Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolution, Resolution

This is the time for resolutions, the start of a new year. For two days I had decided to give up blogging in concert with free grace stuff. I reviewed where I began and where things are and most of the voids that the LORD moved my passions to fill, have been appropriately moved toward healthiness all on their own, according to His abundant riches and provisions! Also I have been passionate to lay up on a regular basis, the activities online in which I participate, at the LORD's feet in surrender. Every time I detach myself from these things and give it to God, He blesses me and hands me a little something fresh. God is certainly moving and it's just so exciting, the more I hang around.

I don't deserve it. People who know me know I'm not a perfect person.

There is one resolution I am making, which is that I'm not any longer going to blog concerning IFBs. Not for now, leastways. I have two problems. One, scant reliable information. Two, I am sure that while Lou may not have been ecstatic before he might have had a measure of forbearance for my investigation, and I'm just not sure I still have it. I certainly will not allow what I consider good to stray in to an area where it is considered by another brother, as an offense. As of late there has been a thread regarding my brother at Unashamed of Grace.

I want to say that since I have left Lou's blog (back in July 2008, where up until then I was freely permitted to comment there), he has never once said anything damaging about my personal character or intentions. He has withheld his tongue perhaps though at many times I left him provoked for one thing or another. I appreciate his character of self-control.

I'd also want to wish him a belated happy birthday but I don't want to disturb the peace.

Thoughts on Brotherhood

Genesis 13:5-9:

Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram's herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.

So Abram said to Lot, "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left."

Genesis 14:1-2, 11-16

At this time Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar).

The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. They also carried off Abram's nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.

One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.

Abram spent all his resources to recover and advocate his brother, who never recovered from his follies for all the days of his life.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Plea for my IFB Brother

I don't know for sure all that IFBs believe. Let me attest that it becomes much more intricate and distinct, the more one inspects.

This evening I stumbled upon another helpful yet less than scientific article regarding Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (IFBs).

The author begins by quoting an outsider. This outsider expresses a typical opinion of superficial commonality between normal and fundamentalist evangelicals. Next the author begins to disspell these superficial commonalities in several points to illustrate the marked differences between the two sects. I have taken only two of the author's brief points to illuminate how different the sects are upon a deeper dig. *

Somebody said to me,

"As far as I can see, fundamentalism and evangelicalism are really the same thing: You are Bible-believers, and you will only change on some point of teaching if you believe that your previous biblical understanding was in error (though you don't do that too often!), but you never change in order to be more 'in tune' with modern society (unlike liberals)."

While there is rather more than a grain of truth in that, and I take that person's comments as a compliment, there are some important differences between the two groups which we should be aware of.

1. The attitude to scholarship
One occasionally hears disparaging comments about 'theology' from some Christians; this tends to betray a fundamentalist prejudice. Fundamentalists often tended to see all academic learning as an enemy of biblical truth! They felt that the study of theology would only lead to giving Satan an entrance into our biblical reasonings; one still finds this approach among the cults and sects such as 'Jehovah's Witnesses' and among various more extreme charismatic groups. But most evangelicals would smile at this. After all, that word 'theology' simply means 'God speech' or, 'God's words,' nothing more sinister than that! While it is certainly true that some theology is liberal or otherwise distorted, much theology is wholly Bible-based and is simply an attempt to better understand the Word of God! So evangelicals are prepared to respect education and learning and not necessarily feel that these are ungodly activities.

7. Separationism
Fundamentalists have been tragically quick to separate from other equally sincere believers in areas where separation clearly appears to have been avoidable. Evangelicals, on the other hand, have more often adopted the attitude of agreeing to disagree in various areas, whilst agreeing on the necessity to preach the Gospel, and on all the vital teachings of the Christian Faith!
But fundamentalism always tended to be more exclusivist in approach with members rarely being prepared to work with other Bible-believing Christians where even quite minor areas of doctrine separated them. In our day, we have a very vivid and lamentable example of this in the move by a large group of churches in the United States to re-affirm fundamentalism upon the tragic battlefield of Bible translations!!
The ''KJV only' movement has divided churches in an argument which appears to have been especially avoidable! One could have surely agreed that some Bible translations are a little stronger than others, but that most translations have something to offer.

-Robin A. Brace, 2002

Here is a list of all the worldly Christian music artists, according to some members of the IFBs. Can you see in worship music, how different their idea of ecumenism and compromise is from the rest of evangelicalism? *

Lou Martuneac links his article labeled, "Perverse Things Draw Away Disciples," in his last comment for Tuesday at JPs latest blog post.

"Perverse" does not mean a cultural connotation of "sexual or social deviants" -- an unnecessary word-offense that happens over and again in these miscommunications. "Perverse" simply refers to "errors" including, to us, the most minute matters. See omission or new translations of words from KJV to other versions. In this case, it is simply another expression of a fundamentalist to express that the promise-only gospel, through omission, causes children to be led astray.

This famous question is asked at the end of his article:

Where does your first loyalty lie, to God and His Word, or to your friends and fellowships?

Any dose of warmth and friendliness will be seen as compromise, or as he successfully depicted things, the "slippery slope" on the way to eventual compromise. It must be difficult to have any friends, or few -- imagine how important agreement over scripture is, before fellowship, before friendship.

Any movement on anyone's part, toward even a new perspective on solely biblical grounds, such as JP's recent explanation of the greek meaning of the word "heretic" as he explains in his latest blog post, will be misread, and probably go unnoticed. It may very well be tacked up purely as a move of compromise. Only the closest of friends, those securely on the inside, have true freedom to suggest their grounds in the Word of God for honest disagreement.

Does this make sense?

The principles of 2 Timothy 2:14 apply just as much for a fundamentalist in their beliefs regarding biblical separation, as they apply to the crossless advocates in the appeals made on their behalf to abandon ecumenism:

Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.

If no one has ever gone to a IFB brother, and preached and taught in a lowly and patient manner, showing him his error, how can that IFB brother be guilty of intentional discord? If you are convinced he has known better, then he ought to at least be able to repeat back to you, the charges he has heard you give. At least, if he has heard, he would have a choice, but, I bet even this is not at all possible. He has not comprehended it, so long as those who have preached to him have been disobedient, overthrowing the "hearing" of the words of correction found in scripture by their own manner.

Can you judge a man guilty who has not yet heard?

One day they will hear it, and when they do I believe they will rejoice. I was about to make this same argument from 2 Timothy 2 on behalf of the crossless people attempting to be reached.

There is "no profit" in correct and true broadcasts made without compassion. The Word of God has convinced me that there is no profit to be had. That is what 2 Timothy 2:14 says. It says, there has been no listening, so long as there has been strife, word-fights, or quarrels. These men are not guilty! They are innocent.

I beg consideration of our LORD's example:

1 Cor 1:27

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

1 Cor 2:2-3

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.

2 Cor 13:4

For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power.

Phil 2:3-5

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus....

1 Pet 4:8

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

1 John 3:16

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

* There is a quotient of potential error on my part, because I'm still working on understanding and researching the IFBs and normal, or common evangelicalism. I'm willing to admit that and take correction or have dialogue concerning it. It remains true as well that any one individual belonging to the sect may or may not hold the expressly stated beliefs of any website being borrowed upon as these articles describe. Forgive me for inaccuracies, I'm trying to secure more reputable materials.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Hearer's Destruction?

I must make a note that according to the scripture that says, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man" 1 Tim. 2:12, I do not assume authority with the Word of God, nor do I wish to be known as a teacher, but, I do want to bring out things I have found in the Word, and draw attention to them for others to discuss with me.

I wish to look a little more closely at the greek word: "hearers"

1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf
2) to hear
b) to attend to, consider what is or has been said
c) to understand, perceive the sense of what is said
3) to hear something
a) to perceive by the ear what is announced in one's presence
b) to get by hearing learn
c) a thing comes to one's ears, to find out, learn
d) to give ear to a teaching or a teacher
e) to comprehend, to understand

What happens to the hearer if the "words" become "strivings"?

There is:
--"no profit"
--an "overthrow of a spirit of consecration"
--an "extinction" of sanctification

If one who "hears" is "destroyed," can there be any "hearing"? There will be no more "attending," no "considering," no "perception," no "finding out," no "learning," no "comprehension."

The guilt for "not hearing" lies with either the hearers, or the teachers. So often we point to the hearers as the ones who are disobedient, but, I believe that 2 Timothy makes a case that the failure for accepting the message can fall upon the disobedience of the teachers.

Let me share with you a personal experience.

Four years ago I had been babysitting on a regular basis, a 5-year old boy whose mother has been my friend since we were both 12 years old. She had never really ever responded to the gospel as I had shared it with her, and since I cared deeply about reading bible stories and sharing prayer with children who came into my home, I began fielding her overall opinion of me doing likewise with her own son while in my home. She gave me mixed signals. She appreciated the moral messages of veggietales. Though she expressly made it evident that at least her husband did not think it was a good idea for his son to be told that there is a God, until he was an adult and able to handle the scary stories of "wrath" and "hell" properly.

Meanwhile I had been building in my own prayer life, a zeal for the opportunity to share Christ with this little boy, who was even asking me questions about God on occasion. What did I do? Well, the next time this boy asked me about a creator, I told him what I tell all little children: "He made everything, and He lives up there, behind the clouds, behind the sun, behind the moon. You can't see Him, but He's there, always watching us, and always loving us. We can talk to Him whenever we want because of the cross." At least, that's how I introduce the gospel to children.

Later that evening my best friend, his mother, called me and told me that her son was distraught, and calling his mother a liar, for denying to admit that there really is a God.


My best friend was furious. She did not talk to me again, for... several months. I remember sharing my pain over this with a few prayer partners at church, and they applauded me in their consolations. They said, "We are amazed that He has called you to lose a friend just so that this little boy might know the truth!"

At first, I thought they were right, I thought I had done well. But then I realized this: It shouldn't have to take a wrong action to make a right result. There is no such thing. I betrayed someone's trust. Not just anyone, but my long-life friend! How could I taint the name of Christ by violating our friendship?

What had I overlooked? I can tell you now, and I told her months later.

I overlooked the fact that the authorities who have been established, have been established by God. God did not give this little boy to me, to care for, but to her and her husband. The LORD must know what He is doing by granting... atheists, to raise children according to their beliefs. The LORD gives children every day, to atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Muslims, and many, many others. I overlooked the fact that the LORD still answers prayer. He does not need to bring this child to faith, today. He doesn't have to use me. Perhaps God's plans for this boy's life include a salvation that is introduced later on, to much joy and by deep conversion with gratitude.

In the meantime, I just knew that her values, were violated. Sure, she may not have specifically stated "Don't do that," but I should have known her overall heart and, if I had been looking to know what she really felt, I think it would have been obvious.

I call her values, the values of others who seem to be less than conformed to scripture, as "culture." I ought to move within my friend's culture, in a non-violating fashion, to secure a good name for the gospel of Christ. I ought to live out my Christianity, knowing that God can save and that He hears my prayers.

Hebrews 11: 1; Hebrews 11:6:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

And without faith it is impossible to please God....

I once said that I used to have a lot in common with fundamentalists. Fundamentalism says, "scripture gives every right in every occasion, to tell others of their waywardness." Do you believe this? I no longer do.

Several months later, my friend and I recovered over my violation enough that she actually let me watch him again. I have spent many years since, however, listening to the perception of my beliefs as I myself have corrupted them. They find God to be disgusting, and they place my glorious gospel of a free gift by faith alone, in the same bunch with Catholicism and every other works- and service- based pseudo-christian proclamation. It appears to them as nothing greater than oppression: of the mind, of the heart. Because the selfishness, the self-righteousness, the hypocrisy of my own actions have been made clear. I told her not in words, but in actions: my thoughts are more important than yours, my feelings and priorities are more important than yours.

Luke 22:24-27

Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves."

Matt 11:28-30

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

I am not eager to make a public tale of this but, for His glory I would, for He alone is just and true.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Ruin of the Hearers

2 timothy 2:14 (NKJV)

Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.

The KJV translates the same verse as this:

Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive 3054 not about words 3054 to no profit 5539, but to the subverting 2692 of the hearers 191.

strive λογομαχέω logomacheō
1) to contend about words
2) to wrangle about empty and trifling matters

Root Word (Etymology) from a compound of G3056 and G3164; "word" and "fight":

fight μάχομαι machomai
1) to fight
a) of armed combatants, or those who engage in a hand to hand struggle
b) of those who engage in a war of words, to quarrel, wrangle, dispute
c) of those who contend at law for property and privileges

profit χρήσιμος chrēsimos
1) fit for use, useful

subverting καταστροφή katastrophē
1) overthrow, destruction
a) of cities
2) metaphorical of the extinction of a spirit of consecration

--The only other citation of the word "katastrophē" (2692) is in 2 peter 2:6, which says:

And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow 2692, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly....

hearers ἀκούω akouō
1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf
2) to hear
b) to attend to, consider what is or has been said
c) to understand, perceive the sense of what is said
3) to hear something
a) to perceive by the ear what is announced in one's presence
b) to get by hearing learn
c) a thing comes to one's ears, to find out, learn
d) to give ear to a teaching or a teacher
e) to comprehend, to understand

I see these things pop out in the Greek:

-- "word-fight" (3054-3054)
-- "overthrow" of "that which is received and perceived"
-- contending for property and privileges

This verse in 2 Timothy asserts that striving for word privileges causes the message once perceived to be destroyed.

There have been many months dedicated to giving a fitting label to the "consistent" or by another term, "crossless" gospel. The CG (consistent/crossless gospel) advocates occasionally testify that they are offended and repulsed at the "crossless" label. The ones who have applied this term make a case that it is fitting. The CG advocates have asked one of many other options be used in its place. But the ones who coined it insist in keeping it, justifying its use by pointing out that, by their understanding, the term is accurate & truthful.

Let's presume the term "crossless" is accurate and true as a summation of that gospel message. Is "true" the one and only important quality in speech? No; there are other roughly-equally important qualities inherent to a message from the Word and so should our own language model after its teachings. Therefore the term "crossless," while perhaps (or perhaps not) being true, is not yet a finished product.

What goes alongside truth?

Ephesians 4:29

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Non-ministering communications and other strivings over words, are sinful. We now know what not to do. What does it look like to have communication work a redemption? What did Jesus do?

Luke 7:37-39

And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.

It is unrecorded exactly what this woman had known of Jesus and His teachings. Nevertheless she came literally in a break-through. His declarations made her come running. Imagine a ministry of the Word of God that made the people come running in gratitude, like a sheep at the shepherd's voice....

How do we go from here, "corruptive" to there: "ministering"? I am not sure myself. But I know that with the help of the Holy Spirit we might learn to hold our tongue during those times where grace is practiced. There is space for grace by means of not always demanding truth in every detail.

The very next verse after 2 timothy 2:14 is a famous verse:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Five verses later is another famous passage. It says that not all people teach with success. Not all are like a vessel of honor in usefulness. A servant of the Lord may discover victory in capturing those ensnared in error, through applying grace to their message.

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

Can the Word of God be used in such a way as to generate strife? I believe it can. I ask again: can a holy blameless Word, even though it never returns wholly void, be used in a quarrelsome manner? I believe it can. Perhaps not every manner of preaching is equally redemptive.

Preaching and teaching and other uses of the Word of God may or may not be sanctified, on an individual basis.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

2 Timothy 2:4-5, 1

No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Generous Demonstration

"Remember, No man is a failure who has friends."

"They didn't ask any questions, all they heard was that George is in trouble."

"Please help him, God, he never thinks of himself and that's why he's in trouble."

Their love was tangible, their sacrifice for a good man was overwhelmingly generous. But would they have done so great for this man if he had been that alternative man with no name, no reputation, no family... or worse, a bad reputation??

Even though this love is great, God's love is superior still:

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:7-8

Friday, December 19, 2008

Baptist history: Fundamentalism vs Ecumenism

I am having a good time not only learning what it means to be an Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB), but also what my own affiliation is, at least, according to where I attend church, which is part of the Conservative Baptist Association.

Here is a short and sweet synopsis of IFB's and the CBA's history, written by a pro-IFB site[1]:

(read FBFs=IFBs)

The FBF traces its roots to the formation of the Fundamentalist Fellowship of Northern Baptists in 1920. A more militant segment of these early Fundamentalists formed the Baptist Bible Union in 1923, which in 1932 separated from the Northern Baptist Convention (NBC) and formed the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. The Fundamentalist Fellowship men, however, stayed in the NBC and tried to reform it until the 1940s, when they were practically forced out. The issue that caused much of the conflict was the foreign mission society's adherence to the "inclusive policy," which meant that it approved liberal as well as evangelical missionaries.
In 1943 the Fundamentalist Fellowship (FF) was instrumental in starting the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society. In 1946 the FF changed its name to the Conservative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), and in 1951 by public resolution it disavowed any further relations with the American Baptist Convention (formerly the Northern Baptist Convention).

In 1948 the CBF organized an association of churches, the Conservative Baptist Association of America, and two years later it helped bring into existence the Conservative Baptist Home Mission Society.

In the Conservative Baptist movement, the CBF stood against the ecumenical evangelism, exemplified by Billy Graham, and New Evangelicalism and its compromise with liberalism. The beginning of the end of the CBF's involvement with Conservative Baptists occurred in 1961, when it helped to form a mission board that would appoint only premillennial missionaries, the World Conservative Baptist Mission (now Baptist World Mission).

In 1967 the CBF felt compelled to break all ties with the Conservative Baptist movement it had founded. The Conservative Baptist Fellowship was finally completely independent. To distance itself from the Conservative Baptist movement, the CBF changed its name to the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship. Since that time it has continued and prospered as a loose fellowship of individual like-minded Baptists.

You can see in this article that in their mind there is a clear thought of "compromise" of the truth in what comprised the teachings of Billy Graham in the 50s and 60s.

[1] Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International, history.

An encouraging conversation

I had sent an email of relative distress to Dr. R. He gave me a short reply because he has been quite busy lately, but, we talked on the phone yesterday afternoon between snow bursts when he was actually at the Seminary. It was personally, very encouraging.

I asked him a question of where the free grace movement is today. He answers this question by going back to the very beginning -- of his own life. It takes a while to listen to, but, every time he tells it he shares different details than the time before and I am able to get a better sense of all he has seen and done and learned. He seems to know the history and pastors of every church of influence in evangelical America in the last fifty years. He has worked with so many notable people. It's rather amazing to listen to these things.

What I would love to do is capture his voice on audio, and transcribe it. The more I listen to him the more I realize how little I know. I truly do know little. If there is one thing I might know, it is a discernment of what's out there...? (Sharing one's faith with LDS people makes you ask a lot of questions about your entire system of beliefs.) I have also tested many of the most popular errors in conservative biblical Christianity. I wrote briefly of this in a post which I took down earlier this week. Let me share that paragraph again here:

If you take a tour of most of conservative evangelical Christianity, you'll find a common doctrine that people are saved by faith alone in Christ alone. So: does the "free grace" movement exclusively own the burden which Galatians depicts? No. It belongs to everyone of course. I confess, I do not know of any other movement committed to defending both justification and sanctification, though. Take that same tour of conservative evangelical Christianity and you will discover there is conversely a great variety and confusion over sanctification: this is no where nailed down for believers like us.

If we move just a little to the left or right in conservative evangelical Christianity, we end up with deviations of sorts, on the gospel of salvation. You can have your pick, your combination, your preference: the pentecostal version of how to be saved; the church of christ version of how to be saved; or the lordship theology (hyper-calvinism) version of how to be saved. They are all "faith in Jesus, & also works." Beyond these? Everything else is certainly an abandonment of faith alone in Christ; liberal protestantism, catholicism, and works-based non-mainstream movements (commonly termed "cults").

I suppose this really is not any kind of accomplishment to have learned this. But it was enough for me to gain confirmation on a variety of my observations again and again while listening to him. How unprecedented and brave, free grace theology is attempting to be. In fact, I have heard him recommend an option of being a "Zero-point Calvinist," meaning we just don't need an acrostic at all to explain our faith, do we? We have the bible and that is all we ever needed.

This is simply brilliance way overdue.

The LORD is my Advocate :D

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What Makes Heresy?

In my perusings I found this article[1] which perhaps has some helpful ways of breaking down the elements and issues in identifying "heresy."

Kinds Of Heretical Doctrine

Taking the protestant principle to heart, we next turn to the Bible — what kinds of heretical doctrine does it discuss and forewarn us about? The Bible makes frequent reference to false teachings and it is often within the context of refuting heresy that its positive doctrinal material is cast.

The Old Testament contains solemn warnings against anyone who prophesies or proclaims teachings in the name of any god but the LORD, Jehovah (Deut. 13:1-5; 18:20-22). This is the assumed context in which the New Testament teaching about heresies is framed.

In the New Testament, there are warnings about false prophets (Matt. 24:11, 24; 2 Pet. 2:1) — that is, those who make predictions in the name of God and whose predictions turn out to be false (cf. Deut. 18:22). There is also a warning about false apostles (2 Cor. 11:13). There are warnings about those claiming to be the Christ, or claiming that Christ has come, or that the Day of the Lord has come, or that the resurrection has occurred — when all these events will be so plain and conspicuous that no one will miss them (Matt. 24:5, 23-27; 2 Thess. 2:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:16-18).

There are also warnings about those who proclaim another Jesus or a different gospel, or who introduce a spirit other than God's Spirit (1 Cor. 15:3-5; 2 Cor. 11:4;
Gal. 1:6-9). The teaching that circumcision and keeping the Law are necessary for salvation is condemned (Gal. 5:2-4; Phil. 3:2). On the other side, teaching that liberty in Christ gives us excuse for licentiousness is also condemned (Jude 4).

The denial of Jesus Christ's coming in the flesh is regarded as from the spirit of antichrist (1 John 4:1-6). There are warnings about people who cause dissensions by teaching doctrine directly opposed to what Christians already know to be true (Rom. 16:17; Tit. 3:10-11). There are warnings about those who claim to love God but do not love God's people (1 John 4:20; 5:1), and who deliberately break away from the church on the basis of perverted doctrine (1 John 2:19). Finally, there are warnings against adding to or taking away from the words of prophetic Scripture (Rev. 22:18-19) or twisting the Scriptures (2 Pet. 3:16).

Looking over these warnings from Scripture, we may classify heresies into six major categories:

1. Heresies about revelation — teachings that distort, deny, or add to Scripture in a way that leads people to destruction; false claims to apostolic or prophetic authority.
2. Heresies about God — teachings that promote false gods or idolatrous distortions of the true God.
3. Heresies about Christ — denials of His unique Lordship, His genuine humanity, His true identity.
4. Heresies about salvation — teaching legalism or licentiousness; denying the gospel of Christ's death and resurrection; and so forth.
5. Heresies about the church — deliberate attempts to lead people away from the fellowship of true Christians; utter rejection of the church.
6. Heresies about the future — false predictions for which divine authority is claimed; claims that Christ's return has taken place; and the like.

Note that errors in any one of these six categories tend to introduce errors into the other five. Take, for instance, the heretical view held by many groups that the church became totally apostate in the early centuries and thus had to be "restored" in the last days. This doctrine implies (1) that Scripture is not a sufficient revelation, but needs supplementing or "explaining" by some authoritative teacher or publication. It also almost always serves as a basis for rejecting the early church's views of (2) God and (3) Christ. Since the Reformation is rejected as falling short of the needed restoration, (4) the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith is likewise rejected. And the doctrine of a restoration comes to dominate the group's views of (5) the future, as it requires them to view many or most biblical prophecies about the future as finding fulfillment in their own group.

We find then that an error in any area of doctrine can affect every other area. Therefore, although heresies tend to fall directly into one or more of these six major categories, heresies can in fact occur on virtually any doctrinal subject. For example, someone who teaches that angels should be worshipped is teaching a heretical view (Col. 2:18), even though the subject matter is angels. This is because worship of any creature completely cuts the heart out of any confession of God as the one God.

Nor should it be thought that the New Testament gives us a complete catalogue of all possible heresies. In our day there are literally thousands of clever distortions of Christian theology that deserve the label heresy, and they can be seen as such apart from being explicitly anticipated and identified as heretical in the Bible. The Bible teaches us what is absolutely essential, enunciates principles as to what is basic to sound Christian faith and what is nonessential, gives us a wide variety of examples of heresies, and expects us to exercise discernment in evaluating new and controversial teachings when they surface.

In short, heresy is any doctrine which the Bible explicitly labels as destructive, damning error; or a doctrine which the Bible instructs is not to be tolerated in the church; or any doctrine which, even if not mentioned in the Bible, utterly contradicts those truths which the Bible indicates are essential for sound Christian faith.

Aberrational views can also be classified according to the above six categories. In each case, the aberrant doctrine seriously compromises the Bible's essential teaching in one or more of those six areas, although not outright denying it. For example, the practice of speculating on the precise date of the return of Christ can often be an aberration that stops short of heresy. The practice is certainly unbiblical, and in the context of heretical systems of doctrine such date-setting can itself be regarded as heretical. But in some cases, teachers have argued more modestly that Christ might return on a certain date, admitting the very real possibility of error, and urging only intensified obedience to God's Word. Even this sort of teaching should be regarded as more or less aberrant, since it compromises the biblical warnings against making predictions of this sort; but it is not of itself heretical.

[1] A Biblical Guide To Orthodoxy And Heresy. Part Two: Guidelines For Doctrinal Discernment — Section 2 Page 4.

Heresy Isn't Neat & Simple?

More, from Apologetics Research and their article[1] on heresy:

Aberrational Christianity

It might seem that doctrinal discernment should be a fairly cut-and-dried procedure of determining whether a doctrine is orthodox or heretical. After all, we have defined orthodoxy and heresy in such a way that they cover all possibilities. Either a doctrine is such that those who hold it should be accepted as Christians (in which case it is orthodox), or it is not (in which case it is heretical). This might seem to imply a black-or-white approach in which all doctrine is either completely orthodox or completely heretical.

Although doctrinal discernment would be a lot neater and simpler if this were the case, unfortunately things are more complicated — in at least two distinct ways. First, a single doctrine is never held in isolation from other doctrines, but rather is always part of a system or network of beliefs held by a person or group. And sometimes that system of beliefs includes many doctrines which are orthodox as well as some which are heretical. For example, a religious group might hold that the Bible is the Word of God, that there is only one God, that Jesus was born of a virgin and rose from the dead, and yet deny the deity of Jesus Christ. Such a group's belief system is heretical, even though it contains many true beliefs. Moreover, a group's heretical beliefs generally lead them to misunderstand or misapply even those true beliefs they do confess, since the beliefs tend to be interdependent and thus mutually affect one another. Thus, one of the tasks of doctrinal discernment is to sort out which beliefs in a heretical system are actually heretical, which are not, and how the nonheretical beliefs are misapplied because of the heretical system in which they are held.

The second sort of complication to be noticed is that people often hold conflicting beliefs. Because people are often inconsistent, in some cases they may hold to orthodox beliefs but also hold to beliefs that undermine or contradict their orthodox beliefs. The difficulty presented in such cases is to sort out whether the belief system is basically orthodox or not.

For example, many professing Christian groups today confess belief in one God, but also speak of human beings (usually Christians in particular) as being in some sense "gods." This verbal contradiction may or may not betray a real contradiction in the substance of their beliefs. Making matters even more difficult is the fact that these different groups mean vastly different things by calling believers "gods." In some cases it is evident that they really do not believe in one God at all. In other cases it is clear that they are using the word "gods" of believers in a figurative sense such that their confession of one God is not contradicted at all. In still other cases a real tension exists, and it is difficult to avoid concluding that the group in question holds conflicting views.

In order to accommodate this phenomenon, it is helpful to speak of religious doctrines which undermine or are in tension with a group's orthodox beliefs as aberrational. Holding such aberrational views is a serious problem, and those who do so must be considered as being in serious sin and should be treated accordingly. Specifically, those advocating such errors should not be allowed to teach or minister in the church, and those refusing to keep such aberrant views to themselves should be excommunicated.

The charge that a person or group's beliefs are aberrational is a serious one that cannot be made easily. It is arguable that at one level any incorrect belief is at tension with or undermines orthodox beliefs. By aberrational, however, I am referring only to false beliefs which do serious damage to the integrity of an orthodox confession of faith.

The sum of the matter is that doctrinal discernment is a difficult task -- one which requires sensitivity, a sense of proportion and balance, and a deep understanding of what is essential and what is not. New heresies and aberrations are constantly arising, as well as new insights into biblical truth, and discernment is needed to tell the difference. Thus, the task of doctrinal discernment is an ongoing necessity in the Christian church.

Having shown that doctrinal discernment is necessary, I have yet to say very much at all about how it is to be done.

[1] A Biblical Guide To Orthodoxy And Heresy. Part Two: Guidelines For Doctrinal Discernment — Section 1 Page 4.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Walking hand in hand

Children need the parent's help to learn to walk. Once they know how to do it by themself, it becomes a hit-or-miss effort to get them to take a walk with you. At the earliest stage of toddler, say ages 1-2, they aren't really aware that when you hold their little hand, they end up going exactly where you lead.

In the next stage, say ages 2-3, they might walk hand in hand with you for some time but as soon as they want to go a different direction, they slip right out of your fingers and start off another way.

Only as they get to be maybe 3, or 4 or 5 years of age, will they still hold your hand even when they don't want to go your way. They have enough trust to know better that they should not let go, but, they don't mind making it plain and obvious with their voice and tears that they're not happy about it.

I love little things like this which give me insight into my relationship with Him. I'd like to think I'm... more advanced than needing to be unconsciously directed along, and I'd like to think also that I'm more advanced, now, to know I better not let go. So, I walk with Him now even when it's just so upsetting. I make a loud fuss, drawing the attention of other passing mommies.

Honestly? This isn't a very accomplished stage of sanctification. I have a long way to go.

Maybe one day I can be significantly more mature like those older kids, who I notice that when it comes time to do what they'd rather not, their face gets a little screwy for a few moments, but, they know they can trust their Father that it's time to move.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Beep Beep" Baby

Tonight was our eighth anniversary, and for the first time in a long time we got out away from our kids. Unfortunately, because of two weekdays of icy roads and my husband having to tele-commute with our home laptop, the laptop suddenly crashed and we knew we needed to get it fixed tonight during our special little outing.

The Mac Store has a geek-corner in the back where they fix their products. But the way this guy interacted with my husband and the laptop was uncanny to me. I couldn't put my finger on it at first.

The geek took our laptop back and expertly began to assess the situation. He bent down, put his ear against it, and listened. He reported while still listening, "It seems the hard drive is still in place, so that's a good sign." My husband breathed relief. The geek continued, "And when did this all begin? How many days ago?" My husband gave him the recounted story with deep concern.

"Mm, hmm," the geek hummed back to my husband. Next he put his fingers on a magical array of what seemed random keys, and held them there. "And, at what part in this series did the crash actually take place?" he asked.

My husband answered in that fine way all computer people can. The geek continued, "Mm. Yes, well. We've had one beep, and we're waiting for that last beep. And..." (pausing) "there it is. I'm sorry, we're going to have to send it to a specialist. What would you like to do at this point?"

Turns out we took our little laptop home with us 'cause the specialist guy was booked with bad traveling conditions, too.

I have been to the doctor's office for my kids, too many times to count. Concerned mom discusses the situation with the doc expertly examining the child. I realized why it felt so familiar; this was the man-version of doctor visits I had never known till tonight.

Replacement Post

Spending a good deal of time in prayer this week, I'm taking down the former post concerning my church; I just think what I need is to dwell in grace & to walk by faith, not by sight.

I should not forget to mention how many prayers have been said for my benefit, my children's benefit, my family's. I am grateful and blessed to be served by and serve with Salem First B.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Her "Tribute"

Crystal Lewis: I'm a fan. This song she wrote herself as her own tribute to the LORD. She is a gifted communicator!

She doesn't sing perfectly or comprehensively, her fashion too, when you see her here or there, is eclectic. She's a nerd at heart, trying to make her way in the world with a little fun la femme attitude; I admire her. She knows, to what and whom her all was made to glorify, and I can feel my soul sanctified as I watch and listen.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sanctification through Faith: my Free Grace Instruction

As I already mentioned in a post last September, my sunday school teacher (who is free grace, in theology), is still teaching in concert with "The Finality of the Cross," by Bob George.

He and I have been discussing via email, the chapter ahead of time, because I read ahead and discovered the content of chapter four, titled "Reconciliation is Experienced by Faith." I was so excited! We begin this material on this upcoming Sunday. Many of you who have read here in recent months have noticed that I am preoccupied by the topic. This is a portion of the excitement I recently shared with my pastor over this material:

Have you ever like, known something, like, you knew it, you just didn't know how to verify and explain it well? This is why I always catch you to try and work on this with me, because I think I needed to explicitly hear this. Here it is in this chapter! This guy gets it. This guy gets the same kinds of truths that I've been trying to say, and he's bold about it! This is the message I have "never heard" out there in evangelical Christianity, even in so close a place as other sunday school classes here. I knew... that it had to be faith (alone). I got that part, down, in my letters years ago. What I just couldn't get is how and why and the scriptures to really explain it, when Calvinism was also on board in my thinking. ...

I received his AMEN in conclusion after further discussion I share below. It's what I wrote as my idea of distinguishing sanctification by faith alone:

I just want to use Rom 8 to describe how to be sanctified: "walk according"

This one is superior because it explains that the flesh and the Spirit are dominating natures, and that we have a choice for which we will obey, and whatever one we obey it is completely for, or completely against, God. NO guess-work, no self-introspection. "The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." rom 8:6-8

I just want it to be clear, crystal clear. At the Seminary I heard it described as "an on and off switch." I really grabbed on to that illustration.

The gospel should not be complicated, but the church has made it complicated and impossible to be sure how God sees us in faith.

Why is it important to be clear about the sufficiency of sanctification's faith? Because with doubt people turn back to measuring their progress by other things; law or comparing to other believers. And if they buy this as their doctrine of sanctification, the gospel of justification often follows quickly behind it for corruption in the same manner: they have turned the gospel into "another gospel."

But our assurance in knowing that we are blameless because we walk by faith with God, is not based in ourselves, but upon the promises in scripture.

Now, dear ones, I want to share with you the study material from chapter 4 so that you may objectively decide for yourselves what you think of George's teaching. This is going to be long, but worthwhile I am convinced. Enjoy, and, begin[1]:

"God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son..." (John 3:16). Out of His love for you and me, God sent His Son into the world to reconcile us to Himself by "not counting men's sins against them" (2 Corinthians 5:19). It is not enough, however, just to know the message. God desires for us to experience His love and forgiveness, and to "be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20). The Bible says that we can come to Him and experience His reconciliation by no other way than faith!

Key Verse: Ephesians 2:8,9

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.

1. How does this verse say we are saved? By ______ through ______.

2. What does "grace through faith" mean?

3. According to Romans 10:17, from where does your faith come?

4. Would you say that grace refers to the work of Jesus Chrit in providing, through His death and resurrection, everything that we need to become a child of God?

5. We can conclude, then, that our salvation is not of _______, it is the _______ of God.

Faith is not General, but Specific

We often hear it said of someone, after experiencing a particularly trying ordeal, that it was his or her "faith" that pulled them through - only to learn later that he or she was referring to something like "faith in the destiny of man," "faith in an ideal," or "faith in a dream." While some of these generic "faiths" may be of some questionable value in keeping one "focused" for a time, the Bible is much more specific in its definition of "saving faith." The grace of God has provided an object for our faith in the Person of His Son... that whoever believes in Him (not in an ideal nor an ethic nor a dream - but in Him) should not perish but have eternal life. Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.
(Hebrews 3:18-4:1)

1. In this account, what disqualified those in the desert from entering into His rest?

2. What, specifically, was their disobedience?

3. What do you think they did not believe concerning entering the promised land?

4. What did the writer to the Hebrews mean when he said, "since the promise of entering his rest still stands?" (4:1)

5. What do you think "entering his rest" refers to?

6. How could you be found to have fallen short of that promise?

7. What is the work of God according to John 6:29?

Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

8. In John 6:40, what is God's will concerning those who look to His Son?

"For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

9. How could we "fall short" of God's promise of eternal life?

Walk in Him Just as You Received Him

So, then, just as you received Jesus Christ as Lord, continue to live in Him (Colossians 2:6)

1. How did you receive Christ Jesus as Lord?

2. How does the apostle Paul say that you should continue to live in Him? "... just as _______________, that is, by _______."

3. How are we to live according to Hebrews 10:38?

But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him."

4. What do you think it means to live by faith?

I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

1. How did you receive the Spirit?

2. Did Christ come to live in you because you observed the law or because you believed what you heard?

3. Based on the above passage, could we ever experience, through our own human efforts, the reconciliation that God has provided?

4. Could we experience forgiveness through our own human efforts?

5. What is the only way then for us to "be reconciled to God"?

6. What does it take to please God according to Hebrews 11:6?

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

7. If faith is the only way to be reconciled to God, why do you think faith is the only way to please God?

8. What is God's desire for you and me according to 2 Corinthians 5:18-21?

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

9. What is the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1?

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

10. List some things that you would hope to receive from God concerning sin, punishment and forgiveness?

11. Through the death of Christ on the cross, can you be sure that God is not counting your sins against you, that Christ has taken all the punishment for your sins, and that you have total forgiveness of sins?

We must walk by faith; however, faith must have an object. It is like swallowing. You can swallow wholesome food and live to grow or you can swallow poison and die. The same mechanism is used for both. It is not the swallowing that causes life or death; it is what you swallow that determines life or death.

In the same way, it is not your faith that saves you. It is your faith in Jesus Christ that saves you. It is not your faith alone that sustains you in your Christian walk; it is your faith in the love and grace of God demonstrated in Christ Jesus. The object of the Christian's faith, therefore, is Christ's unconditional love and his finished work on the cross.

[1] George, Bob. "A Closer Look at The Finality of the Cross," People to People Ministries, Carrollton, TX, 2006; pp. 23-27.

Sanctification through Doctrine: IFBs

In my study into the belief structure of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist sect, I have discovered some indications that there is more or less a tendency to believe that one is sanctified by means of having correct doctrinal points of conviction.*

Let me provide some explanation (all following quotations are from the article sited below) [1]:

Independent Fundamental Baptist churches have fellowship one with the other and often cooperate in such endeavors as evangelism. However, practicing biblical separation they will only fellowship or cooperate in joint meetings with churches of like faith. They will not participate, as a church in any outside function with churches which do not also strictly base their faith and practice on the New Testament. They will not engage in joint meetings, or evangelistic endeavors, with Protestants, Catholics, or other doctrinally unsound church groups, who do not hold to the fundamental teachings of the New Testament. Fundamental Independent Baptists churches will remain separate from unsound churches, as well as other Baptists groups who join in with the unscriptural churches. They practice the biblical teachings of separation as taught in Ephesians 5:11, which state, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." Independent Baptists believe that to join with churches that teach and practice false doctrine is to tolerate and approve of errors. True, New Testament churches strongly believe that all doctrinal error is sin as the New Testament teaches.

With such a construct of error it is no wonder that any good IFB Christian would practice togetherness with other believers and therefore willingly, consciously choose to sin? You see that their clear conscience before God, hinges on "biblical separation." How far have they taken this separation? Are they just separated from those who have abandoned a belief in the inerrant Bible such as Catholics and liberal Protestants?

The name Independent Fundamental Baptist Church is used traditionally by churches which pattern themselves strictly after the example of the early church, as found in the New Testament. Today the name Baptist is used by many churches that are not following the teachings of the New Testament. Thus the words "Independent" and "Fundamental" have been added by many Baptist churches to further identify themselves as true Bible believing churches and to show a distinction between themselves and Baptist churches that were not following God's word. Most Baptist churches were in the past founded on the sound doctrinal teachings of the New Testament; however, many of them have in varying degrees drifted away from many of the teachings of the Scriptures. Some of these churches have gone so far to even deny the fundamental teachings of the Bible, such as the deity of Christ, the virgin birth and salvation by the Grace of God, through faith. Others have to a lesser degree compromised the Word of God by their teaching, practices and church polity trying to confront to popular religious tends. These worldly churches still call themselves "Baptists," but in fact they do not believe or practice what true Baptists have historically believed and more importantly what the Word of God says. The true Independent Fundamental Baptists have NO ASSOCIATION OR FELLOWSHIP with these churches because they teach or practice things contrary to the New Testament.

[emphasis in caps, mine]

Such a quest to be rid of the sin of error must suppose a location where error has been eliminated. Do IFBs believe their own group is completely absent of error? Yes:

Fundamental Baptists use the name in its strictest sense as meaning to hold soundly the fundamentals of the New Testament teachings without error.

Sanctification by doctrine is said here, again:

Many Anabaptists churches were strong New Testament churches believing and following the Word of God. Other Anabaptists groups were in gross error and corrupted. As with any true New Testament church, its validity as a true church approved of God, does not, nor or has ever rested on its name or on a succession of churches. A true New Testament church must be SOLELY discerned based on its adherence to the principles of God's Word.

[emphasis in caps, mine]

"We stay clear of sin by adhering to correct [our] doctrine."

I just wonder, what's the difference between "the church," "the body of Christ," and "a New Testament church"? Think about that one for a little bit and make a comment if you see my point.

Here is another statement distinguishing the IFB mindset, on how churches begin and how they are found approved:

The Gospel is to be preached throughout the world by believers empowered by the Holy Spirit as Acts 1:8 plainly states. When a congregation results from the preaching of the Gospel, AUTHENTICATING that congregation as a New Testament church rests solely on its doctrine and practice....not in its affiliation or succession.

[emphasis in caps, mine]

These Christians have to demonstrate their true conversion to walking with Christ by coming up with "correct" doctrine & practice! And what constitutes "correct" doctrine? No other group's theology outside of their own. Stunning.

According to the author there are "five distinctives of a truly biblical new testament church." To these more common points, this IFB preacher (Cooper Abrams [1]) adds one more "historically unsupported" but mandatory distinctive; that distinction of correct doctrine proving "acceptance" by God:

Though, not a historic distinctive of a Baptist church, one other characteristic is necessary for an assembly to call its self a true New Testament church. This distinctive is based on the truth that God will not, nor can He bless or be a party to doctrinal error. A true New Testament church will believe and follow the correct and proper instructions of God's word. There are many churches that believe and practice false doctrines such as tongue speaking, do not practice biblical separation from worldliness and hold to other unbiblical views. A true New Testament church's doctrine and practice will correctly follow the word of God, thus churches that put themselves at odds with the Lord. The New Testament stresses purity in faith and practice as Revelation 2-3 clearly teach. To five of the seven churches of Asia Jesus said He has things against them. He warned them strongly to correct their failures or He would take action against them. A true church that has the blessings of the Lord will diligently seek purity in faith and practice. Those who refuse to repent of their errors will not have the approval or the blessings of God.


You know, I'm all for making a case that those who believe are biblical in doctrine and those who are biblical in doctrine make evident their belief, even fellowship with God. The work of God does indeed include conforming believers in the truths of the Word. But, what does the bible say about how one is sanctified?

* There is a quotient of potential error on my part, because I'm still working on understanding and researching this sect. I'm willing to admit that and take correction or have dialogue concerning it. It remains true as well that any one individual belonging to the sect may or may not hold the expressly stated beliefs of Cooper Abrams as his article describes.

[1] Cooper Abrams III; Independent Fundamentalist Baptist missionary and pastor, ThB, MBS. From A Brief Survey of IFB Churches, Sept. 2007.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Methodology of Grace

The methodology I have been using in my approach to Lou Martuneac is documented again and again both within free grace theology and without; even within Independent Fundamentalist Baptist's variety of orthodoxies. It was the (non-scripture) theme by every lecturer at the Free Grace National Conference last October. It is taught in nearly every applicable course I have witnessed, including today's on "Praise and Worship."

For your review, the finished posts on the Free Grace Alliance National Conference Lecture Series.

I will be working hard to bring said teachings here so that you may make your own mind by the resources I by the grace of God may supply.

Every message which did not concern scripture itself, given at the FGA Conference was a dictation of the method I am in-step of laying before y'all. Dr. Fred Lybrand calls it "mentoring." I called it advocacy. I don't care what it's called just so long as it's the authentic business of making disciples.

It is very clear, that unless you strive for greater awareness outside your comfort zone, you are, simply, what your paradigm tells you to be. Within that construct, any one person has the will to either run away from walking by faith, or, submit to those who can gently lead as Christ out from weakness. Which one is it; does he just not know where to start or is it that he lacks desire? Well, it's none of my business, but at any one time it may be one or the other or even a combination, actually. If he's done, he's done, and of course the ministry comes to a close and so does the intimacy of his position with the body of Christ. After all, I am seeking him and he not I. It's out of my hands.

I'll make my own assessments, which are leaning at this time to assume that our brother desires to walk in discord rather than according to the tradition of grace being established every day in the free grace movement's position on the issue of conduct. There has to be a consciousness of needing something more, declared somewhere, sometime, in order to not be assessed as intentionally stepping ahead of the tradition being handed down to us, even if not in real-time conformity for perhaps several years.

This methodology is at the heart of the free grace organization. I knew it, before I even bought my plane tickets. Free grace is rock-solid, right on in theology and in manner of practice.

For the assessment I made on this issue immediate after my return:
Pit in the Stomach

I am convinced the way to do it, is the way the FGA leadership taught among a great cloud of other witnesses. I will be publishing more of those sessions, soon.

Meanwhile I am pleased to share with you a song (not formulating my doctrine of course) but declaring Christ's victory!

"Lord hide me far away from trouble
The world outside me grows darker by the day"
So I promise to stay here close beside Him
Surely God would want His children safe

Then reading, how my eyes were opened
I find that He is leading us out into the world
Into the middle of fallen saints and sinners
Where a little grace is needed most

Come take the Light to darker parts
Share His truth with hardened hearts
We are not like the world, but we can love them

Come bring the hope to hopeless men
Until the lost are found in Him
He came to save the world so let us be. . .
In it, not of it

Wait a minute
If we say we love them, why are we not in it
Why we run and hide
Entertain a stranger
Maybe entertain an angel
The danger is if our worlds don't collide

We've cursed the darkness far too long
We need to hold the candle high
We have to go and right the wrong
We need to touch the world with love.

"You give them something to eat."

A Humble Seminarian

Today I had the incredible opportunity to attend another free grace seminar at the Grace Seminary of the Northwest.

There was a free lectureship on Praise and Worship given by Dr. Radmacher's son, Dan Radmacher. At some point I would love to share what I learned, which was the contrast between didactic and experiential worship. So interesting!

One seminary student there who has been in all the classes as I, came up and shook my hand for the second time. His name is Steve Dehner. He shared how he had at some point come to cross paths with my blog, and had decided to start his own.

Steve is one of those students who, every time he asks a question of the professor, imparts as much history, context, word study product and doctrinal awareness into the question as he leaves for the professor to respond within. I honestly cannot tell the difference between the depth of his knowledge of the scriptures and the teachers of our courses. (Perhaps that shows you how unlearned I am, and nothing more!) Many times the professors have jokingly referred to him as a "plant in the audience" to facilitate learning for the class.

He and I have very briefly discussed the relationships of free grace theology, and now that I will be visiting his blog I will be discovering his convictions. It is a privilege.

While Steve has addressed free grace relationships in a post, his will is not to have the discord present at his blog site. Please consider this while commenting until he specifies there what he specifically desires.

The Gift and the Prize

Monday, December 01, 2008


Let's get started on a little equipping for understanding the fundamentalism affecting Hodges' theological reputation.

The following link provides Lou Martuneac's hand-written confession of evangelical affiliation:

Free Grace Alliance Membership

You may notice how the doctrine of biblical separation practically speaking takes special consideration in his choice to join free grace theology in a public and official manner. In this next link Martuneac reveals again how dependent he is upon the doctrine of separation from other believers on the premise of theological dispute:

John Piper Discussion at Sharper Iron

Their highly conservative doctrine of biblical separation, at least in my studies thus far, is the defining doctrine of this sect. I can provide a few different writers within what is known as the Independent Fundamental Baptists, but for now this author, a self-proclaimed IFB teacher, explains this characteristic of his sect and how central it is:

The term fundamental has several applications and the word does not mean the same thing to each of the groups you mentioned.

Independent Fundamental Baptist use the term to mean they strictly follow the teaching of the New Testament for their faith and practice. (The Old Testament is inspired of God, but does not contain teachings of polity, practice, faith of the local church) The IFB accept a literal interpretation of the Bible. They practice biblical separation from churches and groups who are in doctrinal error have adopted modern non traditional music and "worship." Most IFB will only use the KJV of the Bible and reject all modern translations. All of these are important to the IFB, but what causes a lot of criticism of us is we practice biblical separation. We believe we should not be unequally yoked with those who do not practice what the Bible says or who are worldly. (See 2 Cor. 6:14) We believe in the autonomy of the local church and reject all forms of hierarchy over it. ... In the true sense of the term only the IFB are true fundamentalists.

The other Baptist groups in your list are more accurately called by the term "conservatives." Most of them do not use the term fundamentalist in referring to themselves and see themselves as less strict in their beliefs and practices. Their doctrinal statements will be mostly the same as IFB, but without the Bible's teaching on biblical separation. They will preach salvation by grace alone the same as the IFB and baptism by immersion.

The extremity of the situation, is explained by the same author in this article:

Today the name Baptist is used by many churches that are not following the teachings of the New Testament. Thus the words "Independent" and "Fundamental" have been added by many Baptist churches to further identify themselves as true Bible believing churches and to show a distinction between themselves and Baptist churches that were not following God's word. Most Baptist churches were in the past founded on the sound doctrinal teachings of the New Testament; however, many of them have in varying degrees drifted away from many of the teachings of the Scriptures. Some of these churches have gone so far to even deny the fundamental teachings of the Bible, such as the deity of Christ, the virgin birth and salvation by the Grace of God, through faith. Others have to a lesser degree compromised the Word of God by their teaching, practices and church polity trying to confront to popular religious tends. These worldly churches still call themselves "Baptists," but in fact they do not believe or practice what true Baptists have historically believed and more importantly what the Word of God says. The true Independent Fundamental Baptists have no association or fellowship with these churches because they teach or practice things contrary to the New Testament.

I am sure there are a variety of opinions within IFB ranks, on how extreme one can take such a quest for disfellowshipping on behalf of doctrinal purity. Abrams seems to suggest that disassociation is appropriate in cases of worship style and on cessation of tongues and similar-caliber deviations of the truth. I assume there must be some individuals of this sect who wish to practice disassociation over much finer matters.

In each of these articles soon to come on the characteristics of the IFBs, I will be providing a "TRANSLATION" in conclusion, for bridging the linguistic gap for those who are so inclined.


When a IFB says "heretics of the first order", what they mean to say is this:

"Our own spiritual devotion to God is found in fidelity to these scriptures. This is important to us, to see others honor the doctrines that we honor. Any failure to do so is tragedy, born only from sin, in our way of believing. Anyone who persists in being unconverted to our doctrines, show a contempt for God that is just unbelievable for us. We cannot understand it, whatsoever. All we can do in the face of such a phenomena, is explain it in terms of sin and the effects of sin."

More, to come.

[1] Cooper Abrams III; Independent Fundamentalist Baptist missionary and pastor, ThB, MBS. From

[2] Cooper Abrams III; Independent Fundamentalist Baptist missionary and pastor, ThB, MBS. From A Brief Survey of IFB Churches, Sept. 2007.

Friday, November 28, 2008

OSU Beavers!

Okay, normally sports don't inspire blog posts, but my alum is going to host the civil war against the evil ducks!!

The special chant from the student section for Oregon Ducks

I was there, during the 1998 civil war double overtime! I was out there with them when the crowd rushed the field because they thought it was won in the first overtime, and it took 15 minutes to get everyone off to finish the game. I was there when they rushed the second time, and everyone went down with jackknifes and tore up the football field turf for a souvenir. Where they climbed up on the field goal posts and started swinging on them so hard that they toppled over!

See the fans piled thick with players on the sidelines?

The fans kind of stumble slowly forward over the wall and onto the field. That's not because they aren't excited; no -- they've been standing in the rain and the cold for five hours and no nourishment after the sun has long been gone. The legs, the legs -- OH! Plus they just got practically beaten back by the game officials to clear the field after the first overtime.

I mean, we used to really stink. I remember going to games and we'd never win, and I'd hear the stories of how we haven't won so much for decades.

A couple of guy friends and I stumbled out there and carved their piece of turf, heavy, wet and muddy, then we all hauled it like a dead carcass several blocks off-campus where it was divvied up and hung as a mantle over the doorway.

It was a cathartic shedding. The fans knew it was the last game to be played on the stadium's turf, ever. They were going to tear it up after that and replace it with astroturf. That was the game that ended our losing streak. Ten years later, we're Rose Bowl hopefuls! (And yes, I know what that means, it's the best place to go to win a special extra-game at the end of the season.)

I think even the mascots had a little too long unscripted time before the game, they got in a fist fight too.... :O That was rather interesting....

It wouldn't be much of a stretch to say No. 17 Oregon State is preparing for the biggest game in school history as No. 18 Oregon visits Corvallis for the "Civil War." A win would send the Beavers to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1964 season. But they'll get plenty of resistance from the Ducks, who want to enhance their position in the Pac-10 pecking order.

-USA Today

OSU Oregon State fight fight fight!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A New Theme: the water's edge

Walk along an Oregon beach and you will find the sand is common when looked at closely. It is the eroded basalts (quite plain and dark grey rock) that have come from recent eruptions of the Cascade Mountain range. Here and there in the grains you can find the shimmering quarts, feldspars, and micas.

But so long as the sand is dry, it cannot reflect anything more than itself. That glimmer is its own chemical composition. It can provide no other visual to the one walking along the way. That is, unless it is wet. When water and sand mix, a force called "capillary action" binds water to the sand. The water fills the spaces in-between the irregular grains of rock.

I took this picture of the ocean. Behold the wet sand providing an unexpected visual -- a reflection of that which is gazing down upon it.... The clouds in all their majesty are held like a mirror in the rock & water mixture.

The church is like the sand, which has come to rest by the water's edge. By ourselves, we can only reflect our own composition. The occasional glitter can say no greater word than what it is. But through the continual washing through faith, our capillary spaces overflow with the Spirit of God and we reflect His glory; transformed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What manner of love is this?

There is a mix of emotions in me. I don't know what is wrong with me? I'm upset. But, even now I can't help but also rise up to encourage in sanctification, those who are the least like myself.

Somebody somewhere prayed that even by his passing, Zane Hodges would glorify Jesus Christ. Is His answer to that prayer dwelling in me?

ALL praise and glory to our Savior!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thank you for my brothers and sisters, LORD

Thanksgiving is coming, quickly. As a rule when it comes time for the holidays, it is a strain for me. As of right now I don't know who will end up in my home. The family on my side is small and broken and dysfunctional. Chances are good that something will go awry.

I know what it feels like to be forsaken. There was a time in my life when I lived in my car. I have many stories that are worse, but my preference is to refrain on most occasions from "naming names" out of respect for those who are still with me.

I bought two doses of the meal and I am eager to cook it. Last year I had the same dilemma, though in the end I opened my home to a family from my church. I'm experiencing how the church is my family in a way the human family will never be. I feel a great deal of joy and love, with them, which is the fruit of the Spirit. Sure, they weren't there from my birth, on. But, I know that we are going to heaven to spend eternity with the LORD. What's more, we relate in a way no one else from this world understands. It is sweeter and better I believe, even if there was no dysfunction in my own human relations. I marvel at the natural closeness and unity in the soul the church experiences within itself.

Though I could feel loss, I really am pleased... to see the church replace my family on an important holiday.

'Home for Thanksgiving' by Norman Rockwell

Today I feel a deep sadness over the passing of Professor Zane Hodges. He has gone "home" to God. I am affected, too much so to want to talk as usual about the gospel or about a recent passion for understanding fundamentalism. I feel that impulse from my unregenerate man, to dismiss the ones who have dismissed a fellow saint. But, I won't, because Christ is here, with us, the church. I cry tears, receiving this heart for the one of 100, all over again. There is no abandonment, any longer, though I might need to seek with devotion to find and restore.... He is with us; it is unmovable. You and I, the church, have become the family that will last forever. This family has replaced the natural one. There is no escaping it. We will share the LORD's table, "Thanksgiving," declaring in synch, thanks for grace which made us meet.

The passion remains, given by the kindness of Christ, for standing near the one who has been forsaken. I am more resolute upon this sad occasion, than ever. I will not stand by and watch my own brother, my flesh and blood in Christ, be dismissed. No matter which brother that might happen to be.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Naming Names

Below are two quotes for your consideration. Both come out of the Sharper Iron Forum, in a thread titled, "John Piper, Mark Driscoll and Harsh Language."

This first quote was written by a moderator known as Larry:

I think if we teach people the Bible, they won't need to read these things on fundamentalist blogs. They will know what the Scriptures teach. The problem with naming names is that if we don't name them, people won't know to separate from them. The good thing about teaching Scripture is that people will have the tools to know how to discern what they should listen to and what they should not. So, I have no problem naming names. I think we should name names that people would know and recognize, and I think we should spend more time talking about Scripture.

Too many people are too prone to depend on lists, just like they have done for too long. If something is on the list, we know what to think about it. But we don't know what to think about stuff that's not on the list. That leads to the old "If the Bible doesn't explicitly say it, I can do it (or I don't have to do it)," which is a farce. And it leads to people with little to no spiritual discernment about how to apply the Scripture. I don't think that is a wise way to train a new generation of fundamentalists.
(comment #45)

How about this one, made by Kevin Miller:

The only exposure I have had to Driscoll has been in this thread started by Lou, and the only way for me to now know whether Lou tells the full story about Driscoll is to listen to Driscoll myself. So Lou is really the one leading me to Driscoll here. I really am tempted to find out for myself whether the stuff told by Lou and the people Lou quotes is accurate, otherwise any wornings I might pass along about Driscoll would be second hand information.

Also, if we warn people about Piper because he has Driscoll speak and might lead us to Driscoll, do we also have to warn everyone about the people who have had Piper speak? Then do we also have to warn about those who offer speaking engagements to those who pastor at churches where Piper has previously spoken?
(comment #46)

These are questions whose answers affect us all.

Would you ever use a name or a list, to help protect someone from error?

Have you ever done so before in your ministries?

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