Sunday, June 24, 2018

On the Lighter Side - A Few Limericks Part ll







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there once was a preacher named chester
his discomfort with a sister did fester 
she assailed him with gripes
and pretentious unkind swipes 
till he wrestled her and 2 of 3 times he did best her 
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there once was a presbyterian named  freddie 
on the westminster confession rock steady 
then a baptist convinced him of immersion 
a wonderful doctrinal conversion 
and now for the london confession he is ready 
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a best selling novelist was simply amazing
always so clever in all of  his phrasing
his books so  involved
but at reader's digest they evolved
to versions diminished by editorial paraphrasing 
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the limerick is never mysterious
won't make you mad, crazy or delirious 
lighten up and enjoy
be a good girl or boy
and settle for being much less serious
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I
love my pastor tim 

serious but never grim
He preaches with passion 
no slave to theological fashion 
like one under the shadow of the broad brim*
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*Spurgeon









Saturday, June 23, 2018

On the Lighter Side - A Few Limericks

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there once was a Calvinist named E. Lection
known for very excellent theological reflection
the Armininians He bested
as the Scriptures they wrested
into a hopelessly humanistic direction
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who would want to be a preacher?
an often misunderstood and abused creature
spiritually analytic
too often thought parasitic
they say the last word of the sermon his best feature
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it's a good thing to be reformed
to be so theologically informed
but for many the doctrine brings frowns
oh! they say that brings me so down!
thus their understanding remains sadly deformed
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I once knew a baptist preacher from st. paul
stood only a diminutive 3 foot tall
he was only a dwarf
but with a voice booming like Worf
his congregation hardly noticed at all
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the King Version I confesseth I prefereth
methinks it is  the most splendoreth
take it under advisement
that all of the modern revisement
shall never be thought to be so soundeth 
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how can you baptize a baby?
oh but that seems so very shady!
no command from the word
much better deferred
for a believer even if eighty!
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the preacher droning up in his perch
glanced sternly over the assembled church
bro. franklin was snoring
'cause the sermon was boring
so he engaged in inner eyelid research

Friday, June 22, 2018

Sinless Perfection

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In my 46 years in the faith I have encountered a wide variety of Christians and Christian pretenders who sometimes advance truly peculiar doctrinal errors. Perhaps the oddest was a man who pastored a small church in Charleston, S.C. who believed that the gospel was only preached if you used the words, "death, burial and resurrection." Literally used those words. Without using the  phrase "death, burial and resurrection" - no matter what else you said or preached you had neglected the gospel. You could preach and teach evangelically  in exhaustive detail from the gospels or epistles; you could introduce 100 salvific related verses by memory - but if you did not use the magic phrase "death, burial and resurrection," you had not preached the gospel. I've long since forgotten his rationale, but I would rather suppose it was a very narrow application of the verse below:

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 1Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

There have been many others I've encountered who have advanced assorted errors, some of them quite peculiar or esoteric - but generally, doctrinal misunderstandings tend to fall into predictable and frequent patterns. Of all the "standard" doctrinal errors represented in various marginal (and sometimes, mainline) churches the one I find most singularly hard to wrap my head around is the doctrine of "sinless perfection." (Hereafter abbreviated as SP.)

What is SP exactly? Perfectionism is the view that some Christians are able to realize a life of moral perfection and absolute sinlessness... a sort of plateau of spiritual perfection  on which the Christian life is lived flawlessly and faultlessly.  It is often seen as a manifestation of a "second work of grace." This error proceeds from at least one major theological misunderstanding.  Sin - it's  nature, pervasiveness and relentlessness is denied or minimized. The depth, the subtleness, and the extensiveness of man's propensity to sin is simply not grasped by the SP crowd. The "graver" sins may be acknowledged, but the ongoing secret sins, the "little" sins of the heart, the dark disposition and the naturally selfish nature of fallen man is simply ignored or not recognized. Sin is so restricted in it's definition that the SP believer convinces himself he has moved beyond it. No, he has not murdered anyone. No, he has not committed adultery. No he has not practiced theft. But does he sometimes despise others in his heart, ogle his attractive female coworker or steal time from his employer with a shabby & inattentive work ethic? If he has, he is NOT sinless. He merely has, in regrettable spiritual insensitivity failed to recognize these sins of his  mind and heart.

The SP proponent who claims to live without sin must also claim perfect obedience. If one is not sinning, it is simply axiomatic that one is absolutely obedient to the Lord in every facet of life. There is no middle ground between holiness and sin. Every human behavior is either righteous or unrighteous. None of Adam's sons or daughters live in neutrality. Every relationship, every thought, every endeavor must be marked by perfect obedience. To not have perfect obedience is to manifest disobedience, and disobedience is sin.

Some months ago I encountered a devotee of SP. In the course of a lengthy theological discussion he informed me he had not sinned for over a dozen years, and in fact could not and would not sin as a Christian. Almost immediately I realized he was either devoid of honest introspection  and/or he had no clue what sin really meant. As I continued to press him, he became a bit angry and called me a decidedly non-flattering word not found in my concordance and more familiar to me from my Navy experience.  A moment after that flash of anger I asked him if his anger at me was righteous anger and without sin, or unrighteous anger and sinful. The question only appeared to exasperate him - and he walked away without answering. It may be I ruined his perfect dozen years and started him at day one of perfection again. He had established his understanding with a misuse of I John 3:9. Perhaps he now needed to be saved again, for he had told me that if he ever did sin, it would manifest he was lost.

As Christians growing in grace and understanding -  our sin hopefully diminishes, but it is as nearby as the next unguarded thought. Only death will bring permanent release from sin. We have that certain expectation. However, we must never ever capitulate to remaining sin, and rather avail ourselves of God's mercy and forgiveness in confronting and dispelling it. 

1st Nice 3:16

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Buckle yourself in. Tighten your seat belt. Affix and adjust your thinking cap. Are you READY? Here is some shocking news: the Bible nowhere teaches "niceness" as a Christian standard. We are never commanded, encouraged, or entreated to be "nice" as Christians. "Whoa" you say - maybe the actual word is absent,  but isn't the concept writ large across Scripture? Actually...no.

Well, isn't being "nice" simply being pleasant or agreeable? Certainly it can be defined that way, and I am decidedly an advocate of being pleasant and agreeable (however often I may fail personally in that regard) - but being nice is  NOT commanded under the law, it is NOT in the beatitudes, it is NOT listed with the fruit of the spirit and there is NO apostolic directive to be nice. And unless I own a truncated Bible - it is certain Jesus never commanded us to be nice. In fact, one could argue that  Jesus was not nice to various folk that interacted with Him in His earthly ministry. The Pharisees come to mind in that regard. In the midst of the  awe and amazement and sometimes disdain the Lord generated by way of  His ministry, it is unlikely that any observer, pro or con, would utilize the word "nice" to describe Him. "Nice" is too bland, too insipid to describe our Lord. His character, behavior and  purpose simply can't be squeezed into the little polite word "nice."

Being nice does not mean being loving, merciful, joyful, peaceful, long suffering, gracious, kind, meek or esteeming others better than ourselves. Popular usage of the word "nice"  by some might include the  intention of incorporating and communicating Biblical moral characteristics, but strictly speaking it simply does not  share common meaning and import with Biblical moral imperatives. Of a certainty, the Bible does not instruct us to be nice.

About now you may be thinking I am simply splitting hairs, or trying to be a bit too clever employing a sort of word game. I am doing neither. What I am doing is suggesting that being "nice" is not a Biblical  paradigm. It's not an overarching moral ideal. The very concept is AWOL from the Word of God. 

In truth, all too often the admonition or sentiment  to "be nice" is used to counter or negate Biblical behavior or standards. Some say church discipline isn't nice. Others say the Biblical standard in regards to homosexuality isn't nice. What follows is a brief suggestive  list of some things that  non-Christians and some confused Christians declare to be not nice as Christian praxis:

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Naming sin with specificity.

Calling non-Christian people "lost."

Insisting Christ alone is the  "Way, Truth and Life."

Holding specific doctrines as essential and separating from those who do not hold them.

Expecting Christians to join with and actually attend a local church.

Naming and exposing "Christian" frauds and hucksters.

Naming and exposing "Christian" cults, e.g. Mormonism.

Insisting on God's sovereignty in a culture and among poorly taught Christians  drunk with autonomous fantasies.

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"Because it is written, be ye nice; for I am nice." I Peter 1:16

OR....Is that actually  "Because it is written, be ye holy for I am holy?"

I could go on and on, but I suspect you get the point. Wish I had a proverbial dollar for every time that someone charged me with not being nice because of all my Christian "narrowness." I'd be posting this from my gently swaying hammock in the Bahamas. 


Now admit it reader - in spite of what some might disparage as a disagreeable message, wasn't I just as NICE as I could be??

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Was John Lennon Right?

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During a 1966 interview, John Lennon said, while speaking of the Beatles - "we're more popular than Jesus." The publication of that remark and the critical public commentary following forced Lennon to issue a sort of back-handed explanation and quasi apology. But not before some record stations stopped playing Beatle songs. In some areas, particularly in the south, there were Beatle record burnings and record smashing (for you under 40 or so, that would be LP's and 45's)  by outraged teens and adults. It proved to be a relatively minor blip in the overwhelming success of the group, and was soon forgotten. The Beatles were together roughly 10 years, with the vast bulk of their success in the last six years, between 1963 and 1969 (when Lennon left the band). It would be difficult to make a case that they were anything but the most popular musical group in modern history. But was Lennon correct? Were they "more popular than Jesus?"

It has to be admitted that Lennon's remark was, strangely enough,  absolutely  true -  in certain respects. If popularity is measured by unrestrained enthusiasm, artistic acclaim, press coverage, record sales and fortunes made - they certainly were more popular with large elements of the American 60's populace than Jesus or the Christian faith.

However, Christians do not generally  think in terms of "popularity" when it comes to the Lord Jesus Christ. His popularity is largely irrelevant because the concept of popularity is too small a measure, too limited a concept, too restricted and simple a word to do Him justice. Besides, popularity is fickle, and not necessarily rooted in objective truth or genuine significance. "Popular" almost always carries the notion of transience within it's usage. What is popular today wasn't so yesterday, and likely won't be so for too many tomorrows. "Popular" is simply too shallow a word to meaningfully affix to the Lord Jesus.  It could be rightly said Jesus enjoyed popularity in his preaching and miracles during His earthly ministry for a season, but except for a very small band of disciples, that popularity was shallow and fleeting. Transient popularity is not faith. And faith is not founded upon, or built upon fickle popularity.

What is  troublesome about Lennon's vain remark is deeper than any popularity concerns.  Lennon really seemed to believe that the Beatle messages, lyrics, experience & worldview was collectively more relevant and substantive than the gospel message and the person of Christ. That shouldn't surprise. It could rightly be said that all unbelievers are marked by a skewed view of self and God that minimizes Him and maximizes themselves. The average unbeliever might not proclaim that they are "more popular than Jesus," but inwardly (and outwardly) they live in such a way that unambiguously proclaims their independence and self-sufficiency relative to God. Press the unbeliever too firmly with the claims of King Jesus and one will find it garners some form of complete rejection. (Matthew 12:30) Perhaps it will  primarily manifest as apathy, or incredulity or stubborn refusal - but it will certainly be total rejection. 

Lennon's vanity and egocentrism was obnoxious, but essentially about on par with the better disguised and less flamboyant stubbornness of all unbelievers. It is certain the bullet that felled him ushered him into a new and permanent reality, and one supposes, a more realistic awareness of the illusions of fame, money and supposed autonomy. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Appeal to Modernity as Argument Against God


In public discourse with unbelievers about moral and religious issues, I've observed an increasing tendency for many of them to equate whatever is  "newest" with that which is "best."  Often, antagonists to the Christian faith demonstrate a blind and almost pathological commitment  to value  assertions that can be established as recent and modern, with a corresponding disdain for anything perceived to be a fruit of antiquity, particularly religious antiquity. For this crowd, if any claim to truth  is modern and  the fruit of current, or very recent non-religious thinking and advocacy  - it must then obviously be correct, or at the very least a very viable and persuasive option or opinion.  How, they often question, can a book two-thousand years old plus, reasonably be thought to be relevant to modern life? Does not modern  man, through an evolutionary sort of accrual of perceptions and observations not have superior insight into moral issues? Does not this awareness handily trump ancient documents from a primitive middle-eastern society with religious superstitions and quaint and outdated moral standards with confusing demands and outrageous punishments? How can any self-respecting, intellectually astute man or woman really believe that the Bible truly answers any  objections of the Thoroughly Modern Millennial? (With apologies to Julie Andrews...)

There is a not-so-subtle bias here, and that bias is woven into a great deal of current secular thinking. It is the notion of the infallible superiority of modernity. Older, standard ideas, particularly moral Christian assertions of the past  (and also obviously still reiterated in the  present) must be considered as de facto suspicious if not outright obnoxious  under the scrutiny of modern pop moral conjectures. Modern is absolutely relevant. Unmodern is unfashionable and irrelevant. Truth is nothing deeper or more profound than the fruit of this generation's subjective preferences. This, my dear reader,  is how we arrive at such abysmally immoral predicaments like same sex marriage. Else how is it so many of our fellow citizens are ready to jettison, with no reasonable justification, the moral standard and practice of essentially all human history concerning marriage - to embrace the novel, unproven and counter-intuitive moral relativism that is same sex marriage? The modern man, with his nose in the air, and his darkened soul filled with disdain for God and those who would follow Him...will only answer to the siren call of that which is stylish, contemporary and above all  baptized  by the only single "moral" and intellectual standard  adhered to by this crowd: total subjectivism and moral relativity. 

Is the premise  that modernity always moves society to a sounder behavioral ethic reasonable? Or more to the point, does the assertion that modernity is itself ipso facto the basis for certain  moral improvement have any basis in fact? Is newer always better? Are "advancing" and novel moral standards to be assumed to always represent improvement because they come to us vis a vis people who drive cars and have televisions as opposed to the ancients Hebrews and Christians bereft of such devices? Is modernity any guarantee of epistemological excellence? Of ethical superiority? Of sounder reasoning? Of loftier ideals? Many of those who rail against Christianity are convinced that the invention and accumulation of "things" somehow manifests explicit evidence of the  primacy of the modern, and evidence of the inherent inferiority of anything and anyone pre-modern. Especially religious claims and experiences. Moses, Elisha and the Apostle Paul never saw a movie, drove a car, opened a refrigerator  or watched "The Walking Dead." What could they possibly have to say to us uber-sophisticates?

During any given month (from a few times to a dozen or more)  I read or listen to various social media outlets -  including all sorts of  philosophers, secularists, humanists, atheists and their worldview kinfolk and sycophants who tell me with unblinking, steely passionate  assurance that the modern world, and modern man has moved beyond the stone-age assertions of the Christian faith. How can anyone in this modern age of space travel, computers and never-ending scientific, medical and social advancement possibly cling to an outdated, outmoded religion of a crucified savior supposedly dying for (non-existent) sins? In the view of this variety of unbeliever, modernity has superseded God, summarily dismissed Him and rendered Him irrelevant. Modern man himself IS the unanswerable rationale and polemic against outmoded views of God. And all views of God, save that He does not exist, are deemed dreary vestiges of dark ages long passed away. 

Modernity is drunk with a sense of success in it's perceived dismissal of Christian truth. It tolerates no dissension, it mocks all Christian challengers. Arguments for the existence of God? All easily answered and the advocates sent packing. The testimony of Christian apologists, martyrs, and Scripture itself? Irrelevant. Backwards. Embarrassingly anachronistic.

Boastful, vain, proud, irreverent modernity has it's collective hands over it's ears, it's heart narcissistic and darkened, it's mind closed to anything of God that questions or threatens it's false sense of autonomy. Nothing in the modern world disproves God, negates God or replaces God. May God be pleased to rescue many from the pride of all that is fashionable and contemporary that endlessly and pathetically seeks to war against Him. 



Saturday, June 16, 2018

Deliberately Contrarian

Yesterday I read an article put out by a Reconstructionist connected source that left me perplexed.

In short, the article assaulted the Crusaders and seemed to take the side of the Muslims. I am no fan of the crusades - the type of Christianity that spawned that mindset is a world away from my own.  That said, the purpose of the writer seemed otherwise unclear to me, except that it seemed to be deliberately contrarian by design.

I have often noted that some people thrive on being contrarian, on being spoilers. They sometimes contrive a sort of iconoclastic approach to generally accepted notions. Perhaps it gives purpose, and serves to separate them from the pack and to establish unassailable intellectual credentials. What could be more maverick, more avant-garde in Christian circles than defending Muslims? It's a rare  Christian, save among the super liberals, who wants to praise Islam for much of anything. It's as skewed as a  Calvinist who trashes Spurgeon and loves Finney or Moody. Maybe that Calvinist wants to establish how magnanimous he is, how outside of Calvinistic group-think his approach. Sometimes it's just cool to be different. To be in the minority. You know, like "yes, I'm pro-life, but I  think Roe V. Wade should stand forever." Always be unpredictable. Keep one foot slightly outside of orthodoxy and predictability...it will keep some thinking you are genuinely autonomous.

Is it possible some Christian folk just want to be different for the sake of being different?