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Setting the World on FIre
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Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonThe PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from Only a Prayer Meeting, pages 157-58, Pilgrim Publications.Image result for charles spurgeon"It is time for Thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law." Psalm 119:126We might urge, as reasons for the Lord's working, the sorrows of mankind, the terrors of the world to come, the glory of God, and the merits of the Saviour. We might plead the promises, the covenant, the prophecies, and the long weary time of waiting before they are fulfilled; but it is a bright use of a gloomy fact when we can turn even the infidelity, the superstition, and the rebellion of man into an argument for the Lord's interference. "It is time for Thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void Thy law." Thus we set our sail so as to use an adverse wind. We extract a reason for grace out of the reeking of iniquity. We observe that many men now deny the inspiration of the Scriptures, and that is making void the law of the Lord. Of what use is the Bible to us if it be not infallibly inspired of the Holy Spirit? An erring guide is as bad as none at all when a step may lead to ruin. If we have not the very mind of God in these pages, their essence, their authority, their life, and their power are gone. Yet certain ministers, ay, ministers of Nonconformist churches, speak of the Bible as though it were in considerable portions of it blurred with mistakes, and by no means to be relied upon. They talk of "essential parts of the Old Testament," as if other parts might be laid aside; and some of them set up the Gospels above the Epistles, as if the one Spirit had not dictated all the Word. It is grievous to hear divines undermining the foundations of the faith which they are supposed to preach. "O Lord, we turn from these Thine unfaithful servants to Thyself, and cry, 'Do Thou prove the truth of the Scriptures, fulfill the promises, and put power into the teaching of the cross, so that men may be compelled to own that Thy law is not void, but that the Scripture cannot be broken.'"
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonThe PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 49, sermon number 2,814, "Abraham's great reward."Image result for charles spurgeon"You may have losses and afflictions; these are a part of your lot, but they shall not overwhelm you. You shall be no real losers in the end, but you shall be kept by the power of God, and shall be delivered out of every trial and affliction. He shall be to you also your shield, and your exceeding great reward."Have you, dear friend, made any sacrifices for Christ? Have you lately been called to imperil your own interests by pursuing right course? Have you been steadfast even though you lost friendships? Have you been so firm in your adherence to principle that you have been judged to be obstinate?Well, if so, you shall be no loser through your faithfulness. As certainly as God is in heaven, you shall prove, in some way or other, that in keeping his commandments there is great reward.It is always a pity when any of the children of God begin to think that they can be enriched by the king of Sodom, or try to find their portion, in any measure, amongst they ungodly sons of men.God's command to his people is, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing;” and his promise to those who do so is, “I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
Image result for charles spurgeonYour weekly Dose of SpurgeonThe PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from The Sword and the Trowel, August, 1883, Pilgrim Publications."If you want to know how to distract a congregation, you have only to go to the great drum-thumping establishments, and hear for yourself how noise can be glorified." Outside of those emporiums instruments of brass are in full blast, with their still small voices proclaiming peace on earth, good will toward men. To put it more plainly, the age of the tin-kettle and the banjo has arrived, and with these weapons of our warfare the strong-holds of evil are to be thrown down. In certain districts the Sabbath is made hideous, the streets are rendered dangerous, and quiet is banished, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and with the view of attracting the masses to Him. The design is admirable, the method intolerable. Among our natural rights and liberties there is one which is in some danger in these turbulent days, and that is the right of occasionally being free from the banging of drums and the blaring of trumpets in the open streets. A contemporary has been asked: “Can a man belong to a brass band and be a Christian?” It replies, “We see no impediment in the way; but if he is a member of a brass band, and is given to practicing on his cornet or trombone at home, it is an impossibility for the man next door to be a Christian.” This verdict is one in which I heartily coincide, only I extend it a little further, and include the equal difficulty of displaying a Christian temper when Salvation Bands go banging through the streets day after day. A tremendous noise is one way of attracting a congregation; but whether or not it is one which Jesus and his apostles would have followed, I leave to be decided by those best able to judge. The other day we read in an official report, “Brass band better than ever: thirteen blowing salvation through their instruments.” If this be so, let them blow till all is blue: it is not for us to rail at sounding brass if it has indeed become a channel of salvation. Blow by all means. If any of you judge that this is your high calling, pursue it ardently; and if outraged humanity should pelt you with mud and rotten eggs, do not reckon that a strange thing has happened unto you. If you should also create about twice as much blasphemy as religious feeling, do not be surprised: if your course of action should bring ridicule on all religion, and educate the mob in the art of rioting, which they may use by-and-by with unexpected results, do not marvel. If you conceive this to be your line of usefulness, listen to no advice; reckon all who differ from you as your enemies; become martyrs; and go forward like good soldiers, so long as leather and brass hold out.Only be prepared for contingencies. Suppose the big drum and the tambourine should cease to charm, what next? What else is to be done? Will you stand on our head? Hornpipes have been tried; will you try the tight-rope? cannot suggest to you a novelty—since we have already heard of Brummagem Bruisers, devil-dodgers, converted clog-dancers, etc. No, I cannot continue the list, for it must include several profane titles if it become at all complete; and, above all, and worst of all, it must needs contain those blasphemous insults to the eternal and incommunicable name which arise out of the desecration of the word “hallelujah.” It only occurs to me to suggest the question—Might it not be possible to be a little less vulgar, and so to create variety without extreme exertion? It might be a novelty to some people to conduct a meeting in which there should be no slang;—let it be attempted.
by Hohn ChoI used to be a political activist when I was younger, an ardent hard-core Socialist in college and the beginning of law school, before settling in as a left-wing Democrat who thought Bill Clinton was a stealth conservative. I was especially active in the 2003-04 Presidential election cycle, before God radically saved me in December 2004. I may tell that story here another time, but for now I'll just say that as I learned more and more about the Word of God and began to adopt an increasingly Christian worldview, my political activism and government-centered leftism morphed as well.When one's earnest desire is to put Christ at the center of everything, other things tend to change and fall away. My politics remained quite liberal for a few years, albeit with a growing unease and discomfort and ultimately full opposition to abortion, then shifted dramatically and swiftly in 2008-09 after a fleeting interest in theonomy, before once again settling in as what I would now approximate as conservative libertarianism . . . and that's libertarian with a small "l" because I'm no longer a "party" man.In fact, as someone who was once deeply involved in political activism, I marvel at how something as temporal and transient as the biennial ritual of federal elections has so regularly become "the most important election of our lifetime" as many hype them to be. Having an eternal perspective can help keep Christians grounded when all around them are dire and even apocalyptic warnings and rhetoric about the consequences of this or that party gaining (or maintaining) power. In this regard, I believe it's extremely profitable to remember the theological fact that our sovereign God reigns, and my friend Nathan Busenitz just preached a tremendous sermon from the book of Daniel on the Sunday night before the midterms on this very subject.Regardless, there are some overly zealous Christian electioneers who at times seem to forget that theological fact, particularly when they go beyond well-meaning encouragements and exhortations to vote. Unfortunately, some go so far as to say or imply that if we don't vote, or even more, if we don't vote a specific way, we're in sin. If someone were to say that to me, I like to think I'd reply, "And what possible verse can you cite that shows I am breaking a commandment of God by spending the time and vote-resource over which God has given me stewardship in the way that I choose, rather than in the way that you prefer?"And no, general propositions such as seeking the good of the city or loving one's neighbor aren't quite the same as insisting someone else's conscience must be bound to vote—a particular act on which the Bible is silent, perhaps because we don't really see democratic systems of government during the periods of the Old and New Testament writings and their preponderance of theocracies, monarchies, and dictatorships—in an oddly specific manner. Because after all, in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 10:29-30, perhaps I will dare to seek the good of the city and love my neighbor in the way that I see fit, rather than the way that you think I should? Christian liberty and the freedom of conscience is an important doctrine, and R. Scott Clark has written extensively and helpfully on this topic.To dig into this a bit more, I live in the extremely liberal state of California, so the chances that my conservative vote will have any impact whatsoever on the major federal or statewide offices is pretty much zero. Now, I do take the stewardship of my vote seriously, and there were a few local races and ballot initiatives that appeared like they could be close, and so both my wife and I did in fact vote. California makes this easier by allowing permanent vote-by-mail, and so there's no need to wait in line . . . it's just the time to read and fill out the ballot, and the cost of either a stamp or the gas (which remains more expensive in light of the failure of California's ballot initiative to repeal the gas tax, I believe due to the misleading advertising and summary of the initiative by the partisan Attorney General, but I digress) to one's local polling station.But I would have no criticism for Christians who were to decide differently. Especially for states without vote-by-mail and long lines, I think I could make a strong case that the time driving to and from the polls and standing in line might be better spent evangelizing the voters, phone banking for a passionate cause, working some overtime and donating that money to missions, pleading with pregnant women at an abortion mill, or on one's knees in prayer for the nation. Frankly, to get a bit less spiritual about it, if a person were even just to spend that time joyfully with his or her own family, I would still have no criticism for that person!At the end of the day, the decision of whether and how to cast a vote, and the time required for that vote, is between a person and the Lord, and my sense of it is that most people tend to have a highly overdeveloped sense of the significance of each individual vote, especially in a nation with over 325 million people. Yes, one vote really can make the difference in an election, but the reality is that only one vote in 89,000 is expected to make such a pivotal difference in a Congressional election, and an adult would typically make only about 38 such votes over the course of his or her lifetime between the ages of 18 to 80, inclusive. Your odds are a bit better at the state legislature level, but even there, it's one vote in 15,000. Instead, the great majority of votes are actually "wasted" votes, which are votes for either losing candidates, or winning candidates in excess of the precise number needed to win.Now, obviously no one but the Lord knows how any given election will turn out in advance, and again, I take seriously the stewardship of the vote that citizens in this country receive. Generally speaking, I encourage Christians to exercise their right to vote! And I deliberately chose to wait until well after Election Day before posting this article, because I didn't want to cause any of my brothers and sisters who cared passionately about the 2018 midterms to stumble. With that said, humility is a fundamental virtue for Christians, and I think it's important to remember that each of us is merely one person in a very large nation, and that no one should expect any single vote to be either a panacea, or the property of any person or party other than the specific individual in question.Anyway, that was a lot of methodological prelude to get to what I'd originally planned as an analysis of the 2018 midterm elections. As it stands right now, the Democrats look to be gaining thirty-something seats in the House, while the Republicans seem to be adding two Senate seats. Governor races were a mixed bag, with Democrats picking up seven statehouses from the Republicans in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin, but falling short in the critical 2020 states of Florida (assuming the recount doesn't overturn the current results), Iowa, and Ohio, where projections at the "gold standard" of polling analysis, fivethirtyeight.com, had showed "likely" (for Florida) or "lean" (for Iowa and Ohio) Democrat.Of course, both parties appear to be "spinning" the results for all they're worth, so much so that I felt a viewpoint from someone with a Christian (and politically, as I said, a non-Democrat, non-Republican, conservative libertarian) worldview might be interesting for some. This is already getting a bit long, so I'll focus the analysis on the House and Senate. (The governor races are interesting, and will definitely have significant local impact, particularly on the issue of gerrymandering. They may also serve as an interesting preview of how states might vote in the 2020 Presidential election, and even have a potential impact on that race as partisan governors potentially use their state-level machines to assist their chosen candidate. But I think that's enough about that.)First, the House. It has become quite standard for the party of a newly-elected President to lose seats at the first midterm election. We saw this in 1982 (when Reagan's Republicans lost 26 seats), 1990 (when George H.W. Bush's Republicans lost a modest 8 seats), 1994 (when Clinton's Democrats lost a whopping 54 seats), and 2010 (when Obama's Democrats lost an even more eye-popping 63 seats). The only exception in recent history was in 2002, when a post-9/11 George W. Bush's Republicans actually picked up 8 seats, with American troops in Afghanistan and Congress having just passed a resolution authorizing any means necessary (including war) against Iraq, and that reckoning was apparently just delayed until 2006, when GWB's Republicans lost 31 seats.By this measure, the Democrat pickups in the House this year appear to be as expected, perhaps a bit above average, and generally in line with pre-election polling and predictions, which according to fivethirtyeight.com was 36 seats at the midpoint of the estimate. And the fact that the Democrats now control the House will obviously have ramifications pertaining to both legislation (you can count on nothing conservative making it through, and a raftload of liberal proposals passing which will never make it through the Senate . . . and to the extent there is bipartisan desire and will, some possible compromise bills in areas such as infrastructure, the environment, and middle-class tax relief) and oversight (with many Democrats promising investigations of various Trump administration people and policies). Impeachment in the House has also been floated by some of the more left-leaning Democrats, but the unofficial leadership line from the Democrats is that doing so would be an unwelcome distraction at this time.Next, the Senate. As with the House, the usual pattern has been for the party of a newly-elected President to lose Senate seats at the first midterm election. The pattern is less robust, however, likely due to the smaller number of seats at issue and the nature of the particular states voting for open Senate seats in the midterm election in question. Even so, the party of a newly-elected President typically does not gain Senate seats at the first midterm election, especially when House seats are concurrently being lost. So the likely addition of two Senate seats to the existing Republican majority is significant, and although it's still within the 80% confidence range of pre-election polling and predictions, it's quite a bit more favorable to the Republicans than the projected 0.5 seat gain at the midpoint of the estimate. You can see this come out especially strongly when you compare the Senate polls for Florida (showing D+3), Indiana (D+2), Missouri (D+1), North Dakota (R+5), and Tennessee (R+5) to the actual results of Florida R+0.2 (pending recount), Indiana R+7.5, Missouri R+5, North Dakota R+11, Tennessee R+11.So the Republicans beat expectations in the Senate, and that has two major ramifications. First, for the next two years, President Trump has the continuing ability to nominate and confirm conservative judges and (potentially) Justices. More than that, with a cushion of three extra Republican Senators, the nominations can be even more conservative, as the margin allows for defections by the last two "pro-choice" GOP Senators, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, should the President nominate a clearly pro-life judge Amy Coney Barrett. And second, it will be easier for the Republicans to hang onto control of the Senate in 2020, which in turn would allow for continuing confirmations of conservative judges by a re-elected President Trump, or aggressive use of the Senate's advise and consent power against liberal judges by a newly-elected Democrat President. Given that the 2020 Senate map already includes a very likely pickup in Alabama and potential losses in increasingly blue Colorado and Maine (albeit in a race against a long-time survivor in the form of Collins), the battleground for control will likely be fought in (relatively) redder Arizona and Iowa, rather than, say, (relatively) bluer North Carolina and New Hampshire, depending on which party controls the tie-breaking Vice Presidential vote.So what does all of this mean from one Christian's perspective? Speaking for myself, I consider the murder of nearly a million unborn children every year to be the single most important political issue (or rather, human rights issue, as Samuel Sey has so aptly written) facing the United States. And to say it again, I actually am not a "party man" and I am not a Republican. But the reality of our two-party system is that one party has enshrined into its platform that it will "continue to oppose-and seek to overturn-federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman's access to abortion" while the other (at least ostensibly) affirms "that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed."Given that abortion was instituted not by legislatures but by the Supreme Court in 1973's tragic Roe v. Wade decision, and that subsequent efforts to pass laws against abortion have been similarly governed by the Supreme Court, at this point under our current system of government, it is only the Supreme Court that has the power to limit or reverse Roe. This is precisely why many conservatives have so prioritized the importance of the composition of the Supreme Court!The problem is that in our (small-r) republican form of government, things are indirect. We elect Presidents and legislators who we hope will represent our views, and sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't. The Supreme Court is one additional step removed, in that they are nominated by Presidents and confirmed by the Senate, but then they have a lifetime confirmation and the nine Justices have a separate body of their own, with rules and precedents and procedures.And sometimes conservatives might elect a President who we hope and believe will appoint pro-life Justices, but then that President either doesn't follow through (e.g., Sandra Day O'Connor), or is prevented from doing so by the Senate (e.g., Robert Bork), or perhaps even believes a nominated and confirmed Justice is pro-life, but actually is not, or has a change of heart while on the bench (e.g., David Souter). Meanwhile, there is a competing ebb and flow over the years to both the Presidency and the Senate, such that Democrats are actively trying to nominate and confirm Justices who are fervently in favor of abortion.All of this has resulted in a "five steps forward, four steps back" type of situation since 1973's Roe decision, and it has been a slow and at times very painful process. In fact, I have even seen some evangelicals (many of whom lean toward the "social justice" side of the discussion, incidentally) try to use this glacial pace in the fight against abortion as an apparent justification for reducing the importance of abortion in our political calculus.From my perspective, this argument is at best nave, showing a lack of deep understanding of the political process and the uncertainties that come along with representative democracy. At times, the argument comes across as bizarrely prioritized, as efforts to stop murder of the unborn are minimized (I previously objected to one example of this I perceived in a national secular newspaper) while efforts to promote, say, mere socioeconomic improvement among certain portions of society in an already incredibly wealthy nation are maximized. And sometimes, the argument is even intellectually dishonest, attempting to pretend as if imperfectly trying to do something good is the same thing as overtly promoting something horribly sinful.Barring divine intervention, there is zero chance Democrats will move the ball on abortion in a positive direction, whereas Republicans might at least try to do so in certain (important) contexts. Despite his many faults, President Trump has at least been delivering on his promise to nominate conservative judges and Justices. And speaking as someone who didn't support him, deplores a lot of his rhetoric and some of his actions, and thinks voting is one of the least effective ways of either "doing justice" or engaging with the public sphere as a Christian, I've been pleasantly surprised to see the gradually increasing prospects of Roe being overturned. Meanwhile, unless the Lord returns first, I will continue praying fervently and supporting other active and lawful efforts to protect the lives of the unborn.This probably was not "the most important election of our lifetime." However, at some point, these elections impact the composition of the Supreme Court and thus the future of Roe. Ultimately, the question I have for professing pro-life Christians is this. If you're truly concerned about abortion, about the nearly one million unborn lives ended every year in the United States alone, how high of a priority is it for you? Is it high enough of a priority for you to at least vote against it, should you opt to exercise your stewardship of voting? And when it comes to that voting, if one party proudly proclaims to the entire world that it is adamantly and fervently supportive of that murderous practice, while the other is at least attempting (however imperfectly, especially given the indirect nature of the process) to stop it, how will you vote?I know my answer, for which I will be accountable to the Lord. And as you process through your own answer, I pray God will grant you clarity, wisdom, and the joy of a clear conscience informed by Scripture.Hohn's signature
Image result for charles spurgeonYour weekly Dose of SpurgeonThe PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from The Sword and the Trowel, September, 1883, Pilgrim Publications.Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established. Exodus 15:17Conversing just now with an elder of the church, I remarked that he must be somewhere about seventy-five, and he replied, “I am eighty-two.” “That,” I replied, “is a good old age.” “Yes,” said he, “it is”; and then he cheerfully nodded his head, and added, “We shall get home; WE SHALL GET HOME!” And so we shall, brothers; so we shall, sisters. In chorus we will take up our brother's word, and say, “We shall get home.” “We shall get home.” There is music in that simple sentence; a soft melody, as of the evening bell. Early in life its sound may be more stirring and trumpet-like, nerving our youth to energy, and making us cry “Excelsior” but as our years increase, and the sun descends, its note is sweet and soothing, and we love to listen to it in our quiet moods, for each word has a silvery tone—“We shall get home; WE SHALL GET HOME.” This is our great comfort: however long the way, we shall get home. We may live to be eighty-two, or even ninety-nine; but we shall get home in due time. We may not doubt that blessed truth, for the Lord has taught us to sing in the song of Moses, his servant, “Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance.” The way may be rough, but it is the king's highway, and no brigands can drag us off from it: we shall by this road get home to the Father's own house above. Some of us are not nearing threescore years as yet, and perhaps we have many long leagues to traverse, but we shall get home—glory be to God!“His love has fixed the happy dayWhen the last tears will wet our eyes,And God shall wipe those dews away,And fill us with divine surprise,To be at home, and see his face, And feel his infinite embrace.”
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonThe PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from The Gospel of the Kingdom, page 234, Pilgrim Publications.Image result for Charles SpurgeonAnd they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? Matthew 26:22That short sentence fell like a bombshell among the Saviour's body-guard. It startled them; they had all made great professions of affection for him, and, for the most part, those professions were true. And they were exceeding sorrowful: and well they might be. Such a revelation was enough to produce the deepest emotions of sorrow and sadness. It is a beautiful trait in the character of the disciples that they did not suspect one another, but every one of them enquired, almost incredulously, as the form of the question implies, "Lord, is it I?" No one said, "Lord, is it Judas?" Perhaps no one of the eleven thought that Judas was base enough to betray the Lord who had given him an honourable place among his apostles.We cannot do any good by suspecting our brethren; but we may do great service by suspecting ourselves. Self-suspicion is near akin to humility.
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonThe PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from C.H. Spurgeons Autobiography, volume three, pages 143-144.Image result for c. h. spurgeon"Certain of our charitable neighbours accuse me of having 'a parson manufactory,' but the charge is not true at all. I never tried to make a minister, and should fail if I did; I receive none into the College but those who profess to be ministers already. It would be nearer the truth if they called me 'a parson-killer,' for a goodly number of beginners have received their quietus from me; and I have the fullest ease of conscience in reflecting upon what I have so done."One brother I have encountered—one did I say?—I have met ten, twenty, a hundred brethren, who have pleaded that they were quite sure that they were called to the ministry—because they had failed in everything else! This is a sort of model story:—“Sir, I was put into a lawyer's office, but I never could bear the confinement, and I could not feel at home in studying law. Providence clearly stopped up my road, for I lost my situation.” “And what did you do then? “Why, sir, I was induced to open a grocer's shop.” “And did you prosper?” “Well, I do not think, sir, I was ever meant for trade; and the Lord seemed quite to shut up my way there, for I failed, and was in great difficulties.”“Since then, I have done a little in a life-assurance agency, and tried to get up a school, beside selling tea; but my path is hedged up, and something within me makes me feel that I ought to be a minister.” My answer generally is, “Yes, I see; you have failed in everything else, and therefore you think the Lord has especially endowed you for His service; but I fear you have forgotten that the ministry needs the very best of men, and not those who cannot do anything else.” A man who would succeed as a preacher would probably do right well either as a grocer, or a lawyer, or anything else. A really valuable minister would have excelled in any occupation. There is scarcely anything impossible to a man who can keep a congregation together for years, and be the means of edifying them for hundreds of consecutive Sabbaths; he must be possessed of some abilities, and be by no means a fool or a ne'er-do-well. Jesus Christ deserves the best men to preach His gospel, and not the empty-headed and the shiftless.
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonThe PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from The New Park Street Pulpit, volume 5, sermon number 264, "How saints may help the devil."Image result for charles spurgeon"One way in which sinners frequently excuse themselves is by endeavouring to get some apology for their own iniquities from the inconsistencies of God's people." Nay, is it not possible that some of you Christians have helped to confirm men in their sins and to destroy their souls? It is a master-piece of the devil, when he can use Christ's own soldiers against Christ. But this he has often done. I have known many a case. Let me tell a story of a minister—one which I believe to be true and which convicts myself, and therefore I tell it with the hope that it may also waken your consciences and convict you too. There was a young minister once preaching very earnestly in a certain chapel, and he had to walk some four or five miles to his home along a country road after service. A young man, who had been deeply impressed under the sermon, requested the privilege of walking with the minister, with an earnest hope that he might get an opportunity of telling out his feelings to him, and obtaining some word of guidance or comfort. Instead of that, the young minister all the way along told the most singular tales to those who were with him, causing loud roars of laughter, and even relating tales which bordered upon the indecorous. He stopped at a certain house, and this young man with him, and the whole evening was spent in frivolity and foolish talking. Some years after, when the minister had grown old, he was sent for to the bedside of a dying man. He hastened thither with a heart desirous to do good. He was requested to sit down at the bedside and the dying man, looking at him, and regarding him most closely, said to him, “Do you remember preaching in such-and such a village on such an occasion?” “I do,” said the minister. “I was one of your hearers,” said the man, “and I was deeply impressed by the sermon.” “Thank God for that,”said the minister. “Stop!” said the man, “don't thank God till you have heard the whole story; you will have reason to alter your tone before I have done.” The minister changed countenance, but he little guessed what would be the full extent of that man's testimony. Said he, “Sir, do you remember, after you had finished that earnest sermon, I with some others walked home with you? I was sincerely desirous of being led in the right path that night; but I heard you speak in such a strain of levity, and with so much coarseness too, that I went outside the house, while you were sitting down to your evening meal; I stamped my foot upon the ground; I said that you were a liar, that Christianity was a falsehood; that it you could pretend to be so in earnest about it in the pulpit, and then come down and talk like that, the whole thing must be a sham; and I have been an infidel,” said he, “a confirmed infidel, from that day to this.” “But I am not an infidel at this moment; I know better; I am dying, and I am about to be damned; and at the bar of God I will lay my damnation to your charge; my blood is on your head;”—and with a dreadful shriek, and one demoniacal glance at the trembling minister, he shut his eyes and died. Is it not possible that we may have been guilty thus? The bare idea would make the flesh creep on our bones; and yet I think there are few among us who must not say, “That has been my fault, after all.” But are there not enough traps, in which to catch souls, without your being made Satan's fowlers to do mischief? Hath not Satan legions enough of devils to murder men, without employing you? Are there no hands that may be red with the blood of souls beside yours? O followers of Christ! O believers in Jesus! Will ye serve under the black prince? Will ye fight against your Master? Will ye drag sinners down to hell? Shall we—(I take myself in here, more truly than any of you)—shall we, who profess to preach the gospel of Christ, by our conversation injure and destroy men's souls?
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonThe PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 35, sermon number 2,091, "Jesus wept." There is infinitely more in these two words than any sermonizer, or student of the Word, will ever be able to bring out of them, even though he should apply the microscope of the most attentive consideration. "Jesus wept." Instructive fact; simple but amazing; full of consolation; worthy of our earnest heed. Note, too, that his pure body and his sinless soul were originally constituted as ours are. When his body was formed according to that Scripture, “A body hast thou prepared me,” that holy thing had in it the full apparatus of grief: the lachrymal gland was in his eye. Where there is no sin, one would say there should be no sorrow; but in the formation of that blessed body, all the arrangements for the expression of grief were as fully prepared as in the case of any one of us. His eyes were made to be fountains of tears, even as are ours. He had about his soul also all the capacity for mental grief. As I said aforetime, so say I yet again, it would seem that there should be no tears where there are no transgressions; and yet the Saviour's heart was made to hold sorrow, even as an amphora was made for wine. Yea, more, his heart was made capacious enough to be a reservoir wherein should be gathered up great floods of grief. See how the sorrow bursts forth in a mighty flood! Mark the record of that flood in these amazing words, “Jesus wept.” Beloved, have a clear faith in the humanity of him whom you rightly worship as your Lord and your God. Holding his divinity without doubt, hold his manhood without mistake. Realize the actual manhood of Jesus in all lights. Three times we read he wept. Doubtless he sorrowed full often when he was not seen; but thrice he was known to weep. The instance in our text was the weeping of a Friend over the grave of a friend. A little further on, after a day of triumph, our Lord beheld the city and wept over it: that was the weeping of a Prophet concerning judgments which he foresaw. It is not recorded by any evangelist, but Paul tells us, in the Epistle to Hebrews, that with strong crying and tears, he made appeal to him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared. This third record sets forth the weeping of our Substitute, a sacrificial weeping, a pouring out of himself as an oblation before God. Treasure up in your mind these three memories, the weeping of the friend in sympathy with bereavement, the weeping of the Judge lamenting the sentence which he must deliver, and the weeping of the Surety as he smarts for us, bearing griefs which were not his own, for sins in which he had no share. Thus thrice was it true that “Jesus wept.”
by Hohn ChoBen Sasse sells Runzas at a Cornhuskers game.Ben Sasse sells Runzas at a Cornhuskers game.enator Ben Sasse (R-Neb) is a solid Christian brother who was an "elder in the United Reformed Churches in North America and served on the board of trustees for Westminster Seminary California" and is currently "a member of Grace Church, a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) congregation" located in Fremont, Nebraska. He has been outspoken about his faith and his values while avoiding a blindly loyal Republican party line and maintaining a healthy (and I believe appropriate) amount of nuance, including in this recent speech on Justice Brett Kavanaugh. And whether or not one might agree with him on everything—he has been quite plain with his concerns about President Donald Trump, for example—it has been encouraging to see a Christian brother navigating with integrity the dirty field of politics.He's just written a book entitled, "Them: Why We Hate Each Other—and How to Heal" and an adapted excerpt of it is available here. Longtime conservative columnist George Will has covered it briefly but well, with a powerful pair of paragraphs here:Loneliness in "epidemic proportions" is producing a "loneliness literature" of sociological and medical findings about the effect of loneliness on individuals' brains and bodies, and on communities. Sasse says "there is a growing consensus" that loneliness—not obesity, cancer or heart disease—is the nation's "No. 1 health crisis." "Persistent loneliness" reduces average longevity more than twice as much as does heavy drinking and more than three times as much as obesity, which often is a consequence of loneliness. Research demonstrates that loneliness is as physically dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and contributes to cognitive decline, including more rapid advance of Alzheimer's disease. Sasse says, "We're literally dying of despair," of the failure "to fill the hole millions of Americans feel in their lives."... Work, which Sasse calls "arguably the most fundamental anchor of human identity," is at the beginning of "a staggering level of cultural disruption" swifter and more radical than even America's transformation from a rural and agricultural to an urban and industrial nation. At that time, one response to social disruption was alcoholism, which begat Prohibition. Today, one reason the average American life span has declined for three consecutive years is that many more are dying of drug overdoses—one of the "diseases of despair"—annually than died during the entire Vietnam War. People "need to be needed," but McKinsey & Co. analysts calculate that, globally, 50 percent of paid activities—jobs—could be automated by currently demonstrated technologies. America's largest job category is "driver" and, with self-driving vehicles coming, two-thirds of such jobs could disappear in a decade.I've always appreciated whenever science and statistical studies confirm basic truths which have been set forth in the Word of God for millennia. The emerging data regarding loneliness are no exception. Starting from Genesis 2:18, when God declared, "It is not good for the man to be alone," the entire sweep of human history has focused on relationships, whether vertical or horizontal. And our great God has always cared deeply about those relationships, even exemplifying them perfectly in the awesome three-in-one mystery of the Trinity. In the Old Testament, we see the history of the covenant people of Israel, and their relationships both inside and outside of that group. Likewise, in the New Testament, we see the history of the covenant people of the church, and their relationships both inside and outside of that group.Outside the church, we see the imperative of evangelism, of "Go therefore" from the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, to all nations, with the joyful truth of the Gospel and discipleship in the Word of God. In Romans 10:14-15, we read how preachers of the Gospel are to be sent to unbelievers, with even the preachers' feet being praised as beautiful. And in the second Great Commandment in Mark 12:31, we know that we are to love our neighbors even as we love our own selves. All of these verses and concepts demonstrate the critical importance of relationships with the outside world.Meanwhile, inside the church, we see the glorious beauty of the one anothers, those commands which believers can only fulfill in Christian fellowship and the corporate assembly. It's a truth reinforced by the image of the church as the Body of Christ in Romans 12:5, Ephesians 3:6, Colossians 1:24, and perhaps most extensively in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, where we see that each member has a diverse role and function, and that only when working together as an organic whole is the Body truly operating as God has arranged and intended. Ideally, the Body of Christ ought never be a place where any member suffers chronic loneliness born from the negligence or apathy (much less hatred) of the brothers and sisters in his or her local church.And yet as an elder in a relatively large church with approximately 5,000 members and many more regular attenders, concerns like these are the ones that really tie up my stomach into knots and drive me to my knees in prayer. How many of our members struggle with loneliness and alienation? How many people "slip through the cracks" and depart, feeling uncared for and unloved? We've had a homebound ministry for as long as I can remember, and several years ago, a godly, hypercompetent man named Justin Harris greatly improved and streamlined our membership and attendance processes before becoming the senior pastor at another blessed congregation, and it's both a joy and a relief to the elders to know that our members can be contacted regularly if certain needs or challenges might be resulting in extended absences.But what about the rest of the Body of Christ, such as newer folks, or those who attend only sporadically, or perhaps even people used to participating only on the fringe? I know and understand that members themselves have a responsibility to be faithful and avail themselves of the ordinary means of grace, but what about my own role as a fellow member of the congregation and even more, as a servant-leader of my own particular local body? How can we better serve these beloved brothers and sisters, especially in a culture and age where singleness has become the norm for much longer periods of time, thus delaying or removing the traditionally and biblically normative alleviation for loneliness, specifically marriage and, Lord willing, family?I have only two suggestions in this regard. First, strive on and remain diligent in your efforts (Proverbs 13:4). Do not weary of doing good (Galatians 6:9-10), be devoted to one another with brotherly love and preferring one another in honor (Romans 12:10), even regarding one another as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). And when you're tired, pray for God to supply you with strength (1 Peter 4:11), knowing that the power of Christ is perfected in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), and that when we are weary and heavy-laden, our Savior will give us rest (Matthew 11:28).Second, and far more importantly, the Scriptural truth is that God is the only one who will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). He is the one we must turn to when we are lonely and afflicted (Psalm 25:16). Even if our own parents were to forsake us, God will receive us (Psalm 27:10). And Jesus Christ is with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20), nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:35), and indeed, He is even dwelling inside of us in perfect union (Romans 8:10, Galatians 2:20)! Not only that, but He has sent His Holy Spirit to dwell inside of us (Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 2 Timothy 1:14)! And as I reflect on the many missionaries and martyrs who have been imprisoned for years and even died physically all alone, I believe that conveying and reinforcing these incredible truths from the Word of God to every member of the Body of Christ can only serve to help them in the area of loneliness.When we see well-formulated scientific studies showing the gravely detrimental effects of loneliness, it offers yet another reason why I believe the increasing obsession over ethnicity in the church today is such an unfortunate distraction. Among broader societal ills, I've written previously about why I believe abortion is arguably more than 5,000 times as important of an issue as, say, police shootings of unarmed people of all ethnicities. But even within the church itself, as someone who has a righteous hatred of ethnic partiality and believes actual sin in this area ought to be confronted and purged from the visible Body as much as possible, I still have to wonder whether issues such as loneliness might be an even more dire—if perhaps less stylish—concern than ethnic partiality, just as issues relating to adultery, divorce, and pornography might be an even greater corruption of our visible Christian witness. And as I strive to shepherd the portion of God's flock that He has placed under my care, I pray that I will always strive to be sensitive enough to reach out proactively to those brothers and sisters who seem perhaps a little bit out of place, out of sorts, or even out of hope, no matter what their ethnicity might be.Hohn's signature
by Colin EakinAs the "social justice" juggernaut continues to batter the breastwork of the Church, it would seem to be a propitious moment to look deeper into what the Head of the Church thinks about the issue. Scripture actually gives considerable insight into the thoughts of Jesus regarding the "social justice" movement. And—to the likely surprise of those pushing the movement forward—His words should give them considerable pause.Let's start with the obvious: Jesus does not oppose justice. On the contrary, Jesus is the Originator, Definer, Overseer and Executor of justice (Mt. 12:18, 20). With regard to human interactions, the Bible uses the term "justice" to denote the condition of being impartial, even-handed, and scrupulous, and Jesus explicitly supports such an ethic (Luke 11:42; 18:7-8; John 7:24). Another manner by which justice is understood is moral perfection, and on that score, Jesus is the supreme example (Ps. 145:17). Further, the biblical concept of justice ultimately contends that all its supplicants will get exactly what they are promised, and Jesus guarantees that He will be there at the end, making it so (John 5:27-29).So if Jesus is the author, champion, and living exemplar of all justice, He must be in favor of "social justice"—right? To get an accurate biblical answer to that question we must understand how the modifier compromises and corrupts the virtue. The Bible actually never uses any modifiers for "justice," let alone "social," which in itself should deter those who would speak and reason biblically from use of this term (for this reason, throughout this article the term "social justice" is set off in quotations to indicate its illegitimacy as a biblical term and notion). But because the culture has conjured this idea which the undiscerning Church seemingly cannot resist, it is incumbent upon those who would claim to represent Jesus to understand and discuss its full portent.For our purposes, we will use the following definition for "social justice": "A philosophical and political concept holding that, because all people in this world should have equal access to wealth, health, opportunity and well-being, all people of this world are thus obliged to make it so."You may ask, what's wrong with that? All for one and one for all in striving for equality? Why wouldn't the One who is ultimately bringing "justice to victory" (Isa. 42:1-3; Matt. 12:20) support this effort? The Bible gives us four compelling reasons why He does not:1. "Social justice" misapprehends the eschatonOne text in Scripture giving particular insight into Christ's perspective on the matter of "social justice" is found in Luke 12:13-15. It reads: "Someone in the crowd said to Him, 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.' But He said to him, 'Man, who made Me a judge or arbiter over you?' And He said to them, 'Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."Here, Jesus is confronted by a man who has been (in his opinion) deprived of his fair share of an inheritance. From a "social justice" perspective, the man has been wronged, in that he believes he is owed wealth that has not been forthcoming. The man thus appeals to Jesus as an authority figure to find in his favor and correct the perceived injustice. This is a quintessential "social justice" scenario: resources have been appropriated in an asymmetric (therefore, unfair) manner, and the one deprived thus seeks redress.But does Jesus give empathy and succor to the plaintiff? Does He commiserate with the aggrieved brother and come to his aid? Quite the opposite. In fact, Jesus gives the man a curt rebuke. He begins by asking the man why He should be a judge or arbiter in this situation. This response should arouse our curiosity, because as the Bible makes clear, Jesus knows His Father has handed all judgment over to Him (John 5:22, 27; 9:39). His response to the man is therefore puzzling. After all, with all judgment handed over to Him, why wouldn't Jesus be the perfect judge in this, as in all, matters?The answer is twofold. The first has to do with the ordo eschaton, the order of last things. Jesus is here giving a revealing (if indirect) eschatological lesson. Jesus knows full well that His time for judgment is coming, when He will judge the entire world with perfect justice based upon the Word God has given (John 12:48). But He also knows that the time from the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian Captivity (605 BC-586 BC) through His time upon the earth and right up to the present is described by God as "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24; Rom. 11:25). During this period of history, Jesus understands that God's plan is not judgment but salvation. Yes, Jesus is the final Judge of this world, but that comes later. For now, God is still graciously saving sinners through the narrow door of repentance and faith. In His rhetorical query, then, Jesus is deferring present judgment of earthly matters. His desire is that the man might forego the redress of an alleged earthly injustice, and instead prepare his heart through repentance and faith in anticipation of the judgment that is to come.Many evangelicals who pander to ideas of "social justice" operate from an erroneous postmillennial eschatology. To their way of thinking, the earthly kingdom Jesus is promised to bring (2 Sam. 7:12) has already been inaugurated with His first appearance, and it is thus up to His followers to implement its form. And when one convolutes the Bible's prophecies regarding the present and future ages in this manner, the fallout is naturally erroneous fixation on the redress and reparation of inequalities in the here and now. But that is not what the Bible says about God's intent in the present, nor in the future. God will indeed bring to fruition the promised earthly kingdom of Christ (Rev. 20:1-6), but He will do it without need of any human partnership (Acts 17:25), and only when the sum of those who are appointed to eternal life believe (Acts 13:48). For now, Jesus as Judge and Arbiter of the world is on hold, being mercifully delayed, "until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" (Rom. 11:25). Jesus' just judgment of the world is coming, but—in God's inexplicable and extraordinary love, mercy and grace—He continues to delay that day, such that "now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2).2. "Social justice" often arises from sinful impulseThe second reason why Jesus defers to judge in this man's case is found in the continuation of Jesus' remarks to the crowd (v. 15): "And He said to them, 'Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.'" Here, Jesus unequivocally ties concern over earthly inequalities with the potential for sin—the sin of covetousness. And His implication is blunt: the focus upon earthly inequalities, even with the intent of their amelioration, by its nature introduces the possibility of covetousness. Jesus is saying that those obsessed with rectifying worldly inequalities as they pertain to themselves should first reflect about a possible covetous impulse.The Holy Spirit (through James) then elaborates on this idea (James 4:1-2, 4-5): "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel . . . You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy with God."So, Jesus claims that those obsessing over their unfair or unequal treatment in this world must guard against covetousness, and the Spirit through James says covetousness lies at the core of fights and quarrels as to who has what and who does not. This link is no mere coincidence. The rancor and invective that so often attend plaintiff demands for "social justice" lie in stark contrast to the fruits of the Spirit-led life, as laid out in Galatians 5:22-23, and this passage in James identifies the core reason for this. The Bible is clear: whenever there is a focus upon remediation of earthly inequality, covetousness may very well lie at the source, and when it does, acrimony and outrage often result.Notice, too, how the Spirit through James goes on to associate covetousness with friendship with the world. This also is no coincidence. Not only do the evangelical champions of "social justice" often carry with them a misguided eschatology, but also quite commonly a penchant for the favor of the world. In fact, when one looks out over the sea of modern evangelicalism to those at the helm of the S.S. Social Justice, one finds a remarkably common deference to culture and desire for its approval. Today's most prominent evangelical crusaders for "social justice" almost always seem to be those most eager to be received well by the secular docents of modern-day politics, academia, business and social media, and this passage from James helps to explain why.3. "Social justice" misapprehends human nature and its fundamental needThere is a third reason Jesus opposes "social justice", and that is its failure to apprehend the Bible's description of human nature. In Luke 19:10, Jesus declares, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." And who are the lost? Jesus' answer is clear: they are the spiritually "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Mt. 9:36; Mark 6:34). They are the spiritually poor prisoners, blind and oppressed (Matt. 5:3; Luke 4:18). And from the days of the early Church until recently, it has been understood that the manner by which Jesus saves the spiritually lost is through gospel evangelism by those whom He has already spiritually saved.But all this is now being challenged on the evangelical "social justice" front. No longer are the "lost" being defined on a spiritual basis, but on economic and/or sociological terms. And no longer is the manner by which Jesus saves the "lost" through a call to "repentance and the forgiveness of sins" (Luke 24:47), but rather through His purported desire that earthly injustices be remedied, including (and perhaps preferably) through governmental policies and programs. This is exactly how neo-Marxist dogma is now being foisted upon an unsuspecting Church under the guise of "social justice."A natural corollary of this development is that those to be involved in "evangelism" no longer must be "born again" in a "saved from sin" sense, but merely must exhibit interest in bettering the material and social conditions of the disadvantaged around them. Whereas in the past, people were required to "believe in order to belong," it is somehow suggested that they might now "belong" regardless of belief. But Jesus knows that the heart of the unredeemed is "deceitful above all things and desperately sick" (Jer. 17:9), that the mind of the unredeemed is "darkened in [its] understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them" (Eph. 4:18), and that the will of the unredeemed is to "do their father's [the devil's] desires" (John 8:44). Given all that, Jesus knows that the real need of the unregenerate sinner—regardless of race, wealth, or any other earthly designation—is heart, mind and will transformation via (Luke 24:47) "repentance and the forgiveness of sins"; in a word—salvation. Not only that, given that salvation only comes from belief, under no circumstances could an unbeliever ever contribute in a positive sense to the saving work God is doing in the world today.One passage plainly detailing the above is John 7:38-39, where Jesus declares: "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" Now this He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."Here, "rivers of living water" is participation in God's work in the world, about which Jesus stipulates the following: penitent belief yields the indwelling Spirit, which in turn yields power for the spiritual work God is doing. Only in that order. As Pastor John MacArthur has phrased it, one's position in Christ establishes one's practice for Christ, and never the reverse. Given this, how then could Jesus back a movement that obsesses over the material and/or sociological condition of the sinner but cares little for how that sinner might be forgiven and granted eternal life?The condition of the unredeemed is described in the Bible (Rom. 8:5-12) as living "in the flesh," about which it makes the following clear and unmistakable designation (Rom. 8:8): "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Ever. It is a travesty of Christ's teaching that a church could leads its members in works of "social justice" without telling them of their need to be redeemed, and how this might be accomplished. It is a travesty of Christ's teaching that a collection of earnest but unredeemed "Jesus-followers" might pursue good works to assist the disadvantaged, while at the same time having no clue as to how both they and those whom they serve might be saved from their sin.4. "Social justice" conflicts with the Church's true taskA final and related reason Jesus opposes "social justice" is that it directly undermines the primary task of the Church. To see this, one must understand the primary purpose of the Church is to declare God's Word, and that the summary purpose of all biblical instruction is the following: to present God's righteous standard to all sinners (Matt. 5:48), to drive those sinners to despair at their inability to attain the righteousness demanded of them by a holy God (Lev. 11:44-45; Gal. 3:10-11, 19-24), to have those sinners cry out for mercy to that same gracious God for a pardon from their sin (Luke 18:13-14), and to have faith that God will, as promised, apply to them the righteousness of Christ, who lovingly bore their sins upon the cross (Isa. 53:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:21). That is the crux of the gospel, the one and only message of the Church, and notice it hinges upon a requisite contrite spirit (Isa. 57:15).But when the Church reorients its focus to concerns regarding "social justice," it short-circuits and inverts this entire process. No longer is the sinner a perpetrator; now he or she is a victim. No longer does the sinner plead for mercy to a gracious and forgiving God; now he or she is owed something from Him, or at least from the world He oversees. No longer are sinners "poor in spirit" and thus eligible for the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:3). Now they are casualties of tyrannical forces that exploit and subjugate them in a bondage of oppression, against which they must rage until scores are settled. The upshot? Instead of sinners acknowledging and repenting of their sinful condition, they are now emboldened to seek recourse against as many injustices as they can identify. Gone is the meek and humble spirit that ultimately inherits the earth (Ps. 37:5; Mt. 5:5). In its place is a spirit of victimization, rebellion and retribution.It is for this reason that, across the landscape of modern-day evangelicalism, one tends to find an inverse relationship between interest in "social justice" and interest in evangelism in its historic understanding. In a very real sense, the entire mission of the Church is being hijacked. Among those on the evangelical forefront of the "social justice" movement, the talk is no longer about how sinners might avoid eternal damnation in hell, but how they might gain temporal reparation for past and present injustices."Social justice" carries with it the implicit idea the sinner in this world is owed something by someone, but that idea is completely foreign to Jesus. Even among His redeemed, Jesus claims they are owed nothing in this world (Luke 17:7-10): "Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and recline at table'? Will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink'? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'"Jesus' point is clear: if even those who are a part of His kingdom are mere "servants," with no rights nor entitlements other than to consider themselves as ever-unworthy and thus duty-bound to their Master, how much more so would this apply to those on the outside looking in? It has been written elsewhere that if the parable of the Prodigal Son had been set in the age of "social justice," the son would have never returned home to his father. And why should he have? Once apprised that he was not an ungrateful, impudent, hedonistic fool in need of repentance and humble submission to his Father, but rather a victim of external, impersonal, malevolent forces stemming from unfair societal arrangements, his path would have led not to the true home of his Father's embrace and promise of eternal life, but rather to the false embrace of "social justice" promising entitlements to dampen his fall. Gone would be any notion of regret or remorse at his sin. In its place, as result of his "social justice" reeducation? Only indignation, resentment, and perpetual rebellion.Conclusion: What Does Jesus Offer?With the biblical record so consistently opposed to the zeitgeist of "social justice," it should appall the Church that it could be so easily and so harmfully beguiled as it has been. Jesus offers the sinner not a list of earthly entitlements to be pursued and defended at all costs, but rather inexplicable love and mercies despite that same sinner's enmity (Lam. 3:22-23; Rom. 5:8,10; 8:8). Jesus doesn't offer the sinner the right to claim victimhood and redress against earthly injustices, but only the right to claim eternal unworthiness for His promise of eternal life. The Church is called not to a mission of political and economic lobbying for the betterment of this world, but a mission calling sinners to repentance for their betterment in the next (Luke 5:32). As to worldly arrangements and the goals of "social justice" devotees, Jesus wondered (Matt. 16:26), "What does will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" May God raise up within His Church those who know the answer to this question, and from that answer might clarify the true gospel from its "social justice" corruption.Dr. Colin L. EakinPyromaniacDr. Eakin is a sports medicine orthopdic surgeon in the Bay Area and part time teacher at Grace Bible Fellowship Church's Stanford campus ministry. He is the author of God's Glorious Story.
Image result for charles spurgeonYour weekly Dose of SpurgeonThe PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from C.H. Spurgeon's Autobiography, volume one, pages 271-272, Pilgrim Publications.Another singular character with whom I became acquainted early in my ministry, was old Mr. Sutton, of Cottenham. He had never seen me, but he heard that I was a popular young minister, so he invited me over to preach his anniversary sermons. I was in the vestry of the chapel before the morning service, and when the aged man came in, and saw me, he seemed greatly surprised to find that I was so young. After gruffly exchanging the usual greetings, he remarked, “I shouldn't have asked you here, had I known you were such a bit of a boy. Why, the people have been pouring into the place all the morning in waggons, and dickey-carts, and all kinds of vehicles! More fools they!” he added. I said, “Well, sir, I suppose it will be so much the better for your anniversary; still, I can go back as easily as I came, and my people at Waterbeach will be very glad to see me.” “No, no,” said the old pastor; “now you are here, you must do the best you can. There is a young fellow over from Cambridge, who will help you; and we shan't expect much from you;” and thereupon he paced the room, moaning out, “Oh, dear! what a pass the world is coming to when we get as preachers a parcel of boys who have not got their mother's milk out of their mouths!”I was in due time conducted to the pulpit, and the old minister sat upon the stairs,—I suppose, ready to go on with the service in case I should break down. After prayer and singing, I read, from the Book of Proverbs, the chapter containing the words, “The hoary head is a crown of glory.” When I had gone so far, I stopped, and remarked, “I doubt it, for, this very morning, I met with a man who has a hoary head, yet he has not learnt common civility to his fellow-men.” Proceeding with the reading, I finished the verse,—“if it be found in the way of righteousness.” “Ah!” I said, “that's another thing; a hoary head would then be a crown of glory, and, for the matter of that, so would a red head, or a head of any other colour.” I went on with the service, and preached as best I could, and as I came down from the pulpit, Mr. Sutton slapped me on the back, and exclaimed, “Bless your heart! I have been a minister nearly forty years, and I was never better pleased with a sermon in all my life; but you are the sauciest dog that ever barked in a pulpit.” All the way home from the chapel, he kept on going across the road to speak to little groups of people who were discussing the service. I heard him say, “I never knew anything like it in all my life; and to think that I should have talked to him as I did!” We had a good time for the rest of the day, the Lord blessed the Word, and Mr. Sutton and I were ever afterwards the best of friends.
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonThe PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 41, sermon number 2,415, "The believer's heritage of joy."Image result for charles spurgeon They testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever; for they are the rejoicing of my heart. Psalm 119:111"A man's mind is rich very much in proportion to the truth he knows." He who knows the Word of God is mentally rich, he has a large heritage. There are persons, I am told,—deists—who believe in God, but who do not believe in the Word of God. They believe, then, in a God who has never spoken, a silent God, a God who has, at any rate, never spoken to his noblest creatures most capable of understanding his mind. To them, God is one who remains locked up for ever in exclusiveness, except so far as his works may reveal him. I think there are many difficulties in the way of receiving such a theory as that. Whatever difficulties there may be about God having spoken to us, and given us testimonies,—and that is the meaning of the word in our text,—there are none so great to overcome as this one would be, that, through all these ages, so many men have sought after God, and so many craving hearts have yearned to find God, yet he should have suffered six thousand years at least to pass, and should never have spoken to men a single word that they can understand. Now, so far from accepting that theory, I believe this Word of God to be God's testimony, God's speech, God's declaration about himself and about many other things that his creatures need to know,God's witness-bearing to us, out of the depth of his divine knowledge, that we may know and understand and see things aright. And I say, and I am sure that many of you will say with me, these speeches of God, these revealing of God which I find in these two books of the Old and the New Testaments, are my heritage. I rejoice to accept them as the estate of my mind, the treasure of my thought, the mint of the heavenly realm, the mine from which I can explore fresh veins of thought as long as I live, claiming all as my heritage forever. I have been preaching the Word of God these six-and-twenty years in this one place to very much the same congregation all the while; and if I had been obliged to preach from any other book, I should have worn it threadbare by this time; but the Bible is as fresh to me to-day as when first I began to speak from it as a boy, and preached to you from it as a youth. It is an inexhaustible heritage of mental wealth to the man who will accept it, and give his mind to the study of it. Look at the doctrines, the precepts, the promises, the prophecies, the histories, the experiences,—it is no use for me to try to map out this estate, it is so large.As a great heritage of mental wealth, it makes every man who receives it, however illiterate he may be upon other subjects, a wealthy man spiritually, while they who discard it become poverty-stricken in mind, whatever else of mental attainments they may possess.
But "Social Justice" is something entirely different.by Phil JohnsonThis article was originally posted at the Reformation21 blog.WE AFFIRM that since he is holy, righteous, and just, God requires those who bear his image to live justly in the world. This includes showing appropriate respect to every person and giving to each one what he or she is due. We affirm that societies must establish laws to correct injustices that have been imposed through cultural prejudice.WE DENY that true justice can be culturally defined or that standards of justice that are merely socially constructed can be imposed with the same authority as those that are derived from Scripture. We further deny that Christians can live justly in the world under any principles other than the biblical standard of righteousness. Relativism, socially-constructed standards of truth or morality, and notions of virtue and vice that are constantly in flux cannot result in authentic justice.Justice is, of course, a major theme in Scripture. In fact, it's a much larger concept—and more central to the gospel—than most people realize. In both Hebrew and Greek, the words translated "justice" and "just" are the same words normally translated "righteousness" and "righteous." No distinction is made in the original text of Scripture. The biblical idea of justice encompasses everything the Bible says about righteousness.In English, when we use the word justice, we normally have in mind evenhanded impartiality (especially in the realm of law and civic affairs). The dictionary defines justice as "maintenance of legal, social, or moral principles by the exercise of authority or power—including the assignment of deserved reward or punishment."Righteousness denotes virtue, uprightness, moral rectitude—godly character.Because we differentiate between the words and use them differently, we tend to think of justice predominantly as a legal standard or civic paradigm, and righteousness as something more personal. Again, Scripture makes no such distinction. In the Bible, justice and righteousness are the same thing, encompassing all the legitimate connotations of both words.How comprehensive is this idea? God Himself is the embodiment and the touchstone of true righteousness. The moral principles spelled out in His law describe what human righteousness looks like. In fact, when Moses delivered the tablets of stone from Sinai to the people, he said, "It will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us" (Deut. 6:25). Jesus exposed the rigors of this standard even more clearly when He said, "You . . . must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48).But now you are talking about the law, you might protest. How can you say it's central to the gospel? Aren't you the guy who scolded preachers of social justice for mingling or confusing law and gospel?"Excellent question, and it requires a two-part answer.First, justice is a vital gospel issue because the atoning work of Christ turned divine justice in favor of sinners who trust Him as Savior. "For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). Having fulfilled the whole law to absolute perfection, Jesus (who "knew no sin" by experience) bore the sins of others (by imputation). Those sins were accounted as if they were His, and He fully paid the due penalty, so that His own perfect righteousness could be imputed to His people. The law has thus been perfectly fulfilled and sin fully punished in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. So God can "be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26). "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins . . . We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 Jn. 1:9—2:1).Second, "social justice" is entirely different from biblical justice. It is a severely abridged and often badly twisted notion of legal equity—dealing mainly with matters like economics, social privilege, and civil rights. In recent years, a plethora of politically correct causes have been added to the menu, including global warming, animal rights, abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, gender fluidity, war, immigration, socialism, and a cornucopia of similar issues borrowed from the political left.Historically, social justice advocates have not concerned themselves much if at all with other vital aspects of biblical justice, including the moral content of the law (particularly biblical standards of sexual purity); condign punishment for evildoers (Gen. 9:6; Rom. 13:4; Matt. 26:52); and the duty and privilege of work (2 Thess. 3:10).To be clear, there is no single authoritative definition of "social justice." Definitions abound from those who are promoting the terminology. But there are common themes that run through virtually all of them. Here are a couple of typical samples: "Social justice is a political and philosophical concept which holds that all people should have equal access to wealth, health, well-being, justice and opportunity." And "Social justice is the equal access to wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society."Those familiar with neo-Marxist rhetoric will recognize the themes. Indeed, the derivation and connotations of the expression "social justice" are rooted in secular political and academic dialogues rather than in biblical ideas about divine justice. The rhetoric of social justice has gradually migrated from the radical far left by a dialectical process. Early in that process, the language was baptized and the worldview was given a religious veneer replete with a name: Liberation Theology. The same language and rhetoric were brought into evangelical circles through groups like Sojourners and the Emerging Church movement. Then it was disbursed through student groups like InterVarsity. And most recently it has found its way into more conservative organizations like The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel, and it seems to have been accepted by large numbers of evangelicals with great enthusiasm.Despite the claims of its proponents, however, the popular notion of "social justice" was not derived from Scripture. It actually began among people well known for their hostility to biblical authority—and the pedigree is not at all difficult to trace.The dangers of this world-view's influence are not really hard to see, either. Read the chatter in social media and you'll regularly encounter young fair-weather evangelicals who say they have abandoned (or are in the process of abandoning) their evangelical convictions now that they are "woke." Even some of the respected evangelical leaders who have lately become enthralled with "social justice" seem to have fallen silent on the issue of abortion—an easily quantifiable injustice that is responsible for the deaths of more disadvantaged and defenseless children each day than all the unjust police shootings of the past fifty years combined. [http://www.worldometers.info/abortions/]When the Statement on Social Justice denies "that true justice can be culturally defined or that standards of justice that are merely socially constructed can be imposed with the same authority as those that are derived from Scripture," it is referring to this fact:"Social justice" is not biblical justice.Phil's signature
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonThe PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 13, sermon number 742, "A sermon to open neglecters and nominal followers of religion." Image result for charles spurgeon"As clearly as actions can speak, you say by your neglect of the Sabbath, by your disregard of prayer, by your never reading the Bible, by your perseverance in known sin, and by the whole course of your life, "I will not.'" Like Pharaoh, you have demanded, “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice?” You are of the same mind as those of old, who said, “It is vain to serve God, and what profit is there if we keep his ordinances?” Moreover, my friend, you have not as yet given an assent to the doctrines of God's Word; on the contrary, intellectually as well as practically, you go not at God's bidding. You have set up in your mind the idea that you must understand everything before you will believe it—an idea, let me tell you, which you will never be able to carry out, for you cannot understand your own existence; and there are ten thousand other things around you which you never can comprehend, but which you must believe or remain for ever a gigantic fool. Still you cavil at this doctrine and that doctrine, railing at the gospel system in general; and if you were asked at a working man's conference, why you did not go to a place of worship, you would perhaps say that you kept away from worship because you did not like this doctrine or that. Let me say on my own account, that as far as I am personally concerned, it is a very small consideration to me whether you do like my doctrine or do not; for your own sake I am anxious above measure that you should believe the truth as it is in Jesus; but while you live in sin, your dislike of a doctrine, will very probably only make me feel the more sure of its truth, and lead me to preach it with more confidence and vehemence.Think you that we are to learn God's truth from the likings or dislikings of those who refuse to worship him, and want an excuse for their sins. O unconverted men and women, it is very long before we shall come to you to learn what you would have us preach, and when we fall so low as to do that, you yourselves will despise us. What! shall the physician ask his patient what kind of medicine he would wish to have prescribed? Then the man needs no physician, he can prescribe for himself. Show the doctor out at the back door directly. What is the use of such a physician? Of what service is a minister who will truckle to depraved tastes and sinful appetites, and say, “How would you like me to preach to you? What smooth things shall I offer you?” Ah souls! we have some higher end to be served than merely pleasing you. We would save you by distasteful truths, for honeyed lies will ruin you. That teaching which the carnal mind most delights in, is the most deadly and delusive. With many of you, your beliefs, and tastes, and likes, must be changed, or else you will never enter heaven. I admit that in a measure I like your honesty in having said outright, “I will not serve God;” but it is an honesty which makes me shudder, for it betrays a heart hard as the nether millstone.
by Colin Eakinow that the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel (https://statementonsocialjustice.com/) has arrived as a bulwark against the mudslide of attempts to merge the two (i.e. social justice and the gospel), not even those most opposed to its conception can disagree with its content.But one awkward truth lingers in the back of every thoughtful Christian's mind. It's a lesson that has been reinforced repeatedly by the cyclical rhythm of church history. It's this: When one merges human amelioration of suffering and injustice with divine remediation of sin, inevitably the purpose and impact of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ takes a backseat. As Pastor John MacArthur has remarked, this is the sad legacy of mainline Protestant denominations over the past century—a rise in the focus on enhancing social welfare tightly correlated with a decline of interest in (and understanding of) how sinners might be saved from their sin. So how does the "social justice gospel" maintain its appeal? To elaborate, how could the evangelion of Jesus Christ, with its transcendent promises—that a sinner worthy only of eternal punishment can be forgiven of all moral debt (Col. 2:13-14; 1 John 1:9), can be robed in the righteousness of the Savior (Isa. 61:10), can be adopted by God as a full-fledged sibling of Christ (Rom. 8:15-17), can be set higher than angelic beings with the same glory as of God Himself (John 1:12; 1 Cor. 6:3; 1 John 3:2), and can be made an ambassador of Christ for the sake of other souls He seeks to save (2 Cor. 5:18-20)—how could such an infinite, too-marvelous-for-words opportunity ever be pedestrianized with finite goals such as elimination of economic disparities and redress of earthly inequalities? With such a stupendous opportunity at stake, why would anyone be tempted to substitute anything for the incomparable prize of the upward call (Phil. 3:14)?Jesus knew how ludicrous any conflation of earthly and heavenly possibilities would be, asking—incredulously—(Mark 8:36), "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" For Jesus, it does not matter how much one might improve his or her condition in this world—even to the conquest of it all!—if such a development also brought eternal damnation. In another passage, Jesus wonders why one would come to Him to remediate an earthly injustice when His heavenly offer beckons, even going so far as to implicate covetousness as the root cause of fixation on earthly conditions (Luke 12:13-15).The true gospel is about how penitent and believing sinners—no matter the race, nationality, gender, or any other category—forfeit the world and become united in one spiritual family (Eph. 2:13-22) precisely because a Holy Father has redeemed them through faith in the substitutionary work of the Holy Son. It is about how one turns his or her back on the temporal in order to have one's sins forgiven, blotted out and remembered no more (Isa. 43:25; Heb. 8:12). It is about renunciation of this world and all its attractions for the sake of an eternal inheritance that is "imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you" (1 Pet. 1:4). It is about how doing the above grants access to the throne room of God! (Rom. 5:1-2). This should not be a tough sell, folks.So, given all of the above, given the gulf between what God offers in His true gospel and what "social justice gospel-ers" are offering in theirs, how does their so-called "social justice gospel" maintain any traction? What's behind the "social justice gospel-ers" and their incessant focus, on the temporal and material, on the evanescent here and now?The Bible is not silent on this question. In fact, it provides the universal explanation behind all corruptions of the true gospel, regardless of the age or form. But before we see God's explanation behind "social justice" (or any other) distortions of the true gospel, we must first address the two distinct aspects of what it means to be a Christian: (1) what one does and (2) what one says. From the earliest days of the Church, these have always been the twin features of the authentic Christian life. We might term them the benevolent works and benevolent words of the faithful.Let's start with benevolent works—what one does as a Christian. The Bible is clear—Christians love (1 Cor. 13:35). They serve (John 13:14-15). They bind up the wounds of the hurting, feed the hungry, and clothe the poor (Isa. 58:10). They remember the widows and orphans and others who are easily forgotten (Isa. 1:17; James 1:27). They care for the stranger, for the sick, and for the imprisoned (Matt. 25:34-40). And do you know what? The world loves it all. Write it down: the world has always loved the good works of Christians. In fact, it will even seek to partner with Christians in doing these works. The conflict between the world and the Christian promised by Jesus (John 7:7; 15:18; 16:1-4; 1 John 2:15-17) never comes from the world's disapproval of the benevolent works of the Christian.No, the conflict between the world and the Christian comes only in the other aspect of what it means to be a Christian, when the faithful believer proclaims the benevolent words of salvation. Here is where the love affair between the world and Jesus abruptly ends. Why is that? Because as much as the world will love what Christians do, when those same Christians are faithful in proclaiming the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the world will hate what they have to say (Matt. 10:22; Luke 21:17; John 15:19).Christians do good works and enjoy the affirmation of the world. Then the faithful open their mouths, starting with the announcement of a holy God who cannot look upon evil (Hab. 1:13), and who has promised its eventual just judgment (Eccl. 12:14). They tell the world that evil is endemic to all as the result of Adam's fall, and therefore everyone lives under a sentence of condemnation and coming judgment (John 3:18; 36). The faithful plead with the world to repent before Christ the Savior and surrender to His Lordship (Mark 1:15). The faithful warn all who will listen that without repentance and belief in the transforming work of Christ, they will die and spend eternity in hell as a penalty for their sin (Ezek. 18:4,20; Luke 13:1-5; John 8:24).All the while, faithful Christians announce the true gospel—the "good news"—that God will forgive those who repent and trust in His grace to pardon them of their sin, knowing that the true gospel message is the only hope for sinners. And because the gospel they proclaim is the only hope for a dying world, faithful Christians know that pointing sinners to the eternal life God offers for those who repent and believe is true love. But the sinful, rebellious heart is wired such that, apart from God's effectual call and power to illuminate His truth, it spurns the benevolent words spoken by Christians. In fact, Romans 1:18 says that the unrighteous suppress the truth precisely because of their unrighteousness.The last week of Jesus' life is a case study of the world's diametrically opposite responses to Christ's benevolent works and to His benevolent words. At the beginning of the week, Jesus rides into Jerusalem to the welcome of the adoring multitude, who hail Him as their coming King. The crowd had witnessed His miracles. They had eaten the miraculous loaves and fish (John 6:1-14). They had seen Lazarus raised from the dead (John 11:1-44). Jesus had proven to them with His miraculous works that He was someone of power and authority. The crowd worshipped Him for His signs, and they always pressured Him for more (Matthew 12:38; 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:29).So as Jesus rides into Jerusalem at the start of Passover Week, the people go before Him and cry, "Hosanna! Hosanna!" They are ready to follow Him as their leader. They are ready for the revolution and the new Kingdom they believe Jesus is introducing (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-15). But do you notice that adoration does not last for long? In the following days, one sees Jesus deconstructing all the empty religious premises the people held dearest. One sees Him overturning the tables of profiteers in the temple and driving out the moneychangers (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48). One sees Him undermining the Jews' entire form of religion as He upbraids their religious leaders (Matthew 23:1-39). Pretty soon, the crowd has lost all its regard for Him. Now, Jesus is saying things to them, not doing things for them. And what He is saying insults them. His message offends them.In a parable, He says that the owner (understood as God) of a vineyard (understood as Israel) is coming to destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to those who will be more faithful (Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12). The crowd knows that Jesus is referring to them as the unworthy tenants. So even though they cheered His entry into the city earlier in the week, by Friday they are crying, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" The benevolent works of Jesus brought the praise of the people. And, in the same manner, the benevolent words of Jesus brought about His crucifixion. The people loved His works and hated His words. And twenty-one centuries later, nothing has changed. God continues to bring sinners to repentance, day by day, one sinner at a time. But most ultimately reject His offer of eternal life, because they hate the message that they are sinners in need of a Savior.Jesus says in John 3:19, "'And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil'." Because the world loves its sin, the gospel message proclaimed by faithful Christians will provoke the world's hatred and rejection. And if one persists in declaring the benevolent message of pardon for repentance, it will ultimately bring persecution. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:12 that, "all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." This is the normal response to be anticipated for all faithful believers, for all who bring the true gospel message. The world has no problem with the Church doing good works. In fact, it welcomes them. It will even seek to partner with the Church in pursuing them. But the world despises the true message of the Church, the only message offering real hope by calling all to repentance and faith in Christ's atoning work. And it will reject and persecute those churches that persist in proclaiming the true gospel.So here is our answer to the question posed in our title: the social justice gospel is, at its core, driven by a desire to avoid repudiation by the world. Do you doubt this? Then look and see the extent to which those propounding a "social justice gospel" have in their teaching and ministries any statements or positions that would incite the world's opprobrium. Go to the body of teaching of any prominent spokesperson for a "social justice gospel" and see how often that individual highlights the vilification and persecution God says will come to those who faithfully pursue His true gospel. Look hard and look long, because the data will be slow in forthcoming.Paul writes to the Galatians, "It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ" (Gal. 6:12). The Judaizers of Paul's day demanded that converts to Christianity must also comply with Jewish ceremonial stipulations—including circumcision—in order to be truly redeemed. The reason? The very real possibility that Jewish denunciation might lead to Roman persecution (Acts 18:12-17). And this potential for persecution has attended all gospel proclamation until now. Since the days of the early Church, no matter the particulars of the age or threat, the rationale for deviation from the true gospel is always fear of rejection, fear of reproach, fear of recrimination from a hostile world.All false gospel efforts—including the "social justice gospel"—are attempts to have it both ways, to maintain a veneer of Christian orthodoxy while at the same time currying favor with the world. The result? A reinvention of Jesus into someone who is less polarizing and more genteel, and a sanitization of His gospel into one that the world might accept. But this is nothing less than apostasy. Want to know what God considers an apostate church? It is a church that is all about good works, and timidly avoids saving words. It is a church that aligns its ministry with the works the world wants to see—helping the poor, healing the sick, feeding the hungry—without simultaneously proclaiming the saving gospel the world despises. And as it pursues good works, even claiming to do them in Jesus' name, the apostate church will deliberately shun Jesus' saving words. Its distorted gospel—devoid of sin, judgment, or any call to true repentance—becomes, "God loves us, so let's love Him back by doing good works in the name of Jesus." It will avoid bold proclamation of the true gospel message, because the true gospel is a message that the world abhors, and the apostate church is ever genuflecting at its throne.On the other hand, a true church knows that persecution is coming, but still remains faithful to the true gospel. A true church carefully extricates ideas of human munificence from the true gospel of divine accomplishment. A true church instructs its members on the two essential duties of all who are saved: yes, certainly, benevolent works bringing temporal reprieve toward those deprived of justice or suffering from want. But these works, no matter how good and how necessary, are never, ever to be the focus of, and therefore lead to the exclusion of, benevolent words bringing opportunity for redemption and eternal glory in union with God.Dr. Colin L. EakinPyromaniacDr. Eakin is a sports medicine orthopdic surgeon in the Bay Area and part time teacher at Grace Bible Fellowship Church's Stanford campus ministry. He is the author of God's Glorious Story.(Portions of this article are adapted from God's Glorious Story: GBF Press, 2017)
by Hohn ChoTim Keller recently weighed in on the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel. After attempting to summarize a concept called "speech act theory" advanced by secular academics such as John Searle, admitting that Keller agrees with 80% of the statement itself, and then lamenting the increasing political polarization in both the world and the church, he proceeded to say the following:"It's—it's not so much what it says; it's what it does. It's trying to marginalize people who are talking about race and justice. It's trying to say you're really not biblical—uh, so it's it, and—and it's not fair, in that sense. So, that's the reason why it—when some somebody—if something starts to go down it with me, and say, "Would you agree with this? Would you agree with this?" I would say, "You're looking at the level of what it says and not at the level of what it's doing." And I do think what it's trying to do is that it's really trying to say, "Don't make this emphasis; don't worry about the poor; don't care about the injustice. It's not really that important." That's what it's saying. Uh, even if—even if I could agree with most of it, it's—I don't—I don't like it."AD Robles has provided both a substantive response and a somewhat tongue-in-cheek one where he demonstrates how using "speech act theory" on certain "social justice" advocates (hereinafter "SJAs") might work. I commend them to your attention, because in Robles' typically insightful fashion, they both make a strong point and offer compelling evidence of how ludicrous Keller's position is when applied via the equal weights and measures of Proverbs 20:10, a verse which many SJAs would do well to take to heart.What I'd like to focus on, however, is the growing epidemic of "heart-reading" among many SJAs. It's a simple and obvious fact that human beings are unable to read other people's minds or hearts. Some people might be especially good—even uncannily so—at making solid estimations, perhaps, but even for the very best detectives who are actually able to observe their subjects in person, the success rate will be nowhere near 100%. With that simple reality in mind, a question arises about whether we should assume the best, or the worst, of others' hidden motives?For Christians, we have a crystal-clear answer from Scripture. We know from 1 Corinthians 4:5 that we should not "go on passing judgment" regarding our brothers' and sisters' minds and hearts, but instead trust that God "will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts." Instead, if we truly love our brothers and sisters, as we are commanded to do in John 13:34-35, Romans 12:10, 1 Peter 1:22, and all throughout the letter of 1 John, we will strive to heed the call of love in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, perhaps most pertinently 1 Corinthians 13:7, which tells us that love "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." None of this is rocket science; it is really just basic Christianity. Indeed, one needs only to observe a godly Christian marriage briefly to know how important this concept is to a fruitful, harmonious, and loving relationship, while even a cursory glance at any troubled marriage will almost certainly show that a willingness to heed 1 Corinthians 13:7 is in very short supply.Applied more broadly, I would posit that failure to heed Scripture's admonitions on this topic begins a slide down the road of microaggressions that the secular world has already embraced with aplomb, an attitude which also appears to be making inroads into the church, tragically. Think about what kind of local body would honor the Lord. Is it one where every word and deed is hyperanalyzed for hidden thoughts and motives, with second-guessing and jumping at shadows abounding? Or is it one that takes people at face value—no, far more, one that actively attributes good motives to them by believing and hoping all things and refuses to attribute bad motives to them by bearing and enduring all things—and allows interaction with actual words and deeds while leaving hidden thoughts and motives to the Lord, between that individual and the Holy Spirit? I certainly know which local body I would prefer to join!On that note, I find it ironic that some are accusing the drafters of the statement of having fundamentalist tendencies, when quite a few traits I would personally associate with fundamentalism (e.g., the legalistic attempts to graft of extra-biblical convictions onto others, the denigration of Christian liberty, the speck-plucking while ignoring one's own planks, the double standards, the censorious treatment of dissenters) seem far more prominently displayed among many SJAs. In fact, the only thing I've found more laughably unbelievable about the discussion thus far is the claim that men such as my pastor, John MacArthur, who three decades ago spearheaded the debate on Lordship salvation and the necessity of obedience and genuine fruit, are somehow ignoring or dismissing the importance of the outworkings of the Gospel in believers' lives.Regardless, rather than make presumptuous accusations about what the drafters are "trying to do" (a clear accusation of active effort and intention), perhaps Keller, who is far from alone among his fellow SJAs' heart-reading efforts, could instead believe and hope all things in love about his brothers.And now, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals' online magazine, Reformation21, and the drafters of the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel launched a series this morning on what the statement's 14 articles both say and intend. So even if he was uncertain before—which is still no excuse for attributing negative or sinister hidden motives to fellow believers—Keller really no longer has any excuse whatsoever.I pray that the nature of the dialogue surrounding the statement will improve, and that critics will engage with what it actually says, rather than presume that the multiethnic group of faithful and godly men with literally centuries of faithful ministerial experience have some kind of secret agenda to "marginalize people" and "don't worry about the poor, don't care about the injustice." In my own effort to engage with precisely what Keller actually said, I must sadly conclude that claims like his are character assassination, plain and simple, and they cheapen the discourse immeasurably. And it is especially ironic that Keller had just finished bemoaning the increasing political polarization of the world and the church, because in offering such an aspersion-filled partisan take, he is guilty of the very thing he claims to oppose.Pundit, heal thyself.Hohn's signature
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by Colin EakinIn a prior post, we reviewed Christ's warning as He concluded His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:15): "Beware false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves." For the climax for His sermon, Jesus underscores the vital need for spiritual discernment, and warns His listeners that their main threat would be wolves dressed up as sheep, seeking to devour the flock. His next statement tips his listeners as to reliable wolf identification (Matt. 7:16-17, 19): "You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit . . . Thus you will recognize them by their fruits."Successful professional card players strive to hide any indication of the strength or weakness of their hand from their opponents. At the same time, they seek to discern inadvertent signals from those same opponents which might reveal the content of the hands arrayed against them. Such an inadvertent signal is known as a "tell." It is the subtle yet defining tic or characteristic that divulges to the wary and proficient player what cards his or her opponent is holding. The "tell" gives the opponent's hand away. It yields information that tips observant players how to play their hands for optimum success.As it turns out, Jesus declares that spiritual wolves have their own "tells," particular features in their teaching and ministries that reveal to the discerning believer danger lurking in the guise of a sheep. According to Jesus, if you become skilled at interpreting the fruits of a wolf, you will become expert at their identification. And the stakes could not be higher: the risk of spiritual ruin is at stake. So if it matters to the Good Shepherd to highlight these lupine distinctions at the conclusion of His momentous sermon, it should matter to His followers to remain on the lookout for them (cf. Acts 20:28-30).So, when is a church is being led by a wolf? What are the typical fruits that will manifest this deception? Here are some wolf "tells" for which to be on the lookout* (one point per item):Favors sermons on cultural trends and pop psychology over matters of theological orthodoxy (Jude 3).Structures sermons more for their entertainment value than for their biblical weight (2 Tim. 4:3)Sermons often feature more quotes from "experts" than Bible verses (2 Pet.1:3-4; 2 Tim. 3:15-17).When the Bible is quoted, a "favorable" translation (e.g. The Message) and a predictable editing process is employed so as to remove any potential offense (Rev. 22:19; Deut. 4:2).Sermons are devoid of any messy and culturally disquieting terms such as Satan, spiritual warfare, and the like (Luke 10:18; 22:31; Rev. 2:13; Eph. 6:12).Believes Jesus taught His disciples how to be truly good (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19).That the Word of God might do the work of God is a completely alien concept (Jer. 23:29; Isa. 55:11).Prefers the term "Jesus-followers" to "Christians" (presumably because of an assumed pejorative connotation associated with the latter) (Luke 9:26; Gal. 6:12).Believes Jesus-followers are to work to preserve the Earth (2 Pet. 3:10).Has no problem with yoga (1 Cor. 10:20; Ex. 20:3-5).Denies any enduring plan of God for ethnic Israel (Jer. 31:31-37; Rom. 11:26).Believes theistic evolution is the best lens by which to interpret God's creation, contrary to the specific words of Jesus (Mark 10:6).Rejects the concept of penal substitutionary atonement as central to Jesus' mission and to the penitent believer's salvation (Isa. 53:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:21).Obfuscates the path to salvation (Rom. 10:9-10).Reveres the writings of ancient and modern mystics and philosophers (Col. 2:8).Believes Jesus-followers have much to learn from other religions (Deut. 32:17; 1 Cor. 10:20).Believes what one does for God affects one's standing before Him (Rom. 5:1-2).Believes the good works of unbelievers are pleasing to God (Isa. 64:6; Prov. 15:8, 29; 28:9).Believes one can serve Jesus prior to believing the right things about Him (John 6:28-29).Misconstrues the "abundant life" Jesus came to bring with ideas of "material equality" and defense of "individual rights" (John 10:10; Luke 9:23-25; 12:13-15).Fails to differentiate between the saved and the lost in any audience (Col. 1:13).Teaches as if terms such as "condemnation," "born again," "justification," and "propitiation" are antiquated and unhelpful (John 3:3, 18, 36; Rom. 3:24-25; 1 John 2:2).Avoids any public rebuke of sinful trends in culture (John 7:7).Underestimates the holiness of God (Lev. 10:1-2; 2 Sam. 6:6-7).Overestimates the ability of sinners to search for God (Ps. 14:1-3; Rom. 3:11).Papers over doctrinal differences in the search for ecumenical alliance (2 John 9-11).Believes the world's response to Jesus is evidence of His importance and credibility (John 7:7; 15:18).Believes "discoveries" about the world must impact one's understanding of the Bible (i.e. the so-called "God of Two Books" perspective) (Ps. 2:1-4).When so-called science contradicts a clear biblical statement, inevitably the meaning of the biblical statement is reappraised (Eph. 4:14).Favors love over truth (1 Pet. 1:22).Teaches as if the style or manner by which a message is delivered determines the impact of the message (Matt. 13:1-9; Mark 4:26-29).Thinks secular leadership strategies are both helpful and necessary in order to grow the Church (Matt. 16:19; 1 Cor. 2:1-5).Insists the message must be contextualized to the audience (Acts 2:9-40).Thinks grace (not falsehood) is the opposite of truth (Eph. 4:25; Rev. 22:15).Mistakenly (and routinely) uses the term "justice" when meaning mercy (Isa. 30:18).Believes Revelation is historical and Genesis isn't (Mark 10:6; Luke 24:27; Rev. 1:3).Runs in a wolf pack (i.e. references the teaching, endorses the books, and speaks at the conferences of known wolves) (2 Pet. 2:1-3).Believes the gospel is not only what Christ did for the sinner upon the cross and through His resurrection, but also what the forgiven sinner now does for Christ (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Gal. 1:6-8; 5:4)Scoring system:1-6 points: Is that howling in the distance?7-12 points: Don't leave any food out13-18 points: Better get some wolf repellent19-24 points: Time to call animal control hotlineOver 25 points: Hmmm, you might not be aware, but there's a wolf jaw clamped around your legDr. Eakin is a sports medicine orthopdic surgeon in the Bay Area and part time teacher at Grace Bible Fellowship Church's Stanford campus ministry. He is the author of God's Glorious Story.*The aforementioned list of wolf "tells" is in no way exhaustive. Please comment as to others you may have witnessed.Acknowledgement: This post was inspired by the blog article "Red lights" posted by Dan Phillips at Pyromaniacs, January 27, 2015. The persistent and pervasive rise of pragmatism in the professing Church today seemed to warrant an update.
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonThe PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 22, sermon number 1,300, "Life's need and maintenance." "Have you never, dear friends, had to know that you cannot keep alive your own soul by your own blunderings and failings, when you have resolved to be very wise and correct?" Did you ever get into a self-sufficient state and say, “Now, I shall never fall into that temptation again, for I am the burnt child that dreads the fire,” and yet into that very sin you have fallen. Have you not said, “Well, I understand that business; there is no need to wait upon God for direction in so simple a matter, for I am well up in every particular relating to it, and I can manage the affair very well?” And have you not acted as foolishly in the whole concern as the Israelites did in the affair of the Gibeonites, when they were deceived by the old shoes and clouted, and the mouldy bread, and asked no counsel of the Lord? I tell you our strength, whenever we have any, is our greatest weakness, and our fancied wisdom is our real folly. When we are weak we are strong. When in a sense of entire dependence upon God, we dare not trust ourselves, we are both wise and safe. Go, young man, even you who are a zealous Christian, go without your morning prayer into the house of business, and see what will befall you. Venture, my sister, down into your little family without having called upon God for guidance, and see what you will do. Go with a strong resolve that you will never be guilty of the weakness which dishonoured you a few days ago, and depend upon the strength of your own will, and the firmness of your own purpose, and see if you do not ere long discover to your shame how great your weakness is. Nay, try none of these experiments, but listen to the word which tells you "none can keep alive his own soul."And now, should any think that he can keep his own soul alive, let me ask him to look at the enemies which surround him. A sheep in the midst of wolves is safe compared with the Christian in the midst of ungodly men. The world waylays us, the devil assaults us, behind every bush there lurks a foe. A spark in mid ocean is not more beset, a worm is not more defenceless. If the sight of foes without be not enough to make us confess our danger, look at the foes within. There is enough within thy soul, O Christian, though thou be one of the best of saints, to destroy thee in an hour unless the grace of God guard thee and keep thy passions in check, and prevent thy stubborn will from asserting its own rebellious determinations. Oh, what a powder magazine the human heart is, even at the best; if some of us have not been blown up it has been rather because Providence has kept away the sparks than because of there being any lack of powder within. Oh, may God keep us, for if he leaves us we want no devil to destroy us, we shall prove devils to ourselves, we shall need no tempters except the dire lusting after evil which now conceals itself so craftily within our own bosom.
by Hohn ChoI was corresponding with a friend, and he suggested that it could be helpful if more people on the "priority of Gospel clarity and proclamation" side of the current "social justice" discussion were to declare clearly that they were opposed to ethnic partiality and hatred. I appreciated my friend's suggestion, although I also feel compelled to note that such declarations are clear and present and common, whether in many of the articles in John's concluded blog series on GTY, or his developing sermon series on this topic, or the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel itself, which clearly affirms "that racism is a sin rooted in pride and malice which must be condemned and renounced by all who would honor the image of God in all people" and denies "that treating people with sinful partiality or prejudice is consistent with biblical Christianity" and also denies "that the Bible can be legitimately used to foster or justify partiality, prejudice, or contempt toward other ethnicities."Even so, I appreciated the suggestion because as we know from 2 Peter 1:12, reminders of basic truths can be helpful. On that note, I greatly appreciated this recent series (starting here) on The Cripplegate by Jesse Johnson, regarding the sinfulness of American slavery. Moreover, in an intense discussion where a charitable willingness to believe and hope all things per 1 Cor. 13:7 can often be in short supply, I think it is also helpful to reiterate points like these so that it's easier for all of us to remember that we have certain genuine convictions in common. This, in turn, may lead to a discussion environment that is hopefully different from the intense partisanship of the world, where everyone who makes the complex ethical calculation associated with voting and comes down a certain way is dismissed, or even derided and condemned, as a racist, a nave vote wastrel, or an enabler of murderers.Indeed, just as the "social justice" advocates don't seem to appreciate being labeled as cultural or even actual Marxists—something which I take great care not to do, by the way, although I think it is fair game to point out that some of the language and rhetoric and even goals can at times sound similar—I take exception to relatively regular claims that people like me are only winking at ethnic partiality and hatred, or merely citing our opposition to those things as a talisman to ward off criticism, or don't really hold earnest biblical convictions but instead are trying to "curry favor with whites" or similar nonsense.The simple truth is that ethnic hatred and partiality—or to use a common term that I no longer prefer, racism—is sin. We see this clearly in verses such as Galatians 3:27-28, Colossians 3:11, 1 Peter 2:9, 2 Corinthians 5:16, James 2:9, and Acts 10:34-35, among others. And when we see something called out clearly as sin in the Bible, it is appropriate and righteous to hate that sin. I will go a step further and say that from my point of view, ethnic hatred and partiality is sin so major, sin that is so disruptive to the unity of the Body of Christ, that clearly established and unrepentant sin of this nature would be appropriate in many cases for steps three and four of church discipline. Certainly God took this sin very seriously when he struck Miriam with leprosy for objecting to Moses' marriage to a Cushite woman in Numbers 12:1-10!On that note, even today, we often see this sin manifest in objections to marriage or engagement to, or even dating of, a person of a different ethnicity. Having spent over 13 years in ministry primarily among and to single adults, I've seen this phenomenon quite a bit more than I'd like, and I'd sadly wager that the occurrence of it is perhaps more common in the conservative evangelical church than the world, owing in part to any conservative institution's natural suspicion of, and slowness to, change. Even more sadly, I've tended to witness objections to interethnic marriage arising out of Asian communities more often than any other, particularly among East Asian parents and grandparents (although a bit less often in second—and later—generation Japanese Americans, perhaps).With that said, we have seen very positive movement over the decades, and approval of "interracial" marriages in the US has increased from 4% in 1958 to 87% in 2013, representing "one of the largest shifts of public opinion in Gallup history." Hopefully this approval trend continues, and although the pervasive reality of sin means this number will never go to 100%, if the Lord tarries, it's entirely possible the current obsession over issues of ethnicity may fade significantly as generations pass. After all, it ought to be quite a bit more difficult to sustain bigoted views of other ethnic groups when you yourself, and most of the people around you, might well have ancestors within that very ethnicity!For those whose lingering prejudices or presuppositions cause them to lag behind both the US approval rate and the Bible, however, I've often found that asking heart questions on this topic can be far more revealing and convicting than any efforts to root out secret heart sin by either accusing entire groups of people or pressing disputed factual claims about implicit bias or socioeconomic factors. If you're single, how would you feel about marrying a person from a different or vastly different ethnicity? If you're married, how would you feel about your kids, or any younger single person you care for, marrying a person with differing types and amounts of melanin in their skin? Few questions are as viscerally helpful, I believe, in exposing people's hearts toward those of other ethnicities. And if even the thought causes revulsion to rise up within someone, that person might have to face the possibility that his or her response is something more dangerous and sinister than an innocent preference.All of the people I know personally who have been engaging in the "social justice" discussion earnestly and utterly deplore and reject the sin of ethnic partiality and hatred. And yet my perception is that many people on the "social justice" side of the discussion tend to question or doubt that fact, simply because some of us might:hold differing convictions regarding the role of the corporate church versus the role of individual Christians; orprioritize the murder of the unborn—many of whom are ethnic minorities—over socioeconomic progress in an already wealthy nation like the US; orcherish our Christian liberty and freedom of conscience to the extent that we refuse to have our consciences legalistically bound by what others think we need to be doing with our own time, money, and resources; orinsist that the sin of partiality is not unique to dominant or majority groups, as I attempted to show in my article criticizing modern affirmative action as unbiblical partiality; orobject to broad-brushed efforts to either speak for or indict entire groups of people; orreject attempted heart—and mind—and motive—reading by many "social justice" advocates which we believe is in violation of 1 Corinthians 4:5 as well as chapter 13 on love; orquestion or even dispute the implicit assumptions and assertions that are accepted as closed matters of fact by many "social justice" advocates despite the existence of studies, data, and evidence that often support contrary views; orperhaps most importantly, urgently warn against the Gospel confusion and distraction that might arise whenever "social justice" advocates attempt to raise their issues to the level of a "Gospel issue" (and see this excellent article by Kevin DeYoung on this very topic, although to be candid, I think he was being polite to the "social justice" side of the discussion by saying "it depends" . . . note that he rejects all attempts to make social justice into a Gospel issue except perhaps for one very narrow slice that constitutes a small minority of "social justice" rhetoric).My hope is that as we all process through the various aspects of this discussion, we do so in a way that honors the Lord and upholds biblical speech and conduct, even as we strive to believe the best of our brothers and sisters, and appreciate that although each of us may have earnest and genuine convictions, in the vast majority of cases, they don't suddenly turn our siblings into enemies.Hohn's signature
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonThe PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 14, sermon number 831, "The altar." Image result for charles spurgeon"The sin of this age is idolatry. The whole tendency of this generation is towards the setting up of other than spiritual altars."I must not forget, in speaking of the form of the altar, also that as the observer passed round it, he would be constantly struck with its bespattered appearance. Entertain not the notion the tabernacle and the temple must have been very pleasant places—we can scarcely imagine anything that must have been more awe inspiring, and even revolting to the mind of the observer, than the court of priests, when sacrificing was being carried on. It must on great occasions have resembled a butcher's shambles, with the addition of smoke and fire. And this brazen altar was so frequently besmeared with blood, and so constantly were bowl-fulls of warm gore thrown at its base, that it must have presented a very ghastly appearance. This was all to teach the observer what a dreadful thing sin is, and how it can only be put away through suffering and death. The Lord did not study attractive aesthetics, he did not prepare a tabernacle that should delight men's tastes; it was rich indeed, but so blood-stained as to be by no means beautiful. No staining of glass to charm the eye, but instead thereof the inwards of slaughtered bullocks. Such sights would disgust the delicate tastes of the fops of this present age. Blood, blood on every side; death, fire, smoke and ashes, varied with the bellowing of dying beasts, and the active exertions of men whose white garments were all crimson with the blood of victims. How clearly did the worshipers see the sternness and severity of the justice of God against human sin, and the intensity of the agony of the great Son of God who was in the fullness of time by his owndeath to put away all the sins and transgressions of his people! By faith come ye, my brethren, and walk round that blood-stained altar, and as you mark its four-square form and its horns of strength, and see the sacrifices smoking thereon acceptable to God, look down and mark the blood with which its foundations are so completely saturated, and understand how all salvation and all acceptance rests on the atonement of the dying Son of God.
by Samuel SeyNote from Phil: Samuel Sey is one of my favorite bloggers, writing—always with keen insights and pithy prose—at "Slow to Write." We've invited him to join the team here. He's weighing the opportunity, so be kind to him—at least until he commits. He recently interviewed me for his blog. I decided to mirror the interview here, because I liked his interview questions so much.I love listening to people. I love learning from people. And the most effective way to listen and learn better, is to ask questions. So today, I'm starting a new series called Seven Questions With. In this series, I will be interviewing some of the most interesting people who shape how we think of Christ, culture, and more.Phil Johnson has been shaping how I think about Christ and culture for years. He is the Executive Director of Grace to You and he has edited John MacArthur's books since the 80s. He is an elder at Grace Community Church in California and is the founder of Spurgeon.org and the blog, Pyromaniacs.net. And I am thrilled to interview him today. I intended on asking him just seven questions, but that wasn't enough. Phil Johnson had too many interesting things to say, so I asked him four more.Sir, you've been a consistent voice against false teaching within evangelicalism for many years. From the first time I read your blogs on Pyromaniacs in 2008 to your appearance at Wretched Radio earlier this week, you've been a strong critic of the emerging church, seeker sensitive movement and the prosperity gospel. Still, I was surprised to hear you say once that "the modern church needs a reformation more than the church of the middle ages."What makes you believe that? And what would this reformation look like?Luther's ire was ignited by Tetzel, a papal fund-raiser who plundered Germany's poor by selling indulgences (false promises of divine clemency). Tetzel was collecting cash to build St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, fleecing the poor just to add to the opulence of the Papal See.And look where we are now. Protestant Christianity has dozens of Tetzels who appear on TBN nightly, bilking poor people out of money with the promise of financial prosperity, and TBN festoons all their studios in an even more tawdry style of opulence than that favored by medieval Rome.One of the tools of Tetzel's double-dealing was a trite bit of doggerel: "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs." Today's evangelicals have abandoned classic hymnology and psalmody in favor of generically romantic-sounding sentimental love songs that are just as false as (and much more banal than) Tetzel's little rhyme.Evangelicals for the most part have abandoned their Protestant forebears' core doctrinal distinctives in favor of whatever happens to be popular at the moment—political causes, cultural phenomena, memes, movies, methodologies, and other values borrowed from the world. And yet the typical evangelical leader aggressively lobbies for more of this kind of "contextualization" while winking at (or cheerleading for) the dumbing down of our doctrine.You are one of the authors of the Statement of Social Justice and The Gospel, what prompted the statement? Why is it necessary? "Social justice" is well-known terminology borrowed from secular political discourse, with long-established implications. As such it opens the door wide for the ideology that was being promoted by those who coined the term. I'm not suggesting that every evangelical now talking about "social justice" would favor the redistribution of wealth or other Marxist values—or even old-school "Social Gospel" doctrines—but some do go that far and further. (I'm thinking, for example, of Sojourners, the radical remnant of the Emerging Church movement, and scores of angry evangelical "progressives" whose footprints are all over Twitter.)I've always believed it is dangerous and foolhardy for Christians to let secular culture help shape our message and set our agenda. When that happens, it always pushes the gospel to the background while giving center stage to whatever the world is concerned with at the moment. In this case, loud voices are insistent that social justice is a gospel issue. Some have even said those of us who are not on board with the social justice movement don't have the gospel at all. What they then go on to emphasize seems to supplant the good news of the gospel—the promise of forgiveness— with demands, reproofs, and strictures imported from the law.That's spiritually deadly. As I said in a recent blogpost, to treat social-justice activism as an essential tenet of gospel truth is a form of theological legalism. It is not fundamentally different from the teaching of those in the early church who insisted circumcision was a gospel issue.The statement has produced strong reactions. What do you make of the reactions to the statement? What are some of the most encouraging things to come out of the statement? What are some of your new concerns, if any, after the release of the statement? Are there criticisms against the statement that you find helpful?I expected a strong reaction to the statement, even though there's nothing in it that ought to be controversial to anyone who believes the Bible. And in his first response to the statement, Thabiti Anyabwile acknowledged that it contained nothing he could disagree with. I was encouraged by his candor.But the fact that the statement doesn't affirm the rhetoric of the "social justice" movement is enough to make lots of influential people in that movement angry. I expected that. I was surprised, however, by the force of some of the angry reactions. And I was also somewhat caught off guard by the sheer number of people who vandalized the Statement website by pretending to sign the document with profanities and phony names (some of which were overtly racist). It seems some of the champions of "social justice" have a strange idea of what public justice (and obedience to the Second Great Commandment) is supposed to look like.That brings to mind the one new concern I might voice in the wake of the statement's release—namely, that the ideology, rhetoric, and anger currently fueling certain evangelical social justice advocates has already reached an extreme I didn't anticipate. The most radical social justicians (to borrow a term from Darrell Harrison) seem to be predominantly grassroots voices, not people in positions of far-reaching influence. Nevertheless, I fear that such visceral anger (especially in response to a statement admittedly lacking anything terribly controversial) doesn't augur well for the future of the debate.I've been encouraged, however, by the volume of feedback from people who say they are thankful that someone finally put into clear words the concerns that so many of us share.I wouldn't characterize any of the criticisms I've seen as "helpful," except for several critics who have noted that some of the terminology under debate needs to be carefully defined. That's true for both sides. It's the one plea that if heeded well by both sides would help identify who is genuinely committed to biblical principles—and unmask those who might instead have an agenda reminiscent of the "social gospel" fiasco of the modernist era.What do you think will be the outcome of this all? Is the social justice controversy going to be an ongoing issue within the church for a long time? Or is it going to become a non-issue soon?I certainly don't think it will become a non-issue soon. I hope those who support the statement will be patient and hold their ground.My prediction is that those on the social justice side whose commitment to biblical authority is tenuous will react to the Statement in a way that makes their radicalism more obvious. Over time, that will result in a loss of support and momentum for the movement. That's precisely what happened to the Emerging Church Movement in the first decade of the new millennium. And I see many parallels between the two movements.Why do you think evangelicals embraced social justice so quickly? What fault within evangelicalism today made us accept social justice so easily? Was there a precursor to this? What I'm suggesting in my reply to your previous question is that the all-but-dead Emerging Church Movement and the social justice movement have borrowed rhetoric, strategy, and jargon (including "social justice") from the same playbook. In 2010, when the Emerging Church movement seemed to be on its deathbed, I wrote: "With the meltdown of the visible movement, Emergent thinking is being dispersed like so many dandelion seeds into the broad evangelical movement, which was overrun with religious weeds in the first place." The social justice movement is precisely the kind of development I had in mind. And some of the very same evangelical thought leaders and their followers who were angry about my criticisms of the Emergent movement thirteen years ago are now angry at the Statement.I've been reading Charles Spurgeon's words from the Down-Grade Controversy recently, if Spurgeon was alive today, what do you think he would have said about the social justice issue? Are there any words from Spurgeon that relate? Spurgeon and Charles Dickens were contemporaries, so the workhouses and other class disparities that Dickens lampooned in his novels were facts that Spurgeon witnessed up close and deplored. (He famously founded an orphanage to help with the problem.) He was a classical liberal—an advocate of equal rights for all classes. He was openly hostile to the Tory policies of his time that were designed to perpetuate class distinctions and make political hay off tensions between the classes.Yet he strongly believed that Caesar should "mind his own things, and let the things of God alone," and that Christian ministers should tend to their high calling and not become entangled in public arguments about partisan politics. He described himself as "loath to touch politics at all," and when accused of being too political because he addressed certain moral issues, he issued this challenge: "Take the eighteen volumes of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, and see if you can find eighteen pages of matter which even look towards politics; nay, more, see if there be one solitary sentence concerning politics, which did not, to the preacher's mind, appear to arise out of his text, or to flow from the natural run of his subject."He went on to say,"For a Christian minister to be an active partisan of Whigs or Tories, busy in canvassing, and eloquent at public meetings for rival factions, would be of ill repute. For the Christian to forget his heavenly citizenship, and occupy himself about the objects of place-hunters, would be degrading to his high calling: but there are points of inevitable contact between the higher and the lower spheres, points where politics persist in coming into collision with our faith, and there we shall be traitors both to heaven and earth if we consult our comfort by slinking into the rear."In keeping with that policy, Spurgeon actively opposed the chattel slavery of the American south. His outspoken stance cost him ministry opportunities (he never came to America, and Southern hostility to his anti-Slavery statements was one of the chief reasons.) It also cost his publisher sermon sales.But there's no reason to think Spurgeon would affirm any position that treats "white privilege" as something to be repented of. He certainly would have abominated the notion that an entire ethnic group, economic class, or nationality of believers—people covered by the blood of Christ—nevertheless need to confess and repent for sins they themselves never committed, but their ancestors may or may not have been participants in. On the question of guilt for one's father's sins, he wrote,"Is it any business of ours to visit the sins of the fathers upon the children? If any think so, we did not write these lines for them. We would not waste our time upon them. We regard them as eligible candidates for the hangman's post. . . ."You are connected to John MacArthur and Charles Spurgeon, what about these men draw you to them? What are their similarities? What sets them apart? I love the bold honesty of both men, and the fearless way they proclaim what Scripture says, without regard to opinion polls or political correctness. Spurgeon's war against modernism certainly fatigued him and arguably contributed to his early death, but he persisted even though practically every influential evangelical leader at that time tried to take a softer line against modernism than Spurgeon. Spurgeon predicted that he would be vindicated by history, and he was right.In a similar way, John MacArthur has been a steadfast opponent of post-modernism. And though I know he hates the conflict, he loves the truth more than he cares for his own reputation. History will vindicate MacArthur just as it did Spurgeon.Both men had long pulpit ministries in a single church for the entirety of their careers. That alone says something about their love for their flock, and vice versa. They share a birthday as well.You've edited most of John MacArthur's books since the 80s, which of the books was your favourite to edit? Why?Probably The Vanishing Conscience. That book introduced me to John Owen on The Mortification of Sin, and it helped purge my thinking of some latent ideas that I had retained from the days when I experimented with Keswick-style deeper-life doctrine as a college student.I've walked into a bookstore that features all of John MacArthur's books, but I can only buy one. Which one should I buy? That's the hardest question so far. I'm torn between Ashamed of the Gospel and The Gospel According to the Apostles. I might lean toward the latter, because it's not just a polemical refutation of Dallas-style antinomianism; it's also a decent systematic study of soteriology. Working on that book was, for me, an unprecedented immersion in gospel truth—the thing that first made me truly serious about doctrine and precision. And it introduced me to historical theology, which became an enduring subject of interest for me.Ashamed of the Gospel was what provoked my interest in Spurgeon. That book conclusively refutes the stylish pragmatism that permeates postmodern evangelicalism. It's also the full-length answer to your question about what John MacArthur and Charles Spurgeon have in common.In your article "A Gospel Issue?", you explained that social justice isn't a gospel issue. What then are gospel issues? How do we determine what gospel issues are? "Gospel issue" is one of those terms that gets thrown around without careful definition—and I suspect that some of those who are most insistent that "social justice" is a gospel issue are purposely vague about what they mean by that, because they frequently equivocate.All true evangelicals confess that the doctrine of justification by faith is a gospel issue. One of the central points Paul makes in his epistle to the Galatians is that if you deny justification by faith, you don't have the gospel at all. Elsewhere, Paul lists the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ "according to Scripture" as primary gospel issues—meaning, again, that if you deny or corrupt any of these, you don't have the gospel.Normally, when we speak of something as a gospel issue, we are identifying truths intrinsic to the gospel message—points of truth you cannot get wrong or deny if you are truly faithful to the gospel. That's what I mean when I say something is a gospel issue—and it's what multitudes understand when they hear the expression. Some people casually apply the "gospel issue" label to just about any idea they think worth defending—and then they justify that usage by saying the idea they are defending is an implication of the gospel.But every enduring truth is ultimately an implication of the gospel in one way or another. And if every truth is ultimately "a gospel issue, then there's nothing distinctive about the gospel—nothing that clearly distinguishes the gospel from the law. That has been precisely the impression people get from most of the evangelical social justice rhetoric. In the article you are referring to I recounted an incident that illustrates why that's such a serious problem. By playing with the expression like that, (by erasing the important distinctions between law and gospel) evangelical social justicians are eliminating a theological clarification without which you can't really even grasp the significance of the gospel.It's hard to overstate how dangerous it is to play fast and loose with the gospel like that. Do you have any questions for me?Is Challies really as sweet-tempered as he pretends to be whenever he's around me?Haha, yeah, he is. Whenever I read James 1:19, I think of Tim. He's the most gentle man I've ever met. When I finally grow up, I want to be like him.
by Colin EakinIn my previous post, I introduced the topic of spiritual discernment and its appalling absence in the Church today. Despite God's explicit warning (1 Tim. 4:1) that, "in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons," many professing believers do just that. They proceed week to week exposed to noxious instruction that deftly yet decidedly unmoors them from the true Christian faith, blithely unaware of their predicament.What are these "doctrines of demons," against which the Holy Spirit expressly warns? What is this toxic teaching that jeopardizes the faith of so many? The Apostle Paul provides a framework for its understanding in his critique to the church in Corinth (2 Cor. 11:4; italics added): "For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough."That is the heart of the issue: a large swath of today's professing believers are regularly "putting up" with false teaching on Jesus, His Spirit, and His gospel, with nary a suspicion of harm, let alone any objection or pushback. They come expecting to be shown the narrow path to eternal life, when in fact they are being led down the wide road that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14). For this reason, 2 Corinthians 11:4 may be the most pertinent and yet underappreciated verse in the New Testament in our day, as the categories addressed by Paul remain the three key pillars of demonic doctrine plaguing the Church two millennia hence."Another Jesus"Demonic doctrines all have at their core a faulty view of Christ. Oh, its proponents may make all the right claims about Jesus and His divinity—that He is indeed the Son of God, who died and rose again for the sins of the world. They may endorse and uphold all the confessional statements, and dutifully insist their Christology is fully orthodox. They will prominently feature the name of Jesus in their teaching, and oversee philanthropic church ministries designed and promoted as being Jesus' contemporary "hands and feet." Their Jesus welcomes all who come to Him, helps those in need, exemplifies the humility by which we are to live, brings love to the outcast and highlights mercy in response to wrongs—just as the Bible declares.But here's the rub: false teachers who bring "another Jesus" will inevitably exclude those aspects of the Bible's Jesus that don't align with their concept of who He should be. In particular, they will abridge, revise or (most likely) completely omit Jesus' instruction regarding coming judgment. They will ignore Jesus' emphatic warning to fear God, because not only can He kill, but He can also cast whom He has killed into hell (Luke 12:5). Their Jesus does not bring a sword instead of peace (Matt. 10:34), require complete abandonment of all worldly relationships and affections as the price of salvation (Luke 14:26), and promise everlasting punishment to those who do not repent and believe (Luke 13:1-5; John 3:18; 8:24; Matt. 25:46). In no way is their Jesus One who returns, " . . . in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" (2 Thess. 1:8). In no sense would He ever supervise the eternal suffering of rebels in hell (Rev. 14:10)."A Different Spirit"When you get Jesus wrong, you inevitably get the Spirit wrong. Why is that? Because the Spirit to which Paul refers is the very Spirit of Christ, whose arrival was predicted by Jesus and timed with His Ascension (John 16:7). This is the same Spirit of Christ who inspired the perfect and inerrant Scriptures (1 Pet. 1:11). He is the Spirit who begat (Luke 1:35), led (Luke 4:1), and empowered Christ throughout His ministry (4:14). He is the very Spirit who regenerates and lives within those who repent and believe in Christ's atoning work (Ezek. 36:26-27; John 7:38-39; Rom. 8:9). And He is the Spirit who convicts the world "concerning sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:8).A false Christ thus yields a false spirit—the spirit of the age—and all the attendant errors that reliance upon this spirit brings, including (and perhaps most importantly) invalid interpretation of Scripture. Don't miss this: the true Spirit of Christ is He who guides the believer into all truth (John 16:13). The Bible explicitly states that God's Spirit is necessary for one to know the "deep things of God," as found in His Word (1 Cor. 2:10-13). So when a false spirit is substituted, then all bets are off when it comes to proper biblical understanding. Without the real Spirit of Christ to decode God's Word, all forms of spiritual delusion—though dressed up as faithful biblical instruction—are guaranteed to ensue. Consequently, you will find those who represent demonic doctrines marked by continual reimagining of passages to suit their purposes (the theological term for this is eisegesis, as opposed to exegesis). These false teachers will eschew expository preaching as unhelpful or even as "too easy," and will consult and rely upon their spirit of the age to ensure that none of their pronouncements ever offend popular thinking."A Different Gospel"Finally, those representing another Jesus and a different spirit will inevitably bring a different gospel. That such a false gospel can be foisted on those who have already believed and been saved astonished the Apostle Paul (Gal. 1:6-8; 3:1) and should likewise astonish us. Why? Because the true gospel is the most important message of the Bible, and is not at all veiled or obscure. Paul's definition is both pithy and frank (Rom. 1:16): " . . . the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes . . .." The true gospel is all about salvation that comes to every sinner who, by the power of God, believes. That could not be more simple or straightforward. Unfortunately, the gospel is under such tremendous assault from enemy forces today that its defense has never been more necessary—witness recent Pyromaniac posts on this subject by Phil Johnson and Hohn Cho (if you haven't time to keep up with their broadsides against the so-called "social gospel" in the latest controversy, here's a tip: when the gospel you are presented is one focused on present material conditions and earthly injustices, then you've found yourself exposed to "a different gospel").The perpetual and distinguishing mark of any false gospel is the addition of human effort. This is the common denominator in all onslaughts against the true gospel. Just last year, one influential mega-church pastor and author conceded to his congregation that, yes, the gospel involves the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the redemption of the world—he'd grant that is true. But then, he added, that wasn't all. For him, as for many, the idea that God might save those who merely repent and trust in His Son's substitutionary atoning work is just too artless, insufficiently redemptive, and, frankly, unbelievable to be everything God requires for eternal life (he contemptuously caricatured repentant faith as some sort of "minimum entrance requirement," in response to which God is obliged to let one into heaven). No, he insisted, there's more to it than that, and went on to emphasize his own "gospel" addition as what we must do for God in response to what He has done for us.But as Pastor John MacArthur has underscored throughout his teaching ministry, the one true gospel is always and only a gospel of divine accomplishment—nothing less and nothing more. Any variations adding some form of human achievement to the mix are fabricated facsimiles which ultimately derive from Satan. No matter the particulars, when human activity is presented as a necessary component of the gospel, it becomes demonic doctrine. The Apostle Paul writes (Gal. 5:4), "You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace." Seek to add your own work to that which Christ has done to save you, and you are doomed. That was true when Paul wrote Galatians, and it remains true today.What's Behind Demon Doctrines?Ultimately, these assaults against God's Word—presenting another Jesus, a different Spirit, and a different gospel—are aimed at one target: undermining the truth of God's Word. Since Jesus is full of truth (John 1:14), came to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37), and in fact is the Truth (14:6), since the Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of truth (John 15:26), and since the gospel as found in God's Word is truth (John 17:17), what is clearly in the sights of Satan is truth. Truth is what matters most to God, which is why it is most assailed by His number one enemy. Why such a focused obsession? Because Satan knows if the truth of God's Word can be successfully undermined, then the only manner by which one might be saved (Rom. 10:17) can be thwarted. That has been Satan's strategy from the time his first temptation led to the first sin—"Did God really say?" (Gen. 3:1)—and it remains his modus operandi ever since.Fortunately, God has promised that His truth will endure throughout the ages. As Psalm 119:160 declares, "The sum of Your Word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever." Meanwhile, knowing the final outcome is secure, true believers are entrenched in a battle with demon forces over God's truth. We are vying against the enemy's doctrines of demons and their core depictions—another Jesus, a different spirit and a different gospel—with the Word of truth God has spoken and now illuminates to those who are His. May those who claim to be of this truth be made worthy by Him for such a task.Dr. Colin L. EakinPyromaniacDr. Eakin is a sports medicine orthopdic surgeon in the Bay Area and part time teacher at Grace Bible Fellowship Church's Stanford campus ministry. He is the author of God's Glorious Story.Acknowledgement: In preparing this article, I am indebted to the teaching of Pastor Mike Riccardi of Grace Community Church, and his sermon on 2 Corinthians 11:1-4: "The Minister's Jealously, Part 2," delivered 4/15/2018.
by Phil JohnsonAnswering a common complaintIs it fair to criticize charismatic doctrine without exempting the Reformed (Type-R) Charismatics? Are you saying there is no safe zone within the charismatic movement?(First posted at the GTY blog on Monday, October 28, 2013.)Without question, the most common complaint I hear from my charismatic friends about the Strange Fire conference is, "You always paint with a broad brush!"I hate being pedantic, but I can't resist pointing out that such a criticism itself is a fairly sweeping overstatement. It's true that some broad generalizations were made during the conference. Language without nuance can sometimes be useful to make one's meaning forcefully clear (Jesus often used hyperbole for emphasis).But it can also have the opposite effect, especially in a hotly contested family dispute. This is one of the first lessons young husbands learn—sometimes the hard way.For that very reason, I don't much like generalizations in a context like this. I therefore tried in my seminars to be very specific. For example, in a breakout session titled "Is There a Baby in the Charismatic Bathwater?" my main goal was to explain as precisely as possible why we don't believe there is a safe zone in the whole universe of charismatic conviction. I also wanted to explain why we believe some of the finest and best-known Reformed non-cessationists are unwittingly providing cover for aberrant people and movements in some of the most problematic districts of the charismatic community. I quoted, named, and documented a fair number of specifics.So far no one has played any sound bite from my seminar and complained that I personally was guilty of broad brushing. The main grievance against me has been precisely the opposite. I was too specific. Did I really need to criticize certain leading Reformed continuationists by name?Still, I am quite happy to agree wholeheartedly with our critics about one important thing: Broad-brush arguments alone are not a sufficient answer to the problem Strange Fire attempts to address. But I also want to challenge fair-minded people to look further than the sound bites you hear critics of the conference repeatedly citing. There certainly was more substance to the conference than a few cherry-picked sound bites. Once again, those who say all the arguments set forth in the conference were applied with an industrial-size roller are themselves making an unfair generalization.Let me add this: It took a spectacular lack of self-awareness, blended with a stunning ignorance of the actual concerns we are raising (or a prodigious dose of chutzpah), for Michael Brown to coax from Sam Storms an effusive endorsement of Mike Bickle, just minutes after Brown played sound bites from other Strange Fire speakers and scolded me with the you-shouldn't-lump-us-all-together stanza of the broad-brush complaint. Dr. Storms boldly and emphatically held Bickle up as a spiritual model to follow, suggesting that Bickle is John Piper's equal in piety and gospel clarity.There's your answer, in case you are still wondering why some of the speakers at Strange Fire refused to pause and draw a hard-line distinction every single time they mentioned Reformed continuationists. Why don't we automatically exempt our Reformed charismatic brethren from all the criticisms we aim at the lunatic mainstream in Third Wave, word-faith, drunken-glory, and holy-laughter fraternities? Why don't we portray mild continuationism as a perfectly safe middle road? Why don't we just shut up and let our charismatic brothers and sisters who are Reformed or conservative evangelicals follow after whatever miracle-claims and charismatic prophecies they like?Well, let's review:Sam Storms is one of the most frequently cited names whenever anyone lists the soundest theologians in the continuationist camp. Dr. Storms is a Calvinist in the tradition of S. Lewis Johnson. He's a gracious, likable, kindhearted, and usually well-spoken man who is supposed to be living proof that someone can be Reformed, charismatic, and biblically responsible all at once.Mike Bickle is the founder of Kansas City's International House of Prayer (IHOP). Bickle is also the guy who admits with a grin that 80 percent of the phenomena in the thousands of charismatic meetings he has sponsored and participated in have been utterly false—phony, fraudulent, fleshly—totally and completely fake. Bickle insists that's not a problem. He is willing to "allow the false for the sake of the real."Bickle and Storms worked together as mentors to the Kansas City Prophets during the prophets' rise to fame and fall into moral disgrace. The leading figures associated with that movement (and by most accounts the most gifted of the bunch) were Bob Jones and Paul Cain. Both of them suffered scandalous moral failures. Neither Bickle nor Storms (nor any of the self-styled prophets) saw it coming.Another leading figure in the prophecy movement of those days was Rick Joyner, head of MorningStar ministries (home of the "Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey" and other worse nonsense). Joyner is frequently seen these days with Michael Brown discussing various topics ranging from politics to Pentecostal phenomena. Dr. Brown has given every indication that he is a close pal of Joyner's.Joyner personally engineered the public restoration and return to ministry of Todd Bentley, the adulterous, biker-booted heretic who (in terms of fame and influence) is arguably the single most hideous corruption of "ministry" the charismatic movement has yet produced. Bentley is a living blasphemy and a walking reproach.In other words, the Todd Bentley madness and the worst abuses of charismatic prophecy are much more closely connected to Michael Brown's circle of fellowship than Brown and Storms want to admit. There's really only one degree of separation between Michael Brown and Todd Bentley.So Sam Storms gives fulsome praise to Mike Bickle; Michael Brown collaborates with Rick Joyner. They are like Aaron and Hur—holding up the arms of these prophets who freely admit to prophesying falsely. Meanwhile Bickle spreads havoc among nave charismatics with phony phenomena and false prophecies. And Joyner aggressively promotes a wanton spiritual menace.But note well where Brown and Storms aim their criticism. They both doggedly insist that the nuttiness of popular charismania is overblown by critics like me.Dr. Brown says he is totally unaware of some of the most egregiously false prophecies and bizarre shenanigans we have specifically pointed out to him—even though these things are happening right under his nose. Yet he wants the critics (and me in particular) to trust him when he says he is confident that the charismatic movement worldwide consists mainly of people with sound faith and sober minds who are godly, biblically literate, informed believers. Sure, he'll admit that there are occasional "extremes and imbalances"—but Dr. Brown refuses to say that the prosperity gospel is a damnable false gospel, or that it's dangerous to follow the lead of unhinged charismatics like Bickle and Joyner.Frankly, I don't own a brush broad enough to paint that mess. Is it reasonable to believe that the best and brightest charismatics are seriously concerned about what's biblical—while these men give Mike Bickle and the modern prophecy movement a ringing public endorsement and balk at acknowledging that the charismatic movement is beset with very serious problems?Are they even capable of recognizing "extremes and imbalances" when they see them? Remember, Dr. Storms worked with, and affirmed the supposed gifting of, the charismatic movement's most famous prophets for years, and apparently none of them had enough genuine discernment to realize that their main prophetic guru (Paul Cain) was a drunkard, a homosexual, and a fraud. When it comes to discerning charismatic claims and distinguishing truth from make-believe, Dr. Storms is frighteningly nave.During the Brownsville Revival (a fiasco which Michael Brown insists was a mighty work of God, even though the host church was left as spiritually and financially desolate as Detroit), Dr. Brown was so adept at causing people to be "slain in the Spirit" that his nickname was "Knock ′em Down Brown."These men have indeed seen and participated in the dark side of the charismatic movement. Perhaps readers will understand why I'm skeptical of their cheery optimism about the overall state of the movement.The false doctrines and bad practices that dominate charismatic television are not confined to one corrupt branch on an otherwise good tree. In reality, both historically and by direct line of descent, the whole movement stems from a rotten root. Error and delusion are the phloem and xylem of its central belief system.I don't mean that as hyperbole. That's the point we are trying to make.Phil's signature

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