Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Some Twisted Logic

It really annoys me to observe the profound prejudice against the Doctrines of Grace, God’s sovereign election of individuals to salvation, or what is simply referred to as Calvinism. There were certainly some disagreements here and there over certain points of theology amongst the reformers. Yet deeply rooted in the teaching of the Reformers was the recognition that the gift of Salvation is wrought purely by the work of the Holy Spirit through the regeneration of man’s heart, not the efforts of man. I have observed this extreme prejudice over the years to be particularly prevalent in Independent Fundamental Baptist churches, especially in those who hold very strongly to the KJVOnly position concerning Bible translations. But the prejudice is certainly not limited to IFB churches. In fact, just observe the controversy within the SBC today over the doctrines of grace. Yet I find the prejudice to be founded upon ignorance of the biblical teaching of the doctrines of grace, and often seem to be rooted in fears over hyper-Calvinism, which does not represent the biblical teaching of God’s sovereign grace. For a good article on the issue of hyper-Calvinism, read Phil Johnson's "A Primer on Hyper-Calvinism". I too am staunchly opposed to hyper-Calvinism; it is a very unbiblical view. But the biblical teaching of God’s sovereignty in election is in no way connected with this error.

But I happened to be visiting the website of a church I am familiar with located deep in the Midwest. I happened to notice a list of recommended books. Of the books listed was one of Dave Hunt’s books, “What Love is This?” which is his attack on Calvinism. For a good critique and information on Hunt’s book, you may want to read about it on James White’s website, in particular his article, “The Great Calvinistic Conspiracy”.

In a list of recommended books, they had Hunt’s book listed, claiming that it is a “must read” for anyone inclined to stand in defense of the Gospel against “the poison of Calvinistic influences”. They even wrote - as Dave Hunt has so falsely claimed - that it is “rooted in Roman Catholicism”. But what really got me was that while they took shots at Calvinism, they also recommended a couple of books written by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who was a devoted 5-point Calvinist. Talk about twisted logic! First they side with Dave Hunt, giving his book “What Love is This?” a glowing endorsement, then recommend the writing of a man who embraces the very teaching that they (and wrongly so) deem as a “poison”. But then again, they may be wrongly claiming, as Hunt does, that Spurgeon denied such things a particular redemption. Let me assure you, Spurgeon affirmed particular redemption. (Read the article by James White, “Dave Hunt vs. Charles Haddon Spurgeon”)

I am familiar with this particular church, and for the most part they have a good ministry that has touched the lives of multitudes of people over many years. They are not a legalistic IFB church by any means, but I do take issue over a couple of issues including this one as well as the Bible translation issue (they do “hold to”, as they put it, the King James Version as the standard for English speaking people). They were instrumental (as well as a few others) in leading me down the unfortunate path of KJVOnlyism a number of years ago. They are not belligerent toward people who use other translations outside of their church, but they are insistent on its use within the ministry of theirs. However, unlike many IFB churches that feel strongly about the KJV, they are fortunately not of the legalistic vein.

I just find it amazing that there is so much confusion, misunderstanding and downright misrepresentation of the doctrines of grace. I certainly wish people would look into the matter, seeking credible sources and take the time to study more in depth, rather than turning to grossly misinformed men like Dave Hunt.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Well I finally finished up with my school project and I am thankful that it is finally over. It may be awhile though before I get up to speed with posting again, especially with Christmas coming up. Since my school project took an extraordinarily large amount of my time and energy, I have not had much time to spend with my wife and kids, so we are making up for lost time.

I want to start writing some articles on the biblical role of a pastor and what constitutes a healthy church. Since our church is currently in the process of looking for a pastor, this subject is near and dear to my heart. I believe our church is at a critical turning point, and I hope the events of the last thirty days are going to be a wake-up call and an opportunity to get serious about biblical ministry. I am not going to go into details right now, but this month has certainly been rough. I see many glaring weaknesses in our church that I have been warning many about for the past few years, and I think that we are seeing the result of not sticking to Scripture in our approach to ministry. There has been a continual drift toward pragmatism and in particular, an influx of the influence of postmodernism. I certainly hope that there will be a correction that will lead us back to a biblical model for the church. We are in dire need of a well seasoned pastor who is serious about the Word of God. I just hope that all who are involved in the process of the search take things from a biblical standpoint. I know that there are several godly men who love God’s Word who are involved in this decision, but I also question the wisdom of some others. I hope that you will keep us in your prayers as we go through the process of searching for a pastor. Please pray that the solid, biblically grounded men will have a strong influence in making the right choice.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Spurgeon on Grace

Excerpt from: The Doctrines of Grace Do Not Lead to Sin

August 19th, 1883

"For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid."--Romans 6:14, 15.

Last Sabbath morning I tried to show that the substance and essence of the
true gospel is the doctrine of God's grace--that, in fact, if you take away
the grace of God from the gospel you have extracted from it its very life-
blood, and there is nothing left worth preaching, worth believing, or worth
contending for. Grace is the soul of the gospel: without it the gospel is
dead. Grace is the music of the gospel: without it the gospel is silent as to
all comfort. I endeavoured also to set forth the doctrine of grace in brief
terms, teaching that God deals with sinful men upon the footing of pure
mercy: finding them guilty and condemned, he gives free pardons,
altogether irrespective of past character, or of any good works which may
be foreseen. Moved only by pity he devises a plan for their rescue from sin
and its consequences--a plan in which grace is the leading feature. Out of
free favour he has provided, in the death of his dear Son, an atonement by
means of which his mercy can be justly bestowed. He accepts all those who
place their trust in this atonement, selecting faith as the way of salvation,
that it may be all of grace. In this he acts, from a motive found within
himself, and not because of any reason found in the sinner's conduct, past,
present, or future. I tried to show that this grace of God flows towards the
sinner from of old, and begins its operations upon him when there is
nothing good in him: it works in him that which is good and acceptable,
and continues so to work in him till the deed of grace is complete, and the
believer is received up into the glory for which he is made meet. Grace
commences to save, and it perseveres till all is done. From first to last,
from the "A" to the "Z" of the heavenly alphabet, everything in salvation is
of grace, and grace alone; all is of free favour, nothing of merit. "By grace
are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of
God," "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but
of God that sheweth mercy."

No sooner is this doctrine set forth in a clear light than men begin to cavil
at it. It is the target for all carnal logic to shoot at. Unrenewed minds
never did like it, and they never will; it is so humbling to human pride,
making so light of the nobility of human nature. That men are to be saved
by divine charity, that they must as condemned criminals receive pardon by
the exercise of the royal prerogative, or else perish in their sins, is a
teaching which they cannot endure. God alone is exalted in the sovereignty
of his mercy; and the sinner can do no better than meekly touch the silver
scepter, and accept undeserved favour just because God wills to give it:--
this is not pleasant to the great minds of our philosophers, and the broad
phylacteries of our moralists, and therefore they turn aside, and fight
against the empire of grace. Straightway the unrenewed man seeks out
artillery with which to fight against the gospel of the grace of God, and one
of the biggest guns he has ever brought to the front is the declaration that
the doctrine of the grace of God must lead to licentiousness. If great
sinners are freely saved, then men will more readily become great sinners;
and if when God's grace regenerates a man it abides with him, then men
will infer that they may live as they like, and yet be saved. This is the
constantly-repeated objection which I have heard till it wearies me with its
vain and false noise. I am almost ashamed to have to refute so rotten an
argument. They dare to assert that men will take license to be guilty
because God is gracious, and they do not hesitate to say that if men are not
to be saved by their works they will come to the conclusion that their
conduct is a matter of indifference, and that they may as well sin that grace
may abound.

[This article can be viewed in its entirety at Bible Bulletin Board]

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Not Much Time

I am not going to have much time to post over the next couple of weeks. I am working on a final school project that is due on December 18 and there is an almost overwhelming amount of work to get done. I have been spending many late nights working on it and I can't wait until it is over. So any posts that I may have until December 18 are likely to be very short. The good news is that I will be finally finished on December 18!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Great Article on the Perspicuity of Scripture

Brian McCrory at Bowing Down wrote a couple of great articles which are posted at the Sharper Iron; one on thanksgiving and the other on the perspicuity of Scripture. When he first posted the link on his blog to the article at the Sharper Iron, he meant to link to the article on thanksgiving, but accidentally linked to the article on the perspicuity of Scripture. That is how I found out about it. The title of the article is “Once I Was Blind; The Perspicuity of Scripture” and I think that it is a timely message for the church today, especially in light of the increasing skepticism concerning the clarity of Scripture. And I wholeheartedly agree with him, “…that the greatest theological battle to be fought in this generation is over the doctrine of perspicuity.”

Both are great articles that I hope that you will take the time to read.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Avoiding Idolotry in Giving Thanks - Piper

How Not to Commit Idolatry in Giving Thanks

Jonathan Edwards on True Thanksgiving

By John Piper

Jonathan Edwards has a word for our time that could hardly be more pointed if he were living today. It has to do with the foundation of gratitude.

True gratitude or thankfulness to God for his kindness to us, arises from a foundation laid before, of love to God for what he is in himself; whereas a natural gratitude has no such antecedent foundation. The gracious stirrings of grateful affection to God, for kindness received, always are from a stock of love already in the heart, established in the first place on other grounds, viz. God's own excellency.1

In other words, gratitude that is pleasing to God is not first a delight in the benefits God gives (though that is part of it). True gratitude must be rooted in something else that comes first, namely, a delight in the beauty and excellency of God's character. If this is not the foundation of our gratitude, then it is not above what the "natural man," apart from the Spirit and the new nature in Christ, experiences. In that case "gratitude" to God is no more pleasing to God than all the other emotions which unbelievers have without delighting in him.

You would not be honored if I thanked you often for your gifts to me, but had no deep and spontaneous regard for you as a person. You would feel insulted, no matter how much I thanked you for your gifts. If your character and personality do not attract me or give me joy in being around you, then you will just feel used, like a tool or a machine to produce the things I really love.

So it is with God. If we are not captured by his personality and character, then all our declarations of thanksgiving are like the gratitude of a wife to a husband for the money she gets from him to use in her affair with another man. This is exactly the picture in James 4:3-4. James criticizes the motives of prayer that treats God like a cuckold: "You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?" Why does he call these praying people "adulteresses"? Because, even though praying, they are forsaking their husband (God) and going after a paramour (the world). And to make matters worse, they are asking their husband (in prayer) to fund the adultery.

Amazingly, this same flawed spiritual dynamic is sometimes true when people thank God for sending Christ to die for them. Perhaps you have heard people say how thankful we should be for the death of Christ because it shows how much value God puts upon us. What is the foundation of this gratitude?

[Click here to continue reading this article at Desiring God.]

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Irritating Nonsense

A few days ago, someone left a comment on my article, “Rob Bell’s Rendition of Faith” that I published in May. The comment displays the thinking of those who have become captivated by Bell’s approach to ministry, as well as the thinking of the emerging “conversation”. To make matters worse, I have a hunch who this person may be. If this person is who I think he is, he should know better. Here is the comment that was left.

Eric,You are using Rob Bell's word's out of context. Rob look right back into the original context of what was really going on in the time of Jesus. I have listened to many of his messages at Mars Hill and much of what you are saying is out of context. Don't judge a book by it's cover or a man by his choice in literature.


First of all, I have not taken Bell’s words out of context. My question is this; what context are we referring to? This individual talks about context and refers to messages that he has listened to from Mars Hill (in Michigan, not to be confused with Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA, which is Mark Driscoll’s church). The analysis I made was based on the information contained in the article in Christianity Today, entitled “The Emergent Mystique”, and also his book “Velvet Elvis; Repainting the Christian Faith”. I don’t doubt that much of what he may “preach” at his church may indeed be biblically orthodox – at least on the surface. But that matters little when he makes outlandish statements concerning the core doctrines of the Christian faith, treating them as if they are optional truths that really matter little in the big picture. The truths contained in Scripture, especially those that pertain to the person and work of Christ, are not items at a smorgasbord that we can pick and choose what we want to believe, cafeteria style. Augustine put it this way:

"If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself."

The argument seems to be that Bell is attempting to strip away the excess baggage that has been added to Christianity and paring it down to its basic elements. Now that may seem like a noble endeavor, and if the intention is to accomplish this without dumping the core essential doctrines of the Christian faith, I am all for it. It is true that man has added many man-made traditions to the church, that the message of Scripture becomes obscured and distorted. However, as is the case with most of the emerging church movement, these men take things far beyond stripping away the dross, going so far as to strip Scripture of its inherent authority. I am so fed up with the nonsense that everyone is misunderstanding what Bell, McLaren and the rest of the emerging crew are saying. Even Mark Driscoll was forced to separate himself from Brian McLaren and the rest of the emergent cohorts, once he observed them taking a detour down the road to heresy. Driscoll used to work with McLaren during the very early days of the so-called emerging “conversation”. His observation was that it was just the latest version of liberalism, the same basic liberalism that invaded so many churches in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Driscoll sums up the Emergent church like this.

"...the emergent church is the latest version of liberalism. The only difference is that old liberalism accommodated modernity and the new liberalism accommodates postmodernity." - Mark Driscoll, “Confessions of a Reformission Rev.”, pg. 21

The claim that these people are merely looking back to the time of Jesus and looking into the “original context” is misleading. This is especially true with the philosophy of Rob Bell when it comes to his attitude toward doctrines such as the virgin birth. When he can treat the doctrine as something optional that we can ultimately question and eliminate, I am sorry, but that is going far beyond just looking back to the context of the time of Jesus. When Bell can make the following outlandish statement, he loses credibility as someone who merely wants to return to a more primitive, authentic brand of Christianity.

“What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologist 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? But what if, as you study the origin of the word “virgin” you discover that the word “virgin” in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word “virgin” could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being “born of a virgin” also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse? 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?”

-Rob Bell, “Velvet Elvis; Repainting the Christian Faith” pg. 26

Rob, no, a person cannot keep on “jumping”. Take away the virgin birth and you no longer have Jesus. Christianity is more than merely a lifestyle that we can adopt to have a great life here. The above quote really attacks the authority of Scripture if the writers just threw in the virgin birth as “just a bit of mythologizing” merely “to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults”. If that is true, then Scripture really cannot be trusted as being truthful.

When Bell and his wife can make comments such as not having any clue about what most of the Bible means coupled with the above quote from his book, I think that it really reveals he is not merely striving to return to the very basics of Christianity. Rather, he is being influenced by the poison of men like Brian McLaren.

Another part of the comment left this week that really irritated me, was that I was merely “judging a book by its cover”. No, I was judging the content of the “book”. Furthermore,
as far as judging a man by the literature that he reads; yes, I think one can indeed judge a man by the literature he reads. If most of the books and materials they read and claim are most influential in their thinking are centered on errant theology, I think it is a safe bet that that is the inevitable direction of their teaching. It is one thing to read material that contains questionable teaching because you are investigating someone’s doctrine or gaining insight into the perspective of an opposing viewpoint. But if one walks away from those books and materials and can say that they have totally revolutionized their thinking, then I think it is a fair assessment that they have adopted their thinking. I have read much of Brian McLaren’s material, not because I think it is beneficial or because I think it will revolutionize my Christian walk, but so I can get a glimpse first hand about what he believes. This way, I am not just taking for granted that everyone’s assessment of McLaren’s philosophy is true. But if most of my reading material comes from sources like this, I begin lauding the material as revolutionary and my thinking begins reflecting their rationale, then any accusations toward me as being in line with their teaching is clearly warranted. Yes, much can be gleaned about a person concerning the literature they read, especially when their thinking begins to reflect the content of that literature.

Many of the assessments that the emerging movement has made concerning evangelicalism is true. The marketing of the church into a consumer commodity has produced an empty and shallow faith especially in the U.S. There is generally a preoccupation with “doing” church rather than “being” the church. Sadly though, the emerging conversation has generated a poor resolution to the problem, questioning the authority of the Bible and the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.

I have had many of the same issues as I have observed the state of evangelicalism and fundamentalism. In fact, many of the same gripes are the same ones that I had long before the emerging crowd came along. My contentions concerning the shortcomings of evangelicalism go back to the late 80’s, long before Brian McLaren and his crew “emerged” on the scene.

I am really not fond of man-made church traditionalism. There is nothing more sacred about a piano or an organ as opposed to a guitar or drums. Nothing in Scripture says that a church needs to have a choir as opposed to a praise and worship band. We can benefit from harnessing the power of current technology in getting the message of Scripture out to the world. I have nothing against changing methods as long as those methods do not stand in opposition to biblical teaching. In other words, as long as the method does not distract from the message or in some way alter or change the message or principles taught in Scripture, then the method is fine. But it is irritating when I see things like conversational dialogue rather than the straight forward preaching of the Word of God, Bible “study” groups where everyone can merely express what they think a passage of Scripture means to them, rather than first determining what a passage means within its grammatical-historical context. This shows an utter disrespect for the authority of Scripture and ultimately a disregard for God. It is essentially a very subtle way of dethroning God and placing man in a position ultimate authority.

We need to beware of how false teachers and their doctrines enter into the church. It is very subtle. I wrote some posts on the subject of false teachers, how they enter into the church and how destructive their teaching is back in September:

"Where Did They Come From?"

"The Pervasive Nature of False Teaching"

I think evangelicalism and fundamentalism is indeed in need of reform, but let’s not begin throwing out solid biblically based theology and the expositional teaching of Scripture in favor of culturally based fads of the moment. Church history shows that it always leads to the detriment of the church.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Reformation Day!

October 31, 1517 Wittenberg, Germany
Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church.

“Out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.”

Click here to view Luther’s 95 Theses

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Statements of Faith Not Enough

It is getting commonplace for churches to hold to a seemingly air tight statement of faith, yet in practice deny the very things they profess to adhere to. This is increasing in frequency as more church leaders succumb to this postmodern age. In Phil Johnson’s post this past Monday, he refers to a man by the name of Joseph Parker, a notable popular preacher during Spurgeon's time. As Phil points out, Parker was considered by many as "more cutting-edge, more influential, and certainly more sophisticated than Spurgeon" and appealed to the younger generation. Though he was progressive, Parker appeared doctrinally orthodox and carefully avoided denying vital doctrine. He avoided doctrinal controversy, in a time period when the essentials of evangelical faith were under brutal attack. He took great pains to simply avoid discussing doctrine considered controversial or outdated for the times. Isn't it uncanny how this resembles the situation in evangelicalism today? One thing seems certain; the church doesn't learn very well from church history. In ignorance, it just repeats it.

Bob DeWaay had an article entitled "Redefining the Church", discussing this issue in the church today. I was alerted to this article some time ago from a comment left in response to one of my posts. Here is an excerpt from the article:

"Jesus told his apostles what was to be the message of the church: “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:20a). He did not say, “teach them those parts of my message that they think are relevant to their felt needs”! In the Luke account of the Great Commission Jesus said this: “and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). A Biblically defined church preaches the gospel, including the need for repentance and proclaims the whole counsel of God as Paul did. Everything Jesus taught, including that which was written by His authoritative apostles in the New Testament, is to be taught. People who attend Biblically defined churches should soon become fully Biblically literate and able to defend the faith cogently. They should be so well trained in the truth of Scriptures that they have discernment (Hebrews 5:14).

In the new seeker paradigm churches the message is tailored to appeal to the largest possible audience. The goal is to build the visible church to be as large as it can get. Therefore, pastors lay aside those parts of the New Testament that are not deemed desirable or relevant by potential religious consumers. Evangelicals who adopt the Robert Schuler inspired version of creating a religious corporation do not deny any important doctrines. They just do not confess them publicly. They believe in a literal hell, they just do not preach it from the pulpit. They believe in the wrath of God against sin and the need for the blood atonement, but that is left out of the pulpit as well. Doctrine is privatized. It is relegated to a “statement of faith” on a website or made available elsewhere in case someone actually cares about such things.

In the new paradigm churches the orthodox “statement of faith” contains truths that the pastors do not care enough about to preach to their own congregations or to sinners. However, should someone in a discernment ministry challenge them about their teaching, they trot out their boiler plate orthodoxy to deflect criticism. What they fail to realize is that the many mainline protestant denominations that left orthodoxy during the modernist takeover of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries kept their orthodox statements of faith intact. They had no time for such foolish doctrines such as the virgin birth; but why needlessly start a fight by trying to change denominational confessions that were hundreds of years old? What is preached from the pulpit is a much better test of what is truly believed than a statement of faith."

What is disturbing is that if you are a member of a church like this and you wish to carry out biblical ministry, you are treated as an outcast. In fact, you may very well be pushed out of your church! In the very first part of DeWaay's article, he describes a situation where a friend of his had a ministry that was deemed as "not compatible" with the "purposes" of his church. Here is what he wrote:

"Several months ago a friend of mine, who puts on seminars, publicly pointed out the errors of several well known teachers who promote mystical practices. Shortly thereafter he invited me to attend a meeting with some leaders of his church to clarify his relationship with the church and determine whether his ministry was welcome there. This discussion made some important issues clear for me.

The leadership told him that his teaching did not comply with their practices. They do not practice correcting false teachers. In the course of the conversation, the leaders cited the basic mission of that church. It was a good mission and had to do with bringing people to Christ; but it did not include correcting error or false teachers. Thus my friend’s seminar is not compatible with their purposes.

As a result of the meeting I found myself pondering that situation in light of the many emails I have received from people around the country. These people often are unwelcome in churches in which they had been members for many years. What seems so strange is that the unwelcome members were not accused of sin or heresy; they were accused of not supporting the church’s mission or program. In some cases the mission and program had recently been changed and the long standing members had resisted the change. Ultimately most of these people left willingly, but with sadness of heart. Some who decided to stay and fight were eventually removed from fellowship.

What has happened that evangelical churches are willing to lose solid Christian members who have not fallen into sin or heresy? In this article I will propose that evangelical churches have changed the way they view themselves and their organizations; and that this change has lead to practices and emphases that build large visible churches, but neglect and abuse Christ’s “little flock” (Luke 12:32) -- the true body of Christ."

Notice how the church did not appear to deny the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. They had a great mission statement aimed at bringing people to Christ. But they seemed adamantly opposed to correcting false teachers. I wonder how these so-called leaders think that they can get around the commands in Scripture to "earnestly contend for the faith" (Jude 1:3), and to confront false teachers and as Paul put it in Titus 1:11, "silence" those who were teaching heresy. It is a divine command in Scripture to correct and rebuke false teaching. This is imperative for the spiritual safety of God's flock. Scripture was given for "teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness". (2 Timothy 3:16) Sadly, few churches want to engage in reproof (sharp reprimand) and correction. However, to avoid these actions is to walk in disobedience to the commands set forth in Scripture. It really floors me when leadership claims that they are "led of God" to do the things that they do. It floors me even more when they claim God is not leading them to rebuke false teachers. Oh really?! Since when does God lead one in a manner inconsistent with His Word?

What a sad state of affairs in the church today, when believers who desire to be faithful to Scripture are persecuted by their own church. As more churches drift away from adhering to Scriptural guidelines, it is getting more and more difficult to find a church that wants to remain faithful to biblical principles. Too many churches are avoiding confronting error altogether, much to their detriment. False teaching does not remain benign, but rather spreads like a vicious disease. Scripture teaches that a little leaven leavens the whole lump and spreads like gangrene destroying whatever it comes in contact with. (2 Timothy 2:16-18)

I really do not believe that there is any church that has drifted from biblical truth that set out with intentions of doing so. It began through apathy, careless exegesis of Scripture and succumbing to the spirit of the times. The same drift is occurring today in many churches because of carelessness and the sloppy handling of Scripture and fascination with the fads of the moment, in a dire attempt to be "hip" with the culture. It always starts out innocently under the guise of reaching out to the culture.

Don't be fooled by churches that seem to profess adherence to a solid statement of faith. Rather, pay close attention to what is preached from the pulpit and taught in various Bible studies. Pay attention to the books and materials they utilize. Who are the authors of these materials and what do they believe? Ask yourself whether the leadership is willing to confront error and warn the flock of false teaching and dangerous trends prevalent in the church today. Do they avoid certain truth because it may offend some people? If so, they are headed down a very slippery path and will likely end up eventually compromising the very truths they professed to uphold.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Church’s Greatest Danger

I ran across a great article from 9 Marks written by James H. Hamilton, Jr., entitled “The Greatest Danger Facing the Church”.

Hamilton says that “The greatest danger facing the church is probably not what most of us expect. We expect some sort of direct challenge from without, but it probably comes from within. In our day, it may well come from well-meaning pastors.”

He went on to explain that these pastors pose the greatest threat, not because they deny the truth, but because they treat the Christian faith as a form of self-help therapy; how to have a better marriage, better relationships, better work performance, etc. In fact, these pastors generally hold to biblically orthodox beliefs such as the inerrancy of Scripture and salvation through faith in Jesus alone.

Sadly, the guiding principle of their decisions is based on a pragmatic what “works best”’ mentality.

Hamilton goes on to say,

"But Christianity is not primarily about any of that. Christianity is primarily about the gospel—about a holy God, rebels who deserve his wrath, a divine Son who takes the punishment rebels deserve, and the promise of forgiveness for all who repent and believe.

Christianity is about telling this true story in the words of the Bible so that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, people come to see God, the world, and themselves correctly."

He goes on to give some advice for screening a pastoral candidate so a church can avoid ending up with a pastor who will turn “Christianity into the American religion of self-help therapy.” His advice includes paying close attention to the biblical qualifications for ministry. (1Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) Ask the candidate some very direct questions concerning these qualifications. Since one of the key qualifications is that they are “apt to teach”, closely scrutinize his teaching.

One question that he asks, “Is the man a theologian, or is he just a gifted speaker with a good heart?”, is something that desperately needs to be asked today. Too many people are just drawn to “gifted speakers” with messages that merely sound appealing. What is most important is their ability to accurately interpret the Bible.

[Read the rest of the article at 9 Marks (Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the article; for some reason, I was unable to successfully link directly to the article )]

Friday, October 13, 2006

Not Corrupting the Word - J. C. Ryle

Not Corrupting the Word by J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)

The following Sermon was preached in England, in August, 1858.

"Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God" (2 Corinthians 2:17)

It is no light matter to speak to any assembly of immortal souls about the things of God. But the most serious of all responsibilities is, to speak to a gathering of ministers, such as that which I now see before me. The awful feeling will come across my mind, that one single word said wrong, sinking into some heart, and bearing fruit at some future time, in some pulpit, may lead to harm, of which we cannot know the extent.

But there are occasions when true humility is to be seen, not so much in loud professions of our weakness, as in forgetting ourselves altogether. I desire to forget self at this time, in turning my attention to this portion of Scripture. If I say little about my own sense of insufficiency, do me the justice to believe, that it is not because I am not well aware of it.

The Greek expression, which we have translated, "peddle," is derived from a word, the etymology of which is not quite agreed on by linguists who compile dictionaries. It either means a tradesman, who does his business dishonestly, or a wine maker, who adulterates the wine which he offers for sale. Tyndale renders it, "We are not of those who chop and change the Word of God." Another version of the Bible says, "We are not as many, who adulterate the Word of God" [Rhemish versions]. In our margin we read, "We are not as many, who deal deceitfully with the Word of God." In the construction of the sentence, the Holy Spirit has inspired Paul to use both the negative and the positive way of stating the truth. This mode of construction adds clearness and unmistakableness to the meaning of the words, and intensity and strength to the assertion, which they contain. Instances of a similar construction occur in three other remarkable passages of Scripture, two on the subject of baptism, one on the subject of the new birth. (John 1:13; 1 Peter 1:23; 1 Peter 3:21). It will be found, therefore, that there are contained in the text both negative and positive lessons for the instruction of the ministers of Christ. Some things we ought to avoid. Others we ought to follow.

The first of the negative lessons is, a plain warning against corrupting or dealing deceitfully with the Word of God. The Apostle says, "Unlike so many" who do it, pointing out to us that even in his time there were those who did not deal faithfully and honestly with God's truth. Here is a complete answer to those who assert that the early Church was one of unmixed purity. The mystery of iniquity had already begun to work. The lesson which we are taught is, to beware of all dishonest statements of that Word of God which we are commissioned to preach. We are to add nothing to it. We are to take nothing away.

Now when can it be said of us, that we corrupt the Word of God in the present day? What are the rocks and reefs which we ought to avoid, if we would not be of the "many" who deal deceitfully with God's truth? A few suggestions on this would be useful.

1. We corrupt the Word of God most dangerously, when we throw any doubt on the absolute inspiration of any part of Holy Scripture.

This is not merely corrupting the cup, but the whole fountain. This is not merely corrupting the bucket of living water, which we profess to present to our people, but poisoning the whole well. Once wrong on this point, the whole substance of our religion is in danger. It is a flaw in the foundation. It is a worm at the root of our theology. Once we allow this worm to gnaw the root, then we will not be surprised if the branches, the leaves, and the fruit, decay little by little. The whole subject of inspiration, I am well aware, is surrounded with difficulty. All I would say is, that, in my humble judgment, notwithstanding some difficulties which we may not be able now to solve, the only safe and tenable ground to maintain is this--that every chapter, and every verse, and every word in the Bible has been "given by the inspiration of God." We should never desert a great principle in theology any more than in science, because of apparent difficulties which we are not able at present to remove.

Permit me to mention an illustration of this important axiom. Those conversant with astronomy know, that before the discovery of the planet Neptune there were difficulties, which greatly troubled the most scientific astronomers, respecting certain aberrations of the planet Uranus. These aberrations puzzled the minds of astronomers, and some of them suggested that they might possibly prove the whole Newtonian system to be untrue. But at that time a well-known French astronomer, named Leverrier, read before the Academy of Science a paper, in which he laid down this great axiom--that it was wrong for a scientist to give up a principle because of difficulties which could not be explained. He said in effect,

“We cannot explain the aberrations of Uranus now; but we may be sure that the Newtonian system will be proved to be right, sooner or later. Something may be discovered one day, which will prove that these aberrations may be accounted for, and the Newtonian system will remain true and unshaken.”

A few years later, the anxious eyes of astronomers discovered the last great planet, Neptune. The planet was shown to be the true cause of all the aberrations of Uranus; and what the French astronomer had laid down as a principle in science, was proved to be wise and true. The application of the story is obvious. Let us beware of giving up any first principle in theology. Let us not give up the great principle of absolute inspiration because of difficulties. The day may come when they will all be solved. In the mean time we may rest assured that the difficulties which beset any other theory of inspiration are ten times greater than any which beset our own.

2. Secondly, we corrupt the Word of God when we make defective statements of doctrine.

We do so when we add to the Bible the opinions of the Church, or of the Church Fathers, as if they were of equal authority. We do so when we take away from the Bible, for the sake of pleasing men; or, from a feeling of false liberality, keep back any statement which seems narrow, and harsh, or hard. We do so when we try to soften down anything that is taught about eternal punishment, or the reality of hell. We do so when we bring forward doctrines in their wrong proportions. We all have our favorite doctrines, and our minds are so constituted that it is hard to see one truth very clearly without forgetting that there are other truths equally important. We must not forget the exhortation of Paul, to minister "according to the proportion of faith." We do so when we exhibit an excessive anxiety to fence, and guard, and qualify such doctrines as justification by faith without the deeds of the law, for fear of the charge of antinomianism; or when we flinch from strong statements about holiness, for fear of being thought legal. We also do this when we shrink back from the use of Bible language in giving an account of doctrines. We are apt to keep back such expressions as "born again," "election," "adoption," "conversion," "assurance," and to use a roundabout phraseology, as if we were ashamed of plain Bible words. I cannot expand these statements because we are short of time. I am content with mentioning them and leave them to your private thought.

3. In the third place, we corrupt the Word of God when we make a defective practical application of it.

We do so when we do not discriminate between classes in our congregations--when we address everyone as being possessed of grace, because of their baptism or church-membership, and do not draw the line between those who have the Spirit and those who have not. Are we not apt to keep back clear, direct appeals to the unconverted? When we have eighteen hundred or two thousand persons before our pulpits, a vast proportion of whom we must know are unconverted, are we not apt to say, "Now if there is any one of you who does not know the things that are necessary for eternal peace" -- when we ought rather to say, "If there are any of you who has not received the grace of God?"

Are we not in danger of defective handling of the Word in our practical exhortations, by not bringing home the statements of the Bible to the various classes in our congregations? We speak plainly to the poor; but do we also speak plainly to the rich? Do we speak plainly in our dealings with the upper classes? This is a point on which, I fear, we need to search our consciences.
[This article may be viewed in its entirety at Bible Bulletin Board.]

© Copyright 2001 by Tony Capoccia. This updated file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold. All rights reserved.
Verses quoted, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION © 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers

Sunday, October 01, 2006

What About Chewing Off the Meat?

7For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh This is the deceiver and the antichrist.
8Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.
9Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.
10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting;
11for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.
(2 John 1:7-11; NASB)

It is a popular excuse given by church leadership concerning their use of materials produced by men who embrace heretical teaching, that they are merely chewing off the meat and discarding the bones. However, this excuse will not reconcile with the teaching of Scripture itself when it comes to those who propagate false teaching.

It is true that we may often find benefit from the teaching of those whom we may disagree with on certain non-essential matters of doctrine, and we can certainly find warrant for utilizing the good points of their teaching. This really does not pose any serious threat to the church. However, when it comes to those who are promoting their heretical views as it pertains to key essential doctrine, particularly concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Bible says something clearly different.

The epistle of 2 John gives us a warning concerning the peril of tolerating and embracing those whose teaching is contrary to Scripture. It emphasizes that true biblical love is rooted in truth. If we truly love one another, we will uphold and teach each other God’s truth, admonishing each other in the teaching of Scripture. To do otherwise is to, in effect deny, that we truly care and love God and one another.

The warning given here is that there are many “deceivers” that have gone out into the world. The word deceivers is derived from the Greek word “planos” and refers to one who is considered a vagabond, an imposter who’s intention is to deceive with corrupt teaching. The term “acknowledge” here obviously means more than giving mental assent to the reality that Jesus actually existed as a mere historical figure, a good teacher. If that is all that it meant, then Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses would be within the realm biblical orthodoxy, and we know that is NOT true.

To acknowledge here means to be in agreement with, in other words to embrace the doctrine that is the embodiment of the person and work of Jesus Christ. This means to accept the teaching of the full humanity and full deity of Jesus Christ and the purpose to which He came into this world to accomplish. It of course would include the fact that He was born of a virgin. That He was fully man and fully God in the flesh, and that He died, was buried and rose again bodily to provide the full payment for the penalty of sin. The doctrines pertaining to the person and work of Jesus Christ are at the very core of the Christian faith. Without them, we really do not have Christianity. No one can deny any one of them and be within the realm of biblical orthodoxy. In fact, that person is described as a “deceiver” and “antichrist”. These deceivers “do not acknowledge” and continually deny the reality of a biblical Christology.

The advice given is to “watch” so as not to “lose” what has been accomplished, and to receive a “full reward”. The term “watch” comes from the Greek “blepo”, and means to discern metaphorically with the mind’s eye, perceive, understand, to examine and weigh carefully. All teaching should be examined under close scrutiny under the microscope of Scripture. False teaching is dangerous and corruptive. It will cause us to “lose” what has been labored so earnestly for. Lose comes form the Greek “apolloomee”, and means to destroy, ruin, to perish, in a metaphorical sense, it means to “give over to eternal misery in hell”. Doctrinal error concerning the person and work of Christ is serious and is not to be tolerated in the church. To deny the truth concerning the person and work of Christ bears eternal consequences.

We need to be careful and keep close watch and to “guard” what has been entrusted to us. (1 Timothy 6:20) Every believer will stand at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9-10; 1 Corinthians 3: 10-15) and will receive a reward based on how they lead their life and faithfulness in how they helped build the church through partaking in the ministry. Tolerating false teachers provides a venue for the release of man’s false wisdom to invade and corrupt the church. To allow this to happen actually gives aid to the false teachers, dishonors God and causes us to lose part of our reward in the end.

If someone goes out of bounds of Scripture and “does not abide in the teaching of Christ”, that proves that they were never born again. This means that if someone is a genuine Christian, they will continually embrace these fundamentals of the Christian faith. These truths are not open to debate in order to be changed by the latest popular philosophy.

If anyone comes to us and does not bring this teaching, we are not so much as to give them a greeting. To give a greeting here essentially means to give a greeting with affirmation of that person as a fellow brother, with great joy, wishing them success and advancement in ministry with God’s blessing. To do so creates the impression that we sanction their teaching and actually helps give them credibility. We actually aid the spread of their false teaching and make us participants in their evil deeds.

Yet we see much of this happen quite frequently against the better judgment of many Christian leaders. To give an example, many who would not necessarily espouse some of the teaching of Rob Bell, nonetheless feel compelled to utilize his NOOMA videos. These videos do not necessarily contain the error that he has written in some of his books. They have a tendency to make a strong emotional appeal. Bell is a very clever, creative communicator and his videos have a great deal of impact and leave a strong impression on the viewing audience. Not everything is necessarily bad; in fact much of the content appears (at least on the surface) to be biblically orthodox. However, they appear to be more form than substance. And he does have a habit of very loosely quoting Scripture and without giving the reference.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspects of Bell’s teaching are found in his book “Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith”. Bell makes the claim that doctrine is basically comparable to the springs on a trampoline and is merely a tool to help us, as he puts it, find “our lives in God” (pg. 26). The springs can stretch and change. He treats doctrines such as the trinity and the virgin birth as something that can be questioned. In other words, we can keep on “jumping” with our faith without them. This of course is not true. Bell calls into question the very core doctrines pertaining to the person and work of Jesus Christ. I wrote a post some time ago discussing Bell’s beliefs here.

For some excellent reviews of Rob Bell’s book “Velvet Elvis”, you may want to read these:
Review of Velvet Elvis by Greg Gilbert at 9Marks
(For some reason I am unable to get the link to the above article to work. Just go to and at the bottom of the page, enter "Velvet Elvis" in the "Search for" box. The search will return about 3 hits and Gilbert's review should be the first listed.)

Review by Dale Van Dyke at Reformation21

My concern is that people are taken in by the emotional appeal of his videos and much of what he says and writes resonates well with many people. This is especially true with those who have become disenchanted with the church.

When leaders utilize Bell’s materials, they are in a sense giving somewhat of an endorsement of his beliefs, whether they believe it or not. It makes me cringe when I see his books and materials showing up on the shelves of Christian bookstores. Even more troubling is when churches utilize his books and videos. It seems that no thought is given to what will happen when people, after being captivated by the emotional appeal of his NOOMA videos, go into the bookstore and pick up his book “Velvet Elvis”. You can imagine what goes through people’s heads; “Oh, I remember his video that the church showed. It really gripped my heart. I’ll bet this book is great”.

The problem with Bell and others like him is that much of what they say appears biblically orthodox. It provides a covering for their error, especially in the NOOMA videos, and makes them appear somewhat biblical.

To make matters worse, pastors and church leaders utilize his materials including the NOOMA videos, announcing Bell’s name before the congregation and basically giving endorsement of the man’s books and materials. He is presented with positive enthusiasm. In fact, the positive press gives the impression that Bell’s teaching is sanctioned by these leaders who are looked up to in the Christian community. It gives credibility to the ministry of false teachers. Some may do this in ignorance of Bell’s heretical teaching, but others embrace the philosophy of “chewing off the meat and spitting out the bones”. There are far too many bones in the material. Ever get a piece of fish that is so bone infested that it is not worth the effort to attempt to eat it? In fact, the danger of choking on the bones is too great. It is certainly frustrating when there is not even so much as a disclaimer given to warn people. Of course, even with a disclaimer, I don’t think there is really any biblical warrant for utilizing his material. I certainly hope that at this point you can see where this philosophy is biblically wrong. It makes no sense to me at all to rummage through the garbage cans of heresy in hopes of finding one tiny morsel of meat, when you have the option of sitting before a well stocked buffet of good nourishing meat based on God’s truth.

Bell is making inroads into mainstream evangelicalism, with the increasing use of his materials, especially his ever popular NOOMA videos.

This is a very serious issue these days, especially given the rising rate of biblical illiteracy in evangelicalism. The more this illiteracy escalates, the more inept Christians become at spotting the error, especially when it is cloaked in certain elements of truth.

This situation today mirrors the situation of a hundred years ago. My last post of the excerpt from J.C. Ryle’s “Apostolic Fears” is just as applicable today as when it was written. This is also especially true of Spurgeon’s writing. Read Phil Johnsons's weekly doses of Spurgeon. It is as if it were just written yesterday.

Pastors and Christian leaders had better take heed and obey the biblical command to stand as watchman over God’s flock. The spiritual well being of the church is at stake.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Apostolic Fears - J. C. Ryle

Excerpt from “Apostolic Fears” by J.C. Ryle.

Warning #7 to the Church
Apostolic Fears
by J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)

"I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's
cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your
sincere and pure devotion to Christ."

The text which heads this page, contains one part of the experience of a very famous Christian. No servant of Christ perhaps has left such a mark for good on the world as the Apostle Paul. When he was born the whole Roman Empire, excepting one little corner, was sunk in the darkest heathenism; when he died the mighty fabric of heathenism was shaken to its very center and ready to fall. And none of the agents whom God used to produce this marvelous change did more than Saul of Tarsus, after his conversion. Yet even in the midst of his successes and usefulness we find him crying out, "I am afraid."

There is a melancholy ring about these words which demands our attention. They show a man of many cares and anxieties. He who supposes that Paul lived a life of ease, because he was a chosen Apostle, worked miracles, founded Churches, and wrote inspired Epistles, has yet much to learn. Nothing can be more unlike the truth! The eleventh chapter of the second Epistle to the Corinthians tells a very different tale. It is a chapter which deserves attentive study. Partly from the opposition of the heathen philosophers and priests, whose craft was in danger--partly from the bitter hatred of his own unbelieving countrymen--partly from false or weak brethren--partly from his own thorn in the flesh--the great Apostle of the Gentiles was like his Master--"a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering" (Isaiah 53:3).

But of all the burdens which Paul had to carry, none seems to have weighed him down so much as that to which he refers, when he writes to the Corinthians, "my concern for all the churches" (2 Corinthians 11:28). The scanty knowledge of many early Christians, their weak faith, their shallow experience, their dim hope, their low standard of holiness--all these things made them peculiarly liable to be led astray by false teachers, and to depart from the faith. Like little children, hardly able to walk, they required to be treated with immense patience. Like exotic plants in a hothouse, they had to be watched with incessant care. Can we doubt that they kept their Apostolic founder in a state of constant tender anxiety? Can we wonder that he says to the Colossians, "How much I am struggling for you," and to the Galatians, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel." "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?" (Colossians 2:1; Galatians 1:6; 3:1).

No attentive reader can study the Epistles without seeing this subject repeatedly cropping up. And the text I have placed at the head of this paper is a sample of what I mean: "I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." That text contains three important lessons, which I wish to press on the attention of all my readers. I believe in my conscience they are lessons for the times.

I. First, the text shows us a spiritual "disease to which we are all susceptible, and which we ought to fear." That disease is corruption of our minds: "I am afraid your minds may somehow be led astray."

II. Secondly, the text shows us an "example which we ought to remember, as a beacon:" "Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning."

III. Thirdly, the text shows us "a point about which we ought to be especially on our guard." That point is being led astray "from sincere and pure devotion to Christ."
The text is a deep mine, and is not without difficulty. But let us go down into it boldly, and we shall find it contains much precious metal.

[The remainder of this article can be viewed at “Bible Bulletin Board”]

All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
This updated and revised manuscript is copyrighted (C)1998 by Tony Capoccia. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Dealing With False Teachers

“10For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,
11who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.
12One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons."
13This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith,
14not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.” (Titus 1:10-14; NASB)

It is true that patience must be practiced in persuading people in sound teaching. There are those who are victims, not the perpetrators of false teaching. (2 Timothy 2:24-26) However, those who persist and continue to spread the venom of errant doctrine need to be dealt with more sternly.

False teachers must be confronted and every effort taken to stop the spread of their errant doctrine. In Titus 1:11, Paul stresses that they be “silenced”, which means to “bridle” or “stop up the mouth”. The foolish talk of false teaching must be promptly stopped. The spread of the nonsense of the false teachers was overthrowing or destroying the faith of many, turning them from the foundation of biblical faith. The command given is to “reprove them severely”, with the intent that they would be restored to sound faith. The term “reprove” means to convict or refute even to the point of bringing shame on the person or persons responsible, making them accountable. It also includes using sharpness, being very terse with the intent of being peremptory, giving no room for the perpetrators to plead their cause and show reason for non-compliance. Their error must be exposed with the light of the truth. Persistent error needs to be dealt with harshly in order to contain it from spreading. That may not sound nice, but when you are dealing with false doctrine, swift drastic measures must be taken, as if you were dealing with gangrene in the human body. It is no time to be “nice”. Corrective action is crucial to the very health and survival of the church body!

Like any other sin in the church, those persistent in false teaching must be disciplined, even to the point of removing them from the congregation. In 1 Timothy 1:20, Paul banished Hymenaeus and Alexander from the church, placing them outside the protection and nurture of the congregation, outside of God’s blessing and under Satan’s control in hopes that they would repent and come to the knowledge of the truth. This is the same way that anyone who remains obstinate in their sin should be dealt with. Paul commanded the Corinthians to do the same thing in 1 Corinthians 5 with the man who was caught in immorality. God demands purity in His church. The church must not be tolerant of sin in any form if purity is to be maintained; “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”. (1 Corinthians 5:6) Just like leaven in a lump of dough, a small amount rapidly spreads throughout the whole lump.

This is why it irritates me when false teachers and their materials are tolerated in the church. The excuse given is that they are “chewing off the meat and spitting out the bones”. When you are dealing with false teachers who are attacking core essential doctrine in the church, this excuse will not fly. In fact, it is patently unbiblical. I will cover that subject further in my next post.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Pervasive Nature of False Teaching

"16But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness,
17and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,
18men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some." (2 Timothy 2:16-18; NASB)

Paul advises Timothy to “avoid worldly and empty chatter”. We are to avoid discussion based on worldly wisdom and philosophy that is described as “empty chatter”, which is translated from the Greek word “kenophonia”, which means discussion comprised of vain and useless matters based on man’s wisdom that cannot edify. In fact, this type of discussion will only multiply, resulting in more ungodly talk and is very caustic in nature. False teaching does not remain isolated and if left unchecked will actually spread very rapidly, becoming very pervasive and extremely corrupting. The word used to describe its spread is a disease called gangrene. This is a pervasive and deadly disease that attacks the tissue of an affected body part with such voracity, that if treatment is not promptly applied, it will rapidly spread to other parts of the body until it finally gnaws away the bones. In order to treat the disease, the effected tissue must be urgently removed to prevent further spread, and often includes amputation of the affected part. Prompt intervention is vital to the survival of the affected individual and the disease simply cannot be ignored in hopes that it might go away.

Likewise, false doctrine cannot be ignored. It cannot be allowed to coexist along side truth any more than gangrene can be permitted to remain along side healthy tissue. It is extremely invasive and will rapidly corrupt even the healthy part of the body. If false teaching is allowed to fester in the church, it will inevitably corrupt it. It must be dealt with promptly and swiftly. It cannot be allowed to coexist along with the truth. False teaching must be addressed immediately and cannot be ignored.

To give another illustration, if you went to the doctor and after running some tests he came back and informed you that you had a cancerous tumor growing in your body. After reviewing the results the doctor gives you a prognosis that if you begin treatment immediately, you have at least an 80% chance of eradicating the disease. It would be unwise and foolish to decide that you think that your healthy cells outnumber the bad ones and that the malady will take care of itself. Cancer spreads. In fact, certain cancers are known to spread aggressively invading other parts of the body. False teaching is the same way. It cannot be ignored.

If we look at Galatians and Paul’s response to the Judaizers, you can readily see how embracing certain elements of the truth have a tendency to provide a covering for doctrinal error. The false teachers in Galatia were not denying such things as the virgin birth or the resurrection of Christ. But they introduced heresy in one crucial area; by adding works to the plan of salvation which essentially denies salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and ended up proclaiming another gospel. It seems apparent that this error spread rather rapidly, given Paul’s amazement that they “so quickly “departed from the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6) Once again, these false teachers were brought in secretly, by stealth, unnoticed, to release their pervasive teaching. (Galatians 2:4)

This is why it is fundamental to the duty of pastoral leadership to guard the flock and be diligent to “earnestly contend for the faith”. (Jude 1:3) Paul also warned Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:20, to “guard” what was entrusted to him, and to take great pains to avoid the “worldly and empty chatter” and the arguments based on false knowledge to oppose the truth.

"23But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels."
(2 Timothy 2:23; NASB)

Foolish and ignorant speculations are not to be entertained. The term “ignorant” comes from the Greek word "apaideutos" and means “uneducated”, “without instruction”. This is coupled with “speculations”, (Greek “zetesis”), which basically means an enquiry designed to instigate a debate which engenders controversy. It is a common strategy among false teachers to devise arguments and raise questions, not to dig into the text and determine the meaning, but rather, to create doubt and confidence in the clarity of Scripture. This is certainly the case with postmodernism and its entrance into the church through the emerging/Emergent church movement. Satan found an effective strategy way back in Genesis 3 that has proven most effective in drawing people away from God; create doubt concerning the authority and integrity of the Word of God and twist it to distort its meaning.

It is of utmost importance that we understand how to properly interpret Scripture and not tolerate those who distort and twist the Word of God. Phil Johnson wrote in a post yesterday about an hour long interview he taped with John MacArthur on the Emerging Church Movement. Grace to You will be offering the interview on CD next month. If you are not on their mailing list, you may want to sign up. Phil has an email listed in the post that you can use to sign up for the mailing list for Grace to You. I will look forward to listening to that interview. Here is a quote from that post concerning what Dr. MacArthur said about the movement:

"one of the worst tendencies of the "emerging" spirit is the way it exaggerates and venerates mystery at the expense of the Bible's clarity. Denying the perspicuity of Scripture has the same practical outcome as denying the truthfulness of Scripture. The essential message of Scripture is not unclear or uncertain, and Jesus Himself bore testimony to that fact repeatedly."

All I can say is "Amen"!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Where Did They Come From?

“1But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”
(2 Peter 2:1; NASB)

“13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.”
(2 Corinthians 11:13; NASB)

4For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
(Jude 1:4; NASB)

False teachers are not always easy to spot. 2 Peter 2:1 tells us that they “secretly introduce destructive heresies”. The tendency is that they enter the flock secretly, unnoticed, giving all appearance of being one of the sheep. Their error is generally not readily seen. They initially appear to adhere to some form of biblical orthodoxy, at least initially. Their initial work and teaching may be so in line with biblical teaching, that it gains them a certain degree of respect in the Christian community. It is only further down the road that little by little they release small doses of their error, often alongside the proclamation of the truth. This is probably what makes their deeds so dangerous and threatening. The appearance of doctrinal orthodoxy provides a camouflage that conceals their true identity.

MacArthur notes that “False teachers don’t wear a sign proclaiming who they are. They disguise themselves as apostles of Christ (2 Cor. 11:13). “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (vv. 14–15). And it should not be surprising even to hear false teachers and heretics recite the Apostles’ Creed.”

- MacArthur, John. 1994. "Reckless faith : When the church loses its will to discern." Crossway Books: Wheaton, Ill. pg. 117

This is particularly true with many in the emerging/Emergent church movement. Peruse through some of the doctrinal statements of some of these churches and you will find that they appear to adhere to at least some form of biblical orthodoxy, including affirmation of such ancient creeds as the Apostle’s Creed. The problem often lies with their word games, redefining the truths expressed in these creeds.

What generally occurs is the adoption of the view of the truth as “utilitarian”. In other words, whatever version of “truth” that proves useful for a particular time. As John Piper notes:
"When the preference for what is new, combines with a naturalistic bias and a skepticism about finding abiding truth the stage is set for the worst abuses of religious language and the worst manipulations of historic confessions. In essence what the modernists do is not throw out Christianity but reinterpret the creeds and give old words new meanings. That is, they make them into symbols for every changing meaning.
Thus the Virgin birth is one theory of the incarnation. The bodily resurrection is one theory of the resurrection. And so on. The old "facts" don't correspond to anything permanent. They symbolize general principles of religion. And those symbols are arrived at by what is useful or helpful, not by what is true. If they are useful for one generation, good; and if not for another then they may be exchanged."

J. Gresham Machen’s Response to Modernism” by John Piper

It should also be noted that creeds such as the Apostle’s Creed are insufficient to fully define all aspects of biblical faith. It is not that they are necessarily innacurate, but that no one particular creed was intended to define every essential truth crucial to saving faith. These creeds were often formulated to confront prevailing heresies in their day, not a complete summary encompassing all the essentials of Christian faith. They need to be taken collectively. Furthermore, we must be very cautious not to elevate creeds above the authority of Scripture.

Even where detailed statements of faith are used, there is the same tactic of redefining the doctrines outlined there as well. It is becoming commonplace for false teachers and churches that harbor them, to hide behind some statement of faith. This does not mean that statements of faith are unimportant, because I still think that they can give a general idea of where a church stands. But in addition to a statement of faith, it is necessary to watch closely what is being taught and what material is being used in their teaching ministry. They should be held accountable to the statement of faith, with believers scrutinizing very closely for subtle deviations from these statements of faith.

The subtle aspects of the introduction of heresy by those who initially appear as orthodox believers pose the most danger to the church. Little by little, false teaching is dispersed until the poison of heresy gradually spreads. Like a once famous experiment of the frog in the kettle, people gradually adapt to the environment until they boil to death in heresy. (see my post on this topic here)

This is why it is extremely important for believers to thoroughly understand and know what they believe. This is the only remedy to purge false teaching out of the church. I will have more to say about this in an upcoming post.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Watch Out For The Wolves!

17From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church.
18And when they had come to him, he said to them, "You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time,
19serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews;
20how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house,
21solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
22"And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there,
23except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.
24"But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
25"And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face.
26"Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.
27"For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.
28"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
29"I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;
30and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
31"Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.
(Acts 20:17-31, NASB)

Paul in what he perceived would be the last meeting that he would have with the Ephesian elders, addresses them with a solemn warning about those who would threaten the flock with their false teaching. He spent three years ministering to those people and warning them of impending danger of those who come into the church “speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them”. The fact that Paul had a close bond and love for those people and they also loved and respected him is clearly evident. (Acts 20:36-38) Paul took great care to thoroughly teach God’s Truth to these people. He was not interested in “seeker-sensitivity” or cultural relevancy, avoiding certain truth because it was deemed as being irrelevant to the current culture. Scripture teaches us that he “did not shrink from declaring” anything that was “profitable” (Acts 20:20), declaring the “whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). He preached the truth without shame or fear, regardless of what people desired and gave similar advice to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2-4.

Paul’s advice to the leadership of the church in Ephesus was to be on guard first for themselves and for all the flock, and to “shepherd” the flock. This is crucial if the pastor is going to be of any benefit to his congregation. If the pastor is being influenced by false teachers, then he will be in no position to warn and protect the flock.

What is the first step in guarding themselves? Clinging tightly to the Word of God is crucial. Paul admonished Timothy to be diligent in accurately handling the Word of God. I like the NKJV rendering here, “rightly dividing the word of truth”, since that more strongly conveys the meaning of the Greek text, emphasizing precision in interpreting the Biblical text.

15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15; NKJV)

This is why I get upset when I see pastors that are sloppy or take a casual attitude in teaching the Bible. This is the pinnacle of emphasis in the ministry of someone in pastoral ministry. If a man has no passion for the truth, he has absolutely no business being in pastoral ministry. And yet it amazes me how many pastors have little understanding of the text of Scripture. I was once told by a youth pastor that he felt I knew more about the Bible than he did. Things like that infuriate me. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 5:17 that those who labor in the word of God were worthy of “double honor”. The term labor comes from the Greek word, kopiao, which means to work to the point of exhaustion. Pastors are to labor with intensity over Scripture, not merely skim the surface. This why I so much appreciate the work of men like John MacArthur, John Piper and others who labor so intensely in the Word of God.

It is also crucial to follow other men who have proven themselves sound in the faith, following a pattern of fidelity to the text of Scripture. What grieves me is that I have noticed that many are more enamored with those who devise pragmatic fads and methods, and minimize the importance of solid biblical teaching. The more visible success these men garner, the more pastors feel compelled to follow them. It just seems to be the spirit of this age, where our culture esteems the visible results over anything else. People are given to reckless abandonment to the latest fads of the moment.

Even more disturbing is the fact that God has blessed us with incredibly easy access to obtain a copy of the Bible practically anywhere. We have ready access to an incredible myriad of study helps and resources to understand the Word of God and apply it to our lives. Like Israel in the book of Numbers 11, God has provided us with plenty of His manna, but instead we are dissatisfied with it and want what the world has to offer. What was God’s judgment for Israel? God obliged their request and let them have what they wanted. An overabundance of what they desired, to the point that it would become loathsome to them! Perhaps we are suffering a similar fate today in the church.

Paul was concerned since the wolves that he describes as “savage”, would be those who would enter the flock in their midst and even seduce those from among themselves to follow their error. The wolves are not always easy to initially spot and enter the congregation “dressed” as one of the sheep, hence the term used, “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. The message was heavy on Paul’s heart, knowing the severe error that would be introduced by these teachers. The best way to describe these false teachers is the term “terrorists” that Dan Phillips used in his post this week. They enter the flock as one of us and carry out their plan secretly as one of us, recruiting followers from among ourselves.

This warning that Paul provides should provide a clarion call to the church today. If there is ever a time where this needs to be emphasized, it is now. We cannot afford to take for granted the need for keeping diligent watch even in good Bible teaching churches. The drift from truth can even occur there. I don’t believe there is ever a church that deliberately one day decided that they were going to throw out the Bible and teach heresy. The drift is usually subtle as we become lax in our handling of the truth. Once we become indifferent toward the truth, the slide accelerates. John MacArthur shares the thoughts of Robert Schindler who anonymously wrote the series, “The Down Grade” in Spurgeon’s publication, “The Sword and the Trowel”.

‘Tracing the state of evangelicalism from the Puritan age to his own era, Shindler noted that every revival of true evangelical faith had been followed within a generation or two by a drift away from sound doctrine, ultimately leading to wholesale apostasy. He likened this drifting from truth to a downhill slope, and thus labeled it "the down-grade."’

-John MacArthur, “Spurgeon and the Down-Grade Controversy”

There are numerous individuals within the ranks of evangelicalism who pose as leaders, but are teaching contrary to Scripture. I plan on writing some follow up posts on the subject of handling false teachers soon.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Another Unexpected Repair.

I was hoping to finish up a couple of posts this weekend, but unfortunately all of my time since Friday was spent looking for another vehicle to replace our Ford Windstar mini-van. If you recall in my post before I left for vacation, I got hit with several expensive repairs. Well we got hit with another VERY expensive repair estimate this last Thursday. My wife called me at work and reported that the van suddenly started misfiring and the check engine light came on while she was driving down the freeway with the kids. The engine actually cut out and lost power for a moment making steering very difficult. The engine kicked in again and she managed to keep the vehicle running long enough to get the vehicle off the freeway at the next exit, which conveniently led right to the road where the Lincoln-Mercury dealer was located. They were able to get the vehicle in the shop right away to diagnose the issue. We thought that it was likely another fuel injector, but unfortunately the engine lost all compression in one cylinder. Estimate to replace the engine was approximately $5,000! We had already spent nearly $1600 on repairs before vacation. Given the recent barrage of repairs and the Windstar’s less than stellar reputation for mechanical reliability, we were not too keen on putting any more money into the vehicle. In all likelihood, the next major repair would be the transmission which has been known to be a major issue on the Windstar. In my mind, it was more a matter of when, rather than if. That would likely be another $2,000. Since the cost of the repairs would exceed the market value of the vehicle (Windstars do not hold their value very well), we decided that we should just cut our losses and acquire another vehicle. So the venture for another vehicle began. I really hate shopping for a car, especially when you need to find another one as soon as possible and have a limited budget. We had hoped to put off purchasing another vehicle for another year. What is really irritating is that I take great effort to maintain my vehicles (regular oil changes, etc.).

After much research into the reliability ratings of other mini-vans, I came to the conclusion that I really did not want to take a chance on another American made mini-van. We finally found a good used Honda Odyssey a few years old within our budget. Even with a few miles on it, this vehicle runs smoother, rides better and has more comfortable seats than our Windstar did when it was only a couple of years old.

I don’t know why American manufacturers can’t build decent cars that can hold together. They seem to be able to build solid trucks, especially Ford. I have an older Ford F-150 with over 145,000 miles on it that I drive to work. It has proven itself extremely dependable and the reliability ratings are stellar. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the Ford cars. And they wonder why they are in trouble and the imports are pulling ahead.

Maybe it is just a sign that postmodernism has infiltrated the field of automotive engineering. You know, the text in those physics and science books really does not have any inherent meaning and must be deconstructed within a postmodern context :)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Newsweek Article on Billy Graham

The John Meacham article in Newsweek (August 14, 2006), “Pilgrims Progress”, has been discussed elsewhere in the blogosphere, so I am not sure what else I can really add to the discussion that has not already been said, but here it goes. For a couple of excellent postings on this subject, I will point you to TeamPyro (“The ‘It’s not for me to say’ dodge”) and Provocations and Pantings (“The Billy Graham School of Ecumenism”).

I find the statements that Billy Graham has made in the Newsweek article very disheartening. Some could argue that it is partially due to his age and failing health. But that argument will not stand since Graham has been making these kinds of statements for many years now. While it could be argued that he is just trying not to be offensive or controversial in hopes that people may be won to Christ, compromise never produces the fruit that we desire. Compromising or withholding the truth is never taught in the Bible. The truth was always proclaimed without compromise, even in the face of hostility. Compromise ultimately creates confusion concerning the truth of the Gospel. The confusion concerning where those outside of the Christian faith stand is extremely dangerous, and does nothing to point those people to the message of saving faith. The Bible is crystal clear on the fact that Jesus is the only way of salvation.

The following quote outlining the “spirit of moderation” captures the essence of the propensity towards compromise.

'“… Graham's spirit of moderation, of concern for both sides, is welcome not only overseas but at home, for Americans seem hungry for a ceasefire in the culture wars. In a Pew Research Center survey released last week, 66 percent of all Americans want a "middle ground" on abortion. Six out of 10 white evangelicals also support compromise; meanwhile, 44 percent of white evangelicals—the highest figure recorded in five years of polling—back stem-cell research.”'

Since when does it matter what the majority want? This so-called ceasefire that Americans seem to long for is simply a desire to wallow in their sin and believe whatever they want to believe. Spirituality is popular today with multitudes of “seekers” desiring some sort of “experience”, often veiled in a thin veneer of Christianity. But proclaim that embracing the gospel requires repentance and adopting a biblical worldview is simply intolerable. Consequently, there are multitudes that adapt the title of Christian, but bear virtually little if any resemblance to the biblical portrait of what a Christian is supposed to be. I am not one that is keen on Christians embarking on a quest for political activism, leveraging political means to bring in the kingdom of God. But avoiding the extreme of political activism does not mean we need to avoid voicing our views on things that oppose biblical teaching, which includes moral issues facing our society. I still believe that Christians as individual citizens need to speak out and act responsibly at the voting booth, casting their vote according to their conscience molded by a biblical world view. Compromise in these areas under the banner of tolerance and diversity makes us just as guilty as the world. The message that Graham and others who embrace a strategy of compromise are actually sending the message that one supposedly can believe in the gospel and act contrary to biblical principle. This simply allows people to walk in self deception. Perhaps some of the desire for compromise on the part of evangelicals may be more driven by disenchantment with the harshness of political activism, and a desire to soften the view of evangelicalism as a rigid and heartless. But compromising the truth is never the answer. Embracing tolerance is a gross overreaction and will undermine the clarity of the gospel message. We must also remember that it is inevitable that the world will not respond positively to the gospel. (Matthew 5:11; 10:22, John 17:14, 1 Corinthians 2:14) Any attempt to make it palatable to people’s tastes will nullify the power of the message of saving faith. Too much of evangelicalism has bought into the notion that it is imperative that everyone like us.

Billy Graham claims that he is led to spend more time on the love of God, in contrast to others who are more “politically active”. But embracing the love of God includes embracing the truth of God’s Word and proclaiming it to others. 2 John is pretty clear on this point.

1The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth,
2for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever:
3Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
4I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father.
5Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.
6And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.

(2 John 1:1-6; NASB)

I would agree that becoming too wrapped up in political causes distracts the church from the mission to proclaim the message of saving faith and making disciples. Making people simply comply with law does not bring them any closer to God. However, people need to be made aware of the error of sin. This awareness should drive them to seek the forgiveness made available through the work of Christ on the cross. Avoiding confronting the culture with a biblical perspective on crucial social issues does little to produce awareness of man’s sinful nature.

'A lot of things that I commented on years ago would not have been of the Lord, I'm sure, but I think you have some—like communism, or segregation, on which I think you have a responsibility to speak out." Such proclamations, however, should not be "the main thing," and he admits he has no perfect formula: "I don't know the total answer to that."'

So does this mean that only the evils of communism and segregation are worth speaking out against, but issues such as abortion and gay marriage are less evil?

The comment that Billy Graham does not feel it is his calling to confront the culture is a weak excuse for compromising the truth. On the other hand, his son Franklin has been outspoken on certain issues in our day. Most notable is his bold proclamation concerning Islam. This is despite the fact that he too, does not make it the primary focus of his ministry.

'Asked whether he thinks such observations are helpful, the younger Graham said: "It's not the calling of my life to preach against Islam. You're a reporter; you ask me, and I answer the question. I don't go on television or into stadiums and make Islam or gay marriage or the right to life my theme. But in the work that I do I come up against belief systems all over the world. I see much of the damage that is done in the name of religion. In the Balkans, Milosevic would have Orthodox priests bless the troops before they would rape and kill. Man's heart is evil and wicked until it is changed by Christ."'

I think that Franklin’s response is fair. While he does not make issues the primary theme that he preaches about, he is not afraid to strive to be truthful concerning issues in our day either. But observe the comments from his father and his sister.

'"I'm sure there are many things that he and I are not in total agreement about," Graham says. "I'm an old man, he's a young man in the prime of life." Anne Graham Lotz, after expressing her deep respect for her brother's life and work, said: "When Daddy was my brother's age, he was saying some pretty strong things, too, so you have to remember that experience and the living of a life can soften your perspective."'

So does that mean that Franklin will soften and compromise with age? Let’s hope not!

I am not criticizing the basic message of the gospel that Graham has preached at the crusades over the years. But the compromising, careless statements made outside of the crusades has a tendency to send a confusing, mixed message that distorts the clear message of the gospel.

But the following comment toward the end of the article I think points to the root of the problem.

'If he had his life to live over again, Graham says he would spend more time immersed in Scripture and theology. He never went to seminary, and his lack of a graduate education is something that still gives him a twinge. "The greatest regret that I have is that I didn't study more and read more," he says. "I regret it, because now I feel at times I am empty of what I would like to have been. I have friends that have memorized great portions of the Bible. They can quote [so much], and that would mean a lot to me now."'

Graham regrets not having spent more time studying Scripture and theology. We could all wish that he had. But this should also serve as an admonition to all of us, not to neglect the study of Scripture and sound biblical theology.