Monday, August 15, 2016

Drinking A Little or A Lot

I recently read of the removal of Pastor Perry Noble from the pastorate of South Carolina mega church known as NewSpring Church. Right off the bat I want to say that I have no reason to attack Noble. He is not in my circles, his church, in my estimation has never been Biblical and other than seeing his name appear from time to time in articles I only glance at, he has been a non-issue to me. What is an issue is the lesson that is learned from his fall.
In an article I found in Christianity Today[1], Noble declares that he believes it is perfectly acceptable for Christians to consume alcohol so long as they do not abuse alcohol. His problem, by his own admission, is that he "slipped" from socially consuming to personally abusing alcohol.

I am reminded of a podcast[2] I recently heard where James White and Jeff Durbin defended themselves from certain attacks made by fellow Calvinist, JD Hall[3]. Hall had gotten wind of two separate but actual events that had taken place in connection with some fundraising for a new church Durbin's church is planting in Hawaii. Whether Hall's accusations are accurate or not is not the point of this piece. What is the point is the defense White and Durbin make against those accusations.
Apparently Durbin's congregation is primarily composed of alcohol and drug abusers who have been rescued through this ministry. Durbin, Who works to help addicts recover, preaches a message very similar Perry Noble's, "social drinking is acceptable but abusive drinking is sin" line.
Durbin cited Scripture after Scripture that he believes speak of drinking wine in a positive, even exalted light. One reference was Jesus' turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. On more than one occasion Durbin used the word, conviction, claiming that it was his conviction that the Bible did not condemn wine.

Here's my take. First, wine, in the Bible, is not always alcoholic. Men like White, who boast of their skills in accurately interpreting the Bible, should see this. Too many people they know and claim to respect have published by too much information on the subject for them to not be aware of this. I would expect that this is a conscious choice to deny a valid understanding of the word, wine. For Durbin to insist on serving strong drink, i.e. alcoholic wine, at his communion services is, in my estimation, just plain irresponsible.

Secondly I want to challenge Durbin’s use of the word, conviction. When Durbin says it is his "conviction" that it is biblical to drink alcoholic wine, does this mean that the social drinking of alcoholic beverages is actually a Christian practice Durbin would suffer persecution to defend? I expect it is more of a preference.

I end with this since a man, such as Noble, could slide into the abusive use of this substance that is so well known to be addictive, since it is not a matter critical to the Christian faith, and since abstinence from alcohol is a certain means of preventing such abuse, wouldn't it be wiser to entertain more thoroughly those interpretations of the Bible that teach complete abstinence?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

James White's Opposition to "KJV Onlyism"

James White is a hero to many modern Calvinists, including Reformed Baptists. White takes frequent hits at those, even among the Reformed crowd, who hold to the “King James Only” position on the Bible. I admit that the groups that hold to KJV Only are diverse and some of the positions held on the KJV go much too far. However, there are legitimate arguments for the exclusive use of the King James Version of the Bible. In this article I want to address White’s arguments against the exclusive use of the King James Version and offer a few answers.

His argument, as I understand it, against using the King James Version of the Bible exclusively:
A key passage, Psalms 12[1] is, according to him, misused.
This argument appeals to the academic but denies the spirit of God's Word. The Bible, and especially the Psalms, is filled with passages where the context appears to be one thing but there are obvious secondary lessons found in them. How would we have ever seen the allegory of Sarah and Hagar using strictly academic context? Yet we know the allegory is authoritative. So many of the Psalms jump from a Davidic context to prophesy clearly of the Saviour. There are too many passages that promise the first infallible preservation of God's Word to deny that this passage must also be included among them.

Interestingly, I have not heard White or anyone else for that matter, cite a passage suggesting that God would, as they claim He has done, preserve His infallible Word through a variety of corrupted but reliable enough manuscripts.

KJV onlyists must isolate the one KJV text that is the infallible one.
By insisting upon this, White demands of us what he claims is not necessary for himself: one perfect text. He claims to believe that we have the word of a God and that no Word of God has been lost. He just claims that it exists among thousands of manuscripts that don't agree. The scholar gets then the job of choosing for the masses what is the Word of God and what is not. He sets himself up in a place of perpetual awe before his inferiors who must wait upon him to declare for them what God has said.
My claim is that the KJV is the infallible word of God in fact. There may be editions with errors, but there is no error in the KJV as God illuminated the translators to record it.

KJV onlyists ignore historical fact to hold their traditional view of the Bible.
My claim is that White ignores the nature of God to hold his presumptive view that the Bible must contain errors that scholars may be employed to ferret out. I would rather side with God that He has preserved His Word perfectly than with historians who are inherently fallible and admittedly biased.

White dismisses the KJV only position as indefensible in the real world.
This of course is a matter of opinion. He claims he has taken his position into the world through debates with Muslims, atheists, Mormons and others. My observation, having listened now to numerous of his debates, has been that White claims himself to be the winner of these debates but that they are structured in such a way that both sides can make that claim if they choose.
White is the sort of man who, I doubt, ever sees himself as loosing.

White's position appears to me to be loosely based upon his understanding of the key texts and much more dependent upon his understanding of the history of the transmission of the Bible. He has a compelling motivation to forever keep the Bible in a state of incomplete perfection. It preserves his importance as a textual authority.

[1] White, who claims to dislike listening to people he believes yells too much, is himself very loud spoken and in very loud tones mockingly corrects those who would call the address Psalms 12 instead of Psalm 12. The fact is that many scholars past and present refer to a single address in the Psalms using the title of the book as a whole in the address. It is not an error to do so, it is rather one of White’s ways of belittling and marginalizing the person with whom he disagrees.  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Consider To Whom You Are Praying.

Some prayers are designed to move the hearer rather than God. Sometimes when say we are praying for a thing what we're really asking/hoping is that those who read our "prayer letter" or hear our "testimony" are moved by it to meet the need for which we claim to pray. We are not really asking God to meet the need. We're wondering if, by saying we're asking for God to meet the need, there might be somebody who will do it for Him.

To pray and ask God to meet the need would be, as George Mueller suggested, to not tell people what the need is.

Those especially in "dependent" type ministries, such as itinerant ones, have been conditioned to see answers to prayer in the form of gifts and offerings from God's people, especially in the churches. A Prayer letter or report letter might then subconsciously become an appeal to people for needs rather than an actual expression of dependence upon the Lord.

Certainly the Bible teaches that God answers our prayers most often by moving His people. I am in no way suggesting that, to receive an answer to prayer through the gifts, offerings or actions of people, is to not receive an answer to prayer. My point is one of the heart.

  •       Do we not have to be careful that our hearts are more dependent upon the giving culture of Christianity rather than upon the Lord?
  •        Is it not true that we might easily convert our Christian faith into another one of the myriads of religions?

Christianity is not man centered but God centered. Let’s keep our prayers directed to Him.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Three Stages of Learning

A few years ago I became very interested in studying the history of the founding of the United States. I got some books on the subject, I watched documentaries on the key players, mostly from the American side but also a few from the British side, I also enrolled in several of the college courses available online. What I discovered is that, for the most part, each documentary, book and college lecture was a rehash of another. The emphasis of each might be slightly unique, but the depth of the material was just about par. The value of the courses, I soon determined, was not in the lecture but in the list of sources each provided. Those sources usually first hand or very nearly so documents is where all the fresh water is. That set me to thinking about the levels of education, especially in higher education:

The Lecture Stage
Painting with a very broad brush, I refer to all undergraduate education as lecture based. I realize this brush isn't completely fair or accurate but please, hear me out. The lecture level of education offers summary information. The student hears what another has learned. There is of course some room for other things; the younger students have some memory work. The student will receive some basic research skills, should they choose to advance to the next level of education. Some courses provide hands on time so the student can apply what he has learned; he has to be able to translate what he has learned into a marketable commodity. Likely any further education will be in this practical area. The student simply learns to improve his skills and increase his market value,

The Research Stage
Students who come to this stage of education have generally developed such a fascination with what they have learned that curiosity drives them to further learning. This level of learning, however, can’t be obtained in a typical classroom/lecture setting. This level of education requires research. The student must find original sources or at the very least source only once or twice removed from the original sources. At this stage the student will generally run in to one of two situations:
  • There will be scant amounts of original documentation to work with
  • There will be an overwhelming amount of material to work with

The Presentation Stage
The student becomes the teacher and shares what he or she has learned.

Education at this level becomes very much like an art.
I recently listened to a presentation concerning President Lincoln. The presenter, a staff member of the Washington Post named Lillian Cunningham, explained the dilemma she faced with preparing her 54 minute long presentation on President Lincoln; there is so much material that if she had just chosen to read off a list of Lincoln’s accomplishments while in the Whitehouse, it would be too long to fit in her slotted time.

She chose to only speak of Lincoln as a writer.

So you see where the lecture level of learning comes short; the presenter always filters through the material at their disposal to give you what they have personally determined would be of most interest to you. Or else, in the case of finding too little original material, the presenter uses conjecture and imagination to develop a story line (lecture or series of them) that will appeal to students, win an audience and thus, become marketable.

I realize that a person could argue the specifics of my description but my point is to bring about this application and parallel. These three stages could also represent the stages of Christian life and growth.

The Hearer Stage
Both the unsaved and the new convert to the Christian faith have a hearer stage.
Romans 10:13-14 (KJV)
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

Faith is passed from one soul to the next through the medium of preaching. A person gets saved through hearing the Word of God and a person takes their first steps of faith through that same medium of preaching. Every one of us must be a hearer of the Word of God

The Study Stage
2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

The Word of God is replete with passages urging the Christian to advance past being only a hearer of the Word of God:
James 1:22 (KJV)
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Hebrews 6:1-2 (KJV)
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

2 Peter 1:4-10 (KJV)
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

The Preaching Stage
Hebrews 5:12 (KJV)
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

Acts 1:8 (KJV)
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

At this point the cycle of God’s Word has gone full circle. The student (still yet and always a student) has become the teacher.

Those Christians who grow the most and have the fullest experience in their Christian life engage themselves in all three stages.
  • They hear the Word
  • They study the Word and
  • They teach/preach the Word

Marvin McKenzie
In the Fields