Posted by: riderchuck | April 21, 2011

Calvinism: One person’s adventure.

I became what is popularly known as a “Calvinist” sometime in 1988.

It is a long and sordid tale, and to this day I am not quite sure what

happened. There were various factors in play, as there always are with

such things. The first was that I was preaching through Romans. I can

recall telling one of our elders that I did not know what I was going to

say when I got to “those chapters.” When I began preaching through the

book, I was not Calvinistic, and when I finished, I was. So that was one

factor. I got to chapter eight and decided, “Oh, well,” and just preached

what it said. After all, I had nothing better to do.

Another significant factor was that I had encountered openness theology

for the first time—the idea that chance governs some things, and

God doesn’t really know the future. The future does not exist in such a

way as to be known. My conservative evangelical instincts recoiled from

this, but because I was Arminian in all my “default” assumptions, I could

not answer this position, given my premises. That was a problem.

The third factor was that I was entranced with the idea of “worldview

thinking,” applying the Scriptures to every aspect of life. This was an

impulse that went way back, but it started to congeal in significant ways

in the early eighties. With some other Christians, I was involved in the

founding of Logos School, and one of our guiding principles had been

to teach all subjects as parts of an integrated whole, with the Scriptures

at the center. That’s all very well, but when you go out there and try to

find books by evangelical Christians on how the faith relates to politics,

banking, foreign policy, agriculture, literature, economics, art, architecture,

and medicine, you will quickly find yourself reading books by

almost no one but Calvinists. I became aware of this, and decided that I

would read Calvinists on anything except Calvinism. They were reliable

guides all over the world—everywhere but their hometown.

But my inability to answer the openness position battered down my

prejudices even at this point. I didn’t like this “chance business,” and

surely, I thought, the Calvinists would have something good to say about

chance. And so they did.

However, despite all this, I was still not prepared to ask Calvin into

my heart. But that reminds me. If anyone who is not Calvinistic picks

up this book for whatever reason, and his eyes happened to fall on the

first sentence of this paragraph, and he is not amused, I would hasten to

add that this was a joke, as in, not serious. That was another surprise.

Calvinists, it turns out, have a very robust sense of humor. “Was that an

example of it?” you ask. In reply I suggest that we just move on.

I was still not prepared for any of this to be true. There were two

things going on. One was the argument itself and the other was my

unwillingness to have the argument come to certain conclusions. I remember

where I was standing in my living room when I told God I was

willing for all of this to be true. “That’s awfully big of you,” the universe

said in reply, and I thought I detected a note of sarcasm, but it was a big

deal for me at the time. Up to that point I had not been willing for it to

be true. Once I acknowledged that I would be willing in principle to lay

down my prejudices, I did not immediately become a Calvinist. But I was

no longer prevented from that happening by an intellectual dishonesty

and pride. That surrender is why, when I got to that place in Romans,

the fruit just fell off the branch.

To change the metaphor yet again, when I fell down the Reformation

stairs, I hit my head on every step. I spent the first couple of years after

all this happened denying I was “a Calvinist.” This was because I had

no intention of being a partisan follower of Calvin, regardless of how

great he was. The church had had quite enough of the “I am of Paul, I

am of Apollos” factionalism, and I did not want to add to it. The irony

was I had learned all this Calvinism from Paul primarily—so I did not

want to say I was “of Calvin.” I did not want to do this because Paul had

been very stern with people who had claimed they were “of Paul,” and I

wanted to follow him, not Calvin, because I was . . . of Paul.

And of course, by simply calling myself a “simple Christian,” I should

have realized that I was not necessarily avoiding the problem. There was

a super-spiritual faction at Corinth as well, one that went well beyond

allegiance to Paul and Apollos. You see, they were “of Christ,” and it

appears that they may well have been the worst of the lot (1 Cor. 1:12).

There is an appropriate way to resolve everything in Christ (1 Cor. 3:22),

and there is a hyperfactional way to do it. There is a sectarian way to

be “of Paul,” and there is a God-honoring way to do it (1 Cor. 4:14–16).

But I did not know all this at the time, and so spent a goodly amount

of energy denying that I was a Calvinist, when it was obvious to pretty

much everybody that this was exactly what I was.

All I succeeded in doing was to make people believe that, in addition

to adopting this appalling theology, I had decided to cover it all over with

a layer of disingenuousness. It looked like I had taken the flinty rock of

predestination and poured the oil of insincerity all over it. So finally I

gave up, faced facts, and admitted that I was a Calvinist—but only as

a form of theological shorthand. Jonathan Edwards put it this way—“I

should not take it all amiss, to be called a Calvinist, for distinction’s

sake.”1 Aye, for distinction’s sake.  Douglas Wilson from “A Study Guide

Calvin’s Institutes” available from Canon Press.  Pastor Wilson’s journey

to become convinced of “Covenant Theology” or Reformed Theology has

a pleasure to read and help me relate to my own journey to the same

destination beginning in 1997 in Portland, Oregon.


iMonk Classic: A Growing and Awkward Silence—Things I can’t talk about with my Pentecostal and Charismatic friends

May 13, 2010 by iMonk

Classic iMonk Post
by Michael Spencer

Note from Chaplain Mike…
The lively comment thread on our recent post about the 50th birthday of the Charismatic Movement led me to think I should let iMonk weigh in on the subject. I’m not sure when this was first posted, but it’s classic Michael Spencer.

Further note…
See the end of the post for a definition of what Michael meant when he used the phrase, “Pentecostal-Charismatic.”

We used to be able to talk. Over coffee, at church, and long into the night. I actually enjoyed the conversations. Sure, there were always challenges and differences, but we weren’t fighting as much as we were trying to explore a common fascination. We were pilgrims on the same road, discovering the adventure together. We both wanted to know, “What is the truth?” “What does the Bible say?” “How can we find the reality of God, and experience it every day?” We respected one another. Even if the conversation got intense there was always plenty of laughter, and we could pray together in genuine fellowship. Those prayers and conversations always left me wanting to get together again, and dig further and deeper. But this doesn’t happen much anymore, and I miss the good times we shared. Things have changed. There is a growing, awkward silence between myself and my Pentecostal/Charismatic (P/C) friends, and it’s not a good thing.

The Pentecostal/Charismatic movement has always had an uncomfortable relationship with the rest of evangelicalism. It hasn’t been easy from the first rumblings of Azusa Street to these days of TBN, Rod Parsley and Benny Hinn. Pentecostalism’s founding vision said that the mainstream church had, through neglect and rationalism, lost the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit that Christians were always intended to enjoy and manifest. Miracles and supernatural gifts were for today. Pentecost was still going on. God was speaking through prophets, in visions, and even in sending angels to do his work. The mainstream of the Christian church had said these things were ancient history, or had boxed them up in the theological attic and forgotten they were there.

Pentecostals and Charismatics made sure we remembered that Jesus cast out demons, that God spoke in visions, and that the early church spoke in tongues. They wouldn’t let us forget those pesky chapters in I Corinthians with all their mysteries. They prayed for the miracles we were too shy or doubtful to pray for. They didn’t just sing hymns that said “Hallelujah!” They said it. Loudly and often. They talked about a kind of faith that believed God would act in your behalf in the present, and that the power of the Holy Spirit to bring down walls and raise the dead was still available. The Charismatic movement brought these lively insights to the church on the corner, and even with all the resulting controversy, I count it as a good thing.

I remember going to a conference many years ago sponsored by the United Methodist Conference in our area and held at the big UMC church in town. The main speaker was Oral Roberts. This was Oral at his best, before he went really nuts, when he was first building ORU and there was plenty of good will between Pentecostals like Oral and Charismatic sympathizers in the mainlines. The conference was on the work of the Holy Spirit, and I recall it as a sweet time of fellowship, with plenty of curiosity and conversation, but little controversy. Oral wasn’t fuming at the deadness of the church, but was rejoicing in the openness and renewal going on in the church.

For those few days, Oral Roberts wasn’t a strange televangelist, but a wonderful, Spirit-filled man who represented the hunger for the reality of God that has always been part of genuine Christian experience. He spoke for a movement that would, we all believed, benefit the church. I think my Methodist friends looked at the Charismatic movement of those days as a possible repeat visitation of what God had done with Methodism in the past, revitalizing the church in ways unexpected. For many Charismatics and their sympathizers, that conference and many others represented hope that windows and doors were opening, and the Spirit was doing a fresh work in the body of Christ.

We could talk to one another in those days. I was drawn into the Charismatic movement by way of an Episcopal family who were involved in a “Spirit-filled” prayer group in a Catholic church. We talked for hours about what the Bible said and what the Holy Spirit could do. I met lots of Charismatics in the Methodist circles I moved in, and I enjoyed fellowship with Pentecostal brothers and sisters at work. Yes, they seemed to have something my experience didn’t have, but even accounting for that initial curiosity, there was good fellowship based around a common faith. Even when I left the Charismatic movement over my own understanding of Spirit baptism, our fellowship remained good, and we loved and respected one another.

Part of the reason for that harmony was the fact that the “non-denominational, generic, Charismatic/Pentecostal churches” were rare. Most of my Charismatic friends were in “regular” churches, but attended conferences, prayer meetings and special events with other Charismatics and Pentecostals. In a few years, most Charismatics would be in their own churches, and part of the Charismatic-Third Wave explosion in evangelicalism. It would be in these churches, ranging from the Vineyards to thousands of Independent Charismatic fellowships and Word-Faith Churches, and in the resulting expanded network of P/C influence- that the alienation between evangelicals like myself and many Charismatics would become more profound.

These early days of fellowship with my P/C friends is represented in my mind by Gary and Fay, two of my co-workers at a grocery store where I was employed for several years. Both were Pentecostal, but both treated me graciously and as a Christian brother. Gary loved his Bible, and was devoted to Biblical preaching and teaching. When we disagreed, we quickly went to see what the scriptures said. He was open about his own spiritual experience, but he never argued with me about mine. He answered my questions and responded to my criticisms, but we enjoyed many times of prayer and worship at work and away from work.

I dated Fay for several months, and we had a good relationship that continued as a friendship for several years. In the many hours we talked about spiritual things, she never implied that her Pentecostal experience was superior to my Baptist experience, or attempted to persuade me to attend her church. Beyond the well known tenets of Pentecostalism, I never heard Fay advocate anything that seemed at all bizarre or strange in her church or experience. In fact, our devotion to our respective church backgrounds was part of why we did not continue dating. I had much better Christian fellowship with Gary and Fay than with my Roman Catholic, Church or Christ or Independent Baptist friends. The kind of fellowship we enjoyed is almost unknown in my experience today.

Today I have many more Pentecostal/Charismatic friends, but few- and I emphasize very few- are friendships where significant discussions of our faith can take place without real tension and discomfort on my part because of significant and irreparable deviations in how we each understand basic Christian concepts. Despite many years of being around the P/C community, I continue to experience feelings of inferiority and rejection as many of my P/C friends find it impossible to fellowship as equals. Over the years, something has changed in the way Pentecostal/Charismatics view themselves and their relationship to the larger body of Christ.

This change is, of course, mutual in some respects, and I recognize that I may be less open-minded and generous in my attempts at fellowship than in the past, but this essay wants to look at the changes I have seen in the P/C community. I certainly recognize that Pentecostals and Charismatics have been the subjects of negative criticism and harsh reviews from the evangelical and conservative mainstream. ( I give most books critical of the P/C movement very low marks.) I’ve heard Baptist pastors say cruel things about Charismatic friends, and I know that issues of worship style and Christian experience have brought about ugly responses from all sides of the fence. But I am not writing about the obvious flaws in human nature. I want to explore where Pentecostal-Charismatic belief and practice are creating a significant barrier to fellowship. I will restrict this essay to four important areas where fellowship has become difficult, uncomfortable and sometimes, impossible.

(I am very aware that some of my Pentecostal/Charismatic co-workers, friends and readers may read this essay and be surprised at what I am going to say. PLEASE hear me out, read carefully and read to the end! I believe this will be fair in every way to your concerns and criticisms of myself and other evangelicals. And please note that in every case I have tried to make it clear that I have P/C friends about whom none of this is true at all.)

1. Scripture. Clearly, the P/C community is in very troubled times when it comes to how the Bible relates to contemporary Christianity. From the beginning, Pentecostalism looked at the Bible as more about what God had done in the past than as a final, authoritative word that could not be supplemented. In many ways, the P/C view of the Bible tended towards the kinds of Biblical theology you might hear from liberals who said the Bible should not be a final guide for us today, but is a record of how God worked in the past. Here was the record of what God had done before, but the question was now what was God saying and doing today?

Here is an observation: I have never heard a high profile P/C pastor exposit and interpret the scripture systematically. (Jack Hayford is the closest to an expositor, but even he does not expound the Bible verse by verse.) The great heritage of Protestant Biblical teaching is held in suspicion among P/Cs today, and many P/Cs have never heard an actual exposition of a Biblical passage in their church. (Watch T.D. Jakes or Paula White to see what P/C preaching is all about .) Today, most P/C Christians approach the Bible in the way a Rod Parsley or a T.D. Jakes does: How can we most rapidly jump from the Biblical story to the present action of the Holy Spirit? This method is well known in the African-American Church, and is not, if practiced cautiously, always the wrong way to go. But unhinged and exiled from solid Biblical interpretation and hitched to the unchecked personality of the latest P/C prophet, chaos ensues. Combined with the personal Word given only to the prophet and a deviant theology, the Bible becomes secondary, if not an outright obstacle.

I recently heard a Charismatic preacher using the story of David as a model for how God brings revival. Saul was the opponent of revival. David was the anointed leader of revival. Jonathan was the waverer, still hanging out in the dead church. The lessons on revival were flimsy, but the use of scripture was frightening. Yet, in the P/C community, this type of Biblical preaching is common and hailed as the very Word of God. The problem is that no one else could or would ever read the Bible this way, and now I cannot read this Biblical story with my P/C friend. I am apparently involved with the legalistic, religious words of the Bible, and not the living “Rhema,” prophetic words that P/C prophets and ministers routinely proclaim. My assumption that the Spirit says whatever the text says is not shared by many P/Cs. They believe the text is true, but the Spirit has something fresh to say today and that message isn’t found in the text, but in the Spirit’s speaking to individuals.

On another occasion a coworker showed a tape of P/C preacher Jesse Duplantis- the “Happy Heretic”- describing a vision of heaven. The sermon contained a lot of obvious sensational material, likely fabrication and a generous helping of outright contradictions of the Bible. My P/C friends admitted that the message was flawed, but felt it was helpful anyway. How does a bizarre vision on a subject the Bible so obviously talks plainly about qualify as “helpful?” More significant, what is the view of scripture implied in the whole business?

Many Charismatics are involved in teaching that is openly announced as “special messages for the end times church.” Here the Bible is read in a way that explains current and future events mystically and spiritually. Images, parables and teachings of scripture are given a special meaning for the “last generation of the church.” Dreams and visions become interpretative tools for understanding obscure passages. Again, no one would normally read the Bible in the way these convinced end-times Charismatics read it, and real discussion about the Bible is made impossible.

Actual criticism of “Word-oriented” churches is not unheard of in the P/C world. A whole array of P/C prophets now speak a “living Word” to the P/C community, only marginally relating to the actual meaning of scripture passages. It is difficult to discuss what the Bible says and means with people who have seldom experienced Biblical interpretation and instruction, but have usually only encountered the Bible as the launching point for highly personal, subjective prophetic words and interpretations.

Many of my good memories of conversations with my P/C friends were over what the Bible said and taught about the Christian life. Today, P/C friends who gladly say the Bible is the final and authoritative Word from God are very rare indeed. (I thank God for those I know, and encourage them to faithfully study the scriptures.) True fellowship in the Word is almost impossible, unless I agree that God is speaking through prophets today, and such words are the “living Word of God” for today. How can evangelicals and P/Cs continue to fellowship when the Bible plays such a shrinking role in the P/C understanding of Christian experience?

2. Worship. Pentecostal/Charismatics have always maintained a strong and vital understanding of worship. Much of this is grounded in Biblical truth neglected by the mainline churches and evangelicals. Clearly, the stifling traditions of many evangelicals could benefit from appreciating the more expressive and diverse worship of P/Cs. With the advent of contemporary “praise and worship” music, Pentecostals have demonstrated their more creative, expressive, and emotional worship style with undeniably good results. Evangelicals are far better for the contribution of P/Cs to our worship.

It is sad to see, however, that worship has become one of the great divisions between P/Cs and other evangelicals. And here I may particularly anger my P/C friends, but again, I ask for your patience and consideration. Clearly, P/Cs have won the day in terms of influence in worship style. A vast number of non-P/C churches are now using praise music, raising hands during worship, and encouraging individual expressions of praise during worship. More than one Baptist senior adult is convinced his church has been taken over by “Holy Rollers.”

Initially this P/C influence provided a good basis of fellowship, as non-P/Cs and P/Cs were enjoying much of the same kind of worship, and the “worship renewal” held out the promise of uniting a vast generation of Christians around common expressions of worship. This hope continues, and the good influence continues.

Sadly, however, many P/Cs have become proponents of a strident rejection of any kind of worship other than their own. Instead of appreciating the influence of P/C worship in the larger Christian tradition, many P/Cs now believe that “worship” is what they do, and only they really do it. “Worship” has now come to mean “Pentecostal/Charismatic worship.”

It is a characteristic of most Christian traditions to suspect that they are closer to the mark than anyone else. Certainly a Roman Catholic, an Anglican, a Pentecostal and a Campbellite could each make their case that they are expressing the best worship tradition. But in the end, most Christians can come to a point of seeing the value and the Biblical basis in a large variety of worship styles that present a panorama of Biblical truth and many aspects of God’s nature and praise. Here, however, many P/Cs hold firm: their worship is uniquely an expression of the Holy Spirit, and other kinds of worship are “dead rituals” and “human traditions.” It is sadly the fact that one can go to a large number of P/C churches and hear that their worship is the Holy Spirit’s “restoration” of true worship in the last days.

It is easy for an educated and analytical person to want to educate P/Cs that their worship is as much a part of history and culture as any other church, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Many P/Cs are convinced that the emphasis on praise, emotion, individual “freedom,” and the direct intervention of God is uniquely what true worship is all about. Rather than be generous toward other worship traditions and styles, many P/Cs are arrogantly critical in ways not unlike the way mainline Christians might sometimes look at rural and lower class Pentecostal worship.

In the last several years I have been unable to discuss worship with more than a handful of my Pentecostal/Charismatic friends. When the subject comes up, they quickly and authoritatively denounce every aspect of traditional worship as being human traditions at best or spiritual bondage at worst. When they attend a traditional church, they are overwhelmed with criticisms of anything that is not spontaneous, highly expressive, or novel. Strong value judgments abound. One Charismatic friend expressed genuine wonder that our church would want to say the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday. (I wonder how one bad worship chorus can be sung to the point of mesmerization.) Another friend routinely classifies all liturgy or unified response as evidence that a church has been utterly forsaken by the presence of the Holy Spirit and has become a museum of dead spirituality.

This hostility toward other worship traditions, coupled with the inability of many P/Cs to find any Biblical or reasonable boundaries to worship practices, has contributed to a Grand Canyon of separation between non-P/C evangelicals and many P/Cs on the subject of worship. When we do talk, we are most often defending our own understanding of worship from what we fear about the other tradition. Evangelicals fear the weirdness and wildness they see in Brownsville and elsewhere. P/Cs fear being closed off to the next move of the Spirit in and out of the church by a preference for predictability. Instead of finding ourselves brought together by the worship renewal of the last few years, traditional evangelicals and P/Cs are often farther apart than ever.

One last word before I move on. This continuing separation and disagreement is grievous to me. Frankly, some P/C concerns are substantial, and others are ridiculous. Rejecting all non-P/C worship as “ritual” and “tradition” is immature and needlessly divisive. The Bible approves of many kinds of worship, and of many different kinds of behaviors in worship. Evangelicals need to take that diversity more seriously. P/Cs need to realize they haven’t been deputized by the Holy Spirit to tell the rest of us whether or not we are really worshiping.

3. Prayer. Historically, it has been true that Christians who disagreed over various matters could at least pray together. Jesus taught that prayer should be simple, and the simple prayers of Christians from radically different backgrounds have often brought them together. Sadly, prayer has become one of those areas of greatest difficulty between P/Cs and the rest of us.

By this I do not mean that P/Cs are more expressive and vocal in prayer. Such a small difference is not a real hindrance to fellowship in prayer. Everyone can adjust to someone who prays in a slightly different “mode.” What has created this division is a vast difference in understanding the purpose of prayer itself.

Pentecostalism has always been about praying for God to act, but in recent years a collection of Bible teachers began to teach doctrines about “praying in faith” that have popularly come to be called, “Name it, Claim it” or “Positive Confession.” This approach to prayer places the believer in the position of calling the shots, or as heretical Bible teacher Kenneth Hagin calls it, “writing your own ticket with God.”. “Faith” teachers go on endlessly about the fact that faith allows us to create reality, and move the hand of God in the same way as prophets such as Elijah. So while P/Cs used to simply pray more confidently and loudly than many evangelicals, today they are quite likely to pray in a way that seems to challenge the very sovereignty of God, and place us in a position of rejecting “not my will, but Thy will be done,” a phrase that has actually been ridiculed by more than one P/C Bible teacher as not meaning what it says.

Most of us are aware of the uglier aspects of this approach to prayer. Certainly any pastor who has encountered P/Cs “claiming” healings for hopeless cases and then explaining the lack of a miracle as a failure of faith knows how insidious and hurtful this doctrine can be. More than once, I have watched sincere P/C friends proclaim events that were going to happen as if they controlled weather, finances, and the operation of the human body. Rather than “making our requests known to God,” these prayers dictated to the Almighty what seemed best from their very human point of view. (Example: Pat Robertson’s prayers to clear the bench at the Supreme Court.) Frankly, this sort of prayer makes me more than uncomfortable. It is offensive, and sometimes even blasphemous.

Right alongside the “prayer of faith” have come prayers reflecting current beliefs about spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is a Biblical theme that P/C Christians have helped bring back into the vocabulary and teaching of the church. For this we should be grateful. But many spiritual warfarists have gone too far, making Satan and demons the explanation for too much, and making deliverance from demonic forces the answer to too many complex problems. The recent death of an autistic 8-year-old in a P/C healing service is an example of the tragedy that can come from simplistic application of spiritual teaching.

On many occasions, when my P/C friends have filled their prayers with direct addresses to the devil and demons, and have gone on to claim various results that they believe will be guaranteed by their faith, I have been tempted to just walk away. It is difficult to feel that this is prayer as Jesus taught it, and difficult to not believe that it is something more akin to magic and shamanism than Christianity. It has created a division between Christians right at the very throne of the Father, where we should be the most united in humble dependence. P/Cs are people of prayer, and that is a great gift to the church. But the false teachings about prayer that increasingly fill the P/C community make it less likely that we can pray, minister, or work together.

And of course, again, the P/C community hasn’t hesitated to claim that their approach to prayer is literally carrying out the plans of God in history. Such confidence can be part of a positive emphasis on missions and church growth, or it can descend into the “word of knowledge” follies that are increasingly common in P/C circles. With the Bible increasingly a book of examples, and communication with God frequently based on subjective impressions, visions and voices, fellowship with Pentecostal/Charismatics is increasingly difficult for evangelicals who do not have these experiences. For many of us, it has become difficult to fellowship with Christians whose views of prayer are so divisive and confusing to Christian unity and ministry.

4. Spiritual leaders. Pentecostal/Charismatics are a personality driven community. There is no doubt that the average P/C Christian gives a greater degree of loyalty and confidence to pastors, evangelists, prophets, and other spiritual leaders than almost any other Christians. Roman Catholics believe in the authority of the church. Liberals give authority to those who are properly educated. Evangelicals are consumers who give loyalty to whoever has the biggest church and the high charting CD. Pentecostals/Charismatics give loyalty to anyone who can demonstrate he has an anointing from God.

The concept of an “anointed” ministry has grown in Pentecostal circles over the years to the point that it occupies a position I am not sure any non-Pentecostal can really understand. Pentecostals, once convinced a leader has an anointing from God, will demonstrate amazing patience, forgiveness, loyalty, and support for that person far beyond almost any other segment of Christianity. Not one of the major televangelists involved in the scandals of the 1980’s is without a church and followers, and many are still on television. Financial scandals, personal irresponsibility, even clear evidence of heresy, fraud and lying–none of these things can derail the support P/Cs give to their leaders. No one has a tougher job than the person who tries to convince the P/C community to withdraw support from someone who is not worthy of support.

This loyalty extends beyond rooting for “our team.” It has become a self-perpetuating, “anointed” class. Benny Hinn proclaims his credentials as receiving the mantle of previous faith healers. Charismatic prophets are expected to anoint their successors like royalty. P/C churches may appear congregational, but in most cases they are wholly owned and controlled by founding pastors, their families, and appointed successors. This is all just fine among P/Cs, and stands in real contrast to most other evangelicals, particularly Baptists.

Who can exercise any authority or correction over an “anointed” spiritual leader? That is a question P/Cs have been unable to answer. Leaders like James Robison or Jack Hayford have a modicum of respect, but no one could persuade a whoremonger like Jimmy Swaggart to step out of the pulpit for even a year. And this leads to more significant problems than the occasional scandal.

A sizable minority of P/C pastors teach errors and even heresy. There is really no other way to say it. I am not talking about the odd or the unusual or even the unheard of, which are all common among P/Cs. I am talking about significant heresy and errors in fundamental and important Christian beliefs. In the P/C community, the Trinity is regularly denied. Christ is demoted. Scripture is denigrated. Salvation by grace, through faith and not by works is replaced by various schemes of salvation unrecognizable within the classical Christian tradition. Many P/C pastors feel no responsibility to the larger Christian tradition (thank God for the exceptions!) and have nothing good to say about any creed or confession.

It is a generalization, but it is true enough to share. One can hardly imagine any doctrinal deviation that would not receive a significant nod of approval among P/Cs if delivered by a recognized “anointed” leader and with a convincing story of how God revealed the message.

When a heretic like Kenneth Hagin or Kenneth Copeland denies the person and work of Christ and invents entirely unheard of categories and interpretations of the Christian life (many of which are occultic in origin), the average doubtful evangelical knows that he or she will be told we are not to criticize or question because this is an anointed teacher. Listening to the nightly roll call of new revelations of TBN, there is no doubt that this is a different world than mainstream evangelicalism, where novel theologies are not unheard of, but generally can only be spread at the cost of great controversy. (Ask Harold Camping.)

I recall reading about a prominent faith healer whose heresies and deviations from orthodoxy were well-known and notorious, but because there were continual testimonies of healing at his meetings, he continues to be cited as an important and “anointed” prophet and teacher. This is the contradiction that P/Cs seem reluctant to resolve. When it is resolved, too often the solution is to be open to the possibility that God cannot be put in the “box” of Christian orthodoxy. The problem them becomes, can we talk about anything or anyone being genuinely Christian because of what they do or do not confess and believe? Is this not an entirely new “box” that may not be Christianity at all?

Sadly, it is hard to predict how much fellowship will be possible between Christians when the central issues of the faith can be denied or compromised, but criticism of those false teachers is not allowed or taken seriously. P/Cs are the largest segment of evangelicalism, and there is a growing concern among many P/Cs to relate positively to the larger Christian tradition, but the issue of what constitutes a legitimate ministry stands in the way.

There are other areas that deserve consideration. Theology is important to the church, but the P/C community is often hostile to the entire project of doing Biblical theology. The P/C movement has produced some fine scholars and adequate theologians, but one can easily see that this is the back row of the P/C show, and we should not expect P/C theology to be driven by serious scholarship any time soon. The Christian life and experience is a major interest of P/Cs, but increasingly the P/C version of the normal Christian life is unrecognizable to many traditional Christians. (What P/Cs see in “revival” movements like Brownsville and Toronto seems a different and frightening universe than the honored path of Christian devotion, obedience and discipleship.) Certainly the well-worn area of Spiritual gifts continues to stand as a controversy, particularly as gifts such as “words of knowledge” have taken on huge significance among P/Cs. Many of us would like to hear some solid application of Biblical teaching to the whole area of prophetic ministry, as it appears the “prophets” have ascended into the leadership of much of the P/C movement and are dominating the future direction of a significant number of P/C Christians and churches. If Kim Clement and other prophets are the future of P/Cs, the prognosis for fellowship is not good.

In conclusion, I want to repeat that I am aware the issue of fellowship between P/Cs and myself is not a one-way street. I am certainly guilty of frequently being stand-offish. I can easily become guilty of making hasty judgments and of being overly critical. But I am a person who understands and supports much of what I have seen in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. I have a generous nature towards my P/C Christian brothers and sisters, and it is out of a heart for the good I have seen over the years that I write this essay full of concern. I have many times come to their defense, and I have risked my good standing with my fellow Baptists many times to allow P/Cs the opportunity to minister to the students I work with. But my P/C friends also know I try to be a “straight-shooter” when it comes to the work of the Lord. I want to see P/C churches and Christians rooted, grounded, and growing in the good soil of Biblical truth. If my words have seemed hurtful, it is not out of a desire to tear down, but to encourage.

A large part of my own energy and vision in ministry has come from a desire to see the church experience the kind of renewal so many of us hoped for in the early days of the charismatic movement, when it appeared that the best of what Pentecostalism represented could be brought into the church on the corner without a war between people who all loved God and wanted more of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I am wondering if we must reach a point where, in order to be faithful to the Bible and what God has revealed to the church throughout history, we must cease calling some Pentecostal-Charismatics our brothers in Christ, and urge them to come back to the family they have influenced so positively, but like impulsive young adults, have ultimately abandoned for their own path.

In the meantime, maybe we could get together and talk….like we used to.


By P/C, I mean groups or individuals that teach:

  1. Baptism or Filling in, with or by the Holy Spirit taught as a single, subsequent and significant event “completing” the Christian experience, evidenced by tongues.
  2. Using Acts and the Gospels over the epistles to justify normal Christian experience and to interpret the Bible in general.
  3. Endorsing all gifts, miracles, signs in the Bible as part of the normal and ordinary Christian life.
  4. “Anointed” leadership, reflected in church and ministry structures that are leader centered.
  5. Endorsing the role of the “prophet” as a continuing NT office.
  6. Believing there is a special significance to the P/C movement in God’s plan.

I do NOT mean:

  1. Anyone with a P/C worship style.
  2. Anyone who is expressive and emotive.
Posted by: riderchuck | January 20, 2010

Every Move You Make, Every Step You Take…

‘One Strange Flesh please.’  ‘Would you like us to super size that order sir?’  Well, yes, but could we keep this (dirty little) order between us, if you don’t mind?’   “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”    I understand that in this verse from Jude 1. 6-8, is referring to the strange flesh of man with man and woman with woman, but it’s not much of stretch to throw in I was just thinking, even for a fella who has been a practicing Christian for most of his sixty-something life, how easy it is to turn the head, to this day, when a younger, shaplier/glitzier woman than my own beloved, can be.  Anyone remember this one?    “Every breath you take, Every move you make, Every bond you break, Every step you take, I’ll be watching you.       Every single day, Every word you say, Every game you play, Every night you stay, I’ll be watching you. Oh, cant you see,  You belong to me,  How my poor heart aches, With every step you take.         Every more you make, Every vow you break, Every smile you fake, Every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you  (skipped stanza here)          Oh, cant you see, You belong to me, How my poor heart aches, With every breath you take.       Every move you make, Every vow you break,
Every smile you fake, Every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you.

These words are from the 1983 hit by The Police, “Every Breath You Take”.  According to band member Sting, this song was about a guy stalking his ex-girlfriend.  But what a strange coincidence that the Bible pictures God as a jealous lover and us as an estranged mate.

1-2 Dear friend, pay close attention to this, my wisdom; listen very closely to the way I see it.
Then you’ll acquire a taste for good sense;
what I tell you will keep you out of trouble.

3-6 The lips of a seductive woman are oh so sweet,
her soft words are oh so smooth.
But it won’t be long before she’s gravel in your mouth,
a pain in your gut, a wound in your heart.
She’s dancing down the primrose path to Death;
she’s headed straight for Hell and taking you with her.
She hasn’t a clue about Real Life,
about who she is or where she’s going.

7-14 So, my friend, listen closely;
don’t treat my words casually.
Keep your distance from such a woman;
absolutely stay out of her neighborhood.
You don’t want to squander your wonderful life,
to waste your precious life among the hardhearted.
Why should you allow strangers to take advantage of you?
Why be exploited by those who care nothing for you?
You don’t want to end your life full of regrets,
nothing but sin and bones,
Saying, “Oh, why didn’t I do what they told me?
Why did I reject a disciplined life?
Why didn’t I listen to my mentors,
or take my teachers seriously?
My life is ruined!
I haven’t one blessed thing to show for my life!”

Never Take Love for Granted

15-16 Do you know the saying, “Drink from your own rain barrel,
draw water from your own spring-fed well”?
It’s true. Otherwise, you may one day come home
and find your barrel empty and your well polluted.

17-20 Your spring water is for you and you only,
not to be passed around among strangers.
Bless your fresh-flowing fountain!
Enjoy the wife you married as a young man!
Lovely as an angel, beautiful as a rose—
don’t ever quit taking delight in her body.
Never take her love for granted!
Why would you trade enduring intimacies for cheap thrills with a whore?
for dalliance with a promiscuous stranger?

21-23 Mark well that God doesn’t miss a move you make;
he’s aware of every step you take.

The shadow of your sin will overtake you;
you’ll find yourself stumbling all over yourself in the dark.
Death is the reward of an undisciplined life;
your foolish decisions trap you in a dead end.

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
Ill be watching you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
Ill be watching you

Oh, cant you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches
With every step you take

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
Ill be watching you

Since youve gone I been lost without a trace
I dream at night I can only see your face
I look around but its you I cant replace
I feel so cold and I long for your embrace
I keep crying baby, baby, please…

Oh, cant you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches
With every breath you take

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
Ill be watching you

Every move you make
Every step you take
Ill be watching you

Ill be watching you
Ill be watching you
Ill be watching you
Ill be watching you…

Posted by: riderchuck | January 16, 2010

Keeping (Heart) Accounts Current

When it comes to understanding our own hearts, we are in deep water. It’s easy to assume we can read other people’s hearts and motives, and we may even think we have a grip on our own, but the truth is, man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. We attribute the best of motives to our own actions, but seldom give others the benefit of a doubt.

For example, if we have spoken unkindly to someone, we can spend the next several hours (days, months, years) telling ourselves a story over and over about how we really said (or did) the right thing. We tell ourselves that they really deserved it, that we had pure motives, that it was right, right, right. But the problem is, if it was really right, we would have forgotten all about it long ago. If we had told the truth, we would not be patting ourselves on the back all day about it. If we lied, we keep repeating the whole scenario over in our minds, justifying our behavior, excusing the lie, and sooner or later we may even convince ourselves of it.

But God sees the heart and even when we tell Him the story over and over with our little spin on it, He is never won over to our perspective.  The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, and we ought not argue with Him. When the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts with something like, “That was unkind,” the proper response is, “Right. I’ll take care of it right away.” Then that chapter can be closed appropriately. The problem is when we answer instead with something like, “But she needed to hear that. I was only exercising my spiritual gift of rebuke. It was good that I said that. It was not unkind. It was really the loving thing to do.” And as we retell the story to ourselves, we may embellish it freely, bestowing evil motives on the other person and attributing sacrificial motives to ourselves.

As the years roll by and these things are not attended to, it’s no wonder our hearts get hard, and the unkindness accumulates until it’s a big gunky mess. Far better to humble ourselves day by day than be humbled by the Living God who sees all.

From the Blog of Nancy Wilson

Posted by: riderchuck | January 4, 2010

Hey Mike (Letters to my Brother Gone Missing)

Monday January 04, 2010

Your name has been missing from the rolls of Christ’s Kingdom for a long time.  A wrong we have prayed God right these many years now.  But I thank God that He has put it on your heart to return to Christ and live for Him.  (It’s never too late for any of us to turn around from ignoring Him.) But how does one go about “living for Christ” in this upside down world?  Today I was reading one of the Master’s letters to us (Matthew) and it gave some great incite on what He expects of us when it comes to a life that pleases Him.

It compares the kingdom of Christ (heaven) to ten young women (virgins) who were supposed to be going out at night (a dark time) to meet their bridegroom to whom they are promised in marriage.  Since its dark (the times we live in) they take lamps (today’s flashlight but really God’s Law/Word) with them so they can not only see where they’re going, but so they will recognize their master/bridegroom when they see him.  (Lamps are a huge part of this story and we see that too in Psalm 119 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”).

We are of course the ten virgins (made pure and white by the blood of the Lamb (bridegroom) ) and I don’t need to tell you who the ‘bridegroom’ is.  The wedding is the ‘wedding supper of the lamb’ spoken of in the book of Revelations where our relationship with our saviour (bridegroom) is to be consummated.  The journey of the ten virgins to ‘go out to meet the bridegroom’ with lamp in hand, is, of course, our life here on this plane of existence.

The lamps are, interestingly enough, our ‘testimony’, a 50 cent word for how we show (or don’t) our lives (and our Saviour and Bridegroom) to an unbelieving world.  In a way, the lamps are the bridegroom Himself.  He tells us in another place not to put our lamp under stuff (our carnal desires to please ourselves) but to put it out where everybody can see it as the beacon of Christ that it’s supposed to be.  So in a way, the lamp we’re supposed to be carrying around with us is Christ.  Pretty cool, huh?

But then the Master throws us a bit of a curve and we begin to realize it’s not quite as simple as it sounds at first to find the bridegroom in the dark.  That brings me to the part I did not tell you yet (from Matthew 25) that the Master warned all ten virgins to take extra oil for burning in their lamps (batteries if you will) so when the Master does not show up as quick as they think he will/should, they’ve got a way to keep up the search/vigil by having extra oil/batteries for their lamps/flashlights.

The extra oil/batteries are the way we’re obeying Him (read His Word/Law) every day.  Obedience brings blessings (read more oil/batteries) and allows us to have the wherewithal to keep our vigil for our bet roved.  If you have any doubt just read the next example about His Kingdom the Master gives in Matthew 25 which says that He gives us talents (different abilities to obey Him and be fruitful in His kingdom) so we might multiply them and, well, sort of feed five thousand instead of just a few dozen, with His gifts in us.

So anyway Mike, we need to battery up brother.  Be reading His Word/Law and asking Him to help us to obey it.  And as you can plainly see, we DO live in a dark place and there are a bunch of folks out there who will say we’re dumb, and a lot worse, if we “waste” our lives trying to obey the Master.  All the more reason to ask Him to help us obey Him here and now, today.  Until next time, your brother in Christ, Charles.

Posted by: riderchuck | December 31, 2009

A Healthy Fear for a Terrorist Worthy of It

Why are nations turbulent,
And peoples murmur a vain thing?
Kings of the earth set themselves,
And rulers consult together,
Against Yahweh
And against His anointed:
“Let us break their bonds
And throw off of us their ropes!”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
My Lord scoffs at them!
Then he speaks to them in his wrath
And in His burning anger He TERRIFIES them:
“I myself have installed my king
On Zion, my holy mountain.”

I will declare the statute:
Yahweh said to me,
“My son you are;
I myself, today, have begotten you.
Ask of me and I will make nations your inheritance
And your possession the ends of the earth.
You will rule them with an iron scepter,
Like a potter’s vessel you will smash them.”

And now, kings, be wise;
Be warned judges of earth.
Serve Yahweh with fear
And exult with trembling.
Kiss the son lest he be angry
And you perish in the way,
For his wrath will quickly burn.
Blessed are all those who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2 translated by John Barach (TERRIFIES in caps mine)

God is maligned and marginalized in many quarters in our world today.  But since He is at the top, He deals with folks (read judges) from the top down (for our purposes here) as well.  He addresses today’s world leaders and rulers, letting them know that by His Spirit and His Law/Word, He has established His Son and his Son’s people, (read Christians and Christianity) to administrate a common grace for all peoples of the earth.  But many of the world leaders are saying, ‘we don’t want Christ and His Christianity or Christians telling us what to do (we don’t exactly, but HE DOES) and putting the binders of God’s Word on us (we don’t but HE DOES).  We reject (and are willing to kill and killing) Christianity and Christians if they won’t keep their mouth shut and do life our way’!

God laughs at them and let’s them know He has established HIS King, (started in Israel but is His Church today).  They have been granted temporary power to further His King’s reign AND FOR NO OTHER REASON! God is saying to these two bit dreamer usurpers as He laughs, ‘You’re not serious, you think you have any REAL power?  Give me a break!’

Now THE King addresses the psalmist, and indirectly the rest of us of, ‘Here is what God has laid out (His Law/Word) for all of us: David (really Jesus), you are my son (Son) and today I am letting all (the believers and unbelievers alike) see that you (David/Jesus –and for our purposes – you and I) have been given the following promise from THE King: Ask me and I will make NATIONS your inheritance and your possession to the ends of the earth.  So we might well wonder, ‘what do we do with these nations You have given us for an inheritance, King Yahweh?’  And of course we have our answer right on the heels of God’s declaration regarding our inheritance: ‘rule them with an iron scepter, like a potter’s vessel you will smash them.’

Okay, now I get it, being a sports fan at heart.  When you give us control over these lowly heathen, it’s smash mouth hard guy time.  Is that it?  Not so much.  Of Faith, Hope and Love the greatest is Love. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds…
No, our primary (vessel smashing) weapons are worship and prayer and over all that is a very hard to do but necessary, self-sacrificing Love.  It’s comparatively easy to pray a prayer of imprecation like we hear David so in Psalms: ‘Kick their butt Lord!’  (and we need to at times too)

So in spite of my feelings for those who hate my King and His people, I pray for world leaders/kings.  So ‘wise up kings and world leaders,’ our psalm goes on.  Serve the one true King with fear and trembling.  Kiss, adore, adorate, and otherwise BOW DOWN to the Son, Jesus Christ, ‘lest He be angry and wipe you out (more ways than you could even begin to count) BECAUSE ONCE HIS PATIENCE IS ENDED, His anger will go over the top of all registers and eat you up. And last but not least, “Blessed are all those who take refuge in Him”

Posted by: riderchuck | December 10, 2009

To Spank or Not-A Can of Worms Opened

I found this piece on the blog “Fun Crazy Life”  A very well balanced and articulate essay on child rearing/discipline.  A blog that I read semi-regularly had an interesting post today on spanking. She wanted to know “Were you spanked growing up? Does it affect how you discipline as a parent? And if you’re a spanker, please tell me why it works for you.” I’ve actually thought about posting about spanking before, but shied away because of the controversy.  But here goes.

I was spanked growing up. I don’t really remember it, though. My parents did not just spank – we had time-outs, lost tv privileges, had last night’s dinner served to us at breakfast when we refused to eat and, later, got grounded. (I think I was grounded throughout most of high school.)   I don’t think that my being spanked or not as a child had much to do with how I discipline my children. (My husband was spanked growing up as well).

When we had our first, I was still unsure about spanking. How could I ever to this sweet, innocent little baby? Simply unimagineable. Then she learned to crawl. And stuck her hand in the oven. And burned all of her fingers on her right hand. I realized that I needed a firmer form of discipline simply to protect her.
So we started telling her “No.” And if she disobeyed, she got a swat on her hand. Which she did NOT like. And it worked. She began to obey. Soon, we rarely had to swat her hand because she responded so well. We would tell her no and she would look longingly at the vcr which she was trying to stick her hand in. We would say, “Do you need discipline to help you obey?” And she would obey. We didn’t start spanking her on her bottom until she was around 18 months old. And that was just as effective. (We did the same thing with Little Sis).
Now, we use spanking with both the girls (age 3 & 2). But it is rarely needed. Big Sister is spanked probably once a week. Little Sister, probably once a day, since her hobby is putting her life in danger. (She was spanked yesterday for jumping up and down in the bathtub. After I told her to stop.)

Some stipulations:
1. We never spank in public. This includes spanking in front of other people in our home. The purpose is to correct the behavior, not to humiliate them. Even if its just me and the two girls at home, if they need discipline they get it separately and in the privacy of their own room with the door shut.
2. We never spank when we are angry. This is hard. It continually amazes me how someone so small can make me so. incredibly. angry. If I am losing my cool, then they get a time-out in their beds. And so do I. Spanking is not a way to vent my frustration on my kids. Despite the temptation. Especially at 4am. When you’ve been woken up for the 5th time. For no apparent reason except your daughter’s personal entertainment. (I’m sure I’ve slipped on this one or two times….)
3. We have a routine. I take them into their rooms and they sit in my lap. I ask them what they did: “What did Mommy tell you?” “Not to touch the stove.” “Did you obey?” “No.” “So you need two disciplines.” (2 spanks) Then, they get cuddled and we talk about what happened, what they could have done differently. Sometimes we pray. They always apologize and they’re always forgiven. We give kisses and hugs and then they jump down and go back to playing. Its over and we move on.
4. Except in rare cases (like when they put their lives in danger), they get a warning before they are spanked.
5. We don’t always use spanking. Time-outs are more common. Losing privileges has started. (If there is fighting over the tv (“Dora!” “No! Blues Clues!” scream!!), it goes off for the rest of the day.) It varies from situation to situation, child to child.

Its hard to spank – I’ve cried while doing it. Particularly when they are getting spanked for doing something dangerous and I’m so upset at the thought of what could have happened. (Like the day Big Sis ran into the street and missed being hit by a pick-up truck by inches. Inches.) But I am convinced that – if done well – spanking is an effective and important form of discipline.
The problem, of course, is that people are morons. People beat their kids. There is a lot of suppressed rage in people these days – exhibit a: road rage. And its sad. I don’t think spanking should be banned, since I know so many parents who use it well. But, it breaks my heart to think of people taking things out of their children.
We know a family who adopted from overseas and are not permitted to spank the child (they did spank their other 3). And they’ve shared how without spanking, it is much more difficult to control behavioral issues and to discourage disobedience. Interesting observation.

I’m sure there are people out there who think I’m a monster for spanking my kids and deserve to be thrown in jail.  Fine.  I remain convinced that this is a respectable form of discipline. I cling to Hebrews 12:11 – No discipline is pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Posted by: riderchuck | November 13, 2009

Looking for Hate in all the Wrong Places

Nadil Malik Hasan and the Street Light
Topic: Obama Nation Building

A joke is told about a drunk who was crawling around under a street lamp on his hands and knees. He had been there for some time, and another guy came along and said, “What are you looking for?” The answer was that he was looking for his lost car keys, and so the new guy joined in the search for ten minutes or so. Finally he asked, “Are you sure you dropped them here?” “Oh, no,” the answer came back. “I lost them over there by my car,” and the drunk pointed over toward the darkness where his car was. Exasperated, the other man said, “So what are you looking here for then?” “Oh,” the drunk said, “the light’s better here.”

Now the moral of this lesson, boys and girls, is that you should look for things where you have the greatest likelihood of finding what you are looking for, and you should not waste your time looking where it is most convenient for you to be looking.

The joke is a guaranteed groaner, in part because we don’t think anyone, however drunk, could be that stupid. And yet this very approach is the public and dogmatically-defended policy of these United States. We look for Islamic terrorism where it is convenient for us to look for it, and not where we are likely to find some. We frisk 88-year-old Swedish grandmas at airports . . . and why again? The light’s better there.

Some years ago, a member of our congregation who was in the National Guard, and who later served in Afghanistan, had to get a security clearance. Part of that process included me being interviewed by someone from the FBI. We got to the part of the interview where I was asked how I knew this gentleman. I said that I was his pastor. The man conducting the background check said (in all seriousness), “Oh, I can’t put that down.” I forget what he had to put down instead, but it was something like “spiritual advisor.” Anybody who thinks that the PC climate created by our contemporary word-morphers does not have a counterproductive effect on people is simply kidding himself. At some point, of course, tenacity in pursuing such a misguided approach becomes simply perverse. And in this case, bloody.

Posted by Douglas Wilson – 11/12/2009

Health Care Freak Show
Topic: Obama Nation Building (from Blog and Mablog by Doug Wilson)

Now that the PelosiCare Fiasco has passed the House (in the middle of night, sight unseen, nothing to see here, folks, just keep moving), all eyes turn to the Senate. As Americans who know how to count continue to watch our solons of subtraction with fascinated horror, let me just throw up a small post here in anticipation of crisis of conscience that I think a number of Christians are going to have in pretty short order.

Political junkies like to buy their cloth by the yard, and don’t really know what to do with odds and ends. They deal with the political parties, and conventions every four years, congressional elections every two years, and the occasional off-year elections to give them a handful of tea leaves to read. All the trains run on the tracks, and nobody is doing any political ATV freewheeling out in the fields.

But unless I am misreading the mood out there, we are seeing a genuine national tax revolt coming to a boil. The specter of Pelosi and company just doubling down to push through an exercise in trillionizing that nobody wants is the kind of hubris that has provoked many tax revolts in history, and so I really don’t think we are done with them. We are not yet done with the action, clearly, and so we are not done with the equal and opposite reaction.

And note: by revolt I don’t mean revolution in the streets, and I don’t mean political lobbying as usual. I am referring to direct action, of a peaceful and entirely non-cooperative nature. And when this happens, an awful lot of evangelical Christians are going to be rocking back and forth from one foot to the other, wanting to join in the party and yet feeling constrained by a misunderstanding of Romans 13. But “obey the existing authorities,” in our setting, does not mean submission to arbitrary and caprious government. The president, the Congress, and the judiciary are all part of our existing authority, true. But so are our state and local governments, and so are our constitutions. So the question is this — does our existing authority authorize such direct action by the people? Is such behavior constitutional?

Here are a couple of citations, to provide a little grist for the intellectual mill. The first two are from Idaho’s constitution.

“Section 1.Inalienable rights of man. All men are by nature free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing and protecting property; pursuing happiness and securing safety” (Art 1/Sec 1, emphasis mine).

Inalienable means that the government can’t take it away, not even if they have a straight-up vote on a bill that nobody has read in the middle of the night.

“Section 2.Political power inherent in the people. All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter, reform or abolish the same whenever they may deem it necessary; and no special privileges or immunities shall ever be granted that may not be altered, revoked, or repealed by the legislature” (Art 1/Sec 2, emphasis mine).

Then there is this little gem from the New Hampshire constitution:

“Whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind” (Article X, emphasis mine).

And though I am not accustomed to quoting him with approval, we can even read this from Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural:

“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.”

Now I am not trying to sum everything up in one simplistic point. The issues involved in teh situation at large are simply enormous. I just want to separate that little Romans 13 point out of the general confusion, and set it off to the side. If five million people marched on Washington to inform our elected representatives that they had absolutely no intention of paying for this health care freakshow, and they thereby succeeded in scaring all the professional politicos to death, and as a result the aforementioned freakshow was trundled off and quietly drowned in the Chesapeake Bay, this deliverance would have involved absolutely no violation of Romans 13. And why? Because the documents that constitute an essential part of our “existing authorities” say that this kind of thing is necessary from time to time. Keeps the politicians limber.

Posted by Douglas Wilson – 11/9/2009

Posted by: riderchuck | November 6, 2009

What Would Jesus Damn?

Many of us evangelicals need to read this once a year just for drill.  Does or should God actually judge?  Was Jesus a “tough customer” after all?  I did not write this piece and I’d lay down, well, I guess there’s just not much you can give for someone else’s gift, but I thank God for this writer’s gift.  This piece is from “Blog and Mablog” by Doug Wilson  I feel like he’s essential reading for the serious Christian.

What Would Jesus Damn?

I hope it is possible to say this with all reverence, but Jesus was a tough customer. Contrary to popular opinion, the Lord of the gospels was not the original flower child, and He did not come in order to make us all feel better about ourselves. The image that many have of the Lord’s personality and strength of character comes more from man-made traditions and saccharine portrait painters than it does from the Bible. One easily envisions the image of a genteel limpwrist standing outside the door of someone’s heart, gently tapping, because of course the doorknob is only on the inside. The only thing missing from this vision is the ribbon in his hair. I have sometimes thought that a far better picture of Jesus knocking at the door of my heart would be a commanding hand from offstage, two rows of angels with a battering ram, and a worried-looking troll peeking out over the wall of a castle.

Otto Scott put it well when he said that the God of the Bible is no buttercup. And when Jesus came He revealed all the attributes of the Father, and not just those things which we can easily interpret as comforting to ourselves. But the Lord’s words were simultaneously blunt and pointed, and as Chesterton put it, He did not hesitate to throw furniture down the front steps of the Temple. However, we like to hear all about love, and mercy, and comfort, and kindness. This is not bad in itself; these are all biblical revelations of God’s nature and character. But we present them out of context; we neglect the wrath, and holiness, and justice of God. We do not neglect these attributes because they are contradictions to the first set; we neglect them because we do not know how the Bible reconciles them. Notice how the apostle seats them at the table together, as though they were good friends. “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness” (Rom. 11:22). We must constantly remember that a half-truth presented as the whole truth is an untruth. God is kind, and God is severe. Jesus reveals the nature of the Father to us; Jesus is kind, and Jesus is severe.

Now this necessarily relates to the slogan, “What Would Jesus Do?,” a slogan which is quite popular in evangelical circles. Of course the problem with this is not the question — it is a fine question. The difficulty is that we do not answer it biblically. We ask the question, but then the biblical answer comes back that just about now He would make approximately a hundred and fifty gallons of fine Merlot wine for the wedding guests. We ignore this answer as being inconvenient for our traditions, and say that of course the Jesus “we know” would never, ever, drink alcohol. And this is because we do not know Him according to His Word.

We can illustrate this point on a more profound level by asking who Jesus would damn. Tragically, the modern evangelical Church has slid considerably from the historic Christian understanding of heaven and hell. It is unfortunate, but in order for us to answer the question, we must first reassert the reality of damnation. It has become increasingly acceptable (even within purported evangelical circles) to question or deny the reality of eternal punishment. But such evasions of the biblical teaching are hardly to be taken seriously. The greatest and most obvious “hellfire and damnation” preacher in the whole Bible is the Lord Jesus Himself. Some like to talk as though Jesus came down to us, preaching a simple message of love and peace, scattering rose petals as He went, but then along came the tight-lipped apostle Paul after him, hauling all that grim stuff into Christianity. This caricature persists only because of rank biblical ignorance. While Paul plainly affirms the reality of God’s eternal judgment, he doesn’t mention hell by name once. Jesus talks about it all the time, and with the most graphic imagery. “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—where ‘Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched'” (Mark 9:43-44). Jesus talks about hell as a place of horrifying punishment, and a place every bit as real and everlasting as heaven (Matt. 25:41,46).

In addition, in Acts 17, the apostle Paul tells us that the judgment of God is visited upon the world under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. “He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). The Lord said of Himself that one day He would come to say, “Depart from Me, workers of iniquity.” So we see clearly the fact that Jesus will damn, but we still need to know who will fall under His judgment.

At first glance, the answer would appear to be theologians, Bible teachers, and writers of articles for Christian magazines like this one. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matt. 23:13). The Lords’ usual preaching target did not appear to be drug dealers and hookers; His assaults were usually directed at religious professionals. Further, He did not address them in a true collegial spirit, as one truth-seeking rabbi to another. “Fools and blind! Blind guides! Hypocrites! Serpents! Brood of vipers!” From all this we might conclude that seminaries should be called a bag of snakes from time to time in order to help them keep their vision and focus clear.

But it would actually be a mistake to think that the issue is a particular vocation or calling. It is not as though the Lord arbitrarily decided to attack scribes instead of plumbers. The Lord’s basic target in all such assaults is the cancer of self-sufficiency, self-worship, self-righteousness. Just as the wealthy are prone to certain temptations, so the Lord shows us that the devout and pious are prone to their own sets of temptations, and among them is this deadliest temptation of all — the corruption of self-righteousness. A man is much more likely to think himself a fine fellow indeed if he is singing hymns in his car than if he is engaged in fornication. He is much more likely to approve of himself if he is doing externally virtuous things. Of course, in a perverted time, the licentious can develop their own brand of self-righteousness, and when they do, it is twice as deadly. “This is the way of an adulterous woman: she eats and wipes her mouth, and says, ‘I have done no wickedness'” (Prov. 30:20).

The Lord is our only righteousness. As the Lord of righteousness, the only true righteousness, He must of necessity be constantly at war with every form of counterfeit righteousness. Who will Jesus damn? The answer is everyone outside His righteousness, everyone who therefore relies on their own righteousness. We know that God loves no sinner redemptively outside of Christ. We should also know that outside of Christ is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

As Christians we all understand that we are supposed to imitate the Lord Jesus in all His actions and words. This is what lies behind our readiness to gladly receive the question, “What would Jesus do?” Unfortunately, once we get past this general point of consensus the agreement breaks down as soon as we cite specifics. Some specifics seem to be be quite alright. “Neither do I condemn you.” Other specifics are problematic. “Snakes!” As a result we are highly selective as we choose what we will imitate. We think it is somehow “safer” for us to be imitate His words of kindness and ignore all His words of scathing rebuke. But we must think through this carefully. It is dangerous for a sinner to imitate Christ in any way, including His love and kindness. Do we really believe that love and kindness cannot to be grossly perverted? For a fallen man to pick and choose how he will imitate Christ is treacherous territory indeed.

Our safety lies in remembering His warnings, the central object of His attack — self-righteousness. So when we have answered the question, “What would Jesus condemn?,” we must take care to condemn it ourselves. And the best place to condemn self-righteousness first is in one’s very own self. In a war, it always makes good sense to shoot more at the closer targets, and less at the distant ones. As we imitate Christ, and attack sin in the church, and all the various forms of self-righteousness that pervade the modern church, we must take special care to have carefully hated the manifestations of this same spirit as they appear daily in our own hearts. The Lord is not only a Savior, He is also a Judge.
Posted by Douglas Wilson – 6/19/2007

Older Posts »