To Bartow County Christians…

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Romans 12:18

Over the years, I’ve shared a lot on social media. I recently surpassed the 300 mark on my Christian Commute podcast. This particular blog site has 134 posts, not counting what I’ve written at Pulpit & Pen. Much of my posted writings are recycled seminary assignments – book reviews and academic papers. I have an on-going apologetics series. Such things aren’t controversial…but things most Christians agree upon and accept rarely are. A lot of my posts are very critical. This is so because I have many concerns.

I’m concerned about the direction of the Southern Baptist Convention, especially with regard to financial stewardship. I’m concerned about the growing influence of mega-churches, especially multi-site ones. I’m concerned about the products being marketed by the Christian media industry. I’m concerned about the direction of Christian music. I’m concerned about the biblical literacy of pew-sitting Christians. I’m concerned about the growing influence of Pentecostalism, in our county and beyond. I’m concerned about the state of women’s ministry. I’m concerned about the activities of the New Apostolic Reformation. I’m concerned about ecumenism. I’m concerned about holiness. I’m concerned about doctrinal fidelity.

In the course of sharing my concerns about these matters, I’ve ruffled some feathers, especially here at home. Not only do I write about general issues but I write about specific people. I name names. This really goes against the grain of evangelical culture. While I see myself kind of like this guy:

I think others may see me like this:

Some of the people about which I have written may be your friends and family members. They might even be you. One of my earliest blogs featured the following statement, one which I always try to keep in mind when I’m writing about another person:

…the actions we take affect our families. Our actions can affect our spouses even before we meet them. Our actions can affect our children even before they are born. What we say and do matters. Furthermore, what we say and do to others affects them. We never know what someone else could be going through when we talk to them. When we interact with someone, we need to remember that he is someone’s child and a human person created in the image of God. We shouldn’t pick on people, lie to them, or blame them unjustly.”

I’ve been told that a lot of my message gets lost in my delivery, which could certainly use improvement. I can’t really say how many people I “win” versus how many people I “lose”. Feedback is mixed. Positive feedback is usually delivered to me by an appreciative party. Negative feedback may be delivered to someone else or not at all.

I’m not trying to offend anyone but if I’ve offended you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I won’t know that you’re offended unless you tell me. Despite appearances, I’m a very approachable person. Forthrightly, I just want to help. We may not agree. Most likely, I’m going to stand by my positions if we talk but let’s at least try to understand each other. I’m not saying that your obligated to reach out to me but I do think doing so could be for the better.

Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another.”
Proverbs 27:17

Over the years, blogging and podcasting has given me the chance to share a lot of stories and have a lot of stories shared with me. I’ve appreciated the actions taken by everyone who has reached out to me for discussion. Now, that I’ve had child number four and taken on preparing a weekly Sunday School lesson, I find myself with less time to write. I’m almost done with seminary but writing assignments for school almost always take precedence over blogs. Be assured that when I do take the time to put something out that I’m doing it because I believe that it’s very important.

Whatever it is, I want it to be God-honoring. I love Jesus. I want Christians to draw closer to him and I want lost people to come to know him.

God is on his throne. Whatever happens, it’s going to work out well for His church. Like I said, I’m concerned…but I’m not worried. If you’re standing on the promises of Christ, our savior, you don’t need to be either. If you’re reading this and you don’t know the Lord Jesus, give me the chance to tell you about Him. If you’re reading this and you do know the Lord Jesus, maybe we can tell someone about him together.

*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.

Rightly Applying Matthew 18 Church Discipline as Baptists

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.Matthew 18:15-17

When someone who is not a member of your own local church sins or otherwise proclaims something with which you disagree, you are not obligated to first go to him in private before you criticize him.  Any Baptist who tells you otherwise is in error.  This can be easily demonstrated by examining the three step church discipline process prescribed by the Lord in Matthew 18.

Step 1: Go privately to a brother who is sin.

It is completely possible for any Christian to go to any other Christian who is in sin and call him to repentance in Christian love.  In fact, Christians should do this for one another even if they are not members of the same local body of believers.  Furthermore, taking this action privately is a wise course of action in many given situations.

Step 2: If a brother who is in sin refuses to listen to you after you privately approach him, take at least two other brothers with you and call him again to repentance.

While it is logistically more complicated to take multiple people to meet with an erring brother about his sin, it is completely possible.  Once again, taking this action as privately as possible may be a wise course of action.

Step 3: If a sinning brother who has been approached in private and by a group refuses to repent, take the matter before the church.  If the brother still refuses to repent and won’t listen to the church, treat him as if he is a non-Christian.  He is to be put out from the Church.

 At this point, “the church” must be defined.  Here is how the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 defines it:

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

Because churches are autonomous and local, each Christian is under only the ecclesiastical authority of his own church.  If a Christian is not a member of your church, your church cannot put him under discipline.  He is under no obligation to recognize the authority of the officers of your church or the authority of your church’s congregational decisions.  He is under such obligation at his church, not yours.  Since you are a not a member of his church, you have no standing there to bring him under discipline. The third step of the Lord’s three step prescription can only be exercised by members of the same church.  Each step is integral to the prescription; therefore, the Matthew 18 process of church discipline is only applicable to members of the same church.

Episcopalian and Presbyterian churches (unbiblically) recognize ecclesiastical authorities above that of the local church.  Christians from these denominations recognize the authority of a bishopric, general conference, or synod.  Under such ecclesiology, all three steps of the Matthew 18 church discipline process could be exercised by members who are not a member of the same local body.  This is not the cause for Baptists, however.  A Baptist should feel free to criticize, publically if necessary, any public action taken by those who are not members of his own local church (including denominational employees and officers).  Just remember that such criticism should be edifying, truthful, and relevant.

As a matter of further note, Matthew 18:20 refers to the authority given by Jesus to the local church.  It does not imply that God is physically manifested wherever two Christians are gathered or that any two Christians who are gathered together at a given time constitute a local church vested with ecclesiastical authority.

*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.

 

afteryoubelieve

After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters by NT Wright- A Review

About the Author

N.T. Wright is an Anglican Bishop and one of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars; he earned his Doctor of Divinity degree from Oxford University in 1975.  “He has broadcast frequently on radio and television, and has lectured at universities and colleges around the world, holding visiting Professorships at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Harvard Divinity School, and the Gregorian University in Rome. He has received honorary doctorates from several universities.”[1] A prolific author, Wright writes for the theologian and layman alike.  He wrote After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters during his tenure as the Bishop of Durham.  He is currently Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews in Scotland.  Wright is quite popular; his official Facebook page has garnered just fewer than 11,000 likes.

Christian Character

Central to theme of the book is the eschatological idea that “God the creator intends to bring heaven and earth together…and this plan has been decisively inaugurated in Jesus Christ.”[2]  This idea is a common one, given that the prophecy of Revelation 21 illustrates a new heaven and new earth in which God will dwell among His people.  Oftentimes, the present state of the earth is looked upon in disdain in deference to the coming of the new heaven and new earth.  This feeling is best captured in the words of an old blue grass gospel song: “I don’t want to get adjusted, to this world, to this world.  I got a home that’s so much better, I want to go there sooner or later.  I don’t want to get adjusted to this world.”[3]  Essential to this type of feeling is the idea that the events of Revelation 21 are something that is going to happen.  Wright states that the events of Revelation 21 are something that has begun to happen and that this was the view of the first Christians.  He explores this notion at length in his previous books Simply Christian and Surprised by HopeAfter You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters (“the book”) is, more or less, a sequel to those books that explores Christian character and virtue.  In the book, Wright argues that “Christian life in the present, with its responsibilities and particular callings, is to be understood and shaped in relation to the final goal for which we have been made and redeemed.”[4]  In other words, the book is about being adjusted in this world with an eye towards the world to come.

Of course, the book is titled “After You Believe.”  The ethical framework explored isn’t for everybody; it’s only for believers.  Just as God is transforming creation itself through the resurrection of Jesus, God transforms individuals through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  There is a transformation of character that comes after one believes.  If one has not had that transformation of character, the virtues explored just aren’t applicable to them.  Wright’s treatment of virtue looks forward to the events of Revelation 21.  Those who don’t believe are destined for a much different end than those who do.  The book is an “exploration of how Christian character is formed.”[5]  Such a character, when formed, will exhibit certain virtues.

In addressing the concepts of character and virtue, Wright draws a very interesting parallel with Greek philosophy.  Without discounting the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Wright points out that the New Testament is a product of Hellenistic authors written to a Hellenistic audience.   The writers and the audience (at least the educated ones) already have an understanding of developing desirable character and exhibiting noble virtues…an Aristotelian one.  This Aristotelian view already recognized a goal of developing human character, the importance and existence of specific virtues, and a method by which one could live out a virtuous life.  It’s as if a basic framework for right-living is built into the human experience itself.  Aristotle and the Greeks recognized it, but overlaid worldly values upon it.  Paul and the early Christians (themselves Greeks or Hellenistic Jews), recognized the framework and overlaid Christian values upon it.  The end-game for Aristotle was living out Greek virtues; to do so was to function well.  In functioning well, one would flourish.  The end game for the Christian is to live as a ruler and a priest in God’s perfect creation.  This has been God’s plan all along as documented in Genesis all the way through to Revelation. Wright sees living out the Christian virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5)  as functioning well in the kingdom God has inaugurated through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Christian character is developed through the Holy Spirit and exhibits the fruits of the Spirit.  The old bluegrass attitude of not wanting to get adjusted just won’t do.  A more contemporary folk song whose authors’ borrow from Shakespeare (as Wright does throughout the book) comes through with a much more faithful hymn to sing: “Love it will not betray you, dismay, or enslave you, it will set you free. Be more like the man you were made to be.”[6]

Ideas and Ethical Insights

Wright’s approach to Christian Ethics as related to the classic Aristotelian framework is a novel one (to my knowledge, at least.)  Looking at Christian life as working towards a goal puts living in perspective.  Oftentimes, people come to faith and stop their intellectual assent by thinking, “It is finished!” They think that because Jesus’ work was finished on the cross that theirs must be too.   Taking the attitude, that things are just underway and working towards a goal puts more of an onus on the individual to strive to exercise Christian virtues.  Due to Wright’s general attitude about ethics, this is as deep as the book delves into ethical theory.  Wright states that the book is “not a full account of ethics…which is what some people expect from a book on Christian behavior…that’s the wrong way to go about the whole thing.”

Thus, the book does not explore various ethical theories.  It’s not a treatment of Emmanuel Kant through Ayn Rand and how their views square or don’t square with Christianity.  The ethical insight that Wright offers is that Christian ethics can’t necessarily be systematized in the same way that Christian theology can.   Christian ethics can be viewed through the prism of secular ethics but only, as Paul might put it, “in a mirror dimly, known in part but not yet fully known.”[7]  Wright puts the study of ethical theory in perspective; everyone has some system of ethics by which he orders his life.  (Wright briefly explores varying ethical attitudes in some chapters).  Even if one manages to live with complete integrity within his system, he falls short of being a ruler and priest in the kingdom of God.  The ultimate vocation of the Christian is to live as a ruler and priest.  Secular ethical systems do not provide an avenue to do so.  Living in such a way is something that can result from a set of systematized ethics; it’s just something that is going to happen.  It has been inaugurated already.  When the Christian understands this, he can stop looking at ethics as a set of rules and start looking at ethics as a way to live.  Aristotle’s ethical system, which was not rules based, seems like the closest secular ethical theory to the one Wright advocates.  However, as Wright points out, living out the Aristotelian virtues doesn’t truly equate to functioning well.  Aristotelian (worldly) virtues are too much at odds with Christian ones.

Unfortunately, Wright puts the cart before the four horseman of the Apocalypse.   One can tell by his writing that Wright is clearly annoyed by the prevailing attitude that man’s ultimate destination is a far off heaven on cloud were one plays a harp as a disembodied spirit in blissful solitude.  A faithful reading of the Bible clearly indicates that this is not the case.  A new creation is coming down out of heaven and Christians will be very much embodied.  Wright is theologically correct to advocate the coming Kingdom of God, but he doesn’t make a case that this has anything to do with ethics or character in the present age.  Yes, the Kingdom of God has come in the sense that the Holy Spirit dwells with Christians on earth, but the sinners are still here too.  We just aren’t there yet.  Wright’s focus on the Kingdom of God, while it makes one cognizant about the ultimate goal for Christians, just seems out of place in a discussion of ethics in a sinful world.  There’s just no application to it.  Wright needs to do a better job of connecting man’s ultimate kingdom vocation to his ethical life in this world.  Yes, the Christian’s ultimate destination is relevant theologically, but how does it affect his Christian character?

It may not.  However, that doesn’t mean that Wright’s view of ethical theory is out the window.  Ethical theories are best tested by their real world application.  All of the world’s ethical theories have shortcomings; they all fail the test.  Wright’s ethical theory, steeped in the coming of Christ, cannot ultimately fail because Christ will establish His Kingdom.  The church can apply this thinking in the present day.  Rather than seeing contemporary moral attitudes as valid based upon ethical theories; the church can see moral attitudes as an absence of Christian character and virtue.  These are things that cannot be taught and learned, but things that must be applied and inaugurated by God himself.

Strengths and Weakness

Wright’s parallel of New Testament though and Greek thought is an excellent one.  As a Baptist who advocates “doing church” like it was done in the first century, I can appreciate the idea of “doing thought” like it was done in the first century.  The Aristotelian parallel is a good, but limited one.  I get it, but other readers may not.  Before I ever picked the book up, I read, studied, and discussed at length in an academic setting Aristotle’s Nichomachen Ethics.  If I hadn’t, Wright’s short treatment of Aristotelian thinking would not have been enough to drive home his points about living in a state of Christian eudaimonia. Thus, Wright’s reliance on an Aristotelian framework is both a strength and a weakness.

I wasn’t as familiar with and studied up on some of Wright’s Shakespearean references and, thus, some of his illustrations supported by Shakespearean dialogue may have been lost on me.  Furthermore, unlike the books of the New Testament and Nichomachean ethics, Shakespeare’s works were meant for entertainment.  There are, of course, underlying philosophical and ethical idea within them.  However, because these ideas are included in works intended for secular entertainment, they are much more open for interpretation than the books of the New Testament and Aristotle’s philosophical writings.  Furthermore, an author can reasonably expect that a Western Christian reader would be educated in the Bible and even Western philosophy.  However, not everyone knows the finer points of Shakespeare…especially outside of England.

Wright can’t help but be English…he is from England and wrote as a Bishop of the Church of England.  However, many of his readers can’t help but be American.  He writes like an Englishman talks and it’s sometimes confusing.  To paraphrase Orson Wells, the book is full of things that are only correct because they’re grammatical but they’re tough on the eye; the phrases are very wearying ones, unpleasant to read.  Even academic work shouldn’t be a strenuous read.  (The book is an academic work, unlike his “For Everyone” series that the author publishes as “Tom Wright.”)  Part of what makes the book is a confusing read is Wright’s penchant for stating an ethical or theological perspective he is advocating against in a way that makes it seem like he is advocating for it, only to ultimately describe that viewpoint as lacking.  Sometimes it’s just plain hard to tell exactly what Wright it advocating, which makes for a frustrating read through an ethics book.

When the confusion is sorted out, Wright does advocate an orthodox position.  This is quite pleasant in a world where the resurrection and divinity of Christ is sometimes removed from treatments of Christian ethics.  Wright is a writer evangelical Christians can, in some areas, trust .  His dedication to faithful orthodoxy (his “new perspective” on Paul not withstanding) shines though in the book; this strengthens his arguments for Christian living.

Recommendation

The title of the book seems to imply that it is a work geared towards every Christian.   However, the book is more accurately understood to be a work geared towards only Christians.  I wouldn’t recommend it for every Christian.  I certainly recommend taking the attitude Wright advocates in the book.  To think to oneself, “I am a ruler and priest in the kingdom of God who should exhibit the fruits of the Spirit; I am able to so exhibit these fruits because the Holy Spirit works though me to do so,” is right-thinking.  For the American Christian layman, the book would come off as a bit of a wonky (to borrow term from the British) read.  I would recommend it to the individual who is quite studied on the New Testament, English literature, and western philosophy, especially if that individual is in the ministry.  Part of the ministry is being able to take complicated spiritual concepts and communicating them in simple terms that everyone can understand.  For anyone who can do that, the insights included in the book can be valuable tools.

*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.

Works Cited

D.J. Lactose Productions. I Don’t Want To Get Adjusted. http://www.harptabs.com/song.php?ID=17712 (accessed June 8, 2012).

LyricsMania.com. Sigh No More. http://www.lyricsmania.com/sigh_no_more_lyrics_mumford_and_sons.html (accessed June 9, 2012).

St Mary’s College. Curriculum Vitae – Web Version. http://www.ntwrightpage.com/NTW_WebCV.htm (accessed June 6, 2012).

University of St Andrews. N. T. Wright appointed to Chair at St Andrews. April 27, 2010. http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/divinity/about/news/title,50688,en.html (accessed June 6, 2012).

Wikipedia contributors . N. T. Wright . June 4 , 2012 . http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=N._T._Wright&oldid=495874474 (accessed June 6, 2012).

Wright, N.T. After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. Kindle Edition. HarperOne, 2010.

 

[1]  (University of St Andrews 2010)

[2]  (Wright 2010) Location 33 of 5610

[3]  (D.J. Lactose Productions n.d.)

[4]  (Wright 2010) Location 33 of 5610

[5]  ibid

[6]  (LyricsMania.com n.d.)

[7] 1 Corinthians 13:12

pp

Of Pulpit & Pen and Pizza Hut

And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.” 1 Corinthians 12:5

How ridiculous would it be if someone wrote to Pizza Hut’s corporate office and accused the company of focusing too much on serving pizza and bread sticks? “I think your pizza is okay,” the complaint might read, “but you should also serve roast beef sandwiches and fried chicken.” An incredulous Pizza Hut marketing department might respond, “Thank you for your interest in Pizza Hut. Whenever you are in the mood for pizza, we invite you to join us for dinner. If you’d prefer roast beef or fried chicken, perhaps you should visit Arby’s or KFC.” I don’t know if Pizza Hut has ever received such a nonsensical complaint…but Pulpit & Pen has. The Pulpit & Pen publishes articles focused on “theology, polemics, and discernment.” By their very nature, its articles are often negative. Yet, invariably people react, not to the merit of the the articles Pulpit & Pen publishes, but to their negative tone. Pulpit & Pen is “too negative”. Pulpit & Pen should be “more devotional”. Pulpit & Pen never publishes anything “positive”.

May I suggest Arby’s?

In the vastness of the internet and the world’s theological libraries, there is no shortage of educational and positive, devotional material. If someone wants to write such material himself, there is nothing stopping him. If someone wants to read such material, it is easy to find. What’s not so easy to find is sound polemical material. The Evangelical Industrial Complex is full of back-slapping evangelical celebrities who fall all over themselves to recommend one another’s books and conferences and make sure that the whole world knows, via Twitter, every time they eat lunch together. It’s not very profitable to be polemical. The Pulpit & Pen contributors know this. They do polemics anyway. Why? Because it is needed and it helps people.

I am the longest tenured contributor at the Pulpit & Pen. I’ve seen other contributors come and go. I’ve kept on contributing. I’ve published much polemical material there. It’s a bit of a specialty for me but it’s not all I read and write. It shouldn’t be all you read and write either. It’s important to be balanced as a consumer of Christian media. However, a Christian media producer doesn’t have to be thus. Like Pizza Hut, Pulpit & Pen is a specialty service provider (by the way, don’t complain, it’s free). Pulpit & Pen is not a church. If all a church did was polemics then I imagine that church would be unhealthy. Pulpit & Pen is a website. It provides a valuable contribution to Christendom as a whole. Other sites provide teaching, apologetics, and devotions. Pulpit & Pen provides polemics.

Some people don’t like polemics material. Fine, don’t read it. (Furthermore, don’t go to the polemics site, read it, and then complain about it being polemical). See how that works out for you and your church when some “leader” walks in with Jesus Calling or the latest Beth Moore book. I invite those of you who don’t like how “negative” Pulpit & Pen is to ask yourself a question.

How much more would you appreciate Pizza Hut if there were no Domino’s, Papa John’s, or Little Caesar’s?

As I said already, there is no shortage of devotional and teaching material. Much of it is bad. Pulpit & Pen finds the bad stuff and warns people about it…and almost nobody else does it as well. Arguably, Pulpit & Pen is less like Pizza Hut and more like the health department. If Arby’s and KFC sell spoiled food then the Health Department warns consumers about it. When the Evangelical Industrial Complex foists false teaching upon Christendom, Pulpit & Pen writes an article about it.

How foolish is that diner who blames the Health Department for shutting down his favorite restaurant when it is selling spoiled food?

*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.

heresy-greek

Understanding Heresy

“Reject a factious man after a first and second warning,knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” Titus 3:10

Millard Erickson’s Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology defines “heresy” as
“a belief or teaching that contradicts Scripture and Christian theology.”  The English term “heresy” is derived from the Greek term “αἵρεσις” which Strong’s Concordance defines as “a self-chosen opinion, a religious or philosophical sect, discord or contention.”  Thus, if a man believes or teaches something that contradicts biblical doctrine, he is a heretic.   Despite the simple definition of heresy, Christians may struggle with classifying or judging heresy.

For example,  someone might ask “Is modalism damnable heresy?”

Such a question presupposes that there are heresies which aren’t damnable.  Surely, if an idea contradicts what is revealed God’s word it is damnable.  All heresy is damnable and should be corrected.  Yet, not all heresy is eternally damnable in that believing or teaching the particular heresy will result in the heretic spending an eternity in Hell.  For example, the Presbyterian practice of paedobaptism  is heretical.  Presbyterians (even such respected theologians as RC Sproul and Matt Slick) are heretics.  However, they do not believe a different gospel than the one contained in the New Testament.  Presbyterians, like all true Christians, believe that God’s people are saved by grace through faith and not by works.  Presbyterians will not be consigned to eternal Hell for their heretical view of baptism.  By contrast the Roman Catholic practice of paedobaptism is an eternally damnable heresy.  This is so because the Roman Catholic Church teaches that the act of paedobaptism is salvific.  In other words, the Roman Catholic teaching posits a different gospel.  Perseverance in this belief will lead to eternal damnation.

All heresy is damnable but not all heresy is eternally damnable.

Some Christians may view heresy in terms of “primary” and “secondary” doctrines, where “primary” doctrines are those doctrines which people must believe in order to go to Heaven (and eventually dwell in the New Jerusalem).  Under such a view, a “heretic” is one who denies a primary doctrine. Such delineation is completely arbitrary and has no basis in biblical theology.  It assumes that purpose of the Christian life is to “get to heaven” rather than live out a biblical faith on Earth.  All biblical doctrine is inherently important and authoritative.  Denominational splits are evidence of this.  Baptists don’t sprinkle babies; Presbyterians don’t immerse adults in water.  Neither sect believes members of the other are Hell bound and, in practice, both would be loathe to refer to one another as “heretics”.  Yet, that is exactly the implication of their membership in different churches which are part of different denominations.

Heresy is that which separates Christians (and sometimes false brethren)  into different factions.  For the sake of the health of the local church, heresy cannot be tolerated within its ranks.  Members of the same local church should be of one accord when it comes to both “primary” and “secondary” doctrines (which are essentially false categories).  Christians should not let heresy become a term loaded with any meaning other than what is included in Millard Erickson’s simple definition.  All heretics aren’t going to Hell.  However each occurrence of heresy should be recognized for what it is and corrected in Christian love.

*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.

 

 

 

cvbc

SBC Job Search: “Worship Arts” Pastor for Unbeleivers

 

This post launches a new series of articles which will biblically critique pastoral job openings posted on the official Southern Baptist job search engine.  Given the state of American evangelicalism, it is far past time for such an examination.  Do local churches have biblical expectations for upcoming pastors?  That’s the question that the SBC Job Search series will seek to answer.  Are you a member of a pulpit or personnel committee at a Baptist Church?  Please send your potential job advertisements to sethdunn88@gmail.com for biblical critique and feedback.

Worship Arts Pastor: Chattanooga Valley Baptist Church

Chattanooga Valley Baptist Church in Flinstone, GA is searching for a Worship Arts Pastor.  As a pastor, this individual is expected to minister to “the church body and volunteers within the worship and media ministries.”  This is a reasonable and biblical expectation.  Most of the language in the job posting is what one would expect to find in an advertisement for a music minister.  Yet the language related “desired results” of this Worship Arts Pastor’s work raises red flags.  The church’s twelve desired results are listed below, with questionable areas highlighted in red.

Desired Results
1. Prepare an environment in which non-believers can experience the power of the Holy Spirit in corporate worship.
2. Lead the church body to grow in faith by encountering Jesus in corporate worship.
3. Integrate the worship, media and preaching ministries into a unified, seamless presentation during corporate worship.
4. Develop, lead and grow worship ministry for all age groups.
5. Increase worship ministry volunteer participation.
6. Produce disciples who make disciples within the worship and media ministries.
7. Develop key leaders within the worship and media ministries.
8. Develop and lead the church’s technology strategy and implementation, including utilization of social media.
9. Increase awareness in the Valley and surrounding areas regarding the church’s ministries.
10. Increase awareness of the church’s mission and core values to the church body.
11. Create a positive brand image of the church, its members and its ministries.
12. Exhibit continuous growth in the areas of leadership, teamwork and personal holiness.

Desires five and eleven read like an advertisement for a sales position.  Exactly what is the “brand image” of a local church?  Is Jesus for sale?  Several scriptures speak to the importance of maintaining a good reputation, most notably Matthew 5:16 and 1 Peter 2:12.  However, these ancient texts are far removed from the modern business concept of “branding”.  That this church is looking to maintain and present a “brand image” indicates that it may have an unhealthily business-oriented model.  Furthermore, is it fair for a music minister to be expected to “increase” volunteer participation in the music ministry?  Shouldn’t this work be left up to the Holy Spirit?  What if 100% of qualified church members are already volunteering to the best of their availability? Again, desires five and eleven seem to read more like marching orders for a salesman than the charges of a gospel minister.

Desire two is unclear.  If the church expects the pastor to lead worship songs that teach biblical Christology (“encounter Jesus”), then the desire is laudable.  However, if the pastor is expected to facilitate mystical encounters with Jesus through musical performance, then this desire is unreasonable.  Corporate worship should not be understood as an “encounter” with Jesus but rather as an act directed toward the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Scripture teaches that Jesus has departed Earth and sent the Holy Spirit to minister to the church (John 16:7).  Despite misunderstandings of Matthew 18:20, New Testament Christians should not expect to mystically encounter Jesus during corporate worship.

Desired result number one is disturbing in that it seems to betray a lack of understanding about the nature of the church and the nature of the world.  The pastor is expected to “prepare a worship environment” that caters to the needs of non-Christians.  This should not be the intended purpose of corporate worship or the number one priority of a worship pastor.  While non-Christians can attend a worship-service, they cannot truly participate.  Simply put, the church is the people of  God.  A gathering of the church on the Lord’s Day, is a gathering of the people of God.  The worship the church produces is intended for God’s honor and praise and should result in the edification of God’s people.  Those outside of the church cannot produce such praise or be so edified because their minds are hostile towards God (Romans 8:6-7).  Jesus commissioned the church to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19).  This involves getting outside the door of the church building during the week.  Lost people may walk into a church service, hear the gospel, and come to faith and Christ.  However, the worship service should not primarily be designed to facilitate such an experience.  Furthermore, the saving of a soul is the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8)  A corporate worship service should not be structured as a spectacle to show lost people the power of the Holy Spirit.  Additionally, no pastor can be expected to “prepare an environment” in which lost people will “experience the power of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is God; it is wrong-headed to presume that the right song selection and performance can cause Him to move upon the hearts of men.  It’s likely that desire number one stems from a sincere longing to see lost people won to Christ.  However, it also stems from an apparent misunderstanding about the power of men and the power of God.

*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.

 

aaj

The Apostle Eric Mosley? A Warning About All About Jesus Ministries of Cartersville, Georgia

 

“While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” The Baptist Faith and Message 2000

“Biblically, an apostle was someone who was involved with Jesus and/or knew of Jesus before his crucifixion and after his crucifixion…we can conclude biblically that a true apostle in the New Testament style is no longer possible because it would require that the person had been with Christ and/or have seen the risen Lord.” Christian Apologetics Research Ministry

Christian brothers and sisters of Cartersville and Bartow County, GA, are you serious about winning your city and county for Christ?  Where do you go to do it?  How do you go about doing so?  How do you go about identifying those who are doing it with you?  How do you identify those who only look like they are doing it with you?  Unfortunately, there is at least one local church in Cartersville that is leading people down the wrong path in the name of Christ: All About Jesus Ministries, Inc., which is led by a self-proclaimed “Apostle” named Eric Mosely and his wife, Maydia, who has been deemed a “pastor” by that ministry.

According to the Bartow Baptist Association (BBA), approximately 80% of Bartow County residents do not attend church; that equates to approximately 80,000 people without a church home.  The BBA further estimates that 50% of the population of Bartow does not having a saving relationship was Jesus Christ (these estimates are of 2011).  Because there are so many lost and unchurched people in Bartow County, you may be tempted, when sharing Christ with a stranger, to take his profession of faith and church membership at face value and move on to next person.  Please don’t do this.  Just because someone says he knows Jesus and attends church doesn’t mean that he has a saving relationship with Christ and attends a church that is faithfully discipling him by rightly dividing the word of God.

Consider the example of All About Jesus Ministries, Inc.  The church’s pastor claims to be an Apostle even though the biblical office of Apostle does not continue.  His wife claims to be a pastor even though, according to biblical teaching, this office is reserved for men.  The members of this church are under the yoke of unbiblical authority figures.  Furthermore, the targets of this church’s “ministry” are some of Bartow County’s poorest and least educated people.  Bartow County’s poorest are being preached to about first fruits and tithing by the “Apostle” Eric Mosley.  What little they have to give is unfortunately being donated to this self-proclaimed Apostle, who apparently has no formal theological training.  Do they know any better to listen to him, his “pastor” wife, and they string of Pentecostal preachers and self proclaimed prophets who are paraded through their church?

gardens

Cartersville Gardens is a low-income community near All about Jesus Ministries Inc.  Will you leave the evangelism and discipleship of the people in this community to “Apostle” Eric Mosley?

womens-conferencfe

An “Apostle”, a “Prophetess”, and even a “Psalmist” were invited to speak with female “pastors” to the women of Bartow County

prophetic-wind

“Hear What God is Saying to the Body of Christ”?  It’s doubtful He spoke through the Apostle and Prophet and the “Prophetic Wind” Conference.

unite-with-ihop

The Bartow Baptist Association is proud of the cooperation between local black churches and white churches.  However, Christ’s people should not be united with false teachers for any cause.  Rocky Abernathy is the pastor of the International House of Prayer (IHOP).  IHOP is widely considered a cult and is a part of the dangerous New Apostolic Reformation movement.  Gloria Gainor is a woman and cannot truly be a pastor.

change-conference

James Black is an arch Pentecostal.  He was formerly the proprietor of the “Open Door Christian Bookstore” in Cartersville.  His store sold all manner of false teaching, including that of Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and Joyce Meyer.

shaking

Does All About Jesus Ministries Inc, host true prophets?  Imagine the words spoken to Bartow County’s poorest by people claiming to speak directly for God.

maydia-cd-release

Is this female “pastor” selling CDs to her own people in what is supposedly God’s house?

head-holding

What is the “Apostle” influencing this young man to do or believe?

parking

Eric and Maydia park up front.

You cannot look into the hearts of Eric and Maydia Mosely and know why they do what they do.  They may be honestly unaware that they are unqualified for their offices.  Whether they know it or not, the Bible is clear – Eric Mosley is not an Apostle and his wife is not a pastor.  If the opportunity comes your way to point a member of All About Jesus Ministries, Inc. along the right path, take it.  If the opportunity comes along to partner with this ministry, turn the other way.

For information on how to find a biblically sound church, please don’t hesitate to contact me at geoffrey_dunn@yahoo.com.

*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.