Blog Archive: 2016

Blog list: 2016

67. 1/1/16: Does your Bible version scorn the Holy Spirit?
68. 1/15/16: How atheists are made
69. 2/1/16: Christian Ministry: Let’s do it!
70. 2/15/16: Who hinders progress in biology and medicine?
71. 2/19/16: Our daughter died.
72. 3/10/16: Politics: Who ya gonna vote for?
73. 4/1/16: The Science of Meaning
74. 4/15/16: To boldly go … where multitudes have gone before
75. 5/1/16: Stealing from God: Frank Turek on Apologetics
76. 5/15/16: D. L. Moody: A Passion for Souls
77. 6/1/16: Scientific Pretensions: David Berlinski on Apologetics
78. 6/15/16: John Nelson Darby, Israel, & Dispensationalism
79. 7/1/16: If you have only a hammer: Andy Bannister on Apologetics
80. 7/15/16: Write for Legacy
81. 8/1/16: Has science buried God? John Lennox on apologetics Part 1
82. 8/15/16 Superstars are losers
83. 9/1/16: God vs. Stephen Hawking: John Lennox on Apologetics Part 2
84. 9/15/16: Evo-Devo, Structuralism, & Other Fairy Tales
85. 10/1/16: Faith, Evidence, & Proof: John Lennox on Apologetics Part 3
86. 10/15/16: What’s in your genetic future?
87. 11/1/16: Follow me . . . if you dare
88. 11/15/16: The Missing Heart of Apologetics
89. 12/1/16: Calvinism: It’s not just irrational. It’s atheism.
90. 12/15/16: Attitude Matters – Van Til’s Apologetic Part 1

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67. Does your Bible version scorn the Holy Spirit?
January 1, 2016

A young woman sends a note by messenger to the love of her life, her new husband . . .

“Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: Also our bed is green.
The beams of our house are cedar, And our rafters of fir.”

While the messenger is on his way, he decides that he could add some clarity by rephrasing . . .

“How handsome you are, my lover! Oh, how charming! And our bed is verdant. The beams of our house are cedars; our rafters are firs.”

The messenger passes the improved version on to a servant in the young man’s household who, considering the new version’s content, decides that surely, the young woman didn’t mean to say exactly that. So he produces his own version:

“What a lovely, pleasant sight you are, my love, as we lie here on the grass, shaded by cedar trees and spreading firs.”

Message after message go back and forth, ‘helped’ by the interpretive assistance of messengers and servants. Eventually, the couple is reunited, and discovers how their heartfelt, poignantly considered love notes were altered. What might their reaction be?

As you may have guessed, the original quote above is from the Song of Solomon, 1:16-17, in the King James Version (KJV). The second is from the New International Version (NIV) and the third from the New Living Translation (NLT).

The issue in this passage, along with thousands of other verses in the Bible, is not what the original language (Hebrew) said, which is transmitted quite faithfully in the KJV English, but rather what modern interpreters, using the principles of dynamic equivalence, believe would be most understandable to the low level intellects (their perception) of Christians today.

There are two huge issues regarding the fidelity of Bible translations:

1. Did they start with trustworthy texts? Are they using, for example, the Hebrew Masoretic text for the Old Testament, or do they depend on the Septuagint whenever they find it convenient? For the New Testament, are they using the extensive family known as the Received Text, or is their foundation the ever-shifting sand of the Critical Text, sourced by a mere handful of lately-discovered, mutually contradicting, and obviously corrupt documents?

2. Once settled on the underlying Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic text, do they render it as faithfully as possible into English, respecting the Author’s choice of words, or do they insert interpretation and commentary via word choices designed to be ‘helpful’ to the unbeliever, novice, or literarily deficient.

This blog is about issue #2. I summarize issue #1 in Section 8 of my 10 Most Deadly Heresies essay, which includes references that should be part of your library.

Here’s a quick overview of the problem with the versions of the last 50 years. The ESV (English Standard Version) and NASV (New American Standard Version) are accurate translations of the Critical Text; therefore, they have errors and gaps simply because they use the wrong underlying text. The ESV is more ‘literary’ – we’ll discuss what that means later – while the NASV is more awkward. The most popular versions, however, like the NIV (New International Version) and the NLT (New Living Translation), start with a corrupt text and then play interpretive games with the English translation, deliberately dumbing down the language, despising the literary qualities chosen by the Holy Spirit, aiming to please a grade school level reader. In contrast the KJV uses the underlying texts that God has preserved through the millennia and was translated by scholars who worked hard both for accuracy and for preservation of the original and inspired literary qualities of God-breathed Scripture.

Here are just a few quick examples of the corruption that occurs via issue #1:

1 Cor 1:18 (KJV) – “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” The NASV, the NIV, and the NLT substitute “being saved” for “saved,” as if it’s a gradual process, as if Paul subscribes to Roman Catholic doctrine.

Matthew 18:11 (KJV) – “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” This verse is missing in the modern versions, or relegated to a footnote, with the excuse that the “oldest manuscripts” don’t have the verse. That illustrates the reliance of the Critical Text on the two corrupt manuscripts Aleph and B.

Similar excuses produce the disappearance of the last 12 verses of Mark’s Gospel, Acts 8:37 (which teaches that baptism is restricted to believers, not infants), and 1 John 5:7 (the clearest revelation of the Trinity in the Bible). But hey, this is a big subject – see the references in my “10 Heresies” essay.

From this point forward we’re on issue #2. I’ll walk through some of the nuggets I’ve gleaned from Leland Ryken’s outstanding book on the subject, The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation. Ryken is not an ancient language guru, but rather a literary scholar and part of the ESV translation team. He is NOT a KJV guy, since he sees the Critical Text as superior to the Received Text. Except for that hole in his head he would likely be a strong KJV advocate, because he repeatedly praises the beauty and literary excellence of the Authorized Version.

Ryken lists a number of factors that have produced the diversity of new versions over the last couple of generations, including . . .

• An anti-traditional spirit and a yen for novelty among evangelicals.
• A loss of appreciation or ability to recognize literary excellence.
• A preference for colloquialism over formality in writing.
• A consumer orientation ($$$) that drives publishers to give most readers what they want.
• A laziness in culture that tempts to make everything, including Bible reading, easy.
• Marketing (and $$$) that motivates to create yet another version for another niche market.
• Cultural narcissism that elevates the reader rather than the author . . . in the Bible version issue, that would be the ‘Author’.

William Shakespeare

Authors in other realms of literature are not scorned or disrespected in the manner that modern translators despise the intent of Scripture’s Author – the Holy Spirit. Ryken asks us to consider the outrage if Shakespeare were routinely dumbed down today. Here’s a modern rendition of Hamlet’s soliloquoy:

“To be, or not to be; that is what really matters.
Is it nobler to accept passively
the trials and tribulations that unjust fate sends,
or to resist an ocean of troubles.”

If you’re even a high school graduate . . . back in those days when English lit included a good bit of Shakespeare, you’ll note that something is wrong. Here’s the original:

“To be, or not to be – that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles.”

Ryken: “Would you look upon the first version as being Shakespeare’s play? No, you would not. If you were planning to write a piece of commentary on the play – in other words, to engage in serious study – would you use the first version? You would not, for the simple reason that you know that it is not what Shakespeare actually wrote . . . (it would be) unthinkable.”

Dynamic equivalence, the core philosophy of modern version translators, allegedly a ‘thought for thought’ as opposed to a ‘word for word’ approach, arrogates to translation what should be left to interpretation or commentary. The whole idea of ‘thought for thought’ is a scam. We humans cannot convey thoughts without words. Word choice specifies thought. “There is no such thing as disembodied thought, emancipated from words . . . When we change the words, we change the meaning.”

I enjoyed reading several of Ryken’s examples from secular literature that speak to the issue of destroying both the impact and the meaning of an author’s original intent. Consider John Donne’s famous sonnet on immortality of the soul. The two opening lines . . .

John Donne

“Death, be not proud, though some have called
Thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so.”

Applying the principles of dynamic equivalence and colloquialism might produce:

“Don’t be proud, death. You’re not as great as
Some people think you are.”

Yuck. And double yuck. Yet modern evangelicals wallow in such muck whenever they open their mass-marketed ‘Bible’ versions. Ryken makes the case, in carefully reviewing the admissions of the very people who serve on modern translation committees, that they have willfully . . .

• Reduced the vocabulary to roughly 7th grade level.
• Cut complex sentences into a series of short sentences.
• Dropped metaphors because the target audience is apparently too dumb to handle figurative language.
• Changed words that might be considered old-fashioned or too technical (theological) . . . you wouldn’t expect people to step up and increase their vocabulary, would you?
• Changed words to match what the Author ‘really meant to say.’ (Because they know, somehow?!?)

The result is a corrupt English text. (Actually, doubly corrupt, because they started with a corrupt Greek Critical Text.) What do you think the Author thinks about all this?

Precision in language is vital in many realms of human discourse, including love letters, marriage vows, legal documents, official reports, and even jokes and riddles! Get the wording wrong and a joke falls flat. Get lazy with contractual language and a lawsuit results. Is not the very word of God at least as important?

William Tyndale – executed for printing the Bible in English

Yet modern versions work at sounding like a backyard conversation between two neighbors. You’ll recall that the Bill of Rights and the Constitution feature precision and formality, not at all like a quick chat or an email tossed off in a hurry. Yet the Bible contains laws and covenants, in addition to precise prophetic warnings, lofty poetic language designed to reveal the nature of the Godhead, and even precise prescriptions to tell us poor sinners how to insure that our final destination is Heaven and not Hell.

Ryken analyzes a variety of dynamic equivalent translations, but in this blog I’ll focus on two: the NIV and the NLT. The NIV (1978), its New Testament derived from the Critical Text, can be judged to be on the ‘conservative’ end of the dynamic spectrum. The subsequent “Today’s NIV”, designed for gender inclusiveness, goes far beyond. The NLT (1996) is significantly more colloquial than the NIV. The mindset across the spectrum reflects a love for novelty in phraseology and an innovative interpretation of what the original ‘really means.’ In the NLT preface the committee admits, “Metaphorical language is often difficult for contemporary readers to understand, so at times we have chosen to translate or illuminate the metaphor.” Wow, are these guys going to be in trouble when they stand at the Great White Throne Judgment! The committee also “made a conscious effort to provide a text that can be easily understood by the average reader.” But it wasn’t written for only the average reader. The Bible is God’s revelation to man across a broad spectrum of theology and practice. Bible study is a lifetime quest. A translator who dumbs everything down so that nothing is difficult has lobotomized the reader.

I’ll point out here, as Ryken also does, that continual innovation has produced a great tragedy within Christendom – loss of a common Bible. It’s as if we’re all students in the same course, but we’ve all got different textbooks. Many churchgoers don’t even bother to bring their Bibles to services . . . the ‘preacher’ on stage is likely to use a variety of translations during a single message, simply to find the ones that support the points he wants to make.

John William Burgon – defender of inerrancy

If you’re an old-timer like me, have you noticed that Christians don’t memorize Scripture anymore? Bible memory work was a natural part of a church’s culture when we all used the KJV. It was much easier to memorize verses without working that hard, because whenever a passage came up, it was always in the same version. Not anymore. I would have a bit more respect for the NIV crowd if an entire church stood firm on it and promoted memory work. But colloquial versions don’t have the rhythm, the poignant word choices . . . yea, the literary qualities of the KJV. The KJV is easy to memorize. It ‘sounds’ special, different from day-to-day chat, and so is more memorable . . . as designed in the original Hebrew and Greek, literary design qualities recognized and honored by the KJV translation committee.

An example, Psalm 139:5 . . .

“Thou hast beset me behind and before, And laid thine hand upon me.” (KJV)
“You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.” (NLT)

I won’t analyze it for you. (Look up the word “beset” in a good dictionary, for example.) Consider how the meaning has changed, not from a disagreement in what the Hebrew says, but in an effort to make it ‘simple’ for a modern reader, while adding a picture of “blessing” that is nowhere in the original – check the context to prove this to yourself.

Consider Romans 1:17, the phrase “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed . . .” (KJV). Is Paul referring to righteousness as a part of God’s character or as a gift to those who believe? The original is deliberately ambiguous, provoking a reader to ponder, perhaps seeing both views at once. The NLT can’t live with such ambiguity, though: “This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight.” The NLT translators have chosen for you. You’ll never need to ponder the thought or compare it to other Scriptures for deeper insight. By the way, the NIV butchers the entire verse, illustrating that dynamic equivalent translations routinely disagree with each other. But then, you have to keep changing the language, even the ideas, in order to secure a copyright for your version, and make a profit.

Why bring your Bible? Just watch the screen.

Ryken points out that the allegedly dumb evangelical audience targeted by modern translation committees does quite well in reading newspapers, magazines, and novels. Ryken cites passages from different popular sources, like USA Today, The Wall street Journal, and even Christian magazines that include material more sophisticated than the NLT or NIV. For example, here’s a passage from the classic novel, The Red Badge of Courage, which I recall was a popular choice in Junior High (!) for book reports:

“The cold passed reluctantly from the earth and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting . . . A river, amber-tinted in the shadow of its banks, purled at the army’s feet . . . one could see across it the red, eyelike gleam of hostile camp-fires set in the low browns of distant hills.”

Nobody dumbed down Stephen Crane’s book for us when we were kids. Our elders expected us to step up and stretch our imaginations a bit. When modern versions excise theological terms from Holy Spirit-inspired Scripture, like ‘atonement,’ ‘redemption,’ ‘righteousness,’ and ‘sanctification,’ they hinder Christians from identifying and embracing the doctrines.

There is a vital role for interpretation and commentary, but when inserted right into the translation, God is usurped. The Bible shows us that teachers are gifts to the churches, but teachers must have the foundation of God’s actual words as a starting point. Ryken: “A good translation preserves the full exegetical or interpretive potential of the original biblical text.” If the interpretation usurps the original passage, the translator has taken on the role of priest, interposing himself between man and God.

In Psalm 24:10, the KJV renders the phrase literally as “The Lord of hosts,” invoking the imagery of multitudes of powerful angels (and / or saints), ready to do the Lord’s bidding. Both the NIV and NLT impose the interpretation of “The Lord Almighty.” That’s not what God said! The thought is different, the meaning is different, and such changes produce a different impact on the reader.

Ryken: “Literary scholars overwhelmingly regard the KJV as being the supremely literary English translation, and . . . superior to dynamic equivalent Bibles.” I would include the NASV and (to a lesser extent) the ESV, along with dynamic Bibles as “dull and vulgar,” scholar Allen Tate’s assessment of modern versions. I experienced this effect first-hand in my youth. Saved as a teen, I was given a KJV and read the New Testament straight through. I didn’t understand everything (still don’t), but the message and the language itself spoke to my heart. A few years later in college, some ‘more experienced’ Christians advised me to get up to date by using the NASV. I found it a bit easier to read, but before long I simply got out of the habit of reading my Bible regularly. Out of a conviction I didn’t fully understand, I picked up my KJV again and got back into my Bible reading. The NASV just didn’t ‘do it’ for me.

Ryken cites Thornton Wilder, who had the same experience. He was “never able to read long in any other version” than the KJV. Ryken observes that “beauty and artistry of expression are important to literature.” The literary – artistic – qualities of a translation are not as vital as accuracy, of course, but in the Bible we have literary excellence in the original, with poetic and prose styles chosen by the Holy Spirit. The translators must work to convey an accurate translation in the style chosen by the Author.

Literature offers multiple levels of significance. T. S. Eliot notes that Shakespeare offers a compelling plot at the simplest level, complex characters for the more thoughtful, word choice and phraseology for the more literary, rhythm for the musically sensitive, and meanings which unfold gradually. Modern Bible versions cut you off at the literary knees, allowing access only to the simple. Van Leeuwen writes, “The Bible is a book that communicates on multiple levels, to readers of varying levels of sophistication.” Modern translators are akin to politicians who build a vast welfare society, keeping multitudes in poverty and dependent on the next handout. Scholar Ruth Sawyer observes that “a limited, poverty-stricken vocabulary works toward an equally limited use of ideas and imagination.”

I recently spent a couple of months visiting an evangelical church committed to the NLT. The preacher’s sermons were clearly and consistently aimed at the teens, despite the congregation’s large number of adults and seniors. How did I judge that teens were the target? Word choice, repetition, elementary attempts at humor, faux exuberance, beating to death certain points that most people should get the first time . . . but the question is why? I believe his use of the NLT was a contributing factor. When you start at 7th grade level, it’s easy to camp there. Thinking back on many years of listening to sermons, I believe that there is a correlation between choice of version and sophistication of discourse.

Am I insisting on sophistication because I’m an over-educated old fogie? No, I’m insisting that God’s discourse, in all of its varied sophistication, be made available to those for whom Christ died.

I’ll end here. Ryken’s book is worth your time. He has excellent chapters that I haven’t cited here, chapters on poetry, rhythm, exaltation & beauty, and how a good translation should handle matters of clarity, connotation, concordance, and ambiguity. If you find yourself in disagreement with my overall theme, I challenge you to read Ryken and answer his arguments directly. I’d love to see you try to defend the indefensible!

– drdave@truthreallymatters.com


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68. How atheists are made
January 15, 2016

Atheists in academia and the media labor to give the impression that their skepticism is founded on reason, bolstered by educational credentials, and validated by scientists who care only for truth. It’s all bluster, though, with lies at the base and a religious zealotry that suppresses rational discourse.

Whenever an atheist gets in front of a TV camera to rail against Christians, especially such extremists (in their view) as Biblical creationists, you won’t hear arguments, but rather scoffing, condescension, and even blatant insults. It’s very difficult to find atheists who will debate the issues publicly. Why should they? They own the institutions, especially the schools, from Kindergarten to the University.

Sam Harris

In this generation atheists with a public platform revel in insulting both Christians and God, whom they seem to hate even while denying His existence. Sam Harris says, “The biblical God is a fiction, like Zeus and the thousands of other dead gods whom most sane human beings now ignore.”

Richard Dawkins sees God as “a petty, unjust unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Wow, is that fellow in some deep trouble! You would think, though, that in an atheistic worldview, given that life is short, health is fragile, and death is certain, followed by absolute nothingness . . . that atheists wouldn’t waste their precious time and energy fighting against those who have hope that we are more than molecules in motion, who see design in the nanotechnology of life, who worship a Creator who marvelously spun trillions of stars into the cosmic webs of spiral galaxies, who believe that such things as love, justice, hope, meaning, and beauty have a reality outside of brain chemistry. You would think.

The truth is that atheism is founded on emotion, on rebellion, on dysfunctional psychology, and especially . . . on immorality. Consider how Paul, in Romans 1, describes those who refuse to see God’s hand in creation, such willful unbelief provoking immorality without limit.

Richard Dawkins

If you’re familiar with my work, you’ve seen the tracts I’ve designed for skeptics, especially for college students. (See my essay, Tracts – Choosing & Using. These tracts are good for anyone, not just college students, but older skeptics tend to be more ossified and muddle-headed than the college aged.) This blog introduces a new tract on the subject, aimed more directly for the heart, rather than the head.

Please click on the pdfs below – the front and back sides of our new tract, “Can you name these famous atheists?” – before reading the rest of this blog.

Tract – Famous Atheists front

Tract – Famous Atheists back

This tract was inspired in part by James Spiegel’s book, The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief. Spiegel has done a fine job in getting to the core issues of atheism: “Nor should the church be deceived by the notion that atheism is primarily an intellectual movement. It is little more than moral rebellion cloaked in academic regalia. The new atheists are blinded by their own sin.”

The book provokes me to consider my own history. (If you want the bloody details, see From Catholicism to Atheism to Christianity – a Testimony.) In short, as a 13 year old, I rebelled from Catholicism once I learned enough of the actual history and corruption of that system, rejecting theism in the bargain. Why didn’t I consider some other sect within Christendom, or some other religion entirely? Well, as a young American I was raised in a culture steeped in atheistic evolution. Everything I learned about origins in the media, in the local museums, and in my school seemed to explain a universe void of a Creator.

James Spiegel

Looking back I can see that I reveled somewhat in a new worldview where nobody had the moral high ground; there was no God and no priest who could tell me what to do . . . I could make it up as I went along. Yet I was blessed by torment, the torment of desire for meaning, for hope, for life beyond the grave. God blessed me with that torment, which ultimately led me to Him. If I had resisted His ‘draw’ for a few more years, I fear I would have been hardened like so many adult atheists I meet, permanently addicted to self and sin.

Spiegel analyzes why atheists are content using such poor arguments as evolution and the ‘problem of evil’ to justify their worldview. As I describe in the tract, the issues are of the heart, not the mind. The heart – the Biblical core of our being, the centrum of decision making – rules the mind. As Spiegel details from a variety of references he cites, the famous atheists of the last few centuries are essentially scumbags who used an intellectual veneer to justify personal wickedness. One source he cites happens to be a book I’m currently reading, Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky, a serious review of the lives of some of the most celebrated ‘intellectuals’ of the West. You might find it interesting, although not cheering . . . my term “scumbags” is putting it mildly for many of these characters.

It’s not about raw or even educated intelligence. Spiegel reviews the Biblical admonitions, Proverbs 1:7 for example, that “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Spiegel notes “that none of these passages deny that fools can be intelligent or even very learned. What they do point to is a certain moral corruption that influences how they use their cognitive faculties. It is not intelligence they lack so much as self-control and the right values.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson – populist successor to Carl Sagan

There should be no controversy here, yet multitudes of young people are intimidated by the sneeringly articulated ‘intelligence’ of their teachers and professors, unable to imagine that such brilliant academics could be willfully wrong. Yet the great villains of history cannot be criticized for a mere lack of intelligence. Were Hitler, Goering, Himmler, and Speer stupid? How about Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin, or Mao or Pol Pot? Or Innocent III or Ignatius of Loyola?

Most atheists, of course, are not scientists by training, but simply trust that atheistic scientists know what they’re talking about regarding origins. What I’ve tried to do in my essays on Creation vs. Evolution and in the free e-book you can download from this site’s bookstore, is to break down the arguments from the realm of mathematics to basic common sense, at least requiring no more math than a bit of arithmetic. I assert that there is no excuse for a non-scientist to fail to understand the core issues regarding the origin of the universe, galaxies, stars, planets, poplars, petunias, and people!

The actress Jodie Foster played the role of an astrophysicist, Eleanor Arroway, in the film Contact, based on the book by atheist Carl Sagan. Foster is open about her own atheism: “I absolutely believe what Ellie believes – that there is no direct evidence [for God], so how could you ask me to believe in God when there’s absolutely no evidence that I can see? I do believe in the beauty and the awe-inspiring mystery of the science that’s out there that we haven’t discovered yet, that there are scientific explanations for phenomena that we call mystical because we don’t know any better.”

Carl Sagan

That’s sad. Her faith in science is lethally naïve. Consider what science is . . . a method of observation, hypothesis, experiment, and analysis to help us understand physical phenomena. What does experimental science – in the here and now – have to say about the origin of space, matter, and time; about the origin of cellular life; about the meaning and purpose of life, who we are and where we’re going? Nothing, really. A trivial example: Confronted for the first time by a functioning automobile, the ‘scientists’ of a lost tribe might well figure out something about how it works. But ‘theories’ about how the car came into existence via natural processes are doomed to fail, no matter how fervent and arrogant the pronouncements of the ‘scientists.’

Spiegel makes the point, “When one’s earthly father is defective, whether because of death, abandonment or abuse, this necessarily impacts one’s thinking about God . . . the lack of a father is a handicap when it comes to faith.” It occurs to me that Satan’s diverse attacks on the family contribute strongly to atheism. Divorce is rampant due to many factors, including adultery, pornography, and sheer selfishness. Sex outside of marriage and the culture of welfare create fatherless families. The gay rights agenda’s main goal is to destroy marriage, the first institution created by God, recorded in Genesis. The TV shows of the last generation typically depict the husband / father as backward and clueless, ruled by the women and children around him. I note that Isaiah 3:12 is as relevant for America today as for Israel then: “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.” As families disintegrate more and more, atheism (and it’s first cousin, pantheism) will flourish.

(Pantheism – Everything is ‘God’ or ‘God’ is in everything or “Use the Force, Luke” – That’s really where the culture is going, but it’s not essentially different from atheism, with one notable exception. The exception is not just philosophical, but wickedly practical. Those that seek the Force or strive to get in touch with “the universal consciousness,” etc., open themselves up to demonic influence.)

Hubble deep field

What’s the ‘takeaway’ from this blog? Don’t be put off by the bluster of famous atheists or their not-so-famous acolytes in your own environment. Their problem is sin, willful rebellion. Their phony pseudo-intellectual arguments are easily refuted. Study up a bit so you can contend, Christian. That’s your mission! And don’t avoid the atheist. They are merely lost souls who need the Savior. Speak truth. Aim for the heart.

– drdave@truthreallymatters.com

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69. Christian Ministry: Let’s do it!
February 1, 2016

This blog is posted as Christian Ministry: Let’s do it! in the Discipleship section of this web site.


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70. Who hinders progress in biology and medicine?
February 15, 2016

This blog is posted as EN17: Who hinders progress in biology and medicine?
in our Short Course on Creation / Evolution.


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71. Our daughter died. – 2/19/2016
February 19, 2016

This blog is posted as Our daughter died. – 2/19/2016
in the MUSEFUL ARTICLES by BONNIE section of the site.


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72. Politics: Who ya gonna vote for?
March 10, 2016

Oh how exciting: Another election season! The future of the nation is at stake! Who will win the Presidency and tip the balance of the Supreme Court for the next generation? What about immigration and the borders? And the economy and health care and the minimum wage and the public schools and the inner cities and racial tension and . . .

So who is paying any attention to what God’s will is for the nation, or for families or for individuals? On what foundation are the issues debated? For example, is the debate about marriage rooted in traditions or is there a reality that God – God who revealed Himself in the Bible – wove a particular pattern into the design of man and woman, into the fabric of a family, into the tapestry of life itself?

U. S. Supreme Court building

Hey, I’m all for exercising our Constitutional right and obligation to vote, and I do my best to make both moral and sensible choices in the ballot box every cycle. Yet I’m awestruck at the worldly perspective of professing Christians amidst the havoc of national politics.

We should at least use politics to leverage an opening for the Gospel. Christians are far, far more active in politics than personal evangelism. Why not do both? Accordingly, I’ve designed a new tract, “Can You Name These Famous Liberals?”. Click on the pdf below and please read the tract before continuing with this blog.

Tract – Famous Liberals

I naturally assume that anyone reading this blog is likely a ‘Christian conservative.’ Why not make a little political havoc at the same time you’re sharing the Gospel? The call to salvation includes a call to repentance, a call to righteousness and abhorrence of wickedness. Most of the raucous political issues of our generation are simply conflicts between light and darkness. So shine some light. Do you know a liberal? Let her know that these aren’t just political disagreements, but have eternal consequences. I guarantee . . . anyone that espouses a number of liberal causes has never been born again. Disagree? Have you ever truly repented; have you ever truly come into agreement with God about what is right and what is sin?

Politics is just one battleground in the Spiritual War that started when Satan enticed Eve to switch teams. The Enemy is relentless, warring not only with competing false religions, but also with despotic government schemes, with public school indoctrination, and with morally corrupt entertainment and media. Where do ‘conservatives’ invest time and energy? Usually in support of the latest smooth-talking or apparently feisty Republican who promises to return America to traditional or Constitutional values. When elected, they invariably cave, as we have seen many times. Haven’t you noticed the trends, like the recent budget deal enacted by a ‘conservative’ Congress?

Protests in Germany

Every weekly news cycle reveals evidence that the time is short before the Lord’s return. From New Testament days until now, Christians – exhorted by the Lord Jesus when He walked this Earth and by the apostles – have embraced imminence as motivation to preach the Gospel, to stand for right, to make a difference . . . a spiritual difference, trying whatever we can to help some lost sinner understand his need for salvation.

I just grabbed a handful of recent news items to illustrate the point that the world is spiraling toward culmination:

• After a wave of sex attacks by Muslim immigrants in Cologne, Germany, the city council has declared that the city centre is now a ‘no go’ zone for women. Is the West so weak and cowardly that we won’t defend our own women?

• A Maryland high school student was given failing grades for a series of assignments that violated her Christian beliefs. Her family has filed a federal lawsuit, charging that the school district’s “curriculum, practices, policies, actions, procedures, and customs promote the Islamic faith by requiring students to profess the five pillars of Islam.” Specifically, students were required to “write out and confess the shahada, the Islamic profession of faith,” which states, “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.” This statement is often considered a declaration of conversion to Islam. The girl’s father, a Marine Corps veteran, was threatened with arrest when he complained.

Pittsburg, Kansas Post Office

• A group of women, who have been sexual assault victims in the past, are pleading with Washington state legislators to reverse a bathroom policy that enables access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and other gender specific facilities to any male that chooses to identify as female. The liberal establishment accuses these women of being “fearmongers.”

• A new FBI initiative encourages high schools to inform on students who express “anti-government” or “anarchist” beliefs. Extremist indicators can include those professing to be “constitutionalists” or “freemen,” regardless of membership in any particular group, or even biases that can be construed as leading to hate and intolerance. Former intelligence professionals see parallels in such initiatives with the East German Stasi surveillance state, in which everyone was encouraged to inform on anyone.

• The rabidly atheist Madison, Wisconsin based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) targeted a small town Kansas post office, legally forcing the removal of a “God Bless America” poster. A local store responded by printing 1500 “God Bless America” posters and yard signs, which were bought up and deployed within an hour. The original banner was put up by postal employees (U.S. veterans) after September 11, 2001.

I love the heart of that last item. When the Enemy pulls a dirty trick, God’s people should overwhelm the culture with active outreach. But not just with a “God Bless America” poster . . . after all, there is not much going on that would warrant such a bold prayer . . . but rather with Gospel tracts and a bold verbal witness. If American Christians were active on a weekly basis with a simple 1-2-1 witness – and I’m not talking about toys for tots programs or hamburgers for the homeless – the conversation in this country would change. Some folks might even get saved. If lost people were hit weekly with messages that clearly distinguish righteousness from unrighteousness, if they were challenged weekly with their need to identify sins in their lives and repent, if they heard weekly that the only hope for them, their families, and their community is faith in the Lord Jesus . . . at least things would get stirred up. There would be a continual buzz about how Christians are ‘getting in your face’, news shows would talk about this strange enthusiasm about spiritual issues, even liberal pundits would at least be complaining about how they can’t get any peace in the midst of their lies, corruption, and baby murders.

Baby murders? Hey, today there were another 3,000. That’s like a 9/1/1 event every day of every year. How do you suppose God looks at that?

If you would like to use these tracts, print off as many as you would like from the pdf. I get them printed on 6 inch by 4 inch glossy card stock. If that’s not easy for you and you would like me to ship you some, just let me know – if you’re in the U.S. It’s expensive to ship overseas. My prayer is to get thousands of these out into my community over the months between now and the election. If you don’t like these tracts, then design your own. Just do something other than root for yet another politician who despises God’s will and will certainly let you down.

– drdave@truthreallymatters.com


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73.  The Science of Meaning

April 1, 2016

This essay’s title is a contradiction, a point missed by Gleb Tsipursky (GT), a PhD-holding professor at Ohio State University, who published his own essay by this title in the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of Skeptical Inquirer. The abstract for GT’s essay reflects the viewpoint of that magazine: “Scientific research counters mainstream perspectives on meaning and purpose as coming only from God and illustrates how we can develop a science-informed personal sense of life meaning and purpose.” Yes, the purpose of Skeptical Inquirer is to promote materialism, atheism, humanism . . . everything must be explained as matter in motion, physics, forces, and energy . . . anything but God!

But how does meaning arise from baryons, leptons, and the Standard Model of particle physics? How about love, hope, justice, and beauty? And what about science itself, a construct of mind and logic? What is science? It’s a method to explain and predict phenomena within our physical environment. Observe phenomena, like apples falling from trees and moons orbiting planets, develop a hypothesis, test it, analyze the data, and use inductive and / or deductive logic to build a model. Test the model. If it keeps working, call it a theory.

Science presupposes logic, which assumes rational thought apart from mere brain chemistry. Meaning, especially with regard to one’s purpose in life (which is what GT is talking about), assumes that you are more than a pile of molecules bumping around, that YOU are a PERSON who exists! If you lose a limb, YOU still exist. When you die your molecules are still all there, but YOU aren’t. Even atheists understand that.

molecules in motion

GT admits that current research in psychology, neuroscience, sociology, etc., cannot answer the question, “What is the meaning of life?,” but has addressed, “What is the meaning of life for you?” Hmm. We’ll be the judge of that. As a self-professed clump of molecules, he burns through a thousand words of discontent with ‘faith-based’ perspectives that find meaning only in the divine. Rather, he cites French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre who, “in his Existentialism and Human Emotions, advanced the notions of ‘existentialism,’ the philosophical perspective that all meaning and purpose originates from the individual. The challenge for modern individuals, according to Sartre, is to face all the consequences of the discovery of the absence of God. He argues that people must learn to create for themselves meaning and purpose.”

As a 13-year-old, transitioning from Roman Catholicism to atheism, I knew nothing of existentialism or Sartre’s work, but it was that issue that gripped me, tormented me, and ultimately pried me open to the truth of the Gospel three years later. What matters it whether life goes on for another 50 seconds or another 50 years, if nothingness follows? What is ambition, accomplishment, or even wealth and fame? Wealth is the accumulation of things made from dirt, and fame is just a bit of brain chemistry in other clods of moving molecules. Death takes it all away. Depressing stuff!

When GT writes about the “science of meaning,” this amounts to basic sociological or psychological accounts of how people seem to live happier if they have some purpose in life. They can endure hardship better and profess to be more satisfied with life, in addition to being less susceptible to anxiety, depression, risky behaviors, and a variety of diseases. That’s “science”? No. That’s not the ‘research path’ to explaining the origin of meaning, or whether it exists in a real way, apart from differences in brain chemistry between atheists and Christians. His ‘science of meaning’ is pitifully just observations of how purposeful people live better. Where’s the deep meaning about meaning?

Indeed, GT admits that “a strong sense of meaning and purpose” correlates with strong religious belief . . . “Yet from a skeptical perspective, we need to be wary of any claims suggesting correlation implies causation.” Of course he “needs to be wary” because he’s committed to life’s ultimate pointlessness. He cites the case of Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist who survived the concentration camps of the Holocaust. Frankl helped prisoners (and later, patients) find meaning by encouraging them “to remember their joys, sorrows, sacrifices, and blessings, thereby bringing to mind the meaning and purposefulness of their lives as already lived.” Blessings? What are blessings without a benevolent God?

Jean Paul Sartre

But GT argues that Frankl’s approach, consistent with Sartre and other existentialists, holds the key to dealing with death’s inevitability, “the stress of individual isolation, and the difficulty of finding meaning in life.” What’s the bottom line, the big payoff from this ‘scientific’ perspective’?

Self-reflection! “We can take the time to stop and think about our lives and experiences, to help us gain an individual sense of life’s purpose and meaning through the lives we’ve already led.” He recommends journaling, a practice found to be beneficial for mental and physical health – results from a 2005 study that determined that writing about your own stressful or traumatic experiences can help. Hey, Gleb, I feel a little underwhelmed about how ‘science’ has supposedly explained meaning. Don’t you?

Most interesting, GT cites a 2014 study “on journaling about previous life experiences for which we are grateful.” Grateful!! To whom?!!? GT has published a workbook, Find Your Purpose Using Science, which includes such strategies.

If all of the above sounds like techniques to delude and distract yourself from the atheist’s alleged reality that there is no hope, no point, no morality, and no future joy . . . but rather a certain death followed by NOTHING . . . you’re right. That’s what Sartre and the existentialists are all about, along with the majority of secularized young people in American today: live in the moment, distract yourself with social and entertainment media, tolerate no boundaries, see no relevance to history, and despise investment for a bleak future. “Eat, drink, and be merry. For tomorrow you die.”

Sartre knew he couldn’t answer what consciousness is . . . who he is . . . and so his emphasis was that consciousness is always directed toward something, toward an ‘object.’ So just keep focusing on activities and things. What you do is what you are. At least stay distracted. Sartre felt condemned to this freedom of what to focus on, how to direct our energies, and that this freedom creates anxiety because there is nothing else to do, nothing else to our existence other than to do the next thing. Sartre denied that there was any ‘fixed self,’ that such a claim is self-deception, that we must face up to our freedom to choose and take responsibility for all our choices. But there are no fixed foundations to justify decisions.

We can see that Sartre is not a consistent materialist, because he believes in freedom to choose. It’s not just brain chemistry. But that’s where the current generation of materialists lives. They believe in choice and responsibility while at the same time asserting materialism. The disconnect is the same in Calvinism. The Calvinist doctrines of sovereignty and election make evangelism and prayer pointless, and the Calvinist god an arbritrary monster of condemnation for 98% of the human race and the architect of all particular acts of evil. At least atheists don’t blame God for evil.

Sartre saw his personal existence in terms of his projects, which defined him. Similarly, he admitted that he saw others in terms of their projects. Sartre’s compatriot and rival, Albert Camus, seemed to take existentialism a bit further in its necessary consequences, by insisting that “life is absurd,” all of life’s events play out as if on a stage, without reality. To Camus, true integrity involves living with absurdity and hope is delusional and cowardly. Therefore, live in the moment!

Albert Camus

Since Sartre is such a philosophical hero to ‘skeptical inquirers’ like GT, and multitudes of others, let’s explore a bit how the Frenchman lived out his worldview. After all, at his death he was given a magnificent funeral by the intellectuals of Paris, with over 50,000 people, mostly young, marching with his body into the cemetery. Why so much honor? What was so great about Sartre or his ideas?

Paul Johnson’s book Intellectuals includes a chapter on the life and impact of Sartre. Johnson asserts that no philosopher of the 20th century had as much direct influence on the minds of young people around the world. Existentialism boomed in the 1940s and 1950s, as Sartre sold books by the millions and wrote plays to wide acclaim.

Who was this guy? Jean-Paul was raised a spoiled only child, who wrote that his mother exercised no discipline at all. “There was no question of rebelling, since no one else’s whim ever claimed to be my law.” When he grew up and taught philosophy, he let his students do pretty much what they wanted. “His message was: the individual is entirely self-responsible; he has a right to criticize everything and everybody.”

During WW2, Sartre got along just fine in occupied Paris. He did nothing for the Resistance, but focused on developing his career, never running afoul of the Nazi censors. He never lifted a finger to save any Jews. He wrote furiously, sitting in the cafes, producing novels, plays, and his principal philosophy text – generated in the winter of 1942-43. His timing was perfect. Wartime France and its aftermath saw a “disillusioned generation: lonely, austere, noble, slightly aggressive, anti-elitist . . . Anyone, but especially the young, could be an existentialist.”

Jean-Paul was physically short at 5 foot 2, and physically unattractive. He compensated by parlaying his fame into a lifetime of seduction, bedding as many young and attractive women as possible. The most prominent woman in his life was Simone de Beauvoir, who stuck with him – although he never married her – despite considerable mistreatment and humiliation from his serial infidelity. Contemporaries suggest that Simone was actually the better writer and philosopher, but she lived mostly under Jean-Paul’s shadow. “There are few worse cases of a man exploiting a woman.”

Johnson’s assessment: “Sartre was the archetype of what in the 1960s became known as a male chauvinist. His aim was to recreate for himself in adult life the ‘paradise’ of his early childhood in which he was the center of a perfumed bower of adoring womanhood. He thought about women in terms of victory and occupation.” Sartre wanted total freedom for himself and, “I dreamed above all of asserting this freedom against women.” He was notorious for seducing many of his female students. As Sartre grew older, he liked to target 17- and 18-year-olds, deceiving them, making them promises which he didn’t keep.

In short, Sartre was a hypocrite. He professed openness, but often used deceit to hide his conquests from Simone. At other times he flaunted his activities, hurting her. She tried to live with the same “freedom,” but her heart wasn’t in it. He couldn’t live honestly within his worldview that professed freedom and equality. It was his way or the highway, which prevented him from having personal friends among his peers. Acolytes, yes, but friends, no.

David Rousset, a co-worker in a leftist political organization, wrote that Sartre “lived in a world which was totally isolated from reality . . . Sartre lived in a bubble.” Like many other famous intellectuals discussed in Johnson’s book, Sartre handled money poorly, spending beyond his means, wasting it and incurring debts, simply not caring, all the while professing a philosophy that asserted responsibility.

Out of touch with reality, Sartre was publicly active in supporting the Communist Party and the actions of the Soviet Union from 1952-56, even after revelations of the labor camps and various atrocities. At times, Sartre foolishly made favorable observations of Stalin, Castro, Tito, Nasser, and Mao. As I see it, he had no ‘core,’ no bedrock principles based on the reality of a universe designed by God and inhabited by His image-bearers, with all the implications of a sound morality as the basis of discernment regarding this world’s evil. Sartre flitted from one cause to another, from one bed to another, ultimately embarrassing himself and damaging his reputation severely at times. Johnson’s chapter on Bertrand Russell shows a similar pattern for that ‘famous intellectual.’

Poor discernment doesn’t damage reputations only. Sartre’s influence informed rebels in Africa who fomented bloody revolutions from the mid-1960s that continue to this day. Followers of Sartre became the mass murders of Cambodia in the 1970s.

Sartre was ‘difficult’ to hang around with. John Huston, the Hollywood film director, worked with Jean-Paul in 1958-59 on a screenplay about Freud. Huston was disgusted with Sartre’s “endless talk.” “He talked incessantly. You could not interrupt him. You’d wait for him to catch his breath, but he wouldn’t. The words came out in an absolute torrent.” Huston would simply leave the room and, when he returned, Sartre was still talking. That goes beyond arrogance, beyond self-centeredness. That sounds like demonic influence, also exhibited in other aspects of his personality, a cause which wouldn’t be surprising. The prince of the power of the air evidently deploys indwelling devils to energize many of the world’s ‘greatest,’ whether in academia, or politics, or media.

Enough of Sartre. I now know more than I ever wanted to know of him. And yet he was celebrated during his life, at his death, and ever since, as featured in Gleb Tsipursky’s piece on how to use ‘science’ to find meaning in life. Balderdash.

There is no worldview other than the Biblical that is even vaguely in touch with reality. Only Biblical Christianity provides meaning in touch with historical, logical, and experiential reality. The more one departs from this reality, the more unlivable the philosophy. Materialism is impossible — YOU don’t even exist – and the variant of materialism that is existentialism doesn’t work in conscience or in relationships or, especially, in a grounded hope for a meaningful future.

– drdave@truthreallymatters.com

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74. To boldly go . . . where multitudes have gone before
April 15, 2016

About twelve years ago I made a modest attempt to invite William Shatner to come and speak to my Enterprise students. I had the privilege of being in on the ground floor of Michigan Tech’s Enterprise Program, designed to allow students to run their own ‘companies,’ developing tech-based products and competing for engineering consulting contracts with American industry. Of course the term ‘Enterprise’ was entirely derived from its business connotation and had nothing to do with the ship of Star Trek fame. Nevertheless, I thought I might have a hook to tempt Shatner to visit.

I had two motivations. The first was that Shatner’s long and varied career as actor, author, director, and entrepreneur entailed insights that would certainly be useful to our students. The second was personal. I’ve noted over the years, particularly in interviews – especially when hosting his own show interviewing celebrities, Shatner’s Raw Nerve — that he is far more than just another Hollywood bubblehead, but has a continual deep yearning to find out what life is all about.

But I failed to reach him; in fact, I couldn’t get past his outer circle of gatekeepers. It’s not easy to get ahold of a celebrity if you’re not one yourself. I was disappointed, but not surprised. Yet I’ve always felt that if I could just sit down with the guy for a few hours, I might be able to reach him with the truth of the Gospel. Maybe, maybe not. But I would love to have tried.

I just finished reading Shatner’s book, Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man, published in 2016. I read it just for fun, but in part to see what he might reveal about his and Nimoy’s hearts, especially on big issues . . . life, death, the point of it all. The book reveals much about the compulsion to make acting your living, and the travails of finding any role that pays until, hopefully, a big break comes along.

Nimoy didn’t earn a regular paycheck as an actor until he was cast for Star Trek in 1966 (at age 35). Until then he played a diverse array of characters, although usually the ‘heavy,’ the bad guy. For example, he did eight episodes of Sea Hunt, a show I remember watching every week in my childhood. I remember the star, Lloyd Bridges. I have no memory of Nimoy’s characters, which included a revolutionary student and an explosives thief. But if you want a detailed Nimoy filmography, look it up on Wikipedia.

Shatner and Nimoy clearly enjoyed all the success the world has to offer, after Star Trek became a phenomenon. Along with the worldly success, they suffered the consequences of self-absorption and sin, including broken marriages and substance abuse. They helped each other through the worst of it. Shatner writes, “How lucky I have been to have shared this adventure with him, my ‘Siamese twin,’ my ‘brother from another mother,’ my best friend.”

Late in life Nimoy’s perspective shifted, as is common when the end seems more imminent. “He had decided to major in family, to heal whatever rifts existed” with his son and daughter, “trying to build a new relationship.”

His son Adam remembers, “We learned to appreciate each other. He spent more time at home than ever before, and he would just sit there and tell stories. Just about every other weekend we’d have the same kind of big family dinners that we hadn’t had too much in the past. There was a lot of love there that we all finally were able to express.”

I see a deeper tragedy. Where is the hope? Shatner admits that he, himself, is only spiritual in some vague sense, and that Nimoy, at most, merely went through the motions of his Judaism. Once they finally get enough perspective to appreciate that relationships matter, especially with those you’ve loved, why not move Heaven and Earth to figure out how to extend those relationships eternally? The only relationships that endure into eternity are those within the Family – God’s family. You must be ‘born again’ into that Family. It doesn’t happen by chance. The shed blood of Jesus Christ washes your sins away only if you humble yourself, repent from the stupidity of self and sin, and trust Him for salvation.

My relatives that died lost are simply not part of my Family anymore. Yet the multitudes who have trusted Christ throughout the ages are my brothers and sisters. If all this is even possible, does it not merit investigation? Any serious investigation with open mind and heart will lead to Truth and an assured hope for eternal life and everlasting relationships with the Lord and the rest of His children. Yet few, very few, ‘intellectuals’ expend any energy on the greatest question of all.

During the year and a half that Adam’s wife, Martha, was dying from cancer, Adam finally got close to his dad. Regarding Leonard and his wife Susan, Adam remembers, “They were both physically and emotionally supportive. They brought food. They visited. They did anything and everything possible to help us. It was a complete turnaround . . . the lengths my dad and Susan were willing to go, to help me, were amazing. Through this time we formed a whole new relationship.”

Star Trek Convention – Las Vegas

My wife and I moved to Arizona to be close to our daughter, Elizabeth, who died recently from brain cancer. The singular element of the experience was the grace of God, particularly through our assured hope of seeing her again, and her us. The day before she died I talked to her at some length. I have no idea whether she could understand anything I was saying. She couldn’t respond in any way. But I asked her to say “Hi” to many Christian friends who have gone on to Heaven before us, while praying that the Lord would be gracious, perhaps, by having them meet her at the Gate. I also asked her to reserve a tennis court for us in the New Jerusalem. With new bodies, I’m hopeful that we can both raise the level of our games.

What hope does the unbeliever have when dying, or when his loved ones die? There is none. You can see this in all manner of secular fiction – and in real life – when comments are made about someone “living in our memories,” or other such trite and meaningless cliches. No, if God is not God, and we are all just molecules in motion, then hope is a scam and the tragedy of death is unmitigated.

Shatner suggests that Martha’s “legacy, in some way, was to bring Leonard and Adam closer, perhaps, than they had ever been as adults.” Really? That’s a ‘legacy’? But then Leonard dies, too, and Adam is on the same path. Where’s the hope?

During his final illness Leonard, who used to walk everywhere briskly, hurrying to get things done, would now have to stop and lean against a wall to catch his breath. “There would be an oxygen tank with us in the car. His illness made him angry. He’d curse it. Then he’d shake his head despairingly and ask me again and again, ‘Why didn’t you stop me from smoking?’”

Shatner continues, “I can’t begin to express the feeling of helplessness I felt. This was one of the most active people I have ever known, and his world was shrinking rapidly. And there was nothing at all I could do.”

Nimoy attended his last Star Trek convention in Chicago in 2011. He was getting too weak to travel much anymore. Fellow actor Zachary Quinto (the new Spock in the recent movies) had produced a video tribute to Nimoy from many Hollywood luminaries who acknowledged their debt to him as well as their admiration. “As Leonard was being introduced, he stood backstage, by himself, fighting the tears. And then he walked on stage to a huge, huge standing ovation. The packed arena was telling Leonard how much he was loved; and he had the joy of knowing it.”

exoplanets

Would you trade your life for that of Leonard Nimoy, or William Shatner, or Tom Brady, or Roger Federer, or any lost person? As sweet as that recognition must have been, oh how brief, how fleeting! Solomon describes such apparent joys as mere vanity; James tells us that the best of this world’s life is but a vapor that soon vanishes away.

All Earthly celebrations are but dim shadows of the One Event that counts for recognition, the Judgment Seat of Christ, along with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. How will our efforts stack up? How does Nimoy’s invention of the Vulcan salute measure up against an act of Christian love, perhaps an obscure Vietnamese woman who shares the Gospel with her neighbor, despite the threat of persecution? What about the memorable (to Trekkies) scene at the end of Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, in which Spock dies so that Kirk and others can live? Did Shatner and Nimoy do a good job of acting? Sure. But what about the real-life performance of an old man in Russia who teaches his grandson that Jesus is the Creator and the only way to live is to follow Him?

When you evaluate the supposed impact of the deeds of the secularly successful, they don’t just fall short. Fame and riches built on vanity are worse than meaningless . . . rather, they are devilishly distracting. Multitudes admire and follow such nothingness, identifying with a Star Trek universe that does not and cannot exist. And the days march by and the only Gospel that can save and make life count is ignored or discarded oh so lightly.

Adam and his dad planned to do a 50th anniversary documentary to commemorate the original series in 2016, but time ran out. They wanted to make the documentary ‘Spock-centric’ to honor the fans that so loved the character that Nimoy created. From the beginning, Spock had always generated more fan enthusiasm than Kirk, which produced some friction between the actors in the first season.

Shatner tells us about a conversation he had with Nimoy about mortality, in light of Nimoy’s energetic work ethic even into his eighties. “I said to him, ‘Perhaps the reason I’m running as fast as I can is I see very clearly my own death . . .’”

Leonard responded, “I think of it as a loss of consciousness. And I am conscious of it. I think about it . . . I think about the loss of relationships, the end of that. I think about the loss of creative opportunity; which I love to be creative, to see things evolve . . . I think it is important now to be making philanthropic statements, to be giving, giving back, giving back as much as I can, as much as we can, to the community and to various venues, funding for arts, funding for children, funding for education, things that we believe in and care about, leaving a legacy . . .”

Shatner agrees with the sentiment: “The legacy an individual leaves is a fascinating way of looking at a life. The measure of a man, or a woman, is what is left behind to make the world a better place. So it is not at all surprising that Leonard and Susan actively funded the theater, artistic, and educational programs.” That’s the best the world can do . . . just work to make things a little more comfortable or interesting for others who follow, but who also have no hope.

Nimoy “was convinced there are other life-forms in the universe . . . Having lived in Star Trek’s universe for so long, it probably would have been impossible for any of us to think we are here alone.” Such ideas motivated Nimoy and his wife to donate $1 Million for the renovation of Griffith Observatory. “Leonard always was interested in those things that lie beyond our knowledge and our understanding, and so it made perfect sense that he would make this donation to the observatory.”

The assured hope of the Gospel includes God’s promises that He made us for a purpose, not just for this present Earth, but for a revitalized New Heaven and New Earth. It’s a big cosmos out there, which we have barely glimpsed through the lenses of the biggest telescopes man can devise. How much joy will there be in living and learning in vastly upgraded resurrection bodies? How much pleasure will there be in building relationships one after another with the multitudes of saints of like hearts and minds? After his acting career, Nimoy built new careers in photography and music, but life is so woefully short to explore new adventures thoroughly. In the ages to come, how many new adventures can we embark on and what might we experience if we can spend unlimited time and energy on what is most dear? And how much can we learn in the midst of a relationship with the Creator of all things, who is the Savior of our souls?

At the end of his life Nimoy judged himself content. “I wake up in the morning and sometimes think, I finally got my reward for the tough times. I really do. I feel rewarded . . . I feel greatly blessed. These are the best times ever . . . I’m wonderfully happy.” He was indeed blessed with a life long enough to have innumerable opportunities to embrace Truth. It would be interesting to know what explicit encounters he had with the Gospel. But that will come out at the Great White Throne. He won’t be at the Bema.

As Shatner reminisced with him, he said, “So you live and die.”
Nimoy: “Actors up on the stage, let us hurt no more. Death is an inevitability. In the meantime, I think, I feel good about the fact that both you in your way and I in my own way have found the energy and the lust for life each day, to do interesting and exciting, and creative, and productive and fun things to do. And a wonderful relationship.”

The two best friends had a falling out near the end, but the cause is, to this day, a mystery to Shatner. Nimoy cut off contact, not forgiving or even identifying whatever slight caused the rift. Shatner writes: “Fifty years ago no one, no one , could have envisioned what was about to happen to us: This miracle that is Star Trek and a friendship that grew from it and lasted almost half a century. The fact that my contribution to Star Trek is done carries with it a great sadness, but that is nothing compared to the devastation of Leonard’s death before we could resolve the fraying ropes of our friendsip. I am filled with sadness at the realization it will never be put together.”

I’ve come to realize over the course of my life that unforgiveness is a greater sin than whatever offense usually generates it. Offense bursts forth in a moment, but unforgiveness goes on and on, a willful, determined, even thoughtful sin. That’s why the Lord Jesus was so clear on the subject. Even Christians seem to think that certain offenses warrant ongoing anger and bitterness. There are Christians I’ve known that get offended and cut off contact. Won’t we be able to get along in Heaven? So why not now? Indeed, it’s a test of genuine conversion . . . not a conclusive test, but certainly an indicator of spiritual maturity.

Actor Steve Guttenberg was in a conversation about life with Leonard, when Nimoy stopped him to say, “You just don’t understand. The world is your oyster.” Guttenberg remembers, “That was a long time ago, and I’ve never forgotten those words. I’ve thought about them, and what I took from that was that life is a gift, and every moment is important. That I should try to make the most of every day. Go, go and have a good time.”

So close and yet so far. Yes, life is precious, but it’s not about having a good time, but rather doing things that have a chance to count eternally, investing in the reality that God owns. It’s not our oyster, it’s His. If this life is all there is, good times are irrelevant. Death takes it all away. But with an assured hope for resurrection, and a New Earth and New Heaven for our inheritance, life has an entirely different quality.

Shatner closes the book with a favorite Nimoy quote from the letters of Vincent Van Gogh. (Nimoy played the title role of Vincent many times on stage.) “I am a man of passions . . . I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me. There is an old belief, and it is a good belief, that our life is a pilgrim’s progress and that we are strangers on earth . . . The end of our pilgrimage is the entering in our Father’s house, where are many mansions, where He has gone before us to prepare a place for us . . .”

And then Shatner closes the book with the line: “LLAP, my friend, my dear, dear friend.” (Live Long And Prosper.)

So tragic. Did either of them know that Van Gogh was quoting from Psalm 119, which extols the majesty and primacy of God’s word? That reference to a pilgrim’s progress is famously from John Bunyan, whose principal character could reach the celestial city only by laying down his burden of sin and trusting in the Savior? That the mansions in the Father’s house are built by the Lord Jesus – He’s the One who has gone on before us – but only for His children – to prepare a place, an eternal home?

So close and yet so far. One tragic irony is that those multitudes who embrace the Star Trek universe cannot possibly ever experience travel to other star systems. Yet they scoff at Bible believers who have an assured hope that we will be inheritors of God’s creation, which includes billions of star systems in each of a trillion galaxies – at least that many, that is, for that’s as much as can presently be seen in the largest telescopes. If this and other galaxies are ever to be explored, only God’s children will have that privilege.

The mystical hope of secularists, atheists, evolutionists, is that humanity’s future is peace on Earth and bold exploration of the cosmos. How’s that going? Present political efforts to build a socialist utopia will only set the stage for the Antichrist, and all of the energy spent to bring false religions together will produce the False Prophet of the book of Revelation. Besides, physics alone makes it clear that man will not escape our solar system by any imagined extension of technology.

I, for one, am looking forward to sharing the inheritance that God has promised for His children. If you run into a Trekkie, give him some good news . . . that there is a way for him to join the crew of God’s enterprise.

– drdave@truthreallymatters.com


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75.  Stealing from God:  Frank Turek on Apologetics
May 1, 2016

This blog is posted in the Evangelism section under the same title.


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76. D. L. Moody: A Passion for Souls
May 15, 2016

Moody was invited (as a joke) to the opening of a billiard hall and saloon. He sought out the owners to get permission to bring a friend along. They said yes, but asked who he was. Moody said it was not necessary to tell, but he went nowhere without him. They understood and said, “Come, we don’t want any praying.”
“You’ve given me an invitation and I’m going to come,” replied Moody.
“If you come, you needn’t pray.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what we’ll do: We’ll compromise. If you don’t want me to come and pray when you open, let me pray for you both now.”

Moody made them kneel down and then prayed that their business might go to pieces, but that God would save them. Within three months the business crashed and one of them was converted soon after.

Moody: “I have never been invited to a saloon since.”

Moody Church

I was a 16 year old atheist, sitting in the passenger seat of a ’56 Chevy, as my best friend, Dan, drove us from the Chicago suburbs on a Saturday night to the historic Moody Church, just north of the downtown area. We may have passed by the huge Fleming H. Revell publishing plant, which I had often noticed when my family made downtown excursions. I don’t remember what exactly was spoken at that Youth for Christ rally, but I do remember my impressions from the upper rear balcony, that there was life in these people and, more significantly, hope – an assured hope based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dan and his family had been working on me. Their Christian testimony and unlimited patience as they fielded my questions and objections brought me to the realization that the Gospel is true, that Jesus is both Creator and Lord and would be my Savior, if I humbled myself, repented, and trusted Him . . . which I proceeded to do. Dan’s family had a passion for my soul.

I just finished reading Lyle Dorsett’s biography, A Passion for Souls: The Life of D. L. Moody, a wonderful account of this un-ordained ‘layman’ used by God not only in the spectacularly fruitful evangelistic crusades for which he is best known, but also in establishing Christian publishing for the masses in America, and schools and systems of discipleship for ordinary folks to minister in the most difficult urban areas. Years ago I read the Moody biography by his son, William, published shortly after his father’s death. (There have been at least 60 Moody bios since.) What makes Dorsett’s work compelling is his modern perspective (1997) and willingness to open up Moody’s simple humanity, including flaws.

In writing about Moody I am mindful that I am not worthy to shine his shoes. I suspect that the Holy Spirit may have had D. L. in mind when Daniel penned, “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” (12:3) Moody was a supernova while most of us who make some modest efforts to serve the Lord may aspire merely to brown dwarfs. Yet it’s interesting (to me anyway) that we learn not only from the good, but also from the not-so-good aspects of yesterday’s saints, in that God does not spare even his stars from the consequences of stubbornness or ignorance of the principles of His Scriptures. So let’s take a quick jaunt through some of Moody’s life. I won’t try to do anything like a bio in this ‘short’ blog – that’s not possible. In fact, I’ll assume that you know something of Moody’s life; if you don’t, Dorsett’s book would be a good place to start.

Dwight Lyman Moody 1837-1899

Dwight’s conversion at 19 was documented by a Congregational Church deacon who wrote his impressions from an interview with the young candidate for believer’s baptism: “First awakened on the 21st of April. Became anxious about himself . . . saw himself a sinner, and sin now seems hateful and holiness desirable. Thinks he has repented. Has proposed to give up sin and feels dependent on Christ for forgiveness . . . loves the Scriptures . . . prays once a day . . . desires to be useful.” We see evidence of Biblical conversion in such a profession. In 19th century America, many churches across diverse denominations would see the requirements for salvation very much alike. That explains, in part, why Moody was so productive in his ecumenical campaigns. The doctrinal distinctives were not as evident in the doctrine of the new birth. This is not true in modern times. Protestant and evangelical and even fundamentalist views on salvation have been so watered down that mass campaigns are notorious for producing false converts, as exemplified in the work of Billy Graham and others who pretend to follow in Moody’s footsteps. But what saved Moody is also what he preached. He came to emphasize the love of God, but not at the expense of repentance and holiness and a transformed life.

In 1856 Moody left Boston to make his fortune in Chicago as a salesman, but spent all of his free time in recruiting people off the street to attend church services and hear a Gospel message. Chicago became the center of a revival over the next few years as the population exploded. Churches established inner city rescue missions and Moody devoted his energy to reach out to the poor with the Gospel. Most strikingly, he established what became a huge Sunday School on the near North side for the most destitute and abandoned children of the city. This was probably the first ‘bus ministry,’ powered by horses and wagons.

Moody had observed and learned from a variety of missions and urban missionaries, but set out in a new direction here. The unruly ‘bus kids’ disrupted every class, causing traditional churches to give up on them. Moody herded the “Little Hellions” into a mass meeting, enticing them with sugar treats, pennies, or clothes, and got them used to listening to a speaker. He alternated 5-minute talks with a minute of rowdy free time, and then some songs. This cycle repeated for about 2 hours every Sunday. Those “hellions” that calmed down a bit would graduate to smaller classes with fewer breaks and more instruction.

We were blessed to be in bus ministry and ‘Junior Church’ work in the 1980s. It would take more than an hour to fill the bus before making our way to Sunday School. We didn’t waste the time, employing songs, games, Bible competitions, and short lessons. The bus ride home always featured a treat, from Nutty Buddy ice cream cones to barrels of popcorn . . . lots of cleaning required after Popcorn Sunday. Junior Church (the hour after Sunday School) employed a similar mix of songs and lessons, with an ‘Inquiry Room’ for children who wanted to talk about spiritual issues in more depth. We didn’t call it an ‘Inquiry Room’ – that’s the term Moody and others in his era used for after-sermon meetings for those under conviction. But Moody started much of this over 150 years ago!

He was so successful that he became the talk of Chicago, which led to invitations to speak and train others across the state. Moody was effective in inspiring adult volunteers to staff the Sunday School, which is how he met Emma, who eventually married him. Emma Revell was six years younger than Dwight, and shared his love for souls. The “untouchables” of the Windy City came to love Emma like they loved Dwight. The Sunday School was the only church these kids and their families knew; Moody pastored them spiritually and temporally, finding for them food, clothing, and coal, and attending several funerals per day at times. What separated him from the program managers of modern social gospel projects is that Moody prioritized the Gospel. Salvation matters. Heaven and Hell are real.

Dorsett biography book cover

The essentially uneducated Moody, listed as a “city missionary” in Chicago directories of the early 1860s, sought out anyone who could teach him to be a better disciple and worker. Mrs. H. Phillips and others at First Baptist Church taught him principles of a daily devotional life, emphasizing that he must develop spiritual depth before God would use him for a wider ministry. How their counsel paid off in the years to follow! And how rare it is to find such mentors in today’s passive, pulpit / pew churches! Throughout his life, Moody never stopped looking for mentors. In Peoria, when invited to lecture on urban Sunday Schools, a group of pastors gathered for dinner. Moody would regularly turn to one or another and ask, “How do you explain this verse in the Bible?” He stirred up the dinner gathering by his intense desire to know the Bible and apply it to the salvation of souls. That’s the way “church” ought to be on a weekly basis!

But Moody’s lack of sophistication and lack of ‘theological training’ precluded him from ‘ministry’ in the conventional churches of Chicago. He was only a ‘layman,’ after all. But those trained in seminaries had no interest in the poor sections of town. I see this today. It’s hard to find a Fundamental Baptist church in the inner city, and evangelical megachurches are typically built in the comfortable suburbs. Moody’s only ambition was to reach souls. He had no ambition, no game plan to ‘move up’ to more respectable ministries.

See the irony? More education begets more sophistication which begets less service. Skills in homiletics are wasted on the unsophisticated, so why bother?

Moody volunteered long hours and eventually took charge of Chicago’s YMCA. “I believe in the Young Men’s Christian Association with all my heart. It has, under God, done more in developing me for Christian work than any other agency.” By 1860 Moody decided to give up business (it’s likely he would have become a tycoon with his talents and energy) for full-time ministry. Henceforth, he lived by faith that God would provide, inspired in part by George Mueller’s book, Life of Trust. D. L. would befriend Mueller when he later traveled to England.

The YMCA was more than a gym in those years, with regular Bible study and prayer meetings. It allowed Moody to engage in evangelistic work when no conventional church or organization thought he was qualified. Nothing has changed much. Few churches today enjoy a culture in which individuals are trained in personal evangelism. Most evangelical churches organize social gospel projects under pastoral staff direction; the most talented professionals among the ‘laity’ in the church are reduced to boxing up clothes or shoes or food and no one actually gets around to preaching the Gospel of salvation to the poor of the community – which tends to be the ONLY demographic targeted for outreach.

When Moody eventually headed the Chicago chapter, he kept evangelism as the primary mission, with Bible teaching to nurture young Christians as a strong second. Wow. Evangelism and discipleship – just what the churches should be doing . . . and using ‘laymen’ to develop their talents, which can then multiply to other ‘laymen.’ What a concept!

State Street, Downtown Chicago – my all-time favorite place for 121 evangelism

Once in those early years, after speaking to a crowd of Sunday School workers, an ordained minister on the platform took the podium and criticized Moody’s speech, that it was crude and disorganized. Moody “stepped to the front again, and said he recognized his want of learning and his inability to make a fine address; he thanked the minister for pointing out his shortcomings, and asked him to lead in prayer that God would help him to do better.” Humility serves to heap coals as I’m sure it did that day.

When the Civil War broke out (or, as some of my Southern friends call it, The War of Northern Imperial Aggression) Moody saw thousands of men at nearby Camp Douglas addicted to cards and whiskey, and continually solicited by prostitutes. Dwight leaped in, not just preaching, but overseeing the distribution of thousands of Bibles, hymnals, and Gospel tracts. Good man! I wonder whether tracts may have been used as early as the 1st century. Heaven knows. When Camp Douglas was used to house 9,000 Confederate POWs, Moody recruited a team for counseling, prayer, and preaching. Those despondent POWs were shocked to hear the Gospel from compassionate Yankees. Moody was a master recruiter, seeking out both men and women to minister as needed, whether at Camp Douglas or his Sunday School or in his many evangelistic campaigns in the years to follow.

Moody and Emma traveled repeatedly to the front lines with such teams. General O. O. Howard suffered criticism for his compassion for black refugees and for Southern civilians as the Union army swept through. Howard welcomed Moody’s team, ordering the local churches to open for services at night, and allowing meetings within the camp during the day. Howard, himself, spoke and gave an invitation the day before the campaign started which culminated in the fall of Atlanta. Does the name “Howard” ring a bell? He founded what became Howard University, one of our nation’s traditionally black schools, established to enable educationally disadvantaged people of color to get a start – “a start they were not getting in white-dominated institutions.” After the war President Andrew Johnson appointed Howard to lead the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. The General was determined to educate former slaves to embrace freedom and, at the same time, encourage all to become followers of Christ.

During Moody’s first visit to England, he got to know George Mueller and others within the Plymouth Brethren movement, a group that split from the Anglican church in the 1820s. Moody clearly resonated with the Brethren’s commitment to Scripture as the source of all Truth, that conversion is a life-changing experience, and that missions and evangelism are vital. He also embraced their uncompromising belief in the imminent, bodily, premillennial return of the Lord Jesus. The Brethren also frowned on ordination, using ‘laymen’ to preach, teach, and administer. They rejected Anglican formalism, liturgy, clerical vestments, crosses, etc.

Camp Douglas

Moody couldn’t agree with the Calvinism of the Brethren, however, and was put off by their increasing separatism. For the rest of his life Moody worked to bring denominations together, glossing over doctrinal differences, except on issues of salvation. This would cause trouble in later years and sow the seeds of the ecumenical wasteland of modern Christendom.

Moody was enriched by his new English friends, notably Mueller, Charles Spurgeon, Lord and Lady Kinnaird, R. C. Morgan, and Henry Varley. Moody had already read much of Spurgeon’s writings, for example, but having quality 1-2-1 time was far more valuable. Isn’t this the way discipleship is supposed to work? Mature Christians must spend time eyeball-to-eyeball with those who want to grow. Within the clerical system, the most mature Christians get “slurped up” into the clergy, relegated as lecturers to passive laity. But Christians are called to reproduce after their own kind. 1-2-1 discipleship is God’s plan. Clericalism is Satan’s scheme.

Moody didn’t just criticize ineffective ministry – he worked on solutions including development of Sunday School curricula to be used across a large number of area-wide and, eventually, nation-wide Sunday Schools as the idea caught on and spread. ‘Canned’ Sunday School lessons are a mixed bag in modern times, of course, tempting the lazy teacher to little preparation time. But like any tool, it can be helpful if kept in perspective. As a young Christian I experienced the worst of the canned lesson culture in various churches. We found a refreshing counter-point at a Baptist church in the early 1980s which insisted that every teacher, from pre-school to senior classes, derive lessons from Bible study. Those teachers worked at it and did a terrific job week after week.

In addition to teaching at his Sunday School and preaching at the church that grew out of it, Moody launched a young men’s group out of the YMCA called ‘Yokefellows’ who met twice per week for prayer and then knocking doors, visiting saloons, and doing 121 work on the streets, always armed with Gospel tracts. In the following years he found publishers to print tracts and booklets at cost, and the Yokefellows set up racks in hotels and passenger depots. Moody was spectacular at fundraising throughout his life, enlisting businessmen, including some famous tycoons of his era, to support this and other ministries. In this he didn’t strictly follow Mueller’s pattern, but their missions were different. God blessed both men.

George Mueller on his 90th birthday

Moody effectively burned himself out with over-commitment, which didn’t get rectified until God brought people and circumstances into his life that led him to what must be termed a baptism of the Holy Spirit. I won’t recount the details here. The author spends some time on it. The result was that Moody developed a peace and discernment such that every request and every need expressed by others was not necessarily what the Lord wanted him to do. From that point his service for the Lord was more discerning and more productive . . . and his family life was much more in balance.

Over the course of Dwight and Emma’s marriage, many could testify to their devotion for each other and their love for their children – well-behaved children who grew up to love and serve the Lord. Emma was certainly a keeper. A close friend described . . . “her calmness, meeting so quietly his impulsiveness, her humility, her great nobility of character, and her sincerity, her crystal-like purity and transparency, could not but make her an unspeakable help to him in his arduous and trying work.”

In recent years I met a fellow I like and admire a lot, but who finds himself jerked hither and yon by anyone with a need of any kind. And so his priorities are set by others. He loves apologetics and loves 121 evangelism, but does little. There is simply no time for it in his life. Could it be that Satan’s forces keep him busy doing a little good, to prevent him from doing much?

During Moody’s British campaigns, observers noted and some even criticized him for telling stories to illustrate his Biblical points. But Moody was following the pattern of his Master. He commented that some well-meaning people don’t “seem to understand why I use these stories, it is to touch the heart and while it is soft, send right in the arrow of truth.” So it is when we share the Gospel individually – our intent must be to touch the heart. Use the law, use illustrations, find a way to communicate the sinner’s need for redemption, so that the Gospel arrow of truth might strike the mark.

Howard University

Moody had plenty of opposition, some because he was a mere ‘laymen’ who dared to preach to crowds, but also over the basis of salvation. For example, when invited to Scotland to preach some meetings, which quickly grew into a supernaturally powered revival, various Calvinists published tirades against his work. For example, “the present movement ignores the sovereignty and power of God . . . (Moody denies) the utter spiritual impotence of souls ‘dead in trespasses and sins.’” Indeed, if the Calvinist heresy of Total Depravity were true, namely that man CANNOT choose to repent and believe, but must be regenerated FIRST by ‘irresistable grace,’ then it is foolish to plead with men to humble themselves, choose to repent, choose to trust in Christ. Yet many famous Calvinist preachers have done just that, including Whitefield, Nettleton, Spurgeon, and Barnard, seeming to forget their seminary-ingested doctrine when faced with lost souls dangling between Heaven and Hell. Were not these ‘heroes of the faith’ filled with the Spirit when they saw many turn to Christ under their preaching? Well then, the Holy Spirit must agree that men can choose to repent and believe.

Moody recruited and inspired thousands in England, Scotland, and Ireland to do personal evangelism, helping at first in the Inquiry Room after each meeting, but then in the neighborhoods and streets. Dorsett notes, “Without question one of the most enduring effects of Moody’s campaign was the enormous army of people who had been awakened to how they could be used for the rescue, healing, and nurture of souls.” Moody said that “the Master’s heart is pierced with unutterable grief . . . not over the world’s iniquity, but the Church’s indifference.” To the task of personal evangelism Moody urged the mobilization of every Christian man and woman. How about you? Are you mobilized?

Northfield Mount Hermon School

During the Glasgow campaign Moody initiated outreaches to the poor that fed and clothed many in the years following, especially children, and led to the establishment of schools and lodging homes. But always with the soul-saving Gospel at the center. In this and in everything else, Moody kept his perspective, insisting that God get the glory. Moody knew the source of the power that flowed through and about him. He despised “man-worship,” reminding everyone that praising Moody, Sankey, or other Christian leaders would not be tolerated by God, who must have all of the glory. “We have got to get rid of this man worship before we see deep work.” These are simple truths, oft neglected in modern evangelical and fundamentalist preacher-centered ‘ministries.’

Modern commentators criticize Moody for not becoming a Socialist or taking activist stands against industrialists, some of whom were close friends and benefactors. Moody was focused on using the Gospel to liberate children and adults from alcohol and other addictive sins. He preferred helping people one-to-one, which is true charity. Socialism is no charity at all. When fully embraced, walls must be built to keep people in. Freedom disappears and only the oppressors enjoy the best of food, clothing, and housing. The poor will always be with us, but the individual poor fellow can repent, trust Christ, and make a productive life, both temporally and spiritually. Am I for Rescue Missions? Indeed, we send support to one and I’ve helped out at another. But the Gospel must have primacy.

I won’t detail Moody’s great efforts in establishing his schools for boys and girls at Northfield, Massachusetts, or the development of the historic church in Chicago, or the seminaries, or the ground-breaking conferences. I will mention that he got his young brother-in-law, Fleming H. Revell, into the publishing business, explaining to him that a great need existed for a Christian monthly magazine to edify believers and help them to mature in the faith. There was simply a dearth of inexpensive, interesting Christian reading material. This was the genesis of a great publishing enterprise and, really, the birth of the Christian book industry in America.

By the way, here is another tract I just designed and have begun to use it during the current wacky political season. As you’ll see, it goes after what I consider the two most annoying groups within the American electorate . . . liberal atheists and conservative evangelicals.

Tract – What do these 4 have in common

Moody was as passionate about discipleship as he was about evangelism, always recruiting men and women to minister to men, women, and children, always on the lookout for a fervent young Christian who would benefit from a scholarship to one of his schools, always looking for creative ways to reach out with the Gospel and to nurture those who responded. Not a bad way to invest one’s life.

– drdave@truthreallymatters.com


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77. Scientific Pretensions: David Berlinski on Apologetics
June 1, 2016

This blog is posted in the Evangelism section under the same title.


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78. John Nelson Darby, Israel, & Dispensationalism
June 15, 2016

I’ve heard much over the years and read quite a variety of snippets about John Nelson Darby, mostly negative, and mostly by critics. The critics seem to have something in common: they despise the doctrines of a pre-tribulation rapture and a pre-millennial 2nd Coming. Darby’s place in history strikes me as similar to that of Charles Finney . . . mostly defined and despised by his enemies. In Finney’s case the evangelist is still castigated by his Calvinist adversaries who ascribe all manner of evil to him; in my view, because his preaching and teaching converted many Calvinists from their lost condition, waking them up from the lethargy of assuming election rather than embracing their responsibility to ‘do the work’ of repenting from their sins and willfully trusting Jesus Christ as Saviour. Neither Finney nor Darby were perfect servants, but who is? I do believe that both, however, will be numbered among the ‘stars’ mentioned in Daniel 12:2-3.

John Nelson Darby, 1800 – 1882

In this blog I’ll pull some nuggets from Paul Wilkinson’s book, Understanding Christian Zionism: Israel’s Place in the Purposes of God – Charting Dispensationalism & the Role of John Nelson Darby. Wilkinson does some heavy lifting, walking the reader through the history of the subject, and providing exhaustive documentation. The book is a modest 245 pages, but adds another hundred pages in endnotes and bibliography. I recommend it if you’re interested in prophecy . . . who isn’t?

Here are just a few of the calumnies hurled at Darby by modern critics: “a tortured and confused man,” “vindictive,” “the leader of an extravagant class of schismatics,” “a prophet of doom,” “the black sheep of the Plymouth Brethren,” “a petty tyrant,” a man whose doctrine has “shaken Christianity’s foundations.” Wilkinson documents many more such poisoned darts. On the other side are such descriptors as “a great and good man, an uncompromising champion for Christ’s glory and God’s truth,” “one of the most remarkable servants of Christ that this country has produced,” “a man of commanding intellect” who was “tireless in his missionary zeal to teach the Bible,” “the Tertullian of these last days,” a man of “simple and unaffected piety.” I’ll fall in with the latter crowd.

Darby was ordained a priest in the (Anglican) Church of Ireland, assigned as curate over a poor parish in Dublin. Here is a brief description by a contemporary of his devotion to the poor:

Every evening he sallied forth to teach in the cabins, and roving far and wide over mountain and amid bogs, was seldom home before midnight. By such exertions his strength was undermined and he so suffered in his limbs that not lameness only, but yet more serious results were feared . . . a dozen such men would have done more to convert all Ireland to Protestantism, than the whole apparatus of the Church Establishment, was ere long my conviction.

Darby went “from cabin to cabin to speak of Christ,” even before he, himself, was born again, before he experienced “certain peace.” Once assured of salvation he began to look for the “true church,” but found it neither in Anglicanism nor in Roman Catholicism. He wrote that “the Roman Catholic Church is ridiculous as a security for the soul.” In an 1827 pamphlet he wrote that the true church was . . .

. . . a congregation of souls redeemed out of “this naughty world” by God manifest in the flesh, a people purified to Himself by Christ, purified in the heart by faith, knit together, by the bond of this common faith in Him, to Him their Head . . . their conversation in heaven, from whence they look for the Saviour, the Lord of glory.

house church in Rwanda

In the late 1820s some Christians in Dublin who were discontented with the established churches began to meet in small groups. This was the beginning of the Plymouth Brethren movement. Darby was one of four ‘founders’ of the movement, with Darby credited as the theological prime mover and architect. As Anglicans left their Established Church and joined the Brethren, to much controversy, Darby wrote:

We leave it, because it is no company of believing disciples at all, but a very wicked and nefarious union between the Church and the world; because its essence and essential distinction is the chief of all iniquities, mixing the Church in the world, the holding of apostate principles if not a ripened apostate state.

In 1831 the first Brethren assemby was formed in Plymouth and was known for their open-air preaching and tract distribution. They were called “Plymouth Brethren” by critics, and their chief aim was “to exhibit, in a Scriptural way, the common brotherhood of all believers,” namely those who truly belonged to Christ, part of the family of God, and therefore referred to as “brother” or “sister.”

Darby emphasized the importance of the participation of everyone in church life, not just a class of clergy. He maintained that where there was an ordained priesthood “there is a denial of Christianity,” citing 1 Corinthians chapter 1. (“I am of Paul, and I of Apollos . . . I of Luther, I of John Knox or Calvin.”) So it’s not just in the matter of eschatology that enmity is generated against Darby. All clergy-based denominations, which certainly include conventional evangelical and fundamentalist churches, would be aggravated at the fellow.

Darby wrote often of his love for the Brethren, pointing out that their bond derived from their love of Jesus, not from precise agreement on every doctrinal point: “Hold fast by that, dear brother, for love is of God, and he that loveth is born of God.” When confronted with a brother in error he worked for their restoration, but “unity was never to be made a cover for evil.”

After a polity and prophecy conference, Darby wrote that delegates were occupied by the question, “By what covenant did the Jews, and shall the Jews, hold the land?” The issue of the future restoration of Israel became a distinctive feature of Brethren eschatology. Subjects explored included the apostasy of the churches, the distinction between the Jewish and Christian dispensations, and “the precious truth of the rapture.” He was often accused of being “too narrow.”

Like the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul, Darby’s life was consumed by two overlapping priorities . . . “While specially happy in evangelising, my heart ever turns to the church’s being fit for Christ.” That’s the New Testament pattern – evangelism and discipleship – woefully neglected by modern churches. Darby recalled a visit to a boy in the terminal stage of consumption. The lad had never read the Bible, and contracted his illness while searching the mountains in bad weather for a lost sheep, then carrying it home on his shoulders. Darby used the Lord’s parable to lead the lad to Christ, before “he died humbly, peacefully, almost exulting, with the name of Jesus, my Saviour and my Shepherd, the last upon his lips.” I would note that just one such ‘small’ victory puts Darby far ahead of multitudes of critical armchair theologians who don’t lift a finger to reach a lost soul.

Plymouth, England

Darby was in touch with the reality of his own weakness, describing himself as a “poor servant,” “feeble at intercession,” confessing to a “lack of courage,” “no wise master-builder,” “a poor workman,” “a poor worm,” and “a poor unworthy creature.” When he died, he left behind him some 1500 Brethren churches in Europe and North America, in Australia and New Zealand. He published Bible translations in English, French, German, and Italian, and wrote many hymns and poems.

The author, Paul Wilkinson, observes that Darby warned people not to accept the representations of others regarding his doctrine, but to use his own writings. From that point, Wilkinson details what Darby believed and what distortions have been perpetrated by critics.

In 1848, one hundred years before Israel’s rebirth, Darby wrote:

As far as the world is concerned, Jerusalem is nothing; it is a city trodden down, with neither commerce nor riches nor aught else. Superstition is established there on the sepulchre of the Lord. It is true, indeed, that the kings of the earth are beginning to look that way, because providence is leading in that direction, but as for God, He ever thinks of it; it is always His house, His city. His eyes and His heart are there continually. Now faith understands this.

In 1840 Darby cited Zechariah 12:3, as modern pre-trib advocates do, that the nations’ attention was increasingly occupied on Jerusalem, as an indication that we are in the last of the last days. Wilkinson notes, “Darby’s observations could have been made by any number of twenty-first century Christian Zionist writers.”

The word dispensation has been used since the Reformation, but it is fair to say that dispensationalism, as a system of theology, was established by Darby, meaning simply that God deals with mankind in terms of clearly defined time periods, or dispensations. But do not all Biblical Christians believe this? The Jews were given a system of bloody sacrifices which we do not use today. The Tabernacle and the Temple no longer exist on this Earth. The New Testament teaches that the believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. There is no segregated priesthood – all believers are priests with direct access to God. And so on. The real opposition to dispensationalism is rooted in objections to a pre-trib rapture and a false idea that God’s promises to Israel have been taken over by ‘The Church,’ a position most strongly held by papists, but also by multitudes within Protestantism.

King Herod\’s temple

Darby distinguished three groups in the Bible and distinctives in God’s dealing with each: Israel, the church, and the nations. He wasn’t obsessed with an over-particular delineation of dispensational boundaries, as some are today, but rather, as he wrote in an 1839 letter . . .

. . . the near coming of the Saviour, the gathering together of His own, and the sanctification and joy of those who are manifested, are always the thoughts predominant in my soul.

His dispensational scheme is summarized by Wilkinson as follows:

1. Noah: conscience
2. Abraham: promise
3. Israel: Jewish dispensation, subdivided into Moses (age of the law), Aaron (priesthood), and Kings
4. Gentiles: times of the Gentiles
5. Church: dispensation of the Spirit and His power, propagation of the Gospel
6. Millennium: the fulness of times

Darby saw God’s promises to Abraham as “without condition,” and re-confirmed to Isaac and Jacob, “renewed in David,” and always “confined to Israel.” In contrast, God’s promises to Israel at Sinai were given “on condition of obedience.” Israel’s ownership of the land was guaranteed, but occupation requires Israel’s obedience. The Gentiles had “no right” to it even during Jewish exile. Individuals could disqualify themselves from blessings, but God’s purposes for the nation could never fail.

He saw the dispensation of the church age as a “parenthesis,” to gather from the Earth “a heavenly people” made up of Jews and Gentiles. Whereas the Jews were an “elect nation,” wherever two or three Christians are gathered in His name, Jesus is in the midst. The Established Church is not a gathering of saints, and therefore, one can leave it behind. A denomination is not ‘elect’ in the sense that Israel was and is. Christianity is simply not an established, earthly, top-down ‘elect’ organization, which substitutes man for God. Only the Holy Spirit can exercise “the vicarship of Christ in the world.” Darby saw the established churches as falling easily into apostasy, and therefore will be left behind at the Rapture. “We want Chritianity, not Christendom; we have had enough of this.” He was convinced that only “a remnant” of professing Christians were truly born again, and as long as the ‘church’ believed that she had replaced Israel in God’s purposes, she would be blind to the “blessed hope.” (Titus 2:13)

Darby lived consistently with the priorities he professed. An acquaintance defended his own worldly position by insisting that a man should strive to be rich enough to secure his children a good education. Darby replied that if he had children, “I would as soon see them break stones on the road, as do anything else, if only I could secure to them the Gospel and the grace of God.”

Another reason Darby is despised by many is that he considered the so-called ‘church fathers’ to be “untrustworthy on every fundamental subject,” especially on the matter of distinction between Israel and the church. He also showed no particular respect for the Reformers. For example, he described the Thirty-nine Articles and the Westminster Confession of Faith as “poor protection for the faith of God’s elect,” being “elastic enough to admit many novel doctrines and all manner of evil ones.”

His authority was, above many who merely claim it to be, the Bible, which he saw as “a harmonious whole,” the Old Testament interwoven with the New. Controversially, he despised the involvement of Christians with politics, with the system that “the Lord is about to judge.” In this, I believe, he goes too far, at the polar extreme from present day American Christendom, which is agog over politics, but lethally apathetic about evangelism and discipleship.

Jerusalem

Darby expressed great yearning for the Lord’s appearing at the Rapture. Wilkinson (page 108) does a quick critique of strange modern eschatologies, including those which advocate a mid-trib, post-trib, or pre-wrath rapture. The “pre-wrath” school, led by Robert Van Kempen and Marvin Rosenthal, tries to divide Daniel’s 70th week into three distinct periods: the beginning of sorrows, the Great Tribulation, and the Day of the Lord. The GT is said to be the time of Satan’s wrath, while the Day of the Lord is supposedly God’s wrath. Both occur in the last half of the seven years. The church is supposed to be raptured after the Great Tribulation but before the wrath of God.

Tim LaHaye calls this redefinition of tribulation and wrath “the most confusing interpretation of end-time events ever put together,” which “blasts the hope out of the Rapture” by making the church look forward to the rise of the Antichrist and not for the Lord’s appearing. If such were true, Christians today should become serious preppers, as opposed to serious evangelists. But then so should Christians have prepped for tribulation for the last two thousand years! Fortunately, Christians through the ages have looked for the Lord’s appearing and have spread the Gospel. Darby wrote that Christians must be “always expecting” the Rapture “as a present thing, and wishing for it as a present thing . . . uncertain when it will come,” no event yet to be fulfilled prior. Certainly, this is the Biblical perspective. If the Rapture takes place during Daniel’s 70th week, then everyone can count the days once the events of Revelation begin to unfold. No surprise there. Darby: “Conversion, joy in service, holiness, a believer’s death, the goal of blamelessness, all are connected with the coming of the Lord.”

But this blog is not meant to be an exhaustive defense of pre-trib eschatology. I heartily recommend J. Dwight Pentecost’s classic for that: Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology, or more recent works by David Cloud or Dave Hunt. These are not merely academic issues. Wilkinson cites Philip Hallie’s book, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed, wherein the Jewish author recounts how a Plymouth Brethren community in Vichy France risked their lives to shelter Jewish refugees, “because of the special sympathy that Darby-ites had for the Jews,” a sympathy entirely based on their reading of God’s word, and His care for the Jewish nation. A German Jewish lady, for example, knocked on a farmhouse door, hoping to buy eggs. When the farmer’s wife asked if she was Jewish, the terrified woman admitted as much, whereupon the wife called her family, introducing the lady as “a representative of the Chosen People!” And gave her refuge. They put theology into practice. This particular community became a haven for thousands of fleeing Jews.

Wilkinson’s book goes way beyond an exposition of Darby’s life as he unpacks the history of the eschatology debates from the 18th through the 20th centuries. Before Darby’s time, the Puritans revived an interest in the Jewish people and God’s plans for them, as they tried to build their doctrines Biblically, after suffering the oppression of Roman Catholicism and the state-controlled Anglican church. For example, Thomas Newton (1704-1782), wrote on the uniqueness of the Jewish nation which, “like the bush of Moses, hath been always burning, but is never consumed.” He observed that if God’s judgments had been visited upon Israel to the letter, then so too would His promised blessings. He encouraged the ‘true church’ to “choose rather to be the dispensers of God’s mercies than the executioners of his judgments.” He used the fulfilment of prophecies concerning Israel as an “unanswerable argument for the truth of the Bible.”

The Wesleyan revivals of the 18th century stimulated a widespread love for the Scripture, which paved the way for 19th century interest in prophecy and the promised restoration of the Jews. In short, Wilkinson documents – at length – that Darby was not alone in espousing pre-trib, pre-millennial eschatology, along with the Biblical distinctions between Israel and the churches of God. There were many others before, during, and after . . . it’s just that Darby was particularly clear and powerful in his exposition, and so he becomes the target of those opposed.

One notable example is Joseph Seiss, a Lutheran minister in Maryland, who wrote in 1856, a good fifty years before the Zionist movement got rolling:

Why are the Jewish people still distinct, and Jerusalem’s walls still dear, as ever? Why have Jacob’s seed always refused to hold hands anywhere but in Palestine, and Jerusalem always refused to give permanent habitation to any but them? . . . And of all that have ever tried to fix themselves in the Holy Land . . . none have ever been able to gain a permanent foothold in it. WHY IS ALL THIS? . . . God has his own settled purpose with this people and this place, holding the one in reserve for the other until each shall be forever satisfied with its own. Here, history is prophecy. And if all the holy seers were silent, the very stones themselves cry out for Israel’s restoration. The rocks of Palestine will have no lord but Jacob.

Seiss also wrote that the Second Coming would have “two distinct stages,” and that “the translation” of faithful believers who were “devoutly looking and waiting” for Christ to return, “must precede the great tribulation.” Seiss included one of Darby’s books in a section of his own book on “recent writers.”

Darby traveled and spoke in both Britain and America. He lamented the state of the churches, especially how evangelicals enthusiastically welcomed and endorsed Brethren literature, but yet they would “stay where they are,” locked into the hierarchical, money-driven systems they called churches. I identify with Darby’s frustration. I have had many discussions with both ‘clergy’ and ‘laity’ in evangelical and fundamentalist churches. They agree that personal evangelism and discipleship should fill the life of believers. They agree that too few, especially the salaried clergy, do too much, and so too many sit passively, not growing, not reaching out with the same Gospel that purportedly saved them. Despite all this agreement, nobody moves. The system plods along.

I’ll conclude this blog with Wilkinson’s concluding remarks:

By heralding the any-moment Rapture of the church, the national restoration of Israel, and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, John Nelson Darby raised a banner for Biblical truth in the 19th century beneath which successive generations of true believers have rallied . . . Darby’s importance and impact has remained hidden for too long.”

– drdave@truthreallymatters.com


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79. If you have only a hammer: Andy Bannister on Apologetics
July 1, 2016

This essay is in the Evangelism Section. Click on Andy Bannister.


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80. Write for Legacy
July 15, 2016

Yeah, I know you’re too busy to consider this. Life is too busy with work, errands, bill paying, house and yard work, cooking, demands from spouse and children, plus TV, movies, Facebook . . .

But consider that a life too busy is a life destroyed, a vapor that is soon passed away, leaving . . . what? In this essay I want to encourage you to give up one Facebook hour per week, or one TV show, or 1/3 of a football game and do something in that hour that will build a legacy, in addition to helping some others along the way, PLUS actually developing your own brain power and analytical skills. I’m not asking you to read your Bible more or pray more; rather to write at least 3 paragraphs per week. That would be about 12-15 sentences.

Here’s why . . . Imagine you’re on your deathbed and still lucid. You want to spend the few precious hours you have left in sharing your heart with your spouse and children (and grandchildren). What do you want to tell them? Sure, I love you, I love you, I love you. Ok, what then? You’ve learned some things in this life, haven’t you? You want to warn your children against dangers to come, give them a reasoned hope for the future, exhort them on priorities, beg them to seek God and godly virtues, and do such things for very specific reasons, based on particular Biblical principles and your lifetime of experiences.

It’s too late, though. Your life and energy are spent. Your memory is failing. A few words now won’t be well-remembered. Hopefully, you’ve taught them well, they know the Lord and follow Him, and if they’re saved they have the Holy Spirit and the Bible. If someone close to you is still lost, wouldn’t you like to have more than one last plea to make? Wouldn’t it be good, though, if they had a few hundred letters from you to refer to over the years ahead, to give them real-life experience and counsel from one they trust, from one who’s been there, done that? Wouldn’t it be precious to them to have a record of your heart and soul?

So start writing some letters. Replace one silly wasted hour per week with an hour to pour your heart and mind and wisdom into 3 paragraphs. Did you learn something this week, read something interesting, observe something in family life or in the wacky culture? Did you read your Bible this week? So start a blog or even a notebook or a substantive diary. Leave a legacy.

As fruitful as this may be some day for your children, you can do this to help others now and develop your own spiritual potential. As soon as your children are old enough to be somewhat sentient, you can use your blog as a family supper topic. Get them in the habit of thinking while still young. This week my wife and I were walking in a local park and crossed paths with three 9th grade boys. We asked them questions about what was important to them and what they thought life was all about. It was clear that they had never been challenged to think about big issues, but are just puttering along through their formative years, captive to the culture, distracted by entertainment and social media – clueless. We gave them a variety of serious tracts as we parted, hoping that we stimulated a spark of desire to seek after Truth. (See my Tracts essay for the types of tracts we’ve designed.)

How does writing help you personally? Think about the countless reports, exams, and papers you wrote by the time you finished high school, the gazillion sentences you diagrammed, the vocabulary exercises, the short written answers to quiz questions, and so on. If you’re a college graduate, it’s countless squared. And if you have to write as part of your job, then written communication is an ongoing chunk of your life. All that work! Are you doing any good with those skills, namely good that has spiritual and eternal impact? Whether you think you can write well or write poorly, you’ve spent a large portion of your life learning the English language and communicating with it. If you can speak, you can write.

Writing helps you learn. The very practice of writing forces you to organize your thoughts and express them coherently. You may “feel” you know something, but unless you can express it coherently to someone else, you don’t know it as well as you might think. By the way, writing coherently is easier than speaking coherently, because writing takes more time, time we employ to figure out just how to ‘say it.’

When I taught engineering students I forced them to write, and held them accountable for clarity, even on short exams. There was resistance. Your typical math, science, and engineering exams are all about equations and calculations. But in real-life engineering you have to defend your ideas to get funding, communicate to your MBA boss on the significance of your calculations, and explain to a customer why your design is better than your competitor’s. So as part of each exam I required the student to explain things, as if to a boss hobbled with only an MBA-level education. Students usually hated this at first, but eventually adapted and learned.

In my Senior Design and Enterprise courses, where students worked as teams on design projects, a fair portion of their work included written documentation. I guarantee that those students who embraced the writing challenge became the fast burners in their engineering careers.

Why not embrace the challenge as part of your Christian walk? I note that the apostle Paul left the all-time-record written legacy with his letters to the churches. We see in his letters that his heart was open while his admonitions and exhortations were clear. His first letter to Corinth, for example, changed many lives not only then (as evidenced by what we see in his second letter), but through the last two millennia. Yes, Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Yet we, too, can seek the Spirit’s guidance in writing to family, friends, and a lost world.

Speaking of writing to a lost world, so what if your blog is read by only 2 or 10. All ministry is ultimately one at a time; all ministry is local. You should check out Gary Maske’s 6/6/2016 blog on this subject, entitled “Why Christian Websites (including this one) Are Mostly Irrelevant.”

Would you like to get your own personally designed Gospel message out to hundreds or thousands? That’s easy, too. Design your own tracts. In addition to the large 4 inch x 6 inch tracts I’ve designed and give away by the thousands (see the pdfs in our Tracts essay), I also use a variety of 2 inch x 3 ½ inch cards. If you buy these in large quantities from onemilliontracts.com, they will let you tweak the text and add your own contact info. Here’s an example, a wonderfully compact and punchy tract I get out by the tens of thousands . . .

Tract – What if

If you need a personal ‘business’ card, or would just like to have one as an excuse to give a Gospel presentation to anyone you meet, then feel free to adapt a design I’ve just done for myself. (It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek. I’ll let you look up the word ‘ontologist.’)

Tract – Ontologist

Yes, you can design your own tracts! Be a witness! I have zero graphics art skills, but the folks down at a local commercial print shop have plenty. I tell them what I’d like and they come up with the graphics design at a very modest price. I provide the text, of course. I wish I’d started doing my own designs decades ago. You don’t have to settle for tracts that other people sell! Feel free to use stuff I’ve written. You don’t have to start from scratch. You could even do a tract with your own testimony, handing it to people while saying, “Hey, this is my story. I think you might find it interesting!” People are more receptive when you’ve got something personal to share.

What? Printing your own tracts is too expensive? You wouldn’t happen to be giving away thousands of dollars per year to maintain church facilities and pastoral salaries under the pretext of “tithing,” would you? The New Testament knows nothing of a paid priesthood and a temple to offer sacrifices. Isn’t it ironic that multitudes of Christians in the West spend so much money on facilities and salaries and yet no one has time or money or inclination to actually do evangelism and discipleship? Hey, you’re accountable to God for your stewardship! Don’t just give your money away for someone else to spend it because he says so . . . loudly . . . from a pulpit or stage. Ok, enough venting, but I hope that helped you start THINKING about how to use your money for God’s work.

Christians have been doing this for a long time.

Would you like to vent on the wacky ungodliness of politics in America today? Don’t vent on Facebook where only your friends might see it . . . or those about to unfriend you. Vent constructively! Vent to hundreds or even thousands of people in your community. I have. I’ve recently designed two tracts to do just that, while including a Gospel challenge. In the Tracts essay you can find these with the titles “CAN YOU NAME THESE FAMOUS LIBERALS?” and “What do these 4 have in common?”

A lot of my blogs are critical reviews of books I’ve read. I think back to all the book reports I did in elementary and high school. But I didn’t save those reports and I certainly didn’t retain much from what I read. Now, when I read a substantive book, I mark it up while I’m reading, highlighting whatever grabs me . . . nuggets I want to store in my intellectual treasure chest. When I write the blog, I summarize and analyze what I’ve marked, which enhances memory and helps keep my analytical skills alive. When I publish the blog, my friends can (hopefully) benefit from my ‘Cliff Notes’ version, without having to read the book – although I often recommend the book and actually have some friends who have subsequently acquired such books.

Also, for my own benefit, months and even years after I’ve done a blog, I can usually recall that I’ve written on a particular book-derived topic – like the historical significance of John Nelson Darby, whether Jonathan Edwards was truly born again, how D. L. Moody did evangelism, Rolfe Barnard as a stereotypical conflicted Calvinist, the conflict between Nettleton and Finney, etc. – and I can review my blog (or just link to it) rather than re-skim the book when someone asks me a question about it. You can do this, too. Don’t be squeamish about marking up the book you’re reading. You own it! There’s no teacher to slap your wrist for inking it up!

If he can do it . . .

Do I expect to start a movement with this blog? No, I’m just praying that one person out there sees the potential of creating a written legacy and gets started . . . this week. Come on, 3 paragraphs. Start with a short version of your own testimony. Piece of cake.

– drdave@truthreallymatters.com


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81. Has science buried God? John Lennox on apologetics Part 1
August 1, 2016

This essay is in the Evangelism section. Click on John Lennox.


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82. Superstars are losers
August 15, 2016

Ben Johnson was the Senior VP at Apple that made the company a fortune while building a profitable network of retail stores. In 2011 he was rewarded with the offer of the CEO job at JC Penney, bringing a slew of innovations to the long-established chain. Seventeen months later Johnson was fired after alienating JCP’s core shoppers and tanking the company’s stock price by 50 percent.

In the July 2016 issue of WIRED magazine, Bryan Gardiner recounts several cases of superstars who flame out when they change venues, failing to earn the exorbitant salaries that enticed them into their new jobs. Accordingly, the article is entitled, “Blinded by the light: Hey, Businesses! Stop focusing on Superstars.” The fallacy is that exceptional workers “aren’t just a little better than the average worker,” but 1000 times better. So when you identify a superstar, particularly at the executive level, you should “shower them with money and perks and do whatever it takes to keep them happy. Right?”

Wrong. Talent certainly has an innate quality, but its impact depends on a lot of variables, including – especially – the team on which it operates . . . plus the culture, the market environment, and timing. Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer observes, “People’s performance is a function not just of their individual abilities but also of the systems in which they work.” In a Harvard Business School study, results indicate that, rather than look for superstars, find the “toxic workers” and fire them. Morale busting workers cause far more problems than good people can solve.

As I see it, the superstar myth afflicts all kinds of organizations. Where is leadership most vital, for example, in an army at war? That’s easy. If the NCOs are competent and mission-motivated, they train the troops and make sure the guns and ammo are well-stocked. In ground combat, if the enemy falls short at the small unit level, they lose. Wouldn’t you like a brilliant 4-star general in charge of your army? Not really. Brilliance tempts unwarranted innovations. I’d rather have competence coupled with character and a determination to make sure we’ve got the best NCOs and plenty of guns and bullets. The general’s primary job is to make sure the ‘grunts’ have the resources they need. I cite the example of the ‘brilliant’ British general in WW2, Bernard Law Montgomery, who (arguably) slowed down the Allied advance in Europe to make sure that his brilliance was continually on display . . . and that he got all the credit that he continually lusted for.

American General Omar Bradley serves as a notable counter-example. Called ‘The Soldier’s General,’ he didn’t seek notoriety, but kept his army moving, well-supplied with those boring, non-brilliant items like fuel, tires, trucks, guns, and bullets, pushing the German army all the way back into Germany.

U.S. SecDef Robert McNamara and Army General William Westmoreland were ‘so brilliant’ that the Vietnam War dragged on pointlessly for years, whereas any NCO, if asked, could have pointed out that the war could be won by demolishing the Communists in the North. Ulysses S. Grant, for example, wasn’t nearly as clever as Robert E. Lee, but Grant used his resources and kept his guys fighting until Lee’s army couldn’t stand up.

Omar Bradley

I could go on – I love military history. The point is that executive leadership is not complicated. If you get the wrong guy at the top, he can lose it all, despite competence at lower levels. The hard thing about war is at the tip of the spear, killing the other guy before he kills you. Patton told his troops that he did NOT want them to die for their country. He wanted them to make the enemy die for his country. Killing the other guy first, whether it’s by rifle fire amidst the trees, or by heat-seeking missiles above the clouds, requires courage, skill, and reliable resources, but above all a tenacity to keep plodding along . . . Don’t quit.

In business, where does victory occur? The ‘hard thing’ is just diligence and attention to details. Product design and engineering, marketing, sales – hire good people, train them, and pay attention to your customers. Success is in the details. Sure, a superstar CEO can screw it all up, but victory happens mostly at the tip of the spear.

In my last Air Force assignment I served as a Branch Chief for a group of 40 scientists and engineers. My goal was to get them the resources they needed to solve the problems, make some breakthroughs, and give the taxpayer his money’s worth. Sure, I had to think ahead strategically, work the relationships with outside agencies, and make decisions on priorities, but I always felt the ‘hard thing’ was accomplished in the labs and in the minds of the ‘grunts’ – the Ph.D.s doing the research. And in order to do my job, I had to stay in touch with the key technical issues, using my own research experience to fairly evaluate what my folks were doing. That took some time, precious time, time not appreciated by my nemeses.

Nemeses? What annoyed me were the layers of management above me. The researchers within the Laboratory’s various branches were at the tip of the spear; they made the mission happen. But Branches were clumped into Divisions which were clumped into Directorates which reported to the Laboratory commander and his staff. It seemed that the goal of the Divisions and Directorates was to aggravate and distract the Branches. I spent a good bit of my time just trying to protect my people from neverending requests and demands for information and reports and briefings. I eventually wrote and distributed a white paper that recommended dissolution of Divisions and Directorates. Give those resources to the Branches and add a little manpower to the Lab staff and a lot more work would get done. (I was close to retirement anyway, so I didn’t care whether my suggestions tweaked anyone.) Needless to say, my recommendations were ignored. What would all those Colonels and GS-15s do if they couldn’t annoy those below? How could they become leadership superstars without micromanaging their minions?

Have you noticed the superstar phenomenon within western Christendom? Evangelicals (gellies) and fundamentalists (fundies) admire . . . to the point of worship . . . their megachurch pastors and evangelists and webradio- / tele-vangelists and conference speakers and bestselling authors. Since most small churches aspire to be mid-sized and most mid-sized churches yearn for mega-status, it’s also clear that the ‘Senior Pastors’ of small churches yearn to be superstars down the road.

As problematic as superstars can be in business, it’s far worse in the spiritual realm. There is only one Superstar in New Testament Christianity, the Bright and Morning Star, the Lord Jesus Christ. Anyone that aspires to or achieves superstar status in the Lord’s work is in deep trouble. The Lord hates the doctrines and deeds of the Nicolaitanes (see Rev 2:6 and 2:15), those that set themselves up as clergy to lord it over the laity. The New Testament plan is for Christian brothers and sisters, as peers, to build up one another, to exhort and admonish and encourage one another. It’s not just Roman Catholicism that is afflicted by clericalism. Gellies and fundies are infested with it.

The Biblical principles in this area are elementary. In the parable of Luke 14:7-11 we see the Lord’s evaluation of those who seek the most honored positions: “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” You may say, “But Pastor Bob isn’t exalting himself. He can’t help it if so many people admire and praise him.”

Indeed he can. I observed a particularly egregious example years ago in a fundie church known nationwide for its franchised addictions ministry. We attended a semi-annual ‘graduation ceremony’ recognizing about 20 graduates from the church’s resident (full-time) program. One after another the graduates stepped up and praised the Senior Pastor, lauding him for his teaching and his leadership. Very little . . . very little . . . praise was offered publicly to the Lord Jesus during the program. The ‘man of God’ didn’t put a stop to this or correct anyone; he just drank it in. According to the Lord Jesus that makes him a loser. He’s in so very deep trouble. I assure you that this event was not an aberration in the pattern of that church’s life.

It’s easy to beat up on the self-aggrandizement of the big church / big media superstars. Really, though, it’s the little superstar wannabes that should consider their danger. Over the years we’ve seen so many churches who publish ‘Come visit our church’ trifold tracts that feature a photo of the SP. Why?!? They’re not even good looking! A couple of years ago we visited a special evangelistic meeting at a fundie church. Before the service started the projectionist displayed large photos on the auditorium walls, including one of the SP in a deliberately Billy Sunday-esque pose. Don’t these guys have a conscience?

Billy Sunday

The condemnation for this type of behavior is small, I believe, compared to the damage done by such superstars to the ‘little folk’ under ‘their ministry.’ As I’ve written about much on this site, clericalism destroys discipleship. The church life of the ‘little folk’ is passive. Training for spiritual combat is nonexistent. The saints never grow up. So who is fighting the battle?

Did General Grant or General Bradley do all the fighting themselves? Duh. The troops on the front line must defeat the enemy, point the rifle, squeeze the trigger, capture the terrain. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to be carried forth by the believers, the ‘grunts’ in the Lord’s army. The gellies look at the lost souls in occupied territory and make a little effort to get them some cheeseburgers or some new (or used!) shoes. They don’t actually mount a rescue mission or try to take the territory from the Adversary by preaching the Gospel, calling for repentance and faith in Christ, going eyeball-to-eyeball to tell a lost soul that he needs to rebel against his satanic master. Nope. Rather, “Hey would you like a cheeseburger? And I’ve got some only-moderately-worn sneakers that might fit you . . . Feel better now? That’s nice.”

By the way, all the ‘little effort’ seems to be aimed at the lost souls in the economically lowest tenth of a percent. Since the top 99.9% already have sneakers and cheeseburgers, there’s apparently nothing that can be done for them. This last July 4 our daughter-in-law took her children out to a local event to pass out some tracts. She discovered a church group giving away free bottles of water. She asked them if they were also sharing the Gospel. The answer? Oh no, not really, unless we get an opportunity, then we might invite them to our church.
Yep, the Great Commission always seems to be someone else’s job . . . after all, that’s what the superstar is hired for.

I played basketball in high school for a couple of years. I was merely mediocre (tennis and baseball were my games), but we did have one superstar player. We’ll call him ‘Dean.’ Dean led the conference in scoring and made all-state honorable mention. But we lost most of our games. Despite coddling him most of the time, the coaches finally lost their cool at one point, reading Dean the riot act, and demanding that he use his skills to help the team win. To his credit Dean tried. Instead of just driving to the hoop, he would beat the defense and then hit an open man. He picked up his defense to help out when a teammate was overmatched. I’ll never forget the confusion among his teammates. They just weren’t expecting that pass. Dean always scored. He didn’t pass! But eventually, the guys adapted. The team got better . . . not good, but at least better . . . for a while until, over time, bad habits crept back in. Dean had to keep his scoring average up, after all. Assists? Bah!

Have you noticed in the New Testament epistles, the letters to the churches from Paul, Peter, John, and Jude, how many superstar leaders are cited, how many times the apostles called out the Senior Pastors for recognition, how many times the SPs were challenged to do a great work for God? The answer is zero, zilch, nada. The sole exception is the call-out of Diotrephes in 3rd John, called out because his offense was that he loved to have preeminence. Who were the letters written to? The believers in every city! The challenges, the exhortations, the admonitions, the teachings – all were to the lowly believers who were expected to get out there and do it themselves.

Check out Mark 10:35-45, wherein James and John seek a bit of preeminence. Jesus calls them out, noting that those who would be great must minister from below, reminding them that He – Lord and Creator – came to minister, not to be ministered unto. Are there superstars among the saints today? I’m sure there are, especially in regions afflicted by persecution, believers who have no idea how much God will exalt them in the ages to come, now focused only on reaching the lost and ministering to the saints around them. In the West, though, Satan’s Suction System (see Blog #3 in the 2013 archive) works to identify young, serious Christians, and slurp them into clericalism, destroying their fruitfulness. You might also check out my essay, Don’t Go to Bible College!

I empathize with the objection, “But I know pastors who are really wonderful, serious Christians!” I do, too. The man I consider to be the ‘best’ Christian I’ve ever known is a retired pastor. Best? Yes, really, in personal holiness, humility, Bible knowledge, spiritual wisdom, compassion, and demonstrated fruitfulness in the lives of others . . . lost who got saved and believers who got edified. I thank God for him and for others whom God blessed despite laboring within the world’s version of church polity. Only God knows and only the Bema will reveal what could have been accomplished if such saints had embraced the Biblical pattern completely. Indeed, I’m deeply thankful for God’s grace on any of us, particularly me, who can be used in some measure despite our tragic flaws.

The discipleship tragedy of the pulpit-driven system should be readily evident to anyone who knows anything about how people learn. The lost academic world has, especially over the last few decades, embraced the reality that learning is primarily social and the best learning comes by intimate apprenticeship. As explained in a recent issue (6/2/2016) of Tomorrow’s Professor eNewsletter, in a given human activity there are some people who are really good at it and have much experience. The best sculptors, for example, can work in a variety of materials and can produce varied products. If you want to join such a community / culture, you start at the edges (cutting rocks, maybe), watching others, and progress under guidance to more complex tasks.

Similarly, student teachers work with veterans in the field, developing simple lessons and gradually building toward complete classroom responsibility. In all cases, learning includes much doing, under guidance, bolstered by peer assessment. Called active learning, the student (disciple) has to have some control, some responsibility, and be embedded within a community that fosters communication and collaboration.

But this is just New Testament discipleship! And is quite foreign to modern conventional church experiences, which are dreadfully passive, void of challenge and responsibility, and result in baby saints who may be advanced in chronological age. The job of the elders in a New Testament church is to develop the young saints, not lecture at them or dazzle them with activities and entertainment. But the temptation in any ‘classroom’ environment, including church, is to drift toward teacher-centered instruction. Try to get a fundie preacher to ‘give up his pulpit,’ even to his Number 2. Hah! You ask, “What about Sunday School classes and small groups in fundie and gelly churches?” Don’t try to con me. There is no training, no development, no challenge, no growth . . . lest someone get uncomfortable and withdraw his attendance and offering check. American Christians don’t want pressure. They come for a good time!

We just received a monthly newsletter from the Russian Bible Society, which has worked hard for decades to get Bibles into the hands of the Russian people, and folks in Ukraine, Georgia, Latvia, and other regional nations, Bibles translated from the Masoretic Hebrew and Greek Received Texts into the local languages.

Persecution is heating up in Russia. The Duma (legislature) just passed a law to deny Christians the right to evangelize, even within their own homes, or even to email a friend to invite her to a church meeting. The law restricts any activity designed to recruit people into a religious group. As I drafted this, Russian believers were praying and fasting and petitioning President Putin to disapprove the law. Unfortunately, Putin signed it. Yet God will give grace to those who are faithful despite the ragings of man and the Devil.

Wow, what freedoms we have in the West that we take for granted, all the while neglecting the Great Commission. Our churches don’t train their people to share the Gospel. One local Senior Pastor told me that he and his church are against ‘confrontational evangelism.’ What’s that, you ask? It’s just walking up to someone you don’t know and offering them a tract or sharing the Gospel verbally. Against it. Wow.

street evangelism in Russia

In the May 12th issue of Tomorrow’s Professor eNewsletter, the authors offer advice on counseling students on how to adapt to academic life and prepare for their careers. Here are a few of their suggestions to professors:

1. Talk little and listen a lot.
2. Help students think more comprehensively about their problems and possible courses of action.
3. Moderate students’ levels of distress.
4. Avoid offering advice.
5. Close the conversation and recommend follow-up communication.

This list is a lot closer to a sensible pattern of discipleship than you will find in a conventional church. My thoughts on this list, in order:

1. You can only hope to help a fellow believer if you listen to find out what’s on his mind. Whether it’s doctrinal or practical, let your brother articulate the way he sees it. If counsel comes only from the pulpit superstar, there’s no chance. Until the believer can articulate the issue himself, he hasn’t learned anything.
2. The point is that the disciple has to learn to do his own thinking. The older / wiser can help, but can’t do the thinking, not to mention the doing. Learning must result in doing at some point.
3. Biblical counsel, with compassion, should comfort and encourage. Offer admonishment at times, certainly, but always with compassion.
4. The academic’s thought on this is based on a faculty member not really knowing enough about a student’s life to know what specific advice is warranted. In the house church fellowship, however, we should know each other well enough to get specific.
5. Don’t go on and on. It’s not about venting and moaning and groaning. I’ve long been amazed at accounts of pastoral marriage counseling, an hour at a time, week after week. Hey, either you’re going to love one another this week or you’re not. Let’s talk for five minutes about some specific ways you can show love to each other, and then go do it. Get back to me in a few days and tell me whether you did it. If you’re not going to try, why should we waste our time, hour after hour, venting?

Quite a number of lecture-based college courses have moved to ‘just-in-time’ teaching and peer instruction. In one approach, a lecturer presents material for 10 minutes and asks multiple choice questions along the way. Students respond electronically so the prof can evaluate in real-time whether he’s getting through. The students break into groups to discuss the material, perhaps working through a homework problem together. Some groups may briefly present results. Another 10-minute lecture follows.

Such methods reflect honesty in recognizing that teaching is not about talking, it’s about whether students learn and can demonstrate that learning. Beyond the conventional classroom, laboratory courses and project and design courses are vital to many academic disciplines to insure that graduates can do it.

What about the church? What are the disciples learning? How does anyone know? What are they doing with all the wisdom they’ve heard from the pulpit or stage? If a senior adult has been in church for fifty years, does his faithful attendance insure wisdom and fruitfulness?

If you’re in a conventional fundie or gelly church, how’s it going? Who’s your superstar? Getting your money’s worth? More importantly, is your church life making you a more capable saint? How much of your own time is devoted to training others so that their lives stand up well at the Bema?

– drdave@truthreallymatters.com


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83. God vs. Stephen Hawking: John Lennox on Apologetics Part 2
September 1, 2016

This essay is in the Evangelism section of this web site. Click on

John Lennox.


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84. Evo-Devo, Structuralism, & Other Fairy Tales
September 15, 2016

This essay is in the Creation / Evolution section of this web site. Click on

Evo-Devo, etc.


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85. Faith, Evidence, & Proof: John Lennox on Apologetics Part 3
October 1, 2016

This essay is in the Evangelism section of this site. Click on:

John Lennox


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86. What’s in your genetic future?
October 15, 2016

This essay is in the Short Course in Creation / Evolution section of this site. Click on:

What’s in your genetic future?


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87. Follow me . . . if you dare
November 1, 2016

If you’re a Christian in America, or anywhere in the West, you probably don’t want to read this essay . . . particularly if you’re one of those content, bubbly, happy-go-lucky types that I seem to meet on Sunday morning at the doors of a typical evangelical church. You might recall who it was that most famously said, “Follow me,” because if you claim to be one of those followers, there was a purpose attached, as indicated in Matthew 4:19, with consequences as cautioned, for example, in Matthew 8:22.

It’s far better, isn’t it, and certainly more comfortable(!) to assume that the One we follow simply meant for you to show up at church and immerse yourself in evangelical (gelly) or fundamentalist (fundie) culture for a couple of hours before getting back to what counts in life . . . making money, buying toys, watching sports, griping about politics, etc.

David Platt and family

David Platt and family

Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. (2013) is the title of David Platt’s book, with a message so old-fashioned that it tastes startlingly fresh, coming from within American evangelicalism. Yet Platt’s most poignant stories derive from his overseas travels, where Gospel seed often finds fertile soil so rarely seen in America.

In sync with Platt’s theme is the book’s Introduction, written by Francis Chan, who recounts his own journey, building a megachurch, starting a college, speaking at big conferences. Chan writes, “But there was a big problem: I lacked peace.” His life didn’t look like the life of Jesus and the church he saw in the New Testament didn’t look like his ‘church.’

It occurs to me that by Chan’s own admission, one can build a megachurch and become a gelly superstar without being led by the Holy Spirit. He confesses that he could fill a room and preach a sermon, but couldn’t motivate the people to go out and actually make disciples. He realized that he was a big part of the problem, because his days were filled with people problems and administrivia. Neither leaders nor followers were engaged in the Great Commission, which happens to be the #1 message proclaimed by the resurrected Christ in the 40 days before His ascension.

We recently did a ‘field trip’ to a Sunday morning service at a fast-growing gelly church. Six people – 1 adult and 5 teens – gave short testimonies before getting baptized. In each case the testimony was one of believing that salvation had occurred earlier in life, but realizing that sincerity was lacking. Now, more confident, or having decided to “accept Christ” (an unbiblical phrase), profession and baptism seemed appropriate. In no case did I hear a mention of a lost, Hell-bound condition, condemned by sins, necessitating humility and repentance from actual delineable sins. One teen did mention that she gets along with her parents much better now. Another offered that she used to have anxieties and fears that are now gone. How nice, but those are ancillary issues, aren’t they?

megachurch service

megachurch service

Are they actually saved or are they fooling themselves yet again? I don’t know. In American church culture it’s hard to tell, whether or not they ‘get the words right’ in a public testimony. In Chan’s case, if he’s not practicing and modeling the Great Commission, if the ‘disciples’ in his church have no concept or practice of making disciples themselves, are they even disciples themselves? Hey, I’m just asking. If megachurches can be built without any help from the Holy Spirit, then why would you expect them to be filled with born again people?

What was more interesting to me with respect to the six testimonies we heard, was the asynchronous theological perspective. This church’s pastor is a proud graduate of John MacArthur’s Master’s Seminary and still in good standing with that community. The church’s doctrinal position is unashamedly Reformed . . . Calvinistic. Yet the 1st person perspective of the six was decidedly ‘free will,’ manifested by phrases such as “I accepted,” “I chose,” and “I believed.” This wasn’t just a slip up – they each read their pre-prepared typed out testimonies, and there was clear evidence of coaching.

So where was the Calvinism?!? Calvinists simply cannot actually live within their worldview. Here’s what I mean: A properly Calvinistic testimony should go something like this . . .

There was a day when God visited me with irresistible grace. I had absolutely nothing to do with it, because I was totally depraved, totally unable to understand or respond to the Gospel. But then, suddenly, I simply realized that God had given me a repentant heart. He had given me faith in Jesus Christ. Praise God that I never was lost and I’m not one of the unconditionally damned! I’m one of the unconditionally elect by God’s sovereign grace, one among the tiny percentage for whom Christ died! Now that God has regenerated me, I know that I will persevere in godliness and good works for the rest of my life.

I’ve never heard an honest Calvinist testimony. Have you? Certainly not from the freshly converted.

I’m trying to be fair, really. You see, Calvinism only afflicts believers after they’ve been saved. Of course, no one gets saved in Calvinism. You’re either elect or not. The elect were never lost, but simply unregenerate for part of their lives. The non-elect cannot be saved (they are uncondtionally damned from before the foundation of the world) and neither can the elect, elect from before the foundation of the world . . . only someone who is lost could be saved, but that category doesn’t exist. Make sense?

The damnable tragedy is that if you get infested with TULIP before you willfully repent and trust Christ, you’re very much likely stuck in a false hope. And why are Calvinists concerned about false converts anyway? Aren’t they false converts by God’s sovereign will? At least they have some hope during their time on this Earth.

Some born again Calvinists have too much heart, though. They see lost people as lost and believe that preaching the Gospel might actually mean the difference between Heaven and Hell for some. David Platt is such, what I call a ‘conflicted Calvinist.’ His heart is too big for his Calvinist head and so he reaches out and forgets about TULIP until he’s back home in his study, reading John MacArthur or Jonathan Edwards. Unfortunately, most Calvinists aren’t so conflicted, and so can’t agree with Paul’s desperate sentiments in Romans 9:1-5 and 10:1-4. (If Paul believed in Unconditional Election, why should he care more than God?)

In the local gelly church we visited, I detected many ‘ministries’ and ‘programs’, but no indication that personal evangelism has any priority. (Not much heart, apparently.) This is overwhelmingly common, of course, producing a culture that does not clearly distinguish between true and false converts. ‘Disciples’ must be engaged, thinking about and practicing evangelism, in order to be sensitive to how the Gospel must be conveyed and what a lost person must understand . . . plus what the response looks like to demonstrate transition from darkness to light, from love of self to a burden for other souls. If the church culture counts the salvation of souls in the community as a light thing, false professions within the church will abound.

altar-call

I like Chan’s shorthand assessment of Western church culture: “Come and listen,” instead of “Go and tell.” The passive “Come and listen” culture in gelly churches is intended to help members feel bubbly, to get them to come back the next week. In fundie churches, which apparently Chan has also visited, he suggests the intent is for members to boast, “I just heard the most convicting message, and it ruined me!” But such transitory conviction rarely produces repentance and a new path of service, which is almost impossible for fundie ‘laity’ ruled by fundie ‘clergy’ who hold tightly the reins of what they call ‘ministry.’

Francis Chan found that missing peace when he sold his house and moved his family to Asia, immersing himself in evangelism and discipleship ‘at ground level,’ eventually returning to the U.S. to start over . . . at street level, working to make disciples who, in turn, work to make disciples. (I don’t know what Chan has done since the book’s publication in 2013. I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader. I also don’t know precisely how he shares the Gospel and what his converts ‘look like.’ For our purposes, this isn’t about Chan or Platt, but rather NT principles.)

Platt begins with a description of Ayan, a woman in a 100% Muslim culture. Everything in her life, her identity, family honor, relationships – everything is tied to her tribe’s commitment to Islam. As you share the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ with her, she trembles in both hope and fear, hope for an assured salvation, but fear as she counts the cost. She asks, “How do I become a Christian?”

John MacArthur

John MacArthur

Platt suggests two options. You can say it’s easy, just assent to particular truths and repeat a prayer, or . . . you can tell Ayan the truth: “God is calling her to die. Literally. To die to her life. To die to her family. To die to her friends. To die to her future.” Yet to live in Jesus, as part of His family all over the Earth, to live in a future where joy is eternal.

Platt reports that Ayan is a real woman he met, who then had to flee her family and friends, but is now working with great sacrifice to spread the Gospel among her people. When Jesus saw Peter and Andrew casting their nets into the Sea of Galilee, He said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” He called them to leave behind their professions, their family, their safety and security. So it was for the rest of the twelve and for multitudes throughout history who didn’t enjoy the freedom and prosperity we in the West cling to.

The author notes that modern churches “are filled with supposed Christians who seem content to have casual association with Christ while giving nominal adherence to Christianity.” I believe he uses the term ‘Christianity’ correctly here, as a set of beliefs and practices owned by people who may not know Jesus as Savior and Lord. You see, salvation is personal. In Isaiah 12:2 the prophet proclaims, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid: for the Lord JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.” Note also that the very name of ‘Jesus’ means ‘Jehovah is salvation.’ You’ve got to know Him. (John 17:3) That’s very personal. Life changes and you acquire an insatiable burden to reach out to others who don’t know Him.

Refreshingly, from within evangelicalism, Platt is death on manipulative ‘soul-winning’ – Ask Jesus into your heart. Invite Christ into your life. Repeat this prayer after me. He obliterates the unbiblical and deceptive nature of this oh-so-common approach, yet embraced by most of those few who actually make some effort to reach out. He brings the proper conclusion: Multitudes think they were saved by simple assent and repeated prayers, but are still headed for Hell. Yes, to Platt’s credit, he actually teaches that Hell is real and is the destination for unsaved sinners, including many gelly and fundie church members. Hey, Christian, just that one simple truth should be enough for you to speak up and warn some people.

Accordingly, Platt exposits the call of Jesus to repentance, for sinners to renounce sin and dependence on self for salvation. Peter’s open air sermon at Pentecost, for example, was a call to repentance to a crowd that had recently crucified the Lord Jesus. Paul’s preaching to the pagan Gentiles featured the bold exhortation to turn from their idols, expecting the repentant to literally destroy them and follow Christ, going against the cultural flow, even to the forfeit of their lives.

Idols? The author calls out Americans who make idols of online pornography, ungodly TV shows and movies, sports, big houses, big cars, big shopping sprees, big materialism. (Ungodly? I can’t remember the last time I heard a gelly use that word!) When life is filled with idols, repentance isn’t so easy. But you can still enjoy the show at church on Sunday and fool yourself into thinking you’re OK.

Platt suggests that Western church culture tempts professing Christians to underestimate the seriousness of their sins. The winsome fellow on stage Sunday morning gives the impression that we’re “basically good people who have simply made some bad decisions,” whether lying or cheating or lusting or cursing . . . hey, we all make mistakes! Just ask Jesus to come into your heart and you’re good to go. But salvation starts with the brokenness of seeing the gravity of our own sins. The Bible is filled with this perspective, as in Romans chapters 1 to 3 and Psalm 51. An evangelistic witness, on the street for example, 1-2-1, must make this clear, compassionately yet unequivocally.

The call to salvation is not a call to a set of rules and / or ritual duties. We turn from sin – not just sins in general but the specific sins that infest our lives – and trust in Christ, in the One who died for us and rose again, trusting Him not just for forgiveness and reconciliation, but trusting Him enough that we believe that His way is THE WAY, and so we follow Him. We follow Him very personally, we learn from His words (the Bible), come to Him, walk with Him, commune with Him, rest and joy in Him, and find meaning in serving Him. We take on His burden for lost souls and His desire for fellowship with other believers.

That’s a lot more than showing up at church, buddy.

When Jesus says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” he’s not asking, cajoling, or pleading. He makes his true disciples fishers of men. He causes this transformation. You say you don’t have the gift or you’re timid or you just don’t feel like it, or you’re too busy? Then you haven’t become a disciple, have you? When I challenge a Jehovah’s Witness on whether he has — present tense – eternal life, or whether he’s merely hoping to attain it after his faithful attendance and service to his Kingdom Hall, he will invariably admit his hope is based on his self-righteousness, but that he does not presently possess eternal life. Therefore, he’s still lost, not a child of God, not a disciple of Jesus Christ.

What’s the difference with respect to multitudes of churchgoers who must admit that they are not presently disciples, but maybe when they get the time or inclination later in life . . . then they’ll get serious! In the meantime, they must be lost.

Platt: “All of this makes me wonder what we’re missing. When I look at the church today, it seems like we have taken the costly command of Christ to go, baptize, and teach all nations and mutated it into a comfortable call for Christians to come, be baptized, and sit in one location.” Platt details how the NT record testifies to disciples who didn’t need to be begged to reach out, but were compelled by their transformed nature.

Can a genuine born again Christian repent from lazy unconcern and timidity? Yes, we can change our addictions. If you wallow in a church culture of passivity and un-love toward souls, you will get addicted to that. But if you repent and practice reaching out, your addiction will change. God will give you an addiction to the ministry of evangelism . . . He wants to! That’s a prayer He loves to answer. You’ve got to act, though. God doesn’t want spectators. He wants you on the field, in the battle! Why did Jesus come to this Earth? He said, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” And He says to us, “Follow me.”

Platt tells about Abid, a medical doctor who comes from a devout, wealthy Muslim family. He met Christians who shared the Gospel with him and he trusted Christ. His family found out, tied him up and beat him. His wife and children abandoned him and he lost his medical practice. He lives under constant threats of harm and death. But shortly after conversion, he asked God to use him to witness to 1,000 people in his first year as a new follower of Christ. At the end of that year he had given the Gospel to over 4,000 people.

village in India

village in India

Sanja in India is a poor mother of two little girls. Her husband left her during her second pregnancy because he didn’t want the responsibility of dowry when they were grown. Going home to live again with her parents, she discovered a church that reached out to pregnant mothers. She repented of her sins and trusted Christ, knowing that shame and suffering would come. Yet now she helps lead the outreach from her church to pregnant mothers, sharing the Gospel with every Hindu she knows.

Why do they profess Christ in the face of such trouble? They are simply genuine followers of Jesus, the real Jesus, not a customizable ‘personal’ Savior who encourages you to pick and choose from what He says, making sure you’re comfortable and not wanting to interfere with your life’s priorities.

A member of David Platt’s church served with other Christians in a Muslim nation that persecutes Christians zealously. When a man or woman trusts Christ in that country, they are encouraged to make a list of all the unbelievers they know (which is almost everyone they know), and circle the names of the 10 people on that list least likely to kill them for becoming Jesus-followers. And then share the Gospel with those ten ASAP. That’s what they do, and the Gospel is spreading in that country.

muslim-womenPlatt does a fine job destroying the excuses of Christians such as, “Well, I share the Gospel when the Holy Spirit leads me.” Yuk. The Holy Spirit already TOLD YOU to go. Or, “I don’t witness with my words; I witness with my life.” Double yuk. The apostles weren’t martyred because they traveled around doing good deeds. Furthermore, God doesn’t command you to win people to you with your brilliant smile and dazzling personality. You’re not the focus of attention, Jesus is! The evangelist’s job is to point the sinner to Jesus, conveying truths of law, sin, judgment, Hell, repentance, the cross and resurrection, faith in Christ, the new birth, and what a saved live looks like – counting the cost. It’s between the sinner and the Savior. You’re making an introduction. But it’s their relationship. Get out of the way.

How bold can you go? Luke is a member of Platt’s church, a successful businessman, saved in college, repenting from collegiate ‘party life’, and since then growing in knowledge and zeal. Invited to speak at his company’s annual nationwide meeting, he knew God wanted him to speak about Christ, since Luke’s relationship with His Lord infused his business practices. He did so, then sat down and a manager across the table said, “Luke, I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, but I want to know more.” So Luke fully explained the Gospel to this manager and everyone else listening in at his table. Then Luke asked, “Would you like to turn from your sin and yourself and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord?” With ten people looking on, the manager said yes and became a follower of Jesus that very night.

Some years ago my wife and I were getting up after eating supper at a crowded Burger King. I saw an old man eating by himself and so I offered him a Gospel tract. He asked what it was and so I explained a bit. He asked some more questions and so we sat down with him and talked for about twenty minutes. The interesting thing was that he was very hard of hearing and so we had to speak very loudly to be heard! As we shared the Gospel the background noise in the restaurant died away and everyone there listened in. They couldn’t help it! I am sure that the Lord gave us that opportunity . . . and I’m sure He has a sense of humor. I sure thought it was funny the way that worked out.

When I taught engineering at Michigan Tech I was once(!) invited to speak to the AFROTC faculty and students on the subject of leadership in Research and Development. As a former Air Force officer I was pleased to do so. For 30 minutes I shared experiences and principles, weaving in Biblical truths which are at the foundation of integrity, stewardship, and other qualities relevant to the subject. I shared my faith and carefully cited a number of American presidents and generals who also stood on Biblical truth to guide them in leadership. There were over 100 people in attendance and it felt to me that the talk was well-received.

The next day I got a heads-up phone call from a student who had been there, a Christian, who told me that trouble was coming. What surprised me was that the troublemaker was the Air Force Lt. Colonel who commanded the ROTC detachment, who claimed to be a Christian. He showed up at my office later, demanding that I make a public apology for the Biblical references in my talk. I refused, of course, which completely flabbergasted him. It turned out that he was one of those sneaky evangelicals who see themselves as lifestyle evangelists. But I’d put the issues right out on the table. He was embarrassed that some people might think that he’d asked me to speak so boldly. He wanted to dissociate himself from such outrageousness. Too bad. (I didn’t get invited back.)

The enemies of the Gospel are not always the atheists and the cultists.

Let’s wrap this up. OK, perhaps there is one reader out there – you? – who says you don’t know how to get started after all these years of disobedience and lethargy, admitting that you don’t reach out because you don’t love Jesus enough to obey and follow Him and don’t love others enough to warn them about Hell. I’m hereby volunteering to help. Start reading the essays in the evangelism section of this site, or just download the free ebook on evangelism in the free ebook store. And write to me so I can send you some free tracts. We’ll correspond and encourage each other. I’ve still got some room in my life for a new friend or two.

  • drdave@truthreallymatters.com


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88. The Missing Heart of Apologetics
November 15, 2016

This essay is posted in the Evangelism section of this site.
Click on . . .

The Missing Heart of Apologetics


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89. Calvinism: It’s not just irrational. It’s atheism.
December 1, 2016

Many thoughtful students of God’s word who take a position against Calvinism, nevertheless avoid calling it heresy; it’s rather just some disagreement on minor aspects of theology, they say, certainly not rising to the level of cult-like beliefs such as those of Mormonism or the Kingdom Hall . . . I mean you wouldn’t dream of calling Reformed Theology a damnable heresy, would you?

Yes, I would. I’m not kidding about my title: Calvinism: It’s not just irrational. It’s Atheism. Am I claiming that Calvinists would ever admit to being atheists? No, of course not. Many Calvinists are born again Christians, but get suckered into the doctrines of TULIP after they are saved. Many Christians in non-Calvinist churches gradually get snookered into Calvinism when they hire a new teaching pastor, fresh out of John MacArthur’s seminary. These fellows find a pulpit and slowly introduce Calvinism, as if heating the water slowly in a pot so the lobsters don’t realize the trouble they’re in until it’s too late.

lobster-boiling

Yes, you can be born again, have the indwelling Holy Spirit and a box of Bibles in your house, but if you don’t take God’s word seriously and study it, mindful of not putting too much trust in winsome seminary-trained teachers, you can fall into all kinds of error. God won’t protect us from willful negligence. Where Calvinism is damnable heresy is that children raised on that doctrinal diet will miss their personal responsibility to choose to repent, to choose to believe, that it’s up to them whether and when to humble themselves, recognize their lost condition, turn from sin, and turn to Christ.

No, Calvinist doctrine teaches that everyone is born Totally Depraved — Totally Unable to choose repentance. Only if your little girl is one of the Unconditionally Elect, as opposed to the vast multitudes who are Unconditionally Damned without recourse, did Christ die for her (Limited Atonement), and she will receive Irresistible Grace at the time of God’s choosing to regenerate her, thus giving her – with no intellectual or emotional or willful choice on her part – a spirit of repentance and faith. From that point forward she will Persevere as a Saint, which is the only real evidence that she is, in fact, Elect. By the way, the Elect were never lost; how could they be?

Furthermore, there is a vast overarching canopy doctrine above TULIP – Calvinist Sovereignty – which insists that EVERYTHING that ever happens, including your every thought, word, and deed, every murder, every rape, every time you blow your nose, every movement of every electron in your brain and across the universe is predetermined by God’s sovereign will, foreordained by His perfect plan from before the creation of the universe.

John Calvin

John Calvin

Hey, Calvinists, if that’s what you believe, then teach that to your children. Many Calvinist scholars and preachers claim that TULIP is the Gospel. So be it. But, fortunately, most Calvinists are what I call Conflicted Calvinists and so they teach Bobby and Susie to pray, as if prayer could possibly make a difference under the canopy of Sovereignty, and they implore their children to repent from their sins and trust Christ . . . as if any evangelistic effort, even for your own precious children, could possibly make a difference.

In David Cloud’s book against Calvinism, The Calvinist Debate, the author admits that “Calvinism makes some good points about the sovereignty of God” and “I personally like the way it exalts God above man and . . . I agree with its teaching that salvation is 100% of God.”

I totally disagree. Cloud’s book does a good job of dismembering TULIP, but he’s missed a couple of points. Calvinist sovereignty (a word not found in the KJV) is nothing like the concept of sovereignty in common usage in the English language and in the history of the world. A Calvinist may challenge me, “Don’t you believe God is sovereign?” My answer: “Yes, in the sense the word normally means. The U.S. government is sovereign over its territory and its citizens, makes the laws and can deliver consequences to lawbreakers. Yet I am free to choose to obey or not, and to suffer consequences. God is sovereign over His creation in a similar, albeit powerful and omniscient way. I can choose to obey Him or choose to rebel. But no, I do not believe in your version of sovereignty, in which God, by plan, predetermines every act of obedience or rebellion. That makes God guilty of perpretrating every crime ever committed, by any reasonable moral measure, whether you come up with some doublespeak to deny it or not.”

America’s historic tripartite system of government corresponds to the Biblical pattern of Isaiah 33:22 . . . “For the LORD is our Judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.” Do you see the three branches of government? Every man knows that our system of laws and justice make no moral sense whatsoever if man has no free will. A man will not be convicted of a crime if he has no means, motive, nor opportunity. No free will means no motive, no liberty of action and there are no means, and a predetermined mechanistic path (dictated by someone else) for his brain and body to follow provides no opportunity. In any human court, the mentally impaired are not held responsible. Is God less just?

This is one aspect in which Calvinism = Atheism. The atheistic / naturalistic universe is simply molecules in motion, subject to the laws of physics. There is no free will and no basis for rational thought in the periodic table and the laws of gravity and electrodynamics. In atheism – and you can use this on the street when sharing the Gospel with an atheist – there is nothing ‘evil’ about murder or rape or child molestation. It’s all just molecules in motion and collision. Murder is one clump of molecules colliding with another.

Just molecules in collision?

Just molecules in collision?

The Calvinist unreality is the same. We’re not even actors on a stage. An actor, at least, has some discretion in body language and emphasis. The universe’s master computer program, entitled SOVEREIGNTY, is merely executing its program, moment by moment.

I also take issue with Cloud’s two other points: Calvinism does not exalt God above man. The Bible does so, yes. Praise God that He offers salvation as a free gift to those who repent and believe. But Calvinism blasphemes God by teaching Limited Atonement and Unconditional Damnation for 98% (or more) of the human race. This must be a doctrine of Satan, to blaspheme the grace of God and the love of God, deceiving people that God is arbitrary, that all fates are in His hands without human recourse. By the way, this is also Islam!

So, is salvation 100% of God? Yes, in the biblical sense that God gave Himself as the sacrificial Lamb of God, and that regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit. But NO, not in the Calvinist sense, which steals the responsibility and the ability of men and women and children to repent and believe. Don’t be fooled by Calvinist doublespeak which insists that man is responsible, too. Too?

Charles Spurgeon, the famous 19th century Baptist preacher, was a Conflicted Calvinist, who worked hard to reach souls – all souls – yet clung to TULIP. Here’s a sample of his conflict, his confusion: “That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other.”

He later concludes that the issue can be resolved only in eternity. Yet he sees the point, that two truths cannot contradict each other, a fundamental principle of logic / rational thought. Simply, one of his alleged true statements must not be! And, as I mentioned before, all of our understanding of human morality and legal justice is founded on the truth of human responsibility. We live that way and the Bible teaches it! And the Bible is crystal from Genesis to Revelation that God pleads with man to choose, to humble himself; God warns man of the consequences if he rebels; Jesus even weeps over Jerusalem for its choice to reject Him. If God is clear that we choose, then human responsibility is true and Total Inability is not.

Scripture is clear that man is made in God’s image . . . clearly not in body, but in mind, heart, soul, and spirit. We are persons, individuals, with capacity to discern and to decide, to reason, to be silly (is our silliness God’s sovereign will?), to love or to hate, to be kind or to be selfish. Are we not? I submit that free will is axiomatic to human existence. We live each day, moment by moment, just as if we are persons. But if this is quite meaningless, that man is constrained at every point by Calvinist-defined sovereignty, then you and I are not persons. Consequently, the One in whose image we are made, is no person either. If man doesn’t exist as a person, then neither does God, and God as a person doesn’t exist. This is atheism, except that atheists are not such blasphemers as to credit God with the moral evils that plague our world.

Dave Hunt

Dave Hunt

The ‘god’ of the Calvinists is small, indeed. He must control EVERYTHING in order to get his will done. The God of the Bible, however, is so big that His will is effected completely even in the face of billions of willful creatures. We know that Scripture reveals to us the 2nd coming of Christ, the judgments of Revelation, the Great White Throne Judgment, etc. But the details of history – outside of what God has explicitly revealed – are largely up to us as individuals. Does God know my future choices? Of course. He invented space and time and is necessarily unconstrained in viewing space/time in totality, whereas we are locked into experiencing time one linear increment at a time, in one place at a time. So He knows, yet the Bible is clear that I’ve got to choose and the consequences are eternal.

It’s not a big leap, by the way, from Unconditional Damnation to Calvinist sovereignty. Otherwise, what if a non-elect fellow gets curious about salvation and seeks God? What if some of his thoughts are not completely hard-wired? John 6:37b teaches, “. . . him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” That fellow could get saved if he decides to come to Christ. And so the Calvinist needs his version of sovereignty to prevent that! (Yes, I’m teasing the Calvinist reader by choosing 6:37b. Part ‘a’ of that verse refers to the eleven disciples, which should make many passages much clearer to the Calvinist who is willing to examine Scripture freely, without the blindfold of TULIP.)

A typical hard-boiled Calvinist will have already accused me of being an ‘Arminian’ at this point. (That’s someone who doesn’t agree with them.) And they will usually make the accusation with disdainful fervor! Why? Am I not an Arminian by God’s sovereign will? But perhaps their accusation is simply foreordained, too, along with their disdain? And so we mechanically play our parts. Who is watching the show? The Calvinist believes that all the God-ordained evil and Unconditional Damnation of billions is for the purpose of glorifying God. But in the eyes of whom? Programmed robots?

There are no personal relationships among machines. Having trouble with your spouse or children? That’s just their programming, and your programming is that ‘you’ are to be troubled by it. But don’t worry . . . be happy . . . if you happen to be programmed happy.

robotsIf you’re not a Calvinist and fairly new to this ‘debate,’ you might think I’m making all this up. It’s too ridiculous to even warrant consideration. Yet Calvinism is gradually taking over most of evangelicalism, and much of fundamentalism is infected with portions of the heresy. The Calvinist insists he believes in God. Perhaps, then, he’s closer to pantheism than atheism, per se. Pantheism is equivalent to atheism – no personal God – but fantasizes an impersonal ‘Force’ (like in Star Wars) that somehow influences fate and human consciousness . . . all very mysteriously. Calvinists tend to see such blatant contradictions as predestination vs. free will as mysteries, not wanting to admit the gross illogic. The mystic can always invoke mysteries when his religion doesn’t make sense.

If you’d like a serious exposition of the issues, along with considerable Biblical and historical analysis (since in this essay I’m focusing on doctrinal consequences instead of proof-texting you to death), check out Dave Hunt’s book, What Love is This? Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God, or Lawrence Vance’s The Other Side of Calvinism.

The fact that such nonsense can propagate so readily within Christendom, including among born again Christians, is evidence of the spectacularly free will we enjoy. As I suggested before, God doesn’t save us from willful stupidity.

horse-and-reins

Os Guinness in his book Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion, while not referring specifically to Calvinism, speaks to a relevant principle, that “sin frames God falsely. Thinking of him as he isn’t, sin justifies itself in rejecting him as he is – and therefore draws the false view around itself like a security blanket to provide itself with an alibi for not believing or obeying God . . . Whenever God is not seen for who he is, but stands in the dock falsely framed and wrongly accused, we must reframe the issue and so defend God’s name and restore the truth to the distorted view of reality.”

This is the bottom line: False doctrine is sin. Commitment to false doctrine is commitment to sin. This is not a small thing. False doctrine derives from corruption in the heart, not misunderstanding in the mind. Consider a well-known passage, Jeremiah 17:9-10. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”

The ‘heart’ is the center of man’s being, as represented in Scripture, your controller, the part of you that weighs the alternatives and says, “That’s what I want to do.” A man’s heart is corrupted by sin – transgressions of God’s laws – coupled with man’s flesh . . . his natural inclinations . . . yet, as you know, at any moment and in any situation you can still choose right over wrong. Before salvation you could, too, although then there was no indwelling Holy Spirit to urge your conscience to do right. In the passage above, the Lord doesn’t wire the heart; rather, he searches it and ‘tries the reins.’ What does that mean? He’s tugging at the reins as a jockey tests his horse to see if he will respond obediently. But there is no forcing here, either inside or outside of the metaphor. God’s thought concludes with His promise to reward or judge based on the ways that man chooses. That’s clear, isn’t it?

What is the temptation that makes Calvinism appealing to some? Is it the pseudo-intellectualism, the philosophical double-talk, the variety of new terms coined by Calvinist theologians, the disdain for unenlightened ‘Arminians’? Maybe. Maybe it’s the fatalism about the salvation or damnation of the lost souls around them? After all, personal evangelism is uncomfortable. Election is in God’s hands. There’s nothing you can do about it, so why try? For many it’s doubtless ‘bad luck’ in that they joined a Calvinist church and got taught this insanity under the assumption they were learning basic doctrine. For others it’s the fatalism that diminishes personal responsibility for trouble in life, especially trouble that’s their fault. Hey, it’s just God’s plan. Que sera, sera.

I’ve seen evidence of all those temptations in people I’ve known over the years. My hope in this essay is NOT to turn around a committed Calvinist. Hey, you’re committed. Good luck to you! I do hope that some reader who has been exposed to ‘Reformed Theology’ might do a little homework and see it for the poison it is, and perhaps help someone else out of it before it penetrates too deeply.

  • drdave@truthreallymatters.com


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90. Attitude Matters – Van Til’s Apologetic Part 1
December 15, 2016

This blog is posted in the Evangelism Section and includes both Parts 1 and 2. Click on . . .

Attitude Matters: Van Til’s Apologetic Parts 1 & 2


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