Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Heart of the Matter

This was brought to my attention today. It's a prophecy delivered by Kenneth Copeland back in October, complete with "saith the LORD" attribution. I'll put two links here, and a screenshot at the end of the post in case they try to make it disappear.

Here are some simple questions about this prophecy and the prophet who proclaimed it. These questions are especially vital for the "cautious continuationist" crowd.

Does this prophecy have the same authority as Scripture?

If not, why not? On what basis could we exclude it from the Bible, or consider it sub-scriptural?

If someone disbelieves this prophecy, is that a sin worthy of an eternity in hell? Was Christ's sacrifice necessary to atone for the sin of doubting this prophecy, or refusing to obey it?

What can we say about Kenneth Copeland on the basis of this prophecy alone?

If this prophecy does not come true, with whom does the fault lie? Was God wrong (shudder!)? What then should be done with the prophet who declared it?

Can we say anything about the veracity of this prophecy now, or do we have to wait until January 1, 2015, and examine it in hindsight?

I know how I would answer these questions. How would you? More to the point, how would a 'cautious continuationist' like Grudem or Piper or Carson, or a redefinitionist like Poythress, or a full-out charismatic like Storms or Brown?

If your theology doesn't allow you to condemn this false prophet and this obviously false prophecy immediately - if you have to wait and see because you never know, it might be from God, and we don't want to quench the Spirit - you've got something seriously wrong, and it's incredibly dangerous.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Trouble at Wheaton

Last week, I posted this. Later that day, I saw the news about a demonstration at Wheaton College, a Christian college in the greater Chicago area. I mentioned it in a tweet, thanking Wheaton for proving my point so quickly, and urging repentance before any further harm could be done. I was asked for some clarification, so here's my attempt to explain what I think the real problem is.

[I should note that this was written days ago but, providentially, computer problems and other issues delayed the posting. I've had a chance to re-think what I originally wrote; I'll leave that intact, and put an addendum at the end to address some possible questions.]

Rosaria Butterfield was going to Wheaton to talk about the gospel and its effects in her life. She was a lesbian, atheist, virulent God-hater. But she was convicted of her sin and brought to faith in Jesus Christ. She now knows that she is a sinner, fully deserving to receive the wrath of holy God. But Jesus took her sin on himself on the cross, bearing the wrath of God, and having made atonement for sin was raised to life and seated at the right hand of God. Through repentance and faith, her sin is forgiven, and she is credited with the very righteousness of Christ, and will inherit eternal life. More than that, she is being sanctified - transformed ever-increasingly into the image of Christ while she is still alive here, as sin is being put to death and replaced with righteousness. In her case, the most visible transformation has been the redemption of her sexuality - her former sinful lust has been mortified, and a holy marital love has arisen.

While her story may be spectacular, it's important to note that it's not unique or even rare. It's the same story as every Christian past, present, and future. Born in sin. Brought to conviction, repentance, and faith in Jesus Christ. Forgiven of sin, counted righteous in Christ, and sanctified in his image. The particular sins may vary, but the outline is the same. Old sins are put to death, and holiness is brought forth in their place. We cease to be slaves to sin, and are instead slaves to righteousness.

Which brings us to the first group in need of repentance: the student protestors. They are claiming that there is one special class of sin from which repentance is impossible, one sin which places a person beyond sanctification - homosexual lust. They object to the idea that slavery to sin and submission to the lordship of Christ are "oppositional"; they apparently see Christ and their lust as co-lords, or more likely, their lust is lord, and Christ can have the rest. They want to claim the status of Christian, while openly defying Christ, refusing to repent of this sin, and despising the power of Christ, as though the sovereign lord of all creation isn't able to sanctify them.

In effect, they are protesting the gospel, the most basic declaration of Christianity: Jesus is Lord.
It would be one thing if they wanted to make this tragic choice for themselves. But they want to spread the anti-gospel of unrepentable, unsanctifiable sin to others. They want to present this tragic, hopeless message as at least the equal of the actual gospel, the only hope for any man anywhere. That is to say, they are not just lost in their sin and denying Christ, they are false teachers as well. They are trying to deny people the grace that can save them and keep them enslaved to sin, which is the most hateful thing one person can do to another.

Which brings me to the second group in need of repentance - the administrators at Wheaton. While it's a college and not a church, a large part of their purpose is to prepare Christians for life, and particularly for ministry. So while they are not elders per se, surely part of their mandate is to put down false teaching. Instead of silencing the false teachers, however, they are giving them an ever-larger platform. Consider how bad things there must be that a group can come out to protest *the gospel* without fear of discipline or even the slightest disapproval (let's just say it's not surprising this happened at Wheaton). How negligent in their duty must they have been, that an anti-gospel is allowed to flourish under their watch, and the students promulgating it have no fear of being confronted; when they get louder and more aggressive, the administration invites them to talk about it more!

They should be calling these students to repentance, but instead they're affirming them in their sin, and giving them platform to spread their despising of Christ and hatred of people.

So that's it. The students need to repent of their denial of the power of Christ and their false teaching, and the administration needs to repent of their dereliction of duty in allowing such a destructive teaching to flourish.


The first thought upon re-reading is, was that too harsh? Specifically, the assessment of the student protestors as having denied Christ - am I saying that every student who protested is a reprobate? Not necessarily - but the ratio of wolves to confused sheep in that group is likely much higher than anyone would like to admit.

No doubt some of the student protestors are 'homosexual Christians' - those who have fallen prey to the sin, have come to faith, and are now struggling to eradicate the sin. The key there is that they are struggling - they are fighting, and though the sanctification from this sin will be a lifelong battle (as it is for all Christians and whatever sins have befallen them), they will not be slaves to sin. These people are Christians, and they need the same grace and support in their struggles as any of us.

But there are others who are 'homosexual Christians' in that they have completely given up the fight. They wish to take comfort in the name of Christ, while being at peace with their sin. Their attitude can be summed up as "This is the way I am, and God's just going to have to get used to it". It's impossible to stay in this group for long; either the sin or Christ has to go. Sadly, for many the choice has already been made, and they have chosen poorly. The time will come when they can no longer pretend to serve two masters, and then their apostasy will be revealed in full.

While there are most likely representatives of the first group, the latter is the driving force behind this protest. They want people to know that there's another way besides repentance - you can be a Christian, and keep your pet sin, too! There may be naïve, struggling, confused Christians mixed in with this crowd, but the main point of the group is anti-gospel. So while the message may appear harsh, I don't believe it's unnecessarily so. Some need to be helped to maturity, but more need to be called to repentance and faith.

Now a second point - when I mentioned this story to someone at church, he was surprised it happened at Wheaton, given the good reputation of Phil Ryken. Ryken is the recently-installed president, and from what I gather he was a welcome choice. I had forgotten about the recent change, so maybe that answers some of the post. In calling Wheaton to repent of their fostering of this anti-Christian atmosphere, maybe Ryken's presidency is part of the answer. What is apparent is that if he intends to clean things up, he has his work cut out for him. If he intends to make this college one that truly honors Christ again, he will need prayer and support, probably for years to come. If this is the plan, may God bless his endeavors and give him perseverance. Because one thing is for certain - this is but the tip of the iceberg, and it's not going to get any less ugly if he leads a crackdown on the heretics and false teachers among them.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Why is this one so special?

In his gospel, Matthew summarizes John the Baptist's message as "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mat 3:2). Then he summarizes Jesus' message the same way: From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mat 4:17). The apostles continued the gospel message of repentance and forgiveness of sins, including both Peter (Acts 2:32) and Paul (Acts 17:30). So repentance must be a pretty significant part of the gospel message.

In Christ we are given new birth, and our repentance is fitting for our new godly nature. Christian repentance involves a change of action - the thief must no longer steal, but work diligently to have more to give (Eph 4:28). But the change is not merely of the external actions, but of the inner desires and attitudes that drive them. The Christian former thief will not only repent of stealing, but of covetousness and dishonesty, to be replaced with ever-increasing diligence and generosity. You may be inclined by nature towards anger, wrath, or malice (Col 3:8), but they are to be repented of, replaced with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (3:12).

Repentance is not just for actions, but for character, attitudes, desires, inclinations. Jesus illustrates this with murder (Mat 5:21-26); the act is sinful, but so is the inner hatred which produces it, even the thought of demeaning him as a fool. And Jesus makes it abundantly clear that this is true for sexuality as well. Adultery is sin, and so is the inner lust which produces it (5:27-30). It doesn't matter how strong your sexual desire is by nature; lust is sin, and sin must be dealt with through repentance. Even thoughts and attitudes, even those of a sexual nature, even if you were born that way.

Yet for some reason we are supposed to believe that there is one special sin for which repentance is not to be encouraged or pursued - the sin of homosexuality. The assertions span the spectrum from "the desires are OK as long as you don't act on them" to "there's nothing wrong with it at all", but all of them share a common assumption, that this particular sin is so deeply ingrained in a person's nature that repentance is impossible, if not undesirable.

He can't repent. He shouldn't even try to repent. He was born that way.

At this point I can't help but wonder how anyone, especially a professing Christian, could say something so hateful. We would be aghast at a doctor lying to a patient, denying that he needs the one medicine which could (and would be guaranteed to) save his life. How much more reprehensible is it to deny a man the sure and only hope for his soul!

The biggest problem with the "born this way" exemption from repentance is that we are all "born that way". That is, we are all born sinners, dead in our trespasses and sins, children of wrath. Our sinfulness may manifest in different acts or lusts in each of us, but we all have the same core problem - we are vile sinners who will be judged by a holy God. And the only hope - the only hope - any of us has is the atoning work of Jesus Christ, who was put forth as a propitiation by his blood, who was delivered up for our sins and raised for our justification, who became sin on our behalf so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. In his great mercy God saves those who have faith in Christ, raising them to newness of life, forgiving their sin, sanctifying them, granting them repentance. To deny this possibility to anyone - to lie to them and tell them they don't need it - is beyond cruel.

Brothers, let us have faith that the atoning work of Christ is strong enough to redeem the vilest sinners. Even homosexuals. Even you. Even me. Let us not deny anyone the glorious hope held out by 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."