A New Apostolic Reformation

Posted by on Mar 23, 2015 in Apologetics, Featured

A New Apostolic Reformation

NAR (final   6-6-14)While there are sections of Christianity that believe the office of apostle died out with the original apostles of first century Christianity, there is a growing movement that believes this office has been re-instituted and will lead a world-wide takeover of the world by Christians. This movement is called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). While its historical roots are relatively short its influence has spread around the world.

Spending the better part of ten years in research, Holly Pevic, managing editor of Biola Magazine, has become an expert in her own right on the NAR movement. R. Douglas Geivett, author and professor at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, has also spent much time researching the NAR movement. Both Holly and Douglas have organized their material on the NAR into the new book A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement published with Weaver Book Company. This book is a more academic look at the NAR movement while the companion book, God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement, is a condensed version written for a lay audience.

Overview of NAR Movement

A New Apostolic Reformation? serves two basic purposes. First, the authors give an overview of the NAR movement beginning at its earliest roots in the Later Rain Movement after World War II and then critique the movement based on Scripture. Second, the authors lay out for the reader the size of the NAR movement which reaches almost every corner of the globe.

The NAR movement is based on two central beliefs: first, that the New Testament office of apostle has been restored to the church and, second, that it is a reformation within Christianity through which God will eventually convert all of the world and to which all of the Church must submit to and join. It is through this movement that Christ will take over the world (1). This movement is considered to be an army of Christ that will bring about what is called the “Great End-Time Transfer of Wealth” which will take all of the wealth from the world and give it to this divine army for redistribution to the righteous all over the world (2).

In their overview of the NAR movement, the authors systematically work their way through the entirety of their leaders, leadership structure, outreach extensions such as politics and media, main Scriptural support for their beliefs, and key doctrines that define their movement. The NAR movement has strong political influence, internet presence and spreads its message through powerful Christian T.V. networks like the Trinity Broadcasting Network and their own GOD TV as led by Rory and Wendy Alec (21).

The tiered leadership structure of the NAR movement begins with the prophets who receive special revelation from God, who then pass it onto the prophets and then to the church leaders. The Scriptural foundation for the NAR’s belief in present day apostles rests on Ephesians 2:20, 4:11 and I Corinthians 12:28. All three of these verses mention apostles and prophets as two of several offices God gave the church to grow it. Essentially, NAR followers believe that while Christianity, as almost a united whole, has believed the offices of apostle (like that of Paul) and prophet (like Jeremiah) have been gone since the passing of the first century, they have been wrong on this understanding and God has re-established them for today.

The main leaders of the NAR movement are Bob Jones, Paul Cain, C. Peter Wagner, Bill Johnson, and Cindy Jacobs. Some of their major ministry outlets include the International House of Prayer (IHOP) and Harvest International Ministry (HIM). They have extensive influence through print and internet publications such as Charisma magazine and they even have their own Bible translation, The Passion Translation, which apostle Brian Simmons claims he was commissioned by God personally to produce (8).

Overview of Authors Response

The response of the authors to the teachings of the NAR movement is broken down into three basic categories: the apostles, the prophets, and their view of spiritual warfare. Through several chapters, the authors carefully walk through the main tenants of the NAR beliefs and compare them with Scripture.

First, regarding present day apostles, the authors are careful to point out that while there was more than one kind of apostle in the NT, there was only one group of apostles that were sent by Christ Himself. It is this group that has most certainly died out. What NAR apostles have to claim is that Christ is once again sending new apostles and is appearing to them. However, they do not make this claim for themselves, nor can they. They cannot meet the Biblical criteria (85). The authors do a good job of presenting the classic case for why the office of apostle has died out and will never be brought back.

Second, regarding the present day prophets, NAR leaders believe that God is still revealing His secret will and plans (Amos 3:7) to present day prophets to proclaim to all of the church. They have the same authority as OT prophets (102-03). A distinct role of OT prophets was their prophetic role towards nations. This is something lacking with NT prophets (126-27). While some may rule out the present day gift of prophesy, the authors do not. They believe the gift is still given today (128-29) but the office (as in the OT) does not exist, nor does the word they speak apply to the universal church (129).

Finally, when it comes to the NAR’s view of spiritual warfare they hold to a dominionism theology. This is the means through which God, through the church, as revealed to the apostles and prophets, will advance His kingdom (150). The essence of “strategic-level spiritual warfare is the act of confronting evil spirits that are believed to rule specific geographical regions, cultural groups, and societal institutions” (151). For the kingdom of God to advance they must be “neutralized or cast out.” (152) The essence of the authors response to this teaching is that Scripture does not tell us there are specific spirits that claim certain areas, nor that we are called to name them and drive them out.

Conclusion

A New Apostolic Reformation? provides a fascinating and eye-opening look at a worldwide movement that is everywhere. I have personally run into a number of people throughout my life that I now know are part of this movement. There is no doubt that most Christians know someone who is involved in this group but do not realize it. This book will open your eyes to it and give you some basic help for coming along side of these followers in order to lead them to the truth.

I recommend this book to anyone who might know people involved in the NAR movement, to those who are involved in it and have some suspicions that things are not right, as well as to those who want to be more informed about the movement.

You can purchase this book from Amazon or Weaver’s site.

I received this book for free from Weaver Book Company through Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Read More »

ISIS: Loving Our Neighbors and the Judgment of God

Posted by on Mar 23, 2015 in Apologetics, Contemporary Culture, Featured, The Gospel and the Christian Life

ISIS: Loving Our Neighbors and the Judgment of God
m4s0n501

Old_Bibles-1.jpgFew issues are as volatile right now as the issue of ISIS. President Obama has stated multiple times that Islam is a religion of peace. While some strands of Islam may seek to have peace, the statement that Islam is itself unequivocally a religion of peace is a historical inaccuracy. Mohammed was a murderer who slayed not only his own people, but also anyone who got in his path that did not conform to his ideology. The true form of Islam isn’t peaceful; it’s always been violent. Any religion that views others as opponents to be dominated is not a religion that’s peaceful—it’s a religion of war. Islam desires war and to make everyone submit to what they believe. Now I realize that’s not what you hear on TV every day but it is a historical fact.

While Islam continues to be presented as a religion of peace; contrary to historical fact, the truth of the matter is there was once a man who committed terrorist’s acts against God’s people. That man was Saul who later became the Apostle Paul. Terrorists are nothing compared to the sovereign power of God. God can transform a terrorist and turn him into a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ. He did this with Saul, when He turned him into the Apostle Paul, a man who set the ancient Mediterranean world on fire for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Christians have been called to love God and to love their neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40). God’s people have been called to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48). Is it “wrong” for a Christian to pray specifically with regards to how they feel? Regardless, if one is comfortable or not praying the imprecatory Psalms, or whether they become a core of our prayers, such an approach should remind Christians that the world is full of injustice and God is just. With this understanding, the Christian can leave the wrongs that others have delivered to them in the hands of a Sovereign God.

Too often today the love of God is highlighted apart from the holiness and justice of God. The imprecatory Psalms highlight the anger or wrath of God. Furthermore, the Old Testament is replete with examples of God’s justice. Once a year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter into the Holy of Holies to offer atonement for the people of Israel. Before the high priest went into the Holy of Holies, the other priests tied a rope around his ankle so if any of the prescriptions and regulations the Lord had established had been violated, the priests could pull out the high priest’s dead body.

The imprecatory Psalms are part of Scripture. God is holy and loving. The God of the Bible is a God of justice who demands retribution to be paid for man violating His law, commands, and statutes. The imprecatory Psalms reveal a God of justice. With that in mind, the reader of the these Psalms needs to know the rest of God’s attributes, along with the fact that the God of the Bible is not primarily interested in smiting people, and sending them to hell.

When the totality of Scripture is examined, the God of the Bible emerges as a God who is loving, just, and holy. His holiness demands that He deal with sin. His love compels Him to pardon sinners who come to Him in faith. While the imprecatory Psalms highlight a crucial aspect of the attributes of God, the reader also needs to know the story line of the Bible which focuses on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 5:43-48 is clear that we are to love our enemies. The supreme command for the Christian is to love God and their neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus in Luke 6:27 declares, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” Christians can pray the imprecatory prayers, but they cannot act on what they are praying. For example, someone could pray, “I feel this way about this person God” (insert how they feel here about this person, people group, etc.), but they are not allowed to act on those feelings on their own accord. I would also counsel people to not tell someone that you’ve prayed for them in such a way. The Christian can pray the imprecatory prayers with the understanding that ultimately what they are desiring is God’s sovereignty to reign in that situation. Our goal as Christians should be to love God and one another. With that said the Christian is to “feel” how they feel, but they must express those feelings primarily towards God with a focus on His will to be done on earth.

One weakness of the diary approach to the imprecatory Psalms is it doesn’t take these Scriptures seriously. Imprecatory prayers are more than just a “diary approach” where people share their feelings. Instead, they reveal a God of justice. While the imprecatory Psalms passionately express how the Psalmists felt, they are also part of the Scriptures. As part of the Scriptures, they reveal an essential aspect of God’s character, namely His holiness and justice. Undergirding the imprecatory Psalms is the idea that vengeance belongs to the Lord. The Lord will mete out His justice in His time and according to His sovereign purpose. As such, while the Christian may/should pray imprecatory prayers, they also need to trust the sovereignty of God. When all of this is considered, we come to understand now that He alone will executive His justice on the wicked in His own timing for His own glory.

Read More »

Three Ways Pastors Should Address Cultural Issues from the Pulpit

Posted by on Feb 7, 2015 in Apologetics, Contemporary Culture, Featured

Three Ways Pastors Should Address Cultural Issues from the Pulpit

bible-199x3001How do pastors preach on contemporary cultural issues? Or should they? This is a question every pastor faces as he contemplates both the spiritual needs of his congregation, the questions swirling in society, and the weighty commission to preach the Word of God. When I pastored, I constantly wrestled with when to address certain topics, how to address them, and in what format. I’ve also observed and watched pastors of large and small churches organize their preaching. Here are a few ways I’ve seen pastors address contemporary cultural issues:

1) Textual: Personally I feel the most healthy way for pastors to structure their sermons is through the systematic preaching of Bible books. Expository preaching guides a pastor along, presenting to him every Sunday the text he is to preach, not the text he wants to preach. It helps avoid the kind of cut and paste approach we often take to favorite verses and help the hearer soak in the cultural background, the context, and the biblical author’s original intent. There is a richness to studying an entire book. What’s more, it prevents us from skipping over texts that are difficult or controversial. So how does this kind of preaching lend itself to addressing contemporary cultural issues? It simply forces us to address what the text addresses. It’s nearly impossible to preach through a book of the Bible and not hit on a contemporary cultural problems. The key for application is to not apply the text in ways the congregation is already assuming, but in ways they aren’t. We shouldn’t aim for Amen’s from people who already agree, but to find ways in which they will be provoked to think differently. So, for instance, preaching on the Great Commission in Matthew forces God’s people to think through what it means to “make disciples of all nations.” How does this affect our view of different people groups, of immigrants? Preaching through Genesis forces us to think through our views of the sanctity of human life. James confronts our attitudes toward the poor. Peter counsels God’s people about their posture as counter-cultural “exiles” representing the Kingdom of Christ.

2) Topical: Though I favor expository preaching as the majority of preaching content during regular worship, I do believe there are occasions for topical messages on cultural issues, particularly during times of heightened awareness, such as a dominant news story or special Sundays (Sanctity of Life Sunday, etc). I think this can be done in a well-thought out way. Sometimes this kind of message is called for if it is a time of crisis and the particular subject people are thinking about. There are ways to do this well, I think. First, even topical messages should be grounded in a specific text, if at all possible, to prevent proof-texting. Some issues are easier to do this on than others. With some topical sermons on cultural issues, it’s helpful to walk through the development of an idea as it moves through the canon of Scripture. I’ve also seen pastors do a topical series on cultural topics. This can be done well also, but we should guard against picking topics that conform to our own political positions or topics that we know will automatically get Amen’s from our audience. We should be holistic and address topics that the Bible clearly addresses, regardless of how they might be perceived by the audience. I think it’s also important, during a series like this, to teach the congregation that the choice of cultural issues to be discussed is not exhaustive and that the Word of God is driving the messages, not a set of talking points from a political party or movement. Pastors also need to work hard at separating their personal political opinions from what God has declared in Scripture. What God’s people need from the pulpit is to hear from the Word of God not from a carbon copy of what they get from cable news or talk radio.

3) Shoehorn: A shoehorn is a hybrid between a textual message and a topical message and it’s something I was often tempted to do as a pastor. It goes something like this: You have your preaching calendar worked out for the entire year but something big comes up and you want to address it so you find a clever way to make the text you are assigned to preach speak to the current cultural moment. I don’t advise this. People can always tell when you’ve shoehorned something into the text that isn’t there, making the text say something that it doesn’t say. Better to do one of two things: a) if you deem the current cultural moment important enough to address it on Sunday morning, offer a 5-10 minute intro before your sermon where you stop and say something like, “We are going to continue through our current series, but I felt it important to address this . . . .” b) schedule a special time for a talk on the subject or c) send an email or post a blog with your thoughts on the subject. d) if it’s really, really important, change your Sunday morning message and adjust your schedule. I think this option should be used sparingly, otherwise, you become a slave to the news cycle rather than a servant of the text of Scripture.

Other ways to address cultural issues: 

There are other ways to address cultural issues than the Sunday morning worship time. For instance, churches could schedule a series of classes or talks on specific issues. Tim Keller has done this with great success at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, building an event around a particular topic. Matt Chandler has also done this at Village Church in the Dallas Fort Worth area with forums on weeknights. I’ve seen other churches do similar things. I kind of like this format. It allows the church to go deep on particular issues in a way that may not fit for a Sunday morning series. It might also allow the church to leverage expertise from the congregation or from outside the church, giving people the opportunity to hear important perspectives from issue experts.

The church may also see fit to partner with other evangelical churches in the area to host a conference on a particularly important cultural issue or point their people to conferences hosted by other Christian organizations. Other ways to educate and inform people is through targeted teaching in small group sessions, book studies, and the use of the church’s online media (blogs, videos, podcasts).

Bottom line: Pastors should not ignore cultural issues, but should shepherd their people well by helping them think through issues biblically. There are ways to do this through faithful application of the text of Scripture.

Read More »

Authentic Living in Christ

Posted by on Sep 8, 2014 in Apologetics, Contemporary Culture, Featured

Authentic Living in Christ

static.squarespace.comAuthenticity is a buzz word. Do a search for authentic living and you’ll find thousands of articles explaining how to do it—from secular, eastern, western, traditional, progressive, and missional perspectives. Each of these groups offers a different liturgy (religious or not) and also a different vision for what living authentic looks like. Christians must not only know right doctrine, but must know right liturgy and right story and also the heterodox liturgies and stories to rightly make, mature, and multiply disciples. Here’s a few examples of heterodox liturgies and stories prevalent today.

Within the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered, & Queer) community, living authentic to your true self is a crucial element to their liturgy. It’s a crucial plot point and character maturation in the story of living authentically as a LGBTQ person—with all that includes. There’s heavy importance in coming out and also negative (mostly) implications to outing someone who’s not ready. As a Christian, it’s interesting that many Christians who struggle with same sex attraction and speak out about it openly, but aren’t out and proud are treated as Uncle Tom’s of the LGBTQ community. They’ve bucked the liturgy and are excommunicated from the community because of it.

One more example. recently the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and in several venues, social media platforms, and blogs I saw people who were arguing against the ruling. Many of these arguments centered around the perceived restriction of authentic living by an employer. “Who is my employer to tell me how I should live in such intimate matters?” Or “Women should be able to have sex without fearing that it will negatively impact their lifestyle.” Or “If my employer doesn’t provide me all options of contraceptive, then I don’t have access to contraceptives and that impedes my freedom.” There’s an implied point that authentic living as a modern person includes freedom of sex without responsibility and repercussion. Authentic living is cooked down to sexual freedom. In this liturgy, freedom of sexual exploration and exploitations without consequence is the truly authentic vision of the good life.

There’s something strong and wrong in these liturgies and stories. Even when irrational, even when proven to have negative consequences, people embrace these lifestyles and argue for them because the liturgy has engaged their hearts. There’s truth, in some way, that we are meant to live an authentic life—although Christians would argue this must be tied to Jesus Christ. But authentic living as defined by our current society would be chaos. A society ruled by the passions of what makes me feel authentic is dangerous because it’s subjective. There’s no foundation for right and wrong—only what I perceive as authentic to me as an individual. And who are you to tell me otherwise?

Christians cannot combat these affective liturgies and stories with rational arguments alone. We must engage the hearts which once won will win the head. James K. A. Smith in Desiring the Kingdom says, “Lived worship is the fount from which a worldview springs, rather than being the expression or application of some cognitive set of beliefs already in place” (136). Think about it. How many times have you heard, “Christians are such hypocrites because they believe x, but live this way.” In most cases, what we love shows by how we act and makes more of an initial impression on people than what we say we believe.

The early Christological debates of the church underscore the truth that our hearts guide our head. The ancient church had always worshiped a Triune God. They had always worshiped Father, Son, and Spirit as “one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance . . . But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal” (The Athanasian Creed). But the doctrinal clarity wasn’t there. It took centuries to formulate clear, succinct statements of faith for what the church had been practicing clearly and succinctly, for what had already grabbed their hearts in the liturgy and worship of the church. The affective worship of the church liturgy played a crucial role when came time to decipher orthodoxy from heresy.

What we must understand today is not only that authentic living is living in Christ (it absolutely is), but that we must make that truth beautiful—it must stab our hearts. We must tell it in stories that affect the heart. We must practice it in our liturgies (ecclesiastical and daily). Smith is helpful again on this point.

“While secular liturgies are after our hearts through our bodies, the church thinks it only has to get into our heads. While Victoria’s Secret is fanning a flame in our kardia, the church is trucking water to our minds. While secular liturgies are enticing us with affective images of a good life, the church is trying to convince us otherwise by depositing ideas” (127).

A few years back I was dialoguing with a young man who had rejected his parent’s Christianity and practicing the liturgy of the new atheism. During one of these conversations, he says: “My parents use to tell me that Christianity made things move like a car. If I didn’t continue to live rightly my ‘check engine light’ would come on and life would break down. Things have been better than ever since I’ve embraced atheism.” Among many problems, the parents were laying siege to the head, when the new atheism liturgy was conquering his heart. The new atheists were hard selling a picture of the good life to his heart—one which his parent’s rationalistic approach to Christianity couldn’t match.

I argued in a recent article that we must eat stories for life as Christian disciples. Part of that argument rests on the way God presents the gospel. Israel is enslaved in Egypt. She’s been in bondage for nearing 400 years. God has been mostly silently. Israel is disgruntled, angry, and skeptical. She’s bought whole scale the liturgy of Egypt. The Egyptians have sold Israel a defunct and moldy vision of the good life. Even after God redeems Israel, they occasionally murmur, “In Egypt, we had leeks, onions, and garlic.” That’s a head nod to the implicit liturgy of Egypt. It’s like saying, “Those were the good life. The slavery was a small price to pay for those.”

How does God redeem Israel? God comes in and gives them a proper lesson on doctrine, right? He swoops in and gives them the ten commandments. He says obey and things will work out for you. Not at all. He steps into their slavery and decisively redeems them. And he doesn’t just snap his fingers and have them appear in the Promised Land. He redeems them in a way that demonstrates that the Egyptian liturgy and its deities were a pile of steaming poop. He acts out a story that has kept the attention of young kids, adults, and everyone in between for millennia. We watch it go down slack-jawed. “He did what?”

He goes for Israel’s heart before he ever goes for their heads. And when God finally goes for their heads, when he finally gives the ten commandments and the rest of the law, he repeatedly says something like: “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today” (Deut. 15:15). Or hear Moses, when he reminds parents to rehearse this story to their kids so they don’t forget that God acted for his people (Deut. 6:1-2 see also Deut. 15:15):

1 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

10 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

He starts off with their affections. “I’ve acted for you. I’ve redeemed you. Now love the Lord your God with all your heart”—which is immediately followed with “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (v. 6). Or paraphrased: Love me because I’ve loved you and placed that love on your hearts. Notice after this affective start, how he couches the teaching in tangible, earthy terms. God is painting a picture of the good life. He’s saying, “Teach your kids what I did—when you sit, lie down, or eat in the house (that I gave you freely). And when you get into the land—with its cities, homes, food, clean drinking water, wine, and olive oil (that I gave you freely)—don’t forget I redeemed you out of Egypt.” Love me because I’ve loved you and placed that love on your hearts.

That’s a tangible picture of what a Godward vision of the good life looks like. Even after redeeming them, even while laying hold of their mind, he’s conquering their heart, their affections.

Paul follows this pattern in his letters. Take note of Romans 6. Paul is arguing for authentic living in Christ—against the crummy liturgy of “the body of sin” (v. 6). He paints a picture of the Godward good life by drawing on imagery of death, burial, and resurrection and contrasting that with the liturgy of slavery under sin and the liturgy of grace in Christ. In The Contours of Pauline Theology, Tom Holland draws these imagery out making them clear,

“As Moses, in the Exodus out of Egypt, took the people of God, for they were united with him through baptism, so Christ takes those who have been baptised into union with him from the realm of sin and death. This baptism into Christ took place in his exodus, in his coming out of the realm of Sin and death. It was a baptism into his death that all believers experienced, in the same historic moment” (151).

And in his commentary Romans: The Divine Marriage, Holland elaborates on Romans 6,

“Paul already dealt the possibility of an accusation of guilt being brought against the church for entering into another marriage relationship (Rom 6:7; 7:1-4). Satan will accuse Christ and the church that their union is not lawful. Should the call go out: “if anyone can show any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together in matrimony, let him now declare it, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace” he is read to cry out: “She is mine. She is already married.” It is into this awful scene that Paul confidently declares: “It is God who justifies!” The judge of the whole earth will accept there is a charge to answer, and Paul states why this is so in the next verse [i.e., we have died with Christ and have risen to new life]. Of course, if Satan cannot persuade believers that it was unlawful for Christ to take his people as his bride then he will find other means to charge them. The answer to all charges, whatever they may be, is: “Christ has died and is rise! Hallelujah!” (287).

What we miss so often when reading Romans, a book that’s majestically logical and structured, is that there’s a story here that grips the heart and its affection. In Romans, Paul is saying, “You were in an abusive marriage where you were treated as a slave and prostitute (Rom. 6). God became man and came to rescue you (Rom. 3-4). He put the old body of sin to death so that the old marriage was once and for all dissolved by our death in Christ and we are now raised in Christ a spotless bride (Rom. 6). Remember you have everything you need in Christ—you are justified, sanctification, glorified, and elected in him (Roms. 8). Oh Christians, see what God has done for you. How then should we live? (Rom. 12-ff).”

That’s authentic living in Christ. It’s doctrinally rich, but it’s driven through the heart. It takes seriously the truth that the Church is a story-formed community. A community where the law is built around love—love your God and your neighbor. Where God has put the law on our hearts (Deut. 6:6). Where God is concerned first with who and what we love because he knows if we love right, we’ll live right. Right affections will lead to mature disciples that multiply other mature disciples. And a church that returns to its root as a community centered on who and what we love will easily answer the corrupt liturgies of our culture. So let’s not forget to fight for the hearts of people, while we teach them to obey everything the Lord commanded (Matt. 28:18-20). Let’s remember how we have been redeemed and our common story (“God became man and did what?!” That’s truly a masterpiece of affective storytelling). Doing these things will help us disciple better as we engage skeptics and believers. We’ve got a better story, so let’s tell it and let’s aim for the head through the heart.

 This post first appeared at Mathew’s blog and is posted here with his permission.
Read More »

Book Review– Jesus Or Nothing

Posted by on Jul 10, 2014 in Apologetics

Book Review– Jesus Or Nothing

Today many Christians of all ages are questioning their Christian faith. Since 9/11 a new movement of bold atheists has arisen to question and even ridicule the Christian faith. While some are even saying that the Christian faith is outdated and Christians are uneducated and believe a bunch of fairytales, the Lord is raising up an army of apologist-theologians who are unashamed of the gospel. A new book Jesus Or Nothing by Dr. Dan DeWitt, dean of Boyce college, the undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes to counter these objections and help Christians to think carefully by comparing the Christian worldview with the notion of a godless universe devoid of true goodness and ultimate significance.

The author states his purpose is not “to offer finely tuned apologetic arguments- though there are several references to such defenses but instead to ask the reader to envision what the world would look like if the gospel were actually true” (17). Chapter one seeks to outline the story of the gospel. Here the author states his goal is to help the reader understand that “life boils down two categories, the ball or the cross. It’s either Jesus or Nothing” (31). Chapter two helps the reader understand the reason for our existence, while chapter three brings clarity to why we exist. Chapter four looks at grace and guilt and chapter five helps the reader understand the purpose of morality. Chapter six examines how to answer adversaries and chapter seven looks at the how Jesus gives meaning to life.

As I read this book, and spent some time afterwards thinking about what the author was trying to do in this book, I came to the conclusion that what he is doing is demonstrating the truth of C.S. Lewis statement that Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic or who He says He is. The Puritans said Jesus called people to a response and often divided His audience between those who would believe and those who would reject Him. The same is true today. While atheists and others have arisen to question and undermine the faith once and for all delivered to the saints, this is nothing new. Truly Solomon was right when he said there is nothing new under the sun. People may come and people may go but the Word of God will remain forever. His faithfulness endures even in the midst of attack and ridicule.

Often times Christians get the idea that they must understand all the objections to the Christian faith in order to respond to them. The best response to objections is a consistent Christian life. That kind of life testifies to the truth of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ like nothing else. As the author explains throughout this book, the rock-solid foundation for life that Christians enjoy is in and through the gospel. The author is right the gospel offers the explanation for the reason for our existence, grace for our guilt and meaning for our mortality. Whether you are struggling or wrestling with these issues or not, I encourage you to pick up Jesus or Nothing. Many people around you are struggling and they need your help. They need to see what a godly life looks like and how to respond to objections in a healthy God-honoring way. I encourage you to pick up Jesus or Nothing and learn from Dr. DeWitt, a man on the front lines helping train young men and women to know and make known the glory of the Cross in a world that views such proclamation as foolishness. I highly recommend this book for lay Christians, seminary students and pastors and those invested in teaching or training the new generation of Christian leaders.

Read More »

Book Review – Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World

Posted by on Jun 16, 2014 in Apologetics, Theology

Book Review – Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World

TruthMatters High school and college students are inundated everyday with challenges in their classrooms, from their peers and from a culture that opposes a biblical worldview. This often leads to students questioning their faith in a negative way, namely with an attitude of unbelief; rather than one to ask good questions of what they believe and why it matters. Often times in my experience this is because they are not taught to ask the right question which would help them to uncover the right answers. Asking good questions in my opinions is the byproduct of critical thinking skills that are often no longer taught in our schools anymore. Enter a new book Truth Matters Confidence Faith in a Confusing World by Drs. Andreas Kostenberger, Darrel Bock, and Josh Chatraw, a book that seeks to help young Christians understand that real questions about the Christian faith are not bad and can be helpful when asked with the goal of uncovering the truth about the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. Along the way the authors aim to help students learn to ask good questions and defend their faith in the midst of a culture they inhabit that is largely suspicious even hostile to Christianity.

Truth Matters like several others works that have come out recently, seeks to engage Dr. Bart Ehrman, one of the leading voices attacking the reliability of the Christian faith. I remember sitting in a class on moral philosophy at a secular community college in the Seattle, Washington area. In this class the professor, a man with very liberal leanings espoused his view of morality and whatever topic he wanted to engage. Being that I’m a Christian, my friends often asked me why I didn’t try to engage him and argue with him. Part of me wanted to and part of me did not. I was young at this time and knew I could stand up and speak out. I wanted to be sure I had the right motivation for speaking up because I knew once I did I would be immediately challenged. One day I did speak up and engage the professor. He came over to me after a break in the class and leaned over to me and said, “Don’t you ever make me look like that in class.” To be honest I don’t remember what I even said to garner that response but I do remember the look on his face. This experience while not reminding me of Ehrman who I’ve never met and never read still reminded me of the incident at the community college those many years ago. It is the spirit of skepticism that holds religious beliefs in question with a view to deny them and even dismiss them as merely a bunch of fairy tales and myths.

Truth Matters looks at the nature of unbelief and why so many people are attracted to it in chapter one. In chapter two look at the question of whether God is near or far from man, and whether He cares. Chapter three looks at how the Bible came into being. Chapter four explores whether the Bible has contradictions or not. Chapter five examines the issue of the accuracy of the Bible. Chapter six looks at who determined what biblical Christianity is about. Chapter seven explores the resurrection of Christ. The book concludes exploring what a reasoned faith looks like.

I really enjoyed reading Truth Matters. As a high school student I was engaged in several ministries aimed at reaching my fellows students. When I graduated high school I went to a local community college up north and started Servants of Grace. During that time I was also involved in campus ministry as the campus student leader. All of this to say that I personally experience hostility towards the Christian faith both as a high school and a college student. Most of the objections are not new to me but rather old one’s that have been repackaged to reach more people with greater appeal. This is the point of this book to address those objections and meet a huge need to help students struggling with questions. There is nothing wrong with struggling with what you believe but as I indicated at the opening of this review, the question becomes what is your motivation for questioning. If one’s motivation in questioning is to question blindly in order to validate one’s perspective that isn’t honest questioning. If one is questioning what they believe to gain a better understanding of it with a view to build their faith in the Lord then that is earnest questioning.

Truth Matters aims to ask good questions which produce solid answers which is also why this is a solid resource that I highly recommend. We live in challenging times and high school and college student face difficult questions and decisions on every side. I’m thankful for The Truth Matters, a resource I believe will greatly help and aid high school and college students, along with those engaged in ministering to them to be able to help them learn how to ask good questions and receive good answers, all the while for the purpose that readers will be equipped to contend and defend the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. I highly recommend The Truth Matters and hope and pray it gains a wide and far reaching readership.

Title: Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World

Authors: Andreas Kostenberger, Darrel Bock, and Josh Chatraw

Publisher: B&H (2014)

I received this for free from B&H book review program for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Read More »