Category Archives: Theology

Book Reviews; The Duggar Collection

I am going to review all 3 major titles in what I call “The Duggar Collection.”  They include; The Duggars: 20 and Counting!, A Love That Multiplies, and Growing Up Duggar. The first two in the list were both written by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, the last was written by Jill, Jinger, Jessa, and Jana Duggar.  If you’ve ever read my review of Do Hard Things, this review will be similar.

First, some background.  I do watch the television series about this family on TLC; 19 Kids and Counting so I was already familiar with the Duggars and there were no earth-shattering revelations for long-time watchers of the show contained in the books.  If you like the show, you’ll like the books, if you like to mock the show (or the family) you’ll mock the books.  While the Duggars’ particular brand of Christianity isn’t my brand, I still respect their morals, commitment to family, financial position, etc… so I did enjoy all three books.

Second, if you want to cut the list down, I can help do that for you.  If you want a book about the parenting principles and the life stories of Jim Bob and Michelle, read A Love that Multiplies.  It covers very similar ground as the first book, but it is more recent and contains the story of Josie.  If you want a book about relationships and courting from the perspective of 4 young ladies, along with stories of the Duggar clan, then read Growing Up Duggar.

The good; the Duggars are a breath of fresh air in this modern world when it comes to parenting.  They care about their kids (yes, all of them), and have committed their time and energy to making sure their family is taken care of and brought up within a caring and loving environment.  The books give the reader a window into their philosophies, which they obviously ground in scripture the way they interpret it. They include their perspectives on debt, modesty, parenting, homeschooling, morals, business, courting, etc…  If you are interested in these topics presented with Christianity mixed in to all of them, then you’d probably enjoy the books even if you disagree.

I think that large families, as long as they are self-supporting, are awesome.  I’m amazed that some people hate the Duggars simply because there are so many of them.  They don’t take government support, they all seem bright and healthy, intelligent, interesting, etc… Whether a couple has no children, or 19, it is their choice and they can be a strong and happy family.

The girls’ book particularly was interesting to me, because I’m always curious of what the “next generation” thinks about all this.  They tackle the area of relationships, and do so in a generally thorough (yet sometimes detail-lacking) manner.  Their discussion on courting, parental relationships, and sibling relationships was informative, and again, refreshing.

The not-so-good; although the Duggars deny that they are a part of “The Quiverfull Movement” in Christianity, it is hard not to see the connection.  Why such a large family?  Because they believe that it is God and God alone Who determines the number of kids that a couple are blessed with, and this means no contraception allowed.  So, what’s wrong with that?  This particular movement tends to draw Legalists in by the boatload, and to judge others who don’t follow the same philosophy.  Happily, I can say that I don’t pick up a lot of judgmentalism from the Duggars, who overtly say that they teach that their way is not the way for everyone when it comes to having kids.  They simply stand by their own convictions and cite scriptures that they feel back up their POV.

Another not-so-good aspect to the family is that they “follow” or “read” materials and philosophies of some individuals in Christendom that are questionable in their theology, and perhaps even in their private lives.  Bill Gothard is one such example.  Anytime there is a strong teaching of different gender roles, one must be extraordinarily careful and be on the look out for sexual misconduct.  I’m one that believes in different roles for the genders in certain areas, and I’m also one of the biggest skeptics when it comes to a philosophy that uses words like “sweet;” think sweet, be sweet, keep sweet, as applied to females. Ugh. FLDS anyone?  Sex abuse anyone?  Bill Gothard has had sexual misconduct allegations following him around for awhile now, and we have to be sure we look on someone as being innocent until proven guilty.  However when talking of certain philosophies there is a great chance in some of them for women and girls to be abused.

Thankfully, I see no sign of that from the Duggar clan.  I don’t believe in condemning someone because of the people they read, but I include this type of information in my review because I want to make it clear that it is is a red flag for my readers if they decide to delve into the Duggars’ books.  Know that many of the ways they interpret certain scriptures are not the way that I, or even a majority, of Christians interpret them, and many of their resources listed are impacted heavily by those like Gothard and those in the Quiverfull movement.

In short, I liked all 3 books, though there was repeating information in each.  I have learned a lot about large families and also how certain scripture are interpreted by those from this perspective.  I truly appreciate the information they presented on raising kids, morality, and their faith. While everything seems to be going well right now for this family and the kids, there is always a chance that things could change, such as if we see one or more of the kids joining more mainstream Christian churches and “rebelling,” then we could see a different side to all of this. In fact, statistically, we’d expect to see some Duggar descendent choose their own path, as God guides the individual.

The danger in some of the teachings they push are just that, which is the danger of demanding everyone be a foot, or all be an arm in the Body of Christ; “Cookie-cutter Chrisitians” in other words.  We also must be sure that we are not relying on good works or conformity to save us, but rather on Christ for it by grace we are saved through faith.  It is a good thing to rely on God to guide us and convict us, and at the same time to make sure we are truly understanding scripture as it is meant to be understood.  So, just make sure you are firmly grounded in scripture and in faith when reading books on other beliefs within Christianity (such as the Duggars have); test all things and hold to that which is good and true.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Ministries, Of Interest, Reviews, Theology

Parents; it is your job to teach your kids about God.

I heard something on the radio today that disturbed me greatly.  What was it?  A preacher trying to tell parents the way to tell their kids about God, Jesus, and salvation.  Ugh.  No.  He was tossing words out there like “justification.”  Yeah, say that word to your three year old, and see if they understand.  The preacher was making a point in saying that you just keep telling the child the same thing over and over, and eventually, mysteriously, they’ll get it.

Any developmentalist will tell you that you don’t talk to a three year old the way you talk to a nine year old, it’s useless.  The preacher seemed to think that a child has to jump through a series of hoops in order to be well and truly saved, and that the kid needs to know everything an adult would know, and that the child needs to make sure to be old enough, etc… Well, yeah, children need to have an understanding of who Jesus is, and what He did.  But, Jesus didn’t ask how old the children were who wanted to come to Him.

Anyone, regardless of age is allowed to go to Jesus, in fact, it is encouraged.  The child isn’t going to be able to set down and write out a dissertation on sin and redemption, but that’s fine.  A child’s faith is held up as what we adults are to aim for.  A parent needs to evaluate each child and not compare them to one another.  Some will “get it” sooner than others, and that’s fine.  It is indeed your responsibility to always check along the way, for example, when your child wants to take communion, you need to make sure they do understand what it means.

Further, parents, it is your job to teach you children, not a preacher.  You need to know your own faith, and why you have it, good enough to explain that to your children.  Know faith and grace, know scripture, know Jesus.  Remember your kids are watching you and you need to make sure you realize you are their number one model.  Also, realize your child does not know what you know, you are not your child.  You may know that baptism isn’t required for salvation, and why, but your kids don’t, unless you TEACH them.

Some parents think that they can just give their children books, or have them watch cartoons, or listen to a certain preacher and that will be fine.  No, it won’t.  You are to raise your children up with the instruction that they need from you personally.  Ask questions, and then really listen to their answers.  Listen to sermons together, watch those cartoons together. Read the Bible together, and don’t water it down.

As a final thought; as you walk this road with your child, I would bet they’ll teach you a lot about God too, so be willing to learn.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Communion, Conversion, Theology, Uncategorized

Jesus was not a hippie.

I can’t believe I actually have to type that.  I also have to apparently type; Jesus was not a Democrat, Jesus was not a Liberal, Jesus was not a Republican, Jesus was not a Conservative, and on and on and on.  Jesus was God made flesh, the Messiah, the Lion and the Lamb, the only perfect human who was also 100% God.

I’ve heard that phrase, “Jesus was a hippie” from several sources, and it always makes me wonder if the person saying that knows what a hippie was.  It is easy to romanticize political or societal fads and movements, but to associate Jesus with a romanticized version of a historical movement is dangerous in the extreme.  Some people do it to try to sound funny, some do it rhetorically to try to make a point as to how they would like Jesus to be.

Hippies.  What did they stand for?  One of the obvious things was “free love.”  What does that mean?  The idea of free love included an attack against monogamous marriage.  There is also a more generalized idea that a sexual relationship contains no obligation.  Sleep with who you want, whenever and wherever you want.  Does that sound like Jesus to you?

Another aspect of the hippie culture was their advocacy and use of drugs.  One of the focuses was on mind altering substances, such as LSD.  God desires us to have temperance and a sound mind.  We are never to imbibe a substance that completely alters our brain chemistry.  Even something like marijuana, despite its growing positive reputation, can trigger a psychotic episode that can in turn trigger lifelong schizophrenia.  The effects of these drugs on fallen human bodies and natures is negative in the extreme; for the individual, their families, and society.  Do you think Jesus advocates that?

How about peace?  The peace the hippies chanted about is not the peace Jesus preached to us and offers us.  We could have all the peace on this earth we desire and still lack peace in eternity.  Make love, not war.  Sure, that works in this fallen world.  The hippies could flourish here in the US where other people were putting their lives on the line to insure freedom of expression and freedom of speech.  The peace Jesus offers is grace unearned so that we can have a relationship with the creator of all.

How about nature and flowers and rainbows? Jesus is the Word of God, it was by Him and through Him that all was made.  Hippies made the age old mistake of worshiping the creation instead of the creator.  Rainbows should remind us of fallen man, and God’s promises.  Nature and flowers? Part of creation, so are we.  We were fashioned from the ground by God Himself.

As I mentioned before, most who try to paint Jesus this way want Him to fit an agenda that they personally believe in.  It doesn’t work that way.  To portray Jesus in any way other than Biblically is presenting a false Christ.

1 Comment

Filed under Christianity, Philosophy, Theology, Uncategorized

“10Things You Can’t Do” Response…

Recently an acquaintance of mine posted this link on Facebook (it’s not her article, just a share), clearly in support of what it says; 10 Things You Can’t Do While Following Jesus.  Please do read it. I do tend to like lists like this, as they make it easy to breakdown and talk about point by point.  First things first; why did I feel the need to review and respond to this particular blog post?  Because one of my main pet peeves is anyone who paints Jesus like a milksop weakling, and quite frankly I’m offended when someone calls God Himself a hippie (I think I have my next article right there).

Alright, lets move on to the 10 points;

10) Exclude people because they practice another religion.  That depends on the context that we are talking about.  We can surely mingle with people of other faiths, help people of other faiths, study other faiths, and respect people of other faiths, and have them as friends.  On the flip side, Jesus made it clear that faith in anything or anyone other than Himself will have a negative eternal effect.  Jesus is the only way to The Father, and no one can have a relationship with God except through Him.  So, He also called us to make sure that people of other faiths know the requirement of eternal life; faith in Jesus Christ.

9) Exclude people for what they look like, how they were born or things beyond their control.  I’m in complete agreement with the first part of this statement.  But, “how they were born” or “things beyond their control” is a bit vague.  What does that mean?  Lets assume that this is a statement on something like homosexual acts.  Well, I was born with a seemingly inborn tendency to lie.  I confess it, and I’m a wonderful liar… but that’s a no-no, in other words being a liar is not what God wants from me.  So, I turn to Him to help me not lie.  Guess what? It works 90% of the time, and I’m working on the 10%.  It has nothing to do with my salvation, but has a lot to do with my sanctification.   In short, it is true that Jesus didn’t run from sinners, but to them.  Also, look at the woman caught in adultery and who was brought to Jesus, that dialogue ended with “go and sin no more.”  No exclusion, I agree.  No calling good evil and evil good either.

As a side note, a lot of the “ism’s” of our culture are truly reprehensible, those are the things that every Christians should fight against, including sexism, ageism, and racism.  Also the churches out there harming others instead of helping them should be ashamed.  For example, if someone is a diagnosed Kleptomaniac, they are indeed a thief, but kicking them out of the church isn’t going to be doing them any good as they can’t currently control their actions.  Community, therapy, monitoring, etc… can help the person curb that behavior, even if they have to fight it the rest of their lives.

8) Withhold healthcare from people. I had to read that twice to make sure that is what the author actually wrote.  It was.  He argues that Jesus was a fan of healthcare for all because He healed people.  Um… there is a world of difference between healthcare and miraculous healing.  Jesus was clear that He was healing people to show that He was indeed the Messiah, and He healed supernaturally. He used healing to show that He had the power to forgive sins. Healthcare from the government was never meant to be a “right” or something that was granted to us without us doing our jobs.  I guess Obama really is the second coming with his “wonderful” program Obamacare.   It is the church’s job to help those who can’t help themselves, esp. widows and orphans.  Physical health in this life is not my right, and Jesus never promised me that, and it certainly isn’t the government’s job to “heal” me.

7) Exclude people.  Let me quote this on in full, “Last time. Promise. Jesus was constantly including people. It’s a little concept called love. He was pretty big on it.”  Ugh.  He includes all people as sinners, and that all are invited to learn of Him, and faithe on Him.  Yes, indeed all are welcome to the church, and the church’s job is to tell someone about Jesus and how to be saved.  You are saved by turning to God, and faithing on Jesus.  If you are faithing on man, Buddha, Krishna, the Islamic God Allah, the earth mother, etc… you are not going to be included in Heaven.  On earth we should and can mingle with everyone, as long as we are clear that there are indeed two categories of humans; the saved and the unsaved, our job is to make sure the unsaved know how to be included in the saved category, that’s love.  Jesus said He did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

6) Let people go hungry. Jesus let people go hungry, after He made the point with the loaves and the fishes.  He fed ‘em, then they started following simply to get another handout of food.  He then explained that He is real food, the bread from Heaven.  Crowds wanted their bellies filled again, and He said they were shortsighted, that faithing on Him was what would fill us, not physical food.  Don’t get me wrong, if someone is in need, it is our duty to help them as they can; IF they are in need.  If they are lazy and not working, I’m actually damaging them if I let them continue to take from others what they did not earn.

Side note; the author says that world hunger could be solved, “There is not a food shortage in the world — there is enough for everyone. There is not a problem with having a distribution system capable of handling it; I can eat lobster from Maine while looking over the Pacific ocean. The problem is that we aren’t very good at sharing.”  That is not a true statement.  We are actually very good at sharing it, but there are leaders intent on stealing it in foreign countries.  They are starving their own people on purpose.

5) Make money more important than God (and the children of God). I agree with this simple statement, but not his following points.  The love of money is indeed the root of all evil, but going to shop somewhere like WalMart isn’t a sin.  When we serve money instead of it serving us (and by extension, God) that is when things sour.  Further, it is not the Government’s job to do the job of the church.  I don’t mind paying taxes for things that are the proper realm of the government, things like the roads and the military.  I do mind paying taxes for things that are not biblical, and no business of the government.

4) Judge others. Yes and no.  The context is never to judge another when it comes to salvation, and we are not allowed to make up sins to pick on.  We are also no longer allowed, religiously, to judge another person as being righteous or unrighteous.  We are to judge whether someone could harm us, or cause a brother or sister to stumble.  If we do judge someone else as a stumblingblock, that isn’t a judgment on salvation.  If you have a sheep biting and harming the other sheep, and that little flock is under your care as an under-shepherd, you don’t allow that sheep to hurt the rest.  It’s still a sheep, but you provide some distance between him and the rest of the flock.

3)Be physically aggressive or violent. Again, yes and no.  The author rightly tries to catch himself; Jesus did indeed become aggressive in a righteous way.  That shows it is indeed possible.  Jesus didn’t just drive the money changers out, He made the whip He used.  Let me repeat; He made the whip.  Also, it is true that later, He told Peter to put up his sword, but why?  Because Jesus was allowing history to unfold as it had to.  It wasn’t time for the apostles to fight, it was time for Jesus to be arrested.

Physical aggression and violence, for a Christian, should be extraordinarily limited.  Self defense, or defense of the innocent.  That can take the form of a just war if need be.  Attacking Nazi soldiers to free the Jews, for example, was a righteous use of force.

2) Use the church to hurt people. The church is “merely” those people that are “out-called ones.”  We are a group of people faithing on Jesus.  Of course the church shouldn’t be hurting people, quite the opposite.  We are taught to love God, each other, and even our enemies.  But, this is where the author calls Jesus a hippie.  Sorry, no.  He is lamb and lion.  To ignore that aspect of Jesus that we clearly see in Revelation is to preach a false Christ.  The church is to spread the good news and to be a community of like-minded believers.

1)  Hate. Not so fast.  Hating another human is a no-no; however, hate in and of itself is not a sin.  God hates.  We are to hate what God hates.  Do you love sin?  Do you love the fallen world?  Not if you are in tune with God.

1 Comment

Filed under Christianity, Musings, Religion and Politics, Theology

Leadership; Nonbelievers just don’t understand…

Every now and again I’m reminded of one of the reasons why true believers are so loyal and fixed on Jesus.  Have you ever noticed that there are some people that are so honorable, smart, charismatic, and loyal that others go into orbit around them.  They function as true north, and everyone else is a compass needle.  There are real life examples of this, George Washington was once such human.

There are also fictional characters that function the same way, the most recent example I can think of is Gibbs on NCIS.  Characters like him are so popular because we humans seem to be made to follow courage, justice, caring, etc… People who display these characteristics tend to attract followers who are willing to follow them anywhere.

This can also be a bad thing when people follow charisma simply because they cannot seem to determine their own lives.  They want someone to tell them specifically what to do and when to do it, as well as what to believe.  That is what happens when a cult springs up.  Following a good person is beneficial, following a bad person is detrimental.

What does this have to do with Christianity?  We are so drawn to Jesus because in Him is all goodness and none of the imperfection that brings detriment.  In Jesus we have a human, that because He is also God, is totally righteous, just, loving, merciful, brilliant, honest, loyal, etc… In Him we have a leader that we can totally trust 100% of the time because He has proven Himself in ways that everyone alive can still check out.

We follow Him and love Him because He is Truth itself, He is the Way, the only proper Way, of having a correct worldview.  He loved us so much that He did and does not lead from behind; instead, He paved the way for us giving His life, health, and very self for us, to fix our mess and to forgive our sin.  Why do we love Him and defend Him?  Amongst many reasons, it is because we are grateful to have a leader such as Him.  And, unlike false leaders, He gives us absolute and total freedom.

He teaches us what is best for humans; to forgive, to love, to serve, to hope, to be courageous and strong, to stand up for those that cannot stand up for themselves.  While He is our leader, He teaches us self-responsibility, how to think for ourselves, and how to care for our enemies.  Nonbelievers cannot grasp this idea, they are intent on either following themselves, or other flawed humans.  That is the problem with any other form of idolatry; you are not following the correct leader.  Do you worship money, fame, self, nature, other gods, philosophies?  Then you are not following truth, and it will be to your detriment.

One of the great paradoxes of Christianity is the idea of becoming a slave to Jesus, and that makes you completely free.  A true leader does not try to exert forced control, or tell followers to shut off their brains.  Jesus asks us to freely choose, and enables our choice.  If we do freely choose Him, He then sets us totally free from both sin and the confines of the law, and in effect, He allows us to make all of our own choices in life, while at the same time promising to guide us and guard us if we will heed His voice.  We are painted as sheep; however, it is sheep with no fences but rather a loving and powerful shepherd that tends to His flock.

1 Comment

Filed under Christianity, Musings, Theology

Contract law (or, the efficacy of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection)

The Truth of the gospel is so simple a child can understand it.  However, there is also the meat of the gospel.  The details and teachings that are more complex and also extremely fascinating.  This article is going to discuss the idea of contracts (also known as covenants) and why they are so important.  I felt this was an appropriate topic, since this Sunday is known as Resurrection Sunday.

Contracts are pretty straightforward.  They are agreements between parties that lines out what is expected of each person participating in the contract.  God is a God that uses contracts/covenants to interact with and to guide mankind.  God drafts the contract and then man participates.

The Mosaic Law was a covenant between God and man, or actually a group of men, the Jewish people.  God said if man would flawlessly keep his side of the contract, then the person would inherit eternal life, would have his sins covered.  Mankind, in our fallen state, could not keep that contract perfectly. So, why did God make that covenant if He already knew we’d not be able to keep it?  The answer is simple; to show us that we couldn’t keep it.

What that shows is that we cannot gain eternal life and forgiveness on our own, we cannot fulfill our side of the contract and we are not righteous creatures, but the problem is, God is a completely righteous and just God and can’t just shred the contract, it must be fulfilled in order for there to be room for a new contract.   An example may help: You need to rent a house, so you sign a contract with the landlord to pay $500 per month for a year.  You are legally bound by the statues laid out in that agreement.  The ways you can fulfill your side of the agreement are clearly spelled out.

God set up the contract with man so that it could indeed be fulfilled under certain conditions.  A specific type of sacrifice must be made, and it must be a blood sacrifice.  What is sacrificed must be kin to whatever that sacrifice is going to cover.  The sacrifice must be perfect according to God’s law, therefore the sacrifice had to come from the chosen people with whom God made the covenant.  None of this was designed by accident.  Mankind caused it’s own fall, but God had a plan to redeem us.

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was that perfect sacrifice.  He was perfect according to the law, and He was human, so He was kin to us, and He was Jewish, from the tribe of Judah.  He shed His blood by spilling it on the Cross.  This is why Jesus proclaimed it finished upon His death.  All debt was paid, all was covered, the contract was fulfilled.  The old covenant was nailed to the cross making way for a new agreement; anyone that trusts on Jesus’ person, life, death, and resurrection to cover all sin will inherit eternal life.

The new covenant, or contract, now hinges on faith.  By responding to God in faith, we sign on the dotted line and become covered by Jesus’ blood, our sin washed away, and we are no longer under the law of the old agreement.  God Himself seals us, and we become indwelt by the Spirit.  This is the only way to Heaven, and a correct relationship with God.  Faith in the Son.

Leave a comment

Filed under Apologetics, Conversion, Theology

Jehovah-Rohi; The Lord is my Shepherd…

This look at one of the names of God is going to focus on one of His more popular names or roles; that of our Shepherd.  This name is commonly known because of Psalm 23 and its “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”  The fact that it is “Jehovah-Rohi” shows us that being a shepherd is a part of Who God is, meaning it is His character to be our shepherd.

We know from scripture that there are good shepherds and bad shepherds.  One of the differences was to see if the shepherd would be willing to give his life for his sheep.  In God we have the ultimate shepherd, He sees to us, cares for us lives alongside of us… and did indeed die for us.  If one of us goes astray, He comes for us, not to condemn us but to get us out of whatever trouble we’ve found and bring us home.

The other aspect of a shepherd that many people tend to forget is that they do desire the sheep to follow them.  A sheep knows the shepherd’s voice and was expected to follow along, staying close to the shepherd.  I always like to imagine the Holy Spirit as the Shepherd’s sheep dog.  Not in any negative sense of course, but in the sense that the Holy Spirit is what helps guide us, and helps us tune into the shepherd’s commands.  All we have to do is listen for the Shepherd’s voice and respond when He calls; we have to trust Him, in other words, faithe on Him.

One aspect of all of this that should give us comfort, is that God is so far above us, that we are compared to the sheep, while He’s the shepherd.  Sheep aren’t the smartest animals on earth, but have their place, and their uses.   But note; the Shepherd is in charge, and it is His duty to see to the sheep.  If a threat approaches the sheep, it is the Shepherd who deals with it.  How wonderful to be a sheep protected and loved by God Himself!

How wonderful to be able to say, as David did, the LORD is my Shepherd, it is He Who leads, guides, loves, and protects me.  If I stray, He comes to get me.  Another awesome aspect?  That Shepherd, God Himself, became a Lamb that gave its life for me, and you, and to rid of us of sin and the penalty of the law.  This Lamb is so perfect, He meets every criteria of a perfect sacrifice.  Hold on to the fact that God, the Creator of all things, is your Shepherd the second you heed His call.  When times get tough, remember Who your Protector is, call out to Him, He will hear you.

For my other articles on the names of God see; Jehovah-rapha, Jehovah-Shammah, Jehovah-Tsidkenu, and Jehovah-nissi

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Names of God, Theology

The Fruit of the Spirit, pt. 9; Temperance

The last fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22 is “temperance.”  The Greek word used here is egkrateia, it means self-control, or a hallmark of one who masters their passions.  There should be nothing that has control over us, that stems from our human nature.  So, we have a struggle between human nature and divine nature.  It is more clearly laid out for us in 2 Peter:

2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

Notice all those things that are linked together and it all goes back to faith.  We are saved by grace through faith, so that is the starting point.  Trusting Jesus and God is faithing.  That faith and salvation leads to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit yields fruit, including temperance.

It is also interesting to me to see the last bit added on; if you don’t have temperance, if we don’t have self-control, it is because we have forgotten that we are cleansed from past sin.  Forgiveness leads to healing, that is forgiveness of ourselves and the realization that God does not hold our past sins over our heads.  If we do not realize that forgiveness it actually leads us to fall prey to our old nature.  Isn’t that interesting?  Legalism will never set us free, it is the fact of our freedom that enables our virtue of things like self-control.  Also notice that Temperance is also then connected on to patience, godliness, kindness, and charity.  Patience, godliness, kindness, and charity flow from self-control.

We struggle with many things that require self-control; drug use, lust, greed, anger, etc… We are promised that if we faithe on God, if we remember and realize that we are set free from all past sin, that we WILL have temperance/self-control, because it is a fruit of the Spirit.  Grab onto that fact, faithe, and remember. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed!  That is the path to controlling our human desires and passions, and giving over to the divine nature.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Musings, Theology

Book Review; Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”

Ooookkaayy… this should be interesting.  So, my philosophy is not to comment on something either glowingly or negatively unless I’ve read or watched it myself, especially if it is of a controversial nature.  It seemed like everywhere I turned in Christendom people were discussing this book, or warning others not to discuss the book…so I knew I had to read it and review it.  I have to be clear; this is my introduction to Bell.  I have no former gripe or praise for him, no angle to work for or against him.

Hopefully, I’m going to do something a little bit different in this review, as other reviews have already rightly attacked the factual flaws in Bell’s work.  If you want that style of review,  you can get one here: God is Still Holy and What you Learned in Sunday School is Still True: A Review of  “Love Wins.” I don’t agree with everything in the review, but it gives a good overview of many of Bell’s problems.

No, I want to approach this a bit differently and talk about implications.  First, let me say…I can’t believe this book, Love Wins, was actually published…I mean, I get why.  It’s going to make a ton of money, but it’s content is illogical, and its style is unpolished.  I’m really struggling with this review because I can’t believe that people would change their view on God, Heaven, or Hell based on this book.  The “gotcha” questions Bell proposes in the first bit of the book are easily answered by anyone versed in Apologetics, not just well-versed, just versed.  They are “milk” type questions…and are eerily reminiscent of the list of “questions” found on fundamentalist atheist websites.

For example, Bell asks, “What saves someone?”  I answer, and the Bible answers; Grace through Faith.  Bell asks, “Well, isn’t faith an action, and hence a work.”  I answer; No, something can be an action without being a work.  The Israelites were not allowed to work on Sabbath, were they allowed to think?  Sure.  Were they allowed to love?  Sure.  Where they allowed to trust (that’s faith)? Sure.  So, the big answer to all Bell’s rhetorical style questions is; we make it in by grace through faith, and faith is not a work.  QED.

So, moving on, what do I mean that I want to approach this review by implications?  I mean, what are the implications IF Bell’s thesis is right?  The implication of Bell’s thesis is that God is a monster…in fact He’d be the very monster Bell decries.  Bell clearly says that love can’t be forced, but the logical implication (reading Bell) is that it can be.  In the end, says Bell, everyone will succumb to God’s love and turn to God willingly.  That is a logical contradiction.  To be free will there must be true choice, but in this case, just by looking at Bell’s title; Love Wins, one can see there isn’t.

“Love wins.”  I didn’t know love was in a competition.  I didn’t know it was out to beat me.  But, I guess I was wrong.  Bell feels that God will so smufficate a person with love, they WILL respond and turn to Him either in this life in the next.  I resent the implication.  I resent his maligning of God’s character and God’s love.  God is not a rapist, nor is He a brainwasher.  Bell’s thesis is creepy in the extreme.  If you want to debate Hell, fine.  Annihilation vs. punishment, fine. Universalism, fine.  I even love to discuss the possibility CS Lewis raises that Hell is locked on the inside. But by claiming that God “wears you down” over long periods of time til you cave…why would anyone think that is acceptable from a Holy Loving God?

Bell’s implication is that God is neither Holy nor really Loving in any true sense, nor Just; He’s just interested in making sure every human being can be put on some Heavenly tally sheet.  Bell’s implication is also that evangelism is pointless, and so is suffering in this life.  What I mean by that is that everything winds up the same for everyone given enough time in the life to come.  A rapist that rejects love and God in this life gets an infinite series of chances to accept God’s gift of salvation, and in fact, will indeed come to accept it because nothing can stand up to God’s love.  We call that brainwashing.  A brainwashed individual is not acting under free will.  Jesus suffered when He observed that He had tried and tried to get through to the Jewish people, but “they would not.”  Why so upset if they were all going to be A-OK through all eternity?

Now, I completely understand someone being frustrated by evangelists trying to scare the crap out of someone to get them to believe in a loving God.  Fortunately I wasn’t raised that way.  For me, it has ALWAYS been about love and choice; true love and true freedom in choice.  I trust God to be just while still believing that Hell is real.  If we want to talk about Him giving every human an equal and fair chance at Heaven, I’m there.  If you want to point out that God doesn’t send anyone to Hell, that they choose it, I’m there.  If you want to point out the Devil is not in charge in Hell, and that it may not be all physical torture and pitchforks, I’m there.  But I draw the line at clearly maligning God, Our Father’s, character.

Briefly; other problems.  Horrible hermeneutics, flawed logic, sloppy writing, and whoever set up the actual book format…well, they shouldn’t win any prizes.  Plus, Bell dances around any reference to eternal contempt for some alongside eternal life for others, and ignores bulk passages that clearly indicate that faith in Christ is required to enter Heaven, that we die and then the judgment happens, etc… Not to mention he tries to describe Heaven, and it’s implications…he should’ve left that to Alcorn’s book “Heaven.”

I love books that make readers consider things from a new angle…this wasn’t one of them.  I’ve read another book recently that I guess I should’ve reviewed instead; “If Grace is True: Why God will save every person” by Gulley and Mulholland.  I didn’t agree with them either, esp. since they deny Christ’s sacrifice was necessary; however, their book was set up logically enough to review in a succinct way.  I feel Bell is theologically and intellectually dishonest, either unconsciously or on purpose.  He seems to be the type trying to “out moral” God…it just won’t work, and this isn’t the reference I’d turn to if I were to try.

3 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Ministries, Reviews, Theology, Uncategorized

Sacramentalism vs. Faith

I’m going to go into a pretty deep subject here, and it is always good to define terms and look to scripture before discussion.  The main themes in this article are sacramentalism, faith, and grace.

What is sacramentalism? First, an attempt at a neutral, secular, definition: Dictionary.com gives these two definitions for “sacramentalism:” 1) a belief in or emphasis on the importance and efficacy of the sacraments for achieving salvation and conferring grace. 2) emphasis on the importance of sacramental objects and ritual actions. Sacramentalism, in church terms, is usually defined also by example.  Those denominations that practice and believe in sacramentalism have various sacraments that are used within their churches. Examples include baptism, communion, marriage, confession/penance, confirmation, ordination, last rites, foot washing, etc… etc… Sacramentalism, as defined in the earliest tradition is indeed a vehicle for grace; a “special” way of receiving the grace of God through action.

Faith. I won’t spend too much time here on faith, as I’ve defined it previously in another article here: What is Faith? The important points that pertain to this current conversation is that it is by grace we are saved through faith.  Faith is trusting with great confidence, not just a head belief, but an actual trusting with confidence.  Of course, when Christians talk about faith, we mean faith in God.

Grace. I’ve also defined and discussed grace in a previous article here: What is Grace? Grace is unmerited or unearned favor.  Again grace is God’s to bestow.  God’s grace is a marvelous thing, and we should desire it in our lives, in fact, God’s grace is necessary for salvation, and for forgiveness.  It should be no wonder that the topics of sacramentalism, grace, and faith are so important in Christendom, and rightfully so.

The main area of debate surrounds the idea of the sacraments as vehicles of God’s grace.  Do the “sacraments” literally convey God’s grace to us in a special, or mysterious way that is unattainable any other way?  Do the sacraments contribute to our salvation?  What does scripture reveal to us about these things? (I’m not debating whether these actions are good or bad; obviously the ones called for in scripture serve their purpose and are a good thing.)

Well, there are no references to “sacraments” or sacramentalism in scripture.  I mean that in the sense that those words never appear there.  Now, of course baptism is mentioned, and taking the bread and wine, foot washing, marriage, etc… However, go to a search engine and do a search on “grace.”  Grace is not seen in connection with these acts.  When these acts are described, grace isn’t connected to them.  Grace and faith, on the other hand are clearly connected by the writers of scripture and these are both rooted in and spring from Christ.  Bear with me:

John 1:16-17 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Acts 20:32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

Romans 1:3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: 5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience  to the faith among all nations, for his name: 6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Ephesians 6:24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.  Amen.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

What’s my point?  There are certain denominations, such as the Roman catholic church, the United Methodist church, and others, that still, in the face of scriptures on grace, insist that grace is tied into the sacraments, instead of being unmerited favor from God.  Notice that, in the case of salvation, that we are saved by grace through faith, not a sacrament.  That instantly defeats any notion put forth that we must be baptized in water in order to be saved.  Also, note that the common benediction when you look up grace scripture, like in Ephesians 6:24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. There’s no jumping through hoops, no need of an intercessor or mediator between you and God; we’ve already got one: Jesus Christ.

In Christ, grace is ours and we already have direct access to the throne of grace.  When Christ died for us the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom giving us direct access to God.  God gives us grace, and it is connected with faith in Christ.  All these churches peddling the idea that sacraments convey grace, or are used as a vehicle for grace, are muddying the waters with something not to be found in scripture.  What leaps to mind, as my brother pointed out, is the quote by Kirk in one of the Star Trek movies; “What does God need with a Starship?”  God does not need a vehicle to convey Grace; God Himself is that vehicle.  For those in Christ, a huge victory was won when we could go directly to the throne of grace with no need of any vehicle, and salvation is by grace through faith.

Notice too, that one of the early apostasies was that one of the vehicles of grace is sinning.  Romans 5:20 listed above speaks to that.  Should we sin in order to get more of God’s grace; of course not!  How many times do we also need to be told that grace doesn’t come through works?  Grace, remember, is unmerited favor.  Those that believe in the sacraments are actually advocating grace comes through action, instead of faith, which is completely contradicted by scripture.  Now, am I saying that we should not take communion or be baptized?  Not at all.  If you want to call these “symbols” of faith, I’m all for it.  The term “ordinances” is often used to show that particular churches do NOT see these actions as sacramental, but rather acts that show forth the faith that is already there.  In the case of communion, it is clear in scripture that we are doing the act in remembrance and are showing forth Christ by performing the act.

In the near future I hope to write more articles touching upon these things, and bringing some of this to light that believers sitting in different denominational pews may not realize their denominations are pushing and preaching.  These things also are connected with church “hierarchy” which, if defined by things like “ordination,” can split the body of Christ into those supposedly gifted in some way above and beyond the rest of us when it comes to administering the “sacraments.”  It also has implications for the oft repeated phrase; Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship.  The idea of “sacraments” makes Christianity into religion once more, and constrains our relationship with God, which is a no-no. More to come…

4 Comments

Filed under Catholicism, Christianity, Communion, Theology, Uncategorized