Monday, February 8, 2016

LEARNING FROM JUSTIN MARTYR’S REJECTION OF A CULTURE AND ITS MUSIC


Today we have in Christianity a major emphasis on importing the sights and sounds of the culture around us into the church and integrating it into Christ's society so as to affirm the people in whose midst the church exists thereby, somehow, attracting them to Christianity. Part of this collective, in my view, is The Gospel Coalition who go as far as suggesting there is something racist or bigoted about not emphasizing, affirming and importing human culture into the church, as I have read them, repeatedly.

Let me suggest to you the view of Justin Martyr, an early church leader and prolific writer of whom we have many of his works. This is not to propose that Martyr wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as did the writers of Scripture but in reading his works, there is yet to be a Christian man or woman walking away from such an endeavor and not confess this was a man of great wisdom and doctrinal thinking.

In his “Discourse to the Greeks” Martyr stated:

Do not suppose, ye Greeks, that my separation from your customs is unreasonable and unthinking; for I found in them nothing that is holy or acceptable to God.
As well: 
And your public assemblies I have come to hate. For there are excessive banquetings, and subtle flutes which provoke to lustful movements, and useless and luxurious anointing, and crowning with garlands.
I encourage you to read the entirety of the translated document found here along with other early works of church leaders. 

Imagine Martyr Saying This Today

Of course my point is clear and Justin Martyr, I believe, serves us all well as an antidote to those who love their human identity with its culture more than that of Christ and his culture which stems from his Word and Spirit.

So imagine what Martyr would face from the likes of The Gospel Coalition, Russell Moore and beyond, in making these statements about a people, today, at least as I envision. He would be castigated and thrown out of any circle of self-proclaiming gospel loving, Christ honoring group. He would become the enemy, the bad man while this collective wags its righteous finger and rebukes Martyr for his intolerance, bigotry, racism and ungodly social phobias.

The truth is, sometimes whole cultures offer little, if nothing, that honors God. This is politically incorrect but then Justin Martyr wasn’t pledged to Cosmic Diabolicus, he was pledged to Christ and his views showed this.


Music Which Provokes Lustful Movements

Some, maybe many, Christians have argued that music is morally neutral and these arguments are based on the fallacious idea that morality only has to do with the volitional agent and all tools are simply based in context and in and of themselves, are nothing. Apparently someone forgot to inform the rather wise and holy Justin Martyr.

Like a fool, he recognized music which provokes sinful desires but even more precisely, "lustful movements" or gyrations. Whether he was attaching a label of immorality or not, he knew it was sinful, sensual and inappropriate. But of course we know better, now don’t we, and nothing is off limits for the church. 


God forgive us in our ignorance, arrogance and defiance of wisdom.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

DONALD TRUMP AND PETER THE APOSTLE: WHEN YOU PRAY FOR DELIEVERANCE DON’T FORGET TO OPEN THE DOOR WHEN IT ARRIVES


Remember the story recorded in Acts 12, where Peter is arrested and placed in jail? The story tells of Peter in jail and asleep when an angel of the Lord appears and wakes him. The angel then instructs Peter to get fully dressed and follow the him out of the Roman jail.

During this time some Christians were at the house of John’s mother, Mary, praying specifically for Peter’s miraculous release. In fact, it states that, "
prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God." It was to this house that Peter went after the angel of the Lord led him out of the prison walls and into the city. But a funny thing happened when Peter arrived.

Upon coming to the gate of the house, Peter knocked and in response to his knocking a servant-girl named Rhoda went to answer. She heard Peter’s voice and knew it was him so she ran back and told everyone inside, praying, that Peter was at the gate. And their response? Well, let me quote the text:

14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, “It is his angel.” 16 But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed.
Donald Trump and the Prayers of Many

For quite some time many people, Christians in particular, have been praying to God for a new leader for the United States come this election, one who shares many of their values with regard to nationalism and American exceptionalism. However, they know such a modern pioneer is less and less among us in the political class. Additionally, those praying know that America's future Executive must be a man or woman whose values, political motivations and decisions and personal constitution, haven't already been brokered by special interest financiers and backroom deals.


I am not here to tell you with certitude that Donald Trump is, indeed, the answer to many prayers but I do strongly suggest you consider that possibility. We don’t dictate to God how he answers prayers, we ask. We got a Savior born in a manger, God as a baby, hidden yet there he was. Another time we were given the ridiculousness of a river split in two and on another occasion, God gave his people a man named Solomon whose wives and concubines were countless. 


And in case I am misunderstood I am using these illustrations, not to equate the United States with the people of God, particularly because the U.S. is not a theocracy but a constitutional republic and God's people are the church. My point, instead, is to demonstrate that God answers the prayers of his people in peculiar ways at times and the United States has a tremendous Christian population who have been praying.

God is as audacious as his wishes. I don’t know who or what you were expecting to arrive on the scene in answer to your prayers but I do know that Donald Trump, with all of his alleged excesses, also has many fundamental qualities that are rather desperately needed today.

Possibly, just possibly, you need believe Rhoda and let Mr. Trump in.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Regarding Bible Teachers, When should a Christian be filled with Apprehension? Ignatius (of Antioch) Writing to Polycarp somewhere around 105 AD


In light of how we separate living and doctrine with so many popular Bible teachers, Pastors and Christian personalities where we use one to justify the other or the other to minimize the one, here is a line from a letter that Ignatius wrote to Polycarp:
Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, fill thee with apprehension.
 Often these days, what is considered worthy of credit (which means by their life and all of its associative properties as well as having a record of soundness, according to Ignatius' writings) wouldn't even get one a handshake with Ignatius in considering many modern Bible teachers. If you were to read his letters and have revealed to you what he, an early church father and disciple of John the Apostle, considered credit worthy, you would immediately understand what I am talking about. However, if you don't have time, let's just say, Ignatius' views would leave many of Evangelicalism's beloved personalities in a rather chilly place.

But notice his conclusion, that such a thing should fill a person with apprehension. Not that we should be a bit apprehensive but filled with apprehension!

As well, he does not say we should take this strange doctrine and somehow compare it to sound things that teacher has taught elsewhere thus, calm ourselves with this knowledge but to be filled with apprehension, even if they seem credit worthy

Ignatius has in view alarm bells going off like a 99 alarm fire. It doesn't mean, in fact, there is a fire, but you better bring the fire trucks because the smoke is rolling out. 

Past soundness, decent or notable morality and ethical living and sincerity of ministry as well as amicable dispositions do not exist to somehow mitigate when Bible teachers begin teaching strange doctrine. And for you to not be filled with apprehension when this occurs in a received Bible teacher, tells others, you, too, have a problem with your discernment. 

Well, Christian, who is filling you with apprehension in that they have taught strange doctrines? Or should I ask, who should be filling you with apprehension?

*Another similar question. Go through you list of known Bible teachers whom you believe to live in what might be called a godly manner and has a record of teaching right things but also has taught, now teaches or now associates with thus, approves, strange doctrine?

**I added a prefix to the title of my post, as my readers can see.

Monday, January 4, 2016

One Small Step for a Reformed Baptist, One Giant Leap for Evangelicalism: John Piper’s Ignoble Fade as Reflected by Tom Chantry


This is not an essay, per se, rather a qualifying lead into a recommended blog post about Charismatic (light some insist), Neo-Calvinist, Neo-Evangelical and oft theologically enigmatic Bible teacher John Piper by a Reformed Baptist Pastor named Tom Chantry. Tom Chantry is a name I have used once, in an article a couple of years ago when I wrote about the juvenile nature and anticipated decline of a once popular Evangelical blog, Pyromaniacs.

I referred to Chantry as a moon in waiting, so to speak, who appeared to be devoted to the ebb and flow of the narratives that Pyromaniacs produced via their articles and subsequent discussions in the comments section. However, it appears that Mr. Chantry has left their orbit, whether because they lost their gravitational properties or because he produced some polar magnitude of his own thus, pushing him away from their location in the internet universe, I know not. I really do not have a great deal of time nor interest in investigating the why, I suspect it is some of both.

My point is to bring to the attention of my readers a development which I am convinced is pivotal in the Calvinist community at large with regard to John Piper. Tom Chantry is as good an example as I can hope for with respect to the awakening of many in the Calvinist camps (and beyond!) who, for a number of decades, readily defended Piper in spite of his regular hermeneutic failures and their ultimately harmful products.

I want to spend more time writing my thoughts on this but for the moment, take time to read Tom Chantry’s article, What’s Inside John Piper’s Geodes? 


And for the record, my recommendation to the article should not be with any assumptions that I wish to be chummy with its author, Chantry. I do not personally know the man and have no desire for any kind of cooperation other than when someone elaborates on a matter and speaks the truth, credit must be given where credit is due. Further, it does not mean I will always agree with Mr. Chantry nor that I may not, tomorrow, level some form of criticism. This is simply a matter of objectivity.

So if you missed clicking on the link above, click here.

A Final Note 


My (and that of others) greatest criticism of Piper has always been toward the source of his errant conclusions namely, his flawed and sometimes reckless hermeneutic. So it was with great satisfaction I read Chantry’s identification of this trait as a major contributor to Piper’s failures and theological inadequacy which has been ignored or minimized over and over again for decades by his defenders. Many are waking up and smelling the brewing coffee. They have matured enough and gained enough spiritual and theological self-esteem not to be intimidated by gurus.

Understand, this isn’t personal, either. It is a matter of principle. Would I and could I help the brother, John Piper, understand his misguided hermeneutic and the damage some of his work has done, I, along with many, stand in line. He is eager and sincere which is to say more of him than many alleged servants of God. And he has said some right things but they do not somehow mitigate error and at times, gross error in both theology and practice.

Good reading, friends.


(*Some will get the Martin Landau and company reference. Secondly, Chantry’s article is not necessarily about Piper’s fade. I use the qualifying term as his article being a representation of the rousing of many in the Evangelical body regarding their shedding of Piper’s theology and practice on many levels.)