Some Thoughts on Inter-religious Dialogue

Of late I have been following a controversy recently created and stirred up by professing Christians among the “right” in U.S. politics. This controversy primarily surrounds one event (taking place over the course of two evenings) started and participated in by Dr. James White – specifically a dialogue that Dr. White had with a Muslim imam named Yasir Qadhi – and unfortunately the critics focus most of their attention on lambasting and slandering the persons involved. I wish to avoid that end of the controversy, however, and address the views that are being promoted by the critics where it involves how a Christian should interact with unbelievers – particularly members of other religions.

(Side NOTE: the dialogues in question can be found at these links: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=updtj99Fp80 & https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=r2tPHLOej1w . . . For those interested in being better able to share the Gospel with Muslims, I would highly recommend them)

Now, one of the more reasonable arguments I’ve heard from the critics of the dialogues has been pulled from Scripture by referencing 2 John 7-11. Their argument is basically that a public meeting, for the purpose of merely discussing certain issues, should never be held among Christians and people of another faith – because that would violate the spirit of the passage referenced. (Their argument particularly centers around a very fearful view of Islam, however I believe my summary captures the essence of the argument.)

The first thing the reader should note about the passage mentioned – and many like it (e.g. Romans 16:17-18, 2 Thessalonians 3:6 & 14, etc.) – is that the author is primarily warning followers of Christ away from the poison of those who practice and believe things that go against the teachings of Christ. The context of many of Scripture’s warnings against false teaching is false teaching and practice that tries to claim to be Christian.

Put another way, Scripture’s concern is to keep disciples away from false doctrine that claims to be in the same vein as what Christ would teach. It does not necessarily address false religions that do not associate themselves with Christianity, possibly because it is easier to recognize that they are not of God.

However, the strong language against the apostate does not necessarily correlate to assuming the disciples of Christ should treat the unbeliever with the same severity (at least, not at all times). In fact, I would say the actions of Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles is reason enough to think that we should regularly be interacting with the lost. 2 Thessalonians 3:8 implies their having worked daily among unbelievers as well as believers; the whole book of Acts would give examples – but Acts 17:16-21 is a pointed example; and obviously Jesus spent much time with people who He knew would end up deserting Him – John 6:64-66.Now, I have heard one radio talk show host complain not so much about the conversation but the “official public format” of the dialogues participated in by Dr. White and Dr. Qadhi. My question, however, is how is a public format any different than the examples cited? Other than the fact that more people get to learn and participate in the format used by Dr. White?

Lastly, unfortunately it seems this whole thing has become a controversy because so many Republicans in America fear (and sometimes despise) Muslims, and that extends into American Christianity because of how it identifies itself with Republicanism. I would encourage the reader not to make that mistake – a Christian’s politics might primarily be conservative (because of being affected by Scripture), but that does not mean the views or position of the “conservative right” are by default Christian.

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)

No disciple of Christ should fear anyone of any ideology or religion that sets itself up against God. Take courage, Christian, and share the Gospel with your neighbor (Muslim or otherwise) and treat them with love and respect as you do so.

Believer’s authority – Part 3

Continuing critique of “the Believer’s Authority” by Kenneth Hagin

(NOTE: the first two posts in this series can be found HERE(1) & HERE(2))

“Ephesians 1:3 reads, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us [the whole Church] with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” The American Standard Version renders “all spiritual blessings” as “every spiritual blessing.” This means every spiritual blessing there is. In Christ, all spiritual blessings belong to us. Authority belongs to us whether we realize it or not. But just knowing this isn’t enough. It’s knowledge acted upon that brings results! It’s a tragedy for Christians to go through life and never find out what belongs to them.” Kenneth E Hagin, the Believer’s Authority (last paragraph of page 12 – emphasis/italics original)

(Side NOTES: (1) anyone who wants to say what the differences in Bible translations “mean” (I.e. make a case or point for a specific meaning that is not given in the text) better have a decent grasp of the original language(s) themselves – or be able to point you to sources they used to come to their conclusion… (2) having been granted salvation isn’t enough for your life to NOT be a tragedy???)

I return to this paragraph first because there are a number of things I haven’t addressed yet, and because it – and the section following – is (I believe) a hinge upon which Hagin’s doctrine turns.

Assumptions (again)
Once again I urge the reader to question the assumptions of an author that are not given full Biblical warrant.

Notice that Hagin assumes that “authority” is a spiritual blessing. What gives him the right to assume this? Now, he has kind of already told us that he gets this from the believer’s union with Christ at/in salvation, and later he will eventually give us an incredibly far reaching argument for where he got this idea, but for now let us consider his closing argument for chapter 1 of his book.

‘Things belong to us’

The underlying argument from the end of page 12 to page 14 consists of a fuller explanation of what Hagin means by his statements in the last half of the paragraph quoted above.

He begins the argument by asking his reader if they have ever thought about the following statement: “salvation belongs to the sinner.”(pg 13)

Ignoring the obvious blunder (I.e. that salvation, in fact, BELONGS to (is possessed/controlled/given by) the LORD (Jonah 2:9, Psalm 3:8, etc.) – NOT “the sinner”), let’s read more and find out what Hagin means by the statement:

“Jesus already has bought the salvation of the worst sinner, just as He did for us. That’s the reason He told us to go tell the Good News; go tell sinners they’re reconciled to God. But we’ve never really told them that. We’ve told them God’s mad at them and is counting up everything they’ve done wrong. Yet the Bible says God isn’t holding anything against the sinner! God says He has canceled it out. That’s what’s so awful: the poor sinner, not knowing this, will have to go to hell even though all of his debts are cancelled! Second Corinthians 5:19 will tell you that. There’s no sin problem. Jesus settled that. There’s just a sinner problem. Get the sinner to Jesus, and that cures the problem. Yes, that’s a little different from what people have been taught, but it’s what the Bible says.” – Kenneth Hagin, the Believer’s Authority(page 13)

Now, once again, the plethora of assumptions in this quotation reveal how Hagin understood and applied key doctrines of the Christian Religion, and how you respond to Hagin’s words will be indicative of how you yourself view the Bible.

So, with all of the presumptive statements made by Hagin in that quote, he only referenced one verse of Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:19. Let’s read the verse with a little context, shall we?

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all these things are from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as if God were imploring you through us. We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made the one who did not know sin to be sin on our behalf, in order that we could become the righteousness of God in him.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (LEB)

What jumps out to me first is the lack of the idea of “already-ness” that Hagin seemed to have. There is nothing in this passage that implies ‘ownership’ (or anything of the kind) for/to the sinner. And even if one subscribes to an interpretation of this text as teaching universal atonement – there is no basis upon which to assume that the God-hater (a.k.a. “the sinner”) is already (I.e. before coming to Christ in repentance and faith) “at peace” with God, or reconciled to Him.

God’s “reconciling the world to Himself” did not automatically remove His wrath against sin. Notice that the subject of this reconciliation is primarily those who are “in Christ,” and have been made “new creations” – it says nothing about those who are outside of Christ having been reconciled. Also, God’s act of reconciling men to Himself is an event that takes place in time (as far as we are concerned), and has nothing to do with anything “belonging” to fallen men.

More problematic than the misunderstanding addressed above is Hagin’s view of people. Primarily whatever he believed about them that allowed him to make statements like: “the poor sinner not knowing this, will have to go to hell even though all of his debts are cancelled!”(pg 13) And: “There’s no sin problem. Jesus settled that. There’s just a sinner problem. Get the sinner to Jesus, and that cures the problem. Yes, that’s a little different from what people have been taught, but it’s what the Bible says.”(pg 13)

The first problem – as I’m sure the reader will have grown tired of reading by now – is that he gives no Scriptural reason for saying this, other than his obvious interpretation of the one text he mentioned(2Cor5:19).

The second problem is that these statements reveal a sub-Biblical (one could almost say anti-Biblical) understanding of mankind.

The “sinner” is NOT a “poor,” unfortunate person who wants to do the right thing, doesn’t deserve hell, and would be brought to heaven and coddled by a gushing god if he only knew what was already his! What the “sinner” IS is a selfish, self-centered, God-hating, self-righteous, and worthless creature that deserves and resides under the wrath of God apart from His mercy and grace in Christ:

“…just as it is written, “There is no one righteous, not even one; There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned aside together; they have become worthless; There is no one who practices kindness; there is not even one. Their throat is an opened grave; they deceive with their tongues; the venom of asps is under their lips, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and distress are in their paths, and they have not known the way of peace. The fear of God is not before their eyes.” ~ Romans 3:10-18 (LEB)

For the first three chapters of his Epistle to the Romans, Paul labors to explain and make unmistakably clear the evil of every single human being, and that the just, righteous wrath of God will be poured out upon them at the Judgement (and in many ways is already manifested against them).

Hagin’s seemingly man-centered gospel – and therefore his view of people and their relationship to God – is troubling, to say the least.

I urge the reader to contrast Hagin’s statements and claims against the full text of what is written in Scripture. Though he is correct that Jesus “fixes the problem with/of sinners,” there is no Biblical reason to think that God’s holy wrath does not still abide upon the unrepentant. For now, I have addressed the few Scriptures Hagin tried to use in the first chapter of his book. There are plenty of other things that could be said of the silly claims and worldview revealing statements that he made in the chapter, but I wish to primarily point the reader to God’s Word.

I hope my thoughts and observations thus far have helped the reader to at least begin to see or ponder how sub-Biblical the doctrine of “the believer’s authority” truly is.

May the Lord bless you and help you to be more concerned about Him; His glory; and HIS Authority – and to think nothing of yourself.

Food-for-Thought & Terribly Accurate Satire

http://www.piratechristian.com/messedupchurch/2017/6/when-did-the-church-turn-into-amway

http://babylonbee.com/news/bee-explains-prosperity-gospel/

Some Thoughts on Satan Clubs and the Culture at Large

I haven’t been following it closely, but it has intrigued me whenever I have noticed articles in Christian News Northwest (the church I attend usually carries the latest edition of the paper) that pertain to a “After School Satan Club(s)” that the Satanic Temple is trying to start in schools to “offer an alternative to schools that have the “Good News Club.”” One odd thing that stood out to me in the most recent article I read was “though a press release from the temple’s Portland chapter said that Tuesday night event would be open to the community and members of the press, KPTV Fox 12 reported they were not allowed inside.”

The statement I’ve read over and over again containing what the club would include is “a healthy snack, literature lessons, creative learning activities, science lessons, puzzle solving and an art project” – which makes a refusal to let the press in on an ‘introductory’ meeting of any kind look to me like a reason for concern on any parent’s part – merely for the inconsistency in “innocuousness” that presents.

At which point I get to the reason I started tapping out this post.

No, hearing about this silly “satanist club in schools” endeavor has not concerned me very much. And, frankly, I think those professing to be Christians that are so worried about “Satan infiltrating” schools are a little late anyway. Just like the stupid uproar over “bathroom laws” – these “activists” do not realize that the fact that things are where they are is that “Christianity” has already lost this Culture War.

Public/private schools have been rampant with immorality and anti-Christian values for more than a few decades now, the homosexual agenda has been obvious and strong in media and entertainment for as long, if not longer, and the “Christian community” is only just within this decade getting into an uproar over it because officials and leaders are finally putting into governmental and public practice what the society has already been doing and tolerating for decades – granted, not in as extreme a public display as we see now, but why fight now when God has been offended far longer than Christians have bothered to publicly be?

Not to mention, this same “Evangelical” community has voted a completely morally corrupt egotist who doesn’t care about the Supreme Court’s decision on redefining (and thus profaning) marriage, into the Presidency in some strange hope of him fixing half the stuff related to these things (or “stem the tide,” at least)…

True Religion in America is far closer to dead than many would like the world to believe – American Christianity is alive and well, but that isn’t the same thing.

Don’t get me wrong, the Church of Jesus Christ still has a presence here, but the sooner we realize all the political professing “Christian” activists are not necessarily on our side and start preaching the Gospel more consistently to our neighbors, acquaintances, and friends – the sooner we WILL begin to see change in how people view babies, their own sexuality, the poor, and a plethora of other things the “religious right” has tried to portray itself as being an advocate for fixing, but has never done a blessed thing to truly change the “status-quo.”

However, the fact that the True Church has ALWAYS been doing the will of God and preaching the Gospel faithfully even in the midst of all this pretty much indicates that Judgement has come, and we should not be surprised if no repentance on the part of the nation shows itself.

Be we headed for persecution or change, may the LORD bring Himself glory, praise, and honor…
Quotes taken from “1st Satanist club in nation debuts at Portland school” article in ChristianNews Northwest: December 2016, Volume 23 | Number 7.

Other references – http://www.kptv.com/story/33720449/after-school-satan-club-holds-first-meeting-at-parkrose-middle-school

http://www.christianpost.com/news/donald-trump-gay-marriage-settled-supreme-court-decision-171477/ 

Readables & Listenables (For the Election Aftermath)

So, with all the stupidity that has taken place in the last few days, thought I’d post some stuff I found interesting and thought-provoking this week.

James White’s thoughts- Post-Election Thoughts and an Ecclesiastical Text Video

An article from Phil Vischer- CHURCH, WE’VE GOT SOME EXPLAINING TO DO

And another thought-provoking article that Phil Vischer linked to written by a lady named Stephanie- To my friends who are relieved today

Hope these are helpful and/or thought provoking… (and thanks to those of you who actually read/listen to them all the way through 😉

God’s Not Dead 2 – A Brief Review

There are very few movies that I come away from truly appreciating in its entirety: theme, message, presentation, and individual parts (that last bit is practically impossible for anyone to get from me)… but I have to say, “God’s Not Dead 2” certainly did a far better job than many “Christian” movies of late. First, I appreciated the somewhat more realistic and down to earth dealing with the American system and how our culture views the Religion of Christ. Though there was some typical “cliche-ish” “christianese” that was given through some of the beginning of the film, once we got into the meat of the “court case,” the writer(s?) did an excellent job addressing the imbalance of our country’s judicial system in weighing against Christianity for the sake of a few “offended” adherents to a different worldview.

I also liked the “uncertainty” of the ending. I won’t spoil anything for those who haven’t seen it 😉 – but let’s just say it was incredibly in line with what we (as Christians) can expect from our government in the near future…

I appreciated the simple character of the teacher (I forget her name) that we follow throughout the film. And I especially liked that her lawyer/defender was not a Christian – just someone who “hated to lose” and was fairly objective throughout the film. Frankly, I thought his (the lawyer’s) part was one of the better “bridge” pieces I’ve ever seen in a “hopefully engaging/interesting for all sides” part in any Christian movie I’ve ever seen.

Overall, I very much appreciated the last “I call ___ to the stand” scene, and thought they did a decent job on the overall film.

My only “face palm” complaint is the silly/unnecessary inclusion of the band “Newsboys” in the film, just because they were in the first one and to increase viewer interest (if it even accomplished that).

That said, I would recommend the film to anyone interested in a thought-provoking film that touches upon the freedom of religion and education in the U.S.

Some Thought-Provoking Videos

I am, as I said in my last post, done talking about politics in America. However, I thought I’d share two things (one fairly brief, and the other almost an hour long) from two very thoughtful Christian leaders.

The first is an interview with Rev. Albert Mohler: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=exvuCgWiIGk

The other is a “Dividing Line” broadcast from James White: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_gkWDjDi9-M (NOTE: there was a technical glitch near the end, here is the link to the last 15 minutes or so: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GlMqKrcLdHY )

… I would have imbedded the videos directly into this post… but I can’t figure out how to do that with WordPress 😛

Anyway, I hope someone finds these interesting, if not helpful.