It has become fashionable among professional theologians to label opponents with a heresy. This heresy is supposed to be what the opponent really teaches, if they were consistent with their ideas.
This tactic is fine it it’s was true that the teachings essentially or by consequence, lead to the mentioned heresy then let us call a spade a spade. But that requires argument not cool shaming.
For example, if I was to call Wesleyenism Semi or full blown Pelegianism that would be unfair. Wesleyenism tends not to deny men’s total depravity or that God moves first. On the flip side, though many passionate young men who claim to be Reformed may be fatalist, this label would flatly misrepresent the position that has been held by the majority of protestant divines throughout history.
Yet labels of Gnosticism, Modernism, and many others names are leveled against those whose beliefs neither lead there nor do they live like they do. Simply because they do not embrace the opposite extremes that their name callers are trying to make the new normal. This is a smart tactic, since it would be a lot harder to deal with someone arguments. Smart not being a moral category here.
Since they do this, I find it only fair to point out what the practical outworking of their theology should be called- practical materialistic universalism. “Practical” since this new emphasis of theology would have some statements buried in the doctrine, not impacting their preaching and actions, that denies materialism or universalism.
Universalist: These men and women allow no distinction between believer and unbeliever. If such a distinct group of people as the church is acknowledged, it is seen as to existing as the servant of all mankind. The church does not exist to care for the sheep and to call as many as possible into that flock. As one former pastor said who later became open to universalism “the gospel is either good news for everybody, or it’s not good news for anybody.” God’s judgement is pretty bad news, actually.
Wait, is there not a call to care for and love all humans? Is there not some sense in which all people bear God’s image and thus deserve our service? This would assume that I am accusing universalism of anyone who wants to love both believer and unbeliever. No, what I am saying is that there is a priority on and a distinct group called believers. This is not exclusion, but a priority. We should be investing our thoughts, our money, and our time on the People of God, and if no evidence in our speech, of a priority for those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, we might as well be Universalist.
Likewise the preaching and teaching of such tend to run along themes that deal with a universal tint. Anyone claiming for even the slightest separation from the world is seen as failing in cultural engagement, and countless lessons on blessing the city and supporting human flourishing whether or not redemption is flowing through their soul are standard fare. True phrases like that God will redeem humanity are spoken in a way to give the impression that humanity and the new, redeemed humanity will have all the same members. When ethical summons are given upon the financial giving of the members, as is well and good, pushes are made not for the supporting of the Church but for the support of the community. Of course, by community they do not mean the church, but the town.
Materialists. As they have gotten into the habit of anyone who believes that there is spiritual reality as well as physical reality “Gnostics” it is only proper that they be labeled as materialists, since they, unlike those that they label, really do live as if only atoms exist. It is doubtful they would officially deny a spiritual world, but their ministries, missions, and daily concerns only see the physical as “really real.” If you think I am going too far, I ask you, does focusing one’s joy for the world to come on the new physical earth and not on the Joy of daily being in God’s presence strike you as odd? And if this is their view of the ultimate goal of salvation… simply the restored physical universe (noting that no one has ever denied the restored physical earth as part of “thy kingdom come,” yet it was not before put as the ultimate hope but a means to an end) than even their gospel proclamation is materialistic. Their encouragements for heaven are all based on material needs and joys only. These are, indeed, good. We should not return to the self-imposed life of misery and denial of the enjoyment of God through the physical means. But to react to it by making salvation purely physical is equal asinine. No further proof is needed than the way that the word “creation” is understood synonym for nature or the environment. I ask, is economics, relationships, architecture, cities, rest, and souls created things, the will, understanding, all part of what is referred to by creation in scripture, and not just the great outdoors?
I am sincerely challenging those who follow these men and women, listen to what they describe salvation as, and then lesson for what all their missional goals attend to, it is primarily if not exclusively physical. Rare is the church or zeitgeist surfing theologian, whether from Oxford, middle America, or Vatican City, who is investing as much money and time in combatting demonization as they are in bringing down world hunger. Feeding the hungry is a fine thing to care about, but does not the lack of concern for demonization alarm us?
Look, honestly I don’t have the numbers. But the kind of bare admittance that demonic influence, both in demonization and Satan’s bigger lies is a problem, while in most practical cases it receives little attention and investment, show us how materliastic they have become. The spiritual world may exist, but let us focus our efforts elsewhere. The world said “the spiritual realm, such as demonization and the lies of Satan do not exist.” So the church said, well, we still think they exist, but they are hardly worth doing anything about. But when will the Pope (and I sincerely hope one will) speak at the U.N. and tell them their refusal to recognize evil as real is inhibiting them from good policies? Keep in mind I am addressing certain leaders, including the current pope, and not those loyal preachers who see Satan as a worse threat than poor education
I do believe if cornered, these would admit to the church’s priority for the people of God and the reality of both physical and spiritual, but in the way they preach, set up ministries, and think about life daily they may as well not. Thus the qualifier “practical” which hopes that behind closed doors that they aren’t developing fine sounding arguments that would simply justify the practical outworking.

For the last year I have been working for a Congregational Church. Church government is not often seen as a core issue of belief, but it is a decision that has to be made and so I’d like to explore the scriptural basis for congregationalism.
There are three basic forms of church government: Episcopal, Presbyterian and Congregational, and we should note that these forms of government go well beyond the denominations that bear those names. The episcopal form, found in Anglican, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox is a top down government where the leadership is appointed. Here decisions are made by leaders, and the higher leaders appoint lower leaders. The Presbyterian system is representative government, such as we find in the United States government. Here the decisions are made by the leaders, but the leaders are selected by the people. Congregational form of government means that the whole community decides together on what to do, what we might call a true democracy, though it often requires more than a slim majority for decisions. The only place this really exists in America is when some New England towns do town meetings.
Often reasons given for the congregational form of government wherein issues are brought before the whole church body for everyone to vote on, is that the Holy Spirit can speak to any believer and that voice needs to be heard. Others cite the equality among believers. Beyond these, theologians who favor congregationalism cite a number of passages.
When the first church needed to select seven men to serve at tables, commonly referred to as the first Deacons (the the word Deacon occurs later) The Apostles, undisputedly given authority, gave the task of selecting these men form. “Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them” Acts 6:3 NIV. Many point to this as a time when if anyone had a right to appoint people, it would be them, but they deferred to the congregation.
The New testament epistles written to whole churches (vs. those written to individuals) where meant to be read to all the church. These included commands to make decisions, such as in 1 Corinthians when Paul tells them to excommunicate someone. Jesus also appeals to the congregation when seeking decisions on settling disputes and church discipline in Matthew 18:17. This is also true of the instructions about the ordinances (also known as means of grace or sacraments) such as in 1 Corinthians 11
Appeals to a congregation in a day and age when the average laymen was uneducated and often illiterate show us the force of the congregational argument. This also was not merely for deciding policy, but for decisions as important as excommunication. This is helpful, because during the middle ages “the church” often referred to the magisterium ruling the church, rather than to the whole gathered Body.

I am not saying that maybe Adam wasn’t lonely. What I am tired of is a neglect of seeing what Adam was made for and what he needed a partner/helper for (either word still proves the point.) All the animals were brought before Adam, and what he was looking for as a suitable partner. He wasn’t looking to see who could keep him company, but for a partner to enhance him in his call to work the garden and fill and subdue the earth.
God made eve for them to work together, and couples who look for a mate not simply who makes them feel less lonely but who are good partners for the general call of all of life, they will do well. Even the phrase “it is not good for man to be alone” we conclude it’s not good to be alone because you need someone to hang out with. We don’t see it as it’s not good for this man to be without a fitting partner in this labor of dominion.
This is what people should be looking for in a mate and striving for in Marriage. They are teamates, and if our view of marriage is to have someone satisfy us or we them, we miss the point that marriage is for the duty of serving God. This less romantic view may sound disappointing to those who feed off of a steady diet of romance novels or chick flicks, but those who want something that will give more richness to the earthy reality of day to day life, and will find enhancement instead of mere satisfaction.
Romantic love has made marriage more difficult because we go into it looking to get needs met it was never meant to. The need it meets is a suitable counterpart for living your life. When you see couples like this, you find they are the ones who love each other more 20 years into the marriage than at their wedding, rather than declining over time.
It was not good for Adam to run the world without a suitable partner. The reading that he was lonely would allow us to see Adam still ran the world alone he just had someone to talk to when he was on break.

lies

Posted: June 24, 2014 in Devotional/Poetry

It seems so good and like it’d work
that it would really satisfy
with no drawbacks, plenty of perks
& I can’t see that it’s a lie

We all do this more than we know,
so badly we don’t notice
we agree with everyone here below
unaware of what we miss

we have nothing from our birth
And nothing that we gain can fill the hole
that’s been there since the fall of earth
and we switch from wrong goal to wrong goal

some things are nice but that is all
and we either reject them or in them seek life
Not just enjoy them but we, Like Saul
start hoping in them… then our hope  will die

often pursuing opposite dreams,
When one fails the other is sought
one day putting our  hopein wealth and things
than thinking simplicity is what we sought

Or maybe in our food or family
or in being liked by all our friends
Maybe even in being holy
or in accomplishing noble ends

but almost worse than our false hopes in
The lies about pure dust satisfying,
is that culture, Satan, our flesh and Sin
Convince us God’s plan is boring

We believe that being holy isn’t fun,
That we’re missing out if we do what’s right.
We want to see our church time get done,
instead of getting excited on Saturday night

we don’t look forward to a family,
or to having someone to answer to every night
We fear to have responsibility
when it really means is a life with more delight

How can we help each other not believe lies?
It’s like having to be told the sounds that we hear
Or that the colors and things we see with our eyes
aren’t real at all despite we feel them when their near

But here is the chief fight with things who our lives would steal
The spiritual warfare of which we have heard
It is choosing not to believe what our eyes and ears say is real,
And believe what God has said in his Word.

A recounting of a young boy who had a vision of Heaven was turned into a book and now into a Movie. I have not read the book, but what I have to say fits any incident fitting the vision of heaven experience.
I think that visions can happen, though that does not mean that case by case we should not be aware that it’s possible someone just had a vivid dream. But what is a little off is 1) needing some extra confirmation of heaven (though it is encouraging to have it, we shouldn’t need it) and 2) thinking that there is new truth revealed to these people for the Church.
This is not to say that experiences can’t be of great encouragement. But it does seem that an individual’s vision can give us more surety of the reality of God than how he has spoken to all of us. And though we want to affirm that God speaks to our hearts in many ways, and through many means, we should be careful when we take what we feel God is saying to essentially be equivalent in it’s authority to His Word, a Word which we are to interpret our experiences by, and not interpret it by our experiences.
To defend this, let’s go to the Bible where two apostles talk about Visions. Paul talks about being caught up to the third heaven and he chides the Corinthians for caring more about visions, gifts and experiences than about growing closer to Christ in holiness. But the most Amazing text is in 2 Peter 1:16-19

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts

Did you catch that? The vision was an affirmation of the truth of the Gospel. He doesn’t dismiss its power. But Peter says that the scriptures as MORE sure than that! Let me be clear as crystal… the point of this passage is not to DOWNPLAY the significance or validity of experiences (certainly the mt. of Transfiguration was meant to strengthen their faith) but to RAISE us to new heights in appreciation for how amazing, how incredible is God’s Word! If we are in practice finding more validation in individual experiences, (for though many of us would say we don’t, yet really we do) lets us raise our appreciation for the Holy Spirit’s power in scripture. Let us go there to find nourishment to live whether or not God gives us experiences.
Lastly let’s be careful about adding on to scripture. It is very common to take someone’s experience and decide that it is revealed truth from God on par with scripture that is for all the church to believe. If this boy saw angels in a certain way in his vision, that may very well have been part of the vision but I think it’s a bit sketchy to start making extra biblical conclusions about the nature of heaven from anything but the Bible. I say this because revelation warns us not to add to scripture, and Paul says not to go beyond what is written. To be encouraged by a vision or revelation has a place in our lives. To be given new information that is for all the church for all time (not specified for you or your immediate context) I think you would need to petition the church to reopen the canon so that the new additions and revisions you have to the word of God can be put in there. But since few of us are as bold to do that, and those who have done that began Mormonism, Christian Science, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, let’s make sure that we are not looking to visions to revise and improve the Bible. We do not believe in an open Canon, so lets’ not act like we do.
In conclusion, Experiences and visions can happen and are great when they do. But they are always under and submissive to the Word of God both in their affirmation to our hearts and to truth.
So I probably won’t see it in theatres, but if you want to I’d say go for it and be encouraged.

Why Youth Ministry?

Posted: October 7, 2013 in CE/Youth MInistry

Recently while using a website to look up Bible verses, I saw an ad saying “Is youth ministry biblical? Take our survey!” The name of the organization made it clear that they thought youth ministry was not biblical, that it took away from the family’s God given role. This is one of the most frustrating things for those of us who work in the church. It is seen to be that the conservative, traditional position must be to have everyone worship together, and at all times, and to have no specific ministries to people with certain developmental needs. Sometimes they will demand that a scripture citation be given to support having a separate ministry for youth, and will attempt to cite scriptures showing that the family is where spiritual formation should be happening for growing souls. (the name of this blog!)
Now, I’m totally against progressivism altering the Christian faith. I adhere to biblical inerrancy and would never bow to the cultural relativism that is causing evangelicalism to lose it’s distinctiveness on many fronts. And so it breaks my heart that these complaints against youth ministry are coming not from the progressive, Christ of Culture side of evangelicalism but from the Gospel centered, Christ against/transforming culture side of evangelicalism.
This despisement of youth ministry rests on a number of premises which I disagree with.

First, the notion that, if we cannot find youth ministry in Scripture, we must concede that it is not God’s will. Many roles and functions of the church today are not found in Scripture. For example, a lead pastor is nowhere to be found, simply a collection  of Elders. Church secretaries are completely absent, as are anyone whose job it is to maintain the church property. We do not see any position besides Elders and Deacons in the local church, nor do we see any ministries such as marriage counseling, a worship team (volunteer or paid), an orphanage, or specific ministries for dealing with grief or for outreach to specific populations, or to pregnant teens, etc. with the exception of widows.

All these I have listed are ministries and positions I would totally support. I think they are consistent with the ministry given to the church. They are not against the churches call, and aid her in fulfilling the great commission. Nor do they require structures or denials of Biblical principles. Yet no one is crying out, for the most parts, that these practices are against a biblical view of church.

Second, the notion is that, since every text that mentions children specifically gives the responsibility of passing on the faith to parents, that it is the family who has responsibility for passing on the faith, and though the church may augment the family and support them, they do not have a God-given responsibility.
The hermeunitcal error here is to assume an exception in a text when none is give. If we have numerous texts where the church, and the authorities therein, are called to account for all the sheep God has entrusted to him, and we have texts that say they are to guide them, train them to obey, than it would be only natural to assume that all the church includes, well, all the church. To mention the certain groups this would include would be needless, than the text would read ” shepherd the flock that is among you; men, woman, widows, husbands wives, children and everyone else”. For example, every text about who wives are to submit to in authority is related to their husbands. Does this mean that a woman who,is married, is a wife. And they therefore do not need to be submissive to the authority of the church, since no text specifically outlines that, included in the church, are wives? of course not! but this is what we do. The reason we do not see children mentioned specifically as a church responsibility is because they are considered as part of the church, and to delineate each group of the church whenever the church is commanded to do such and such would be ridiculous. Again, to be clear, UNLESS we have an exception given in the text, OR we have a statement of exclusivity in another text (i.e. if it said “wives, be submissive ONLY to your husbands, children, be obedient ONLY to your parents (not the church or governing authorities) we should not assume that because a families responsibilities include elements of the faith, that means that we can restrict the churches role.

Lastly, much of this is an attempt to restore the family as the center of the Christian life against other institutions. Institutions like the schools, government, etc. These other institutions are extrabiblical at least in terms of any role in moral, faith, and personal development, and do not have divine authority in these areas. However, the church is biblical, and definatly was ordained by God for those reasons. It’s place in a believers life is central, and is given such terms as “the bride of Christ”  “a pillar and buttress of the truth.” Such grandiose terms are not used for the family. In fact, the signifigance of the family draws largely on the fact that marriage is a type of Christ and the church.
Something is amiss if in seeking to be profamily we relegate the Bride of Christ to a subordinate position in the Christians life. Youth ministry does not ignore parents God given responsibility to develop their children’s faith, but it also takes seriously the churches charge to shepherd EVERYONE in it’s flock. We never see Christ talking about valuing the church to much, and in fact, he sees himself as one flesh with the church.

My conclusion is that many of these views place family as more important than the church in an attempt to call families to their God-given duties. They also fail to understand the central nature of the body of believers as central, not just supportive, to the Christian life. The church is not merely a gathering of believers, it is a divinely ordained and eteranal instiution that we are all called individually to be connected to. Lastly, we should not assume that texts that speak about shepherding everyone in the flock or caring for the local church can have exceptions applied to them that are not in the text. DOn’t get me wrong, family is amazing, but do a quick church on how the bible talks about family, and how the bible talks about the church, and look at the amazing terms and priveleges the church is given. Notice also how instuctions to churches are primary in the epistels, and instructions on how to interact with family or at work or with government come after.

The church is central to the life of every believer, once a young person has professed faith, their membership in the universal church is alongside of the other believers in their family, and they are accountable to the church as a beliefver, and the church is accountable for their soul. It is not the family who is a member of the church, each believer is a member themselves.

Why church history?

Posted: June 12, 2013 in CE/Youth MInistry

I’ve been asked this question before, why study church history? What purpose does it serve?
The answer to that question may also serve to answer why we study history in the first place.
But before I get going on it, let me say this. I am shocked when people ask me that question, but still think it’s important to learn secular history in the schools. They’d feel bad if an Amreican student didn’t know about Abraham Lincoln, George washington, or important events like the fall of the berlin wall or the civil rights movement, but how can this be? I mean, how could we think the history of the Nation or people we belong to, whatever that may be, takes precendence of our history as God’s People, the church? Our primary people, our primary nation or kingdom we belong to, is the church. And our students grow up being able to list almost all the presidents but couldnt’ even name the most Major persons from Church histroy such as Augustine or Luther? for shame.
But i digress. The point is that if the history of our secondary people group matters, it only follows that the history of our primary people group matters.
But the reason for history is often stated as “we need to know how we got to where we are.” Or something like “being aware of our roots keeps us connected to our past” which I think is not the important point.
Or a statement is made such as “those who don’t learn from Histories mistakes are doomed to repeat them.” I think this gets closer, though cheesey.
The reason why history is such a valuable study, why my dad says all the best insights come from the history guys, is that reality is always far more complex than we could theorize. Thus as we experience it, our concept of it is deepened. History is the secret of weaning from others experiences, corporate or individual, just as we would learn from our own experiences. When this ceases to be the goal of historical study, it becomes nothing more than learning stories to satisfy curiosity. But in learning from experiences, oh the richness, the insight we gain that we could not with all our theorizing. We see how beliefs we hold dear have been held in the past, what has led to their demise or what dangers that belief system holds. We see what patterns emerge and so are aware of them, able to discern patterns in social reality just as there are patterns in nature. We see what makes great movements start, what has been in all of them, and what makes them fall apart. All of us makes us so wise as if we actually had lived for hundreds of years. But, just like our own personal experience, it is learning from it that matters. Thus history, if it is a blind fact science, is useless. Philosophy and reasoning must come in for it to become practical.
So I urge us all to know history, and to see the patterns that happen so we can better interact with the world God has put us in.
May the church go forth!