Friday, August 31, 2007

An evening with Hank Hanegraaff

Last night I joined a couple hundred people at First Evangelical Free Church in Manchester, Mo., to hear and meet Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man and president of the Christian Research Institute. Hank, as he’s usually called, is known by millions of Christians as a man with answers and a lion of the faith. He has a passion for the word of God that is rarely equaled in this age.

He’s made a lot of enemies within the faith because he practices what he preaches: Hank tests everything others preach in light of scripture. And quite often, what others preach is found wanting. Word-of-faith preachers, faith healers, end-times apocalyptics, slain-in-the-Spirit babblers and pure heretics and apostates have all come under criticism from Hank and CRI, and consequently, he is hated and persecuted and told he is going to hell.

There’s too much for me to talk about in a simple blog post, so you’d have to tune in to his Bible Answer Man radio broadcast or go to to learn more. I didn’t have time to stand in line to actually meet him and get his autograph, but I did get a halfway decent picture or two. (They're a little blurry, though.)

Last night, Hank hit on one major, overriding theme: Christians MUST know scripture and must have “a ready defense” for their faith. Otherwise, they fall for the fads of the heretics and apostates, or have no answers for the attacks of the scoffers like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens.

“Jesus had an extraordinarily high view of scripture,” said Hank, “but in our culture, it is seriously and continually being challenged.”

For example, Hank described militant agnostic Bart D. Ehrman, in Misquoting Jesus, pointing to the passage in Mark 4 where Jesus Christ uses the parable of the mustard seed to describe how the church will go from the smallest speck to spread far and wide. Here’s the passage:

Again he said, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade."
Ehrman takes this passage and twists it to make the ridiculous claim that Jesus couldn’t possibly be God because God would know that the mustard seed is not the smallest seed. Well, DUH! That wasn’t Jesus’ point. The smallest seed that a 1st century farmer in Palestine would know of was the mustard seed, and Jesus Christ would naturally use the most common frame of reference. What’s more, He was using an analogy to illustrate how the church would start tiny, like the mustard seed, and grow to immense proportions, like the full-grown mustard tree.

Hank’s point was to demonstrate that Christians can easily shut down such objections and criticisms but only if we read and study the Bible for all that it is worth. We need to know who, what, when, where, how and why. We need to know context. We need to know history.

We need to be able to demonstrate, with confidence, that the Bible is divine, not human, in origin. Keep in mind, Hank says, that God supernaturally preserved the Bible. The manuscript evidence has proven conclusively that there are differences in style and spelling between various ancient copies, but absolutely no differences in substance. Any mistakes we have today are errors in modern translations.

I’ll talk more in-depth about that another time. But Hank, as some may know, is not a believer in the popular view of the end times that has gripped much of the evangelical church. My understanding is mostly in line with his, and this is yet another area where Christians really need to study their Bible for all that it is worth—and do so without today’s headlines in mind. I know many Christians hold to the end times scenario promoted by many leading evangelicals, including John MacArthur, but I am increasingly convinced that it comes from a fundamental misreading of scripture. I’m preparing a series of posts to that effect, but I’ll just use Hank’s example from last night that illustrates holding to a high standard of reading the Bible for all that it’s worth.

A frequent example the atheist scoffers cite to disclaim the deity of Jesus Christ is His description of the description of Jerusalem in Matthew 24. If that chapter speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem with all of the horrible things accompanying it, AND the “Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn” and “they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” AND “this generation will not pass away until all of these things have happened,” the scoffers claim that Jesus is a false prophet. Why? They say that Jesus did not return as He promised before “this generation” died, so therefore He is not God.

Latter-day Christians have compounded the problem by taking that passage, and combining it with other passages from Revelation and Daniel, to say that the entire chapter applies to the Second Coming.

Neither reading is correct, says Hank, and I totally agree. Jesus was forecasting the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and was using apocalyptic metaphors to describe the coming judgment upon the current generation because it was rejecting and would reject Him, the messiah. The Lord, says Hank, was employing the same kind of language that the Old Testament prophets used when prophesying judgment upon Israel, peoples and nations. Why would the Lord speak any differently than His own prophets?

Hank argues that Christians need to understand what kind of language is being used, and recognize when Jesus is speaking literally and speaking with prophetic hyperbole. I totally agree. While I don’t believe that end times debates are something to divide over (Hank says this is one of the things to debate over within the pale of orthodoxy, and not divide over) it is something that needs serious re-evaluation within evangelical circles.

So, anyway, there are more things that he said that I’ll save for another time. To sum: Christians must read scripture for all that it’s worth. If they do that, they’ll be much better “prepared to give and answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bible Answer Man Coming to St. Louis

This coming Thursday (Aug. 30) I’ll get a chance to meet Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man himself and president of the Christian Research Institute. Hank will be appearing at First Evangelical Free Church in St. Louis County. I’ll post what he talks about later.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Teens need the gospel message, and the GOSPEL Journey can help

The first time I met Greg Stier, I thought he was energetic, full of passion for teenagers, and the type of person I wished I was. The green goblin of envy grew strong in me. If only I could talk like him! If only I had his passion and drive! Then I really listened to him speak, and realized I didn’t need to be Greg Steir. I already had some of what he had: a desire that the teens that I knew would not slip and fall when they went to college, just as I had.

That was in 2003, and I’ve been plugging in to Greg’s
Dare2Share organization ever since. Dare2Share is a parachurch group that teaches high school kids how to share their faith and hold on to their faith after they leave home for college or wherever. It’s a beautiful ministry, especially considering that more than 50% of kids “lose” their faith after leaving home. Some never had it, some let it wane, some get snatched by the Evil One, some stay silent while in the lion’s den, and some flourish—just like the Lord Himself describes in Matthew 13.

It’s so critically important for today’s Christian youth to hear the gospel message and learn how to share it—especially considering the sobering reality that many churches today don’t even preach the gospel message! Many churches are more concerned with the moment, more concerned with feeling good in the here and now and forcing Christ to conform to this culture than preaching His good news. It is tragic that some denominations are changing the word of God to fit their comforts on this world instead of preaching Christ crucified for our sins.

And teens, who are been fed moral relativistic garbage from TV, the web, music, school and their peers, don’t need to get ambiguous and watered-down, feel-good gobbledygook from their church, too. They need to hear the gospel, whether they believe yet or not—and they need to hear it repeatedly.

That’s why I love D2S. While we might not agree on everything, I love the fact that Greg and his troupe boldly and consistently preach the gospel and teach teens how to do it as well in a simple, effective way.

Greg presents a fascinating and handy way to present the gospel message in a short time.
Using the acronym GOSPEL, you can actually explain the gospel and take someone through the entire Bible in about 2 minutes. The GOSPEL Journey goes like this:

G: God created us to be with Him (Genesis 1-2)

O: Our sin, however, separates us from God. (Genesis 3) (And everyone is a sinner. If you, I, or anyone else were in Adam and Eve’s situation, we would have done the same thing: disobeyed God.)

S: Sin cannot be erased by good deeds. Meaning, you cannot ever get to heaven and be with God by merely being a “good” person. (Genesis 4 – Malachi 4)

P: Paying the price for our sins, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the second part of the Holy Trinity, died on a cross. (Matthew 1 – Luke 24)

E: Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ will have eternal life; there is no other name given by which humanity can be saved. (John 1 – Jude)

L: Life eternal means everyone who believes in Jesus Christ will be with Him forever, for all eternity. (Revelation)

And there you have the gospel message in an easy-to-use format, which can lead to a life-changing conversation.

(Funny story: The GOSPEL journey is more of a conversation piece than anything else. I’ve used it before. Most recently, I was riding the train home and heard what sounded like two Muslim men deep in a loud discussion about faith. You could hardly miss the fact that they were talking. I was actually reviewing Greg’s book Dare 2 Share and I thought, “Perfect opportunity!” I waited for a time to butt in, but was soon glad I kept my trap shut. The men weren’t talking about faith; the noise of the train confused my ears. Instead, the older man was instructing the younger one about electrical power distribution boxes! You can be bold, but use your head…and clean the wax out of your ears.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The “politics” of the beatitudes

Tod Lindberg, a Fellow of the Hoover Institute, is the latest in a long line of people attempting to explain the politics of Jesus and his “social revolution.” Evangelical Outpost links to an excerpt from Lindberg’s new book, The Political Teachings of Jesus, which appears to be an attempt to create a “sophisticated portrait of Jesus as a teacher of unique insight and perception, one whose political views have transcended time and become essential to the way everyone lives in our society,” says the book's publisher. “In an era when people on both sides of the aisle are prone to using Jesus’s beliefs for their own ends, The Political Teachings of Jesus is a refreshingly clear-eyed take on our shared concepts of government and society—and their common roots between the covers of the New Testament.”

I read the excerpt that Evangelical Outpost pointed to, and I wasn’t impressed. Sinner that I am, even I recognized that Mr. Lindberg just wasn’t getting what Jesus Christ was talking about. If you keep in mind that when Christ walked the earth He was about His Father’s business, the beatitudes make much more sense.

Lindberg writes:

The Beatitudes provide a dizzying commentary designed to turn upside down the political and social world of the Roman Empire of Caesar Augustus and of the Jewish religious elite of Judea and Jerusalem. This is the opening move of a more drastic and fundamental reassessment of political and social affairs, applying not only to its own time but to all future times, down to our day. More still: It points to the increasing fulfillment in this world of the promise of the human condition as such — and of the struggle against vast and daunting but not insurmountable obstacles that such fulfillment will require.
Well, sure--if you think Jesus wasn't at all concerned about our salvation and came merely to start a revolution. Lindberg seems to think that the beatitudes concern a conflict of sorts between the mighty and privileged versus the humble or gentle. He calls it the “Jesusian” political philosophy, whereby people should live by the guidelines Jesus laid out. It’s hard to distill in a few sentences what he says, so you’d have to read the whole thing. But in the end, he really just doesn’t understand. Here’s his conclusion:

In the world, we will always have among us those in mourning and the gentle; we will always have need of those who desire righteousness, of those who are merciful, of those who act out of pure intentions, and of those who seek peace. But if or when the world is organized in accordance with the principles embedded in the lives of those Jesus here deems “blessed,” we will no longer have the persecuted and the unvalued, nor their persecutors and tormentors. The Jesusian political agenda is thus organized around the pursuit of righteousness by those who are able — at potential risk to their own lives — for the sake of a world in which the unvalued (including they themselves when they are persecuted) are at last fully valued as human beings.

How, then, does Jesus envision that the gentle will come to inherit the earth? Because the once-mighty, under pressure of precisely this kind, will die out as a type. They will change their minds about defending their privileges at the expense of others. And the world will be their dying bequest to the gentle.
OK, now, let’s talk about what they really mean. First off, you need to understand that the beatitudes have NOTHING to do with politics and everything to do with getting the sinner—us—right with God. If you think “blessed are the poor” and “blessed are the peacemakers” are political statements, then you are no different than the Jews who sought to crown Jesus king to drive off the Romans and re-establish the kingdom of Israel.

Let’s go through them (Matthew 5):

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” That passage has nothing to do with material want. It is concerned solely with spiritual want. The “poor in spirit” are those who are so crushed by the weight of their sins that they finally are turned to Jesus, and hence to the Father. That keeps with the theme of the rest of the Beatitudes, which concern spiritual matters, not physical or material matters.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” The mourning is not for their material condition, or grief from death or other kind of earthly loss, as Lindberg thinks it is. It is mourning over sin and the realization that the sinner’s actions have separated him from God. It is mourning over what he has become—and his comforting will come from God, because the sinner has finally turned to God. It is the kind of sorrow that leads to repentance.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Meek is not “gentle” as Lindberg says: “They walk softly upon the earth, seeking to impose themselves on others as little as possible. They see to their obligations as best they can, but they take nothing from others and ask for nothing from them for themselves. They are satisfied with what they have, however meager it may be. They do not strive, but accept their circumstances.” Well, not quite. Meek is what Jesus was: submitting to the Father while standing upright for truth. And Jesus certainly imposed Himself on others—witness what He did when He twice drove the money-changers from the Temple! A meek man is a man who stands tall for the gospel and kneels before God. A meek man is a man who humbles himself before God. A meek man is the man who would be first by being last. A meek man challenges kings and the powerful with the gospel of truth. He is humble, but no weakling who never makes waves. He is a man who knows that he is filthy and God is holy—and his reward for serving God will be eternal life.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Lindberg thinks Jesus is abruptly switching tracks here and switching from the physical to the metaphysical, and that people are searching for some metaphysical or primordial thing that they themselves can’t quench, so they must seek “something outside themselves.” Lindberg says it’s a universal desire, that everyone seeks it—and only everyone’s desire for righteousness can be satisfied as long as everyone plays nice. Lindberg also claims Jesus makes a distinction that not everyone should thirst for his own righteousness.

What nonsense.

What Jesus was saying is that the sinner is blessed for seeking the righteousness that only comes from Jesus Christ. It is a foreign righteousness that covers our filthy sins and allows us to enter God’s holy presence. This has to do with seeking God, not others. Only those who seek the righteousness of Christ will be filled.

John MacArthur, in The Quest for Character, writes that (p27) “If your heart is dead and spiritually lifeless, you cannot by a sheer act of human will summon an appetite for true righteousness. Scripture says, “the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8)

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” This is the only one Lindberg approaches getting right—sort of. However, “don’t kick someone when he’s down,” as Lindberg says, is not quite the point. Rather, it has to do with God’s forgiveness. If you expect forgiveness from God for your sins but you never forgive a contrite heart, then God will not forgive your contrite heart.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Says Lindberg: “Such people will act out of no bad motive, but always in accordance with the purity of rightness within them. Uncorrupted inwardly, the pure in heart will act toward others without corruption, since it would not occur to such a person to cheat a friend or steal from a stranger or tell a lie.”

Uh…Who are the pure at heart? The beatitudes build upon one another and are completely interconnected. The “pure at heart” can only be those who have been crushed in their spirit, turned to Christ, confessed their sins and accepted/drank from the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Only t hen can we enter into the presence of t he Father. Yes, yes, there are plenty of “good” people throughout the world who don’t lie, cheat or steal. That isn’t the point here. Lindberg’s interpretation, however, is NOT what Jesus meant.

To enter heaven, to enter His holy presence, we have to be pure. And because not one of us is worthy, we have to accept the sacrifice of Jesus, because there is “no other name given under which we might be saved.”

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” This is not concerned with anti-war, or being peaceful with one another, no matter how much liberals or anyone else wants it to be. The “peacemakers” are ones who have been reformed by the Holy Spirit, are cloaked by the righteousness of Jesus Christ and are at peace with God instead of being in rebellion against Him. That is why they can be called sons of God—and not because they oppose a war or are nice to one another!

Otherwise, “everyone” would be called a son of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Righteousness is not, as Lindberg claims, persecution for doing what is “right.” It is persecution for standing for Jesus Christ. Elsewhere, Jesus says, “the world hates you because it hated me first.” It is being persecuted falsely for standing for Christ’s truths.

Says Lindberg: “Jesus promises possession of “the kingdom of heaven” to those in two of his categories: the poor in spirit and those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness. As for those who run afoul of the overlords because they are following his teaching, he says “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Really? So people who merely follow his sayings but don’t believe in Him as Lord, Savior and God will inherit the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus actually laid out two categories of people? Where? In Lindberg’s mind? It is not possible for someone to not be poor in spirit according to how Christ means it yet be persecuted for His sake. One cannot exist without the other.

The two categories of people that Jesus Christ really talked about were not according to Lindberg’s “Jesusian political philosophy.” Rather, He said there are wheat and chaff, sheep and goats, believers and unbelievers.

In sum, Lindberg’s political interpretation of the beatitudes is extremely lacking. In attempting to wrest Jesus from political abuses from both ends of the political spectrum, he seems to have managed to leave out the most salient part: that Jesus came not to start a revolution, but to complete a mission. He was about His Father’s business, not revolutionizing a new way of life.

(Note: Luke presents a slightly different version of the beatitudes in his gospel (for example, Luke writes: “blessed are the poor” instead of “blessed are the poor in spirit”), but it is possible that Jesus was speaking on another occasion. John MacArthur writes in his study Bible that more than likely the disparities originate in the differences between in the audiences that Matthew and Luke were writing to, and the differences in the translations of the writing styles of Matthew and Luke into Greek. – note on Luke 6:17-49)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Real intolerance; or, why the offensive gospel must be preached

The world, which is continually hostile to Christ and His message, is currently preaching that all religions are merely different paths to the same God. But Christ’s claim to deity is unique and proven, and Christians need to stand fast under the assault of the evil one who uses the world’s religions to undermine the one true faith. There can never be reconciliation between Christianity and other faiths, because the only way to salvation is through God’s grace by faith in Jesus Christ alone.

But the gospel of Christ, indeed Christ Himself, is exclusive: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” He said. That is the most “intolerant” statement ever made, according to the new definition of tolerance, which, I guess, makes Jesus a totally intolerant God.

And He is, because God, who is holy (e.g., perfect in every way), cannot countenance sin. He cannot tolerate it in His presence, which is why we cannot earn our way into heaven, or bargain our way, or be “good enough” or please God enough to get into heaven. Only Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the shedding of innocent divine sacrificial blood to atone for the sins of all mankind, makes it possible for us to enter heaven.

The Father sacrificing His only Son in the supreme act of love takes our filthy rags of sin and replaces them with cloaks of righteousness. In other words, our sins are washed away, covered by Christ. This happens only for those who have accepted the sacrifice and repented of our sins and turned toward the only true God. (Yes, Jesus died for all and carried all sins on His shoulders, but only a relative few accept Him as Lord and Savior.)

It is only this heavenly cleansing, this cloaking of a foreign righteousness (Jesus Christ’s) that permits us to enter into God’s holy (perfect) presence in His heavenly kingdom.

So, yes, God is intolerant. So be it.

But step inside many Christian churches today, and you never hear this message. You never hear the exclusive claim of Christ. You never hear “one way” and “the narrow road” proclaimed. Instead, you get “seeker sensitive” messages with a watered-down gospel message designed not to offend people coming in the door for the first time.

And that’s not what God commands us to do. “Preach the word,” Paul wrote to Timothy. When a Christian preacher preaches, he’s supposed to preach Jesus Christ. As Paul writes to Timothy in his second letter to the young man, he first reminds him that “all scripture is God-breathed” (which includes Paul’s letters) and then he says (chapter 4):

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (NIV)

And what is “the word”? The gospel of Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

What is an Apostate?

(Originally published at J’s Café Nette on July 14, 2007)

An Episcopal priest claims to be both Christian and Muslim — but the Bible says she can’t be

What is an apostate? He or she is someone who becomes a Christian by hearing and believing the truth, then ultimately rejects it—but still walks, talks and acts like a Christian.

Identifying and calling out apostates today is not an easy thing to do. You are called intolerant, a “heretic hunter” and worse. Your concern for the truth is dismissed as divisive, and your efforts are not welcome in the “enlightened” church of the 21st century.

It’s nothing new.

I was prompted to write this when I heard about an Episcopal from Seattle named Ann Holmes Redding, who claimed last month that she is now both a Christian priest and a practicing Muslim. She claims that, since becoming Muslim while remaining Christian, “I have been, by my own estimation, a better teacher, a better preacher and a better Christian.”

What she claims is utterly impossible in the eyes of God. She is either an apostate or someone who never had the truth to begin with. But to call her out on her massive error is to invite attacks of “bigot,” “intolerance” and worse.

But first: what is “the truth?” That Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, is the only begotten son of God, and that His sacrifice on the cross was and is sufficient for the total remission of sins for those who believe in Him. The truth is that scripture is unerring and sufficient. The truth is that there are no new “truths” to be discovered in God’s word, and that the message that has already been revealed to us is IT.

But today, if you say that and boldly proclaim it, you’re in a hated minority.

And that, too, is nothing new. During Israel’s kingdom period, the prophet Jeremiah often felt as if he were the last true believer among all the people. And the people themselves ignored the repeated warnings of God’s prophets until it was too late, and they were swept to 70 years of captivity in Babylon. During Christ’s time on earth, the Lord repeatedly told the truth about Himself to the Pharisees, but they were so wrapped in their own religion and their own misunderstanding of what they had been given, that they refused to see the Messiah standing right before them!

All of the authors of the New Testament missives warn of apostates in the newly established churches, but none are so pointed as Jude. Jude was a son of Mary and Joseph, making him, along with James, a half-brother of Jesus in His earthly incarnation. Jude urged Christians to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What does this mean? That people who would pervert Christianity and turn it from the truth are being accepted as Christians, but what they’re preaching is poison—and they have to be stopped. Stopped being accepted as teachers and stopped being listened to. “Marked out for condemnation” means that God Himself will deal with them.

And who are some of these apostates? They are leaders of many mainstream denominations who think that they can change the word of God to mean whatever they want it to mean. They are people who think that what was written 2,000 years ago just isn’t hip enough for today, so the truth of Christ needs to be downplayed, even set aside, lest people get scared away from church. They are people who preach feel-good nonsense about getting rich, who claim to be miracle makers, and who try to conform Christ to popular culture instead of conforming themselves to Christ. These are people who reject authority—God’s authority—but still call themselves Christian. The popular Emerging Church movement definitely has problems with apostasy, because its leadership, especially its founder, throws out all doctrine. That movement has troubles because it essentially boils its message down to “Jesus loves you; isn’t that enough?” No, it isn’t. If it were as simple as that, everyone in the world would be Christian.

If you want to get an understanding of just how bad things are getting, and how apostates can so easily mislead people today, try this: compare a sermon of today from any “mainstream” church to one from the same church 50 or 100 years ago. What’s the topic today? Christ crucified for our sins—or your self esteem? Christ glorified—or being “slain in the spirit?” Christ the redeemer—or the “social gospel” of a political party? Try comparing Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” sermon to one by Joel Osteen or one of the other masters of a megachurch. (I don’t know if Osteen is an apostate, but his sermons are light on substance and heavy on fluff.)

Why, then, is doctrine so important? Doesn’t it just limit people? Isn’t there enough Christ to go around for all of us? Doesn’t it cramp the style of a dynamic fresh leader in the church? Don’t ideas from 2,000 years ago just not apply to today? Aren’t they woefully out of date and don’t fit with today’s hip, secularized American culture? Isn’t Christ open to interpretation from one generation to the next? Shouldn’t those concerned with doctrine just lighten up?

Tell that to Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude.

The “lighten up” mentality puts little faith in God. Would not God hand His word down for all time? Would He not give us the means to deal, on a basic level, with all situations? Would He not reveal His entire plan for redemption? To act as if God’s word as handed to us through His scriptures is anything less than adequate for our needs is, frankly, telling God that He isn’t perfect, isn’t adequate, isn’t up to the task, isn’t all-loving, all-knowing and all-providing.
Again, this is nothing new. The means for apostasy may have changed, but the intent hasn’t.

Ultimately, it places man before God. It places the human ego before God.

Thanks for reading.

The Gospel of Judas was never “lost”

(Note: before begining this blog, I published several posts on Christian-related topics at J's Café Nette. I still publish there on general Christian themes, thanks to the gracious host. What follows are the first of two posts that are relevant to the theme of my new blog.)

(Originally published at J’s Café Nette on June 21, 2007)

Christianity has been under attack since the very beginning. There’s nothing bold or shocking about that statement. When the “lost” Gospel of Judas was published to much fanfare early this year, I sighed. I thought, “Here we go again.”

This “lost” gospel was never lost. It was thrown away, as astute critics of the new publication and accompanying National Geographic TV specials have said. The Gospel of Judas, like the similar gospels of Thomas, Peter, Mary Magdalene, etc., are all Gnostic tracts. Gnosticism is hard to define precisely, as there have been various sects. But attached to Christianity, Gnostic sects have one thing in common: they deny the deity of Christ and His oneness with the Father.

All of them were never accepted as inspired scripture because they describe Christ in terms that fly in the face of the rest of scripture. Judas is particularly odious because it makes many villains in the Bible out to be a misunderstood heroes, including the first murderer, Cain.

Gnosticism, in its various forms, treats flesh as evil and the spirit world as supreme, so to them, Christ could never be the Word become flesh—which directly contradicts the rest of scripture.
Many scholars and journalists hailed the “lost” Gospel of Judas as a new interpretation of Christ, and said it raised a whole new set of questions.

No, it didn’t. It dredged up old questions and issues that had been successfully slapped down by lions for the faith in the first, second and third centuries.

You may ask, “what’s the harm?” There is serious harm for Christians who are new to the faith and don’t know what scripture really says about Christ. There is serious harm if apostates—snakes who claim to be Christian but really aren’t—teach Gnosticism as if it were accepted Christianity.

Christians are called by God to “contend earnestly for the faith” (see the letter of St. Jude), which means that we are to fight for the truth of who Christ is. That does not mean, and never means, fight with bombs and fists and guns, but with words and by actually speaking out. By remaining silent in the face of Gnosticism because we’re afraid of what others say, we are not contending earnestly for the faith—but hiding.

But even these outside attacks on the faith are nowhere near as damaging as the internal attacks on the faith.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


This blog is intended to be both a repository for my thoughts and an examination of the Christian church in America, which is in serious crisis. The church is falling away from Christ-centered, cross-focused worship into apostasy, heresy, feel-good nonsense that is leading people astray. The churches that “lift high the cross” and teach directly from scripture are outnumbered by those that offer easy answers, post-modern gobbledygook, cafeteria Christianity and what Michael S. Horton calls “Christless Christianity.”

Many Christians—or people who believe they are Christians—unwittingly swallow this stuff without knowing, or caring, what Christ Himself actually teaches about Himself and the Father. And that’s why this blog is called Crisis Christianity.

To help you understand where I’m coming from, here are some of my modern-day heroes in the faith. In no particular order:

Hank Hanegraaff—the Bible Answer Man and president of the Christian Research Institute. He’s the first person to divulge how much Christianity in America was—and is—in trouble. His weekday radio show and books, including Christianity in Crisis and Counterfeit Revival, have made many enemies among the rich and powerful televangelists and word-of-faith preachers.

Todd Wilkin—host of Issues, Etc. on KFUO AM 850. A master interviewer, this pastor explores all aspects of Christianity and faith on his terrific radio show and comes from the confessional Reformation theology. His sermon reviews are not to be missed, especially when he picks apart a fluffy Joel Osteen pep talk.

Chuck Rathert—another KFUO host, Pastor Chuck hosts The Bible Study, where he and a guest pastor break down books of the Bible one chapter at a time. The viewpoint is confessional Reformation theology, e.g. original Lutheranism.

Chris Rosebrough—Owner of, Chris is “dedicated to the proclamation and defense of the most extreme religious claim of all time; that Jesus of Nazareth IS the ONE TRUE God in human flesh and that He died for the sins of the world, rose victorious from the grave and is coming again to judge both the living and the dead.” He’s a very pointed critic of Rick Warren and his “Purpose Driven” movement, and with good reason. Chris’s other site, A Little Leaven, is a hysterical and tragic look at how far astray Christians in America have gone and continue to go.

John MacArthur—We don’t agree on everything, but he’s one of the strongest lions for sound doctrine in the world today. His Grace To You ministry has been a strong inspiration, as has his writings and study Bible. (We diverge on end-time teachings.)

Greg Stier—He’s the founder of Dare2Share, with the singular mission of helping high school kids stay faithful once they get out into the wider world—by teaching and daring them to share their faith with their peers. His G.O.S.P.E.L. journey is a great way to help people understand what “it” is really all about. We may not agree on everything, but he preaches the essentials, and keeps Christ as the center and the cross as the focus.

BK and Pastor JC—my church’s youth minister and pastor, respectively. BK puts up with me and JC preaches Christ crucified for our sins and resurrected for our salvation.

As for me, I believe that we are saved by God’s grace alone by faith alone through Christ alone. There is no other name given by which we can be saved. The Nicene Creed is my creed. I am a sinner, and can only enter the presence of the Almighty by the foreign righteousness of Jesus Christ, which I did not and cannot earn, but was given to me by the mercy of the Father through the sacrifice of His son. Called by the Spirit to Him, my filthy rags are replaced by spotless robes through Christ.

I believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God. It is NOT merely a guidebook for good Christian living, although it does contain many, many guidelines on how Christians are to conduct ourselves. It is NOT the founding document of Western civilization, though many have deluded themselves into believing that Christianity = Western. It is NOT a source for political parties to find justification for this or that policy.

It is, from start to finish, the book about Jesus Christ and the Father’s plan for our redemption through His Son.

Things I will discuss on this blog:

  • “Christless Christianity,” a fascinating thesis by Michael S. Horton
  • Apostasy and problems with movements such as the Emerging Church
  • How “feel good” Christianity can and does create false hope if it is not rooted in Christ and the cross
  • The new Pharisee-ism
  • Why doctrine is so incredibly important
  • Why youths are either tuning out or latching on to false teaching
  • Why the gospel needs to be presented continually—and why believers need to hear it continually
  • Why the seeker-sensitive movement creates false followers by softening—or avoiding—the gospel
  • Why the gospel is sufficient and any attempts to “update” Christ or Christianity are foolish
  • Why any church—or Christian—that puts politics before Christ has lost its way (whether conservative or liberal)
  • The feminization of the church and why godly men need to take charge of the pulpit once more
  • How pornography is destroying healthy sex in Christian marriages
  • Why the cross remains foolish to the world, and why the gospel message must remain offensive and never be watered down.

Notice that this blog, for the most part, won’t be dealing with atheism, agnosticism, Islam or other religions. The focus is on the deteriorating state of Christianity in America, and my own small role in helping to reverse that tragic and harmful trend.

And who am I? My name is Black Jack Truman. Please forgive me for not being more specific.

-- Truman