Sunday, April 12, 2009

How to Obtain Eternal Life

This stark contrast bears repeating--often. And particularly on a day like Resurrection Sunday, which commemorates the single event that acts as the foundation of our faith, and apart from which our faith is futile:

Becoming a Christian According to the Bible
And after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household. (Acts 16:30-34)
Becoming a Christian According to Roman Catholicism
Becoming Catholic is one of life’s most profound and joyous experiences. Some are blessed enough to receive this great gift while they are infants, and, over time, they recognize the enormous grace that has been bestowed on them. Others enter the Catholic fold when they are older children or adults. This tract examines the joyful process by which one becomes a Catholic.

A person is brought into full communion with the Catholic Church through reception of the three sacraments of Christian initiation—baptism, confirmation, and the holy Eucharist—but the process by which one becomes a Catholic can take different forms.

A person who is baptized in the Catholic Church becomes a Catholic at that moment. One’s initiation is deepened by confirmation and the Eucharist, but one becomes a Catholic at baptism. This is true for children who are baptized Catholic (and receive the other two sacraments later) and for adults who are baptized, confirmed, and receive the Eucharist at the same time.

Those who have been validly baptized outside the Church become Catholics by making a profession of the Catholic faith and being formally received into the Church. This is normally followed immediately by confirmation and the Eucharist.

Before a person is ready to be received into the Church, whether by baptism or by profession of faith, preparation is necessary. The amount and form of this preparation depends on the individual’s circumstance. The most basic division in the kind of preparation needed is between those who are unbaptized and those who have already become Christian through baptism in another church.

For adults and children who have reached the age of reason (age seven), entrance into the Church is governed by the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), sometimes called the Order of Christian Initiation for Adults (OCIA).

Preparation for reception into the Church begins with the inquiry stage, in which the unbaptized person begins to learn about the Catholic faith and begins to decide whether to embrace it.

The first formal step to Catholicism begins with the rite of reception into the order of catechumens, in which the unbaptized express their desire and intention to become Christians. "Catechumen" is a term the early Christians used to refer to those preparing to be baptized and become Christians.

The period of the catechumenate varies depending on how much the catechumen has learned and how ready he feels to take the step of becoming a Christian. However, the catechumenate often lasts less than a year.

The catechumenate’s purpose is to provide the catechumens with a thorough background in Christian teaching. "A thoroughly comprehensive catechesis on the truths of Catholic doctrine and moral life, aided by approved catechetical texts, is to be provided during the period of the catechumenate" (U.S. Conference of Bishops, National Statutes for the Catechumenate, Nov. 11, 1986). The catechumenate also is intended to give the catechumens the opportunity to reflect upon and become firm in their desire to become Catholic, and to show that they are ready to take this serious and joyful step (cf. Luke 14:27–33; 2 Pet. 2:20–22).

The second formal step is taken with the rite of election, in which the catechumens’ names are written in a book of those who will receive the sacraments of initiation. At the rite of election, the catechumen again expresses the desire and intention to become a Christian, and the Church judges that the catechumen is ready to take this step. Normally, the rite of election occurs on the first Sunday of Lent, the forty-day period of preparation for Easter.

After the rite of election, the candidates undergo a period of more intense reflection, purification, and enlightenment, in which they deepen their commitment to repentance and conversion. During this period the catechumens, now known as the elect, participate in several further rituals.

The three chief rituals, known as scrutinies, are normally celebrated at Mass on the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent. The scrutinies are rites for self-searching and repentance. They are meant to bring out the qualities of the catechumen’s soul, to heal those qualities which are weak or sinful, and to strengthen those that are positive and good.

During this period, the catechumens are formally presented with the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, which they will recite on the night they are initiated.

The initiation itself usually occurs on the Easter Vigil, the evening before Easter Day. That evening a special Mass is celebrated at which the catechumens are baptized, then given confirmation, and finally receive the holy Eucharist. At this point the catechumens become Catholics and are received into full communion with the Church.

Ideally the bishop oversees the Easter Vigil service and confers confirmation upon the catechumens, but often—due to large distances or numbers of catechumens—a local parish priest will perform the rites.

The final state of Christian initiation is known as mystagogy, in which the new Christians are strengthened in the faith by further instruction and become more deeply rooted in the local Catholic community. The period of mystagogy normally lasts throughout the Easter season (the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost Sunday).

For the first year of their life as Christians, those who have been received are known as neophytes or "new Christians.

Choose which gospel you will embrace, for they are clearly not the same. Lest anyone think I have posted some "extreme" example of Rome's gospel, you can read the
imprimatur and nihil obstat that endorses it here.

It would be difficult to draw a sharper contrast between the beauty and simplicity of the biblical gospel and the putrid, death-inducing "gospel" of Rome. Let this be a lesson to all. Whenever you find yourself "enthralled" by the "majesty" of an "ancient" tradition, and tempted to become part of it, be assured that man-centered false gospels of this nature can be traced back to the time of the apostles themselves--as can the corpses of the men who decided to embrace those "gospels."


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bible Answer Man Broadcast

Just a point of clarification. I was interviewed on the Bible Answer Man broadcast yesterday (Tuesday), but that segment was not aired till today (Wednesday). Visit Hank's site for the audio.

Friday, August 01, 2008

New Article in the Christian Research Journal

The latest edition of the Christian Research Journal (Vol 31: No 3; 2008) features an article by yours truly. It appears in the Practical Hermeneutics section of the journal, and is titled "Is Mary Co-Redemptress of the World?" I'll be on the "Bible Answer Man" Aug 12 to discuss it.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Iron Sharpens Iron

I'll be on Chris Arnzen's Iron Sharpen's Iron broadcast tomorrow (Friday, May 2) which airs between 3pm-4pm EST. The subject is my book on Mary. You can listen to the program here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Ongoing Dialogue with Ben Witherington

The follow-up from my last blog entry continues here in Ben Witherington's combox.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Whatever you Bind or Loose . . .

Ben Witherington's Errors on the Periphrastic Participle in Matthew 18:18

I found a link from Alpha & Omega to this article from Ben Witherington. I don't have time presently to write a full response, so here's the quick and dirty. Witherington states (in elliptical form):
One of the more interesting sayings of Jesus with equally interesting theological implications is found in Mt. 18.18--" I tell you whatever you (i.e. Peter and the gang) bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." . . . If the Evangelist, and/or Jesus before him had wanted to say "whatever is bound on earth, was already bound and determined in heaven" he could certainly have done so, first in Aramaic and then in a Greek rendering of the same. The fact is that Jesus here says the opposite. . . . Now we could debate endlessly about what this refers to. In my view it has to do with decisions about community matters such as are described in vss. 16-17. The point is that there is a heavenly
ratification of such a spiritual decision on earth.
When one of his readers asked about the grammar used in this passage, Witherington responded:
Firstly, the future tenses in the second clauses in this verse are just that future tenses, they are not perfect tenses.

When another reader pointed out the obvious--namely, that the periphrastic future-perfect is employed in this passage and not merely a future tense verb--Witherington responded:

Sorry but this is not the way such conditional statements in Greek work at all. You cannot judge these things on the basis of verb tenses and participles by themselves, but in context. When a future tense is in the apodosis of a future more probably conditional statement, it always implies a future condition, NOT a perfect one. Mounce is simply wrong about this if he was referring to conditional clauses.

Sorry, but the fact that a periphrastic participle happens to appear in a conditional clause has absolutely no bearing on the meaning of the periphrastic participle (what is Witherington’s authority for this? He does not say). A future-perfect periphrastic participle means “will have been,” not simply “will.” The action of such a participle in the apodosis of a conditional statement is indeed future, but it is always a past action from the standpoint of the action in the protasis. In the present case (Matt 18:18 and Matt 16:19), the periphrastic construction means “whatever you bind/loose will have been bound/loosed in heaven.” See the NASB on Matt 16:19 and Matt 18:18, as well as the notes for those passages in the NIV, the ESV, and the NET. I would refer the reader to D. A. Carson for more information on this construction, who concludes these statements "must therefore be rendered 'shall have been bound/loosed'" (Commentary on Matthew). While he is tentative about seeing future-perfect force purely on grammatical grounds, he argues convincingly that other "paradigmatic" considerations are at work here (particularly why this grammatical construction was used over against a simpler one which is more common--especially with the luo word group). See also Mantey's comments. I also checked with Turner and BDF, and found nothing to overturn this (in fact, Turner plainly states that the periphrastic future-perfect carries the normal force of a future-perfect, and lists both Matt 16:19 and 18:18 as examples, 89). I haven’t checked Wallace yet, but since he helped with the notes on the NET I cannot imagine him saying anything different. The point is, by the time Peter et al has bound or loosed, that binding/loosing has already taken place in heaven. There are still those who dispute this understanding, of course. But my larger point is that Witherington's fiat on the periphrastic participle and this passage won't hold. The passage simply does not support Witherington’s point about human free will. But even if we grant that Witherington's understanding of the participle is an exegetical option, it is still only one option. That's a far cry from the cut and dried way Witherington has argued his case. At best, it's a poorly chosen passage if his goal is to convince us of his Arminianism.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's That Time of Year Again

It's springtime! . . .

And that can mean only one thing . . .

Yep, you guessed it . . .

Someone who is completely unqualified to do so has nevertheless taken it upon himself to write a new book or produce a new movie explaining the "REAL Jesus story."

(yawn--just wake me up when this one's over).

Monday, April 07, 2008

In the Presence of Greatness

I was playing around again with the Blog Readability Test tool, and was curious to see what websites would weigh in on a "Genius" level. Interestingly . . .

American Mensa weighs in at "Genius" level

Mensa International (that second word in a title almost always means "Europe") weighs in at "Post Grad" level

Mensa of Canada weighs in at "High School" level

Chicago Areas Mensa weighs in at "Junior High School" level

. . . I take all this to mean that most Mensa organizations think more highly of themselves than they probably should.

On a similar note, the church website of a personal friend of mine--who is also a pastor--ranks on the level of "Genius." We meet for lunch once a week; I'm hoping that will eventually raise the rating of my own website.

Rate Your Website

Follow the link to "The Blog Readability Test."

Not sure I agree with the results. For instance, this article receives the following rating:

. . . while this article receives this rating:

Most of the dialogue in the first article is repeated in the second (through quotations). The only difference in the two articles that I can discern is that the second article includes the signature block of a Roman Catholic apologist.

Actually, it's probably a compliment that most of the articles on this site are understandable to a high school student. There's little value (outside of massaging the egos of men) in communicating at such a sophisticated level that no one but the illuminati can understand it.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Authority Debate: Svendsen v. Pacwa

Closing Statement by Eric Svendsen

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Faux Orthodoxy

. . . or, better, "A Foe Orthodoxy." From my neck of the woods . . .

"Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput Challenges CCU Students"

CCU, for those not from my neck of the woods, is "Colorado Christian University," an institution that used to be a sound evangelical voice in the world. They have purposefully watered down their statement of faith to ensure sola fide never becomes a litmus test for a true gospel: "We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential." Wow. Powerful. I wonder if anyone under the rubric of Christendom could be found who disagrees with that.

And so, CCU has invited the head Judaizer of Denver to exhort their theologically naive, unsuspecting youth . . .

"The archbishop was greeted warmly by all attending, and throughout his talk he held everyone’s quiet attention. . . . After chapel concluded, students asked the archbishop many questions on how to he felt they could best be used in today's times of so many challenging issues to Christianity."

So "Christians" (are they?) are now officially getting their guidance on how to live the Christian life from a man who embodies a gospel that condemns. Who is responsible for arranging this meeting? The article goes on to tell us . . .

"CCU President and former U. S. Senator Bill Armstrong has been aggressively bringing some of the best scholars and Christian authorities onto campus to speak to students and elevate campus commitment to open dialogue."

So, the head Judaizer of Denver now qualifies as a "Christian authority."

"When asked about the invitation to Archbishop Chaput to visit CCU, Armstrong stated, 'Archbishop Chaput embodies exactly what we want our students to hear and learn.'"

So the accountability for this shameful liaison lands squarely on the shoulders of Bill Armstrong, an extremely foolish man who naively thinks that a Judaizer embodies "exactly" what he wants Christian youth to hear and learn. Here, in his own words, is his explanation of that . . .

"He [the archbishop of Denver] believes deeply in the sanctity of life, the word in the Holy Bible, and the teachings of Jesus Christ. The mere speaking about Christian worldviews is not enough – we must live our lives to those principles and help transform the world in which we live."

He (the archbishop of Denver) also believes, O foolish CCU president, that a man is justified by the merits he earns through his own works. He also believes, O foolish CCU president, in a gospel that was specifically condemned by the Apostle Paul. He also believes, O foolish CCU president, that Mary and the saints ought to be venerated and looked upon as objects of prayer. He also believes, O foolish CCU president, that his church and pope are infallible. He also believes, O foolish CCU president, that Jesus is not the only road to salvation; that Muslims, Jews, and even good atheists are saved; that a piece of bread and a cup of wine are the objects of adoration and worship; . . . and on and on it goes.

Of course, none of those things will matter to a university that has abandoned its birthright. Even Esau recognized his error and sought his birthright back with tears. It is exceedingly doubtful that Bill Armstrong and CCU--or anyone who goes down that path--will have the biblical sense to rise even to the level of an Easu.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Authority Debate

Cross Examination: Svendsen to Pacwa
A couple of weeks ago I posted a video clip of the cross-examination segment of the Authority Debate. That video clip showed Pacwa cross-examining me. Here is the second half of that segment in which I cross-examine Pacwa:

I want you to count how many times I ask the first question (re: extra ecclesiam nulla salus). Pacwa went to great lengths to dance around the issue, and ultimately never answered my question, so I had to move on. The Roman Catholic audience mistakenly took my move to the next question as an indication that Pacwa had won the point (you'll hear the laughter; once again, from an extremely rude brood of RCs). In reality, Pacwa continuously engaged in equivocation by changing "Roman Pontiff" to "Church" each time I pushed him on it (you'll see that I catch him on this, but he still dances). Eventually, I had to drop the first issue and move to the next because I had many questions I wanted to ask him with a very limited amount of time in which to do it.

Watch also the section where I press the difference of opinion among RC scholars on the extent of biblical inerrancy. Pacwa claims there is a PBC document that clarifies the ambiguous statement in Vatican II, but he cannot name that document (a document that doesn't exist, by the way).

Next, I ask him about the practice of facing east when praying. The audience explodes when Pacwa says that his church faces east. What you may not hear (due to the wild applause) is my follow-up question of whether or not he, too, faces east, or just his congregation. He answers that he in fact does not face east, which falls under the condemnation of the tradition that I cited--he does indeed pastor a "perverted church" according to the tradition of Basil.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Unethical Practices of GodTube

I have pulled all of my debate videos from GodTube due to the forum's unethical practices. For about two weeks now antagonistic Roman Catholic posters have been posting comments on my video pages that are filled with inaccuracies and (in some cases) blatant lies. I have attempted to post responses several times during that same time period. Although the message returned when I post is that the posts have been accepted and I should be able to view it in a few minutes, the posts (strangely) never appear--even after waiting days to see them. I have contacted their tech support, and they could not explain the problem. So, I deleted the RC comments and posted a note informing posters about the problem, and redirected them to the NTRMin forum if they would like to post a comment--which note never appeared. Each time I deleted the RC posts, they would be reposted within hours, and not one of my comments made it through. Today after logging in, I found that still more RC posts had been posted, but this time there was no Delete button to delete them.

All this seems just a bit odd to me. Roman Catholics can post at will; No Protestant post can get through (I even created a separate account and attempted to post using it, but to no avail); Now, I no longer have the ability to delete Roman Catholic posts. Too odd, in my view, to be written off as a coincidence. So, I'm through with GodTube; all videos have been deleted. I'm not going to have a situation in which a Roman Catholic antagonist is freely able to slander me--on my own account!--with no means of responding and refuting that slander.

On the other hand, what else would one expect of a forum that advertises its mission in this way:
Representing Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, Evangelical, Messianic, Methodist and all of the traditional Christian denominations, GodTube is unique in its appeal and in its mission to "Broadcast Him".
What else would one expect of a so-called "Christian forum" that places more importance and focus on hip-hop and shallow contemporary "christian music" than they do on sound exegetical Bible study (just go to their main page for proof)?

I'm certainly disappointed with their practice since it is no small task to trim, format and upload videos to their forum. But, it is what it is. You can see the debate here.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Lest We Forget the Most Basic Truths

Compare the extravagance and opulence of this . . .

. . . to the words of the Apostle:
"For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now." (1 Cor 4:9-13)

Sometimes all one needs is a contrast to remind us who has rewards in heaven, and who "has their reward in full" in this life (Mark 6:2).

Friday, March 21, 2008

Responses to my Video Clip Postings on GodTube

GodTube is not the most reliable system. Not only does it strain to buffer video (unlike the more robust YouTube), but its acceptance of comments in the comboxes is eradic. Over the past few days, two Roman antagonists have posted off-the-wall comments to one of my videos, and even though I have responded to those comments on three different occasions, and even though the GodTube system verified my comments were accepted, they never actually showed up. Since I'm not going to have a situation where Roman Catholics are allowed to slander me on my own space on Godtube sans my ability to post a response, I have deleted those comments and am redirecting them here and to the discussion thread on the NTRMin discussion board (there is a thread already started for the video series; post there if you want to comment). In the meantime, here is what one Roman Catholic posted before I ended up deleting it:
Yet Svedson [sic] affirms the Catholic view [of Matt 16], which is the historic view that noone [sic] denied before John Calvin. Not even Luther.

Oh really? Here' a summary of the work Bill Webster has done on this passage:

Augustine on the issue
"Christ, you see, built his Church not on a man but on Peter’s confession. What is Peter’s confession? ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ There’s the rock for you, there’s the foundation, there’s where the Church has been built, which the gates of the underworld cannot conquer." (Sermon 229). . . . "For on this very account the Lord said, ‘On this rock will I build my Church,’ because Peter had said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ On this rock, therefore, He said, which thou hast confessed, I will build my Church. For the Rock (Petra) was Christ; and on this foundation was Peter himself built. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus" (Commentary on the Gospel of John, Tractate 124.5). . . . "For, ‘Thou art Peter’ and not ‘Thou art the rock’ was said to him. But ‘the rock was Christ,’ in confessing whom, as also the whole Church confesses, Simon was called Peter." (The Retractations Chapter 20.1). . . . "Therefore,’ he saith, ‘Thou art Peter; and upon this Rock’ which Thou hast confessed, upon this rock which Thou hast acknowledged, saying, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, will I build My Church;’ that is upon Myself, the Son of the living God, ‘will I build My Church.’ I will build thee upon Myself, not Myself upon Thee. For men who wished to be built upon men, said, ‘I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas,’ who is Peter. But others who did not wish to built upon Peter, but upon the Rock, said, ‘But I am of Christ.’" (Sermon XXVI.1-4)

"He speaks from this time lowly things, on his way to His passion, that He might show His humanity. For He that hath built His church upon Peter’s confession, and has so fortified it, that ten thousand dangers and deaths are not to prevail over it" (On Matthew, Homily 82.3)

"He, then, who before was silent, to teach us that we ought not to repeat the words of the impious, this one, I say, when he heard, ‘But who do you say I am,’ immediately, not unmindful of his station, exercised his primacy, that is, the primacy of confession, not of honor; the primacy of belief, not of rank.This, then, is Peter, who has replied for the rest of the Apostles; rather, before the rest of men. And so he is called the foundation, because he knows how to preserve not only his own but the common foundation...Faith, then, is the foundation of the Church, for it was not said of Peter’s flesh, but of his faith, that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ But his confession of faith conquered hell. And this confession did not shut out one heresy, for, since the Church like a good ship is often buffeted by many waves, the foundation of the Church should prevail against all heresies (Ambrose, The Sacrament of the Incarnation of Our Lord IV.32-V.34).

"Let no one then foolishly suppose that the Christ is any other than the only begotten Son. Let us not imagine ourselves wiser than the gift of the Spirit. Let us hear the words of the great Peter, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Let us hear the Lord Christ confirming this confession, for ‘On this rock,’ He says, ‘I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.’ Wherefore too the wise Paul, most excellent master builder of the churches, fixed no other foundation than this. ‘I,’ he says, ‘as a wise master builder have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’ How then can they think of any other foundation, when they are bidden not to fix a foundation, but to build on that which is laid? The divine writer recognises Christ as the foundation, and glories in this title." . . . . "The blessed Peter also laid this foundation, or rather the Lord Himself. For Peter having said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;’ the Lord said, ‘Upon this rock I will build My Church.’ Therefore call not yourselves after men’s names, for Christ is the foundation" (Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1,12). . . . Surely he is calling pious faith and true confession a ‘rock.’ For when the Lord asked his disciples who the people said he was, blessed Peter spoke up, saying ‘You are Christ, the Son of the living God.’ To which the Lord answered: ‘Truly, truly I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Commentary on Canticle of Canticles II.14) . . . "Wherefore our Lord Jesus Christ permitted the first of the apostles, whose confession He had fixed as a kind of groundwork and foundation of the Church, to waver to and fro, and to deny Him, and then raised him up again" (Theodoret, Epistle 77).

Eusebius of Caesarea
"as Scripture says: ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’; and elsewhere: ‘The rock, moreover, was Christ.’ For, as the Apostle indicates with these words: ‘No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.’ Then, too, after the Savior himself, you may rightly judge the foundations of the Church to be the words of the prophets and apostles, in accordance with the statement of the Apostle: ‘Built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.’" (Commentary on the Psalms, Vol. 23).

"For that reason divine Scripture says that Peter, that exceptional figure among the apostles, was called blessed. For when the Savior was in that part of Caesarea which is called Philippi, he asked who the people thought he was, or what rumor about him had been spread throughout Judea and the town bordering Judea. And in response Peter, having abandoned the childish and abused opinions of the people, wisely and expertly exclaimed: ‘You are Christ, Son of the living God.’ Now when Christ heard this true opinion of him, he repaid Peter by saying: ‘Blessed are you Simon Bar–Jonah, for flesh and blood have not revealed this to you but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ The surname, I believe, calls nothing other than the unshakable and very firm faith of the disciple ‘a rock,’ upon which the Church was founded and made firm and remains continually impregnable even with respect to the very gates of Hell. But Peter’s faith in the Son was not easily attained, nor did it flow from human apprehension; rather it was derived from the ineffable instruction from above; since God the Father clearly shows his own Son and causes a sure persuasion of him in the minds of his people. For Christ was in no way deceptive when he said, ‘Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.’ If, therefore, blessed Peter, having confessed Christ to be the Son of the living God, are those not very wretched and abandoned who rashly rail at the will and undoubtedly true teaching of God, who drag down the one who proceeds from God’s own substance and make him a creature, who foolishly reckon the coeternal author of life to be among those things which have derived their life from another source? Are such people not at any rate very ignorant? (Dialogue on the Trinity IV, M.P.G., Vol. 75, Col. 866). . . . ."For when he wisely and blamelessly confessed his faith to Jesus saying, ‘You are Christ, Son of the living God,’ Jesus said to divine Peter: ‘You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.’ Now by the word ‘rock’, Jesus indicated, I think, the immoveable faith of the disciple."(Commentary on Isaiah IV.2). . . . "The Church is unshaken, and ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,’ according to the voice of the Saviour, for it has Him for a foundation (Commentary on Zacharias).

A belief that the Son of God is Son in name only, and not in nature, is not the faith of the Gospels and of the Apostles...whence I ask, was it that the blessed Simon Bar–Jona confessed to Him, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God?...And this is the rock of confession whereon the Church is built...that Christ must be not only named, but believed, the Son of God. . . . This faith is that which is the foundation of the Church; through this faith the gates of hell cannot prevail against her. This is the faith which has the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatsoever this faith shall have loosed or bound on earth shall be loosed or bound in heaven...The very reason why he is blessed is that he confessed the Son of God. This is the Father’s revelation, this the foundation of the Church, this the assurance of her permanence. Hence has she the keys of the kingdom of heaven, hence judgment in heaven and judgment on earth....Thus our one immovable foundation, our one blissful rock of faith, is the confession from Peter’s mouth, Thou art the Son of the living God" (On The Trinity, Book VI.36,37; Book II.23; Book VI.20)

"The one foundation which the apostolic architect laid is our Lord Jesus Christ. Upon this stable and firm foundation, which has itself been laid on solid ground, the Church of Christ is built...For the Church was founded upon a rock...upon this rock the Lord established his Church; and the apostle Peter received his name from this rock (Mt. 16.18)" (Commentary on Matthew 7.25)

"He confessed that ‘Christ’ is ‘the Son of the living God,’ and was told, ‘On this rock of sure faith will I build my church’—for he plainly confessed that Christ is true Son" (Books II and III, Haer. 59.7, 6-8,3)

"Now Christ called this confession a rock, and he named the one who confessed it ‘Peter,’ perceiving the appellation which was suitable to the author of this confession. For this is the solemn rock of religion, this the basis of salvation, this the wall of faith and the foundation of truth: ‘For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.’ To whom be glory and power forever"

"This is that firm and immovable faith upon which, as upon the rock whose surname you bear, the Church is founded. Against this the gates of hell, the mouths of heretics, the machines of demons—for they will attack—will not prevail. They will take up arms but they will not conquer". . . . "This rock was Christ, the incarnate Word of God, the Lord, for Paul clearly teaches us: ‘The rock was Christ’ (1 Cor. 10:4)" (Homily on the Transfiguration, Col. 548).

Here's what one of RC's most prominent historians has to say about it:
"It does sometimes happen that some Fathers understood a passage in a way which does not agree with later Church teaching. One example: the interpretation of Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:16–19. Except at Rome, this passage was not applied by the Fathers to the papal primacy; they worked out an exegesis at the level of their own ecclesiological thought, more anthropological and spiritual than juridical" (Yves Congar, Tradition and Traditions, New York: Macmillan, 1966, p. 398).

Again, back to our GodTube poster:
By the way I do believe that Svedson [sic] has changed his tune on the stuff about Peter and used to use the old petros, petra arguement [sic]

It is a record of fact that I have held this same view at least since the writing of my first book, Evangelical Answers (where it appears), was first published in 1996. This poster can't seem to get anything right.

The Authority Debate: Svendsen vs. Pacwa

Cross Examination; Pacwa to Svendsen
Here is the first of two cross examination clips. In this clip Mitch Pacwa cross examines me:

Some brief comments are in order:

First, Pacwa is decidely out of touch with the majority view on the so-called "canon of the Sadducees" (time marker 00:42). He still thinks the Sadducees held only to the Pentateuch, and no other books of the Bible. That view is based on an extrapulation from Matt 22:23 and Acts 23:8 (see my response at 03:50), which tell us that the Sadducees rejected belief in the resurrection, spirits and angels. But the Pentateuch is filled with references to angels (at least 28 instances). So if we conclude that the Sadducees rejected all but the Pentateuch based on the fact that they rejected a belief in the resurrection, we must on that basis conclude that they also rejected Genesis, Exodus and Numbers based on the fact that they rejected belief in angels.

Second, Pacwa appeals to the earliest extant LXX text (Codex Vaticanus) to prove that the deuterocanonicals were included as Scripture (07:50 passim). But this proves too much since the deuterocanonical set included in Codex Vaticanus differs from the official deuterocanonical set of Roman Catholicism (see my response at 09:48). Codex Vaticanus omits I and II Maccabees and includes Psalm 151, The RC canon includes the former and omits the latter. Moreover, the RC canon differs from the Eastern Orthodox canon (EO includes III Maccabees; RC omits it). This is why we must reject Roman tradition--or any tradition for that matter--as binding on the conscience of man.

Third, Pacwa seems uninformed about the list of RC theologians before Trent that rejected the deuterocanonicals as Scriptures (12:50--14:18).
And to explain their rejection of the deuterocanonicals as "well, they weren't the official voice of the magisterium" explains nothing. There is no explanation of a rejection of the deuterocanonicals by faithful Roman Catholics centuries after a supposedly infallible decision had been made outside of the fact that no decision had actually been made.

Fourth, Pacwa seems unaware of the nomenclature used by both contemporary RC scholars and historical RC documents (15:30 ff), and makes some brownie points with the mostly RC audience (who ignorantly and rudely laughed and applauded at this point, in spite of the fact that they were instructed not to by the moderator). Yet, when I use words and phrases like "Rome," or "Roman church," or "Roman Pontiff," or "Roman Catholic," it is because this is the official nomenclature found in the historical documents, in the writings of the popes, and in scholarly RC writings. Pacwa seems to be unaware of this use--at least until I informed him, after the misplaced applause and after patiently waiting for him to finish his point (16:29), that I was simply using the language of pope Eugene IV.

It is this kind of thing that causes me to dislike RC audiences at events like these (I encountered a similar situation during my debate with Gerry Matatics). For them, it's all about winning a point. They are not there to be instructed by truth. Truth doesn't matter to them. They just want their hero to win--at any cost--and they don't care what rules they have to break to effect that end. The evangelicals at the debate respected the rules; the Roman Catholics blatantly disregarded them. Why? Because they are lawless. They pridefully tout their "moral superiority" with regard to abortion, birth control, etc, ad naseum; but their true character shows at these debates.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Romans 1:21-25 Alive and Well in New Delhi

The Indian villagers of New Delhi, the birthplace of Hinduism, are now worshipping--as a reincarnated god--a newborn girl born with two faces. News Link
Romans 1:21-25: "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen."
Sadly, this kind of thing is not foreign to the ranks of Christendom. Witness the spectacle of hundreds, or thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of Roman Catholics massing together to worship a piece of melba toast, or a stain on the side of a wall, or a shadow against a building, or a growth on a tree, or the lastest "apparition" that vaguely resembles the shape of what Roman Catholics have come to associate with Mary. They are no less condemned; nor are their leaders who consistently refuse to discourage such idolatry, and in the process shamefully worship and serve the creature rather than the creator. True pastors of the church are distressed by such things, and do not remain silent about them.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Authority Debate: Svendsen vs. Pacwa

Rebuttal by Eric Svendsen
This is my rebuttal of Mitch Pacwa's opening statement:

At about the 3:12 marker, I make a statement that probably should be clarified. Namely, "I will ask Mitch tonight, and we will not get, a list of infallible teachings of the church." What I should have stated is "an infallible list of infallible teachings of the church." Later in the debate Mitch cites a couple of sources that he claims provides lists of infallible church teachings. What he does not provide is an infallible list of infallible teachings. That was my fault; I should have clarified that point in the debate and did not. I pointed out on the Areopagus Forum following the debate last year that my performance in the debate evidenced a lot of rust, and this is the point I primarily had in mind. C'est la vie.

The reason the question is pertinent is because Pacwa (like all RC apologists) makes a huge deal of the fact that (from the Protestant view) there is no infallible table of contents for the canon of Scripture, which prevents the Protestant (so the argument goes) from having any confidence that he can know the parameters of the canon apart from the decision of the Roman Catholic magisterium. But if that is the case, then neither can the Roman Catholic know the parameters of church tradition, since there is no infallible list of those traditions.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Relevant Church Pastor

This is my new all-time favorite video:

The Authority Debate: Svendsen vs. Pacwa

Opening Statement by Eric Svendsen
It took nearly a year to obtain the video, put it in digital form, and chop it up in segments, but it's finally finished. Here is my opening statement. I'll post various segments and offer comments on them as I go. The complete debate is available here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The "Relevant" Church

The article on the FoxNews website piqued my curiosity: Florida Pastor Issues 30-Day Sex Challenge for Congregation, part of which included the challenge "Single men and women can't have sex for 30 days." Why, I wondered, would a pastor be satified with exhorting the single people of his flock to abstain from sex for only 30 days?--as though unmarried sex, like too much caffeine or too much sugar, were nothing more than a bad habit that needs to be minimized.

Following the links took me to the website of the "Relevant Church," where I was assaulted by a suggestive image and a headline that announced the "challenge":


Yes, emphasis is in the original. Perusing the website quickly revealed that the advertised "challenge" was among the least of the problems of this church.

When visiting the websites of churches and other ministries, I always like to learn first about the people in charge. In this case, the "lead pastor" is Paul Wirth, a "MySpace"-type Baptist-turned-postmodernist, and apparently the founder of this "church." You can always guess where a "pastor" is coming from when he lists his favorite music as "U2, Switchfoot and Foofighters" (the goal of a shepherd of the church is to be "cool," after all), his favorite book as "Blue Like Jazz" and "Next Generation Leader" (the goal of a shepherd of the church is to be "hip" and "culturally with it," after all), and one of his three greatest wishes in life as the attainment of a beachhouse (the goal of a shepherd of the church is to attain earthly possessions and creature comforts, after all--a mindset perfectly illustrated by John Piper's "Seashell Christianity" in his Don't Waste Your Life).

What motivated Wirth to start this church? He himself tells us: "Well I love our culture and wanted to be a part of a church that had a passion to be as current as today's paper while relating the truths of the Bible to every facet of our lives. Also, it is pretty risky and I love taking risks."

Loving a "culture" is not to be equated with God's loving the "world" in John 3:16 (though I'll take bets that's how Wirth interprets that passage). It really comes much closer (and Wirth's internal pursuit of a beach house confirms this) to "loving the world" in 1 John 2:15-17 and James 4:4.

Unfortunately, a pastor who is headed down the wrong path usually does not go it alone, but takes casualties with him. Sadly, that is the case here as well. Continuing down the "staff" page, we find the same question posed to the rest of the staff--with similar aspirations:

Music and Arts (Minister):
If you could have 3 things in life:
"To truly know and understand the heart of God, An extensive car collection, Two nice houses... One in Tampa and one in Nashville."

I am positive the irony of the answer given by the "minister of music and arts" is completely lost to him. On the one hand he wants "to truly know and understand the heart of God"; well and good. On the other hand, he unflinchingly states he wants "an extensive car collection and two nice houses," completely oblivious to the fact that those two wishes stand in contradiction to each other (Jas 4:3-4). But just in case this is not clear to Wirth's staff, when one truly "knows and understands the heart of God," the last thing he'll desire is "two nice houses and an extensive car collection."

Continuing with the staff bios . . .

Growth Groups (Minister)
If you could have 3 things in life:
"Saab 9-5, better time management, water front home"

Media Outreach & NexGen (Minister)
If you could have 3 things in life:
"A beach house in Southern California, a complete understanding of who God is, be a pro surfer"

Visual Arts (Minister)
If you could have 3 things in life:
"To make a difference, the ability to not have to sleep, and a billion dollars"

Head Intern
If you could have 3 things in life:
"To be able to connect kids/students to God in ways that they can truly relate to and understand, a black Escalade with 24" rims, an endless supply of white K-Swiss classics"

"Pastor" Wirth is evidently having an influence on his flock. It's a "relevant church" alright--to the surrounding culture, perhaps. Indeed, the "church" is hardly distinguishable from the surrounding culture in its values and aspirations. It's just not "relevant" to the Word of God and the church of Jesus Christ.

And that's really the problem with the "emergent church" crowd. It tries so hard to be "relevant" to the surrounding culture (though I would argue it appeals only to the the "punk" segment and not to the "culture" per se) that it ends up prostituting itself to that culture. The sad result is, the "culture" has its way with the "church," and that "church" becomes a sort of "scrub-faced" version of the culture--the same core values (attainment of a beach house, an extensive car collection and a billion dollars; and unmarried sexual relations are just a bad habit that you should quit for 30 days), without the excessive expletives.

Maybe the next step here is to become more honest with what this movement really is and to call it what it really is--The First Church of Loving the World and All That Is In It. Then at least they'd have a Scripture passage they could attach as a tagline.


Monday, January 07, 2008

And the Crunks (is that really a word?) are Starting to Come Out of the Woodwork

I recently received this letter in response to my article on so-called Christian rap music:
Dr. Svendsen,

I originally was not going to send this comment do you because most of the time it's not worth trying to change a mind that is set in its ways. I hope that this will not be the case with you. Regarding your blog, "Yo , Get Crunk and Reprasent," I would like to encourage you to be more careful before passing judgments on entire genres of music. In your analysis of "Christian" Rap, you attacked the lyrics of a "Christian" group called "Organized Rhyme" somehow associated with the "Christian" Rapper "T-Bone." I was unfamiliar with this group, so I did a Google search and within 3 minutes had come across something I would have hoped you would have also come across in your preparation for this blog, but somehow did not. Wikipedia identifies "Organized Rhyme” as a “short lived Canadian hip-hop group based out of Ottawa.” I cannot find anywhere on the internet claiming this group is in any way, shape, or form “Christian”. Again, 2 minutes on Google and I discovered that the group T-Bone is referring to is called “Organized Rhyme Crew”. Clearly you have confused the two groups, an easy mistake to make. Such a mistake would normally not bother me, but this shows that you were either unable or unwilling to thoroughly research this topic before passing down judgment. I would hope that in the future you will give more care to make certain that your opinions are based on facts, especially before attacking the character of others.

Thank you,
Jeff Burns
I originally thought Jeff's letter was intended to be a sincere, helpful critique of my article--that is until I received a second letter from him shortly thereafter in which it became clear that Jeff's true intent was to get "christian rap music" off the biblical examination table. Nevertheless, what follows is the response I composed after his first letter and before I received his second:

Thanks for your letter, Jeff, and your desire to hold my feet to the flames, as it were. Let me take your letter point by point:
I originally was not going to send this comment do you because most of the time it's not worth trying to change a mind that is set in its ways. I hope that this will not be the case with you.
I’m always willing to be corrected, if I’m wrong. I don’t claim to be an expert on rap music, so I have nothing at stake in this. My expertise is in evaluating it from a biblical worldview.
Regarding your blog, "Yo , Get Crunk and Reprasent," I would like to encourage you to be more careful before passing judgments on entire genres of music
I’ll go one step further; I think the entire Christian Music industry is corrupt to varying degrees, not just the rap genre. For that matter so is the Christian Book Publishing industry (but that’s another topic—or rather, one I have already addressed in the past). Both of these industries have prostituted themselves and the gospel on the bed of being “accepted” and “liked” by the world. I also think the “Christian bumper sticker and t-shirt” industry is corrupt because it trivializes the gospel. Here’s another one—the entire “church industry” is corrupt as well. Just because exceptions might be found in all of these does not mean my comments directed toward the industry as a whole are somehow misplaced—any more than the fact that 7,000 have not bowed the knee to Baal somehow disproves the prophet’s condemnation of Israel as a nation. Do you deny the subjects of this genre of music, by and large, exhibit the characteristics I outlined in my article? Do you deny that the problem is pandemic?
In your analysis of "Christian" Rap, you attacked the lyrics of a "Christian" group called "Organized Rhyme" somehow associated with the "Christian" Rapper "T-Bone." I was unfamiliar with this group, so I did a Google search and within 3 minutes had come across something I would have hoped you would have also come across in your preparation for this blog, but somehow did not. Wikipedia identifies "Organized Rhyme” as a “short lived Canadian hip-hop group based out of Ottawa. I cannot find anywhere on the internet claiming this group is in any way, shape, or form “Christian”. Again, 2 minutes on Google and I discovered that the group T-Bone is referring to is called “Organized Rhyme Crew”.
You jump too quickly here. Yes, you discovered that the group T-Bone is referring to is called the Organized Rhyme Crew, but what you fail to mention is that in the very song I posted by T-Bone, he calls his group (alternately) Organized Rhyme Crew, Organized Rhyme, Organized Rhyme bambinos, Organized Rhyme representers, Organized Rhyme (ORC), Organized Rhyme clique—and in fact the heading of this song on is . . . you guessed it . . . “T-Bone Organized Rhyme lyrics” (not “Organized Rhyme Crew lyrics”). And I discovered all this after only one minute on Google ; ) The evidence I was working with (and I really doubt you found something I did not) suggested it is one and the same. So, you probably should have stuck with your first instinct on this (that it was an easy mistake to make) and refrained from your further comment that I am “either unable or unwilling to thoroughly research this topic before passing down judgment.” Neither of those is true.

You may very well be correct that they are different groups. But why should a wiki article somehow have tipped me off to it? So what that the group was from Canada? How do you know the other group isn't? So what that it was a short-lived group? It still recorded songs, did it not? I didn’t claim that any of the music was recent. It still could have been the very same group since the wiki indicates that the former existed in the early nineties, and the T-Bone lyrics I posted indicates they too were around in the early nineties: “hate to hit you with a blast from the past LP without the LORD, man it wouldnt sell 3 most brothas be like, ‘man don't I know you ?’ and its true 91, 92, where were you ?, I'm bangin with the Organized Rhyme Crew” (indeed, T-Bone’s wiki article indicates he was “active” during those years). Moreover, you mentioned you found “Organized Rhyme” on the wiki, but I noticed you didn’t happen to mention that the wiki says absolutely nothing about the “Organized Rhyme Crew.” So why would I assume on the basis of the wiki that these must be two different groups? Once again, I really doubt you found anything that I did not find and consider when I researched this.

Now, was I careful in my research on this? About as careful as I care to be on a passing reference in a blog entry. This is not a book I am writing; nor is the article about the Organized Rhyme Crew. The section in which I make mention of them is very short (my research was on a far broader point), and the same points could have been made (and in fact were made) about “T-Bone” and the “Organized Rhyme Crew” (found just below the YouTube example and lyrics from Organized Rhyme). For that reason, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and remove that short portion from my article. However, as both parts to my article clearly indicate, my critique of this genre of “music” is not so much about the words (that was a very small part), but about the unchristian behaviors and attitudes of its “artists” (look at a few pictures of “T-Bone” on the Internet and see if you can find one that doesn’t portray him as a street thug—something he has proudly admitted in interviews). Just because someone happens to sprinkle a song with the words “Jesus” and “God” does not mean it magically becomes Christian music.

Now, if the intent of your letter is to rescue T-Bone (which your final statement seems to indicate; to wit: “I would hope that in the future you will give more care to make certain that your opinions are based on facts, especially before attacking the character of others”) then let me add some information about that particular rapper that reinforces my points about this culture as a whole.

“Christian rapper T-Bone wears the bling and even owns a Benz. He says it's no act, but just
a part of who he is—a street dude, hip-hop personified,” announces an interview in Christianity Today. Here are a few excerpts:

CT: Now because hip-hop often has a lot to do with image and lifestyle, do you ever feel the pressure to conform to that and make that a focus in your music?

T-Bone: Here's the funny thing, there's a lot of gospel rappers where hip-hop is living out their fantasy, and they kind of dress up to be the part, ya know? I am hip-hop. Hip-hop is what I grew up around. I wear the ice. I wear the bling. I don't see anything wrong with that. When God has blessed you, why can't you get something nice? Drug dealers and pimps shouldn't be the only ones driving a Mercedes. I got a Benz. For me it's not about something that I try to be or try to conform to. I'm just who I am. I was raised in the streets, so for me I have the same dress, I have the same appeal, I talk the same way that they do. I'm a product of the streets. I'm a product of hip-hop. This is the real deal. It isn't a make-up deal for me.
In other words, T-Bone is proud to be a street thug (we’re not talking about a socio-economic group, mind you, but rather a culture that is specifically opposed to righteousness). T-Bone takes pride in its shame. To him, it’s perfectly acceptable as a “Christian” to continue presenting yourself as a street thug, pursuing riches and symbols of wealth (the “benz” and the “bling”), flaunting that wealth (“I wear the bling”), because after all if it’s a good enough goal for a drug dealer, well then it should be good enough for a Christian.

Contrary to Mr. T-Bone’s fantasy, the Christian life is not about “getting something nice” and flaunting it in street-thug fashion. But, for him, that’s “the real deal.” That’s who he is. He’s a product of that culture, as he himself admits: “It isn't a make-up deal for me.”

Even his evangelism can’t be done openly, but must be done in such a way that it “sneaks up” on people:
I don't like the label "Christian hip-hop" or "gospel hip-hop" because I feel like you alienate a lot of people. Or people have preconceived notions of what they think it is—especially with the kind of music this is. It's street music. Say you're going up to some thugs, and you say "Christian hip-hop" and think that sounds corny, ya know?
Yeah, I know. And we certainly wouldn’t want to appear "corny," or to embarrass ourselves with the gospel in front of street thugs and drug dealers by openly preaching repentance (in a biblical way, not in a punk way)--because the gospel is something to be ashamed of, after all.

If anyone doubts that the unbiblical characteristics I identified for this culture are intentional, then the following quote from T-Bone should clear it up once and for all. In the same CT interview T-Bone goes on to say:

Once I was filled with anger and madness. Now I'm full of love, peace and joy. Hip Hop is the language of the streets [anger and madness]. God is the language of love [peace and joy]. I mix the two together to see amazing results!"

In other words, the “blend” that the apostle Paul insists should not exist (“What do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”) are intentionally mixed together in T-Bone’s music for “amazing results.”

The article goes on to mention that T-Bone’s album, Bone-A-Fide, not only sports the image of Marxist revolutionist Che Guevara (who T-Bone "respects" and even bears a tattoo of him), but includes contributions by “gangsta” rapper Mack 10. For a sample of Mack 10 lyrics see this link
(viewer discretion is HIGHLY advised). Suffice it to say that the description from Sing365 seems to sum it up: "The word 'ballin' conjures up images of a world filled with life's pleasures, like big bank, dope gear, and fly women. In the thick of this lifestyle lies Mack 10, one who represents ballin' to the fullest."

I’ll post a few more lyrics by T-Bone from this album to re-emphasize the unbiblical nature of this kind of music:

I’m so dope I’m impressing myself
Challenging rappers of my status dogg is bad for your health
It’s like swallowing rat poison straight of the shelf
Or slitting your wrist then changing ya mind
But ain’t no one around to help, dudes hear spit they like holy Toledo
Cuz when it comes to this rapping, I’m the one like Neo
I’m Jackie Chan, bet a hundred grand I could take out five
of ya man’s with one wave of my hand
Your whole caravan get smacked right in front of ya fans
I’ll have screaming “No Mas” like Roberto Duran holla
They call me Boney Soprano, Young Luchiano, Bone Guevara
Raps Sammy the bull Gervano, I’m sick wit tha flow
Lyrical tactics and back flips, spitting ridiculous mathematics
Like it’s gymnastics, when I die, be sure to place in my mic in my casket
And tell the world that I was fantastic, and that’s it!

(T-Bone; Bone-A-Fide; "Y’all Can’t Win")

Where is the Christian character in this song? The song not only is completely absent of Christian character, but is in fact filled with nothing but self-glorifying, self-aggrandizing nonsense. Here is another example from that same album:

Life is good when ya blessed wit all the finer things
Got piece of mind, from the grind, plus em diamond rings!
Shake ya body like ya got the holy ghost now

Shake ya body like your shivering cuz it’s cold out
Shake ya body got the wiggle in your soul now
Shake ya body what, shake ya body what
(T-Bone; Bone-A-Fide; "Shake Ya Body")

So, the Christian life is reduced to pursuing “em diamond rings,” and the Holy Spirit is trivialized (blasphemed, really) as a personified rap dance.

May I suggest that it is a demonstration of worldly naivety (or, perhaps naïve worldliness) that the modern evangelical church--like no other generation in the history of the church--seeks to find some redeeming value in a trash heap? We may today be “innocent as doves” in regard to our outlook on these issues; but where in the world is there evidence we have remained “shrewd as snakes”?


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Defending the Faith Against Those Who Should Be . . . Defending the Faith

I was impressed to read this entry from Steve Brown's "Old White Guy Blog" (yes, I realize I'm two months late)--not the main article itself, mind you, which is nothing more than fuzzy Emergent humanism draped in the pseudo-biblical language of "love" from someone who ought to know better, but rather the comments following the article from MikeMcK, the sole defender of a biblical view (why is it always the case?) in the midst of a sea of self-serving spiritual rebellion. It's an often-times lonely enterprise, Mike, especially in an age of increasing apostasy. Keep up the good work!


Friday, December 28, 2007

Yo, Get Crunk, Part 2

Several weeks ago I posted a piece on the illegitimacy of certain forms of “Christian” music, such as rap and “hard core,” and included several Youtube examples of these forms of music to illustrate the points I made against them. The occasion that prompted the post was a discussion I had with a youth pastor who attempted to defend this music as legitimate forms of Christian expression. During my conversation with the youth pastor (a thoroughly Reformed young man, I might add), he raised certain arguments in an attempt to defend that style of music against my many objections—chief of which objections was the fact that that particular “Christian expression” is in conflict with the fruits of the Spirit outlined for us in Galatians 5:22-23. When “Christian expression” resembles rather the behavior of the world—namely, outbursts of anger, arrogance, rebelliousness, boastfulness, pride, sexual innuendo, violence, self glorification, and the like—then it is de facto no longer Christian. Below I address the arguments that were raised during that discussion:

Defense #1: The behavior is part of a “stage act,” and there is a difference between real life and a stage life. As an example of this, the nude sculpture of David can be considered a legitimate form of art even though public nudity in general may be inappropriate.

Response: While certain objects may be legitimate forms of art in a secular sense, the appropriateness or inappropriateness of them as an expression of Christian principles is never a given. Each case must be evaluated in its context. David’s dance before Israel while dressed in a linen epod (2 Sam 6:14), for instance, was in a context of great humility (vv. 21-22). David was certainly in a “disrobed” state (v. 20), but was not nude. Indeed, there is nothing inherently sinful about nudity; it is entirely context specific. Adam and Eve were nude before the fall and were not ashamed; and I assume everyone is nude when showering. By contrast, it is never appropriate to be arrogant, rebellious, self glorifying, prideful, boastful, violent, or engaged in sexual innuendo with regard to women in general (as the Youtube examples in my prior articles clearly depict).

But let’s make a better comparison. Does the fact that the behavior in question is merely a “stage act” exempt a Christian from culpability for that behavior? The same argument is often used by Hollywood actors who profess Christ but who choose to take roles that depict anti-Christian behavior. Is it acceptable for a Christian actor or actress to act out an erotic scene with a fellow actor/actress on screen? It’s not real sex, after all. Is it acceptable to appear in these scenes nude, or groping another actor/actress in a sexual way, or allowing themselves to be groped?

I suspect that the defenders of “Christian” rap and hard core would hesitate to say that “stage act” is okay (though, perhaps some may). The real question is not whether this kind of behavior is acceptable to men, but whether it is pleasing to God.

Defense #2: Outbursts of anger (such as is inherent in much of this music) can be appropriate depending on the context. After all, Jesus himself displayed outbursts of anger when he overturned the tables of the money changers and drove them out of the temple with a whip (John 2:14ff).

Response: I’m not sure there is much I can say to this one except that to equate the righteous indignation of our Lord against those who would turn the holiness of “God’s house” into trivial commercialism with the senseless screaming of someone on stage who then throws his body into a mosh pit borders on blasphemy. The screaming is part of this form of “music” (if that’s what it can be called), and not a display of righteous indignation. Indeed, the trivialization and mockery of the Christian message that occurs during these concerts is, ironically enough, of the same cloth as the offense that occasioned our Lord’s anger in that episode.

Defense #3: The behavior depicted by these “musicians” is simply a way to communicate to a culture who understands that genre of music. After all, Paul became all things to all men; so why shouldn’t we adopt those forms of music and the accompanying behavior to get the Christian message to the lost?

Response: When Paul “became a Jew to the Jews and a Gentile to the Gentiles,” it is rather doubtful he adopted cultural expressions that were in conflict with principles he himself insisted elsewhere we follow as a course of life that is pleasing to God. Indeed, he specifically commands us not to adopt or continue in unbiblical practices of the pagans, who are in darkness (Eph 4:17-20), but to walk in a manner worthy of our high calling (Eph 4:1-2). When he commands us to “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth” (Eph 4:29), he makes no exception for “cultural expression” or “contextualization.”

Defense #4: Many have been saved/blessed by this music.

Response: I confess, I’m at a loss to know why this would be viewed as a good argument by someone of the Reformed perspective. The chief end of man is not evangelism, or blessing, or edification—it is the glorification of God. As Samuel said to Saul, who thought he was doing a good thing by sparing the best of the plundered animals, “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry” (1 Sam 15:22-23). The ends never justify the means. We don’t get to decide that something is good just because it gets good results. There are many who say they have been blessed by sitting under the teaching of a female pastor—something completely at odds with New Testament teaching; but hey, someone was “blessed” by it, so it must be good, right? Such rationale comes from an Arminian perspective—one that views evangelism as the highest good; not a Reformed (nay, biblical) perspective—one that views God’s glory as the highest good.

Our job as Christian leaders—and that is what youth pastors who have been entrusted with the care and nurturing of our youth are supposed to be (such as the young man I spoke with) —is not to make “better punks” of our youth. It is rather to create an environment in which our youth can pass from childhood (and all its rebelliousness and worldliness) to responsible and God-honoring adulthood. That is arguably the primary reason this music fails to qualify as “Christian” music. It promotes a “punk” culture rather than one that is biblically grounded and Christ-centered.

In the next installment I want to focus on a particular “youth pastor” (not the one in the discussion above) who promotes this sort of culture and as a result has done much damage not only to the youth of the church where he is employed, but also to the theology of that church.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

There He Goes Again

Just days after Mike Huckabee was on the hot seat for having the unmitigated audacity to suggest that Mormons might believe Lucifer is the sibling of Jesus (which they most certainly do, by the way), he is back on it for having the audacity to wish people a Merry Christmas and to let people know he believes in Jesus Christ.

Imagine that. A Christian minister actually mentioning the "C" word, and that somehow becomes a controvery.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Mailbag

We get our share of hate mail at NTRMin, so it's always encouraging to get email like this one:

Dr. Svendsen, I have just one word concerning your book Evangelical Answers....BRILLIANT!!! Ok, two words... Absolutely Brilliant...! Being a fairly new guy in discussion and debate with Roman Catholics on primarily U-Tube, I have most certainly been asked these very questions multiple times, usually when the RC gets tripped up and must resort to a traditional interpetation of Scripture, they generally throw out a red herring, in the form of questions you have covered in your book. I would like to thank-you brother, for helping me do theology, so I dont hurt myself..! lol. May the Lord of Glory continue to bless your ministry, and keep you razor sharp in all discernment, In His Service, Bill. Thank-you again!!!

The follow-up to Evangelical Answers is Upon This Slippery Rock, which examines and debunks the epistemological underpinnings of the roman catholic "authority" argument.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Yo, Get Crunk and Reprasent!!!

Is There Really Such a Thing as Christian Rap?

Last week, through various circumstances, I found myself in conversation with someone who turns out to be a brother in the Lord and a youth pastor at an evangelical church. After he mentioned he would be playing in a Christian concert that evening the topic of conversation quickly turned to various styles of so-called Christian music on the scene today, most of which he enjoys listening to. I've always been skeptical of the contemporary Christian music industry because I have found the majority of it to be mindless drivel (embarrassingly "bubblegummy" drivel) that is theologically inept at best and blatantly heretical at worst. In the early 1980s, I remember having heard the lyrics of one song (can't even remember who sang it) that included the phrase "Jesus laid down his deity" (his interpretation of the kenosis in Philippians 2, no doubt).

More recently the introduction of new genres of "Christian music," notably hiphop/rap and "hardcore Christian rock" (which was described to me by the youth pastor as consisting mostly of screaming), have brought with them a certain amount of baggage from the world that I contend make them decidely anti-Christian in nature. Before I elaborate on that, however, it may give the reader a reference point to view the following videos. The first two are by "Christian rap artists" (the only word in that phrase that doesn't require a quotation mark is rap). The last two are from "Christian hardcore artists" (same comment applies to hardcore):

Now, my criticism of earlier forms of contemporary Christian music had to do with the questionable lyrics, and not so much the music per se. A different type of critique must apply to the videos above because, quite frankly, I can't make out what the lyrics are saying. Nor is knowing the lyrics even required in this critique. Each video above may be doing nothing more than quoting Scripture, and they would still be wrong. Why do I say this?

In my conversation with the youth pastor mentioned above, I initially asked him to convince me why I should accept the notion that these genres of music deserve the label of "Christian." When he asked for clarification I pointed out that the behavior these groups exhibit is antithetical to the fruits of the Spirit. They exhibit an "in your face" arrogance, haughtiness, rebellion, rage, anger, loudness, boisterousness, and a lack of self control. The Scriptures commend to us "peaceful and quiet lives" (1 Tim 2:2; 1 Thess 4:11), and warn us against haughtiness, pride, arrogance, anger, rage and the like: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice" (Eph 4:31). We are to be "self-controlled" (Titus 2:2; particularly relevant for "young men" according to 2:6, and the very quality conspicuosly absent in the "hardcore" videos), "dignified" and "worthy of respect" (obnoxiously demanding respect is not the same thing).

Now, I mentioned above that the lyrics don't really matter given the behavior is so bad. But just in case someone is under the impression that the lyrics themselves are innocuous, here is a sample from a
nother purported "Christian Rapper" named T-Bone. Apparently he is well loved by his many fans who swear they are "blessed" by his music. Here's a sample of this great blessing:

so in this next line Mayhem bout to get for real
half a y'all is wack, no lyrical talent, you pretenders
you're wrong about the Organized Rhyme representers
the other half approach if you wish to persist in my rage
you cease to exist when I enter the stage
I'm invincible, you invisible, break you down to pure minibles
now you miserable, destroy you with no intervals
in my mind I see a lyrical beam on your head
when its time to go to the battle zone all I see is red
cause you in danger, when I come through whos stoppin me ?
A kamikaze Mobb a Deep-er, than Havoc or Prodigy, uh
well it be my turn to bust, so watch out, you know the deal
I cut MCs like Zorro, leavin faces scarred up like Seal
really tho, so peep the voice, I be the B O N E
wit the crew who hold more championships than Wayne Gretzky
(cause we be) the Organized Rhyme bambinos
bustin more rhymes than tech 9s held by Al Pachino
so watch out, we comin full force with dope production
And these lyrics so phat, sometimes I need lyposuctions
huh, I'm in the house like a kitchen, flippin lyrics sweet like honey
And I got mo raps than the mummy
steady killin the demons everyday like Chunghatti
until the day God gone beam me up like Scotty
(oh yeah) did I forget to mention
that I be keepin MCs locked up like Shawshank Redemption
huh, its just a gift, now I be passin the microphone
back to my cousin who used to sling more keys than a lock smith, ahh

As best as I can make out, the above lyrics were apparently written in response to some fellow rappers who are rivals of "T-bone" and his "homies," the Organized Rhyme Crew (you remember them; they are the ones who "lay more chicks than Mother Goose"). Once again, a lot of bitterness, rage, anger, self glorification, vengeance, violence, pride, arrogance and haughtiness; but very little by way of the fruit of the Spirit.

Next installment, we'll examine the arguments of the defenders of this kind of "music," and take a look at specific examples of "youth pastors" who not only allow this in the church, but openly promote this garbage to our youth as an acceptable form of Christian worship.