Many people today call themselves Christians, but how does one have the assurance of salvation? Paul Washer walks a group of young people through 1 John and gives insight into this issue like only he can.
John MacArthur answers questions with his typical Bold and unashamed style primarily on the topic of the false Church. Dr. MacArthur is not shy about dropping the names of people involved in the “seeker” movement, and exposing other religious systems and cults such as Catholocism and Mysticism, and explaining what he sees as the role these people and institutions are playing within the “false church”. He also explains what the biggest problem is in the real “Church” today and more. You will want to take an hour out of your day to listen to this.
Sherwood Eliot Wirt interviewed C.S. Lewis in 1963. Lewis would go on to meet the Lord 6 months later so these are some of his last thoughts. I thought that some of them were very applicable to our own day and wanted to post portions of the interview here.
Wirt: In your book Surprised by Joy you remark that you were brought into the faith kicking and struggling and resentful, with eyes darting in every direction looking for an escape. You suggest that you were compelled, as it were, to become a Christian. Do you feel that you made a decision at the time of your conversion?
Lewis: “I would not put it that way. What I wrote in Surprised by Joy was that ‘before God closed in on me, I was offered what now appears a moment of wholly free choice.’ But I feel my decision was not so important. I was the object rather than the subject in this affair. I was decided upon. I was glad afterwards at the way it came out, but at the moment what I heard was God saying, ‘Put down your gun and we’ll talk.’”
Wirt: That sounds to me as if you came to a very definite point of decision.
Lewis: “Well, I would say that the most deeply compelled action is also the freest action. By that I mean, no part of you is outside the action. It is a paradox. I expressed it in Surprised by Joy by saying that I chose, yet it really did not seem possible to do the opposite.”
Wirt: What is your opinion of the kind of writing being done within the Christian church today?
“A great deal of what is being published by writers in the religious tradition is a scandal and is actually turning people away from the church. The liberal writers who are continually accommodating and whittling down the truth of the Gospel are responsible. I cannot understand how a man can appear in print claiming to disbelieve everything that he presupposes when he puts on the surplice. I feel it is a form of prostitution.”
Wirt: Do you believe that the use of filth and obscenity is necessary in order to establish a realistic atmosphere in contemporary literature?
Lewis: “I do not. I treat this development as a symptom, a sign of a culture that has lost its faith. Moral collapse follows upon spiritual collapse. I look upon the immediate future with great apprehension.”
Wirt: Do you feel, then, that modern culture is being de-Christianized?
Lewis: “I cannot speak to the political aspects of the question, but I have some definite views about the de-Christianizing of the church. I believe that there are many accommodating preachers, and too many practitioners in the church who are not believers. Jesus Christ did not say, ‘Go into all the world and tell the world that it is quite right.’ The Gospel is something completely different. In fact, it is directly opposed to the world.
“The case against Christianity that is made out in the world is quite strong. Every war, every shipwreck, every cancer case, every calamity, contributes to making a prima facie case against Christianity. It is not easy to be a believer in the face of this surface evidence. It calls for a strong faith in Jesus Christ.”
I don’t post on my blog every day like others do, sometimes I wish I had the time others do to be more faithful in my writing. I simply have too much going on that I think is more important then telling the public every thought I have on a daily basis. That being said, sometimes I run across things and feel that it is important that something be said about them in a public way and today is one of those days.
Former President Jimmy Carter is promoting a new book called NIV Lessons from Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter. He recently gave an interview to ChristianPost.com that can be read and listened to at the following link
President Carter covers a lot of ground in this interview, but the purpose for him writing the book I think speaks volumes to the conclusions he draws.
The overall purpose of the overall project is to bring ancient scriptures into modern applicability. When I speak at my local church, which I try to do 35 to 40 times a year, I try in every lesson to take the Old Testament text or New Testament text and apply them to what is happening to me or how that applies to the audience that I’m teaching in a modern, fast-changing, technological world. I use headlines, interfaith and that sort of thing.
You see according to Carter, the Bible is written for him to reason what it says and apply it to his own life in the way that he sees fit. I am currently writing my third paper on apologetics for my Masters of Arts in Theology and I comment on this interview in the section I wrote on Postmodernism and Reason. In our culture we can reason within ourselves whatever we want, and since there is no absolute truth, there really is no right and wrong. The former President can now add being written about in my blog to his list of accomplishments along with being elected President and winning the Nobel Peace Prize. I am sure he will be honored when he hears of this..:)
I should make everyone aware, in case they do not already know, that former President Carter is not a pagan, nor is he an atheist or even an agnostic for that matter. He is a self professing Christian that has been a deacon in his Church and a teacher as well. This is what makes his views on Christianity and the Bible even more alarming. Postmodernism is even more of a problem within the Church then without.
So let’s break down some of the points in his book that I found most alarming.
Carter: I believe strongly that in the eyes of God women and men should be the same and they should be given the same authority in the church, women should as men. For instance, my wife is a deacon now. She’s one of the leaders in our church. I have been in the past. And we have two pastors, one of them is a man and his wife is a woman, of course. I believe there is complete equality between men and women. And I believe those passages in the New Testament, not by Jesus, but by Paul, that say women should not adorn themselves, they should always wear hats or color their hair in church – things like that – I think they are signs of the times and should not apply to modern-day life. When Paul also says, I think the third chapter of Galatians, Paul says that there is no distinction between men and women, or between Jew and Greek, or between slaves and masters even, that all people are the same in the eyes of God. That’s what I used as a guiding light in that sort of argument.
So we have President Carter proclaiming that the Bible says men and women are equal. Not because Jesus said it, but because Paul says it in Galatians chapter 3. Obviously Carter is taking the passage in Galatians, that is focused on salvation, completely out of context. Paul is saying that there is no distinction between male or female, Jew or Greek, master or slave when it comes to being one in Christ. This has nothing to do with the roll of women in the church. Obviously Paul does not obliterate the lines between gender completely and is quite clear on the role of women in Church. Even if Carter was not taking Galatians completely out of context, to believe that Paul actually meant male and female played equal roles in the church we would have to discount Paul’s own direct teaching on the issue found in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, 1 Corinthians 11:3.
If one wants to discount this teaching as cultural and not applicable to today then, even thought that would be disputed in the context of other passages, that is one thing by itself, however to site Galatians as Paul promoting equality in the Church out of context and then disregard 1 Corinthians that is actually in context is wrong. Paul shows the same distinctions in regard to the family and God as well in Ephesians 5. It is not that men are better then women, but that they serve different purposes and functions and Carter is obliterating those functions in order to mesh with a culture that agrees with him. The overall point that Paul makes is that men and women are equal as people in salvation in God’s eyes and they have equal rights as human beings created in God’s image, however their function in the Church and the home is not the same, not less important, but not the same. Carter shows his lack of understanding of the topic when he later says
Paul said that women should be subservient to their husbands but if you
read a couple of verses down it says husbands should treat their wives as equals
Once again Carter is confusing the issue. Women being subservient in no way means that they are of less value or “beneath” men. They are equal as people but their function is not the same. Carter then wraps this all up by saying
So you have to use your own modern-day beliefs and basic Christianity to select
which of those conflicting statements of Paul you want to observe that says we
should treat women as equals and says we should not discriminate against people.
No, we just need to read the Bible in proper context and then do what it says regardless of where the culture is. But this is just the tip of the Carter iceberg. Later in the conversation Carter decides what parts of the Bible are inerrant and what parts are not.
Carter: Yes, I think the Bible is completely inspired by God in it’s overall messages. But, for the people of those days to know what was going to happen 4,000 years later in a world of astronomy or subatomic particles. They didn’t have access to the knowledge that we presently have about geology. So, we know now that the world was created many of billions of years ago, 13 or 14 billion years ago. As far as they knew, the earth was the center of the universe. They thought that stars were little twinkling things in the sky where as now we know stars are very distant and much larger than the earth. For them to say that stars fall on the earth like they fell off a Christmas tree, that means it’s human fallibility. It doesn’t mean it was ordained by God who created everything. So I think that those matters of those lack of knowledge about science and technology that come along later are understandable.
I happen to be a scientist. My background is in nuclear physics. I was a nuclear engineer. But I don’t see any incompatibility at all with my religious faith and God the creator of everything and the incompatibility between when the earth was created as specified in the Bible. I don’t see any incompatibility there because those that were interpreting God’s overall message didn’t know anything about modern-day science.
So Carter is saying that overall the Bible is inspired but the writers obviously got some things wrong along the way so their writing was not completely inspired. How does he know this? Well because he was a scientist, and in his view science says that the earth and the universe are billions of years old. Since Moses could not have known this he was obviously wrong when he wrote the creation account of Genesis. Carter isn’t going to hold his ignorance against him though, I mean, how could he have known right?
Later Carter admits that God is omniscient so I guess what Carter means is that God knew how the Universe was created and tried to tell Moses but Moses was too ignorant about science to write it down correctly. This is obviously absurd, you either believe the Bible is infallible or you don’t. If you don’t then find the nearest waist can and throw it away, if you do then everything in it must be true and it is Jimmy Carter that is misinterpreting the meaning of the text.
When people thought that certain passages explained a flat earth centered Universe it wasn’t because the Biblical writers got it wrong, it was because human beings interpreted the infallible passages wrong. It is quite pious of Carter to think that IQ and scientific intelligence trumps inspiration, but once again this is a cultural idea that Carter is buying into and at the same time trying to harmonize the scripture with culture instead of gaining new insight to the world we live in and understanding how it works with scripture. We can be just as wrong about science as we are Bible interpretation and we continue to learn more about both the Universe and the Bible each day. The scientist and the theologian should be working together not against each other.
Then Carter decides whether or not Homosexuality is a sin. Of course he says it isn’t but his reasoning is interesting. He says that it isn’t a sin, not because Paul is wrong or because it was a cultural thing primarily, but because Jesus was silent on the issue.
Carter: Well, homosexuality was massively practiced in some of the conflicting religions at the time of Christ and even at the time of Christ, in Roman times show that homosexuality was widely prevalent. I think it’s quite significant that Jesus never did mention it.
When Paul mentions the verse, it can be interpreted homosexually critical. He also says that selfishness is sinful. He also goes through a whole gamut of things that are sinful. On Saint Paul, he’s probably one of the best theologians of all time, but I don’t believe that some of his teachings are appropriate today.
When I have a conflict like that in my interpretation of scripture, I go back and see what Jesus said about that.
Once again, with Carter the Bible is culturally insignificant and uninspired when it comes to these issues so he can make it say whatever he wants in regard to the culture of today. However Paul is not referring to the culture in Romans at all, in fact he is talking about men suppressing their truth in their sin and the act of homosexuality is included with the sins that men do because God gave them up due to their idolatry. They became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. This is not talking about cultural norms at all, but instead Paul is explaining why men think the way they do and how it leads to these sins. He speaks of many sins but spends extra time defining homosexuality specifically. Paul then wraps up the chapter by saying “Though they know these things deserve death, they not only do them but give approval to those who do.”
Of course then we have to also discount the teachings of Timothy who learned under Paul, as well as Jude who is believed to be the brother of James the half brother of Jesus. They all spoke out against these things. However Carter just dismissed all of this out of hand because of our current cultural acceptance of homosexuality. His main argument though that seems to be more important then Paul’s error is that Jesus is silent. Well of course we know that God condemned this act in the Old Testament and I don’t think that Carter would deny Christ’s deity so Christ is not entirely silent. Just because Jesus doesn’t directly condemn the act in the N.T. Does not follow that it is condoned. Christ said that he came to fulfill the law, and Paul never says the law is void.
Dewey Hodges sums this up better then I could.
When proper hermeneutic principles are applied to the relevant passages, and when we rid those passages of preconceived beliefs, it becomes clear that such behavior is condemned without qualification in Leviticus, and this condemnation is assumed to be valid by Paul when he discusses the depravity as well as the end result of homosexual behavior. The entire Bible, in fact, presupposes that homosexual relationships are illegitimate. The creation of mankind was distinctly heterosexual, Christ’s relationship to the church is like that of a man and his wife, and the marriage union and the dominion mandate are distinctly heterosexual such that a homosexual version would make no sense.
In the end, Carter’s Bible is nothing more then the actual Bible changed to fit the culture of today. It does not follow an accurate hermeneutic, takes passages out of context, and only sees the scriptures as inerrant on a “high level” which doesn’t even make any sense. I would instead recommend the Reformation Study Bible if you are in the market for one.
Recently a friend on Facebook asked this question and there were some interesting answers, I thought I would share mine here on my blog.
When I think of God’s relation to the damned I have to give way to Edwards because he has such a firm grasp on the issue. I don’t know if anyone could ever say it better. I recommend reading the Justice of God in the damnation of sinners at the following link http://www.jonathan-edwards.org/Justice.html but here are some brief excerpts I pulled from it that could be helpful when thinking of how God takes “Pleasure” in all things he does. Edwards writes:
God is in debt to none; and if he gives to some that he is not in debt to, because it is his pleasure, that does not bring him into debt to others. It alters not the case as to you, whether others have it, or have it not: you do not deserve damnation the less, than if mercy never had been bestowed on any at all. Matthew 20:15. “Is thine eye evil, because mine is good?”
Edwards goes on to say
“It is meet that God should order all these things according to his own pleasure. By reason of his greatness and glory, by which he is infinitely above all, he is worthy to be sovereign, and that his pleasure should in all things take place.”
Deuteronomy 28:63 and Psalm 135:6-12 are pretty strong verses as well in regard to this question.
If I understand Edwards correctly (and the Bible as well) God does not take direct pleasure in the damnation of the sinner, nor does he work directly in the sinner to damn him as he does to save him. However, God does take pleasure in redemption and justice of sinners through his Son and is ultimately glorified in both.
This is where I think a covenant view of scripture gives us a clear perspective on redemption. It clearly is not about us as human beings as much as it is about the eternal covenant between God the Father and the Son. It only is about you in as much as Christ died for you and by that act of grace you can be saved. Saved from what? The damnation your sin places on you and the wrath of God it brings.
Christ did not come into the world to condemn it. Why? Because it is already condemned, but with Christ there is no condemnation. The question then seems wrongheaded from the start and should read Does God take pleasure in the salvation of the wicked? Thankfully we can answer yes, but not because of anything we do, but what Christ did for us.
Not too long ago there was a conversation between philosopher William Lane Craig and cognitive scientist and Atheist Michael Payton on the Michael Coren show. This was more like a round table discussion then a debate and allowed for more of a dialogue. I know that Payton never really had a chance here since he was really out of his league, but I wanted to post this specifically because it shows how Atheists have to twist themselves into a pretzel in order to rationalize themselves around God.
Most of the time it is the anti-intellectual Christian that gets put in front of the camera while people like Bill Maher take them apart. However when you sit in front of someone like Craig it becomes very clear that the Atheist can only produce attacks and questions against Theism and most of the time can’t even produce a clear argument against the existence of God.
As I finish a study on postmodernism it is all the more evident to me that even the most articulate and intelligent person is a victim of this dangerous but seemingly prevailing movement in our culture. When we as a people began to abandon God for humanism and reason in the enlightenment, and then followed that up with abandoning the pursuit of truth, we now find ourselves swimming in a sea of relativism that we will eventually drown in. There are certainly times where Payton seems like he is drowning in this discussion as he attempts to explain things like morality in his worldview where there is no object moral standard.
There is a new book out by a Pastor friend of mine named John Samson called Twelve What Abouts: Answering Common Objections Concerning God’s Sovereignty in Election. Now I don’t review a lot of books here, only the books that I have read and thought others can benefit from. The mature Christian reader who may be a Calvinist or Arminian might be asking themselves, “Why do I need to read another book on this topic when there are many out there that I have already read, and so many that I haven’t”? Likewise there might be others that feel they don’t understand a lot of the deep teachings of the Bible and shy away from what they see as complicated issues. Still others might say that this issue is not important in my walk with God and I will leave topics like this to the Theologians to fight over. Finally, you might just be someone who goes to church on Sunday and takes what is said on issues like these and doesn’t question it, or sadly, maybe you go to church and topics like this are not even brought up. Well if this fits you, or if there are other reason why you think you don’t want to read a book on this topic such as you don’t have time etc. I encourage you to pick this one up and read it.
Let me tell you a little about the book and myself, then I will make the case for the above statement. Pastor Samson comes from a background much like mine although he is from England and I was born here in America. He was raised in church as was I and our early church experiences were very similar. We even both dreamed of becoming professional soccer players. Yes I call it soccer, and even John does now, leaving the language of his mother country behind where they call it “football”, which seems like a much better term for the game myself, but I digress.
Being raised in church John and I were subjected to many church traditions. We had a good understanding of the Bible and like many others thought that what was presented was not only the truth, but that there was no other interpretation or truth that was a Biblical option. Personally, I had questions about things such as premillennial dispensationalism back then, even though I didn’t know those terms, as well as the creation account and others. Most of the people in my church had no idea what to say about these issues, and they were rarely talked about. In my own mind I thought I knew the basics but was confused on many items that there seemed to be no answers to and this did not sit well with me.
One day, as John explains, he was challenged with Biblical truth that for the first time in years made him question his traditions and gave answers to some of the more difficult questions. For me there was a time I backed away from my set of traditions and went on a journey to find the truth and the answers that had evaded me up to that point. Both of us ended up in the same place after years of searching and study.
From that perspective, John has written a book confronting some of these question regarding election. Sure they are common topics that have been dealt with before such as free will, predestination, the foreknowledge of God, and reprobation, but typically they are found in difficult to read theologically based books with hundreds of pages and big words. The motivation behind the other books also differs in that they might be technical in nature, or simply written to prove that one side is right while the other is wrong. This is a very concise book with very short chapters, and while there might be some words the reader is not familiar with from time to time, Pastor Samson tries to explain them so they can be understood. He drives right at the verses in question and attempts to use sound exegesis in a fair and Biblical manner without getting too lengthy or theologically deep.
The best thing about the book though is the motivation behind it. Pastor Samson explains his personal story and how he arrived at the place where he was sent on a “surprising journey”. Unlike me, John didn’t purposely set out on his journey because of problems he had with his traditions and questions about his beliefs. In fact he was a preacher and felt quite comfortable with where he was. However once he understood the truth of scripture clearly the Bible blossomed like never before, and he saw just how much he had missed given the box of traditions that had in a way put up barriers to his knowledge and understanding of scripture.
Now he wants to share some of those things with you. Not because he wants to win an argument, but because he wants you to experience the power of the Gospel and God’s word in a more powerful way that he, by God’s grace, has been able to. The best part is that he does it in a way that is easy to read and has a personal touch where he reaches out to the reader in a way that is not found in other books on the topic. However, just because it is easy to read and short does not mean that it is short on doctrine and Biblical passages. These are found on nearly every page as John attempts to stay as close to the original languages as he can and interpret scripture with scripture.
I challenge and encourage you to take a short time and read this book while trying your best to put your traditional views aside and keep an open mind. You may be surprised at where it takes you, and be careful, you might find yourself starting down a journey that John and I have been on for many years that regardless of where you ultimately end up, will most definitely result in you growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord which is what all of us are to do.
For those of you that like this book, or actually prefer a more in depth study of issues like these I recommend The Potters Freedom by Dr. James White from which Pastor Samson quotes from time to time in this book.