Daily Archives: 29 Aug 2017

Why Are Mega-Church Pastors so ‘Successful’ And Have Such Large Audiences?

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Tim. 4:3-4)

Texas Needs Help

This is a map of people awaiting help……  Each marker indicates from 1-100 people… via facebook…

7 Glimpses into the Most Remote and Pristine Ancient Sites of Christianity: A Q&A with Dr. Mark Fairchild

Nifty.

Hendrickson Publishers Blog

Christian Origins in Ephesus and Asia Minor Second EditionIn a region where most artifacts remain in the field, the enormous work of documenting and analyzing the early history of Christianity is open to original research. Often the first scholar to reach isolated communities in remote parts of Turkey who guide his work, Dr. Mark Fairchild has visited and researched over 300 ancient sites throughout Turkey that date back to the Hellenistic (Greek) and Roman periods and taken over 200,000 photographs capturing the remains of churches and Christian homes in remote locations. The second edition of Christian Origins in Ephesus and Asia Minor adds the current research underway on the cities of Priene and Tripolis in western Turkey to Dr. Fairchild’s work, documenting isolated and previously unstudied sites across eastern Turkey, some that have not been visited in the past 1,400 years.

If that hasn’t already whet your appetite for this fascinating book, Dr. Fairchild has graciously answered our burning questions about his…

View original post 874 more words

My Problem With the ‘Nashville Statement’

First, no one who knows me would ever mistake what follows as approval of, tacitly or implicitly, anything other than traditional marriage.  That’s just who I am and I won’t apologize for it.

Second, nonetheless I could never sign something like the Nashville Statement.

Why?

Because it is both too narrowly focused and it ignores some of the most pressing issues in marriage today- the problems of divorce, pornography, and marital infidelity.

What the designers of the Statement would have us to believe is that they are concerned with marriage.  If that is so, why is there no discussion of the problem of pornography and its destructiveness or divorce or infidelity?  Divorce is far more widespread than same sex marriage (which, again, I am no fan of).  And yet the Statement says nothing about it.

One has to wonder why.  Is it because so many signatories are themselves divorced, or unfaithful, or view porn with the regularity of a 15 year old boy?  Is it because it’s easier to attack others than examine oneself?  Is it because tackling the thorny issue of Christian divorce is liable to get them into trouble whilst tackling same sex marriage is designed to make points with people who, curiously, object to that form of life but who, equally curiously, have no problem at all with viewing pornography or being unfaithful to their spouse or deeming divorce a minor trifling?

My issue with the Nashville Statement is that it does not address the most pressing social issues facing Christians: divorce, infidelity, pornography.  Perhaps if it had, I would be inclined to be more sympathetic.  As it is, I see the Statement as nothing more than a diversion from the issues that affect millions instead of 10’s of thousands.  And that’s theological cowardice.  And theological cowardice just isn’t my cup of tea.

Sure, if the Church wants to have an honest discussion about sexuality, let’s begin where the millions are: with Christians who divorce, view porn, and practice infidelity.  If we don’t begin were most are, the rest is just for show.

The Bee Stings Osteen’s Luxurious Indifference

Although Joel Osteen took flak over the weekend for closing up his church to flood victims and all but disappearing during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the megachurch pastor reportedly returned to the city on his luxury yacht “S.S. Blessed” to make amends Tuesday by tossing copies of Your Best Life Now to stranded flood survivors.

Osteen had his on-call yacht captain steer the large vessel through the flooded streets of the city, pulling up to survivors stranded on their roofs and on the roof of their cars as the prosperity gospel preacher smiled, waved, and threw out signed editions of the bestselling positive thinking book.

“Believe and declare you are coming into a shift!” Osteen yelled through a bullhorn, according to reports. “God wants His best for you! Enlarge your vision, develop a healthy self image, and choose to be happy!”

“When you think positive, excellent thoughts, you will be propelled toward greatness!” he called out to one family floating on a raft on a freeway-turned-river, whose earthly possessions had been entirely destroyed the previous day.

Osteen also paused for brief photo ops with several families, the smiling pastor briefly allowing them to board his yacht as his professional photography team got shots of the pastor together with the sobbing, distraught flood victims, though the pastor was careful to not stand too close to the mud-caked refugees. Sources confirmed that the pastor then had his assistants help the families back into their makeshift lifeboats or tree logs on which they were floating through the city.

Did Joel Osteen’s ‘Church’ Flood As He Claimed?

Decide for yourself.

This Is What Happens When People Are Taught False Doctrine. This is Why Theology Matters

The Waldensians and the Lutheran Reformation

NZZ has a fine essay this morning

Die Geschichte der Reformation beginnt strenggenommen nicht erst mit der Veröffentlichung von Martin Luthers Thesen 1517. Schon Jahrhunderte vorher gab es Bewegungen, die versuchten, die katholische Kirche zu verändern. Einige blieben wie jene um Franziskus von Assisi innerhalb des Systems und wurden zu anerkannten Orden. Andere spalteten sich ab und wurden gnadenlos verfolgt. Nur eine dieser mittelalterlichen Protestbewegungen hat ausserhalb der Kirche überlebt: die von Petrus Valdes im 12. Jahrhundert in Lyon gegründete Laienbewegung der Waldenser, die später in den Bergtälern von Piemont Unterschlupf fand.

Etc.  Enjoy.

Quote of the Day

Τεκνία, μὴ ἀγαπῶμεν λόγῳ μηδὲ τῇ γλώσσῃ, ἀλλὰ ἐν ἔργῳ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ.

(1 Jn. 3:18)

Once More: Disaster Relief

If you’re looking for a way to help the people affected by Hurricane Harvey, I recommend Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief.

Southern Baptists do Disaster Relief better than anyone else.  And you can trust them to use your money in the wisest and most helpful ways.

SBDR teams will be on the ground for months to come. Will you join us in supporting our volunteers as they work tirelessly to care for strangers, neighbors, families and friends?

Any donation will equip our volunteers to operate units and provide hot showers, fresh laundry, homemade meals and a kind face to confide in. It’s only possible through your generosity.

Be part of Christ’s love in action, today. And please pray for those affected by Hurricane Harvey’s destruction. Thank you.

Send Hope. Send Help. Send Relief.

Calvin: on Facing Adversity

I’ve always found this passage from Calvin’s Institutes quite good:

Innumerable are the ills which beset human life, and present death in as many different forms. Not to go beyond ourselves, since the body is a receptacle, nay the nurse, of a thousand diseases, a man cannot move without carrying along with him many forms of destruction. His life is in a manner interwoven with death.

For what else can be said where heat and cold bring equal danger? Then, in what direction soever you turn, all surrounding objects not only may do harm, but almost openly threaten and seem to present immediate death. Go on board a ship, you are but a plank’s breadth from death. Mount a horse, the stumbling of a foot endangers your life. Walk along the streets, every tile upon the roofs is a source of danger. If a sharp instrument is in your own hand, or that of a friend, the possible harm is manifest.

All the savage beasts you see are so many beings armed for your destruction. Even within a high walled garden, where everything ministers to delight, a serpent will sometimes lurk. Your house, constantly exposed to fire, threatens you with poverty by day, with destruction by night. Your fields, subject to hail, mildew, drought, and other injuries, denounce barrenness, and thereby famine. I say nothing of poison, treachery, robbery, some of which beset us at home, others follow us abroad.

Amid these perils, must not man be very miserable, as one who, more dead than alive, with difficulty draws an anxious and feeble breath, just as if a drawn sword were constantly suspended over his neck? It may be said that these things happen seldom, at least not always, or to all, certainly never all at once. I admit it; but since we are reminded by the example of others, that they may also happen to us, and that our life is not an exception any more than theirs, it is impossible not to fear and dread as if they were to befall us.

What can you imagine more grievous than such trepidation? Add that there is something like an insult to God when it is said, that man, the noblest of the creatures, stands exposed to every blind and random stroke of fortune. Here, however, we were only referring to the misery which man should feel, were he placed under the dominion of chance.

But when once the light of Divine Providence has illumined the believer’s soul, he is relieved and set free, not only from the extreme fear and anxiety which formerly oppressed him, but from all care. For as he justly shudders at the idea of chance, so he can confidently commit himself to God.

This, I say, is his comfort, that his heavenly Father so embraces all things under his power—so governs them at will by his nod—so regulates them by his wisdom, that nothing takes place save according to his appointment; that received into his favour, and entrusted to the care of his angels, neither fire, nor water, nor sword, can do him harm, except in so far as God their master is pleased to permit.  Institutes I,17,10-11.

Reformed Christians in America Need to Reaffirm the Belhar Confession, in Opposition to White Supremacy

The Confession of Belhar, 1986

1. We believe in the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects and cares for the church through Word and Spirit. This, God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end.

2. We believe in one holy, universal Christian church, the communion of saints called from the entire human family.

We believe

  • that Christ’s work of reconciliation is made manifest in the church as the community of believers who have been reconciled with God and with one another (Eph. 2:11-22);
  • that unity is, therefore, both a gift and an obligation for the church of Jesus Christ; that through the working of God’s Spirit it is a binding force, yet simultaneously a reality which must be earnestly pursued and sought: one which the people of God must continually be built up to attain (Eph. 4:1-16);
  • that this unity must become visible so that the world may believe that separation, enmity and hatred between people and groups is sin which Christ has already conquered, and accordingly that anything which threatens this unity may have no place in the church and must be resisted (John 17:20-23);
  • that this unity of the people of God must be manifested and be active in a variety of ways: in that we love one another; that we experience, practice and pursue community with one another; that we are obligated to give ourselves willingly and joyfully to be of benefit and blessing to one another; that we share one faith, have one calling, are of one soul and one mind; have one God and Father, are filled with one Spirit, are baptized with one baptism, eat of one bread and drink of one cup, confess one name, are obedient to one Lord, work for one cause, and share one hope; together come to know the height and the breadth and the depth of the love of Christ; together are built up to the stature of Christ, to the new humanity; together know and bear one another’s burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ that we need one another and upbuild one another, admonishing and comforting one another; that we suffer with one another for the sake of righteousness; pray together; together serve God in this world; and together fight against all which may threaten or hinder this unity (Phil. 2:1-5; 1 Cor. 12:4-31; John 13:1-17; 1 Cor. 1:10-13; Eph. 4:1-6; Eph. 3:14-20; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 1 Cor. 11:17-34; Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:3-4);
  • that this unity can be established only in freedom and not under constraint; that the variety of spiritual gifts, opportunities, backgrounds, convictions, as well as the various languages and cultures, are by virtue of the reconciliation in Christ, opportunities for mutual service and enrichment within the one visible people of God (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:1-11; Eph. 4:7-13; Gal. 3:27-28; James 2:1-13);
  • that true faith in Jesus Christ is the only condition for membership of this church.

Therefore, we reject any doctrine

  • which absolutizes either natural diversity or the sinful separation of people in such a way that this absolutization hinders or breaks the visible and active unity of the church, or even leads to the establishment of a separate church formation;
  • which professes that this spiritual unity is truly being maintained in the bond of peace while believers of the same confession are in effect alienated from one another for the sake of diversity and in despair of reconciliation;
  • which denies that a refusal earnestly to pursue this visible unity as a priceless gift is sin;
  • which explicitly or implicitly maintains that descent or any other human or social factor should be a consideration in determining membership of the church.

3. We believe

  • that God has entrusted the church with the message of reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ, that the church is called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, that the church is called blessed because it is a peacemaker, that the church is witness both by word and by deed to the new heaven and the new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Cor. 5:17-21; Matt. 5:13-16; Matt. 5:9; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21-22).
  • that God’s lifegiving Word and Spirit has conquered the powers of sin and death, and therefore also of irreconciliation and hatred, bitterness and enmity, that God’s lifegiving Word and Spirit will enable the church to live in a new obedience which can open new possibilities of life for society and the world (Eph. 4:17–6:23, Rom. 6; Col. 1:9-14; Col. 2:13-19; Col. 3:1–4:6);
  • that the credibility of this message is seriously affected and its beneficial work obstructed when it is proclaimed in a land which professes to be Christian, but in which the enforced separation of people on a racial basis promotes and perpetuates alienation, hatred and enmity;
  • that any teaching which attempts to legitimate such forced separation by appeal to the gospel, and is not prepared to venture on the road of obedience and reconciliation, but rather, out of prejudice, fear, selfishness and unbelief, denies in advance the reconciling power of the gospel, must be considered ideology and false doctrine.

Therefore, we reject any doctrine

  • which, in such a situation, sanctions in the name of the gospel or of the will of God the forced separation of people on the grounds of race and color and thereby in advance obstructs and weakens the ministry and experience of reconciliation in Christ.

4. We believe

  • that God has revealed himself as the one who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people;
  • that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged;
  • that God calls the church to follow him in this, for God brings justice to the oppressed and gives bread to the hungry;
  • that God frees the prisoner and restores sight to the blind;
  • that God supports the downtrodden, protects the stranger, helps orphans and widows and blocks the path of the ungodly;
  • that for God pure and undefiled religion is to visit the orphans and the widows in their suffering;
  • that God wishes to teach the church to do what is good and to seek the right (Deut. 32:4; Luke 2:14; John 14:27; Eph. 2:14; Isa. 1:16-17; James 1:27; James 5:1-6; Luke 1:46-55; Luke 6:20-26; Luke 7:22; Luke 16:19-31; Ps. 146; Luke 4:16-19; Rom. 6:13-18; Amos 5);
  • that the church must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream;
  • that the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.

Therefore, we reject any ideology

  • which would legitimate forms of injustice and any doctrine which is unwilling to resist such an ideology in the name of the gospel.

5. We believe that, in obedience to Jesus Christ, its only head, the church is called to confess and to do all these things, even though the authorities and human laws might forbid them and punishment and suffering be the consequence (Eph. 4:15-16; Acts 5:29-33; 1 Peter 2:18-25; 1 Peter 3:15-18).

Jesus is Lord.

To the one and only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be the honor and the glory for ever and ever.

The Martyrdom of John the Baptist

John was, according to tradition, killed on 29 August.

Is it coincidence that the death of John falls on the day my own birth is celebrated around the world?  I don’t think so….

One More Salvo From Zwingli to Luther on the Mass

9187062The fact was that Zwingli and Luther could by not possibility be friends. Each was a pope in his way, only Luther ruled a nation and Zwingli a city. Each was absolutely sure of himself and that he had found out the truth. Each had no belief in the honesty or capacity of those who differed from him. Zwingli was jealous of Luther because he was so much more famous, and in his letters to him attempts to patronise him. Luther considered Zwingli a heretic. He compared him with Arius! Manifestly the best thing for both parties was to attempt no contact. Instead of doing so they carried on directly and indirectly a protracted and abusive controversy, disgraceful to both of them. What they both needed was good breeding. Their unhappy controversy was discreditable to both of them. Its practical effect was to divide and so weaken Protestantism.

The biographer of Zwingli remarks

Zwingli’s final conclusions on the matter appear in his Confession of Faith in the Appendix to this volume. Beginning on August 29, 1528, when he issued his Epichiresis (iii., 83–116) upon the canon of the mass down to August 31, 1527, when he replied to Luther’s “Confession” (ii., 2, 94–223), he published sixteen pieces, mostly of some length, upon the Lord’s Supper. His correspondence for the latter years of his life is also full of allusions to the matter.

You can read the Epichiresis here.

Emil Brunner’s Rejection of the Heresy of Universalism

“The Word of Christ is for us the word of decision, which, so far as we believe, gives us salvation, and, precisely because it summons us to this decision, forbids us to believe in a deliverance which awaits us, or anyone else outside the sphere of faith. Just as we ought to know that God alone in Jesus Christ is the God of Grace, and outside of Jesus Christ the God of Wrath, so ought we to know that He is only gracious to him who believes, but that He is not so to him who is outside the sphere of faith.

But this cannot be for us an object of theoretical doctrine or even of imaginary ideas. This is said in order that we may believe, and it is for each of us to tell others as we have heard it, in order that they, too, may come to believe.

This is our business, but nothing else. We must absolutely resist the inclination to draw “logical conclusions”, since they only lead to one of two errors : either to the doctrine of the double decree or to the doctrine of universal salvation, each of which removes the reality of the decision of faith. Only the renunciation of the logically satisfying theory creates room for true decision; but the Gospel is the Word which confronts us with the summons to decision.”  — Emil Brunner (emphasis mine)