Why the "American Dream" Should STILL Matter to Young Evangelicals!

A few months ago, the Gospel Coalition released an editorial that went viral in the evangelical world entitled, "5 Observations about Younger Southern Baptists." The observations they published were as follows:

1. Younger Southern Baptists have chastened expectations regarding political engagement.
2. Younger Southern Baptists tend to be Reformed-ish.
3. Younger Southern Baptists tend to be theologically conservative without holding to certain cultural distinctives.
4. Younger Southern Baptists are all over the spectrum when it comes to eschatology.
5. Younger Southern Baptists are focused more on local church ministry and less on Convention meetings.

Going to a very large conservative Southern Baptist Seminary I can testify to the accuracy of these observations. In fact, my suspicion is that these observations may in fact apply to young evangelicals as a whole to an extent. Some of the qualities mentioned are good, all "can" be good if rightly applied, but some I see as dangerous. I need to temper my comments with this before I continue: I do believe personally that the SBC is going in an excellent direction in most areas, and I would not want to go to any other seminary than the one I'm at now (biblical eldership, a focus on God's sovereignty, a renewed interest in repentance, etc. are all amazing steps in the right direction!). It is however, my opinion that as a whole, young evangelicals have been affected by a subversive hyper-Calvinism that threatens to undermine the whole enterprise. What do I mean by this?

David Platt, who was just elected to the International Mission Board (who I love, and everyone should read Radical!), made this statement in an interview on Christianpost.com:
I believe that the gospel and the American Dream have fundamentally different starting points. The American Dream begins with self, exalts self, says you are inherently good and you have in you what it takes to be successful so do all you can, work with everything you have to make much of yourself.
Now you may be wondering, what does this have to do with hyper-Calvinism? David Platt is a Calvinist, like a lot of the young popular preachers affecting young evangelicals (i.e. John Piper, Alistair Begg, John MacArthur, Matt Chandler, Francis Chan, Paul Washer, etc. etc.) I don't believe any these men are hyper-Calvinists, but there does exist an attitude, especially in the younger guys such as Platt that, if wrongly understood, can lead to an apathy.

[That's what hyper-Calvinism is by the way: the idea that God will do his will regardless of our efforts, therefore we should not attempt to participate in things like prayer/missions/etc. It's a kind of fatalism. Typically, when this term is being defined the story of William Carey comes up as he goes before his church to float his idea for missions in India. An older man tells Carey to "Sit down!" because "When God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid!" This encounter prompted Carey, a Calvinist, to write An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens-(You almost don't need to read the book with a title that long!). In effect, Carey argues that God in His power and sovereignty ordains people like you and I to carry out His tasks. God isn't just concerned with what happens, but how it happens, and with whom it happens!]

Ok, back to the hyper-Calvinism of today's young evangelicals! So, young evangelicals are pretty pumped about missions (just recall to your mind how many of your friends who are evangelical have gone on a short term mission! I know...it's pretty amazing, and cool!). Young evangelicals are also pumped about the local church, as a whole. Praise God! Young evangelicals think God can use them to do just about anything but. . . change America, or more specifically, change America's political system. I had a prominent preacher tell me a few years ago that there was no difference between mopping floors and being elected to public office (and he wasn't referring to how God sees them both as acts of worship, he was referring to how they are both equally as effective). I had a young man tell me this exact statement when I told him I might want to be a lawyer and defend the church. "God will defend his church." Sound familiar huh?!

So what does the Platt quote have to do with anything? Am I going after David Platt? No I'm not going after David Platt. I absolutely love David Platt and his teaching and agree with everything I've heard him say. So what am I doing then? I'm using Platt's quote as an example of something much bigger. In fact, Platt probably got his quote from similar statements made by John Piper in "Don't Waste Your Life," one of my favorite books. There is a general disinterest and disengagement in politics among young evangelicals. There is also a hatred for what's called the "American Dream." My opinion is this: the two are related. Let me further explain.

The American Dream, defined the way that Platt and Piper define it is horrible. If it's all about self, power, and money, I don't want any of it and neither should you. Casting Crowns had a song a few years back called "American Dream" that spoke of the futility of living life for "stuff." It's hip these days to hate commercialism, and by extension hate the "conservative politics" (i.e. Republican party, tea party, etc.) that seek to defend the "American Dream." This may be a backlash against the concerns of the parents of young evangelicals. They saw their parents get so involved in trying to be the "moral majority," and "take America back," and "vote the 'liberals' out," that they felt the Gospel was lost. Now in an overreaction to display the Gospel, and the Gospel alone, those things are becoming devalued. My ethics professor told me that even important issues like abortion are being left behind by young evangelicals in favor of "preaching the Gospel," as if the two were mutually exclusive. Young evangelicals want to distance themselves from the "right-wing," or those who "defend the American dream," for the simple purpose that they see it as baggage attached to what they really love: the Gospel. You have to admire the motivation here! But I contend, this is a grave error. Esau sold his birthright for at least something he could eat. Some young evangelicals are selling their Christian heritage for something they will never get, the approval of the world. We ought to defend the unborn and get involved politically because of the Gospel!

So where does the American Dream fit in, and why do evangelicals need it. C.T. Studd, one of the greatest mobilizers for missions in history was given an inheritance from his father of 3 million dollars. 1 million was given to George Muller's orphanage. 1 million was given to form Moody Bible Institute. 1 million was given to the China Inland Mission. God used capitalism (the means) to fund Christian education and missions (the ends). The American Dream traditionally defined by political conservatives is not a mode of self-worship, it's a mode of wealth creation based upon the biblical ideas of private property, hard work, and wise stewardship. You cannot understand the parables of Christ without understanding the concept of monetary investment. You cannot read Proverbs without understanding that God cares about how money is used. You cannot read the Old Testament (or the book of Acts for that matter) without realizing that private property is a good thing! All of overseas missions is funded by capitalism. If we define the American Dream a little differently, like I believe it ought to be defined it would go something like this: "The opportunity to pursue God's will in providing for yourself and your family in peace and security". Suddenly, it's not such a bad thing anymore is it? Without the American Dream, there is no foreign missions, feeding the poor, etc.

So to conclude---I'm not bashing anybody. I have had numerous conversations with friends about these issues and It's a concern I've developed. I'm not saying, "You're all wrong!" I'm saying, "Be very careful!" We should hate materialism. But we should love the freedom to have and spend disposable income. That's Gospel-fuel folks! Just because our parents decided to spend all their money on mirrors with which to look at themselves doesn't mean money is the problem. We can spend ours on different things (and I'm speaking "macro" here...my parents didn't do that!). God uses the American Dream. The Bible gives us the American Dream. Young evangelicals should defend the American dream in the political realm if they still care about missions and poverty, while encouraging individual's to spend their money with a Kingdom-focus. For those who are discouraged about the political climate know this, God is the One who raises up kings and destroys kings, but he's also the One that moves in the heart of some and not others. Are you prepared to stop witnessing because God's Spirit is not currently working on an individual's heart? Neither should you stop being involved politically. It is God who ultimately changes anything, not us! I don't even fully understand this mystery, but it's super-awesome that God uses us to accomplish His ends. Wouldn't you agree? Now get out there and share the Gospel. . . and vote!

What it Takes to Make an Elder

The Importance of Elder Qualifications

    In James chapter 3, the brother of Jesus solemnly warns early Jewish Christians, “let not many of you become teachers . . . knowing that as such you will incur a stricter judgment.” Christ himself puts greater emphasis on this idea in Mark 9 when He states, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.” Clearly there exists a principle that the greater the authoritative influence, the greater the judgment. In the context of the local church, those who teach, those who lead, and those who are ordained by God to exhibit authority are typically referred to as “elders,” “pastors,” or “shepherds.” Pastor and Bible teacher John MacArthur states, “It is the elders who are charged with teaching, feeding, and protecting the church, and it is the elders who are accountable to God on behalf of the church.” The model set forth in the New Testament for shepherding is not a picture of one man leading his own personal flock to greater godliness. Rather, it is a plurality of men leading a flock of believers they are merely responsible for. Ultimately, it is the “chief Shepherd” Jesus Christ whose flock is being cared for. Therefore, it is incumbent upon those who aspire to such a noble work as spiritual shepherding to understand not only the warnings given, but also the qualifications required for applying to such a position in the first place. Only those who have met certain requirements are ordained by God to be able to successfully carry out the office of the biblical elder. It is to this question of qualification that this study is concerned. What life-qualities must be present in order for someone to be recognized as a leader capable of teaching and exercising oversight in the context of a local assembly?
    The most often cited passages containing qualifications required in order to be commissioned as an  “elder” or “shepherd” come from three primary sources—I Tim 3:2-7, Titus 1:6-9, and I Peter 5:1-3. All three passages contain overlapping qualifications sometimes using different words to refer to the same element, yet all three also contain aspects not present in the other two. This would imply that though these lists are requirements, they are not necessarily exhaustive in and of themselves. The list of qualifications in  1 Timothy and Titus, written by Paul, are more extensive and parallel with each other than the short list found in 1 Peter. All three were intended to be applied in a real-world setting; 1 Timothy being written by Paul to Timothy, an elder in the Ephesian church, Titus, written by Paul to an elder in Crete, and 1 Peter, written by Peter to the persecuted churches in Asia minor. The method of this study is to systematize all three passages dividing the qualifications into two major categories: positive commands and negative commands.

What Elders Should Be

Alexander Strauch writes in his book Biblical Eldership:
        The biblical image of a shepherd caring for his flock-standing long hours ensuring its safety, leading it to fresh pasture and clear water, carrying the weak, seeking the lost, healing the wounded and sick- is precious. The whole image of the Palestinian shepherd is characterized by intimacy, tenderness, concern, skill, hard work, suffering, and love.
Elders, are thus those men who love God’s people and have a desire to serve them through shepherding as an act of worship to God. The heart of an elder is summed up in 1 Peter 5:2-3: “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” While it may go without saying, someone who is an elder should desire to be an elder!  Indeed, the first assumption made in the list of qualifications found in 1 Timothy is just this. “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.” The Greek word for desire found here, epithumia, is also used negatively in Rom 1:24 to refer to the “lusts” of fallen men. It is used of Christ in a positive sense in Luke 22:15 to refer to the desire Jesus had to eat the final Passover meal with His disciples before His death. “Epithumia was defined by Aristotle as 'reaching after pleasure'.” It can be translated as lust, desire, or passion. What this means for an aspiring elder is that he must first consider His calling and ask himself if he has a longing, desire, and passion to shepherd God’s flock. Though it is a hard task, it is a task that must please him personally—not someone else who may be pressuring him. John Calvin commenting on 1 Peter 5:2 wisely states, “They who seek to do no more than what constraint compels them, do their work formally and negligently. Hence he would have them to do willingly what they do, as those who are really devoted to their work.” As Strouch writes once again, “The best shepherds are those who genuinely love their sheep."
    After assuming the presence of a godly desire, the first character trait mentioned by Paul in 1 Tim 3 is that of being “above reproach.” Strauch points out that, “what is meant by ‘above reproach’ is defined by the character qualities that follow the term.” John MacArthur agrees stating, “That requirement encompasses all others. . . It means there must not be any great blot on his life that others might point to.” No one should be able to accuse an elder of a moral failure that shames the church. This cannot mean perfection, for if that were the case not even the apostles would measure up. But it can mean a mature moral purity. Oswald Sanders states it this way: “His character is to be such as will not leave him open to attack or censure.”
    Interestingly, in both I Timothy 3 and Titus 1, being the “husband of one wife” is the very next phrase proceeding being “above reproach,” as if to suggest that the primary shameful accusation that can be made against an elder would be marital unfaithfulness. As Dr. Benjamin Merkle states, “A potential elder must be a ‘one-woman man,’ meaning he must honor, love, and be devoted to his wife and her alone.” This leaves no room for polygamy, adultery, pornography, or any form or sexual deviance in the life of a Shepherd. Some have tried to argue that this phrase necessitates that an elder can never have been divorced, even if such a divorce was sanctioned by scriptural guidelines, or happened before the point of salvation. This interpretation however seems to go outside of the bounds of the idea of a “one woman man.” “It is doubtful that Paul is holding elders to a higher standard of morality than he requires of all believers” since each character quality required in order to be an elder is also a moral imperative incumbent upon all Christians. The context of both 1 Timothy and Titus have to do with present character qualities, not moral behaviors existing in an individual’s unregenerate years.
    If the list of qualifications presented in Titus 1 were to be chronologically followed, it could easily be said that being the “husband of one wife” is the most outward demonstration of being above reproach. This particular quality, along with, “having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion,” are under the banner of “family management.” 1 Timothy states it this way: “He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?).” Mark Dever explains the logic behind this important requirement when he says, “in 1 Timothy 3 [Paul] emphasizes how the elder deals with his family— because that reveals so much about him and how he would actually work as an elder.” Strauch further explains, “The key measurement when evaluating a man's management of his household is his children's behavior.” This does not mean that the father is seen as a  “spirit-crushing tyrant who gains submission by harsh punishment,” since that would be in direct contradiction to another principle of compassion Paul lays out concerning fatherly character in Eph 6:4. In fact, the whole reason behind this requirement is for the purpose of compassion.
        The verb that refers to the overseer's care of the church (epimeleomai) occurs only one other time in the New Testament. Jesus described the conduct of the "Good Samaritan" toward the wounded man in this manner: "He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care [epimeleomai] of him."
In the same way that the Good Samaritan cared for the wounded stranger, so should the elder evidence his care for his family as an example of the way he cares for the family of God. As a side note, there are some who believe this qualification suggests that an elder’s children must be believers. Dr. Benjamin Merkle shows why this view is untenable when he writes:
        While an elder's children must be obedient and submissive, the biblical qualifications do not include that his children must be believers. The Greek word sometimes translated "believing" in Titus 1:6 also can mean "faithful"—the latter meaning being confirmed by the parallel text in 1 Timothy 3:4. Requiring an elder's children to be believers also raises many difficult questions and places a requirement on a father that he cannot control.
This would be a good time to also affirm that elders must be male, otherwise the fatherly responsibilities and male pronouns used in all three passages would not have any real meaning.
    What follows in both 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1 are positive and negative character traits that help flesh out the idea of being “above reproach.” The positive traits are as follows: temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, gentle, righteous, holy, self-controlled, having a good reputation with unbelievers, and holding fast to the Word—both to exhort and to refute.
    Oftentimes the words Paul uses will only vary slightly in meaning with much in the way of overlap. The idea of temperance and prudence are actually very similar. Temperance, (nephaleos) found in 1 Timothy 3:2, conveys the idea of “abstaining from wine, either entirely or at least from its immoderate use.” This trait is really the positive side of not being “addicted to wine” as verse 3 states negatively. However, there’s more to this than just abstaining from intoxication. The very next word used in verse 2 (also repeated in Titus 1:8) is sophron, and means, “of a sound mind, sane, in one's senses curbing one's desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate.” “Temperate denotes self-control, balanced judgment, and freedom from debilitating excesses or rash behavior.” A temperate man is a man who sanely and deliberately makes uninhibited decisions. He is balanced in his emotional and mental state. A prudent man can be thought of as a man who is “self-control[ed], particularly as it relates to exercising good judgment, discretion, and common sense.” Both convey very similar ideas and seem to closely parallel “self control,” which is translated from the Greek word, “egkrates,” meaning, “strong, robust, having power over, possessed of (a thing), mastering, controlling, curbing, restraining, controlling one's self, temperate, [or] continent.” To boil these three elements down: An elder needs to be an individual who patiently and wisely considers the decisions he makes before-hand, not allowing his flesh to influence this process.
    “Respectable,” is a simple term that really “means that [the elder] has [the] dignity and the respect of his peers.” The same Greek word, kosmios, is also used in 1 Tim 2:9 to refer to the manner in which a godly woman should physically adorn herself. Dr. Benjamin Merkle comments, “It is not enough to get his respect from his office. If others are to follow and emulate him, he must prove that his life is worth following.”
    Being “hospitable,” according to 1 Peter 4:9, is a character trait every Christian is responsible to possess. Oswald Sanders observes:
        This ministry should never be seen as an irksome imposition but rather as one that offers the privilege of service. The Shepherd of Hermas, a widely used book written in the second century A.D., mentions that a bishop ‘must be hospitable, a man who gladly and at all times welcomes into his house the servants of God.’”
In the days of the early church it was common for Christians who were traveling from another town to stay with Christians within the place they were visiting. Those who lead the flock were to be marked by such openness and self-sacrifice.
    According to Alexander Strauch, epieikes, the word translated as “gentleness” cannot be adequately captured by simply one word. “No English word adequately conveys the fullness of this word's beauty and richness. ‘Forbearing,’‘kind,’‘gentle,’‘magnanimous,’‘equitable,’ and ‘gracious’ all help capture the full range of its meaning.” A gentle man is one who “does not insist upon the letter of the law or his personal rights.” It is the opposite of being “pugnacious.” In the Septuagint, the same word is ascribed to God in Psalm 86:5. A gentle man mirrors the attitude of His creator by graciously overlooking the sins of others and giving every opportunity and benefit that can be afforded. Similar to this is the concept of being “peaceable” or “abstaining from fighting.” In context, this character-trait is not referring to a pacifism, otherwise the command to “refute those who contradict” would not have any meaning. Rather it is referring to the idea that a shepherd is humble and does not willfully look for a fight.
    “The Greek word dikaios means ‘just’ or ‘righteous.’ To be upright or righteous means living according to God's Word.” A just person obeys the Word of God. The word is used in John 5:30 as a character-quality present in the life of Christ. “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just [dikaios], because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Someone who is just, having the Word of God as their standard, will by nature be “devout,” the next term used to describe the character of an elder in Titus 1:8. The NIV, ESV, KJV, and HCSB all translate the term “devout” as “holy.” A person who is devout is “undefiled by sin, free from wickedness, religiously observing every moral obligation, pure, holy, pious.” Again, this character-trait is one of the fundamental character qualities ascribed to God. It is a part of his “otherness,” and what makes Him “set apart.” Rev 15:4 triumphantly states, “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy [hosios].” Another connected quality found in Titus 1:8 is the idea of “loving what is good.” “According to the interpretation of the early Church it relates to the unwearying activity of love.” Not only should an elder have a moral compass formed by the word of God and be set apart to God, but an elder should have a heart that loves to do the will of God.
    In verse 1 Tim 3:7 Paul emphasizes the importance of a good reputation outside the walls of the church. Paul writes to Timothy, “And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” This particular quality is stressed by Paul’s use of the word “must” (dei). It is the same word used in Matt 16:21 to stress the necessity of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Paul’s emphasis of this character trait is similar to his emphasis on having a well-ordered family. Both serve as tests of authentication. It is in the context of the home and the outside world in which the “rubber meets the road” so to speak. Furthermore, disgrace is brought upon Christ and the church as a whole when one of the church’s leaders does not have a character that matches his profession. Strauch observes, “If a pastor elder has a reputation among nonbelievers as a dishonest businessman, womanizer, or adulterer, the unbelieving community will take special note of his hypocrisy.” It is no accident that “both the apostles Paul and Peter express deep concern that Christians [not just elders] have a good reputation before a watching, nonbelieving world.” This gets to one of the primary functions of the church according to Christ—to be “salt” and “light,”as seen in the Sermon on the Mount. Paul suggests it is the goal of Satan himself to foster a situation in which an elder will be disgraced in the eyes of the world. An elder has a target on his back, and cannot withstand the great temptations that exist unless his reputation is already in order in the eyes of the world. Mark Dever notes the reason for such a standard is that “Christians are supposed to be conspicuously holy, not for our own reputation, but for God's.”
    The last positive element to examine is perhaps the quality that most visibly marks the distinctiveness of the office of elder from the office of deacon in the life of the church. 1 Tim 3:2 puts it simply this way: an elder must be “able to teach.” The ability to teach is categorized as a special gifting given by the Holy Spirit for the edification of the church in Rom 12:7 and 1 Cor 12:28. Titus 1:9 expands this idea by stating that an elder ought to be “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” John Calvin comments on this verse observing,
        The pastor ought to have two voices: one, for gathering the sheep; and another, for warding off and driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means of doing both; for he who is deeply skilled in it will be able both to govern those who are teachable, and to refute the enemies of the truth.
An elder must take on the role of both teacher and apologist. Strauch comments, “This last requirement is more than just another personal character quality, it is a specific task the elder must be able to do: to teach correct doctrine and reprove false teachers.” If all the other qualifications define who an elder is, this last requirement defines what an elder does. The term “holding fast” [antechomai] is used in the gospels of Matthew and Luke to refer to a mutually exclusive devotion that ought to be given to God. It is an “unshakable, fervent conviction and commitment.” This means that elder must be solid theologically. The apostle Paul valued this particular aspect of eldership so much that he instructed Timothy to let “the elders who rule well . . . be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” Those who labored in digesting and applying the word of God to the congregation were to be compensated. The image of the shepherd gets to the heart of what is meant by “teaching” and “refuting.” Alexander Strauch shows,“The importance of feeding sheep is evidenced by the fact that sheep are nearly incapable of feeding and watering themselves properly. Without a shepherd, sheep would quickly be without pasture and water, and would soon waste away.” Again Strauch observes, “Shepherds must also have courage to fight fierce predators.” A shepherd in the church emulates the “chief Shepherd,” Jesus Christ, by maintaining a firm conviction, stout resoluteness, yet humble gentleness at the same moment. He is one who takes his responsibility seriously because his responsibility is motivated by a love for Christ’s sheep. Because of his character he can, as Peter writes, “[prove] to be examples to the flock.” In order to prove that this type of leadership exists in the life of a potential elder, there are also negative qualities that can not be present in the candidates life.

What Elders Should Not Be

All the negative qualities elders are not permitted to be characterized by are mirrored by the positive qualities previously discussed. The chart below will help organize these traits showing that both lists are really two sides of the same coin.

It could be argued that every positive trait can be inferred from every other positive trait. In other words, a man who is gentle, will by nature also be hospitable. The negative traits given seem to mirror some positive traits closer than others, but in reality every single negative trait is a direct contradiction to every single positive trait. They are all examples, both negative and positive, of what it means to be “above reproach.”
    In direct contradiction to the idea of having a proper desire and motivation for becoming an elder stands the imperative not to be “self-willed.” Paul expands this principle from Titus 1 in 1 Peter 5 by further qualifying that an elder should “not for sordid gain [become an elder] . . . nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge.” Titus 1 also includes the improper motivation of becoming an elder for “sordid gain.” In the KJV this phrase is translated “filthy lucre.” What Paul is essentially saying is actually quite simple. No person should be considered for the office of elder if they are seeking such an office for the purposes of either financial reward or to gain power. Both motivations would be selfish and would therefore not have the best interest of the sheep at hand.
        A self-willed man wants his own way. He is stubborn, arrogant, and inconsiderate of others' opinions, feelings, or desires. A self-willed man is headstrong, independent, self-assertive, and ungracious, particularly toward those who have a different opinion. A self-willed man is not a team player, and the ability to work as a team is essential to eldership.
    One negative quality that has been controversial in church life since the prohibition era is the command not to be “addicted to wine,” found in both 1 Timothy and Titus. This command is the negative side of being self-controlled.   It is rendered as “not a drunkard” in the ESV’s translation of 1 Tim 3:3. Dr. Benjamin Merkle wisely observes that “Paul does not say that it is wrong to drink alcohol. Rather, he is referring to the excesses of drinking too much alcohol and drinking it too often.” John Macarthur further comments: “The word translated ‘addicted to wine’ (paroinos) means ‘one who drinks.’ It doesn't refer to a drunkard—that's an obvious disqualification. The issue here is the man's reputation: Is he known as a drinker?” If part of a man’s identity is that of being a “drinker” to such an extant that he gains a reputation for it, he may not be considered for eldership. This is part of maintaining the church’s reputation and avoiding even the “appearance of evil.”
    Last, but not least, there are two elements that directly contradict the idea of being “gentle,” or “peaceable.” An elder must not be “quick-tempered,” or “pugnacious.” While both terms are similar to each other, being quick-tempered does not carry the violent connotation of being pugnacious. “A pugnacious man is a fighter, a bad-tempered, irritable, out-of-control individual. The Greek word is derived from the verb ‘to strike’ and suggests a violent person who is prone to physical assault on others.” Being “quick tempered,” (orgilos) refers to the idea of being “prone to anger, irascible.” A man who is quick tempered is in danger of being pugnacious, and a man who is pugnacious has already demonstrated that he is quick tempered. Neither quality reflects the tender care of a shepherd managing the flock of God.


    It was the great Puritan Richard Baxter who famously proclaimed, “I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.” The heart of the pastor is one that beats with humility and a true love for the people God has entrusted to his care. He knows that in a very real sense he is on par with the sheep he is exhorting, in as much need for forgiveness as they are. At the same time however, he also knows that it is his job to guide the people of God into the truth of God with gentleness and conviction. There are far to many examples in Scripture and real-life of men who were placed in leadership positions without the moral fortitude necessary to accomplish the task at hand. It is the will of God that only certain men, not superior men, but men uniquely gifted for the task of shepherding be placed into the position of the New Testament elder. It is the honor of God that is at stake and in so much as the flock of God submits to their elders they will be submitting to God. The author of Hebrews puts it this way: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.”


Book Review of "Can You Be Gay and Christian" By Dr. Michael Brown

By: Jonathan Harris

Whether it's a cake designer losing his business, a Christian organization changing its traditional view, or a Federal judge overturning a popular vote, it seems like every week the headlines are filled with stories about the normalization of homosexuality. In Dr. Michael Brown's book Can You Be Gay and Christian, the light of Scripture is allowed to shine on this ever increasingly important topic. Brown doesn't merely quote some Bible verses reinforcing traditional conservative views on sexuality. What we find as we examine Brown's thoughts is that, behind every good point made, is a heart desiring to genuinely love the homosexual. This does not mean affirmation, but rather transformation. The sufficiency of Christ is the answer for all sinners, including the homosexual. With books coming out like God and the Gay Christian,  understanding the incompatibility between homosexuality and Bible is going to be an essential issue every Christian should think through in the coming years. Here are some choice quotes from Brown's book.

This is the central argument being raised by gays and straights alike: love requires, even demands, that we recognize, embrace, sanction, and even celebrate committed same-sex unions.
Just as I have agonized over the stories of the Bobby Griffiths of this world, I have rejoiced over the stories of those who were once suicidal because they were living gay lifestyles—including “gay Christian” lifestyles—but who were delivered from suicide when they acknowledged their sin and turned to the Lord for forgiveness.
Actually, in the vast majority of cases, as suicide experts will verify, kids jump off bridges and hang themselves because they have other deep emotional or social problems. Otherwise they would not take their own lives. And yet rather than trying to get the root of these issues and really help these young people find wholeness, we are held hostage with the fear that our biblical values will lead kids to kill themselves. If we really care about these young people and if we really want to help them, this guilt tripping must stop.
But this is where so many well-meaning Christians have fallen into a trap: we have believed the lie that a person is primarily defined by their romantic attractions and sexual desires (as in, “I’m gay”).
You are more than your romantic attractions or sexual desires. You are more than someone attracted to the opposite sex or the same sex. You are created to be a child of God, a servant of the Lord Jesus, a world-changer and a history-maker in Him—and it is Jesus who tells us that the first step we must take in following Him is not to affirm ourselves but rather to deny ourselves.
One of the major roots of the problem we face when dealing with the difficult subject of homosexuality and the church: we start our thinking with the contemporary American value system that begins with, “It’s all about me,” which means that right and wrong is largely determined by how I feel about it. And then we weave the gospel into this, which is one reason we are in such spiritual error and deception today, not just in the area of “gay Christianity” but in so many other ways as well.
[Jesus] practices transformational inclusion, which I wholeheartedly advocate, not affirmational inclusion, which the GLBT community advocates.
The bottom line is that God doesn’t call us to heterosexuality as much He calls us to holiness.
That is a central problem with the “gay Christian” approach: it sees the Scriptures through the lens of homosexuality rather than seeing homosexuality through the lens of the Scriptures.
As for evangelical Christians being gay bashers, the fact is that the vast majority of evangelical churches in America rarely address the issue of homosexuality in any way—I’ve done surveys about this and examined lists of sermons and book and article titles—yet the popular perception is that we are obsessed with this subject and that on any given Sunday you are likely to hear an antigay, homophobic sermon. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It was only with the rise of an in-your-face gay activism that the church was forced to address these issues.
The issue is not the interpretation of the so-called “clobber passages,” which, as a sacred part of God’s sacred Word, are actually liberation verses, since embracing God’s truth sets us free. The issue is the testimony of the entire Bible, from beginning to end, and without a doubt, it is a heterosexual book—as one psychologist commented, “Our bodies tell us who we are—that humanity was designed and created for heterosexuality”—which is why marriage and family models in the Word are exclusively heterosexual.
So, the fact that Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time teaching against homosexual practice shouldn’t surprise us at all, nor does it prove anything. It would be like arguing, “It’s clear that President Reagan thought Martians were not a real threat to America, since he never mentioned Martians once, but he did talk a whole lot about the Soviet Union.” That’s true in part, but the reason Reagan never spoke about Martians was because he didn’t believe in Martians and so invasion from Mars was not a threat. The real threat was coming from the Soviet Union, and that’s where he put his emphasis. So, it would be ludicrous to say, “Ronald Reagan thought Martians were friendly.”                               
Let’s think about each of these points for a moment, recognizing that Paul’s writings—at most, thirteen letters, or even fourteen, if he wrote Hebrews—have been subjected to intensive scholarly scrutiny for many centuries, and those studying his writings have ranged from devoted followers of Jesus to skeptics and mockers. The range of interpretative differences between these scholars has often been massive, and some of the interpretations they have offered have been absolutely preposterous. Yet before the sexual revolution and the rise of gay activism, none of these scholars came up with these pro-gay reading of his writings.


A Crash Course in Biblical Hermeneutics

This is a three-part series on how to study the Bible given at the Grace Bible Church College/Career Group in the Spring of 2014. There are accompanying handouts and it is possible to download the discussions on Sermon Audio.


Book Review: The Canon Revisted by Dr. Michael Kruger

This is one of the best books I've read anywhere on any topic, period. But this is a must read for anyone into apologetics. I've been into presuppositional apologetics for years and have often wondered, "I know my final authority is God, and that all other perspectives are lost in absurdity, but how in the world do I defend what God has revealed to us in Scripture without appealing to an outside authority such as history or church tradition?" Well, this book has answered my question. Using the "Self-Authenticating Model" Kruger gives assurance and apologetic fire-power to every believer. Here are some chosen quotes from the book as well as a diagram of Kruger's "Self-Authenticating Model."

"The fundamental problem with the canon-within-the-canon approach is that it subjects the Scripture to a standard outside itself, namely, whatever criteria scholars set up to evaluate its truthfulness."

"J. I. Packer sums it up well: 'The Church no more gave us the New Testament canon than Sir Isaac Newton gave us the force of gravity. God gave us gravity . . . Newton did not create gravity but recognized it.'”

“History alone cannot answer the question of what the canon finally is; theology alone can do that.”

"The fact that proximate, human decisions played a role in the development of the canon does not rule out the possibility that ultimate, divine activity also played a role."

"What is needed, then, is a canonical model that does not ground the New Testament canon in an external authority, but seeks to ground the canon in the only place it could be grounded, its own authority."


The Gift of Tongues in Biblical and Modern Times

An Analysis and Critique
By: Jonathan Harris

For the past century, American evangelicalism has progressively adopted a theology less and less resembling the confessional dogmatism of its heritage and more and more resembling the mysticism of eastern religious tradition. Perhaps the most noticeable expression of this shift comes in the form of a practice known as “speaking in tongues”—a practice unknown to protestant denominations (other than by its New Testament reference) in the 19th century, but well known in even secular circles as a distinguishing feature of the religious right in modern times. But what is “speaking in tongues?” Is what’s happening today the same thing as what took place in the book of Acts? Is participating in this practice a sign of a “second blessing?” These, and questions similar to them surround the curious observer who rubs shoulders with the modern Charismatic or Pentecostal movements. What are Christians to make of this practice? It is the aim of this work to  inform the body of Christ concerning the truth related to the practice of the important biblical gift, while at the same time warning those dazzled by the deceitful charm of its modern counterfeit. There are answers to these questions, and they are found in the pages of God’s Word.

It has been said that in order to spot a counterfeit, one must first know the real thing. If there is to be an understanding of the errors of abusing, misusing, or fraudulently claiming to use the gift of biblical tongues, one must first discern the characteristics of biblical tongues. It is to this endeavor that this study focuses.        
Tongues are Human Languages

Students of the Bible are first exposed to the biblical gift of tongues in Acts 2. When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Although the term “ecstatic utterances” could be a possible translation of the phrase “other tongues” (heterais glossais) , “the translation ‘different languages’ reflects the understanding of this term based on the context of Acts 2:6 and 11.” The word used in verse 6 to describe what was being heard by those listening is the Greek word “dialektos” from where modern English speakers get the word “dialect.” In verses 9-11, “the listing of specific countries and ethnic groups proves . . . that these utterances were known human languages.” While those present heard “them in their own tongues,” there were also individuals “mocking and saying, ‘They are full of sweet wine.’” In other words, the apostles and their companions were accused of being drunk. To this charge Peter responds, “these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day.” It is clear in Acts that the first recorded manifestation of speaking in tongues refers to known dialects spoken from the lips of rational human beings.

In addition, Acts 10 records Cornelius’s household as being heard “speaking with tongues and exalting God” The content of their speech (i.e. “exalting God”) would obviously not have been known if it were not a discernable language. Paul the Apostle, in correcting the Corinthian church’s incorrect usage of the gift, rhetorically asks, “unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.” It is obvious from the only two books of the Bible (Acts and 1 Corinthians) that offer up any detail on the gift of tongues, that it can also be referred to as the “gift of languages”—specifically “human” languages. 

Objection: What About Angelic Languages?

One modern objection to the idea that tongues was or is a human language comes from the idea that there are also “angelic languages,” separate from human language, that can somehow be spoken through the leading of the Holy Spirit. These have been referred to as part of the “religious language of Pentecostalism,” and their existence is based on 1 Corinthians 13:1 which states, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” George E. Gardiner comments on the “angelic language” interpretation that, “Far from promoting a 'heavenly language," this verse supports the Scriptural pattern of comprehensible speech."

The first thing to notice about this verse is that it doesn’t actually say that there are angelic languages that differ from human languages. Every example in scripture of an angel speaking involves a human dialect. The second thing to be aware of is the fact that 1 Cor. 13:1 is part of a long chain of hyperbolic statements. Paul asks in verse 17 of chapter 12, “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?” Obviously, it is impossible for an entire body to be an eye. In verse 2 of chapter 13 he states, “ If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge . . . but do not have love, I am nothing.” Even for an apostle it was impossible to “know all mysteries and knowledge.” In the next chapter the apostle expresses “Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues;” an impossibility given Paul’s previous statements in chapter 12 making it clear that not all can possess the same gifting from God. Paul’s statement that even “if” he could “speak with the tongues of men and of angels” is a statement of hyperbole and certainly not a mandate to seek or speak a heavenly languages. A third point—which removes all doubt that biblical tongues were exclusively human dialects—is that the purpose for the gifting of tongues would be impossible to fulfill if it involved anything but human languages. In short, since biblical tongues was a sign to the nation of Israel, and for the edification of the church corporately, anything but an understandable language would not fulfill the purpose of God.

 Objection: What About Private Prayer Languages?

Surprisingly, about half of pastors believe that the gift of tongues could incorporate a “private prayer language” between an individual believer and God. The three major passages used to substantiate this view are 1 Cor. 14:2 which says, “ For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries,” 1 Cor 14:14, which states, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful,” and Rom. 8:26 which reads, “. . . the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” The problem with using any of these passages to forward the notion that tongues is a personal prayer language is that they each, when placed into proper context, end up disproving the very idea they are thought to prove.

New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg, while defending the idea that “a private prayer language can prove very beneficial and therapeutic,” states, “It is not clear whether Paul would distinguish this use of tongues from the ‘spiritual gift’ of glossolalia. One suspects he might, since the gifts must be used for the public edification of the church.” Blomberg’s suspicion is actually symptomatic of something bigger going on here. 1 Corinthians is a “letter of anger, satire, reproof, correction, and instruction.” Chapters 12-14 are directed at correcting the high premium the Corinthian church placed on the “showy” gifts, namely tongues. What’s going on in chapter 14 is a contrast of two types of practices. One was the biblical gift of tongues, and the other was the counterfeit (a leftover from the paganism that once characterized the newly saved Corinthians). The KJV translates the word for tongue in the singular form as “unknown tongue” (the counterfeit), while translating the plural (biblical gift) as simply “tongues.” John MacArthur comments on 1 Cor 14:2,
. . . the Greek literally says, "But to a god." What Paul is saying is, "You people with your pagan ecstasies are not doing what all spiritual gifts were given to do, that is to speak to men. Rather, your ecstasies are speaking to a god, nobody can even understand what you're saying, you are all wrapped up in speaking pagan mysteries!"
When this background is understood, the very next verse after 1 Cor:14:14 makes sense. “What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also.” Paul isn’t contradicting himself between verses 14 and 15. He is contrasting what the Corinthians should have been doing with what they actually were doing. To use verse 14 to support a “private prayer language” would be to receive Paul’s statement as an encouragement instead of a rebuke.

While 1 Cor. 14 pertains to the subject of speaking in tongues, Rom. 8:26 has nothing to do with the practice. The word is not mentioned anywhere in the chapter, and even if it were referring to the gift of tongues, it most certainly is not recommending a private prayer language for two major reasons. First, it is the Spirit who is “interceding,” not the Christian. So the “groanings” are not coming from the Christian in any way, shape, or form. Secondly, it says that the groanings are “too deep for words,” or as the KJV puts it, “groanings which cannot be uttered.” Those trying to use this passage to justify uttering words from themselves to God are ignoring two major elements of the verse.

Tongues are a Sign to Israel

In 1 Cor. 14, Paul instructs the Corinthians, “In the Law it is written, ‘By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,’ says the Lord. So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers.” In making his point, the apostle quotes from Isaiah 28:11-12 which is:

God’s message of judgement upon the nation of Israel. Jehovah had plead with Israel, he had sent drought, famine, pestilence, and all without effect. The nation drifted further and further away from God, refusing His “rest” and refreshing “they would not hear.” Through Isaiah came this warning, predicting the invasion from Assyria and Israel’s resulting captivity.    

Throughout the Old Testament hearing men speaking in “strange tongues,” was consistently a sign of judgement on Israel. Again, in Is. 33:19, “You will no longer see [because of God’s deliverance] . . . A people of unintelligible speech which no one comprehends, Of a stammering tongue which no one understands.” Jer. 5:15 states, “"Behold, I am bringing a nation against you. . . A nation whose language you do not know, Nor can you understand what they say.” In Deuteronomy we find:
. . . you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you. The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand.
The interesting thing about this passage is it’s reference to complete destruction (“until He has destroyed you.”) This was not something that had not taken place in either the Babylonian or Assyrian captivity. Many scholars hold the view that the final fulfillment of Deuteronomy 28 took place in “70 A.D. when Israel was conquered by Titus and his Roman legions” when the nation was destroyed.

In pondering such passages, the question naturally arises, “What does Paul’s reference to the physical destruction of Israel have to do with the sign of speaking in tongues?” As the name implies, a sign is meant to point to something. In the New Testament, Christ and the Apostles authenticated their teaching through the use of miraculous “sign gifts.” On the day of Pentecost Peter proclaims, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know.” The signs of a “true apostle” were the performance of “signs and wonders and miracles.” The gift of tongues was a sign of the new covenant, just as other miraculous signs such as healing and miracles were. However, the gift of tongues foreshadowed a certain aspect of the new covenant. Verse 21 indicates that through the audible proclamation of truth through gentile languages, God would prove that the nation of Israel had no interest in the truth about Him. The gospel had gone to the gentiles, and they were now authorized to carry God’s message without first being proselytized into Judaism. Therefore, the purpose of tongues as a spiritual gift, in addition to edifying the church, was to act as a sign of judgement upon the nation of Israel: a judgement that would find its consummation in 70 A.D.        

Tongues Were for Corporate Edification

“God did not intend for the gift of tongues to be used for self-edification. This is not the purpose of tongues,” as was briefly touched on in the previous discussion on “private prayer languages.” Though the biblical gift of tongues was a sign to the Jews, the words being spoken were intended to edify the church. As 1 Cor. 7:12 states, in reference to spiritual gifts: “But to each one is given the
manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Tongues is no exception to this. This is why, in Paul’s admonition of the Corinthian’s misuse of the gift, he states:
If anyone speaks in a tongue [true gift of biblical tongues], it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.
What Paul found lacking from the church at Corinth was a sense of decency and order. More than one person was simultaneously attempting to exercise the gift of tongues in a way in which, though an unbelieving Jewish person may have been present, the church as a whole was not being edified. The gift of tongues was no more for private edification than its counterpart, the gift of prophecy, or any spiritual gift mentioned in 1 Cor. 12-14 for that matter. This is why not one command exists in all of the New Testament for individuals to practice the gift of tongues as a means of prayer or self-edification.

Tongues Were a Spiritual Gift

While it has been a fundamental assumption of this study that the gift of biblical tongues was in fact a spiritual gift, there are a great many implications to this truth. Like all spiritual gifts, tongues were meant for the edification of the church. In addition however, it should be noted that tongues were only exclusive to individuals who possessed the gift, and were on par with every other gifting of the Spirit. This is the point of chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians. “Now there are varieties of gifts . . . but the same God who works all things in all persons.” It is clear that individuals are not able to choose the gifts God has given them, rather it is God who gives specific gifts to individual believers. Verse 11 of chapter 12 reiterates, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” This means that not every person possesses every spiritual gift. Even so, the Apostle makes it clear that there should be no jealousy in the congregation over what gifts each person possesses since all gifts are necessary for the proper functioning of the body of Christ. This is the idea behind the analogy of the body. “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. . . If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.” The gift of tongues is not superior to any other gift, and it cannot be sought by an individual Christian. It was either something God gifted a believer with, or He didn’t.

Objection: What About Paul’s Desire That “All Spoke in Tongues?”

Yes, it is true in 1 Cor. 14:5 Paul states, “Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues,” referring to the legitimate biblical gift. You’ll also find that in 1 Cor. 7:7 Paul wishes that all men were single. Surely Paul didn’t in actuality envision a world without marriage! What we find in 1 Corinthians, as stated formerly, are many hyperbolic statements. Paul’s statement of personal desire should not be confused with his statements on God’s desire for each believer to be uniquely gifted.

Objection: What About Paul’s Desire For Christians to Pursue the Greater Gifts?

In 1 Cor. 12:31 Paul instructs, “But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.” This “excellent way,” as the reader finds out, is the attitude of love a believer should have for his fellow believer as taught in chapter 13. Paul was essentially rebuking the Corinthian church for not possessing this love, and as the context of chapter 12 bears out, competing with each other to gain what the Corinthians considered to be “superior gifts,” especially tongues. Paul’s statement should not be interpreted as a command, but rather as a statement of fact. “You are desiring the greater gifts.” Alan F. Johnson writes in his commentary, “The grammatical form Paul uses can mean either an imperative command, as in the NIV, or an indicative statement, ‘Now you are eagerly desiring the greater gifts.’ Only the context can help us decide between the two readings.” Therefore, according to the context, Paul is not commanding believer’s to pursue the supposedly “greater gifts,”but rather to not pursue them and choose to love one another instead.

Tongues Have Ceased

While there is no scripture that explicitly states, “The gift of tongues will end at such and such a time,” there is enough evidence within the Bible and history to cast serious doubt on the existence of the spiritual gift today. There exist three major pieces of evidence for claiming that the gift of tongues has ceased. The first is that 1 Cor 13:8 says it will cease, the second is that historically the gift ceased during the early church period (only to supposedly be reignited at the turn of the 20th century), and the third piece of evidence is that the purpose of the gift has been accomplished.

1 Cor. 13:8 states, “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.” The first thing to notice about this passage is that the term “done away” is used to describe the gifts of prophecy and knowledge, but the term “cease” is used to describe the eventual cessation of tongues. Verses 9-12 make it crystal clear that the gifts of prophecy and knowledge are done away when “the perfect comes.” It is at this time when the “partial” gifts of prophecy and knowledge end. Paul uses the analogy of a child becoming an adult in verse 11 to explain this transition. Many scholars think the “perfect” refers to the second coming of Christ due to the statement that we shall see it “face to face,” suggesting a personal being. However, no matter what happens to prophecy and knowledge, something different happens to tongues.

In verse 8, prophecies and knowledge "shall be done away with" (katargethesetai, passive voice), but tongues "shall cease" (pausontai, middle voice). The significance of the middle voice in regard to tongues is, anti-Pentecostals state, that this means tongues will act upon themselves, i.e., cease without the action of the "perfect thing."

Essentially, the coming of the “perfect” brings an end to the gifts of prophecy and knowledge, but tongues ceases all by itself. It is reasonable to assume, based on the next two pieces of evidence, that this cessation occurred fairly soon after the writing of 1 Corinthians.

As highlighted previously, the purpose of biblical tongues was to be a sign of judgement on unbelieving Israel. It acted as a transitional gift that pointed away from the Old Covenant and to the New Covenant. When judgement finally came to Israel in 70 A.D. with the destruction of the temple, the need for the sign of this judgement (tongues) was rendered obsolete. The nation of Israel had been judged as predicted by Jesus in Matt. 24:2, and there was no need to further point to a judgement that had already occurred. 

When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians chapters 12, 13, and 14, about the year A.D. 55, tongues still had purpose. They were a sign to the Jews that Isaiah's prophecy was about to be fulfilled. . . However, after Jerusalem's fall and before the Scripture's completion, the Biblical gift of tongues ceased. Historically, it is easy to see this transition. Scholar Cleon L. Rogers Jr. writes:
After examining the testimony of the early Christian leaders whose ministry represents practically every area of the Roman Empire from approximately A.D. 100 to 400, it appears that the miraculous gifts of the first century died out and were no longer needed to establish Christianity. Furthermore, it is very evident that even if the gift were in existence, in spite of all the testimony to the contrary, it was neither widespread nor the normal Christian experience. The only clear reference to anything resembling the phenomena is connected with the heretic Montanus and those influenced by his erroneous views of the Spirit. All of the evidence points to the truth of Paul’s prophecy when he says “tongues shall cease” (I Cor. 13:8).
It wasn’t until the year A.D. 1901 that Charles Parham, founder of Bethel Bible School in Topeka Kansas, claimed that one of his students, Agnes Ozman, had received the gift of tongues (baptism of the Holy Spirit), thus launching the modern Pentecostal movement. Approximately 1831 years of silence separate the biblical gift from the modern phenomena. The chart below illustrates the historical argument for the cessation of biblical tongues.

(click on chart below for full size)


In order to evaluate the modern phenomena of speaking in tongues, one must first look to the biblical framework as a sieve. Only interpretable human languages used to edify the church corporately in the presence of unbelieving Jew(s) in an orderly setting would even begin to qualify as the biblical gift described in Acts. It is unquestionable from both the biblical and historical records that what is taking place in modern times bears little significance to what took place in biblical times. It is more likely that the modern movement is repeating the mistake of the Corinthians all over again—placing a greater premium on tongues than other gifts, doing so in confusing settings with more than one person speaking at a time, not conforming to standard human languages, and not exercising the gift as a sign of judgement upon Israel.


The Meat Diet!

What we put into our mind is one of the most important decisions we can make. Scripture has much to say on discernment and spiritual nourishment. Here are the top podcasts I use to keep myself nourished (other than personal study). This is my diet, perhaps you'll see some of the food I eat and say, "Hey that looks good!" That's my conspiracy at least ;).

1) The Dividing Line

I've been listening to the dividing line off and on for the past four years or so. Over the past six months I think I've caught just about every episode many times listening on high speed (2x) just to make sure I really get all the material being presented with the limited time I have. Dr. James White teaches apologetics and presents news topics relevant to apologetics and Christian world-view issues from a thoroughly biblical viewpoint. I've listened to a lot (and I mean a lot!) of apologetics radio programs and podcasts and believe me, nothing even comes close to this guy.

2) Generations Radio

I admit, I just started listening to this, but boy do I like it. I've been frustrated for years with Christian attempts at political talk radio for the simple reason that most of them aren't biblical in their outlook. They generally throw out the Old Testament as not applying at all to our modern context and appeal to secular principles to defend Christianity. I tune into Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity now and then, not because I was in complete support of them, but because the Christian alternatives were no better. Well, finally I found something that IS better! Generations Radio filters the political and cultural issues of the day through a thoroughly biblical (both Old and New Testament) lens. I'm really liking these guys.

3) Paul Washer

This is preaching, plain and simple. While I do listen to a variety of preachers, John MacArthur probably being the most commonly listened to, this is the only consistent preaching podcast I subscribe to and keep up with in a chronological fashion. This guy is the Tabasco sauce of my diet.

4) Wretched Radio

I confess, I don't listen to Wretched as much as I use to mainly because I don't have the time like I use too. But I would say if I had to pick one podcast, and only one, it would be this one. Todd Friel hosts a Christian variety show with everything from the daily news, to comedy sketches, to preaching clips, to biblical teaching, to recorded evangelistic encounters. I mean it's all there, and it's solid stuff! You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be edified.

5) The Daily Briefing

Al Mohler, current president of Southern Seminary, goes through the news of the day that's pertinent to Christians and answers call in questions. The daily show is only about 20 min. long so it's a good commuter show. You'll already have the daily news analyzed from a Christian mindset before you get into your work discussions.

Book Review: Disinformation by Ion Mihai Pacepa

Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism definitely lives up to its title. Three-star general Ion Mihai Pacepa, the top ranking intelligence defector from the Soviet Union during the Cold War, shares the secret tactics behind the U.S.S.R.'s campaign against the United States by skillfully manipulating the media and thus the public. Disinformation is different than misinformation the same way that getting someone to tell a lie for you is different than telling the lie yourself. Pacepa maintains that a link still exists between the Left in this country and the not so former Soviet Union whereas the same tactics are used to deceive the public into accepting unreliable sources as fact. I'm borderline on whether this should be recommended reading for every highschooler. Let's just say, if not recommended, strongly encouraged! It will definitely help open up eyes and promote a healthy skepticism. 


Book Review: Killing Calvinism by Greg Dutcher

By: Jonathan Harris

A couple days ago I read through Greg Dutcher's short book "Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside." It has been an observation of mine for some time that those who discover Reformed Theology get excited and awaken to a newness of spiritual life. This is to be expected. The Bible turns from black and white into color as passages regarding God's promises are personalized and held to be the treasures they are. God gets bigger, people get smaller. It's like standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon and finally turning around to see there's more than a visitor's parking lot- but in fact a wondrous inexhaustible expanse that makes the viewer feel insignificant (in a good way). Accompanying this should (and in my experience always is) be a renewed vigor for the Christian life, living holy, evangelism, prayer, etc. Those who haven't come to see the doctrines of grace as precious tend to level the same accusations against those in the Reformed camp that, let's be honest, use to plague those who joined the Reformed camp as they were struggling with them. How can God allow some to go to hell if He's in control? If God is in control, why evangelize? If God predestines why pray? etc. etc. Once a Reformed person learns the answers to these questions, and struggles through the process of realizing God's character there is unfortunately a danger. A lack of patience can develop. An, "I see this, why can't you!" attitude can emerge. Dutcher writes against this and shows how being consistently Calvinistic means being patient with people and letting God work on them. It also means valuing God and not merely Reformed theology. It means gently giving answers to those who ask. I believe this book is well worth the read for the "Young, Restless, and Reformed" out there.

There is a kind of "dead Calvinism" that can be seen in some old mainline churches. I've met people who have professed Predestination, who have grown up in "Calvinistic" churches, and who have little fire for God. They do exist, and it's often in places in which at one time the fires of holiness were burning brightly. I can only wonder if their Calvinism was killed by some of the things Dutcher expresses in his book.

There are two things I think the reader should keep in mind as they go through this however. Two dangers exist. 1) Forgetting that God ordains means as well as ends. If Dutcher's point is taken too far there is danger- danger that one can tend toward patience with the "non-Reformed" to the point of not correcting false doctrine when it arises. We should be passionate about the doctrines in Scripture. I know Dutcher would agree with me on this, but he doesn't really talk about it in his book. 2) Becoming judgmental of less than tactful Calvinists. Just as we don't want to judge those who are ignorantly Arminian (as opposed to those who are purposely Arminian. Yes there is a difference, and we should treat them differently I believe, but that's for another blog.), we don't want to be quick to judge a Calvinist who's so passionate it embarrasses us.

With all that being said, here are some helpful quotes from the book:

like a windshield, Reformed theology is not an end in itself. It is simply a window to the awe-inspiring universe of God’s truth, filled with glory, beauty, and grace. Do we need something like a metaphorical windshield of clear, biblical truth to look through as we hope to marvel at God’s glory? Absolutely. But we must make sure that we know the difference between staring at a windshield and staring through one.

While all true disciples are theologians, not all theologians are true disciples.

An Arminian friend actually asked me once, “Is it just me, or are some of you guys more passionate about Arminians becoming Calvinists than you are about unbelievers becoming believers?” (side note: There is some overlap here I think. We should be passionate about both- unbelievers seeing God's glory, and believers realizing it fuller.)

We are often afraid to say, “I understand. It does seem hard to fathom a God who chooses only some and not everyone,” so we argue back. But if we have never stopped to validate the person’s emotional concern, it doesn’t matter if our retort is 100 percent dead-on right: we have made a huge misstep and almost certainly wasted an opportunity.

As one who ministers mostly to those who don’t see themselves as Reformed, I ask you to trust me when I say that letting go of a worldview can be like letting go of a loved one. For the typical evangelical in the West, what helps him or her make sense of the world is a kind of unexamined “Arminianism lite,” absorbed by osmosis from the broader Christian culture, tainted as that culture is by humanism and postmodernism and whatever else. For many of these genuine believers, this perspective is Christianity, however vague and ill-formed it may seem from our side of the theological fence. They love it and feel they need it. To let go of something you have cherished in this way often requires a period of grieving.

I am hardly the first pastor to teach Calvinism “anonymously” simply by teaching God’s Word. But I have learned that when my people see what the Bible says about God, sin, and salvation, they are more and more open to adjusting their prior conceptions of what it means to be saved. I believe this is the key to bringing Christians out of their Arminianism (conscious or unconscious, examined or unexamined), and into what Spurgeon simply called a nickname for the gospel. We must help people see what the Bible actually says.
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