Monday, December 15, 2014

What Downgrade Looks Like

Early 2008, we had just moved to the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Once we realized that it wouldn't be feasible to stay with our church downtown, we decided to check out the large church about three blocks away, Harvest Bible Chapel, pastored by James MacDonald, whose teaching I was somewhat familiar with from the Walk in the Word radio broadcasts and some small group material. Long story short, we stayed for a few years, until the pachyderms moved in.

Around that time, the local "Christian" TV station started broadcasting Walk in the Word, just some simple video recordings of his sermons. Maybe a few months later, the station put up a bunch of billboards around town advertising their lineup. Imagine my surprise when I was driving past O'Hare airport to see my pastor looking over I-90, sandwiched between Joyce Meyer and (I think) Kenneth Copeland! Other billboards around town featured the likes of Creflo Dollar, Joseph Prince, and someone you may have heard of named TD Jakes.

That Sunday during the sermon, there was a brief aside about the billboards. Essentially, James said that we were pulling Walk in the Word off that station immediately. He said that he and the elders had agreed to go on that station because they had determined to preach the gospel anytime, anywhere - but they had a condition for the station. They were not supposed to use him or the church to make it look like we endorsed the other preachers. Why? He made it very clear that they all - everyone featured on those billboards except Greg Laurie - preached a false, damnable heresy called the prosperity gospel, or some other heresy such as antinomianism. And he wanted nothing to do with that sort of preaching, or even looking like he endorsed its adherents.

Fast-forward to 2014, and we get this:
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(Or see it here if the embed didn't work)

Fun fact: that TV studio was acquired shortly before we left (without our catapult ride, unfortunately). When it was announced, aside from lying to us about our financial status, James claimed the purpose was to make movies/shows/broadcasts to counter the poison that typically fills supposedly-Christian TV. Now he's handed it over to the chief distributor of spiritual ricin.

All that to say, this is another knife twist, and it's gut-wrenching to see someone fall so far so fast dive headfirst into the abyss.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Theology? Ain't Nobody Got Time For That!

Over the weekend I saw numerous reports of the death of Myles Munroe. At first I thought they were talking about this guy:


...which is odd, since I thought he died before the 138th episode spectacular, but I digress. Myles Munroe was a prosperity shill and heretic extraordinaire; your soul would probably have been in better hands with the incompetent Simpsons psychiatrist.

One of the clips making the rounds in the wake of Munroe's death puts the heretical focus of his prosperity teaching on full display:



Pure evil. This is prosperity teaching showing its true wickedness: Christ is at best a bit player in your quest for kingdom authority and blessing. Reprehensible.

Now that we have that out there, let me ask: just how different is that from the ministry philosophy of many churches in America today? This isn't an issue just in the extreme fringe that comprises 99.44% of Charismania; a (milder?) form of this problem hits even ostensibly orthodox churches all around us.

Preaching about "felt needs" at the expense of doctrine. The Willow Creek model of saccharine bare-minimum (aiming down to the lowest denominator, and often overshooting) sermons on Sunday, withholding any imitation of doctrine for mid-week services for the super-spiritual. The Saddleback model wherein everything is about you finding your special purpose, where somehow the book of Daniel is about dieting.

Youth ministries where scripture, if taught at all, takes a backseat to games and fluff messages 'to help them get through school this week'. Churches that never preach anything but how to have a better life - better friendships, a better marriage, doing better at work, better sex, better sleep, better breathing, better fitness, better whatever.

If I remember correctly, I was once told not to bother teaching about the doctrine of providence because people don't care about that, they just want to know how they're going to make it through the week.

So yeah, this Munroe character was a reprehensible heretic, and his idea that we shouldn't tell people about Christ and the cross is poison from the deepest pits of hell. But don't be fooled into thinking he was alone, or that his heresy died with him. That same wicked attitude permeates the church all around us.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Find the Baby in this Bathwater

In the most recent edition of Hither and Thither 2.0, Dan Phillips linked to two articles from Charisma magazine online. Morbidly curious, I checked them out and - wow. Have a look for yourself:

Zechariah 1 Holds a Key to a Third Great Awakening, where the author mangles Zechariah before telling about the time he supposedly spent six hours with God in his sanctuary.

Prophecy: Posture Your Hearts to Receive Power at 5:55, which is written by a faux-apostle, features a mix of dreams, numerology, awful word study, sappy Disney movies, utter nonsense, and false prophecy. It's a real tour-de-force.

The sidebar of each article has links to other featured content at the site, and it all looked pretty special, too. But I wasn't sure if that was really representative of what was at this site, so I went to the front page, spun the mouse wheel to scroll down a random amount, and this is what I saw:

 

Three articles, three examples of utter unbiblical nonsense. How to Command Your Angels? An interview on Practical Strategies to Defeat the Devil? Both were garbage. But the sheer stupidity of What the Python Spirit Really Wants stands apart as witchcraft with a thin veneer of Christian language (do read Lyndon Unger's comments, the term "Wiccangelicalism" needs to catch on).

Look, all through the run-up to the Strange Fire conference, the main complaint was about throwing the baby out with the bathwater, of attacking the "fringe" at the expense of the sane, actually-Christian mainstream. I have to ask, is Charisma Magazine part of the fringe, and somehow not mainstream? Because at Charisma, there's no baby, there's not even bathwater, there's just a big tub of toxic sludge.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Awesome Power of The Word

Not long ago I heard an entertainer-type give his testimony, telling his story of how he was brought to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. He had almost zero exposure to Christianity or scripture until he was 30-ish, when a friend suggested he should read some of the Bible. He chose at random, and read Ecclesiastes. Then he read it again, and again. Solomon's writings cut him to the core, laying low his pride and self-righteousness, and exposing his absolute need for a savior.

RC Sproul has half-joked that he may be the only person in history who was saved through the preaching of Ecclesiastes 11:3: "Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there will it lie." Read more of the story of his conversion here.

I was a freshman in college, thinking I was saved because I went to church a lot when I was a kid, but completely lost. I was hypocritically involved in a Christian group on campus, because hey, what better way to soothe my conscience after a week of wanton sin? I was reading the Bible for some reason, got to Ephesians 4:17ff, and was crushed. This passage describes the night-and-day difference between those who are reborn in Christ and those who remain dead in sin, and there was absolutely no doubt which group's description I fit. At that point the choice was to repent and come to faith in Christ, or walk away entirely; either way, continuing to pretend was not an option. Thankfully, God raised me and brought me to faith.

What do all these vignettes have in common? In each case, someone was brought to repentance and faith through scripture that will never be described as evangelistic. I mean, Fred Butler will write Jar Jar Binks fan fic before someone puts Ecclesiastes 11:3 in an evangelistic presentation. Every evangelism class will have you learn Ephesians 2:8-9, but I can't imagine one having you learn Ephesians 4:19. Yet these passages, being the Word of God, are fully capable of convicting of sin and the need for Jesus, the only Savior.

"All Scripture is breathed out by God" (2 Tim 3:16) - and as our Arminian friends uncritically say, all means all. And this scripture, as Paul says, is "the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 3:15).

The Word of God is powerful. Preach it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Prediction I Hope Will Be Wrong

Sometimes I really, really hope I'm wrong. Now, for instance.

Big news came from Seattle this week: Mark Driscoll is stepping down as pastor of Mars Hill. Well, for six weeks, anyway. Serious charges have been brought against him, and he will go on vacation or something while the Mars Hill elders weigh the charges.

Now it should go without saying that we all hope this is a true church discipline process resulting in his repentance. Unfortunately, I suspect the whole thing is a traveshamockery. My prediction I seriously hope is wrong is this: no positive change will come out of this, and in fact I believe this will only make things worse.

Why do I think that? Start with his positively Clintonian statement, carefully crafted to give a fa├žade of faux-repentance without actually repenting, twisting the facts, and making sure everyone knows the real villains are the people who have an issue with him.

Now consider the upcoming process and who will be administering it. Over the last few years, Driscoll has systematically eliminated elders who dare to disagree with him, smeared them as "divisive" per Titus 3:10-11, and stacked the elder board with personally-chosen sycophants. Now this collection of yes-men will choose between these "divisive" former brothers and their meal ticket. Pardon me for being a wee bit skeptical of the legitimacy of this process.

My prediction is that they will function like a "Blue Ribbon Panel" in Washington. Their primary job is to look like the issue is being taken seriously, give the aggrieved a chance to vent and 'be heard', and make sure no real consequences hit anyone important. They will issue a report vaguely acknowledging "mistakes were made", assuring us all that Pastor Mark is really, really sorry and truly, madly, deeply repentant for his minor imperfections (but reminding us again that those who said anything publicly are a million times worse), making vague claims of continued efforts towards restitution, and then reinstating him without consequence.

But it won't just be without consequence, you see. Now there will be cover as well. When the same things keep happening, and we go through this yet again, the Kool-Aid drinkers will point to this as indisputable, brave, humble repentance, and scold those who dare doubt it. Already instead of thanking those who warned them, the "don't you dare question him now!" scoldings and selective amnesia about their own culpability have flown freely. Next time we go through this, the chorus shouting that we have to pretend nothing before September 2014 ever happened will be deafening.

Again, I hope I'm completely wrong on every part of this. I hope there is genuine repentance, that elders hand-picked specifically for their ability to be spineless yes-men will suddenly become vertebrates and rule justly, and that true restitution is made. But nothing we've seen so far in over a decade of Driscoll makes any of that remotely likely.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I'm a Christian. Should I join a local church?

Since I don't have a ton of time to breathe write lately, I might start a really-occasional series where I give obvious answers to questions that for some reason people feel the need to ask. Up first, the question of whether a Christian should commit to a local church.

Now there are many ways to answer this matter, but I'll just break it down into 4 logical steps and let you take it from there. Here we go.

1) The first and most basic tenet of the Christian faith is "Jesus is Lord".
2) The New Testament is chock full of "one-another" commands which are impossible to obey apart from commitment to a local church.
3) By remaining uninvolved in a church, you declare that you have absolutely no intent of obeying these numerous commands.
4) Which is, shall we say, incompatible with the statement that Jesus is Lord.

And that's all you need to know my thoughts on this matter.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On Acts 29's blessed subtraction

If you're the type to follow the happenings of greater evangelicalism, you've no doubt heard that sorta-famous sorta-pastor Mark Driscoll received the boot of disfellowship to the hindquarters of his association with Acts 29, a church-planting parachurch group he helped start and until recently ran as its chief prophet-king or something. You might say Acts 29 engaged in blessed subtraction, and that he got run over by the bus, joining the mountain of bodies (by God's grace) - if you're the sort of person to make such jokes, and I most certainly am.

This story has been all over the Christian and pretend-Christian corner of the interwebs, so I won't rehash the whole thing. Here I'll just offer a few quick thoughts on the whole affair.

1) Before listening to Driscoll's horrendous "blessed subtraction" message again, I had forgotten it had been a speech to an Acts 29 conference. Am I a bad man for laughing?

2) It can't be easy to oust your group's founder, especially after sticking behind him for so long. As easy as it is to question the move - and we will - it still took some level of courage and/or conviction. On the other hand...

3) When Krusty the Klown announced his retirement, a reporter asked the pertinent question: "Why now? Why not twenty years ago?" Similarly, why was this move made now instead of five or ten years ago? What exactly has changed? Are these issues actually new, or are they just now too public to ignore?

4) To reiterate - there is very little new here. Nearly all of these issues have been knowable for years, for anyone who didn't actively try to not know. See for example here, here, and the multitude here. So again, what has changed? Why do Acts 29 and James MacDonald and Lifeway suddenly have to bail right now, when these sins and shortcomings have been obvious for around a decade?

5) Carl Trueman asks an important question: what did the major evangelical leaders who've been promoting Driscoll for a decade know and when did they know it? I would add, if they didn't know, what could explain that other than deliberate ignorance?

6) With all this happening in Driscoll's extracurriculars, don't forget he's still the sorta-pastor of a church with thousands of people. Having gone through a similar period a few years ago (when my pastor decided little things like "the Trinity" and "the gospel" are insignificant compared to "the Harvest brand" and his personal enrichment), I can tell you how easy it isn't. Disillusionment, confusion, "how could we have been so wrong?" - or the "how dare they attack our hero!" mentality of the personality cult. Pray for them, especially that they can break away and find an actual church.

7) As for Driscoll, he still has 'his' church, and now a bunch of extra fuel for his martyr complex. His two choices are to repent or double down (see Phillips' Axiom #2); early indications do not look good for repentance. I can't pretend to know how this will end, but without genuine repentance, more disaster is coming.