Friday, December 31, 2010

Repentance and the Real Gospel

Repentance and the Real Gospel

Let no man ever persuade you that any religion deserves to be called the Gospel, in which repentance toward God has not a most prominent place. That is no Gospel in which repentance is not a principal thing. It is the Gospel of man – not of God. It comes from earth – not from heaven. It is not the Gospel at all – it is rank antinomianism and nothing else. So long as you hug your sins, and cleave to your sins, and will have your sins – your sins are not forgiven.

So long as you do not repent of sin, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is no Gospel to your soul. Christ is a Savior from sin – not a Savior for man in sin. If a man will have his sins, the day will come when that merciful Savior will say to him, “Depart from Me, you worker of iniquity! Depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt. 25:41.)

~ J.C. Ryle

Old Paths, “Repentance”, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1999], 415, 416.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Assurance for the Young Convert and Weak Believer

I took this from a site (click on heading) I found that is awesome encouragement for all of us who are in this mortal combat with the world, our flesh, and the devil daily whether we are newer believers or believers that have been walking for a while.... it is wonderful to see the examples of those who lived it just like we are and wrote so their fruit GOD bore through them could aid us as we travel along the Pilgrims path....

"By nature we are all dead in trespasses and sins, not only strangers to God, but in a state of enmity and opposition to his government and grace. In this respect, whatever difference there maybe in the characters of men as members of society, they are all, whether wise or ignorant, whether sober of profane, equally incapable of receiving or approving divine truths, I Cor. ii. 14. On this ground our Lord declares: "No man can come unto me, except the Father who has sent me draws him."…

I would understand a person who is under the drawings of God, which will infallibly lead him to the Lord Jesus Christ for life and salvation. The beginning of this work is instantaneous. It is effected by a certain kind of light communicated to the soul, to which it was before an utter stranger. The eyes of the understanding are opened and enlightened. The light at first afforded is weak and indistinct, like the morning dawn; but when it is once begun, it will certainly increase and spread to the perfect day. We commonly speak as if conviction of sin was the first work of God upon the soul that he is about in mercy to draw to himself. But I think this is inaccurate. Conviction is only a part, or rather an immediate effect of that first work; and there are many convictions which do not all spring from it, and therefore are only occasional and temporary though for a season they may be very sharp and put a person upon doing many things. In order to a due conviction of sin, we must previously have some adequate conceptions of God with whom we have to do. Sin may be feared as dangerous without this; but its nature and demerit can only be understood by being contrasted with the holiness, majesty, goodness and truth of the God against whom it is committed. No outward means, no mercies, judgments, ordinances can communicate such a discovery of God, or produce such a conviction of sin, without the concurrence of this divine light and power to the soul. The natural conscience and passions may indeed be so far wrought upon by outward means as to stir up some desires and endeavours; but if these are not founded in a spiritual apprehension of the perfections of God, according to the revelation he has made of himself in his Word, they will sooner or later come to nothing; and the person affected will either return by degrees to his former ways, 2 Peter ii. 20; or he will sink into a self-righteous form of godliness, destitute of the power of Luke sviii. II. And therefore, as there are so many things in the dispensation of the Gospel suited to work upon the natural passions of men, the many woeful miscarriages and apostatises amongst professors are more to be lamented than wondered at. For though the seed may seem to spring up, and look green for a season, if there be not depth for it to take root, it will surely wither away. We may be unable to judge with certainty upon the first appearance of a religious profession, whether the work be thus deep and spiritual or not; but, "the Lord knows them that are his;" and wherever it is real, it is an infallible token of salvation. Now as God thus only reveals himself by the medium of Scripture truth, the light received this way leads the soul to the Scripture from whence it springs, and all the leading truths of the Word of God soon begin to be perceived and assented to. The evil of sin is acknowledged; the evil of the heart is felt. There may be for some while the effort to obtain the favour of God by prayer, repentance and reformation; but, for the most part, it is not very long before these things and proved to be vain and ineffectual….The soul wearied with vain expedients finds itself worse and worse, and is gradually brought to see the necessity and sufficiency of the Gospel-salvation. A may soon be a believer thus far: That he believes the Word of God, sees and feels things to be as they are there described, hates and avoids sin, because he knows it is displeasing to God, and contrary to his goodness; he receives the record which God has given of his Son; has his heart affected and drawn to Jesus by views of his glory, and of his love to poor sinners; ventures upon his Name and promises as his only encouragement to come to a throne of grace; waits diligently in the use of the means appointed for the communion and growth of grace; loves the Lord's people, accounts them the excellent of the earth, and delights in their conversation. He is longing and waiting and praying for a share in those blessings which he believes they enjoy and can be satisfied with nothing less. He is convinced of the power of Jesus to save him; but through remaining ignorance and legality, the remembrance of sin committed and the sense of present corruption he often questions his willingness; and not knowing the abounding of grace, and the security of the promises, he fears lest the compassionate Saviour should spurn him from his feet.

While he is thus young in the knowledge of the Gospel, burdened with sin, and perhaps beset with Satan's temptations the Lord, "who gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them in his bosom," is pleased at times to favour him with cordials, that he may not be swallowed up with over-much sorrow. Perhaps his heart is enlarged in prayer, or under hearing, or some good promise is brought home to his mind, and applied with power and sweetness. He mistakes the nature and design of these comforts which are not given him to rest in, but to encourage him to press forward. He thinks he is then right because he has them, and if only hopes to have them always. Then his mountain stands strong. But ere long he feels a change: his comforts are withdrawn; he finds no heart to pray; no attention in hearing; indwelling sin revives with fresh strength, and perhaps Satan returns with redoubled rage. Then he is at his wits end; thinks his hopes were presumptuous, and his comforts delusions. He wants to feel something that may give him a warrant to trust in the free promises of Christ. His views of the Redeemers gracefulness are very narrow; he sees not the harmony and glory of the divine attributes in the salvation of a sinner; he sighs for mercy, but fears that justice is against him. However by these changing dispensations, the Lord is training him up, and he bringing him forward. He receives grace from Jesus, whereby he is enabled to fight against sin; his conscience is tender, his troubles are chiefly spiritual troubles; and he thinks, if he could but attain a sure and abiding sense of his acceptance in the Beloved, hardly any outward trial would be capable of giving him much disturbance. Indeed, notwithstanding the weakness of his faith, and prevalence of a legal spirit, which greatly hurts him, there are some things in his present experience which he may perhaps look back upon with regret hereafter, when his hope and knowledge will be more established; particularly that sensibility and keenness of appetite with which he now attends the ordinances, desiring the sincere milk of the Word with earnestness and eagerness, as a baby does the breast. He counts the hours from one opportunity to another; and the attention and desire with which he hears may be read in his countenance. His zeal is likewise lively; and may be, for want of more experience, too importunate and forward. He has a love for souls, and a concern for the glory of God; which, though it may at some times create him trouble, and at other be mixed with some undue motions of self, yet in its principle is highly desirable and commendable; John xviii. 10.

The grace of God influences both the understanding and the affections. Warm affections, without knowledge can rise no higher than supe

rstition; and that knowledge which does not influence the heart and affections, will only make a hypocrite. The true believer is rewarded in both respects; yet we may observe, that though he is not without knowledge, this state is more usually remarkable for the warmth and liveliness of the affections. On the other hand, as the work advances, though the affections are not left out, yet it seems to be carried on principally by the understanding. The old Christian has more solid, judicious, connected view of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the glories of his person and redeeming love; hence his hope is more established, his dependence more simple, and his peace and strength, more abiding and uniform, than in the case of a young convert; but the latter has, for the most part, the advantage in point of sensible fervency. A tree is most valuable when laden with ripe-fruit, but it has a peculiar beauty when in blossom. It is spring-time with him; he is in bloom, and, by the grace and blessing of the heavenly husbandman, will bear fruit in old age. His faith is weak, but his heart is warm. He will seldom venture to think himself a believer; but he sees and feels, and does those things which no on could unless the Lord was with him. The very desire and bent of his soul is to God, and to the Word of his grace. His knowledge is but small, but it is growing every day. If he not a father, or a young man in grace, he is a dear child. The Lord has visited his heart, delivered him from the love of sin, and fixed his desires supremely upon Jesus Christ. The spirit of bondage is gradually departing from him, and the hour of liberty, which he longs for, is approaching, when, by a further discovery of the glorious Gospel, it shall be given him to know his acceptance and to rest upon the Lord's finished salvation.
–John Newton from his letters.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spurgeon: Ask God for the latter rain.

Praise GOD HE humbles us and lifts us up. We are HIS. May this affect you as it affects me at this moment. This we the Church need to hear. Please soak it in.

Ask God for the Latter Rain!

In this degenerate time we are very much as Israel was in the days of the Judges, for there are raised up among us leaders who judge Israel, and are the terror of her foes. Oh, if the church had in her midst a race of heroes; if our missionary operations could be attended with the holy chivalry which marked the church in the early days; if we could have back apostles and martyrs, or even such as Carey and Judson, what wonders would be wrought!...

The fact is, the most of us are vastly inferior to the early Christians, who, as I take it, were persecuted because they were thoroughly Christians, and we are not persecuted because we hardly are Christians at all. They were so earnest in the propagation of the Redeemer’s kingdom, that they became the nuisance of the age in which they lived. They would not let errors alone. They had not conceived the opinion that they were to hold the truth, and leave other people to hold error without trying to intrude their opinions upon them, but they preached Christ Jesus right and left, and delivered their testimony against every sin. They denounced the idols, and cried out against superstition, until the world, fearful of being turned upside down, demanded of them, “Is that what you mean? Then we will burn you, lock you up in prison, and exterminate you.” To which the church replied, “We will accept the challenge, and will not depart from our resolve to conquer the world for Christ.” At last the fire in the Christian church burned out the persecution of an ungodly world.

But we are so gentle and quiet, we do not use strong language about other people’s opinions; but let men go to hell out of charity to them. We are not at all fanatical, and for all we do to disturb him, the old manslayer has a very comfortable time of it. We would not wish to save any sinner who does not particularly wish to be saved. If persons choose to attend our ministry, we shall be pleased to say a word to them in a mild way, but we do not speak with tears streaming down our cheeks, groaning and agonising with God for them; neither would we thrust our opinions upon them, though we know they are being lost for want of the knowledge of Christ crucified. May God send the latter rain to his church, to me, and to you, and may we begin to bestir ourselves, and seek after the highest form of earnestness for the kingdom of King Jesus. May the days come in which we shall no longer have to complain that we sow much and reap little, but may we receive a hundredfold reward, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

From a sermon entitled "The Former And Latter Rain," delivered July 11, 1869. Image by James Jordan under Creative Commons License.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

John Calvin , Luther and the reformers agreements that all agree. Calvinism is back Praise GOD because only GOD deserves HIS Glory.

As a Conservative Calvinist for the most part..actually I consider myself a student of Augustine as well because I relate to most of Augustine confessions (which is a good read every Christian should read along with City of GOD), I found this on Facebook and it was a really wonderful article found on Yahoo news. I pray you will like it...kind of very hard to argue with them...GOD is Sovereign and Severe but HIS mercy endures forever.
I hope you like it.


Christian faith: Calvinism is back
The Christian Science Monitor
By Josh Burek Josh Burek – Sat Mar 27, 12:00 pm ET

Washington – Snow falls resolutely on a Saturday morning in Washington, but the festively lit basement of a church near the US Capitol is packed. Some 200 female members have invited an equal number of women for tea, cookies, conversation – and 16th-century evangelism.

What newcomers at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) hear is hardly "Christianity for Dummies." Nor is it "Extreme Makeover: Born-Again Edition." Instead, a young woman named Kasey Gurley describes her disobedience and suffering in Old Testament terms.

"I worship my own comfort, my own opinion of myself," she confesses. "Like the idolatrous people of Judah, we deserve the full wrath of God." She warns the women that "we'll never be safe in good intentions," but assures them that "Christ died for us so we wouldn't have to." Her closing prayer is both frank and transcendent: "Our comfort in suffering is this: that through Christ you provide eternal life."

It is so quiet you can hear an oatmeal cookie crumble.

IN PICTURES: Calvinism at Capitol Hill Baptist Church

Welcome to the austere – and increasingly embraced – message of Calvinism. Five centuries ago, John Calvin's teachings reconceived Christianity; midwifed Western ideas about capitalism, democracy, and religious liberty; and nursed the Puritan values that later cast the character of America.

Today, his theology is making a surprising comeback, challenging the me-centered prosperity gospel of much of modern evangelicalism with a God-first immersion in Scripture. In an age of materialism and made-to-order religion, Calvinism's unmalleable doctrines and view of God as an all-powerful potentate who decides everything is winning over many Christians – especially the young.

Twenty-something followers in the Presbyterian, Anglican, and independent evangelical churches are rallying around Calvinist, or Reformed, teaching. In the Southern Baptist Convention, America's largest Protestant body, at least 10 percent of its pastors identify as Calvinist, while more than one-third of recent seminary graduates do.

New Calvinism draws legions to the sermons of preachers like John Piper of the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Here at CHBC, the pews and even rooms in the basement are filled each Sunday, mostly with young professionals. Since senior pastor Mark Dever brought Calvinist preaching here 16 years ago, the church has grown sevenfold. Today it is bursting at the stained-glass windows.

Yet the movement's biggest impact may not be in the pews. It's in publishing circles and on Christian blogs, in divinity schools and at conferences like "Together for the Gospel," where the rock stars of Reformed theology explore such topics as "The Sinner Neither Able Nor Willing: The Doctrine of Absolute Inability."

"There is a very clear resurgence of Calvinism," says Steven Lemke, provost and a professor at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

The renewed interest arrives at a crucial inflection point for American religion. After reviewing a landmark opinion survey last year that showed a precipitous decline in the number of people who identify themselves as Christian, Newsweek declared ominously that we may be witnessing "the end of Christian America."

In some ways, Newsweek may have understated the shift. Five hundred years after Martin Luther posted his 95 theses challenging the Roman Catholic Church, some religion watchers see not just a post-Christian America but an unraveling of the Protestant Reformation itself. Their alarm is rooted in surveys that show a watering down of Christian beliefs.

Now come the New Calvinists with their return to inviolable doctrines and talk of damnation – in essence, the Puritans, minus the breeches and powdered wigs. Is this just a moment of nostalgia or the beginning of a deeper revolt against the popular Jesus-is-our-friend approach of modern evangelicalism? Where, in other words, is Christianity going?

• • •

When people today hear the name John Calvin, they think mainly of predestination – the controversial idea that God has foreordained everything that will happen, including who will and won't be saved, no matter what they do in life.

What people often forget is that the 16th-century French theologian transformed Western thought both by what he taught and how he taught it. His 700-page "Institutes of the Christian Religion" became the reference manual for Protestant faith. And his detailed and explanatory style of preaching – he spent five years expounding on the book of Acts, verse by verse – became an example for generations of clergy.

Detractors, and there are many, see Calvin as a harsh theocrat who punished heretics (including one who was famously burned at the stake) while molding the city where he preached, Geneva, into a model of his fatalistic and hopeless ideology.

But supporters view him as a man who recovered God-centric Christianity, set the stage for religious freedom, and encouraged countless believers to read the Bible for themselves.

"Like it or not, he is one of the great minds that shaped our modern world," says Gerald Bray, a professor at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala. "Ideas of democracy, open-market capitalism, and equality of opportunity were aired in his Geneva and put into practice as far as they could be at that time."

Calvin's influence on America's founding is unmistakable. The nation's patriotism, work ethic, sense of equality, public morality, and even elements of democracy all sprang in part from the Calvinist taproot of Puritan New England. When Calvinist preacher Jonathan Edwards told worshipers in 1741 that they were loathsome spiders held over the pit of hell by the gracious hand of an offended God, he wasn't speaking a heretical creed but the basic vocabulary of American faith. It wasn't until the 19th century that Calvinist doctrines waned.

By most logic, the stern system of Calvinism shouldn't be popular today. Much of modern Christianity preaches a comforting Home Depot theology: You can do it. We can help. Epitomized by popular titles like Joel Osteen's "Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential," this message of self-fulfillment through Christian commitment attracts followers in huge numbers, turning big churches into megachurches.

At the same time, a strict following of the Bible, which Calvinists embrace, hardly resonates the way it once did in American society. The Barna Group, a California-based research firm, recently did a survey to find out how many US adults hold a "biblical worldview" – for instance, believe that the Bible is totally accurate, that a person cannot earn their way into heaven simply by doing good, that God is the all-powerful creator of the universe.

The result: a steeple-thin 9 percent. Among 18-to-23-year-olds, it was 0.5 percent, fewer people than might show up at a Lady Gaga concert. Even among "born again" Christians, it was only 19 percent.

In a separate report, Barna found that more than 6 in 10 born-again Christians say they are customizing their faith, not following any one church's theology. "Americans are increasingly comfortable picking and choosing what they deem to be helpful and accurate theological views and have become comfortable discarding the rest of the teachings in the Bible," the report notes.

The blunt implication: Scripture is no longer the sheet anchor of American spirituality.

This, of course, was the Roman Catholic warning to early reformers five centuries ago: If you break away from the church, orthodoxy will spiral into fancy. By emphasizing sound doctrine and the naked gospel, New Calvinists want to restore what they see as stability to Protestant faith.

Indeed, CHBC has a sister organization called "9Marks," which strives to promote "biblically faithful" churches across denominational lines.

"A lot of people think religion is something you piece together [from] ideas you think are sweet and that you personally find beneficial," says Mr. Dever. "No. It's like a doctor's report.... It's an objective reality. It's just what is."

More broadly, the Calvinist revival reflects an effort to recast the foundation of faith itself. From conservative evangelical churches to liberal new-age groups, the message of much modern teaching is man's need for betterment. Not New Calvinism; its star is God's need for glory. And the gravity of His will is great: It can be denied, but not defied.

"God either knows everything, or He knows nothing at all," says CHBC member Jeannie Hagopian, a young mother from South Carolina.

• • •

As morning light filters into a fourth-floor room on a Sunday, students huddle on tiered seats, listening to a lecture on substitutionary atonement. The teacher poses a tough question, but a hand shoots into the air, eager to answer with a recitation of the week's memory verse from I Peter 3:18: "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God."

Scholars and seminarians call this systematic theology. Kindergartners at CHBC just call it Sunday school.

Their parents are downstairs, absorbing seminars, prayers, and a Scripture-saturated sermon that add up to five hours of worship over the day. Just before noon, the adults jot notes as they listen to an hour-long sermon on II Samuel 5-9. These chapters cover King David's glorious reign over Israel, but Dever doesn't skip the tough verses, such as when God strikes Uzzah dead for trying to steady the ark of the covenant.

"Friends, have we sinned like Uzzah?" he asks.

Such statements are meant to prick the hearts of his listeners. Yet he often follows up the hard questions with reassuring comments like: "You and I should not draw a breath today, without living for the praise of God's glory."

This pattern – convict worshipers of their sin, then show them spiritual elation – has a gripping effect on the assembly. After the service, churchgoers linger for an hour, hugging and sharing heartfelt conversation. "I've come to believe and understand that God is not fundamentally about me; He's much bigger than that," says Dan Wenger, a government employee. "The teaching at this church has helped me to see that in context of the whole story of the Bible, not just the parts that make me feel good."

Dever acknowledges that people might well ask, "Why would God make anybody who is going to go to hell?" His answer captures the essence of New Calvinism. "I don't know," he says. "I didn't do this. I'm just trying to tell you what I think is true, not what I like."

Membership at CHBC isn't for the faint of holy. Classes on theology and Christian history are required before joining. At the "Lord's Supper" once a month, members stand and recite an oath that ties them to one another. In addition to Sunday worship and Wednesday night Bible study, they spend hours each week in small-group study or one-on-one "discipling." They say those sessions – a time for confessions, encouragement, and prayer – are the most challenging and rewarding feature of church life.

"Christian fellowship is so much more than hanging out with friends," says Claudia Anderson, a magazine editor. "It involves spiritual intimacy, support, learning, counseling, and stunning acts of kindness."

Christopher Brown, a lawyer, concurs. "I came for the theology but stayed for the community," he says. "As Americans, we're so individualistic. But the New Testament rebukes this 'rugged individualism.' We're not saved to be lone rangers."

The BlackBerry-wielding Millennials who worship here say they crave teaching that challenges them – "preaching for PhDs," as one puts it. Ask them what books they're reading, and they won't mention "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." They'll reel through names of 17th-century Puritan preachers like a pack of baseball cards.

"The resurgence of Calvinism indicates that America hasn't changed so much as some might suppose," says Collin Hansen, author of "Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists." "American Christianity has splintered in myriad directions since the Puritans settled New England. But the God they worshiped – attested in the Bible, sovereign in all things, and merciful toward sinners through the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ – still captivates believers today."

• • •

What captivates outsiders, however, is that New Calvinists are restoring the doctrine of predestination – God choosing from the outset whom He will and won't save – to a land that long ago shifted toward a "No Child Left Behind" view of salvation. Taken to its logical end, predestination means God has always regulated everything, even evil.

This belief bothers many Christians. "The shooting at Fort Hood: Did God foreordain that? 9/11? The Holocaust?" asks Professor Lemke, who's also a Baptist pastor and critic of some, though not all, points of Calvinism.

In 2008, the Southern Baptist Convention put on a John 3:16 conference to counterbalance tenets of Calvinism, including predestination.

What critics see as a grim and fatalistic doctrine, however, Calvin saw as good news: that God's purposes can be fulfilled despite man's sinful ways.

"To him, predestination was a liberating belief because it says that God can choose anyone, however humble, and use him to overturn the great men of this world," says Professor Bray. "It makes real change possible and puts ordinary people like you and me in charge of seeing it happen. What could be better news than that?"

Many followers agree, adding that Calvinism is not fatalism: You are responsible for you behavior.

"Calvinism is 'big picture' Christianity," says Allen Guelzo, the author of "Edwards on the Will: A Century of American Theological Debate." "It is less interested in asking why God lets bad things happen to good people, and asks instead whether there have ever been any genuinely 'good' people."

For all its controversy, predestination is something New Calvinists accept as part of their take-it-all-or-leave-it approach to the Bible.

"Today we have more Bibles and more study guides to Scripture than ever before, but people know the text itself less and less," says Bray. "This is disastrous. Calvin's deep and expository approach to it is therefore more necessary than ever."

At CHBC, several members say they became authentically Christian only after a friend studied the gospel with them verse by verse. "As I studied the Bible, I saw that God has every reason to send me to hell," says Connie Brown, a kindergarten teacher. "God broke me down – and renewed my heart."

New Calvinists talk about their sin a lot. Despite that – or rather because of it – they exude not guilt but great joy. Their explanation: If we play down our sinfulness, we'll play down our gratitude for the magnitude of God's love and forgiveness.

Many members were drawn to CHBC precisely because they had yearned to be "convicted of their sin" again and grown frustrated with "watered-down preaching." School vice principal Jessica Sandle says she came after the pastor at her former church read a book on growth and became consumed with filling pews. "So he stopped talking about sin, and why we need God," she says.

Another congregant, who declined to be named because he is running for office, was searching for something more substantial as well. "I went to other churches and I came away feeling good, but I came away hungry, too," he says. "They [the sermons] were mercifully shorter, but they'd leave the gospel out, and I wouldn't be convicted of my sin.... Here, your deficiencies are laid bare."

Ultimately, Calvinism's contrast with chummier, Jesus-is-my-friend forms of evangelicalism may highlight a more fundamental change in the world of faith. Bestselling religion writer Phyllis Tickle sees the interest in Calvinism as the first phase of a backlash against the dominant religious trend of today: the rise of "Emergence Christianity."

Emergence Christianity, which she identifies as a once-every-500-years religious shift, is less a doctrine or a movement than a postmodern attitude toward religion itself. Loosely organized, it values experimentation over traditional rules and Christian practice.

"When things go through this upheaval," Ms. Tickle says, "there's always those who absolutely need the assurance of rules and a foundation."

Or, as Ms. Hagopian puts it with uncompromising Calvinistic clarity: "The dominant philosophy of American Christianity is so far removed from biblical truth. Life is not hunky-dory."

IN PICTURES: Calvinism at Capitol Hill Baptist Church

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Preachers Who Don’t Believe — The Scandal of Apostate Pastors

Mic 2:4 In that day they shall take up a taunt song against you and moan bitterly, and say, "We are utterly ruined; he changes the portion of my people; how he removes it from me! To an apostate he allots our fields."

Sadly we face this daily as we grow more into a socialistic mind set in America as it had already taken all of Europe. Communism is desperately forcing its way into individual lives which America is the the country most wanted to be conquered by these socialists and atheists which basically there are no true such things but only those who love their sin the most so they want to socialize the most with what keeps them all comfortable in their sin and yes Marxism in all its murderous systematic forms drowned in sin has to continue to push its agenda. And as we see it started with the house of GOD.

May we all come back to GOD and Repent so GOD will Bless our nations once again before it is too late.


Preachers Who Don’t Believe — The Scandal of Apostate Pastors

Are there clergy who don't believe in God? That is the question posed by a new report that is certain to receive considerable attention -- and rightly so. Few church members are likely to be disinterested in whether their pastor believes in God.

The study was conducted by the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, under the direction of Daniel C. Dennett and Linda LaScola. Dennett, of course, is one of the primary figures in the "New Atheism" -- the newly aggressive and influential atheist movement that has gained a considerable hearing among the intellectual elites and the media.

Dennett is a cognitive scientist whose book, Breaking the Spell, suggests that belief in God must have at one point served an important evolutionary purpose, granting an evolutionary advantage to those who had some belief in an afterlife as compared to humans without such a belief. The reality of death, Dennett surmises, might well have been the precipitating factor. In order to make life meaningful in the face of death (and thus encourage reproduction), Dennett suggests that primitive humans invented the idea of God and the afterlife. Now, he argues, we have no more need of such primitive beliefs.

Interestingly, Dennett also proposes a new interpretation of theological liberalism. Noting that many modern people claim to be Christians while holding to virtually no specific theological content, Dennett suggests that their mode of faith should not be described as "belief," but rather as "believing in belief."

Given Dennett's own atheistic agenda, we can rightly assume that he would be thrilled to see Christian ministers and believers abandon the faith. Indeed, the New Atheists have made this a stated aim. Thus, this new research report, "Preachers Who Are Not Believers," should be read within that framework. Nevertheless, it must be read. This report demands the attention of anyone concerned with the integrity of the Christian church and the Christian faith.

Dennett and LaScola undertook their project with the goal of looking for unbelieving pastors and ministers who continue to serve their churches in "secret disbelief." Their "small and self-selected" sample of ministers represents a microcosm of the theological collapse at the heart of many churches and denominations.

In their report, Dennett and LaScola present case studies of five unbelieving ministers, three from liberal denominations ("the liberals") and two from conservative denominations ("the literals").

Wes, a Methodist, lost his confidence in the Bible while attending a liberal Christian college and seminary. "I went to college thinking Adam and Eve were real people," he explained. Now, he no longer believes that God exists. In his rendering, God is a word that "can be used very expressively in some of my more meditative modes" and "a kind of poetry that is written by human beings."

His church members do not know that he is an atheist, but he explains that they are somewhat liberal themselves. His ministerial colleagues are even more liberal: "They've been de-mythologized, I'll say that. They don't believe Jesus rose from the dead literally. They don't believe Jesus was born of a virgin. They don't believe all those things that would cause a big stir in their churches."

Rick, a campus minister for the United Church of Christ, perhaps the most liberal Protestant denomination, was an agnostic in college and seems to have lost all belief by the time he graduated from seminary. He chose ordination in the UCC because it required "no forced doctrine." Even as he graduated from seminary, he knew, "I'm not going to make it in a conventional church." He knew he could not go into a church and teach his own theological views, based on Paul Tillich and Rudolf Bultmann. He did not believe in the doctrinal content of the Christian faith from the beginning of his ministry. "I did not believe the traditional things even then."

He does not believe "all this creedal stuff" about the incarnation of Christ or the need for salvation, but he remained in the ministry because, "These are my people, this is the context in which I work, these are the people that I know." In the pulpit, his mode is to talk as if he does believe, because "as long as ... you are talking about God and Jesus and the Bible, that's what they want to hear. You're just phrasing it in a way that makes sense to [them] ... but language is ambiguous and can be heard in different ways."

He doesn't like to call himself an atheist, but: "If not believing in a supernatural, theistic god is what distinguishes an atheist, then I am one too."

Darryl is a Presbyterian who sees himself as a "progressive-minded" pastor who wants to see his kind of non-doctrinal Christianity "given validity in some way." He acknowledges that he is more a pantheist than a theist, and thinks that many of the more educated members of his church hold to the same liberal beliefs as his own. And those beliefs (or unbeliefs) are stated clearly: "I reject the virgin birth. I reject substitutionary atonement. I reject the divinity of Jesus. I reject heaven and hell in the traditional sense, and I am not alone."

Amazingly, Darryl is candid about the fact that he remains in the ministry largely for financial reasons. It is how he provides for his family. If he openly espoused his beliefs, "I may be burning bridges in terms of my ability to earn a living this way."

Adam ministers in the Church of Christ, a conservative denomination. After years in the ministry, he began to lose all theological confidence. After reading a series of books, he became convinced that the atheists have better arguments than believers. He has moved fully into an atheist mode, yet he continues to lead his church in worship. How? "Here's how I'm handling my job on Sunday mornings: I see it as play acting. I see myself as taking on the role of a believer in a worship service, and performing."

This "atheistic agnostic" stays in the ministry because he likes the people and, "I need the job still." If he had an alternative source of income, he would take it. He feels hypocritical, but no longer believes that hypocrisy is wrong.

John is identified as a Southern Baptist minister who has primarily served as a worship leader. He was attracted to Christianity as a religion of love, but his pursuit of Christianity "brought me to the point of not believing in God." As he explains, "I didn't plan to become an atheist. I didn't even want to become an atheist. It's just I had no choice. If I'm being honest with myself."

He is clearly not being honest with his church members. He rejects all belief in God and all Christian truth claims out of hand. He is a determined atheist. Once again, this unbelieving minister admits that he stays in the ministry because of finances. Amazingly, this minister even names his price: "If someone said, 'Here's $200,000,' I'd be turning my notice in this week, saying, 'A month from now is my last Sunday.' Because then I can pay off everything."

Early in their report, Dennett and LaScola point to a problem of definition. Many churches and denominations have adopted such fluid and doctrineless identities that determining who is a believer and who is an unbeliever has become difficult. Their statement deserves a close reading:

The ambiguity about who is a believer and who is an unbeliever follows inexorably from the pluralism that has been assiduously fostered by many religious leaders for a century and more: God is many different things to different people, and since we can't know if one of these conceptions is the right one, we should honor them all. This counsel of tolerance creates a gentle fog that shrouds the question of belief in God in so much indeterminacy that if asked whether they believed in God, many people could sincerely say that they don't know what they are being asked.

In other words, some theologians and denominations have embraced a theology so fluid and indeterminate that even an atheist cannot tell the believers and unbelievers apart.

"Preachers Who Are Not Believers" is a stunning and revealing report that lays bare a level of heresy, apostasy, and hypocrisy that staggers the mind. In 1739, Gilbert Tennett preached his famous sermon, "On the Danger of an Unconverted Ministry." In that sermon, Tennett described unbelieving pastors as a curse upon the church. They prey upon the faith and the faithful. "These caterpillars labor to devour every green thing."

If they will not remove themselves from the ministry, they must be removed. If they lack the integrity to resign their pulpits, the churches must muster the integrity to eject them. If they will not "out" themselves, it is the duty of faithful Christians to "out" them. The caterpillars are hard at work. Will it take a report from an atheist to awaken the church to the danger?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I Told Mennonites to “Go to Hell” (and they liked it!) by Greg Boyd

To all: Haven't written on this blog for awhile since I have been totally busy with my other blog AMERICAN MORAL LIBERTY ONION because everyday there is a political reason that needs much prayer and focus of our ever fading Republic based on in GOD we trust. But as I was surfing and studying mostly this article caught my eye that I had to post it here..this is an awesome testimony and I hope it uplifts you all who love the LORD and are growing everyday in satisfaction of HIM alone.

Enjoy :o)

Love Richard White

(ps click above on the heading to for this persons BLOG where the article came from.)

I Told Mennonites to “Go to Hell” (and they liked it!)

January 22nd, 2010

Before I explain the title of this blog, a couple of updates.

* My friend Dr. Jen Halverson has been in Haiti for five days now. She is working in one of the make-shift “clinics” that have been set up in what’s left of Port Au Prince. I’d encourage you to follow her blog and hold her up in prayer. The stories and photos Jen shares are horrific, but they help us get on the inside of the devastation we’re dealing with. I honestly doubt any of us will witness suffering of this magnitude again in our lifetime. Sadly, Haiti is already becoming “old news” to the world, while the suffering will go on for years and the rebuilding process for decades or longer. We must not forget these dear people.

* A number of us who are associated with Providence Ministries were hoping to join Jen in Haiti in the near future but we’re now being advised by our connections in Haiti that we should hold off indefinitely, for a number of reasons. We’re bummed by this, but it seems the wise thing to do. Meanwhile, I want to thank the many who have generously supported the Haitian Relief effort, especially those who gave to Providence Ministries. Thank you! Your money will facilitate Jen’s work as well as going towards long term relief efforts in and around Providence House. (If you’d like contribute, go here and use the paypal button or mail donations using the contact information in the right sidebar.)

And now, about those hell-bound Mennonites.

This week I was honored to be the keynote speaker at a leadership conference held at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg Virginia. My talks centered on how radically different the Kingdom of God is from all versions of the kingdom of the world and why it is so important to faithfully preserve this distinction. I just love the warmth and humility of this gentle tribe and they always make me feel at home. It seemed my talks were well received (which is not to say that everyone agreed with me on every point).

There just seems to be a unique chemistry I have with the Mennonites. It’s more than a little odd to me, because, in all honesty, I hardly ever say anything these folks haven’t heard many times before. The radical vision of the non-violent, Calvary-looking Kingdom that is so new to me and that I’m so excited about is the one Anabaptists have embraced for the last five hundred years! You’d think they’d be bored with me! Yet, as one dear lady at the conference told me after one of my talks, there’s a “newness” about the way I articulate this view of the Kingdom that rekindles their passion for it.

Not only this, but this lady felt my “unMennonite” demeanor was refreshing. When I asked what she meant, she said that my “hyper personality” and “iconoclastic humor” in the pulpit contrasted strongly with the Anabaptist tradition in which preachers have been encouraged to be subdued and reverent. In her view, my “unMennonite” style was helping old school Mennonites like herself hear the message of the Kingdom as if for the first time.

This lady particularly liked it when I told my Mennonite audience to “Go to Hell!” “I’m quite sure no Mennonite has ever heard that from a church pulpit before,” she said with a laugh. I honestly hadn’t planned on saying this (as if I plan most of the things that come out of my mouth!), but it just seemed to be an appropriate way to end a little talk I’d given on Jesus’ teaching that “the gates of hell won’t prevail against the church” (Mt. 16:16-18). I taught that, while Mennonites have traditionally tended to be preoccupied with keeping hell out of their communities and have thus tended to be a bit reclusive, Jesus is calling them (and all of us) to boldly take the Gospel into the world and aggressively storm the gates of hell (that is, areas that are under the dominion of Satan rather than God). And so, it just seemed appropriate to conclude this section of my talk by telling them to “Go to Hell!” It seemed they appreciate it!

As the religion of Christendom dies a slow death (praise God!) and the vision of the cruciform Kingdom is caught by more and more people around the globe, it will be interesting to see what role the Mennonites (and other Anabaptist groups) will play, for they alone have the tradition that is centered on this vision. My conviction is that if they will continue to rekindle their passion for this Kingdom while holding loosely to every other aspect of their tradition, and if they can raise up leaders and embrace others who are willing to take this vision of the kingdom and GO TO HELL, the Mennonites are positioned to be used by God to advance his Kingdom in the years to come in ways that will be powerful, beautiful and amazing.