Category Archives: Postmodernism

How Could Understanding Sola Scriptura Apply To 21st Century Evangelicals (Or Does It?)

sola-scriptura-02October 2017 has arrived, bringing more intensified blog posts and podcasts about the Protestant Reformation. Hopefully a few evangelicals will gain interest in this watershed moment in church history (indeed, in world history) as the conversation escalates.

Sadly, most probably won’t.

History in  general bores most people. I’ve mentioned before that one friend of mine prefers to concentrate on the mess in the 21st Century Church rather than study what happened 500 years ago. To her, the Reformation seems largely irrelevant. And I definitely agree that the visible Church has very serious problems that Christians should address vigorously. Sitting in an ivory tower memorizing the Five Solas seems ineffectual when people like Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker and Lysa TerKeurst are actively promoting false teaching and obscuring the truth.

Yet I would argue that false teaching proliferates precisely because most evangelicals have ignored, neglected and/or forgotten the Five Solas and other legacies of the Protestant Reformation. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), for example, would go a long way in correcting most of the errors in present-day evangelicalism.

By 1517, the Roman Catholic Church had devolved into a religious system that suppressed the Gospel for the sake of political power. Popes depended on the unquestioning obedience of the laity, and consequently they developed a theology that made people rely on works and religious taxation (as exemplified in the sale of Indulgences) in order to retain their hold on people.

Keeping the Bible and the Mass in Latin helped them maintain control over everyone. By making God’s Word inaccessible to all but the highest levels of clergy, the Roman Catholic Church avoided questions about its unbiblical doctrines and practices. As you might expect, therefore, the Reformers’ emphasis on preaching the Word and translating it into languages that people could read for themselves posed a substantial threat to Rome.

Today, the Bible is readily available in an astounding variety of formats, and most false teachers will encourage their followers to study it. They obscure it, however, by promoting supplemental teaching, mystical experiences or self-centered interpretations that cause people to follow them. They discourage proper hermeneutics and rush to annex psychology,  Charismatic gifts and/or mysticism to Bible Study, thus distracting people from the clear teaching of Sacred Text.

Studying the Protestant Reformation, and observing how the Reformers drew people back to the Bible, would go a long way in correcting many flaws in the present-day church. As we see how Luther, Tyndale, Calvin and other 16th Century Reformers insisted on Sola Scriptura and the other Solas, we learn to resist error and cling to the truth. If ever a generation needed to study the Reformation, it’s this one.

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The Negation Of Reason By Sensuous Minds

49575-before2bthe2bcrossThrough a variety of circumstances, I’ve recently been exposed to young women in the Millennial generation. With one notable exception, I don’t really like what I see. The irresponsibility and self-centeredness appalls and saddens me. This generation, from what I see, exchanges reason for experience and pragmatism, paying little attention to long-term ramifications of their decisions. They pay even less attention to how their behaviors affect others.

In short, they possess poor reasoning skills. As a result, they exercise poor judgment, and then cast themselves as innocent victims when they face the consequences of that poor judgment. Between the immediacy of social media and the indoctrination of liberal colleges and Hollywood, Millennials have never learned to think for themselves.

To be fair, those attitudes have definite roots in my generation: the Baby Boomers. We set the example of selfishness and exaltation of feelings over facts. We implicitly taught them to use their emotions and desires as standards, insisting that moral absolutes depend on what their personal experience tells them.

Interestingly, after dealing with some of these women over the past couple weeks, my personal study of Colossians today brought me to a passage that, in part, applies to the deterioration of reasoning skills that I see in these women.

18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. ~~Colossians 2:18-19 (ESV)

In context, these two verses warn against false teachers who claim special revelation from spiritual experiences they supposedly have. In future posts, maybe we can discuss these verses in that light. But today it occurred to me that a sensuous mind (whether or not it leads to a person becoming a false teacher) invariably leads someone away from clear reason.

A sensuous mind celebrates feelings over truth. It depends on personal experience and desires to direct its course, making truth dependent on the person’s subjective impressions rather than on God’s Word. It certainly rejects Christ as the Source of wisdom.

As I said earlier, Millennials don’t have a corner on living in response to sensuous minds; Boomers and Gen Xers taught them that life revolves around what they feel and want. They simply believe what we’ve modeled for them.

Naturally, those who don’t know Christ first need to hear the Gospel. They need to understand that truth exists apart from them instead of being determined by their feelings and desires. And even those who profess to know Him require guidance back to Scripture, learning to reason from its truths. We owe these young ladies nothing less.

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Avoiding Either Side Of The Mess

IMG_1656Did you miss me yesterday? A friend and I were in Boston taking a trolley tour. As you can probably guess, it wasn’t my first trolley tour. In addition to other trolley and Duck Boat tours, I’ve also taken multiple Freedom Trail walking tours and a literary walking tour.

The tour yesterday differed from most of the other tours I’ve taken in that the guide didn’t gleefully mention all the hypocritical actions of the Puritans who first settled Boston. Having been on so many tours, I knew exactly where the derogatory comments usually pop up, so I braced myself each time. I figured they world be worse than ever since Trump’s presidency seems to have emboldened anti-Christian sentiment.

I was relieved. And pleasantly surprised.

Obviously, the Puritans did some terrible things in the name of Christ. Denying historical fact, even when it would be advantageous to deny it, doesn’t really do much good. I do understand that principle. And possibly Christians need to say yes, some of what happened in 17th Century Boston dishonored the very  Lord those Puritans claimed to follow.

But if a tour guide decides to point out the sins of the Puritans, he or she should also point out their virtues. Not once have I heard, for example, a tour guide mention the January 15, 1697 Day of Fasting and Repentance for the Salem Witch Trials. Presumably, doing so would weaken their anti-Christian narrative.

However, doing so would also demonstrate an intellectual honesty that few people in our postmodern culture care to possess. Although one tour guide admitted to me that he purposefully included Puritan bashing in his walking tour for entertainment value (to which I replied that I find it less than entertaining), he forgot that most of his customers probably will never crack open a history book. If he gave them the only view of the Puritans they’d ever get, he needed to offer positive as well as negative comments.

American history is a messy business, no matter what political and religious beliefs you have. Intellectual integrity simply doesn’t allow me to ignore things like the Salem Witch Trials, but neither does it allow non-Christians to characterize all Puritans as hypocrites (or worse). Yesterday I enjoyed history that avoided both extremes.

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Saturday Sampler: September 10 — September 16

Fish SamplerHurricanes. Floods. Tornadoes. Earthquakes. Is it the birth pangs? asks Elizabeth Prata of The End Time. You’ll appreciate the Biblical and sensible way she addresses the eschatological concerns that natural disasters invariably raise.

Berean Research includes Amy Spreeman’s answer to an email lamenting, “I can’t find a solid church”. Sadly, fewer and fewer evangelical churches these days offer strong Biblical preaching and teaching, thus spawning malnourished Christians and false converts. Praise God for true believers like the one who reached out to Amy, who long for the Word of God.

Look at 1 Chronicles 21:1-2. Compare it to 2 Samuel 24:1-2. But instead of tearing your hair out trying to understand whether the Lord or Satan incited David to take the census of Israel, read Think These Biblical Passages Contradict? Not So Fast by Michael S. Heiser in Logos Talk to see how to resolve the discrepancy. Articles like this one highlight the value of good Bible study.

Lara d’Entremont points out that there’s Hope for the Indecisive in the Sufficiency of Scripture. Her blog, Renewed In Truth Discipleship, refreshes me by demonstrating how Biblical Counseling (rather than so-called Christian psychology) effectively ministers to people. I can’t recommend her blog enough!

According to E.J. Hutchinson, who authors The Calvinist International, Martin Luther’s famous stand on God’s Word at the Diet of Worms, though revolutionary in many respects, had roots in Augustine’s writing. Hutchinson’s article  entitled “Here I Stand:” The Patristic Roots of the Reformation helps us see how the Reformers, rather than breaking with church tradition, actually upheld Biblical Christianity and restored it to its original intent.

Do you need guidance on doing evangelism? Go to Growing 4 Life and read Leslie A’s On Sharing the Gospel. She works through 1 Thessalonians 1:1-12 to outline ten Scriptural principles to  aid us in witnessing to people.

Writing for Biblical Woman, Katie McCoy examines a disturbing trend among professing Christians. More Than Marriage: What’s Behind Polyamory in the Church? illustrates the moral disintegration that inevitably follows when people disregard the authority of God’s Word. Although this blog post is extremely uncomfortable to read, I include it here as a reminder that postmodern evangelicalism has turned away from the Bible, and that Christians must be resolute in our obedience to the Lord.

Michelle Lesley is really on fire with her article The Five Solas of the Protestant Deformation! John and I had been talking about how evangelicalism has turned away from the principles that the Lord restored to the Church just hours before this piece was published, so I really appreciate the confirmation that others see what I see. Thanks, Michelle!

In a blog post appearing in For The Church Pastor Casey Lewis answers the question From Where Does Bad Theology Come? with an appeal to Scripture. His assessment puts spiritual warfare in its proper perspective.

Some of my fondest memories go back to the years I wrote and directed plays in drama ministry, so reading John Ellis’ Drama Programs Do Not Belong in Church in PJ Media  hurts a bit. It hurts because I now believe he’s right. The fact that he builds his case from his knowledge of theater strengthens his credibility.

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The Reformation Reflects Today’s Church

Modern ReformationAs this year leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation has progressed, I’ve grown disappointed (if not a little frustrated) with my lack of structuring my study time. So many men and women risked their lives standing against the Roman Catholic Church for the sake of the Gospel — some even becoming martyrs rather than compromise God’s Word. I’d anticipated telling their stories as a way of inspiring you (and myself) to stand firm against the erosion of sound doctrine in our own day.

The truth is, my almost 64-year-old body can’t accommodate my to-do list. Bible Study, blogging, social media and trying to be a wife collide with expanded Personal Care Attendant schedules and slowing typing speed, leaving less time and energy to research Knox, Lady Jane Grey, Zwingli and others who did so much to restore Biblical Christianity to Western civilization. Would Christ’s words about the spirit being willing and the flesh being weak apply here?

Maybe. But I digress.

With three months still to go until October 31st, I intend to continue using Tuesdays to keep the Reformation before you. Why? Because I believe Christianity in postmodern times has been corrupted as badly as it had been in the 16th Century, and consequently that Bible-believing Christians in our day need the fortitude and conviction that led those Reformers to praise God as their bodies were burned at the stake for the sake of the Gospel. Their willing spirits certainly conquered their weak flesh!

The assaults on Biblical Christianity came from Roman Catholicism during the Middle Ages as the church developed traditions that had more to do with supporting the opulent lifestyles of popes, cardinals and bishops than with the Gospel. Let’s briefly review the teachings that first prompted Martin Luther to openly question the church.

As we’ve seen throughout this series, teachings on the sacramental system, Purgatory and Indulgences taught people that, although their baptism as infants brought them the initial grace of salvation, they perfected that grace through the sacraments. But even then, they might need to spend time in Purgatory atoning for sins left unconfessed. Of course, purchasing Indulgences for themselves or loved ones could shorten that time, admitting the suffering soul to heaven.

Not surprisingly, medieval Catholicism suppressed access to the Bible. Obviously, reading the Bible without the church’s official annotations and apocryphal books would expose the errors propagated by church authorities.

Professing Christians in our day have different false teachings, in addition to having various vestiges of Roman Catholic mysticism, making it necessary to look again at the Reformers and the doctrines they recovered. As those Reformers directed people back to reading the Bible in its proper context, we must hold to solid Biblical doctrine and resist evangelical fads.

Neglecting the Protestant Reformation may be fashionable, but it increases our vulnerability to present-day false teaching. I’m clearly not the polished church historian that I’d like to be, and I may fail to tell the stories that need telling, but if I can keep the Protestant Reformation before you, perhaps you’ll start researching it for yourselves. You just may be surprised by what it reveals about the 21st Century church.

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From The Archives: Unnecessary Self-Analysis

I originally published this blog post on January 30, 2016.

The Lord, for reasons known only to Him, kept me single until a month before my 49th birthday. His decision  troubled me greatly, to say the least.

During those anguished years of singleness, “Christian psychology” made its way into the church I’d joined. Consequently, I felt compelled to analyze my desire to marry, much as my friends tried to analyze  their same sex attractions.  Borrowing from that church’s use of psychological models, I reasoned that uncovering the underlying cause of my longing for a husband would unlock ways that Jesus could directly provide me with romantic fulfillment.

You may have guessed that my quest never yielded the answers I sought. I struggled with enormous self-condemnation because Jesus didn’t satisfy me. So of  course  I then searched for explanations regarding my apparent resistance to Him. I read countless “Christian” books on co-dependency, emotional dependency, inner  healing, and all sorts of other psychological blocks to “receiving God’s love.” But my  desire for marriage stubbornly remained.

Looking back, I easily see that romantic fulfillment was an idol. Mercifully, the Lord did eventually bless me with a marriage far beyond my expectations, for which I praise Him. But what if He hadn’t?

Scripture says that God  created us for His pleasure and purposes, not so that He could cater to our “felt needs.”

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.” ~~Revelation 4:11 (ESV)

The King James Version says “and for thy pleasure they are created.” So, while my marriage extends happiness as a wonderful by-product, the Lord actually brought it about to glorify Himself. If He had chosen to keep me single, He would have also done that for His glory. My emotional gratification really matters little in comparison to how He chooses to glorify Himself through me.

As post-modern evangelicals shift increasingly toward a gospel that requires the Lord to meet our emotional needs, we lose sight of the true Gospel that revolves around Him. The Lord primarily cares about making us holy. He died in order to take the wrath of God that rightly belongs to each of us so that we, as a corporate Church, might be His eternal Bride. Thus, His purpose in redeeming us goes far beyond our temporal happiness.

When we then shift the emphasis from His eternal joy to what we can get out of Him in this life, we cheapen the Gospel. In fact, dear sisters in Christ, we cheapen Christ. The hours we waste in psychological counseling could be used in studying and applying Scripture as we seek to live in holiness before Him.

“Christian” psychology, by offering non-existent answers to questions we have no business asking in the first place, subtly shifts God into the role of our Servant. Even though He does graciously bless us, we must break out of our insidious attitude that He has an obligation to fulfill us emotionally. We exist to please Him, and we can rejoice that He takes pleasure in us.

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Boston Public Schools And The Moral Training Of Children (Or: Musings From The Subway)

IMG_3957On the subway yesterday, the man across from me was reading a local newspaper. I happened to glimpse a headline that Boston public schools plan to start teaching emotional and social skills.

Initially I reacted positively, thinking about the Snowflakes on college campuses these days who can’t tolerate anyone or anything that challenges their typically liberal beliefs. I echo others who correctly point out that college no longer encourages kids to think through a variety of viewpoints, but instead brainwashes them to adopt the liberal agenda. As a result, college kids (and their instructors) refuse to listen to those who disagree with their accepted dogmas.

Maybe teaching emotional and social skills to younger children would thicken their skin, I thought to myself. Um, public schools? In Boston? Obviously I suffered momentary brain lapse. Whatever they define as “emotional and social skills,” I highly doubt that they encourage kids to consider conservative and Biblical perspectives!

Thinking further about the headline, it occurred to me that parents, not schools, should teach emotional and social skills to their children. Granted, few secularized parents do teach these things. Over the past 50 years, parents have abdicated more and more of their responsibilities to the schools, allowing the very indoctrination that produces Snowflakes in the first place.

I understand that, because I don’t have children of my own, some of you mothers may resent me for daring to comment on what parents should and shouldn’t do. And I concede that I have limited understanding of the difficulties and complexities of child rearing. Furthermore, I realize that single moms face even more struggles. For those without husbands to take the lead in teaching your children, I can appreciate that having the schools help shoulder your burden can be an enormous relief.

Yet I also know that parents (and especially Christian parents) ought to take charge of training their children how to navigate through life. Such training depends on teaching and modeling Scripture’s commands and principles. Moses’ instructions to Israel certainly apply to Christian parents.

18 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. ~~Deuteronomy 11:18-21 (ESV)

The apostle Paul gives us a similar charge:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. ~~Ephesians 6:4 (ESV)

Scripture doesn’t have parents entrusting their children to secular institutions when it comes to the arena of morality and ethics. I don’t know exactly what “emotional and social skills” the Boston public schools intend to teach, but it’s probably a safe bet that the Sermon on the Mount won’t be part of the curriculum.

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