I have been studying apologetics quite a bit lately—specifically Jehovah’s Witness doctrine. There has been a theme in all the cults that claim to worship the God of the bible: works based salvation. Rather than trusting in the person and work of Jesus Christ ALONE for salvation there is some additive. (Jesus + something=salvation).

While this seems to be the theme of such false religions there are a few other distinctive as well. They introduce another gospel that is contrary to the one true gospel of our Lord found in the pages of scripture. They claim the clear understanding of the bible cannot be grasped apart from an extra source (something the cult group produces to further “explain” the word of God). They teach the doctrines of men rather than the doctrines of the bible. They discourage personal bible reading apart from “study aids”. They steal glory from Jesus Christ and assign it to another person or name. For that reason I wanted to put together a short list of things that ought to be happening in, bible saturated, Christ exalting, churches and homes—that’s right Dads, I did say homes!

Proclaim the Gospel
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (ESV) 1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

It’s that simple. We need to proclaim it to our own hearts that are prone to wonder, to our children, our spouses, friends, neighbors, teachers and telemarketers—anyone that will listen!

Romans 1:16 (ESV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Point to God’s Word as The Authority
I have to say that I do agree with something that Jehovah’s Witnesses have published. Read this excerpt from a Jehovah’s Witness publication:
… from among the ranks of Jehovah’s people … haughty ones … say that it is sufficient to read the Bible exclusively, either alone or in small groups at home. But, strangely, through such “Bible reading,” they have reverted right back to the apostate doctrines that commentaries by Christendom’s clergy were teaching 100 years ago. (The Watchtower, August 15, 1981, pages 28–29)

Praise God!! Read those bibles so your family might love the doctrines of the bible and reject every form of man centered religion!!

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Present the Doctrines of the Bible.
Paul did this and those he taught were able to spot false teaching based on the sound doctrine they had received from Paul.

Romans 16:17 (ESV) I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

Those that produce counterfeit money try to pass their work off on young inexperienced store clerks. They never go to the bank where the experts of authentic money are. Can your family detect counterfeit doctrine? Have they spent enough time with the truth that false teaching stands out like a sore thumb?

Promote bible reading.
The words “I’ve been reading my bible” ought to make our hearts glad as followers of Christ. The same is not true for the false teacher who fears his lies will be exposed by the light of scripture.

John 3:20-21 (ESV) 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

We should encourage regular bible reading in our homes and Dads need to be leading that charge. Wonderful things happen when God draws people to His word, both individually and as a family.

Praise Jesus Christ
We need to make much of Jesus Christ, the King of king and Lord of lords! While all around the world false religions defame the name of Christ and rob Him of either his supremacy or deity, His adopted sons and daughters with great humility and love should be shouting from the roof tops, in word and deed; “Jesus is THE way, THE truth and THE life!”

Acts 4:12-13 (ESV) 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” 13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

Blessings,

Alvin

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It’s been a busy week, and I haven’t had a chance to post anything. I have come across several good posts on-line though, and since I don’t know which to link to, here’s a smorgasboard of good stuff from around the web (as usual, I found most of this stuff thanks to Tim Challies and Justin Taylor!):

  • John Piper wrote a thought-provoking post entitled, “Why I Don’t Have a Television and Rarely Go to Movies” . This post also includes a wonderful example of humbly confessing sin. 
  • Keith and Kristen Getty have released a new album of modern, celtic-style hymns. Their lyrics are saturated with Scripture and their music is beautiful! You can listen to samples and/or order the CD here.
  • Sovereign Grace Music has released another children’s album entitled, To Be Like Jesus. Read about it here.
  • Tim Challies asked John Bell, pastor of New City Baptist Church in Toronto, to share about his experience sharing the gospel with the gay community in his city. It is well worth reading – to help us think biblically about homosexuality, and to help us in God-honoring evangelism and church life. There is also some very interesting discussion in the comments, especially involving a number of men who struggle with homosexuality but turn from it because of their commitment to Christ. Read this post here
  • If you’re compiling a summer reading list, you might find these 2 posts from David Powlison to be of interest. Powlison is a bilical counselor, professor, and author, and he spent some time this week discussing some of his favorite literature with CJ Mahaney. You can read part 1 here, and part 2 here.  
  • What does Kurt Warner, a Christian who plays quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, like most about being a professional football player? His very encouraging answer is here.   

Blessings…

~Donovan

James MacDonald:

“I do not view Brian as an ‘erring weaker brother,’ worthy of sympathy or olive branches, but rather as a dangerous false teacher who repackages mainline liberal theology. (Have the past 50 years not been adequate to see how liberal theology empties churches and damns souls?)

More dangerous still is that McLaren packages his false teaching and denials of Scripture as  solutions to some of the excesses currently plaguing evangelicalism—the danger being his winning over of young people who have legitimate complaints about the current church, but who lack the discernment to see that his solutions are often unbiblical even when his critiques are fair.”

In the rest of his blog post, James MacDonald explains why he believes McLaren is teaching error, and whay he believes it’s biblical to name such people publically. Read it here.

~Donovan

HT: Tim Challies

Scripture exhorts us to meditate, but this meditation is an engaging of our minds as we think deeply on God’s Word, not the eastern style of mind-numbing, mantra-repetition that is gaining popularity in Christian circles today (through “Christian Yoga”, as well as what is called “lectio divina” or “centering” or “contemplative” prayer). To read some helpful thoughts from Al Mohler, click here

HT: Tim Challies

A Call to Discernment

June 6, 2008

I’ve just finished reading Mark 11-13 and I’m pumped up. In Mark 13, Mark records what seems to be part of Jesus’ last sermon to his boys – telling them what to look for before the Great Judgment – the End of the Age. What is interesting is how many times Jesus is telling them to pay attention so that they will not be deceived.

Jesus warns his closest group – His “homeboys” – the apostles that many people will announce that they have found the Christ – but not to believe it – “So be on your guard” (vs. 23) and “Watch!” (37). Jesus has a clear teaching in this text that believers will not be deceived. In order to not be deceived, they need to hear what Jesus says “ahead of time” (23).

What I find particularly interesting is that Jesus finishes off the teaching time by saying that with Him leaving to go into Heaven, it is like a master putting his “servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.” As Jesus was making preparations to leave planet earth and return to home base – he was giving the proper depiction anybody could understand. The Boss is taking off – but keep working, He’ll be back! Read the rest of this entry »

Rob Bell is the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan (not to be confused with the Mars Hill Church pastored by Mark Driscoll, in Seattle, Washington), a congregation that numbers 11,000. The Chicago Sun-Times has heralded Bell as the new Billy Graham. His books (most notably, Velvet Elvis and Sex God ) have been bestsellers, and NOOMA, a series of excellently produced videos featuring his teaching (now 19 in total) have sold over a million units…

Bell is not officially a part of “Emergent” (an organization within the emerging church), but he is closely associated with two of it’s leaders – Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt. I’d consider him a part of the theologically liberal stream within the emerging church (as would many others). 

The emerging church is big on orthopraxy (living rightly), and honestly, we should all be big on this! In Bell’s opinion (and I think he’s right about this), Christians too often fail to live out their faith as they should… He uses the analogy of a trampoline, equating Christian doctrines with springs. He makes the point that often we spend all our time focussing on the springs, rather than getting on with jumping (living out the Christian life). As I said, I think this is all too often true. I have major concerns about where he takes the anaology next, however. Consider this quote from his book, Velvet Elvis: 

“What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?…

What if that spring were seriously questioned? Could a person keep on jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live? Or does the whole thing fall apart?” (Velvet Elvis, pp26-27)

Read the rest of this entry »

What this video shows about Oprah and how she’s propagating new age beliefs is very revealing… Her fans LOVE her, and she has incredible influence over millions around the globe… (it’s quite scary how readily people follow someone, isn’t it?) What is most striking to me is how some people seen in this video (and Oprah herself) seem to think that these ideas are compatible with being a Christian! This kind of “mix-and-match” belief-system is very prevalent today, and not just by Oprah fans… Also prevalent today – an emphasis on what “feels spiritual”… More on that in later posts. My main point in this post: Know what the Bible says so that you can discern truth and error… and if you’re ever not sure about something, be a “Berean” who will search the Scriptures in order to test it against their infallible, God-breathed standard. 

Note: The video is very dramatic and “conspiracy theory”, “doomsday-is-here-ish”, but it nonetheless documents a number of things well and is worth the watch. I don’t think Oprah (or Obama) is the AntiChrist, and I’m not advocating a crusade against Oprah! I posted this video because I think it’s good to know what beliefs people are embracing, to see the incredible influence of media today, and to illustrate the need for biblical discernment… That said, check out the video:

I think it’s only fair to give specifics about why we’re concerned with the theology being furthered by certain Emerging Church leaders. Here are some of the concerns we’ve been expressing about Brian McLaren (a popular author, pastor, and the most well-known leader in Emergent/Emergent Village), in his own words:

    

This may all sound very clever, but it does not match up with Scripture. Hell is not antithetical to the cross! Hell exists because our God is a holy and perfectly just God Who takes sin seriously, not a god who could care less… And Jesus died on the cross because God is both perfectly just AND infinitely gracious… Because God made a way in which He could extend His grace to sinners like us without compromising His justice…  

        

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” ~ Romans 3:21-26

         

That is the gospel! If God were not just, Jesus’ sacrifice of the cross would not have been necessary… And if God were not gracious, He would have left us in our sins rather than sending His Son to save sinners. We can be forgiven because grace and justice met at the cross… Praise God that He is both Just AND the Justifier! 

       

Let’s proclaim the biblical gospel faithfully! It is the only gospel that saves…

          

~ Donovan

                

P.S: For a little more on McLaren, you can read this review of his book, A Generous Orthodoxy, or this review of his book, Everything Must Change       

                                 

For all our posts on The Emerging Church, click here       

                                    

This PBS documentary gives a helpful overview of the Emerging Church, including interviews with Emergent leaders (Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, and Tony Jones), with Scott McKnight (an evangelical scholar who is a conservative voice in the emerging “conversation”), and with DA Carson… Footage of worship services gives a helpful look into some of what is being furthered. The documentary focuses on Emergent and the more liberal stream of the emerging church.  

P.S: For the record, I agree with Carson and McKnight’s critiques!

~Donovan

You can read my post, “The Emerging Church, part 1 – Overview″ hereThe nutshell of my first post was that there is a wide spectrum of churches and theologies that would employ the label “emerging church” – some are genuinely evangelical, but some have denied the truth.

In this post I want to highlight the undermining of biblical doctrine that is prevalent amongst some who would call themselves “emerging”. This is typically done without actually stating one’s position – it’s done more by questioning positions (or the importance of those positions) and withholding a conclusion. For example, many people who would consider themselves “emerging” will not take a stance on issues as clear in Scripture as Homosexuality being sinful or Hell being real. They refrain from taking a position on issues as important to our faith as what Jesus died on the cross to accomplish or who will go to Heaven. The result is what Mark Driscoll calls “the latest version of liberalism.” As he goes on to explain, The only difference is that old liberalism accomodated modernity and the new liberalism accomodates postmodernity” (Confessions of a Reformission Rev“, pp22-23). 

Many in this stream of the emerging church align themselves with “Emergent” or “The Emergent Village” – an official organization in the U.S. and the U.K. Brian McLaren (author of numerous popular books including A new kind of Christian and A Generous Orthodoxy) and Doug Pagitt (author of An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, and other books) are some of the biggest leaders associated with this organization. Though not officially a part of “Emergent”, Rob Bell, another hugely popular author and speaker, is closely associated with the leaders of “Emergent”. I’ll post on specific concerns about these men and their theology soon. 

(Note: As confusingly similar as the terms “emerging” and “Emergent” are, they should not be confused. All Emergent people would consider themselves a part of the emerging church, but not all emerging church people would align themselves with Emergent. “Emergent” is an official organization, “emerging” refers to a wide spectrum of churches rethinking how to “do” church in current culture. “Emergent” Christians are not evangelical, but “emerging” Christians may or may not be.)  

D.A. Carson, one of my favorite theologians, has written a book called “Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church”. I’ve read sections of it and found it excellent. It’s important to realize however that this book is really more of a critique of the theologically liberal stream of the emerging church than about the emerging church in its entirety. As Scott McKnight said in his Christianity Today article on the emerging church: “D. A. Carson’s Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church (Zondervan, 2005) is not alone in pointing to the problems in the emerging movement… But as a description of the movement, Carson’s book lacks firsthand awareness and suffers from an overly narrow focus—on Brian McLaren and postmodern epistemology.” If you’d like to learn more of this particular stream in the emerging church, Carson’s critique is worth reading. His final analysis is chilling, “I have to say, as kindly but as forcefully as I can, that to my mind, if words mean anything, both McLaren and Chalke have largely abandoned the Gospel…I cannot see how their own words constitute anything less than a drift toward abandoning the gospel itself” (pp 186-187). 

How did this all come about? Well, in our post-modern world, many doubt how sure we can be of things… (Post-modernism is less a denial of truth than it is a hesitancy about how truth can be known with certainty). As these emergent theologians have applied this to Christianity, they’ve been hesitant to take doctrinal positions or state much with conviction…  

What can we say to this? Are there difficult passages in Scripture? Yes! Even the Apostle Peter said this of the apostle Paul’s New Testament letters, ”His letters contain some things that are hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). Are some aspects of theology far too lofty for us to fully understand? Yes! In Ephesians 3:19, Paul desribes Christ’s love as a “love that surpasses knowledge”. But none of this changes the fact that God has spoken to us through Scripture, and that He intended to be understood. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 

God has been gracious to communicate to us through His Word. Let us therefore contend for the faith entrusted to us (Jude 3), let us study God’s Word to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15), and let us preach His Word boldly in season and out (2 Timothy 4:2-5). 

I’ll write more on this topic soon.   

~Donovan

 P.S: This is another video of Mark Driscoll describing the “lanes” of the Emerging Church. Some of the content is similar to the video I posted in part 1, but in this one he goes into more detail about prominent men in each lane and expresses his concerns with this theologically liberal stream:

(A few notes on the video: Though Driscoll refers to Tim Keller and CJ Mahaney as “Emerging Reformers”, these men have never been associated with the label “Emerging Church”. They are both Reformed in theology and and are big on church planting (and are therefore concerned with how best to plant churches in the culture of modern day America). Another term used quite often to describe this camp is “The Young Calvinists”. Driscoll said the “Emerging Reformers” are generally charismatic, and this is true – for example, CJ Mahaney is, but Tim Keller is not. Also, note that John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and D.A. Carson were referred to as men these “Emerging Reformers” like, not as “Emerging Reformers” themselves. Not that any of that is really all that important – just thought I’d try clear up any possible confusion.)