Monday, January 23, 2017

So Do You Think He Was Saved? Saul, Wesley, Luther, Etc.

1 John 2:19 reads:
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
"They were not of us."  They weren't saved.  I don't know if this specific judgment is made anywhere else in scripture, but it is a common question.  Do you think those men in Acts 19 were saved?  Was King Saul saved?  Was Wesley saved?  Was Luther saved?

Today in class it was, are old earth creationists saved?  I haven't minded being asked the question.  I answered it.  However, it got me wondering how much I really like the question and what it is really all about.

At some point in time, we are sent the direction of judging whether someone else is saved or not, sometimes biblical or historical characters too.  Our church has disciplined out members, what some might call excommunicated or disfellowshiped, and then someone will ask, "Do you think he was saved?  I've been asked that type of question enough, that I have a pat answer in my head that comes straight from Matthew 18.

In Matthew 18:17, Jesus Himself gives the instruction, "let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."  I would give a disclaimer to N. T. Wright, but he writes, "if they won’t listen to the assembly, you should treat such a person like you would a Gentile or a tax-collector."  The NET Bible says, "If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector."  I don't endorse any of these, but the Easy to Read Version (there is such a thing) says, "if they refuse to listen to the church, treat them as you would treat someone who does not know God or who is a tax collector."  All I'm saying is that these, either translations or paraphrases, say the same thing I would say, and they would probably consider themselves, I think, to be lighter weights in discipline.  I say, "regard them as an unbeliever."  That is a "heathen man."

You can consider someone to be an unbeliever.  That kind of judgment has to be made.  It does.  A pastor must have "faithful children" (Titus 1:6), which means someone is judging someone to be faithful or not.  At what point do you start considering someone to be an unbeliever?

As this regards Wesley, I have a hard time saying that John Wesley was saved.  Why?  He didn't believe in eternal security.  I believe there is one kind of salvation in the Bible and that is eternal salvation. Wesley believed someone could lose his salvation.  I often ask, "If you can lose your salvation, then who is doing the saving?"

Scripture is rough on someone who adds works to grace.  Paul said in Romans 11:6 that if it was works, it wasn't grace, and if it was grace, it wasn't works.  They are mutually exclusive, which is why in Galatians 5, he argues that someone that adds even one work to grace, it nullifies grace.  Since that's what the Judaizers were doing in Galatia, Paul says concerning these, "let them be accursed."

People want to know if they are saved on this side of eternity.  You don't want to find it out when you are standing before God, a picture we read in Matthew 7 with Jesus in His sermon there.  Someone, who thinks he's saved, will stand before the Lord, and the Lord will say to him, depart from me, I never knew you.  These are people, who it seems, thought they were saved.

I turned on the G3 Conference livestream to, first thing I see, a casually dressed rock band (jeans and t-shirts) and someone singing, A Mighty Fortress, with a kind of falsetto effeminate voice, right into the microphone, ice cream cone style.  The camera kept panning to the electric guitars, where they were jamming with a standard rock guitar jamming look.  Grimaces, bending backwards some. They had the now typical rock trap set too.  One of them, I could not tell, and I'm very serious, if he or she was a man or a woman, playing one of the guitars.  He or she had long hair and was wearing pants, but looked  androgynous.  I know I "get in trouble" when I write like this, because people are sensitive to this kind of assessment, as I have witnessed in the past.  They must receive total acceptance of their "worship," far more important than any criticism.

Then came on Steven Lawson, looking very formal with a suit and tie, preaching on his assigned theme, "justification by faith."  He used Martin Luther as his example, treating Luther as the greatest example ever of justification by faith.  I get asked if Martin Luther was saved?  What do you think? Lawson among many evangelicals use him for an example of justification by faith, and yet Luther believed in baptismal regeneration as you will continue to read in Lutheran theology.  Is this confusing on salvation?

I went to college and graduate school in the same town as a Lutheran college and seminary.  I played basketball, football, baseball, and ran track against multiple Lutheran schools from 7th grade to my senior year in college.  The football team ran off the field after a game so we couldn't evangelize them. This was the most conservative Missouri Synod branch.  My next door neighbor here in California is of that ilk right now, a very nice man, and he is depending on salvation by works.

In Bible class, I'm teaching through Romans, and I came to Romans 5:12, which says "death by sin." With old earth creationism, death precedes sin.  Lots of dying occurred before we got to the first man, who then sinned, in their formulation. A young lady asked, "Do I think old earth creationists are saved?"  I didn't bring up the subject.  She did.  That thought came to her mind when she heard what that teaching did to Romans 5:12.

By my own assessment, I think there is too much inclusion among the saved today.  Scripture excludes where we include.  This is unhelpful.  Part of the reason many want to know is so that they can find the salvation bar and get themselves just above it.  If we are going to tend toward anything, I think we should tend toward giving people the judgment that they might not be saved.  "I wouldn't risk it," is what I say.  Why do we want to give credit to people on this side of eternity?  If there is a question, then we should keep it a question.  That's how I read scripture.  Scripture isn't attempting to give the benefit of the doubt.

Many more people are unsaved today, I believe, than what people are saying.  They say, "Saved," but likely, "Unsaved."  The gospel has been dumbed down.  People are very disobedient and yet still given credit as saved.

One reason so many people are given credit as saved is because even the most conservative churches, let alone the ones not conservative, are giving people that same type of credit, not being careful with their membership.  I want to be careful about this myself.  I want to examine myself on this.  We owe this to our people as pastors.  Churches have a wide range of belief and practice that is allowed in their membership.  You don't have to believe this or this or this or this and you're still saved, and you don't have to do this or do this or do this and you're still saved.   It's a rush to the most lenient position.  It isn't helpful.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Keswick's Incoherent Surrender Doctrine: in Keswick's Errors--an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 14 of 17

The Keswick doctrine, adopted from the preaching of Hannah W. Smith at Broadlands,[1] that “the divine Potter . . . cannot shape the human vessel unless it is committed into His hands and remains unresistingly and quietly there”[2] is a Higher Life error associated with its crisis, gift, and process model of sanctification.  It is also connected with other serious errors about the means of holiness.[3]  Such a view does not properly deal with the fact that God works in the believer both to will and to do (Philippians 2:13).  Biblically, sanctification is intimately connected to God’s work upon the human will; but Keswick, following the ideas Hannah and Robert P. Smith obtained from medieval Quietism, downgrades the power of God for the sovereignty, libertarian freedom, and autonomy of the human will.[4]  Following Broadlands, Keswick undermines the power of God when it affirms that He “cannot” do a variety of things, including sanctifying His creatures, without their sovereign, uninfluenced and autonomous wills allowing Him to do so.[5]  According to the Keswick theology of Hannah W. Smith and the Broadlands Conference,[6] sanctification, and all the other blessings promised by God in the gospel, are totally inactive until they are switched on by the decision to enter the Higher Life, somewhat as electricity from a power plant is totally inactive in lighting up a room until one flips on the light switch.   Keswick, adopting the Broadlands’ doctrine of “full surrender,”[7] affirms that the believer is in bondage to sin until he makes a “complete personal consecration” to God, “also referred to as dedication and full surrender,”[8] so that he “commit[s] [himself] to Christ and . . . pledge[s] to be eternally loyal to Him as Lord and Master . . . den[ies] self . . . [and] definitely and for ever choos[es] the will of the Lord Jesus Christ as [his] Guide and Director through life, in place of [his] own will.”[9]  But how, if the believer is in bondage to sin until he makes this decision, can such a surrender ever take place?  Are not the Christian’s pledge of eternal loyalty to Christ as Lord, his denial of self, and his choosing the Son of God as Guide and Director of his life, actually a result of his freedom from the bondage of sin and not a prerequisite to obtain it?  Does a will in bondage to sin actually free itself by its own power before God steps in to do anything?  Or, rather, is it not God who first frees the will before it is able to be consecrated to Him?  Ironically, while Keswick theology criticizes the idea that “sanctification is . . . to be gained through our own personal efforts,”[10] it requires incredible personal effort—indeed, personal effort that is utterly impossible for a will in bondage to sin (as Keswick claims the believer’s will is until he enters the Higher Life)—to make the surrender Keswick claims is the prerequisite to God beginning any good work within the saint at all.
The problem in the Keswick doctrine of full surrender as a prerequisite to sanctification is connected to the fact that Keswick’s argument against literal perfectionism is untenable and contradictory given its own theological premises.  Keswick affirms that one must absolutely surrender before sanctification can truly begin; that through an act of total surrender and of faith in Christ for deliverance, one enters into a state wherein he is free from all known sin; and that a Christian’s ability to obey (by grace) and his obligation are coextensive.  However, the majority of Keswick’s advocates deny literal sinless perfection because, although “from the side of God’s grace and gift, all is perfect, [yet] from the human side, because of the effects of the Fall, there will be imperfect receptivity, and therefore imperfect holiness, to the end of life.”[11]  The exact nature of this “imperfect receptivity” is not defined, but since the Keswick theology defines man’s role in sanctification as surrender and faith, the imperfect receptivity must signify either imperfect surrender or imperfect faith.  If absolute surrender truly is required before God’s grace even begins to effectively work in sanctifying the believer, then a Keswick recognition that man’s Fall in Adam precludes his will from making a truly absolute, prefect, sinless surrender would mean that sanctification can never really begin at all.  If an imperfect faith and surrender allows the believer to move through progressive degrees of battle with sin to progressive degrees of spiritual victory, so that the more perfect the believer’s surrender is, the more victory over sin and spiritual strength the believer possesses, then the Keswick doctrine that believers instantly flip-flop from a state of spiritual defeat, carnality, and domination by sin to one of total victory by means of the sanctification crisis is replaced with something closer to the classic doctrine of sanctification, for victory over sin and surrender to the Lord become progressive.[12]  Furthermore, if the believer’s ability is truly equal to his obligation, then God’s “perfect . . . grace and gift” would give him truly perfect ability, and there would be no reason why literal sinless perfection would be impossible for the Christian.  After all, “God’s requirements cannot be greater than his enablements”[13]—so since God gives perfect grace, and the gift of “holiness [that He] requires of His creatures . . . He first provides,”[14] does not the literal perfection of God’s grace necessarily require that the Christian can be literally sinless?  While one can be happy that most advocates of the Keswick theology do not believe in the literal perfectionism inherent in their theological position, nonetheless Keswick opposition to absolute perfectionism is contradictory and incoherent.[15]

See here for this entire study.

[1]              E. g., Mrs. Smith preached at the 1874 Broadlands Conference that through a “step of faith,”  where the believer “surrender[s] himself and trust[s] . . . we put ourselves into the hands of the Divine Potter . . . [we] can do nothing [else]” (pgs. 124-125, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910).  Broadlands taught that the “potential force of the Holy Spirit” by such means becomes “the actual, when we are willingly receptive of His inflowing powers.  We must be willing . . . [t]here must be complete acquiescence” (pgs. 190-191, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910.  Italics reproduced from the original.).  For Mrs. Smith, the Broadlands Conference, and the Keswick Convention, the Holy Spirit falls helpless before the sovereign human will, while Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit is the sovereign God who works to incline and renew the will through His Almighty works of regeneration and progressive sanctification, leading men to fall in worship before the Triune Jehovah, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
[2]              Pg. 112, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[3]              In addition to the errors mentioned below, one wonders, for example, if unbelievers in rebellion against God, such as Esau and the Pharoah of the Exodus, were unresisting and quiet in the divine Potter’s hands before He hardened them (Romans 9:18) and they were fitted for destruction (Romans 9:14-24).  While Keswick affirms the Divine Potter “cannot” work until the clay acts a certain way, Scripture says the Divine potter makes the clay what He wills by His own power:  “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Romans 9:21).
[4]              E. g., at the Oxford Conference Robert P. Smith proclaimed:  “President Edwards’ teaching of the affections governing the will [in, e. g., his The Religious Affections] I believe to be untrue.  I believe in the yet older saying [of the Quietists Madame Guyon and Archbishop Fénelon], that ‘True religion resides in the will alone’” (pg. 134, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874; also pgs. 279, 331).  Nothing positive is said about the views of Jonathan Edwards at the Oxford Convention, and nothing negative is said about Madame Guyon, Archbishop Fénelon, or the Catholic Quietism of the Dark Ages.
[5]              For example, Broadlands affirmed that men need to feel sorry for the questionably sovereign God as He helplessly looks on and suffers when men rebel against Him:  “Looking at the sins and sufferings of men, we must remember God is suffering too, and we must have sympathy not with men only, but with God” (pg. 175, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910).  Men are not only to fulfill their duties to God, but also God supposedly has duties to creatures that He must fulfill; indeed, “Jesus is the revelation of God fulfilling His duty to His creatures” (pg. 213, Ibid).  Indeed, the Triune God is not, it seems, self-sufficient, but creatures are necessary to Jesus Christ:  “The Church, the body, is necessary to Christ the Head” (pg. 210, Ibid).  The Keswick doctrine of Divine inability and human ability was developed by Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts into the doctrine of the inability of God to Rapture the saints who have not entered into the Highest Life, and by the Word of Faith movement into the doctrine of men as gods.
[6]              Compare Mrs. Smith’s exposition of the impotence and total inactivity of spiritual blesings until individually activated by faith on pgs. 128-129, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910.
[7]              E. g., pg. 120, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910; pg. 26ff., Forward Movements, Pierson.
[8]              Pgs. 109-110, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[9]              Pg. 116-117, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[10]             Pg. 74, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[11]             Pg. 99, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[12]             This problem with the Keswick theology has been pointed out since the time of its invention.  For example, in 1876 Thomas Smith pointed out this flaw in the Keswick doctrine as explained by its founder, Hannah W. Smith:
Mrs. Smith’s requirement of “entire consecration” as preliminary to sanctification . . . [is] utterly subversive of the very doctrine that it is designed to establish, subversive not only of the doctrine of holiness by faith, as that doctrine is held by Mrs. Smith and her friends, but subversive of the doctrine of holiness by faith, as held by the universal [body of believers belonging to] Christ.  Be it distinctly noted that this entire consecration is uniformly represented as preliminary to the obtaining of holiness by faith, and as a necessary and indispensable condition thereto. . . . Mrs. Smith . . . places this consecration absolutely before the exercise of faith in Christ for sanctification, making no allusion to any aid to be received from Christ, or any working or co-working of the Holy Spirit, in order to the making of this consecration.  But what in reality is consecration but sanctification?  What is entire consecration but perfect holiness?  Either they are identical, or consecration is the result of sanctification.  In no possible sense can it be said truly that consecration goes before and sanctification follows. . . . Mrs. Smith’s system is simply this—Make yourself perfectly holy first, then go to Christ, believe that he will make you perfectly holy, and he will do it.  Of course she does not know that this is the meaning of her system; but all the more is she blameworthy for putting herself forward as the teacher of a system whose meaning she is incapable of comprehending. . . . [In the Keswick theology people] are saved [only] by illogicality and inconsistency from the legitimate fatal result of their erroneous beliefs.
              In another and quite a different respect, all the [Keswick] writers . . . err, not by excess, but by defect, in stating the doctrine of sanctification by Christ. . . . [I]n no one of the [testimonies mentioned by them] was there any approach to [gradual and progressive sanctification from the time of conversion.]  One was five years, another ten, another twenty years living in undoubting assurance of pardon before adopting the method of sanctification which they now advocate so strenuously.  But during these several intervals they had each made some progress in holiness, a very unsatisfactory progress indeed, but still some real progress.  But that progress, such as it was, was effected, according to their present shewing, not by that faith which they now inculcate, but by that striving which they now condemn as legal and carnal.  According to their view, then, there must be two distinct ways of sanctification—one far better, indeed, than the other, by taking Christ by faith [alone] for sanctification; the other inferior, indeed, but still real, by dispensing with Christ, and simply striving.  Now this is a far less evangelical and a far more legal doctrine than the orthodox, which maintains that there is but one way of holiness, as there is but one way of righteousness; and that Christ’s being made of God sanctification to his people, is as exclusive of sanctification in any other way as his being made to them righteousness is exclusive of justification in any other way.  In answer to this they would probably say that, in the interval betwixt their first and second conversion, they did not altogether reject Christ as their sanctification, but trusted partly to him and partly to their own endeavours, and that so much of sanctification as they then achieved was in virtue of the measure of faith which even then they exercised.  If they say this, then it is an important modification of their present system, quite different from what they have said hitherto.  But more than this, it will be fatal to their system, for it would utterly destroy the analogy between justification and sanctification, for which they so strongly contend.  For they will admit that he who trusts partly to Christ and partly to himself for righteousness, does not, while he so trusts, attain to righteousness at all; and by parity of reason, it ought to follow that he who trusts partly to Christ and partly to himself for holiness, must equally fail to attain any holiness at all. . . . It is enough to point out that t[heir] system, as it now stands, utterly fails to account for the admitted fact that some measure of holiness is attained by many otherwise than as th[e] [Keswick] system prescribes, and that some measure was attained by the present advocates of the system before they adopted it. (pgs. 263-264, “Means and Measure of Holiness,” Thomas Smith.  The British and Foreign Evangelical Review [April 1876] 251-280)
Unfortunately, although the severe problems in the Keswick doctrine were pointed out from the time of its inception, Keswick writers and agitators tend to be either unwittingly or intentionally ignorant of critiques of their system of sanctification and consequently continue to testify to and promulgate it, fatal errors and all.
[13]             Pg. 63, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[14]             Pg. 88, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[15]             Early opponents of the Higher Life theology noted “Mr. Pearsall Smith’s . . . confused and confusing theology” (pg. 87, “The Brighton Convention and Its Opponents.” London Quarterly Review, October 1875).

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Paradigm for Taking a Biblical Position that Makes Sense of Everything God Says In the Bible

For full disclosure, I've been doing a series on the gospel of John on Sunday mornings in our church. I've been in the book for about three years, I'd say, and I'm toward the end of chapter 14 now in the Upper Room Discourse of Jesus.  John was the first book I preached as we got started here in California.  I was still typing my sermons on a manual Smith Corona typewriter.  Now I use a tablet on my second time through.

The big news of the Upper Room Discourse is that Jesus is going to leave.  Life is very dangerous right now for the small group around the Lord.  They went to a lot of trouble to meet in private, because of the threat of the religious and then political establishment.  Right at this most turbulent time, Jesus is departing.  Not just that.  One of them will out-and-out betray Him.  Their leader would deny Him three times.  They had not lived their lives without His physical presence.  This was all new and Jesus instructs them in this new reality, how they would get that done.  For all of us, that's our only reality, living for Jesus without His physical presence, so all of the resources He provides them also apply to us today.  Jesus Himself says this when He prays to His Father in John 17.

While the Lord Jesus Christ lays out the truth for His followers' future, He identifies who He is talking to again and again.  The promises that strengthen and calm in light of His departure don't alight upon just anyone.  A limited audience should expect the fulfillment of what He promises and Jesus apprises the group again and again of this reality.  This isn't just for anyone.  Who will receive the benefits of these promises, the comforting realities and calming truths?  As much as anything Jesus repeats, He repeats that truth in a positive and a negative way to be very, very clear.
John 14:15, 21, 23-24,  "If ye love me, keep my commandments. . . . He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me."
Jesus isn't talking to just anyone.  Not just anyone will get the answers to prayer.  Not just anyone will receive the internal presence of each member of the Trinity.  He will not manifest Himself to just anyone.  Not just anyone will be enlightened with the truth and all the things that He said.  And so on through four dense chapters (John 14-17).

Jesus' promises are for those who love Him.  Those who love Him are those who keep His commandments, keep His words, keep His sayings.  The people who do not keep His saying, that is, do not love Him, will not be the beneficiaries of these wonderful blessings.  God limits the audience of the promises.  An assumption here is that people who do not as a practice keep what God says, don't love Him, that is, they aren't saved.

Let's take what Jesus was teaching here and see how it works with teachings related to what He said here.  This is a crucial passage.  Much of what is New Testament doctrine that we believe and base our lives upon starts right here in these chapters.  Jesus introduces the ministry of the Holy Spirit here like Pneumatology 101.  You have to look into these chapters to understand the work of the Holy Spirit in believers in the age in which we live.  The epistles will elaborate on some what Jesus teaches here. What I'm saying is that this is a very important passage, so this should not be seen as some remote location for doctrine in any fashion.

If someone either breaks this passage down in a commentary, a book on the gospel of John, utilizes it for his biblical theology, perhaps Johannine doctrine, or as part of his systematic theology, inculcating everything in these chapters into his system, certain teachings here should not be lost on his way to doing some of these.  Let me explain.

First, a true doctrine of salvation, a true gospel, should or must match up with what Jesus says here.  It can't be true if it contradicts what He says to His disciples here.  If someone doesn't keep as a practice what God's Word says, the Words of Christ, then He is not a saved person.  He doesn't love God.  Any gospel that makes room for someone who doesn't love God as a practice or doesn't keep everything that God says as a lifestyle, must be a false gospel.  You don't have your salvation doctrine right if it doesn't mesh with this message.

Second, and going further, sanctification relates to the Word of God, the truth.  A person is sanctified by the truth, by what God says, not by impressions or feelings that He has.  It must be scripture.  Your doctrine of sanctification is wrong if it doens't jive with this reality.  I say this second one as kind of aside, but I do not think it should be skipped.  Today men are often very subjective in their doctrine of sanctification.  Sanctification and love are very often disconnected from the Word of God.  They should not think this is how the Christian life is intended to be lived.

Third, the Christian life is dependent on words, not just teachings or ideas.  Jesus doesn't say, keeps my doctrines or ideas.  Actual words are the basis of the love and the obedience.  It reminds me of what God said through Moses in Deuteronomy.  Again and again, the blessings of the covenant are related to actual words or statements, not just ideas or thoughts or concepts.  They are not disconnected from those.  Someone's impression is not as important as the Words.  You don't have the doctrines or the teachings without the Words.

The disconnection of meaning from Words reminds me of the next Supreme Court justice of the United States.  I've heard people say that Trump wants to pick someone like Antonin Scalia.   Justice Scalia advocated a judicial philosophy of "textualism" or "originalism" in interpreting the U.S. Constitution and federal statutes. He opposed speculation about the intent of the drafters and the view that the Court must interpret the language figuratively.  Jesus is providing the basis here for a textual understanding of love and obedience and living.  Everything in the Christian life centers on the Words.  Even the blessings themselves are Words Jesus uses.

The doctrine of inerrancy today is right before our eyes being disconnected from Words.  Jesus doesn't do that, but people are doing it, because they feel threatened by the uncertainty that surrounds the text of scripture.  They are preparing their students or constituents for a Christianity that is lived in a more subjective or inductive fashion.  It's less dependent on the Words, but on what they would call "the voice of the Spirit."  They are not sure about the Words, so they look to this very subjective "voice of the Spirit."  Daniel Wallace and others are espousing this new position.  Because they believe there are doubts around the text, they have shifted the reality of doctrine around something more ambiguous that retains authority without certainty.  He thinks this will ward off major defections of seminarians, yet to be astounded by the existence of textual variants.

Fourth, readers of Jesus' Discourse should admit the assumption of preservation of the Words of Scripture there.  Same chapter in v. 26, Jesus says, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."  How do we know that Jesus' audience would remember all the things that Jesus said to them?  He said they would, so this is the truth.  Would they remember the message or the Words?  He never says, "the message."  That is reading into the text.  If they could later remember verbatim the Words that He said while He was with them, then anyone, including those He includes in John 17 in that prayer, could know what they were too.

The attack on preservation of scripture is an attack on what Jesus promised in John 14.  They would say that evidence is against a reality that we know what all the Words are.  How do we know anything if we can't trust what Jesus says?  The comfort and calm in light of His departure was based on His Words.  This is why for centuries until modernism that the church just received the Words.  They assumed preservation or one might say, presupposed it.

The modern "doctrine" of preservation disregards statements of scripture for so-called evidence.  The new doctrine is God has preserved the innocuous or vague "Word," singular.  He preserved His "Word," that is, not very Words, but something that is more of a moving target, a kind of vessel to read a lot into, the proverbial gumby doll.  This sounds something like Daniel Wallace's view of inerrancy.  Is there no wonder that saints are in doubt of doctrine and practice and application of scripture?

All of your doctrine has got to fit everything that the Bible says or it isn't true.  If your doctrine contradicts this Upper Room Discourse, then it isn't right.  You are conforming your doctrine to something else than God and the Bible.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Trinity Doctrine or Worship Music, Which Is More Important?

I have a sister three years older than me and a brother three years younger than me.  When my brother and I were juniors and teens, we would sometimes engage the brotherly conservation of "would you rather" or "do you like better"?  Would you rather get killed by drowning or by the direct hit of a nuclear missile?  That kind of thing.  Do you like this girl better or that girl better, neither actually good choices, but actually intended to leave the other with only bad choices.  The point of the exercise seemed to be leaving everything a bad choice.

For quite awhile, I have noticed a very common evangelical critique of fundamentalism is something to the effect that it's evangelicals who spend their time defending the really important doctrines, like the Trinity, and fundamentalists quibble over non-essentials.  Evangelicals pump out paper after paper, dissertation after dissertation, journal article after journal article, and, of course, book after book, defining and defending major doctrines of scripture, putting their efforts where it really matters. Evangelicals wrangle over justification by faith, while fundamentalists arm wrestle over Bible versions.

In an assessment of the choice of hills to die on, the evangelicals fight with liberals, who deny the faith. Fundamentalists fight with evangelicals and other fundamentalists, what some people call shooting or executing your own wounded.  One person in my comment section characterized what I in particular do as just throwing rocks at people.  As a member of cub scouts, I remember actual mud ball or dirt clod fights, sometimes a stone inserted into one of the balls or clods.  I've thrown rocks and been hit by them, and this, what I do here, this is no rock throwing.

Certain conservative evangelicals especially list as their major critique of fundamentalism, characterizing it as at the most on life support after careening down this cliff of self-destruction, its obsession with non-essential issues.  Adults, these evangelicals, contemplate bare cupboards in the pantry while toddlers, fundamentalists, tug-o-war a plastic toy in the nursery.  Fundamentalists should consider this criticism.  Some self-identifying fundamentalists push back by dividing fundamentalists into the historic fundamentalists, the ones who wrote The Fundamentals and that heritage, from a more recent mutation. They grasp the mantle of the original fundamentalists and promote the initial idea of fundamentalism.

I have a great fondness for fundamentalism, because it has taught a doctrine of separation.  I said "a doctrine," because I don't believe it is a scriptural doctrine of separation, but it's at least separation.  It's got some scriptural separation in it, even if it isn't following what the Bible teaches on the doctrine. Fundamentalists have written some good material about that subject that you will not see in evangelicalism at all.  Separation is holiness. Evangelicalism is not holy.  Unholiness and worldliness characterizes evangelicalism.  However, I do not self-identify as a fundamentalist in some part because of the same reason that evangelicals criticize fundamentalism.  That isn't the main reason, but it is one of them, even if people call me a fundamentalist by whatever definition.

With all of the above in mind, I want to take the evangelical criticism of fundamentalism into consideration by asking the question of the title of this post as a type of thought experiment. Evangelicals would say that fundamentalists would get sidetracked from something very important like Trinity doctrine by their over emphasis on a "non-essential" like worship music.  Is Trinity doctrine more important than the issue of worship music?

It is true that some evangelicals have been deceived on the doctrine of the Trinity, that they have a less than biblical or distorted view of the Trinity, and, therefore, God.  Even though fundamentalists might not give much thought to what they believe about the Trinity, you don't see the same kind of contortion of the Trinity among fundamentalists.  If it were a problem, there would be a greater emphasis on Trinity doctrine.  The reason there is a fight on the Trinity in evangelicalism is because that's where the perversion is occurring and probably due to the lack of separation in evangelicalism.  Fundamentalists would think that there are already many good publications written in times past about and defending the biblical, orthodox teaching of the Trinity.  Rather than write another book, they'll separate from organizations over their false Trinity doctrine, which is what the Bible teaches to do.  Evangelicals write a book on the Trinity, defending it, and fundamentalists separate from the false doctrine.

Ungodly, unholy, so-called worship music, I believe, is a greater danger today to professing believers to being deceived about God than wrong teaching about God.  The Mormons, Islam, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and even Apostolics I don't see swaying people in church to the wrong thoughts about God. The music is a major factor though.  People get the wrong imagination of God through worldly, fleshly, sensual worship music.  They say they are offering the music to God and that shapes what people think about God.  It affects what people understand about loving God.

False worship starts with worshiping the wrong God.  Buddhism is false worship.  However, false worship also occurs when worshiping God the wrong way.  Israel started with worshiping God the wrong way and ended by worshiping the wrong god.  The former precedes the latter.  First, God isn't worshiped, because He doesn't accept false worship.  The understanding of God distorted by the false worship turns into having a false god.

Doctrine and practice are corrupted faster by the music than they are by some wrong doctrinal statement.  What I'm writing here is a little more difficult to explain why Worship Music is more important than the Trinity Doctrine, but it can be understood if someone cares.  Someone should care if He wishes to preserve true worship of God and then the right doctrine about God.

We want to love the Trinity:  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, these Three are One.  We aren't loving Trinity when we engage in false worship.  We might believe the Trinity doctrine, like a Roman Catholic, without worshiping the Trinity.  If evangelicals believe a true Trinity doctrine, but then don't worship the Trinity, what is the point of believing the Trinity?

Nadab and Abihu worshiped the right God with strange fire.  God killed them for it.  The false worship music is strange fire.  God is holy.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Health Threats from Samaritan Ministries

In the past, I have published Dangers in Samaritan Ministries part 1, part 2, and part 3 (all of which can be accessed here.)  This is essentially "Dangers in Samaritan Ministries part 4," but I gave the article a different name, because I am going to be focusing specifically on how one is likely to die early if he takes the medical advice (that is usually disclaimed as not being medical advice) in the Samaritan Ministries newsletter.

Unfortunately, the promotion of quackery, medical nonsense, and non-scientific misinformation in the Samaritan Ministries newsletter seems only to be getting worse.  In the May 2016 newsletter, a two-page testimonial is given promoting the dangerous quack Ronald Wheeler, who the Florida Board of Medicine calls "a menace to society."  One member of the board indicated that Mr. Wheeler "looks like he's board-certified in medical fraud" and "one of the most dangerous doctors I've seen in a long time."  Mr. Wheeler takes desperate people with cancer, fills their mind with nonsense, and refers them to a clinic in Mexico where he is paid for referrals.  Patients have suffered serious negative medical consequences from his financially-lucrative quackery. So what does Samaritan Ministries say?  They say that he has a 100% cure rate for prostate cancer over the last several years, and from 2006-2013 the rate "drops to 99 percent" (pg. 13)!  They give an e-mail address where Samaritan members with prostrate problems can contact Samaritan to get in touch with people who have followed Mr. Wheeler.  Not the slightest hint of warning about this predatory huckster is given in the newsletter.  The medical advice in the Samaritan Ministries newsletter is dangerous to your health, and this sort of unabashed, unashamed spread of and promotion of life-threatening misinformation is getting worse and worse.

In the June 2016 newsletter, an article entitled "Niacin: The Real Story" mentions someone who was allegedly cured of a disease by taking "60 grams a day – more than 3000 times the RDA" (pg. 7). Taking 3000 times the recommended daily allowance of niacin is very dangerous – it could kill you. You could overdose and require hospitalization at 4.5 grams a day. The article states that everyone should take 100 times the RDA--so God must have designed food very badly, because it would be impossible to get the right amount by eating a balanced diet--and states that sick people should "go up from there" (pg. 11) to an unspecified, unnatural, and dangerous amount.  You are actually supposed to artificially consume so much of it that you start "flush[ing],"--that is, start experiencing a dangerous side effect which the article says "is not dangerous, and is actually helpful for determining the optimum dose" (pg. 6).  Science demonstrates that "long-term use is associated with liver damage."  This Samaritan Ministries article is dangerous.

The July 2016 newsletter contains a three page article (pgs. 8-10) by Joseph Mercola, who, as I noted in Dangers in Samaritan Ministries, part 3, makes millions deluding people and promotes terribly dangerous lies such as that "HIV does not cause AIDS . . . chemicals in our environment, the drugs used to treat AIDS, stress, and poor nutrition are possibly the real causes" and that cancer is really a fungusThis time he was not promoting these particular lies, but was promoting the quack idea that one should get 75 to 85% of total calories from fat!  He was also promoting another quack called Aseem Malhotra, mentioning a paper  published by Malhotra while neglecting to mention that claims in the article were withdrawn because they were inaccurateMalhotra argues for the crazy claim that exercise does not help you lose weight and does not appear to know that fruit contains mainly fructose not glucose. This Samaritan Ministries article is dangerous.

The August 2016 issue of the Samaritan newsletter promotes unproven ideas about autism (pgs. 7, 13).  As it is not enough to promote one quack idea per newsletter, apparently, it also has a two page description promoting a disease that does not exist, "Chronic Lyme Disease" (See, e. g., "Does Everyone Have Chronic Lyme Disease? Does Anyone? by Dr. Harriet Hall, and the links and scientific resources on that page), and the Samaritan article promotes ways to "cure" the disease that will actually harm your health.

Why does medical science ignore this allegedly real disease, the Samaritan article asks, which the article states has "more and more irrefutable evidence"? The answer: "the collaboration of some government officials, Big Pharma, and insurance companies to threaten doctors into betraying their Hippocratic Oath by denying the existence of chronic Lyme, all in order to cut costs" (pg. 11).  And we thought that the Conspiracy was actually doctors trying to treat more people to make more money; now they are refusing to give people long-term antibiotics to treat this fake disease, and apparently that refusal to give (unnecessary) antibiotics is also part of the Conspiracy.  When doctors prescribe, that is the Conspiracy; when they don't prescribe, that is also the Conspiracy, and somehow it is a profit motive in both situations. Apparently all the doctors who say that chronic Lyme does not exist are not following the evidence and trying to protect their patients from harm and unnecessary medication, but are in fear that Big Pharma (which wants less, not more, medicine dispensed this time, it seems) will come to get them.  Thousands and thousands of doctors, all medical colleges, medical journals, etc. who deny this imaginary disease are violating their consciences and the Hippocratic Oath and allowing people to be sick, although they do not do this with other diseases--they single out this one and allow people to be sick of it while treating other ones and curing people of them, even though not treating the other ones would also save insurance companies' money.  The Conspiracy even extends over the entire globe--in a world where the president of South Africa can deny that HIV is caused by AIDS, and where world leaders still follow witchdoctors, "public health services worldwide refuse to acknowledge the existence of chronic Lyme" (pg. 11).  It is amazing how much power those pharmaceutical companies have to control worldwide public opinion to reject the Conspiratorial Truth about Chronic Lyme, while those same companies have no power to prevent China and most of the rest of the world from ignoring their copyright and patent protections so that American pharmaceutical companies cannot make any profit at all from or stop copycat imitators based offshore who do no research but reproduce their products.

Of course, the promoters of Chronic Lyme have no financial interest in anything, but are pure as the driven snow.

The most dangerous part of this conspiratorial thinking is that someone with this anti-evidence, conspiratorial mindset will probably believe in unconventional therapy X or Y when he or a family member gets a life-threatening disease, and will eat cottage cheese to stop his cancer instead of doing what would actually work.

False doctrine is also promoted in the August 2016 Samaritan newsletter--a Roman Catholic who runs a clinic called "Our Lady of Hope," that is, to paraphrase, "hope in Mary--our Mary, rather than hoping in Jesus Christ alone--our God" is promoted as someone who "uses his interaction with patients to talk about their relationship (or lack thereof) with Jesus, allowing him to "evangelize in the exam room." (pg. 8)  Surely people will receive tremendous spiritual benefit by being evangelized by a Roman Catholic at a place called Our Lady of Hope.  Perhaps praying to Mary will also help cure you of Chronic Lyme, although Mary won't help you be cured of a real disease.

The December 2016 issue continues to promote the quack David Brownsten, who, as I noted in "Dangers in Samaritan Ministries, part 3," has claimed that he can cure Ebola by giving people vitamin C, but the "Powers-that-Be" are secretly working to prevent people from being cured from Ebola, while he prescribes levels of megavitamins that can actually be dangerous and harm people's health.  Samaritan is recommending this quack to people for treating heart disease, despite the fact that he makes the astonishing claim that people need to consume more salt--very dangerous advice for people with heart conditions (pg. 12).  This dangerous quack has multiple books that are reviewed on the Samaritan website and commended, with not a word of warning.

The January 2017 issue hits a new low--if such is possible--in its promotion of quackery.  This time its "health" misinformation article, "Sugar alert!" (pgs. 10-11) did not even include a disclaimer at the end stating that the article was not meant to cure, treat, etc. disease--while nobody believed the disclaimer anyway, it is no longer present.  While mixing in a number of true statements--of course, nobody believes that it is healthy for a person to get his entire caloric intake from table sugar--the article is jam-packed with misinformation.  It defines "sugar" as "sucrose" at the beginning of the article, although then it warns about glucose and fructose as well.  Sucrose allegedly causes everything from "cancer" to "compromised wound healin [sic]" to--get this--"low [not high] blood sugar"!  What is more, "fructose" is something "that the body [allegedly] can't use very well" and is "associated with liver damage" and "livers like those of alcoholics."

The article never mentions that sucrose, fructose, and glucose are found in fruits such as apples, bannanas, apricots, and blackberries--you name the fruit, it will have them in it--as well as the most common vegetables, from carrots to cabbages.  The article preys on popular ignorance of even the fundamentals of nutritional science and biology.  Of course, the molecules of sugar in these fruits and vegetables are identical in every way to the molecules of fructose, glucose, and sucrose in processed sources and the human body treats them in exactly the same way.  (The problem with table sugar is not that it is the cause of all kinds of diseases, but that it has no useful nutrients in it--it just gives the body calories, but not vitamins or minerals, has no fiber, and so on.)  The Samaritan article recommends, instead of table sugar, consuming "coconut . . . sugar" or "honey" or "molasses," leaving out the fact that these products are full of the identical sucrose, fructose, and glucose molecules that are allegedy the cause of practically every disease under the sun.

So, what does Samaritan recommend a person add to his diet?  Things that are "healthy" like "butter"!  If one wants a snack, he should "eat something fatty and salty"!  Furthermore, a "homeopathic remedy . . . can be helpful," so homeopathic nostrums--which, of course, contain not even one molecule of anything other than water in them--can allegedly have medical benefit.  The Weston A. Price foundation, from which Samaritan has reproduced its January 2017 article, is a long-time promoter of this ultimate quackery, homeopathy.  The open promotion of the occult quackery of homeopathy is another low for Samaritan Ministries--if the organization can promote drinking occult water to cure disease, they can promote anything.

In conclusion, the idea of Christians sharing medical needs is fantastic.  However, the medical advice promoted in the Samaritan Ministries newsletter is inaccurate, expensive, unscientific, conspiracy-mongering, nonsensical, and too often passes from being merely ridiculous to being dangerous to one's health and at times even life-threatening.

If you are troubled by the issues brought up in this post, please contact Samaritan Ministries here and politely explain your concern.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Modern Fear or At Least Repulsion of Applying Scripture

Jesus and the Apostles, the New Testament authors, treat the Old Testament with authority and as having one meaning.  They do not treat scripture with any degree of interpretative latitude.  They also make certain application, applying the Bible with complete certitude.  God means one thing.  Then He doesn't deny Himself.

The interpretation and application of scripture fits the reality of the world.  There is only one version of what has occurred from the beginning of creation until now, not two.  You don't get to have reality be whatever you want it.  It really is what it is.  Only what it is.

People can have their own reality, their own interpretation, and their own application.  It's all very flexible.  What's certain is that people don't want to be certain.  Uncertainty is the enemy of authority.  "I'm not sure" is a convenient excuse.

From the date of the founding of the Jamestown colony until now, there was a point in at least United States history where philosophy or belief and practice took a turn toward diminished confidence in applying the Bible to life and culture.  I'm not saying that nothing was unsettled in people's minds.  That characterizes a sin-cursed world.  There will be doubt in a sin-cursed world.

Premodern thinking, however, saw truth, goodness, and beauty as certain.  The standard was an unwavering, single-minded, solid, stable vision.  God created a world, breathed a Word for that world, and fashioned a man to live in it.  Man could understand the world through the Word which He inspired for faith and practice.  It could be understood, known, believed, applied, lived, and practiced by faith.

Fear and repulsion of applying scripture always existed, but greatly multiplied with modernism.  The world opposes God's Word.  With application comes scorn and persecution.  The nature of the flesh is to do what it wants to do.

We arrive today at music, dress, entertainment, and recreation, and believers can't or better won't apply the Bible like days past.  They don't have the confidence, which starts with their uneasiness with scripture itself.  Rock music, as an example, could never have been contemplated for worship.  Now the Bible can't be applied there.  If you do, you're now considered adding to scripture or reading into it something it doesn't say.  You can't apply the Bible to music.  You can't give any objective standard for dress.

God is not being honored because scripture is not being applied.  It isn't being lived.  When it isn't applied, it is being disobeyed.  God isn't being loved.