Wednesday, January 25, 2006

No! No Way!

That was my reaction this last Sunday morning as I walked toward the corner of the church foyer where we have on display some books for sale. From a distance I noticed a book with a blue cover that seemed to look familiar. As I got closer I began to recognize the cover as one I have seen in the Christian book store before, one written by Donald Miller, “Blue Like Jazz”. While walking toward the book shelf I began saying to myself – actually I was beginning to say it out loud – “No way! It can’t be”. Yep. There it was plain as day!

Now I have not had a chance to read this book, and doubt that I will – at least not cover to cover – for awhile. I already have a couple of other books I am struggling to finish reading, especially since I am in school and have limited time available. These are good books; books that I know are doctrinally sound and spiritually beneficial. But with time being limited, I have been struggling to complete them. When pressed for time and need to choose between time reading my Bible or reading a good book, I choose to read the Bible. It must take precedence. And I really do not like wasting time reading books that I suspect are filled with theological rubbish and have questionable benefit. But I fear I am going to need to take some time perusing through “Blue Like Jazz”, even if I do not read it cover to cover, just to get a closer look.

Fortunately, there are others who have read some of these books and have taken time to write reviews and give their perspective. One of the first places that I look to see if he has done a review on a particular book is Tim Challies. His reviews are a valuable resource and are generally from a solid biblical perspective.

In his review, Tim Challies admits that he already had doubts about the book due to an interview he read in a magazine, where Miller used such crude language that many words needed to be blanked out. That does not set too well with me either. Challies points out many of the problems with the book, but despite the shortcomings, he says he “enjoyed this book” more than he thought. To me, the negative aspects would have been enough of a turnoff. I guess I will find out once I peruse through the material myself.

Tim admits that Miller gets quite irritating as he bashes traditional Christianity. Politically, he generally lashes out at Republicans, degrading President Bush and very subtly praises Bill Clinton. Donald Miller apparently also expresses his enjoyment of Catholic Mass. His reported use of inappropriate words and comments is also disturbing.

In short, the book appears very disturbing in that the gospel message is generally muddled. According to Tim, Miller presents the false notion that the reason God saves us, is because we want to be rescued and that there is something in us that causes God to love us. But this is contrary to what the Bible teaches. Man is dead in his sins and God must first do a work in us in order to draw us to Himself.

After writing the review, Tim Challies admits that he became far less enthused about the book after he reflected on the contents. In the end, Tim is hesitant to recommend it to anyone. After reading his comments, I would strongly agree. Even if there may be some good points made in the book, it would take too much wading through the muddled theology to extract anything useful.

I am going to need to take some time to look over this book, but I think that I am going to come to basically the same conclusion. Perhaps I will be even more opposed to the material. If I am not mistaken, Brian McLaren endorses the book – on the back cover!

This is just another example of postmodern theological foolishness. Like much of the other postmodern material available, it just seems that these authors have an axe to grind with traditional churches and in particular, fundamentalist churches. I too have been extremely frustrated having attended an IFBx (Independent Fundamental Baptist Extreme) church. But to act like a rebellious adolescent and turn from the truth is not the answer. Scott Hill put it best when he described the emerging church movement as a bunch of Christian “hippies”.

Something tells me that I have many more battles coming up with the leadership in my church as they apparently continue to sip the postmodern “kool-aid”. Perhaps we should begin donning the nostalgic apparel of the 60s.

Now I wonder where I put my tie-died t-shirts…and those Birkenstocks.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Why We Must Battle for the Truth.

“Controversy is never a very happy element for the child of God: he would far rather be in communion with his Lord than be engaged in defending the faith, or in attacking error. But the soldier of Christ knows no choice in his Master's commands. He may feel it to be better for him to lie upon the bed of rest than to stand covered with the sweat and dust of battle; but, as a soldier, he has learned to obey, and the rule of his obedience is not his personal comfort, but his Lord's absolute command. The servant of God must endeavour to maintain all the truth which his Master has revealed to him, because, as a Christian soldier, this is part of his duty. But while he does so, he accords to others the liberty which he himself enjoys.”

—C. H. Spurgeon, in address at the Tabernacle, 1861.

In a recent post at Fide-O, Jason wrote about Mark Driscoll and how he distanced himself from the emergent movement due to their divergence from sound doctrine. I highly commend Mark for distancing himself from the extreme in the emerging movement and appreciate the fact that he had the courage to do so. You may want to check out Mark’s new blog where he explains his journey away from much of the emerging movement. His stand is certainly refreshing given the rising tide of those who are blindly following men like Brian McLaren to spiritual slaughter. I am not saying that there are not some things about his ministry that may concern me, but I appreciate his stand on doctrine. However, I am a little wary of his philosophy of polemics.

I discovered a post on another blog quoting Mark Driscoll on the subject of battling for the truth. Mark in addressing other churches in his Acts29 church planting ministry, warns about the danger he sees of becoming too polemic. Mark describes Spurgeon’s philosophy of only battling when someone gets in the way of the work. Spurgeon based this on the scene in Nehemiah 4:17-18 and is what inspired the title of his magazine, "The Sword and the Trowel". Mark seems to be attempting to make the point of not becoming engrossed in every controversy since this may occupy too much of our time and take away from the church’s mission to reach the lost.

While he does make a valid point and I somewhat agree with him, I would also argue that Spurgeon, if he were alive today, would have stood vehemently against the heresy being promulgated by men in much of the emerging church movement. He most certainly would have been quite outspoken. When men like McLaren and others spew their heresy and persuade others to follow, it does get in the way of the mission of the church.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon became embroiled in the midst of turmoil as he found it necessary to battle against the new theology of his day. He knew the importance of sound doctrine and understood the damaging effects of false teaching on the church. We too, must realize the serious ill effects of false doctrine and strive to fight against its influx into the church. Battling for the truth is not the most pleasant endeavor, but it is certainly necessary if we are to be true to Christ and His Word. This is a Scriptural command.

Paul warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:17-31 that there would be “savage wolves” that would devastate the flock of God. Paul went on to say that many of these false teachers would arise from their own ranks. These false teachers would draw away some of the disciples to follow them. The admonition was to be on the alert and do everything that they could to watch over and “shepherd” the flock of God. The biblical imagery of shepherding implies watching over, protecting from danger and making sure that the sheep have access to adequate nourishment. In fact, this is only one of many passages in the New Testament that deal with the need for confronting error and warning the people of God concerning false teaching.

This is why it is imperative to teach solid doctrine and instruct others on how to rightly handle the Word of God. When Paul addressed the elders in Ephesus, he could say with confidence that he did not withhold any truth that would be profitable (‘full counsel’, NKJV), thus making him innocent of the blood of any man. The charge of being guilty of the blood of men is described back in the Old Testament where the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:17-21; 33:1-9) was commanded by God to act as a watchman and warn the people according to the Word given to him by God. If Ezekiel failed to warn the people, and they were destroyed as a result, God would hold Ezekiel responsible and he would be held guilty because of their fate. If Ezekiel faithfully proclaimed God’s truth and the people failed to heed the warning, Ezekiel was not responsible because he was faithful in proclaiming the warning. Paul was faithful in not holding back any truth. This is why it is wrong for the church to avoid teaching and preaching on any topics they think would be offensive to the people. Paul admonished Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2-4), meaning whether the people were receptive or not.

Let’s pray that Mark Driscoll continues on the path of solid doctrine and surrounds himself with men who consistently uphold biblical truth. I also hope that he will take more opportunity to publicly refute the doctrinal error in the emerging church movement. Since he once followed the movement and has realized the error, I would think it would have a profound impact on those who hear his warning.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Age of Misinformation.

Dr. Albert Mohler has an insightful article on his blog concerning the paradox of the lack of knowledge of important current events, news stories or any other important matters and the notion that we are living in the “Information Age”. Dr. Mohler refers to an article written by David Gelernter entitled "Misinformation Age: More Computers, Less Learning". Despite the proliferation of electronic gadgets and especially computers, it seems that young people are painfully uninformed about a multitude of subjects and issues. This is despite the round-the-clock availability of information available at any time at our fingertips. Undoubtedly, much of the problem lies with the willingness to know and discover information. Mindless tinkering with computers and technology does not alone lend itself to learning. They just become nothing more but toys.

I find it interesting that educators seem to tout computer use as if it is automatically conducive to learning, but that is simply not the case. Computers can be very useful and can be an incredible aid to productivity. The Internet provides a very useful venue for me for gathering information and learning, but that is due to the fact that I discipline myself to use it that way. However, the Internet is only one venue for my information gathering and learning. I also make extensive use of books and other printed media. The Internet just provides me with information very quickly. But receiving the information is only part of the process. One must also become skilled at interpreting and sorting through the information. This is true regardless of where you get the information – whether it is the Internet or books. It also requires discipline to take the time to process the information and think critically about what you are reading. A desire for learning needs to be cultivated. Computers are nothing more than another potential tool to use. But they can also be a source of distraction from learning. The basics of learning and critical thinking are the essential foundation that produces the process that fosters true knowledge.

This is what irritates me about our culture today. There really is no excuse for being uninformed.

But more importantly, how is this adversely affecting the church? Let’s put it this way, if multimedia and technology is not helping the culture acquire true knowledge and wisdom, then how is the influx of this same technology into the church going to further contribute to the “dumbing” down of Christianity? It is not that I am against the use of all multimedia and technology in the church by any means. It can be used as an effective tool, as long as it is not overused or misused. Multimedia does not lend itself to reflective thought. There is a reason God provided us with His written Word. Scripture is intended to be read, meditated on and internalized as the Holy Spirit brings to light God’s truth. This process is generally difficult if not impossible to achieve with a multimedia experience. The only effective means of equipping those in the church is through the consistent solid preaching and teaching of God's Word. It is the key element, not computers and multimedia. While computers can be a useful aid and certainly should be used, nothing can replace the proclamation of God's truth.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Typical Attitudes.

It is interesting to note the attitude of those who hold to false teaching. Many exhibit a generally, unwholesome bad attitude. In a recent post on the “Texas Baptist Underground”, some commenter used profanity in response to a post that James Spurgeon had written. Another commenter who was also defending the legalistic LBT, left a blustery comment in their fury, which consisted of basically a run-on sentence with no punctuation that barely made any sense at all. On the other end of the spectrum, the postmodern emerging church crowd also displays much of the same behavior, replete with profanity and a rebellious spirit. Both are void of any Scriptural footing since they virtually ignore the authority of the Bible.

This seems to be par for the course with those who ignore Scripture as their final authority. Because their argumentation lacks any real authority, it is therefore void of any power and influence. Their only resort seems to be an attempt to bolster their position with profanity and personal attacks. But this really reveals the true heart of those involved in these tactics.

18"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20"These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man." (Matthew 15:18-20, NASB)

Those who are led of the Spirit of God exhibit certain qualities called the “fruit of the Spirit”.

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NKJV)

Those who are not led by the Holy Spirit lack this fruit.

“19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,” (Galatians 5:19-20, NKJV)

15"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16"You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17"So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18"A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19"Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20"So then, you will know them by their fruits.”(Matthew 7:15-20, NASB)

The way people act reveal a lot about their heart and it often reveals the truth about the reality of their faith. False religion exemplifies man’s pride since it is composed of man’s philosophy and self-effort. Any critique of false beliefs strikes at man’s pride and likely causes a reaction according to the flesh.