Thursday, December 27, 2007

the worthlessness of infinite value

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field,
which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he
goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

matt. 13:44

according to the national retail foundation, of an estimated 26.3 billion dollars will be spent on gift cards in 2007, 8 billion or more will never be used.

this is a great money maker for companies who offer the cards. everytime someone spends any amount of money on a gift card that is lost, forgotten, or just never used, that is 100% profit for that company. they already have the money -if no one ever buys any merchandise, all the better for them!

it seems foolish to think that someone would have in their possession something of value, yet never make use of it.
as christians, we have something of infinite value. we have the gospel- the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of jesus christ. but do we share it? i know that i dont as often as i should... and more often than not, its not that i choose *not* to share, its just that i dont pursue opportunities. many times i have walked a way from a conversation or encounter and moments later thought "why didnt i realize that that was a perfect opportunity to share with them?"

we dont want to make people out to be science projects or treat them as means to an end. but if we do care for them, then we should be compelled to give them the source of infinite value and joy!

if they do not accept the gospel, it does not devalue the gift. just as a $10 starbucks card is still worth $10 at starbucks whether or not it is used, the gospel of jesus christ is just as true and just as saving if it is rejected. but let us offer it in hopes that it will be received with joy!

as the new year approaches, may we be intentional about sharing the greatest thing we possess with those around us.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

response to the mormon response...

in case you missed it, fox news sent a list of 21 questions about the beliefs of the mormon church to officials of the church of latter-day saints. they replied, question by question. (you can view the questions and responses here).

at first glance, the answers may seem satisfactory. but upon close inspection, it seems that the answers given by the mormon church are not complete.. or completely honest.

rob bowman, of the southern baptist convention's north america mission board examines the answers given by the mormon church and points out the need to "say what we mean, and mean what we say". read his eyebrow raising assessment of the latter day saints answers here.

rob's bio from begins...
Robert M. Bowman Jr. (M.A., Fuller Theological Seminary) is the manager of Apologetics and Interfaith Evangelism for the North American Mission Board. For five years he was a lecturer in the M.A. in Christian Apologetics program at Biola University. Rob has published over fifty articles in such periodicals as the Christian Research Journal, Moody Monthly, Pastoral Renewal, and Areopagus Journal. He has also authored or co-authored a dozen books, including two that won the Gold Medallion Award...

Monday, December 17, 2007

fresh prince gets it wrong...

i am closing in on my 30th birthday. but one of the things that keeps me from feeling "all grown up" is re-runs of shows that were popular when i was a teenager. one of those shows is "the fresh prince of bel-air". while it wasnt groundbreaking television (though the theme song may be!) it is still entertaining to watch all of these years later- if for nothing else but the clothing and hairstyles!

i like will smith's acting. i find most of his movies enjoyable. he seems like someone who would really be fun to know. but on one important issue, he is dreadfully and fearfully wrong.

recently he has been speaking of a growing interest in and study of scientology. through his wife's (jada pinkett-smith) work with well known scientologist, tom cruise, smith has become more vocal about his research into this false religion...

[smith] told [access hollywood]: "I was introduced [
to] [scientology] by Tom and I’m a student of world
religion. I was raised in a Baptist household, I went to
a Catholic school, but the ideas of the Bible are
98 percent the same ideas of Scientology, 98
percent the same ideas of Hinduism and Buddhism."

i hate to break it to you will, but any religion that denies that there is but one god who is creator of all things and exists as the father , son, and holy spirit, and denies that the only hope of salvation is faith in the life, death, and resurrection of jesus christ is not even close to christianity. if any other teaching does not have these things at its core, then it is 100% *not* like christianity.

this doesn't mean that we boycott anything having to do with will smith or any scientologist... but we can become more informed about what scientology is so that if we hear someone say " i heard will smith is looking into scientology and that it is not that different than christianity" that we would seize that opportunity to make the gospel clear. we can also pray for will smith and other celebrities that have been or perhaps are being seduced by this false religion. (tom crusie, john travolta, lisa marie presley, etc.)

i will do some research on sources pertaining to scientology and post them here so check back in the next few days...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

milestones and talking with god..

this is the 150th post on "the lowercase" and as of last week, this site has received of 10,000 visits in the last 18 months. thanks to all who visit and participate. i know keeping this blog has helped me in thinking through issues and writing discipline, and i hope it has been beneficial to you as well.

as the new year wraps down, i thought i would share a challenge i saw over on said at southern, a website corralling many blogs of southern seminary students (like myself) and faculty.

tony kummer shares an opportunity to start a new years resolution early and complete it by february!

if you are like me, each year you may have good intentions of reading the bible all the way through, or at least reading it more. by mid february i am usually so far behind trying to keep up seems futile. well tony has provided a plan that if you can spare a little over an hr. a day (cumulative) we can read the entire bible by jan. 31st if we start on dec. 10th!

here is his plan...

I took the page numbers from my ESV
Reference Bible and the time required from
my Max McLean ESV audio Bible.
You can modify these numbers for your favorite
Bible translation.

Start Now ( dec. 10) and Read It All by January

...start on December 10th for a total of 53 days.
* Read 21 minutes or 5 ½ pages of NT per day
* Read 54 ½ minutes or 18 ½ pages of OT per day

So, by spending only 1 hour and 16 minutes per day,
24 pages, you can read through the entire ESV Bible
between now and February. Just over 1 hour a day!

you may think, " i don't have an hour a day!!!" well.. maybe you do.
think of your whole day.
  • what else do you do while you eat your meals that you cant put off for 53 days?
  • what if you get to work 15 minutes early to read for 15 minutes, spend the first or last 15 minutes of your lunch break reading, and watch one less program on television?
  • carry a bible to read while waiting in line christmas shopping, grocery shopping, etc.

i'm sure if we think about it, we can find 60 minutes throughout the day to spend time in god's word.. to hear him speak to us.
i'm going to give it a try. maybe ill get it done by jan. 31st, maybe not, but it is worth it to me to try. if you want to join me, leave me a comment (no need to sign up for anything) and let me know, and we can pray for and encourage one another.

Friday, December 07, 2007

jesus and satan; sibling rivalry?

they have "feel good" commercials.

they have nice looking buildings

they are exemplary citizens

but are mormons christians?

this has been a hot topic of conversation since former massachusetts governor mitt romney announced that he was running for presidency of the united states.

yesterday, romney made a speech in which he addressed the concerns of those who were worried that his loyalty to his faith may play too large of a role in his presidency if elected. (which can be read here)

in it he references jesus christ, god as creator, and so forth. in a recent debate, when the canidates were asked " do you believe the bible is literally true" he answered:

"I believe it's the Word of God...I mean, I might
interpret the Word differently than you interpret the Word,
but I read the Bible and I believe the Bible is the Word of God.
I don't disagree with the Bible. I try and live by it."

again, this sounds like a safe christian answer.

but what is it that mormons believe? are they just another denomination like the baptists, methodists or presbyterians? or are they another branch of christianity like the roman catholic church or the anglicans?

here are some examples of the teachings and beliefs of the church of jesus christ of latter days saints, the mormons:

  • there are many gods, and the head of them rules the universe along with his council
    (joseph smith teachings of the prophet joseph smith pp.348-49)
  • god has wives ("a mother in heaven,") and they live on a planet near a star named kolab.
  • through endless sexual encounters, "elohim" and his wives produce billions of spirit children
  • god has and is limited by a physical body. he is not omnipresent, in fact, it is impossible for him to be in more than one place at once
  • adam is identified as michael the archangel
  • jesus and satan are brothers
  • jesus was given savior status of earth, enraging lucifer, who revolted.
  • jesus was not born of a virgin, because god had sex with mary, which produced jesus
  • jesus was married
  • humans can acheive god status
  • the bible (unless it is the mormon approved version) is incomplete and contains errors, and is only one of four holy books
  • all churches except LDS (mormon) churches are false churches
  • the final judgment is in the presence of jospeh smith, the mormon jesus, and "elohim".
    [sources: book of mormon; mormonism: what you need to know by ed decker; fast facts on false teachings by ron carlson and ed decker; mormonism unmasked by r. phillip roberts, and mormons answered verse by verse by david a. reed and john r. farkas]

at the bare minimum, to be a christian one has to confess that:

  • there is but one god, who exists in three persons (father, son, and holy spirit)
  • jesus was/is god incarnate-born of a virgin
  • there is no salvation outside of faith in jesus christ- and only those who place their faith in him will be saved

mormonism denies all three of these. there is obviously much more to the mormon faith than outlined above, but just from scratching the surface we can see that mormonism is not a part, branch, or denomination of christianity.

does that mean we cant be friends with mormons? of course not. i have had and currently do have mormon friends who are genuinely nice, caring, and wonderful friends.

does that mean christians cannot vote for mitt romney for president. i dont think so. [*however, this post or its content should not be viewed as an endorsement for or against voting for romney]

what it does mean is that when we have conversations with people who are discussing mr. romney or any mormon, that we do not let it slide when people equate mormonism with christianity. we should do so in love and with gentleness, but we should make sure that there is no confusion. mormons-the church of jesus christ of latter day saints are no more christian than muslims, buddhists, or jehovah's witnesses.
so let us be compelled to love them by sharing the true gospel with them.

for further reading see sources cited above as well as:
1) solving the mormon puzzle dvd by the north american mission board
2) john devito, former mormon, has a blog here

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

more on the "compass.."

dr. albert mohler, president of the southern baptist theological seminary writes on the controversial movie, "the golden compass" on his blog.

it is well worth the read and is an example of how to handle "controversy" without adding to it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

separation anxiety...

here is a great article written about the issue/abuse of "separation of church and state". it is very well written and informative without getting overly technical.

from the writings of congressman and presidential canidate ron paul: (FYI:this post does not necessairily mean an endorsement)

The entire nation seemed to condemn [the] federal court
ruling that the pledge of allegiance cannot be recited in schools.
The notion that the phrase "one nation under God" renders the
pledge unconstitutional is ridiculous to most Americans, who
strongly believe that expressions of religious belief should be
an integral part of public life. Yet although the public outcry
against this terrible ruling is understandable, the real issue
of religious freedom has not been addressed by Congress or
the media.

The judges who made this unfortunate ruling simply do not
understand the First amendment. It does not bar religious
expression in public settings or anywhere else. In fact, it
expressly prohibits federal interference in the free expression
of religion.

Far from mandating strict secularism in schools, it instead bars
the federal government from prohibiting the pledge of allegiance,
school prayer, or any other religious expression. The politicians
and judges pushing the removal of religion from public life are
violating the First amendment, not upholding it.

It’s important to recognize that the First amendment applies
only to Congress. Remember, the first sentence starts with
"Congress shall make no law..." This means that matters of
religious freedom and expression should be decided by the
states, with disputes settled in state courts. The First amendment
acts as a simple check on federal power, ensuring that the federal
government has no jurisdiction or authority whatsoever over religious

The phony "incorporation" doctrine, dreamed up by activist
judges to pervert the plain meaning of the Constitution, was
used once again by a federal court to assume jurisdiction over a
case that constitutionally was none of its business.
Similarly, the mythical separation of church and state doctrine
has no historical or constitutional basis.

Neither the language of the Constitution itself nor the legislative
history reveals any mention of such separation. In fact, the
authors of the First amendment- Fisher Ames and Elbridge
Gerry- and the rest of the founders routinely referred to
"Almighty God" in their writings, including the Declaration of
Independence. It is only in the last 50 years that federal courts
have perverted the meaning of the amendment and sought to
unlawfully restrict religious expression. We cannot continue
to permit our Constitution and our rich religious institutions
to be degraded by profound misinterpretations of the Bill of Rights.

Friday, November 23, 2007


here in 2007, i am the pastor of a baptist church, but it has only been in the last 4 years that being a pastor has even been on my radar.

i grew up the son of a music minister. i sang in *every* church musical from the time i was in elementary school through college. i received my undergraduate degree in music (classical voice).

aside from all of that, i sang and played guitar in different settings in front of countless people over the course of 5 years, including a stint in the nasvhille area playing music "for a living" (a meager one!) i even opened for derek webb a couple of times in 2004. i have played in churches, in bars, on college campuses, coffee houses, and outdoor events and concert series galore.

i say all of that only to make the point that as much music as i have been exposed to (classical, instrumental, christian, and "music not sold in christian stores" music), andrew peterson's "behold the lamb of god" is by far one of the most amazing albums i have ever heard in my life and would be on my desert island list without hesitation. (a list including the beatles, nirvana, U2, r.e.m., andrew osenga and caedmons call among others...its a long list...)

it is not a collection of old christmas 'favorites", it is all original material written by andrew himself, including the best song you have never heard - "labor of love".

the theology is sharp, the music is heart wrenching, and the lyrics themselves are some of the best songwriting i have ever heard. and not just a few of the songs.. the whole album is a work of literary art.(appearing on the album with peterson are such artists as derek webb, sandra mccracken, andrew osenga, randall goodgame, jill phillips, among others)

every music loving believer needs this album. it will make you listen to "christmas music" all year long because you can't get enough of it.
you will listen to it throughout the year because your heart will become so attached to it, you will find yourself *needing* to hear it -much like i did shortly after my son was born and my back went out. i was exhausted emotionally and mentally, so i would put my ipod on and gain much comfort from this album as i fell asleep each night.

i have written about this album here before, and i "implore" you again , go to andrew peterson's website and buy this album. it has had a profound impact on my life and many others. so much in fact, that 3 out of the last 4 years i have made the trip to nashville for the "behold the lamb of god" concert at the ryman auditorium in nashville to meet up with friends from north carolina, alabama, south carolina, kentucky, georgia, missouri, pennsylvania, delaware, texas, mississippi, arkansas, and even *MORE* places just to experience this music in person.

(peterson does tour this show, you can see if it is coming close to you here, including a free show in memphis tn. at bellvue!)

just trust me, buy this album. it will profoundly affect (and effect) the way you view not just christmas, but "the author of the faith that could make the mountains move".

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the outrage of religous intolerance

those crazy christians. more cries of "intolerance" are surely swirling over those texas skies in recent days.

a church in texas is taking some heat because it refused to allow an "interfaith" thanksgiving meal and prayer service involving christians, muslims, hindus, jews and other religions.
the gathering was scheduled to be on the property of hyde park baptist church, but upon receiving information that the event was to contain prayers of other religions (thereby to gods that would be considered false gods to the church who owned the property), the church pulled out of the event. (read the whole story here)

"They notified us four days before to say that we
could not have the Thanksgiving service on their
property," said [AAIM Interim Executive
Director]".They said they did not realize
that we'd have non-Christians at the service."
Church officials told her they thought "interfaith"
meant different sects of Christianity.

we cannot know what was said and the exact circumstances that went on that led to the churches decision to not allow the service to be held on their church property.

the wording in the above paragraph is crucial, and we must remember that the events being described are being interpreted by the person writing the article.

to say "they did not realize there would be non-christians at the service" sounds very bigoted and just plain mean. but i think it is safe to say that the concern was that there would be non-christian religions using a christian church property to pray to false gods-not just that "non-christians" would be there.
i would dare say that no true christian church refuses fact any true christian church that is behaving in a scriptural way would welcome non-believers into their midst every week and celebrate the fact that they came.

another phrase worth examining is "Church officials told her they thought "interfaith" meant different sects of Christianity."

when i was in college, there was a student center called "interfaith student center". it was a religious organization (like b.s.u./b.c.m. or r.u.f.) that did not have a denominational affiliation. the students that made up that organization were catholic, methodist, pentecostal, etc. but all of the groups represented were christian groups.
in addition, often times "interfaith worship services' or "bible studies" were advertised around campus. these, too, were made up of many denominations within christianity.

so it is not a stretch to say that when the church initially received a request for an interfaith thanksgiving prayer service on their property, that they assumed it was a group made up of different christian denominations.

should they have found out exactly who was in charge and what the event was before giving the ok? most definitely. but to simply state "the church thought interfaith meant different christian groups" is misleading and can come off as a condescending comment.

now.. what actually happened at the service?

The Interreligious Ministries service blended traditions
from the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Baha'i, Sikh
and Buddhist faiths, among others. It began with a procession
of leaders of a variety of religions, followed by customary
Muslim and Jewish calls to prayer, and a Christian bell
choir signaling the start of worship. There were offers of
gratitude to God in the Christian, Muslim and Hindu
traditions. A Buddhist ritual closed the hour-and-
15-minute celebration.

i am all for dialogue with other faiths. in fact, as christians we are called to share our faith with unbelievers. to do this well takes more than just handing someone a "tract and a weak-faced smile", but that we actually are able to talk *with* the person, not *at* them.

we should not be scared of people of otehr faiths. i have friends of ther faiths who have been great friends. so we should not close ourselves off from anyone who is "different".

so i am not at all against the idea of discussion and conversation, and even understanding with other religions.

but the line is drawn when anything resembling an act of worship or honor is given to another god. the muslim god is not the christian god. jews are not christians. hinduism and buddhism are false religions. this doesn't mean we cannot get along with people of other faiths, but to worship with them as other/false gods are given homage and prayed to is wrong.

we do nothing but muddy the gospel when we blur the lines of christianity in this way. we need to be clear that there is no god except the god of the bible (old and new testaments), that there is no salvation outside of faith in jesus christ, and that while we can get along with people of other faiths, we will not dishonor our god by participating in services where people worship false gods, and in doing so dishonor the one true god.

rather than join in on an inter-religious(a better term i think) service, perhaps we should take the time to befriend those of other faiths around us and share with them the good news of jesus christ so that they may spend an eternity in the presence of the glory of god. we may hurt their feelings by not joining in their worship, but perhaps the lord will save their soul because we don't.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"friends of god" his worst enemies?

[this is part 3 of a discussion started here]

"friends of god" is a documentary aired on HBO that explores some of the more visible, as well as lesser known "evangelicals" in america and their message.

HBO describes the show as follows: (its worth reading to get a feel for what the content was)

The estimated 50 to 80 million evangelical Christians
living in America today have become a formidable force
in our culture and democracy.

But the evangelical movement is a big tent. To try and
get a better understanding of the range and diversity
of this community, intrepid filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi
hit the road to meet some evangelicals and learn about
what their influence may mean for the future of the country

Pelosi ventures out over a year-long period for up-close and
personal encounters with some influential members of the
evangelical community, from Joel Osteen, the most-watched
TV minister in America, to pastor Ron Luce, the founder of
"Battle Cry," a concert tour that has drawn more than two
million young people to its events nationwide.

Pelosi also visits with a spectrum of others who embody a
wide range of evangelical experiences, among them visitors at
religion-themed parks, a Christian comic, creationist educators,
Liberty University students and activists in Washington, D.C.

...Pelosi travels to the red states and beyond to meet an array
of open and forthright evangelicals who represent a broad
sampling of the community. Many are pro-life and against
gay marriage, and believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible,
rebuking Darwinism.

Among them is Pastor Ted Haggard, who recently stepped down
as president of the 30-million strong National Association of
Evangelicals - the largest evangelical group in the U.S. - following
allegations that he had sex with a male prostitute and bought illegal
During her journey, Pelosi also visits with Rev. Jerry Falwell,
leader of The Moral Majority and chancellor and founder of
Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., who articulates a
commitment to change the country and urges his congregation
to "vote your values" in elections.
"Evangelicals are the largest minority block in this country," he says.
"It's not a majority, but I don't think you can win without them.
John Kerry learned that. Al Gore learned that. And Hillary will learn
that in 2008."

i happened to have the t.v. on while i was reading a book (i know.. i need background noise to concentrate..weird but true) and i heard the intro the program. i happened to have a blank tape in the v.c.r so i recorded as i watched. i sat in disbelief at how foolish it was.
my initial reaction was shock and disbelief, then frustration, then border line anger.

i watched it again about two weeks later after it had a chance to simmer and my reaction was similar, albeit with several audible laughs. it seemed it was better to laugh than throw a perfectly good television through a perfectly good window. fruits of the spirit and all.

you may be thinking that my anger was directed at the filmamker, alexandra pelosi (and yes, she is related to speaker of the house nancy pelosi, alexandra is her daughter-though i must point out that i did not know who the filmmaker was until after the second time i watched the program)

but in truth, all she did was ask people questions about what they believe and filmed them doing what they do. it wasn't the filmmaker that made evangelicals look so closed minded, ignorant, and absurd- it was [a lot of but not all of] the "evangelicals" that were interviewed.

i won't hit (much) on ted haggard as his downfall has been very public and it couldn't be ignored as he was interviewed for the film before the scandal broke (but unfortunately not before it was released with comment).

some of the"highlights" were
* the flagrant mixture of the gospel and "church" with american patriotism to the point where the two could not be distinguished. (this shameful aspect was the most prevalent theme in the film)

* laughable if it weren't so pathetic and shameful "gimmicks" such as a drive through bank window converted into a "drive through church".

* a christian "comic" who bemoans the fact that christians aren't allowed to perform in the broader media while pontificating and stomping his soap box about politics and patriotism and christianity - but not doing what stand up comedians do -namely doing stand-up comedy.

* a pastor, when confronted with a chance to explain the gospel to an unbelieving film crew instead unbelievably chooses to "explain" that christians have better sex lives than non-christians, and takes a random survey about the intimate details of some of his congregants bed room lives.

there are more and perhaps i'll cover them in more detail another time.

lest i be leveled with the charge that i cannot see anything positive, there were some neutral and even enduring moments in the documentary. but overall, if i were an unbeliever and saw this documentary, i would be stupefied that anyone would care what an evangelical thought or believed.

and i say this in light of the fact that scripture clearly teaches that the gospel is foolishness to the unbeliever and is not discerned by the darkened mind. (1Cor. 1:23; eph. 4:18)

but if i were an unbeliever, it wouldn't be the gospel i would reject, because amazingly enough, after an hour of examining what evangelicals believe, what comes across loudly is not that we as a human race are fallen creatures in need of a savior who calls all to accept the gift of eternal life and freely gives it to all who come.

unfortunately and sadly, the message that comes across loud and clear is that "evangelical christians" are mad that the liberals, homosexuals, and pro-choicers have taken over god's chosen country and we want it back.

this is a tragedy and i fear the repercussions could be severe. not because of a 60 minute HBO special, but because if this is really the prevailing view of "evangelicals" in our country...we are in big trouble... and we are failing in our mission as christians.

Monday, November 05, 2007

no life in the best life now

[this is a continuation of a discussion started here]

the first program i saw that made me wonder why anyone in our country, let alone the world, would take american evangelical christians seriously was the episode of 60 minutes that aired sunday night, october 14th.
one of the segments was devoted to joel osteen. now i can hear some of you saying "ok stephen, we know, you hate joel osteen... give the guy a break."

while i have discussed joel osteen in the past on this blog, it is not true that i hate him. in fact, i honestly believe that he is sincere in what he is doing and what he teaches. i also believe that he means no harm and has all of the best intentions in the world. i do not believe that he would deliberately lead people astray.

but sincerity can be sincerely wrong.

the fact that he has a large church is not the primary reason that i am so wary of him. some of my greatest influences(spurgeon, piper, etc.) pastor or pastored churches with thousands in attendance.

large crowds do not an evil preacher make.

the fact is, i do not hate joel osteen. i fear him. more accurately, i fear the effect he has on the thousands who are given a hopeless hope.

for starters, here is how 60 minutes started their program:

Joel Osteen's positive, upbeat can-do message has turned
him into America's most popular preacher and earned him
the title of most influential Christian in the country.
He pastors the biggest and fastest growing
American church and his services are the most watched
religious broadcast in the country

so what is it that america's "most popular preacher" and the "most influential christian in the country" teaches?

Osteen preaches his own version of what is known as the
"prosperity gospel" -- that God is a loving, forgiving
God who will reward believers with health, wealth and
happiness. It's the centerpiece of every sermon

as stated before on this blog, it is hard to reconcile this with the scores of passages that promise suffering and for some, torture and death for the sake of the gospel. what would the believers in third world countries who go to bed hungry or are persecuted by their government for their faith think of osteen's message that god will reward believers with health, wealth and prosperity?

quoting osteen, the interviewer notices what i hope you have noticed by now..

" [quoting osteen]
'To become a better you, you must be positive towards
yourself, develop better relationships, embrace the place
where you are.'[end quote]

Not one mention of God in that. Not one mention of
Jesus Christ in that," [the interviewer] remarks. "

"That's just my message. There is scripture in there
that backs it all up. But I feel like, Byron, I'm called
to help people…how do we walk out the Christian life?
How do we live it? And these are principles that can
help you. I mean, there’s a lot better people qualified
to say, 'Here’s a book that going to explain the scriptures
to you.' I don’t think that’s my gifting," Osteen says.

the problem is, pastors and preachers in the new testament are called to use scripture, to teach their hearers the word of god.
paul told timothy "preach the word" jesus commanded to "teach them to observe all things i have commanded". the new testament is full of passages speaking of "preaching" being the proclamation of the gospel to unbelievers and the reiterating of the need for the gospel in the lives of the believers. the new testament is a collection of books written to believers with its emphasis being the glory of god in the gospel of jesus christ. our need for the gospel isn't over after conversion!

so i guess therein lies the root of my problem with joel osteen. what he does is not preaching.
now you may ask... why does that matter?

here is why it matters.

"I like to see myself as a life coach, a motivator to
help them experience the life of God that God has
for them. People don’t like to be beat down and told '
You’ve done wrong... think that most people already
know what they’re doing wrong. And for me to get in
here and just beat ‘em down and talk down to ‘em,
I just don’t think that inspires anybody to rise higher.
But I want to motivate. I wanna motivate every person
to leave here to be a better father, a better husband, to
break addictions to come up higher in their walk with the Lord "

if joel were simply on the speaking circuit doing motivational speeches, with teh same content, at conferences, business luncheons and trainings, self help groups, etc., for the most part, i wouldn't bother being worried about the content of what he teaches.

but the rub comes in here. people don't go to motivational speakers with an idea that what they are hearing will make them right with god. the preacher doesn't have to "beat people down" with what they have done wrong. but he is called to make people aware that their sin separates them from god and nothing they can do will ever be enough to earn his favor or mercy. this opens the door for teaching of grace and mercy!

osteen's message is that we are good people who haven't reached the goodness of our internal potential because of external problems.
the bible's message is that the problem is internal and the remedy is external.. in christ.

these are two different messages.

the gospel as presented by jesus and his disciples is this "repent and believe".
yet osteen himself in this 60 minute special and in an interview with larry king has explicitly stated that he tries to steer clear of speaking of sin or guilt.
how can one in need of the gospel "repent" if they have never been told they are in need of it and what it *means* to be a sinner in need of repentance?

so how is it that those who need the gospel can hear it at one of osteen's services?

these verses from romans are quite troubling in light of what osteen *isn't* saying:

rom. 10:13-15
For "everyone who calls on the name of
the Lord will be saved." How then will they
call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in him of
whom they have never heard? And how are they to
hear without someone preaching?
And how are
they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written,
"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the
good news!"

suppose someone goes to osteen's church. the are motivated by what they hear. they may even take great steps in improving their lifestyle. that is a credit to the way osteen seeks to encourage his hearers to take responsibility for their lives.

but what if they are lost?

will they ever hear the call to "repent and believe"? do they even know their need for the gospel? or is what they hear convincing them that the secret to happiness lies within themselves and their own efforts? hopefully you can see how dangerous this is.

osteen is not unaware of his critics. he responds to the charge that his teaching is dangerous by saying:

"I don’t know what can be so dangerous about giving
people hope...Causing people to have better relationships.
I'm not leading them to some false God or something like that."

osteen may not be preaching a "false god", but is he building up the "self" to the detriment of the realization for the need for the gospel?

i occasionally will watch osteen's services late on sunday nights. its true that he will hold up his bible and say (with those in attendance repeating after him):

This is my Bible.
I am what it says I am.
I have what it says I have.
I can do what it says I can do.
Today I will be taught the Word of
I boldly confess my mind is alert, my heart is receptive.
I will never be the same.
I am about to receive the incorruptible, indestructible,
ever-living seed of the Word of God.
I will never be the same. Never, never, never.
I will never be the same. In Jesus name.

after reciting this (notice the power of what "i" can do), osteen goes on to give clever jokes, some anecdotes, and some encouraging comments after having read a passage of scripture. but he never preaches the word of god.

i am scared for the lost persons (perhaps in the hundreds or thousands) who attend lakewood's services or watch on television and think that because they have heard and sincerely believe what osteen has said, that their attendance or assent to the "message" makes them right with god.

so what you have is a 20 or 30 minute motivational talk that encourages people to try hard and not give up, that god wants good things for them, then says "if you want to become a christian say this..."

this is terrifying.

certainly the bible does speak to what are called "practical matters" of life; love, finances, work, relationships, etc. but from genesis to revelation the emphasis of scripture is living life for the glory of god. (1 cor. 10:31 for example). when the emphasis is always on "me", how can we expect anyone to know that the greatest joy in life is joy in christ?

john piper asks a great question in his book, god is the gospel

"Would you be happy to go to heaven... to have all
your family there, to be free from all diseases, to
have every kind of pleasure you desire, etc....
would you be happy to go to heaven... if God were not there?"

if the message heard week end and week out is absent of the call for finding fulfillment in joy in christ, how can the heaer answer yes to that question.. or even know that they should?

to be sure, christians are to have blessings and pleasure. but if at the root of our blessings and pleasure the joy is in the gifts and not the giver, then we are idolaters.

having our best life now is recognizing that any and all good things in our lives are the result of the grace and mercy of god, the chief of which is the salvation of undeserving sinners offered freely by god through the life, death, burial and resurrection of jesus christ. this is teh message of christianity. we can be better husbands and wives, better parents, better employees, have better relationships with our friends and families, even put in a lot of hard work and effort to improve our lifestyles. but if the foundation of our joy is not rooted in joy in christ, then how will we view our lives if all the "stuff" goes away? when thieves steal and moth and rust destroy?

our best life is the gospel- and the benefit comes not from our trying harder, but from our recognition of our inability to satisfy our deepest desires and the utter ability of christ to do just that. but not because of the lifestyle he can give us- but because of the life he gives.

so no, i do not think joel osteen is evil, or the anti-christ, or even a mean person. i mean no disrespect of his person and i do not call in to question his character.
but the message of joel osteen makes me fear for those who hear it and assume it is the gospel. rather than getting their "best life now.." they may be missing any chance of life at all.

(for previous discussions and further concerns regarding this matter see here and here)

are we serious?

in the 3 weeks since i had back surgery, i have spent a lot of time doing 2 things. reading and watching television. i have been able to read more than usual since i am at home 24/7 and i have enjoyed that. but the major difference is the amount of t.v. i have watched.

normally, my schedule is such that if i watch television at all, it is either early morning sportscenter and/or news, or late at night (around 11:30 pm) when i get home from work before i go to bed. before my back went out, i had, besides news and sports, 2 shows that i intentionally tried to watch (or at least record) each week. over the last three weeks i have been amazed at how easy it is to get sucked into television habits.

bare with me, this is not going to be a rant against television...(though i suppose that wouldnt be entirley bad)

there were two programs that i came across recently that made me wonder why anyone in this country would take evangelical christians seriously at all.

it wasn't due to an unfair summary of a biased news anchor, it wasn't because a reporter mis-represented the views of the estimated 50-80 million american evangelicals.

nope. what made evangelicals look so ridiculous were the evangelicals that did all of the talking.

the two programs were the october 14th edition of 60 minutes and a documentary on HBO called ""friends of god".

over the next few posts, i will review and explore what it means if the evangelicalism presented by these two programs are representative of the actual substance .

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

a mighty fortress

in honor of the 490th anniversary of the beginning of the reformation, i give you the words of a hymn by one of the greatest reformers, martin luther.

i encourage you to read these words carefully and thoughtfully with the realization of the facts of yesterdays post about martin luther and in light of the fact that he wrote these words as a man excommunicated from what the world knew as "the church" and a marked man under penalty of death.

our god is indeed a mighty fortress...may we all have the humility to take refuge inside his walls.


A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;His rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure,One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,His kingdom is forever.

Monday, October 29, 2007

christianity and october 31st

this will not be a post railing against the evil's of halloween and trick-or-treating. my son, too young to go door to door, will nonetheless be a "smashing" pumpkin for his first halloween. (yes, that was intentional...)

rather, i wanted to take this chance to again remind us about our heritage as christians, particularly protestant christians. if october 31st doesnt remind you of more than ghosts and goblins, then let this be the last year that is the case, and the first of a lifetime of writing "reformation day" on our calanders every october 31st.

[aside from this article, i also recommend a very short but informative book that every christian should own and read:
the reformation: how a monk and a mallet changed the world by stephen j. nichols]

from jim elliff's website- christian communications online

It was October 31st, 1517 in Wittenburg, Germany.
Martin grasped a hammer and a long piece of paper
coveredwith his writing. He walked out into
the street and straight overto the castle church door.
It was here that community messageswere often posted.

Martin nailed his 95 points of discussion on the door. He
onlywanted to lay out his newly discovered views of the
Bible to other church leaders in the Medieval Catholic church.
He thought he was free to do so even though his thoughts were
radical. After all, he was an Augustinian monk and a professor
of theology.

Martin called himself a “stinking bag of maggots,” and certainly
did not dream of being a leader in a revolution of thinking
in Germany and across Europe that shaped history in a
powerful way. But God had determined something far bigger
than the monk Martin Luther expected when he penned
those 95 Theses.

Without his knowledge someone printed his words on the
newly invented Gutenburg press, distributing it all over
Within a very few days, Martin found that he was the
subject of everyone’s thoughts. In the cathedrals and great
stone castles of his homeland, the pubs and peasant’s
cottageseveryone was talking about the views of Luther.
Withouta signal to announce it, the Protestant Reformation

Just what was the Protestant Reformation all about? What did
Luther and others protest?

The protesters were seeing something new about how a
personis accepted by God that is, new to them. They protested
that the church had been teaching the wrong view about the most
important issue of life. They discovered that the Bible says we
are not accepted on the basis of our religious deeds, or even
our good deeds along with our faith, but that we are accepted
before a holy God only through faith in Christ.

“Through faith alone in Christ alone” began to be heard all
over Europe. The people must transfer their confidence for
salvation in the church’s religious traditions to Christ alone.
The reformers wanted the people to return to the Bible’s plain
teaching on how to be a true Christian.
Because heaven andhell were at stake, the passions rose very high.
Many would be persecuted and some even killed for this truth.

But through it all, tens of thousands of people were converted to
Christ andwere assured of heaven.

We have been feeling the effects of the Protestant Reformation
ever since. Many of our churches have their historical roots in
the Reformation. Returning to the Bible as the source of understanding
about how we are to relate to God has shaped nations.
Perhaps no other religious period since the coming of Christ
has been so influential as this one.

But many people, and even many churches, have forgotten the
great lessons that were made so clear beginning on October 31, 1517.

What difference can this mean to you nearly 500 years
This passage from the Bible is a good place to start. It describes
God’s way to understand salvation:
For by grace you have been saved through faith,
andthat not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of
works, lest anyone should boast
. (Ephesians 2: 8-9)

Through these 500 years since the Protestant Reformation,
andthroughout time, men and women, youth and children have
come to Christ in this simple way through faith alone in
Christ alone. Placing our full confidence in Christ’s perfect life
and sacrificial death for sinful people is the only way to God.

It is not that good works are not important they are a result of
true faith in every believer’s life. But those works cannot save.
Salvation is a gift of grace, not a reward for trying to be good.

Like Martin Luther, you may come by faith alone to Christ
alone even now, all these years later. In fact, this is the very
way the first New Testament believers came to Him!

Copyright © 2002 Jim Elliff
Permission granted to copy in full
for non-profit use, including all
copyright information. Other uses require
written permission.

print out as many as you want for free here!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

the anti narnia

according to (a site that researches , verifies, and denies those claims we all get in our email boxes) regarding the new movie, the golden compass, set to release this holiday season is in fact based on a set of books by an author who says "my books are about killing god".

go here for the whole story.

now having said this, i am not saying that we should picket movie theatres who show this film, or start picket lines and write angry letters to the editor over this. i may still watch it to see what an atheist thinks about god in order to better understand and remind myself that when i speak about my "faith" or "god", that i can be speaking with very intelligent people with their own ideas and preconceived notions- and i need to be clear about the truth.

i pass this on simply because this link has sources for its quotes. one of the worst things we christians can do is start railing against a movie, book, etc. with claims that have no foundation.

so if a co-worker asks if you know anything about this movie, you can say "i know a little bit.." and share what you do know-not what we have heard from a frantic email forward with no support for its claims.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

i'll be "back"

well its official...
i am having back surgery this coming tuesday, oct. 16th.

ill be unable to sit for awhile, and as my laptop is less reliable than my old atari, i will be unable to be around these parts for a while.

but, i don't want anyone reading to abandon this place altogether, so please feel free to look through the archives. there are plenty of topics and posts from the past two years and comments can be made on any post, old or new.

since i wont be doing much beyond laying in bed for awhile, i hope to do quite a bit of reading. so in that spirit, may i recommend two books to you.

the first is mark dever's newest one the gospel and personal evangelism
this book just came out in the past few weeks or so. i picked up today and read about the first 40 pages in less than an hour. it reads quickly and is a pretty short book.
in it, dever discusses how to, why we don't evangelize and what is, and what isn't evangelism.
it is a very helpful book and very practical. for less than $10, i "commend" it to you.

the second is a daily devotional book. it is divided into over 100 daily meditations. they are kind of like "brain starters" for the day. i have come to it many times and use it often when i need to spend time with the lord in prayer, but don't know where to start. it also makes a good small group discussion starter.
the book is taste and see: savoring the supremacy of god in all of life , and the author is john piper.

i hope everyone enjoys a blessed month or so ahead, and that the passion for jesus christ will so consume your heart and mine, that the gospel will spread everywhere we go.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

moma's, dont let your babies grow up dressed like man eaters

an excellent free printable brochure for young ladies speaking to dressing in a way that honors the lord and doesn't knowingly create temptation for men. (without dictating your wardrobe)
get it here

while for the most part i think this list is right on, i am sure there are some aspects that we could argue are a bit too demanding. i would love to get some discussion going about this in the comments...


"Modesty Check"
Carolyn Mahaney
Nicole Whitacre
Kristin Chesemore
Janelle Bradshaw
“…Women should adorn themselves in respectable
apparel, with modesty and self-control ...
with what is proper for women
who profess godliness—with good works
~1 Timothy 2:

Start with a Heart Check…
“How does a woman discern the sometimes fine line between proper dress
and dressing to be the center of attention? The answer starts in the intent
of the heart. A woman should examine her motives and goals for the way
she dresses.
Is her intent to show the grace and beauty of womanhood? Is
it to reveal a humble heart devoted to worshipping God? Or is it to call
attention to herself and flaunt her beauty? Or worse, to attempt to lure
men sexually?
A woman who focuses on worshipping God will consider carefully how she
is dressed, because her heart will dictate her wardrobe and appearance.”
-John MacArthur

* What statement do my clothes make about my heart?
*In choosing what clothes to wear today, whose attention do I desire
and whose approval do I crave? Am I seeking to please God or
impress others?

*Is what I wear consistent with biblical values of modesty, selfcontrol
and respectable apparel, or does my dress reveal an inordinate
identification and fascination with sinful cultural values?

*Who am I trying to identify with through my dress? Is the Word of
God my standard or is the latest fashion?

*Have I asked other godly individuals to evaluate my wardrobe?

*Does my clothing reveal an allegiance to the gospel or is there any
contradiction between my profession of faith and my practice of

Before you leave the house, do a modesty check.
(What aresome things you should look for as you stand
in front of your mirror?)

From the top…
*When I am wearing a loose-fitting blouse or scoop-neck, can I see
anything when I lean over? If so, I need to remember to place my
hand against my neckline when I bend down.

*If I am wearing a button-down top, I need to turn sideways and
move around to see if there are any gaping holes that expose my
chest. If there are, I’ve got to grab the sewing box and pin
between the buttons.
(The same check is needed if I am wearing a sleeveless shirt.)

*When I move around, can I see my bra? If I do, I need the pins

*Am I wearing a spaghetti-strap, halter, or sheer blouse? Not even
pins will fix this problem! Most guys find these a hindrance in
their struggle with lust. It’s time to go back to the closet.

*Can I see the lace or seam of my bra through my shirt? In this
case, seamless bras are a better option.

More key questions:
*Does my shirt reveal any part of mycleavage?
*Does my midriff show when I raise my hands above
my head?
*Is my shirt just plain too tight?
If the answer to any oneof these questions is yes,
then I need to change my outfit.

Moving on down…
Does my midriff (or underwear) show when I bend
over or lift my hands? If so, is it because my skirt or
my pants are too low? Either my shirt needs to be longer
or I need to find a skirt or pants that sit higher.

*I also have to turn around to see if what I’m wearing is too tight
around my back side, or if the outline of my underwear shows. If so,
I know what I have to do!

*And as for shorts – I can’t just check them standing up. I need to see
how much they reveal when I sit down. If I see too much leg, I need
a longer pair.

*The “sit-down” check applies to my skirt or dress as well. And I must
remember to keep my skirt pulled down and my knees together when
I’m seated.

*And speaking of skirts, watch out for those slits! Does it reveal too
much when I walk? Pins are also helpful here.

*Before I leave, I need to give my skirt a sunlight check. Is it seethrough?
If so, I need a slip.

* Finally, I must remember to do this modesty check with my shoes on.
High-heels make my dress or skirt appear shorter.
And don’t forget – this applies to formal wear as well.

*A note on swimwear: It’s not easy but you can still strive to be
modest at the pool or beach. Look for one-piece bathing suits that
aren’t cut high on the leg and don’t have low necklines.
Modesty Check © 2002 Sovereign Grace Ministries
Republished in Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood
by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre (Crossway Books)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

why "religion" is ridiculous

[note: this is an older story, but i have had
it filed away as a topic for awhile.]

"2 + 2 = 4. 2+2 also equals 1."

"i believe that gravity will pull me towards the earth if i hurl myself off of any object at any hight (assuming i have no assistance). i believe gravity will not pull me towards the earth if i hurl myself off of any object at any hight. (assuming i have no assistance)

"i believe that wearing the color purple is a sin, forbidden by god. i also believe the color purple is what god wants me to wear every day."

all of these statements are absurd. they are self -contradictory, and both assertions in each statement cannot be true at the same time.

i have another one.. except this time i am not making this up.

there is a priest in seattle who claims to be a christian and muslim.

read the story here

christianity (orthodox and historical )claims that jesus is deity, who came to give his life as a ransom for sin, died on a cross, rose again, and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of god the father. christianity teaches that the only way to heaven is the belief that jesus is god, and belief in his work as the christ. we know this from the only inspired revelation from god, the bible (66 books of the old and new testaments)

islam teaches : (from; a site for islamic information and products)

The Islamic and Christian views of Jesus:
a comparison
The person of Jesus or Isa in Arabic (peace be upon
him) is of great significance in both Islam and Christianity.
However, there are differences in terms of beliefs about the
nature and life occurrences of this noble Messenger.

Source of information about Jesus in Islam :
Most of the Islamic information about
Jesus is actually found in the Quran.
The Quran was revealed by God to
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings
be upon him), and memorized and
written down in his lifetime.
Today, anyone who calls him or herself a
Muslim believes in the complete authenticity
of the Quran as the original revealed guidance
from God.

Indeed, they have disbelieved who have said,
“God is the Messiah (Jesus), son of Mary.”
The Messiah said, “Children of Israel, worship
God, my Lord and your Lord. Whoever associates
partners in worship with God, then God has forbidden
Paradise for him, and his home is the Fire
(Hell). For the wrongdoers,there will be no helpers
(Quran, 5:72)

"The Messiah (Jesus), son of Mary, was no more
than a Messenger before whom many Messengers
have passed away; and his mother adhered wholly
to truthfulness, and they both ate food (as other
mortals do). See how We make Our signs clear to
them; and see where they are turning away!"

(Quran 5:75)

"Say: "God is Unique! God, the Source [of everything].
He has not fathered anyone nor was He fathered,
and there is nothing comparable to Him!"

(Quran 112:1-4)

"Such was Jesus, the son of Mary;
it is a statement of truth, about which
they vainly dispute. It is not befitting to the
majesty of God, that He should beget a son.
Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter,
He only says to it, ‘Be' and it is"

(Quran 19:34-35)

"“They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him,
but they thought
they did.”
(Quran 4:156)

so what are the beliefs of the woman who claims she is both a christian and a practicing muslim?
from the article:

She believes the Trinity is an idea about God
and cannot be taken literally.

She does not believe Jesus and God are the same,
but rather that God is more than Jesus.

She believes Jesus is the son of God
insofar as all humans are the children of God,
and that Jesus is divine, just as all humans are
divine — because God dwells in all

What makes Jesus unique, she believes, is that
out of all humans, he most embodied being filled
with God and identifying completely with God's will.

She does believe that Jesus died on the cross and was
resurrected, and acknowledges those beliefs conflict with
the teachings of the Quran. "That's something I'll find a
challenge the rest of my life," she said.

She considers Jesus her savior. At times of despair,
because she knows Jesus suffered and overcame suffering, "
he has connected me with God," she said.

That's not to say she couldn't develop as deep a relationship with
Mohammed. "I'm still getting to know him," she said.

consider richard- a man who is 6" 2', 195 lbs. he has brown hair and green eyes. he wears a t-shirt and blue jeans to a state university. he studies american history because he grew up near a civil war battlefield. his great-great grandparents parents were both born and raised in america. he loves baseball, apple pie, and country music.

for all intents and purposes we would all probably agree that this guy is an american.

unless we throw in the fact that he was born and raised in canada and moved to america with his canadian parents when he was 8 yrs. old.

richard is not an american citizen.

according to the u.s. citizenship and immigration services :

Most people become U.S. citizens in one of two ways:
By birth, either within the territory of the United States or
to U.S. citizen parents, or by Naturalization

richard looks, sounds and "acts" american. he speaks the language, knows the history, and has tremendous affection for america. yet he is not a citizen.

the same holds true for christianity. you are only a christian if you believe the teachings of christianity, including that there is one god in three persons- father son and holy spirit. through jesus christ the son, and only through him, is there salvation because of his life, death, and resurection. there are no other ways to god. (god and allah are not the same person, see here)

if this is rejected, then what is left is a person who may love the history of christianity, christian ideals, participate in christian activities, owns and has read the bible, but is not a christian.

words have meaning. words have a definition. if you are a christian then you believe and adhere to the beliefs of christianity, which are exclusive to any other religion.

anything else is simply "religion", in which there is no salvation.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

does god repent like a man?

here is an article by dr. john piper addressing a specific issue and scripture used by open theists to prove their position. i hope you find it useful and helpful.

God Does Not Repent Like a Man
By John Piper.
© Desiring God. Website:

After Saul disobeys Samuel, God says, "I regret [= repent]
that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from
following Me and has not carried out My commands"
(1 Samuel 15:11). Some have argued that since God
"repents" of things he has done, therefore he could
not have foreseen what was coming. Else why would
he repent or regret, if he knew in advance
the consequence of his decision?

However, this is not a compelling argument against God's
foreknowledge. First of all, the argument assumes that God
could not, or would not, lament over a state of affairs he
himself chose to bring about. That not true to human
experience; and more importantly, God's heart is
capable of complex combinations of emotions infinitely more
remarkable that ours. He may well be capable of lamenting
over something he chose to bring about.

Not only that, God may also be capable of looking back on
the very act of bringing something about and lamenting
that act in one regard, while affirming it as best in another
regard. For example, if I spank my son for blatant
disobedience and he runs away from home because
I spanked him, I may feel some remorse over the spanking -
not in the sense that I disapprove of what I did, but in the
sense that I feel some sorrow that spanking was a
necessary part of a wise way of dealing with this situation,
and that it led to his running away. If I had it to do over again,
I would still spank him. It was the right thing to do. Even knowing
that one consequence would be alienation for a season, I
approve the spanking, and at the same time regret the
spanking. If such a combination of emotions can accompany
my own decisions, it is not hard to imagine that God's infinite
mind may be capable of something similar.

Now the question is: Does the Bible teach that God laments
some of his decisions in the sense that I have described above
(which does not imply that He is ignorant of their future
consequences), or does the Bible teach that God laments
some of his decisions because he did not see what was

The answer is given later in 1 Samuel 15. After God says in
verse 11, "I repent that I have made Saul king," Samuel says
in verse 29, as if to clarify, "The Strength of Israel will not lie
nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent" (KJV).

The point of this verse seems to be that, even though there is
a sense in which God does repent (verse 11), there is another
sense in which he does not repent (verse 29). The difference
would naturally be that God's repentance happens in spite of
perfect foreknowledge, while most human repentance happens
because we lack foreknowledge. God's way of "repenting"
is unique to God: "God is not a man that he should repent"
(the way a man repents in his ignorance of the future).

For God to say, "I feel sorrow that I made Saul king," is not
the same as saying, "I would not make him king if I had it to
do over." God is able to feel sorrow for an act in view of
foreknown evil and pain, and yet go ahead and will to do
it for wise reasons. And so later, when he looks
back on the act, he can feel the sorrow for the act that was leading
to the sad conditions, such as Saul's disobedience.

Hence we have our precious fighter verse in Numbers 23:19 -
"God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that
He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has
He spoken, and will He not make it good?" I say it is precious,
because here God's commitment to his promises hangs on his
not repenting like a man. In other words, God's promises are
not in jeopardy, because God can foresee all circumstances, he
knows that nothing will occur that will cause him to take them back.

Resting in the confidence of God's all-knowing promises,

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"a god who cannot know the future cannot control the future"

here is the final segment of the interview with dr. ron nash on open theism.
after this post, i will wrap up our discussion on open theism with one or two more posts. feel free to make comments or ask questions to regarding ideas or issues that have or have not been addressed so far.

Open Theism: An Interview with Dr. Ronald Nash
part 3

Michael Collender: Thank you Dr. Nash. I have a
few final questions for you. Now Greg Boyd, in his book
God of the Possible writes,

"Next to the central doctrines of the Christian faith,
the issue of whether the future is exhaustibly settled
or partially open, is relatively unimportant. It is
certainly not a doctrine that Christians should ever
divide over."

Now, Dr. Nash, is open theism merely an intra-church debate
about the future, and thus, in the words of Dr. Boyd, relatively
unimportant, or is more at stake?

Ron Nash: With all due respect to Dr. Boyd, this
is a move that has been made by every heretic in the
history of the church.
When the Jehovah's witnesses or other Unitarians have said
the deity of Christ is not something that we should fight about.
Or the substitutionary atonement. This is a classic move.

Now I'm not imputing heresy to my friends who are open theists
in any kind of straightforward way, but once we know where the
church has always stood on these issues, when someone comes
along with what amounts to a new way of understanding these
things and says "now this is nothing to really get excited about,
don't split churches over this, don't leave my church" , then I'm
sorry, this is a matter where we have to take a stand. The last
group of people who's advice we follow on this matter are the
people who are deviating and departing from the church's
long-held position on this.

MC: What exactly is at stake in this issue?

RN: Good question. What is at stake is, number one, our
understanding of God and the kind of God upon whom our
faith is based. What's also at stake here is our firm belief,
or what is the belief of people who are not open theists, that
God is sovereign, and that God is in control of all of human
history, and God will bring His will to pass. One of the points
that I argue in my book Life's Ultimate Questions is that a God
who cannot know the future cannot control the future. And thus,
if we follow the open theist very far down his road, we end up
with a God who cannot give us the confidence that we need to
believe that His will will prevail in human history.

We're dealing, frankly, as I sometimes say to audiences; when
I understand with the God of open theism, I want to pray for that
God because He needs help. Right now the world series starts this
week. The God of open theism has no idea which team is going to
win the world series. The God of open theism who's going to win
the battle against terrorism. That is not my God. That is a different
God. And it is not the God of the Christian worldview.

The very integrity, the heart of our faith is at stake with this
issue, and this is not a minor, trivial matter that says "well, you can
continue to go to this church and worship this alternate God and so on".

MC: You said before that you didn't want to call this heresy.
But is sounds like you're being very kind to your friends who
would hold this position as well.

RN: There are two kinds of heresy. One kind of heresy is illustrated
by a serious error called "Socinianism". And many of the beliefs of
Socinianism are actually taught by these open theists. Their position
is not new. The Socinians lived during the years of the Reformation
and they denied God's knowledge of future contingent events, but
they also then followed that belief down the road to other beliefs
that were specifically heretical.
So one kind of heresy is where you really are out to change the nature
of the Christian faith in to a totally different religion. I'm not accusing
open theists of that.

But there is a second kind of heresy where, without knowing it,
without thinking it, maybe because they're afraid to think through
thing to their end, good people, honorable people, say things that
entail conclusions that are utterly inconsistent with the historic
Christian faith. And that's where I think the open theists are.

MC: What should we as a church do then?

RN: Well, in about a month the Evangelical Theological Society
is going to meet in Colorado Springs and the members of the
ETS are going to debate the question of whether people who
believe this way are holding beliefs that are inconsistent with
the doctrinal stance of the Evangelical Theological Society. And
if their beliefs are inconsistent with the doctrinal stance of the
Evangelical Theological Society, then they should leave.

If the ETS does not reach the proper conclusion here, I think it's
time for a whole lot of people to leave the ETS because it clearly
will no longer stand for the theological foundation upon which it
was based. If that means there is a battle within the church, well,
that's hardly new. The reason the church got to this point is that
when errors crept into the church over the centuries, brave and
honorable people stood up and said "God help me, I can
do no other",to quote Martin Luther there.
Every time the church - Christians, leaders, thinkers - have failed
to take a stand against error, one error multiplies into another.

During the 18th century, people who claimed to believe in the
inerrancy of the Bible in New England began to deny the Deity
of Christ and they did so on the basis of a spurious of false
interpretations of Scripture. That heresy was not rooted out,
and before you knew it all of those congregational churches in
New England that had failed to take a stand decades earlier
were committed to a full blown Unitarian and Universalist
position. You nip it in the bud and if you don't, then the errors
that are implied in this position will eventually creep in and take
over, and then we've lost a serious battle.

Friday, September 21, 2007

open theism interview part 2

part 2 of 3, an interview with philosopher dr. ron nash on open theism. (see previous post for part one)

Open Theism: An Interview with Dr. Ronald Nash

part 2

Michael Collender: Now stepping from philosophy to the
way that we handle Scripture, open theists claim their God is
very much the God of the Bible and they sight passages from
Scripture that teach that God can change His mind.
Passages like 1 Samuel 15:35, "And the LORD regretted
(literally repented) that He had made Saul king over Israel".
It seems this passage and others, like Genesis 5 and 6 teach that
God can make choices that He regrets; that He can be surprised.
Now, how can historic Christian orthodoxy deal with passages like

Ron Nash: There's no need for a new answer. The church, ever
since the Reformation and probably some of the predecessors of
the Reformation, clearly recognized that when human beings use
language about God there will be times when they cannot
use language in a literal way.

For example, when Jesus said "This is My body", He did not
mean that text to be interpreted in a straightforward or literal
way. Likewise when He said "This is My blood" or "I am the door".
What we call non-literal or anthropomorphic (human-like) language
attributed to God appears throughout the Bible. And it creates far
fewer problems with respect to passages like those you sighted when
we recognized that they are not to be taken in a straightforward way.

In fact, what's interesting is that many of the passages cited by open
theists as support for their position turn out to be passages where the straightforward interpretation of the passage leads to a disaster.
Let me give you a couple of examples, and these examples appear
in their [open theists] writings.

In Genesis 22:12, as we know, God told Abraham to
take his son Isaac up to the top of the mount and there offer him
as a sacrifice. And God says "Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not
do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, since you
have not withheld from me your son, your only. . ."

Surprise! Here is a classic case where open theists say "God learned
something new. God is surprised." But notice the implications here.
This is what open theists can't trace out. Remember, open theists
say God can't know the future, but they insist, as they had better,
that God can know both the past and the present. But the open
theists' straightforward reading of Genesis 22:12 actually implies
that poor God couldn't know the present. He did not know at that
moment that Abraham really trusted Him. God's knowledge was
lacking not only with respect to the future, it was lacking with
respect to the present. And moreover, it was also lacking with
respect to the past.

Now clearly, when our God can't know the past and the present,
He really is a finite deity, and that is an implication of their position.
Let me give you one more text here.

Consider Genesis 3:9 where God is seeking Adam in the garden and
the verse reads "Then the LORD called to the man and said to him,
'Where art thou?'." Now, even when I was a 12 year old kid in Sunday
school, I knew that was not literal language. But open theists have to
interpret that as literal language because they want to attack the full
compliment of God's knowledge.

But the problem again here is that if you take that passage literally,
God didn't know where Adam was at that particular moment in God's
present. In fact, God didn't even know His geography, where Adam
was in the garden. So these people are really playing games, I suggest.
They condemn us for not interpreting passages straightforwardly,
when they themselves can't do the same thing.

Now listen; it is wrong to interpret any of these anthropomorphic
texts to say that God learns something new from changed situations.
It is wrong to interpret them to say that God changed His mind.
Instead of understanding them in that way, we should recognize
that what may seem to be changes of mind may actually be just new
stages in the working out of God's plan.

An example of this would be the offering of salvation to the Gentiles.
Well, as part of God's original plan it represented a rather sharp break
with what had preceded. Some other apparent changes of mind in the
Bible are changes of orientation resulting from man's move into a
different relationship with God.

God didn't change when Adam sinned. Rather, man had moved into
God's disfavor. This works the other way as well.
Take the case of Ninevah. God said "Forty days and Ninevah will be
destroyed unless they repent". Okay, Ninevah repented and it was
spared. But it was man that had changed and not God that had

Now philosophers have a technical term for this; they call it a
"Cambridge change." That is, it's a situation where we use the
language of change but no real serious or essential change has
taken place.

Now, if I have the time, let me address the passage in 1 Samuel.
Actually, let me address two passage because they're both relevant
to this. And if your people hear nothing else from me today other
than the books they ought to read they ought to pay attention to the
next three or four minutes.

Let me quote Numbers 23:19; "God is not a man, that He
should lie, nor a son of man that He should change His mind.
Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?"

Now this is what people should notice; two serious errors are
combined in that verse - changing one's mind, and lying. And here
is the implication. If God can change His mind, then He should also
be able lie. You can't separate those.

Jump from Numbers 23:19 to 1 Samuel 15:29. It's the same kind
of parallel that's set up, "He who is the glory if Israel does not
lie or change His mind. For He is not a man that He should change
His mind". What's interesting is that's the same text from which the
earlier passage you quoted comes from.

Now here is the interpretive principle that needs to be
applied here. If God can really change, then God can also lie.
You can't separate those. But if there is a literal, straightforward
text in Scripture that tells us that God can't do one of those things,
then it follows that He cannot do the other thing either. And
Hebrews 6 makes it very clear in straightforward, literal,
non-anthropomorphic language that God cannot lie.

So if it is impossible for God to lie, as Scripture tell us it is, then
it must also be impossible for God to change His mind. And therefore,
these texts that appear to tell us that God can change His mind, are anthropomorphic texts which should not be taken in a straightforward

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

an interview on open theism

to close out the discussion of open theism, i will post over the next few days the transcript from a radio interview with dr. ron nash (posted at monergism)

philosopher ronald h. nash (phd from syracuse university), who passed away in march of 2006, was a professor at western kentucky university, reformed theological seminary, and the southern baptist theological seminary. he authored many books which are widely read in many social and academic settings.

part 1

Open Theism: An Interview with Dr. Ronald Nash

Michael Collender
: Representing the traditional
Christian view of God we have with us Dr. Ronald Nash,
professor of philosophy and theology at Reformed
Theological seminary. Author and co-author of over 30
books and numerous journal articles, Dr. Nash has
sought to apply Christian theology as the foundation of his
study in both history and philosophy. Within
this great body of work he has also written
on open theism and its consequences on our view of history,
theology, and ultimately God Himself. Dr. Nash, thank you for
joining us.

Dr. Ronald Nash: Glad to talk.

MC: First off, what is your assessment of open theism?

RN: Well, as a part of my answer to that general
let me advise your listeners about what I always tell students
is an important process of coming to grips with any difficult
subject and that is, to read the best material available on the
subject. Fortunately there have just been three or four very
good books published on the subject of open theism. One of
them just reached my desk yesterday as a matter of fact.

They all ought to be available from
or and it just makes sense
to me that anyone who really is serious about this stuff
ought to get some of these books and read them. Let me
quickly tick off those titles and the authors.

The first, and I think the best of these books is titled
God's Lesser Glory and the author is Bruce Ware. He
happens to be a colleague of mine, he teaches at Southern
Baptist Seminary in Louisville where I also teach.

The second book is written by another colleague of
mine who teaches at Reformed Seminary in Florida,
which is where I teach as well, that book is called No
Other God
and the author is John Frame.

There's another book that's a compilation of essays edited
by Doug Wilson, it's title is Bound Only Once.

And the fourth book is written by one of my favorite
authors, the title is Life's Ultimate Questions and some
of the points that I'll make today are going to appear in
that book.

Now, one of my major problems with open
theism is that I think the proponents of this view fail
to track out the logical consequences of their beliefs.

Now they are hardly alone in this. This is a rather common
practice. Now what I mean by tracing out the logical complications
is looking at your beliefs and then asking if that is true, then what
else follows logically from it?

Now let me show you how that works. Open theists proclaim
that God cannot know future contingent events. That is the
fancy way of referring to events in the future, which result
from human beings making free choices. Now that claim
sounds innocent enough, but let me show you some of the
consequences of that.

Think back to the moment when Jesus Christ was dying
on the cross. Incidentally, let me tell you what John Sanders,
one open theist, says about the cross. He says that God the
Father had no knowledge that His Son would end up being
crucified. And at that particular moment, when God the Father
looks down from heaven and sees His Son hanging on the cross,
John Sanders put it in language somewhat like this, "Oops,
I guess we have to switch to plan B."

Because, you see, to these open theists, God is completely
surprised by any large number of events that happened
in the world. But this poor, impotent deity, who is described
by the open theists, this finite God of open theism, had no way
of knowing at the time that Jesus was dying if even one human
being would accept His Son as Savior.
This poor, impotent deity faced the possibility that the suffering
of His Son on the cross would bring about the salvation of no one.

Another open theist, who happens to be a friend of mine, Bill
Hasker, teaches at a college in Indiana, says that the very fact
that there is a church of God is a matter of God's dumb blind luck
because God had no way of controlling whatever outcome might
follow the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross.

Now I believe all of these consequences are absurd, but I believe
that they all follow logically from the presuppositions of open
theists, and they constitute at least one major reason why
Christians should be looking elsewhere than open theism for
the answers of their world view to questions like the ones we've
been considering on this tape.

MC: Thank you Dr. Nash. Some open theists accuse
historic Christianity of borrowing its view of God from the
Greeks. And in your book The Gospel and the Greeks you
address the connection between Greek culture and the Christian
Are they right? Did Christianity borrow its view of God
from the Greeks?

RN: What really troubles me about this allegation, that
orthodox theology has been strongly influenced by Greek
thought, is that in this particular case it is open theism that
manifests the influence of Greek thinking.

The idea of a finite God; that is the territory of Plato and
Aristotle. If you're looking at least at the idea that a
supreme being cannot know the future, that comes directly
from Aristotle.

So far as I know that particular idea was originated by
Aristotle in his book on interpretation. Aristotle asked
the question "Will there be a sea-fight tomorrow?"
One navy is going to attack another navy and which fleet will win?
And Aristotle says there is no way for any being to know that
because no proposition about the future can be true.

Therefore if the proposition "The Greek navy will win the
battle tomorrow" is offered by someone and it's a proposition
about the future, that proposition cannot be true, that proposition
cannot be false until tomorrow. Therefore no one can know it.

And that constitutes one of the major reasons why open theists
like Clark Pinnock and John Sanders and a lot of these other
fellows say that poor God can't know the future. Well, I'm
sorry; if God can't know the future, then God cannot predict
the future.

Now I'm confident that a large number of your
listeners are immediately thinking of all kinds of prophecies
in the Old Testament and New Testament in which God
Almighty predicts precisely what will happen in the future,
and that's something that can't be possible in a universe in
which God cannot know future, free human actions.

So if we ask the question "will the real Greek please
stand up?" I think it would be the Open Theists that
have to rise to their feet on this issues.