Category Archives: Evangelicalism

With All Your Heart | DFW RefCon 2015!

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Dr. Craig Troxel, pastor of Bethel OPC in Wheaton, Illinois, will be speaking on the biblical meaning of the heart. He’s working on a book on this subject, so this conference will be a preview. The conference will take place at my church, Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church in Bedford, Texas (1810 Brown Trail, Bedford, TX, to be exact)

The subject of this conference is specially related to a major theme underlying this blog. There is a distinction assumed by fundamentalists and evangelicals between the head, where one supposedly only crams facts about the Bible, and the heart, where it is said, that knowledge of the Bible must move before one genuinely benefits from his knowledge of the Bible. Dr. Troxel will explain how this is a fallacious concept. I look forward to being enlightened on the biblical teaching on the heart, and passing it on to you.

If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I highly recommend you join us by registering by first clicking at the link in the sidebar. If you live outside this region of north Texas, I hope some of you will make the effort to come.

Event Details

“With All Your Heart:” Thinking (again) about What You Know, Love & Choose

If you are going to get at your real motives; if you want to grow in repentance and faith; if you desire true Spiritual renewal; if you are going to pursue sincerity and avoid the pitfalls of hypocrisy; if you need honest communication in your marriage; if you want to encourage believing friends with more clarity; if you long to pray and examine yourself with greater transparency—then you need to know what the heart is and where it is in your relationship with God. Interested? You should be. If you want to love God, obey God, seek God and know God, you must do so with “all your heart.”

Schedule

  • Friday 7:00 p.m. #1 – Knowing: The Mind of the Heart
  •  Sat. 9:30 a.m. #2 – Loving: The Desires of the Heart
  •  Sat. 11:00 a.m. #3 – Choosing: The Will of the Heart
  • Break for Lunch 12:00–1:30 (Free BBQ grilled on-site!)
  • Sat. 1:30 p.m: #4 – Keeping: Preserving & Protecting the Heart
Bethel OPC Wheaton Pastor and Author Craig Troxel

Bethel OPC Wheaton Pastor and Author Craig Troxel

Speaker Bio

A. Craig Troxel was born and raised in rural western Nebraska by the sixth generation of immigrants from Switzerland.

He is a graduate of Anderson University (B.A.), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.A.T.S.), and Westminster Theological Seminary (Ph.D.).

He has served as the pastor of Bethel Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Wheaton, Illinois since 2007. He is Adjunct Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and an Adjunct professor of Ministerial Studies at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, Indiana. He also serves on his denomination’s Committee on Christian Education. In addition he served as moderator of the 81st General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

He has published scholarly articles in Trinity Journal, Calvin Theological Journal, Westminster Theological Journal, Fides et Historia,Presbyterion, and in popular publications like Ordained Servant, New Horizons, and Modern Reformation.

Pastor Craig’s interests lie in preaching, spirituality, the doctrine of the church, and he is currently writing a book on what the Bible teaches about the heart.

He and his wife Carolyn live in Wheaton together with three of their five children, Phil, Tommy and Maggie. The Troxel family enjoys playing all sports, taking excessively long road trips, reading books and growing the ingredients for salsa in their garden.

Lastly, and most relevant to this blogger, Pastor Troxel was my pastor’s pastor when he attended Westminster Theological Seminary! I am very much looking forward to learning from him on this much-misunderstood topic. Register today and do so along with me!

http://www.dfwrefcon2015.eventbrite.com

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Craig Troxel on Trends and Biblical Reformation of the Church

Bethel OPC Wheaton Pastor and Author Craig Troxel

Bethel OPC Wheaton Pastor and Author Craig Troxel

Craig Troxel, Pastor of Bethel Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Wheaton, Illinois, will be speaking at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church’s 2015 DFW Reformation Conference (Nov. 13-14, 2015) on the subject of “With All Your Heart: Thinking (again) About What We Think, Love and Choose.”

Pastor Troxel has spoken on Reformed theology in Texas previously down in Pflugerville, Texas, at our sister congregation, Providence Presbyterian Church at their 2009 Calvin Conference.

IMG_1155Perhaps a few of you who are thinking about attending this year’s conference in Bedford would enjoy sampling Pastor Troxel’s work.

Semper Reformanda: Under Renovation or Seeking

The Emerging Church: The New Voice in the Conversation 

Every Member Matters: The Priesthood of All Believers 

Presbyterian Salsa: Westminster Calvinism’s Recipe for “The Communion of the Saints”

Register for the 2015 DFW Reformation Conference (Nov. 13-14, 2015) at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church (1810 Brown Trail, Bedford, TX 76021).

Tullian Brings Reformed Gospel to TBN

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The Daily Evangel: A subliminal reminder to preach the gospel to yourself every day.

I guess it had to happen someday. Turns out it did this past summer. Megachurch pastors tend to accept invitations to places where there are TV cameras, and that’s exactly what happened in this case. Tullian’s message of “radical grace” has reached the first family of the Trinity Broadcasting Network. While in many ways, this is an example of worlds colliding, I figure if Peter Lillback can accept an invitation to Glenn Beck’s TV show a few years ago with the intention of making sure the gospel is clearly communicated on his air, then why not Tullian on TBN? The world’s largest Christian television network could do a lot worse, and has built an empire on doing just that.

For those unaware, Tullian Tchividjian is the grandson of Billy Graham and the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He is a favorite among the New Calvinists and is notorious for his popularization of the Lutheranesque “law-gospel distinction” which is taken by many to his right, myself included, as repeating the mistakes of historic antinomianism in some of his rhetoric and in his application of the otherwise valid hermeneutic pioneered by the Protestant Reformer. Among Tullian’s influences are Steve Brown (RTS Orlando and Key Life) and the theologians associated with Modern Reformation magazine and The White Horse Inn radio show. While I believe Tullian when he says he affirms the Reformed teaching on the third use of the law , I also believe his critics when they say his rhetoric smacks too much of historic antinomianism (read about that here). Tullian’s intention is to minister to those burned by legalism, and I’m all for that, even if he may be pushing the envelope of Reformed theology further to the left than I think he should.

But I like Tullian in small doses. Few and far between. It has been a while since my last dose of Tullian, so I am prepared to have a good attitude about his appearance on TBN to promote his recent book One Way Love. Besides, it would be inconsistent of me to criticize him for accepting an invitation to speak on Word of Faith turf, since the seeds of Reformed theology were planted in my own mind when Michael Horton appeared on TBN to promote his very first book originally entitled Mission Accomplished (now Putting Amazing Back Into Grace) while still a student at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA). The difference between Horton’s and Tullian’s appearances is that the latter they post on YouTube, while the former they immediately erase, cancel the talk show that featured him, and have the host reassigned to a job behind the scenes. This reaction was due to the fact that Horton was a known critic of the Word of Faith heresy who would go on to edit The Agony of Deceit. My hope is that Tullian’s interview will likewise plant and water the seeds of Reformed theology and the true gospel of Christ among today’s regular TBN viewers.

While Tullian admits to being a one-sermon preacher, his message that Christ kept the law perfectly and earned eternal life for those who believe and so frees us to gratefully, though imperfectly, respond to his amazing grace with love toward our neighbors is one we need to be reminded of on a daily basis. In fact, it is this “preach the gospel to yourself daily” notion that motivated me to put “Daily Evangel” on the building in the background of my picture of Captain Headknowledge. We need the Evangel of the free grace of God in Christ every day, and may it spur us on to love and good works, though we’ll never do them as well as Jesus did them for us.

Analyzing the Character and State of the PCA

“The Christian Curmudgeon” was a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) since its founding. He recently left the PCA for his own reasons and is now ministering in the Reformed Episcopal Church. In the past few weeks, you may have noticed that The Aquila Report has posted two articles expressing the growing concern over the state of the PCA. In light of this, The Christian Curmudgeon has written a very helpful post characterizing the various theological and practical trajectories represented by the first generation of the PCA. The point being that the PCA was never intended to be a strictly confessional Reformed denomination. This sheds light on how they got into the chaotic state they are in today. Read his informative post, “I Don’t Have a Dog in this Fight, But That Doesn’t Keep Me From Having an Opinion.”

Pot Calls Kettle Black

John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and recent host of the controversial Strange Fire Conference, predicted in an interview with Christianity.com that what he calls the “Reformed Revival” will reverse itself in the next few years. He thinks this is so, because he sees so many of the younger generation who seem to be merely adding the doctrines of sovereign grace to their otherwise non-Reformed modes of operation like contemporary worship music, drinking beer, and Arminian forms of evangelism. He says in time, their Calvinist soteriology will fall by the way side because of the contradictory positions they hold.

Watch the video first, then read my comments below:

I find it ironic that this pastor should offer this critique of other pastors when he himself has added the five points of Calvinism to a non-Reformed view of eschatology. Reformed theology, after all, is not the home of Dispensational Premillennialism. Those who embrace total depravity, unconditional election, particular redemption, effectual calling and perseverance of the saints but reject the Covenantal theology in which these doctrines were developed, should think twice before criticizing others for selectively embracing popular elements of Reformed theology without embracing the whole system.

I also find it amusing that he should critique Calvinists for drinking beer. The enjoyment of alcoholic beverages in moderation is historically more Reformed than otherwise.

But I am in agreement with MacArthur that the five points of Calvinism isn’t enough. I would encourage him and members of the movement which a few years ago was called the Young, Restless and Reformed to take another look at the rest of Reformed theology. If it’s so right about the sovereignty of God in election, redemption and regeneration, what makes you think it’s so wrong about eschatology, church government and the sacraments?

Strange Fire Conference Kindles Controversy

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For the past week or so, evangelical sites have been critiquing John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference, which condemns “the Charismatic Movement” as a tradition that performs false worship practices. Featuring, in addition to himself, messages by Joni Eareckson Tada and R. C. Sproul, along with a number of lesser known associates of MacArthur, this conference anticipates the November 12 release of a book by the same title (pre-order the hardback here). One of MacArthur’s stated purposes was to “start a conversation” about the errors, extremes and dangers of the movement as a whole; judging from the reaction, I’d say he started something more akin to a cyber-riot.

But MacArthur probably isn’t surprised. He’s been the provocateur of tremendous controversy before, over the relationship between the Lordship of Christ and the freeness of God’s grace in salvation, back in the 1980’s, centering around his book, The Gospel According to Jesus. In both cases, I think it is fair to say that the intensity of the reaction is partly due to ways in which MacArthur’s message misses the mark, and opens himself up, as one Cessationist reviewer put it, to easy refutation due to his failure to draw careful distinctions between the various movements–in this case, within the Pentecostal tradition and the Charismatic Renewal, Word of Faith Movement, the Brownsville Revival, New Apostolic Reformation, and any number of other varieties which feature distinctive forms of the so-called “charismata,” or purportedly supernatural manifestations of the power of the Holy Spirit.

In addition to his denial of the legitimacy of the focus on the miraculous in this multi-faceted tradition, the Strange Fire Conference also intends to focus on ways in which the movement in general promotes false forms of worship, as the conference name implies, being an allusion to the account of the deaths of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, in Leviticus 10:1-3 upon their offering of “unauthorized” (ESV), or “strange” (KJV), fire in their censers, in direct violation of God’s explicit and detailed prescription for Israelite worship.

1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.
2 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.
3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'” And Aaron held his peace.

Fair or not, MacArthur and his fellow conference speakers would all advocate worship derived solely from the clear teaching of Scripture, a distinctive of Reformed theology known as the Regulative Principle of Worship. Undoubtedly, MacArthur, et al desire to see them come into closer conformity to Scriptural modes of worship, in essence calling the movement as a whole to Reformation as the Calvinistic Reformed tradition understands it.

Now it is possible for us not only to read, watch and hear what critics of the Strange Fire Conference have to say, we can all, friend or foe, see for ourselves how the messages of the conference were presented. Audio files of the have now been released, and are available for free download, with video and transcripts of each session forth-coming. Judge for yourself whether MacArthur’s charges against so-called Continuationism (the view that New Testament sign gifts are ongoing today) and his distinctive case for Cessationism (the view that these came to an end with the close of both the Apostolic era and the canon of Scripture–with which I agree) are legitimate, and where he misses the mark.

Visit Grace To You’s blog post, “John MacArthur on Making an Informed Response to Strange Fire” to watch a short introductory video and to download the audio files for each session of the conference which has set the evangelical blogosphere ablaze, in my view, both rightly and wrongly.

Gender Roles, part 2–Patriarchalism

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Vision Forum founder Doug Phillips and family

I’ve been aware of Vision Forum (VF) ever since I began searching the internet for Reformed websites back in the late 1990’s into the early years of the first decade of the twenty-first century. What I saw in Vision Forum was a site promoting traditional, conservative Americana of all kinds. Cool reprints of things like Of Plymouth Plantation and the writings of John Quincy Adams, the sixth American President who dabbled with Calvinism in his early adulthood, but would ironically return to the Unitarianism of his father and the intellectual elite of his day. Fun stuff, if you are into strident third party ultra-conservatism (for the record, VF founder Doug Phillips is son of Nixon-era figure and third party founder, Howard Phillips, whom I was providentially prevented from voting for in the 1992 election, but that’s another post!).

But then I found Phil Johnson’s Hall of Church History and any fledgling interest in Vision Forum fell by the wayside. My initial introduction to Vision Forum and its association with homeschooling and conservative politics raised no red flags. To me, it was what it was.

It was not until more recent years that I grew in my familiarity with the details of Vision Forum’s vision for families by their promotion of concepts like patriarchalism among others like the so-called family-integrated church (FIC), quiverfull and multi-generational faithfulness movements. Classified under these headings we find the dark side of the homeschooling movement. At the time of this writing, I have nothing against homeschooling, per se, but these movements which find their origin within the homeschool movement leave much to be desired, in my humble opinion. For more information on the latter movements, see here, here, and here.

Please recall that in the last post, I summarized my understanding of egalitarianism as practiced among “mainline” liberal Protestant denominations and an increasing number of Evangelical denominations and movements, and noted that there have been two major responses to this movement: namely, patriarchalism and complementarianism. The former is an extreme response, the latter is more moderate, unless you’re an egalitarian.

Complementarianism agrees with patriarchalism that:

 (1)   Eve was created to serve as “an help meet”(KJV) for Adam, or a “helper suitable” (NASB) for him, and that this is a creation ordinance binding on all human marital relationships; that a relationship of loving leadership by example and sacrificial protection on the part of the husband, and of respectful and voluntary submission on the part of the wife typifies the relationship between Christ and the church for which he died (Ephesians 5:22-33),

(2)   and that consistent with this state of affairs, the New Testament explicitly limits offices of ordained church leadership to men (1 Timothy 3:1-7, notice candidates for church office are assumed to be male, and evidence to the contrary is lacking elsewhere in the New Testament).

 Nevertheless, complementarianism disagrees with patriarchalism that wives, or women in general, should therefore necessarily refrain from seeking work or leadership roles in civic or commercial society outside the home. In short, complementarianism respects a greater degree of liberty for women than does its more extremist counterpart, patriarchalism.

In what ways does patriarchalism restrict the Christian liberty of women in the name of following the teaching of Scripture? To answer this question, let us consult a Vision Forum Ministries-published semi-creedal statement, “The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy” drafted by Phil Lancaster, in consultation with Doug Phillips and R.C. Sproul, Jr. This statement lists 26 points under the following headings:

(1)   God as Masculine (point 1)

(2)   The Image of God and Gender Roles (points 2-4)

(3)   The Authority of Fathers (points 5-7)

(4)   Family, Church and State (points 8-11)

(5)   Men & Women: Spheres of Dominion (points 12-14)

(6)   Procreation (point 15)

(7)   Education and Training of Children (points 16-21)

(8)   A Father and His Older Children (points 22, 23)

(9)   The Sufficiency and Application of Scripture (points 24-26)

 Let’s look at point 11, under the heading of “Family, Church and State”:

 11. Male leadership in the home carries over into the church: only men are permitted to hold the ruling office in the church. A God-honoring society will likewise prefer male leadership in civil and other spheres as an application of and support for God’s order in the formative institutions of family and church.(1 Tim. 3:5) (emphasis mine)

By this statement, patriarchalists cannot state that the Bible teaches that women shouldn’t work outside the home (among other things, like vote, for instance!), but appeals to the biblical mandates of male leadership in the home and the church and asserts that a society can only honor God if it “prefers” male leadership in societal spheres. By implication, this means that a society actively dishonors God if it allows women to vote, work outside the home and lead in other societal venues. They do allow for exceptions in the case of single women—“unmarried women may have more flexibility” (point 14), but I submit that in patriarchal circles, this exceptional circumstance will likely be discouraged, if not frowned upon. They only concede the possibility that single women may have more flexibility, which means, when in doubt, see point 11.

While we’re on this point, let us consider the Tenets’ reference to “a God-honoring society.” Did I mention that Vision Forum is postmillennial (not necessarily a problem) and theonomist (a big problem!)? Political liberals commonly refer to theonomy as “Dominionism,” which is a movement among interdenominational charismatic churches. The fact is, dominionism is based on theonomy, aka Christian Reconstructionism. Vision Forum’s vision for patriarchalism is a means to the end of taking dominion over the nations of the world and subjecting them all to the Law of God, and it is in this way that they believe Christ’s Millennial Kingdom will be established in the earth. These facts are implicit in their notion of a “God-honoring society.” In the radical patriarchalist’s perfect world, therefore, all women will be restricted to the domestic vocation of housewife, barring the undesirable exception of singleness. But in a future glorious Kingdom of Christ, would not He be willing to provide a husband to provide for and protect every woman? In the meantime we have to make due with conceding the possibility that single women may have the flexibility to work outside the home, and perhaps even vote.

Then there is the matter of “A Father and His Older Children,” points 22 and 23. Notice the extra restriction on adult daughters as compared to adult sons.

 22. Both sons and daughters are under the command of their fathers as long as they are under his roof or otherwise the recipients of his provision and protection. Fathers release sons from their jurisdiction to undertake a vocation, prepare a home, and take a wife. Until she is given in marriage, a daughter continues under her father’s authority and protection. Even after leaving their father’s house, children should honor their parents by seeking their counsel and blessing throughout their lives. (Gen. 28:1-2; Num. 30:3ff.; Deut. 22:21; Gal. 4:1,2; Eph. 6:2-3) (emphasis mine)

23. Fathers should oversee the process of a son or daughter seeking a spouse. While a father may find a wife for his son, sons are free to take initiative to seek and “take a wife.” A wise son will desire his parents’ involvement, counsel, and blessing in that process. Since daughters are “given in marriage” by their fathers, an obedient daughter will desire her father to guide the process of finding a husband, although the final approval of a husband belongs to her. Upon a Marriage taking place, a new household with new jurisdiction is established, separate from that of the father. (Gen. 24:1ff.; 25:20; 28:2; Ex. 2:21; Josh. 15:17; Jdg. 12:9; 1 Sam. 18:27; Jer. 29:6; 1 Cor. 7:38; Gen. 24:58)

The implication is that an adult daughter of a Christian patriarch ought not move out of her father’s home until she has been “given” by him in marriage. There is a dangerous wooden-literalism in patriarchalist biblical hermeneutics which leads to imposing this aspect of Ancient Near Eastern culture on twenty-first century Christians. Here is one of the other problems with patriarchalism as a response to egalitarianism: it looks back fondly on the way things were done in the past and makes some of the customs of that era moral absolutes for the present.

Another era which patriarchalists mine for unbiblical moral absolutes is the ante-bellum American South. This era is considered by Phillips, and other patriarchalist leaders as the greatest form of Christian culture ever experienced on earth, and patterns much of its ideals accordingly. Arch patriarchalist Doug Phillips is a huge fan of southern Presbyterian theologian R.L. Dabney, who was in many ways a fine Reformed theologian, with the exception that he was a bitter opponent of emancipation for slaves, and is a poster-child for the use of the Bible in support of the institution of chattel slavery. You can read more about the inherent racism and sexism of patriarchalism in a blog post entitled “Patriarchy, Christian Reconstruction and White Supremacy” at the blog Diary of an Autodidact. The fact that Southern idealism is a strong influence on this movement is further evidence of the extra- and unbiblical nature of the patriarchalist movement as directed and informed by Vision Forum.

For these and other reasons, it would be unwise for an Evangelical Christian to resist the cultural pressures of liberal egalitarianism by subjecting one’s self and one’s family to the so-called “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy.” In the gracious providence of God, complementarianism is the name of the more biblical approach to the roles of husbands and wives in the family, the church and society. Keeping in mind what we’ve discussed about it above in contrast with patriarchalism, we’ll look at complementarianism in more detail in the next post.

Gender Roles, part 1–Egalitarianism

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As the father of a young lady who is growing in her understanding of Reformed theology, I have had to wrestle with the relative merits of “patriarchalism” versus “complementarianism.” What are the definitions of these fifty cent words, you ask? How glad I am that you asked!

Allow me to preface these definitions with yet another term—egalitarianism–and the environment in which these three terms have become points around which various parties rally. With the advent of feminism in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, efforts to free women from all forms of tyranny, real or perceived, in society, the home and the church have sparked a two-pronged response. Feminism promotes the ideal of egalitarianism, which asserts the absolute equality of men and women in every way, so that the institution of marriage is often disparaged, women are encouraged to work outside the home and pressured to refrain from the honorable vocation of domestic engineering (that is, being a housewife), and to answer an unbiblical call to pastoral ministry in the Christian church. This movement became part and parcel of the ideals of liberal Protestant theology and practice throughout the twentieth century. Toward the end of that century, however, the movement began making inroads into otherwise conservative Evangelical churches.

Throughout the history of the development of Christian theology, orthodoxy was commonly believed among the whole church, and remained generally agreed upon and largely unwritten, since there was little to no disagreement about the orthodox interpretation of Scripture. This is why we see in church history how that it is the aggressive assertion of heresy which forces the orthodox to go back to the drawing board and more carefully work out and put into writing the correct understanding of the Bible. In theology as well as commerce, competition forces one to work harder to increase the quality of their philosophical principles, goods and services.

How, in this environment, are Christian families to insulate their children from the erroneous claims of modern feminist egalitarianism? In the next post, we’ll deal with conservative Evangelical responses to egalitarianism which have resulted in the spectrum with which we must deal today.

The Hermeneutics of Insider Syncretism

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On this week’s episode of the Christ the Center podcast (#263, “Insider Movements“), Dr. David Garner is interviewed about his recent article in Themelios, “High Stakes: Insider Movement Hermeneutics and the Gospel,” analyzing the hermeneutics underlying the Insider Movement, a sociological and anthropological approach to contextualizing evangelism without calling on people whose identities are tied to other world religions like Judaism, Islam and Hinduism to disassociate themselves from those religious, cultural and family ties, but to work inside them and transform their approach to those religions in light of the teachings of Jesus. While it is noble to attempt to find a way to minimize the risk of loss or danger a Jew, Muslim or Hindu (for example) may face upon becoming a Christian, it is unfaithful to the Jesus they claim to follow if they would settle for living to distort their new-found faith with the teachings and practices of the religion with which they have previously been associated. Living to syncretize Christianity with non-Christian world religions is not a faith worth living for or dying for.

This movement is clearly in contradiction with the teachings of Jesus to those who would follow him. Jesus carried his cross and died on it for those who believe, and he calls on believers to take up their cross, follow him, and be willing to live publicly for him and, if need be, accept rejection by leaders of other religions, communities and families, even if such rejection includes dying for him.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV).

I know it’s easy for me to say, and to criticize those who would find a way around it, but I too have a cross of self-denial to carry if I am to follow Jesus. I must kill my own sin (a struggle which involves suffering and risk of social rejection on my part), and publicly acknowledge Jesus as my Lord and Savior and associate myself formally with his people, the Church (Hebrews 10:25), serving him with my time, talent and treasure–loving, forgiving and giving to my brothers until it hurts. Should the time come that the culture or community in which I live demands that I deny my Lord Jesus Christ, I am called upon to defy such a demand and willingly suffer the consequences in reliance upon the grace and goodness of God, knowing that if such is happening to me, it is no more than what he sacrificed for me.

One of the interesting things about this movement which Dr. Garner points out in the article and the interview is that the intellectual source of such innovation in world missions comes from the same root as the church growth movement–Donald McGavran (d. 1990) and his School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary (formerly the famous School of World Mission).

Donald Anderson McGavran (December 15, 1897–1990) was a missiologist who was the founding Dean (1965) and Professor of Mission, Church Growth, and South Asian Studies at the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. A child of missionaries in India and later amissionary himself (1923–1961), McGavran spent most of his life trying to identify and overcome barriers to effective evangelism or Christian conversion.

McGavran identified differences of caste and economic social position as major barriers to the spread of Christianity. His work substantially changed the methods by which missionaries identify and prioritize groups of persons for missionary work and stimulated the Church Growth Movement. McGavran developed his church growth principles after rejecting the popular view that mission was ‘philanthropy, education, medicine, famine relief, evangelism, and world friendship’ and become convinced that good deeds – while necessary – ‘must never replace the essential task of mission, discipling the peoples of the earth’. [HT: Wikipedia]

While McGavran’s efforts in his time were more theologically conservative and a reaction against liberal missionary trends, a student of his named C. Peter Wagner built on McGavran’s principles and create the church growth movement which has brought us such phenomena as seeker-sensitive worship and the modern megachurch. Incidentally, he is also the one who coined the phrase New Apostolic Reformation for the worldwide sweep of Charismatic and Word of Faith theology with a special emphasis on the restoration of the apostolic office, which movement in America has recently frightened the political Left because so many who would fall under this umbrella have modified the theonomist views of R. J. Rushdoony (for more on that, see this) and declared that they would “take dominion” over every sphere of influence in America.

Syncretism in the name of saving one’s life is no way to spread Christianity. A new generation around the world must hear the age-old truism: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” [paraphrasing Tertullian, Apology chapter 50].

Hearing Frame’s Side of the Story

Dr. John Frame, Professor of Theology and Philosophy at RTS, Orlando

As one who was first introduced to Reformed theology by Dr. Michael Horton in a televised interview promoting his first book, I have a great affection and appreciation for the work of those who are, in Reformed circles, associated with what Dr. John Frame (RTS, Orlando) calls “The Escondido Theology.” Frame and others seem to think that for Reformed folks to interact with Lutheran theology on the things with which they agree is some sort of compromise of the integrity of Reformed theology. As a layman who hasn’t read it all on this controversy, that’s the impression I get. Frame’s book is promoted as a discussion primarily of the Two Kingdom approach to Christ and culture, but I’ve just learned that there is more to Dr. Frame and the Escondido Theology that this one issue.

In terms of coming to a greater understanding of the broader controversy myself, I was pleased to find that Scott Oakland interviewed Dr. Frame on a recent episode of ReformedCast. Agree or disagree, it is important to understand Frame’s point of view on the matter. Looking back to the days in which he helped found Westminster Seminary California, Dr. Frame portrays himself as not fitting in with any of the “parties” that formed among the faculty there. I also found it helpful to hear him express his concerns with how closely many among the faculty wanted to stick to the Reformed confessions, while he, in my opinion, thought the Reformed principle of sola scriptura was better honored by not “turning biblical and systematic theology into historical theology” (or something like that–it’s been a few days since I heard the interview). This helped me understand why Dr. Frame was willing to be a little more “progressive” in his approach to worship, and became a veritable whipping boy among many in the so-called “worship wars” (see, for example, how Frame’s writing is treated in Hart and Muether’s With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship.) While I do not doubt Dr. Frame’s commitment to the Reformed interpretation of Scripture, it does seem to me that he has a more moderate approach. Neither side of this Escondido debate deny that the Reformed Confessions are subject to the authority of Scripture, but I perceive that in some ways Dr. Frame seems so much more openly self-conscious of highlighting the authority of Scripture over the Confessions that he runs the risk of coming off more broadly evangelical than Reformed on the issue of worship. I could be wrong, but this is my initial impression.

Many of you have read more Frame than I have, and have a more informed opinion of his approach to Reformed theology. Feel free to enlighten and correct my impressions in the comments. I simply wanted to share my thoughts on the interview as I recommend it to you. If any of you have wondered about the back and forth that sometimes takes place online about the so-called “Escondido Theology,” this interview is an important resource for gaining some insight into both sides of the debate.

The Mission of the Church

Don’t miss the latest episode of Westminster Seminary California’s Office Hours podcast, featuring an interview with Rev. Kevin DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan. Rev. DeYoung is the co-author of What is the Mission of the Church? and writes from his unique perspective as one whoought to be Emergent, but isn’t.” Office Hours host, Dr. R. Scott Clark discusses with him how the biblical mission of the church compares to some of the many trendier ways of being “missional.” One of the key issues they discuss is the fact that the promises of God for the individual and the cosmos,  both of which are contained in the gospel which it is the church’s mission to proclaim, are positive blessings which God will bring about in his time and in his way, and for which it is not always intended that we are to draw up a missional strategy of social outreach in order to participate in the fulfillment of these promises.

Kevin DeYoung also blogs at the Gospel Coalition. I just subscribed to his RSS Feed.

Heresy in the Headlines: Camping & Schuller

Strike Three and You’re Out

You may have heard that last week Harold Camping apologized for setting dates for the rapture. His bizarre application of civil engineer math geekiness to biblical hermeneutics misleads him to believe he could calculate the date of the rapture and the final judgment (See Robert Godfrey’s posts on Camping parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5). Strike one was back in 1994—No rapture. Camping discovers his miscalculation, and revises his date to May 21, 2011, which is also to kick off five months of judgment apparently in the form of rolling earthquakes that were to begin at a certain time of day all around the globe. Perhaps you noticed the billboards in some parts of the country, but most of you will recall the media attention given to it in the weeks leading up to Camping’s second date. May 21, 2011 comes and goes: strike two! Upon this failure, he claims that the rapture really did happen, but it was a spiritual rapture, and that a spiritual judgment has begun which will culminate in the complete end of the world all at once on October 21, 2011. Nothing. Strike three and you’re out, Harold Camping! In the stressful aftermath of this publicly humiliating fiasco, which brought much grief, consternation, and in some parts of the world, persecution, Camping suffers a stroke, and he is removed from regular broadcasting on Family Radio. I don’t know if the strike was brought on by the stress of the events, but a stroke he suffered, nonetheless.

Now that he’s had time to recover, this past week, Camping posts a letter on the Family Radio website apologizing for his “sin” of setting dates (read the letter here). In some ways it is an impressive statement. I was particularly moved to see his state in no uncertain terms that those of us who harped on Jesus’ words that “no man will know the day or hour” were right, and that he was wrong:

…we now realize that those people who were calling our attention to the Bible’s statement that “of that day and hour knoweth no man” (Matthew 24:36 & Mark 13:32), were right in their understanding of those verses and Family Radio was wrong. Whether God will ever give us any indication of the date of His return is hidden in God’s divine plan.

But this candid concession and apology was not good enough for Dan Elmendorf, former Family Radio broadcaster and now founder of Redeemer Broadcasting. In his weekly program, “A Plain Answer,” Elmendorf reminds us that the sin of date-setting was the least of Camping’s doctrinal problems. Absent from Camping’s open letter is any expression of repentance for having called on Christians to leave organized churches in which the gospel is preached and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are administered under the oversight by elders with the authority of exercising church discipline on members whose lives are persistently refusing to conform to a biblical standard of holiness and obedience to Scripture. Apparently, Camping still believes, and would have his listeners believe, that “the church age has ended.” So, it’s not that Camping has repented of the more heretical nature of his controversial “ministry.” I recommend that you listen to Elmendorf’s program, the first segment of which addresses Camping’s “weak apology.” The host shares some insight and experience which you can’t get from the Associated Press stories.

The Schuller’s Take Their Ball and Leave

In another recent instance of heresy in the headlines, it is reported that the entire family of positive-thinking televangelist, Robert Schuller, are leaving Crystal Cathedral Ministries. The 85 year-old Schuller, having retired from weekly “ministry” in 2009, was succeeded by his daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman. According to the LA Times, Coleman announced this past Sunday that she will leave the Crystal Cathedral to start a new church citing a “hostile working environment” stemming from a growing divide between the Schuller family and the Crystal Cathedral’s board of directors. Robert Schuller and his wife applaud Coleman’s decision, but announce they will not be joining her at her new church, and that their plans for weekly worship are not yet finally decided. They will not, however, have any further public association with the work of the Crystal Cathedral and it’s broadcast The Hour of Power, started by Robert Schuller back in 1970. It seems that all positive (as opposed to “good”) things must come to an end. In my humble opinion, this end has been long overdue.

 

News Flash: Mormonism is not Christianity

Evangelicalism is so desparate to be liked by the world, they will seemingly latch onto anything or anyone of any notoriety whatsoever with whom (or which) they find some sort of commonality. Especially if it involves movies or television. A few years ago, evangelical Protestants proclaimed Roman Catholic Mel Gibson’s movie version of a mystic nun’s vision of The Passion of the Christ as the greatest evangelistic tool since Billy Graham. Nowadays, they are opening wide their church doors and their pulpits and plexiglass lecterns to the Mormon with a compelling “testimony” of deliverance from alcoholism who found near-Oprah-like success on FOXNews Channel as one of the leaders of the Tea Party Movement, Glenn Beck.

With the purchase of the old campus of Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, I’m sad to admit that Glenn Beck is now a neighbor of mine. One of the down sides of this is that Beck will be, and indeed, has already been, welcomed into the evangelical churches of my community to blur the lines between biblical Protestant Christianity and the false religion of Mormonism. A recent episode of the Lutheran radio show, Issues, Etc., features the recording of Glenn Beck’s recent “sermon” delivered at High Point Church in Arlington, Texas where he not only confuses the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of man by speaking on America’s need to stand by the nation of Israel in their ongoing conflicts in the Middle East (a position with which I generally agree), but he confuses the Kingdom of God with the kingdom of Satan as a local evangelical church applauds a Mormon as he “testifies” that “the Lord Jesus Christ is [his] Savior and Redeemer.”

I’m glad I turned off Glenn Beck long before he ever started preaching American civil religion to his politically conservative viewers. What 60 years ago was called New Evangelicalism, fundamentalists of various denominations who sought the lowest common denominator for a semblence of “unity,” has become the New Liberalism, as they allow members of non-Christian religions to preach in their ostensibly “Christian” megachurch pulpits to seek the lowest common denominator with heresy.

Pray for repentance and Reformation for any and all churches that call themselves Christian. While you’re at it, read Arlington, Texas-based Watchman Fellowship’s “Fast Facts on Mormonism,” and do not attend if Glenn Beck appears at your church some Sunday morning in the not-to0-distant future.

My Favorite Sport!

Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers

I’m one of those especially unfortunate fellows who grew up with a love-hate relationship with sports. I played several sports on several little league teams as a child, and played plenty of sports in the streets of my neighborhood. My lack of skill then is probably the chief reason I do not follow sports today, although I do tend to catch the Super Bowl, mostly for the commercials. My new membership in a Reformed church and their biblical and confessional (we view these two adjectives as synonymous) emphasis on delighting in the Lord on the Lord’s Day may have implications for the Super Bowl in the future. All I can say is, thanks be to God for digital video recording.

 In light of my lack of interest in sports, I am fond of informing folks that “my sports are politics and religion,” which probably tells people I can relate even less to them, when they may already see me as a socially challenged individual who doesn’t follow sports. It is for this reason that you may not be surprised by my interest in the following lecture series that was held at Christ Reformed Church (URCNA) in Washington, D.C., called “Christianity & Politics,” which is yet another venue for the Westminster Seminary California faculty and alumni, among others, to focus our attention on their attempt at recovering the Reformed notion of the Two Kingdoms approach to the relationship between “Christ and Culture.” A timely offering in this year of presidential politics.

 Here’s their introduction to the series, speaker bios and links to the lectures:

Why We Confuse Church & State

Separation of church and state?

 Whatever you may think of the contemporary application of our first amendment freedom of religion, Christianity and politics are ever confused in our national consciousness. Preachers seek influence in the political sphere; politicians manipulate and calculate the faithful in their constituencies.

What are the faithful to do? How should we understand our callings as citizens, both on earth below and in heaven above?

 Christianity & Politics presents a range of speakers approaching this topic from a range of perspectives while discussing topics as diverse as the mission of the church, the place of evangelicals in American political culture, natural law, and the spirituality of the church.…

Lectures [were] sponsored by Christ Reformed Church, and [took] place in our place of worship, historic Grace Reformed Church, home of President Theodore Roosevelt….

 Speakers

MICHAEL HORTON is the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, Host of the White Horse Inn radio program and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He is a minister in the United Reformed Church.

 MICHAEL GERSON is an opinion writer for the Washington Post and former head speech writer and senior policy advisor to President George W. Bush.

 DARRYL HART is Assistant Professor of History at Hillsdale College, author of numerous books, and blogs on religion and public life at oldlife.org.

 TERRY EASTLAND is the Publisher of The Weekly Standard and an elder at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland.

 BRIAN LEE is the pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Washington, DC (United Reformed Church). He is a Guest Faculty at Reformed Theological Seminary and formerly worked on Capitol Hill, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Department of Defense.

 DAVID VAN DRUNEN is the Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Westminster Seminary California. He is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and holds a Law Degree from Northwestern University School of Law.

 DAVID COFFIN is the Senior Pastor at New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, Virginia.

 Audio

Michael Horton

The Great Commission (Sermon on Matthew 28)

The Great Commission and Social Justice — (Q&A Session)

 

Michael Gerson, Darryl Hart, Terry Eastland

The Future of Evangelical Politics (roundtable discussion)

 

Brian Lee

The Primacy of “Church” in “Church & State” (Sermon on Romans 12)

“Govern Well?” or “Be Governed”? — (Q&A Session)

 

David VanDrunen

Natural Law and Christian Politics — (Q&A Session)

 

David Coffin

The Biblical Doctrine of the Spirituality of the Church (Sermon on John 18)

The Historical Doctrine of the Spirituality of the Church — (Q&A Session)

 

HT: Christ Reformed Church Presents

Activism or Confessionalism?

Ever watched Adult Swim’s Moral Orel? It’s like a spoof of Davey and Goliath, and serves as a platform for heavy-handed satire of the moralistic idiosyncrasies of some Christians. Most Christians would find it distasteful to watch, although it probably reflects more truth than our kind are willing to admit—when it isn’t’ caricaturing moralistic Christianity.

Upon watching a few clips of this show and seeing just how much they make it look like an edgy version of Davey and Goliath, I was reminded that this show isn’t only a satire of politically Right-wing Christians, but can step on the toes of liberal Christians as well. The fact is that Davey and Goliath was a production of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a theologically liberal denomination of Lutherans despite the presence of the word “Evangelical” in their name. But it is also true that a generation or more of conservative fundamentalists and evangelicals were raised loving Davey and Goliath and being conditioned to liberal forms of moralism. This must be a small reason why moral and social do-good-ism is an example of common ground shared by today’s conservative culture warriors and liberal progressives. The development of the contemporary political spectrum among Western Christians has a long and storied past, involving the influence of eschatology, pietism and revivalism among other things. These influences raise a question, the answer to which we may find instructive.

“On which is it better for the Christian church to focus her efforts:

civic moral activism, or her own doctrine and practice?”

I submit the following:

  • Organized religious efforts toward civic moral activism are derived from a fundamentally utopian vision of eschatology and therefore society, and generally tends to minimize doctrine and practice.
  • Organized religious efforts to maintain the purity of each denomination’s own doctrine and practice are drawn from a fundamentally realistic vision of eschatology and therefore society, and generally tends to minimize organized religious civic moral activism.

What’s eschatology got to do with it?

Amillennialism

  • An Augustinian interpretation of the millennium shared in its broadly among Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed branches of Christendom
  • The Roman Catholic version promoted medieval Constantinianism (church over state).
  • Lutheran and Reformed reformed amillennialism, tended to focus on doctrine and practice (confessionalism), but had little opportunity to engage in organized religious civic moral activism as we know it today.
  • Post-Reformation Protestant Europe replaced Constantinism with ecclesiastical establishmentarianism (state over church); Confessional Protestants complied, affirmed the state’s role in defending the church from heresy, and theoretically denied the state’s right to affect church’s doctrine.
  • Twentieth/Twenty-first century Reformed Amillennialism of three varieties (at least): Kuyperian, Two-Kingdom and Theonomic (aka, “Dominionist”)

Postmillennialism

  • An “over-realized” (or utopian) form of amillennial eschatology
  • Tended to engage in organized religious civic moral activism
  • Held by theologically liberal progressives as well as fundamentalists in the early 20th century.
  • Twentieth/twenty-first century Reformed Postmillenialists of two varieties (at least): Kuyperian and Theonomic.

Premillennialism

  • Anabaptist eschatology (Anabaptism a non-Roman Catholic version of medieval monastic mysticism)
  • Tended to retreat from society and thus avoided both organized religious and individual civic moral activism.
  • Adopted by fundamentalist Protestants during the bulk of the 20th century in reaction against theologically liberal Postmillennialists.

Two religious trends add complexity to the preceding eschatological and social tendencies: Pietism and Revivalism:

Pietism

  • Lutheran deviation
  • Focused on personal piety, neglected doctrine and practice

Revivalism

  • An essentially Wesleyan trend adapted by Calvinists (Reformed); partly inspired by Pietism.
  • Focused on individual conversion and piety and promoted organized religious civic moral activism.

Conclusion

  • It is better for the church to focus on maintaining the purity of her own doctrine, piety and practice, and to leave civic activism (moral or otherwise) to the individual.
  • Thus, I find that an Amillennial, Confessional Protestantism that is relatively uninfluenced by pietism and revivalism is the ideal approach for the Christian church.

The preceeding is my attempt to organize the many things I’ve been learning over the years regarding the development of modern American Protestant confessionalism, liberalism, fundamentalism and evangelicalism. This being merely a blog post, and not an academic essay, those of you who are more informed on these issues are invited to critique my bullet points for the sake of accuracy. Those readers for whom the above raises questions or critical comments, these are especially welcome. You sharpen my iron, I’ll sharpen yours!

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