Wednesday, August 29, 2007

You Have Got to Be Kidding Me

That's what I said when I read one of the recent stories on Ted Haggard. I don't need to go into all of the details of his infidelity and the sin that caused him to be removed from being pastor and president of the NAE. My problem is this:

Colorado Springs, Colo. — The Rev. Ted Haggard, who left the megachurch he founded after admitting to "sexual immorality," has asked supporters for financial assistance while he and his wife pursue their studies.
The former New Life Church pastor plans to seek a master's degree in counseling at the University of Phoenix while his wife studies psychology, he said in an e-mail sent this week to KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs.
The couple and two of their sons planned to move Oct. 1 to the Phoenix Dream Center, a faith-based halfway house in Phoenix, where Haggard and his wife would provide counseling, the e-mail said.

"It looks as though it will take two years for us to have adequate earning power again, so we are looking for people who will help us monthly for two years," the e-mail said. "During that time we will continue as full-time students, and then, when I graduate, we won't need outside support any longer." Haggard left the 10,000-member New Life Church late last year and resigned as head of the National Association of Evangelicals after a former male escort accused Haggard of paying him for sex.

Mike Ware, an overseer for New Life Church, told The Gazette of Colorado Springs on Friday that it was premature of Haggard to release the statement without first consulting the overseers.

A New Life spokesman did not immediately return a phone message left late Friday by The Associated Press.
Haggard received a salary of $115,000 for the 10 months he worked in 2006 and an $85,000 anniversary bonus before the scandal broke, The Gazette reported. Haggard's severance package included a year's salary of $138,000, and he collects royalties on his book titles, the newspaper reported.

El Paso County records show Haggard's home, which has been up for sale, has a market value of $715,051.
(From The Denver Post)

I am honestly immensely grieved by this whole situation. I think this is a prime example of what it means to not take responsibility for your actions. It is due to his own sin that he has been removed from ministry and his obscene 6 figure salary will cease at the end of the year. It just seems like Mr.Haggard got used to living high on the hog and doesn't want the gravy train with biscuit wheels to stop rolling.

This situation bothers me particularly as a full time student with a family to support through work. My advice to Mr. Haggard is to be like most poor students, get a job sir. That would be the Christian thing to do, rather than using your remaining celebrity status to get handouts. I wonder just what he means by "adequate earning power"... he's getting checks through 2007, he can sell his $700k house at a knock down price and move into a modest living arrangement, what is "adequate income"?

Well, I don't want to rant about how bad this fellow is but frankly this whole mentality disgusts me. It disgusts me as a Christian. What I see in this news story is wrong for so many reasons. I hope this fellow truly is repentant for his sin, but as far as I can tell this doesn't look like repentance. It just looks like he is switching from a religious pastoral position (because of his removal) to a secular pastoral position and he wants people to sport him to make the transition nice and smooth.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Meditation on Faith by C.H. Spurgeon

"His fruit was sweet to my taste."
- Song of Solomon 2:3

Faith, in the Scripture, is spoken of under the emblem of all the senses. It is sight: "Look unto me and be ye saved." It is hearing: "Hear, and your soul shall live." Faith is smelling: "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia"; "thy name is as ointment poured forth." Faith is spiritual touch.

By this faith the woman came behind and touched the hem of Christ’s garment, and by this we handle the things of the good word of life. Faith is equally the spirit’s taste. "How sweet are thy words to my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my lips." "Except a man eat my flesh," saith Christ, "and drink my blood, there is no life in him."

This "taste" is faith in one of its highest operations. One of the first performances of faith is hearing. We hear the voice of God, not with the outward ear alone, but with the inward ear; we hear it as God’s Word, and we believe it to be so; that is the "hearing" of faith. Then our mind looketh upon the truth as it is presented to us; that is to say, we understand it, we perceive its meaning; that is the "seeing" of faith.

Next we discover its preciousness; we begin to admire it, and find how fragrant it is; that is faith in its "smell." Then we appropriate the mercies which are prepared for us in Christ; that is faith in its "touch." Hence follow the enjoyments, peace, delight, communion; which are faith in its "taste." Any one of these acts of faith is saving.

To hear Christ’s voice as the sure voice of God in the soul will save us; but that which gives true enjoyment is the aspect of faith wherein Christ, by holy taste, is received into us, and made, by inward and spiritual apprehension of his sweetness and preciousness, to be the food of our souls. It is then we sit "under his shadow with great delight," and find his fruit sweet to our taste.

(This is from "Morning in Evening" A wonderful devotional by Spurgeon, Aug 25 morning)

Monday, August 20, 2007

On Theological Cuss-Words And the Spirit of The Age

In much of today's theological conversations and books and writings there are what I am coming to label the "dirty words" of theology. These are the words and phrases used as a psuedo argument, or pseudo fallacy that is being pointed out. Upon whomever these post-modern anathema's fall, that fellow is wrong. The image I have is that of an army laying siege to a city without bringing weapons or food but spewing fourth threats of annihilation to those within the city's walls. Without the weapons nor the food to sustain a long lasting siege the threats no matter how stoutly yelled or graphically stated are simply empty and meaningless.

With that in mind let me define what I mean by a "theological cuss-word", by that I mean a word that is used negatively labeling another person's theological position in place of an actual argument. Ex: "Oh, well that sounds kinda like a Fundamentalist belief to me...". So in short it is a dirty word used in the place of an actual argument.

I think this analogy of the hollow siege threats is applicable to much of the theological interactions between Bible believing Christians and unbelievers, especially those who believe in "god" but not "that God". In one of the more recent posts where I dealt with some of the blatant contradictions from a lets say left leaning theologian named Harry Rix, you can see Mr.Rix cursing up a storm throwing words around like "Fundamentalist" (F-word), "Literalist", and even "dogmatic" ALL as if they were negative words anathematizing those he labeled with those titles. In the article I was responding to one can see that these words were used in a dirty sense and in the place of a thought out argument.

This filthy language is used so much by those who are theologically left-leaning against Bible believing that it really is akin to listening to a lumber jack after he has hacked off a limb (In the words of Kent Brockman). One of the leading Liberal theologians John Shelby Spong, whose book I half reviewed at the "Babyl-Blog" (I stopped because it was honestly getting more ridiculous as I read and thus more of a waste of time; by the end I just pitied Spong immensely), Spong is a master at theological cuss words. I really think that is about all he has going for him, he almost never makes an actual argument, he just swears a lot calling people who actually believe the Bible and haven't bowed to the god of modernity and "progress" stupid and ignorant.

In a more day to day sense this language is invoked all the time and gives a glaring reflection of the current spirit of the age. In our day those who say "X is the truth" are the blasphemers, they are the ones our culture wants to burn at the stake. I one just said "I personally think X is true...for Me" well that is fine and dandy, however as soon as one speaks in absolutes and universals the swear words come belching out like a sailor whose ship has just run aground on his watch.

One experience that comes to mind is when I was evangelizing at this pagan festival near Sacramento. There were numerous stages set up with crummy bands playing and cursing about Bush and saving the trees. On one stage was this white reggae band, in their songs they threw the word "Jah" around talked about feeling good and George Bush. In the middle of the set the guy felt the need to put a disclaimer on the use of "Jah" in their songs, he said "Just so you know when we say 'Jah' we just mean deity, so you know it's like whatever, god or goddess...there is no dogma up here."

My thoughts of course were: "Huh, that's an odd dogmatic statement. He's saying it is wrong to define God...that statement itself is dogmatic." What was really going on is that this reggae rocker was using "dogma" as a swear word, those who define God are the "dogmatic" as if being such is automatically bad/blasphemous. That is the spirit of the age, those who hold that there is truth in an absolute sense are the blasphemers of our age. The rocker was simply saying "I'm not blaspheming against the spirit of the age...I don't believe what I am saying is true in any real sense of the word true."

Now the theological swear words are not merely confined to the interactions between believers and non-

believers, but also can take place in a believer to believer discussion on theology. In this case they are swear words primarily in that they are words invoked in the place of an argument. The most popular word I have seen in this sense is "Prooftexting". When someone appeals to scripture to support some position the lazy rebuttal is "Ah, but that is prooftexting!"

Granted, there is a proper use of the term prooftexting (just like all of the theological swear words) but I have almost always seen it used in the place of an argument and invoked to dismiss the otherwise seeming Biblical support for a position that the potty mouth disagrees with.

Another one often used in believer to believer debate is "reductionism". I have seen this used a good bit by more emergent leaning fellows. What is often said is "Saying X about God is reductionism!", this is often said whenever an attribute of God is defined. You don't wanna put God in a box do you? In reality all theology is reductionistic, because God is infinite. However, simply because He is infinite doesn't mean He can not reveal Himself truly in propositions (Bible). In our theology we are saying who God is in the least, He is much more then the definitions we have BUT HE IS NOT LESS THAN.

(Again, the funny thing is the guy yelling about putting "God in a box" has his own definitions and box, one that excludes the definition he is disagreeing with you over. Simply saying "God is undefinable therefore all definitions of God are empty" isn't satisfactory. Why? Well isn't undefinable in itself a definition? Mr. Spong makes this rather blatant error repeatedly in his writings.)

To wrap up I want to give a list of the numerous swear words used, 1) their proper meaning and 2) their dirty context.

Literalist- 1) Person who believes the entire Bible to be the word of God and therefore true in all it contains.
2) Lunatic who believes the passages that teach homosexuality is sin, and believes there is a hell.

Dogma- 1) Any belief held to be true
2) Cultural blasphemy, an arrogantly held narrow minded view of God.

Fundementalist- 1) Person who believes their religion to be true.
2) Cultural blasphemer. Narrow minded arrogant bigot who won't listen to reason.

Biblicist- 1) One who believes the Bible alone is the word of God.
2) Cultural blasphemer. Narrow minded nut case lunatic who is so raving mad out of their brain and foaming at the mouth that they think there is one truth.

Prooftexting- 1) Error in doctrinal support where a passage is used that seems to support a doctrine while the whole counsel of scripture on the subject is neglected.
2) I don't like how that Bible passage looks like it supports what you are saying, so rather than actually show how it doesn't support what you say it does I declare thou guilty of this practice.

Reductionistic- 1) Any view/definition that is overly simplistic.
2) I don't like your clear definition as much as my vague and fuzzy one.

Intolerant- 1) A person can not stomach differing views/religions but aims at physically removing dissenters to his own held beliefs.
2) A cultural blasphemer. A person who actually thinks that other people are wrong and believes their lifestyle to be wrong.

I would really like to add to this list, these are just the terms that came to mind off the cuff. So I would love any other suggestions in the comments section!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Martin Luther's Views on Mary and Dave Armstrong

A Frank Turk GraphicThis post is written in response to a Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong article (HERE) where he portrays Martin Luther as Catholic in his views of Mary. A Catholic gave it to one of my friends, and he passed it on to me. You need to read the Armstrong article or else what follows will be like hearing one side of a phone conversation. Here are my thoughts on what Armstrong asserts about Luther's Maryology.

Firstly, some of the quotes are from Luther's early life, one should expect him especially earlier on in his exodus from Catholicism to still hold to beliefs he would later reject or rethink.

Secondly, Armstrong wrangles the context on some of the quotes using the ellipses trick, you know the ...'s that appear mid sentence. If you throw enough of those ...'s in when quoting people you can make them appear to be saying almost anything you want. Lets look at a few of the quotes Armstrong gives of Luther.

a) Sources. He points to some texts full of ellipses from "Sermons on John chapters 1-4" well which sermon? You see I have a nagging feeling that he doesn't want you to look up the source, I have see the first quotation on countless Catholic all referenced "Sermons on John ch 1-4". That just says to me that most of these guys are just quoting these things second third and fourth and fifth...hand without actually having read the context themselves.

Just trying to look up these references in their original context without the ellipses is a herculean effort. These citations should be footnoted with links to the original, or the original should be easy to find. Luther has numerous sermons on those 4 chapters from the gospel of John which one is being referenced? Simply saying from "Sermons on John ch 1-4" isn't a footnote, and if you are going to use ellipses you had better have the original source easily available so that critical readers can double check to make sure the ...'s are not being used to twist the actual meaning of the sentence.

This is in contrast to THIS ARTICLE in response to Mr.Armstrong where the responder is excruciatingly meticulous with footnoting. The response raises almost all of the problems I saw with Armstrong's writing, as well as many more, and is very thorough. (Excellent job Mr. Swan!)
b) Mother of God. Well, yes it appears that Luther did call Mary the mother of God. However, I think he had a vastly different emphasis in the use of the phrase (particularly later in his life) than Roman Catholicism. The title mother of God is not meant to elevate Mary but Christ, it is a declaration of the divinity of Jesus Christ not the exalted state of Mary. Whenever I hear the phrase used by Catholics it is in the context of extolling the greatness of Mary, in its inception that was the context of the usage of "mother of God" it was a statement that Christ was God.
I think if you say it in that sense (focusing on the divinity of Christ not the person of Mary) it is not blasphemous and I will give Luther the benefit of the doubt and assume that was his rationale.

So I think one could call Mary the mother of God and not be blaspheming because they are exalting Christ as divine and Mary indeed was the vessel God used to bring Him into this world. However, I personally am not going to use the phrase simply because there are so many people who use it blasphemously in their idolatrous worship of Mary.

c) Quotes of Significance. This quote is probably the most significant of them all from Armstrong as it shows Luther held to the Catholic view of the sinlessness of Mary:

"She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin—something exceedingly great. For God’s grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil." (Personal {"Little"} Prayer Book, 1522).

I think this quote is representative of Luther's early views of Mary, again the 95 Theses was written in 1517, so we should not be surprised to find that there are still numerous Catholic errors lingering in Luther's doctrine. I mean when Luther wrote the 95 theses he had no intention of starting a new church or challenging the pope's right as head of the church, he just thought that these errors needed to be dealt with in the Church his original intent wasn't at all aimed at starting a new church but reformation in the Catholic church.

So perhaps in between realizing we are saved by faith alone in the work of Christ alone and running for his life and hiding from the Catholic hit squad he didn't get his Maryology right early on in his Christian life. I don't think we need to fault him on this. The point is this, that Luther was growing in his understanding and later in his life revisited this subject and saw it quite differently, he writes in 1544 (2 years prior to his death):

“…Christ was truly born from true and natural flesh and human blood which was corrupted by original sin in Adam, but in such a way that it could be healed. Thus we, who are encompassed by sinful flesh, believe and hope that on the day of our redemption the flesh will be purged of and separated from all infirmities, from death, and from disgrace; for sin and death are separable evils.

Accordingly, when it came to the Virgin and that drop of virginal blood, what the angel said was fulfilled: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and overshadow you”. To be sure, the Messiah was not born by the power of flesh and blood, as is stated in John 1:13: “Not of blood nor of the will of a man, etc.” 

Nevertheless, He wanted to be born from the mass of the flesh and from that corrupted blood. But in the moment of the Virgin’s conception the Holy Spirit purged and sanctified the sinful mass and wiped out the poison of the devil and death, which is sin. Although death remained in that flesh on our account, the leaven of sin was nevertheless purged out, and it became the purest flesh, purified by the Holy Spirit and united with the divine nature in one Person.

Therefore it is truly human nature no different from what it is in us. And Christ is the Son of Adam and of his seed and flesh, but, as has been stated, with the Holy Spirit overshadowing it, active in it, and purging it, in order that it might be fit for this most innocent conception and the pure and holy birth by which we were to be purged and freed from sin. Therefore these things are written for Christ’s sake. The Holy Spirit wanted Him to sink into sin as deeply as possible. Consequently, He had to be besmirched with incest and born from incestuous blood.” (Commentary on Genesis) can be found here.

I think Luther goes into speculation on the mechanics of how Christ was born sinless, but the point is clear, in Luther's mind the Spirit had to interced in His incarnation to keep Him from contamination.The Spirit would only need to intervene and preserve Christ from being born sinful if and only if the vessel He was to be housed in was herself sinful. Luther saw Mary as tainted by original sin, or rather Luther viewed Mary this way towards the end of his life, perhaps in his earlier utterances he still held much Catholic dogma about Mary.
Again can we fault him? He was a Catholic monk and professor, he was merely repeating what he had been taught for years.

Lastly, in the final analysis even if Luther was jumbled in his Maryology all I as a protestant need to say is "So what?". Luther is not my authority like a pope or a council, he is the man God used to bring about reformation and he has a good deal of wisdom. However, he is not perfect and has a good deal of things where he and I don't see eye to eye. In a number of ways he didn't carry the Reformation far enough I think but that is beside the point. Really when you get down to it Armstrong's entire article is beside the point in that as a protestant Luther and the teachings/traditions of great men of the faith are not my authority my authority is the word of God alone. I love the Johns of the faith John Calvin, John Owen, and Jonathan Edwards, BUT they are not my authority, what they say needs to be seen in light of the scriptures alone.

This really is the heart of the matter with Catholicism, it is not their soteriology or their views on purgatory, penance, mass, Mary, the saints, angels, prayer to other mediators, etc. The issue is one and one only, is the inspired word of God, the traditions given by the apostles and prophets, our authority in our doctrine (2 Thess 3:6) or is our authority and foundation in the traditions of fallible men (Mar 7:9)?
(Sorry for the large font and the poor spacing...blogger can really be fussy at times)

Friday, August 10, 2007

What Does God Mean When He Calls People "Fools"?

"Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool." (Eccl 10:3)

"In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly." (Prov 13:16)

Now in the citation from Ecclesiastes we see that Solomon says that the fool "says to everyone" that he is a fool. The meaning is not that a fool walks around verbally saying to everyone he bumps into "I am an idiot! Look at me!" BUT he does say that in some way. I would say in his actions and his worldview contradictions. He (the fool) is so oblivious to the utter lunacy of his actions or beliefs that he actually flaunts these things as if they were to be shown off and commended by others.

I have been saying to myself that I need to take my camera with me wherever I go to capture such illustrations, many of the images I want to capture are the bumper stickers I see in parking lots. One cliche next to another, often making for rather ludicrous bed fellows. Take for example these two slogans I saw on a vehicle today:

I can't see how anybody can have both of these stickers on one car and not be touched in the head, or rather one of whom God has labelled a "fool" flaunting their folly. I am not going to in this post give a point by point defense of the dignity of unborn infants to the insipid "My right my body" camp. What I am more focusing on here is the lunacy that befalls individuals when they have rejected God and chosen to write their own morality.

You see the "fool" is man who has rejected the wisdom of others (in the first place God the fountain head of all wisdom is rejected) and chooses autonomy and calls this a sort of freedom. After all having this God and His word over one's life seems stifling and after all nobody has the right to tell me how to live MY life, I have the right to decide what I want in my life. The Spirit of God says this about such a person:

"For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools," (Rom 1:21-22)

Here we see the actually source of folly, unbelief in God. Once men banish God from being Lord in their thinking their thinking actually becomes foolish. An analogy would be like a maple leaf choosing to be disconnected from the tree that made it and sustains it and by itself attempting to produce sap and fill jars of maple syrup for people to enjoy. This is a picture of how man thinks when divorced from God, it is utter futility.

The simple issues for our misguided "progressive" motorist whose vehicle I saw at the library this afternoon, are 1.Where do rights come from? and 2.Why is animal life valuable and to be preserved? And finally the obvious: 3.If animal life is to be valued and preserved where do you get off saying a woman has the "right" to kill her baby? Isn't that a tad inconsistent?

When pressed on all of these questions the person who has rejected God really has no answers. Today the popular answer I have heard from Atheists in regards to this is "I don't feel I need any answers, it is all subjective." Well, if that is the case then there is no real discussion to be had because we are ultimately trapped in our own bubbles of subjectivity and conversation is meaningless.

In contrast when we come to Christ, we not only are saved from the wrath we deserve but also the folly our enmity with God has created, so we have our intellect redeemed as well, and this is what the Scriptures in fact teach:

"They [unbelievers] are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart...[and now exhorting believers] be renewed in the spirit of your minds, " (Eph 4:18,23)

We need to come to Christ, or come under Christ, to have our minds renewed and restored. He needs to be our intellectual foundation for our utterances in the areas of ethics to have any meaning. Now do people who are Christians make blunders like putting a sticker that says "Jesus Saves!" on one side of the bumper and "Assassinate Chavez!" on the other? Yes they do. The difference is they have a foundation for their moral pronouncements and should know better. Also, they probably should spend more time in their Bibles having their minds renewed before they start flapping their lips.

To wrap up, in reality aborting babies and calling it "moral" is a meltdown of ethical sense...I mean it is just so obvious and the "My body!" line is a tragic example of "suppressing the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom 1), we all know that killing that baby is NOT the same thing as cutting one's fingernails or going to the salon.

To put stickers on one's car in support of this barbarity while at the same time have stickers that say "Save the Whales" is a flaunting of foolishness (Prov 13:16) and is an example of announcing to the whole world "I am a fool" which Solomon speaks of (Eccl 10:3).

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Atheism and Christianity Debate

I am a big fan of Gene Cook's show "The Narrow Mind", this debate is worth a listen to and gives those who are unfamiliar a taste of a presuppositional apologetic approach to defending the Christian worldview.

The Debate can be found here.