Category Archives: Commentary on the Church

Christians, the well-meaning Trolls

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” 1 Corinthians 1:10-13

Have you ever read or seen The Hobbit? If you have, recall that scene where the Dwarves and Bilbo have been caught by the trolls who are trying to eat them. The trolls are tricked by an outside voice (Bilbo) telling them opposing things about how to best cook Dwarves. They start to fight among themselves, arguing over seasoning and skinning techniques, all while forgetting the primary objective: to eat the Dwarves before the sun comes up! So what happens? They toil in vain, arguing, until the Light of Day reaches the sky and they turn to stone.

We Christians are the Trolls. We spend countless hours arguing over the “Right Way” to do baptism, prayer, evangelism, and every other aspect of Christianity. We have split up the earthly Church into sections, saying “I am a Baptist”, “I am a Presbyterian”, “I am of  Wesley” or “I am of St. Augustine”.  Are we not all of Christ?  Do we not realize that these petty arguments are just devices to impair us from our true purpose: to unify ourselves against the powers of darkness and spread the glory of Christ to all nations.

In this apt analogy, Satan is the “outside voice” that causes the trolls to over think their goal of eating the Dwarves. One of Satan’s best tactics to destroy those who have faith in God is to get us to revisit what God said and distrust it by asking, “Did God really say that?” This is the device he uses against Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), and it is how he attempts to tempt Jesus in the Wilderness (Matthew 4). Jesus didn’t take the bait and combats Truth with Truth. I encourage you to read through those passages so you can see Satan’s strategy. He recites God’s Word, questions the intention of it, watches as we twist it just a little bit, and hands our doubt to us as a gift wrapped bomb from Hell. We spin in circles, trapped in our eagerness to please God. While we toil in vain arguing over doctrines, we ignore the very commandments of God. If we’re not careful, Christ will come back as the Light when we least expect it, and we will need to account for our distractions.

Beware of False Doctrines

There are false doctrines in the world. I am not suggesting that we mindlessly follow anyone who claims to be of Christ. There are some doctrines worth rejecting, some teachings that are blatantly unBiblical, and others that completely lack Christ as the only path to salvation.

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:1-5

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. 2 Peter 2:1-3

The point of my teaching today is not that we must accept everything taught to us; it is that we need to pick our battles and keep our eyes on God. There are battles worth having, and there are wolves in sheep’s clothing looking to destroy us any way they can.

The Dangers of Denominations

I don’t have an issue with churches that are part of a denomination. I am not telling you that you must reject your Methodist/Baptist/Presbyterian church and go join a non-denominational one. I am concerned that many churches and doctrines put God in a neatly packaged box, present themselves as having “all the answers” and “The RIGHT Way”. I fear that many well-meaning denominations are earnestly trying to promote Christ throughout the world, but they do it on their terms only. Instead of relying on Scripture and prayer, they rely on the doctrines of brilliant and pious theologians whose interpretations have become doctrines all on their own.

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. 1 Timothy 1:5-7

‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” Matthew 15:8-9 (also Isaiah 29:13)

How many churches have split over “fruitless discussions” that have nothing to do with the fundamentals of the Gospel? Does the dunking technique of the one baptism really affect your salvation? Does which day you uphold the Sabbath really enough to judge another’s salvation by? Is instrumental music in church really something we need to have a convention over to decide whether it’s safe or not?

A lot of these “rules” were put in place to protect people’s intentions. I get that. But what has that turned into for the masses? It has turned into “confident assertions” that have caused churches to split, caused Christians to doubt the salvation and trustworthiness of other Christians, and it has nothing to do with the Truth that Jesus came on earth to preach.

Follow God, not men

We Christians spin our wheels in toil while Satan sits back and laughs at us. We don’t even need Satan to keep us from spreading the glory of God; we do it so well on our own!  The church in pieces is as ineffective as arguing children. We were meant to be unified, a singular Body of Christ that goes out as one to be the hands and feet of Christ; to do His bidding and love others just as Christ loves us.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Ephesians 1-6; 15-16

I know people will automatically throw out what I have to say because they disagree with me. They are too afraid to consider following a path that’s not theirs, a path that doesn’t fit in their boxed-in understanding of God. A servant is not above her Master. In no way am I saying that my way is better than yours, but I do want you to stop and think: when it comes down to it all, whose way is Sovereign?  Do you act on what men tell you to act on, or do you act on what God says? Do you follow “rules” out of the pure intention of your heart to love God, or because men with degrees and robes tell you to follow them or you’ll go to Hell?

The only way to know what God says is to get into Scripture yourself.  Stop blindly following people who tell you how to live your life based on their own interpretation of what God says. Don’t even take my word for it. I want to encourage you to forget doctrines created by men. Start following God, and do it with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. God will lead you where you need to go.

Beth Moore: Heretic or Healer?

I ran into this radio post through someone else’s facebook page.  This guy offers critical analysis of sermons to point out all their faults.  This particular post caught my eye because I happen to be a fan of Beth Moore, and I’ve honestly never heard of anyone calling her a heretic before.

I have to say upfront that the speaker on Pirate Radio, Chris, annoys me with his incessant tone of superiority.  I almost couldn’t get through the first 3 minutes, and I struggled for the next 50.   I had to stop after that because it’s late!  I will have to finish it later.

There are many moments where the speaker, Chris, is just plain mean.  I don’t understand how a Christian could treat another Christian (or anyone!) with such disdain and rudeness.  I was really hoping this would be a purely intellectual discussion.  You can listen to it here, if you like: http://www.extremetheology.com/2010/03/beth-moores-dangerous-bible-twisting.html

Chris had a few valid points.

1)      Beth Moore alluded to Hebrews 10:35-36, which she appears to take out of context.  “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”  Beth uses this verse to encourage her listeners to believe in their God-given confidence and abilities.  Chris gives a comprehensive explanation of what he believes Hebrews 10 is referring to.  I do think Beth was taking this verse out of context and constructed a message around it.  It is concerning, and this is what incenses Chris.  But Chris is convinced that Beth is trying to teach believers to have confidence in themselves alone.  He constantly refers to this, even when Beth appears to have moved away from the Hebrews passage to make her point.

I can see what Beth Moore is trying to convey.  To me, it’s clear as day that she’s talking about having a confidence through Jesus Christ.  Women (I can’t speak for men, but probably men too) are always second guessing themselves and often think they have to rely on themselves for strength rather than on Christ.  We are supposed to find our confidence and strength through Jesus.  This is what I would have assumed Beth was saying.  Perhaps this is because I have read several of her books, so I have the benefit of knowing her mind a bit more than a first-time listener.

I’ve read Beth Moore talk about the lack of confidence in her life.  It crippled her to the point where she was not effectively serving Christ.  This is how I’d explain it: God called her to speak, and she refused, much like Moses doubting his ability when God called him to lead the Jews. (Exodus 3:10-16)  Beth didn’t have confidence IN Christ, and she didn’t have enough OF Christ’s confidence.  They’re different, but they’re closely linked – you need to have a belief that God can do what He says He CAN do through you (confidence IN Him), and you need to trust that God WILL do it (having all OF God’s confidence).  Any less than total confidence in Christ is detrimental to your personal spiritual life and your effectiveness as an agent of God for the Kingdom.

2)      There’s a lack of Scriptural teaching in this message.  Beth is a good storyteller.  She’s able to use her personal experiences to convey a lesson God taught to her.  She does this in her books, but usually it’s fairly balanced along with Biblical text and teachings.  I can agree that her message in this recording is a bit sparse on the Biblical side, and a little more “feely” to appeal to the mostly female audience.

Where I think Chris is wrong:

1)      Beth says Christ’s spirit (Romans 8) takes up residency in our spirits and therefore we gain His attributes like His confidence and His competence. The speaker harps on the literal version of the translation.  Romans 8 does not use the words “Christ’s confidence and His competence”.  This is true.  This is an inserted opinion that Beth tried to use as a literal interpretation.  I can see her point.  If Christ dwells in us, then His mind, wisdom, and heart dwells in us.  Doesn’t this mean his competence and confidence also?  Colossians 2:9-10 seems to say so: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” I can understand Chris’ wariness of inserting meaning into this text without full Biblical context and additional references.

2)      At one point Beth says, “If we receive Christ as our Savior but we never recognize and by faith believe Him to also be our healer and restorer, then we stay just as cracked as when we got here.”  The speaker calls this heresy.  I call this Biblical truth.  The Bible doesn’t use the words “healer and restorer” as far as I’m aware, but the Bible does say that faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-26)  If we believe Christ to be our Savior, then we will allow Him to deliver us from our sins, teach us the ways of righteousness, and restore us.

I have the benefit of knowing Beth’s common language and usage – when she says “healer”, she doesn’t literally mean “If you aren’t healed of your cancer, you aren’t a Christian.”  I’m going to assume Chris thought she was saying something along those lines.  It’s true that when we accept Christ into our lives, we don’t have to work to gain salvation.  But it’s true that if you truly accept Christ into your life, your life will drastically change.  What was dead is now alive; the old flesh is cast off. (Ephesians 2:1-10, Colossians 2:11-15)  Is that not healing and restoring?

(As a side note: It’s funny to me that Chris always calls Beth legalistic and then he condemns her for giving personal life stories rather than speaking specifically about stories in the Bible to teach about God.)

3)      Beth Moore said, “Each and every single one of us has been created with an area of brilliance.”  The speaker quips, “You’re missing the whole major point of the Scripture that we are dead in our trespasses and sins.”  I thought the whole point of the Gospel was that Jesus freed us from our sins, that we are no longer slaves to our sins.  We WERE dead in our trespasses and sins.  Now we are alive and free in Christ.  (Galatians 5:19-25, Romans 8:1-11) I think I understand that Chris’ theology believes all humans are evil and corrupt from birth, so therefore we can’t be born with a shred of goodness and we can’t ever become good while on this earth.   I disagree with this, as do several other denominations.  In fact, some people on the opposite side of the spectrum would call Chris out for heresy for saying we are always dead even after we become believers.  Food for thought. . .

4)      The host of the show says, “If we really know God, His love will be on our hearts” – to which Chris says “LAW, law, LAW!”  as if that explains anything.  He’s claiming that the people involved in this discussion are false teachers who are preaching legalism.  I don’t understand why this quote is so troublesome.  I wish he had explained what he thinks, rather than assuming I agree with him.

5)      Chris harps on the host’s call to take care of the children all over the world who are dying from lack of something basic, like water or food.  Chris essentially asks why they’re bothering to put effort into feeding these children if they aren’t evangelizing to them and teaching them the way to eternal life.  First of all, these people didn’t say they weren’t evangelizing, they were just trying to encourage those who were not in South Africa (or wherever) to take immediate action and GIVE to these children in need.  Evangelism without social justice is like praying “the prayer” without believing in Christ.  Christ called us to care for people AND preach to them.  (Matt 10:5-8)  I’d argue, what good is a sermon if a man needs a coat and you do not give him your coat?  Just as I’d imagine Chris would  argue, what good is prolonging a man’s earthly life if you do not give a man the way to receive eternal life?  If Chris gave me proof that the host’s plea for money for these children was not attached to any sort of gospel message, I might understand Chris’ indignant outcry.  But without that, he just sounds like an overly judgey guy who gets off on criticizing and insulting people.

I’m obviously not convinced by this radio show that Beth Moore is a heretical teacher.  I think she does wonderful ministry work.  None of Beth’s teachings in this recording raised a red flag to me, but perhaps you think differently.  I’d be very interested in what you have to say, because there might be something I haven’t thought of before.  Feel free to defend Chris or Beth.

The Church as an army

A pastor recently said that in 1920, 80 percent of Americans went to church.  IN 1960, it was 60 percent.  Today, only 40 percent go to church.  He further commented, “The church is under attack.”

I was incensed and wanted to jump up and yell, “What do you mean, the church is under attack!  The problem is not the church being under attack ; it is that the church is not attacking!  It’s time to get this army back in the war!”

– Maverick, In the Dragon’s Lair

Thoughts?

Eugene Peterson’s The Message

Hello all!

I’m attempting to research The Message by Eugene Peterson (The Bible in Contemporary Language).  I know I’m a few years behind, but I have yet to research The Message for myself and see if it is really a trustworthy translation of Scripture or if it’s something a little more sinister.  My friends, mentors, and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are all torn on this issue, so I feel it’s important to discuss.

It’s become clear to me that The Message is becoming a standard part of the Christian experience.  Many churches and Bible studies quote The Message and call it God’s Word.  The effective marketing around The Message aims it toward young adults and “the average person”, presumably one who is not familiar with Christian lingo.  This means that this version has permeated popular culture.  The Message is not going away any time soon.  

Despite Eugene Peterson’s personal statement that The Message should be considered a “reading Bible” and not a “study Bible”, people seem to be treating this version as THE Bible, and claiming that those who don’t trust it are at best close-minded and at worst legalistic.

Now, I’ve seen great teachers argue over the slightest word change in the more standard Bible versions.  It seems that those who have studied the ancient text know the subtleties of the language and the danger a misrepresentation could pose.  Most of the Bible versions I have read have an entire committee of scholars, pastors, and editors that have spent endless hours pouring over every individual word of the text so that these discrepancies do not occur.  These scholars have a reverence about their work; they are accountable for their translation.  They seem to believe that there is no difference between a “reading Bible” and a “study Bible”.  God’s Word is life or death and is not to be taken lightly.

So the most nagging question in my mind is, why does Eugene Peterson claim to have the education and skills to translate the entire Bible on his own, and dramatically different from everyone else?  But the most important question is: can believers and unbelievers alike take from The Message and know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior?

There are three main arguments I can see about The Message, and they are mutually exclusive.  If one is true, the others cannot be true simultaneously:
1) The Message is a trustworthy and divinely-appointed translation of Scripture.  The paraphrases do not take away from essential doctrine.
2) The Message is at best a human book inspired by Scripture.  Its purpose is to lead people to Truth, and encourage them to read the real Bible.
3) The Message is a deceptive version of Scripture that is infesting our youth and our churches.  It will eventually be accepted as a standard Biblical version, and doctrine will be based on it because it is accepted as a Bible by publishers and pastors alike.

I intend to research these questions and arguments to the best of my ability.  I imagine I will learn a lot about other versions of the Bible along the way.  During my initial stages of research, I have seen some pretty severe claims against The Message.  What disappoints me is that most of the propaganda against The Message appears to be wildly biased and some claims against the character of Eugene Peterson are unsubstantiated.  The propaganda I’ve seen so far supporting The Message is based on Peterson’s accurate translation of the ancient text, quotes from popular and trusted Christian superstars supporting this version, and some very clever marketing.

At this point in time, I do not fall into any of these 3 camps above.  I am researching, and I pray that my quest will be untainted by bias.  I have no agenda; I simply seek truth.   I hope that what I find can help others as well.

If you have questions or arguments as well, please do not hesitate to leave a comment or email me at thegodfiles@gmail.com.