Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Heart of Gnosticism

I write so I can remember.  I had a polemic streak a few years back and declared war against folks such as Rob Bell who denied the existence of hell and the need for repentance.  I still have that streak but I'm backed by people in the Reformed blogging community, and I have since moved on to charismatic leaders such as Joel Osteen who preach useless positivity because it never leads to the Gospel.  Or worldwide heads of the church who can't stop opening their mouths causing me to lose more respect for them.

Though confusing, I do find Irenaeus fascinating.  He's reviewed some of the more infamous heretics: Simon Magus, Marcion, the Ebionites.

Among these people are a man who based a whole cult following on his personality, an exegete who rejected all Judaism, the OT, the OT God, and only read the Gospel of Luke, and a group of Jews who insisted the Christians still need to follow the empty rituals that have already been fulfilled by Jesus and which no longer apply.

Does any of this happen today?  Yes, and sincere Christians still fall prey to it all.  Praise God for his salvation because without Christ, nobody has any hope.  There are more obvious heretics who seduce women, team up with Oprah, deny Christ as the only way to salvation from the Father's wrath, support a libertine lifestyle. 

Then there are people who I believe are sincere Christians but seem to think that simple Bible reading and prayer are not enough to have a satisfying relationship with God.  I can talk more openly about this, but Sarah Young of Jesus Calling is one such woman.  Sola Scriptura is not her thing.  She presents all her words as if they were directly from Jesus, thus making her work equal to Scripture.  She is mostly sound except for a few things.  But the more extreme examples of this are Jim Jones who believed he was Jesus, that David in Waco, TX who thought he was Christ, and who led many people to their deaths.

Whether true believers or not, it is always dangerous to feel like you have a link to divine inspiration that no one else has.  This is the heart of Gnosticism.  Even from well-meaning people, it can leave a hole in people that would not be there had they simply sought out Christ in his word.

I know what it's like to feel lost and that God isn't giving you all the answers.  I know the temptation to seek people who have easier answers.  I remember going to a healing ministry in Augusta when mom had cancer and feeling like I did not have enough faith because she still died.  I still get tired of people who preach that we can demand anything from God.  I remember seeking the easy answers only to be disappointed and then remembering that God is sovereign.  He has all the answers and all the good endings but we still aren't there yet.  And it's his pleasure to share with us the journey of his renewing the earth that he sees, and I realize how unworthy I am to even have a part in that.

But whether I get confused or somebody else, the fact is, Jesus alone is our salvation.  He speaks to us in the Bible.  And he gives a support group called the church that celebrates Easter every Sunday.  We can approach him directly without an intercessor since he is that intercessor.  And sometimes you writhe in agony when you can't understand something.  Just the same, God's Holy Spirit uses hard times to shape you into something that gives Him glory.  In the long run, it's painful, but beautiful and is worth not getting lost in short cuts.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Irenaeus

I started reading "Against All Heresies" by Irenaeus again.  I stopped for a while because Gnostic systems are so complicated.  It's a bad soap opera.  This deity is married to this other deity and their offspring generated another offspring, and this woman got cast out of heaven by being to close to another Jesus.  It's too confusing.

One strange idea is that God the father is actually an offspring of Sophia but does not remember that.  He is the Demiurge who is the God of the Old Testament.  Meanwhile, Jesus is his father, but Sophia came out of the Pleroma of gods because she got to close to him and produced the Demiurge.

This all comes from people who still do not want to believe that God the Father and God the Son are the same God.  They want to think of Jesus as a marshmallow who is everyone's buddy, not the God of creation who also has wrath.

So I will no longer comment on all that.  But all the confusion has one thing in common: God reveals secret things to some people and they get a higher echelon in his kingdom.  Somehow they have to do something to tap into this knowledge.  In that time, they had to somehow get in touch with Sophia.  Does this happen today?  Does it sneak into the true church?  Yes it does.  It has not died down.  We still have people telling other people that they have to tap into tongue speaking or prophesy to receive the Holy Spirit's baptism when the Bible says you just need to become a Christian.  Leaders tell people that they need to do a certain thing to be higher in God's kingdom when Jesus clearly says that all his saved people are on the same level and counted as brothers and sisters of Jesus.  How much higher can that get?  We have Jesus as our brother.  We don't need anything higher.

But in this way men seduce people, promise quick answers, better wealth, and cause them to look into themselves when they need to go far from themselves and see what God says openly in his Bible. 

The moral: this attitude creeps into all Christian lives to deceive them away from trusting in anyone other than Jesus for their salvation.  Do not fall for it.  Trust in Jesus and realize that you need nothing if you have him.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Cr-ISIS

Apparently yesterday or this week, President Obama compared the ISIS antics to the church's antics in the Crusades.  Taking advantage of America's lack of education, the Pres wants his followers to believe that Islam and Christianity are the same and that we are both violent and peaceful.

Here is the truth behind the statement.  W. Robert Godfrey says it best: "The Bible can be a dangerous book if misused and abused. In the history of the church, the misunderstanding of the Bible has led to many serious problems, ranging from false doctrine to legalistic customs and misdirected lives. One of the most blatant examples of this is the Crusades: a series of wars led by Europeans in the name of Christ against Islamic states in the Near East during the Middle Ages."

First of all, the Muslims did take over Jerusalem and moved on towards Constantinople and other fine symbols of Christianity at the time.  They used violence, killed people, and usurped their land.

The Roman Empire had fallen apart and the only thing really holding people together was the Pope.  He became greater in political power and wanted to defend his folks against the Muslims, quite possibly even take back Jerusalem and Constantinople.

Using the conquest of Canaan as support, and depending on the lack of Biblical education at the time, people began to believe that God wanted the Christians to take up arms and defend her folks with a full-scale war.

Never mind passages such as Ephesians 6 that declare that our battle is not against "flesh and blood but... against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."  They had not learned that Israel was a concrete picture of the greater war with Satan and sin that Christ won with the cross.  With Christ here, and the temple gone, there is no more need for God's people to use force to conquer the kingdom.

Pope Urban II in 1095 began campaigning to stop the Muslims.  He offered spiritual rewards, full forgiveness of sins, and escape from Purgatory if men would do their spiritual duty to fight the infidels.

There is no mention that Christ already has completely forgiven sins for his people and there is no need to do anything to earn the forgiveness they already have.  There is no mention that Christ took a complete punishment for his people's sins so that they don't have to receive more punishment for sins committed later, negating the need for Purgatory.  There was no reminder that Christ told Peter to put away his sword when he cut of a servant's ear as Jesus was being arrested.

And as a result, men fought against the Muslims to regain Jerusalem.  And this war took them to Constantinople.  And they brought along men less concerned about God and more concerned about gold and glory.  Sometimes they fought the Eastern Orthodoxers.  Sometimes they raped and pillaged.  It is one of Christianity's most embarrassing mistakes, and no doubt the Muslims did learn many tactics from these Crusades that carry over into their Jihads today.

So yes, professing Christians, whether sincere or not, have committed horrifying atrocities in Christ's name from the Crusades to the KKK.

But we must also remember the greater horror done by Atheist mythology that sprang from Darwin's ideas.  Eugenics began, the Holocaust took place, Planned Parenthood arose to prevent the poor black people from populating the earth.  Slavery took and all time high.  Sadly, Christians were just as gullible to Darwin and his ideas and went right along with it.  However, all atrocities began when people began to look to themselves to save the world and not to the Lord who had already saved the world.

There is also the fact that all people on earth are born as enemies to God.  The ones he saved are here because God drew them to Christ who gave up his life and gave them his.  Afterwards, these people still sin, have misunderstandings, get mad, say stupid things, and people suffer for generations to come.

But at the heart of it, it is like that football player said when the Ferguson protests happened, "We don't have a skin problem, we have a sin problem."

Obama is that first grader who tattles on his friends when he does the same things.  There has been no President more supportive of slaughtering innocent children who happen to be conceived at the wrong time and who hates the pro-lifers who want to provide women with their true choices that will lead to both life and them not being stuck in poverty raising an unexpected child.

Yes, Christians need to defend their country, but again, we do it with prayer, evangelism, and sometimes even martyrdom.  Sometimes they may need to take up arms for self-defense but it should only be to defend life, not kill more of it.  And the state bears the right for the sword, not the church.

And despite what anybody has done in history, saved or unsaved, Christ is still perfect, and we still need to look to him for our salvation and stop dividing ourselves one against the other.  Maybe one day our President will see that.  By then, let us try to make peace with our neighbors and continue to defend truth and human life.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Put Another Nickle in

The Lord willing, I will start leading music in the summer at CCS's after school program/ summer camp.  I'm up to the challenge but also wondering where to start.

I have two friends who write songs for children.  When I was still a youth pastor and Googled "Catechism" I found a website for a woman who wrote songs for WSC questions.  Then, in 2012 I had remembered that someone at Refuge had told me that she went to a Reformed Presbyterian church in Covington.  Years after she told me that, I remembered, looked it up online, and started going to the Sunday evening service.  Turns out the same woman who writes the WSC songs is the pastor's wife and a now good friend of mine.  Judy gave me some of her albums and some of those songs may come into play.

I also grew up listening to this song called "Simeon's Lullaby" by the woman duo, Wendy and Mary.  One time my parents played it for a church we went to, and the bulletin said that they were friends of us.  That would be like saying we were friends with Simon and Garfunkel.  But thanks to facebook, Mary is a friend of mine these days.  Between her and Judy, there are plenty of plans I can follow in leading children in music.

My favorite growing up, however, is still Psalty the Blue Song Book.  A blue book with a face who sings songs with kids about Jesus.  I still sing "Amen, Praise the Lord," and the "Butterfly Song" from time to time.  He has so many catchy Scripture songs that have motions and dances and pictures.

I mentioned some of my ideas and heard that last year when someone lead music, the favorite song was "Locomotion."  So now I'm also listening to old songs like "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed."  How can I get a good mix of songs with good theology and just for fun songs and be fun but informative?  If any people I mention in this post read this, what would you recommend?  At least I have until after Memorial Day to figure it out.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Lady Huntingdon and the Lost Man

I'm posting an excerpt from Charles Spurgeon's sermon  "The Blood-Shedding."

    Let me tell a story to show how Christ saves souls.  Mr. Whitefield had a brother, who had been     like him an earnest Christian, but he had backslidden; he went far from the ways of godliness; and one afternoon, after he had been recovered from his backsliding, he was sitting in a room in a chapel-house.  He had heard his brother preach the day before, and his poor conscience had been cut to the very quick.  Said Whitefield's brother, when he was at tea, "I am a lost man," and he groaned and cried, and could neither eat nor drink.  Said Lady Huntingdon, who sat opposite, "What did you say, Mr. Whitefield?" "Madam," said he, "I said I am a lost man."  "I'm glad of it," said she; "I'm glad of it."  "Your ladyship, how can you say so?  It is cruel to say you are glad that I am a lost man."  "I repeat it, sir," said she; "I am heartily glad of it."  He looked at her, more and more astonished at her barbarity.  "I am glad of it," said she, "because it is written, 'The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.'"  With tears rolling down his cheeks, he said, "What a precious Scripture; and how is it that it comes with such force to me?  O! madam," said he, "madam, I bless God for that; then he will save me; I trust my soul in his hands; he has forgiven me."  He went outside the house, felt ill, fell upon the ground, and expired.  I may have a lost man here this morning.  As I cannot say much, I will leave you, good people; you do not want any thing.

Read the rest of the sermon.  You will see why I wear a shirt with this guy's face on it.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Interpreter's House

I don't plan on blogging much about Pilgrim's Progress, but I had more trouble with chapter 2, so I will write it out for clarification.

Christian has passed the Wicket Gate and has been sent to Interpreter's House.  He sees seven different rooms and without commentary, I was much confused.

Commentary from Derek Thomas's teaching series: every preacher of the Gospel is an interpreter.  Every church is an interpreter's house.  So here are 6 of the rooms and then I will consider the one room that disturbs me.

1. Christian sees a picture of a serious man looking toward heaven, holding a book in his hand and having a crown on his head.  This is a preacher, a man blessed with ability to lead other people to God's Truth.

2. Here, a man sweeps a room, but he only makes it more dusty.  A woman comes in and pours water on everything, then it is finally clean.  This is a picture of someone trying to find salvation by works and good deeds.  He only makes things worse.  Only Jesus, the Gospel, makes him clean.

3. Two children named Passion and Patience.  Passion is a worldly guy who must have everything now.  Patience gets to have everything for eternity because he was willing to wait for it, to trust God's promises no matter how slow.

4. A fireplace with a fire that grows despite someone throwing water on it.  Behind the place, Christian sees someone pouring oil on the fire to keep it going.  As a Christian, the world will do its best to douse your fire.  The Holy Spirit pours oil on it and keeps it going.

5. A man in armor with a sword.  The Christian life is a constant battle until we reach heaven.

7. A man rising out of bed trembling because he had a dream where God's judgment came and he got left behind.  This is not the Left Behind series.  This is simply a man coming to two roads: the popular one that leads to futility or the smaller, narrower road that leads to Eternal life.  What will he take?

6.  The disturbing one.  Christian talks to a man in an iron cage.  This man used to be a pilgrim too, but he turned away from his faith and now he cannot repent due to his hardened heart.  This scene comes from Hebrews 6, the passage that for me both confirms eternal predestination for me, but also challenges it.  People do come and lead the Christian faith and cause good.  But we also see people become more enamored with the world's values who then turn their back on Jesus.  This is a very serious warning to the true believers that even though salvation is a gift that can never be lost, they still are responsible for continuing in holiness.  The good news is that the Holy Spirit will fan this flame.  The bad news is that people still try to keep it going by their own efforts which never worked.

An example is Judas.  He was Jesus's disciple and worked with the 11 ministering and spreading the Gospel through Judea.  He betrayed Jesus, sold him to be arrested by the Jews, had Jesus crucified, and then hanged himself, never coming to a true release of trusting in Jesus's grace.  This was not the way with all of them.  Peter denied Jesus three times, but Jesus did bring him back.  Paul put people to death because he was against Christianity, but Jesus brought him back.  The thing is, there are people that God passes by in salvation.  They may look like savory ministers for a while but they are not and they fall away never to return.

I saw a meme on facebook recently.  It asked what religion the person was, and that person replied, whatever leads to the light.  Sadly, unless your faith is in Jesus, that light will only be the fires of hell and eternal gloom.  Jesus really is the only way to salvation.  God did not have to send any way to salvation, but he sent Jesus.  We must strive to continue following him with abandon and stop trying to contribute anything to our salvation or decide that what we think is better.  Nothing is better than Jesus and following his will.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mr. Copper

One of my favorite Doctor Who moments is in the episode with David Tennant where aliens made a replica of the Titanic in space.  It was a Christmas episode where viewers became afraid that angels would throw their halos at them and slice them.

In this episode is an "earthologist" named Mr. Copper.  He knows all kinds of facts about planet Earth, or thinks he does, and tells all the people.

"I shall be taking you to Old London town in the country of UK, ruled over by Good King Wenceslas. Now human beings worship the great god Santa, a creature with fearsome claws and his wife Mary. And every Christmas Eve, the people of UK go to war with the country of Turkey. They then eat the Turkey people for Christmas dinner, like savages!"

This famed earthologist got many things wrong when describing the UK and Christmas.  I always think of Mr. Copper when a well-meaning person writes information that exposes how much they don't really know about a subject.

I peruse a volume of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which is written by many people.  Some are accurate when they describe philosophies.  When they bring up Christian topics, however, they seem lost like Mr. Copper.

In the article "American Philosophy" they say this about the Puritans:
"The Puritans agreed with many of the principles of Calvinism.  They believed that God is absolutely sovereign and that man, beset with original sin, is totally dependent upon him.  Salvation cannot be earned by virtuous works; God has foreordained who shall be elected to the "Society of Saints," although presumably the performance of good works predisposes man's soul to receive God's grace."

Up until the italicized part, I mostly agree.  Yes, the Puritans were Calvinists.  Yes, we Calvinists believe that man is completely dependent on God and contributes nothing to his salvation.  Yes, we believe God foreordained the elect.

What is this "Society of Saints"?  In seminary and in all my reading of the Gospel Coalition, Ligonier, and other blogs, that term is nowhere.  We do not have anything we call a Society of Saints.  I can see where they get the idea because we do believe in the communion of the saints that can never change throughout history.  But no, there is no Society of Saints.

"Good works predispose man's soul to receive God's grace."  No they don't.  We just established that nothing predisposes a soul to receive God's grace.  God gives people grace because he wants to based on no condition.  Romans 9 is explicit in this when Paul talks of Isaac and Ishmael and then Jacob and Esau.  God chose Jacob to have his special blessing when Jacob and Esau were still in the womb.  They were both scoundrels who did unforgivable things, but God went with Jacob because he wanted to bless Jacob with Jesus's lineage. 

Now, we do believe that a person who displays good works is saved, but good works do not predispose a person to be saved.  Without being arbitrary, salvation is completely free of conditions, but still based on God's plan.

Back to Mr. Copper:
"It has often been pointed out that the Puritans' rejection of the authority of the church and their stress on the privacy of man's relation to God manifested a certain individualism."

What?  Rejected the authority of the church?  Never.  Their theocracy proves that.  It's such a misunderstanding from the outside that Protestants reject church authority because of their split from the Roman Church.  But no, Christ established the Church and will always have the complete authority.  Protestants and puritans simply reject the leadership of the Pope and to a lesser extent, the Queen of England for the Anglican Church.

The things we reject rely on meaningless rituals, place a man or governor on Christ's throne as head of the church when Christ is the church's only head and husband.  Without saying that the Prots don't also rely on rituals, oh we do, the church we reject places salvation value only on following rituals of good works and penance rather than simply trusting Christ's permanent payment for sin alone.  But other than that, we wholeheartedly follow the church and say with the church fathers, "If the Church is not your mother, then God is not your father."

Ultimately, Mr. Copper will never quite understand unless the Holy Spirit illumines him.  At least for the episode in question, the Tenth Doctor did send him to live on earth and learn the true earthology.  It is always my hope that the Holy Spirit changes a person so that he or she can truly understand Christ's headship, exclusivity, and why the reformation is far from over until Christ returns.