The B-I-B-L-E and My Evangelical Upbringing

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For everything was created by him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through him and for him.
He is before all things,
and by him all things hold together.
He is also the head of the body, the church;
he is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
so that he might come to have
first place in everything.
For God was pleased to have
all his fullness dwell in him,
and through him to reconcile
everything to himself,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace
through his blood, shed on the cross.

Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions. But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him—if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become a servant of it. Colossians 1:15-23

Growing Up Evangelical

The B-I-B-L-E
Yes, that’s the book for me
I stand alone on the Word of God
The B-I-B-L-E

Did you ever sing this song? I remember singing it as a kid and it came to my mind as I’ve been thinking about my Christian upbringing. I love this song. It speaks a simple truth that kids can understand but adults have trouble grasping: the Bible is true and can be trusted. By the grace of God, I still stand alone on the Word of God.

I’m saddened as I think of people I know that have fallen away throughout the years and as I think of the many people I don’t know that have departed from the truth. People that now have come to reject the Bible and reject the authority of God. They memorized Bible verses with me at AWANA. They went to Vacation Bible School with me. They went to youth group with me. They went to church. They memorized Scripture. They sang the songs. What happened? They started out well…what went wrong? I explored this here. My purpose here is to describe and reflect on some of my experiences in Evangelicalism.

I was raised around the prosperity gospel and in Pentecostal churches as a young kid. My mom watched Joyce Meyer, Ken Copeland, John Hagee, CBN, and Charles Stanley during my childhood. When I was 8 my mom led me in a sinner’s prayer. My dad was kind, loving to me, and generous. However, he was not the spiritual leader of the home (I’m not intending to insult him but just sharing the reality). My mom taught me what she knew of God and the Bible. I wasn’t taught to be a Berean or a critical thinker. I wasn’t taught presuppositional apologetics. I wasn’t taught about doctrines and sound theology. I was taught the basics. I went to an independent baptist church from 8 years old all the way through high school and college.

I may have been saved since eight years old but I didn’t really own it for myself until after college. I had heard verses like John 3:16 and Romans 3:23 many times in my life. I had heard, memorized, and recited all of the great salvation verses. I prayed the sinner’s prayer. I went to released time at school, AWANA, and youth group. I went to Vacation Bible School. I sang songs like: “My God is so big”, “Jesus Loves Me”, and “The B-I-B-L-E”. I watched VeggieTales. You know, “God is bigger than the Boogeyman, He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV.”

While I love that song still and it has some good intentions, it doesn’t say enough. The boogeyman isn’t real. Godzilla isn’t real. The monsters on TV are not real.

Death is real. Bullies in school are real. Sexual temptation is real. Abuse is real. Porn is real. Anger is real. Cutting is real. Contemplating suicide is real. Divorce is real. Murder is real. Infidelity is real. Doubts are real.

I’ve been thinking about these songs and looking back and reflecting on some of my personal experiences:

  • Is God bigger than my singleness?
  • Is God bigger than my feelings of mediocrity?
  • Is God bigger than a plane crashing into two skyscrapers that I saw on TV in 5th grade?
  • Is God bigger than my loser job at Mcdonalds working 3rd shift?
  • Is God bigger than my fear that I’ll never realize what God’s will for my life is?
  • Is God bigger than my failures?
  • Is God bigger than my depression, depersonalization, and derealization?
  • Is God bigger than my loneliness?

Yes He is…at least that is my answer now. It wasn’t always the answer. My answer was…God is bigger…if I just pray hard enough and do the right things and serve in the church. I said the prayer. I asked Jesus into my heart. But I don’t know if I was regenerated. I was moral and not holy.

You may have asked some of these questions in your life:

  • Is God bigger than losing my loved one?
  • Is God bigger than the bills that need paid when I’ve just lost my job?
  • Is God bigger than my alcoholism?
  • Is God bigger than my drug addiction?
  • Is God bigger than my shame?
  • Is God bigger than the regret I have over my past sins?
  • Is God bigger than my sickness?
  • Is God bigger than my ugliness?
  • Is God bigger than my breakups/divorce?
  • Is God bigger that my cancer diagnosis?
  • Is God bigger than my cheating spouse?
  • Is God bigger than parents going through a divorce?
  • Is God bigger than the sexual, physical, emotional abuse that I experienced in the church or from a relative (or any abuse scenario)?
  • Is God bigger than my attraction to the same sex that I’ve been praying and praying for Him to take away…but He hasn’t?
  • Is God bigger than two kids killing 13 people and themselves in a Colorado school on April 20, 1999?
  • Is God bigger than hurricanes?
  • Is God bigger than a Las Vegas shooting?
  • Is God bigger than a Texas church shooting?
  • Is God bigger than racism?
  • Is God bigger than someone killing 17 people in a Florida high school on February 14th, 2018?
  • Is God bigger than the wickedness and depravity of this world?

“God made you special and He loves you very much” right? “My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty there’s nothing my God cannot do!” right? I’m sure that many people would respond to the questions on that list by saying…”If God is so big, then why did He let X happen?” Many kids in American Fundamentalism (AF)/American Evangelicalism (AE) were taught about God’s love and about how important it was to trust in Jesus.

However, I believe they weren’t taught about the magnitude of depravity that exists in the world. They weren’t prepared to face these kinds of realities. Many were taught that we were saved as long as we prayed a prayer and we were truly sorry. We were taught “Jesus loves you” but not “all who seek to live a godly life will be persecuted”. We were taught how we should stand on the Bible but we weren’t taught how to study and interpret the Bible properly. I was taught 2 timothy 2:15 in AWANA. I recited this key verse many times. However, I never knew what it actually meant until I became more discerning in 2013. Bad theology has run rampant in the American Church over the past 50+ years. What AF/AE became in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s was flawed and most AF/AE kids were set to fail.

The doctrine of regeneration is something I think many AF/AE kids missed out on. I have been in the church all my life but didn’t learn about regeneration until I began to study reformed theology over the past couple years. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard John 3:16 quoted and taught in my life. I can also say that as a kid and teen I had never read it in context with the verses that precede and the verses that follow verse 16. I also did not read it in the context of the whole chapter and in the context of the whole book of John or put it into to context with the entirety of Scripture. I didn’t even know about the importance of context. These concepts were absent from my childhood and teen years in the church.

If you grew up in AF or any kind of works based Christianity, I highly recommend that you listen to the sermon Art Azurdia preached on John 3:16. He speaks truth to errors that have been taught in the church. This sermon specifically addresses morality based Christianity. He begins with an excellent illustration of the daisy oracle (he loves me, he loves me not) and ties this to our view of God’s love. Do you have a daisy oracle view of God?

“I’ve just been given a major promotion at work…He loves me. I’m having to close my business and file for bankruptcy…He loves me not.

After all these years I’m finally having a baby!…He loves me. I’ve just been told by my OB/GYN that my body will never allow me to get pregnant…He loves me not.

I’ve now been cancer free for five years…He loves me. My recent X-Ray reveals a new spot on my lung that requires surgery…He loves me not.

I’m finally getting married…He loves me. I’m still single…He loves me not.”

The sermon:

“This text which Luther called, “The Bible in miniature” leads us to ask and answer a question. How can you be absolutely certain of God’s great love for you?

Recognize the object upon whom it (the love of God) is directed, identify the sacrifice that defines its true character, and embrace the purpose that has motivated its demonstration.”

The Pulpit of God’s Love

Conclusion

There are many times in my life that I could have easily given up on God and walked away. Just read the news or go on social media and you will see the depravity of humanity on display. Why should anyone believe in God if He lets tragedies happen? Is it all just a big setup? Why did Got make us and put that tree in the garden if He knew what would happen? Does He arbitrarily damn some to Hell and choose others to be saved? If there is one thing I’ve learned throughout the years it’s this: don’t just believe what people say (especially strangers on the internet) but compare what they say to Scripture. The Bible has answers to these hard questions. You may not like the answers but they are there nonetheless.

 

Christian Maturity: Speaking the Truth in Love

I certainly understand the difficulty you may have had in your particular Christian upbringing or background. However, the objective truth of God and His Word must take precedence over our personal experiences. We need to know what God says in His Word if we want to know the truth about life, reality, and what it means to be a Christian. We either trust our subjective moral autonomy or God’s objective authority. There is no neutral ground.

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Proverbs 30:5

God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind. Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19

 But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured—and yet the Lord rescued me from them all. In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Evil people and impostors will become worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, and you know that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:10-17

For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased!” We ourselves heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. We also have the prophetic word strongly confirmed, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from the prophet’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:16-21

Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found without spot or blemish in his sight, at peace. Also, regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him. He speaks about these things in all his letters. There are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable will twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures. 

Therefore, dear friends, since you know this in advance, be on your guard, so that you are not led away by the error of lawless people and fall from your own stable position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. 2 Peter 3:14-18

And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ. From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. Ephesians 4:11-16

Christian Maturity

Christianity is not just praying a prayer so that you don’t go to hell. It’s an ongoing process of sanctification and growth in the knowledge of Christ. Being a Christian is not getting saved so you can live life for yourself and your dreams. The Christian life is about mortifying sin, denying ourselves, and serving others. Being a Christian is not about comfortably believing what you are taught without ever checking to see if it lines up with Scripture. Rather, maturity should be the desire of every Christian. Our Christian leaders are to equip us for the work of ministry. We are not to be carried about by every wind of teaching, by human cunning, or by craftiness in deceitful schemes. We are not to be led away by the error of lawless people. Instead, we are to be on guard and to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We speak truth (alétheuó) in love and grow up in every way into Christ. Notice that we are to speak God’s truth in love. If we are to speak God’s truth in love we need to know what He actually says in His Word and we need to be able to teach it correctly:

Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

If it doesn’t matter what we believe as long as we believe in “Jesus” then how do we ascertain human cunning and deceitful schemes? Paul clearly says that there are doctrines and teachings out there that are false and deceptive. There must true and knowable sound doctrines and teachings if we are to be on guard against false teachings.

But know this: Hard times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people.

For among them are those who worm their way into households and deceive gullible women overwhelmed by sins and led astray by a variety of passions, always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth. They are men who are corrupt in mind and worthless in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress, for their foolishness will be clear to all, as was the foolishness of Jannes and Jambres. 2 Timothy 3:1-9

I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, a curse be on him! As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him!

For am I now trying to persuade people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:6-10

I wish you would put up with a little foolishness from me. Yes, do put up with me! For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy, because I have promised you in marriage to one husband—to present a pure virgin to Christ. But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be seduced from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you had not received, or a different gospel, which you had not accepted, you put up with it splendidly! 2 Corinthians 11:1-4

Notice here that Paul says that people can preach a distorted gospel and another (a false) “Jesus”. He also warns of those who hold to the form of godliness but deny its power. We need to know the accurate interpretation of Scripture if we are to know the true gospel and Jesus from a false gospel and a false Jesus. If there are people who hold to the form of godliness but deny its power then we need to know our Bible so we can discern and spot when people subtly twist the truth. They hold to the form of godliness; they look like Christians and what they say sounds Christian but what they say is not based on Scripture. It’s very important to study biblical hermeneutics but that means hard work and many in our day do not like the idea of taking time to do hard work. We all live busy lives lined up with activities. Many do not have time to read the Bible let alone partake in an in-depth study of the Bible. Don Closson has some wise words regarding the importance of Biblical hermeneutics:

Once we appreciate what God has done to communicate with us, we may begin to apply the principals of interpretation, or hermeneutics, to the text. To be successful this process must take into account the cultural, historical, and language barriers that limit our understanding of the original writings. There are no shortcuts to the hard work necessary to accomplish this task.

Some have wrongly argued that knowledge of the culture and languages of biblical times is not necessary, that the Holy Spirit will interpret the text for us. The role of the Holy Spirit is to illumine the believer in order to accept and apply what is found in Scripture. The Bible says that the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14). The Greek word for “accept” means “to take something willingly and with pleasure.” The key role of the Spirit is not to add information to the text, or to give us special translating abilities, but to soften our hearts in order to receive what is there.

The goal of this process is to be mature in Christ. The Bible is not an end, it is a means to becoming conformed to the image or likeness of Christ. (1)

The Importance of Gentleness

Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. But reject foolish and ignorant disputes, because you know that they breed quarrels. The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth. Then they may come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:22-26

Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people. For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another. Titus 3:1-3

We need to both speak the truth and speak it in love. If there is one thing that has been missing from the church, and especially from the reformed/calvinist community, it’s gentleness. We need to rebuke error. We need to expose false teachings. I am not suggesting that we go soft on the truth or set aside the importance of sound doctrine but we desperately need to be speaking the truth in humility. It’s simply understanding that we were dead in sin just like everyone.

The next four verses of the Titus 3 passage are so important:

But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life. This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:4-8

This passage speaks for itself. We are not saved by our works of righteousness but according to HIS mercy through the regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. We should, therefore, speak with humility and gentleness towards all people. We should contend for the faith but I believe we should be gentle and calm. I can grant that there may be times that call for the blunt declaration of truth but we should not be condescending or arrogant.

Secondary Issues Matter. Theology Matters.

The amount of bible illiteracy in the church today is shocking. We have access to almost infinite biblical and theological resources on our phones. We have the bible on our phones and yet many don’t have time to read a chapter a day. We have access to Greek lexicons on our phones by which we can check to better understand the meanings of the words of Scripture as they were written in the original language. How many laypeople (or pastors/leaders) do you think take the time to do that? We have access to articles and works of theologians from the past to the present yet many go to Relevant or Sojourners and believe what they read without any discernment. Many sit through a sermon and don’t double check to make sure what is being said about God is actually what God says about Himself in His Word.

If you are at all familiar with the emergent/emerging movement then the following from Rachel Held Evans’ book “Searching for Sunday” should put a red flag up in your mind:

It seemed fitting to arrange the book around the sacraments because it was the sacraments that drew me back to the church after I’d given up on it. When my faith had become little more than an abstraction, a set of propositions to be affirmed or denied, the tangible, tactile nature of the sacraments invited me to touch, smell, taste, hear, and see God in the stuff of everyday life again. They got God out of my head and into my hands. They reminded me that Christianity isn’t meant to simply be believed; it’s meant to be lived, shared, eaten, spoken, and enacted in the presence of other people. They reminded me that, try as I may, I can’t be a Christian on my own. I need a community. I need the church.

As Barbara Brown Taylor puts it, “in an age of information overload . . . the last thing any of us needs is more information about God. We need the practice of the incarnation, by which God saves the lives of those whose intellectual assent has turned them dry as dust, who run frighteningly low on the bread of life, who are dying to know more about God in their bodies. Not more about God. More God. (2)

I believe the Ex-Evangelical movement/community is simply the newest form of the emergent movement (and I will go into more detail about this in forthcoming articles). Similarly to emergents, Ex-Evangelicals question/deny human certainty and the inerrancy of Scripture. They would say that what we experience in community is more important that what we believe. They would say we rely on our subjective experiences rather than objective truth.

What we believe is very important. I agree fully with the following excerpt from “Ready to Return“:

Faith Not Feelings

We live in a culture that teaches us to rely on subjective experience rather than objective truth. Our studies have shown that “millenials” (those born anywhere from the 1980s to the early 2000s) are not as interested in Christ or Christianity as the the previous generation. Further, those who are in the Church have major biblical literacy issues. With the cultural surge of pluralism and an obsession of serving self, even many churches have slid into “worship-tainment” for its members instead of equipping them with the Word of God, Thus, there is a whole lot more of entertaining the goats than tending the sheep.

The result is that these millenials in the Church end up with only a thin veneer of biblical understanding (they’re familiar with the “stories” in the Bible). However, some appear to be content with this level of knowledge. They cry, “What difference does it make? As long as millenials understand the gospel, who cares if they believe in a literal Adam and Eve or a six-day creation? God’s not going to base entrance into heaven based on someone’s view of Genesis creation.”

True. I would wholeheartedly agree with that statement. Believing in a literal Genesis account is not a salvation issue. The Bible is crystal clear that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13), and that “For by grace you have been saved through faith, And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9). Therefore there is no religious work, good deed, or additional belief attached to saving faith that God requires. It’s faith alone. Grace alone. Christ alone. Period.

However, having settled the issue of salvation, it does not logically follow that nothing else matters from that point on. As critical as they are to Christian doctrine, understanding the complexity of the Trinity or believing in the Second Coming is also not essential in order to be saved — but no respectable believer would deny their fundamental importance to Christian doctrine. Additionally, just because a person is saved doesn’t give them the option of now believing whatever they choose about other biblical doctrines and theology which don’t speak directly to the issue of salvation. It certainly doesn’t give them the freedom to reinterpret a fundamental Christian belief or to suggest an abstract understanding about key passages in Scripture.

Growth Follows Birth

By saying that saving faith in Christ is not ALL that matters, we are saying that there are other important things God would also have us believe and do. Granted, they have nothing to do with salvation, but by definition, Christianity is more than just “becoming a Christian.” To say otherwise would be equivalent to saying that being born is all that matters. Food, growth, development, and everything else that follows birth is now optional. What an absurd approach to life?

But this is effectively what some say when they downplay the importance of Scriptures that are fundamental to our understanding of God, His work, creation, the Fall, and the nature of man. It cuts at the very heart of God’s ability to accurately reveal and record His own history! And the previously cited research shows that many in our churches have a problem when it comes to how they view the Word of God.

Of course, all genuine Christians would agree that obedience to God is the important thing, that how we live after receiving the gospel actually matters.

But let’s examine this a bit further. Exactly why is our “Ticket to Heaven” not the only thing we should care about as Christians?

First of all God never says that.

Second, He is clear about many, many other very important truths He wants us to believe and embrace. Otherwise the Bible would contain just one verse about believing in Jesus instead of 66 books of doctrine and truth!

Third, embedded in true, saving faith is the guarantee of spiritual fruit, particularly the fruit of ongoing faith, obedience, and growth (Matt. 7:15-20, 21-19); Rom. 1:17; Col. 1:20-23; James 2:14-26; Phil. 1:6).

Fourth, it’s the whole of Scripture that gives us hope, perseverance, and encouragement after we come to faith in Christ (Rom. 15:4).

Fifth, ALL of the Bible is inspired and is meant to fuel our faith with nourishment (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Peter. 2:2).

Sixth, God saves individuals so that they might fulfill a greater purpose here on earth. Part of that purpose involves “always being prepared to make a defense against anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

Seventh, there are many important Scriptures that support the truth about Christ and the gospel. To ignore, discount, or demean them is to undercut the foundation of the gospel message itself.

Eighth, you cannot deny one biblical truth without effectually denying many others. For example, you cannot deny the deity of Jesus Chris and then believe in Him as Savior. You cannot deny the Resurrection and then still believe in the Cross and its accomplishments. These truths are inseparably linked. Mutually inclusive and bonded with the glue of God’s unbroken revelation.

Of course, I know some people would say we should simply avoid controversy and conflict in the world and within certain Christian circles by only focusing on the gospel message itself, and like Paul, “decided to know nothing among you except the gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:2).

But there are several flaws in this oversimplification of Paul’s words, First, no one denies that the gospel message of Jesus Christ is what leads sinners to salvation. However, not even Paul limited his evangelistic approach to “Jesus saves,” but rather utilized the rest of the Word of God as foundational evidence for his apologetic regarding Jesus. In Acts 17:1-4, Paul reasoned with the Jews using the Old Testament Scriptures. By doing so, he built a solid apologetic case for Jesus being the Messiah. It was the Apostle’s “custom” to reason with both religious leaders and pagans, using the truth of God contained in the Old Testament Scripture (Acts 17:2). He also took the opportunity when encountering secular, pagan religious sites to demonstrate to unbelievers that God was Creator, Judge, and Savior (Acts 17:16-34). He even quoted pagan poets to support his argument (Acts 17:28-29). For Paul, establishing God as common Creator of all mankind was foundational to his argument and gospel presentation. Therefore, if God is not Creator, Jesus cannot be Savior. But you’ve probably never heard a preacher say that.

All Scripture Matters

This of course is not to say that every time we share the gospel we must survey the entire redemption story from Genesis to Revelation. It is, however, to say that the whole of Scripture is true and has direct bearing on the truth about Jesus Christ and what He accomplished on the Cross. Therefore, to only focus on the gospel as our sole beginning and ending point in evangelism is not only without support in Scripture, but also isn’t smart missionary work. And make no mistake about it — we are all missionaries to the pagan culture in which we live.

   So, in short, yes, it really does matter what you believe after you become a Christian. Theology matters. Sound doctrine matters. All biblical truth — from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 is inseparably linked, connected from truth to truth. You can’t merely cut out a particular portion of Scripture or deny 4,000 years of belief and interpretation and then replace it with a pagan understanding of that portion of Scripture. We don’t have that option with God’s Word. Otherwise we become judges of the Word, exalting ourselves above it. And by doing this, we are consumed with arrogance and fall into the same condemnation incurred by the devil (1 Tim. 3:6).

…Being of infinite intelligence, God is totally logical and rational — much more so than man. And throughout Scripture, He clearly indicates when accounts are to be understood as illustrations, parables, or metaphors, such as found in Luke 15:1-32 and John 10:1-17.

Consequently there is nothing in all of Scripture that gives the slightest hint of the flood or creation accounts found in Genesis as being anything other than literal, actual, and historical events. (3)

What we believe matters. What we do matters. Our theology will determine what we do. It is important that we believe sound doctrine and that we obey God. We know and we do. Not solely one or the other.

Sources:

  1. Hermeneutics, http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/hermen.html.
  2. Evans, Rachel Held. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church. Thomas Nelson Inc, 2015
  3. Ham, Ken, et al. Ready to Return: Bringing Back the Church’s Lost Generation. Master Books, 2015.

Post-Evangelicalism: How Did We Get Here?

The Ex-Evangelical Community

This is the introduction to my series of articles on post-evangelicalism aka the Ex-Evangelical Community.

We are facing a problem in the West, specifically here in America…many people have left or are leaving churches, especially millenials. Consider what Ken Ham writes in his book, “Ready to Return“:

Today, few Americans are aware of the spiritual epidemic that wiped out the land of our Christian forefathers. Even fewer are aware that the same epidemic has reached our own shores, spreading like a virus.

American Christianity could in a sense become almost extinct in less than two generations — if Christians in this country don’t act quickly and decisively. Respected pollster George Barna was one of the first to put numbers to this epidemic, finding that six out of ten 20-somethings who were involved in a church during their teen years are already gone. Since that research was published in 2000, survey after survey has confirmed the same basic trend. Many of the 20s generation are leaving the Church in droves with few returning.” (1)

Rachel Held Evans (someone who I would classify as an Ex-Evangelical) mentions the exodus from churches/Christianity as well in her book, “Searching for Sunday“:

In the United States, 59 percent of young people ages eighteen to twenty-nine with a Christian background have dropped out of church. Among those who came of age around the year 2000, a solid quarter claim no religious affiliation at all, making us significantly more disconnected from faith than members of generation X were at a comparable point in their lives and twice as disconnected as baby boomers were as young adults. It is estimated that eight million young adults will leave the church before their thirtieth birthday. (2)

It’s a fact that we have lost many who were raised in the church and/or in a Christian home. Many Ex-Evangelicals come from fundamentalist backgrounds. If it wasn’t for the grace of God I would probably be an Ex-Evangelical myself. I’ve lived through the American fundamentalist Christian subculture. I know the good aspects and the many bad aspects of fundamentalism. Many of the churched (people raised in the church or Christian homes) who have left Christianity or abandoned orthodoxy (is there a difference…I don’t think there is) have been through very confusing, hard things and many have been hurt in the church.

Lebanon Churches

You might think people leaving the church is mainly a problem in the big cities or the postmodern, post-Christian beacons of the country (West Coast, New England). On the contrary, it’s happening minutes away from me in “religious” Lebanon County:

More funerals

The number of American adults who attend church regularly is declining and weighted toward the elderly, with people born before 1946 far more likely to attend church on a weekly basis (51 percent) than millennials (27-28 percent), according to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center.

Despite its reputation as a religious community, Lebanon County is following the trend, said Lebanon Valley College Chaplain Paul Fullmer. One reason for the attendance decline may be that people no longer feel an obligation to darken church doors unless they truly want to.

“I think there is a growing social acceptance of agnosticism and atheism,” Fullmer said.

Christ Church UCC at 200 S. White Oak St. in Annville still has about 80-90 attendees, but the congregation is aging, pastor Don Mason said.

“We’ve had a lot more funerals than we’ve had people joining the church,” Mason said.

The congregation is battling secular activities like sports leagues and television shows that compete for potential attendees’ time, the attractiveness of concert-style worship services offered at many megachurches, and negative views of church among millennials, he said.

Modern feel

Since many young people did not grow up attending religious services, churches often struggle to attract them if they do not make their worship experience understandable and familiar, Fullmer said.

Lifeway Church certainly meets that requirement. It worships in Regal Cinemas at the Lebanon Valley Mall, and uses movie theater seating and a portable stage that is installed each Sunday for the service.

Pastor Jimmy Nimon had 66 congregants when it started in September 2015 as a church plant of Ephrata Community Church, and it now has about 225 — enough that he’s scrambling to train other leaders to help minister to the congregation. Most of the attendees are either people without a church background or who were already unengaged in church because they had been hurt at a previous church, he said. (3)

Problems

You’ve got a problem if 75% (or higher) of attendees at your church are over 60 years of age and you don’t have many new attendees under the age of 40.

You’ve got a problem if you have more funerals than new people joining the church.

We’ve got a problem if people are being hurt in churches.

We’ve got a problem if agnosticism and atheism are rising and orthodox Christianity is on the decline.

Why the Church Lost Millenials and Many Others

I want to share why I believe we have come to our current situation of people leaving the church in droves before I begin to analyze and critique the claims of Ex-Evangelicals. I’m a Millenial. I was born in 1991 and have always been raised around the church, Christian subculture, and Christianity. I’ve lived in the very religious and conservative Bible belt Lebanon County, Pennsylvania most of my life. I’ve been actively involved in the church all my life. I’ve gone to Sunday School, Children’s Church, and VBS (where I walked up the aisle at least two years in a row because I wanted to go up to the front like everybody else…I didn’t actually know what I was doing when I went up front).  We have so many churches in the area that some kids would go to multiple Vacation Bible Schools over the summer. I went to AWANA and youth group. I’ve volunteered at AWANA and VBS.

I’ve seen many fall away throughout my time in the church. I can think of hundreds of people I personally know that had gone to some church activity, their parents were Christian, or they were involved in the church that now have no interest in God and many openly reject God altogether. I’m sure you can think of at least a few people who have left Christianity. We have to wonder how it could be that so many have turned away from the truth? Why are so many de-conversion stories being shared on and off the internet?

Jesus tells us why people depart:

As a large crowd was gathering, and people were coming to Jesus from every town, he said in a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some seed fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the sky devoured it. Other seed fell on the rock; when it grew up, it withered away, since it lacked moisture. Other seed fell among thorns; the thorns grew up with it and choked it. Still other seed fell on good ground; when it grew up, it produced fruit: a hundred times what was sown.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone who has ears to hear listen.”

“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. The seed along the path are those who have heard and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the seed on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy. Having no root, these believe for a while and fall away in a time of testing. As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit. But the seed in the good ground—these are the ones who, having heard the word with an honest and good heart, hold on to it and by enduring, produce fruit. Luke 8:4-8, 11-15

Specifics

While Jesus gives us the basic reasons for why people leave, I believe it is important to look more specifically at why so many today have left and are leaving. I believe there are many Ex-Evangelicals in the U.S. today because these things have happened over the past 60+ years:

1. Parents more and more relied on the church to teach their kids about God. Many kids were not well-trained by their fathers (or the church) in presuppositional apologetics, discernment, critical thinking, biblical hermeneutics, theology, and doctrine.

   I think one of the saddest passages in the Bible is judges 2:10-12, “And all that generation were also gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel. And the people of Israel. . .abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them.”

   After Joshua and all the first generation of parents who entered the Promise Land died, the next generation served false gods! It took only one generation to lose the spiritual legacy that should have been passed on.

   What happened? In Deuteronomy 6:6-7, God had given clear instructions to the fathers: “These words that I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

    Obviously, the parents in Joshua’s day did not teach their children as they should have — and in one generation, the devil had those kids! While it’s ultimately a matter of God’s grace that anyone is saved, God has given parents an immense responsibility to do their part. Over and over again, the Jewish fathers were told about their crucial role but they shirked it (see Ps. 78).

   Sadly, this same situation already has occurred or is happening now in Western nations once influenced by Christianity. Many fathers today are not carrying their God-given, God-commanded role to be the spiritual head of the house and to take the responsibility for training their children in spiritual matters. (1)

Or the opposite happened, fathers/mothers rammed the bible and theology into their children’s minds and did not allow critical thinking or questions. Cruel, authoritarian parents that used fear to instill Christianity into the hearts and minds of children. Paul gives fathers a wise admonition:

Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

2. People were taught bad/poor/watered down theology and/or they were taught false teaching in the church and at home. I will briefly share examples and plan to examine them in more detail in future articles.
Examples (there are more but these come to my mind):

  • A pastor telling you that you have anxiety & depression because you are harboring sin in your life, or because you have a demon.
  • Hyper calvinism:

Most Calvinists reject as deplorable the following hyper-Calvinistic and destructive beliefs:

– that God is the author of sin and of evil

– that men have no will of their own, and secondary causes are of no effect

– that the number of the elect at any time may be known by men

– that it is wrong to evangelize

– that assurance of election must be sought prior to repentance and faith

– that men who have once sincerely professed belief are saved regardless of what they later do

– that God has chosen some races of men and has rejected others

– that the children of unbelievers dying in infancy are certainly damned

– that God does not command everyone to repent

– that the sacraments are not means of grace, but obstacles to salvation by faith alone.

– that the true church is only invisible, and salvation is not connected with the visible church

– that the Scriptures are intended to be interpreted by individuals only and not by the church.

– that no government is to be obeyed which does not acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord, or that Biblical Law is its source of authority

– that the grace of God does not work for the betterment of all men

– that saving faith is equivalent to belief in the doctrine of predestination

– that only Calvinists are Christians (Neo-gnostic Calvinism) (4)

  • Poor teaching about the “unforgivable sin”. This leads to or has led to some Christians living with anxiety and fear about whether or not they committed the sin.
  • Christian camps similar to what you would see in the documentary Jesus Camp. I didn’t go to Christian summer camp. I’m sure there are some good ones but it wouldn’t surprise me if most are bad.
  • Churches poorly addressing homosexuality. Actual homophobia (I don’t agree with the claim it is homophobic to call homosexuality a sin. It’s not the only sin and it isn’t the root sin. The root sin is unbelief) …hating LGBTQ people. Calling them abominations and sodomites. Anti-LBGT preachers that end up actually being caught in homosexual activities (a simple web search will give you plenty of examples but Ted Haggard is a notable example). Conversion therapy and “Praying the gay away”:

When I was 12, I knew I liked boys. One day I was watching Six Feet Under on HBO and saw David and Keith kissing. This was the first gay couple I’d ever seen on TV and it was in that moment I realized, “Well, shit, I’m gay.” At this point I was still heavily involved in the Baptist Church. Growing up with a single mom, I had to go to daycare so she could work and support our family. I went to the church’s preschool and daycare every day after school until I was 13. I was taught that choosing to be gay was wrong, vile and against God: “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” When I had this epiphany that I was one of these people I had been taught to hate, I wanted my feelings to go away. I cried and prayed for God to change me, taking this sinful carnal need away.

The next week at Sunday school, the youth worship group was advertising a summer camp to “renew your personal relationship with God.” I took this as a sign—an answer to my prayers. I asked my mom if I could go to camp, telling her I wanted to go to be with friends and be with God. So I raised the money through fundraisers and set off to for the mountains.

When I arrived, I was shown my cabin. Our days were spent at daily services and Bible study groups, broken up by activities and days at the lake.  Pamphlets shared guides to passages in the Bible for sins that afflict human nature.  I focused on why it was wrong to be a homosexual, searching for advice to transform myself. I flipped through the pages of scripture, highlighting and underlining passages, hoping to learn, see, and be enlightened. I questioned if this is what I believed—was it even what Jesus would have believed?

Soon after I came out, I left the church, abandoning my faith.  I no longer felt welcome or accepted in the space I’d spent much of my childhood.  My friend Ryan said that when I left, the other kids gossiped about me, saying, “Thomas is gay now! He stopped coming to church and isn’t a Christian anymore.” The final service I attended was during the same week as the vote on Prop. 8, the decision for marriage equality in California.  The pastor talked about needing to save the sanctity of marriage at all costs, advocating against supporting gay marriage.  He even said, “The church shouldn’t help find a cure for AIDS. We should just let them die from it.” These words dripped from his mouth like venom off the fangs of a snake. (5)

Rachel Held Evans shares a similar account from someone named Andrew:

“What sort of church did you grow up in?” I asked.

In response, Andrew pulled out his smartphone, scrolled through his pictures for a moment, found what he was looking for, and then handed his phone to me. On the cracked phone screen was a picture of the editorial page of a church newsletter. As I zoomed in closer, I could see the article was about the same-sex relationships, which the author described as sickening. To the left of the headline, a silver-haired man in a suit and tie looked back at me with eyes that looked familiar.

“That’s my dad,” Andrew said. He’s a pastor and he published this right afte I came out.”

My heart sank. For every teenager like me who knew only love and acceptance growing up in church, there were teenagers like Andrew who felt like strangers even in their own homes.

The sixth of seven children, Andrew grew up in a small, fundamentlist Presbyterian church in the South where his father served as a pastor. There was much Andrew loved about his tight-knit faith community—its emphasis on Scripture, its commitment to evangelism, its familylike atmosphere—but as Andrew approached his teenage years, he found himself at odds with some of the church’s more legalistic teachings, particularly his father’s ban on contemporary Christian music and insistence that only the King James version of the Bible be used in church and study. While his father emphasized reverence, righteousness, and self-control, Andrew had always displayed a tender, open spirit and an emotional connection to God. He scribbled endlessly in prayer journal during his father’s sermons, conversing with God as a close friend.  Though he occasionally rebelled (the first time Andrew saw a movie in a theater, he was eighteen years old, and he snuck out with friends to catch The Hunger Games), Andrew loved Jesus deeply, passionately.

Which made his secret all the heavier.

About the time his friends started talking about girls, Andrew started noticing boys. Having been raised to believe that sexual orientation was a choice and that same-sex relationships were an abomination, Andrew feared his impulses were a result of sin, sin he begged God to purge him of night after night and day after day.

A 2012 entry from Andrew’s prayer journal reads:

I’m so scared. I don’t want to be an outcast . . . do you care what I’m going through, God? Why did you make me this way? What are you trying to teach me, God? I lift my hands to You. I’m in Your hands . . . Give me faith! Please! I can’t hold on much longer.

But no amount of prayer or Bible study, or self-discipline could change Andrew’s orientation. Finally, after struggling with bouts of depression and despair, Andrew came to terms with his sexuality. He left home to attend college in St. Loius and he found a new church that accepted him as he was. His new faith community even arranged for him to be baptized, an experience Andrew had longed for since childhood.

“I was always denied baptism and communion growing up,” Andrew said. “My dad always told me I wasn’t manifesting enough fruits of the Spirit in my life. He wanted me to wait untill I was good enough, holy enough.”

Andrew formally came out to his family on the Thanksgiving break of his freshman year. It didn’t go well. Now Andrew lives in his dorm room, cut off from his family and working to pay for his education on his own. The last time he spoke to his father, Andrew was told he was going to Hell. (2)

Stories like these make me sad and angry. Yes, homosexuality is a sin. However, I don’t believe that same-sex attraction is a sin. So the church has treated homosexuality as this abominable sin that God takes away if people try harder, pray harder, and read the Bible more. When in reality, same-sex attraction is not just something a person can switch off (certainly God could take the desire away from a person immediately but this seems to not be common). Just like how anxiety and depression are not things that you just turn off. We then have teens (and people of any age really) who realize that they are attracted to the same sex and they are told that the way to stop those feelings is to do something on their own power. A works based solution instead of a grace based solution. We tell them to muster up faith by their own effort instead of telling them to look to Christ and His finished work on the cross. We give them the law and no gospel.

There is a difference between someone approaching a pastor and saying “I realize that I am attracted to people of my sex, what should I do? I feels like it’s sin but I can’t stop my feelings” and someone who says to themselves “I am actively engaging in homosexual activities and I don’t want to give it up. So I will find a church that accepts my lifestyle so that I can continue in sin and not be obedient to God.” A pastor needs to respond to the doubter with care and with truth. Don’t call the person who says they struggle with same-sex attraction an abomination. Point them to the truths of Scripture. Pray with them. Be real with them.

Thomas ended up leaving the church altogether. Andrew found a church that accepted same-sex relationships and continued in a homosexual lifestyle. That’s what happens when the church poorly addresses homosexuality.

  • Modesty Policing. By this I am referring to women that were told that they needed to be modest so that they wouldn’t tempt men with their bodies. If they were sexually abused and dressed immodestly they deserved it because of how they dressed. Certainly I believe modesty is important to some degree…but this takes it too far. The fact is, a man doesn’t need to see a woman who is dressed immodestly in order to lust. He can undress her in his mind and she could be as modest as a nun.
  • Marital infidelity and abuse. Pastors that don’t or didn’t take abuse allegations seriously. Pastors that tell wives to submit to their abusive husbands and that the reason their husband is abusive must be because the wife is committing sin of some kind. “Christian” husbands that abuse their wives mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and sexually. Spouses that wreck their marriages and the family by following their lusts and having affairs. The fact that these kinds of stories exist really hurts my heart and makes me righteously angry.
  • Purity Culture. Purity rings. Shame. Believing that losing your virginity before marriage is the one sin you can never truly be clean from and that if you are virgin you deserve to marry a virgin and marrying someone who isn’t a virgin is selling yourself short. Soul ties…that if you have sex with someone (consensual or nonconsensual) you are bonded to them for the rest of your life. Feeling completely dirty and used because you were sexually abused. Now you are considered “used goods” and what Christian guy wants to have used goods? Bouncing the eyes. Consider what Rebecca Lemke says about Purity Culture:

Purity Is Good, But Not Puritanism

In the 1980s and ‘90s, several organizations and figureheads within conservative Christian circles, like True Love Waits and Silver Ring Thing, rose up. Literature like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” brought an increased awareness to no-touch courtship and strongly advocated for young people to stay virgins until marriage. This was in response to the secular culture’s obsession with sexual perversion brought on by the Sexual Revolution and rising teen pregnancy rates. This push for purity was a good thing, at least in theory.

There is more to leading a life of sexual purity than waiting until your honeymoon to have sex, and proponents of the purity movement began addressing this as well, arguably very poorly. To say they went a little overboard would be an understatement.

In their efforts to promote purity, they endorsed no-touch courtship, a relationship in which affection of any sort was strictly reserved for the altar and beyond. Not only did this forbid kissing, hugging, and holding hands, but in some cases, it also outlawed private conversations between couples and even having a crush to begin with. The essence of the rules could be boiled down to two beliefs: that attraction was a sin and sexuality was dangerous. If one transgressed Purity Culture’s boundaries, they were said to have “given their heart away” before marriage.

Violating any of these “rules” of Purity Culture made a person the spiritual and sexual equivalent of “chewed gum,” “spit-in water,” and “a de-petaled flower.” If you committed any kind of sexual impurity by the movement’s definition (even if it wasn’t included in the Bible or was a non-consensual sexual encounter), you were “damaged goods.”

While sexual purity is a good thing and something the Bible asks us to strive for, Purity Culture does not advocate for it. Instead, it advocates for a one-size-fits-all model for handling dating and affection. It is a lazy, convenience-based solution to a complex spiritual problem, one that has cost many their mentalphysical, and spiritual wellbeing.

This model for achieving sexual purity neglects the work of the Holy Spirit to convict on spiritual decisions that are within the realm of adiaphora (a matter that is neither commanded nor forbidden by Scripture). This leaves many to rely on behavioral modification rather than acting out of love for their neighbor.

We Cannot Make Ourselves Perfect

The problem with the convenience of Purity Culture is this: it puts the focus on how sinful human beings can avoid sin. This is a hopeless endeavor because we will never be perfect, even without the extra rules of no-touch courtship and purity culture. The shame inherent within the movement hinders the ability of survivors to bond with a healthy community and God.

While Purity Culture graduates continue to pay the cost of convenience through spiritual degradation and dysfunction of the body and mind, the solution is, and has always been, available to us. The problem of sexual impurity was resolved by paying the highest price that can be paid, the life of an innocent: Christ’s life.

Purity Culture glosses over one very simple fact: We aren’t pure because of anything we do. We are pure because Christ made us so in his death and resurrection. Our worth is not found in what we have done, but in what he has done for us. (6)

  • Pastors that create theology from quoting Scripture out of context. Pastors that twist the Word of God (Your typical TV Evangelist, prosperity gospel huckster, or word-faith teacher)
  • Any church where pastors or leaders cannot be questioned and/or demand loyal devotion.
  • A church culture that looked down upon or discouraged asking questions about God or theology.
  • Being taught that it is up to us to evangelize other people. Evangelism that was based on how many people you were able to convince to follow Jesus. If you didn’t get high numbers of salvation prayers you were shamed or felt like a failure. After all…those were souls headed to Hell and you probably didn’t articulate the salvation message well. Now you have to live with the guilt that others were going to Hell because you couldn’t convince them to follow Christ.
  • Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these: 1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.” 2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.” 3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about ones self.” 4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.” 5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.” (7)

  • Being a Christian is about “doing the right and moral things”. WWJD. Veggie Tales theology. Being a Christian means that when you pray for God to take a sin away from you that He will do that immediately and if He doesn’t, and you still struggle with a sin (like masturbating, same sex attraction, lust, anger, etc.) it means you are not saved or in danger of losing your salvation.
  • Terrible Contemporary Christian Music with vapid platitudinous lyrics. Over-emotional, sensational, “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs. Rock show or hyper-emotional worship were you sang theologically barren me-centered songs with a chorus that you repeated 20 times. Youth conferences that gave you a spiritual high that was gone two days after you came back. Oceans.

Getting a Spiritual Buzz

In the aftermath, I would feel warm and spiritually buzzed. I felt drained, spent, and yet so very, very happy. In those moments I felt close to God. When people said “The spirit really showed up” I couldn’t help but echo that statement, as I knew exactly what they meant. I remember being a teen and later a young adult in a church which had a very talented worship team, and while perhaps not to the same degree as the big conferences, they were usually able to match the intensity and whip me and my friends up into a frenzy. More often than not all they needed was the right Hillsong song and we were good to go.

But those moments of being buzzed and feeling close to God did not last too long. When we would have youth on Friday, I was high all night. That feeling would wane a little on Saturday, got a small uptick on Sunday, sag on Monday, and then by Tuesday it had all but dissipated. I did not feel close to God. I did not feel spiritual. Half the time I didn’t even feel like a Christian.

   I found myself longing for that spiritual high that I felt.  Instead of basking in it, I found myself chasing it. Needing it. Coveting it.  I found myself counting the hours until Friday would come, so that I could worship and get back those feelings that I had lost. On Friday I was loved by God and I knew he was happy with me — on Monday I was depressed and sensed his disapproval. On Friday he was pleased with me — on Monday his disappointment was tangible.  Because, after all, if God and I were tight then I wouldn’t be feeling so disconnected from him. I would feel the same way I did during worship.

This was, upon much reflection, a very strange time.

Worship as a Weapon?

Yet in the years since then I have learned some valuable lessons. Chief among them is the realization than an emotional high is no substitute for true spirituality. No one tells Church-kids that, but its true. I’ve learned that absent knowledge, even the worship of Christ can be used as a weapon against me. When we treat the worship-high like heroin in an addict’s hands, people are going to get hurt.

I’ve learned that often worship music can be little more than manipulation and is used that way to varying degrees consciously or unconsciously. I’ve learned that most variations of the expression “the holy spirit really showed up” in particularly intense worship session is a Christological joke and is theological poison.

I’ve learned that a kid can attend youth group, spend two hours in heaving sobs while on her knees with hands raised, and not once have tasted anything close to a true, legitimate encounter with the Holy Spirit. I’ve learned those experiences can mess her up, and that same kid can, after youth is over, smoke a joint and have sex with her boyfriend, the last two hours seemingly forgotten.

 I’ve learned that the point of worship can be not to teach doctrine and to deepen our knowledge of God, but rather to recite silly and shallow lyrics about nothing.

I’ve learned that chasing the emotional high can crush a soul. That it makes people think such experiences are normative for the Christian life. When they fail to experience it consistently, they grow bitter and disillusioned. It can foster depression and angst and whets the sharpening stone for the knife that slaughters the sheep. Instead of developing depth it breeds shallowness, immaturity, and confusion.

I’ve learned that because worship can become the biggest draw for the church, worship nights will steamroll over Bible studies and adult Sunday school. That a church oftentimes will pour much more resources, energy, thought and time into making a killer worship service than they will into developing deep, thoughtful, meaty, mature, theologically precise and provoking Bible studies.

Warning: Worship in Progress!

I’ve learned that parents and pastors will send their children away to youth group and conferences without ensuring that they have solid teaching on what worship is, how it functions, and how it relates to the gospel and God’s pleasure with you. There are no warnings of “Don’t mistake the spiritual high for biblical sanctification. Its not real!” but rather they will tacitly endorse that sort of confusion. They’ll let the seedy underbelly of mainstream evangelical goofiness swallow up their kids and spit out the bones. Then they’ll wonder why their sons and daughters leave the Church after high school.

   I’ve learned that there are tons of people out there like me who have been burned by this sort of thing — who have been beat up and are fellow bruised reeds — victims of men and women with good intentions but no discernment. They thought they were doing us a favor but should have known better. (8)

  • The influence of Charles Finney. Altar Calls. Sinner’s Prayer. Asking Jesus into your heart. Legalistic obsession with the sacred and secular divide. KJV Only. Cultural Fundamentalism such as not being able to listen to “secular” rock music. Claiming that songs like Highway to Hell by AC/DC and Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden are satanic (Hint…they’re not satanic. Just look at the background to the writing of the songs). People who see evil symbols everywhere. I personally remember reading some article saying that the symbol on Monster energy drinks represents the number of the beast (666). Kids not being allowed to play Pokemon because it promoted evolution and was influenced by the Egyptian book of the dead (I experienced this one).
  • End-times obsessed Christians that use fear mongering about the rapture. Left Behind. Thief in the Night. Omega Code. This:

Charles Anderson - Rapture - 1974. Commissioned by Leon Bates of the Bible  Believers' Evangelistic Association (Texas). Over 3 million reproductions have been distributed.

  • Evidential/classical apologetics. I’m not intending to say that the classical apologetic method is sinful or false but I believe it is ineffective. I grew up with classical and have tried using the arguments from evidence in the past. However, when I learned about presuppositional apologetics (Are You Epistemologically Self-Conscious?  9), I realized the ineffectiveness of classical apologetics. I was intrigued when I read what Jerry Proctor wrote regarding his de-conversion and apologetics:

Faith was a beautiful thing, and I miss it sometimes. I finished my degree in Evangelism with a concentration in apologetics twenty-two years ago. I learned to read the New Testament in the original Koine Greek. I served as a missionary in China and Mexico. I’ve done street preaching, and I’ve walked up to perfect strangers and asked them if they know Jesus.

I now identify myself as an agnostic. It’s been fourteen years since I left.

I can’t say I wasn’t warned. Youth pastors and well-meaning friends said, in matters of religion, it’s best not to think too hard. When I showed an interest in philosophy and apologetics, some shrugged, and said, “Well if that is where God leads you.” My motives were pure. But it’s an open secret that many who delve into theology and the science of answering doubts and arguments with an apologia seek to convince themselves. Many of us aren’t successful. Even those who remain sometimes use convincing others as a means of avoiding their own questions and doubts.

Apologetics are a dangerous terrain for faith. When most people think of the subject, they think of CS Lewis, Josh McDowell, Francis Schaeffer, Ravi Zacharias. You have a doubt or a nagging question, or some quandary that won’t go away. Then, someone hands you a book, or sends you a Youtube video where someone answers that question. Your faith is renewed. We know how to handle these things in the church. Get some extra rest, read this book, and call me in the morning.

The truth is more complicated.

Why are apologetics so dangerous? Is faith something we can only murder to dissect?

For many questions, there are no easy answers.

This seems obvious to me, now. But as a young theology student, I had the confidence of youth combined with a toxic inexperience of the questions mature people really ask. You can blow through the major arguments for the existence of God in an hour. But as a student of philosophy, I know that philosophers have been tearing down and reconstructing the ontological argument, the teleological argument, and the cosmological argument for thousands of years. That’s not even addressing modal or symbolic logic. The only way to use those arguments to convince anyone that God exists – especially your particular God, out of all the possible choices – is to hope they haven’t delved too far into the matter. Go for the low-hanging fruit. Hope that you planted seeds with the others.

If you read C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity carefully, the first half of the book could be titled Mere Theism. It could just as easily be used as a preface to Judaism or Islam, or any monotheistic, morals-based believe system. At some point in the book, Lewis does a little two-step shuffle and starts talking about Christianity. But wait a minute? Even if I grant that my morals point me to a Moral Giver, how did we arrive at the conclusion Christianity is true? That’s an awful lot of baggage someone snuck in the door.

There are so many questions. Why does God allow suffering? More specifically, why does God allow suffering in my life? Which inevitably leads to a story about death, or pain, or events like the Holocaust or the slaughter of various peoples during Christian conquests. Maybe a loved one who died. The answers I was trained to give, like the free will defense, tasted like sand in my mouth. I found the most useful tool often wasn’t any of the clever arguments I’d read, but shutting up and listening.

But why should I continue to believe this stuff, if the answers it gives are so unsatisfying? Listening is a human response. It’s not uniquely Christian. Listening certainly wasn’t a skill they taught in my classes. The danger of listening is that you may realize the question the other person is asking is superior to any answer you have to offer. That’s what happened to me. (10)

Proctor very rightly sees the flaw of this method of apologetics when he says that the Christian God is not proved by the existence of a Moral Giver. It’s true…there is a very big difference between believing in the existence of a god (a Moral Giver) and believing in the God of the Bible. The problem is that you can’t convince anyone that God exists. The reality is that everyone already knows God exists but they suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-32). The problem isn’t lack of compelling evidence…the problem is rejection of the truth and rebellion. In the Classical method of apologetics, evidence is viewed as neutral ground: “I have my evidence and you have your evidence. We will debate and see whose evidence is more reasonable to believe.”. I think of the movie God’s Not Dead, when the main character says to the class,”We’re going to put God on trial”. In reality, there is no neutral ground. The unbeliever knows God exists but suppresses that truth. God is not to be put on trial. God is the judge. Therefore we must expose and refute their inconsistent worldview and point them to the gospel truths of Scripture (http://www.proofthatgodexists.org/ 11).

  • Jack. Chick. Tracts.

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I might just have to write an article in the future about the Fundamentalists and the fear of Halloween. Parents not letting kids go out for trick-or-treat night because of potential openings for demonic forces. But at least some of us had a fall frolic or trunk-or-treat.

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Yuk

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This one makes me laugh. “Bye”

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Welcome to the Abyss…

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WELL THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY quickmeme.com

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Scary. Can you imagine reading something like this as a kid?

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This is actually pretty scary stuff but I can’t help but laugh at Satan saying “Welcome to the Abyss, Timmy.”. He’s such a gentleman for being the Prince of Darkness.

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If he had just listened to his mom’s warning to not go out for trick-or-treat Timmy wouldn’t be dead.

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He refused to repent of his sins and he quit Sunday School.

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“Bobby, that decision caused your friend to be sent to Hell forever!”

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I mean, he does get this right at least.

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Again, this is true.

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If only Timmy accepted God’s “love gift” (which is a phrase I’ve always found to be odd) of Jesus Christ. If Timmy just mustered up enough faith and made a decision for Jesus then he would have gone to Heaven. “But he turned the Lord down…”

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This kind of evangelism often yields false converts. I’ve never understood the phrase “Please come into my heart”…where is the Scriptural support for Jesus coming into someone’s heart? It makes zero sense. Wow, look how happy Bobby is immediately after asking Jesus to come into his heart! He feels so safe. He KNOWS he will go to Heaven when he dies because he prayed that prayer from his heart and truly meant it. Let’s see how Bobby fares when he deals with some real life problems like addictions, disappointments, same-sex attraction, betrayals, lust, divorce, war, poverty, reading atheists blogs on the internet.

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The choice is yours. Choose Jesus or Satan. Choose life or death. Choose an eternity in Heaven or eternity in Hell. It’s up to you. Better make sure you really mean it when you pray. You don’t want to backslide and have to recommit your life to Christ several times in your life. It’s dangerous to scare people into believing Jesus.

One more. This one is worse.

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The Green Angels is a pretty lame name.

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Let go and flow.

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Gotta love the dated slang here…”let’s see the bread”.

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Are you a “solid” Christian? No, you say…how about liquid? Gaseous?

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Mr. Siffer: “Yeah…just sign this contract…in your own blood.”

Bobby: “That’s really gross.”

Tom:

Image result for meme dangit bobby

Mr. Siffer:

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Apparently music is the devil’s masterpiece. If you don’t want to listen to music you are welcome to avoid it but please don’t say that all Christians should avoid music.

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‘Killer Rock”. I definitely would agree that you shouldn’t be pulling your theology from the Beatles but I don’t see anything wrong with listening to a Beatles song for entertainment.

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I’ve never really been into KISS or Motley Crue but I do like Black Sabbath. I think Jack Chick was a little paranoid (I couldn’t resist) about Rock Music. Now country, classical, and soul are of the Devil? Satan started Christian Rock…what? The music itself is sinful? So it doesn’t matter if the lyrics are written by Christians or not…the sounds that are made by the instruments are sinful? Ridiculous…but not the most ridiculous thing you will read in this tract.

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I like metal music. I guess that makes me a rock-a-holic zombie. He’s got the souls of the whole world dancing to his beat.

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Some deep lyrics right there. I love the serpent/bat/demon hybrids. Brace yourself…the next one is terrible. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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I really don’t understand…”Then I’ll give you a little wedding present…some AIDS.” Why? Just why?

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Fundamentalist Christianity capitalizing on the AIDS hysteria and using it to bash rock music. This is nothing but manipulation and fear tactics.

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These tracts are depressing. Thank the Lord that little girl slipped a Jack Chick tract in his pocket.

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Get it…Lew Siffer.

ZAP!

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Some music should be avoided but Chick is way off here. Some who are weaker in the faith should probably avoid certain bands or songs but I don’t believe that applies to every Christian.

That’s it? I just have to die to self and burn anything I have associated with rock music and I’ll be set free? This was popular before my time but I had heard about it happening. Bonfires where you would bring and burn all your rock merchandise. This is nothing more than legalism. It does not save and has probably pushed some away.

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And now for something completely different…please read a few Dilbert comics to recover from those two terrible comics.

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

This might be favorite Dilbert single strip comic.

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

  • Seeker sensitive/church growth movements which had come under the influnce of Charles Finney and Peter Drucker. Purpose Driven Life.

In this article I will show that Warren’s book teaches an approach to the gospel that is not Biblical. His teaching is in keeping with popular, American, evangelical pietism so it is no wonder most evangelicals cannot see what is wrong with it. It comes from a stream of theology that can be traced back to Charles Finney who popularized a methodological “how to” approach to the gospel that puts spiritual revival in the hands of man to work at will. In doing so neither the message nor the method of Jesus Christ and His apostles is followed. To help show the difference between Warren’s method and the gospel message I will cite John MacArthur’s book Hard to Believe which explains the unadulterated gospel better than any book I have recently read.2There is a chasm between the teachings of Warren and those of MacArthur. They cannot both be right. Let’s begin. (14)

  • Running the church like a business and using marketing strategies to meet the felt needs of people. Vision casting. Making church for the unchurched. Rock show worship. Sermons that are 99% personal stories and 1% Scripture. Positive thinking Chirstianity.
  • Hyper-Charismatic Christianity, Seeing demons everywhere and in people. Slaying in the Spirit. Fake faith healers. Holy laughter. Prophetic words. Breakthrough. New Apostolic Reformation, Bethel Church, Jesus Culture, YWAM, IHOP, etc.
  • Hyperpatriotic Christians. U.S.A. idolatry. The belief that the U.S. is God’s chosen nation (quoting 2 Chronicles 7:14 out of context).

3. People saw hypocritical Christians in the church and at home.
Examples:

  • Either having experienced sexual abuse by a “Christian” or having heard about sexual abuse perpetrated by “Christians”.
  • Moral failure of (popular) Christians like Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, and most recently Andy Savage (I’m sure there are many others). Moral failure of parents who claimed to be Christians. Moral failure of local church pastors and/or leaders.
  • Strict parents who imposed strict moral rules on kids. Often parents lived hypocritical lives.

There often is a blending of bad theology and hypocrisy, of which the effects are catastrophic to people and to the image of the church/Christianity:

  • Think Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen and word-faith/prosperity gospel hucksters living lives of luxury, profiting off of and deceiving people. They peddle false teaching and live hypocritical lives.
  • Abusers that quote Scripture and say God told them to abuse. Abusers that “God is happy when you do X for me”.

4. The church for too long has had a reputation of not being willing to talk about the real difficulties of life. Church is a place where “good” people go. People are fake. People don’t open up. You exchange the cliche greeting:

“How are you?”

“I’m good” (when, more often than not…you’re not good. In fact, you are miserable. You are depressed and doubting your faith. But people don’t expect that as an answer)

You don’t talk about sex. You don’t talk about doubts. You don’t talk about your depression. And you hear from the pulpit and from parents that doubts are sinful, that homosexuality is an abomination. This especially happens in your more fundamentalist churches.

5. Outliers. Now, certainly there are outliers. Those who had perfectly fine parents and grew up around good doctrine and theology that simply did not believe. It’s easy to grow up in Christianity and think you are saved when you might not really be a genuine believer. It’s almost better for someone to be converted from a non-Christian background than it is to be raised in Christianity.

The Church Needs a Reformation

Bad theology and hypocrisy results in people getting hurt in the church. Many who have been hurt reject anything related to their previous experience in Christianity. For example, you have people who have been badly burned by their experience in fundamentalism and purity culture and they now see God as abusive and doctrines like original sin and total depravity as abusive. Thus we have the rising community of Ex-Evangelicals online and offline. They can see the bad side of Christianity and to that end they are right in being angry about these kinds of things. Where they err is in their rejection of God based on the bad theology and hypocrisy they have experienced. They reject God’s authority and make their own moral autonomy the supreme authority for their lives.

We’ve got a big problem. There are many people leaving Christianity and we have a Church littered with false teachings. We need a return to the Bible. We need a return to fathers instructing their children in the faith. We need pastors who preach the Word faithfully (expositionally). We need humble shepherds to watch over the flock rather than take advantage of congregants. We need leaders to equip the saints for ministry. We need young and faithful leaders in our churches. We need a biblically literate church. We need congregants that are discerning truth from error. We don’t need to change the culture…we need change within the church. We need to hold fast to Scripture and grow every way into Christ.

Lastly, don’t blindly believe what people say (especially on the internet). Be a Berean. Compare what people say to the Bible (in the proper context). It’s easy to read an article, especially an emotional story and just accept it as true without doing any research or critical thinking. I especially don’t want you to just believe what I say. I want to point you to the truth of Scripture. I want to point you to Jesus.

“I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be[e] in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am,so that they will see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the world’s foundation. Righteous Father, the world has not known you. However, I have known you, and they have known that you sent me. I made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them and I may be in them.” John 17:20-26

Sources

  1. Ham, Ken, et al. Ready to Return: Bringing Back the Church’s Lost Generation. Master Books, 2015.
  2. Evans, Rachel Held. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church. Thomas Nelson Inc, 2015
  3. Walmer, Daniel. “How Lebanon County Churches Are Growing.” Lebanon Daily News, Lebanon Daily News, 25 Mar. 2016, http://www.ldnews.com/story/news/local/2016/03/25/how-lebanon-county-churches-growing-good-shepherd-missionary/81650050/.
  4. “Hyper-Calvinism.” Monergismcom Blog, http://www.monergism.com/topics/hyper-calvinism.
  5. High, Thomas. “I Went to Church Camp to ‘Pray the Gay Away’.” OUT, Out Magazine, 9 June 2017, http://www.out.com/news-opinion/2017/6/09/i-went-church-camp-pray-gay-away.
  6. Lemke, Rebecca. “Purity Culture Isn’t Wrong For Loving Chastity, But For Weaponizing It.”The Federalist, 12 July 2017, thefederalist.com/2017/07/12/purity-culture-isnt-wrong-loving-chastity-using-weapon/.
  7. Mohler, Albert. “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism–the New American Religion.” AlbertMohler.com, 11 Apr. 2005, albertmohler.com/2005/04/11/moralistic-therapeutic-deism-the-new-american-religion-2/.
  8. Blankschaen, Bill. “How Worship Music Destroyed Me: From Bitterness to Blessing.”FaithWalkers, 28 June 2013, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithwalkers/2012/07/how-worship-music-destroyed-me-from-bitterness-to-blessing/
  9. Lisle, Dr. Jason. “Are You Epistemologically Self-Consious.” Jason Lisles Blog Are You Epistemologically SelfConscious Comments, http://www.jasonlisle.com/2013/09/06/are-you-epistemologically-self-conscious/.
  10. Proctor, Jerry. “Apologetics and Deconversion: How We Murder to Dissect​​​​​​​.” Fundamentally Free, 7 Mar. 2018, http://www.fundamentallyfreeblog.com/read/2018/3/7/apologetics-and-deconversion-how-we-murder-to-dissect.
  11. http://www.proofthatgodexists.org/
  12. Happy Halloween, http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0032/0032_01.asp.
  13. Angels. https://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0034/0034_01.asp
  14. The Gospel: A Method or a Message?: How the Purpose Driven Life Obscures the Gospel, cicministry.org/commentary/issue80.htm.

Arguing Semantics: Bruce Ashford Says He’s “Not Good With the Bible.”

“You’re Just Arguing Semantics”

Have you ever been in a discussion, conversation, or debate and have had someone say to you, “you’re just arguing semantics”? I’ve been thinking lately about this phrase. Have you ever stopped to think about what the phrase means? What are semantics? What does it mean to argue semantics?

Here is how the English Oxford Dictionary defines semantics:

  • “The branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning. The two main areas are logical semantics, concerned with matters such as sense and reference and presupposition and implication, and lexical semantics, concerned with the analysis of word meanings and relations between them.”
  • “The meaning of a word, phrase, or text.”

When someone tells you that you are “merely arguing semantics”, they’re essentially saying “You’re just arguing about meaning.” or “You’re just arguing about the meaning of words.”.

I think it is important to argue semantics/meanings and that is my aim with this new series of articles. I will be examining and critiquing words, phrases, and statements that I think are not quite accurate or are somewhat confusing. You might say that I am nitpicking but I would say in return that truth is important even in the smaller details. Small errors or slight inaccuracies can often make a big difference. For example, there is a big difference between critiquing something someone says and criticizing what someone says. I will explore this distinction in a future article but I intend to critique rather than to criticize.

“I’m Not Good With the Bible”

Bruce Ashford is a professor of theology and the Provost and Dean of Faculty at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In an opinon piece for Fox News (http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/03/31/chrissy-teigen-says-shes-not-good-with-bible-neither-am.html), he responds to a joke tweet by Chrissy Tiegen (John Legend’s wife) where she used the phrase “I’m not good with the Bible”. I want to respond to some of the statements he made in the article.

“But Chrissy has a point. None of us are actually “good with” the Bible, myself included.”

When someone says “I’m not good with the Bible”, they’re essentially saying “I don’t really know the Bible” or “I don’t know the Bible very well”. Bruce uses a different definition for the phrase “good with” and then reacts to this different meaning. “I’m not good with the Bible” has now been changed to mean “I’m not a master (acquire complete knowledge or skill in (an accomplishment, technique, or art)) of the Bible”or “I don’t know everything there is to know about the Bible”.

I agree that none of us will ever be “masters” of the Bible (using the definition from above) but we should strive to be master (having or showing very great skill or proficiency) Bible students and teachers. See the difference?

I would hope that a professor of theology knows the Bible well.

“The main reason we aren’t good with the Bible is that we have difficulty getting a handle on it. The Bible is a sprawling, sometimes confusing, often unsettling collection of ancient writings, purporting to reveal the nature of God and his dealings with the world.”

I wouldn’t describe the Bible that way. The Bible is a connected book with meta-narratives that run throughout the entire OT and NT. It actually isn’t that difficult to get a handle on the Bible, especially with all of the resources we can access on the internet. All you have to do is watch a few YouTube videos about biblical hermeneutics or biblical theology. Do a web search for any Scripture passage you are having difficulty understanding and you’ll find tons of resources. You really only need to learn the number one Bible interpretation rule: context is king. The reason people are not “good with” (notice that now he is using this phrase to mean “don’t know very well”) the Bible is that many have not been taught basic biblical hermeneutics.

“We can’t master it, tame it, or pigeon-hole it like other books on our shelf.”

We can’t have exhaustive, ultimate, or comprehensive knowledge of the Bible but we can and should skillfully handle it and interpret it. We grow in our understanding and knowledge of it over time. We will not ever fully understand everything there is to know in the Bible. However, there are truths that we can understand for certain. How else can we know the difference between false teaching and sound teaching? Take the trinity. You will not find that word in the Bible. Yet the doctrine of the Trinity is clearly taught throughout Scripture (https://www.monergism.com/topics/trinity).

“But when we approach the Bible in earnest and read it on its own terms, we find that this book – written over the course of many centuries – contains the true story of the whole world.”

Many people read the Bible in earnest and then walk away from it disillusioned or believing error because they don’t know how to read it.

After briefly describing the four “acts” of the story of the Bible (Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration), he says:

“That’s the true story the Bible tells. So, if we learn how to read it, will we suddenly be “good with the Bible”?

I sure hope not.”

Again, we’re not talking about being able to completely master the Bible but simply being able to skillfully understand it. It takes time and hard work to learn how to interpret the Bible so no, we won’t “suddenly be good with the Bible”. We should mature and be able to skillfully understand over time as we study and learn and the Holy Spirit illumines the Scripture to us.

If we learn how to study and interpret Scripture will we be “good with the Bible” over time?

I sure hope so.

“When we read the Bible seriously, we find that the Bible reads us. As we lay bare its pages, it lays bare our hearts, showing our own complicity in the badness of this world. Apart from Jesus, that experience would ruin us. But because of his death and resurrection and his offer of salvation, we are now offered a future in which everything sad will become untrue

And as for that … I’m good with it.”

I know Bruce is not an emergent or Ex-Evangelical, but this statement sounds like it could come from one of those two communities. As I’ve been saying, I believe it is important that we know how to study and interpret the Bible. It’s also not this cold mechanical process that we do at a specific time every day. We read and study the Word and then we apply it to our lives. We know it and then we live it. We understand it and then we obey it.

Conclusion

I believe one of the biggest problems we are facing in the church today is an attack on the inerrancy of Scripture and on our certainty of Scripture. There are many who flat-out deny and reject inerrancy and the inspiration of Scripture. There are also those today who would say they believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, and inspired Word of God but then say we are finite and because we are finite we can’t fully understand the infinite God. Therefore, we can’t really say what we believe is true besides that Jesus died on the cross for our sins.

I get what he was trying to say with his article. I know that many today think Christians are people who always have to be right (probably going to be the next topic in “Arguing Semantics”). Many see Christians that make firm stands on doctrine and on Scripture as close-minded, self-righteous and arrogant. I believe (though I could be wrong) he was speaking to this audience.

I don’t intend to say that Bruce doesn’t know the Bible well. He most likely knows a lot more about it than me as I haven’t been to Bible college or seminary and he is older than I am. I simply think the article would have been better and would have been more helpful if he talked about the importance of biblical hermeneutics. Many people know how to open their Bibles and read the words. Yet how many in our churches know how to open their Bibles, read the words, interpret them, and understand the meaning so that they can then apply it?

Like always,

I say these things in humility and out of love for people.

I hope you will not just believe what I say but will be a berean and compare what I (or anyone else has to) say to what God says in His Word.

Be a critical thinker. Be a berean. Speak truth in love.

Side Quest Discussions: David

“Ex-Evangelicals are not rebranded Christians. Many of us are not Christians at all; we are a group that consists of progressive Christians, people who have joined other religions, agnostics, and atheists, some of whom are quite vocal as atheists. What brings us together is what Blake Chastain, who coined the term “exvangelical” to use as the name for his podcast, describes as “a shared sociocultural heritage.” Regarding the term “exvangelical,” Chastain sent me the following statement:

I am currently applying for a trademark relative to the title of the podcast and any future titled or branded projects, but the term itself can and should be used by people who have left evangelicalism, regardless of their current state of belief.

Exvangelicals’ paths out of Evangelicalism are often slow and painful. The break takes time and effort because, as opposed to merely desiring respectability while holding to bigoted beliefs and #ChristianAltFacts, we chose to stare the toxicity and pervasive abuse of Evangelicalism in the face, to recognize our complicity in the vast systemic harm that Evangelicalism does (to ourselves and others, particularly to women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community), and then we changed our beliefs. We changed our beliefs despite facing a heavy social cost, because that is the respectable and moral thing to do. Becoming an ex-Evangelical requires profound transformation, not cosmetic rebranding. No cheap grace…Ex-Evangelicals are, as a rule, deeply concerned with understanding the relationship between conservative theology and authoritarianism. And here’s the rub. The theology of Evangelicalism–even when shared by a small minority of progressive Evangelicals–is inherently authoritarian.” -Christopher Stroop

If you aren’t familiar with Ex-Evangelicals and the movement, I recommend you read the article linked below to learn about what prominent Ex-Evangelical Chris Stroop defines as an Ex-Evangelical:

Ex-Evangelical Means Much More than Dropping a Label: A Response to Josiah Hesse

I’m going to be addressing some of the claims made by Chris and other Ex-Evangelicals in other articles. This article might just be the most important for Christians to read. I made a friend on twitter who was raised in the church and a “Christian home” that became an atheist. He now follows Christ faithfully and I wanted to know his testimony. You can find David on twitter here: https://twitter.com/conquergiants

This is David’s story:

Ricky: Sad how it seems so many today reject God. Atheists are so angry about God. Who knew a simple tweet would lead to an onslaught from angry atheists against me. Just have to pray for them and continue sharing Christ. God’s Word is right when it says unbelievers hate God

David: Yes I know brother all too well…I grew up with a cousin we are almost like brothers. He became an atheist a while back. At first it was so upsetting and still is disappointing, he is a pastor’s son. I have had many debates with him and I learned something. About 97 percent of atheists are atheists because of emotional issues not intellectual ones. They are angry apparently about something that doesn’t exist. Makes no sense.

R: Hey I was wondering what your story is…how long have you been a Christian?

D: Well I grew up in a Christian home. Mainly my Mom was teaching me about the word of God. Unfortunately the only thing I knew growing up was TBN and the prosperity Gospel. After my mom died when I was 14 I felt free to go to church if I wanted to or not. My dad didn’t go so I didn’t feel I had to go. I started working with my dad in construction and we came along a Peruvian man who picked up scrap metal shared the Gospel with me for the first time in my life. It was bittersweet but I decided to go with him when he invited me to church. I went and I heard things I never heard before in those megachurches. A Pentecostal church with loving people and I felt like family for the first time in my life. I looked to have many friends to fill the void of being attached to the body of Christ. There was good preaching but no apologetics and very little teaching. I was in love with the Lord. This was August 2007 by the way. Then seven years later I had doubts about my faith and had conversations with atheists and I had no idea how to defend my faith. Besides a few scriptures. I gave in and became an atheist for about a year. Looking to destroy others faith as well. I challenged the Lord if he was real to strike me down. Why would I ask something I believe didn’t exist to strike me down? Simple answer: atheists suppress the truth. I remember it was a Sunday night when I challenged him. Well he answered. That week I got MRSA and was sent to the hospital. I was afraid, I never have been at a hospital before. I reconciled with God. In January 2015 I made a decision to study the Christian faith and never be decieved again. Long story short here I am to this day by God’s grace

R: What do you think about President Trump? I personally didn’t vote this past election but I know a big argument coming from Ex-Evangelicals is that because “white evangelicals” voted for him that was the final straw. “How could Christians vote for a racist sexist homophobe” is the argument. What is your view of him and this accusation? I also personally believe as Christians our main focus should not be politics but Christ and the gospel. I think the Christians that see trump as our savior are in error but I don’t hate Trump and I’m not convinced he is a racist sexist. I think he is immature and speaks too much and in an unchristlike manner.

The label “white evangelical” is so dumb in my opinion. I’m white and I’m a Christian…I don’t identify as a white evangelical. I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I don’t think the older generation is aware of the impact of social media, forums, the internet and how easy it is for doubting Christians to be mislead.

I went to community college after HS and that was my first major experience with other worldviews especially new atheists and LGBT. I honestly didn’t know how to engage them. I was taught arminianism/synergism and classic apologetics where you debate and argue but now as a presuppositionalist and calvinist/monergist I see how unprepared I was. It’s such a relief knowing it’s not up to me to convince people to follow Christ…that is the Holy Spirit’s job. My job is to spread the gospel and be a witness not change people. That revolutionized my interactions with others.

D: My opinion first of all what you said is very important our place is not politics but it’s Proclaiming the Gospel. My honest opinion about the whole Trump ordeal doesn’t effect me much. I agree with him on certain issues such as pro life. Let’s be honest he is not regenerate believer in Christ like you and me. Therefore I don’t find the need to defend any of his accusations true or not. White evangelicals is a term created by the left. Pre supposing the body of Christ is mainly white. They are so ignorant when it comes to the church because it wasn’t built on race it was built on the cross. I would rather educate the non believer on what the church is and it’s purpose. As well I despise the term homophobe it’s a word that’s always used out of context. I always ask people who use that term to define it then define phobia. If you are debating leftists it’s always great to ask for definition of terms. They always trip over their own feet. I don’t hate Trump either. The scripture tells me to pray for him so that’s what I do.

The only label we share that matters is brothers in Christ.

Definitely Ricky it’s easy to get mislead on the internet. There is no filter to what’s true and false.

That’s why it’s necessary to do our research diligently

I would have to agree that presuppositional apologetics is the way to go. Nothing against classical apologetics it’s just very easy to get carried away from the true message.

R: Yeah, i disagree with the classical apologetics approach. I was in a young adults small group (with 4 or 5 attendees) the person leading said when we do apologetics we shouldn’t use the bible. This person doesn’t deny that the Bible is true, but he believed that we should avoid using the bible when defending the truth against atheists/unbelievers. The thought is that since they don’t believe the bible is true then they will write you off because you believe the bible. But that misunderstands the fact that God is judge not man. God is not on trial…God is the judge. God is God whether or not you believe in Him.

Also I agree with Dr. James White…if you can convince/reason someone to the faith then they can be reasoned out of it.

D: I think his point was they don’t believe in the Bible so don’t use it. I think contrary to that statement if anything it’s a good way to start. The unbelievers hatred for scripture should be highlighted. They need to know they are totally depraved and God hating sinners. That God will be merciful in showing them their wickedness so they might repent. Agreed God is God like it or not he is the unshaken established truth.

R: So I guess you would be an Ex-Ex-Evangelical then?

D: I guess so. I have been given so much Grace by a forgiving and patient God.

R: I’m just making an ironic statement about the labels people use…it made me chuckle to myself. But yeah that’s what all our testimonies should be…it’s not only amazing that God gives grace to undeserved sinners he then desired that they enjoy life and the blessing he gives on earth.

D: Yes especially talking to leftists everyone has to be organized accordingly to your social group. Everything is labels with them. God’s grace is truly divine because it has the power to do what no man can.

R: What was your view of the Word of God when you were growing up and then when you were an atheist?

Because I think that is the main attack of atheists…they get you to doubt the Word of God. If they can convince you that there is error in the bible then that is enough to send doubts and lead someone away from Christ. Even “friendly atheists” cast doubt on the Word of God. They use their reasoning that God gave them to critique Him. They hate the God they claim doesn’t exist…as you said earlier.

D: The word of God was just a moral guideline for me growing up. As an atheist it was just some book written by crazy men who wanted either attention or power. A subjective set of rules by an ancient people. Once you do the research you find out that’s not the case.

This is the thing about new Atheists. They think by driving us away from faith they are sincerely doing you and society a service. Rude or not their motive is to deconstruct your belief system. They believe if religion was destroyed that they would get rid of most of the hate and evil in the world. Most Atheists were poorly taught Christians that never understood the doctrine of total depravity. Most Atheists never studied the Bible in detail until they were Atheists. Unfortunately not in it’s appropriate context.

R: New atheism really makes no logical sense and it takes the work of God to reveal that to people. Seriously how can you justify any claims or arguments if you have no moral grounding or basis for reasoning? If there is no truth then why do they vehemently oppose God and Christians…because as Romans says they know God exists but suppress the truth.

What was your view of God? The “vindictive genocidal maniac sky god” that commits moral atrocities and sends “good” people to hell?

The making of human minds and borrowed from pagan religions?

As well as your view of Jesus?

D: New Atheism doesn’t make sense but the emotional anger and bitterness always seems to shadow your rationality and logic. They oppose the church for the reasons of all the dastardly things so called Christians do such as rape. Well when you are an atheist you fit in your head there is no God. So your presupposition is you have to find your own moral basis and have to craft it over time not realizing it’s already been established.

Truth for them is an illusion lost in many perspectives

R: They are outraged mostly by bad theology and hypocrisy…and that led to doubt of Scripture and to doubts about God which led to anger towards God.

They lump all Christians into the mold of what they believe Christians are like.

D: My view of God was some careless father who neglected his children if he did exist. He had the same attributes as us if he did exist. I thought even if anyone proved he existed he couldn’t prove that he loved us. We look back at all the times we felt unloved and we remind ourselves how much God let us down. A stubborn brat who just wanted his way. I was ignorant to the true attributes about God.

The borrowing from pagan religions is enticing and fits an atheistic narrative. Once you do research and dig deep it’s just foolish myths that Christianity borrows from other religions.

You hit the nail on the head with bad theology and hypocrisy.

R: But the thing is most churches didn’t teach us about those kinds of attacks. A Christian would be taught the basics and then go on an Internet forum or to college or workplace and see atheists talking about Jesus being derived from mithra and other cults and then seeds of doubt are sowed. Or that the Bible has contradictions and is made up by men.

D: As an atheist I had no problem with the person Jesus he was like mother Theresa to me. Once someone tried to claim he was divine I would be enraged. I knew other Atheists that would deny his existence all together to kind of get him out of their minds. Don’t think about it or talk about it.

Satan has definitely taken advantage of some Christian leaders to get into the mindset of educating God’s people is taboo and unbiblical, but the Bible states that a people is destroyed because of a lack of knowledge.

R: Hypocrisy runs rampant in leftist circles too. You have adoration for rappers like Jay Z, Snoop Dogg, Tyler, the Creator, Eminem, etc. that talk about getting rich and mistreating women but then outrage over hollywood scandals…they pick their morality to suit themselves.

D: As I stated before they look to structure their own morality. No matter how illogical it is.

Depending on their emotions it dictates their morality. However they are feeling at the time it dictates their view of morality at that point in time.

R: What were some the ways or arguments you would use to try to create doubt in Christians?

D: One that I used and many others attack as well is the account of Genesis. Our mindset is if we deconstruct the need for a creator we don’t even have to worry about the rest of the Bible. I would think if we could prove Genesis false the rest would fall like dominoes. Science is the god of Atheism. Use it against them. Not knowing that sound science went against everything I believed as an atheist. Atheists commonly love the god of the gaps argument. Science can disprove the Bible. There are so many different arguments I used. The authors of the Bible weren’t credible. The main thing I did to try and make doubt was through speculation on every single point the biblical worldview offered. To make others seem intellectually inferior no matter their educational status.

R: Also I think atheists know more about what the Bible says than most Christians even though they don’t understand it because as Scripture says in numerous places:

1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16

18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will set aside the intelligence of the intelligent. 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish? 21 For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of what is preached. 22 For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. 24 Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, 25 because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Boasting Only in the Lord 26 Brothers and sisters, consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. 27 Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. 28 God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world ​— ​what is viewed as nothing ​— ​to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, 29 so that no one may boast in his presence. 30 It is from him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God for us ​— ​our righteousness,sanctification, and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written: Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.

1 When I came to you, brothers and sisters, announcing the mystery of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. 2 I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness,in fear, and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power. 6 We do, however, speak a wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age, or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 On the contrary, we speak God’s hidden wisdom in a mystery, a wisdom God predestined before the ages for our glory.8 None of the rulers of this age knew this wisdom, because if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.9 But as it is written, What no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human heart has conceived — God has prepared these things for those who love him. 10 Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, since the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except his spirit within him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. 13 We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. 14 But the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. 15 The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, and yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone.16 For who has known the Lord’s mind, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. 

2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Therefore, since we have this ministry because we were shown mercy, we do not give up. 2 Instead, we have renounced secret and shameful things, not acting deceitfully or distorting the word of God, but commending ourselves before God to everyone’s conscience by an open display of the truth. 3 But if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake. 6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

Many that claim to be Christians don’t read the Bible and don’t know the bible.

Total depravity…can you share what you thought of it as an atheist and then now as a Christian why it actually makes sense according to Scripture?

D: First of all Atheists can have a basic knowledge about the Bible but not have the discernment to understand which the Holy Spirit gives to the children of God. Most of the time Atheists are looking for errors not to correctly read into the context. Hardly no Atheists look for Truth when they open the Bible.

It’s like me reading about how life is in Pennsylvania. I can’t possibly know more about Pennsylvania than someone who actually lives there.

Same with Atheists trying to interpret the Bible.

D: I didn’t really believe in total depravity growing up or as an atheist. Always this feeling that deep down we were all good people. We just let our bad side show more at times. After leaving Atheism I really got into hermeneutics. Trying to understand scripture more precisely. As I read the Epistles I realized there are no good people. There is not one good as stated in Romans by the apostle Paul. The only way to be good is through Christ dwelling in us. Any good work we do is of the Spirit not our own doing or will power. I questioned myself and said if we are good then why did Jesus come to die for our sins? If we are self sufficient as we presuppose. Why do we sin. Without the doctrine of total depravity we would never see our need for Christ.

Another thing we have to understand as Christians is that Atheists look for reactions. That’s why they joke and be sarcastic. It’s all part of the intellectual superiority that they think it’s ok to make light of others they deem inferior to their intellect.

If they get a reaction from us. They say see you have no grace and love that your savior had. They always work that angle

R: They probably hope to get Christians to make an emotionally charged rebuttal and just add that to the list of attacks against them and Christianity. What about the wrath of God. Atheists think God’s wrath is just evil and wicked.

D: Yes that’s what I used to look for, emotional reactions. To discredit any rational argument presented. Atheists play the victim card as well that they and the whole world suffer because of God and religion. For them God’s wrath is uncalled for and spiteful. When it comes to God justice is an illusion but when it comes to social justice they seem to be the front-runners which is very strange.

Since Atheists claim to have their own moral compass they have the authority to pick and choose their own systematic justice.

R: In their worldview it just cannot be possible that God is loving but also wrathful. They don’t understand the attributes of God. They make the claim that Christians claim God is loving but then use the reality of God’s wrath to create a supposed contradiction in the character of God.

D: Exactly. As a former Atheist we have a huge problem defining terms such as love. Confusing love with tolerance is normative for Atheists. They don’t understand what true love is.

R: There’s also the arguments they use against Christians that refer to the OT laws like eating shellfish. They see the God of the OT as a vengeful God that inflicts wrath on people and commits atrocities.

They don’t realize the purpose of the laws. God’s law was and is intended for the good of His people. So when Jesus talks about the two great commandments those are the commands we should follow if we want to live a good life. And sin stems from not loving God with all our hearts soul mind and strength and loving ourselves more than loving others.

D: Leviticus is the Atheist’s favorite book. Where everything is easily twisted. As I said before they don’t really care for the context. It’s all about cherry picking.

R: Did you ever use “hypocrisy of Christians” arguments? You mentioned attacks on the faith regarding “so called Christians that rape” earlier…any other examples you used or that you would say atheists try to use?

D: Yes many of times. I used mainly the argument that you guys are preaching the same Gospel you violate. In other words held Christians accountable to their own beliefs. When they strayed from the biblical worldview I pointed out that they had a broken belief system. Christians are hypocrites therefore Christianity is false or at least broken was my mindset. I also used all the false pastors who divorce and run off with women. The fact the church is run more like a organization instead of a biblical view of the church.

R: How have you handled the fact that you tried to mislead people and may have misled people? Did you try to shake the faith of Christians in person as well as on the internet? Did you experience any guilt?

D: Well mostly it was my co workers I was around most. Didn’t talk too much about it with my family because it would have stirred up alot of trouble at home. In public I shared my views as much as possible. My daily life is me trying to evangelize to whoever I can. Social media, street evangelism, it seems to be a lost work in the church. More than trying to convince Atheists Christianity is true. I provide the evidence and let them decide. The evidence is so overwhelming it speaks for itself. I try to study as much as I can. Scripture first, apologetics second, and theology as well. Become as educated as I possibly can to educate others. That the truth of the Gospel be known. I was shaken with guilt for about 6 to 8 months after leaving Atheism but it was good it motivated me. Yes I constantly tried to shake the faith of any religious person. I felt like I was saving them from themselves. Almost like an intervention. I don’t know why but on the internet you are not face to face you feel the freedom to be more rude and disrespectful. The evil of your heart seems to spill out over the internet as an atheist. It seems almost therapeutic all the rage inside is let go on unsuspecting strangers on the internet. Thank God I didn’t convince many to be Atheists.

R: Reading the Word is the most important thing we can do as Christians. All of the Word not just pick feel-good verses and motivating thoughts that are pulled out of context. How many self-proclaimed Christians do you think have read Obadiah or Haggai? I would argue there is a very small minority. That’s all we are called to do, speak the truth of the gospel and let the Holy Spirit change people. We all have to watch out for the temptation to be rude and disrespectful on the internet. Christians need to be aware that atheists don’t hold back. It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to win a debate that we forgot we are talking to real people. Christians do this too. Indeed, I’m thankful as well.

D: I agree the word of God should be read as a whole. You are right not many people read the minor prophets besides Daniel and Jonah. The minor prophets have amazing messages. Well I saw study last year don’t remember the name of the person who conducted this study. He stated about 70 percent of Americans claim to be evangelicals but only 10-20 percent are biblically literate. At first it was hard because I tried to convert every Atheist on the internet. I was so ambitious to spread the Gospel and deconstruct Atheism. I realized two things: only through the work of the Holy Spirit can people see the beauty of Christ. As well I didn’t need to deconstruct Atheism as if it was this big monster. It constantly refutes itself. When you come to logical conclusions Atheism has no feet to stand on. God has helped me speak to others on the internet the same way I would speak to them in person. That is something God changed in my life. I may press someone for an answer. If there ever was a time I would be rude or disrespectful I would give public apology as well as personal apology. There is nothing wrong in admitting we are wrong sometimes. We keep moving forward. Excellent point, I’ve seen many try to win the argument and I use to try to win the debate instead of winning the soul.

R: It’s probably very difficult for an atheist to have their mind changed through a Christian on the internet. What do you think about that? It seems they are so hardened to the gospel it almost seems fruitless to engage them. Did you ever consider anything Christians said back to you in their responses or did you pretty much just ignore them or mock them back? You were an atheist for a year so and Christians probably used bible verses and shared the gospel with you online and in person but it didnt get through. The Holy Spirit worked in you when you got MRSA. Does that mean all online interaction and in person gospel sharing is fruitless…no. it probably is wise not to spend too much time engaging atheists online.
Also you’re a stranger on the internet…they will most likely just ignore anything you say. Seeds may be planted. Yet it seems the opposite for Christians. Many Christians are persuaded to forsake Christ through atheist arguments on the internet.

D: This is our problem as Christians and something we struggle with. We want after the conversation or debate we have with Atheists we want them to accept Christ, or at least some of our arguments. Reality is they will probably try to throw down every argument. That doesn’t mean it’s fruitless we don’t know the work the Holy Is doing in this individual that is if he was one of the elect. There are so many walls that God has to break to break the person’s will power. The sad reality we have to know there are reprobate Atheists that will never come out of their delusion. We have to be diligent in prayer and keep sharing the Gospel to whoever is willing to listen. We are not called to convert just preach and teach the word of God. God needed to break me in order to see my need for Christ. We plant seeds of the Gospel through social media. Others through street preaching. Still others have family that evangelize to them. We are seed planters but God gives the life giving water. I mostly discarded what religious people said but there were times I felt open to hear the arguments objectively. Mocking is a sign of insecurity or superiority. Insecurity because when you get stuck in a debate or feel trapped in a corner. I would go on a rant of how religion was evil or ridicule the traits of God. Don’t be discouraged it’s necessary we be mocked. Jesus said we would. It wasn’t just the MRSA God was chipping away at my pride. It was a process. Stranger or not Atheists are in danger of hell. Knowing of the terror to come for those who die in their sins. Christopher hitchens was defiant to God even through his terminal illness he still didn’t turn to God. Christians are so enticed to turn to Atheism because lies seem more intriguing than truth. Atheists really market the banner as Atheism as the club of the elite. It’s almost like a country club. Come enjoy your self and indulge while you can is there message. Hold dear to the sin you love because sin doesn’t exist in our realities. The Christian message is repent and forsake the sins you love. Run from them. Life isn’t about you it’s about others. Become selfless. The two messages are polar opposites. Are human nature gravitate towards the flesh. Many choose the path of destruction over the path of life.

R: Thanks for the encouragement…I get discouraged easily. It’s especially a problem here in America. We want instant gratification. We expect immediate results. As Christians, we share the gospel and expect people to change right away when as you correctly noted, it is a process. The Holy Spirit draws us to God through the hearing and preaching of the Word. It is easy to slip in to the mindset that if we really preach the truth with passion that people might be more willing listen to us but you’re right, there are some that will never repent.

D: God will show us to be patient and fill us with grace to speak. The greatest preacher and teacher of all time Jesus Christ was mocked and ridiculed. Being the only begotten son of the almighty God he suffered this oppression. Who are we? No student is greater than his teacher.

R: After reading many of Chris Stroop’s articles and tweets I have come to the conclusion that he was not properly taught Christian theology. He had doubts and questions but it doesn’t seem like people accurately explained reformed theology to him. Then his teenage years were spent in seeker sensitive church growth movement. While that was happening and he was doubting and suicidal he probably started to become aware he was queer had attractions for same sex. He then chose to reject a theology that would say LGBTQ are sinning. Now he calls it abusive and any attempt to share bible verses or say he didn’t understand theology is labeled as gaslighting

Can we say for example that someone was pushed away from the faith by being taught bad theology or as presup reformed people do we say he simply chose to love his sin and suppress the truth? Or can we look at what he was taught and make people aware of what was done wrong but also realize that currently Chris is suppressing the truth?

D: There are many factors here. The seed of doubt can only grow where there is either bad teaching or no teaching. As you noticed most of his analysis is based on emotions not anything of factual substance. Being a PhD in history I’m fascinated he never understood church history. That’s one sign he is blatantly suppressing the truth. He won’t admit because his eyes have been darkened. When speaking about the attributes of God he appeals to emotional arguments. He also tries to wrap up his terminology with his emotions. Which he is very confusing logically. He deflects questions with “he has already answered a lengthy response”. It’s the same rhetorical tactics to cover up a faulty philosophy. He stated he rejected my epistemology, I find that weird since he was speaking in ontological terms. He didn’t know the difference between epistemology and ontology. It’s very hard to understand ex evangelicals from a rational view point. He was no different than me a couple years ago. His pent up rage oozes through his Twitter page and articles. Yet he wants to be taken serious as an intellectual with horrible terminology and critical thinking.

He states it’s gaslighting to cover up his ignorance of the context of scripture. This is common. Ask yourself why do every Atheists get angry when we point out their biblical ignorance?

R: His articles are almost all appeal to emotion and anecdotal fallacies. Also uses strawman like: negging sky god. Generalizations like the “label white evangelical”.

His argument is essentially: “Calvinism and othodox theology are abusive and enable authoritarianism. People use theology because of their persecution complexes and insercurities. They use gaslighting and manipulation tactics. Read my articles where I have explained myself.”.

But he never makes any logical claims. As you said it’s all stories. Many of his followers are LGBTQ also.

Exactly! Brother he has so much irrationality in his worldview it’s hard to interact with him. Especially when you try to interact he says this an apologetics plot to make me look irrational. It’s his worldview when exposed makes him seem ignorant.

Also history can be pretty subjective. You almost always have two views of something that happened. If your worldview consists of a sociological lens then you will look at history different then you would with a theological lens.

But as we have stated he contradicts himself so much. He is clearly making truth claims and morality claims but based on subjective morality. Makes no sense. May God open his eyes. He can see the falsehood of prosperity gospel, cultural fundamentalism, and seeker sensitive church growth movements. May he embrace the truth of the gospel.

D: History can be seen through different view points but not all view points can be correct. That’s logically incompatible. Hitler for example what he did was either justified or condemnable. There is no in between. He as historian should know better. Self refuting statements is usually the best he could come up with.

There is a reason Atheism is a minority worldview because you have to be willfully ignorant.

R:

Screenshot_2018-02-12-11-40-52

Screenshot_2018-02-12-11-18-32

Screenshot_2018-02-12-11-18-47

I don’t have an “obsession” with them. They are making erroneous claims about God. They are essentially blaspheming Him when they say sharing the gospel is abusive. They say that the “god of calvinism is sadistic and irredeemable. I haven’t seen many challenging their claims so that is why I have taken the time to document what they say. And now it is clear to those with eyes to see that they hate God. They are emotionally angry about the God they claim to not believe in.

D: I learned this from the apologist Jim Warner Wallace there are four groups we essentially interact with. Pro Christians, doubtful Christians, doubtful Atheists, pro Atheists. The two groups you want to reach are the ones having doubts from both sides. Not someone who will neither hear or see any proof or evidence for God’s existence. Therefore when I see someone with this mindset it would be best to interact little and then just not respond if they press issues that don’t exist.

R: Yeah, I agree. So my aim with my article/s is to reach the doubters. God will work and save those who He wills. Best thing to do is pray that God would open the eyes of people.

D: Amen. He will open the eyes of any atheist/Ex-Evangelical he chooses. The rest remain in darkness.

R: Let me just point out the irony of this one tweet:

Screenshot_2018-02-12-11-18-32

AnStarfire responded to a screenshot of one section of my article that Chris shared. “Devoid of compassion” This person clearly only responded to this out of context screenshot, because if they had read the whole thing they wouldn’t be able to say I was devoid of compassion. The last sentence is absurd. Even if that were so, why would that be wrong? Don’t they believe “their” way is right too? The absurdity and contradictory nature of the anti-Christians worldview is clearly demonstrated in a tweet like this.

Why should someone be compassionate according to their worldview?

That is a genuine and reasonable question to ask…but they would just say: that is a manipulative question. It’s not.

D: I agree it’s very contradictory how their own views systematically deconstruct themselves. One thing I found out about Atheists/Ex-Evangelicals who are in an emotional uproar tend to ask about twenty questions at a time. This kind of irrational dialogue is not coherent. Someone who is rational would debate on one issue at a time. Then come to a conclusion. I have spoken with many Atheists/Ex-Evangelicals and the dialogue seems to always be the same. Many have different approaches but they quickly resolve to ad hominem attacks once their worldview is exposed. What do most people do when they are exposed? They cover up. The problem with Atheists/Ex-Evangelicals is they are so exposed and there is nothing they can do to cover up their irrationality.

The reason that’s such a good question is that it exposes their lack of substance or foundation to any argument they try to convey.

R: True words brother. Also another ironic thing that I really don’t understand. So in a tweet I said “Ex-Evangelicals don’t want to dialogue with Christians”. I didn’t use a hashtag but some people found the tweet by just searching for the phrase Ex-Evangelical. So someone retweeted me and said she doesn’t mind talking to Christians but that she isn’t willing to be “preached at by bigots”. The irony and hypocrisy. They make claims, retweet you, and then when you respond to them they don’t want to engage you. So I responded to her retweet of me by sharing the link to my article and she blocked me.

D: The internet is quite strange. Social media is probably the strangest. So many illogical arguments and actions. I don’t take anything personal on social media because most people don’t interact with strangers in person as they do on the internet. It would be easy for anyone to insult and ridicule on the internet but not in real life. Even if they do we are hated because they hated Jesus Christ first. Anyone who believes on him and his words are automatic enemies of the world. No matter how nice or compassionate we might be we will be hated. When we speak the truth we believe we are heroes but in reality we are preaching as villians to them. We try to take away their freedom and joy. They have failed to realize their freedom and joy are drowning them. They have become slaves to sin. Claiming freedom with heavy shackles on their wrists.

R: Is there anything else you would like to say? You’ve been very insightful and I appreciate your testimony brother. We go through difficult seasons and God uses our experiences to help others.

D: Lastly always be kind to Atheists. They will automatically shut you off. They won’t listen. They will at least listen when you are calm. Use scripture often. Let the holy Spirit do his work through the scripture. Don’t be discouraged if they disagree, we are being obedient to God by sharing the Gospel. There are still many more people God is going to save. So keep Proclaiming the good news.

R: That might be the most important thing people need to hear. We as Christians are to be kind to everyone. Thank you brother! May God use our testimonies to save some and create awareness in the church.

Speaking the truth in love is the key.

D: Amen brother. That God would do his redemptive work through us and many others. The kingdom will keep expanding despite the enemy’s plan. Let’s speak firmly but with love.

Concluding Thoughts

I hope David’s words have helped you become aware of the need to know your bible and to be prepared when faced with objections. I also hope it helped you to become aware of the different ways people will try to create doubt about the Word of God and doubts about God. A lot of Christians might write off Ex-Evangelicals as whiny liberal entitled millenials but I strongly discourage that kind of talk. The fact is, there are a lot of Ex-Evangelicals and some of them don’t use social media. They are right to be outraged at the ridiculous nonsense that helped turn them away from God but they are people and they need to hear the gospel. I believe Christians hurt their own witness when they say things like:

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May God be glorified, may Christians be strengthened, and may God reveal Himself to Ex-Evangelicals that they would have their eyes and hearts opened to the truth.

The Fear of God, the Holiness of God, and the Futility of Life Without God

 I’ve been reading “The God Who Hears” by W. Bingham Hunter. It’s an excellent book on prayer and I believe it should be required reading for Christians. I believe there is a lot of confusion in the church about prayer and this book answers a lot of questions:

  • Are faithful prayers always answered?
  • Does prayer change God’s mind?
  • What can I tell an all-knowing God?
  • Why pray to a God who lets people hurt?
  • How can I be intimate with an invisible God?

 There are many erroneous teachings on prayer that have infiltrated the church. Some teach that you need to pray big audacious prayers for God to do big things (largely in the seeker sensitive movement). Some teach that your words actually create your future. That is, your words/prayers actually have the power (God is not using power but it is your words that have power) to create reality (word-faith). Lectio Divina/contemplative prayer is another erroneous teaching. Instead of using the minds God has given us to study His Word, the objective is to empty your mind and “listen” to what God has to say. This teaching combines mysticism with Christianity and is very dangerous. When we go to God’s Word we need to ask “what does this passage mean?” rather than “what does this passage mean to me?”. We pray that the Holy Spirit would help us to understand His Word.

 There is also the view that we pray to ask God to do things for us. It is not wrong in and of itself to pray for our needs but there is so much more to prayer than simply bringing our requests to God. This book sets out to put prayer into the proper Biblical perspective. Prayer is not a means for us to get what we want from God. As mentioned in the book, “Prayer is a means for God to give us what He wants. The most important word in this definition is God. I say that because at the root most of our prayer difficulties are theological problems. “Theological” in the sense that we simply do not focus enough on the Theos (the Greek word for God). So the following chapters discuss prayer in light of what the Bible says about God. Prayer really only makes sense against the background of God’s nature and attributes. First, we must know whom we are talking to. Second, we have got to know ourselves. Third, we need someone who understands both God and ourselves to show us how to do it.”.

Here is another great excerpt from the book, bold emphasis mine:

The Reality of Fear:

“Since irrational fears (“phobias”) have destructive effects on human lives, it is hard to see fearing God as a good thing. But many of the arguments against holy terror are based on faulty theological systems (“the “fearful” image of God belongs to the dispensation of the Law”), imprecise exegesis (“God has not given us a spirit of of fear”), or the existence of psychopathology ( “some Christians do have phobias about God”). I assert that without a sense of God’s awesome holiness, and the consequent “fear”, we simply do not have biblical religion, either positively–“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10)–or negatively–“Concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Ps 36:1). 

The dynamics of fearing God are helpfully explained by Robert Morosco:

  “One’s ultimate fear-object is that which he reveres above all else in life…This is the position which legitimately belongs only to the creature’s Creator, though this is often not the case. One’s supreme fear-object warrants total regard and esteem…

   Hence the biblical translation “revere”, or “respect” or “regard” is actually close to what the writers of Scripture had in mind [when they spoke of “the fear of the LORD”]….Theological fear is not primarily dread or repulsion for the fear-object, but surrender to [God’s] authority.”

Fearing God is thus not irrational. It is the only course open to a thinking Christian. In fact, not fearing God is irrational. It forces us to deny the reality of God’s holiness, power, and presence. So Morosco is right when he says:

   “Only by fearing Jehovah is reality viewed as it truly is. In order to replace God with another supreme fear-object [fear of failure, or fear of other people, for example], reality has to be distorted (i.e. the character of the Living God must be altered”.

Those who do not fear God in the biblical sense either do not understand, or find themselves forced to deny, the facts of existence. And such a venture into fantasy  advances against truth on two fronts. It defies the fact of God’s infiniteness and rejects human finiteness. No one has seen more clearly than Harry Blamires that this latter (and very common) deception is at the root of human unholiness:

   “What is common to those who lack any interest in religion is failure to recognize the finitude of the finite, and especially failure to accept man’s finite status for what it is. This failure is the source alike for moral evil and of intellectual confusion. All forms of moral evil have their roots in a tacit denial of human finitude–of the contingent and wholly dependent nature of man’s existence…”

   “Man behaves as though he were not a dependent creature with a limited and temporal universe. Covetousness and greed for power both express defiance of finitude. Covetousness implies that the pursuit of earthly possession is of ultimate significance: it implies that to possess within the finite is a state of fulfillment. This is nonsensical. There is no stability or security in possessions within the finite order, where at any moment accident or death may strip or destroy. The pursuit of power implies that temporal sway and masterdom are an ultimate satisfaction: [but] finitude precludes satisfaction within its own domain…In these pursuits, and in a thousand others, man conceals himself from the fact that finitude sets a term to all activities at the temporal level.”.

Those who do not fear God as the transcendant holy, and infinite Creator replace His power and authority with either themselves, others or material things. “They [have] exchanged the truth for a God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is [to be] forever praised” (Rom 1:25). Having denied the realities of both divine and human nature, it seems obvious why they may have little concern for doing God’s will and are unlikely to pray according to it.

It took decades of discipline through suffering before Israel began to take “Be holy, because I am holy” (Lev 11:44) seriously enough to fear and call on the Holy One out of pure hearts. One wonders just when and how this reality will dawn on us. There is certainly no way around with respect to effective prayer: “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing, and does His will, He hears him” (Jn 9:31 NASB).”

Conclusion:

What do you believe about prayer? Have you come to understand the attributes of God and how they affect prayer? Is your ultimate fear-object the Lord? Think about the fact that God is transcendant, holy, and infinite and we are finite, temporal, and sinful. When you pray, think about the attributes of God. Thank and praise Him for His sovereignty, love, forgiveness, omniscience, omnipotence, justice, mercy, wrath, and etc. Remember, prayer is God’s means of giving us what He wants. We are often so focused on ourselves and what we think we deserve and need rather than being focused on the One who knows all things. He is sovereign over our lives and works in all things for His own glory and praise. Our Father knows what is best for us.

 

A Corinthian Contradiction?

The Background:

Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries participated in an interfaith dialogue with Muslim scholar Dr. Yasir Qadhi in Memphis, TN in January 2017. The IFD was held in a mosque one night and the other night was held at a church building. There have been many critics since then that claim the IFD was not biblical and that it violated several Scriptural passages. Brannon Howse of Worldview Weekend Radio has been one of the major critics of the IFD. Jeff Dornik is also a very vocal critic of the IFD. Some critics have claimed that Dr. White’s participation played into the hands of the ecumenical goals of Dr. Qadhi. I want to look at some of the arguments made by the critics and see if there is any merit or accurate Scriptural basis to their claims.

Introduction to Part One:

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It has been argued by critics that the IFD violated 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. The argument is that we should not be unequally yoked to Muslims and IFDs violate this passage. I want to examine this claim and look into the context of this passage to form my own opinion based on Scripture. Here is the passage:

14 Don’t become partners with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said:

I will dwell
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
17 Therefore, come out from among them
and 
be separate, says the Lord;
do not touch any unclean thing,
and I will welcome you.
18 And I will be a Father to you,
and you will be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 CSB

I can see that on the surface this passage would appear to be prohibiting partnerships between Christians and non-Christians and more specifically between Christians and Muslims. An IFD between a Christian and a Muslim would certainly seem to be a partnership and would therefore be a violation of this clear passage. If you are a discerning Bible reader you should be able to come up with questions as you are reading any portion of Scripture. Several questions came to my mind as I read this passage:

Who are the Corinthians?

What is the purpose of the book? What of 1 Corinthians?

What is the immediate context of this passage?

What is the context of this passage in 2 Corinthians?

What is the context of this passage when looking at 1 Corinthians?

What is the Greek word for partners/partnership in verse 14, what does it mean, and where else is it used?

What info can I glean from my bible commentaries and study Bibles about this passage?

Contradiction?:

As I go through these texts I aim to demonstrate the importance of discernment and the importance of biblical hermeneutics (the art and science of scriptural interpretation). We just read in 2 Corinthians 6:14 that we should not be partners with those who do not believe. However read this passage from 1 Corinthians:

I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people.10 I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world.11 But actually, I wrote you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister and is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. 12 For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? 13 God judges outsiders. Remove the evil person from among you.

This would appear to be a contradiction. In 1 Corinthians we are told that Paul did not tell the Corinthians to stop associating with the immoral people of this world. He actually tells them that they shouldn’t even eat with a person who claims to be a brother or sister yet is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. The book we know as 1 Corinthians is not actually the first letter that Paul wrote to them. His first letter is lost to us but we know that he sent one because he says in verse 9 that he “wrote to them to not associate with sexually immoral people”. The immediate context of this verse relates to the preceding passage of 1 Corinthians 5 regarding the man who is sleeping with his father’s wife. In verse 10 Paul goes on to say that he did not mean to say that the Corinthians should not associate with the unbelieving sexually immoral, greedy, swindlers, or the idolaters of this world. As biblical Christians, we would say that anyone who worships a false god is an idolater. We would also say there is only one true God, Yahweh the God of the Bible:

I am the Lord, and there is no other;
there is no God but me.

I will strengthen you,
though you do not know me,
so that all may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
that there is no one but me.

I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make success and create disaster;
I am the Lord, who does all these things.

Isaiah 45:5-7

You, Lord, are the only God.
You created the heavens,
the highest heavens with all their stars,
the earth and all that is on it,
the seas and all that is in them.
You give life to all of them,
and all the stars of heaven worship you.

Nehemiah 9:6

 About eating food sacrificed to idols, then, we know that “an idol is nothing in the world,”and that “there is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth—as there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through him, and we exist through him.

1 Corinthians 8:4

In 1 Corinthians we are told by Paul that he did not mean to say that the Corinthians should stop associating with unbelievers and then in 2 Corinthians we are told by Paul that the Corinthians should not be partners with unbelievers. Which one are we to follow? Is he changing his mind in 2 Corinthians? Muslims believe in a false god and idolaters are those who put anything else above sole worship and belief of the God of the Bible. 1 Cor would suggest that we can and should associate with Muslims but 2 Corinthians seems to suggest that we should not be partners or have a partnership with Muslims. This seems to be contradictory and very confusing on the surface. Yet we need to dig into the context and the original language and try to get a clearer and better understanding of what is going on in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.

The Context:

Let’s start by setting up the context of 1 and 2 Corinthians. The following quoted information is taken from the Wycliffe Bible Commentary:

“The city of Corinth. Corinth was a wealthy commercial center. …Corinth’s moral character made it a fertile field for the glorious good news of the Messiah. The old city had contained the famous Temple of Aphrodite, where one thousand sacred prostitutes were made available to its cultists. The same spirit, if not the the same temple prevailed in the new city. …Corinth was a city noted for everything depraved, dissolute, and debauched.”

1 Corinthians was written in response to a letter that Paul received from the Corinthian church. Paul addresses very specific problems that had been affecting the Corinthian Christians such as division, sexual immorality, abuse of the sacraments, and lawsuits between believers. The church sought instruction from Paul regarding marriage, divorce, food offered to idols, spiritual gifts, and other matters. Can you picture this young church at the epicenter of an incredibly wicked and depraved culture and city? False apostles are deceiving the Corinthians and are turning some of them against Paul. Picture a young church like this in Portland, Oregon or a post-Christian New England city. There truly is nothing new under the sun. It may seem that our current American culture is becoming more and more depraved but it’s really not any worse than the state of the culture of the early church. There was sexual immorality, greed, hate, violence, racism, and any other wicked sin like there is today. It may have changed dynamics but the root sins have been around since Adam’s fall and were extremely prevalent in the pagan culture surrounding the early church.

The Greeky Section:

Now let’s take a look at some of the Greek words used in our two texts. I’m not a Greek scholar and I haven’t been to Bible college or seminary but I know a little Greek and I know how to use the internet to look up the meanings of Greek words used in Scripture. All of the following Greek information comes from http://biblehub.com/greek/.

This is the word that is translated as “associate with” in 1 Corinthians 5:9:

sunanamignumi: to mix up together, hence to associate with  

Original Word: συναναμίγνυμι
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: sunanamignumi
Phonetic Spelling: (soon-an-am-ig’-noo-mee)
Short Definition: I keep company with
Definition: I mingle together with, keep company with.

HELPS Word-studies

4874 synanamígnymi (from 4862 /sýn, “identified with“; 303 /aná, “up, finishing a process”; and 3396 /mígnymi, “mix”) – properly, mix-closely-together to influence, “associate intimately with” (Souter).

Paul tells the Corinthian Christians that he did not mean to say in his previous letter that they should not “keep company with” or stop “mingling with” unbelievers (sexually immoral, greedy, idolaters, etc.). The word study help above says that this Greek word means mix-closely-together to influence, and “associate intimately with”. This passage very clearly does not support the claim that an IFD between a Christian and a Muslim is unbiblical. Dr. White and Dr. Qadhi clearly stated that they have different beliefs and that they were in no way compromising their beliefs. They did however say that the goal of this IFD was to open more dialogues between Christians and Muslims and to take away the fear and anger that each group has towards the other. The modern American evangelical church’s view of Muslims is that they are all Jihadists and they want to implement Sharia Law and destroy Christianity. The majority view is that Muslims hate Christians and Americans should fear Muslims. There are many groups out there that push this view of fear and anger towards Muslims. If that is what most Christians believe about Muslims then it would follow that most Muslims would believe that these are the views held by most Christians. We as Christians should love our Muslim neighbors and friends. We should give them the gospel and pray for them.

However, in this divided climate driven by fear and anger there honestly is very little open and honest dialogue between Christians and Muslims. This is where Dr. White stepped in with the IFD. This IFD sought to diffuse the tension between Christians and Muslims. The goal was to help Christians understand what Muslims actually believe. The Islamic extremist view is not the majority view held by Muslims. If we are to engage Muslims and share the gospel we need to know what they actually believe and we need to view them not as people to fear or be angry with but as lost people who need to hear the gospel. Let’s say for example that Islam became the majority religion in the United States and Sharia Law was implemented. Would God not be sovereign? Would Christianity die? Would the gospel cease to spread? No. God is sovereign over all things:

 King Nebuchadnezzar,

To those of every people, nation, and language, who live on the whole earth:

May your prosperity increase. I am pleased to tell you about the miracles and wonders the Most High God has done for me.

How great are his miracles,
and how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom,
and his dominion is from generation to generation.

 

34 But at the end of those days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven, and my sanity returned to me. Then I praised the Most High and honored and glorified him who lives forever:

For his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom is from generation to generation.
35 All the inhabitants of the earth are counted as nothing,
and he does what he wants with the army of heaven
and the inhabitants of the earth.
There is no one who can block his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”

36 At that time my sanity returned to me, and my majesty and splendor returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and my nobles sought me out, I was reestablished over my kingdom, and even more greatness came to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and glorify the King of the heavens, because all his works are true and his ways are just. He is able to humble those who walk in pride.

Daniel 4:1-3, 34-37

We as Americans have had it relatively easy and we don’t often think of our Christian brothers and sisters in other countries were persecution is severe and frequent. Yet the gospel continues to spread in North Korea, Indonesia, India, Cambodia, the middle east, etc. Persecution will not stop God from accomplishing His will. We need to examine our hearts and see if we have put our American freedoms and American way of life as equal or maybe even higher than our devotion to the Living God. Christians are not guaranteed a life of ease…in fact we are told by Paul that we will face persecution and suffering.

Application of 1 Corinthians 5:9-13:

I believe that I’ve laid out a solid, biblically sound argument that 1 Corinthians 5:9 actually says it is okay for Christians to keep company with and/or mingle with Muslims or any unbeliever. Here are some application points I want to summarize:

  • Christians can have friendships with unbelievers, in fact it is unavoidable as long as we are alive. We definitely should desire to and actively share the gospel with our unbelieving friends and aquaintances. From my understanding of this text I don’t believe that we necessarily have to preach the gospel every time we get together with them. If we have preached the gospel at least once, the Holy Spirit will do His work and draw those who are chosen to the Father.
  • Christians should not have friendships or even eat with someone who claims to be a brother or sister yet is sexually immoral, greedy, an idolater, a swindler, and etc. I believe this is talking about Christians that engage in an unrepentant continuation of sinfulness. We know from 1 John that Christians will struggle with sin until we die and that if we say we don’t sin we are liars. So this passage can’t mean that we should never associate with a Christian that struggles with sin. However, we should not continue in a pattern of unrepentant sin. This is a sign that you are not truly converted. These are false converts and Paul warns us and commands to not even eat with people like this. Probably so that we do not get led astray ourselves.
  • An interfaith dialogue between a Christian and a Muslim does not violate this passage. As long as it is not an ecumenical occasion but a discussion of differences and similarities, I believe it is permitted. Again, this is based on the goal of diffusing the current tension that exists between American Christianity and Muslims. This is not a compromise or an attempt to downplay the gospel. If Muslims think Christians hate them and fear them will they even listen to a Christian share the gospel with them? Definitely not if the gospel they hear is that they will go to Hell if they don’t repent and especially if that gospel is given in a fearful or angry manner. We are to speak the truth in love. American Christians need to be better at speaking in love to Muslims but at the same time not downplay the truth of God.

The Second Greeky Section:

We’ve used our hermeneutical skills and looked at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:9. We can finally get into 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. We need to interpret and understand what this passage means. The CSB translation uses “partner” and “partnership” in 2 Cor 6:14 and my first thought was to find out what words  were used in the originl Greek. This is the word that was translated into “partnership”:

metoché: sharing

Original Word: μετοχή, ῆς, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Transliteration: metoché
Phonetic Spelling: (met-okh-ay’)
Short Definition: sharing, partnership, fellowship
Definition: sharing, partnership, fellowship.

HELPS Word-studies

Cognate: 3352 metoxḗ – a close relation between partners, i.e. people sharing something held in common (used only in 2 Cor 6:14); joint-activity.See 3353 (metoxos).sharer, partner
Definition: a sharer, partner, companion.

Metoché refers to a close relation between partners. The Greek word that is translated into partner is:

metochos: sharing in

Original Word: μέτοχος, ου, ὁ
Part of Speech: Adjective
Transliteration: metochos
Phonetic Spelling: (met’-okh-os)
Short Definition: a sharer, partner
Definition: a sharer, partner, associate.

HELPS Word-studies

3353 métoxos (from 3348 /metéxō, “share in,” derived from 3326 /metá, “with change afterward” and 2192 /éxō, “have”) – properly, change due to sharing, i.e. from being an “active partaker with.”

I think it is interesting that metochos was only used 6 times (once in Luke and 5 times in Hebrews) and that metoché was used just once, here in 2 Cor 6:14. These words seem to imply something stronger than a mere friendship or fellowship. These are active partakers or partners. After finding this out, I wondered how this related to the 1 Cor 5:9 passage. I decided to see if there are any other Greek words that could be translated to our English word “partner”. There is another word that could be translated into partner/fellowship in English:

koinónos: a sharer

Original Word: κοινωνός, οῦ, ὁ, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine
Transliteration: koinónos
Phonetic Spelling: (koy-no-nos’)
Short Definition: a Cognate: 2844 koinōnós (a masculine noun/substantival adjective) – properly, a participant who mutually belongs and shares fellowship; a “joint-participant.” See 2842 (koinōnia).

[2842 /koinōnía (a feminine noun) stresses the relational aspect of the fellowship. 2844 /koinōnós (a masculine noun) more directly focuses on the participant himself (herself).

2844 (koinōnos) is also used as a substantival adjective, as with the classical Greek authors, see J. Thayer.]

Koinónos is used 10 times in the New Testament. As you can read above, this word refers to a relationship between a participant who mutually belongs to and shares fellowship with someone else. Are you thinking what I’m thinking right now? If Paul wanted to say that Christians should not have fellowship, relationships, or friendships with unbelievers (that includes Muslims) I think he would have used koinónos in 2 Cor 6:14. So what the heck does this verse mean? Well, I will now address what I believe is the key to understanding this passage.

Hetero-What?:

The CSB translation uses “partner” in verse 14 and I wanted to find out what word was used in the original language. Here is the info on this word:

heterozugeó: to be yoked up differently, i.e. to be unequally yoked

Original Word: ἑτεροζυγέω
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: heterozugeó
Phonetic Spelling: (het-er-od-zoog-eh’-o)
Short Definition: I am yoked with one different from myself
Definition: I am yoked with one different from myself, unequally yoked.

HELPS Word-studies

2086 heterozygéō (from 2087 /héteros, “another of a different kind” and 2218 /zygós, “a yoke, joining two to a single plow”) – properly, different kindsof people joined together but unevenly matched; hence “unequally yoked” (not aptly joined).

2086 /heterozygéō (“mis-matched”) is used figuratively of Christians wrongly committed to a partner holding very different values (priorities), i.e. that run contrary to faith (the kingdom of God).

Reflection: Scripture uses symbols to teach about the importance of keeping spiritually pure

The picture we get from this is a metaphor that Paul’s readers would certainly be familiar with. Two oxen that are yoked together are both pushing the plow. They are both working towards completing a task. Being yoked to someone implies a very intimate relationship. If you have two unequally yoked oxen pulling a plow nothing will be accomplished. Picture a big ox and a small ox yoked together pulling a plow. The bigger ox will last longer and the small ox will tire out quicker. This word heterozugeó coupled with metoché paints a picture of a person who is actively participating or working alongside a nonbeliever. This could be applied to a self-proclaimed “Christian” going to a mosque to worship God. This would refer to ecumenical initiatives like Rick Warren’s PEACE Plan. This would refer to Christians embracing or working alongside Unitarianism and postmodernism. This passage is directly referring to marrying nonbelievers and also applies to starting businesses with nonbelievers. A Christian should not marry a non-Christian. This is not talking about situations where both spouses are unsaved and one of them comes to faith while the other remains unsaved. This is talking about a single Christian that chooses to marry an unbeliever.

Here is the crux of the interpretation of this text and the concept of being unequally yoked. Picture a dead ox yoked to a live ox. We who are Christians were once dead in our sins and trespasses and we have been made alive through Christ. If we willingly marry an unbeliever or enter a business relationship with an unbeliever we are essentially yoking ourselves to someone that is still dead in their trespasses and sins. We can still push the plow but we have to put extra effort into it and we also have to carry the extra weight of the “dead” ox. Now picture two healthy live oxen pushing the plow. They were both dead but through Christ they have been redeemed. They are equally yoked. They press on together to accomplish the same task. Throughout their marriage they continually press towards the same goal: unity in Christ. Sure there are trying seasons and difficulties but they are bonded together by their shared redemption in Christ. A Christian married to an unbeliever does not have that bond. An important lesson to learn from this is that if you are single and a Christian and you desire to get married: pray about it, make sure you know what this person is really like and what their Christian faith looks like now. Don’t rush to get married…sometimes people only find out what their spouse is like after they get married and then it is too late.

Conclusion:

In summation, I do not believe that the IFD between Dr. James White and Dr. Yasir Qashi violated 2 Corinthians 6:14. I believe that we should form friendships and relationships with Muslims or any other unbeliever. We should share the gospel with them but there is nothing wrong with having friendships with unbelievers. I would also say you need to be careful if you aren’t very mature in Christ. You could easily be led astray by your unbelieving friends. This is why I stress the importance of Biblical hermeneutics and sound doctrine.

I know far too many who were raised in the church and were taught surface level Christianity that have no interest in God today. If you have been taught that you can choose God or that you can convince someone to become a Christian by not using the Bible and instead they can be convinced by using other forms of evidence I encourage you to seriously consider the implications. If you “accepted” Christ you can still reject Christ in your lifetime. If you can reason someone into the faith apart from using God’s Word they can also be reasoned out of the faith. The church has done a good job of being loving but we have largely abandoned sound doctrine. May we test all claims against the truth of God’s Word.