Contending For The Faith

September 22, 2009

New Blog Site: ScriptureThoughts.WordPress.com

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lynda O @ 10:03 am

After nearly a year of doing this blog, I’m enjoying blogging even more, and all its benefits, such as directions to take the writing. So now I’ve thought of a new, more suitable name for the blog (and a new wordpress address).

All new material from this point on will be at: http://scripturethoughts.wordpress.com

I’m gradually moving most of the material from here to that new address, it should all be there within the next few days.

September 21, 2009

The Dilemma of the Partial-Preterist: Inconsistency

Filed under: doctrine,Preterism — Lynda O @ 11:06 am

Here I refer to “partial-preterists,” those Christians who reject the futurist view of scripture yet recognize that Christ has not yet returned.

Such an individual rejects the futurist view, citing the common preterist objection:  the Revelation text says that these things must soon take place (Revelation 1:1).  Therefore, since 2,000 years have since happened, these words could not possibly have been referring to still future events. So, since the text says these events must soon take place, the events described must have happened in the first century.

Yet the partial-preterist recognizes that Christ has (obviously) not yet returned–so that part, the return of Christ, is still future even though the events have already happened.  Only problem is, the same book of Revelation also tells us that  Christ Himself is soon returning:

  • Revelation 22:12 — “Behold, I am coming soon!”
  • Revelation 22:20 –He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

So which is it?  Past or future?  The partial-preterist on the one hand says that the “these things” to come soon must have already occurred, but on the other hand says that Christ’s promised “Yes I am coming soon” really wasn’t all that “soon” since 2,000 years have passed.  The position ends up confused by this obvious inconsistency.  If both the events (“what must soon take place”) and the return of Christ are said to occur soon, then either 1) BOTH the events and Christ’s return did occur in the first century, or 2) the human definition and understanding of “soon” is incorrect and neither the events nor Christ’s return has yet happened.  These are the only two logical conclusions.  Consider the two texts together, the prologue to Revelation (Revelation 1) and the epilogue (Revelation 22), and the clear meaning is that the “what must soon take place” is connected to Christ’s return, that all of the events go together.

The full-preterist (hyper-preterist) deals with the full implications of the dilemma logically, and opts for choice number 1.  At least such people are consistent in recognizing that “coming soon” in the text must refer to both the events and Christ’s return.  The futurist is likewise consistent, and opts for choice number 2:  the human definition and understanding of “soon” is incorrect and therefore neither of the “soon” predicted things have yet happened.

In this textual consideration, the futurist recognizes the doctrine of imminence, that Christ could return at any time — and its corollary, that from God’s perspective a day is as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day (2 Peter 3:8).

A side note here:  to those scoffers who then would apply that verse to an interpretation of Genesis 1’s “day,” I would point out that the context of 2 Peter 3 is quite clear.  Peter’s words about “a thousand years are like a day” are specifically in the context of the surrounding verses, which answer the scoffers who say “where is His promised coming?” — the very reasoning of preterists who conclude that “soon” could not mean 2,000+ years.

The inconsistencies of the partial preterist position continue to astound me.  Simple logic should explain that the “coming soon” must refer both to the events and Christ’s return. So either both the “coming soon” events have already happened, or they haven’t.  How can one say that the one promise of “coming soon” must have happened in the first century, but that the other “coming soon” event has an entirely different meaning?

September 17, 2009

Why Christians Should Not Read (or Watch) Harry Potter

Filed under: Christian lifestyle — Lynda O @ 3:45 pm
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This post comes after my recent discovery that a seemingly upright Christian family at church (homeschool with 8 children, the father a church deacon) seems more interested in the world’s entertainment than in pursuing a more godly Christian life and walk.  Now to the particulars:  the father has taken off three weeks of vacation in one block, and just staying around the house–not to complete any “honey-do” list, or any other perhaps worthwhile endeavors, but with this as his stated top goal: to read all 7 of the Harry Potter books.  Another couple at church, friends of theirs who I also had thought more highly of, are also really into the Harry Potter books and movies.  They point out that the author is really gifted, and the books are entertaining; I was rather physically tired at the time, waiting to go home, and so did not pursue the matter further as to why they think such books are okay reading–though they would probably give the common excuse:  it’s just entertainment.

To me such choices clearly reflect an attitude and worldview of indifference, a lifestyle of a believer caught up in the trappings of this world.  So here are a few questions and thoughts concerning this interest in Harry Potter.

Is it wise to read something which advocates witchcraft and the occult?  Or to read stories that lack traditional morality, stories which ridicule traditional Christian adults, stories that portray and promote the idea of children who actively rebel against adult authority figures?  Is that the way to treat God, to openly break His clear commandments concerning idolatry and occultism?

I can hear the objections now.  “It’s just entertainment.”  Or, it’s a matter of conscience, one of those areas related to the stronger and weaker brothers, like alcohol, or eating meat sacrificed to idols.  If it doesn’t bother you and you don’t see anything wrong, enjoy it.  At a very basic level, such responses remind me of the “Dad’s Brownies” story, in which a dad responds to his three teenagers who really want to see a popular PG-13 rated movie.  They can go to the movie if they’ll eat his brownies, which have a “special ingredient” of a little dog poop added to them.

Another reference on this overall topic is my recent post about Genesis 19 and Lot, the worldly believer.

From a scriptural perspective, God’s word is clear about staying away from anti-Christian worldviews and philosophies.  Our God is a jealous God and will not share His glory with another (Isaiah 48:11).  But if that’s not enough for you, consider Paul’s exhortations to believers in his many New Testament letters.
Romans 12:2 — “Do not be conformed to this world,  but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

1 Corinthians 6:12 — “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

1 Corinthians 10: 14 — Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.
1 Corinthians 10:21-23 — You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.  Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive.

Consider especially that last part:  not everything is beneficial, or constructive.  Not everything is edifying or profitable, to you individually as well as to the church body, which is those you influence.  Consider the race to run, to win the prize. Paul speaks of the Bema Seat judgement at which our works will be evaluated, and those of wood, hay and stubble will be burned up.  So much of our time is spent on meaningless pursuits.  Should we value as so little what we do here, in light of eternity, that we should devote time to reading the Harry Potter books?  How about spending that time reading and studying the Bible instead?  Sadly, too many Americans, and I suspect it’s also true of most Christians, know more about the Harry Potter stories than God’s word.  What do we really value?  It shows in such things as what we spend our idle time on.  This same issue applies to reading “The Shack” or anything else offensive to God’s word and the Christian worldview.

Consider verses such as these:
1 Corinthians 9:24-26 — Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.
Hebrews 12:1 — let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

Horner Bible Reading Plan: Six Months Later

I’ve now been following the Horner Bible Reading Plan for six months, sticking to it on a daily basis with few exceptions.  Now at day 183, I’m nearing the end of Deuteronomy (List 2), the last list to complete.  When I restart with Genesis in a few days, I plan to try reading two chapters a day, at least in the easier narrative chapters.

Retention of all this reading comes gradually, yet after several reads through shorter lists such as Proverbs and the New Testament Acts and Epistles, I note and recall many more details (that went unnoticed with once-a-year readings), such as the following:

  • Colossians (chapter 2) makes reference to a church in Laodicea; this reminds me of Revelation 3, the church in Laodicea a generation later.
  • Proverbs has many statements echoed in the New Testament.  Proverbs 25:6-7 speaks to a matter Jesus mentioned, to not seek the highest place of honor at the table.  Proverbs 25:14 is a clear mention of something later said in Jude 12.

Proverbs 25:14 (NIV) — Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of gifts he does not give.

Jude 12 — speaking of the false teachers, says “They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind”

  • Similarities and contrasts in Paul’s letters to, in list 3, the Corinthians, versus the Philippians and Thessalonians of list 4.  One really gets a feel for Paul’s heart, his affection for the Phillipians, and his care for (and frustration with) the immature Corinthians.  Paul writes similar things to the Thessalonians and Corinthians; compare 1 Thessalonians 2:5-9, and 1 Corinthians 9 (including verses 12 and 15).

One Old Testament “connection” that could only come from a combination of different readings:  on the same day I read Judges 20 (list 8), the destruction of most of the tribe of Benjamin, I also read 2 Chronicles 14 (list 9), which details a military event that includes many Benjamites.  A good combination of readings to show that indeed the tribe of Benjamin recovered from its near-destruction several centuries earlier.

September 9, 2009

Great Spurgeon Preaching

Filed under: C.H. Spurgeon — Lynda O @ 11:52 am
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I continually am amazed and in wonder at Spurgeon’s words, still with us 150 years later.  I also find in Spurgeon great words of comfort, no matter what I’m feeling in my daily walk with God and my experiences.

Here are some excerpts from a Spurgeon sermon I read this week, Sermon number 50: The Holy Ghost–The Great Teacher:

And, verily, the Christian man feels an intense longing to bury his ignorance and receive wisdom. If he, when in his natural estate panted for terrestrial knowledge, how much more ardent is the wish to unravel, if possible, the sacred mysteries of God’s Word! A true Christian is always intently reading and searching the Scripture that he may be able to certify himself as to its main and cardinal truths. I do not think much of that man who does not wish to understand doctrines; I cannot conceive him to be in a right position when he thinks it is no matter whether he believes a lie or truth, whether he is heretic or orthodox, whether he received the Word of God as it is written, or as it is diluted and misconstrued by man. God’s Word will ever be to a Christian a source of great anxiety; a sacred instinct within will lead him to pry into it; he will seek to understand it.
. . .
Curiosity is strong; if you tell them they must not pluck the truth, they will be sure to do it; but if you give it to them as you find it in God’s Word, they will not seek to “wrest” it. Enlightened men will have the truth, and if they see election in Scripture they will say, “it is there, and I will find it out. If I cannot get it in one place, I will get it in another.” The true Christian has an inward longing and anxiety after it; he is hungry and thirsty after the word of righteousness, and he must and will feed on this bread of heaven, or at all hazards he will leave the husks which unsound divines would offer him.

. . .
The true child of God will not be led into some truth but into all truth. When first he starts he will not know half the truth, he will believe it but not understand it; he will have the germ of it but not the sum total in all its breadth and length. There is nothing like learning by experience. A man cannot set up for a theologian in a week. Certain doctrines take years to develop themselves. Like the aloe that taketh a hundred years to be dressed, there be some truths that must lie long in the heart before they really come out and make themselves appear so that we can speak of them as that we do know; and testify of that which we have seen. The Spirit will gradually lead us into all truth. For instance if it be true that Jesus Christ is to reign upon the earth personally for a thousand years, as I am inclined to believe it is, if I be under the Spirit, that will be more and more opened to me, until I with confidence declare it. Some men begin very timidly. A man says, at first, “I know we are justified by faith, and have peace with God, but so many have cried out against eternal justification, that I am afraid of it.” But he is gradually enlightened, and led to see that in the same hour when all his debts were paid, a full discharge was given; that in the moment when its sin was cancelled, every elect soul was justified in God’s mind, though they were not; justified in their own minds till afterwards. The Spirit shall lead you into all truth.

Now, what are the practical inferences from this great doctrine? . . .
Another inference is this whenever any of our brethren do not understand the truth let us take a hint as to the best way of dealing with them. Do not let us controvert with them. I have heard many controversies, but never heard of any good from one of them. We have had controversies with certain men called Secularists, and very strong arguments have been brought against them; but I believe that the day of judgment shall declare that a very small amount of good was ever done by contending with these men. Better let them alone, where no fuel is the fire goeth out; and he that debateth with them puts wood upon the fire. So with regard to Baptism. It is of no avail to quarrel with our Paedo-baptist friends. If we simply pray for them that the God of truth may lead them to see the true doctrine, they will come to it far more easily than by discussions. Few men are taught by controversy, for

“A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.”

Pray for them that the Spirit of truth may lead them “into all truth.” Do not be angry with your brother, but pray for him; cry, “Lord! open thou his eyes that he may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”

Bible Reading and Some Good Blogs

I’m now up to Day 175 in the Horner Bible reading plan.  At this point, I really don’t keep track of the day number, since I can’t match any number in the reading to that day.  Now I’m on my second round through Psalms, so I calculate the day number based on the current psalm number plus 150.  The only list left to finish is List 2, the Pentateuch, and I’m working through Deuteronomy.

For a few brief observations from the daily readings:  the history readings especially bring out the rampant idolatry.  Judges 17 verses 5 and 12 talk about the people making up their own self-styled worship.  2 Chronicles 11:13-15 has a similar case, the people of northern Israel doing their own worship in the days of Jeroboam.  The next day’s reading brings out general idol worship, again in Judges and 2 Chronicles–and in Acts 19, the idolatry of Ephesus in the 1st century.  Idolatry is also a common theme in the 2 readings from the prophets, although at the moment I’m getting a break from those subjects.  Isaiah 40 is very hopeful for the future.  Zechariah 11 is more about judgement (the flock marked for slaughter) and the First Coming prophecy about the 30 pieces of silver, such a low price they esteemed Him.

On to other matters…. in the current blog world, Biblical Christianity has a good blog, “Good men = good views? Yes, and not necessarily… respectively.”  Another good recent blog is Fred Butler’s 12th in the “Studies in Eschatology” series:  Apocalypticism and the book of Revelation in which he points out how Revelation has many differences from the non-canonical apocalyptic literature and we can’t use that excuse, that Revelation is just apocalyptic stuff, to avoid biblical exegesis.

September 4, 2009

S. Lewis Johnson Teaching From Genesis 19

Filed under: Bible Study,S. Lewis Johnson — Lynda O @ 10:09 am
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I’ve been listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s “Genesis” series, which he preached in 1979. I’ve now completed the study for Genesis 19, and here are a few important points.

This chapter deals with a “carnal Christian,” Lot, and the consequences of his worldliness, including in his own family. It’s a familiar narrative passage, but here are a few things of special note.

SLJ notes that the angels seem much more reluctant to go home with Lot than they had with Abraham. They readily came to Abraham’s tent in Genesis 18; but it seems that they would prefer to stay in the town square than with Lot.

Lot does show great hospitality, one evidence of the fact that he was a righteous man (2 Peter 2), but his worldly life compromises his witness to the world. He had evidently selected unbelieving men to marry his daughters. When Lot later tried to warn them of the coming destruction, their disbelief again reflects Lot’s worldly character, he was the type of person not to be taken seriously.

The words from the men of Sodom to Lot, in verse 9 (“This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.”), show that the believer trying to get ahead in the world never really does fit in as well as he would like to think. S. Lewis Johnson says it well:

It is obvious that while he been there and evidently he had a place and position, deep down within they did not really like Lot. There was something about Lot that made him different, and even in his worldliness, there was that basic commitment to the promises given to Abraham and they figured that out.

That is why, incidentally, a worldly believer never is able to accomplish what he thinks he will accomplish. He thinks that by mingling with the world, he will be an influence upon them. But he is not an influence upon them and the one who is hurt is he himself.

Lot is the object of great mercy, and his life is spared on account of his relation to Abraham, as mentioned in verse 29 (So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.) Yet throughout the account Lot clearly does not appreciate the great mercy, as he is continually reluctant, to the point that the angels have to take charge. After that, Lot is still trying to wheedle out any more concessions, such as the part about fleeing to the small town of Zoar rather than to the mountains.

S. Lewis Johnson’s remarks about homosexuality in America are interesting, coming from the viewpoint of 1979. The situation is far worse now than 30 years ago, yet even then homosexuality was being championed as a great alternative lifestyle. He quotes from a cover story in Time magazine, “How Gay is Gay,” in which was told the line that 10 percent of the population is homosexual, and that many popular cultural items in our lives (disco and disco lights, long hair, even Adidas running shoes) came from homosexuals and then to the broader society. SLJ makes the important observation, from Romans 1, that increasing homosexuality in a nation is itself a judgement from God–not a sign of future possible judgement, but the actual judgment itself:

So when we look at increasing homosexuality in our society, we do not say, “Well if this continues, we are liable to experience the judgment of God.” According to Paul, the increase in homosexual practices is the judgment of God. It is upon us because of our apostasy from divine truth and so when we see this pervading our society, we are not a society that is moving toward judgment, but we are a society that is already under judgment and moving toward the final cataclysmic destruction of the society as we know it when the Lord Jesus Christ comes at his second advent to the earth.

September 3, 2009

Lessons Learned This Week

Filed under: dispensationalism,eschatology — Lynda O @ 2:04 pm
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One, keep your focus on the Lord and His Ways.  Two, don’t waste time trying to reason with fools.  That’s the very simple description, from a rather stressful few days in which I forgot these two points.  The fool in this case is the anti-creation, anti-dispensational local pastor.  After sitting through two rounds of his version of Revelation chapters 7 and 14, and all his anti-dispensational rants and outright errors (and I did not hear all of it, but enough even as I tried to ignore it), I succumbed to the point of actually emailing him:  not to try to prove the correctness of the other view, but simply to point out the needless arrogance and ridicule of the views he disagrees with.

I admit my weakness.  I really knew better to begin with.  As I have understood for the last two years, someone who calls himself Christian yet has such an obstinate attitude against Genesis 1 shows himself without excuse.  If he won’t listen to God’s revelation concerning the beginning (and all the physical evidence in addition to the Bible itself), he certainly won’t listen to God’s word concerning the future things.  Here I recall John MacArthur’s words from this year’s Shepherd’s Conference:

Genesis is not poetry.  There are poetical accounts of the creation in the Bible, Psalm 104, certain chapters in Job, and they differ completely from the first chapter of Genesis.  Hebrew poetry had certain characteristics, they are NOT found in the first chapter of Genesis, so the claim that Genesis 1 is poetry is no solution to the question.

The man who says “I believe that Genesis purports to be a historical account but I do not believe that account” is a better interpreter of the Bible than the one who says I believe Genesis is true but it’s poetry.

But I also considered MacArthur’s advice, in a recent interview with Phil Johnson, that if you have a problem with your pastor, first go and discuss the matter with him; let him know of the problem and that he isn’t helpful, etc. (The context here was the “Case Against the R-Rated Church,” but the overall advice stands for any issue.)  MacArthur’s second point was also very relevant:  next, seek out other teachers whom you find trustworthy, and listen to them and their teaching.  This one I certainly have done, and it has made a huge difference in my spiritual growth ever since I learned how untrustworthy my own local pastor is.

As to the specifics:  in these two Revelation messages, the pastor ridiculed the idea of a pre-trib rapture, claiming that such people think this is a way to escape persecution, and “only in America” would people come up with that idea.  He also dismissed the consideration of a future “Great Tribulation” as ridiculous, because every person’s own persecution is their own “Great Tribulation.”  He threw the name of Hal Lindsey around a few times, and related his short conversation with a literalist in a way that mocked such literalism with short-answer reasoning; he also generally mocked the literal hermeneutic as wooden literalism and how of course that doesn’t make any sense in a book full of symbols.

I got nowhere in my two emails in which I pointed out that this view he ridicules is not exclusive to extremists like Hal Lindsey but believed by respected, serious Christian preachers such as John MacArthur, S. Lewis Johnson, and Fred Zaspel (who he knows personally), men who he has spoken well of in other contexts.  He claimed to be completely befuddled as to why I felt as I did–after I pointed out how I could just as easily make fun of amillennialism with the name of Harold Camping or by claiming that amillennialists believe such-and-such when really they don’t believe that such-and-such thing (as for example his statement that pre-trib rapturists think that means escaping all persecution).  Other than criticizing MacArthur with veiled references to the “H” word in reference to Ezekiel’s temple (and I hadn’t brought that one up, as he never discussed Ezekiel’s temple in this Revelation series), he never acknowledged any of my points regarding the respected dispensational premillennialists. Nor did he acknowledge any understanding of my repeated words concerning the distinction I made concerning “Calvinist Dispensational” or “moderate/progressive dispensationalism.”  In his mind, clearly all are guilty of the same dangers and evils.

Overall, the experience was discouraging and demoralizing.  I understand well Paul Lamey’s blog comment:  ” I really despise getting into hand-to-hand combat with folks about so-called dispensational eschatology…  I see very few willing to get down to the exegetical level and work it out in the text.” I often (as many times before) wondered if this person really is saved, with such an attitude and hardness of heart concerning the things of God’s word.  Another big thought:  is he really this stupid, this ignorant?  Or is this just an act?  Some of it would be amusing if not for the seriousness of God’s word at stake.

A few things especially stick out, that really gave reason for concern.  For one, I had pointed out that there is a scriptural basis for believing in an objective, future “Great Tribulation” which is different from general persecution (2 Thessalonians 2 and the plain, normal meaning of Paul’s words there)– and that even if he wants to disagree with it he need not dismiss that view.  In response he ridiculed the idea:  why would you think that the Day of the Lord is the same thing as a great tribulation; those aren’t the same words and so how is that being literal?  (Not the exact words, but pretty close.)  Here especially I started thinking about what’s really going on in his heart, the spiritual discernment really kicking into high gear.  This person has a Scofield Reference Bible which he still uses as his main Bible; and he was steeped in Arminian Dispensationalism in his youth, though many years ago.  Surely he knows very well the scriptural basis for associating the Day of the Lord with the Great Tribulation.  I felt like retorting this very point:  that he very well knows this; that I am finding it very difficult to believe he is really that ignorant, so I can only conclude that he is acting ignorant and thus deliberately trying to pick a fight; either that or that he really is that ignorant, so which is it?  A few hours later I considered that such a thought could be expressed in a less confrontational and more understanding way, as a concern regarding his attitude here, and requesting a simple, honest answer as to whether or not he really knew what that “scriptural basis” was.  Of course, long before this point I also recognized the futility of even discussing the matter any further, and in my final response to him I simply said that there would be no point in going on about specific issues of interpretation, that such discussion would go nowhere.

The next matter was really intriguing, and this one shows colossal ignorance.  Whether or not he really is that ignorant, in reference to the understanding of the Day of the Lord and similar stuff, the end result is the same.  Stupid is as stupid does.  Someone who has left the Bible’s wisdom in preference to spiritualizing, allegorizing, human-focused reasoning, ends up just as stupid and ignorant as if he really had been that ignorant all along.

Throughout his emails, he kept saying that Fred Zaspel is historic premillennial, and that he can accept that idea as a biblical possibility, with brief descriptions of how that idea includes a future Christian millennial kingdom — but all this other stuff about the Jews having special purposes separate from Gentile Christians, etc., is just so new (“only since 1830”) and therefore dangerous and unacceptable.  As one who has actually read and re-read Zaspel’s articles on his website, to me such statements seemed really puzzling.  Zaspel’s beliefs clearly are in the category of progressive dispensationalism, perhaps more on the “Progressive” emphasis, but clearly within dispensationalism, including belief in the restoration of Israel as a nation, the Abrahamic land promises to Israel to be fulfilled in the millennial kingdom, and a future Great Tribulation.  I’ve even heard Fred Zaspel mentioned in high regard by the professors at Master’s Seminary, and by Jim McClarty.  So finally I took a different approach and simply asked him “what is your understanding of Fred Zaspel’s eschatology? how would you describe it?”  I remarked that I had read all of Zaspel’s articles on his website, and knew that Zaspel is highly regarded by other Calvinist Dispensationalists.  Thus I wondered if Fred had since changed his views, or how did he (the local pastor) see that Zaspel’s views were different from dispensationalism (with emphasis again on the type of dispensationalism I am referring to).  The polite response was most telling:  he really didn’t know the details of Fred Zaspel’s theology.  He highly respected Fred as his friend even though he disagreed with him, and they had had light banter about it but nothing in detail; and no, he hadn’t read Fred’s website.  But he again assured me that Fred was historic premillennial and didn’t believe any of that dispensational stuff.

Talking about what you do not know, as though you really do — characteristic, classic actions of the Proverbial fool.  I was reminded of this and its great truth, in my daily reading of list 7 (Proverbs) today:
Proverbs 14:6-7 (ESV):  “A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.7 Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.”

August 21, 2009

Bible Details Matter

Filed under: Bible Study,John MacArthur,S. Lewis Johnson — Lynda O @ 6:20 am
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Regular Bible Study and repeated readings of the Bible really help with understanding scripture and its meaning and context, and increase our ability to discern truth and error in the teachings of our pastors/teachers.  Consider the following example from my recent readings.

2 Thessalonians 3:17-18 (ESV):  ” I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

The previous day I had read chapter 2, which begins thus:
2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (ESV):   Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

It is clear from these verses, and the rest of 2 Thessalonians 2, that someone had sent a forged letter claiming to be from Paul, in which they claimed a false doctrine:  that the day of the Lord has come.  The reason for Paul’s closing comment in 2 Thess. 3:17 is also clear:  his original handwritten letter had some distinguishing feature by which the Thessalonians could recognize his writing as compared to a forgery.  As John MacArthur remarked, Paul must have had a unique signature that was not easy to duplicate.

All of this is so straightforward, so why do I even bring it up?  Something as simple as this can be twisted to teach something completely unrelated, as I have seen from a not-so-solid pastor.  Twice in the last fifteen years he has preached through the book of Hebrews, and both times he began his series with an “introduction” message that included many great “proofs” for authorship by the apostle Paul.  One of the “proofs” he cited is that Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18, said “this is the sign …. it is the way I write.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all,” and in the book of Hebrews the author closes the letter with the same phrase “Grace be with you all.”  This pastor then proceeded to show many examples (even having the congregation actually turn their Bibles to each of these passages) where Paul closed his letters with that same phrase “Grace be with you all,” and also showed how the non-Pauline epistles did not end with that same phrase.  In the pastor’s thinking, Paul’s comment to the Thessalonians that “this is the way I write” is directly connected with the next sentence “Grace be with you all.”  Therefore, any epistle that ends with that same phrase, including the book of Hebrews, must be showing Paul’s special mark of authenticity.

Obviously this pastor completely missed the seemingly obvious point of 2 Thessalonians chapters 2 and 3.  Paul’s concern was to show the Thessalonians some physical way to distinguish his letters from that of a forgery.  The closing phrase “Grace be with you all” could just as easily be put into a forged note as into a real note, and the words themselves say nothing as to the genuineness of Paul’s authorship.  After all, I know many people who sign their letters with “In Christ,” or “Regards,” but does that mean that all such letters were written by the same person?  As to the authorship of the book of Hebrews, I’ll go with John MacArthur’s and S. Lewis Johnson’s teaching on this: we don’t know who wrote Hebrews, but it was not Paul.  S. Lewis Johnson made an interesting point here, in a brief reference to the topic:  the style of writing of Hebrews is very different from Paul’s letters, and this is much more clear in the original Greek texts.  (From which it is also safe to infer that the above pastor doesn’t know Greek, at least not that well; and considering that he is self-taught, never went to seminary, that too makes sense.)

I don’t know the Greek language, but as a layperson who studies God’s word (in my own language, English) I can study it for its context and meaning, and along the way discern whether what a pastor-teacher says agrees with what the Bible says in its context, its meaning.  Some examples of such discernment are of course easier than others, and the pastors that demonstrate many obvious errors (as with the pastor cited above) easily prove themselves to be poor teachers and even false teachers.  Of course we can all find something we don’t agree with, or some factual error.  I’ve even found a few factual errors, in the use of certain sermon examples / illustrations, from John MacArthur and S. Lewis Johnson; though in these the error was with the illustration itself and not related to any actual biblical teaching.  After all, all teachers are only human and without perfect knowledge; but some are much closer to the truth than others.

August 11, 2009

The Rebellion of the Young, Restless, Reformed

Filed under: eschatology,S. Lewis Johnson — Lynda O @ 11:32 am
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I’ve been reading through and enjoying the eschatology blog series at HipandThigh (Fred Butler) and similar articles from Expository Thoughts (Matt Weymeyer, Caleb Kolstad, and others), and have updated my blog articles page with links to all these articles. Fred Butler wrote some good rebuttals to Sam Waldron, who so objected to John MacArthur’s 2007 Shepherd Conference message that he published his own book, and has since written many more articles dealing with the basics of Eschatology. Now that I’ve listened to 112 messages from Jim McClarty, plus S. Lewis Johnson’s 37-part series, plus reading through various online articles at pretrib.org and elsewhere, most of what is addressed in these blogs is familiar material.

Fred Butler makes an interesting observation in reference to his own story and that of others, as to why so many Reformed Christians are puffed up on amillenialism and quick to denounce the dispensational premillenial view:

It seemed as though many of them were like me: Raised in a non-Calvinistic, fundamentalist church whose leadership never really taught anything theological at all, let alone Calvinism. Those were doctrines I had to learn on my own from pastors I heard on the radio or read in books I had to obtain personally. At any rate, many of my restless young Calvinist friends came to embrace Calvinism because they, like myself, saw the doctrines clearly taught in scripture.

But, with this embracing of Calvinism came a total overhaul of their entire theological worldview, including the complete abandonment of a dispensational perspective and premillennialism as an eschatological system. …even though some of these dear folks say they are biblically convinced of a non-dispensational, non-premillennial point of view, from what I read on their blogs and at times discussed with them in person, I saw their change in eschatology as a final “rebellion” as it were against the non-Calvinistic churches where they were first saved and nurtured. In other words, if these churches were wrong about the doctrines pertaining to salvation, they had to be equally mistaken about eschatology. Thus, it was believed a more Reformed view of eschatology had to be embraced in place of the errant dispensational premillennialism.

In response to this rebellion, Fred also adds this important reminder (emphasis mine):

I am for theological reform along all areas of doctrine; but I am not of the opinion I have to become either amillennial or postmillennial in my eschatology, or even adapt amillennial hermeneutics when it comes to the interpretation and application of prophetic literature, in order to be “completely reformed.” I think R.K. McGregor-Wright stated it well when he wrote,

It’s important that we as Protestants who take sola Scriptura seriously, not treat patterns of doctrine, especially the reformed tradition of theology that we have learned so much from, as a “package deal.” In fact, “reformed theology” as we find it in the literature, is no such thing. Reformed theology is a particular tradition of understanding emanating from the Reformation, not an exclusive system of divine truth that cannot itself be altered. No theology has the same status as Scripture, and no confession of faith has the same finality as the Word of God written. All theologies are the results of human effort, and they partake of the failures and partial successes of the men and women who have contributed to them down through the years. They are traditions, not additional revelations. Reformed theology is itself reformable today for the same reason catholic theology was reformable in the sixteenth century. The controlling principle of sola Scriptura still applies, Calvin or no Calvin. (The Premillennial Second Coming: A brief defense, pg. 1, unpublished paper).

Having come to a premillenial understanding from a different background, I had not been aware of this “rebellion” among the “young, restless, reformed” crowd. However, I can clearly see this trait in several individuals I know. It explains the attitude of the young Indian missionary to India, whose financial connections to Arminian churches were cut-off after he came to understand the Doctrines of Grace. Recently he has been traveling around and visiting many “Sovereign Grace” churches to create a new network of missionary support. I was rather put-off, though, when he made a special point of declaring that he had also abandoned the dispensational premill eschatology, that he now realized that all that stuff was fantasy. It also explains the attitude of one person at my church, who apparently was previously taught and adhered to dispensationalism, but now will consider every other option except the futurist premillenial view. This rebellion even accounts for the local pastor’s anti-dispensational attitude. Though he’s not among the “young” crowd, he too was taught the dispensational view as a young person in an arminian-type church, later came to understand Calvinism, and now, though he still has his old Scofield Bible, outright rejects dispensational eschatology.

In all these cases, what I see is that they really never understood what they were taught, and they did not (and still don’t) have a good grasp of the Bible itself and what it says, except in a broad overview way. Instead they put great emphasis on studying creeds and the Church Fathers (especially Augustine) and the Reformers, falling into Dan Phillips’ number one of the “25 stupid reasons for dissing dispensationalism,” that “it isn’t cool to be dispensational.” Yes, that too reflects an immature, rebellious attitude of one more interested in man’s opinions than God’s.

God’s word is quite clear on the matter, and the more I read and study my Bible, the clearer it is. My eschatology begins at Genesis 12 (and as I listen to SLJ’s “Genesis” series I’m now up to Genesis 12) and continues strong throughout the OT and continues loud and clear in the NT. But those who uphold their amillenial and preterist ideas must of necessity put man’s ideas and man’s theological systems before the word of God.  The only way to come up with such ideas is when one imposes that “system” onto a text rather than reading the Bible at face value in the normal way of reading a text, according to the literal-grammatical-historical hermeneutic.

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