Category Archives: Current Evangelical Trends

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).

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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.

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].

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.

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!

Mixing Politics and Religion

Despite the last few posts on the New Apostolic Reformation, I generally reserve my political views for my Facebook page, but the intersection of this current political issue with theological issues commends its appearing on my blog to some extent. You may have heard that the next weekly Republican debate will feature questions submitted by the general population via YouTube. I simply could not resist taking this opportunity to question the logic of this association of Rick Perry with the so-called Dominionists of the New Apostolic Reformation. I’m neither endorsing Rick Perry nor Dominionism, just attempting to point out how the political Left are demagoguing on this issue (at which they are masters, if you ask me), at least in the blogosphere. A prime source of Left-wing blogging on the topic of the New Apostolic Reformation is called NAR Watch. Much of the information is interesting and useful, but I still contend that they engage in too much assumption as it relates to just what members of this movement wants out of any presidential candidates they may endorse. 

The following video is my question submitted for consideration to be used on the night of the debate. I’m not holding my breath that it’ll actually be aired, but I’d like to share it with you. Most of you could probably take it or leave it, but if you either enjoyed it very much, or seriously take issue with it, please take the opportunity to go to the FoxNews Channel’s YouTube page, browse through the hundreds of videos which are apparently organized in no particular order, and click on either the thumbs up or thumbs down icon so others can see whether my question warrants attention.

No jokes about my booming announcer voice 😉

All in all, this whole episode is a great argument for Two Kingdom theology (also see here). 

This Just In! Blind Squirrel Finds Nut!

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

                So God created man in his own image,

                                in the image of God he created him;

                                male and female he created them.

                And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

(Genesis 1:26-31 ESV)

To fully understand this passage, one must read the entirety of chapter one. The literary structure can be summarized simply using our key term “dominion.” God created kingdoms: outer space, the sky, the sea, and the land; then God created three kings to exercise “dominion” in each “kingdom”: celestial bodies, birds, sea life of every kind, and the race of Man.  There is a progressive significance in this creation week, with the creation of Man as the climax.

With God’s creation of Man, he gives him a vocation: fill the earth, subdue it, and take dominion over the lesser forms of life. Man lives on the earth as a kind of vice-regent of God.

This passage is applied in many ways by many people, but it can be reduced to something more or less like this. God created Man, then he gave him something to do.  How this idea has been applied varies according to the theological tradition to which the believer subscribes.

Throughout the middle ages, Roman Catholic traditions drove a wedge between the sacred and the secular in such a way that those who were inclined to a vocation of church ministry were seen as inherently superior to everyone else in the ordinary, profane occupations that seemed anything but spiritual. There were priests who worked for God (good), everyone else worked for the world (not so good).

In the sixteenth century, the Protestant Reformers recovered the biblical truth which they called “the priesthood of the believer.” This doctrine emphasized the fact that Christ was the High Priest who mediates between God and Man, and all believers, ordained minister or not, are priests who may now approach God and offer spiritual sacrifices on the basis of Christ’s mediation and intercession. But the Reformers didn’t leave this truth at this point. Application of the priesthood of the believer was made to every aspect of his life. In short, what are his responsibilities? That is his ministry. This idea brought a renewed dignity to labor and developed what is known as the Protestant work ethic. This work ethic taught each believer-priest to work for the glory of God and the good of his neighbor in whatever way his interests, skills and opportunities allow. Much of the productive, technological and industrial development in the modern world finds part of its roots in this Protestant work ethic, which influenced Western culture for the better.

As the centuries wore on, this truth became less and less clear, and Christians became less aware of the spiritual significance of their secular vocations, and the work ethic largely fell by the way side. While historic orthodox Protestants retained this doctrine at least in their theological volumes, if not always preached and lived in their lives, but others kept it in mind, working for the glory of God in their own personal way as the Reformation doctrine of vocation went largely neglected.

In the great cultural shift that took place in the 1960’s, some Protestant ministers, notable among them, Francis Schaeffer, sought ways to recover this truth by encouraging Christians to “engage the culture,” in order to be used by God to once again be the “Light of the World” and “The Salt of the Earth,” in other words, Christians whom God may use to bring glory to God by enlightening their neighbors to the Light of the truth which is in Christ, as well as by being a benefit to their neighbors in their work and their service.

In the decade of the seventies, a few ministers in the charismatic movement had a similar desire to encourage their congregants and the church at large to live more consistently and more visibly as Christians in a sinful world. They, too, had a sense that evangelical Christians had largely ceased being influential members of society, and wanted to do something about it in their way, according to the understanding of their theological tradition. To put it inelegantly, I consider these efforts by Schaeffer and these charismatics, among others as blind squirrels who found a nut, as the old saying goes. The “nut” being some concept of the historic doctrine of vocation.

Fast forward to 2011. This desire to glorify God and serve and evangelize their neighbors becomes misinterpreted by the Left Wing of the American political system as efforts to “take dominion” over the federal government of the United States and establish a theocratic form of government. Looked at in this light, now, doesn’t it sound silly?

Now let’s engage in a comparative study. First read Lutheran journalist and blogger, Edward Gene Veith’s blog post “Vocation as the Christian Life,” and learn more about Luther’s doctrine of vocation and how it ought to be applied in this generation. Then watch the following video posted at www.the7mountains.com and see if you can detect similar motives. Then stop listening to reactionary political Leftists who think those crazy extremist Right Wing Christians are out to overthrow the government and start stoning adulterers and burning witches.

Interacting with the New Apostolic Reformation: Political Activism and Theocracy

C. Peter Wagner, "Intellectual Godfather" of the New Apostolic Reformation

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to attempt to interact with Dr. C. Peter Wagner’s defense of what he has called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The statement is simply titled, “The New Apostolic Reformation: An Update by C. Peter Wagner, Ph. D.” Wagner taught Church Growth for thirty years at Fuller Theological Seminary (which is no bastion of theological orthodoxy). According to his statement, NAR is simply a label given to trends in rapidly growing sectors of global Christianity. Wagner writes:

The NAR is not an organization. No one can join or carry a card. It has no leader. I have been called the “founder,” but this is not the case. One reason I might be seen as an “intellectual godfather” is that I might have been the first to observe the movement, give a name to it, and describe its characteristics as I saw them. When this began to come together through my research in 1993, I was Professor of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary, where I taught for 30 years. The roots of the NAR go back to the beginning of the African Independent Church Movement in 1900, the Chinese House Church Movement beginning in 1976, the U.S. Independent Charismatic Movement beginning in the 1970s and the Latin American Grassroots Church Movement beginning around the same time. I was neither the founder nor a member of any of these movements. I was simply a professor who observed that they were the fastest growing churches in their respective regions and that they had a number of common characteristics.

 The distinctives to which Wagner refers are listed in his statement as “Apostolic Governance,” “The Office of Prophet,” “Dominionism,” “Extra-biblical revelation,” and “Supernatural Signs and Wonders.” These are the elements which are most commonly criticized by theological critics such as myself. The political activism of the movement in America is what is being focused on in media reports, and political water-cooler discussions.

  The political Left in the United States is expressing tremendous alarm about the fact that some who have associations with this movement of radical charismatic churches are lending political support to leading conservative Republican candidates. In 2008, they criticized the fact that Sarah Palin had been formally “prayed over” by such figures. When Wisconsin Congresswoman, Michelle Bachmann, began running for the Republican Presidential nomination this year, political opponents began connecting dots between her and the NAR, but it was not until Texas Governor, Rick Perry, entered the same contest that the media hype about certain NAR-aligned figures who joined Perry in organizing a non-denominational, and arguably non-political, prayer rally days prior reached a fever pitch.

 In light of this fact, Dr. Wagner stated a position on the concept of theocracy, as it relates to the political activity of NAR personalities:

 The usual meaning of theocracy is that a nation is run by authorized representatives of the church or its foundational religious equivalent. Everyone I known in NAR would absolutely reject this idea, thinking back toConstantine’s failed experiment or some of the oppressive Islamic governments today. The way to achieve dominion is not to become “America’s Taliban,” but rather to have kingdom-minded people in every one of the Seven Mountains: Religion, Family, Education, Government, Media, Arts & Entertainment, and Business so that they can use their influence to create an environment in which the blessings and prosperity of the Kingdom of God can permeate all areas of society.

 I agree at least to this extent with Wagner. The broad coalition of politically active American evangelicals known popularly as the Religious Right, far from setting their sights on theocracy, grant to the U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as they stand written today, for better or worse, a kind of inspiration that arguably rivals that of the Holy Scriptures themselves. In light of the imminently important Establishment and Free Expression Clauses of the First Amendment, it is grossly inaccurate to accuse even NAR figures as theocrats, much less Governor Perry.

 One of the concerns of NAR’s political critics is that should America collapse, the danger is that radical fringe elements could take over the Federal Government. In my view, it is more likely that radical Muslim groups would try that to a greater extent than any radical elements associated with Christianity.

 John Hendryx at Monergism.com has addressed the issues of theocracy and the proper goals of Christian influence on the government in an article entitled, “Do Christians Want a Theocratic or Secularist State? Or Neither?” This is a well-written article which emphasizes Christians’ recognition of the need for checks and balances and the separation of powers.

Too much power in the hands of anyone, including certain denominations of Christians, is dangerous because man is corruptible. That is why limited government and a balance of power is a reasonable idea, because it understands the sinful limitations of human beings, whether they be secularist, Christian, Muslim or Buddhist.

Even though Christians know the only truth, they also know themselves too well as sinners to be without the restraint of law or a balance of power.

Finally, Hendryx included a note on the issue of theocracy which he points out highlights the importance and impact of biblical eschatology. For it is specifically the Postmillennial factions on both sides of the political aisle (Liberation theology on the Left, Theonomy on the Right) which would promote something that would more accurately be characterized as theocracy. To the extent that NAR draws from the wells of R. J. Rushdoony’s theonomy, criticism is fair. But as Wagner notes, “NAR has no official statements of theology or ecclesiology.” This means not all Christian political activists aligned with the New Apostolic Reformation necessarily have the same eschatological view.

In support of Hendryx’s claim about the “theocratic” Postmillenial views of Liberation theology, consider the controversy in the last presidential election cycle during which then candidate Barack Obama was criticized for his twenty-year membership in Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, pastored by Black Liberation Theologian, Dr. Jeremiah Wright. According to Stanley Kurtz, writing in Radical-In-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism (© 2010, Threshold Editions):

 Wright openly denies the distinction between religion and politics, disdaining preachers who refuse to connect Jesus to liberationist militancy. Obama has indeed taken political instruction from Wright, and Wright’s history strongly suggests that this was a common occurrence. Obama’s greatest hope, in fact, was to build a political movement around Wright and preachers like him (p. 327).

I don’t personally believe that the New Apostolic Reformation will be nearly as successful at influencing (read: “taking dominion over”) the so-called “SevenMountains” for Christ as they would desire, nor as much as the political Left fears. I predict they will simply counteract the Light provided by the more traditional, and less cultic, strains of orthodox Christianity before the watching world. 

Evangelicals, Meet the Two Kingdoms

It may just begin to be “all about” Dr. Darryl G. Hart from now on. (But I jest–read Hart’s post to know what I mean by that–and notice my comment on his post). Hart, his new book, and his Augustinian approach to the relationship of the church to culture and politics, known to conservative Protestants (as opposed to “Evangelicals”) as the Two Kingdoms view, have been introduced to the broadly Evangelical listeners to Christian talk radio. 

Janet Mefferd is appropriately the host of Salem Radio Network‘s The Janet Mefferd Show, which is broadcast here in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex on 100.7 FM KWRD. Mefferd may have just given Dr. Hart his big break–and may it redound to the benefit and enrichment of Evangelical understanding of their place in the political and cultural life of the United States of America. On her Thursday, Sept. 1st program, Mefferd interviewed Dr. Darryl G. Hart about his latest book, From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism (2011, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.). This book “provides an iconoclastic new history of the entrance of evangelical Christians into national American politics. Examining the key players of the Religious Right–Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Chuck Colson, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and many others–D. G. Hart argues that evangelicalism is (and always has been) a bad fit with classic political conservatism” (punctuation improved by me). 

On the air, before God and the Religious Right, Janet Mefferd encouraged Dr. Hart by her agreement with him that politically conservative Evangelicals could learn a thing or two from St. Augustine’s ancient classic City of God, which is the theological progenitor of the Two Kingdoms approach to “Christ and Culture.” 

Here’s a transcript of Hart’s description of this Augustinian Two Kingdom view of Christ and Culture and how it applies to the Religious Right:

Mefferd: …This concept that we need to embrace, I think, and you’re absolutely right about this, is this Augustinian view of the relationship between the city of God and the city of Man as we’re examining politics. Explain briefly what that is, the City of God and the City of Man.

Hart: Well, Augustine wrote this book at the time when the Roman Empire was falling, and people were blaming the Christian Church for that fall—that Rome had turned from its own gods to this other God, and so Christians were to blame. And part of Augustine’s defense, was to say that God’s ways are higher than Man’s ways, and you cannot identify the history of salvation with the history of any particular place or empire, like the Roman Empire, so there is this City of God that transcends the City of Man. And the application for America, as for any nation, would be that God doesn’t have necessarily a special relationship with any particular nation, though he did at one time with Israel, but now has a special relationship with his church which transcends all nations. You find churches and church members around the world, and that is where God’s plan of redemption is being carried out, in the “City of God,” the Church being sort of the earthly representation of it. And the “City of Man,” the affairs of nations, are things that God controls through his providential power, but you cannot correlate what God is doing necessarily in a redemptive way with the rise and fall of empires or nations.

Mefferd: Which may be sounding sort of heretical to a lot of very patriotic Evangelical conservatives who say, you know, this is a nation founded in large part by Christians, on Christian principles, etc., etc., and yet, you almost set yourself up for, if and when, God forbid, America does have a decline or a fall, as the Roman Empire did, then we may be in a bad place of saying, while, you know, this is somehow the Church’s fault, and, I think you’re absolutely right, we have to think in a different way as Christians about God’s purposes in the world beyond just who we want to get into office at a particular time, you know?

 Hart: Right. I think we’re all prone to think this way. Though, I mean, even if I trip, or if I oversleep, you know, I wonder if it’s because yesterday I yelled at my wife that these things are happening to me. So, we always want to view our relationship to God, and what happens in our lives, as whether we’re living in favor or out of favor, and we do that in politics as well, but it’s not a very helpful way for looking at politics. And political conservatives have actually drawn on that Augustinian perspective often. 

Dr. Hart also has a thought-provoking defense of Rick Perry’s recent appeal to states rights as a way to deal with the issue of gay marriage. But I’ll leave that for you to find for yourself on the podcast.

What’s the Difference?

What’s the difference between the Jesus People of the 1970’s and the Postmodern Liberals of the Twenty-First Century?

Don’t Engage in Anabaptist Handwringing Over Osama bin Laden

There is quite a debate underway online regarding how Christians should respond to the death of Osama bin Laden. Are we to rejoice over the justice in the death of one who is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands, most notably the three thousand souls lost on September 11, 2001? Or are we supposed to so major on the fact that “God is not pleased by the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33: 11 ) that we should stoically stand by and not “rejoice with those who rejoice,” even though we’ve been previously weeping with them (Romans 12:15)?

 The book of Proverbs does read, “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness” (Proverbs 11:10). Furthermore, “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous, but a terror to evildoers” (Proverbs 21:15). Methinks the instinct to worry about being too happy over Osama bin Laden’s death is a reflection of the influence of Anabaptist pacifism. It’s pervasive in Western Christianity nowadays. Try not to let it unduly influence you. For an example of what I mean, compare this blogger’s dilemma over how to react. Should he listen to the Anabaptist on the one shoulder, or the red-blooded American patriot chanting “U-S-A!” on the other? That he attributes his angst over the death of a mass-murdering terrorist to Anabaptism shows how this is the application of Anabaptist pacifism. For you Star Wars fans, remember Alderaan? They were a peaceful planet with no weapons, weren’t they? Look what happened to them.

While it is regrettable that Osama bin Laden never repented of his sins and trusted Christ for salvation from sin and the wrath of God—none of us are glad because he’s now suffering eternal conscious torment in hell. We’re relieved with the loved-ones of bin Laden’s and al Qaida’s victims that justice is served. There is no contradiction here. 

At Underdog Theology, Warren Cruz takes the approach that our deceitfully depraved hearts may take us down the slippery slope of rejoicing in bin Laden’s eternal destiny though we intended to only rejoice in the temporal justice in his demise. Be that as it may, I’m inclined to take Luther’s approach (HT: Wikiquote):

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sin be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death and the world. We commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We however, says Peter (2 Peter 3:13), are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. 

Letter 99, Paragraph 13. Erika Bullmann Flores, Tr. from:Dr. Martin Luther’s Saemmtliche Schriften Dr. Johann Georg Walch Ed. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, N.D.), Vol. 15, cols. 2585-2590

In other words, don’t let the fact that you may imperfectly rejoice in the justice of bin Laden’s death keep you from so rejoicing. Christ’s perfect righteousness covers the imperfect righteousness of those who trust him.

U-S-A! U-S-A! 

Update: For a tad more balanced and scholarly approach to making the same point, try Michael Horton writing for Christianity Today today in “The Death of Osama bin Laden: What Kind of Justice Has Been Done?” Here’s the second of Horton’s three implications of the so-called Reformation doctrine of the Two Kingdoms as it relates to the only event in today’s headlines:

Second, it means that we cannot rejoice in the death of the wicked any more than does God (Ezek. 18:23). We may take satisfaction that temporal justice has been served, but Christians should display a sober restraint. When Christ returns, bringing infinite justice in his wake, his saints will rejoice in the death of his enemies. For now, however, he calls us to pray for our enemies, even for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). This is the day of salvation, calling sinners to repent and believe the gospel. We may delight in the temporal justice shown to evildoers, but leave the final justice to God. (HT: Riddleblog).

Return of the ICBI!

This is an exciting development!

At the 2011 Twin Lakes Fellowship, Dr. Ligon Duncan announced the re-constitution of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI). Chief among their concerns is first to introduce the emerging generation of evangelicals to the true doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture. So much slander and misrepresentation of this doctrine has been made by those “emerging” and Emergent church leaders that a re-affirmation of what historic orthodoxy has always believed about inerrancy must  be broadcast far and wide. The blogger at Green Baggins is in attendance at the Twin Lakes Fellowship and is the one who has alerted me to Duncan’s announcement. He writes,

Some highlights: “If God is a Spirit, then the only way we can know him is if he speaks to us. And if he does not speak truth to us, we have no way of knowing him truly.” [Duncan’s] advice to pastors on how to be of help to our younger brothers and sisters:

  1. Re-read the classics on the doctrine of inerrancy.
  2. Walk with seminarians and others through the arguments of the current critics of inerrancy.
  3. Don’t assume Young Evangelicals own this tradition. Instead, persuade them into it by boht your understanding of the arguments from the critics and the biblical defense against those arguments.

You can read the rest of his comments on Duncan’s announcement in his post, “Twin Lakes and Inerrancy.” You can link to and read the original Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy from my Creeds, etc. page.

Did I mention that I’m excited about this?

The Bible’s Inconvenient Truth

Dr. K. Scott Oliphint (left) with Rev. Joe Troutman (right)

The following was preached on March 6, 2011 by Rev. Joe Troutman, pastor of Mid Cities Presbyterian Church, in Bedford, Texas. This just happened, in the providence of God, to be the weekend after the controversy about which I’ve been posting for the past couple of weeks. The heresy of some becomes an opportunity for the orthodox to proclaim the truths of the Bible with all the more clarity. I hope you find the following words at the same time edifying and challenging.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:47-50 ESV)

The third parable, which is found in verses 47-50, is the longest of the four. There is some similarity here to the first two, but overall it is different. Some commentators group it with the parable of the wheat and the tares because it describes a harvest–a harvest of the sea, as opposed to a harvest of the field. In this parable, Jesus says again, “The Kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea, and gathered fish of every kind. Like the second parable, there is a great search taking place. But instead of a search for a precious pearl, it is a search for fish. This search is being done, it says, by angels.

The first two parables describe men who find the Kingdom, but this parable is about the Kingdom finding men. We may think we found God. We may think that in some way we stumbled across him; that in our search in the marketplace, we have found the pearl of great price. But in reality, the parable shows, Jesus is continuing to tell us that it is God who found us. It is God, the Lord Jesus Christ himself—who sought us out. Jesus said in Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” The value of God’s Kingdom, and the place of God’s elect in it, are so great that the purchase price was nothing less than Jesus Christ himself. It is, in fact, more than you and I could pay. More than we could ever pay. It is a debt that is too great for us. Because God made a covenant with himself to save a people for himself, he was willing to go to any length to procure his people’s salvation. He was willing to give his Son as a ransom for lost sinners like you and me. This is what the Lord was willing to do for all who truly believe.

In this parable, the Kingdom of heaven is compared to a net. Don’t think of a fishing net, don’t think of a net that’s at the end of a pole, that people use to scoop up a fish at the end of a fishing line. Don’t necessarily even think of a net that is cast out into the water. This is a large net. This is a dragnet. This is what may be termed a seine. One of the things my dad, my grandfather, my brother and I would do when we were younger, we had a creek running through the property of our farm, and every so often we would take a seine and we would go, men on one side and men on the other, and go up the creek and catch whatever we could find–turtles, snakes, fish–whatever it was, we would try to catch it. This is the kind of thing that Jesus is describing here in this parable. The angels, the reapers, are catching whatever they can get, and the sorting of the good fish from the bad ones would take place on the shore, which is what Jesus says in verse 48. He says, “When it was full, men drew it ashore, and sat down and sorted the good into containers, and threw away the bad.”

Then he explains this part of the parable in verses 49-50. He says, “So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” What is Jesus talking about? He’s talking about the final judgment. He’s talking about when he returns; when he returns as the Savior of his people and the Judge of those who have rejected him. What is he saying will happen? He is saying that some will be kept, and some will be thrown away. There will be a final sorting that takes place: some will be welcomed into glory by their Savior, and others will be cast into hell by their Judge.

This is what Jesus is teaching. Yet if we affirm this, we are in danger, we need to know, as being regarded as radical fundamentalists by most of the people in our society–even by fellow evangelicals. Yet there is an inconvenient truth for those who would deny the existence of hell and eternal punishment in it by the Lord. And this is it: Scripture says it exists! Scripture repeatedly talks about the existence of hell. The weeping and the gnashing of teeth, the casting of those who refuse to believe into hell, Jesus himself–regarded by many on the more liberal side of the church as just a friendly and nice guy, a lovable teddy-bear type of Savior–Jesus himself talks about hell. It is inescapable.

Now we are not to revel in it; it should sadden us that some are lost. And yet, in God’s casting unbelievers into hell, he is glorified. This may be difficult for us, but just because it is difficult does not give us the right to throw this doctrine away. In so doing, we are throwing portions of Scripture away. In Matthew 10:28, Jesus warned his followers not to fear someone who could kill the body but not the soul; he says instead to fear him who can destroy both the body and the soul in hell. In other words, fear God.

The book of Revelation also has something to say about that. It is the place where Satan and his angels and everyone whose name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. It is described in Revelation 21:8 as the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the Second Death. There are many today who are challenging Jesus’ teaching in our passage, and many others that say he will save some and send others to hell, but they are denying God’s Word. If they’re denying that he sends some to hell, they are denying his Word, and they have nothing left to stand on when they make their own pronouncements.

In the photo above, Rev. Troutman is posing with Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He came to town as a speaker at the recent Full Confidence Conference, about which I posted a few weeks ago. In the Q & A Session at the end of the conference, Dr. Oliphint concludes the entire event with some very compelling words on the nature of hell as eternal, conscious torment. I highly recommend you give it a listen as well.

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