40 harmful effects of Christianity – #7

“But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand…he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm.” Acts 28:3-5

This post is the seventh in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #7: People dying because they believe their faith makes them immune to snake venom, or other lethal aspects of reality.

This particular criticism appears to be levied against the very small percentage of churches that practice snake handling as part of their worship services. Snake Handling is barely a footnote in the history of Christianity.  Yet, it made this (contrived) list from the American Atheists. The practice of snake handling did not appear until 1910, approximately 1,877 years after the resurrection of Christ.  For many years, the church operated without any notion of snake handling.  The practice began in the rural town of Birchwood, TN and today is almost entirely limited to the most rural areas of Appalachia.  Snake handlers, attempting to provide biblical justification for their activity, base their practice on the words of Jesus at the end of the gospel of Mark.

In the earliest manuscripts of the book available, the gospel of Mark ends quite abruptly.  After Jesus’ crucifixion, two of His women followers enter His tomb in order to anoint His body with spices in accordance with the burial customs of the day.  However, Jesus’ body is not there.  An angelic figure informs the women that Jesus has risen and instructs them to go and tell his disciples. The women flee the tomb in astonishment and say nothing to anyone out of fear. The story ends thusly, Mark 16:8 being the last verse.

This ending apparently didn’t sit well with somebody in antiquity.  Later manuscripts add (after verse 16:8) post-resurrection appearances of Jesus that seem congruent with such appearances in Matthew, John, Luke and Acts.  The material after 16:8 is known as “The Long Ending of Mark.”  In the long ending, Jesus makes the following remarks:

“These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17-18)

Even if one grants that the long ending of Mark is authentic, there is no hermeneutical reason to believe that handling snakes and drinking poison are prescribed church ordinances.  In other words, in Mark’s long ending, Jesus is speaking descriptively, not prescriptively.  Jesus is not ordering practices, such as taking communion and undergoing baptism.  He is merely prophesying acts that His disciples will perform.  A survey of the book of Acts shows that Jesus’ disciples did cast out demons and miraculously heal.  However, these miracles were not performed as an official practice of church order.

Snake Handlers are a tiny group which twists a dubitable text in order to justify its aberrant practices. The American Atheists apparently fail to take notice of this situation and, quite uncharitably (or ignorantly), include the activities of snake handlers are a harmful effect of Christianity.  Snake handing as a part of a worship service is hardly Christian. 

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #8: People dying – and letting their children die – because their religion forbids accepting medical help.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

40 harmful effects of Christianity – #6

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16

 

This post is the sixth in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #6: People aren’t making the most of this life because of their belief in an afterlife.

It’s sometimes said in Christian circles, “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re of no earthly good.”  There is a danger, in anticipating the age to come, of not remembering to be a proper steward of resources in the current age.  Being so “heavenly minded” is unbiblical.  According to a biblical worldview, mankind has been called to exercise care over the earth since the inception of our species.  Thus, not “making the most of this life” is not a harmful effect of Christianity life but rather a failure to live out clear Christian principles. Christians are to be of earthy good. 

Jesus called his disciples to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.”  The Apostle Paul exhorted Christians to be “ambassadors for Christ” in this world so that others could be reconciled to God.  The Christian life is one of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is simply no doctrine of Christianity that discourages making the most of this life.  Christians are called to the very opposite through two very simple commandments: love God and love neighbors.  Doing so glorifies God, which, according to the Westminster Confession of Faith, is the chief end of man. Glorifying God is hardly “not making the most of this life.”

Furthermore, the Christian life never ends.  The eternal life promised by Christ is not some ethereal, otherworldly existence (at least not a permanent one).  Christians anticipate a bodily resurrection into a new heavens and a new earth. The very idea of an “afterlife” is somewhat misleading; Christians aren’t promised “an afterlife”, they are promised eternal life.

One final thought to consider is this question: What exactly is “making the most of this life” on an atheistic worldview?  The American atheists don’t (and can’t) objectively define what that (being of earthly good) is.  What activities do the American Atheists consider to be, as it were, life-making?  Upon what exactly do they think Christians are missing out?

Immorality? Lustful passion? Evil desire? Greed? Idolatry of self?

These things, I do not miss. 

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” (Colossians 3:1-11)

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #7: People dying because they believe their faith makes them immune to snake venom, or other lethal aspects of reality.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

40 harmful effects of Christianity – #5

“Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:31

This post is the fifth in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #5: Tens of thousands tortured and killed as witches (a practice which still continues today).

There are a number of obvious problems with this “harmful effect”, the first of which being a lack of citation. From where does this statistic come? Is it accurate? Do the authors of this list expect readers to just take their word for it just because it is published somewhere? (I doubt they approach the biblical text this way.)

Secondly, are killings related to witchcraft always associated with Christianity or, like many other items on this list, is this a “harmful effect” of humanity in general? Contemporary use of the term “witch-hunt” usually denotes an effort by those in power to persecute dissenters and not usually for religious purposes. This type of “witch-hunt” is perhaps best demonstrated in Arthur Miller’s, “The Crucible,” which is a play set against the back drop of the Salem Witch Trials (a historical event). The “witch-hunts” in the play are clearly driven by lust, jealousy, and greed and are only nominally “Christian”. These things are anything but Christian virtues. 

In parts of Africa people with albinism are regularly attacked and killed because of the superstitious belief that albinos can transmit magical powers. Albinos are murdered and their body parts are delivered to witch doctors for use in magical spells. Such action and belief is antithetical to the Christian worldview. The impact the promulgation of the Christian worldview on areas with superstitious tribal religions has probably prevented thousands of atrocities that would have been committed during acts of witchcraft. No mention is made of this on the American Atheist list.

One final notion that should not be ignored is that witches are bad. Witchcraft is evil. Where someone is guilty of witchcraft, a society is better off without him. Such a person should not be tortured, however, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me for society to punish a person who calls upon demonic agents to influence others. Of course, the atheists who conjured up this list of 40 harmful effects don’t believe that a realm of demons exist. However, those of us who do recognize the very real dangers of engaging in occult activity.

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #6: People aren’t making the most of this life because of their belief in an afterlife.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

The True Issue: an Open Letter to Johnny Hunt from a Concerned Church Member of First Baptist Church of Woodstock

Again with ALL due respect, (Johnny Hunt) the true issue is not Ergun, it is the leadership you are influencing by allowing this. You will be held accountable before God and man” Ryan McCollister

In my recent interview with the Pulpit and Pen Program, I was asked if I knew of any other members of First Baptist Woodstock who were upset that Ergun Caner had been invited to fill the church’s pulpit. I responded that I knew at least one but, the fact is, there are more. Some of them are not currently willing to express their feelings publicly. At least one more person, in addition to myself, has shown himself willing. Yesterday, after much prayer and forethought, another member of First Baptist Church of Woodstock made a public statement about the situation at First Baptist Church of Woodstock. He did so via a Facebook post. With his permission, I have reproduced his open letter to Johnny Hunt here. His only condition in granting permission was that this reproduction glorify Jesus. I pray that it not only glories Jesus but fairly represents my brother in Christ.

Before presenting the letter, allow me to give a short introduction of Ryan McCollister

I personally know Ryan to be a God-fearing, Christ-honoring man. He demonstrates a Christ-like love for his wife. He shares the gospel in season and out. He is a hard worker. He studies the Bible diligently and is in the process of earning a Religion degree from Liberty University Online. When my family and friends gathered to celebrate the first birthday of my daughters, it was Ryan whom I asked to do the honor of asking the Lord’s blessing of the occasion.

Ryan moved from Ohio to Georgia so that he could be a part of First Baptist Woodstock. This move is a clear demonstration of the respect that Ryan has for the ministry of Pastor Johnny Hunt. Please keep that in mind as you read his letter. I assure you, he wrote it with a heavy heart.

Ryan wrote…*

Pastor Johnny,

With ALL due respect, I will not be at FBCW this Sunday and, like most, it’s not because you are not there.

‘Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.’ (Ephesians 5:11)

I believe in grace, mercy, and forgiveness wholeheartedly and I live it out. I believe in church discipline as well. You and I choose not to do specific things, say specific things, and post specific things because we know the consequences it will cost. Here is the problem I have; I would keep this private, but everything that has happened and has kept on happening is in the open public. The SBC is openly promoting/protecting it.

If I or any other of my preacher friends had done what Ergun has done, we would never preach in a SBC church again even if we did publicly repent of the same type of actions.

Think about it… If you can get fired from a high position at Liberty University for continual false testimonies, recently sue the brethren for exposing the false testimonies to the masses, lose in court and be reprimanded and commanded by the judge to repay the legal fees of the defendants, still make a $130k+ salary that Georgia Baptists fund at a different ‘Christian college’, and to still be chosen to come and preach at my church over THOUSANDS of Holy Spirit filled, God called and gifted SBC preachers who are walking blameless and could be called to fill the pulpit then there is something seriously wrong!

A house divided will not stand and it has been crumbling!!

Holy Spirit please open the blind eyes and unlock the deaf ears and move on your people!!!

Open public sin calls for open public repentance!

Johnny Hunt, I’m heartbroken! I truly thought your leadership would prevent things like this from happening. You are passionate about exposing the prosperity gospel for being a lie. None of those who preach such heresy are prominent preachers in the SBC. Yet, a individual who is prominent in the SBC and is known to have openly and consistently spread his false testimonies gets invited to preach to our church, to our babes in Christ!?

I know exactly why Ergun Caner refuses to openly publicly repent; it’s strategic. His books and trainings that have impacted the military have made him more money and notoriety than imaginable. If he openly repents, true revival may break out but it will inevitably cost him dearly. The federal government will get involved and he may spend many years in prison and have to pay out thousands of dollars. This has nothing to do with Calvinism or hatred towards Ergun, or lack of grace; it has everything to do with integrity and a passion for Gods Truth! I was a big fan of Ergun and he had influenced me greatly in the past…until The Lord convicted me while listening to his materials. I was taking notes and noticed the HUGE inconsistencies.

Again with ALL due respect, the true issue is not Ergun, it is the leadership you are influencing by allowing this. You will be held accountable before God and man. As John Maxwell has said, ‘everything rises and falls on leadership’. I love you pastor and I’m on your team but if something is not done about this I may no longer be under your influence and leadership.

The cost of following Jesus may cost us nothing but it will cost us everything even when we are in the wrong.

Sincerely,

Ryan McCollister”

In my opinion, Ryan gets it. This is not about Ergun, this is about an environment in which a man like Ergun can flourish. I hope you’ll follow Ryan’s example and speak up. I hope you’ll follow Jesus’ example by holding sinners accountable and calling them to repentance.

To all reading this blog and following this issue: May the Lord be the judge between you and me.

*I edited the letter slightly for grammar and context to make Ryan’s intent more clear.

**Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

The Determinist, the Apologist, and Emotional Captivity: What Was Not Discussed in My Interview with the Pulpit and Pen on First Baptist Woodstock, Johnny Hunt, and Ergun Caner

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”  The Lord Jesus as recorded in Luke 14:26

Last night J.D. Hall interviewed me for the “Radio Free SBC” segment of the Friday July 25th edition of his Pulpit and Pen Podcast.  This article is meant as a companion piece to that interview.  I wrote this late.  Forgive typos.

The subject of Friday’s “Radio Free SBC” portion of the Pulpit and Pen Program is the tragic invitation that Johnny Hunt extended to the charlatan Ergun Caner to preach at First Baptist Church of Woodstock on July 27, 2014.  Since I am a member of FBCW who has vociferously objected to the propriety of such an invitation, J.D. Hall was interested in hearing more about my perspective on the matter and thus he asked me to be a guest on his program.  I was happy to share my perspective and am grateful to J.D. for the forum.  I look forward to hearing the program tomorrow when the podcast is posted.  However, there is one additional facet of my experience at First Baptist Woodstock, one that wasn’t covered in the interview, which I’d like to share here…my emotional reaction to the great injustice perpetrated by my church and my pastor.

During our interview, JD and I didn’t really talk much about emotions and feelings.  We talked a little about how indignant I felt, but we mainly stuck to rational argumentation and discussion.  What else would one expect from the both of us, giving our mindsets?  After all, J.D. Hall is a staunch Calvinist and I am a logically-minded Christian apologist.[1]  Men such as us, more or less, tell it how it is.

Ask a Calvinist about the justification for God ordering the extermination of the Canaanites in the Old Testament and you’ll likely get an answer like this:

“The Canaanites weren’t elect.  They were vessels prepared for destruction.  Just look in God’s word. Read Romans 9:22. How dare you question the sovereign God of the universe!”

Ask a Christian apologist about for justification of God ordering the extermination of the Canaanites in the Old Testament and you’ll likely get an answer like this:

“Well, you really can’t even have objective moral values and duties unless they are grounded in God.  So, it really doesn’t even make sense for a finite being such as yourself to question the justness of our Holy God.  Without God, moral values and duties and even a sense of ‘justice’, are purely subjective matters of opinion.  In such a case, murder and genocide can’t be universally condemned but can only be viewed as matters of preference.  Thus, your question is really just nonsense if you think about it.”

For a person dealing with an emotional objection, such answers go over like Mark Driscoll and a Beth Moore study. People are thinking beings as well feeling beings.  I know this; however, I rarely remember to put forth any emotional arguments for God.  I read a book on doing so.  I even asked a lady apologist for advice.  It turns out, that sometimes people just need to understand the emotional side of things.

I think people may be having an emotional rejection to believing that Johnny Hunt is leading his church in a bad direction.  My strictly-business way of approaching the matter just isn’t getting over.  Someone in my Apologetics Sunday School class (of all places) pointed it out to me last night:

erin

I haven’t been considering the emotional side.  This is quite the blunder on my part, especially since this experience has been so emotionally wrenching for me.   One of the reasons, I think, that members are refusing to leave First Baptist Woodstock as it refuses to right this wrong is because the church leadership is holding them emotionally hostage.  Church members are “plugged in” to their church.  To take a stand, they’d have to take up their crosses and leave friends or family behind.  Doing so hurts.  I know because I am doing it.

Missing Miss Mona

“And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42

There are a lot of kind, servant-hearted people filled with the Love of Christ at FBCW.  One of them is a sweet, old Iranian lady who works in the FBCW nursery named Miss Mona.  My wife and I absolutely adore her.  When our twin girls were first old enough to be taken out of the house to church, we started bringing them to Miss Mona in the nursery.  It was hard for my wife, a first time mother, to leave our children with anybody.  However, she always had piece of mind when leaving them with Miss Mona.  Miss Mona was always so excited to take care of a pair of twins.  She fawned over our girls and always thanked us for bringing them.  She always asked us to bring them back the next week and said, “I take such good care of your babies” in her thick Farsi accent.

One Sunday, I came to church to substitute teach Sunday school and dropped of my babies with Miss Mon.  After class, I picked up my babies from dear Miss Mona and never returned them to her.  She had watched them grow up for weeks; now she doesn’t know whatever became of them.

One day, after not attending Woodstock for some weeks, I got a postcard from the nursery looking for our family.  Miss Mona missed the babies.  It was one the most heartbreaking piece of mail I ever received.

I used to love to listen to Pastor Johnny preach.  It was his preaching that first drew me to visit FBCW. Now, after finding out what kind of man he is, I am loathe to hear him speak.  Johnny’s spiritual gift is exhortation.  At this point, he couldn’t so much as exhort me to take out the garbage on trash day.  Still, I found myself telling my wife, “We need to go back to Woodstock; Miss Mona needs to see the babies.”

But we haven’t been back.  We miss Miss Mona.  We miss our brothers and sisters in Sunday School, too.

“Hey hey, I can’t meet you here tomorrow, No say goodbye, don’t follow.” Jerry Cantrell

I miss Steve Kennedy, our Sunday School teacher.  He taught my wife more about the Bible in 26 weeks than she had learned in 26 years of going to church.  Steve is one of the most knowledgeable theologians I’ve ever met.  He has a Divinity degree from Liberty online, but he isn’t a professional minister.  He’s just a guy with a regular job who loves to teach about Jesus.  He used to teach my wife and me. Now he does not.

I miss Shirley.  She works for the church in administrative capacity. She is an elderly woman who attends our apologetics class.  She reminds me of my grandmother. Most fundamentalists Shirley’s age aren’t interested in apologetics, but she is.  I think that’s so neat.  She always had a work of encouragement to me and was always so open about sharing her life experiences.  I heard wisdom in her words.

I miss Lauren and Bonnie.  They are sisters who run a wedding dress shop.  They minister to people who have been abused trough human trafficking.  Lauren cries almost every time she opens up because she loves Jesus so much.  She always wears heavy purple or blue eye shadow.  I wonder what tragedy those painted eyes have seen through her ministry.  Whatever they have seen, I see her as someone he keeps her eyes on the Lord.

I miss Sharon.  She is Shirley’s friend.  Her husband is Jewish.  He waits in the car during the sermon and most of Sunday School and then he comes to pick her up.  Sharon wants to see her husband come to Christ and goes to apologetics class to become a better witness for Jesus.

I miss Kirk.  He’s a landscaper. He’s a dad who brings his young son to Apologetics class.  I think it’s because he knows that his son is going to grow up in a world that is hostile to our faith and he wants to prepare him.  It does my heart so well to see a dad lead his son like that.  I wish everybody did.

I miss Jeff.  He works in the produce department at the grocery store.  Jeff got in an accident when he was little and it stunted his mental development.  The doctors said he wouldn’t make much of himself.  He hasn’t let his limitations stop him from working hard and engaging in the theologically heavy discussions of apologetics class.  This guy, who the doctors said would never be all there, invites Mormon missionaries to his house so he can share the true gospel with them.

I miss Steve.  He works in graphic design.  He’s Puerto Rican, he used to be catholic but he came out of that religion to find Christ.  Now he has an interest in apologetics.

I miss Lara.  She doesn’t fit the mold of ultra-conservative republican Cherokee County Redneck.  She’s a (gasp) democrat, but she drives a long way to get to FBCW to participate in apologetics class.  Sometimes, she brings chocolate chip cookies.  They are really good.

I miss Erin.  She’s a single mom.  She doesn’t go to the ladies Sunday school class.  She comes to our little diverse group.  She doesn’t say much, but when she does (see the tweets above), it makes you think.

I used to pray with all these people every week.  We shared our needs with each other.  I haven’t seen them in months.

These names are just some of the people I miss from church.  I don’t go there and I don’t give there because I know it’s immoral to support the errant leadership of a church like First Baptist Church of Woodstock.  I wonder, does mega-church Pastor Johnny Hunt know the voices and names off all the people I miss?  I do.  I know for darn sure that Johnny knows the name of his good-old boy buddy Ergun Caner.

I think Hunt knows that every-day members like me are so plugged into his membership that many won’t leave no matter what he and the other leaders do.  They hold people emotionally hostage.

I hope that soon and very soon, people will pick up their bibles, turn to Matthew 10:37-38 and realize that following Jesus sometimes mean leaving loved ones behind.  I hope that individual everyday people at FBCW will start looking to holding each other accountable and look away from the cult of personality of Johnny M. Hunt.  It’s quietly tyrannical.

“There shall be no more tyranny. A handful of men cannot seize power over thousands. A man shall choose who it is shall rule over him. . . . We give all we have, lives, property, safety, skills . . . we fight, we die, for a simple thing. Only that a man can stand up.”  James Otis, from the novel Johnny Tremain

Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Mid-Size Church

“I seem to recognize your face. Haunting, familiar yet, I can’t seem to place it. Cannot find the candle of thought to light your name. Lifetimes are catching up with me” Eddie Vedder

I’ve only been a member of Woodstock for a couple of years.  I wasn’t saved there.  I wasn’t baptized there.  I didn’t grow up there.  Do I know what it would really be like to stand up and leave over the evil Johnny is perpetrating on his people?

A couple of years back, my granddad was in the hospital.  My wife and I went to visit him on a Sunday.  That evening, I got the idea to stop by the church where I grew up for the Sunday night service.  I hadn’t been there in over ten years, since my family moved from Chattanooga to Cartersville.  The church had sold the building and moved.  It was a different place…but the people were the same.

When I walked in a saw an old lady named Pasty.  I hadn’t seen her since I was a teenager. I couldn’t even remember her name at the time but I knew that knew her.  In my mind’s eye, I could see her in the parking lot of the old church where I’d see her at the same time every Sunday.  Patsy has known my mother since before I was born.  Seeing Patsy made me feel like I was home.  It was a Sunday night service, there was no choir.  We met in the dark, concrete floor youth area…but I knew the preacher and I knew the people.

I wept.  I was home.

It’s hard to leave home, but sometimes Jesus asks us to do so, carrying our cross along the way.  For me, First Baptist Church of Woodstock had become home, but it is a corrupt place, and it appears that it will not change.

Injustice: Thoughts on Hobby Lobby and the Local Church

Now for the rational argument….

I don’t know any fellow Southern Baptists who were indignant over the recent Supreme Court decision to exempt Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.  We all seem pretty satisfied with what appears to be a decision to respect religious liberty.  If there is anything in the adjudication of the Hobby Lobby case with which to be dissatisfied, it is the narrow 5-4 margin by which the Supreme Court made its decision.  The Supreme Court was very close to dealing a blow to religious liberty in the United States.  Only one vote prevented it from doing so.   Now, this doesn’t amount to anything where results are concerned.  As my daddy once told me, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.  Yet, we almost had a big problem on our hands.

I ask you fellow Christian, “What would you have done if the Supreme Court’s decision had done the other way?”

Would you have protested?  Would you have sought to have the law repealed?  Would you call for more drastic measures?  Would you have been able to honestly say to those who supported the contraceptive mandate:

“ We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

I don’t think I could.  I can’t say the same to anyone who supports Johnny Hunt.  No matter what good he has done in the past, he has proved himself inadequate today.

I’m moving on.  I’m pressing on.  Who knows where I’ll end up.  There is a potential for a seminary graduate coming out of FBCW.  Churches recruit ministers from there.  I may now be anathema in the Georgia Baptist Convention for speaking out on the Pulpit and Pen program against Johnny Hunt.  So be it.  I ain’t going where I don’t belong.

If you are enduring corruption quietly, it might just be because you are exactly where you belong.

Wake up.  Strengthen what remains.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

[1] Or, at least, I am studying to become one

 

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Johnny Hunt Recommended Caner to BPC Trustees, Says Hunt’s Highest-Ranking Staff Person

sethdunn88:

Lest anyone forget, Johnny Hunt has invited Ergun Caner to preach at First Baptist Woodstock even though Johnny knows Dr. Caner lied about his background.

Originally posted on Pulpit & Pen:

Following on the heels of a public revelation that Johnny Hunt has invited Ergun Caner to speak  to his church (which itself is following on the heels of an email released in which Hunt acknowledges Caner’s career of lies), we now have confirmation that a prominent staff member at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia claims that Hunt recommended Caner to the Brewton-Parker Board of Trustees to serve as their next president.

In an email released to the Pulpit & Pen, Executive Pastor and Hunt’s highest-ranking staff person, Jim Law, told a concerned church member:

Caner three

Again, this is Jim Law – executive pastor at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia – saying…

Pastor Johnny affirmed that appointment to the search committee there [emphasis mine]. The reason being when those issues arose a couple years ago at Liberty, Pastor Johnny was on board there. Dr. Caner lost his job there but…

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Thank God for Joel Osteen? Stealing Lost Sheep Out of His Open Gate

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” The words of the Lord Jesus as recorded in Matthew 7:15-20

On or about July 19th, 2014, Pulpit and Pen contributor Dustin Germain, published an article on the Pulpit and Pen blog entitled, “Joel Osteen Likes God…He just doesn’t like Jesus [A Twitter Survey of @JoelOsteen]”.  In his article Germain observed that since July 8, 2013 (through July 19th, 2014), “Out of Joel Osteen’s 806 tweets, not including any of his replies to other people, he mentions ‘God’ 334 times.”[1]  Germain further observed that, during that same time period, Osteen mentioned Jesus only once.   Such a revelation may be shocking to some, however, when I read Germain’s findings, I was completely unsurprised.  I was already aware that Joel Osteen is a purveyor of what sociologist Christian Smith has labeled “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,”[2]  which according to Smith, is a theology that exhibits the following ideas:

  1. God created the world.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when needed to resolve a problem
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.[3]

Such ideas (apart from #1 and most of #2), are hardly biblical and completely ignore the centrality of Jesus Christ to all of existence.  Preaching like that of Osteen has been described by author and theologian Michael Horton as “Smooth Talking and Christless Christianity.”[4]  Osteen’s brand of prosperity preaching, make no mistake it is a brand, is rightly decried by men such as Germain and Horton.  Horton observes:

“Although explicit proponents of the prosperity gospel may be fewer than their influence suggests, its big names and best-selling authors (T. D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and Joyce Meyer) are purveyors of a pagan worldview with a peculiarly American flavor. It’s basically what Luther called the ‘theology of glory’: How can I climb the ladder and attain the glory here and now that God has actually promised for us after a life of suffering? The contrast is the theology of the cross: the story of God’s merciful descent to us at great personal cost— a message that the apostle Paul acknowledged was offensive and foolish to Greeks.”[5]

I agree with Horton’s assessment.  Osteen is bad, very bad.  As I’ve written elsewhere, a picture speaks a thousand words.  So, here is a picture of my preaching professor’s hand pointing at a PowerPoint slide of Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer as he teaches workshop students about how dangerous these prosperity preachers are to congregants:

Joyce and Joel

At best, Osteen, Meyer, and company dilute the gospel. Yet, I’m thankful to God that a man such as Osteen has exposure in the digital age.  Here’s why.  In times past, huckster preachers in different geographical areas could fly under the radar of theologically discerning apologists and evangelists.  Such prosperity preachers who became popular enough to be featured on television would eventually be exposed for what they were to a larger audience.  However, the identity of their followers was largely unknown.   Television is a one-way medium.  While there is nothing new under the sun, times have changed.  The internet is replacing television as the primary medium of mass communication and it…is a two-way medium.  Evangelists, shepherds, and teachers can now know exactly who is in need of evangelism, care, and teaching simply by checking who retweets popular prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen.  Observe one of Osteen’s latest Tweets.

God's Big Deal OSteen

That bit of moralistic, therapeutic, life-coaching, Christless Deism (which defies the very definition of the word average) was retweeted by 2,970 undiscerning souls who likely don’t know their right from their left…and now anyone who wants to click on the retweet count can know who these souls are and can quickly, cheaply, and easily communicate with them.

Biblically faithful Christians can and often do go on-and-on about what a pox Osteen and others like him are upon our society and the church.  We should certainly lament that 3,437 biblically misinformed souls favorited this particular tweet.  However, we have to do something more than just complain or lament.  Otherwise, we may just come off as being jealous that men like Osteen are more popular and wealthy than us.

 We have to act.  We can use Osteen and others like him as an evangelistic and educational tool.  Just as the Watchtower and the LDS send lost people to our doors without our having to do anything, Osteen sends confused (or lost people) to our social media environment.  These people are even predisposed to a high view of scripture!  For what more could we ask?  Someone retweeting Osteen or posting a Joyce Meyer quote on his Facebook page is practically giving an invitation to have a spiritual conversation.  Take up that invitation.

We should follow Dustin Germaine’s example and rightly criticize Osteen for his Christless preaching, but our actions can’t end there.  Faithful Christians have to be ready to share the real, complete gospel of Jesus Christ.  Sometimes the Osteen dragon rears its ugly head in our flesh-and-blood environment and not just in social media where we have time to think about a response. Thus, we have to be ready at all times.  Recently, I experienced a situation, were I was not prepared as I should have been.

The Open Door

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” – The words of the Lord Jesus as recorded in Matthew 7:13-14

About a year ago, I decided to stop for coffee and check out the reading material at the Open Door Christian Bookstore here in Cartersville.  It was the most disturbing trip for a mocha that I ever took.  As I perused the books on the store’s shelves, I noticed offerings from Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, Joyce Meyer, and even Benny Hinn.  What were books written by such proliferators of error doing in the “Christian” bookstore?  Apparently, they were selling.  If such books weren’t sellers, they wouldn’t be carried.  Even someone like me who made a “C” in Marketing 3000 knows that. Towards the back of the store, there was a single shelf that displayed biblically faithful literature: Bible dictionaries, conservative commentaries, and concordances.  There were, of course, Bibles for sale, but they were in the back, too.  The front-line merchandise was prosperity stuff and moralistic, therapeutic deism.

It was an eye-opening experience.  The little town of Cartersville abounds with churches.  In fact, the Open Door Christian Bookstore is next door to a Baptist church.  Cartersville is absolutely full of conservative Baptists and Pentecostals.  I couldn’t believe that the members of these generally biblically faithful denominations were providing the market demand for Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer books, but they were and they are.  (A later trip to the spiritual books section of the local public library confirmed my suspicions.  There was a plentiful selection of Osteen and Meyer.)  Right here, in my own home, which appears to be an enclave of Christendom, there are enough sheep without a shepherd to keep the Open Door Christian Bookstore in the business of selling books by prosperity preachers.   Then and there, I resolved to talk to the manager or owner of the store in order to voice my objections to the “Christian” material for sale, but no one who fit those descriptions was to be found.  I took my coffee and left the bible-verse trinkets, eagle statues, ceramic angels, and prosperity books behind.  I did not return for almost a year.

You shall also have a place outside the camp and go out there, and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement.Since the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you. Deuteronomy 23:12-15

On a recent weekend, I attended a house-warming party for a friend of mine whom I met in Sunday School at First Baptist Woodstock.  I am usually not good at thinking of gifts to buy for such occasions and I had been racking my brain about what to get for him.  It came to me that, since my friend is a bold and outspoken proclaimer of the gospel who is majoring in religion through Liberty University Online, a Holman Bible Dictionary would be an appreciated gift.  It was Thursday and the weekend party was fast-approaching, but I knew exactly where I could find such a book on short notice.  After a late evening at work, I made my way to the Open Door Christian Bookstore.  I walked into to the store just before closing time.  The only other person there was an older man wearing dress clothes and a tie who asked me if I needed help finding anything.  I assumed him to be the owner. He led me his sole copy of the Holman Bible Dictionary and I brought it to the register in order to purchase it.

I was ready to voice my long-held concerns about the products he was selling, but I wanted to get an idea of his beliefs first. “Where do you go to church,” I asked him.  He told me that he went to New Covenant Church.   The name of his church didn’t tell me much about what he believed doctrinally.  “What denomination is that?” I asked.  He replied that it was non-denominational.  I asked him if it was an independent church that baptized professed believers by immersion.  He told me that it was.  “Oh, okay it’s a Baptist church, I said.”[6]  This observation led to the man going into an impassioned speech about denominational differences.  I got the feeling it wasn’t the first time he had given it.  He drew a crude analogy between different denominations and the twelve tribes of Israel in the Old Testament.  Each tribe had its own territory and culture but camped around the same Tabernacle of God.  So, too, do Christian denominations have their own differing cultures but camp around the same God.  We’re all different, but we’re all one.

Like a Joyce Meyer book, I didn’t buy it. Even if his tenuous analogy could hold, Deuteronomy 23 makes it clear that the skubalon that is a Joel Osteen book belongs outside the camp of God’s people.

I asked him, as he checked me out at the register, what he thought about Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and Benny Hinn.  He stated that such authors weren’t for him but that some of his customers liked these books and that’s why he carried them.  His credit card machine, which he referred to as “the beast” then rejected the American Express gift card with which I was trying to pay.  As he ran my card again, this purveyor of Tim LaHaye bestsellers informed me that the government was seeking to take away the money supply in order to control spending.  Credit cards, it seemed, were the mark of the beast.  As I listened to him rattle off his eschatological predictions, I gazed upon a prominently displayed copy of John Hagee’s Four Blood Moons in quiet dismay.

It was hard to get in a word edgewise but I finally got it out that I didn’t think it was appropriate to sell books by heretics like Joyce Meyer.  This struck a nerve.  “Baptists don’t have it all figured out!” he told me.  This is not a claim I had made but he refuted it nonetheless.  Once of the things know-it-all seminary students like me know for sure is that we Baptists don’t have it all figured out.  We are equally sure that Joyce Meyer is a heretic.   The old shop keeper told me that the definition of heresy was very narrow and that someone had to deny that Jesus was God to be a heretic.   I told him that Joyce Meyer claimed that Jesus stopped being the son of God on the cross.[7]

“She never said that,” he retorted.

Undaunted I insisted that she did.  It was to no avail.  On this day, there was to be no reaching this particular sin salesman.  At least I tried.  I do hope that every Christian man and women in Cartersville who claims to be a follower of Christ, especially the members of New Covenant Church, will hold this man accountable for the books he sells.  I think he knows that he is sin; he showed it by his defensive attitude.  He knew he couldn’t defend the people who wrote the books he sold.  Instead he tried to defend the conditions of the operation of his business.  The best he could do was lay out some red herrings:

“John McArthur is wrong on some things, should I stop carrying him?  Some people come in and only want the King James!”

He wanted me to defend MacArthur, the Southern Baptist denomination, or a certain Bible translation and see that I couldn’t do so and hold to my own supposed standard of not selling error.  I didn’t bring any of those subjects up and I wasn’t there to defend any of them.  They were, quite frankly, irrelevant to the task at hand.  Watch out for tactics like this when you stand up for God’s truth.  Don’t be baited into defending your guy[8], your translation, or your denomination.  Stick to God’s word and Christ crucified.

Readers might say at this point, that the owner of the Open Door Christian Book store is running a ministry and not a business.  That’s fine.  You can go ahead and assert that if you like.  I wonder, though, if you would make the same assertion if the store was selling Playboy Magazine or pornographic movies.  There are just some things that a Christian should neither buy nor sell.  I say the owner of the Open Door Christian Book Store is putting money before God, and in a big way by selling such things.

Joel Osteen books are just as bad as pornography.  They are harmful. Think about that the next time you hear or see someone quote Joel Osteen and don’t say one word of correction to him.  Think about that and think about the example the Apostle Paul sets in scripture:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16

Walking Through the Door Joel Osteen has Opened

“This is my Bible. I am what it says I am. I can do what it says I can do. Today, I will be taught the Word of God. I boldly confess: My mind is alert, My heart is receptive. I will never be the same. I am about to receive The incorruptible, indestructible, Ever-living seed of the Word of God. I will never be the same. Never, never, never. I will never be the same. In Jesus name. Amen.” Joel Osteen

I made a “C” in Marketing but I made an “A” in Business Negotiation.  There is a negotiation technique called the “consistency trap” that is quite useful in many situations.  If someone has committed to a certain position, it is psychologically difficult for him to go back on his own word.  Such a person can be caught in a consistency trap and held accountable for his words.

Consider the case of a car salesman who sees a dad walk in to his dealership with three small children.  The car salesman says, “With a family full of small children, I’m sure you’re looking for a very safe car.”  Any dad worth his salt will respond in the affirmative.  The salesman then says, “I can show you this model, it’s the safest in its class but, of course, the top-of-the-line safety features drive up the price.”  What can the dad say now, “Sorry, I don’t want to spend the money to keep my children safe.”?  He can’t say that.  He’s caught in the consistency trap and if he can’t get out of it, he’ll have to buy the car.

How easy should it be to witness to someone who has repeated the words of Osteen quoted above?  There is no need to defend the veracity of the Bible, the ancient wisdom of the Old Testament Law, the age of the earth, or the possibility of miracles.  Someone who repeats after Osteen already claims to believe every word the Bible says.  It should be easy, therefore, to set a biblical consistency trap:

Isn’t your heart receptive? Didn’t you boldly confess it so?  You just said you are what the Bible says you are?  You just said the Word of God was incorruptible.

Well, the Word of God says you are a wretched sinner and you need pick of up the cross of Christ and follow Him.  It will be hard, you will be persecuted, and you may lose some friends.  There is no seed faith to provide you with favor.  Rather, you are more than a conqueror because Jesus has defeated death at the cross.

These Osteen people are waiting for you, faithful Christian, to share the true gospel with them.  Unfortunately, Osteen and company think that these people are waiting for them to take their money.  Osteen, Meyer, Jakes, and Hinn are the kind of people Paul was talking about when he said:

“For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  2 Timothy 3:6-7

What are you going to do?  Are you going to walk into church, pour your cup of coffee, walk right by the woman who was posting Osteen quotes on Facebook last night, and take your seat before the praise music starts?  Put that coffee down.  Do the work of an evangelist.

Every time someone retweets Osteen, you’ve got a lead on a spiritual conversation.  Use that lead.[9]  Before doing so, however, make sure you’ve studied up on Osteen and can clearly communicate why he’s a man who shouldn’t be followed.  Dustin Germain and others have already done the work for you in this area.  Use it.  Most of all, study up on what scripture says.  If you know what the Bible says, you can’t go wrong.

In practice, it’s not going to be as quick and easy as setting a consistency trap.  When it comes down to it, most people aren’t going to care how much you know, they are going to care how much you love.  Correct gently.   Be nice.  Most of all, pray.  You can’t do the work of an evangelist by yourself.  You need the Holy Spirit to guide you.  Let Him do so.

Be on the lookout, as Michael Horton points out:

“..the church in America today is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful, and perhaps even well-liked that it nearly mirrors the world itself. Aside from the packaging, there is nothing that cannot be found in most churches today that could not be satisfied by any number of secular programs and self-help groups.”[10]

Some version of what Osteen preaches may have already slithered its way into your church.

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

 [1] http://pulpitandpen.org/2014/07/18/joel-osteen-likes-god-he-just-doesnt-like-jesus-a-twitter-survey-of-joelosteen/

[2] Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 162– 71, 258, 262.

[3] Ibid., 162-163.

[4] Horton, Michael (2008-11-01). Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (p. 65). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[5] Horton, Michael (2008-11-01). Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (p. 68). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[6] It never ceases to amaze me that some people who attend “non-denominational” churches don’t understand that they are Baptists.  A Baptist church is any church that is autonomous and baptizes believers by immersion.

[7] http://storage.carm.org/audio/joycemeyer/joyce-meyer-Jesus-became-sin-stopped-being-son-of-God.mp3

[8] I’ve never even read any John McArthur books.

[9] Yes, I’m playing of “Glengarry Glen Ross to drive these points home.

[10] Horton, Michael (2008-11-01). Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (pp. 16-17). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.