Friday, June 28, 2013

Osteen Thoughts

Lest the title of the post confuse you, this will not be a series of banal idiocies that might someday attain the level of wisdom found in discount fortune cookies. No, this is not the thoughts of Osteen or snippets from any Osteen book or sermon, but thoughts about Smiley Joel. Now I realize that this may be low-hanging fruit; so be it. He's as popular and dangerous as ever.

Most often when I see something about Joely-O, it comes across as if he's a bumbling idiot. He's just shiny-happy and smiley, and his theology is vapid and empty. The problem is thorough incompetence. And I can totally get that. Just listen to him dodge questions any 3rd-grader in Awana can handle easily, and you'll definitely think there's just no there there.

And that is where I think the danger lies. He may come across as a bumbling well-meaning doofus like Verbal Kint, but his Keyser Soze-esque heresy [no spoiler alert because that movie's old enough to vote, oh and Darth Vader is Luke's father] is every bit as deadly as that of any other prosperity non-gospel hawker like Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, TD Jakes, Paula White, Robert Schuller, etc. He's not an innocent incompetent who's in over his head. He's yet another following the was of Balaam son of Beor, actively working for your destruction.

Want an example? Here you go. Listen to Osteen explain his theology, and Chris Rosebrough react appropriately. Just a warning - the Osteen update music is, uh, special. (On a side note, his update musics are great examples of polemical sarcasm. You learn so much about Mark Driscoll, Perry Noble, James MacDonald (2 songs!), Patricia King, William Tapley, or Rick Warren before you even get to the story.) It's about 20 minutes, but it's worth it if you think Osteen is just empty but harmless.

There is no such thing as empty teaching. If the teaching is devoid of God's truth, it will be filled with demonic lies. No exceptions, no matter how big of a smile it hides behind. Osteen's teaching is deadly. Keep yourself and anyone you love far, far away.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Something Worse Than Shame

There is something worse than feeling shame when you do something shameful. As God said through Jeremiah:

How can you say, ‘We are wise,
    and the law of the Lord is with us’?
But behold, the lying pen of the scribes
    has made it into a lie.
The wise men shall be put to shame;
    they shall be dismayed and taken;
behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord,
    so what wisdom is in them?
Therefore I will give their wives to others
    and their fields to conquerors,
because from the least to the greatest
    everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
from prophet to priest,
    everyone deals falsely.
They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
    saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
    when there is no peace.
Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
    No, they were not at all ashamed;
    they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among the fallen;
    when I punish them, they shall be overthrown,
says the Lord. (Jeremiah 8:8-12)

But there's something significantly better than shame, too. So here, from worse to best, are the three typical responses to shameful acts.

Worst: No shame at all, not even knowing how to blush. Being convinced that there's nothing wrong with it - or worse, that it's actually good. Some go so far as to demand the church and society formally bless and honor their shameful sin. We could call this a hard heart or seared conscience. It's really, really bad.

Sorta better-ish: Feeling shame when you do something shameful - but that's all. You know it's wrong, you feel it's wrong, you're convicted about your sinfulness, but you have no idea what to do about it. By the grace of God this may become godly sorrow. But too often it leads the other way. Instead of repentance unto life, worldly sorrow leads to death. Worldly sorrow attacks the symptom, trying to assuage the conscience by self-justification, or killing the conscience by heart hardening. It's better than being incapable of blushing, depending on which way you go from here.

Best: Repentance and faith unto salvation. Confess sin as sin, agree with God's righteous judgment against it, and admit that there is nothing you could ever do to atone for it. Turn to Jesus in faith, trusting in God's great mercy displayed in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus. The sorrow and shame of lawful conviction lead you to repentance and trust in the only one who can save.

The world is constantly trying to eliminate shame by pretending that sin is OK. The saddest thing is when the church joins them in this self-destructive quest. What we have to offer is so much better than deadening the conscience - the actual removal of shame through the forgiveness of sin which comes only through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Brothers, don't hate them by telling them their sin is fine; love them by telling them how their sin can be forgiven.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Epistemologies Have Consequences

The last few weeks, Frank Turk has been re-posting an old series debunking the arrogant, ridiculous idea that old-timey people just had no concept of whether or not historical events actually happened. You know - they told these stories, and they were 'true' because they conveyed true ideas, regardless of whether they described actual events. Those simpletons just had no categories for stories meant to convey truth without having actually happened (words like parable, for instance). So we get these Bible stories that read like historical narratives, but of course they aren't, it's just because those ignoramuses had no idea concept of actual history vs myth. If you'd like to see a Pauline and Petrine sledgehammer wielded against this Ennsian jibba jabba, read here, here, here, and here. Enjoy!

It got me thinking back to a post I never got around to writing in about 2005, back when I was first introduced to Rob Bell and the Emerg*s. Remember this famous/controversial passage from Velvet Elvis?

What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?

But what if, as you study the origin of the word “virgin” you discover that the word “virgin” in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word “virgin” could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being “born of a virgin” also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse?

What if that spring were seriously questioned? Could a person keep on jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live? Or does the whole thing fall apart?

Now if you remember, the typical conversation between a shocked Christian and a Bell fanboi went something like this.

Bellite: Rob Bell is awexome!!1!one!
Christian: Really? I heard he denied the virgin birth.
Bellite: No, he explicitly affirms it. He was just raising some questions. People r just h8ers.

And that would usually be that. Bell says he affirms it, so everything's OK, right? Not so fast. What he says here is every bit as bad as, if not worse than, outright denial. He's not saying it's untrue; he's saying it doesn't matter whether or not it is. It looks like a step further than Enns - not only do those ancient ignoramuses lack the concept of real history vs myth, to Bell it wouldn't make a difference if they did. True? False? Doesn't matter.

In fact, he's saying that this could be an outright lie intended to deceive pagan cultists, and it wouldn't matter a tiny bit. Think about that again: Rob Bell is claiming that lying Apostles could have made the whole thing up as a means of tricking cultists into "the way of Jesus", and it wouldn't have any effect on his faith. Actually, I kind of agree with him there - his 'faith' is such a mash of lies, deceptions, distortions, and jibba jabba, another lie here or there could hardly make a difference.

This is what made the kerfuffle over his "Love Wins" garbage so ridiculous. People seemed genuinely shocked that Bell was a universalist, as if he had been orthodox before that or something. Really? It was surprising that someone who bragged about his contempt for God's Word from day 1 would show contempt for particular doctrines contained within? Pro tip: if someone doesn't care whether the Bible is full of lies, he's probably not going to be the most faithful expositor.

Listen: when a guy's ministry consists of 'making people think' by asking innocent questions a la the serpent in Genesis 3, when he starts by ridiculing the truthfulness of God's Word and seeking to undermine the foundation of faith, when he is so openly contemptuous of Christianity and the very notion of truth itself, he's a wolf. Protect your flock from him, and move on.

Everything you needed to know that he was a rank heretic was right here (and a bunch of other places - he isn't shy about it!). Those who promoted him as if he were a Christian teacher, and those pastors who knowingly brought his vile teachings into their churches, will have a lot to answer for when the good shepherd demands an account.