Friday, October 31, 2008

Blood, Redemption, Forgiveness, Redemption & Baptism

On Tuesday evenings the Archdale church of Christ conducts Bible studies at the Mecklenburg County jail. We have, typically, a crowd of 16-22. We have an hour to share the Gospel as God allows us. Our opportunity is enhanced by the fact that our group is different each and every time. Very few of these men have the opportunity to hear the Gospel more than once and so we are burdened with the urgency.

Everything goes very well unti we arrive at the necessity of baptism for the remission of sins. We deal with the "sinners prayer," the thief on the cross and Romans 10:9-10 nearly every week. This last Tuesday, however, we had a man who objected to baptism on the grounds of Ephesians 1:7:

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the richness of His grace... (NKJV)

The mans contention was that this verse spoke of redemption, forgiveness through grace without any mention of baptism. How then is baptism essential? Let's examine this question briefly.

The Word of God interacts back and forth with itself, Scripture interprets Scripture. For example, we lack the complete account of Pauls conversion if we look only at Acts 9 without also looking at Acts 22. Luke gives a 3rd party account of Pauls conversion in Acts 9, whereas Paul himself is quoted directly in Acts 22 regarding these same events. Therefore, when we look at the subject of redemption, forgiveness and grace, we need to look at more than just one entry regarding the subject.

In Ephesians 1:17 Paul essentially restates the same principle using different terminology. Examine:

In Him we have:


according to the richness of His grace.

By examining the structure of the language we quickly realize that words "redemption" and "forgiveness" are synonomous, they are one and the same. We therefore must conclude that neither can be acheived except "through His blood." Going back to Acts 2:38 we see that baptism is exclusively the time and the place where "remission [forgiveness/redemption] of sins" takes place! By examining these two scriptures together we must conclude the following:




Ephesians 1:7 DOES speak of baptism for Christ shed His blood ONLY in His death and the ONLY way to participate with Him in His death is through water baptism. (See Romans 6:1f) We are baptized into His death where we meet and are cleansed by the saving blood of Christ that remitts us of our sins, forgives us of our sins and redeems us from our sins!

There is no "plan "B," the ONLY place where we find the blood of Christ is in the time and place of water baptism. Man may not like it, understand it, appreciate it or embrace it...BUT..."it is the way it is." The saving blood of Jesus Christ is NOT found in any mystical experience, at the end of any "sinners prayer," after "praying through," after being "voted in" or ANY other place or time outside of water baptism of the soul that has repented of every sin (Acts 2:38) and has confessed the Name of Jesus Christ before witnesses (Matthew 10:32).

Should you hesitate at the point of water baptism, dear friend, please consider once again the words of the servants of General Naaman, "...My father if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, "Wash and be clean?" - II Kings 5:13 (NKJV) "For whatever things written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might find hope." - Romans 15:4 (NKJV) General Naaman "got in the water." Now its your turn! Thank God for His unspeakable free gift of salvation through the saving shed blood of Jesus Christ found in the "watery grave" of baptism!

NOTE: This same article is also posted on my evangelistic weblog,!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Why Does An Agnostic Need A Bible Commentary? - A Review of a Review

“Ag-nos-tic –One that holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable.” – Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, (Merriam-Webster Inc., Publishers, Springfield, MA, 1991) pg. 65

It is such a surreal time in which we live. I grew up in Hampton, VA on a little twenty four home street called Briar Drive. Between the years of 1957 – 1969, there was only one family living on that street that did not attend some church of some kind. There were Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, Adventists, Pentecostals and our family…members of the Lord’s church. There was only one family that never attended a church of some kind. That family lived across the street from us and they took their boat out every Sunday instead of attending worship somewhere. However, they were not atheists or agnostics.

I remember studying about atheists in school. Atheists lived in Russia, China, North Korea, North Vietnam and Cuba...they were all communists. The only other atheists I ever heard of were the defeated fascists of Germany and Japan. I can’t remember when I first gave a conscious thought about agnosticism. I was grown before I actually met anyone claiming to be an agnostic. [Of course since agnostics, by definition are not sure about anything, they may be theists one day and atheists the next!] In the intervening years between then and now, rightly or wrongly, I began to think in terms that agnosticism seemed most prevalent among drug addicts, rock and roll groupies and growing numbers of college professors. Soon I noticed that it was creeping into the mainstream Protestant denominations, Unitarians and a few other groups. Agnosticism was not main-stream and it certainly had no place in the churches of Christ!

Fast forward to 2008…all that has changed. For reasons I cannot easily understand, our Christian colleges and many of our “mega-churches” are awash with agnostics! [For the purpose of this discussion, agnostics are doubters of the veracity of Scripture and by logical extension…doubters of the Divinity of Jesus Christ] Of course, we must scratch our heads and wonder WHY would an agnostic bother attending worship, put their hand-wringing doubts into endless reams of media and choose a career in “ministry?” Really…what can one palm sweating doubter do for another?

Without answering the “why” question of agnosticism I want to address the fact that these “Christian-agnostics” now have their own entire Bible commentary! It’s like running into your lung doctor and notice he’s smoking a cigar! What’s up with that?! Why would agnostics need comments on that which is unknowable and un-provable?

Simply this…post-modernist “Christians” embrace contradiction, chaos, confusion and uncertainty instead of peace, harmony, revelation and truth. This new one-volume commentary, therefore, is allegorical, circular and emergent. It embraces contradiction, chaos, confusion and uncertainty as a “spiritual narcotic” to numb the soul of the reality of sin, death, judgment and hell.

In the false tradition of Origen, “post-modern Christian agnostics,” instead of simply hearing the Word of God for what it plainly says, search for endless multiple “hidden meanings” lurking behind every jot and tittle. Every person, therefore, ends up with their own “personal truth” which contradicts every other persons “personal truth.” To the “post-modern Christian agnostic,” the only certainty contained in the Scripture is uncertainty! The Holy Bible winds up being just a big allegorical story book. THIS is the foundational sand upon which is built the new Christian / agnostic Bible commentary,
The Transforming Word
, (ACU Press, Abilene, TX, 2008).

Found in the current issue of the
Christian Chronicle
is a review of this volume. [Harold Shank,
The Christian Chronicle
, “Scholars Find Merit, Drawbacks in The Transforming Word,” September 26, 2008 – NOTE: Both brothers May and Briley quote from the commentary though the quotes are never identified by either contributor or location within the volume.] The volume is a compilation of some 30 contributors. The names remain unknown to me at the time of this writing. According to brother Shank the 30 contributors “are representatives of eight colleges and universities associated with churches of Christ.” The review is actually two reviews, one written by brother Cecil May, Jr. of Faulkner University from a generally LINEAR view and one written by brother Terry Briley of Lipscomb University from a generally ALLEGORICAL view. Unfortunately, neither brother exposes the commentary for what it is, an enabler for doubting Christians that should be avoided, especially by NEW Christians. Sadly, neither men mention the fact that there are a multitude of commentaries available that are far better suited for study by men and women of faith. Neither men warn elders of the dangers of the dubious contents of this book. The purpose of this blog posting is to hoist those warnings aloft. We would encourage all brethren to refrain from the purchase of this volume and here are the reasons why:

1. Beginning with the very title of the book, this volume takes us into the murky madness of post-modern and emerging theology. This past week end a prominent former secretary of state endorsed one of the two major political candidates, describing this candidate as “transformational.” “Transformational” is a post-modern buzz word that means “constant change,” a take-off of the “continuous improvement” business theory of the last decade or two. In other words, this candidate has no core values or convictions, only ever changing and ever evolving opinions…there is no permanency about this person…and this is seen as “good” by post-modern people who reject the notion of the existence of ultimate truth. These people used to be referred to as “pragmatists” but too many of us have caught on to that word, hence the replacement word “transformational” to keep us all off guard. One, at first glance, might look at the title, The Transforming Word, and assume that it means the Word of God that transforms ME. Unfortunately, what the title, The Transforming Word, really means is that the Word of God, instead of being eternal, unchanging and true is being sold as a “living, breathing document” that changes generationaly. Not only that, to the “post-modern agnostic Christian,” the Word of God becomes nothing more than a personal “Gumby” ® for all of us to manipulate allegorically as we please. Origen would be delighted!

2. The book, by premise according to the review, rejects the fact that Jesus built but one church, the church of Christ. Instead, the authors embrace the self-identified denominational title for our fellowship which they call the “Stone-Campbell Movement.” Pray tell, dear brothers, did God add the Pentecostians to the “Stone-Campbell Movement?” Stone and Campbell were added to the same church the Pentecostians were added to at the time of their baptism into Christ! If these brethren were sincere about this so-called “movement,” they would post it on their church buildings! And…I wish they would! By so doing, non-Christians would not get the truth confused with error! Every emergent “church of Christ” should change their name to “So and So Stone-Campbell Fellowship.” To claim to be the “church of Christ” AND the “Stone-Campbell Movement” is disingenuous at best and hypocritical at worst. This kind of “dual track identity” is an existential embrace of chaos, confusion and contradiction making the adherents to such “double minded and unstable in all their ways,” alluding to James 1:7’s discussion of doubt. We don’t follow Stone and Campbell, we follow Christ! We should look to Stone and Campbell for history, not theology. We are not sanctified by Stone and Campbell, we are “sanctified by truth, the Word of God!” – John 17:17 Neither Stone nor Campbell were crucified for us and, therefore, none of us were baptized into the name of either Stone or Campbell…alluding to Paul’s inspired illustration to the Corinthian church in I Corinthians 1.

3. At least some of the contributors deny the Mosaical authorship of the Pentateuch. Brother May quotes a passage: “The Pentateuch appears to preserve several streams of tradition that did not necessarily originate at the same time and place.” Wow… “IF” we follow this “logic,” we MUST conclude that Jesus Christ was either ignorant of the facts, or worse, steeped in deception when he clearly declared, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” [John 5:46-47 (NKJV)] Jesus CLEARLY claims a singular Moses as author of the Pentateuch! If for ANY reason, Jesus is mistaken on this salient point, Jesus Christ is NOT divine. Another point to ponder… “IF” there were multiple “Moses’,” which Moses appeared on the mount of transfiguration with Elijah and Christ? Or perhaps, were there some 47 Moses’ standing on the mount with Elijah and Christ? Perhaps the name “Moses” was a singular name for a large group of individual people?

This is the kind of manic-depressive existential nonsense we wind up with “IF” we adopt Origen’s allegorical, multiple and hidden meaning approach to biblical interpretation!

4. This volume, by insinuation, denies the divinity of Christ for it drops the “Before Christ (B.C.)” designation in lieu of the agnostic / atheist / evolutionist word-smith of “Before the Common Era (B.C.E.)” The so-called “Common Era” designation favors the so-called “HISTORICAL” Jesus, over the DIVINE Christ revealed in Scripture. The authors have NO reason to make this switch unless they doubt the divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by whom the universe was created and by whom the universe is sustained even as we speak!

5. At least some of the contributors reject the fact that there was but a single individual by the name of Isaiah. Here is a quote from the Christian Chronicle review of brother May:

Although Isaiah was an eighth century prophet, “the book’s composer” is said to have put the book together “at the end of the fifth century BCE.” Chapters 1-39 are Isaiah’s messages “preserved, deleted, modified, rearranged and expanded…for application in new situations.” Chapters 40 to 55 are primarily the work of a “sixth century BCE exilic prophet.” Later we read, “Passages in chapters 56 to 66 date originally from the period of rebuilding the Jerusalem temple (536-516 B.C.E.) to rebuilding its walls (about 445 – 432 B.C.E.).

“IF” we accept the “logic” of this volume, we will have to acknowledge that Jesus Christ did not
know that there were “actually three Isaiah’s!” This kind of arrogant senus plenoir “reasoning” would mean that the authors of this work have “new revelation” that somehow eluded even Jesus Christ! As with the point made on the Mosaical authorship of the Pentateuch, this would render Our Lord and Savior mere mortal and no more divine than you and I. My brothers, this allegorical, “fuller sense,” subjective, multiple and hidden meaning and circular interpretation method renders man “superior” to God and thus no longer responsible for his sin. Like the theory of evolution, Origen’s methods are designed to render the judgment of God of none effect.

6. This volume, being largely interpreted allegorically, strips the Old Testament of its powerful and prolific prophesy of the coming of Jesus Christ and His church! Such “interpretation” renders the inspired Word of God as effective as a de-clawed and toothless lion in the wilds of the jungle. Not only that, the volume accuses the New Testament writers of brazen manipulation and fraud! Here is the quote from brother May:

There is no unequivocal specific prediction of the coming of Jesus Christ and / or the church in the Old Testament. New Testament speakers reinterpreted and reapplied Old Testament texts to Christ and / or the church.

Wow… The agnosticism of such a statement is horrific! Paul was a deceiver. The Hebrew writer was a deceiver. And…Jesus Christ Himself was a deceiver “IF” the above statement is true! As previously cited, Jesus Christ committed out and out fraud by claiming that “He (Moses) wrote of Me” “IF,” in fact he (or “them” as the commentary would assert!) did not. This quote is so agnostic to the extreme I wonder if perhaps Brian McLaren penned it himself!

7. A least some of the contributors deny the inspirational veracity of the book of Jonah. Here is a quote from brother Briley:

With regard to the historicity of Jonah, the commentary on this prophetic book lists various views of its nature: “a historical account, legend, fable, novella, allegory, parable, satire, narrative, midrash, or didactic story.” It [the author – RM] concludes that Jonah “is probably a religious drama” composed sometime after the Babylonian exile. This interpretation remains somewhat ambiguous regarding the historical reality of the events described in Jonah.

Here is yet another assault upon the divinity of Jesus Christ for our Lord cited the 100% historicity of Jonah’s account! In fact, “IF” Jonah is not historically accurate, then the resurrection of Jesus Christ never took place! Let’s hear our Lord speak: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” – Matthew 12:41 [NKJV]. Not only did Jesus assert the historicity of Jonah’s time in the “belly of the great fish,” he says “so will be the Son of Man in the heart of the earth!” Let’s examine the logical and reasonable conclusions:

Jonah + Great Fist + 3 Days / 3 Nights = Truth
Jesus + Heart of Earth + 3 Days / 3 Nights = Truth


Jonah + Great Fish + 3 Days / 3 Nights = Fictional Narrative
Jesus + Heart of Earth + 3 Days / 3 Nights = Fictional Narrative

My brothers, these are not mere semantics! “IF” Jonah did, in fact, spend three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, then Jesus Christ is resurrected! “IF” Jonah did not, in fact, spend three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, then Jesus Christ is NOT resurrected! Theology has consequences! The denial of the historicity of Jonah renders Jesus Christ, not only a liar and a deceiver, it nullifies the certainty of the resurrection, Christ is not raised and we are still in our sins! Thank God! Jesus Christ told the truth about Jonah and told the truth about Himself!

8. At least some of the contributors to this volume take a jaded and cynical view towards Dr. Luke. Dr. Luke wrote the finest histories of the latter days, Luke and Acts. However, brother Briley quotes a passage that would see Luke in the light of one of those “talking heads” on cable T. V. news! In the twisted world of allegorical interpretation, Luke is not objective, in fact Luke “spins” the “narrative” pragmatically to suit the preconceived ideas of his audience! Listen up:

…it notes that because Luke “writes to believers, not skeptics, he is more concerned to interpret events that to prove their veracity.

Translation: Luke “spins” the history for his core supporters differently than he would non-core supporters just like the politician that is pro-life in Tennessee and pro-abortion in California! I don’t know about your God, but my God is not a manipulator!

I would be remiss if I did not declare my deepest disappointment with the conclusions of both of the reviewers. Brother May says:

The commentary is a valuable addition to a Bible teacher’s tools, but contains occasional
serious negative distractions to many believers in biblical infallibility.

Even more disappointing are the conclusions of brother Briley:

The results of this brief survey reveal that some writers in
The Transforming Word
who engage the views of contemporary biblical scholarship draw conclusions that will raise questions, especially for readers not conversant with this scholarship. Space limitations do not allow writers to explain fully these difficult and delicate issues.

It should be pointed out, however, that such discussions comprise a very small portion of The Transforming Word. It would be a shame for this review’s treatment of a few challenging passages to overshadow the substantive contributions of the book as a whole.
[NOTE: How many drops of arsenic in a gallon of water is sufficient to kill? Very little I’m afraid. AND…from not too recent history, “Mussolini made the trains run on time and Hitler reduced unemployment.”]

The editors and authors should be commended for their work on this milestone publishing event. Their goal was not to draw readers into areas of academic debate but to help them “hear afresh transforming words [Generationaly changing words NOT life changing words! – RM] that will quicken the life of the church as it shares in God’s redeeming work in the world.

In conclusion: The Christian Chronicle review fails to adequately warn of the grave errors contained in this volume, though it often “politely” mentions them in a near “the emperor has no clothes” fashion. The Transforming Word appears [I have not yet been able to actually see a copy] from these quotations and others, to be written by and for agnostics and skeptics, in the total allegorical interpretive manner and must be rejected outright, regardless of how much “truth” is found in its pages. The “inclusion” of “truth” with “error” in one volume…we must be reminded…amounts to nothing more than an unequal yoke. Hear once again my brothers the inspired words of Paul:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell with them and walk with them. I will be their God and they shall be My people.
– II Corinthians 6:14-16 [NKJV]

Russ McCullough
Charlotte, NC
October 24, 2008

Russ McCullough serves as an elder for the Archdale church of Christ in Charlotte, North Carolina. He maintains a biblical interpretation blog at: and is the author of the upcoming book,
Emerging Towards Apostasy
, © The book examines the emerging theology among departing churches of Christ driven by post-modern philosophy, Evangelical influence and a resurgence of neo-Gnostic Patristic interpretive models. He can be reached at:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Where is Brian McLaren Headed Next?

Last month Brian McLaren spoke at “The Summit” at Abilene Christian University. This month he is speaking at the “Preachers Conference” at Lipscomb University. For those of you who care about the truth of the gospel, here is where Brian McLaren will be speaking between the Lipscomb conference and the end of March:

• Emergent Catholic Event in Washington D.C.
• Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest
• Cathedral College of Preachers
• National Pastors Convention
• North Carolina Methodists
• Diosean Convention of the Episcopal Diosese of Washington, D.C.
• Cedar Ridge Community Church (Willow Creek Association)
• First and Central Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, DE
• Spirit and Place Festival, Indianapolis, IN “…(believing) that the arts, humanities, and religion awaken the spirit and exalt the sacred, sustain our intellectual and cultural inheritance, inspire imagination and creativity, and shape our communities.”
• Christian Community Development Association, Miami, FL (CCDA) The CCDA is a redistributionist organization that mixes religion, politics and economics on a “Christian” / Marxist platform

Without commenting further, I will leave you with the inspired thoughts of the Apostle John:

“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know it is the last hour.” – I John 2:18 (NKJV)