January 31, 2014

Counterfeit Christianity

Although the Christian religion is more than a series of doctrines to be believed, it is certainly not less.

J. Gresham Machen:
Things that are false will accomplish a great many useful things in the world. If I take a counterfeit coin and buy a dinner with it, the dinner is every bit as good as if the coin were a product of the mint. And what a very useful thing a dinner is! But just as I am on my way downtown to buy a dinner for a poor man, an expert tells me that my coin is a counterfeit. The miserable, heartless theorizer! While he is going into uninteresting, learned details about the primitive history of that coin, a poor man is dying for want of bread. So it is with faith. Faith is so very useful, they tell us, that we must not scrutinize its basis in truth. But, the great trouble is, such an avoidance of scrutiny itself involves the destruction of faith. For faith is essentially dogmatic. Despite all you can do, you cannot remove the element of intellectual assent from it. Faith is the opinion that some person will do something for you. If that person really will do that thing for you, then the faith is true. If he will not do it, then the faith is false. In the latter case, not all the benefits in the world will make the faith true. Though it has transformed the world from darkness to light, though it has produced thousands of glorious healthy lives, it remains a pathological phenomenon. It is false, and sooner or later it is sure to be found out.
Such counterfeits should be removed, not out of a love of destruction, but in order to leave room for the pure gold, the existence of which is implied in the presence of the counterfeits. Faith is often based upon error, but there would be no faith at all unless it were sometimes based upon truth. But if Christian faith is based upon truth, then it is not the faith which saves the Christian but the object of the faith. And the object of the faith is Christ. [1]
Faith in faith never saved anyone. Theology matters.

1. J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism  (Eerdmans, 2009), p. 120.

January 30, 2014

Tom Hicks Reviews Antinomianism by Mark Jones

Read it here: A Review of Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest? by Mark Jones | Founders Ministries

Is Your Church Spirit-Filled?

Over at Cripplegate, Eric Davis offers 11 signs of a Spirit-filled church.

. . . when the Holy Spirit is present in a local church, it’s going to be gloriously obvious. When he blows through a congregation, it will be unmistakable: he will gather a converted people whose lives are being enriched in Scripture such that they love, serve, and repent with the result that Christ is put in lights.
Read the rest here: How to Recognize a Spirit-Filled Church | The Cripplegate

Looking for the Next Spiritual High

One of the biggest problems with the man-centered, revivalistic theology so common in contemporary Evangelical circles is an unbiblical view of sanctification that leads its adherents to become junkies looking for their next spiritual fix. It takes many forms (from Cursillo retreats to emotional appeals to "come down to the altar"), and it seems to be common among non-charismatics as well as charismatics. These practices might look very different on the outside, but, at heart, they are symptoms of the same problem. The common denominator is this: those who hold to this kind of theology are always looking for a magic bullet—the key to "victorious" or "Spirit-filled" Christian living. This magic bullet is never something as simple as prayer, corporate worship, or Bible reading (you know, the regular means of grace that God actually requires of his people in Scripture). No, it's always something extra, something more—something not required by Scripture. Scripture, for these believers, is not seen as sufficient for their sanctification. It may be enough for "carnal" Christians or for those who aren't "Spirit-filled," but the real key to pleasing God and growing in Christlikeness is always found in the next book, fast, retreat, revival meeting, worship style, or emotional experience.

Jared Wilson says this:
The real devil in the details of the prosperity-type teaching permeating so much of evangelicalism is not really that it skips over the stuff about sin. Sure, it does that too, but the pernicious paradox of this stuff is that it champions “victorious Christian living” yet does not equip believers for sustainable discipleship. It emphasizes feelings and “outlook,” not the power of the Spirit, which is hard for some folks to notice since the latter is often conflated with the former (so that being optimistic or a go-getter is ipso facto being Spirit-empowered). The problem over time is that, going from victory to victory, expecting victory after victory, cultivates a contagious form of spiritual greed. (Is it any wonder that this sort of teaching often goes hand and hand with talk of financial riches and prosperity?) The real stuff of discipleship — what Eugene Peterson calls “a long obedience in the same direction” — involves hard stuff like discipline and the fruit of the Spirit. In pop discipleship discipline is replaced by steps, tips, and amazingsupercolossal breakthroughs.
Read the rest here: Contentment, The Stealth Prosperity Gospel, and Spiritual Greed | The Gospel-Driven Church 

HT: Tim Challies

January 29, 2014

The Truth About Income Inequality

It seems that the truly greedy people aren't the wealthy but those who want to take their wealth from them.

Joe Carter:
Because it is often rooted in personal envy or based on concerns about what will happen if envious people don’t get what they want, Christians should be very hesitant about legitimizing the issue of income inequality. Our primary economic concerns should be for the well-being of the poor and for the creation of conditions that lead to greater human flourishing for all our neighbors. Focusing on income inequality does neither. In fact, the focus on income inequality has become a distraction that has hampered our search for solutions to our true economic problems.
Read the rest here: What Every Christian Should Know About Income Inequality | Acton Institute

January 27, 2014

Feminist Nonsense

Over at Triablogue, Steve Hays has posted a helpful response to some stereotypical, anti-family, feminist nonsense.

Read it here: The curse of being average | Triablogue

Conservative = Racist

Apparently, conservatism is inherently racist. Or at least that's what the left would have us believe.

Read all about it here: The Racial Paranoid Style In American Politics | The Federalist

January 24, 2014

Be Careful What You Wish For

Don't ask for fire unless you want to get burned.

Questioning Pentecostalism

It's questions like these that led me out of the Charismatic Movement.
If God is sovereign, why does He have to have my permission to come to me? If it’s so important that we speak in tongues, why doesn’t every Christian speak in tongues? And why do Christians have to learn how to speak in tongues? If we have the Holy Spirit, and He is sovereign, can’t He just do it for us? And what about those Christians who don’t use tongues, and aren’t charismatic? Are they really spiritually dead? If so, how come they seem to be as passionate for Christ as my charismatic friends—in some cases even more so?
Read the rest here: Confessions of a Former Charismatic, Part 1: Me and Benny Hinn | Alpha & Omega Ministries

January 23, 2014

Liberals Hate Economics

Over at Acton, Joe Carter asks the question, "Is the teaching of basic microeconomics — opportunity cost, supply and demand curves, incentives, etc. — a form of conservative propaganda?"

Read his answer here: Is Econ 101 Conservative Propaganda? | Acton Institute

BOLO - ESV Reader's Bible

Be on lookout for the new ESV Reader's Bible from Crossway: 
The ESV Reader’s Bible was created for those who want to read the books of Scripture precisely as they were originally written. Verse numbers, chapter and section headings, and translation footnotes are helpful navigational and interpretive tools, but they are also relatively recent conventions. In the ESV Reader’s Bible they have been removed from the Bible text. The result is a new kind of Bible-reading experience in a volume that presents Scripture as one extended story line. On the top of each page a verse range is included for orientation. Other features include a single-column text setting, readable type, and a book-like format. The Reader’s Bible is a simple but elegant edition, and is perfect for devotional reading, for extended Bible reading, or for focusing on the overarching narrative of the Bible.
It's out in May and will be available in leather as well as hardcover. Also, if you decide to order the ESV Reader's Bible, please consider supporting the blog by using one of our Amazon Associate links to do your book shopping

Disclosure: Faith Seeking Understanding receives compensation for any purchases made using Amazon Associate links.

James White Is Going to Have an Aneurysm Over This

Ergun Caner, who assumed Brewton-Parker College’s presidency Jan. 1, has named Peter Lumpkins as vice president of communications. Caner, in a Jan. 22 news release from the Baptist-affiliated college, described Lumpkins of the SBC Tomorrow blog site as “one of the most well-known and respected writers in the Southern Baptist Convention.” . . . Lumpkins will begin his duties Feb. 1 at the Mount Vernon, Ga., campus and will serve as a member of the president’s cabinet. The news release said Lumpkins will “oversee every venue of writing and marketing on the campus, including alumni newsletters, web content, social media and academic publishing.”
Read the rest here: FROM THE COLLEGES: Brewton-Parker, UMobile | Baptist Press

January 21, 2014

Calvinism: As American as Mom, Baseball, and Apple Pie

From Jonathan Edwards to Joel Osteen. We've come a long way (and not in the right direction).

"Able to Teach"

With all the excellent free resources now available (here, here, and here, just for starters), there is simply no excuse for church leaders (pastors especially, but also elders, deacons, teachers, etc.) not to pursue a theological education. And yet, biblical illiteracy and theological ignorance seem to have reached an epidemic level, even among pastors.

Jason K. Allen says this:
There is an alarming inverse correlation between the seriousness of the ministerial task and the casualness with which it is often approached. We would neither let an untrained mechanic rebuild our transmission, nor would we permit an unlearned pediatrician to diagnose our children. Yet, churches often place individuals with the lowest levels of preparation in the highest office—the pastorate.

January 20, 2014

On the Use and Abuse of Philosophy

How should we understand the relationship between philosophy and theology? Steve Hays has some helpful thoughts on the matter. Here's the link:

January 16, 2014

Truth for Its Own Sake

Kevin DeYoung asks, "Is theology theoretical or practical?" He answers, "Yes!"

Read it here: Is Theology Theoretical or Practical? | DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed

The Prosperity Gospel: Now Kindler and Gentler and Coming to a Church Near You!

While most Southern Baptists tend to avoid the snake-oil salesmen on TBN (Benny Hinn, T. D. Jakes, etc), there is a subtler version of the prosperity gospel that has been making inroads in the convention for some time now.

Read about the "soft" prosperity gospel here: A Softer Prosperity Gospel: More Common Than You Think | 9Marks

January 15, 2014

Read Good Books

Jared Oliphint wants you to read good (big, dense, old, academic) books.

There is a persistent, parasitic myth buzzing around that academic theological books are wet blankets for your devotional life, or your relationship with Jesus, or something. The source of these myths is typically those who out of principle do not lift books that require cerebral weight training. You won't hear the same anti-theology myth coming from someone who has popped out on the other side of a dense library. If I'm looking for advice on whether a particular mountain is worth the climb, I'll ask someone who has already been there, not someone who has never packed for the hike, whose opinion rests on hearsay and speculation. The same principle applies to just about anything that requires effort, including dense theological works.

January 11, 2014

Calvinism vs. Molinism?

I've been saying this for a while: Calvinism and Molinism are compatible.

Calvinism and Molinism: Bill Craig beat me to it | Right Reason

The thing is, though, many Molinists (including the best-known advocates) are Arminian, so when Calvinists (ostensibly) object to Molinism, they are often actually objecting to the underlying Arminian theology held by many (most?) Molinists. This is not to say that many Calvinists do not have actual objections to Molinism (the grounding problem, for one), just that these objections are distinct from the Calvinism/Arminianism debate. In fact, many of the most common objections to Molinism are put forth by Calvinists and Arminians.

HT: Steve Hays

January 09, 2014

January 2014 Issue of HM Magazine

Fans of hard rock and heavy metal should be aware that the new issue of HM Magazine is now available for download at this link: HM Magazine - January 2014

Why I'm Looking Forward to Peter Kreeft's History of Philosophy

Over at Between Two Worlds, Justin Taylor has an article on Peter Kreeft's upcoming history of philosophy. I'm looking forward to it, and, if you have any interest in philosophy or the history of ideas, you should too. Check it out here:

25 Ways Peter Kreeft's 4-Volume History of Philosophy Is Different from All the Others | Between Two Worlds

You Might Be an Antinomian If . . .

Antinomianism is more common than one might think. Kevin DeYoung helpfully points out seven statements that have, historically, been characteristic of antinomianism.

Antinomianism: It's Bigger than You Think | DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed

The scary thing is how common some of these statements are. In fact, I'll admit to having said something like one of these myself a time or two (I know better now, of course).

January 08, 2014

Nine Marks of an Unhealthy Church

Is your church a true church? Or has your congregation embraced a false gospel? Here are nine signs that your local church has left the true gospel behind in favor of a counterfeit:

Nine Marks of a Prosperity Gospel Church | 9Marks

Justin Peters on Michael Brown

Benny Hinn literally meets each and every biblical criterion as to how to discern a false teacher.  If Benny Hinn is not a false teacher then someone needs to explain to me what one is because I do not know.  If he is not a false teacher then the term truly has no meaning.
The stark reality, contrary to the hue and cry from Michael Brown and so many others in the charismatic movement, is that the “extreme errors” are not just coming from a “tiny minority” fringe within its ranks.  The errors are extreme to be sure, but they are coming from and they represent the majority within the charismatic movement.

Read the rest here: Ignorance Is Not an Option | Grace to You

January 07, 2014

Why I Left Pentecostalism

Though my own personal journey from the (heavily prosperity gospel influenced) Pentecostalism of my upbringing to biblical Christianity was far less dramatic, this brother's testimony resonated very deeply with me.

Theology matters. False teaching has consequences (in this life as well as the next). When a church (or theological tradition/movement in this case) routinely downplays, dilutes, or denies the gospel—the very heart of the faith—it's worth considering what else they've gotten wrong. And that's exactly what I did, eventually rejecting every single theological distinctive of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement as I embraced a more historically-grounded, biblically-faithful understanding of the Christian faith. It's been a difficult journey, but I thank God for it because my love for Christ and my faith in the gospel have only grown stronger along the way. 

If any of my Pentecostal friends or family members are reading this, know this: my rejection of your theology is not a rejection of you, nor is it a rejection of everything that you taught me. You taught me to serve Christ and to obey his Word, but, in order to do that consistently, I find that I must reject some of the other things you taught me. Though I know that you don't see it this way, I believe that I am honoring you by holding consistently to the truths that you taught me. And know this, too: I'm praying for you. I'm praying for you because God looks so much bigger and his grace seems so much sweeter from here on the other side, and I sincerely hope you'll join me someday.

Nobody Wants to Go to Hell

I love C. S. Lewis, but he got some doctrines wrong (sometimes very wrong). Hell is one those doctrines. It's very unfortunate that many Evangelicals (including many otherwise solid Reformed folk) have bought into Lewis's doctrine of Hell despite the fact that it is man-centered, speculative, and unbiblical.

You can read a critique of Lewis's watered-down version of Hell here: C. S. Lewis on Hell: really deep, oft-quoted, really wrong | Pyromaniacs

January 06, 2014

Making the Prosperity Gospel Safe for Southern Baptists Everywhere

Steven Furtick has quickly become the Southern Baptist Convention's equivalent of Joel Osteen.

You can read all about the Anti-Platt here.

Bob Johnson Reviews Joel Osteen's New Book

You can now read a review of the latest travesty from Joel Osteen over at 9marks.

Reviewer Bob Johnson:
If Disneyworld was a church, Joel Osteen would be the pastor. Break Out! is basically a combination of “When You Wish upon a Star” and “A Whole New World.” The problem is, Joel is a pastor, and his sermons and books are presented as truth, not fairy tales, and thousands of people really believe what he says.
Read the rest here.

January 04, 2014

On Michael Brown's Astounding Lack of Discernment

In light of recent news (see here and here), this earlier post now seems prophetic.

A few thoughts:

No one familiar with the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement should be surprised by this. The sort of dangerous naivete that Brown is displaying by endorsing Hinn (and make no mistake, regardless of Brown's intentions, this is most definitely an endorsement) is practically one of the distinctives of the movement (akin to "speaking in tongues" or the like) at this point.

Brown would be inconsistent to condemn Hinn (and other false teachers like him) because he doesn't have a theological leg to stand on. Brown's theological convictions regarding continuing revelation mean that he must necessarily be open to all manner of foolishness. He simply cannot offer a principled objection to Hinn's "ministry."

And finally, despite Brown's claims to the contrary, there's just no way he doesn't know enough about Benny Hinn to have an informed opinion. Hinn is one of the most notorious figures in all of Christendom (not just among Charismatics). I have no reason to doubt Brown's claim that he doesn't "monitor" Benny Hinn, but one doesn't have to keep an eye on Hinn's every move to know that he is an unrepentant, unregenerate, snake-oil salesman. It seems that Brown is simply making excuses to deflect (legitimate) criticism.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Apparently it's ok for "progressive" (i.e. liberal) Arminians (like Roger Olson) to attempt to persuade others, but it is sneaky and underhanded when conservative Calvinists attempt to do the same.      

January 02, 2014

Ray Van Neste Reviews Baker's Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics

Van Neste:
Reading other reviews of this volume, one might think the affirmation of homosexuality was an interesting academic trifle—“Huh! Baker’s new dictionary of ethics affirms homosexuality. How interesting?” However, the nominalization of Scripture and the normalization of homosexuality isn’t a mere academic curiosity

This seems to be part of a larger trend. There is something decidedly unevangelical about much of what is now being published by the major "evangelical" publishing houses.

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