Category Archives: Bible

Maranatha!, “Our Lord, come!”

As all other false prophecies reach their inevitable and shameful demise, so to has Harold Camping’s May 21, 2011 Judgment Day prediction failed to deliver on its promise. So the question is, “what happens next?” Will Mr. Camping and his fellow “Campingites” admit they were in error? Will they try to set a new date? What will happen to all of his disappointed and disillusioned followers who gave up everything they had for the belief that today was in fact the “end of the world”?  Can we still trust the Bible? Is Jesus really coming back?

I don’t know what will become of Harold Camping and his followers, but I do pray that God would grant repentance to Mr. Camping, and that all those who were deceived into following his teaching would see the truth of the Scriptures as it is revealed in the Scriptures and not by Mr. Camping. In spite of the ridiculousness of the whole matter, I exhort all fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for all those who were associated with this organization, and to use this as an opportunity to share the Gospel with others.

Can we still trust the Bible? Absolutely! God’s word has stood the test of time; endured intense scrutiny; and remains the most influential and attested book of all antiquity. Actually, Harold Camping’s failed prophetic claims should increase our confidence in the Bible rather than diminish it. And why is that? Because the Bible itself affirms that these type of things will actually happen:  “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction,as they do the other Scriptures (2 Peter 3:15-16).”

So if you have lost confidence in the infallibility and inerrancy of God’s word because of Harold Camping, I highly admonish you to see this as an affirmation of the truthfulness of God’s word as it accurately describes individuals who would take the Bible and distort it to their own destruction.

Jesus will return, and he will return in judgment and glory! He can return at 7:oopm tonight or maybe years from now, but the point is that we should not concern ourselves with trying to speculate when He will return. If the incarnate God did not know when the day or the hour would come neither will Harold Camping nor any one of us know. But the scriptures clearly teach He will in fact return, which gives us more of an incentive to go out into the world and proclaim the Gospel before His glorious return.

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” -Revelation 22:20

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Jumping through Hermeneutical hoops with Harold Camping

“The Bible guarantees it,” is the slogan you see plastered on billboards, signs, cars, tracts, and different kinds of literature. So what exactly does the Bible guarantee? Well, according to Harold Camping’s hermeneutic the Bible teaches that on May 21, 2011 Jesus Christ will return in Judgment ushering in the rapture of all believers and the end of the world.

Upon what basis does Harold Camping support his prophetic claims? Sound exegesis and hermeneutics? Nope, but rather using an allegorical and numerological interpretation of certain biblical texts coupled with his wild-eyed imagination, Mr. Camping is able to come up with his theories. It is a method of interpretation that tends to neglect the original intent of the authors and attempts to find hidden meanings or symbols behind certain words and numbers. This is grounded on the fact that Jesus himself spoke in parables, therefore everything we read in the Bible is to be understood in a parabolic sense. Is this a valid method of interpretation? Did Jesus and the apostles employ this method? Did anyone throughout church history ever use this method?

The problem with Mr. Camping’s hermeneutic is that it ignores the different types of literature that are found in the Bible. Yes, it is true Jesus spoke in parables, but it also true he spoke plainly and direct. Paul likewise spoke in a normal plain sense especially when we read the didactic passages found in his letters. One needs to realize that the Bible is a book filled with different forms of literature such as didactic teachings (teachings that are meant to teach or instruct), parables, poetry, history, apocalyptic, etc. But to single out one form of literature and make that the standard for interpreting every single passage in the Bible is to turn on its head the original meaning of the text that was intended by the original author.

Just to give you an example of Camping’s teachings, he believes that by using his method of interpretation the Bible clearly shows that from the date of the flood in Noah’s day (which nobody knows the exact time and date when it actually occurred) all the way up to May 21, 2011 marks approximately 7000 years. What does 7000 have to do with anything? According to Camping, in Genesis 7:4 we read “For yet seven days, … and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.” Camping draws a connection between the seven days mentioned in Genesis 7:4 and Peter’s statement in 2 Peter 3:8, which states “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” So in Genesis 7:4 seven days really means seven thousand years. But upon what exegetical basis can anyone make that parallel? Is that really what Peter meant? I suggest to you that it is not. Just reading the context of 2 Peter you can clearly see that Peter is making the point that Christ can return in any minute in light of the many scoffers who continually make a mockery of the Christian’s belief of the second coming of Jesus Christ. There is nothing in the text or context that allows anyone to make the parallel Camping is making. Moreover, verse 10 says that “the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”, but apparently this thief has already been caught by Harold Camping if we use his hermeneutic.

According to Camping, the church age ceased to exist on May 21, 1988 and the Spirit of God is no longer present in any church today. Therefore, Mr. Camping exhorts all believers to abandon their churches (since there are no more true churches post May 21, 1988) and proclaim the Gospel. Evidently, the Gospel according to Mr. Camping is to tell everyone that Judgment Day is coming May 21, 2011. Was this the same Gospel that Jesus and the Apostles preached?

How does Camping know all of this? Well, it is because Harold Camping is the final authority for anything he claims. His view on the church is clearly in opposition to what the Scriptures actually teach about the nature of the church. Hebrews 10:25 instructs us not to forsake the assembly; Ephesians 5 reveals that Jesus gave Himself up for the Church; Paul instructs Timothy in 1 Timothy on how a local church should function. How do these passages square up with Mr. Camping’s ecclesiology?

Now obviously this is not the first time someone makes outlandish claims such as the ones proposed by Mr. Camping, but how many people actually buy into these claims? Moreover, how many Christian can give an adequate response to these claims? For a more in depth analysis of Mr. Harold Camping and his teaching I have a provided a link that contains an audio debate with Dr. James R. White and Harold Camping that addresses this particular issue. With all that being said, let us remember the words of Jesus, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father…Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:36, 42-44)”

Here is the link to the debate between Dr. James R. White and Harold Camping: http://aomin.org/

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“Unless you repent, you will…perish”

“Unless you repent, you will…perish.” (Luke 13:3) Wait, did Jesus forget that we are saved solely by our faith in Him? What is this notion of repentance? One of the essential doctrines of the Reformation was the concept of salvation by faith alone (sola fide). But why did Luther assert in his 95 Theses, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’, he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance”? This sounds more like faith plus repentance; hence, faith is no longer alone, but it is accompanied with repentance. So is salvation contingent on repentance rather than on faith alone?  What exactly is repentance and what does it mean? What role does repentance play in how a person obtains forgiveness of sins and eternal life? I will be writing several blogs throughout the next upcoming weeks addressing many of these questions and more, as it relates to the doctrine of repentance.

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Counterfeit Gospels by Tullian Tchividjian

I found this great post by Tullian Tchividjian from his blog on the Gospel Coalition site, definitely worth the read.

In his book How People Change (co-authored with Tim Lane), Paul Tripp identifies seven counterfeit gospels– ways we try and “justify” or “save” ourselves apart from the gospel of grace. I found these unbelievably helpful. Which one (or two, or three) of these do you tend to gravitate towards?

Formalism. “I participate in the regular meetings and ministries of the church, so I feel like my life is under control. I’m always in church, but it really has little impact on my heart or on how I live. I may become judgmental and impatient with those who do not have the same commitment as I do.”

Legalism. “I live by the rules—rules I create for myself and rules I create for others. I feel good if I can keep my own rules, and I become arrogant and full of contempt when others don’t meet the standards I set for them. There is no joy in my life because there is no grace to be celebrated.”

Mysticism. “I am engaged in the incessant pursuit of an emotional experience with God. I live for the moments when I feel close to him, and I often struggle with discouragement when I don’t feel that way. I may change churches often, too, looking for one that will give me what I’m looking for.”

Activism. “I recognize the missional nature of Christianity and am passionately involved in fixing this broken world. But at the end of the day, my life is more of a defense of what’s right than a joyful pursuit of Christ.”

Biblicism. “I know my Bible inside and out, but I do not let it master me. I have reduced the gospel to a mastery of biblical content and theology, so I am intolerant and critical of those with lesser knowledge.”

Therapism. “I talk a lot about the hurting people in our congregation, and how Christ is the only answer for their hurt. Yet even without realizing it, I have made Christ more Therapist than Savior. I view hurt as a greater problem than sin—and I subtly shift my greatest need from my moral failure to my unmet needs.”

Social-ism. “The deep fellowship and friendships I find at church have become their own idol. The body of Christ has replaced Christ himself, and the gospel is reduced to a network of fulfilling Christian relationships.”

As I said a few months ago in one of my sermons, there are outside-the-church idols and there are inside-the-church idols. It’s the idols inside the church that ought to concern Christians most. It’s easier for Christians to identify worldly idols such as money, power, selfish ambition, sex, and so on. It’s the idols inside the church that we have a harder time identifying.

For instance, we know it’s wrong to bow to the god of power—but it’s also wrong to bow to the god of preferences. We know it’s wrong to worship immorality—but it’s also wrong to worship morality. We know it’s wrong to seek freedom by breaking the rules—but it’s also wrong to seek freedom by keeping them. We know God hates unrighteousness—but he also hates self-righteousness. We know crime is a sin—but so is control. If people outside the church try to save themselves by being bad; people inside the church try to save themselves by being good.

The good news of the gospel is that both inside and outside the church, there is only One Savior and Lord, namely Jesus. And he came, not to angrily strip away our freedom, but to affectionately strip away our slavery to lesser things so that we might become truly free!

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Theologically Thirsty? Quench it with New Calvinism…

This is a great column by Kate Shellnutt from the Houston Chronicle.

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Next generation of theologians craves historical tradition

The newest thing in Protestantism is really the oldest thing in Protestantism: Reformed theology.

Young Christians are turning to the centuries-old teachings of church fathers such as John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards — reading their work, watching pastors talk about them on YouTube and sporting their faces on sweatshirts.

ReThe nationwide renewal of Reformed theology has been going on for about a decade, and it has finally made its way to Houston. Two Reformed seminaries opened local campuses this fall, Redeemer Seminary, which recently broke off from Westminster Theological Seminary, and Reformed Theological Seminary. They are holding classes for a couple of dozen young Christians from Presbyterian, Reformed, Evangelical and Baptist churches.

“We’re offering that historical, Calvinist tradition to a generation that’s interested in it,” said the Rev. John Crimmins, the interim director of RTS’ Houston campus and the senior pastor at Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church, where they meet.

He describes their theological stance as “winsomely Reformed,” focusing on the sinfulness of man, the grace of God and his sovereignty over all things, including salvation.

This Sunday is Reformation Day, marking 493 years since Martin Luther nailed his disputes on the door of a Catholic Church. Since then, Protestants across denominations have relied on the early thinkers of their tradition.

But after many American baby boomers distanced themselves from the theology side of religion, their children have returned to it with particular interest and passion, said Collin Hansen, author of Young, Restless, Reformed. For this generation of Christians, deep, nuanced theological teachings are a turn-on.

“There’s a certain type of tradition that to a young person looks cheesy, looks hokey,” Hansen said. “There’s another that goes back further and connects them to an older, broader church.”

That’s what Calvinism does for its young followers, who say it offers more historical depth and groundedness than America’s contemporary Christian movements.

Its “less of me, more of God” mentality and the salvation of the elect through grace makes more sense logically, spiritually and biblically, said Kyle Worley, the youth minister at the First Baptist Church of Groves and a student at Redeemer Seminary, which meets at Christ the King Presbyterian Church in Houston.

Worley, 22, grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition, the son of a Baptist minister and a graduate of Dallas Baptist University.

“It views the Bible as a complete narrative. The dispensational perspective is too much of a bits-and-pieces kind of worldview, and people couldn’t find their place in that,” he said.

Plus, there’s a whole cadre of popular pastors and authors who are making Reformed doctrine compelling to young churchgoers, seminarians and pastors-to-be. John Piper, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll and others present a Reformed perspective in their popular books, sermon series and web postings.

Beyond Presbyterian and Reformed churches, the Calvinist resurgence has had an effect on Baptists that can’t be ignored. At least 10 percent of pastors belonging to the Southern Baptist Convention identify as Calvinist, according to Lifeway Research. Among recent graduates of Southern Baptists seminaries, that number is up to a third.

A number of Southern Baptist leaders – most prominently Al Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville – consider themselves Calvinists, evidence of the range of beliefs within the Baptist tradition, where some reject Calvinism, some accept certain teachings and some don’t follow the theological debate enough to care.

“Right now, there’s a movement to be more explicitly Reformed,” said Jim Denison, the theologian-in-residence for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Denison is non-Calvinist.

He says it’s the most divisive theological topic today, but “it doesn’t really affect a lot of practice. Most folks in the pew don’t follow the issue.”

Across the country, the resurgence of Reformed theology in the 21st century initially took hold in places where being an evangelical Christian wasn’t exactly the norm, in urban hubs such as Chicago and in the Northeast, Hansen said.

In these places, Christians studied theology deeply as a way to secure and defend their faith in a “sink or swim” mentality, he said.

Driscoll started Mars Hill Church in Seattle, in the middle of the “secular Northwest.” His church-planting network, Acts 29, has fostered Reform churches across the country, and its small-but-growing presence in Houston, in part, brought Redeemer and RTS to the area.

“We have a particular interest in missions and church planting, so Acts 29 has been a strong source for students,” said Steven Vanderhill, president of Redeemer Seminary, which is headquartered in Dallas.

Redeemer was the Texas campus of the Presbyterian Westminster Theological Seminary until last year, when it split off to focus more on starting new campuses across the state. Its Houston and Austin campuses both launched this fall.

In Dallas, Matt Chandler’s Village Church, a member of the Acts 29 network and the Southern Baptist Convention, has grown to 8,000 attendants. The Austin Stone Community Church, an Acts 29 church founded by Matt Carter in 2002, has 5,900.

Houston hasn’t seen that scale of Reformed presence yet and the city’s largest Baptist churches aren’t Calvinist.

The dominance of megachurches in Houston, plus the city’s size and diversity, make it a little intimidating for new pastors and church-planters but an exciting mission field.

“Houston is different than Austin or Dallas,” said Paul Duffin, the campus director for Redeemer. “There’s a large crossroads of people of different backgrounds and faiths. It’s an excellent place for us to be.”

The Calvinist emphasis on man’s depravity and God’s grace can counter the lessons of morality and self-empowerment preached at existing congregations.

Reformed theology teaches that God secures salvation, rather than prompting Christians to do something to “get saved,” said Dru Bennett, a student at Redeemer. She grew up in the Methodist church but now attends Kaleo, a 4-year-old Reformed church plant.

Redeemer and Reformed Theological Seminary join Houston’s Baptist and evangelical schools, who view them as a necessary part of the religious landscape rather than competition. Houston may be the “city of churches,” but for its size, it’s not the city of seminaries.

Andrew Dearman, director and associate dean of Fuller Theological Seminary-Texas, called Houston “one of the most underserved theological communities in the country.”

Southwestern Baptist Seminary opened a campus in Houston in 1975, making it the city’s oldest. Denny Autrey, dean of the school, is pleased to see new seminaries open, even if they vary theologically.

“I think it shows that there is a healthy, spiritual thirst for truth in the city,” Autrey said.

The new seminaries, and their dozen students each, are eager to address those theological needs.

Crimmins, of Reformed Theological Seminary, describes their approach in Christlike terms: incarnational.

“You’re not going to class to be learning the data points, you’re going to be living them out authentically in day-to-day life,” he said, engaging the culture because “the Reformation emphasizes that God is present in the totality of life.”

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