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(454) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: BIBLIOLATRY (Part 2) – WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE TODAY

In Part 1 of our study on BIBLIOLATRY, we defined its meaning – the worship (idolization) of the Bible.  We looked at how the word bibliolatry is used today showing that in some cases it is used more so as a personal attack on Christians who hold to the Bible’s view of it its Divine origin and authority.  From the verses we looked at, the Bible shows how the study and application of God’s word lead to the conversion of unbelievers (Philip’s use of Scripture in Acts 8:30-31); we are encouraged to know God’s word when we defend our faith (1 Peter 3:15-16); and probably a good passage that sums much of what we can say about the Bible comes from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

But, not to be outdone, today’s Christians face an onslaught of both implicit and explicit influences on their faiths to move in a direction that borrows mystical practices from early church traditions  (Roman Catholic mystics – “saints”) to more not-so-subtle mystical practices from Eastern religions (e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism…etc.).  The New Age also includes many of these perspectives. 

The editors at Lighthouse Trails put out a recent commentary on Bibliolatry and how it has become a popular view within the Contemplative movement (i.e. mystical) throughout Christianity today (especially with Evangelicalism).  The quotes in their article from popular authors/speakers/leaders are, in my mind, quite shocking (although I am not surprised anymore).  They reveal not only what these folks believe but also what the particular institution they are a part of is promoting to their students, theological journals, writings and books, future church pastors, leaders..etc.  I took the liberty of highlighting names and underlining portions of the article.

https://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=28301

They Call It “Bibliolatry” (Bible Worship) – But Could it Be a Contemplative Smoke Screen?

 

In an article titled “How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done About It,” Biola University professor J.P. Moreland says that  evangelical Christians are too committed to the Bible. He states:

“In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ,”  [Moreland] said. “And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.” The problem, he said, is “the idea that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge of God, morality, and a host of related important items. Accordingly, the Bible is taken to be the sole authority for faith and practice.(source)

While Moreland gives examples such as non-charismatics who steer clear of any and all venues such as “impressions, dreams, visions, prophetic words, words of knowledge and wisdom,” there may be more behind his statements than meets the eye. This idea of “bibliolatry” (the idolizing of the Bible) did not originate with Moreland. Contemplative Brennan Manning (who gets many of his ideas from mystics like Thomas Merton and William Shannon (Silence on Fire), once said this:

I am deeply distressed by what I only can call in our Christian culture the idolatry of the Scriptures. For many Christians, the Bible is not a pointer to God but God himself. In a word–bibliolatry. God cannot be confined within the covers of a leather-bound book. I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny of its pages will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants.”–Brennan ManningSignature of Jesus, pp. 188-189

Without checking the further inferences of such statements, some may agree with Manning and Moreland solely on the idea that we should not worship a leather-bound book but rather the One of whom the book is about. But few “over-committed” Bible-believing Christians would argue with that. Christians who believe the Bible is the actual inspired word of God know that the Bible is not God Himself, but it is the Jesus Christ proclaimed in that Bible who is to be worshiped. But they also know that within the pages of the Bible are the holy words, ideas, and truths of God. So for Moreland and Manning to suggest that these types of Christians don’t really worship God but rather pages in a book is a misrepresentation of Bible-believing Christians.

Scot McKnight is another who uses this term, bibliolatry. In his book A Community Called Atonement, McKnight says, “I begin with the rubble called bibliolatry, the tendency for some Christians to ascribe too much to the Bible” (p. 143).  Emerging spirituality figure Walter Brueggemann uses the term in his book Theology of the Old Testament (p. 574).

There may be a logical reason why these men condemn those who adhere to the Bible too stronglyAll have something in common – they all promote CONTEMPLATIVE spirituality. And, as we have shown time and again, those who embrace the  contemplative spiritual outlook, often shift their focus from the moral (doctrine) to the MYSTICAL as HENRI NOUWEN suggested in his book In the Name of Jesus:

Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen to the voice of love . . .  For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required. (p. 32)

In Moreland’s book, The Lost Virtue of Happiness, he talks about rediscovering important spiritual principles that have been lost. In Faith Undone, Roger Oakland cites this book in explaining the problem of mysticism:

Two of the spiritual disciplines . . .  are “SOLITUDE and SILENCE” (p. 51). The book says that these two disciplines are “absolutely fundamental to the Christian life” (p. 51). . . .  Moreland and Issler [co-author] state:

In our experience, Catholic retreat centers [bastions of mysticism] are usually ideal for solitude retreats . . . We also recommend that you bring photos of your loved ones and a picture of Jesus . . .  Or gaze at a statue of Jesus. Or let some pleasant thought, feeling, or memory run through your mind over and over again (pp. 54-55)….

Moreland and Issler provide tips for developing a prayer life. Here are some of the recommendations they make:

  • [W]e recommend that you begin by saying the Jesus Prayer about three hundred times a day (p. 90).

 

  • When you first awaken, say the Jesus Prayer twenty to thirty times. As you do, something will begin to happen to you. God will begin to slowly begin to occupy the center of your attention (p. 92).

 

  • Repetitive use of the Jesus Prayer while doing more focused things allows God to be on the boundaries of your mind and forms the habit of being gently in contact with him all day long (p. 93).

Moreland and Issler try to present what they consider a scriptural case that repetitive prayers are OK with God. But they never do it! They say the Jesus Prayer is derived from Luke 18:38 where the blind man cries out, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me,”(p.90) but nowhere in that section of the Bible (or any other section for that matter) does it instruct people to repeat a rendition of Luke 18:38 over and over. (from Faith Undone, pp. 117-119)

To be sure, the worship of any leather-bound book would be unscriptural and idolatrous, but we have never known or heard of a single case where a Christian advocates or practices Bible worship. As far as that goes, we have known countless Christians who respect (revere) the Bible as being the inspired Word of God; now if that were a point deserving criticism and condemnation, then we would necessarily need to place the apostle Paul under such scrutiny for having said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Was Paul a Bible worshiper? We know he was not. We also know that he never instructed anyone to repeat words or phrases from the Bible over and over for the purpose of achieving a “silence” (i.e., a mind-altering state). Such a practice is not taught anywhere in Scripture; hence, we propose that it is just such a practice that is a misuse of Scripture. Is it mere coincidence that in virtually every case where someone uses the “bibliolatry” argument, that person also promotes contemplative prayer, a practice that cannot be supported through Scripture? And by downplaying scriptural authority, cannot the contemplative viewpoint be easier to promote within Christianity?

One last case in point about “bibliolatry” comes from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho  (NNU) where Dr. Jay McDaniel was invited to speak. McDaniel is a self-proclaimed “Christian” Buddhist sympathizer. When asked by a student at the lecture whether he believed that Jesus was “the way, the truth, and the life,” McDaniel stated that if Jesus had meant to say that He himself was the way, the truth, and the life, it would have been egocentric and arrogant of Jesus – He only meant to point people in the right direction – letting go of ego and grasping love. McDaniel stated also that Buddhist mindfulness (eastern meditation) is just as truth filled  as doctrine and theology. He said there was an overemphasis in the church on doctrine calling it bibliolatry (idol worship of the Bible). (source

There is an attack on the Word of God. That’s no new thing–secular humanists, New Agers, and philosophers have attacked the Bible for centuries. BUT this attack of which we speak comes from WITHIN the ranks of Christianity out of the halls of highly respected universities and off the presses of successful Christian publishers, and it is being carried forth by those who gain access into the hearts of men and women through their use of contemplative spirituality.

What can we make of this idea of “bibliolatry”? The following statement offers some valid insight regarding this idea that Christians put too much emphasis on the Bible:

Today some are saying that the Bible is a lesser revelation than the Son. But if we do not make much of the Bible, then we cannot know much of the Son, for our only source of information about the Son (and hence about the Father) is through the Bible. Furthermore, if the Bible is not to be trusted,  then again, we cannot know truth about the Son . . . if the Bible is not completely true, we end up with either misinformation or subjective evaluation. Jesus Himself asserted that the Bible revealed Him (Luke 24:27, 44-45, John 5:39). (A Survey of Christian Doctrine, Ryrie, p. 17)

In summary, we find it rather odd that in a time in history when many churches are hardly even opening the Bible, that Bible-believing Christians would be accused of focusing  too much on the Bible. Our continual plea to all Christians is to be diligent in their study of the Scriptures and to be as the Bereans who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). We should also note that Jesus never corrected people for studying the Scriptures but rather for their lack of understanding them. Paul nailed it on the head when he said, “Study to show thyself approved unto God . . . rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Could this accusation of “bibliolatry” be nothing more than a smoke screen to further the contemplative agenda?

Additional information related to this article can be found at https://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=28301

 

=> Instead of diving into mystical practices, if you desire to know God and truly understand Him along with a desire for God to talk to YOU – open up your Bible and pray for His Holy Spirit for an understanding of His word (2 Timothy 2:15, 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

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(453) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY – BIBLIOLATRY

Question: “What is bibliolatry?”

https://www.gotquestions.org/bibliolatry.html

Answer: The term bibliolatry comes from combining the Greek words for Bible and worship. In a Christian context, simply stated, bibliolatry is the worship of the Bible. Typically, the accusation of bibliolatry is used as an attack on those who hold to the inerrancy, infallibility, and supremacy of Scripture. It is often employed as an inflammatory and derogatory attack on believers who hold to “sola scriptura” and/or a literal interpretation of the Bible.photo-1470549638415-0a0755be0619_opt

It is important to note that the charge of bibliolatry does not claim some Christians literally bow down before a Bible and worship it, as if it were an idol. While there may be some strange cult out there that literally worships the Bible, that is not what bibliolatry is referring to. The accusation of bibliolatry is that some Christians elevate the Bible to the point that it is equal with God, or to the point that studying the Bible is more important than developing a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Is the charge of bibliolatry accurate?

First, it is important to understand what the Bible says about itself. Second Timothy 3:16-17 declares, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” So, if the Bible is “God-breathed,” and “God does not lie” (Titus 1:2), then every word in the Bible must be true. Believing in an inerrant, infallible, and authoritative Bible is not bibliolatry. Rather, it is simply believing what the Bible says about itself. Further, believing what the Bible says about itself is in fact worshipping the God who breathed out His Word. Only a perfect, infallible, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God could create written revelation that is itself perfect and infallible.

Do some believers emphasize the Bible to the point that other things of importance—such as tradition, nature, reason, and experience—are neglected? Yes. However, the Bible, based on what it says about itself, must be a higher authority than any of these and must, in fact, be the authority against which they are judged. God would never contradict Himself by revealing something in nature, reason, or experience that disagrees with what He revealed in His Word. The Bible is not to be worshipped, but the God of the Bible is to be worshipped. To ignore what God has revealed about Himself in His Word and instead elevate the subjective “revelations” of nature, reason, and experience is idolatry (Romans 1:18-25).

The Bible is not God. The Bible does not contain all of God’s knowledge. While the Bible gives principles that apply to every situation, it does not explicitly give us all the information we need to daily live our lives. Part of the problem is that some Christians take the saying “the Bible says it, that settles it, I believe it” to extremes. While the statement is absolutely true and should reflect how we view the Bible, God’s Word does not instruct us to abandon our brains or ignore our experiences. True reason is completely compatible with Scripture. Experience can help us in our understanding of Scripture. While the Bible must be our authority, we must also use it to confirm and verify the conclusions we reach with our God-given reason and God-directed experience (1 Peter 3:15). Believing what the Bible says about itself is not bibliolatry. Rather, accepting God’s Word for what it claims to be is in fact worshipping the God who breathed it.

(482) DISCIPLEMAKING 101 – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

I wish I could say that disciple-making is an emerging trend in the church today, but I don’t think it really is. 

It is really not that complicated.  Think about what the last words that Jesus proclaimed while walking on the earth before his ascension into heaven.  Would it be unreasonable to assume that someone’s last words before departing would carry some level of significance and importance?  Jesus commissioned us, the church, to GO and MAKE DISCIPLES. 

The Great Commission – Matthew 28:18-20

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “Disciplemaking_2_updated-300x200All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (New King James Version)

Regardless, it may be the most important hole in American Christianity from a biblical point of view.  The effects of this hole, can result in more people moving away from the Faith given to us from God’s word.  The void gets filled with whatever the latest trends are spreading within the church.  Unfortunately, we are usually not talking about replacing one aspect of our faith with a different aspect of our faith.  Rather, many in the church today seek out something that is NEW, AUTHENTIC, BOLD, ATTRACTIVE TO THE YOUTH,….etc.  Descriptions used to describe these include words such as MISSIONAL, INCARNATIONAl….etc.  In some cases, people/churches don’t even teach, train, participate…etc. in discipling others.  

SUMMARY

In Alliance Life magazine, C&MA Pastor John Soper wrote an important article on Disciplemaking.

It is good to see a focus on one of the most important aspects of our faith – yet one that gets overlooked by the church – many times nonintentionally because it is assumed to be taking place by church activities such as sitting in on a Sunday sermon. But, that doesn’t provide all of the educational teaching aspects of learning to live out your faith as well as the mentoring relationship with engaging in your Christian walk with other Christians.

Unfortunately, there are also intentional reasons that groups today either manipulate core principles of discipleship to fit their own contemporary perceived view of what they think Christians “should” be doing today. New words, new descriptions, new catchphrases, new fads…etc. sweep through the church such as “missional” and “incarnational” – commonly echoed in Liberal, Progressive and Emerging Church groups. The focus goes from being a biblically based approach to growing in the faith to a glorified social program out in a community and away from the church.

Pastor Soper his on several key aspects of discipleship and how the leadership in the church can take key steps to follow through – in some cases, they need to change their focus back to what is simply stated in Scripture. That can be difficult to do for some today with all of the Mega Church growth strategies, techniques and practices to reach the Millenials, being missional…..etc.

Soper’s points are well stated – 

“There are other tools that God uses to shape our lives—special experiences that He sovereignly brings into our lives and people who arrive at just the right moment with just the right message—but the primary tools the Holy Spirit uses to shape and form us are the Word of God and prayer.

My primary role as a disciplemaker is then to get men and women into the Word of God—the supernatural Word that is “living and active [and] sharper than any double–edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). I firmly believe that when men and women engage the Word of God with open hearts and open minds, it always changes them.

My primary goal as a disciplemaking pastor will always be to get my people into the Word of God. Then I can count on the Holy Spirit to do something supernatural in them. There is more to being a fully devoted follower of Christ than simply knowing what the Bible says, but until men and women read and learn the Scripture for themselves, they can never become mature disciples.”

http://www.cmalliance.org/alife/disciplemaking-101/

DISCIPLEMAKING 101

By 

 

“Are you guys really sure this is what Jesus told you to do?” That question was posed by an atheist named Matt Casper who had been hired by Jim Henderson to visit several well-known American churches with him. Henderson wanted to get a fresh look at church through the eyes of an unbeliever. Casper’s question came during a debriefing session after their visit to one of America’s well-known mega-churches. I think it’s a good question.

After all, Jesus didn’t tell us to build big churches. He didn’t tell us to build any kind of churches. (I seem to remember Him saying that He would do that.) He told us instead that we should “make disciples . . . baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20).

But after nearly 45 years of ministry, I have sadly concluded we are not terribly proficient at doing that. Our churches are busy places full of life and activity. Some of them are large churches doing many good things and serving both believers and a host of men, women, and children who have not yet decided to become Jesus followers. But we are not producing very many fully devoted “disciples” of the sort that were to be found in the first-century church that Jesus left behind—people who identify with Christ in baptism, who obey His commands, who share His values and priorities, and then proceed to change their world for God by reproducing themselves in the lives of others.

I have no special methodology to propose. In fact, I am fairly certain that “one size” does not “fit all” in this business of making disciples. But I can perhaps offer a few preliminary observations that may in part explain why, despite all the advantages that our North American churches possess, we have not done a better job of carrying out Christ’s LAST command.

You First

First, to be effective in the task of making disciples of others, I must be a fully devoted disciple myself. It is, after all, difficult to lead someone else to a place that we have never ourselves visited.

Two of the most challenging verses in all of the New Testament are Luke 6:39–40 in which Jesus says: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student [disciple] is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” If the people I disciple do not look as much like Jesus as they ought, the likely reason is because they look too much like me.

My son is a graduate of West Point, and I well remember my shock as a parent when he entered the academy for his first (“plebe”) year. For that entire year, his responses to all upperclassmen and officers on the campus were limited. When addressed, he could answer in only one of four phrases: “Yes, sir (or ma’am),” “No, sir,” “I do not understand, sir,” or “No excuses, sir.”

This rule seemed unnecessarily restrictive to me as a parent, so I asked an officer about it. His answer was revealing. “Our job here,” he explained, “is to produce leaders of character for the nation. But before you can learn to be a leader, you first have to learn to be a follower.”

If there are areas of my own life in which I have found it difficult to obey the commands of Christ or perhaps even refused to follow Him, I will never be able to say to those whom I have been called to lead: “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).

Focus on the Few

Second, it’s possible that in my preoccupation with building a healthy (and a larger) church, I have neglected the more important task of making disciples. Growing a church, at least in our North American context, is essentially a “large group” activity, but making disciples is, by its very nature, a much more selective process. In Robert Coleman’s book – The Master Plan of Evangelism, he makes the important point that while Jesus never neglected the masses, He clearly focused on the few.

UNTIL men and women read and learn the SCRIPTURE for themselves, they can never become MATURE disciples.

That observation runs counter to almost everything I was taught in seminary and in the culture of the American church at the end of the 20th century. My seminary education taught me to think that preparing a 30-minute sermon was the most important task of a competent pastor. And the leaders of the church-growth movement taught me to see myself not as a “shepherd” (an image rooted deeply in the soil of both the Old and New Testaments) but as a “rancher.”

Discipleship is all about dynamic life transformation. The most obvious and lasting “fruit” in terms of changed lives that I can point to in my nearly five decades of ministry are the years my wife and I spent planting new churches. As I reflect upon those years of blessing, I now suspect that one reason for this is that there was no “crowd” to distract us from the primary task of making disciples.

Please understand that I am not opposed to large and growing churches. I am merely suggesting that the focus that Jesus Himself placed upon making disciples must be retained as primary even in the face of the demands of ministering to the “crowd.”

Two Tools

Third, I have come to understand that even though my focus as a shepherd needs to be on the great task of making disciples, the transformation of a human life is a task that requires a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit. In the end, He is the disciplemaker, not me. I cannot effect the changes God wants to make in people’s lives, but I can teach them how to use the two most powerful tools that the Holy Spirit uses to form them into the image of Christ. Those tools are the WORD OF GOD and PRAYER. 

There are other tools that God uses to shape our lives—special experiences that He sovereignly brings into our lives and people who arrive at just the right moment with just the right message—but the PRIMARY tools the Holy Spirit uses to shape and form us are the WORD OF GOD and PRAYER. 

My primary role as a disciple-maker is then to get men and women into the Word of God—the supernatural Word that is “living and active [and] sharper than any double–edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). I firmly believe that when men and women engage the Word of God with open hearts and open minds, it always changes them.

My primary goal as a disciple-making pastor will always be to get my people into the Word of God. Then I can count on the Holy Spirit to do something supernatural in them. There is more to being a fully devoted follower of Christ than simply knowing what the Bible says, but until men and women read and learn the Scripture for themselves, they can never become mature disciples.

It is likewise a certainty that they cannot become “like” Christ until they learn how to pray. That will not happen if I teach them about prayer, and it won’t happen even if I pray for them, though that too must be a part of my task.

In the end, they will learn to pray as I pray with them both corporately and individually. I have learned in recent days to ask myself and other pastors some rather telling questions: How much time do you spend praying for your people? And how much time do you spend praying with your people?

Perhaps we need to spend some time answering the atheist’s question: “Are you guys really sure this is what Jesus told you to do?”

(481) DUMBING DOWN CHRISTIANITY – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

The Tragedy of Dumbing Down Christianity

I came across this article in Relevant Magazine which caught my attention.  The article discusses a subject matter that is truly very relevant to American Christianity – not only today but also in trends that span the last couple of decades in the church. 

It is sometimes difficult to find an article of this importance when reading through Relevant Magazine (as with other journals such as Christianity Today).  But, it is very encouraging to read this article because it touches on a building block of the faith that in some cases has been weakened or even missing in the church today.  If these trends continue, the church tomorrow will move even further from a close walk with the Lord.

For now, let’s just categorize this as discipleship in the church today – is it happening?  Is it being implemented effectively?  Are Christians growing closer to God as they get to know God’s word?…etc.  Instead, what we find more common today is a brand of spirituality that minimalizes the Bible and focuses more on participating in practices that share less from the Bible but instead have more in common with mysticism in the early church and commonly found in Eastern religions today (e.g. Buddhism).  Today, one often hears the phrase of getting deeper into the faith – but it is applied to mean engaging in mystical practices with little to no Biblical justification to support it (non-biblical meditation, spiritual formation, contemplative prayer, breathing exercises….etc.).  This replaces basic biblical concepts such as discipleship, studying the Bible, participating in Bible study groups, prayer, meditation on God’s word…..etc.  

The Tragedy of Dumbing Down Christianity

We need to get deeper into our faith.

BY ETHAN RENOE – DECEMBER 22, 2017

The other day I was in a coffee shop in the mountains, seated near the counter. A guy in his early 20s walked in wearing a TOOL shirt and a long ponytail. I could overhear his conversation as he approached the barista and they began chatting. Somehow it came up that she attends a Christian university and he clearly didn’t approve.

“Do they incorporate religion into all the classes there?” he asked. “Even the science classes? How does that work?”

She valiantly began explaining how they pray before every class and teach from a Christian worldview, but it soon became evident that she was being crushed in this conversation. He was well-schooled in the writings of Dawkins, Hitchens and Nye, and began doling out the punishment.

I use the word punishment because this poor barista has herself been punished by a church system which, for the past 200 years, has begun discarding intelligence in favor of emotion, conversion experiences and passion. Ask most American Christians today any question deeper than “Does God love everyone?” and you’re bound to get some sort of response suggesting that that sort of discourse should be reserved for theological universities.

The other day, a friend of mine said he sees no merit in understanding Calvinism or Arminianism because he just wants to love God and love people. And it seems that the ball stops there for most Christians today. No need to know any more than that.

We have replaced rich, robust theology in the Church with emotional music and constant reminders that “God is love and loves you and He’s your personal Savior and loves your soul …” These words are great at bringing outsiders through the doors (because they’re true by and large) but poor at growing believers into mature witnesses with rich understanding of the deep things of God.

I have found the opposite to be very true. I have found that the more I learn about God, His Word and theology which describes Him, the more I can love and worship Him, because now there is that much more to adore and be amazed by. If my ability to worship God is a fire, learning more about Him only adds more wood to the blaze. After all, if you really loved God, wouldn’t you want to learn as much about Him as possible?

Our logic is pretty backward here.

Quite honestly, I’m exhausted by Christians who don’t want to learn more. It’s one thing to not know much about our faith, but another to have no desire to grow.

I’m saddened that atheists are so passionate about what they believe that they will read stacks of books in order to define their beliefs, while we are happy to float along the surface with a “Hillsong-deep theology” and call it good. And we wonder why people are leaving the Church in droves.

A church that offers only emotional, feel-good theology is going to lose the long-term wrestling match to a well-read and convincing atheist nearly every time.

Puritan Cotton Mather wrote, “Ignorance is the Mother not of Devotion but of HERESY” (caps lock his).

The mushy-gushy can only last so long.

Just as a marriage cannot be sustained by the tumble of infatuation, a life of faith cannot be sustained by passionate emotion. Yes, it may be a wonderful (and necessary) entryway, but without depth of knowledge and understanding, it will be “blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14).

One of my theology professors is so passionate about this issue that he has brought up the same metaphor at least three times this semester. It goes something like this: 

Why do people say they want to ‘know God, but not know about Him? That is absolutely ludicrous!

Imagine if I told you, “I love my wife, but I don’t know anything about her.” You could ask me where she was born and I would shrug.

What type of music or food does she like?

I don’t know.

What color are her eyes?

No idea. But I love her.

See how insane that sounds? The more you come to know about someone, the more you are able to love them.

Yet we have no problem floating on the surface of our knowledge of God. And then we wonder why we have such trouble witnessing to others or describing what we believe or why we believe it to others.

 

J.P. Moreland, in his book Love the Lord Your God With All Your Minddemonstrates how the Second Great Awakening led to the beginning of emotional preaching and impassioned calls to a quick conversion experience, as opposed to a period of contemplation, learning and discovery of the Christian faith and doctrines. We live in the fallout of that style of thinking. Moreland writes, “The intellectually shallow, theologically illiterate form of Christianity … came to be part of the populist Christian religion that emerged.”

I was fascinated to learn that the Church was once the place where believers came to learn deep theology and robust doctrine, but now that seems to be reserved only for biblical universities. Nowadays anyone can start a church, and as long as it’s engaging and entertaining enough, people will show up. Never mind if it’s true or not (Case in point: The pastor of the largest church in America doesn’t even have a bachelor’s degree, much less a seminary degree and look where that leads.). This all helps me realize why people are seeing less and less need for the Church. After the initial emotion has worn off, what does it really have to offer?

It should not only be pastors, authors and theologians who study what they believe, but all believers. Jesus Himself stated that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27), yet we tend to overlook this last one and focus on the heart and soul.

God paints an intense fate for those who neglect to grow in their understanding in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for their lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you.”

So let’s not get destroyed and rejected, eh?

It’s not too late for Christians to learn in their understanding of the holy. It’s not too late to learn the meaning and value of our creeds, doctrines, and systems. There is merit in learning and understanding the deeper parts of our faith and I say we start sooner than later.

If you’re reading this and thinking, Gee, I would love to come to a deeper understanding of God but don’t know where to start, I’ll give a few great starting points here. Additionally, if you’re reading this and thinking, Gee, I don’t really learn that much about the Bible or God at my church, it just kind of hypes me up, it may be time to change that. Begin by talking to your pastor about it before going church shopping.

Here are some books which are very easy to read and introduce us to cursory facets of the Christian faith:

Delighting in The Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves

Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

The New Lonely by me

Enjoy!

https://relevantmagazine.com/article/the-tragedy-of-dumbing-down-christianity/?utm_campaign=coschedule&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=RELEVANT&utm_content=The+Tragedy+of+Dumbing+Down+Christianity

A version of this article appeared on ethanrenoe.com. Used with permission.

(445) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: ETERNAL SECURITY

SAVED & SECURE

I can’t say that this topic is in hunt with the various other topics covered on this blog. Fifteen, twenty years ago, topics like ETERNAL SECURITY, PREDESTINATION, GIFT OF TONGUES, THE RAPTURE….etc., were some of the main discussion (debate) topics I grappled with in my personal understanding of Scripture as well as in discussion with other believers.  Today, the church (in general) has seemingly moved on to other topics such as MYSTICISM, SPIRITUAL FORMATION, CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER, HOMOSEXUALITY, as well as more defined topics such as – some would question of absolute truth?; can/should Christians swear?; becoming missional; becoming more ecumenical – focusing on similarities between Christianity and Roman Catholicism and even other religions….etc.

I can’t say that topics today present a biblical image of Christians walking closer to God than maybe a decade or two ago?  But just looking at this sampling of the topics, in my mind, one set is more rooted in Scripture while the other is more rooted in society and other beliefs.  Maybe it is just me?

That said, most Christians will still have to grabble, at some point in their walk, with the question of Eternal Security – also identified in a similar fashion by phrases such as “once saved, always saved”, “perseverance of the saints”..…etc.  While there are good people on both sides of the debate on this topic, church history has shown this topic to be a defining issue for some Christian groups.  None-the-less, it is an important topic to understand in our individual walk.  I believe, from several perspectives, it can be a very positive topic that encourages to go out in life to be used by God in all that we do.  Let’s start the discussion – 

DEFINITION

ETERNAL SECURITY =is the biblical doctrine that God guarantees our eternal salvation from beginning to end. Therefore, a saved person—someone who has trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for eternal salvation—can never lose that salvation. (i.e. “Once saved always saved).

Many Christians question that definition and don’t see or agree with the idea that they can know for sure that once they become believers, they can know that they are saved.  The line most will hear goes something like this – “If I can’t lose my salvation, what does it matter how I live?”

It is a logical question to ask.  If you think about it, this question really indicates a belief that salvation is somehow achieved or maintained by the saved person rather than given and guaranteed by the Savior.

The Bible talks about rewards and fellowship in our relationship with God.  

Although it’s possible to abuse His grace (Rom 6:1)

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 

God doesn’t disown His children (John 6:35-40).  Take note of the language used – it is dogmatic, strong, to the point.  Words used such as “never”, “by no means”, “nothing”, “everlasting”, “I will”….etc.

35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.  37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

Still, there are consequences for disobeying God.  Even as Christians, we can experience His discipline and lose potential rewards (1 Cor. 3:10-15).  Yet, we are still saved.

10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Those are very powerful verses and very encouraging!

We can experience His discipline (Heb 12:3-11). We can lose potential rewards (1 Cor 3:10-15). We can be ashamed when He appears (1 John 2:28). And we can even be taken home “early” (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor 11:27-30).  But these are different than saying we can lose our salvation. Simply stated, these verses don’t say we can lose our salvation.

Moreover, the greater the understanding and appreciation of God’s grace the greater the incentive to live faithfully for Him (Titus 2:11-14).

Scriptural Support

Church history shows that several passages have been debated on for hundreds of years.  In many cases, like I said previously, there are good people on both sides of the debate.  And both sides of the debate can point to Scripture to base their conclusions on.  I think that is important and I respect that aspect of the debate.  Instead of pride or argument, it should lead many of us to search the Scriptures even further to let God reveal His truth.

While I can’t say that I always believed in eternal security, I do think that the Bible clearly teaches it.  Scripture talks about salvation as follows:

  • accomplished for us by Christ (John 1:29; 1 Cor 15:3; 1 John 2:2)
  • a gift (Rom 5:15-18; 6:23)
  • by means of God’s grace (Eph 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7)
  • conditioned on faith in Christ (John 3:16, 36; 6:47; Rom 4:5; 1 Tim 1:16)
  • not of our works (Rom 4:5; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9)
  • a present possession (John 5:24; 6:47)
  • eternal (John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 10:27-30; 11:26; Rom 8:31-39; 2 Tim 2:13)

It’s not a one time occurance but is woven throughout the Bible.  Ultimately the focus is not on us but on Christ and His provision for our sins.

I read this logic perspective from an article by Stan Nelson and thought there are some good points to extract –

Consider the following questions:

Does God know who will enter heaven? The answer is obviously, yes.

Is it possible that any of those He knows are going to enter heaven might not enter? No, that’s not possible. If He knows they’re going to enter, they must and will enter heaven.

If it’s certain they’re going to enter heaven, are they eternally secure? Yes.

Who are these eternally secure people? They’re believers—those who have trusted Christ as their Savior.

Are all believers eternally secure? Yes.

Nelson goes on to state that:

Someone might answer that the believers whom God knows are going to enter heaven are eternally secure but maybe there are other believers who aren’t eternally secure.

But the Bible doesn’t classify believers into some who are eternally secure and some who aren’t (2 Tim 2:19). Salvation isn’t probation. If it were, the word saved couldn’t really be applied to someone until the probation was successfully completed (Acts 16:31; Eph 2:8-9). Neither is the giving of eternal salvation delayed until the end of earthly life. Everlasting life (which lasts forever) is a possession received as a gift at the time of faith in Christ (John 6:47). Those who don’t enter heaven simply never believed.

I like the phrase – SALVATION ISN’T PROBATION!  In His atoning sacrifice on the cross, Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all our sins—past, present, and future. (All sins committed after His crucifixion are future from it.) The Bible doesn’t list only those sins before salvation or only those sins after salvation which are covered. They are all covered. While we must come to Him by faith, He alone does the saving and He alone must get the glory (Rom 5:8-9; 1 Pet 2:24; Eph 2:8-9).

All who have trusted in Christ for salvation are eternally secure. If you’ve trusted Him to save you, He has and you’re saved, safe, and one of His forever! To deny this truth would be to say that it’s possible to have believed in Christ for eternal life and not received it (John 3:36). And that would be to disbelieve Him.

What is the GOOD NEWS?  Eternal security fits the fact that the gospel of salvation by grace through faith is good news (Rom 5:10-11). Conditional securitythe belief that I can lose my salvation because of something I do or don’t do—is depressing and inconsistent with the good news of the gospel.

If YOU are responsible for keeping yourself saved, in essence, you have added a WORK to the condition of salvation.  You have entered works along with faith which Paul says can’t be the case in Eph. 2:8-9.  If I must keep myself saved, can I ever be sure I’m safe? Can I ever know if I’m going to “make it”? No. In fact, under that system it’s certain that I can’t. How discouraging or prideful if one thinks his personal behavior is (and will remain) good enough to save him.

This is GOOD NEWS.  Christ has paid the price, God gives us and seals us with the Holy Spirit.  Our ability to be good enough to stay saved is NOT up to us. It is up to God!  God has already gave us His promise as stated in His word.  That is reassuring.

That is what should produce gratitude, humility and encourage us to go out and do good works according to God’s will. Eternal Security is a wonderful gift of God!

(444) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: THE FIVE TESTS OF FALSE DOCTRINE

FALSE DOCTRINE

Tim Challies wrote a recent article on the five tests of FALSE DOCTRINE. An important item that jumps out in the church today is the tendency to include practices from other religious beliefs that don’t originate from the Bible. It is commonly stated that these practices are not necessarily bad because Christians are not using them for religious purposes (i.e. YOGA) but for other purposes such as health, emotional well-being…etc. But, these other practices are syncretically combined with Christian practices with the excuse that it these new practices are similar to Christianity which in their mind justifies participation and use within the church (i.e. YOGAMYSTICISM, CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER, SPIRITUAL FORMATION….ETC.).  One important criteria to use in determining its faithfulness to God’s word is simply – does the concept originate in God’s word?  If not, be very careful indeed. Using EASTERN MYSTICAL and ANCIENT ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTICISM practices fail to satisfy this criteria.  Scripture is clear on worshipping other gods and following after their beliefs and practices which run counter to God’s word. Unfortunately, within the church today, we see many people following after these latest popular trends in music, books, church growth….etc.

This is more critical to know today that perhaps any time in the past.                                                                                           

http://www.challies.com/articles/test-every-doctrine-test-every-teacher?utm_content=buffer304d4&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

The Five Tests of False Doctrine

T.D. Jakes says that God eternally exists in three manifestations, not three persons. Greg Boyd says God knows some aspects of the future, but that other future events are outside of his knowledge. Creflo Dollar says because we are created in the image of God, we are little gods. Mormonism says God revealed new scripture to Joseph Smith that supersedes the Bible. Roman Catholicism says we are justified by faith, but not by faith alone. This world is a murky madness of true and false. For every doctrine we know to be true, there seems to be a hundred pretenders.

No wonder, then, that John tells us to “test the spirits” and Paul says, “test everything” (1 John 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:21). It is our sacred responsibility to examine every doctrine to determine if it is true or false. But how can we distinguish sound doctrine from false? How can we distinguish teachers of truth from teachers of error? In our opening article, I said that putting a doctrine to the test is the best way to determine if it is true or false. As we test the doctrine, we learn our responsibility toward it: We either hold to it or we reject it. I am returning to those tests today to explain them in greater detail. They provide a grid that is useful for testing any doctrine.

Test 1: The Test of Origin

The first test is the test of origin. Sound doctrine originates with God; false doctrine originates with someone or something created by God. The Apostle Paul went to great lengths to convince the church in Galatia that the gospel he taught was not his own, but God’s. “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12). Even Jesus was clear that he taught only what God had instructed him to teach: “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me” (John 7:16). True doctrine originates with the God who is true (Titus 1:2).

 

Just as true doctrine is marked by its divine origin, false doctrine is marked by its worldly origin. Paul warned the Colossian church to avoid doctrine that is “according to human precepts and teachings” and told Timothy that some would “depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (Colossians 2:22, 1 Timothy 4:1). It is this simple: Sound teaching originates with God and false teaching originates with men or demons. When it comes to doctrine, if man made it, then we should not hold it. God is the Father of truth and Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).

The test: Does this doctrine originate with God or has it been fabricated by someone or something else?

This leaves us with an obvious question: How can we know the origin of a doctrine? Sometimes its origin is obvious, but more often it is not. When we are uncertain, we can turn to our second test.

Test 2: The Test of Authority

The second test is the test of authority. Sound doctrine grounds its authority within the Bible; false doctrine grounds its authority outside the Bible. The Bible is God’s inerrant, infallible, sufficient, complete, and authoritative revelation of himself to humanity. Doctrines that originate in the mind of God are recorded in the Word of God. There is a clear and necessary correlation between origin and authority, between God and his Word.

We can think here of those noble Bereans who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). They knew that all doctrines must be compared to God’s Word, his source of truth. Likewise, Paul praised the Thessalonians for their careful assessment and acceptance of his teaching because they understood its divine authority. “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Sound doctrine originates in the mind of God and is recorded in his authoritative self-revelation, the Bible.

The test: Does this doctrine appeal to the Bible for its authority? Or does it appeal to another scripture or another mind?

But a concern remains, because two teachers may both claim the authority of the Bible while teaching very different things. How can we know whose interpretation is correct? This is where we turn to the third test.

Test 3: The Test of Consistency

The third test is the test of consistency. Sound doctrine is consistent with the whole of Scripture; false doctrine is inconsistent with some parts of Scripture. There is a sameness or familiarity to true doctrine and a strangeness or unfamiliarity to false doctrine. The man who wrote the letter to the Hebrews warned his congregation about “diverse and strange teachings,” while Paul warned Timothy about accepting “different doctrine” (Hebrews 13:9; 1 Timothy 1:3, 6:3). Both meant to emphasize that doctrine must always be compared to the established, accepted body of truth. Those who are knowledgeable about that body of truth will be in the best position to immediately identify and refute what is false.

This is tied to a key theological principle, “the analogy of faith,” which is often explained with the phrase “Scripture interprets Scripture.” If the Bible originates in the infallible mind of God, it must be consistent throughout. Because there can be no contradiction in the mind of God, there can be no contradiction in the revelation of God. What the Bible teaches in one place it cannot refute in another. Therefore, any true doctrine must be consistent with the whole of Scripture. Doctrine must never be treated in isolation, but always in light of a correct understanding of the entire Bible. Too many false teachers isolate verses or ideas that cannot withstand the scrutiny of the whole Book.

The test: Is this doctrine established or refuted by the entirety of Scripture?

Once we have tested doctrine and found it to be true, according to these three criteria, we can also see its soundness by its effects on us and those around us. That requires two more tests.

Test 4: The Test of Spiritual Growth

The fourth test is the test of spiritual growth. Sound doctrine is beneficial for spiritual health; false doctrine leads to spiritual weakness. After instructing Timothy, Paul told him, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained [“nourished”] in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed” (1 Timothy 4:6). Timothy had trained himself in the Bible and Christian doctrine. He had nourished himself in the truths he had been exposed to since he was a child. And he had never stopped. Through this continual nourishment, this ongoing dining on the Word of God, he had grown spiritually healthy and strong. He had accumulated a thorough knowledge of God and his Word.  This is why Paul called him a “man of God” with “sincere faith” (1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 1:5). Timothy’s constant nourishment in sound doctrine from the Word of God made him the man he was.

Sound doctrine makes spiritually healthy, mature, knowledgeable Christians. False doctrine makes spiritually unhealthy, immature, ignorant Christians who may be no Christians at all.

Test 5: The Test of Godly Living

The fifth test is the test of godly living. Sound doctrine has value for godly living, false doctrine leads to ungodly living. Truth never stands on its own, but always has implications in life. Doctrine is always meant to lead to doxology, worship, and purposeful living. “All Scripture is breathed out by God,” says Paul, “and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Scripture is not to be known in an abstract sense, but intimately. It is to inform not only our minds, but our hearts and hands as well.

Paul charged Titus to “teach what accords with sound doctrine,” reminding him that such doctrine is “excellent and profitable for people” (3:8, 2:1). “What accords with” sound doctrine is its far-reaching implications, the duties that flow out of it. Thus, sound doctrine has value. It is profitable in teaching us to live as we ought to live. It equips us to do those things that are are good for our neighbor and that bring honor and glory to our God. Truth has not been grasped until it has been lived. Sound doctrine profits us by training us to live in a way that pleases God. False doctrine weakens us by training us to live in a way that dishonors God.

Evaluation: The Determination of Quality

At this point we simply take all of the evidence from the three tests and make a conclusion about the quality of the doctrine in question. Sound doctrine originates with God, is recorded in the Word of God, is consistent with the whole revelation of God, and leads to both spiritual health and godly living. False doctrine originates with men or demons, is foreign to the Word of God, is inconsistent with the whole revelation of God, and leads to spiritual weakness and ungodly living. It must pass all of the tests in order to be sound. If it fails one, it fails all of them. This word “sound” refers to health and appears often in the New Testament. For example, Paul instructed Timothy, “Follow the pattern of the sound [“healthy”] words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). To Titus he said, “Teach what accords with sound [“healthy”] doctrine” (Titus 2:1).

The task of the doctor is to evaluate a patient to declare him fit or unfit. The patient is fit when his whole body is functioning properly, free of disease. The task of the Christian is to evaluate every doctrine to declare it fit or unfit. John Stott says it characteristically well: “Christian doctrine is healthy in the same way as the human body is healthy. For Christian doctrine resembles the human body. It is a coordinated system consisting of different parts which relate to one another and together constitute a harmonious whole. If therefore our theology is maimed (with bits missing) or diseased (with bits distorted), it is not ‘sound’ or ‘healthy’.” Doctrine that passes the three tests is sound doctrine. It is pure and undefiled, true according to God’s unfailing standard of truth.

The evaluation: Based on the evidence, is this doctrine sound or false?

Action: Determine Your Responsibility

Having thoroughly tested the doctrine and examined its effects, we are able to determine how to respond to it. Sound doctrine must be accepted and held fast; false doctrine must be denied and rejected. When Jesus spoke to the believers in Thyatira, he commended them for clinging to truth and told them to “hold fast what you have until I come” (Revelation 2:25). Paul described the elder as a man who “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

Our responsibility is clear: We must accept and hold fast to what is true, and we must deny and reject what is false. Likewise, the church must welcome those who teach sound doctrine and rebuke those who do not. If they do not heed correction, the church must reject them, removing them and their influence (1 Corinthians 5:9).

Conclusion

In summary, true doctrine (content) originates with God (origin), is grounded in the Bible (authority), and agrees with the whole of Scripture (consistency). Because such doctrine is sound (quality), it is healthy (benefit), and profitable (value) for us, and we are responsible for holding it (responsibility).

False doctrine (content) originates with man (origin), is not grounded in the Bible (authority), and contradicts portions of Scripture (consistency). Because such doctrine is unsound (quality), it is unhealthy (benefit) and unprofitable (value) for us, and we are responsible for rejecting it (responsibility).

 

(426) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: DOES YOUR BIBLE COLLEGE/SEMINARY TEACH A LITERAL VIEW OF GENESIS?

If you think that sending your children to Bible college or seminary to study the Bible, or if you think that you would like to earn a degree in Theology or ministry….etc. is a biblically sound endeavor, you may be in for a big surprise when you realize that very few actually believe in a literal six-days of creation in the book of Genesis. 

The following is a list of “Creation Colleges”.

What is a Creation College?

The Christian colleges and seminaries referred to on this site are institutions whose presidents have affirmed in writing their personal agreement with the Tenets of Creation.

Cautious Evaluation Required

Affirmation of the Tenets of Creation by the school’s president is, of course, not a guarantee that all professors/textbooks/courses etc., take the same stand on God’s Word including Genesis but it is an important start for parents wanting a short list to research. Therefore we have provided an opportunity for each institution’s Academic Dean, Bible Department Chair, and/or Science Department Chair (or equivalent) to affirm their commitment to these foundational truths of God’s Word. However, because there are multiple professors within most Science and Bible departments,and because positions are often in flux, the student and/or parents should meet with the school directly and ask questions in a gracious manner.

college-sign-copy

Tenets of Creation

I
We affirm that the scientific aspects of creation are important, but are secondary in importance to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ as Sovereign, Creator, Redeemer, and Judge.
We deny that the doctrines of Creator and Creation can ultimately be divorced from the gospel of Jesus Christ, for the teachings of Genesis are foundational to the gospel and indeed to all Biblical doctrines (directly or indirectly).
II
We affirm that the 66 books of the Bible are the written Word of God and that the Bible is the only book inspired by God. The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. Its assertions are factually true in all the original autographs. It is the supreme authority, not only in all matters of faith and conduct, but in everything that it teaches.
We deny that the Bible’s authority is limited to spiritual, religious or redemptive themes and we deny the exclusion of its authority from its assertions related to such fields as history and all scientific disciplines.
III
We affirm that the final guide to the interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself. Scripture must be compared with Scripture to obtain the correct interpretation of a particular text, and clear Scriptures must be used to interpret ambiguous texts, not vice versa. We affirm that the special revelation of infallible and inerrant Scripture must be used to correctly interpret the general revelation of the cursed Creation.
We deny that uninspired sources of truth-claims (i.e., history, archeology, science, etc.) can be used to interpret the Scriptures to mean something other than the meaning obtained by classical historical-grammatical exegesis.
IV
We affirm that no apparent, perceived, or claimed evidence in any field, including history, archeology and science, can be considered valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record. We also affirm that the evidence from such fields of inquiry is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.
We deny that scientific “evidence” used to “prove” millions of years is objective fact and not heavily influenced by naturalistic presuppositions.
V
We affirm that the account of origins presented in Genesis is a simple but factual presentation of actual events and therefore provides a reliable framework for scientific research into the question of the origin and history of life, mankind, the Earth and the universe.
We deny that Genesis 1–11 is myth, saga, or any other type of non-historical literature. We also deny that it is a parable or prophetic vision. It therefore should be interpreted with the same care for literal accuracy as other historical narrative sections of Scripture.
VI
We affirm that the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 are chronological, enabling us to arrive at an approximate date of creation of the whole universe. We affirm that mankind is essentially as old as the whole creation. While some disagreement exists between young-earth creationists over whether or not these are strict, gap-less genealogies (i.e., no missing names between Adam and Noah and Noah and Abraham), we affirm that Genesis points to a date of creation between about 6,000–10,000 years ago.
We deny that millions of years of history occurred before Adam and Eve. Therefore we deny that the geological record of strata and fossils corresponds to long geological ages before man. We also deny the Big Bang and any other naturalistic theory of the origin and history of the universe. We further deny that the radiometric dating methods, which are claimed to give dates of millions of years, are trustworthy and can be used to overthrow or disregard the Biblical teaching on the age of the creation.
VII
We affirm that the days in Genesis do not correspond to geologic ages, but are six, consecutive, literal (essentially twenty-four hour) days of Creation. We also affirm that the entire universe including, but not limited to, the earth, sun, moon, stars, plants, animals, and Adam and Eve were created in six, consecutive, literal (essentially twenty-four hour) days of Creation.
We deny that the days of creation are symbolic of long ages or that millions of years can be placed between the days or before the six days of creation.
VIII
We affirm that the various original life forms (kinds), including mankind, were made by direct, supernatural, creative acts of God. We infer from the Bible that the living descendants of any of the original kinds (apart from man) may represent more than one species today, reflecting the genetic potential within a particular original created kind. Only relatively limited biological changes have occurred naturally within each kind since Creation.
We deny that there has ever been any evolutionary change from one of the original created kinds into a different kind (e.g., reptile to bird, ape to man, etc.).
IX
We affirm the supernatural creation of Adam from dust and the supernatural creation of Eve from Adam’s rib on the sixth day of Creation.
We deny that Adam was in any way made from a pre-existing hominid (or any other living creature).
X
We affirm that the account of the Fall of Adam and Eve into sin is a literal historical account and that the Fall had cosmic consequences. We also affirm that both physical and spiritual death and bloodshed entered into this world subsequent to, and as a direct consequence of, man’s sin. We further affirm that this historical Fall is the reason for the necessity of salvation for mankind through the redemptive work of the “last Adam, ” Jesus Christ.
We deny that the account of the Fall was mythical, figurative, or otherwise largely symbolic. We deny that the judgment of God at the Fall resulted only in the spiritual death of man or only consequences for man but not for the rest of animate and inanimate creation. We, therefore, also deny that millions of years of death, disease, violence, and extinction occurred in the animal world before the Fall.
XI
We affirm that the great Flood described in Genesis 6–9 was an actual historic event, worldwide (global) in its extent and extremely catastrophic in its effect. As such, it produced most (but not all) of the geological record of thousands of meters of strata and fossils that we see on the earth’s surface today.
We deny that Noah’s Flood was limited to a localized region. We also deny that the Flood was so peaceful that it left no abiding geological evidence.
XII
We affirm that all people living and dead are descended from Adam and Eve and that as such all people equally bear the image of God, their Maker. We,therefore, affirm that there is only one race of human beings and that the various people groups arose as a result of God’s supernatural judgment at the Tower of Babel and the subsequent dispersion of the people by families.
We deny that the so-called “races” have different origins and that any one “race” is superior to any other.

Updated: October 28, 2015

 

Genesis—the seedbed of all Christian doctrine

Bible genesis

Photo sxc.hu

by

26 April 2007

Everything in the Bible is inseparably bound up with its first book, Genesis. This is because Genesis gives us the origin and initial explanation of all major biblical doctrines.

Obviously not everything that God took 66 books of the Bible to tell us over some 15 centuries is contained in just the first book. There is a progress of doctrine throughout the Bible. From the first verse of Genesis to the last verse of Revelation, we learn more about God, ourselves, sin, redemption, etc. with each successive book.1,2 All the major doctrines of the Bible are like rivers that become deeper and broader as they flow from the initial watershed of Genesis.

We will examine the major Christian doctrines and their connection with Genesis.

1. About God (theology)

Genesis tells us about God, not just as the Creator, as seen in chapter 1, but also as the One who has a plan and purpose for mankind, that is, for us. This plan and purpose involves our living in a relationship of obedience to God (as well as of trust and love for Him). Thus God is seen as Lawgiver in His command to Adam not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:17). Then God is seen as Judge following Adam’s disobedience (Genesis 3), as well as in His judgment at the Flood, at Babel, and on Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis chapters 6–9, 11, 19). God is also seen as Saviour, prophesied in Genesis 3:15, and then in action in His saving Noah and his family from the judgment of the Flood, and Lot and his daughters from the judgment on Sodom (Genesis 18,19).

As the Creator of all things, God has the absolute right to rule over all things, and He exercises this authority in the world—demonstrating His sovereignty. This is seen in Genesis in four outstanding events: the Creation, the Fall, the Flood, and Babel. It is also seen in God’s choice, call and direction of four outstanding people: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.

The Trinity can be seen in Genesis.3 The Hebrew word for God, Elohim, in Genesis chapter 1 is plural.4 In Genesis 1:26, God says, ‘Let us make man in our image … .’ The Spirit of God is mentioned ‘hovering over the waters’ inGenesis 1:2. Christ is mentioned prophetically as the ‘seed of the woman’ in Genesis 3:15.5 This passage also prophesies the virginal conception of Christ—that is why He is the seed of the woman, in contrast to the usual biblical pattern of listing only fathers in genealogies. Adam, the Ark, Melchizedek, Isaac, and Joseph, are all commonly regarded as ‘types of Christ’.6,7

In Genesis chapters 1 and 2 we also see two very important things about God—attributes that atheists have tried to demolish with spurious arguments. The first is God’s omniscience/omnipotence in that everything that God did He got right the very first time. Contrary to Carl Sagan’s claim that God is a ‘sloppy manufacturer’,8 in everything that God created there was no experimentation, no trial and error, no ‘Oops’! The second is that everything that God created was ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). Contrary to the criticism of David Attenborough, concerning a parasitic worm that lives in the eyeballs of children in Africa,9 (see Why doesn’t Sir David Attenborough give credit to God?) everything that God created demonstrated the goodness of God. In the world before sin had entered there was no death, no suffering, no disease, no carnivory, no detriment, and no lack of any good thing.

2. About us—mankind (anthropology)

The first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve, appear in Genesis as special creations of God—Adam made from the dust, Eve from Adam’s rib—both made by God in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). Therefore we are not evolved animals, or mere agglomerations of chemicals, but beings with a spiritual or God-conscious nature.

Eve was created to be a ‘companion’ for Adam (Genesis 2:20–22). From this follows the doctrine of marriage(Genesis 2:24–25—confirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19:4–6), as the union of one man and one woman for life (not of the union of two men or of two women, or something else). Clearly, also, the whole human race is descended from a single pair (Genesis 3:20).

3. About sin (hamartiology)

With the first man came the first sin—seen in Genesis as violation of the law of God (Genesis 3:6–11), and as depravity both imputed and imparted to the whole human race (cf. Genesis 4:8; 6:5). When God created Adam and Eve, they had the ability not to sin, as well as being able to sin. When they chose to reject God’s rule over them, they and mankind lost the ability not to sin; instead we have an innate sinful nature.10 The first sin brought the first guilt(Genesis 3:8).

The first sin also brought the first judgment (Genesis 3:14–19). There would be enmity between Satan’s seed (unbelievers and possibly demons) and the woman’s seed (believers but specifically Christ). Women and men would suffer in their respective roles. All humanity would now be subject to death.

4. About salvation (soteriology)

The Bible teaches that God in His mercy and grace forgives our sin, but only when the penalty is paid by a substitutionary sacrifice. Thus God has provided salvation from the guilt, the power, the eternal penalty, and ultimately the presence of sin, by means of the person and work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The enactment and fulfilment of this salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is not seen until the Gospels; however, the prediction and promise of what was to come is first seen in the promise that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).

 

The substitutionary nature of sacrifice is first seen inGenesis 22:1–13, where Abraham is directed to offer a ram as a burnt offering instead of his son Isaac.

 

Further, this Seed is a descendant of the first man Adam (Luke 3:38), and is called ‘the Last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). This is essential, because Isaiah spoke of this coming Saviour as literally the ‘Kinsman-Redeemer’, i.e. one who is related by blood to those he redeems (Isa. 59:20, which uses the same Hebrew word גואל (gôēl) as is used to describe Boaz in relation to Naomi in Ruth 2:20, 3:1–4:17). The Book of Hebrews also explains how Jesus took upon Himself the nature of a man to save mankind, but not angels (Heb. 2:11–18). This vital kinsman-redeemer concept is sourced in Genesis.

The beginning of the Jewish nation within which the Messiah would be born, die and rise from the dead is seen in the call of Abraham (Genesis 12:1–3; 17:19;49:10).

The substitutionary nature of sacrifice is first seen in Genesis 22:1–13, where Abraham is directed to offer a ram as a burnt offering instead of his son Isaac.

5. About angels (angelology)

Just when God created the angels is not mentioned in the Bible, but it was probably before He created the earth (Genesis 1:1), or at least before the dry land appeared (Gen. 1:9), because according to Job 38:4–7, when God laid the foundations of the earth ‘the sons of God shouted for joy’11—see also Where do the angels fit in?

As God is not the author of evil, and because He pronounced His whole creation to be ‘very good’ at the end of Day 6 of Creation Week (Genesis 1:31), we take it that the being we now call Satan had not fallen into sin at that time.

In Genesis 3:1–14 we read the first reference to this being who slanders God and who tempted Eve to rebel against God, and whose ultimate destiny is foretold by God (Genesis 3:15). Elsewhere in the Bible we learn that the name of this creature is Satan, which means ‘slanderer’ (cf.Revelation 12:9; 20:2).12

The first reference to good angels is in Genesis 3:24 where cherubim are placed in the Garden of Eden by God to guard the way to the tree of life.

6. About the Church (ecclesiology)

The doctrine of the Church is revealed in the New Testament. It is one of the things that the Apostle Paul calls a mystery, meaning a previously unrevealed truth, now divulged. However, the very fact that Paul calls the Church the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:23–32) brings us back to the first divinely-ordained husband-wife relationship, in Genesis 2:24.

Also the church is surely foreshadowed in Genesis, with Abraham being called out to form (through his descendants) the nation of Israel, which God blessed and was also to be a blessing to all people on earth (Genesis 12:1–3).13 This blessing culminated in a unique Seed of Abraham, Jesus Himself (Galatians 3:16), who was to be the source of blessing to all the nations (Galatians 3:14). Paul tells us, ‘If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise’ (Galatians 3:29). Those who belong to Christ are His true Church.

7. About the last things (eschatology)

The principal aspects of what are called ‘the last things’ are the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the future resurrection(s) of the dead, the judgment of all mankind, and the final state of the redeemed and of the wicked.14

By their very nature (being the last things) we would not expect these matters to be detailed in Genesis. However, they are the outworking of God’s ultimate plan and purpose for mankind, the earth, and the universe. He purposed to provide an eternal ‘bride’ for His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, from redeemed humanity, and He set this plan into action when He created the heavens and the earth, and mankind, as recorded in Genesis chapter 1.

What we see in Genesis is God beginning the process which will ultimately bring about this purpose—a plan which was in the mind of God from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20).

Also, while the ‘last things’ are not detailed in Genesis, the places where they are detailed make no sense without it. In the Eternal State, there will once again be no death or suffering of any sort, as Revelation 21:4 says—and the reason is that ‘there shall be no more curse’ (Revelation 22:3). There will also be a return to an Eden-like state with a return of the Tree of Life (v. 2) and to a state like Days 1–3 of Creation Week where God provided light without the sun and moon (v. 5, cf. Genesis 1:16–19).

Conclusion

All major Christian doctrines have their source, directly or indirectly, in the book of Genesis. Preachers, missionaries and theologians who fail to see this have lost the foundation for what they teach. Conversely, those who do see this have the God-given proper basis for all their Christian witnessing, preaching, counselling, and teaching.

 

The Importance of Creation in Evangelism

by

Published: 26 April 2016 (GMT+10)
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The pastor realized that dealing with evolutionary misinformation is not an optional extra, but something that must happen ‘up front’ when doing evangelism in China.

A thriving church in Japan

After a visit to Japan in December 2013, I reported that I was greatly encouraged. I saw the effects of 10 years of creation evangelism in Okinawa. After I had presented a message about creation evangelism on a Sunday morning 10 years previously, the pastor of Naha Baptist Church said, “This message must be taken to the whole of Japan.”

He had recognized how fundamental this was to the penetration of the Gospel in Japan. I also remember an elder, who was having lunch with us, admitting that he had had a wrong view of Genesis; he just thought it was stories, not real. He repented of that view in front of the senior pastor and me (this is a difficult thing for anyone to do, but particularly so in the ‘face saving’ culture that is strong in Japan). This was very moving.

That church had grown substantially in the decade since then. It had gone onto much larger premises and now had a pastoral team and many members actively involved in outreach. It was continuing to grow, using creation apologetics as a central part of the church’s strategy. Other churches in Okinawa were looking to this church for leadership in how to evangelize.

A network of pastors had been established to further the growth of the Gospel in Japan via creation evangelism. This was happening in a country notorious for being the ‘graveyard of missionaries’. Churches have been established from new converts and are growing. But these churches were not the product of missionaries from outside, but resulted from creation apologetics being used by local pastors and church members to reach their fellow citizens with the Gospel.

One of the reasons that missionaries from ‘The West’ have been so ineffective in Japan is that they generally eschew creation apologetics. They have been largely trained in seminaries where the historicity of Genesis is downplayed (a ‘side issue’) or even opposed. In 2002, a young missionary from one of the largest foreign missionary organisations working in Japan contacted us with a view to one of us visiting Japan to train the missionaries in creation apologetics. We began making arrangements for me to go and do this, but then the young missionary told us that those above him in the organisation had vetoed the idea, much to his disappointment.

Why does creation evangelism ‘work’ in China and Japan?

The people in China and Japan are indoctrinated in an evolutionary worldview in the education system. They hear nothing else. They have taken on board how everything came into existence by purely natural processes over billions of years from the big bang until now. There is ‘no evidence’ for divine creation and therefore no evidence for a supernatural Creator Who rules over everything and to whom we are accountable. The preaching of the Gospel that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead on the third day for our salvation (1 Cor. 15) makes absolutely no sense to such a mindset; it is “foolishness to the gentiles”.

boy-bible

Many people are receptive, however, when the Bible is taught from the beginning to establish God as the Creator of all first! How can people understand their need for forgiveness, and a saviour, if they have little concept that God created them, so that they are accountable to Him? Who will judge them for their sin if there is no Creator-God to whom they will be held accountable? How can they trust the Bible on salvation if they can’t trust its history in Genesis, so foundational to the Gospel, of how sin and death entered the world? Also, if Genesis is ‘just stories’, then why not the life, death and resurrection of Jesus?

Preaching about Jesus and His death and resurrection in isolation sees little fruit. Didn’t Jesus say, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31). You can’t preach the Gospel effectively in the context of disbelief regarding the rest of the Bible, and especially ‘Moses’ (Genesis, etc.). Therein lies the foundational knowledge of creation, rebellion (the origin of sin and death) and the need for salvation.

In Japan, modern Shintoism and Zen Buddhism reinforce the Creator-less worldview. Furthermore, Shintoism today has millions of ancestral ‘gods’, depreciating any notion of Jesus being the unique Son of God.

The apostolic preaching to gentiles

This in nothing new because it’s actually the biblical method. In Acts 17 the apostle Paul, speaking to people in Athens who had little idea of a supreme ruling Creator-God, began at that point in presenting the Gospel to them. Paul introduced the only true God (of the Bible) to them as the ‘unknown God’ of whom they seemed to have only some vague notion.

The missionary organization New Tribes Mission practises such ‘creation evangelism’ with unreached tribal groups. Many such groups have some recollection of a supreme creator, but it is distorted, often being mixed up with animistic ideas (territorial spirits). So beginning at the beginning lays a foundation for understanding why Jesus came and what His death and resurrection mean.

What of the once-Christian ‘West’?

How different are the once-Christian countries of Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.K., and Western Europe compared to China and Japan, or the people of Athens in New Testament times, or tribal people, for that matter? How many people today believe in a real, ‘hands-on’ Creator God who made them and who will hold them accountable?

The evolutionary worldview has been taught in educational institutions to the exclusion of all else, increasingly so, since the 1960s. This has been reinforced by such things as nature ‘documentaries’ on television, interpretive signs at national parks, and newspaper reports of the latest ‘ape-man’. And then there are articles in women’s magazines about how bad behaviour, such as promiscuity, is due to our evolutionary ‘ape ancestry’, or how our diet should mimic some imagined primitive diet of our primate ancestors. Even sci-fi movies have evolution producing X-men and the like, or aliens having evolved ‘out there’ somewhere in the cosmos. At every turn the idea is reinforced to the point that it is now the prevailing worldview in countries that once believed the Bible’s history.

How many people today believe in a real, ‘hands-on’ Creator God who made them and who will hold them accountable?

Universities have drifted more and more into secularism (God-lessness). That’s where our school teachers get their qualifications. And now we have significant and increasing numbers of high schoolers claiming to be ‘atheist’. In several western European countries, more than half the people now say that they are atheist. Even those who would not wear the label atheist still by-and-large think ‘secular’ (God-less). That is, the Bible’s historical accounts—if they know anything of them at all—are nothing but quaint myths from yesteryear. In their groupthink the reality is as they have been indoctrinated in the education system—evolution over billions of years.

In some places, such as Northern Ireland and the south of the USA, there is a remnant tradition of church going and many people still have notions of God as Creator and ruler of the universe. However, even in these regions the institutions of ‘higher education’ are thoroughly secularized and more and more secularized teachers are being pushed into the schools, teachers who do not share the attitudes of the parents of those they are educating, causing an exodus of Christian youth in these once strongholds of the faith. The churches in these areas need to get on board with creation apologetics to arrest the slide into the abyss of secular depravity so obvious elsewhere. There is nothing in the ‘genes’ of the people who live in such areas that will protect them from the secular onslaught.

A statement from a ‘liberal’ academic in north America spells out the problem: “The children of red [conservative / Christian] states will seek a higher education,” he explains, “and that education will very often happen in blue states or blue islands in red states. For the foreseeable future, loyal dittoheads will continue to drop off their children at the dorms. After a teary-eyed hug, Mom and Dad will drive their SUV off toward the nearest gas station, leaving their beloved progeny behind.”

Then what? He proudly claims: “And then they are all mine.”1

So, ‘creation evangelism’ is relevant just about everywhere today.

From the list of Bible Institutes, Colleges, Universities, and Seminaries, here is a sampling –

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The full list can be seen here –

https://assets.answersingenesis.org/doc/campaign/creation-colleges/creationcolleges_printable.pdf

Unfortunately, as many Bible institutions, colleges and seminaries there are in the United States, the list of “Creation Colleges” is comparatively small.  

https://answersingenesis.org/colleges/