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Hatred for History

Posted on March 28, 2012

For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear, some new thing (Acts 17:21)

. . . they soon forgot . . . (Psalm 106:13)

Richard Weaver said in Ideas Have Consequences: “It has been well said that the chief trouble with the contemporary generation is that it has not read the minutes of the last meeting. Most modern people appear to resent the past and seek to deny its substance for either of two reasons: (1) it confuses them, or (2) it inhibits them. If it confuses them, they have not thought enough about it; if it inhibits them, we should look with a curious eye upon whatever schemes they have afoot.”

Our generation is abominably, embarrassingly, hatefully anti-historical. Much of this hatred of history is the result of political liberalism, with its love affair with the present and the future, the belief that the latest generation in time is necessarily the most advanced generation of all time. The politically correct crowd love to hate the past, because it represents to them all they oppose — sexism, racism, homophobia, and religious orthodoxy. The farther we can get from that past, they think, the greater chance we have of escaping from these evils. Two factors, if they would only think a bit, may give them pause: first, they have no guarantee that the future cannot “revert to the past.” Some of the leading views of history are cyclical —the idea that history just repeats itself. This view is in error, but they have no means to disprove it. Second, the enemies of the past forget that it was often the very ideas of the past that destroyed the supposed evils they so loudly oppose. For example, they hate slavery in any form, but do not recognize it was the ideas of Jefferson (a man who owned slaves) that later in this country helped to abolish racial slavery.

The church is sometimes no better in its attitude toward history than is the wider society. This was highlighted for me at a ministerial association meeting in Cleveland I attended many years ago. The slick leaders were hyped up over the “relational” work of the Holy Spirit in “unbinding” Cleveland (apparently, the city was constipated). I soon discovered few there knew even a modicum about the heritage of the church — and most of those who did carelessly cast that history aside in favor of “the new wave of the Spirit” in this hour. Orthodox Christianity was for them passe. They wanted the spanking new, shiny, glitzy, updated version. They are this susceptible to every little fad (“move of the Spirit”) that comes along, led around by the nose by quick-speaking quacks. And they never know the difference.

When this happens, the members of church lose the gains of the past. The first gain they lose is orthodoxy. Because they hate the past, they are forced to reinvent the wheel. And they never do as good a job as their forebears did — and often they do much worse . . . heretically worse. They damn (or neglect) the creeds of catholic orthodoxy and the confessions of Reformation orthodoxy in favor of “restorationism”: the idea that without recourse to history they can restore primitive, Biblical Christianity. They do not believe the Bible when it says that God will preserve the Faith intact in history. Therefore they end up espousing some of the very heresies the fathers so capably refuted — subordinationism, modalism, docetism, Nestorianism, Pelagianism, etc. They repeat too the errors refuted at the Reformation.

The second gain they lose is knowledge of the lessons of the past — for example, that unity without doctrine is an impossibility, that the inability to distinguish primary from secondary doctrine is unnecessarily divisive, that doctrine without practice is deadly, that the church must not (under ordinary conditions) assume the sword, that a low view of the visible church is destructive, that evangelism must be comprehensive, etc. The moderns do not know that there are no new problems — only old problems in new clothes. They do not have the benefit of the past because they hate the past.

Perhaps worst of all, they develop an anti-historical and anti-intellectual arrogance, according to which they consider themselves and their own little group true Christianity. They are so ignorant that they assume they could come up with Trinitarian Christianity with no recourse to church history. They turn their backs on the Faith preserved in the martyrs’ blood. They turn up their noses at the creeds and confessions that give them any semblance of orthodoxy they may retain. They bite the hand that feeds them.

They may appear oozily and humbly spiritual, but they are peacock-proud, vacuum-headed moderns, no better in the religious realm than liberals in the political realm.

And they are an affront and embarrassment to historic orthodox Biblical Christianity.

After God’s Silence — What?

Posted on March 25, 2012

by Oswald Chambers

 

“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where He was.” John 11:5-6.

Jesus stayed two days where He was without sending a word. We are apt to say—’I know why God has not answered my prayer, it is because I asked for something wrong.’ That was not the reason Jesus did not answer Martha and Mary— they desired a right thing. It is quite true God does not answer some prayers because they are wrong, but that is so obvious that it does not need a revelation from God to understand it. God wants us to stop understanding in the way we have understood and get into the place He wants us to get into, i.e., He wants us to know how to rely on Him.

God’s silences are His answers. If we only take as answers those that are visible to our senses, we are in a very elementary condition of grace. Can it be said of us that Jesus so loved us that He stayed where He was because He knew we had a capacity to stand a bigger revelation? Has God trusted us with a silence, a silence that is abso­lutely big with meaning? That is His answer. The manifestation will come in a way beyond any pos­sibility of comprehension. Are we mourning be­fore God because we have not had an audible re­sponse? Mary Magdalene was weeping at the sep­ulchre—what was she asking for? The dead body of Jesus. Of Whom did she ask it? Of Jesus Him­self, and she did not know Him! Did Jesus give her what she asked for? He gave her something in­finitely grander than she had ever conceived—a risen, living impossible-to-die Lord. How many of us have been blind in our prayers? Look back and think of the prayers you thought had not been answered, but now you find God has an­swered them with a bigger manifestation than you ever dreamed. God has trusted you in the most intimate way He could trust you, with an absolute silence, not of despair but of pleasure, because He saw you could stand a much bigger revelation than you had at the time. Some prayers are followed by silence because they are wrong, others because they are bigger than we can under­stand. Jesus stayed where He was—a positive stay­ing, because He loved them. Did they get Lazarus back? They got infinitely more; they got to know the greatest truth mortal beings ever knew—that Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life. It will be a wonderful moment for some of us when we stand before God and find that the prayers we clamoured for in early days and imagined were never answered, have been answered in the most amazing way, and that God’s silence has been the sign of the answer. If we always want to be able to point to something and say, ‘This is the way God answered my prayer,’ God cannot trust us yet with His silence. Here is where the devil comes in and says, ‘Now you have been praying a wrong prayer.’ You can easily know whether you have—test it by the word of God. If it has been a prayer to know God better, a prayer for the baptism of the Holy Ghost, a prayer for the interpretation and understanding of God’s word, it is a prayer in accordance with God’s will. You say, ‘But He has not answered.’ He has, He is so near to you that His silence is the answer. His silence is big with terrific meaning that you can­not understand yet, but presently you will. Time is nothing to God. Prayers were offered years ago and God answered the soul with silence; now He is giving the manifestation of the answer in a revelation that we are scarcely able to compre­hend.

 

From When Ye Shall Ask

Two Gospel Heresies

Posted on March 24, 2012

Salvation by works is heresy.  Salvation without works is heresy.  Both are damnable. 

In the history of the Church the battle for the gospel has often centered on two extremes that eviscerate it.   They are equally damning.

Moralism

First, there is the heresy of moralism. This is the horridly humanistic idea that man can somehow obtain salvation by his merits, virtue, or “good works.”   Many of the Jews during the time of the New Testament had apostatized and had adopted this false teaching.   They believed that their physical lineage and their circumcision and their external law-keeping could save them (the Old Testament never taught this).   Paul attacked this heresy with great vigor in the book of Romans, but particularly in the book of Galatians.   So did Jesus Christ, when He told the unbelieving Jews of His day that only those who do the works of Abraham — that is, those who have faith in Him — will be saved (Jn. 8:33, 39).   This is the only “work” that saves!   Salvation by merit or “good works” or “morality” is a false Gospel (Gal. 1:7–9).   It is an attack on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.   This is Paul’s implicit message in Galatians 3-5.   It is true also of his comments in Ephesians 2:8-10.   If salvation were by works, some would boast and thus undercut the great redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

Many people today have transformed religion into a system of merit and virtue, a “covenant of works.”   They think that the law is made in order to obtain eternal life, despite the fact that Paul plainly declares that the law could never, under any conditions, grant eternal life (Gal. 3:21).   This, again, is the fatal heresy of moralism.

Antinomianism

But there is another heresy. This is the heresy of antinomianism. It is just as deadly.  It is equally damnable. This is the idea that since salvation is by grace, God makes no demands on the Gospel.   The gospel is “fun-city” religion.   But the Bible tells us plainly that the Gospel is not only a message to be believed; it is a command to be obeyed (2 Thes. 1: 6-9; Rom. 1:5; 16:26).   The Gospel makes demands of sinners.  The Gospel is the message of the great King, Jesus Christ.   He comes to rebels with the gracious, but firm, proposal — “Trust in my atoning work on the cross and my bodily resurrection, submit yourself to my Lordship, and you will be forgiven your debt and you will become my disciples.”   Too much of today’s “Gospel preaching” ignores this vital element.   It is simply “fire insurance.”   Rebels want the luxury of assurance that after they die they will float around on ethereal clouds with halos hearing beautiful harp music.   They want to have their sins, and they want to have Heaven, too.   So a “gospel” has been developed to appease them.

But this is a false gospel.   It is antinomian to the core.   Jesus expostulates that those who refuse to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him will “lose their own souls” (Mt. 16: 24-26).  Only disciples are saved.

Consequently, there are two heresies to avoid: moralism and antinomianism.   No person is saved by good works, yet no person will be saved without good works.   Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone (Jam. 2).   We today have “Christians” whoring on Saturday nights and singing hymns on Sunday morning.   They obviously know nothing about the Gospel.   Some of these are the same folks who attack Roman Catholics for believing in salvation by good works.   But their own error is no less damnable than the error of moralism.

Never forget — salvation by grace is not a salvation without demands.    And it is totally by grace through faith apart from any merit of any kind.


Theologies to be Skeptical About

Posted on March 23, 2012

Christian systematic theologies abound today, and the themes around which one may orient any theology are legion: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, feminist, dispensationalist, Afro-American, liberation, liturgical, evangelical, Marxist, Asian, Indian, and on and on.   On the basis of Biblical revelation, I thought it might be useful to list 10 traits of theology that should inspire us to be skeptical when we detect them.

Be skeptical of any theology that:

1.   Situates the Person of Jesus Christ anywhere except at its absolute center (Col. 1:15-19; Heb. 1:3).

2.   Prefers knowledge to love (1 Cor. 1:8; 13:8).

3.   Assumes one can know doctrine without first obeying Christ (Jn. 7:17).

4.   Produces cruel, pharisaic people (Mt. 7:1-20).

5.   Pits personal revelation against propositional revelation (Jn. 1:1-3; 17:17)

6.   Refuses to acknowledge its own sinful, finite, tentative, human character (Is. 55:8-9; Rom. 3:4)

7.   Forbids any tradition to be judged by the written Word of God (Mt. 15:1-6)

8.   Sees apologetics anywhere but in the Gospel (1 Jn. 5:6-10).

9.   Draws people to the theologian or his theology rather than to Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:10-13).

10.   Tries to win acceptance in the eyes of sophisticated unbelievers (1 Cor. 1:18-31).

Prophetic Preaching or Expository Preaching?

Posted on March 23, 2012

Over the past thirty years or so, there has been a big emphasis on “expository” or “expositional” preaching. This is the practice of preaching straight through the Bible (or a portion of it) sequentially, exegeting a particular portion and expounding it. This surely is an acceptable way to preach, and it has a long history. For instance, Chrysostom in the ancient church preached this way.

Advocates of this sort of preaching, however, often criticize those who do not preach this way. Anything but their way is considered substandard or even not preaching at all. But this is hardly the case. In the Bible itself, there are not unambiguous examples of this type of preaching. In the Old Testament, Ezra stood up publicly and read the law; and this is an important part of public worship. In the New Testament, Jesus entered the synagogue and commented powerfully on a pre-selected text from the Old Testament to be used for that Sabbath day. None of the sermons recorded in Acts, however, is, strictly speaking, expository. None is “exegetical.” If you look at the sermons of Jesus and Paul and Peter, you will find that they are generally summaries of Biblical truth. They did not take a few Old Testament verses and expound them. Rather, their entire life was suffused by the Old Testament and, therefore, virtually everything they said in their sermons was Biblically grounded.

Their preaching was Spirit-filled, Old Testament-based, direct, urgent, immediate. It was prophetic; they were not speaking what they considered an antiquated word and simply “applying it” to the contemporary situation. Rather, they assumed that the ancient Word was designed for the contemporary situation. This is the sort of preaching that we need today.

Virtually all Biblical preaching is topical in the sense that the preacher addresses a specific topic and weaves scriptural truth in his preaching.

Some liberals use the fact that New Testament preachers (and writers) did not quote the Old Testament verbatim as proof that they did not hold what is today termed verbal inspiration. It teaches nothing of the kind. It teaches, rather, that the Old Testament was such a part of their thinking and entire life that they spoke it with ease without any attempt at scholastic accuracy.

When the Bible shapes the preacher’s life, it will commandeer his words in the pulpit.

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