Division Begins With the Departure from the Truth

Jared Wilson: Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet? — Amos 3:3 Christians who affirm the normative, traditional, historical, orthodox view of the Bible’s teaching on various sins are always accused of being divisive when in sticking to their affirmations they must disassociate with those who don’t. It’s a disingenuous claim, however, since unity could have been preserved so long as the agreement did. But when one changes a mind on such matters, the division has begun with them (1 Cor. 1:10), not the one who says, “Ah, you’ve changed the rules; you’ve changed the agreement.” It would be like the adulterer calling after his wife as she’s walking out the door in anger and shame that she’s being divisive. The person who objects is often told they are “singling out” this particular sin as over-important, as more important than unity! But it is not those who protest who are singling out particular sins. It is those

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How to Become a Heretic

Mike Leake: Heretics usually fall into the role. Seldom does a man wake up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, read the morning newspaper, put on his clothes, and then stare himself in the mirror and say “Today, I shall become a heretic”. Heretics usually start by staring in the mirror and saying, “Today, I shall be a difference maker”. Consider Sabellius. Sabellius became what is now known as a modalist. He was deeply concerned with maintaining the biblical truth that God is one. He also wanted to maintain the biblical truth that Christ was fully God. These two truths seemed to Sabellius to be neglected. And so he re-emphasized those truths but whilst doing so neglected another important truth; namely, that God is three distinct Persons. Tertullian responded to the modalists by clearly showing how Scripture presents “one substance consisting in three persons”. But Sabellius was unmoved in his position. He would eventually be condemned as a

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5 Things to Remember When It Comes to Church Size

Chad Hall: I have had the privilege to serve as a coach to pastors for over 15 years, and I’ve noticed that it does not take long in the coaching relationship for the topic of church size to come up. I’ve also noticed that some pastors approach church growth with health and wholeness while others struggle with (and because of) church size.  If you are a pastor, church planter, or key leader, you need a healthy and theologically sound attitude for dealing with church growth, size, and numbers.  To help you develop such an attitude, here are five things to recognize when it comes to church size. Growth is not the only good.  Some church leaders lack a biblical imagination that would allow them to envision a purpose for their church other than growth.  Making growth (or big) synonymous with good is a recipe for disaster because it prevents good from being a higher value than growth.  Granted, big and good are not opposites, but

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What are the most dangerous threats to the gospel today?

9Marks: It’s impossible to answer what’s “most” dangerous to the gospel today without God’s knowledge of everything. But here are some prominent threats that loom on the horizon: The prosperity “gospel.” The belief that the gospel is about God making us rich is a lie. Jesus came to save us from sin and reconcile us to God (Rom. 5:10-11; 1 Pet. 3:18), giving us every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3) and promising us suffering in this life and glory in the next (Acts 14:22, Rom. 8:18). The attack on penal, substitutionary atonement. Many people reject the idea that on the cross God punished Jesus for the sins of his people. But to reject this is to reject the heart of the gospel itself (Rom. 3:21-26). The rejection of the wrath of God. People today are extremely uncomfortable with the idea of a holy God who will punish sin. But if we reject the wrath of God we lie to ourselves about the fundamental problem the gospel

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Counterfeit Gospels

My thanks to Matthew Lee Anderson for this: Trevin Wax has solidified his role as one of the Christian blogging community’s most insightful writers and one of the leaders of a new crop of young writers who are working to clearly and confidently articulate the shape of the gospel over and against the challenges of contemporary substitutes. Trevin’s new book, Counterfeit Gospels, is a helpful contribution that does precisely that.  Trevin has a great ability as a writer to make complex ideas accessible in an easygoing way.  It is thoughtful, careful engagement with alternatives that is pastorally and spiritually helpful without watering down any of the substance.  Trevin takes on the lack of judgment, moralism, a therapeutic gospel–and, in a section which I particularly appreciated–takes on quietist notions of the gospel that strip away any of the social or political ramifications of it (yes, even those).  But I’ll let him tell you that: Here’s my formal endorsement:  “Trevin Wax has done

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Christ Alone – Michael Wittmer’s Response to “Love Wins”

From Trevin Wax: Mike Wittmer has done evangelicals a great service. He has penned an easy-to-read, thoughtful, and charitable response to Rob Bell’s controversial book, Love Wins. Wittmer is a professor at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and has written books like Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus Is Not Enough and Heaven Is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God. This new book, Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins, is a tour-de-force, brilliant in its critique and gracious in its tone. I’ve always admired Mike Wittmer’s willingness to genuinely listen to the questions and concerns coming from people of differing theological persuasions. When the Emerging Church discussion was taking place, Wittmer readily admitted weaknesses and errors within evangelical theology that need to be corrected. But he never veered from his reliance on the authoritativeness of Scripture and the centrality of the gospel. So now, Wittmer enters into the fierce debate over Love Wins in order to express

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Quote of the day

“The Emerging Church is not an evangelistic strategy. It is the last rung for evangelicals falling off the ladder into liberalism or unbelief.” Kevin DeYoung This quote is taken from Kevin DeYoung’s excellent review of Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. You can read the review here. Note: This post is long. You can go here for a PDF version of the 20-page review.

What Is Universalism?

J. I. Packer: A universalist is someone who believes that every human being whom God has created or will create will finally come to enjoy the everlasting salvation into which Christians enter here and now. Universalism is the recognized name for this belief. . . . Among Christian theological options it appears as an extreme optimism of grace, or perhaps of nature, and sometimes, it seems, or both. But in itself it is a revisionist challenge to orthodoxy, whether Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant evangelical; for the church has officially rated universalism a heresy ever since the second Council of Constantinople (the fifth ecumenical council, A.D. 553), when the doctrine of apokatastasis (the universal return to God and restoration of all souls) that Origen taught was anathematized. —J. I. Packer, “Universalism: Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved? in Hell Under Fire, ed. Morgan and Peterson (Zondervan, 2004), p. 170. For audio of Packer teaching about hell—including a refutation of the idea that the Greek

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Universal Reconciliation and The Shack

From Tim Challies’s review of Professor James De Young’s book-length review, entitledBurning Down the Shack: James De Young writes from an interesting perspective—that of a former friend, or acquaintance at least, of Paul Young. He begins his book by providing some important but little-known background to The Shack. In April of 2004 De Young attended a Christian think tank and there Young presented a 103-page paper which presented a defense of universal reconciliation, a Christian form of universalism—the view that at some point every person will come to a right relationship with God. If they do not do this before they die, God will use the fires of hell to purge away (not punish, mind you) any unbelief. Eventually even Satan and his fallen angels will be purged of sin and all of creation will be fully and finally restored. This is to say that after death there is a second chance, and more than that, a complete inevitability, that all people

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God without truth!

From Nathan Heller’s Slate.com article, “Why We Love The Shack” (June 3, 2010): When every publisher turned down the book in its current form, [William] Young and some friends founded their own firm, Windblown Media, to fill what they considered “a big hole” in publishing: Although there were “religious” books and “secular” books, they thought, there were no titles in the middle ground, no “spiritual” novels that cast God as a path to happiness without serving up dogma. The Shack is just that book, and its success proves not how much this country loves religion but how far from mainstream faith the nation’s aspirations have shifted (emphasis added). O, for The Courage to Be Protestant in our day. (HT: Mike Pohlman)

The Horror of False Teaching

This is an important piece from ANTHONY CARTER at The Gospel Coalition Blog: The most harmful and deadliest export that America is giving to Africa is the Prosperity Gospel in the hands of Neo-pentecostals. They claim it is the gospel, but it is no gospel at all. Taking their cues from the folly of prosperity preachers in the U.S., those self-proclaimed preachers in Africa (in particular Nigeria) are taking the prosperity message to its horrific and sadly inevitable ends. Like their American examples, they are promising wealth and prestige in place of Christ. One church has the motto: “Poverty must catch fire!” One church promises: “Where little shots become big shots in a short time.” Still another says, “Pray your way to riches.” Yet if this was the only horror, it would be tragic enough. However, such prosperity preaching is also accompanied by a rampant, unbiblical, and destructive neo-pentecostalism that is destroying lives, especially those of children. Out of control preachers

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Hug me, I’m a false apostle

We cannot simply assume that we have the gospel. Unless we keep the gospel at the center of the church, we are always in danger of shoving it off to one side and letting something else take its place. Martin Luther rightly warned that “there is a clear and present danger that the devil may take away from us the pure doctrine of faith and may substitute for it the doctrines of works and of human traditions…” The good news of the cross and resurrection must be preached, believed, and lived. Otherwise it will be lost. The church’s greatest danger is not the anti-gospel outside the church; it is the counterfeit gospel inside the church. The Judaizers did not walk around Pisidian Antioch wearing T-shirts that said, “Hug me, I’m a false apostle. What made them so dangerous was that they knew how to talk the way that Christians talk. They used all the right terminology. They talked about how

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Avoiding the Despair Inherrant in Open Theism

From Adrian Warnock: The Lord gives life and he takes life. He is God, and this is his prerogative. But, his ways are always righteous. So, his taking of these lives must be seen as fulfilling good purposes to which we may not, at this time and perhaps throughout all of life, be aware. But do we trust his character? Do we know God for who he is? Can we say, with Job, “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21) Conclusion One of open theism’s strongest appeals is its claim to account for tragic human suffering in such a way that God is both blameless and caring. On the surface, this appeal appears strong. Upon examination, however, it is clear that open theism’s counsel is unbiblical, incoherent, and shallow. It is unbiblical insofar as it fails to account for the prevailing biblical vision of the God who reigns

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Does God hate the sin but love the sinner?

“The cliché, God hates the sin but love the sinner, is false on the face of it and should be abandoned. Fourteen times in the first fifty Psalms alone, we are told that God hates the sinner, His wrath is on the liar, and so forth. In the Bible, the wrath of God rests both on the sin (Romans 1:18ff) and on the sinner (John 3:36).” -D.A. Carson The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, Crossway, 2000, p. 70. (HT: Reformed Voices)

Revisiting The Shack

John Fonville posts this excellent review. I am amazed at how many Christians are singing the praises of ‘The Shack’. A sign of our biblically-ignorant, and doctrine-depreciating times? For further important critiques of this misleading book, check out articles by Paul Grimmond and Tim Challies. This is an abreviated version of a longer review (9 pages) by Dr. DeYoung. For those who would like to read the longer review, click here: Revisiting The Shack and Universal Reconciliation. Revisiting The Shack and Universal Reconciliation James B. De Young October, 2008 Seldom does one have the opportunity to review a work of fiction written by a friend that has risen to the top of best seller lists. Recently The Shack has been approaching sales of three million or more. There is talk about making a movie of the book. What is so unusual about this success is not only that the novel is ostensibly a Christian work of fiction but that it also

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Got Repentance?

Most people lack true repentance. They lack the true contrition, the true brokenness. They are void of urgent desperation. They don’t have a true relationship to Jesus Christ. They just “hang around” Jesus… And they do not know what it means to bow to that which is eternal. To be concerned about that. They want a gospel that doesn’t ask for repentance. They want a gospel that has no threats. They want a gospel that allows them to have some superficial attachment to Jesus, but not a bowing to His absolute sovereignty at any cost. They want a gospel that fixes them in this world to make them more comfortable. That’s not it. And that’s not what Jesus offers. —John MacArthur (HT: Christian Research Net)

When the church goes the world’s way!

“Sadly, this is not the church’s finest hour. We live in an age of weak theology and casual Christian conduct. Our knowledge is insufficient, our worship is irreverent, and our lives are immoral. Even the evangelical church has succumbed to the spirit of this age… “Perhaps the simplest way to say this is that evangelicalism has become worldly. This can be demonstrated by comparing it with yesterday’s liberalism. What was once said of liberal churches must now be said of evangelical churches: they seek the world’s wisdom, believe the world’s theology; follow the world’s agenda, and adopt the world’s methods. According to the standard’s of worldly wisdom, the Bible is unable to meet the demands of life in these postmodern times. “By itself, God’s Word is insufficient to win people to Christ, promote spiritual growth, provide practical guidance, or transform society. So churches supplement the plain teaching of Scripture with entertainment, group therapy, political activism, signs and wonders—anything that promises

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5 areas that Liberal theology corrupts

Liberalism: Ancient and Post-Modern 1. In relation to the church Even though its ideas originate outside the church, it seeks to remain within the church even as it actively redefines the faith. Even though it is antithetical to historic orthodoxy it entrenches itself in the church by accusing opponents of not displaying the Christian virtues of love, peace and a concern for unity. It confuses the priorities of churches by attacking the weak point of a perceived lack of love, whilst showing no love for the Church or world by perverting the gospel. 2. In relation to the truth It quickly kills essential doctrinal affirmations but avoids detection by the use of pietistic language and behaviour. Even though decisive steps are taken to destroy orthodoxy, the effect of those decisions are revealed through a slow process of decay because they are masked by pseudo-piety. It claims to be intellectually honest but is anything but when it comes to occupying teaching

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