Tuesday, July 24, 2007

False Teachers Part One: Rob Bell

The worst false teachers are those who sprinkle their deceptions with a lot of truth. They use Biblical terminology and concepts but hidden under them is a theology of self esteem, prosperity, works etc. Rob Bell is one of them. I first heard Rob Bell at a week long retreat the summer after my sophomore year of high school. I don't remember too much about his talk, however I do remember liking it. In my next year or so in the youth group I was attending we watched several of Rob Bell's "Nooma" videos. I enjoyed them at the time and still remember much of what was said in them. It was only after I read Velvet Elvis and began learning more about refomed theology that I noticed some strange errors in his teaching. The book Velvet Elvis takes a valid criticism of many Christians and gives a false correction of it. That criticism is that Christians simply believe what they are told and do not think for themselves. They do not search the scriptures to find out what they really teach. This of course is a great message which all reformed Christians should agree with. Unfortunately however, Rob Bell does not give instructions about how to properly interprate the Bible in context but tells his readers that the Bible must change with culture and that it is not even all that clear. His postmodernism here is obvious. Rob Bell and his wife said the following in an interview, "The Bible is in the center for us, but it's a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery rather than conquering it. I grew up thinking that we figured out the Bible, that we knew what it means. Now I have no idea what most of it means." This doesn't seem to fit with the idea that the Bible is a light unto our feet and a lamp unto our paths. Rob Bell sounds like Erasmus.
One of the most obvious errors that I have heard in several of Bell's sermons and his book is that he takes the focus of the afterlife and puts it on our life on earth. One's eternal destiny does not matter as much as if they have food, medicine etc. Sure, these things are great but not compared to the gospel. The gospel is not about helping people. It's about what Christ did for us hopeless sinners. When one is missing that, they are missing the gospel, and are preaching nothing but a moralistic therapeudic deism. Many of Rob Bell's messages could have been preached by Ghandi or the Dhali Lama.
"When people use the word hell, what do they mean? They mean a place, an event, a situation absent of how God desires things to be. Famine, debt, oppression, loneliness, despair, death, slaughter–they are all hell on earth.
Jesus’ desire for his followers is that they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth.
What’s disturbing is when people talk more about hell after this life than they do about hell here and now. As a Christian, I want to do what I can to resist hell coming to earth.” (Velvet Elvis pg 148)
Is that really what it's about? I seem to remember Jesus saying that His kingdom was NOT of this world.
Bell's rejection of the gospel comes off perhaps more clear in his view of man. The following comes from his book, “God has an incredibly high view of people. God believes that people are capable of amazing things. I have been told that I need to believe in Jesus. Which is a good thing. But what I am learning is that Jesus believes in me. I have been told that I need to have faith in God. Which is a good thing. But what I am learning is that God has faith in me.” (pg.134) Really? Is that what the Bible teaches? A reading of verses like Romans 3:10-18, Genesis 6:5, Psalm 58:3, Ecclesiastes 9:3 and several others will show that the opposite is true. If God had faith in us to take care of things, we would all be screwed.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Romans 9

James White did a great dividing line on Romans chapter 9 this week. I would encourage you all to listen.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

From Luther's Commentary on the Apostle's Creed

"I believe in God the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth"
Here, first of all, a great light shines into your heart if you permit it to and teaches you in a few words what all the languages of the world and a multitude of books cannot describe or fathom in words, namely, who you are, whence you came, whence came heaven and earth. You are God's creation, his handiwork. That is, of yourself and in yourself you are nothing, can do nothing, know nothing, are capable of nothing. What were you a thousand years ago? What were heaven and earth before creation? Nothing, just as that which will never be created is nothing. But what you are, know, can do, and can achieve is God's creation, as you confess in the Creed by word of mouth. Therefore you have nothing to boast about before God except that you are nothing and He is your Creator who can annihilate you at any moment.
Reason knows nothing of such a light. Many great thinkers sought to know what heaven and earth, people and animals are and have found no answer. But here is declared and faith affirms that God has created everything out of nothing. Here is the soul's garden of pleasure, along whose paths we enjoy the works of God- bit it would take too long to describe all that.
Furthermore, we should give thanks to God in that His kindness He has created us out of nothing and provides for our daily needs out of nothing- has made us to be such excellent beings with body and soul, intelligence, five senses, and has ordained us to be masters of earth, of fish, bird, beast, etc. Here consider Genesis, chapters one, two and three.
Third, we should confess and lament our lack of faith and gratitude in failing to take this to heart, or to believe, ponder, and acknowledge it, and having been more stupid than unthinking beasts.
Fourth, we pray for a true and confident faith that sincerely esteems and trusts God to be our Creator, as this article declares.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

More heresy from Rome

This is from CNN.com-

"VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -- The Vatican on Tuesday said Christian denominations outside the Roman Catholic Church were not full churches of Jesus Christ.

The Vatican said other churches are "wounded" since they do not recognize the primacy of the pope.

A 16-page document, prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Pope Benedict used to head, described Christian Orthodox churches as true churches, but suffering from a "wound" since they do not recognize the primacy of the Pope.
But the document said the "wound is still more profound" in the Protestant denominations -- a view likely to further complicate relations with Protestants.
"Despite the fact that this teaching has created no little distress ... it is nevertheless difficult to see how the title of 'Church' could possibly be attributed to them," it said."

I can only hope that the Roman "church" continues to seperate itself from all others so that ecumenical efforts may be stopped. This article makes it clear that in Rome's eyes, the Eastern Church is no real church either. And why? Because they do not bow down to the authority of the Pope. I hope everyone else can see how crazy it is that the church is willing to condemn anyone who does not bow down to a certain MAN. Yes, the Pope the vicar of Christ who sounds remarkably like the man of lawlessness of 2 Thessalonians 2 "He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God." Vicar literally means, "in place of." Anti as in antichrist can also mean either "against" or "in place of." Thus vicar of Christ and Antichrist can be synonymous terms. When Christ ascended He only had one to come in His place. It was no man but the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

What love is this?

I have been challenged by a friend to read the book "What Love is This: Calvinism's Misrepresentation of God" by Dave Hunt. This person agreed to listen to my point by point response to it if I did. I suppose it's worth it to hopefully bring someone else to understand the scriptural teaching of grace. Forgive me if I continually rant on this blog about it, I imagine that I will be greatly angered by much of Hunt's historical innacuracy and misunderstandings of Reformed Theology.

Plato on Purgatory

I was reading some Plato earlier this summer and just happened to come across something that sounded as if it could be from the council of Trent. (Speaking of the afterlife from the Phaedo) "Those who appear to have lived neither well nor ill, go to the river of Acheron, and embarking in any vessels which they may find, are carried in them to the lake, and there they dwell and are purified of their evil deeds, and have suffered the penalty of the wrongs which they have done to others, they are absolved, and recieve the rewards of their good deeds, each of them according to his desserts." It seems that purgatory has it's origins in Greek philosophy rather than scripture. I guess that's what happens when human tradition is given as much authority as the word of God.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Does God Really Love Everyone?

Psalm 11
The Lord is a holy temple;
the Lord's throne is in heaven,
His eyes see, His eyelids test,
theChildren of man
The Lord tests the righteous,
but His soul hates the wicked and
the one who loves violence
Let Him reign coals on the wicked,
fire and sulfur and a scorching
wind shall be the portion of their cup.
Psalm 5:5-6
The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes;
You hate all evildoers;
You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and decietful man.
Leviticus 20:23
And you shall not walk in customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things and therefore I detested them.
Hosea 9:15
Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal;
there I began to hate them.
Because of the wickedness of their deeds
I will drive them out of my house
I will love them no more;
all their princess are rebels.
Romans 9:13
As it is written, "Jacob I loved and Esau I hated."
The fact is, we all deserve to be utterly hated by God. Our whole lives are lived in rebellion against Him. God would be just if He damned every single one of us. However, He chose to set His love upon His people who repent and trust in Christ for their salvation. All those who do not will suffer God's holy and just wrath eternally.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Myths about Calvin

I said I would put this together so here are the top ten myths I hear about John Calvin.

1. John Calvin was not a Calvinist. This may sound very strange but I so often here people tell me that John Calvin did not believe in what we call Calvinism today. Quotes of his on human responsibility are often taken out of context and are somehow claimed to be about the freedom of the will. People seem to do the same thing with Spurgeon as well.

2. John Calvin was a hateful murderer. This is the one I hear most often. When Calvin comes up in conversation the idea the Michael Servetus was killed by Calvin will innevitibly be part of the conversation. It is true that he was put to death but there is more to the story than that. John Calvin actually risked his life to go back to France at one point of his life to try and convert Servetus to Orthodox trinitarian Christianity but Servetus never showed. There was a long and complicated history between the two and it is obvious that Calvin showed nothing but kindness to the man. When Servetus came to Geneva for refuge, Calvin discussed it with Melancthon, Ferrel, and the other reformers and they all agreed that Servetus should be put to death. Calvin was not the only one responsible for this. Rome had often said that the protestant movement would accept all kinds of heresy as long as it was not catholic. Servetus' death was a statement that this was not true.

3. John Calvin was the dictator of Geneva. This is flat out not true. Many of the people didn't even like Calvin. In fact Calvin didn't like Geneva too much either. He wasn't even a citizen until the end of his life.

4. John Calvin was a hyper Calvinist. It seems that everyone wants to claim Calvin as their own. Hyper Calvinists often say that they are the only ones truly in line with Calvin's thought. If you read the institutes you will find nothing like hyper Calvinism. He discusses common grace and has no problems with offering the gospel. He also accepted synergists as fellow believers. He and Melancthon were good friends.

5. John Calvin was a five point Calvinist. Didn't I just say that Calvin was a Calvinist? Yes, he was. However, it may be better to call him a 4 1/2 pointer. From what I have read, Calvin seemed to believe that Christ did indeed die for every single person, including the non elect. It took Beza to fully develope the doctrine of limited atonement.

6. John Calvin was a heartless theologian. It's claimed often (especially on a popular video on youtube) that Calvin had no true spirituality and was nothing more than a dry intellectual. Read Calvin's prayers. He was a man of deep spirituality.

7. Calvin created the five points of Calvinism. He didn't. They were put together by the Synod of Dort to refute the five points of the Remonstrants.

8. Calvinists are followers of John Calvin. People always assume that I agree with all John Calvin ever said because I'm a Calvinist. Calvin's name just happened to be tacked onto a theological system which had existed over 1000 years before his birth.

8 is all I can come up with now. Perhaps I'll add more later.

Arminian music from Pensacola Christian College

This has to be the worst theology I have ever heard in a song.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Myths about Luther

I took this from James White's blog. Anyone who knows me knows that I love reading Martin Luther. Thus, I have had most of the same things said to me about Luther and I am constantly having to tell people that they are not true. I think I'll have to write my own about Calvin as well. One thing I do want to mention is that anyone who thinks Luther was an antinomian (which is the false claim I hear most often) he should read Luther's commentary on 1 Peter. The whole of his theology comes out much fuller than in the Galatians commentary.

1. Luther Threw an Inkwell at Satan
Recently I found a Jehovah's Witness attempting to prove Luther was a psychopath. He brought up the story in which Luther hurled an inkwell at Satan. The story is not true. It first appeared towards the end of the sixteenth century, and is said to have been told by a former Wittenberg student. In this early version, the Devil in the guise of a monk threw an inkwell at Luther while he was secluded in the Wartburg. By 1650, the story shifted to Luther throwing the inkwell at Satan. Like any bizarre legend, the story morphed, and houses where Luther stayed had spots on the walls, and these were also said to be inkwells that Luther threw at the Devil.

2. Luther's Evangelical Breakthrough Occurred in the Bathroom
This same Jehovah's Witness denigrated Luther by repeating a newer myth, that Luther's understanding of Romans 1:17-18 came to him while in the bathroom in the tower of the Augustinian cloister. In the twentieth century, many approached Luther by applying psychoanalysis to his writings. Psychologist Eric Erikson took a German phrase uttered by Luther and interpreted it literally to mean Luther was in the bathroom when he had his evangelical breakthrough. Erikson concluded, from a Freudian perspective, Luther's spiritual issues were tied up with biological functions. But, there was not a bathroom in the tower. The phrase Erikson interpreted literally in German was simply conventional speech. Luther really was saying that his breakthrough came during a time when he was depressed, or in a state of melancholy.

3. Luther Repented and Re-entered the Church on his Deathbed
I've come across this one on popular Catholic discussion boards. No, it is not true. One of Luther's early opponents popularized the account that Luther was a child of the Devil, and was taken directly to Hell when he died. Now though, more ecumenically minded Catholics hope for the ultimate in conversion stories. Luther died around 3:00 AM on February 18, 1546. His last words and actions were recorded by his friend Justus Jonas. Luther was asked, "Reverend father, will you die steadfast in Christ and the doctrines you have preached?" Luther responded affirmatively. Luther also quoted John 3:16 and Psalm 31:5. In his last prayer he said to God, "Yet I know as a certainty that I shall live with you eternally and that no one shall be able to pluck me out of your hands." These are hardly the words of a Roman Catholic waiting to enter purgatory.

4. Luther's Hymns Were Originally Tavern Songs
Some involved in Contemporary Christian Music use this argument to validate contemporary styles of music being used in church: if even the great Martin Luther found value in contemporary music being used in Church, shouldn't we likewise do the same? In actuality, Luther used only one popular folk tune, I Came From An Alien Country, changed the words, and named the hymn, From Heaven On High, I Come to You. Four years after he did this, he changed the music to an original composition.

5. Luther Spoke in Tongues
Charismatic cyber-apologists have put this one out. They refer to an old quote from a German historian who stated, "Luther was easily the greatest evangelical man after the apostles, full of inner love to the Lord like John, hasty in deed like Peter, deep in thinking like Paul, cunning and powerful in speech like Elijah, uncompromising against God's enemies like David; PROPHET and evangelist, speaker-in-tongues and interpreter in one person, equipped with all the gifts of grace, a light and pillar of the church..." Luther though held, "Tongues are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers. But later on, when the church had been gathered and confirmed by these signs, it was not necessary for this visible sending forth of the Holy Spirit to continue."

6. Luther Added The Word Alone To Romans 3:28
This is frequently brought up by the zealous defenders of Rome. Luther is said to have been so careless and outrageous with his translation of the Bible, he simply added words to make the Bible say what he wanted it to. Luther gave a detailed explanation of why the passage has the meaning of alone,and this explanation has been available online for years. This charge also shows an ignorance of church history. Roman Catholic writer Joseph A. Fitzmyer points out, "...[T]wo of the points that Luther made in his defense of the added adverb were that it was demanded by the context and that sola was used in the theological tradition before him." Fitzmyer lists the following: Origen, Hillary, Basil, Ambrosiaster, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Bernard, Theophylact, Theodoret, Thomas Aquinas, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Marius Victorinus, and Augustine [Joseph A. Fitzmyer Romans, A New Translation with introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible Series (New York: Doubleday, 1993) 360-361].

7. Luther Was an Antinomian and Hated the Law of God
Recently a friend wrote me and said charges about Luther being an antinomian were circulating in his church. Luther's theology indeed has a place for the law of God and its use in the life of a Christian. The law for Luther was dual purposed: it first drives one to see their sin and need for a savior; secondly it functions in the life of a Christian to lead one to a correct understanding of the good one ought to do. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Luther knows how important Moses and the law was in his theology. In Luther's Small Catechism the Ten Commandments were placed first because he wanted people to understand that God is wrathful against sin. The negative prohibitions in the Ten Commandments clearly showed our need for a savior. Also in his Small Catechism, Luther suggests a daily regiment of prayer and includes a verbal reading of the Ten Commandments.

8. Luther Acted Like a Protestant Pope
Catholic apologists perpetuate this one. They tend to reduce everything to a need for an infallible interpreter. They use highly rhetorical or polemical comments from Luther out of context, rather than those statements when Luther evaluates his value and his work. Toward the end of his life, Luther reviewed his work and stated, "My consolation is that, in time, my books will lie forgotten in the dust anyhow, especially if I (by Gods grace) have written anything good." And also, "I would have been quite content to see my books, one and all, remain in obscurity and go by the board" [LW 34: 283-284].

9. Luther Was a Drunk
The historical record nowhere documents Luther ever being drunk. It does provide evidence that he did drink alcohol, and that he enjoyed drinking. One needs only to survey the massive output of work that Luther produced to settle the matter that he was not an alcoholic, nor did he have a drinking problem. Luther preached and wrote against drunkenness throughout his entire life with vigor and force.

10. Luther Said Imputed Righteousness is Like Snow Covered Dung
I saved this one for last, simply because I'm not sure if it's a myth or not. It does seem to me like something Luther would've said: "Therefore let us embrace Christ, who was delivered for us, and His righteousness; but let us regard our righteousness as dung, so that we, having died to sins, may live to God alone" [LW 30:294]. "Explanation of Martin Luther: I said before that our righteousness is dung in the sight of God. Now if God chooses to adorn dung, he can do so. It does not hurt the sun, because it sends its rays into the sewer" [LW 34: 184].