For it is by grace you have been saved...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Neutrality is Not an Option: Acts 4 & the Culture War

I realize that having “heroes” can be dangerously close to idolatry. I have often been reminded that I quote Charles Spurgeon way too often. He was only a man (boy it’s hard to type that), and I need to remember that. While we should look to those saints who have stood for truth, etc. and “imitate the outcome of their faith” as Hebrews 13:7 says, we need not to exalt them above Scripture and so on.

I’m doing better, for the most part. But then guys like Voddie Baucham come along and I find myself bordering on hero worship again. At the recent family conference in Branson I nearly acted like a star-crazed fan in the presence of a rock star or something when I got the chance to shake hands with the man whose teaching has had a great impact on me in the last couple years.

It started after I watch a video of the message he delivered at a gathering of Baptists in Texas. It was a conference on Evangelism, I believe, and Voddie was actually a last minute replacement for (of all people) Tim Lahaye. Those folks never saw it coming. Baucham delivered a out-of-the-park message on the centrality of the home in the discipleship of the next generation. Amazing stuff! Follow that up with one of the best books I’ve read in recent years, Family Driven Faith, and here I go with the hero stuff again.

Anyway, all of that is not the point, I guess. Voddie’s first session at this recent conference was on the issue of the Culture War, and he based it on Acts chapter 4: Peter and John before the Sanhedrin. He showed how similar their situation is to the culture we find ourselves in today. They were called “unschooled, common” men, which is the same thing we are called today if we fail to acknowledge the “acceptable” doctrines of evolution, religious relativism, tolerance, and philosophical pluralism.

The key was the idea that “neutrality is not an option.” It wasn’t an option for the Jews of the day. They had to deal with these rebels who were stirring things up and risking the wrath of Rome. It was not an option for Peter and John, who when commanded not to speak the name of Jesus politely refused. And today, there is no room for neutrality either. The culture says we must accept those doctrines mentioned above. We must accept their worldview or be labeled intolerant, ignorant, etc.

Yet, according to Baucham, this is where the similarities between their story and ours end. Because while Peter and John replied “we can’t help but proclaim what we have seen and heard,” the church of today has said, “OK, maybe we will be quiet. We’ll just witness with our lifestyle, or we’ll just wait until we have more godly men elected to higher offices, etc.”

I loved the example he used. Basically, he said we act like we could just go about our business, mowing our lawn, and neighbor will be so moved by the way we mow our lawn that they will rush over to us and say, “I am so impressed with the way you mow your lawn, what must I do to be saved?”

Obviously that’s an exaggeration. Certainly we must live lives worthy of the Gospel, and it does have an influence on our witness. As far as that goes, it’s probably even good for us to mow our lawns well. But I digress…

The point is, we are too reluctant to open our mouths. We care too much about what the world thinks of us. We want to fit in. The early church cared nothing about fitting in. They would rather die than not speak of what they had seen and heard. In fact, in the face of their persecution they prayed not for the persecution to be lifted, but for boldness to open their mouths regardless of the consequences.

We, on the other hand expect not to be persecuted. We forget that persecution is promised to those who are faithful. We need to stop listening to the health and wealth, comfort and convenience gospel of our day and preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Neutrality is not an option. We need to be more bold, like Peter and John. As Dr. Baucham concluded, we must have faith in a Sovereign Lord, and ask Him for boldness to proclaim the truth of Christ . . . that will win the Culture War.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Voddie Baucham on Education

This is not from this recent conference, but this gives you an idea of Voddie Baucham's teaching, and it also goes along with the last post about Jerusalem vs. Athens. Enjoy.

The Desert Island Challenge

What if your family were alone on an island, with nothing but a copy of God’s Word? How would you begin to build your family and the new “culture” of your island world?

I may not have gotten it word for word exactly like Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, but this was the question he asked during a session entitled A Family Vision of Victory. The point is quite simple, yet the truth of it hit me quite profoundly. If you had no other cultural ideas to infect your thinking, nothing but the Word of God, how would you shape your family and your life? Interesting idea, isn’t it?

For years now, people like Doug Phillips, and Voddie Baucham’s Family Driven Faith, and Tom Eldredge’s Safely Home and others have been calling into question how our families operate in today’s world. And the unanimous verdict is that we have given in to culture way more than we want to admit; in everything from the size of our families, to how we educate them, to how we disciple them, etc.

But what if we had nothing but God’s Word to guide us? Wouldn’t we see children as a blessing and desire a “quiver full” of them? Wouldn’t we realize that it is our responsibility as parents to disciple our children, not just the Sunday School teacher’s? And would we ever send them off to “fools” to be educated the way we do now?

Whoa! Harsh words. But think about it. We live in a culture that ridicules large families, not to mention the whole culture of death that wants to rid us of children all together. Though the idea of a Sunday School isn’t even found in the Bible, we’ve come to see that as the primary discipleship avenue for our families, neglecting our parental responsibility. And the secular humanistic government schools that we ship our kids off to every day have repeatedly shown us that they don’t want God to have any part in their curriculum. Since Scripture clearly says that only a fool says in his heart that there is no God (Ps. 14:1), this makes them the very fools I mention at the end of the preceding paragraph.

So the question again is: If we were alone on an island with nothing but God’s Word to guide us, would we be doing the things we’re doing? Have we been taken captive in our ideas from the God-hating culture around us? And shouldn’t we be living according the standard of God’s Word regardless of what the culture around us does?

In another session called Jerusalem and Athens: the Battle of Christian Culture, Doug Phillips builds on this idea of the Desert Island Challenge by comparing two ways of thinking: Biblical Hebraic thinking, or Jerusalem vs. Greco-Roman thinking, or Athens. And he points out that the American church is much more influenced by the later as our nation “de-volves” into paganism.

Again, sounds like harsh words. Unfortunately, they are also true. This idea first hit me after reading the aforementioned book by Tom Eldredge a few years ago. It was the first time I had ever thought in terms of Hebrew vs. Greek thinking in regard to family, education, etc. And yet when we read the New Testament, this is exactly the conflict we see confronting the early church. How much do we hold to our Jewish roots, and how much to we give in to the Hellenistic culture around us? And we are still facing the same battle today.

The early church father Tertullian wrote a piece called The Prescription Against Heretics. Chapter seven deals with “Pagan Philosophy The Parent Of Heresies. The Connection Between Deflections From Christian Faith And The Old Systems Of Pagan Philosophy.” (Got to love those old titles!) It was here that Tertullian asked the question from which Phillips derived his session title: What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem?

What indeed do they have to do with one another? What do the children of Jerusalem, God’s children, our children have to do with the pagan, humanistic, evolutionary worldview of this modern culture and education system. The answer should be: nothing!

Now I’m not advocating, as I’m sure Phillips was not, that we literally go out onto a desert island somewhere and ignore the rest of the world. We do have a missionary mandate, after all. But that missionary mandate does not include turning our children over to a godless school system; does not include abdicating the discipleship responsibility of parents, does not include seeing children as a burden rather than a blessing, and so on.

Phillips summarized it with this question: By What Standard? By what standard are we going to live? God’s or man’s? We ought to live “as if” we were on a desert island, with only God’s Word to guide us. Imagine how much different our families and our churches and our own lives would be if we simply lived according to the word and not the world.

Still more to come….

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ham Hit It On The Head

I’ve been preaching through the book of Genesis since January of 2007. Since I’m not the world’s greatest expositor, it will take me less than two years to get through all 50 chapters. I know I should probably go slower, dig deeper, etc., but…

Anyway, one of the reasons we started this particular study is because of the foundational role Genesis plays in Scripture. Not only is it the first book, setting the stage for all the rest. Even more it contains the foundations of all our basic doctrines as God’s people. John MacArthur reminds us that in this book of Genesis, “Theological foundations are revealed which include God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, man, sin, redemption, covenant, promise, Satan and angels, kingdom, revelation, Israel, judgment, and blessing.” Name a concept, theme or doctrine, and chances are we find at least the seed of it in this first book of Moses.

I was reminded again during this past week’s family conference of the importance of this book. It would seem only natural that a conference sponsored by Answers in Genesis would place a heavy emphasis on that book. But it’s not so much that this ministry chooses to focus on this book, it’s that this book is the driving force behind this ministry.

Ken Ham, founder and director of AiG does a wonderful job of showing the vital nature of this book, and therefore why this book is the center of attack by our God-hating culture. Sure they can attack the Resurrection head on, but how much easier to go back and undermine the authority and authenticity of the very book that tells of the Resurrection. Christians will stand up and fight against a frontal attack on the cross, but we’ve largely rolled over and played dead when it comes to the attacks against Genesis; specifically, the six days of Creation.

The Southern Baptist Convention fought a battle in the recent past (some say we are still fighting it in some form) for the inerrancy of Scripture. At stake was not only the obvious issue, but also the authority, sufficiency, etc. of God’s Word. And, ironically, one of the key “sparks” that got it all going was not so much an attack from the world against the resurrection, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, etc. It was a commentary, written by one of our own, on the book of Genesis.

Seminary Professor Ralph Elliott, influenced by the liberal theology that was rapidly growing all around us, wrote that “one must come to the place that he sees the parabolic and symbolic nature of much of the Old Testament Scriptures.” He then quotes Alan Richardson who says, “One must learn to think of the stories of Genesis – the Creation, the Fall, Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel…in the same way as we think of the parables of Jesus; they are profoundly symbolical stories, which aren’t to be taken as literally true…”

Therefore, Elliott concluded, Genesis 1-11 in particular is myth, not fact. Because we have been overrun with evolutionary thinking and a Secular Humanist worldview, many in the church saw no problem with this. After all, this allows us to claim the Bible and still give in to the “new” theories of science that said the earth was millions of years old, that man evolved from apes, and so on.

Much of what Ken Ham said during this past week focused on this same idea of dealing with the “millions of years.” Again, many people, blinded by bad science and un-founded theories, have bought into this idea and see no real problem trying to make the Bible “fit.” But, as Ham points out, the real issue is very basic: Is the Bible true? This is what our Convention was fighting over, and this is what we need to continue to fight for.

You see, once we throw out the creation narrative and the Noahic flood and so on, it becomes easier to then say: well, maybe Jonah wasn’t really swallowed by a big fish. Maybe David didn’t really kill a giant. Maybe Jesus wasn’t really virgin-born. Maybe he didn’t really do all those miracles. And maybe, the whole resurrection thing was just symbolic as well. Once the foundation is eroded, the whole building is at risk.

2 Corinthians 11:3 reminds us that our enemy will continue to use the same attacks that he’s always used. “…as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” And how did the serpent lead Eve astray? By simply saying, “Are you sure God said that? It’s not really true; you’ll not surely die if you eat the fruit.”

Today the serpent says, “Are you sure it was only six days of creation? Surely that can’t be true. The evidence says it was millions of years. Are you sure there was a real world-wide flood?” And so on.

The enemy is the same. The tactic is the same. Our response must be different. God’s Word is true. God’s Word is authoritative. God’s Word, from Genesis to “maps”, is sufficient for all things. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” Since our knowledge of him comes through the Word, we know that the Word supplies all we need.

I appreciate anew the ministry of Answers in Genesis. I encourage you to check out there website, view their materials, visit their creation museum. From a purely “scientific” standpoint it’s amazing to see some of the evidence that humanist science doesn’t want you to know about. We don’t need science to prove the Bible, but it’s nice to know that science does indeed confirm the Bible, not “disprove” it.

And the church needs to know this. We need to stand up and take notice. Ham hit it on the head: The attack on Genesis is an attack on God, and we can’t ignore it. Let’s be faithful in defending the faith from all attacks, and as the theme for the week reminds us, we should always be ready/prepared “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15).

More conference reflections to come…..

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Help, My Brain Is Full!

Just got back from the Defending Your Faith Family Conference put on by Answer’s In Genesis. Wow! What a week.

2,000 folks gathered in Branson, Missouri for fifteen teaching sessions from Voddie Baucham, Doug Phillips and Ken Ham. The emphasis was on apologetics in general, with each ministry represented taking a slightly different approach.

As of right now, I’m still processing most of it. I think it has to do with being completely wiped out! In addition to the conference, we spent a day at Silver Dollar City, as well as some go-kart racing, craft store shopping, general running around, and of course lots of time in the pool! The kids all report that a good time was had by all.

Well, not quite all. The four-year-old’s patience was a bit tested, so mom missed several of the conferences trying to entertain him. As much as she loves him, even mom got a little worn out by that.

Anyway, in the coming days I plan to do a few entries on some of the subject matter addressed this week. It was all fantastic stuff, and once I’ve rested up and thought it all through, I’m sure I’ll be able to deal with it more coherently.

In the meantime, check out Ken Ham’s blog for some conference notes and a few photos. Doug Phillips makes a reference to the first night on his blog as well.

For the record, anyone considering taking your family to an AiG conference, or a Vision Forum event, or anything where Voddie Baucham is speaking, pack the bags and get going. It will be worth every penny.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The New Look

I couldn't believe that I've been doing this silly thing for as long as I have. Readership picked up quite a bit during the Mike Huckabee presidential bid, drawing notice from illuminaries such as the New York Times and St. Louis Post Dispatch. Since then, things have calmed down. I'm just another small church pastor looking for an outlet for some thoughts now and then.

So, I figured maybe it was time for a little change. I've had the same template here since the beginning. Quite a feat for a guy who likes to change furniture as often as I do. (It drives me crazy that my office is set up in such a way that limits the changes I can make).

Also, I love the lighthouse theme. Lighthouses are one of my "things." I have several in my office: portraits and paintings, wood carvings, little statuette types, and even a giant puzzle of a Thomas Kincaid that I put together and framed. I love the image of the minister as a lighthouse in this foggy world.

Anyway. For the one or two folks who do stop by here on a semi-regular basis, I thought I'd explain the new look. Maybe it will inspire me to do a little more serious thinking and blogging in the near future.