprehending things is just nuts.

It’s mind boggling when theologians come to see that the Bible doesn’t say what they believe, that they don’t use that opportunity to change what they believe. Oh no! On the contrary, they get busy saying how the Bible is wrong or unclear.

They then use their non-sensical doctrine that the Bible disagrees with to be a sign of mature faith! You have faith when you have no clue what you’re talking about!

The Bible says faith is hearing God’s word. Faith is not what you have when you don’t understand God’s Word. God said stuff to be understood. Understanding God’s Word is actually what Faith is.

“By faith, all the people in Hebrews 11, sat around wondering at the mystery of what God told them to do.” Not what it says.

By faith, all the people in Hebrews 11, did exactly to the letter what God said because that’s what faith is: understanding and acting on exactly what God says. Faith does not show up in mysterious unclearness and uncomprehendingness.

If faith means trusting God when you’re clueless, then Romans 10 is out. I sincerely would mistrust anyone who told me faith is what you have in confusion. “I don’t understand anything, but oh well, guess I’ll push through and just believe.” That’s not faith.

Faith is unshakable confidence that God speaks truth and regardless of what I believe, think, or prefer, what God says is true, right, and understandable and then acts on it.

I fail to see how Luther’s understanding of faith would foster spiritual growth. Luther’s end of faith is complete confusion, not certainty–all doctrine terminates in mystery. That has to mean that the more you grow, the less you know. That’s just crazy.

Unger’s Dictionary on The Lord’s Prayer

Unger’s Bible Dictionary is pretty sketchy when it comes to anything Jesus Christ said. They’re just fine in telling you where Ur is located, but anything deeper than that and they get weird quick.

Unger’s entry under Sermon on the Mount says the church can apply general principles, but certainly don’t need to do what Jesus says. It’s not consistent with the age of grace for some unstated reason.

If Unger doesn’t like the Sermon on the Mount, you can bet all your money he will do all he can to outright dismiss the Lord’s Prayer.

Here is what Unger has to say about the Lord’s Prayer:

“This prayer is in reality a prayer for the Kingdom and in the Kingdom. ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ can only be realized in its contextual meaning in the coming Millennial Kingdom.”

Thus saith Unger.

Clearly God’s will is going to be done during the Millennial Kingdom, but the idea that a person cannot pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven right now is just plain silly.

“Your will be done” is like the quintessential prayer of all time. You actually can do God’s will on this earth right now, you don’t have to wait for the Kingdom to come.

But Unger says you shouldn’t pray it now.

I just don’t even understand. This age, before the Kingdom fully comes in, is actually the only time this prayer does make sense! It makes no sense to pray this in the Kingdom at all because everything you’re asking for is already present.

I suspect the real reason people like Unger don’t like the Lord’s Prayer is for the “forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us” line. Many construe this as being opposed to grace, putting a condition on forgiveness that sounds like a law type yoke of bondage.

Any time these sorts of dispensationalists get anywhere close to the Bible saying you have to do something to get something, they will immediately theorize their way out of the obligation.

This is a misunderstanding of grace, the Bible, and common sense (if you can’t forgive other people, in what sense do you understand the greatness of God’s forgiveness to you?).

Unger has no verses listed as to how he gets from Point A to Point B. He just states it. He relies upon a theory that theologian-types invented over the plain words of Scripture.

Rather than dealing with the tough teachings of Scripture, people get busy finding loopholes to defend their disobedience. I’d be curious to watch these people as they stand before the Lord to give an account.

Telling God you didn’t listen to Him because you determined you didn’t have to, doesn’t seem like a winning argument.

It does, however, seem very consistent with human nature. Church history is filled with human attempts to explain why they don’t have to listen to God. In fact, the Bible is filled with the same thing.

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
–Matthew 15:8-9

Jesus spoke this regarding the Jews of His day. It was originally said by Isaiah regarding the people of his day. It can just as well be said about people today.

Guess what? God doesn’t care about your theories. Listen to Him.

Unger’s Dictionary on the Sermon on the Mount

Last year, for some reason, I read the entire Unger’s Bible Dictionary from cover to cover. It was not thrilling reading. I probably mostly read it to say I read it. Kind of like Mount Everest: instead of climbing it, you read a book about it because the book was there.

I learned very little, mostly because it was about obscure biblical names of people and towns, none of which are distinguishable after reading 1392 pages of them.

What I did learn is that Unger is pretty good until he attempts to explain anything theological. Then he gets, shall we say, peculiar.

One of the entries that stood out to me was “Sermon on the Mount, The.”

Quoting from The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary from 1988, under the heading “Its Application,” we are told this about Sermon on the Mount, The:

“Careful exegesis of the Sermon on the Mount must not confuse it with the era of grace initiated by the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ.”

His point is that Sermon on the Mount, The is not for the church primarily. He maintains that “the application to be literally the establishment of the future Davidic Kingdom.” Otherwise known as the Millennial Kingdom.

Putting those things together, Unger is saying that Sermon on the Mount, The is not for the church but for the Kingdom period when Christ literally reigns on the earth and Israel is regathered to their land.

He does concede that Sermon on the Mount, The does have “all-time moral application, and hence its principles are applicable to the Christian.” Nice of him to grant that. He thinks it’s nice for you to be merciful and pure in heart, just don’t expect any blessings from it.

According to Unger, “This discourse gives the divine constitution for the righteous government of the earth [during the Millennial Kingdom].”

The thing I do not understand is that if this is only applicable in the Kingdom where righteousness reigns, why would people need to be told to do these righteous things? Righteousness is already reigning. At what point would a person in the righteous kingdom be blessed for being evil spoken of or reviled? That’s not going to happen there.

At what point would a person be blessed to mourn in the Kingdom if righteousness is reigning, there would be nothing to mourn about?

Unger is not the originator of this interpretation of Sermon on the Mount, The. As far as I know, Lewis Sperry Chafer popularized the idea, which really wasn’t held by anyone until he got famous.

The position has never made sense to me. The idea that Jesus wasn’t speaking to us in actual application seems crazy. Unger lists no verses to prove his point; it’s all theory and speculation.

Quoting some actual verses from the Apostle Paul, who knows more than Merrill F. Unger,

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

The Apostle Paul says people who don’t listen to Jesus Christ’s words and doctrines of godliness are proud, know nothing, like to argue about words, and think that godliness is proved by making respectable amounts of money. Paul says to stay away from these people.

Sermon on the Mount, The says we should give things away, be taken advantage of, and should be content with mourning, persecution, and being merciful.

There’s a reason people try to eliminate the Sermon on the Mount: it’s hard and does not look like fun to your flesh. Anyone who pushes away from the teachings of Christ is listening to their flesh, not the Spirit of God.

Watch out for people who tell you it’s not necessary to listen to Jesus Christ. This is a dangerous error which will have devastating effects as time goes on. The fruit of this teaching will not be pretty. And, one who reads Sermon on the Mount, The and applies it, will clearly understand this point, for here is how it ends:

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
–Matthew 7:16-20

God Does Not Believe In You

I try to stay calm about inane Christian statements, I really do. But I just can’t help it.

The other day I received an email from a Christian organization trying to encourage me to minister to hurting people. I have no problem with such appeals, nor with helping hurting people.

They talked about God’s grace and how God shows compassion on people and never fails. All of that is fine.

And then they said this:

Can we be the ambassadors of God’s favor and say “I believe in you,” no matter what?

Seriously, I try to stay calm.

The organization that sent this email prides itself on their biblical integrity. They even take it upon themselves to teach others what the Bible says.

Yet if you read that statement, they are saying that God shows you grace because He believes in you.

Oh man. I try so hard.

God does not believe in you. He does not show you grace because He thinks you’re super-duper and just need a little self-esteem boost.

God shows you grace because without Him you can do nothing. Because without new birth you are under God’s wrath and a slave to sin. God, through the Gospel, puts you to death and raises you up to new life in Christ.

At no point in the Bible does God say He believes in us. Many points of the Bible say we are to believe in Him. That’s where the belief thing comes in.

We believe in Him to save us because we can’t save ourselves, nor does He expect us to save ourselves, because we can’t. Which is why He doesn’t believe in you. Which is why He sent His Son to die for you and provided everything necessary for salvation.

He does not show you grace for moral failures because He believes in you. That’s like the complete opposite of why God gives you grace. God gives you grace because without it you aint got a chance.

God gives grace to the humble, to people who have given up on themselves, in other words, people who have the same opinion about themselves that God has–without Him I can do nothing.

God gives grace to people who don’t believe in themselves, but rather believe in Him! If we’re not supposed to believe in ourselves, I’m quite sure God doesn’t either!

He gives you grace because without it you are worthless, hopeless, and useless. He puts that worthless person to death and raises you to new life in Christ as a person who is now worthy of eternal life.

But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
–Galatians 3:22

Substitution and Transformation

“The foundation and focus of the Christian faith is Christ’s substitution not our transformation. In other words, the language of Christianity is primarily substitutional not transformational.”
–Tullian Tchividian

When I read this quote, my brain went “Wait, what?”

Tullian is a hip pastor with a large church in his past. He was fired from said church due to an extramarital affair. He says things like this quote above that get a lot of applause, but probably also lead to extramarital affairs.

I really don’t get the statement. I have no larger context to judge his words by. All I have is this quote. So, I’ll examine the quote.

He seems to be saying that The Gospel is all about Christ. What happens to me is at least distant second, if not almost irrelevant.

I’ll grant some truth here. Christ’s Gospel is the foundation of everything. Me changing does not save people. So, if that’s all he means, then fine.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s all he means.

I think what he means is that transformation should hardly be talked about. That any talk of transformation is probably detracting from any talk of Christ’s substitution.

Transformation is a biblical concept. It is mention a number of times. Romans 12:2 would be the primary passage no doubt–be not conformed to the world bu transformed by the renewing of your mind.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says we will be changed into the same image of Christ from glory to glory. “Changed” is the same Greek word as “transformed” in Romans 12:2. The Greek word is metamorphoo from which we get our word metamorphosis.

Galatians 4:19 says that Paul labors until Christ be formed in them. “Formed” is the Greek word morph.

Transformation is a thing. It is also implied in many passages–we are now servants of righteousness not unrighteousness, we are new creations in Christ, old things are passed away and all things are new, put off the old and put on the new, raised up to newness of life, etc.

Meanwhile, substitution is mentioned zero times in the New Testament. It is mentioned twice in Leviticus concerning animal sacrifice.

In all honesty, I don’t see the substitution of Christ mentioned much at all. Substitution means in the place of.

Yes, Christ died for us, but nowhere does it say He died in the place of us, or instead of us. What it does say is that He died for us, and by faith we were crucified, bruised, and raised up with Him. “With” is different than “instead of.”

Tullian is emphasizing what Christ did to the exclusion of anything we do. Paul doesn’t put it that way. Transformation is the only way to know you are part of what Christ did.

Granted, my transformation is not as earthly significant as what Christ did for the sins of the world, but it’s pretty big for me! It lets me know if I’m in or not.

Tullian is not alone in this emphasis. Everyone wants everything to be about Christ, with no responsibility, transformation, or anything about me. But read the New Testament! It’s talking about what you do quite frequently!

Don’t make a false dichotomy where there is none. Everything Christ did, He did for our transformation. It’s the reason there is a Gospel.

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
–Titus 2:14

Is Jesus a Friend of Sinners?

“If Jesus isn’t a friend of sinners, then He’s no friend of mine.”

I saw this on Twitter last week. It made me pause.

Lots of things make me pause. My brain hiccups. “Wait, what was that? Does that make sense?”

A reasonable response would take up more space than Twitter allows, so I’ll think it out here.

“Jesus is a friend of sinners” is from both Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34. It’s in the passage about how the people didn’t like John the Baptist cuz he was fasting, and they don’t like Jesus cuz He eats with people.

Jesus Christ does not call Himself a friend of sinners. If you note the wording of the verse:

and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.

It was Jesus’ opponents who called Him a friend of sinners, not Jesus Himself. They also called him a drunk. Was their estimation of Jesus correct?

Later, in John 15, Jesus says greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for his friends.

Jesus then goes on to define who His friends are. It’s important for our ears to hear the words of Jesus Christ here:

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

So, here’s the deal. Is Jesus a friend of publicans and sinners? In a general sense, probably. What did Jesus call Judas when he came to betray Him?

Jesus said to Judas, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” He calls Judas His friend. Jesus doesn’t lie. (Although it is a different Greek word!)

There is some truth in calling Jesus a friend of sinners, depending on what you mean by it.

Unfortunately, I think most people mean that being a sinner is ok with Jesus. I can go on sinning cuz Jesus is my friend.

I think that’s the sense of the phrase I saw. If so, I’d throw in some John 15. Then again, maybe they mean it simply as Jesus Christ loved me while I was a sinner.

It just depends. And that’s the problem with most of what people say about the Bible: It depends what they mean. I have little confidence in people to assume they mean something right.

But maybe that’s my problem.

A Botched Sunday School Lesson on Gideon

At our church’s Wednesday night group I have been going over Bible stories, and talking about Sunday School treatments of these stories in comparison to the Bible.

Most Sunday School tellings are not consistent with the Bible. Many details are left out and applications appear to be from left field.

This past week I came across the worst one so far. It boggles my mind.

The story was about Gideon. To refresh your memory: Gideon, who was afraid of the enemy Midianites, was hiding in a winepress threshing his wheat, was called by the angel of the Lord to deliver Israel from the Midianites. He wanted a sign. God gave him a sign. He was also told to destroy an altar to Baal, which he did at night, for fear of the townsfolk.

Gideon was then to go fight the Midianites. But first he asked for two more signs. Eventually he went with his shrunken army and defeated the Midianites.

The Sunday School lesson gave this application. Are you ready for this? Please sit down first. I assure you I am not making this up. This is real. Ready? Here goes:

Gideon felt very unsure most of the time about how God was going to follow through but God didn’t give up on him and reassured him that with His help he could do it.  We might feel small, young, weak, insignificant but with God we can become something special, powerful, a mighty warrior!  God can give us special powers if we trust him and do His will.

Apparently God granted me the super power of not having my head explode upon reading stupidity. I find no other reason why my head is intact.

Unbelievable. This is so wrong on so many levels. Telling kids they will have super powers will create all manner of weird ideas in their head. I’m Batman with Jesus! You know that’s how kids will hear that.

The thing I don’t get is what super power did Gideon have? He was a chicken throughout the whole thing. He never did anything super powerfully. That was, in fact, pretty much the point of the story. God did the delivering; there was no human super power visible at any point.

The real problem with such applications is that they disillusion kids. They will go home, try to obey God, and ask for a super power. No super power will come.

Will they doubt what their teacher told them? Will they rationally consider whether their teacher told them the truth?

Or will they doubt God? The Bible? The Church?

We bemoan the fact that so many kids walk away from the church as they get older. Is it any wonder? We’ve told them so many falsehoods, I’d walk away too.

Be careful what ideas you put in the minds of kids. They are listening, more than most adults. They will try it. If you promise super powers, they will get bummed when they don’t get one.

All this disillusionment will grow over the years, until they hit a point where their brain works, and they’ll rebel. They’ll call you on the lies. Unfortunately, most of them will leave God, the faith, and the church. The damage is done.

Be careful not to put words in God’s mouth. Be careful not to promise things that God will do that God never promised to do. Be careful that you understand a passage before attempting to teach it.

Be careful.

Tools of Faithful Titans

A couple weeks ago I finished reading Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss.

It’s a massive book, 600+ pages, comprised of snippets of interviews Tim did with, what Tim considers to be, successful people.

Much of it was weird. Many push doing hallucinogenics. Many are overly obsessed with diet and exercise to the extent it consumes most of their waking hours, or at least it would if I were to do all that. Most also pushed transcendental meditation.

Many of their heroes and recommended resources were religious in nature, but mostly Buddhist, Taoist, of Gandhi type things.

Not a single one mentioned Jesus Christ. Six hundred plus pages and not one mention of Jesus Christ, not even in a sloppy way. No mention whatsoever.

At first this bugged me, “are you suggesting that no successful people follow Jesus? I mean, seriously?”

But as I thought about it more, this is actually a good thing!

What Tim Ferriss respects are people who are dominant, those who have followers, and material success.

Buddhism allows you methods by which you can attain material success. Meditation is a “spiritual” thing you do to get better physical results.

If a person followed Jesus Christ, they would never be on Tim Ferriss’ show, nor in his books.

Jesus Christ will not lead you to be materially successful.

Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t those who manipulate His teachings to arrive at material success, there are, and they are called false teachers–their god is their belly.

But an honest following of Jesus will leave you disrespected by Tim Ferriss and other self-help gurus. Even if you did achieve financial success, following Christ would make you get rid of that money in a non-flashy, not gonna make it on Tim’s show, kind of way.

Hebrews 11 is God’s version of Tools of Titans.

All these people were massive losers in the world’s eyes. But in God’s eyes, they were eminently successful.

And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

The world has no respect for no-name poor people who suffer and then die. Tim Ferriss has no use for such folks. They provide no value to him or his worldview.

Even the great people of faith we do know did not have great material success.

Abraham never saw any of the promises he was given fulfilled, he died still wondering where the fruit was.

Moses couldn’t get anyone to listen to him ever.

Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were largely ignored and then killed by the people they were sent to help.

Paul died alone, no man stood with him.

Peter was crucified.

And, of course, our Leader, Jesus Christ, was rejected and even forsaken by His own disciples.

He asks you to follow Him in this rejection, in this lowliness and humility. Lose your life to find it.

This is all insane on an earthly level.

Tim Ferriss wrote a 600+ page book about how to be successful on this earth and Jesus was not mentioned once.

I like that.

Definitions of Sola Scriptura Undermine Sola Scriptura

Sola Scriptura, the idea that the Bible is our sole source for spiritual truth, is a fine idea, not actually applied by anyone ever.

We should uphold Sola Scriptura as our aim, yet honestly admit that much of our doctrine is based on other stuff.

In fact, many who hold to Sola Scriptura have never reada the whola thinga. How, pray tell, do you claim to base all your doctrine on a book you’ve never read, let alone endeavored to understand?

“My doctrine is based on the Bible,” say all manner of people who disagree with each other on basic doctrines.

How can this be true? Is the Bible this open for interpretation? Is it that confusing? Or are people using other things to decide what they believe?

Peter does say the scriptures contain many things hard to be understood. Above that, people twist them all out of proportion. (You can read Peter’s take on that here.)

The Bible does need to be interpreted, but the authors had one intent in mind and it would serve us well to discover that.

But that’s hard. So we fall back on other authorities while still maintaining the veneer that we hold Sola Scriptura.

Check out these definitions of Sola Scriptura that come right out and say Sola Scriptura isn’t actually a thing other than in word.

By Sola Scriptura Protestants mean that Scripture alone is the primary and absolute source for all doctrine and practice (faith and morals).

There is one word in there that shoots this whole definition to pieces. Did you catch it? The word is “primary.” Primary implies secondary. Primary means there are other sources. It just does. Words mean things. Something cannot be primary and absolute at the same time. They cancel each other out. So, this is either an incredibly accurate definition of Sola Scriptura based on practice, or it’s bad writing.

Get a load of this definition I saw. This one cracked me up

For the Reformers, “Scripture alone” did not mean “Scripture all by itself.” Rather, Scripture was “alone” as the only unquestionable religious authority, not the only religious authority.

Oh, that’s too much, you guys are killing me. Sola doesn’t mean Sola. Again this is either a really honest definition recognizing reality, or it’s bad writing. I think it’s actually being honest. They know Sola Scriptura is just words without meaning, because they just denied the meaning with their words.

Again, Sola Scriptura is a nice idea, but no one does it. There are some who at least admit as much.

We don’t like Sola Scriptura because it puts the Bible in the hands of the reader, which is out of our control, and who knows what they will come up with.

If you let people find out what the Bible says, they’ll probably disagree with you and cause problems. So it’s best to leave the door open for other authorities so you can smash those who veer out of the way. Welcome to Church History.

Sola Scriptura: it’s a nice idea that no one does. Feel free to be the first.

An Example of Grace Gone Bad

Last week I read a “theology” book that drove me crazy. I did this on purpose. It’s fun to voluntarily be driven crazy. It’s why people own cats. I knew by deciding to read this book, I would go nuts at some point.

Boy howdy, did I.

This book was talking about grace and salvation. As many do when talking about grace, they go overboard. They take a fine idea and drive it into the ground until they begin teaching heresy.

Here is the quote I read word for word. Enjoy.

“For grace requires nothing of man but an acknowledgment of his undone condition and complete dependence on God. If an intellectual understanding were necessary to receive the gift of God, then there would be that in man which is meritorious in the sight of God.”

Oh my. Catch this sentence: “If an intellectual understanding were necessary to receive the gift of God, then there would be that in man which is meritorious in the sight of God.”

Did you get that? What he is saying is, “If you are intellectually able to understand the Gospel and respond to it, you have done a meritorious work and thus are not saved by grace.”

I mean, I’ve read some dumb things in my day, but wow.

Therefore, the only way a person can be saved is if they have absolutely no clue, no intellectual understanding, no mental assent to the Gospel. Otherwise, when they get saved they would glory in their superior intellect.

This is Calvinism gone way bad. This is hyper-grace gone way bad.

This means, the only people who can be saved are those who don’t understand the Gospel and thus never come to it knowingly.

I mean, come on. I can see how a person’s theological bias might drive them into this corner to say such a thing, but there’s no way a person can read the Bible and come away with such nonsense.

I am not saying we are saved by our intellect, I’m not saying a person has to understand it all before they can be saved, but I am definitely saying you kind of have to know what’s going on.

Paul told Timothy, “that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Is Timothy not saved because he knew? Was his knowing the Scriptures a meritorious work forcing God to have to save him? Give me a break.

I paced up and down the hall for about half an hour preaching to no one, since I was home alone, til I got that one out of my system. Wow. Not only did the book this quote came from go in the garbage, every book by this author followed.

Although the author of this quote wants you to be stupid, I don’t. I want you to use your brain.

Trivia Crack and The Ten Commandments

Trivia Crack is an app basically depicting the old Trivial Pursuit game.

I’m not that good at trivia. I like to tell myself it’s because I don’t know a lot of stupid stuff. I only know smart stuff. The definition of trivia, after all, is “Insignificant or inessential matters; trifles.”

Regardless, the one main fault of Trivia Crack is that users write the questions. Be warned, my son has written several. You know if my son is a question writer, you’re going to run into some dumb questions.

“How many commandments does Christianity have?” was a recent question I was asked. The accepted answer was “ten.”

This irritated me.

You can respond to the questions and correct them, I should have but didn’t know how to do it then. If you play the game, and I’m certainly not telling you to, and you get this question, please inform them for me that this question is wrong.

Although you don’t have to explain all the following reasons why it’s wrong, here is my brief list.

1) The Ten Commandments were for the Old Covenant Jewish religion. If you don’t think so, you need to brush up on some theology. In Deuteronomy 5, where Moses rehearses the Ten Commandments, he makes it clear that these were part of the covenant God made with Israel. No mention of Christianity in that passage at all.

2) Even if you don’t want to grant me the first point, you should agree that Jesus gave us a new commandment summed up in LOVE. Followers of Christ have one main commandment.

3) Even if you don’t want to grant me point 1 or 2, you can read the New Testament and see many commandments given over those books. 1 Thessalonians 5 has a list of 22 commands alone. All these commands fit under the One Command of LOVE.

4) Too often Christians have ripped off Judaism. I find this to be another example of the Church replacing Israel, rather than seeing a distinction between the two groups, and frankly, the two religions. There is much that joins them, but there is much that separates them. There’s a reason why there is a New Covenant. It has been proven that the Old Covenant, based on the Ten Commandments, didn’t work.

To sum up, the Ten Commandments were for Israel. This is a point that many Christians do not grasp, clearly seen by how many get fired up over putting Ten Commandment plaques in courtrooms and so forth.

As Paul said, “When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” The Ten Commandments are rules written on a rock with no power.

Christianity is about new life in Christ. Please, I beg you, understand this and, if you get the chance, inform Trivia Crack that their question is wrong.

Have A Bible Shaped Doctrine, Not A Doctrinally Shaped Bible

I think theology and doctrine are important. Knowing what you believe is critical to spiritual well-being.

However, I have seen many make camp in a particular theology or doctrine, to hold to a doctrine at all costs, only to then make shipwreck of the rest of the Bible.

For instance, I recently read a book about Eternal Security, Once Saved Always Saved. From the start, let me say–I believe that the believer is eternally secure.

I also know that the Bible includes many warning passages and conditional statements about salvation. I don’t think this means you can lose your salvation, I think it means there are few who are saved, while many believe they are.

The author tried to counter the warning passages of the Bible and eliminate them from contention. I felt he did so poorly.

While talking about warning passages in the OT and Gospels, he concluded that this was for people under the law. He said flat out that people under the law could lose their salvation.

Really? In a book about eternal security he concludes that there was a time when people could lose their salvation? I thought that was unreal. Yet, in order to buck up his theological point, he has to make that conclusion otherwise he doesn’t know what to do with warning passages in the OT or Gospels.

Ironically, he quotes David at one point, saying that God was the rock of his salvation, yet the author then said no one who denies eternal security could make that claim! Wait, what?

Several times throughout the book he said things like, “Since we know eternal security is true, we know that this verse can’t be warning believers.”

In other words–since I believe this, whatever this verse means, it can’t mean the opposite of what I believe.

That is, quite possibly, the worst way to interpret Scripture.

If you automatically eliminate a possible application because it disagrees with what you already believe, you might as well just quit reading the Bible.

It is my contention that most doctrines in the Bible have a verse or two (at least) that will seemingly contradict it. I think God does this on purpose to keep us humble, to keep us from having our knowledge puff us up.

This author’s knowledge puffed him up. I think that in an effort to buck up his doctrine he undermined three-fourths of the Bible to do it.

This is not good. Have the confidence in God that he meant what He said. Take all that God says about a subject and go with that. Don’t stake your claim and throw out everything “contradictory.” You look like a moron when you do that.

The Bible is a large book. Let it shape your doctrine; don’t let your doctrine shape it.

God Can Heel

I was reading lyrics of a Christian song on the internet and saw this in speaking of God:

“He can save and He can heel.”

That cracked me up.

I assume they meant “He can save and He can heAl.”

There are people who like to have God on a leash, keep Him obedient to them, walking by their side, following their orders like a good boy.

Saying that God can heel might be a bit of a Freudian slip (however, I didn’t do well in psychology class, so I might be off on that).

Do we desire God to be in control, or do we desire Him to do our bidding? Do we just look for Him for free health care, or do we submit to His grace being sufficient? Do we desire to obey God, or have God obey us?

What end of the leash are you on?


The Absolute Worst Application of “It Is Finished”

Last year I read 26,448 pages, which was 93 books, about a book and a half a week. I bought very few of those books. When you are a reader, somehow books gravitate toward you. Plus I’m in good relations with a librarian, which helps.

People know I read and it is not uncommon for people to give me books to read for them. Plus, those who read good books often loan me books cuz they know I’ll read them. Plus I am from a family of readers, so I frequently get books from them.

When books are free, it is a temptation to assume you are interested in more books than you actually are. I have shelves next to my “reading chair” that are organized by books to read. I have several piles on several shelves where I know what books are there waiting to be read.

As the years go by, some books will fall down the piles, being skipped over cuz I no longer find them of any interest like I did when I first saw them.

There has been one book in particular that has slipped down my piles, was on the bottom shelf covered with dust bunnies. I remember picking up the book 8 years ago. In the last eight years I have seen that book several times and never gone ahead and read it.

Well, the last couple days I did. I should never have picked this book up. It was dreadful. It was about Jesus, and was written by a popular author whom I personally cannot stand, making me wonder what possessed me to pick it up in the first place.

But, I soldiered on, cuz that’s the kind of guy I am. I know what it is to write and be criticized, and I also acknowledge that this author is very well known in Christian circles, so he obviously is doing something more right than me.

But oh wow. I’ll give you one example.

He wrote a chapter on Jesus saying “it is finished” from the cross. His application out of this, and trust me, I’ve heard many applications on “it is finished,” the vast majority of which I find irritating, was the absolute worst I have ever heard.

“It is finished,” to this very well known Christian author, means that when life gets tough, and you’re not sure if you can go all the way to the end and accomplish a goal, just think of Jesus on the cross, who endured and did the whole job of dying for your sins.

And, I kid you not, he said that the next time you feel like quitting your diet, just think of Jesus saying “It is finished.”

When I read that, I wanted to jump in the car and drive to this guy’s house and slap him in the face.

But, then I remembered my goal in life to never slap people in the face, and even though I was tempted to fail, I thought of Jesus saying “it is finished” and I persevered and still have not quit on my goal.

Abba Aint Your Daddy

Ever heard this one?

Abba is a child’s word, one of the first words a little Jewish boy would say. Kind of like our word pappa. It’s a term of endearment, not an official title. This shows that God is our Daddy! How comforting! How joyous! He’s not a big scary God! He’s Daddy!

As a pastor, it saddens me to be lumped in with pastors who take liberties with facts. So many cookie cutter sermon illustrations are flat-out wrong. The “abba means daddy” one is no different.

It’s complete hooey.

I am preaching out of Romans 8 this Sunday and the verse that says, “ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” In looking up some info on the internets I came across this article from The Gospel Coalition written recently about this very issue.

Abba doesn’t mean daddy. In fact, after doing some more researching, “Abba” is a Syrian word for father. When the Bible says “Abba Father” it is using the Syrian word and then the Hebrew word for “father.”

There are some who think Paul’s usage of it in Romans is showing there is a unified love God has for all His children–Gentile and Jew by using both a Gentile and a Hebrew word for “father.”

It’s not a child’s word, it’s a Syrian word, a different language. The term means “father,” maybe even “my father.”It was not a childish expression comparable with ‘Daddy’: it was a more solemn, responsible, adult address to a Father.”

Certainly there is a father’s love at work with God, but in order to accentuate the fatherliness of God, there is no need to lie and overdo things.

Fathers are an authority, ones who discipline their children. Yes, there is a unique display of love going on there, one very descriptive of God’s love, but lets not trivialize it.

Every Day a Friday

Joel Osteen’s latest book is about being happy. Osteen cites a recent study that found that “happiness increases 10 percent on Fridays . . . I challenge you to let every day be a Friday.”

The book takes you through seven ways to increase happiness in your life so you can “choose happiness.”

Since the weekend is coming, people decide to be happier on Friday, why not make that choice daily?

I am not opposed to a Christian telling people to make every day a Friday, but there is irony in telling people to make every day a Friday because Fridays are so happy.

There’s this pivotal event that happened on a Friday according to Christian tradition. On a certain Friday, commonly referred to as “Good Friday,” the Son of God, a man of sorrow acquainted with grief, suffered and died for the sin of the world.

If Osteen told people to make every day a Friday just like the Friday Jesus had on Good Friday, I’d be all for this book. We should die daily, take up our cross, put to death the deeds of the flesh and be crucified with Christ. I’m all for that message.

Instead, Osteen takes the humanisticly pleasing message “celebrate yourself!” and choose to be happy. Imagine if Christ had read this book on Maundy Thursday? I can think of more happy ways to spend my Friday than dying on a cross for others’ sins.

Entertaining Bible Prophecy

I have found that a good source of entertainment is to read books on Bible prophecy written at least 40 years ago. I will admit that I have a very dull life and very low standards of entertainment though.

I recently read a book (from my stack of books I have to read) on Bible prophecy that made me laugh several times. Ah, good times, good times.

First was when they said the verse talking about exiles coming back to Jerusalem on eagle’s wings was referring to Jewish exiles flying on airplanes back to Israel in the 60’s.

Second, every prophecy was fulfilled by the Soviet Union. As you may recall, a funny thing happened to the Soviet Union on the way here from the 1970’s.

Third, there is no mention of Islam in anything, whereas Islam is now the bogey man of prophecy in the modern versions of prophecy books.

Fourth, it’s just funny.

In sum, I mostly agree with this author’s take on things, but I disagree with the intent to find fulfillment to prophecies in the news as such. Sure, there may be general trends, but to nail it down as a nation or a person or a mode of transportation when so much can change so quickly, just makes Bible prophecy look stupid.

I fear that books like this are not read for their entertainment value but rather as a way to discredit prophecy and those who study it. That is unfortunate.

But alas, others misfortune often makes the best entertainment.

Reading Piled up Theology Books

I have a goal for this year of reading all the books that are stacked on one of my shelves. When I bring a book into my house it goes on this shelf. If no new books are capturing my attention, I go to this shelf and get a book to read.

Problem is that my stacks have been accumulating and the cream has risen to the top, so all I have left are a bunch of books I’ve determined for years I have no interest in reading.

One assumes that upon their arrival in my home I had an interest in reading them, but alas, the interest died quickly, the books sit and now I have two stacks of non-interest books doing nothing.

If I make it a goal I know I’ll do it, that’s how I roll. That’s also why I don’t make many goals!

Anyway, I’m plowing through these books, some of which have been interesting, others, well, I’m still trying to recall when I thought reading “The Birth of Tragedy” by Friedrich Nietzsche would be interesting.

That was a toughy for me. I started reading that book three times before finally finishing it. I have no idea what it was about. Something to do with tragedy plays and Greek guys and something.

One thing I can detect is my theological interests and growth through the years. Books that would have appealed to me in previous years no longer appeal to me. Others I had no interest in, now intrigue me.

Here are some of the books from my stack I’ve recently read and my thoughts on them:

A Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson. Took me a year to read this one. It was OK, but his use of scripture references were misleading, which is a pet peeve of mine. I also don’t like his Calvinism. I gave it a 6 on a ten point scale.

Dispensationalism by Lewis Sperry Chafer. This book nearly killed me. I didn’t like it one bit. I see it is one of the few Chafer books not in print leading me to believe many others didn’t like it either. I’m a dispensationalist and I thought this was dreadful. Barely got a 4.

The Voice of the Devil by G. Campbell Morgan. This was a typical Morgan book. Says fine things in fine ways. In this one he says fine things about Satan in fine ways. Gave it a 6.

Jews, Gentiles and the Church by David Larsen. I liked this book. I gave it a 7. It’s about Jews, Gentiles and the Church.

Anger by Gary Chapman. I tell ya what, I never struggled with anger as much as I did reading this dreadful psycho-garbage book pretending to be Christian. No use for it. Made me mad. Gave it a 5.

Those are some of the highlights, which really aint all that high. I push on. Hoping to make it through another book soon after I’m done writing this. It’ll be lucky to get a 6. Goodness.

No Other Gods Before Me

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

This is the first of the Ten Commandments. Recently I read a Christian take on this that said,

“What are some gods that people might put before the true God? This does not just mean stone idols. ‘Gods’ includes anything–like computer games or snowboarding–that you put before the true God.”

Really? Does Exodus 20:3 mean computer games or snowboarding?

I’ve heard this many times and every time it bothers me. Perhaps I’m too sensitive on the issue, it’s a possibility, I am known by some as a sensitive kind of guy.

But to me this has no reference at all to snowboarding or computer games. Oh sure, it’s a fine way to make kids feel guilty for everything they enjoy doing, but there are many other verses that you can make that point with.

What’s ironic is that the more I see Christians say the first commandment means “don’t enjoy video games too much,” the more I see tolerance towards the belief that Muslims worship the same God and all religions lead to that God.

As we redefine the first commandment we open the door to violate that first commandment. Let’s be man enough to let God’s words mean what God’s words mean.

Leave your guilt-ridden, fun-squashing sermons to the right verses, like “friendship with the world is enmity with God.” Which is a verse that also squashes twisting God’s word to meet a philosophy.

The Lion of Judah is a Metaphor, He’s Not a Real Lion

Was reading a book written in 1692 talking about Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah. He was speaking primarily in regards to the intercession of Christ for believers and he says,

“They say, lions are insomnes, they have little or no sleep; it is true of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, he never slumbers nor sleeps, but watches over his church to defend it.”

I certainly agree about the assertions of Christ, but lions never sleep? Pastors are notorious for using false sermon illustrations, even pastors from the 17th century.

I’m willing to give him a pass on this one, the information available about lions in the 17th century is not what we have available today. A quick internet search tells us lions sleep up to 20 hours a day, which is about as far from insomne as you can get.

I will also give him a pass because he begins his statement with “they say.” Passes the buck to “they,” which is also a good pastor move.

Anyway, be careful out there. I’ve also discovered this guy’s verse references don’t always say what he says they say. When in doubt: check!

The “If’s” of the NT

Another thing I hear all the time is that because we are under grace and God loves us, He gives us things without condition. Here’s a quote from the same book I quoted yesterday:

“The wonderful things we possess in Christ have no “if’s” or conditions, they are freely given to us by God.”

This is the opening sentence of a chapter. Three pages later he’s talking about how Paul builds believers up by encouraging them, not freaking them out with “if” statements. He has a block quote from Colossians chapter one in which he quotes four verses ending with verse 22.

It is fun to look up block quotes and check why they end the block quote where they do. Guess what the first word of verse 23 is. Go on, guess! Guess! I beg you to guess! I’ll quote Colossians 1:23 in full, note the first word:

“If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.”

Boy, didn’t see that coming did ya?! All the encouragements that Paul gave, all the blessings in Christ he is talking about, are contingent upon an IF statement. You get them “IF YOU CONTINUE.”

This is classic human system over Scripture. Be careful out there.

Saved By Christ’s Righteousness?

John MacArthur in The Glory of Heaven, page 73 says, “We know from Paul’s treatise on justification in Romans 4 that God saves believers by imputing to them the merit of Christ’s righteousness.”

I ask you, what verse in Romans 4 says we are given the meritorious righteousness of Christ in order to save us?

The only verse in Romans 4 that mentions Jesus Christ is verse 24 with its conclusion in verse 25. These verses say nothing about Christ’s merit saving us, what is said is that he “was raised again for our justification.”

More on this subject.

Robed in Righteousness

I read this exact quote with references and everything the other day, see if you can find the error in it!

“As the priests of old were clothed with righteousness (Psalm 132:9), so the believer is robed in the wedding garment of the righteousness of God and in that garment he will appear in glory (Revelation 19:8).”

See anything wrong with that?

The error is in his “loose quotation” of Revelation 19:8, in fact, his loose quotation completely changes the verse! He states that Revelation 19:8 shows believers robed in “the righteousness of God.”

Click on the link for Revelation 19:8. What are the believers robed in?

Maybe this is splitting hairs, but it bothers me when guys “quote” verses, throw a reference in there, but when you look it up the reference does not say what they said it says!

I then have a hard time listening to them after that. Maybe I should be more forgiving, I’ve probably done the same thing. When in doubt; look it up!

Minor Victory

Back in seminary I had to read books by Peter Wagner. When I read them I thought they were, perhaps, the dumbest books I’d ever read.

They were about church growth and missions and how you can save hundreds of people at one time and other odd things.

We were supposed to do a review of one of the books and I remember getting a bad grade. The basic problem pointed out by the Wagnerite professor was that I didn’t like it and thought all his ideas sounded awful happy but not very biblical.

I was reminded of this experience today when I came across a recent quote by Mr. Wagner. Perhaps ol’ Jeffy wasn’t so dumb after all.

““I don’t think there is anything intrinsically wrong with the church growth principles we’ve developed . . . yet somehow they don’t seem to work.”
– C. Peter Wagner

Hey, a guy has to take his victories when he gets them.

Why the NIV Should Die

I recently read through the Bible using the NIV. I’ve done this before and it always irritates me.

The NIV is not a bad translation when it comes to reading the stories in the Bible, much of the OT reads much better in the NIV.

However, being a good narrator does not equal being a good theology teacher. Whenever the Bible hits on doctrinal truth the NIV frequently drops the ball.

The thing I hate the worst about it is that it makes up words that are not there and removes other words that are there. A few weeks ago I used a verse and my whole point hinged on one word.

The NIV did not have that one word in their verse making my point seem stupid to anyone who reads the NIV. I assure you, the stupid one (in this instance anyway) was not me.

If you rely on the NIV for your doctrinal instruction, I strongly encourage you to stop now. It is leading you astray. I say this with all seriousness.

Biblical Drivel

Facebook has an ad that caught my attention. It said “Learn how to advertise like God.” It intrigued me enough to go look.

This “Christian” advertising agency advertises how God advertised to Moses. Seriously, that’s what they claim. There’s a four step advertising process, borrowed from Exodus 3.

The first job of marketing is to CAPTURE ATTENTION–burning bushes
The second job of marketing is to ENGAGE its AUDIENCE–God talks from the bush
The third job of marketing is to EDUCATE–God tells Moses who He is
The fourth job of marketing is to make you an offer–Go get my people out of Egypt

And, if he acts now, God might throw in some Egyptians, too!

Oh people.

Oh, the things that people’s stupidity with Scripture can do to a pastor. The internal machinations ripping and tearing within. The rupturing of spleens. The drops of sweat. Seeing floaty things.

Even so, come quickly.

Sincere Readers of My Blog

I have detected a way to quickly identify what Christian books are written in an argumentative manner. Whatever the argumentative topic may be (Arminianism/Calvinism, dispensational/covenant, etc) arguers from both sides will say something like this in their introduction:

Sincere readers of the Bible will know what I am about to tell you.” Or, “It is obvious to those who have diligently studied God’s Word.. . .”

This sort of phrase cracks me up. Basically, the author is saying, “If you’re not a complete idiot you will agree with me.”

Now, I get why they say it, and in some cases it may even be true. But it’s the tone, the implication, the underlying snippiness that ruins credibility.

If you see a line like this in your theological book, just know that you are getting a one-sided view written from someone who is arguing.

Sincere readers of my blog know this already, you other idiots don’t.

Lutherans and “Amazing Grace”

I have observed in my time around Christian types that Lutherans drop a verse out of Amazing Grace. The verse that begins “when we’ve been there ten thousand years. . .” is not sung by Lutherans.

One Lutheran told me it was because they don’t believe in the Millennial Kingdom. This struck me as a very dumb answer. I know Lutherans can be weird but that’s a complete misunderstanding of everything. I assume that Lutheran stands alone on that opinion.

I have yet to find an explanation. The closest I’ve come is that this verse was not an original John Newton verse. perhaps that’s the end of the story right there.

I also found a grammatical examination of the verse that points out that the verse is not grammatically correct. “We’ve no less days” should grammatically be stated, “We’ve no fewer days.”

Can any non-weird Lutherans help me out?