Friday, January 20, 2017

The 45th President

Donald John Trump was sworn in today as the 45th President of the United States of America. His inaugural speech was unique from those of recent memory.

Trump’s speech was not great by any means. He is not a polished orator. His gestures are far too repetitive and distracting. He cites no grand references to men of the past. He made few statements that will live on in the minds of thinkers or in the speeches of others to follow.[1]

Trump offered little to reconcile the parties. He spoke just as he did on the campaign and, honestly, just as plain Americans wanted him to. He evoked our confidence that he, perhaps for the first time since our founders led this nation, will work from the position of American interests and not political ones. He wasn’t trying to get himself re-elected in four years already. He wasn’t ensuring his party has favor in the future. 

President Trump rose to the podium to announce an interest in advancing the United States of America, and with it – Americans.

Here’s praying that he can do it!

[1] I did appreciate the phrase, “When you open your heart to patriotism there is no room for prejudice.”

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Where To Look For Spiritual Answers

I read an article this week having to do with the spiritual condition of the younger generation in the United States.
This article suggests that, rather than being atheists, a large number of young people have developed a faith similar to pantheism – the concept that everything embodies a power that is “god.”
According to Pew Research Center, the percentage of young adults who believe religion to be very important as compared to their elders is greatly lower, dropping a total of 31 percent from the Greatest Generation to Millennials. This is not to say, however, that young adults experience spiritual curiosity at lower rates. Pew Research Center also reports that 46 percent of Millennials feel a great sense of wonder about the universe, … although less intrigued by the thought of a strict religion, hold roughly the same importance to questions of spirituality and the nature of existence as their elders. Combining these ideas of a loose religious fabric with an unceasing sense of wonder opens a door to a new future of religious philosophy, one that incorporates both divinity and humility: an idea known as pantheism.”[1]
This article goes on to suggest that, “As today’s youth adapt to changing religious views while still holding curiosity towards the uncertain, the need for a new religion becomes apparent” and offers pantheism as that new religion.
The offer is in my opinion, laughable because, all through the article, we are told that pantheism is an ancient religion. Hey, I know! Let’s take an old religion, call it a new religion and maybe young, confused people will buy into it from us!
What I think is important to see in this article is the statement that young adults, “hold roughly the same importance to questions of spirituality and the nature of existence as their elders.
The challenge Christian face today in evangelization has nothing to do with whether young adults believe there is a spiritual world. Every human being knows inherently that there is a life after death.
The issue has always been one of guiding those same people to the truth about that life after death. I remind you that the Bible is the only source for spiritual thought that proves its message by the resurrection of the messenger, Jesus Christ. Every other religious or spiritual idea is only theory – it has no proof and no way to be proven.
You’ll get no argument from me that there have been men claiming to be Christians who have done terrible things in the name of Christianity. That only demonstrates the corruption of man. It in no way invalidates the message or the resurrection of Christ. People have misused the Bible. But the Bible is still where all reliable spiritual answers are to be found.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christianity and Culture

1 Corinthians 11:4 (KJV)
Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

Very frequently the subject of Christianity and culture comes to play in popular discussions. No one questions whether Christianity is a culture, what they question is whether Christianity ought to influence or bend to other cultures.

The subject has been a big one and, in some respects, considered settled in the world of missions. Beginning, as I understand it, with Hudson Taylor, it has become the normal thing for missionaries to meld their faith into the popular culture of the area. Rather than conforming the converts of a field to the culture of the missionary, the missionary learns to adapt his message to the culture of the field.

This mentality seems to be increasingly obvious here in the United States as we shift to a non-Christian culture. More and more churches are expected to conform to the changes in societal culture. To refuse is to be legalistic and, worse, unchristian. Allow me to say that again. This post-Christian culture believes it to be non-Christian to refuse to adapt faith to their culture.

I don't think this should surprise us too much given what was the great objection to Christianity in societies like China where Hudson Taylor ministered; they didn't want the white God to change their way of life, their culture. Isn't this also the huge attack leveled against missionary work among the Native American Indians over the last couple of centuries? Christianity changed their culture. I am part Native American.[1] When I first became a Christian I had some who tried to turn me from the faith. One was an old chief from the Tacoma area. He drew the Indian medicine wheel. Then he drew a cross inside the wheel and said, "The cross divided the Indian culture."

What I notice in our text is that Paul didn't consider the individual cultures of the many people groups he had already preached to and the many more God knew his message would reach. With something as seemingly innocuous as the length of hair a man and a woman wore, he gave a decisive instruction. It would be the same instruction regardless of culture.

I know that there are many cultural issues that are spiritual non-issues. But where the Bible is clear, our cultural preferences, no matter how important they may be to our heritage, ought to be surrendered to the Holy Spirit of God.

It is a controversial subject I know, but it is non-negotiable with God.

[1] I hear the politically correct title is now "Indigenous People.”

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Case for the Local Church Ministry

I am coming to believe John Adams may have been the greatest of our founding fathers.
Adams, the only of his siblings to be afforded the opportunity for an education, at first entertained training for the ministry. His father’s first advice to him was in that direction. For whatever reason, Adams, who was a believer, chose to study law instead.

Adams’ leading role in the founding of our country is without question, unparalleled. His genius was, to a large extent, responsible for:
  • ·       The introduction of principles of liberty in the discussions among the Congress
  • ·       The engagement of George Washington to establish and lead the Continental Army and
  • ·       The authorship of the Declaration of Independence

After the war was won, however, Adams’ influence began to wane. Adams served as Ambassador in France, negotiating[1] for French support of the War. After the War, he was America’s first Ambassador to England. Can you imagine the difficulty of that assignment?

Once the Constitution was written, something in which Adams had little part, his name was proposed as the first President of the United States. Those in the know at the time only considered two men to be obvious choices for the position. Washington, of course, won the election and Adams became Vice President, serving under Washington two terms. By the time Washington refused a third term, Adams had lost much of the respect of his fellow public officials. He narrowly won the office of Presidency, becoming our second POTUS, but lost a bid for re-election. he is one of only a hand full of Presidents not elected for a second term.

Adams was fiery, passionate and brilliant. But, they say, he had one huge fault; he was unbending. He had a difficult time compromising. And compromise is the grease that makes politics work.

Compromise - the very idea of compromise rides on one philosophical platform; none of us are perfect. Because we are not perfect, it would be impossible to believe one position is right and another wrong. Our ideas, according to the doctrine of compromise, are just - ideas. It’s probably a very good philosophy to employ in politics.

Compromise is however, a terrible problem in Christian ministry. If the preaching of God’s Word rests on the platform of imperfection, if we grease the wheels of Christian ministry with compromise, we guarantee that ministry to a slide downward until it is irrelevant. If we introduce politics into the work of God we will watch it spiral downward until it is no longer of any use.

This is where the value of the local church is found. Every sort of ministry that is outside of the local church must, of necessity, operate on politics. There are
  • ·       Too many factions, with
  • ·       Too many opinions proposing
  • ·       Too many options

for the organization to function without compromise. There has to be give and take. One doctrinal position must be avoided in order that another doctrinal position not be offended. We see this in:
  • ·       Conventions,
  • ·       Fellowships,
  • ·       Conferences,
  • ·       Christian colleges and
  • ·       Para-church organizations

Doctrine comes to be viewed as imperfect because doctrine comes to be seen as destructive to the organization.[2]

The local church is the answer to compromise. Within the local church the preacher is free to preach passionately and unbendingly what he sees in the Word of God. Believers of like faith are free to gather into the local church whose doctrine is consistent with their own. If the doctrine in this particular church is not in harmony with a believer’s own understanding of the Word of God, and if the preaching of that doctrine offends the conscience of the particular believer, he is free to unite with a different local church where the doctrine is in keeping with his own convictions. There is no compromise.

It is the local church and only the local church that is:
  • ·       Instituted in the Word of God,
  • ·       Has the sanction of the Holy Spirit and
  • ·       Provides Christians the atmosphere of passionate worship without compromise

[1] In many ways unsuccessfully - others were much more successful. Adams had as many run in with his peers in France as he did with the French.
[2] Some of the most influential and well known “fighting fundamentalist” Baptists have recently taken to preaching messages on why we need to get along, making light of what they consider to be divisive doctrines held by many Baptists. Their agenda is obvious; they are trying to build a larger following for their college or their convention and these doctrinal peculiarities are getting in the way.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Baptist History Debunked?

James White has done it again.

Dr. White likes to speak about being gracious and charitable but he only means to Catholics, Mormons and Muslims. To fellow Christians, and especially to fellow Baptists, he can be mean spirited, harsh and sometimes even hateful.

In a recent Dividing Line[1] program entitled “Dogmatic Secularism Rises; the Politics of the Southern Baptist Convention[2] at about minute 39, White takes off on a message by Dr. Paige Patterson given at a college Chapel service. Patterson was addressing the issue of Calvinism within the Southern Baptist Convention and remarks that it belongs in Presbyterian churches, not Baptist. In his statements, Patterson links Baptists to Anabaptists, the Apostles and John the Baptist. It was at this point that White mockingly says, “You ain’t been reading the Trail of Blood again have you?”[3] From there he says there are many books that debunk the Anabaptist connection to modern Baptists.

Yes, Dr. White, and there are many that affirm it too.

Here’s the thing, on almost any given subject a person can find material to either support or deny any given position. Which material we tend to gravitate to depends largely upon one’s leaning. White confesses his own training was in schools where he was the “token Fundamentalist.” It is obvious that before he finished his education there was very little of Fundamentalism left. The influences in his life, together with his desire to be seen as an academic, has pulled him toward those positions that are the most widely accepted among his chosen group of peers, the Reformed.

Nothing concerning the Anabaptist lineage has been debunked. Writers, who lean toward Protestantism, reference books that keep church history in the Catholic line. Writers who see the error of Catholicism (and thus, Protestantism) reference works (generally much older ones) that maintain the gates of hell never prevailed against God’s churches as they did in Catholicism and then Protestantism.

[1] A part of his Alpha and Omega Ministries,
[3] At about 46 minutes