Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Aliens and Strangers on Earth

Listen to the mindset of the Apostle:

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have
sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body,
whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is
gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.
Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to
depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for
you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and
I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that
through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on
account of me. Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the
gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in
my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man
for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who
oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you
will be saved-- and that by God. (Phil 1:20-28).

Paul saw himself merely as a vessel to be used up and disposed of in this world at the good pleasure of Christ. For him, "to live is Christ and to die gain." He rejected the notion that he should focus his energy and efforts on creating some kind of "Christian Society." Rather, his singular concern for himself was to be found faithful in defending and confirming the gospel (Phil 1:7); and his singular concern for his churches was that they "stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel."

He understood well that those who pin their hopes on the redeeming potential of this world have their minds set "on earthly things." He understood full well that, as Christians, we are to "set [our] minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God" (Col 3:2-3). This mindset is diametrically opposed to those who pin their hopes on eartly kingdoms--because we are not citizens of this earth; "our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil 3:19-20). As a result, Paul's mindset was one of viewing this world as a temporary condition:

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18)

While we are here, we act and behave as those who view the rest of the world as a dark place through which we are passing to which we bear the light of the gospel:

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless
and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in
which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life
(Phil 2:14-16).

Yet we never quite make our home here. Instead we follow the example of those who went before us:

By faith [Abraham] made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a
foreign country
; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with
him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with
foundations, whose architect and builder is God. . . . All these people were
still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised;
they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that
they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that
they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the
country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they
were longing for a better country-- a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed
to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Heb 11:9-16).

Sometimes that looks like "too heavenly minded; no earthly good":

Others were tortured and refused to be released [sound like that Baptist martyrdom complex], 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. (Heb 11:35-38).

It doesn't sound like these men were trying to build a "Christian Society"-- a kingdom of God on earth. Those who view the world through the lens of the NT writers tend to see things in contrasts between categories of good and evil, including the antipathy between the church and the world--earthly kingdoms and heavenly ones:

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the
control of the evil one. (1 John 5:19).

The entire world of man is divided into two categories and only two categories: Those who are of God and those who are of the wicked one. And all who have this mindset begin to see this life as a time and place to hold out the gospel as a light to those in darkness; and they, like Jude, sense an urgency over things like defending the purity of the gospel and battling against those who would distort it. Why? Because, as Paul so firmly believed, a distortion of the gospel does not--cannot--save. The gospel is about rescuing those in darkness from that darkness, and with us to be "trasferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of his beloved Son" (Col 1:13).

"Jesus, we've taken the liberty of creating a 'Christian Society' for you!"

"My kingdom is not of this world. . . . My kingdom is from another place."

"Jesus, shall we prepare a kingdom for you?"

"In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."

There are different ways to bring the world into the church. On one upswing of the pendulum is the modern Evangelical emphasis on introducing worldly concepts into the church, such as marketing gimmicks and "relevant" sermons" that focus more on corporate-seminar principles than the Word of God. On the opposite upswing of the pendulum are those who think the church's mission is to infiltrate the government, and to work with earthly kingdoms in legislating improvements to society, and in that way to prepare the kingdom of God for the return of Christ. But a
liens and strangers are not looking for ways to improve the usefulness of darkness. Rather, like the NT writers before them, they shun it and they recognize in it no redeeming quality.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Jude Webinar is underway . . .

. . . and the first study is under our belt. There were several who made it into the web conference, and several others who, having trouble getting logged on, simply joined us by phone. I was able to record the webinar using Windows Media Player (both the web portion and the phone conversation), but the file ended up being about 500MB--I've got space on my video server, but I'm not sure I have enough space to post more than one session. I'm still mulling over what to do with the recorded sessions--perhaps these are candidates for CD or DVD. If you had trouble accessing the webinar and didn't end up joining us by phone, please let us know and we'll try to get it straightened out before next weekend.

In any event, I think it went rather well, technical difficulties excepting (some of the participants could not receive the video signal). The ongoing discussion on the meaning and application of Jude is well underway in the Exegetical Realm on the NTRMin Discussion Forum, and I've been very impressed by the contributions I've seen so far : )

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

A New Roman Catholic Pet-Rock Idea!

It seems my admission to my lack of available blog time worked to my advantage by stirring waves of sympathy from at least one reader who has decided to supply me with blog-worthy material. Thanks Ali! : )

A while back I wrote a blog piece on the exorbitant speaker fees of Roman Catholic apologists, and suggested at that time that it was the Roman Catholic equivalent of a "pet rock"-like money-making scheme. For those of you who decided that might be a good way to make money, don't waste your time. There's now a better pet rock that you can take advantage of. It costs much less in terms of preparation time and effort. All you need is a griddle, some butter, a loaf of bread and a stack of individually wrapped slices of cheese.

By now you've no doubt heard about the the infamous "Virgin Mary Grilled-Cheese Sandwich" that was actioned on eBay. Ten years ago its original owner, Diana Duyser, prepared it and took a bite out of it before noticing that she had almost eaten the Ark of the Covenant for lunch. That's right, Mary was in the grilled cheese sandwich. Here's the whole story.

Suggestions for Roman Catholic pet rock enthusiasts:

1) Invest in a frying pan, a loaf of bread, a stick of butter, and a pack of cheese (I hear the Co-Mediatrix likes Kraft the best). It's a small investment, and the ROI can't be beat. It helps your chances if you first engrave a figure of Mary in the frying pan--or at the very least, using the stick of butter as a "pencil," draw a figure of Mary in the hot pan before placing the bread on it.

2) Once you get something that resembles the Queen of the Universe, resist the temptation to eat it! Ms. Duyser could no doubt have auctioned her sandwich for twice the amount if the sandwich had been intact.

3) Next, take a picture of the sandwich (digital is best), wrap the sandwich in a ziplock bag and freeze it. There is no need to place cotton balls in the bag and keep it at room temperature as Ms. Duyser did. Mary is impervious to cold, and the bread will be preserved much longer.

4) While the image is freezing, place the picture on eBay using a minimum bid of $28,000 (that's the established market for a damaged grilled-cheese Mary, and you'll want to get something higher than that), along with a statement that makes it very clear what an avid Mary venerator you are.

5) Once the grilled-cheese Mary sells, take the picture to your local promotions-item shop and have them make up about 1,000 t-shirts bearing the image of the grilled-cheese Mary, along with the text "Someone bought a Grilled-Cheese Mary, and All I got Was This Lousy T-Shirt." See if you can arrange a payment plan for them, or simply pay by credit card. That way, you'll incur no out-of-pocket expenses.

6) Place the t-shirts for auction at eBay, and sell then for $25 a piece. In no time at all you'll make more than twice the amount you had to pay to have them made. Once you have paid the promotions-item shop (or your credit card company), you'll have earned an additional $15,000.

The time and effort required to go this route is much less taxing than to wait around hoping some church group is willing to shell out $1200 per hour to hear you speak; plus, the returns are much greater!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Evangelicals and Catholics--er, scratch that--MORMONS Together

It's been a while since I contributed to this blog. I've been out of state for significant chunks of time over the the past three weeks, and am currently getting things prepped for the start of the Bible study webinar which begins this weekend. I've run into some highly frustrating technical snags that I'm trying to resolve before technical support goes on their Thanksgiving vacation. Needless to say, I don't have a lot of time to devote to the blog these days. But I will try to add a thought here and there.

Recently, a member of the Heavenly Realm on the NTRMin Discussion Forum provided this link to a recent "Evening of Friendship" conference in which several high-profile Evangelicals and Mormons met together at the Salt Lake Mormon Tabernacle to enjoy "sweet fellowship" with each other (they didn't use this phrase, but it's a difficult phrase to avoid given the gushing love fest accompanied by corporate worship and song), while misguided Evangelicals "apologized" to Mormons for all those times we have "unlovingly" dared to point out that Mormons are not Christians.

We're sorry we have so unjustly accused you Mormons. Believing there are many gods is no reason to accuse you of polytheism. Believing that God used to be a man, and that we will someday be gods ourselves is no reason to accuse you of blasphemy and idolatry. Believing that "we are saved by grace after all we can do" is absolutely no reason to accuse you of bearing and proclaiming a false gospel of works. Believing that the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price constitute holy Scripture is no cause for us to accuse you of adding to "the faith that was once for all time delivered to the saints." We've been exceedingly unreasonable in our insistence that you repent of those heretical teachings and embrace the truth.

Included in attendance at the love fest were (on the Evangelical side) Ravi Zacharias (a Christian philosopher), Greg Johnson of "Standing Together," Richard Mouw (president of Fuller Theological Seminary, who issued the official "apology"), Michael Card (a Christian recording artist for whom I used to have a modium of respect), and (of course) representatives of Camp Crusade for Christ, who are somehow under the impression that Christianity should pride itself on being a "marketplace of ideas."

Baal worshippers, lift up your countenance and rejoice! Help (in the form of Campus Crusade for Christ and Standing Together) is on the way to renounce those unloving Baal bashers who have unjustly accused you for so long!

One or two of the posters on NTRMin thought that some of the speakers may be there to evangelize rather than to ecumenize. I have a much more pessimistic view of such gatherings. One common thread that I have seen in these kinds of ecumenical efforts is this: They always seem to begin with romancing Roman Catholics (who, we may safely assume, are already assumed to be in the fold by the Evangelical attendees of the conference), and then move naturally in the direction of romancing Mormons. I see a trend, and I don't see it stopping with Mormons. I predict the next great "love fest"--sometime within the next five years or so--will be directed toward romancing Jehovah's Witnesses. Mark my words.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Bible Study Webinar to begin Thanksgiving Weekend

Some of you may have noticed a "Webinar Study" link in the navigation bar of the NTRMin website. That refers to the webinar Bible study we will be commencing in two weeks, held on Saturday mornings at 10am ET for (at least) the next three months. The seats have already been filled for one group of ten (maximum we can accommodate for each session), and we are well on our way to filling up a second group. If you are interested and can make the commitment, feel free to fill out the form.

Monday, November 15, 2004

The Quirky Theology of the "reformed Catholics"

One of the catch phrases of the “movement” that calls itself “Reformed Catholicism”—bah, who are they kidding anyway? It’s not a movement. It’s a website—is “We need to grab them by their baptism.” They are referring, of course, to Roman Catholics. We have been accused of misunderstanding that phrase. I have personally been told (and it has been confirmed in public arenas) that the phrase doesn’t imply Roman Catholics are saved; only that we can appeal to their baptism as a basis for confronting them regarding their false beliefs and their obligation to return to the stipulations of the covenant.

If that were all that was meant by the phrase, we might be able to let it go. The problem is, they tend to contradict this explanation in their further “clarifications” about what it means to be reformed Catholic. One glaring example of this is their emphasis on the notion that baptism is the “normal instrument” of justification. Obviously, on that view, all baptized Roman Catholics are justified. Hence, “grab them by their baptism” must mean more than some mere appeal to covenantal stipulations.

Another disturbing trend among those who style themselves "reformed Catholics" is their view of Mary. In a recent blog entry, one rC writer, Kevin D. Johnson (who recently made a rather "impressive" entry on my blog's comments section, prompting me to turn off the comments section due to abuse), in an article titled “How's Catholicity in Your Church,” has this to say:

One clear barometer in any Reformed environment regarding catholicity is how a church talks about--or deals with--the subject of Mary. Here are some questions to ask around at your church to see just where you are in terms of catholicity:

Before getting into his litmus tests for catholicity, it needs to be said at the outset that one’s view of Mary is hardly the test for orthodoxy—reformed or historic—unless that view errors on the side of exaggerating her role. Almost nothing is said about Mary in the New Testament regarding the significance of her place in salvation history; but what is said is quite telling. I don’t have the time or space to reproduce my entire Ph.D. dissertation in this forum, but I will offer a critique of Johnson’s points below:

1) When was the last time your pastor or elders gave a sermon exclusively devoted to Mary?
The assumed “correct” answer to this question seems to be that sermons on Mary should occur often. But then we need to ask the further question, Why? Why should a pastor give “a sermon exclusively devoted to Mary”? What would be the point? What would be the content of such a sermon? I have already noted that Mary shows up only rarely in the pages of the New Testament to begin with, and then never in particularly flattering circumstances. Do we find any sermons about Mary in the many sermons of the New Testament? No. Do we find any doctrinal teaching about Mary in the many doctrinal treatises of the New Testament? No. Was there any emphasis on Mary in the minds of the New Testament writers, leaving aside the context of the birth narratives (which emphasis is clearly on Christ, not on Mary)? No. She shows up in the adult ministry of Jesus primarily so that Jesus can make a point about the obsolescence of biological relationships in the kingdom. She is portrayed by the New Testament writers as someone who at times presumes upon Jesus, at times misunderstands his mission, at times actively opposes his ministry, and does not reach the status of certain disciple until his death. After that, she quietly fades into obscurity.

2) In your version of the Creed (hymnal or otherwise), is the word "virgin" capitalized or not (ie. "virgin Mary" or "Virgin Mary")?
Again, what is the point? Is the goal of capitalizing the word “virgin” to afford Mary a place of honor she did not have in the New Testament? If so, what real value is there in that?

3) Has your church ever done a historical summary of Reformed thought on the subject of Mary?
I know mine has, since I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on the subject—though I somehow doubt this will prompt Johnson to concede that I should be placed into his idiosyncratic definition of “Reformed.”

4) Is your pastor aware--or has he taught on--the significance of and the fact that the phrase "Mother of God" is in more than one of the early ecumenical creeds and thereby considered fundamental to an understanding of Christianity?
Yes, and he's also aware that the phrase didn’t exist until the fourth-fifth centuries. And he is also aware that the significance of the phrase was not an honorific title for Mary but rather an affirmation that Jesus was God even in the womb. And he is also aware that the phrase, in its 21st-century Roman Catholic apologetic context, ends up suggesting in the mind of the listener something about Mary’s status rather than something about Jesus, and rightfully questions the usefulness of that phrase today.

5) Has your church ever used Mary as a role model when discussing the role of single people in the church?
Why would Mary be the model for single people? When we are introduced to her, she is just a few short months away from being married. Wouldn’t Paul be a better role model? After all, he was single the entire length of his Christian life. Mary was not only married, she had several children to boot. To say that this “test” is odd is to engage in an understatement.

6) Has your church ever spoken about the practical and theological importance of Mary both historically and theologically to your own congregation as well as to the wider Body of Christ?
There are many “historically important” teachings that Johnson would dismiss on the grounds that they were rejected by the Reformers. Since Mary is not theologically important in any biblical sense, there is little reason to speak about her theological importance in the medieval sense.

7) Has your church ever taught about Mary separate from Advent (or Christmas) and apart from treating the errors of Roman Catholicism?
Outside the Advent, the most we know about the historical Mary is in her ill-timed statements that Jesus ends up rebuffing. I wonder, just what would Johnson have us “teach” about Mary, apart from the birth narratives, that would be in her favor?

Johnson includes two bonus questions in his litmus test:

8) Has your pastor or elders ever presented you with the idea that modern translators know better than Jerome how to translate the words "full of grace" in the New Testament?
Let me just state the obvious about this. It’s not just modern “translators.” It’s major New Testament scholars and grammarians, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, including the likes of Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker, Louw and Nida, Zerwick, Raymond Brown and J. A. Fitzmyer. How interesting that we are the ones who are constantly characterized by this group as “backwoods fundamentalists,” while they generally ignore Greek grammar and find themselves on the fringes of New Testament scholarly opinion. Remind me; Who are the sectarians again?

9) Do your fellow church members go into shock when you start to talk about the need to return to a more catholic understanding and emphasis upon Mary?
Does Johnson include the New Testament writers and nearly all scholars of the past century in this “catholic” church? If so, then how does a return to the 4th-century understanding of this issue suddenly make us “catholic”? The better question is, Does Johnson’s own church go into shock when talking about the need to return to a more biblical understanding of Mary?

Johnson concludes his entry by stating the following:
If you answered "yes" to any of the above seven initial questions, you and your church are well on the way to catholicity. If you answered "yes" to either of the bonus questions, you've got lots of work to do. :)
Do we now? I wonder just who has the most work to do. What was the goal of the Reformation? Indeed, what is—should be—the goal of reformation in any instance? Is it not to return to fidelity toward the apostolic deposit in the form of the word of God? Is that not what the Reformers’ words ad fontes and sola scriptura imply? Apparently for Johnson and his ilk, what really matters is ad Luther and ad Calvin.

And lest anyone think he may safely disregard my work on the subject of Mary, here is what Douglas Wilson himself had to say about my book Who Is My Mother? when he agreed to write a commendation for it:

Eric Svendsen has given us a capable treatment of the Protestant view of Mary, the mother of Our Lord. Avoiding the extremes of adoration and hostility, he articulates a careful biblical Mariology, and yes, there is such a thing.

I suppose Johnson’s “catholicity” will now have to exclude Wilson as well.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Is the "Bible Answer Man" going ECT?

I can't say I didn't see it coming, though it still took me by surprise. Over the years Hank Hanegraaff has demonstrated theological confusion on a number of issues, ranging from predestination and free will to his interepretation of Jude 6. I confess, I listened to him in the past only on occasion, and stopped listening to him altogether after his obviously premeditated and thug-like ambush of James White on the predestination issue a few months ago. Yet, the two times I was on his show, along with the other shows revolving around Roman Catholicism, made it seem as though he agreed with me that while individual Roman Catholics can be saved, they attain salvation in spite of Rome's official gospel, not because of it. Here is his new official stance on this issue:

CRI's Perspective on Catholics and Salvation
Some people say that the Catholic church teaches salvation by works. Is this true?To begin with, let me state up front that Catholics do not teach salvation by works. In fact, the Catholic church firmly maintains that man can only be saved by God’s grace. However, ask Catholics whether they believe that they are justified by faith alone and chances are pretty good you’ll get “no” for an answer. Consequently, some evangelicals have mistakenly concluded that Catholics hold to salvation by works.Justification, to evangelicals, means that God declares us righteous the instant you or I repent and receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior — and this, despite our sinfulness. Actually, it’s a singular event, something that is completed instantaneously. Catholics, on the other hand, understand justification to mean that God makes us righteous. It’s seen as a process whereby God gradually perfects us; and this is, incidentally, why Catholics believe that only in the end will believers be sure as to whether they’re truly justified or saved.In addition, evangelicals believe in justification by faith alone. And by faith we mean not only knowledge and agreement, but also personal trust in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life. In sharp distinction, Catholics see faith as nothing more than passive agreement, which again is why they don’t believe in justification by faith alone. Catholics actually consider human works as vital elements in the process of justification. This is because they are held to be the result of God’s grace working through and perfecting believers.Well, in sharp contrast to the evangelical belief that works are the fruits of justification, Catholics say that justification results from a combination of faith and works made possible by God’s grace. Yes, we regard the Catholic conception of justification to be confused. Yes, we take serious issue with the numerous doctrines and practices that it has produced.
Though they can be rightly faulted on these points, no one can legitimately claim that Catholics teach a crass system of salvation by works.So, once again, it is important to understand that while many Catholics believe in salvation through works, the official stance of Roman Catholicism is that justification results from a combination of faith and works which is made possible by the grace of God.On Catholics and the doctrine of salvation, that’s the CRI Perspective. I’m Hank Hanegraaff.

Hanegraaff is confused on many points here. First, he uses the word salvation in a way that doesn't seem to make any distinction between salvation as the broader category and justification, regeneration, sanctification, etc., as the more specific events/processes that fall under the category of salvation. In a very real sense, we are saved by our works, but that's only because the truly justified person will bear fruit unto salvation. If one claims to have been justified by God and yet produces no works in "keeping with repentance," that person's "faith" is in vain, being a mere mental assent to the facts rather than a life commitment to Christ. Hence, it can be said that works are necessary for salvation, but only as proof of justification and regeneration.

Granted, Hanegraaff may be using the term "salvation" in its colloquial sense, and so we need to recast the question. The real question at hand is not, Do Roman Catholics believe works are necessary to salvation? The real question is, Do Roman Catholics believe works are necessary to justification? More to the point, Do Roman Catholics believe they can earn eternal life? The answer to the final two questions is an uequivocal yes! Here is what Trent affirmed about justification and meriting eternal life:

"For, whereas Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified,-as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches--and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God--We must believe that nothing further is wanting to the justified, to prevent their being accounted to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life, and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained also in its (due) time, if so be, however, that they depart in grace." (Trent session 6, Decree on Justification, chap 16).

"After this Catholic doctrine on Justification, which whoso receiveth not faithfully and firmly cannot be justified, it hath seemed good to the holy Synod to subjoin these canons, that all may know not only what they ought to hold and follow, but also what to avoid and shun" (ibid.)

Moreover, here are the specific decrees of the council regarding this particular issue:

CANON IX. If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema."

CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema

CANON XXIV.-If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.

CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.

And so, in spite of Hanegraaff's assertion to the contrary, the official Roman Catholic stance is indeed that justification and eternal life are things that are earned by one's works. And to the extent that the Roman Catholic sacramental system adds even more things necessary to meriting eternal life, it is even more reprehensible to the gospel than the single-work justification system of the Judaizers that Paul condemned in Gal 1:8-9.

What can we expect from all this? I predict a new book by Hank Hanegraaff explaining to us why ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together) is not such a bad idea after all. In the meantime, I'm continuing to boycott BAM until they find a host who has a bit more theological sense than the present one.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Now, for the rest of the story

I'm back in my Colorado office, and thought I'd finish the trip report I began earlier.

RC traditionalists, just being themselves
During the conference (the entire conference was videotaped, btw, and will be made available through Alph and Omega soon) a couple of traditionalist roman catholics approached the NTRMin book table and wanted to debate me over the legitimacy of Vatican II. They apparently were friends of Mario Derksen (little surprise--I think all traditionalists know each other). In any case, there were lots of people crowding around the table wanting to talk to me, so I declined the debate. I was told later by the event coordinator that one of them had only moments before cursed at him and childishly walked out of the room chanting "Na-na-na-na-na." That surprised me even less.

You're Listening to the Jesus Christ Show!
I left the hotel early Sunday morning to catch a flight in San Diego. Since it was a two-hour trip I began searching for an L.A.-based radio station that might be worthy of a listening ear. I tuned into 640 am (about 6:15 in the morning) and began listening to what I originally thought was a "Bible Answer Man"-type radio pastor answering a caller's question about baptism. Turns out I was really listening to Jesus Christ himself. That's right; I had tuned into "the Jesus Christ Show." After the show broke for a commercial and then came back on air, the radio voice (imagine the same radio voice that introduces the Sean Hannity show) let me know I was listening to "the Jesus Christ Show." Ok, I thought, bad name for a Christian radio talk show. What I heard next was worse. The host came on and said--I kid you not--"Thank you for tuning in to the Jesus Christ Show. I AM . . . your Holy Host." When callers began calling in, they addressed the "holy host" as Christ himself. "Thank you for taking my call, Jesus. I think your most fabulous miracle was when you raised Lazarus from the dead." "Au Contraire," replied the host, "my greatest miracle was when I raised myself from the dead." And on it went, as the host told one caller she should attend her gay friends' wedding in a show of support even if she disagrees with their lifestyle.

. . . Only in California.

They Still Don't Get It
I remember a Far Side cartoon I saw many years ago. It depicted a bunch of bears who had just purchased and donned "human suits" (the ACME boxes were still close at hand), in an attempt to lure humans into their trap so they could eat them. As soon as the humans saw them, they ran--and for good reason; the bears still looked like bears in loose-fitting human suits and hoods. They looked nothing like humans. One bear commented that he just couldn't figure out why the suits weren't working.

When I arrived at the San Diego airport, I bought a newspaper to read on the plane. The only paper they had was the LA Times, a bastion of liberal ideology (btw, I've never paid so much for a newspaper and a cup of coffee in my life). I began reading the opinion page and came across this little gem from a Democrat columnist:

Democrats and the God Gap
". . . [Kerry's] stiffness cannot fully explain the 'God gap' that drives people of faith, and those more concerned with moral issues than economic ones, to vote disproportionately Republican. They just don't believe that the Democrats share their values. . . . We do not agree with those who say the Democratic Party must embrace moral issues as now defined by conservatives and exploited by Republican strategists. Opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights will always be Republican issues, and the Democrats shouldn't want them. What the Democrats should do is recast their own issues in moral terms. It shouldn't be hard. Democrats seem oblivious to their platform's moral potency: innocent children suffering because their families can't get health insurance; platoons of young men and women dying in a war that didn't have to be; the pillaging of God's green Earth. Those are 'values' issues too, but Democrats haven't figured out how to frame them that way. The voters who think liberals are godless monsters who care only about gay marriage and personal freedom are mostly decent, well-meaning people. Can it really be impossible to persuade them that they don't want to live in a country where 50 million people have no health insurance? Democrats have the words, but they don't have the music--and the music matters. A good choir and a minister who can preach improve the attendance at any church. . . . It is not a matter of pandering, but giving bread-and-butter issue a moral toehold in the political discourse."

Nope; it's pandering--and downright insulting. And I think this is just what Kerry attempted to do. He made a point of speaking to churches, misquoting Scripture, referencing God, etc. He was still a bear dressed in a human suit; and no ACME human suit, no “music” is going to make his ideals more palatable to those who reject them on the basis of what they truly are, and what their ramifications are; not what they simply appear to be. No doubt some will be persuaded by it--there are gullible people everywhere, after all. But if the columnist is attempting to appeal to those who have strong convictions about God-ordained things, that approach just doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Update on the Alpha and Omega Conference

Just a quick update on the conference:

The conference proper just concluded and I think it was a rousing success. Everyone is getting ready to depart for the Mexican Riviera tomorrow--I'll be driving back to San Diego to catch a morning flight home. The debate went well, and was even humorous at times. One thing I can say about Doug Wilson--he is a likeable guy. I only wish his disciples were as cordial.

The highlight of the conference, at least for me, was personally meeting (for the first time) several of the NTRMin Discussion Forum members. I briefly met basking2, who came to my book table during a break. He confirmed he is a prophet. I had dinner with David King (DTK) and his wife Angela, as well as with crewbear (Evans) and his wife (who went by "Mrs. Crewbear" at the conference). I was also privileged to meet Sharon (Svjo) for the first time. What a delightful lady she is.

Will get back on schedule next week : )

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

After the fallout

1 Cor 5:1: "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans."

Now that Bush has won the election, I'm wondering what will become of the "republicans for kerry" crowd? The website is still up, but the last John Bugay contributed to it was yesterday after the initial exit polls (mis)indicated Kerry was ahead. God mercifully directed the vote so that Kerry and his anti-Christian agenda would be defeated; and now the Christians who sold themselves to that cause are left to pick up the pieces and reflect on the principles they so easily compromised in the process and the integrity they so readily threw away. It's fairly clear from the election analysis that America did not make its decision based on terrorism or Iraq or the economy; it voted on the issue of morality. Sadly, there are unbelievers who voted for Bush on that basis who could rise up and condemn the Christians who were part of the Kerry crowd. The former were able to recognize morality more clearly than the latter, to the latter's shame. Let's hope and pray that those Christians who aligned themselves with that movement would now reflect deeply on the significance of their actions and finally come to their senses.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Expect the blog to be sporadic this week

I am sitting in my Colorado office presently, it is 27 degrees outside, and we just received about six inches of snow on the ground. At about 1pm today I'll be basking in the 80-degree weather of Southern California where I will be teaching classes in San Diego Tuesday through Thurday, and then driving up the coast to Los Angeles on Friday to attend the debate and speak at the Alpha and Omega conference. The attention I'll be able to give the blog will be sporadic throughout the week, but I will make every attempt to post something daily. Who knows? Perhaps my pessimism about the amount of time I'll be able to devote to the blog will shed along with my sweatshirt and coat. We shall see.

New Blog Format

Because of the recent abuse of this blog by irresponsible RC apologists and quasi-Evangelicals who obviously want to make a name for themselves and get free advertising for their ramblings on my dime, I've decided to disable the comments section of this blog. The purpose of the Real Clear Theology blog is not to provide a forum for heretics and errorists who happen to have more time on their hands to multiply words than I do--frankly their screeds are meaningless to me, and I just do not view them as things worthy of my time. Rather the purpose of this blog is to strengthen the true church--yes, that's what I said; the true church; the living body of Christ; the one that believes and proclaims the true gospel--to warn them against false teachers and teachings, to exhort them to obedience to Christ, and to encourage them to persevere in the faith, in spite of the great pressures they face daily from all sides to defect from the truth. That will surely at times include references to RC apologists (since they, too, fall in the category of false teachers); as well as reference to the so-called "reformed catholic" group, who can't seem to resist adding their inane comments to just about everything; but neither group will occupy much of my time here. Apparently, that crowd was under the impression that I was somehow entering the "blog wars" with them. They were sorely mistaken. Frankly, nothing could interest me less.