Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Simeon's Celebration

A Biblical Perspective on the Incarnation

This coming Saturday, billions of people will mark the birth of Christ in “Christ-Mass” celebrations. While we rejoice that perhaps still on one day…despite the tyranny of tolerance that we call “political correctness”…people remember Christ at least in some way. It gives Christians an opportunity to share the REAL gospel, the fact that Christ died for our sins on the cross, was buried for three days, rose from the dead on the third day and appeared to over 500 witnesses over the next 40 days as an undeniable witness for all time and eternity. (I Corinthians 15) It gives Christians the opportunity to share the fact that salvation comes only through Christ and that said salvation comes only through repentance and baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins from the Day of Pentecost until the end of time. Finally, it gives Christians the opportunity to share the fact that Christ died for and established but one church thus rendering all other “gospels” false. (Galatians 1)

Though the inspired apostle Paul gives individual Christians the right to recognize certain days in private, he also states emphatically in Romans 14:14 that when such opinions cause division in the Body of Christ, they should be kept “between (that person) and God.” When we impose human opinions, harmless when “kept between me and God,” upon entire congregations we then turn opinion into an addition to the Word of God. The celebration of the birth of Christ is never commanded, never mentioned and never celebrated for the New Testament church of Christ. It is indeed then ironic that the most “holy” celebration in catholic, protestant, evangelical and pentecostal divisions from the New Testament pattern is a celebration unknown in the pages of Scripture!

Understanding all of this, what was one man’s reaction to meeting the Christ child in person? (Very likely the middle of the summer of 4 b.c.) In Luke 2:22 – 35, righteous Simeon celebrates 7 things regarding the coming of Christ: 1) The coming of Christ will bring “peace,” the removal of the wrath of God upon those who will believe, 2) The coming of Christ will bring “salvation” from sins, something Moses could never do, 3) The coming of Christ will bring “revelation,” specifically the fact that Gentiles will be saved, 4) The coming of Christ will bring “glory” to God,” 5) The coming of Christ will cause “many in Israel to rise and to fall,” 6) The coming of Christ will bring “sorrow” to his dear mother in the flesh and, 7) The coming of Christ will bring “judgment,” for “the thoughts of many will be revealed.” What was important…and worth celebrating to Simeon…should be important and worth celebrating to EVERY Christian on December 25 and EVERY OTHER DAY of the year as well!

As an American family tradition, Christmas is truly the “most wonderful time of the year.” It is a time for family, hearth, giving and fun. It is not, however, a biblical and religious commandment for the church. When we do think of the birth of Christ – be it in December or July – let’s think about celebrating what Simeon celebrated: Peace, Salvation, Revelation, Glory, The Rising and Falling of Many, Sorrow and Judgment to Come!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Shall We Have "The Bread of Life," or "The Life of Bread?"

Semantics, Social Justice and the Gospel in the 21st Century – Part 1

"I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.“
John 6:35b (ESV)

While in college, way back in the last century, I took a class on semantics. No class before or since has had a more positive bearing on my desire to properly communicate the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I must be up to the semantical challenges on a daily basis. Allow me to illustrate: I have a dog. I tell three people I am taking “my dog” to the vet. When I say “dog,” Mary thinks “poodle.” When I say “dog,” Mark thinks “blood hound.” When I say “dog,” Larry thinks German Shepherd. I own a beagle. When I say “dog,” I mean beagle. Four people, one word, four “meanings.” In order for me to be semantically correct and an effective communicator, I should say; “I’m taking my beagle to the vet.” Precise words with precise meanings, commonly understood, are the key to effective communication. And…no communication is more urgent than that of the gospel message. This point is soberly important for it is God Himself who has chosen the spoken word as the primary vehicle of the gospel! (Romans 10:8 – 18)

In the spirit of semantical precision, just what is the gospel? There is no need to wring our hands, circularly converse towards consensus or speculate with our imaginations! God has revealed the singular and everlastingly true definition of the gospel in I Corinthians 10:1 – 6;
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. (ESV)
The gospel consists therefore, without addition or subtraction, these four components; 1) Christ died for our sins, 2) Christ was buried, 3) Christ arose on the third day, and 4) Christ established the fact of his raising by appearing to over 500 witnesses before returning to heaven. THAT is the gospel!

In times past, effective communication was the goal of nearly everyone. Not so in our world! In our day and time, more and more people communicate with un-clear words and phrases…on purpose…in order to perpetuate one agenda or another. We call this practice “spin.” Spin is defined by the Miriam Webster On-Line Dictionary as, “…to evolve, express, or fabricate by processes of mind or imagination.”(1) “Spin” is the cumulative term. “Spin” is made up of what we call “buzz words.” A “buzz word” is defined as, “an important-sounding usually technical word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen.”(2) The term “social justice” is a buzz-word. It takes noble sounding words to promote an agenda that is anything but noble. The term is not found in the Bible, neither Old or New Testaments. In fact, the term “social justice” is a mid 19th century concept coming out of the radicalism of the 1840’s that culminated in the revolutions of 1848(3). As Michael Novak observes;
The term "social justice" was first used in 1840 by a Sicilian priest, Luigi Taparelli d'Azeglio, and given prominence by Antonio Rosmini-Serbati in La Costitutione Civile Secondo la Giustizia Sociale in 1848.(4)
What caused the revolutions of 1848, societal upheaval and the advent of “social justice?” Novak further observes;
The birth of the concept of social justice coincided with two other shifts in human consciousness: the "death of God" and the rise of the ideal of the command economy. When God "died," people began to trust a conceit of reason and its inflated ambition to do what even God had not deigned to do: construct a just social order. The divinization of reason found its extension in the command economy; reason (that is, science) would command and humankind would collectively follow. The death of God, the rise of science, and the command economy yielded "scientific socialism." Where reason would rule, the intellectuals would rule. (Or so some thought. Actually, the lovers of power would rule.)(5)
Nature abhors a vacuum. When God was “shown the door,” the satanic surrogates came in. Those surrogates were Charles Darwin and Karl Marx. Society was no longer governed by “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It was now “from each according to his ability to each according to his need.” True justice was supplanted by “social justice.” [To Be Continued]


(3)For more information on the Revolutions of 1848:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christendom, Islam and Christianity

New Testament Christianity Stands in Stark Contrast with Both Christendom & Islam

The year was 312 a.d. Civil war raged across the Roman Empire. In a history changing conflict, Constantine defeated his enemies at the battle of Milvian Bridge, winning the crown of the western empire. Though “exposed” to Christianity as a child by his mother, Helena, he was a pagan for most of his life. By biblical standards his “conversion” remains to this day as suspect.
According to legend the day before the battle Constantine looked towards the sun and saw written above these words; in hoc signo vinces – “in this sign, win!” The legend says that the symbol he saw was what is now called the labarum. The labarum is a combination of the first two letters in the name of Christ in Greek, chi (X) and rho (P). Constantine, for whatever reason, had his soldiers paint the labarum on their shields they then carried into battle. Historically, of course, we know that Constantine prevailed in the next days conflict. His imagined vision changed history.
The following year, Constantine and his co-emperor, Licinius, issued the Edict of Milan which made the empire officially neutral religiously. Neither Christianity nor paganism was recognized as the state religion. Each person was free to worship whomever he/she wished. For the very first time, the empire no longer legally embraced paganism. These changes led to the return of confiscated Christian property and laid the foundation of what we now know as Christendom, the total union of church and state in full totalitarian mode. “Christianity” (i.e. Nicene Catholicism) became the state religion on 27 February 380 with the issue of the Edict of Thessalonica. Though Jesus Christ Himself clearly stated that “my kingdom is not of this world otherwise my servants would fight,” Christendom ushered in nothing but armed conflict, bloodshed and mayhem for over a thousand years. Wars sponsored by “Christian” nation states began with Charlemagne and lasted until Napoleon! Everywhere the labarum went, death and destruction followed. Slaughter in the name of the pope would take place from Europe to Asia Minor to Asia to the South China Seas to the Americas and back again before the power of the pope was finally neutralized during the Napoleonic Wars by the rise of Great Britain as the first modern age super power.
By the time of Pope Urban II in 1095 “Christendom” was solidified to the point of being a singular and monolithic church-state dictatorship. Rome possessed absolute power over the lives, fortunes and minds of the various European nation-states and their inhabitants. There was no middle class, only a few very wealthy land lords with the rest of the population held in virtual slavery. The economy was what we would best characterize today as fascist - church owned, taxed and controlled. Any opposition was quickly suppressed with extreme violence to the poor and the threat of excommunication by the pope to the rich. So called “canon law” reined supreme over local, state and national laws. Even kings and queens served at the pope’s pleasure. Anyone who opposed Rome either theologically or politically was immediately branded as a heretic bringing death, destruction and confiscation of property upon both themselves and their families. Urban decided that the time was ripe for murder, rape and pillage under the banner of the Constantinian labarum against the Islamic armies pouring in from the east. The bottom line: Christendom is NOT a religion per se, it is a military, political and economic weapon for power and domination of other peoples cloaked with a thin skin of religion.
Two hundred and thirty years after Edict of Thessalonica, a man in Arabia by the name of Muhammad, like Constantine, began to imagine visions from God. The year was 610. By the time of his death in 632, Muhammad had amassed a massive following and controlled all of the Arabian peninsula. Islam means “submission to Allah” and a Muslim is “one who submits or surrenders” to the teachings of Muhammad. It is very likely that Muhammad could neither read nor write for his “visions” were written down in the Islamic holy book, the Qur’an, not by him but by his “companions” via memory after his relatively early death at age 62. A “companion” was someone who saw Muhammad while he still lived, believed his teachings and remained a Muslim until death. It is generally agreed that the number of “companions” that wrote the Qur’an number between 50 and 60 persons. Islamic theology is not based solely upon the Qur’an. Like the writings of the so-called “church fathers” in Christendom, the traditions of Islam are taught and supported by the Hadith. The Hadith was written long after the demise of Muhammad, some two hundred years plus in fact. The Hadith is the passed down generation to generation of the “companions” recollections of the thoughts, practices and interpretations of Muhammad. Should one study Islam by studying ONLY the Qur’an, one will miss much of what drives the Muslim to believe the way he or she does. Thirty or so years after the death of Muhammad a power struggle split Islam into two bitterly opposed denominations; the minority Shia and the majority Sunni’s. As Islam rose to battle Christendom, a pope like figure called the Caliph arose to exert total power and authority. The Caliph imposed strict observance of so-called Sharia Law, a medieval and barbarous set of ruthless laws that enslaved the masses just like the so-called Canon Law of Rome. The Caliph’s imposed a brutal dictatorship supported by war, piracy, extortion, plunder and the slave trade. Before retreating in the fifteenth century, Islam would threaten Rome from the French border in the west to eastern Austria in the east. In 1095, however, the two world powers were poised for a death struggle that would take four hundred years to come to an end. Not until the Islamic Moors were forced out of Spain in 1492 would the religious wars between Christendom and Islam begin to subside. The bottom line: Islam is NOT a religion per se, it is a military, political and economic weapon for power and domination of other peoples cloaked with a thin skin of religion.
It is the thesis of this paper that “Christendom” and “Islam” are two side of the same coin. They came to blows, not because of their differences but because of their similarities! It is also our thesis that New Testament Christianity stands in stark contrast to both “Christendom” and “Islam.” In fact biblical Christianity is 180 degrees opposite to both. The greatest challenge of our age is for New Testament Christians to reach out to both Roman Catholics and Muslims with the good news of the gospel, a message of peace, love, joy, faith, hope, forgiveness and salvation – a message NEVER shared by the Pope’s crusaders or the Caliph’s soldiers! They never shared it for they never had it to share.
The chart below validates our thesis – Christendom and Islam are IDENTICAL except for their theologies. Keep in mind however theology is but a thin skinned covering to mask the real thing in both cases. Underneath their two different theological skins, Christendom and Islam are twin brothers, as it were.
Islam Christendom
Caliph Pope
Mosque & State Are One Church & State Are One
Imams Priests
Jihad Crusade
Feast of Ramadan Feast of Christ-Mass
Hadith Tradition Patrisic Tradition
Sharia Law Canon Law
Execution for Internal Opposition Execution for Internal Opposition
Free Salvation for Dying in Battle Free Salvation for Dying in Battle
Holy City of Mecca Holy City of Rome
Ends Justify the Means Ends Justify the Means
No Salvation for Outsiders No Salvation for Outsiders
Submit or Die Convert or Die
At the end of the day, both Islam and Christendom gave up any and all pretense to being “people of the book” and paid any price for power, glory, wealth, domination and total destruction of their mortal enemies. What they once abhorred in their enemies they both embraced for themselves.
Political reality shows that Christendom is no more. Western nations no longer embrace faith in the God of Heaven and for the most part have become secular if not agnostic, even atheist. In fact, since the demise of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, western nations no longer act monolithically, they have fought each other in two world wars, neither of which had a single religious component. Most significantly, the pope no longer has any political and military sway. In that sense, Islam triumphed over Christendom. For some reason, though, the message of this defeat has yet to reach the Islamic world! To them, nothing has changed. Most importantly to this very hour in time, they see Christianity as “Christendom!” No notion could be more false.
New Testament Christianity is found in the heart not on the tip of the sword. New Testament Christianity has absolutely nothing in common with either Islam or Christendom! The Kingdom of God is one of spirit not of flesh. It is the Body of Christ not the bodies of slain enemies. The church of Christ is not a building, it is not a government, it is not an army, it is not a city or stronghold to be taken by force of arms and is not temporal. Her headquarters are not in Rome or Mecca but in Heaven above! The Christian loves his enemies, renders good for evil and prays for those who abuse him or her. Our warfare is not with Islam (or Christendom for that matter!) but with the “power of the prince of the air,” Satan and his wiles. Islam and Christendom persuaded men with violence and the sword, Christians persuade men by the proclamation of the gospel for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Should men reject the message, so be it. No force, be it physical, be it psychological or be it otherwise will be employed by the Christian against any man or woman who turns away. Our example is Christ who, while being murdered, prayed for God’s forgiveness of those who were literally killing him. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!” was His plea. The Father answered that prayer 50 days later on the Day of Pentecost when those same murderers cried out, “Men and brethren, what must we do!?” Peter, along with the eleven, rose up and said; “Repent and be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit!” Christians, towards one another, “turn their swords into plowshares” and “learn the ways of war no more!”
For more information on the church of the New Testament, the singular and eternal church of Christ, go to: May God bless all those, both the current adherents of both Christendom and Islam, as they turn to God through Jesus Christ, “THE way, THE truth and THE life” through whom all who would seek after God must come!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Imagination, Revelation and the Emerging Church Movement

“But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, "Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.” – II Kings 5:11 (ESV)
Naaman IMAGINED that God would perform as Naaman directed. He became angry when God did not act out on his IMAGINED and outcome based assumption. This attitude epitomizes the so-called “emerging church movement.” This movement is one that IMAGINES that God is at our every changing beck and call and IMAGINES the Almighty is nothing more than a spiritual Gumby ® that people can shape and mold any way they will on any given day. Satan has struck swiftly and effectively. Even as we mount the walls of the City of God to watch for the enemy approaching, we look over our shoulders and view with horror that the enemy is already in the city, sweeping many a soul into a potentially hellish eternity. [God alone is the judge] Who knows how many souls have gone down stream in the swift flowing current of sin and error since the summer of 2006 when the “new hermeneutic” rushed through the church of Christ like a deadly tsunami. Just what is the "new hermeneutic?" It is a "new" (turns out to be very old) biblical interpretive model. It is based upon a 2nd century reliance on the "thinking" of the so-called church fathers, or "patristics." The problem is that these men, in many cases, were already leading the church into full blown apostasy. We should consult the patristics for history but by no means consult them on revelation! They were not inspired! Instead, we need to return to the Scripture for "all things pertaining to life and godliness!" The new / old hermeneutic, replacing "thus saith the Lord" hermeneutic is called "allegorical" or "circular" interpretation. "Circular interpretation" is described by its name. One starts with a question and ends up with even more questions. To the circularist, one finds nobility in the "search" for truth, NOT in the finding of it. When I would babble on about something or another as a child, my Mother would stop me and say; "Russell, you're talking in circles!" The so-called "new hermeneutic" is nothing more than circular babble. In the wake of this disaster, perhaps a third to a half of the Lord’s congregations in the United States have either gone with the instrument, have become sympathetic to the instrument or just have become lukewarm regarding the biblical pattern of vocal only worship in “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” Many congregations continue to sing acapella but do so because of “tradition” and / or personal preference and no longer out of faith and conviction. What was not long ago a matter of doctrine is now a matter of opinion among many who call themselves Christians. The instrument per se is not the issue here, it is the interpretive model that made the instrument possible! We are “perishing without knowledge.” That interpretive model that is turning truth into error is collectively called the “emerging church.” Where did this term come from?
The answer is shocking… the term “emerging church” comes from Darwinian evolution.
And why not? “IF” slime can evolve into fish, fish into monkeys and monkeys into man…why can’t primitive New Testament Christianity evolve from a singular church with autonomous leadership to Medieval Catholicism, to Reformed Protestantism, to Evangelicalism and now into “every man and woman for him or her self defining truth and spiritual matters individually?"(1) Merriam-Webster On-Line defines the word emerge thusly:
To become manifest: become known, to rise from or as if from an enveloping fluid: (to) come out into view, to rise from an obscure or inferior position or condition, to come into being through evolution.(2)
Those who promote error in our time choose this terminology deliberately. Like Darwin, the “emerging church” teaches that “truth,” like life itself “emerges” [evolves] over time from the “simple” to the “complex.” As a result, the 1st century church was simple, ignorant and insignificant compared to those of us today who have “evolved” further down the road making today’s “truth” far more “true” than yesterdays “truth.” Not only that, tomorrows “truth” will be more “true” than today’s “truth” since those in the future will be more “evolved” that we are!

Soberly, we must reflect on the fact that 30 - 40 years ago young people in the church began embracing the idea that it was "possible" for God to have used "evolution" in the formation of the universe. In other words when God said "the evening and the morning were the first day," He really meant "millions of years." Now as adults, these same people apply this same imaginative thinking to the instrument, to leadership in the church and even to the plan of salvation! "IF" day means "millions of years," then "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" can mean guitars, drums and dancing. "IF" day means "millions of years," then women can serve as elders. "IF" day means "millions of years," then baptism for the remission of sins can be the "sinner's prayer." "IF" day means "millions of years" the one and only singular church of Christ can be just another denomination. May God save us from such a foolish imagination!

The "emerging church” believes that “truth” is individually defined, comes in multiplicity, changes over time, evolves from the simple to the complex and therefore static and un-changing truth does not actually exist! The “emerging church” finds nobility in the “search” for truth but ridicules its existence as they engage in its pursuit. The “emerging church” openly defies the words of our Lord and Savior who clearly stated that “ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32 King James Version (KJV) We have heard this nonsense of seeking non-truth before. The “emerging church” is pure existentialism applied to theology. (Existentialism is a philosophy that singularly focuses on the here and now for there is no here after.) The father of existentialism, Soren Kierkegaard, stated the following:
I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations - one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it - you will regret both.(3)
Essentially, Kierkegaard says that, search as we may, we will never find the truth. The best we can hope for is to, through constant injection of chaos, allow our “choices” to battle out for themselves their relative strength and validity in the whirlwind of life. If this also sounds familiar, it is! Kierkegaard philosophizes the ancient far-east religion of Taoism. Taoism teaches that there is no ultimate truth, only a constant battle between forces. Though most cannot recognize Taoism by name, nearly everyone hears people talking about “karma” and have seen the circular black and white bumper stickers featuring the “yin and the yang” in struggle against one another while neither dominates the struggle. All these concepts are blended into the “emerging church movement.” For clarification, “emerging” applies to the movement as a whole, while the term “emergent” applies to any individual who is “emerging.”

For decades faithful brethren preached against this kind of apostasy. Many a sermon was delivered on the dangers of “falling away,” of “drifting” and “error.” Perhaps the numbers of these sermons made us numb to the warning. Perhaps we thought that the point was “over sold.” Whatever the reason, many a guard is let down and error is sweeping into the church of Christ like the recent floods of Nashville and Oklahoma City. Satan has “re-branded” an old error with a new label! Technically, the “emerging church movement” began in the late 1990’s. In reality, it is a retread of an old satanic trick first sold to Eve in the Garden. It worked so well that he has never had to roll out a new product! Let us recall the Word of the Lord:
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." – Genesis 3:1- 5 English Standard Version (ESV)
We want to notice two things that Eve (and Adam) found attractive about this temptation. First of all one can decide for herself / himself what course to take, and, second that making such choices makes one equal to God! Wow! “Not only do I get to choose what to do, I can be my own God!” Satan is telling Eve that there are no “right or wrong” choices. He is telling her that she can control her own destiny and future. He is telling her that there are “multiple truths,” God’s truth, Eve’s truth, Adam’s truth, Satan’s truth...all equally valid. Satan is telling Eve to “deconstruct” the past so as to “reconstruct” the future!

This pattern is used by Satan on each of us. We are tempted continually to “go our own way” and when we do, we too are told we will “be as gods knowing good and evil.” This pattern is the foundation of every single false religion that there ever was or ever will be. Man gets to “choose” because he is the most intelligent, strong and wisest “germ” in the universe! Man is god, or so he keeps telling himself. You may think that surely these views cannot possibly be held by anyone claiming to be a Christian in the New Testament sense of the word. You would sadly be wrong. Note a couple of quotes from several faculty members at ACU from 2002 and contrast them with Scripture:
“Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” – James 1:21 (ESV)
“The Bible does not save us. Jesus does. Scripture is not a rule book covering every imaginable situation, if we only know how to decode it correctly.” (4)
“Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” – II Timothy 1:13 (ESV)
“While the Bible does shed light on issues of church organization and other issues that have attracted the attention of many of us, it does not provide a constitution or pattern for church organization, focusing instead on the much more important issues of spiritual and moral life, justice, peace, and reverence before God.”(5)

Sadly, these statements may have more in common with the existentialist cleric, Brian McLaren,(6) than they do with the faithful! In fact, Brian McLaren, though he is not even a Christian in the New Testament sense of the word, was one of the marquis speakers at the “2008 ACU Summit!”(7) Unfortunately, Brian McLaren, the very same fall also appeared as a marquis speaker at the Lipscomb University “Preacher’s Conference.”(8)

An ancestor of mine, Hugh Gaston (d. 1766) eloquently wrote of the biblical role of Scripture, in sharp contrast with the views of our contemporary “emerging” brethren:
Those have succeeded best in ascertaining the true sense of many Portions of Scripture, and in answering Objections against them, and setting several Scripture Doctrines in a clear Light, who have first searched the Scriptures for the whole and complete Account of the Subject, and hereby were enabled to show what was doubtful, by being briefly expressed in one Place, was sufficiently enlarged upon and explained in others. Besides such Explications of Scripture Truths as are to be found in the Scriptures themselves, none else are to be depended upon: for the sacred Writers, being sufficiently qualified for their Work, did not leave it to be mended by inferior Hands; they left the Scriptures a finished Performance, containing a System of Religion from God, which, like all His other Works, is good and perfect in its Kind, being full and complete in all its Parts, plain and proper in its Terms and Expressions, and effacious or sufficient to answer the ends for which it was written: if it fails, no other Writers will prove effectual for reforming the World, and making Mankind wise to Salvation.(9)
The strange thing is this: Hugh was an Irish Presbyterian! When I examine the statements of my own brethren, I find that I am in much more agreement with Hugh than I am them! This is alarming! If everything else in God’s vast universe is made to a precise pattern, why would God write His word in such a way as to become so just much chaos and incoherence? The phrase, “thus saith the Lord,” or a variation of it, is found some 430 times in Scripture! “IF” the “emerging church” is right about the Bible, then God would then be saying “Just kidding!” some 430 times as well and would owe us all an apology. “Let God be true and every man a liar!”

When we carefully examine the Genesis 3 account, one word describes it all…IMAGINATION. Satan convinced Eve to IMAGINE she had a right to choose and to IMAGINE herself as a god. It’s just like that old 1960’s song…”it was just my imagination running away with me!” The “emerging church” is a church that IMAGINES “truth” but neither seeks it or acknowledges its very existence! The “emerging church” is the church of John Lennon as he IMAGINED it:
Imagine there's no heaven - It's easy if you try - No hell below us - Above us only sky
Imagine all the people - Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries - It isn't hard to do - Nothing to kill or die for - And no religion too - Imagine all the people - Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer - But I'm not the only one - I hope someday you'll join us - And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions - I wonder if you can - No need for greed or hunger - A brotherhood of man - Imagine all the people - Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer - But I'm not the only one - I hope someday you'll join us - And the world will live as one(10)
You are right! There are light years between REVELATION and IMAGINATION! How did we get from the former to the latter? How did we go from assertion of a singular and absolute truth to imagining multiple fictitious truths? The short answer, as we stated, is in Genesis 3. To be more precise the Holy Spirit has much to say in Scripture regarding IMAGINATION.

The Scriptures use six original words (three Hebrew and three Greek) that are translated “imagination / imagination(s)” in the KJV a total of twenty times. Of these twenty usages, only one is used in a positive sense of the word. [That one exception is I Chronicles 29:18]. All other nineteen references to “imagination / imagination(s)” are used to describe rebellion, sin and rejection of God. Here are the six words along with example usages:

1. H3336 – yester – “intellectual framework, graven image, devise (or) imagination”(11) This word is used in Genesis 6:5 – “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This is perhaps the most extreme use of “imagination” in the Bible for it describes the heart of mankind just prior to the universal flood. The primary meaning of this word is in describing the continuous intention of the heart and is rendered that way in the ESV. The ISBE notes that yester is a “shaping,” as one would shape an image for idol worship, hence, “imagination” is a logical extension of “image.” When men choose “imagination” over “revelation,” they become idolaters, pure and simple, “worshipping the creature instead of the Creator.” (Romans 1) “Imagination” is the pavement of the road to perdition!
2. H8307 – sheriyruth – “stubbornness, hardness, firmness in the sense of (being) twisted”(12) This word is used by Moses in his address to the children of Israel in Moab warning them of the consequences of unfaithfulness in Deuteronomy 29:19-20 – “And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven.” (KJV) The primary meaning of this word is stubbornness and is rendered that way in the ESV. This word is used more often than any other in the Old Testament for “imagination.”
3. H4284 – machashabah – “thought, devise, plan, purpose, invention”(13) This word is used in Proverbs 6:18 – “An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,” We should pay very close attention to this word! It is used as one of the seven things that God hates in Proverbs 6. It is rendered as “thoughts of vanity” in Young’s Literal Translation (YLT), as “evil plans” in the Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (LITV), as “wicked plans” in the (ESV), as “wicked purposes” in the 1901 American Standard Version (ASV) and “wicked plots” in the 1899 Douay – Rheims Bible (DRB)
4. G1271 – diaanoia – “(a way to use) the mind as a faculty of understanding, feeling, desiring (imagining) (or) way of thinking”(14) This word is used in Luke 1:51 – “He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.” (KJV) Notice that the imaginative are seen as proud by God. It is certainly not wrong to use one’s imagination for it is a gift of God. However, to use one’s imagination to circumvent God’s will is to embrace eternal disaster! This word is rendered conceit in the DRB.
5. G1261 – dialogismos – “the thinking of a man deliberating with himself, a thought, inward reasoning, purpose, design, a deliberating, questioning about what is true, hesitation, doubting, disputing, arguing”(15) This is an existential word, carrying the idea of contradictory “self talk” that empowers people to imagine falsehood as being truth. It is used by Paul in Romans 1:21 – “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” The ASV et al renders dialogimos as “reasoning.” The DRB uses “thoughts” while the ESV utilizes “thinking.”
6. G3053 – logismos – “a reckoning, computation, a reasoning: such as is hostile to the Christian faith, a judgment, decision: such as (a violation of one’s) conscience”(16) This is the final word used for “imagination(s)” in Scripture. It occurs in II Corinthians 10:5-6. It is, as it were, God’s final warning to us regarding the presumption of imagination. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.” Paul clearly states that the collective imaginations of all men and all time will be torn down, brought into captivity and completely revenged.

The apostle Paul in I Corinthians 10 tells us that the things written before were written for our learning, for our example and for our warning. There are many such examples and warnings in Scripture, here are but a few:

• In Genesis 4, Cain IMAGINED that his offering would be acceptable, it was not
• In Genesis 11, man IMAGINED he could build a tower to heave, they were scattered
• In Exodus 32, the Israelites IMAGINED they could worship God via a golden calf, they were made to eat it
• In Leviticus 10, Nadab and Abihu IMAGINED they could bring strange fire to the Tabernacle, they died before the Lord
• In Numbers 16, Korah IMAGINED that he could challenge the leadership of Moses, he, his family and his followers perished
• In Numbers 20, Moses and Aaron IMAGINED they could strike the rock in addition to God’s command to speak to the rock – they both were denied entry into the Promised Land
• In Numbers 22 – 25, Balaam IMAGINED he could curse the people of God, he could only bless them
• In I Samuel 4, the Israelites IMAGINED they could use the Ark of the Covenant as a “good luck charm” in battle – the Ark was taken by the Philistines and Israel was defeated
• In 1 Samuel 15, King Saul IMAGINED that partial obedience in regard to the Amalekites was the same as complete obedience – God removed the kingdom from him that very day
• In I Kings 12, Jeroboram IMAGINED he could change the place and object of true worship, he was described by God thereafter as the king “that caused Israel to sin.” Jeroboram and his entire house was cut off forever
• In I Kings 18, the priests of Baal IMAGINED he would send fire to their sacrifice – that false god did not and the priests of Baal were slain by Elijah that very day.
• In I Corinthians 1, the Corinthians IMAGINED that they could form separate denominations inside of Christ, Paul said that Christ was NOT divided
• In Galatians 1, the Galatians IMAGINED that there were multiple gospels - Paul said that if anyone, even he or an angel from heaven, should preach any other gospel other than the one he first preached to them, that person would be accursed and accursed a second time to underscore the point.

It is worthy of note that NONE of these imaginer’s noted above prayed for wisdom or consulted the Word of God before their imaginations swept them into error, judgment and condemnation. We cannot IMAGINE our way to God! People could not imagine their way to God before Moses. People could not imagine their way to God during the years of the Mosaical Law. And now, during the “last days” dispensation in which we now live we cannot imagine our way to God.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. – Proverbs 14:12 (KJV)
Though he does not use the word “imagination(s),” John speaks of the fact that we are “in the last hour” and that “many anti-christs have already come into the world.” [See I John 2, 4 and II John 1] Anyone who exalts his / her own imagination over revelation is an anti-christ for that person puts himself / herself in opposition to the Words of Christ. The Word is Christ and Christ is the Word as we know from John 1. The Word of God:

• Is revelation, not imagination
• Is the mind of God, not some fanciful story or narrative
• Is fact, not fiction
• Is precise, not generic
• Is inspired, not simply inspiring
• Is truth, not opinion, speculation or fiction
• Is the standard, not a standard
• Is the singular way to God, not one way among many
• Is THE pattern for life and godliness, not a mishmash of religious sayings
• Is not to be added to nor taken away from
• Is unchanging, not evolving
• Is static, not moving
• Will last forever, and
• Will judge us all on the last day!

May God extend us all grace and mercy until we once again set aside our “emerging church imaginations” and without question, murmur or complaint, re-embrace revelation among us!


(1) Making the “argument” even more ludicrous, evolution itself has been proven wrong in recent years. Darwin built all his assumptions around the idea that the most simple evolved into the most complex. Now even science concedes that even the most simple of cells has complexities far too cumbersome for mere mortals to comprehend. Life is complex from top to bottom and bottom to top because they were created by an all knowing Supreme Being. Instead of “evolving,” mankind because of sin, is rushing to judgment.
(2) Source:
(3) Quote source: SK is regarded as the father of existentialism and, as this quote indicates, believed that “truth” is found in contradiction. Existentialism asserts that active “deconstruction” and subsequent “reconstruction” accelerates the ever evolving future. Progress comes only by and through chaos, the more chaos, the more progress. Existentialism is the driving force today in religious thought. It is daily being put into real time practice. Brian McLaren, the leading emergent personality is an extreme existentialist parading about as a “cleric.”
(4) Kenneth L. Cukrowski, Mark W. Hamilton, James W. Thompson, (God’s Holy Fire – The Nature and Function of Scripture, Abilene, TX, A.C.U. Press, 2002) pg. 67
(5) Ibid. pg. 48. Also note, if interested, the spring 2010 issue of New Wineskins Magazine is entirely devoted to beating up the straw man know as “patternism.” Here is the link: This issue is a classic example of existentialist deconstruction of what was once believed so a new “truth” can be reconstructed on the ruins of the old.
(6) For detailed information on Brian McLaren and his interaction with churches of Christ link to:
(7) Known as the “ACU Lectureship” in more faithful times
(8) Examine the obsession that LU has with this subject of “Imagination” by linking to:
(9) Hugh Gaston, (A Scripture Account of the Faith and Practice of Christians, Dublin, Ireland, S. Powell, In Dame-Street opposite Fowners-Street, 1763) From the preface
(11) The word numbers are Strong’s. The definitions are from either Strong’s or Thayer’s via
(12) Ibid.
(13) Ibid.
(14) Ibib.
(15) Ibid.
(16) Ibid.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Will It Be Jude or John? (Calvin That Is!)

The question; “Can a Christian lose their salvation?” is at best semantically confusing and at worst begs the question. The question “implies” that Christians get into some kind of spiritual wrestling match with Satan and / or his minions and, despite the Christians best efforts, have their salvation wrested from them, become disconnected to God and head screaming straight into hell itself, all very much against their will. The question should be; “Can a Christian SURRENDER their salvation after being in an absolute saved state?” When theologians approach Scripture allegorically such tail-wagging-the-dog conclusions are not only possible, they are inevitable when begging the “lose their salvation” question.

The historically great, yet biblically confused reformer, John Calvin, poured the theory that Christians could never become apostate into theological concrete where it remains until today. Many have been deceived by this doctrine during the last 500 years while the truth regarding the matter, revealed by the Holy Spirit in the book of Jude, has been rejected, overlooked and ignored. In 180 degree opposite reaction to medieval Roman Catholicism, Calvin formed a theological system now named after him, known as Calvinism. Calvinism is summed up in an acronym, “T.U.L.I.P.”
T otal Depravity – all mankind is conceived and born as sinners doomed to hell unless God “elects” them to salvation arbitrarily
U nconditional Election – some of those “totally depraved” are arbitrarily “chosen” (elected) by God for salvation while the rest are arbitrarily “chosen” (elected) for damnation, humans have no free choice
L imited Atonement – The blood of Christ, shed on the cross, is not sufficient to save everyone, just the so-called elect.
I rresistable Grace – those who have been arbitrarily chosen for salvation cannot resist the grace of God, even though they attempt to do so
P erserverance of the Saints – once those who are arbitrarily elected to salvation have been saved, they cannot never become apostate and therefore “lose” their salvation

Time and space will not allow an examination of all these theories, our immediate concern is the last leaf in the flower, as it were, “perseverance of the saints.” Can a Christian become an apostate? Can one who once was saved reject that salvation at a future point in time and re-embrace damnation? Can one who once “walks in the light as He is in the light, re-enter into “everlasting darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth?” Calvin says, “no.” To “prove” this assertion, Calvinists turn to two Scripture references. [“A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.” – D. A. Carson Sr.] These two “proof texts” are offered up:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. – John 10:28 -29

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
– I John 2:18 – 19

The Calvinist interpretation of these two verses goes like this:

1. Once a person becomes a Christian he / she is in the grasp of the Saviors hand and no one, not even Satan himself, can wrestle that person away from Christ.
2. Since said person enjoys this iron clad grasp in the Savior’s hand, he / she remains a Christian, in the hand of the Savior forever … no matter what sins that person commits, no matter what false doctrine that person embraces or teaches and no matter how much unbelief is spewed from the lips and heart of said person. Once a person is “saved,” that person can never be lost.
3. Thirdly, since it “appears” that one that was once a Christian is now spewing apostasy in word and deed it must mean that said person was never really a Christian anyway!

Now if the Scriptures had nothing else to say regarding this matter, the Calvinist would indeed have a leg to stand on. However, the Scripture has much more to say about it. First of all, salvation is conditional to on going faithfulness, repentance and confession of sins. John says the following:

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. – I John 1:5 - 10

Continued salvation is conditional upon our dedication to walking in the light as He is in the light and confession of all our sins. “IF” we walk faithfully and confess our sins THEN we are firmly in the grasp of the Savior’s hand and no man “can pluck us out!” However, the inverse is true as well. “IF” we do not walk in the light as He is in the light and confess our sins, we surrender our salvation and can once again be lost. We can always return but should we die in the apostate state, we can still lose our souls! Having said all the above, some might still cling to Calvin in the false hope that one can “live like hell and still go to heaven.” That is where Jude comes in.

The inspired book of Jude gives us not one, not two, not three, not four but FIVE concrete examples of people once saved that consequently became lost when they embraced apostasy. These were not people who were “never really saved,” they were people who were saved by God totally, without question and without a doubt! Here are the five examples and we will rest our case!

1. Jude 1:5 – The Lord SAVED a people out of Egypt and later destroyed those who did not believe. How many of the Israelites were saved out of Egypt and were “baptized unto Moses” as they crossed the Red Sea? ALL of them! They were ALL once saved but some of them became apostate and were consequently lost. Saved people lost their salvation.
2. Jude 1:6 – There were angels in heaven who did not keep their first estate but LEFT their habitation. Saved angels, living in Heaven, willingly abandoned their positions and deserted to the enemy! Saved angels lost their salvation!
3. Jude 1:7 – The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were once saved by God via Abraham who raised an army from his own house and saved them from destruction as we read about in Genesis 14. Unfortunately, after their salvation, Sodom and Gomorrah “gave themselves over to fornication and strange flesh.” As a result, they lost their salvation and were destroyed.
4. Jude 1:12 – Jude asserts that the apostates of whom he is writing are “twice dead.” What must be true about someone who is “twice dead?” These apostates were once “dead in their sins” but they obeyed the gospel, were buried with Christ in baptism and rose again to walk in “newness of life.” These “live souls” died again when they rejected Christ and embraced apostasy. They were truly “twice dead!” An unrepentant apostate is “twice dead” and will lose his soul, just like those who rebelled in the desert, just like the fallen angels and just like Sodom and Gomorrah.
5. Jude 1:12 – Finally, Jude asserts that the apostates of whom he is writing have been “uprooted.” One must understand that a plant that is “uprooted,” must of necessity, first of all must have been “rooted” previously! The uprooted, and now unsaved, apostate was once rooted and saved – just like those who rebelled in the desert, just like the fallen angels and just like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah

One last observation. “IF” Calvin is right and “IF” “once saved always saved” [The Perseverance of the Saints] is a true and wholesome doctrine, then the following also must be true regarding the assertions of Jude:

1. God did not really destroy those who did not believe in the desert, its just a fable.
2. God did not really allow His angels to leave Heaven, it too, is just a fairy tale.
3. God did not really destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, it is just a “Bible story” and did not really take place.
4. Jude wasted his time writing about and warning the church regarding the apostates. After all, God will still save them in the end!
There we have it. We have a choice to make. Will we choose Calvin over Jude or will we choose Jude over Calvin? Upon that choice our souls depend!

© 2010 by Russ McCullough – All Rights Reserved - MCN: C4U9Q-J5SEG-27PHB

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Civility and Apostasy

This past week America witnessed the worst kind of vile invective back and forth the political aisle. Fowl and vulgar language turned the air blue with words our mothers once washed out our mouths for saying. Debate crossed the line and became enmity. It is all very sad and sobering.

The book of Jude is instructive for Christians in this regard. He tells us by inspiration that Christians should not issue “railing accusations” towards other people, even apostates.

Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, dusrst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke thee.” – Jude 1:9

This verse is compelling on many levels. In fact, this is the only reference we have in the Bible regarding this instance of conflict between Michael and Satan, two former brothers in heaven now adversaries. Michael remained faithful while Satan fell. We do, however, have reference to this instance in a non-biblical source, The Assumption of Moses. This book is not inspired and is not contained in Scripture, though the Holy Spirit confirms here in Jude that THIS instance did, in fact, take place. Michael and Satan DID contend and dispute over the body of Moses. Jude uses these facts to illustrate a truth for us.

The book of Jude is the only book in the New Testament devoted exclusively towards dealing with apostasy. Other books, especially the epistles of John and Peter, deal with apostasy but are not devoted exclusively to it. Jude, however, deals with it singularly, passionately and completely. Verse 9 of his letter is somewhat like a steam valve. When the steam pressure in a boiler gets too high, a steam valve is used to lessen the internal pressure, thus bringing the entire environment back into safety. The pressure in Jude brought on by “certain men (who) crept in unawares” has been brought to a fever pitch by verse 8 and threatens to explode. Instead of sending his readers in angry fury toward these false teachers, Jude illustrates that “railing accusations” are not in the appropriate communication realm of Christian men and women. God is the only judge. Only He can ascertain and judge the hearts and the motives of men. Jude says, in essence, “If Michael did not issue a “railing accusation” against Satan, the epitome of evil itself, we should not issue such railings, accusations and judgments of motive towards apostates, false teachers and anyone else with whom we disagree. We need to leave such judgments to God and God alone.

Does this leave us with nothing we can or should do when false teachers enter the flock? Absolutely not! While we are not to judge by appearance or motive, we must “judge with righteous judgment” and “speak the truth in love.”
“Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” – John 7:24
“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the heard, even Christ:” – Ephesians 4:5

Assessing the facts of the matter, using the Word of God to teach the truth and to refute error is both allowed and expected by God. Michael did not judge the apparent motives of Satan and neither should we judge the apparent motives of false teachers, apostates and anyone else for that matter, that task will be accomplished by Christ on Judgment Day. (II Corinthians 5:10) Instead our speech should be “as apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11) “WHY” people do what they do is between them and God alone and is not the business of man to discover. Let’s remember that our business is “WHAT’s” right or wrong, not “WHO’s right or wrong and certainly not “WHY” someone does or does not do a thing! Let’s keep our head, lower our tone, clean up our language and refuse to speculate regarding motive when dealing with our adversaries. Michael did and so should we.

Copyright 2010 by Russ McCullough - All Rights Reserved