Friday, October 29, 2004

Roman Catholic Speaker Fees and the Didache

A recent commenter on this blog (JAM) raised a good point with regard to the atronomical speaker fees that RC apologists charge for a one-hour prepared speech. He pointed out how this practice is so at odds with the Didache, an early 2nd-century document that purports to record the "teaching" of the twelve. I had forgotten about the Didache when I originally posted this topic, but was immediately reminded of it with JAM's reference. Here is the difference between the "speaker fee" mindset of the RC apologists (along with the silly defenses of their supporters) and the mindset of the ancient church:

The Didache V. RC Apologists

If the defenders of such practices want to argue with me, let them also argue with the ancient church.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Phoenix Rises

Dave Armstrong (as I predicted) has responded to my last blog entry. There's really no need to respond to him again, since it is more than obvious he is attempting to defend an indefensible practice by citing all sorts of outlandishly extreme "exceptions" in an attempt to show how "reasonable" it is to charge $1800 an hour to deliver a prepared speech to poor Catholic peasants in Ruraltown USA. I wonder how Francis of Assissi or the monastics would have judged the "soundness" of Armstrong's reasoning on this?

In any case, a Roman Catholic named Patrick offers a sober perspective on this in the comments section--a perspective that I think is spot on. Just copy and paste the following URL into your browser address bar (I can't seem to get it to link without a blog ID):

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

And so it begins . . .

The words of Matthew Schultz in response to Dave Armstrong's comment on yesterday's blog entry could not be profounder (is that a word?). When Dave Armstrong enters the fray, one thing is certain--there will be no shortage of words. No hard drive on earth is big enough to store the trillions of loosely-strung-together words that Dave Armstrong could write about any issue one cares to raise. "Dave's got words!" No doubt about it. And he will string together as many words as it takes to wear down his opponent. Then, just when his opponent is certain he can't type one more character from his keyboard-blistered fingers and his midnight-fatigued, bleary-eyed soul, Dave rises like a phoenix at 1am, strings together fifty-three pages of words, posts them on his blog as his "final" response, and waves his fists in victory for the Roman Catholic cause.

We at Real Clear Theology have a slightly different approach. We recognize that people like Dave Armstrong might need some help with theology. Hence, our blog motto: "We do theology for you . . . so you don't hurt yourself." However, we also recognize that some people just want to hurt themselves. And so we'll try to straighten them out once; but if they ignore it, there's not a lot more we can do. And so, just to be very clear, I will give one correction/clarification and one correction/clarification only to the Dave Armstrongs of the world. Here goes:

When I saw the comment from Dave Armstrong in my email this morning, I never would have guessed he was responding to yesterday's blog entry. I didn't have him in mind there at all. I thought he was responding instead to this blog entry, and in particular, to this point:

INCOMPETENCE! (This one is especially applicable to a certain Roman Catholic epologist that many of us know :)

Here's what I had in mind for yesterday's blog entry (Link). In addition to travel expenses, the speaker fees for each apologist speaker is listed along with his bio in the link menu to the left of the linked page, but those speaker fees range from $800 to $1800 for a one-hour talk (most of the speakers charge about $1200 for the first talk). If you want them to talk for a second hour that same day, there will be an additional fee of $700 to $900 for each additional hour-long talk. I can't emphasize enough, this is in addition to traveling expenses.

When Dave Armstrong comes to the defense of such things by claiming that 2 Cor 2:17 doesn't apply in these cases since they aren't presenting the "gospel" (a statement with which I couldn't agree more, but probably for different reasons than Dave has in mind), he fails to take into account that they are presenting essential Roman Catholic beliefs (eucharist, papacy, Mary, etc.). Further, when Paul uses the word "gospel," he often means the entire apostolic deposit, not just instructions on how to be saved. The Corinthians already knew that much. What is in mind in 2 Corinthians 2 is the entire gamut of teaching regarding the "good news" about Christ. Hence, Dave Armstrong's defense amounts to so many words.

Next Dave Armstrong thinks there is no difference between a church financially supporting the work of the apostolic ministry in proclaiming the gospel ("those who preach the gospel should get their living by the gospel"; 1 Cor 9), and charging a speaker's fee, and withholding that "gospel" until they pay up! And, just to be clear, the phrase in 1 Cor 9 has to do with providing the necessities of life for an "apostle"--lit., "one who is sent"--someone who traveled a lot and could not therefore hold down a normal job; it's not about charging an astronomical speaker's fee!

Dave then compares the "honorarium" of an RC apologist with the pay of an actor or an athlete or a rock star, and asks whether the former are worthy of more since the work they do is more important. But this is exactly the situation Paul is addressing. Itinerate "preachers" of all religions used to wander the cities and countrysides of the Roman empire, evangelizing and making converts to their false religion--and they charged their listeners a speaker's fee for it (John alludes to this practice in 3 John). Paul could not have said "unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit" if the same charge could have been leveled against one of the other apostles: "Yeah? Well, Peter does."

If the members of a local church decide they want to honor their pastor or another speaker, they are right to do so--men who labor in the word are deserving of it, and I have always advocated that practice to the churches of other pastors and teachers. But a pastor does not determine his own salary--that's the decision of the elders, or the deacons, or the congregation (depending on the polity of the church). And I know of no pastor who would "charge" a speaker's fee--let alone one that is $1200 per hour! And I know of no traveling Evangelical evangelist who would do that either. And if they do, I will just as vehemently disagree with that practice--in fact, more so, since they bear the true gospel.

Now, let's talk about the "perks" Dave Armstrong thinks I get as an apologist. I'm supposed to be "independently wealthy" (I wish my accountant was aware of that so he'd quit bothering me about how I plan to pay the bills). Dave Armstrong apparently thinks that if a business generates $200,000 a year (his words), that means the business owner must have $200,000 at his disposal. I'm not going to go into long explanations about the money that is dedicated to paying corporate taxes, employee wages, FICA, paroll taxes, unemployment insurance, medical benefits, necessary business expenditures, marketing and sales efforts, office equipment, office supplies, the building lease, etc., and how all of those things typically outweigh the income. I'm just going to point out the obvious--Dave Armstrong knows nothing about owning a business.

As for the cruise; I'm not on the cruise, mainly because I can't afford it--it's not included in the huge "speaker's fee" I'm charging for my conference presenation (I believe when I last checked, that speaker's fee was still zero). I am not complaining about that, because I know the venue is not free just because it's a Christian cruise. I think it's a wonderful way for Christians to spend their vacations together if that's what they choose to do and they can afford it. Furthermore, there is a nominal fee--a nominal fee--to attend the conference and debate ($38.00 I believe), that is completely waived for those who are staying at the hotel where the conference and debate are being held. Hotel ballrooms are not cheap--especially in Los Angeles (I am a professional seminar and conference speaker in my business industry, so I know this first-hand), and charging a nominal fee to cover the cost of venue is reasonable and fair. This is not what these RC apologists are doing. They are not paying for the venue to speak. Their speaking fee is in addition to any travel or venue expenses. To compare the two is worse than comparing apples to oranges.

We fund the NTRMin ministry from contributions that my business makes to it (which is why I have the business in the first place), and from contributions made by generous donors who see value in what we do. All books are free of charge if someone requests it and or can't afford them (there used to be a disclaimer to that effect on the old shopping cart--with the adoption of the new shopping cart, that disclaimer got lost in transition--it is valid nevertheless). In fact, we have lost money on books, because we sell them practically at cost, if not at cost, and we give more away than we sell.

Ok; that's Real Clear Theology for Dave Armstrong. He won't listen to it, of course, because Dave Armstrong isn't a listener--he's a talker. But a bunch of loosely-strung words do not a coherent thought make. And Dave Armstrong is certainly not one to be outdone in the number of words one can post on a blog. And so, while "and so it begins" may be an appropriate way to characterize Dave Armstrong's response to my blog entry, "it ends here" is a much more appropriate phrase to characterize my response back.

Perhaps I should close off the blog to members only. Then I could charge each member $1200 for the intial blog entry of the day, and an additional $800 per each subsequent blogentry that same day. Hmm . . . my own pet rock.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Of pet rocks, the Chicago Bulls, and Roman Catholic epologists

The man who invented the pet rock made a bundle. You take a rock, apply some cosmetic touches, put it in a box, and sell it for a few dollars (price point is very important), and you’ve got yourself a money-making product—so long as you had the foresight to apply for a patent.

Words and phrases are the same way. When Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to their first NBA championship in 1991, someone had the foresight to anticipate that Jordan might be able to accomplish that feat a few more times. Mindful of the fact that it would be nothing for the Bulls to win a “Repeat” the following season, and in anticipation of three Bulls championship wins in a row, this man coined and patented the phrase “Threepeat.” When the Bulls did indeed win their third championship in a row, he sold the rights to that word to some marketing company, and the rest is T-shirt history.

Here’s a little known bit of trivia that I have mentioned from time to time on the NTRMin Discussion Forum, though I get the distinct impression everyone there thinks I’m only joking when I say it. The words “epologist/epologetics” and all their variations (e-pologist/e-pologetics) first occurred on my website many years ago. Don’t ask me the year; I don’t remember. It may have been 1997, but that’s just a guess. If you want to know where those words came from, look no further. I am the source. I coined them. And now it appears I should have patented them when I had the chance.

The words first appeared when I was making mention of certain Roman Catholic apologists who did apologetics solely or primarily online. At first, readers thought I had committed a spelling error and wrote me repeatedly to point it out. Then I was quoted on some Roman Catholic discussion forum, and one of the members there began mocking my use of the word (“what is an ‘epologist’ anyway?”)—he chose that, I suppose, because he was having a difficult time answering my arguments. Greg Krehbiel (who, as I recall, had just recently converted from Lutheranism to Roman Catholicism) responded by saying he liked the term.

From there, Roman Catholic epologists everywhere began using the words with regularity, even creating their own “Epologetics” sections of their websites. There are now more Roman Catholic references to epologetics than Evangelical ones. I didn’t mind, at first. But then I began noticing how much money Roman Catholic apologists actually charge to speak somewhere for a few hours—it’s in the thousands. I always speak for free. If the church wants to take an offering to help support my ministry, I certainly won’t object. But I was always under the impression that the gospel should be offered free of charge—and, in fact, that is just how Paul differentiated himself from the false teachers of his day: “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God” (2 Cor 2:17).

Still, there’s apparently big money to be made from Roman Catholic epologists. I guess I should have patented “epologetics” when I had the chance.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Convenience Christianity

Yesterday I entered my SS classroom to continue my series on the letters of John. As I entered I noticed that three of the participants (a married couple and a widowed mutual friend) were absent--again. They were absent not only from my SS class, but from church as well--again. These were the same people who virtually begged me to start the class in the first place. They were the ones who talked me out of taking a hiatus from teaching a class after the previous study was finished.

As I've already intimated, this was not the first time they decided not to show up with no notice. In fact, this is their pattern. They attend for two or three weeks in a row, then they fail to show up for two or three weeks in a row. This pattern has been true of them since they started attended my Bible studies several years ago, but has gotten progressively worse. To them, church and Bible study is a wonderful place to go on Sunday mornings--and they "just get soooo much out of the study" (their words)--so long as there isn't "something better to do" (not their words, but clearly their sentiment). Over the years I have made a special point of teaching them the significance of meeting together as a church, of getting involved with the ministry of the church, and of viewing the church not as something that serves them but as something to be served. When I taught through Hebrews, I hit especially hard on chapter 11, which contains some of the most inspiring examples of shunning the world and dedicating one's life completely to Christ and his kingdom:

[Some] were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated--the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
I have taken them through a study of Philippians--no clearer example of the kingdom-based mindset of a spiritually mature Christian, in which I am in this world only at the good pleasure of Christ and the sole purpose of my life is to be used up and disposed of by Christ as he sees fit, exists in the entire New Testament. I have taken the time to read to them the words and the actions of persecuted Christians from the annuls of history, in the pages of the apostolic fathers and Foxe's Book of Martyrs. I have shared with them news of persecuted Christians in the underground church of China and elsewhere, where Christians are regularly beaten, imprisoned and/or killed for simply meeting together . . .

. . . all of which were beautiful words to them; words they will never take to heart. Why? Because, sadly, they are products of "Convenience Christianity."

I have even connected the dots for them and have asked rhetorically how comparatively shallow "our" Christianity is when we decide not to meet together with the church because "it's such a nice day out, and I thought how wonderful it would be to go horseback riding," or "we spontaneously decided just to go for a drive," or "well, we promised our unbelieving aquaintances that we would help them with a secular community benefit that they decided to put on right smack dab in the middle of when we would otherwise be attending church," or "It's Mother's Day, and of course instead of offering to take mom to church with us to show her how committed we are to our church, how committed we are to meeting with the body of Christ, and how committed we are to Christ and his cause in this world, we have decided that the only way we can honor her properly is to take her to breakfast (no other meal honors a mother so much as breakfast, after all), and doggone it, we must have breakfast right at the time the church meets together--which is not our fault, mind you; it's the fault of society, who decided breakfast should happen right in the middle of the time we should be meeting with the saints to honor the Lord of the universe and to meet with his bride."

Upon hearing all this, they look at me blankly: "We just looooved the study today. It was soooo powerful. Oh, by the way, we won't be here next week. We're having hay delivered for our horses right at the time church starts."

Well, at least they gave me some notice that time. Usually, I find out they won't be there only after I get there--you know, after I have arisen at 4am (as I do everyday) to study for the next several hours and to put together the Scripture passages from which I have planned to teach that morning.

Too many Christians too easily decide not to attend a local church, or to attend sporadically, or hop from church to church looking for what they can "get out of it" rather than what they can put into it. They look for a church that can "meet their needs" rather than a church they can serve best. Worst of all, there is no shortage of churches out there that encourage that self-absorbed mindset. They want to become "relevant" to lazy-minded, self-willed Christians who are the product of the instantly gratifying fast-food industry rather than the apostolic deposit. I have in the past called this "Christianity lite--it's less filling and it tastes great!"

Meanwhile . . .

On the same day when three Chinese Christians were sentenced to jail terms of between one and three years in the Zhejiang Province (See Chinese Court Jails Three Christians), more than 100 house church leaders were arrested in Kaifeng City, Henan Province on 6th August. More than a hundred house church leaders were beginning a two week retreat, held at the home of MrsXiang Zi, the wife of one of the retreat organisers. Suddenly more than 200 military police, Public Security Bureau (PSB) and other officers surrounded the venue, without providing any arrest warrants or official identification papers. Mrs Xiang Zi was arrested along with their three children, aged between eight and eleven years. . . . This is the most recent in a series of mass arrests of unregistered Protestant Christians in China and is yet further proof of the increased crackdown on the house churches. The last time such an incident occurred was when more than 100 house church leaders were arrested one month ago in Xinjiang Autonomous Region. >>More

Convenience Christianity is exceedingly draining on those of us who have committed our lives to the spiritual wellbeing of the church, because we put so much into it only to see this kind of result. There have been many times which, out of sheer frustration, I have just wanted to call it quits. And I often wonder whether men like Paul experienced much the same frustration with that kind of mindset in his own day. The frequent frustration levels that I detect in his writings indicate he may have. But he never quite reached the point where he forgot that God is faithful.

There's nothing you can do about Convenience Christians--take my word for it, I've tried everything. But here's some consolation in the midst of the frustration:

"God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them." (Heb 6:10).

Friday, October 22, 2004

Your gospel doesn't smell bad enough

There is a Mormon who attends one of my Bible studies, and has been attending faithfully for the past several years. At one point before he joined with us, he was given the impression by a pastor that he was saved. Why? For several reasons, actually. First, he mouthed the words, prayed the prayer, and responded to the altar call. The pastor of the church he was attending placed the gospel in cute little cliché formulas--the "2-6-2; care-dare-share, 1-2-3; a-b- c; say the magic words, and you're in" gospel. That church, incidentally, placed more emphasis, expended more effort, and spent more time on drama ministries, skits, and "relevant messages" than on proclaiming the gospel. When in the rare instance the gospel was proclaimed, the necessity of acknowledging one's rebellion was never part of it. As long as you uttered the magical words, you were a "Christian." No need for a life change or a commitment to follow Christ.

Once this Mormon man (who is nearing 70) and his wife (who is indeed a Christian) began meeting with us, one of my first tasks was to tell him the truth. So we asked them to dinner. When I asked him why he thought he could be a Christian and a Mormon at the same time, he responded by saying he had sat down with the pastor of the aforementioned church, and discussed his Mormonism with him; but at the end of the discussion, he could see no clear difference between Mormons and Christians--he went away thinking that Mormonism was just another Christian denomination.

I spent the rest of the evening explaining the differences, asking about his current beliefs about the Trinity, progressive deification, the differences between the levitical priesthood and the Aaronic priesthood, the role of good works in salvation, etc.; just as I had suspected, he was a thoroughgoing Mormon. And so I showed him from Scripture why his beliefs were in error and why is is not a Christian after all. I also told him that unless he abandons those beliefs and turns to Christ alon, he will die in his sins and spend eternity in the lake of fire.

As expected, he was angry. He was angry because he had been offended--something his previous pastor had never accomplished with his "gospel formula." At the end of it, I fully expected him to leave and never come back. Strangely, that didn't happen. Instead, he kept coming back, week after week, to hear me teach through Hebrews, Ephesians, Philippians, Christian theology (we took apart our statement of faith, point by point), and some other miscellaneous teachings. Each week he would come back, sit through the study, ask challenging questions, sigh heavily and groan when I said something he didn't particularly like, and come back the following week to do it all over again. I didn't (and won't) revise my teachings so as not to offend him. I stayed with the plain reading of the text, calling attention to things that should be obvious were it not for spiritual blindness.

This man still has one foot in Mormonism and one foot in our Bible study. I don't know whether he will ever be converted--but that does not stop me from putting the truth before his eyes at every chance. I have grown to love him and his wife, and I certainly do not want to see him perish without Christ. However, I also fully understand that I have nothing to do with his conversion. Only Christ can remove his spiritual blindness.

I also realize that with his every rejection of truth--with each new heavy sigh he expresses in disdainful reaction to some new point I make regarding his false belief--his condemnation increases. Even if I somehow knew he will never repent, I am no less obligated to proclaim the truth to him. The gospel is not only about salvation; it is equally about condemnation. In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul says something extremely enlightening:
15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.
My job as a minister of the gospel is twofold. On the one hand, it is to be the aroma of life to those who respond to the truth. On the other hand, it is to be the stench of death to those who reject--and continue to reject--the gospel. My job is to be faithful to both aspects of the gospel. The pastor (mentioned above) carried out the first part of his commission, but not the second. And because he refused to engage in the second part, he misled someone who is not a Christian into thinking he was--and the Mormon was not the first person he had misled into that thinking.

Thankfully, the Mormon man now understands there is a vast difference between Mormonism and Christianity. Hopefully, one day he will act on that knowledge. Spiritual blindness is an already impossible obstacle for an unbeliever to overcome. We certainly don't need to complicate things by misleading them into believing they are ok when they are not.

What "motivates" me to smirk

I'm a critical thinker. That is actually a helpful quality to have when doing theology, exegesis and apologetics. It's the thing that allows me to see through the veneer of an argument and spot the weaknesses rather quickly.

However, critical thinkers can easily become cynical thinkers if they’re not careful. They can seem overly argumentative in a conversation, overly challenging in a classroom situation (these are some of the worst students a teacher or professor can have if you don’t know how to handle them), and they can start to see nothing but what's wrong all the time. I'm an oddity in that regard since I fall the other way. I'm actually an extremely optimistic person--almost to a fault. I never worry about anything, and I always believe that God will "work things out" in any sticky situation.

One unifying characteristic of critical thinkers is that they usually have a wry sense of humor. That is certainly true of me—which is why people sometimes don’t get my subtle jokes, or are surprised that I would actually engage in a joke. Everyone enjoys humor; it’s just a matter of what kind of humor.

One of my favorite sources of humor is poking fun at nauseatingly trite clichés. I’m certain you’ve seen the Wayne Dyer-inspired, Amway-perpetuated motivational posters, such as:





Or, my personal favorite . . .


. . . with the kitten clinging by his front paws on a horizontal pole. Each motivational poster is accompanied by some “inspirational” graphic, such as a runner at the starting block (DETERMINATION!), a runner crossing the finish line (SUCCESS!), a man climbing a mountain (PERSISTENCE!), or some other such scene.

Motivational gimmicks like that cause a critical thinker like me--ok, a cynical person--to roll his eyes and ask the obvious question; If someone is actually able to manipulate you into being motivated by a poster of a kitten on a pole, how deep can that motivation really be?

That’s why I appreciate humor, satire and parody that exposes such shallowness. Here are some of my personal favorites that spoof the motivation industry:















INCOMPETENCE! (This one is especially applicable to a certain Roman Catholic epologist that many of us know :)

MOTIVATION! (This one, I think, says it all)

Now, it you don't think these are humorous, you're probably not a critical thinker : )

Anyway, you can see the entire collection at

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Just one more "fluff" item for the day

Jason1646, who is a member of the NTRMin Discussion Forum, has commented that I look a little like Mike Timlin of the Boston Red Sox. Since I don't follow baseball, I decided to Google that claim.

Although, I'd normally be flattered that I remind someone of a famous athlete, I'm not convinced Mike Timlin is my double. : /

Theology aside for the moment--Election 2004

I voted yesterday.

I'm one of those people who travels quite a bit and isn't always around to vote in the local elections in November; so, I'm an absentee voter. It's actually very easy to become an absentee voter--in fact, every voting season they send me a pre-completed application postcard that I simply sign and send in, as well as a second one for anyone else I think may need it. Then they send me a ballot which I simply complete and mail. Having done it this way for the past two elections, I'm not sure why anyone waits in line in November anymore.

Someone sent me some election-time humor that I thought was rather humorous. I'm always wary of providing a link to a secular "humor" website because I never know what else might be on it. I took a brief perusal through this one and didn't see anything too offensive. Nevertheless, the reader is cautioned to exercise due discernment if he decides to go beyond the following link:

Political Bohemian Rhapsody

Also, here are some pics that were sent to me that I found humorous:

Pic 1
Pic 2
Pic 3

I won't be getting into politics very often on this blog because, frankly, I'm not that political. But I don't mind a little political humor now and then. : )

Link to eBook

I received a nice note this morning from Marie at the #prosapologian chat room letting me know (among other things) that the link to my ebook in yesterday's blog entry isn't working. The link is actually to the NTRMin bookstore, and may or may not work depending on whether you've visited the bookstore recently or whether you have cookies enabled in your web browser. So there's no confusion, the ebook can be ordered by going to the main site ( and clicking the "NTRMin Store" link in the menu at the left. From there, just scroll down till you get to Walking in the Truth (that's the name of my commentary on the letters of John).

Marie also indicated that many at #prosapologian are excited about my blog, and that I should add a link to #prosapologian on the "found us where?" field of our website contact form. Thanks for the suggestion, Marie--it has been added : )

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

It's a Harley thing . . . you probably wouldn't understand

I'm currently teaching a Bible study at my church on the letters of John. I've taught those books many times, and have even written a commentary on them (available as an ebook here). Last Sunday a visitor attended the study, a woman dressed in Harley Davidson regalia. I happened to be walking behind as the pastor's wife (who is also a member of my class) was escorting the visitor to my classroom, and I overheard the woman say that she and her fiancé were just "shopping around" to see if they could find a church that meets their needs. I momentarily shrugged that comment off.

We started the study five minutes later, and she introduced herself as a "minister" of some Christian Harley riders group--"Bikers for Christ," or something like that. I shrugged it off again. We were in 1 John 3:1-10, and right around v. 9-10:
No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
I offered a comment on what I thought was the plain reading of the passage:

If someone who claims to be a Christian, but has abandoned obedience to Christ and submission to his word and, like the Gnostics of John's day, lives a life of gross immorality, contrary to the teachings of Christ, we must reject that person's claim. Just as each of us invariably and ultimately bears physical resemblance to our parents due to things like DNA and genes, so also a true child of God will bear spiritual resemblance to God because he has been "born of God" and his spiritual DNA (his "seed") "abides in him." It doesn't matter whether this person claims to be a Christian, is involved in the church, or even has his own ministry--if he is indifferent to Christ's claim over his life and his call to obedience, that person is simply self deceived.

. . . and the sparks from the visitor began to fly.

How can you say such things?! Why, I know many Christians who are in that category. You can't judge anyone's heart! I know they are true Christians because they're involved in my ministry to Bikers. What right do you have to lay down legalistic rules for anyone? What about the Christian who makes a habit of driving a few miles over the speed limit? Is his claim to be a Christian false too? No sin is greater than another; therefore if someone can speed and still be considered a Christian, then someone can live in immorality and still be considered a Christian.

A more blatant display of contentiousness I had not seen. Ok; that's an exaggeration. Being in apologetics, I've had my fill of witnessing contentious moments. Nevertheless, I was taken aback that a visitor would actually voice such a strong opinion on her first sitting rather than sit back, listen and see if she could actually learn something. It didn't surprise me at all that this particular woman would have many "Christian" friends like this, and that she would view moral obedience to Christ as some form of "legalism." After all, she still "loved the world" (1 John 2:15); in this case, the whole Harley-rider "freedom" mentality--yeah, I know, it's a Harley thing; I wouldn't understand.

Let me be clear. I'm not saying if you own and ride a Harley Davidson you are in sin. But this woman had still not separated herself from what that whole lifestyle represents. She still attended biker parties, concerts, and gang meetings. In fact, it came to light during the study that she was living with her fiancé. Worse, she thought all this was ok since she was "ministering" to bikers. After all, her lifestyle seemed rather chaste when compared to that of her associates.

"Bad company corrupts good character." When your standard of moral norms is the biker culture, then of course you are going to be deluded into thinking you must be ok, because just look how much higher your moral standards are than those around you.

It's always instructive to me to watch someone who is looking for loopholes to obedience, and ways we don't have to obey, rather than looking for ways to please Christ. That tells me a lot about that person. John's letters contain some of the clearest, hardest hitting statements in all the NT writings against those who are indifferent to obeying Christ. Christianity is not a claim to stake or a right to assert--it's a way of life. One who refuses to leave the world--because s/he in fact loves the world--is not a Christian

I had to point out to this woman that this is John's "legalism," not mine. I pointed out to her that Jesus himself warned that many will come to Him in that day saying "Lord, Lord," and they will claim to have performed all kinds of religious deeds while on this earth--in fact, some of them will have had "ministries." Yet, Jesus will answer them, "Depart from me you evildoers, I never knew you." The basis upon which Jesus rejects these people who, after all, otherwise appear to be "Christians" is that they are "evildoers." I pointed out that this is Jesus' "legalism," not mine. She was clearly not comfortable with that teaching.

I'm quite certain this woman will continue her "church shopping" until she finds one that won't "judge" her and her friends so harshly. I certainly don't expect her to return to my class next Sunday. After all, it's an obedience thing . . . she probably wouldn't understand.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Welcome to Real Clear Theology

Yeah, I know. The name of the blog is a shameless take off of RealClear Politics. Why did I choose the name? Because I like it, it's to the point, it says just what I want it to say, and I'm too lazy to think up another name. I'll continue to use it until RealClear Politics asks me to change it.

And why the forum? After all, I already run the NTRMin discussion forum. I'm not sure why exactly. Perhaps I see this forum as a venue for airing my opinions in a less structured, more random way. There's something to be said about just writing without having to worry about addressing every potential objection or answering endless rebuttals (yes, I realize there is a comments section here as well; it's still different somehow). I think the main reason for the blog is that the discussion forum is focused on Roman Catholicism and other apologetic issues. I think there is great value in that discussion--which is why I started the forum and continue to maintain it; but my interests of late have grown in other directions.

In any case, I'll be adding my thoughts daily--at least that's the plan for now. The focus of the blog, as the name suggests, will be on theological and biblical issues, and not so much on apologetics. My first love is exegesis and theology, and that's what I'm returning to with this venue.

Until tomorrow