September 17, 2004

God, Sovereignty, and the Really Bad Week.

This week started off bad. I got to Louisville Tuesday and realized I'd forgotten 1) my toiletries kit, including soap, deodorant, and toothbrush, and 2) my "dress" shoes -- suede, but nice-looking, for class. I also only had one towel. One. Praise God for dryers.
Tuesday afternoon I bomb my Philosophy quiz, because I studied the wrong stuff. Then it got worse, as I started to realize Ivan was going to hit Mom.
Wednesday, my car died.
Thursday, I spent worried about Mom, and wondering how I was going to get home with no car. And how I was going to PAY for said car.

Today, I realized how stupid I was to be that worried -- except for worrying about Mom, I mean. Car's fixed, and we had the money to pay for it. I wore shorts and sneakers to class, and it didn't kill me (you have to understand -- I have trouble doing business casual, let alone casual casual, in a classroom setting. Leftover from the shirt-and-tie days at Liberty). A new travel kit from WalMart cost me $6.10 after tax -- and I got everything I needed, including soap.

My problem was that I forgot that God is in charge. I was so stressed about how I was going to fix things, and what I was going to do, that I forgot that I am not in charge. God is. God was in control all week long. All I had to do is realize it, and get my hands off the controls.

I talked about temptation last Sunday night at church, and how sometimes God uses temptation to try us, to get us ready for His use (Deut. 8:2). Maybe I should have listened to myself.

And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.
(Deuteronomy 8:2 ESV)
And, yes, God already knows how we'll do. The purpose of the test is to make sure that we know what we can do.

BTW, got word from Mom. Some shingles are missing, the screen that went over the pool is messed up, but otherwise, the house is in OK shape. After looking at some of the pictures on Pensacolanewsjournal.com, and seeing some of the mess that used to be buildings near her, I was REALLY concerned. She's still going to be three weeks without power, so she may be headed here, or to my sister's place in Tampa. But it could have been SO much worse.

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September 10, 2004

A Dangerous God

I cruised over to Credenda:Agenda this evening -- something I hadn't done in a while. The cover title started me thinking: "God the Dangerous".

First thing I thought of was an allusion made by Derek Webb. In The Chronicles of Narnia, the children ask if Aslan is a safe lion. They are told No, he is not safe. But he is good.

Is God safe? How do we define safe? Safe, as in people won't want to kill us for believing in Him? Too many people have been martyred for us to seriously believe that. Safe, as in people will think good things about us? You should know that isn't true; if you don't, you haven't spoken about Christ in public recently. People don't like it when they are confronted witht he truth of God's love, and Christ's death for them. They will think you are not intelligent. They will think you are a dupe. They will think you have no independant thought. You aren't modern (or postmodern) enough.

Safe, as in people will let you practice your religion as you are led by your conscience? Ask ministers in Canada who want to speak out against homosexuality, but cannot without breaking the law. Ask the house churches in China. Ask the underground church in Russia.

God is not safe. Christianity is not safe. We know that it is good -- and our job is to let the world know it, too. Sometimes we don't do such a good job. Sometimes we don't admit that we did anything wrong, even when we have. The world watches us, to see what kind of God we serve, by our actions. We must make sure that we show them the right one. Not the safe one.

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August 28, 2004

The Little Guys, part I

I've decided that the only way I can MAKE myself post fairly regularly is to give myself regular "features" that I need to get out. So here's another one. (The Mark Study will be here later tonight, TWiCH will be here on Sunday afternoon.)

I love looking at the lives of people who are barely mentioned in the Bible. I figure that if they were worth being mentioned in God's Word, they must have something to tell us. Some of them tell us something little. Some tell us something major. Things that SOME tell us are wildly misinterpreted. So I'm going to take a look at the lives of some of the "little guys (and gals)" in the Bible.

I'm going to start with Demas. Demas is mentioned three times in the New Testament:


Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.
(Philemon 1:23-24 ESV)

Col 4:14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.

2Ti 4:10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.

Demas starts out with Paul, and is present with Paul when he writes to Philemon from Rome during Paul's first imprisonment. He is also mentioned in the letter to the church at Colossi, which Paul also wrote during this first imprisonment. Just a few years later, Paul writes that Demas has forsaken him, having loved the world more.

What happened to Demas? The same thing that can happen to many of us. He started enjoying life too much, and was afraid to lose it. He saw Paul in jail again, and knew, as Paul did, that this time it would be different. Paul wasn't going to be released again. He was going to die.

Demas wanted to live. He may have even rationalized it by saying "I have so much more to do for God! There are so many people to win, so many places to go! I CAN'T die now!" Maybe he thought about his own self-importance. "If they kill Paul, who is going to spread the Gospel? I HAVE to stay alive, no matter what!" Maybe he was just afraid.

Whatever the reason, Demas didn't trust God. He didn't think that God would preserve the life of someone that was needed to fulfill His plan. He thought that God could be thwarted -- that His plan depended on something that He couldn't control.

We tend to think we're indispensible. "Boy, if I didn't do this, NOBODY would be doing it. At least, nobody that could do it as well as I can." If you have that attitude, start a blog. Then read other people's blogs. My blogroll is full of people who write better than I do, are better-informed than I am, are more involved than I am. Maybe even some that are better-looking than I am (but since I haven't put up a picture yet, most of you don't know. Matt, keep quiet). God's plan doesn't hinge on me. By His grace, and for His glory, I can be a part of His plan, but if I don't do the job, He'll find someone else to do it. His will WILL be done.

Demas was a part of what God was doing. He could have been a bigger part, but he loved his own life more than he loved the things of God. And now, for eternity, his name is associated with abandoning principles. When things got really tough for Paul, and he needed friends, Demas bailed, too concerned with his own life. The church is full of people just like Demas -- we need fewer.

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August 25, 2004

Somebody Went and Dun DONE It!!!

Well, I wrote about Open Source Theology, meaning it (as it says over at Patriot Paradox) as an extended metaphor. I saw ways that the metaphor could be hyper-extended, and I saw a whole SERIES of Open Source Theology posts, discussing new "modules' as they came out. It would have been a satirical dream come true.

Then I found this (thanks to Dave from Jollyblogger). Someone is actually DOING Open Source Theology.

I've taken some time to read a bit of the site. Maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy (at 36? Maybe), but I have a few ... concerns. Quotes are taken from the 'Rules of Engagement' page.

"Biblical and theological scholarship will have to subordinate itself to the missiological imperative. " In other words, study and Truth will have to take a back seat to getting people to agree with us. It doesn't matter so much that Christ was born of a virgin, for example, if that belief keeps someone from believing in Christ. We're not concerned with doctrine -- we just want conversions. Never mind the fact that Christ commanded us to "make disciples" -- that turns post-modern people off, apparently.

"I think there is a consensus that in the most general terms the theology represented on this site must take very seriously both God, as Father, Son and Spirit, and scripture as the record of the story of the people of God." This one shows up in a response to a comment, and I have no problem until that last phrase. "Scripture as the record of the story of the people of God." Scripture is God's revelation to Man, not simply a story about God's followers. Without a basis of Scripture as Truth, how can we really know anything about God? in fact, how can you have a God as Son if you don't have Scripture as divine revelation? I think this is aproblem with the system that could be very troublesome down the road.

There seems to be a general aversion to systematic theology. I like systematic theology, though I really enjoy studying historical theology. It seems to me that a systematic theology is a consistant theology, one that recognizes the inter-relations between various ideas. Our idea of what God is, for example, is going to influence our idea of what Man is, what and who Christ is, what the Church should be, etc. Our understanding of Christ will influence our ideas about salvation and the Church. Each discipline cannot exist in a vacuum; it must be consistant with other areas of our theology, or our ideas do not stand.

I'm going to keep an eye on this site. The idea of a group of people getting together to hash out theological principles seems like a good idea, but the road is full of potholes.

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August 21, 2004

Open Source Theology

This post actually started it's life as a comment on this post over at Matt Hall's blog. He's talking about an experience he had with Theopedia -- a wiki-like theology encyclopedia.

I think that one of the major problems with the Church is our Open Source Theology. Open-source software is, for those who aren't familiar with it, software that encourages people to write changes or additions to it that make it more functional for users. We're doing the same thing with theology. We're trying to make it "work" for everyone, and rather than letting God's Word speak to hearts, we're changing things, making things easier.

Have a problem with repenting from sin? No biggie -- here's the "Easy Believism 1.0 Patch". Now you can have a "great relationship with Jesus" without all that "Go, and sin no more" stuff.

You want to learn all about Jesus, and have that be enough? No problem -- the "Sandemanian Patch" will give you an intellectual faith without all that nasty faith stuff.

Here's our newest patch: "Open Theism .95". It's still in beta testing right now, but it's based on some really old patches. It lets you believe in a God that really depends on YOU to chart the course of the future. Now THAT makes you feel important, doesn't it? Go is waiting for YOU to act before HE can know what's going to happen!! WOW! What a neat patch!

I'd say that Theology should be licensed software. There have been some updates from the Manufacturer (like the Trinity 1.0 update) that clarified some things in the software. There have been some patches (Reformation 1.5) that were designed to completely update the system (even though many people didn't upgrade at that time). Other people have written "patches" for the software, but they AREN'T licenced by the Manufacturer, and their use can corrupt your whole Theology system. You should ALWAYS try to check the certificate on any Theology-based download that you encounter, and make sure that it is a licenced, authorized upgrade from the Manufacturer.

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August 12, 2004

Religion and Ethics Survey

Back in April, PBS did this survey, and I missed it somehow. I dumped it onto the hard drive and promptly forgot about it, or my desire to study it and comment.

So this weekend, while I'm on the road, I'm going to take a look at it. I'm planning on commenting Tuesday or Wednesday.

So why am I telling you this? Good question. I missed the boat in April, so I'm figuring that someone else has blogged about this survey. If anyone knows of a blog source I can refer to, let me know in the comments. I'm also letting you know so you can take a look at the conclusions that PBS came to. You'll be surprised to learn that evangelicals don't all go to mega-churches, don't consider Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson to be their leaders, and that white evangelicals often differn in their responses from evangelicals of other ethnic backgrounds. Ok, so maybe you won't be surprised by that -- I sure wasn't. From reading the article, it seems that PBS was a bit surprised by all that. Maybe they should have been paying attention to us all these years, rather than looking down their noses at those quaint little peope who actually believe all that God stuff.

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July 25, 2004

Timely Advice from 1785

From Andrew Fuller, one of the most influential theologians/pastors in Baptist history.

Christians are said to be the light of the world, and the salt of the earth -- do we answer these characters?  Is the world enlightened by us?  Does a savor of Christ accompany our spirit and conversation?  Our business, as Christians, is practically to be holding forth the word of life.  Have we, by our earnestness, sufficiently held forth its importance, or by our chaste conversations, coupled with fear, its holy tendency?  Have we all along, by a becoming firmness of spirit, made it evident that religion is no low, mean or dastardly business?  Have we by a cheerful complacency in God's service, gospel, and providence sufficiently held forth the excellency of his government and the happy tendency of his holy religion?  Doubtless, the most holy and upright Christians in these matters will find great cause for reflection, and room for amendment; but there are not many who scarcely ever think about them, or, if they do, it only ammounts to this, to sigh, and go backward, resting satisfied with a few lifeless complaints, withouth any real and abiding efforts to have things otherwise?
from his letter "Causes of declension in religion, and means of revival


Fuller wrote that letter at a time of spiritual downturn for the church.  Attendance was low, membership was lukewarm, and nobody seemed to know what to do about it.  Sound familiar?  As I read the letter, it struck me that Fuller could be writing to us, today, about our situation.  We live in a time of increased learning, yet we learn little of the things of God.  What we do learn is rarely applied, as if God's Truth is for another time.  Fuller writes that if we are to make a difference in our world, we must take God's truth and make it real in our own lives.  Be salt.  Be light.

Salt doesn't only season a portion of a dish -- it lends its taste to the whole thing.  We cannot only be salt on Sunday.  We must be salt 24-7-365.  There are no furloughs in God's army; no three-day-passes.  We have been called to make a difference in this world, and there are a lot of people slacking.

I'd challenge everyone who reads this to thing about what Fuller wrote.  People listened to him in his day.  The immediate result was a time of concerted, dedicated prayer for souls, and for a revival of the church.  The long-term goal was a little something historians call the Second Great Awakening.  Sounds like Fuller knew what he was talking about.  I think he still has something to say to us, if we'd only listen to him.

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June 17, 2004

We should pay attention to this one ...

Ok, I know that Holy Observer is satire. That doesn't mean that this article doesn't have an unfortunate ring of truth about it.

I've seen it happen WAY too many times. A tract for a tip. And I know too many people who actually are waitresses and waiters to believe it's not common.

This weekend, when you go out to eat for Father's Day, drop a 20%-er on the table. THEN, if you leave a tract, it might actually get read. And if you don't, maybe you'll make up for all the $1 tips that our brothers and sisters are leaving.

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June 14, 2004

David Cloud, Inerrancy, and Rebecca

I read a lot about the KJVO controversy. I've got a ton (almost literally) of books on the history of the English Bible, Bible translation, the history of the canon, etc. I've read David Cloud. I usually end up getting mad before I finish an article, so I was very happy to read Rebecca's thorough fisking of Cloud.

She does an outstanding job of showing Cloud's logical leaps, and his total mischaracterization of Dr. Daniel Wallace's views on inspiration. Get on over there and read it -- you'll learn something.

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June 11, 2004

The 'Religion Gap'

USA Today ran an article not long ago about the 'Religion Gap' between the Democrats and Republicans. (Unfortunately, the full article in their archives is NOT free, so I can't link to it anymore.) There is a pretty good study of the subject here, and it's free.

To sum up:

According to Voter News Service (VNS) exit polling, in the 1992 congressional election, frequent worship attenders preferred Republican to Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives by 53 to 47 percent. By the 2002 congressional election, this six percent gap had ballooned to 20 percentage points, with frequent attenders voting in favor of Republican House candidates by 60 to 40 percent.

That's a HUGE difference in just ten years, probably because of the reputation of President Clinton. The article goes on to say that voters in 1992 who attended church regularly were more likely to vote for a local Democratic candidate than the Democratic Presidential candidate.

Why is this? Are religious voters more concerned about social issues like abortion than social issues like hunger? Or do religious voters have different answers than the Democratic Party has to offer? I tend to think the latter. Members of the 'religious right' have tended to put more emphasis on issues such as abortion, the death penalty, etc.

I'm surprised that the gap isn't bigger than it is -- after all, if you read the news and the Web, it's the "Religious Right" that is controlling the Bush White House (unless, of course, it's the Reconstructionists). The thing I think is important about the study is that the gap isn't as big as people want to think -- on both sides of the aisle. The "Religious Right" gets a lot more press, but there is a Religious Left that is calmer, quieter, and just as dedicated to getting their candidates in office.

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June 09, 2004

How Fundamental Were They

In my ongoing quest to save the definition of "fundamentalist" from both the liberal/moderate factions that seek to demonize it AND the 'modern fundamentalists' who are legalists or even Ebionites (Judaizers) in sheeps clothing, I present the following article:

How Fundamental Were the Early Fundamentalists?

After you read it, you can join the "discussion" (like we ever just discuss anything there!) at the Fightin' Fundamentalist Forum (you'll have to register to fight, but you can read the whole debate to see if you really want to get involved).

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June 05, 2004

A Nation of Jonahs

Maybe it's because I spent 12+ hours in the car the past two days -- with my daughter. My almost-three-year-old who is in love with the Veggie Tales, and Jonah in particular. She watched it twice today, between Gadsden, AL and Lexington, KY, and I had a lot of time to ponder the life and message of this prophet.

I DID go back and review the actual book of Jonah, since I was pretty sure that there wasn't a Jiminy Cricket-type character in the original, and I was fairly certain that Jonah and the crew didn't play 'Go Fish' to see who got tossed overboard. The movie is, however, pretty true to the message of the book, so I felt pretty safe. And I realized something.

We are Jonah.

Jonah was a guy who was given a message. A really important message -- one that a whole people needed to hear. And what was his response?

"I don't like those people".

And he didn't go. In fact, he ran away -- from God, and from the people God sent him to. As fast as he could, and as far as he could. Until God got tired of the games.

We've got a message. Christians have been given a mesage that the world needs to hear -- the message that no matter how messed up we are, no matter what we've done in the past, God loves us enough to sacrifice His Son for us, so that we can be reconciled with Him. So that we can live with Him forever. And what do we do?

I don't like those people.

I sat in a church service on Sunday at the Campus Church at Pensacola Christian College, listening to a speaker who talked about "the queers" down at the beach. Memorial Day weekend is a huge business weekend for businesses in Pensacola, but in the past several years Pensacola has been the target destination for gay and lesbian vacationers. There were thousands of "the queers" on the beach at the very time that the sermon was being preached. If the speaker (who I will not name, though many people who read this blog have probably never heard of the man) had really been concerned about the eternal destination of "the queers", he'd have been down on the beach sharing Christ with them, rather than sitting in a sanctuary using an incredibly vulgar term to describe them, and then consigning them to hell. He "don't like those people".

[I don't like the terminology that he used any more than many of you do, and I apologize for repeating it. I know many gay people, and probably know many more who haven't chosen to tell me about their lifestyle. My response to them is the same as to anyone I know who is a sinner (which is, after all, all of us) -- God loves you, and Jesus died for you, so that you can be freed from sin's slavery. Just trust Him, and repent of your sin. As Christ Himself said, "Go, and sin no more".]

As reprehensible as this account is, each of us do something similar every day. We encounter people, or know of people, who need to be shown Christ's love and compassion. But we "don't like those people", so we walk away. Maybe they stink. Maybe their breath is funny. Maybe they drink, or smoke. Maybe they're (gasp) a Democrat. They still need Jesus.

In Acts 1, Jesus is telling the disciples who they are going to be witnesses to. One of the places they're told to go is "Samaria". To Jews, this was about the worst thing they could have heard. The Samaritans were unclean. The refused to worship at the Temple, building their own houses of worship in their own country. Jewish traders would plan their routes around Samaria, taking days or weeks longer to complete a trip, just to stay away from Samaria. They didn't "like those people". They went anyway -- not in judgement, or anger, or condemnation, but in love, and compassion. They brought the love of Christ to Samaria -- to "those people".

We must do the same.

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May 23, 2004

What is Worship?

Christian Counterculture this month is devoted to worship. What is it? How do we do it? How don't we do it?

I like their definition of worship. ". . . living a life that betrays a deep, inward belief in God and His promises". They take this from Romans 12:1 "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."Romans 12:1 ESV

Worship is a lot more than singing catchy songs with your hands in the air. Worship is more than an hour every Sunday morning, an hour Sunday night, and then an hour Wednesday night. The very definition of the word worship in the New Testament is tied to the word service. The word latreuo is translated variously as worship and service throughout the New Testament by the KJV, but almost always as worship by the ESV. The implication in Greek isn't just service, but service that is not compelled or forced. We worship God in what we do for others, not how we act in church!

Worship leaders: Are you showing your church how to serve God? Are you showing them how to live their lives as living sacrifices? Or are you leading a few catchy choruses and calling that worship?

In his Notes on the Bible, Albert Barnes has this to say:


This is the offering which the apostle entreats the Romans to make: to devote themselves to God, as if they had no longer any claim on themselves; to be disposed of by him; to suffer and bear all that he might appoint; and to promote his honor in any way which he might command. This is the nature of true religion.


So our 'reasonable service' (KJV and NKJV), our 'spiritual worship' (ESV) is total, 100% devotion to God. We have no claim to our lives -- we belong to God. But do we live that way? When we do, we can truly say that we are worshipping God. Otherwise, we're just singing trite songs.

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May 16, 2004

Just What the Heck is a Fundamentalist, Realy, Anyway

I could have subtitled this "Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism part 100", and I promise that I'll get off this soapbox very soon. I found this over at the Fundamentalist Forums, and thought I'd share. Be sure to read the whole thread -- and I'm going out looking for Jerry Sutton's book tomorrow.

i'm going off to bed now -- I'll have some more commentary on this later on Sunday.

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May 11, 2004

The Fundamentals and Inerrancy


This link has a copy of chapter 21 of The Fundamentals, which discusses the idea of inspiration, and defends the idea of verbal inspiration. A lot has been said on this subject already throughout the blogosphere, so I decided it was time to add my two cents.

Does inspiration automatically lead to inerrancy? If we hold to the doctrine of inspiration, that is, that the Scriptures are inspired (literally theopneustos, or God-breathed) by God, can we believe that these Scriptures contain mistakes? Many people point to apparent contradictions in Scripture as evidence that it is not inherently. Many more people have researched the contradictions and found that there are reasonable, logical explanations for them, and that inerrancy is not affected one bit by any of them.

I like the word theopneustos -- 2 Timothy 3:16 is the only place it occurs in the Bible. The idea of something being breathed out by God is fascinating to me. How did it happen? Did God come down like He did on Sinai, and carve the words into stone? Did He prompt the writer, telling him what to include and what to leave out? Did He simply monitor what the author was writing, and nudge the writer in the correct direction? Or was it something different -- something that is so totally different from anything we can experience that we cannot really know how it was done until we see Jesus in Heaven?

Inerrancy, to me, is very important. If the Bible is not inerrant -- if it isn't free from error, trustworthy in all it's claims -- how can we use it as the final authority for our faith? To me, sola scriptura relies on a Bible that is dependable, reliable, and free from error. If an error is possible, how can we be sure that e are following the part that is error-free? When we say that All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God -- how do we know that that part is one of the correct parts?

One of the things I am learning in reading on this subject (and I'm just getting started on it) is that when we interpret Biblical passages, we have to understand the genre that they are written in. When quoting a Psalm, for example, we must remember that we are quoting poetry, and treat it accordingly. We must also remember that Hebrew poetry is different from American poetry, and we must take that into account, too. If God inspired the writers, didn't He also inspire the method, the genre, of writing? Otherwise, why do we have poetry, apocalyptic writing, history, prophecy, biography, and epistles? Why not just one long narrative? There is a reason for each style of writing in the Bible, and we need to learn that reason. When we do that, we can understand why some numbers are different in different accounts of events, and why some figures of speech are used, etc.

I believe that the Bible is inspired by God, and that it is free from errors -- unless that error is an error of interpretation. The fault is then ours, not God's.

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May 06, 2004

Fundamentalists and Evangelicals

A LOT of pixels have given their lives in this discussion. My own post of April 28 (though I doubt too many of the others writing about this have read that one), multiple posts at Back of the Envelope this week, and a post at Doc Rampage as well -- the discussion is getting interesting. All because of the Guardian, and their "fundagelical" article.

As I said before, there are seven things that, if you believe in them, you are a fundamentalist. Pre-tribulational eschatology didn't make the list 100 years ago, and it doesn't make my list now. If it makes yours, you aren't defining fundamentalism in anything close to an historic manner. The way I see it, the people who coined the term fundamentalist should be the authority in defining what it actually is.

Inerrancy of Scripture does make that list. I haven't met very many evangelicals who deny the inerrancy of Scripture, although some confine that to the original autographs. The Second Coming (tm) of Christ does make the list, also, though no specifications exist about when He's coming back. As I mentioned, most of the people who wrote the book had disagreements about eschatlogy, as do many today.

Maybe the problem is my definition of evangelical. I'd define them in the context of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and it's statements of faith. If you prefer, you can look at the National Association of Evangelicals' statement.

There are many areas where evangelicals and fundamentalists differ -- especially if you look at modern, rather than historic, fundamentalists. Modern fundamentalism had become a haven for legalism and anti-intellectualism. Modern fundamentalists typically hold very dogmatically to a rather rigid set of beliefs, and often pride themselves in who they have 'separated from' -- carrying the Biblical injunction to separate from heresey to degrees never envisioned in Scripture.

The differences between evangelicals and historic fundamentalists are slight. The differences between modern fundamentalists and evangelicals are huge, and getting bigger every day. As modern Fundamentalism has slipped into KJVOnlyism, second, third, and fourth degree separation, and other such doctrinal abberations, the gulf will grow even bigger. This is the reason I stopped calling myself a fundamentalist -- I don't like what the name has come to represent. I am, and always will be, an historic fundamentalist.

AND an evangelical, too.

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May 05, 2004

The Will of God

I was going to write something about God's will, what it is, and what it isn't, in response to a LOT of blogging about the subject -- especially of knowing God's will.

THEN I read Rebecca's article, and I figured it would be a lot easier to just tell you go read that -- she's done an outstanding job with the whole issue. Maybe someday, I'll write one, but I think she's got the issue summed up well.

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May 04, 2004

Spirituality and Real Life

One thing that The Jesus Factor has done is prompt a discussion about spirituality, and how much impact it has, and should have, on daily life. Over at The Corpus Callosum, there's been an ongoing discussion of the show -- I linked to one post there before.

Today's post, a response in part to mine, gave me a lot of food for thought, and I think that the main point of the discussion, or what the main point should be, was summed up in this quote:


Let's get back to the main point, that of the question: should spirituality strictly determine any aspect of a person's life? An important variant of this is the question: If the fundamental source of knowledge in a spiritual system is incomplete, or at least cannot be proven to be complete; if the translations are debatable; and if the ethical question at hand did not even exist when the source material was written, is it valid for a person to direct or judge the actions of another person, relying only on those ancient writings?

I'm not sure how debatable the translations of the Bible are -- we have existant texts that extend back into the third century AD, and external references to most of the Bible from patristic writings as well. Textual criticism, however, is an ongoing process (at least until we find those original autographs that everyone is dying to see), so I'm willing to concede part of the point. Most Christians believe that the Bible is reliable, and have really been given little reason to believe otherwise.

I do think, though, that even if the ethical question in particular was not in existance at the time of the text in question (whether the Bible or any other writing), there are guidelines that indicate "ethical behavior" contained in the text. To continue the stem cell illustration -- the Bible teaches that life has value. If someone believes that life begins at conception, they must logically believe that it is wrong to take that life. For them not to take this into account in a debate about harvesting stem cells would be inconsistant to their beliefs. The issue at hand in this case is when, exactly, does life begin. Here is where there is debate begins, and there are good Christians on both sides of the debate.


I would argue that it is not proper to do so. I would say that people are free to consider those writings, and perhaps even consider them to be the best source of inspiration on the subject at hand. But part of morality involves a careful consideration of all sources of information, prior to making an important decision. Different source of information can be given different relative weights, depending on the authority of the source. Taking only one source, such as one's spiritual belief, is to discard relevant information. That is not what morality is about. No matter what the book says, no matter what your spiritual leader says, if you have an important decision to make, it is up to you to gather the necessary information, process it thoughtfully, consult with others if you can, and make your own decision.


I agree with just about all of this. I always try to take all available resources into consideration when making a decision -- I'm especially careful about this when studying history, since all history is written from a biased perspective. And I wish more Christians were willing to study the issues and make therir own decisions, rather than parrot what is said to them on Sunday mornings. The bottom line has to be, though, that you accept the authority of the most reliable resource. In questions of ethics and morality, Christians will always turn to the Bible for this authority -- sometimes unconsciously.

Many times, I find myself wishing that President Bush would pay more attention to what the Bible actually teaches about some things. I grow tired of him justifying actions that are politically expedient by appealing to his faith. I sometimes wonder how convenient his faith was -- whether he is sincere, or simply using the Religious Right to gain and stay in office. I, and many other Christians, are uncomfortable with some of his expressions of faith -- many times, they seem out of place. As far as the "God wants me to be president" quote, I'd remind my fellow Christians on both sides of the political spectrum that the Bible teaches that all of our leaders are ordained by God. So it's true -- if God didn't want him in office, he wouldn't be there.

Just remember, Bill Clinton was in office for 8 years. God put him there, too.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 08:15 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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May 02, 2004

Frontline and The Jesus Factor

I have to start off by saying that I missed this one. I'm feeding off the reactions I have read elsewhere in the blogosphere, so I'm not really addressing the show -- I'm addressing what others have had to say.

The overwhelming opinion seems to be that the President's religious beliefs shouldn't have anything to do with his political decisions, or anything outside his spiritual life. Personally, I find this rather amusing, and it shows a total lack of understanding about spirituality. True spirituality, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, or what, will effect every part of an adherant's life.

My Christianity is not a suit I put on Sunday morning, then take off when I interact with anyone else. It is more like my body, and the things I do every day are the clothing. You may see more of my bodyy when I wear some clothing than you do when I wear other clothing (a bathing suit vs. a ski outfit, for example), but the way my body looks has an impact on what the clothes look like -- my body would NOT look very good in Speedos, I promise you. In the same way, my faith may not always be the most obvious thing about me (more obvious in church, less obvious at a hockey game, for example), but it still influences what I do, and the way I act when I am doing different activities. It also influences the activities I do, and those I stay away from -- just like my body determines what I will wear or won't wear. I cannot stop being a Christian just because I am at work. If President Bush's faith is sincere, he cannot stop being a Christian simply because he is in public office.

I find the arguements that the President is trying to usher in the End of the World (tm) comical. I'm not sure of the Methodist Church's stand on eschatology, but from what I remember, it's NOT a pre-tribulational one. And a slight majority of evangelical Christians do NOT hold to the theology of the Left Behind books, so to characterize all of us as radical nutcases who are trying to get Jesus to come faster is incredibly naive, and offensive. Anyone who has studied pre-trib eschatology knows that one of the key elements is that nobody knows when it's going to happen. In ther words, we can't make it happen faster. Nothing we do will change the day that Christ returns -- Christians are simply commanded to be ready. Besides, real pre-trib Christians don't believe that we'll be around for Armageddon, anyway, so Bush isn't trying to bring that battle on. That happens when Christ returns physically to earth.

In short, the arguements that the President's policy in Iraq is fueled by his evangelical faith are incredibly misinformed, at best. They show an ignorance of Christian eschatology and the President's beliefs, and are highly offensive to most Christians, evangelical or not. If you disagree with President Bush, fine. There are better reasons to do that than by perpetuating the myth that he is in the pocket of the "Christian Right". Besides, many conservative Christians are pretty upset with him, as well. (note -- I simply provide this link as a resource. I find myself in disagreement with a lot of what they have to say, and am honestly VERY concerned with several of the party's platform planks. I won't be voting Constitutional this election.)

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 04:54 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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April 28, 2004

The Fundamentals and the Fundamentalists

OK, I'm going to dive into this one head first. There are a LOT of people who have no idea what it means to be an historic fundamentalist -- including a lot of fundamentalists. What passes for fundamentalism these days often has more in common with Pharisaical legalism than it does with orthodox Christianity. And the things that many conservative evangelicals believe are, in fact, the fundamentals of the faith.

So what ARE the fundamentals, anyway? Glad you asked. According to the people who wrote the book The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, which was written to combat the rise of liberal theology in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the fundamentals are:

1. The inerrancy of the Scriptures
2. The Deity of Christ
3. The second coming of Jesus Christ
4. The virgin birth
5. The physical resurrection of the body
6. The substitutionary atonement
7. The total depravity of man - original sin

Belief in all of these is all it takes to consider yourself an historic fundamentalist. There are other beliefs, to be sure -- the list doesn't touch on the Calvinism/Arminian controversy, the pre/mid/post trib/mil controversy, and many others. In fact, the authors of The Fundamentals held differing opinions on these issues. They recognized something that modern fundamentalists often do not -- that there is room for disagreement on some issues. That we don't have all the answers.

I believe all seven of these fundamentals. But because of other things I believe or don't believe, many people don't consider me a fundamentalist. I am Southern Baptist -- for many people, that disqualifies me right there. I read versions of the Bible other than the King James -- again, that would disqualify me in many circles. I am, however, an historic fundamentalist, by the very definition that the people who coined the term used.

Fundamentalist has become a term that describes a person who is so set in their opinions that they don't want to be confused by the facts. Anti-intellectualism is the stereotype of the typical fundamentalist. The stereotypical sermon is long on ranting and short on exegesis or exposition. This is the stereotype, not the reality.

The reallity is that there are historic fundamentalists all across the country who are intelligent and articulate. They are making a difference in our nation and our culture. But many of them don't call themselves fundamentalists, because of the perception. In fact, over on the Fundamentalist Forums, we've come up with a new term that describes the more legalistic variety of fundamentalist -- IFBx. Independent Fundamental Baptist Extreme. It seems to fit rather well. Head over there if you'd like to learn a little more.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 10:11 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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