“The Bible Says So” Really IS Enough

Shadow BibleAndy Stanley claims to accept the inerrancy of Scripture in his article, Why “The Bible Says So” Is Not Enough Anymore, but he clearly indicates that he rejects its sufficiency. He contends that people with college or post-graduate educations require more sophisticated evidence in order to embrace Christianity. To make this point, he writes:

Appealing to post-Christian people on the basis of the authority of Scripture has essentially the same effect as a Muslim imam appealing to you on the basis of the authority of the Quran. You may or may not already know what it says. But it doesn’t matter. The Quran doesn’t carry any weight with you. You don’t view the Quran as authoritative.

Close to half our population does not view the Bible as authoritative either. If you’re trying to reach people with an undergraduate degree or greater, over half your target audience will not be moved by the Bible says, the Bible teaches, God’s Word is clear or anything along those lines. If that’s the approach to preaching and teaching you grew up with and are most comfortable with, you’re no doubt having a good ol’ throw-down debate with me in your head about now—a debate I’m sure you’re winning. But before you chapter and verse me against the wall and put me in a sovereignty-of-God headlock, would you stop and ask yourself: Why does this bother me so much? Why does this bother me so much—really?

Since when, I would ask Andy Stanley, do non-Christians determine whether or not Christians can appeal to the Bible? I agree that non-Christians regard the Bible as being on par with Islam’s Quran, but their false perceptions don’t negate the reality that God’s Word has inherent power that no other book (including the Quran) can rightfully claim.

As a young Christian, I learned that Scripture has power precisely because it’s God’s Word rather than a book written by fallible human beings. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the writer of Hebrews wrote:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~~Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

If the Word of God is really that powerful, how can the skepticism of non-Christians limit its power?  Sure, without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, non-Christians will reject the Bible’s authority, but that rejection doesn’t mean that God’s Word suffers from impotence. The truth of God’s Word merely exposes the lies of human reasoning (see Romans 3:4).

The rejection of God’s Word doesn’t mean, in other words, that God’s Word has failed. In the limitations of our human thinking we simply don’t know if the Holy Spirit wants to use Scripture to bring a person to faith, plant a seed that will result in conversations years down the line or confirm a unbeliever in judgment. But we can rest assured that the Lord never wastes His Word.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. ~~Isaiah 55:10-11 (ESV)

The denigration of God’s Word is not a postmodern phenomenon, and Christians don’t meed to supplement it any more in the 21st Century than they did in the First. Evangelism depends on God’s Spirit ministering through His Word, not on intellectual cleverness or pragmatism. We can quote the Bible with confidence, resting in its authority regardless of whether or not others accept that authority.

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Saturday Sampler: September 18- September 24

raggedy-ann-samplerWriting for The Federalist, Hans Fiene tells us (tongue in cheek, of course) How To Make The Bible Support Any Sexual Practice In 3 Easy Steps. Dear sisters in Christ, we desperately need to understand Scripture properly exactly because people really do twist verses in the ways Hans describes in order to justify sin.

Along those lines, Rachel of danielthree18 shows us several Consequences of Mishandling Scripture in our conversations, or even on our social media posts. Ladies, we really must be careful to quote God’s Word correctly and with reverence.

In her article, Pastoral Propriety with Church Ladies and 7 Ways Women Can Help, Michelle Lesley offers practical tips for maintaining purity in interactions with your pastors. Most of her points reflect sheer commonsense, which really isn’t as common as it should be.

You might want to read Misconceptions of Grace by Sarah Bubar on the Biblical Woman blog, especially if you view grace as  something that God gives us freely. Sarah takes us back to God’s Word to remind us what Jesus paid in order that we might benefit from His grace. She also encourages us that grace empowers us to respond to the Lord’s generosity.

Glen Chatfield of The Watchman’s Bagpipes shares an interesting quotation from Lloyd-Jones on How to Preach the Gospel that is decidedly more relevant today than it was  when Lloyd-Jones first wrote it. How thankful John and I are to belong to a church that relies on the simple proclamation of God’s Word rather than than pragmatic gimmicks and worldly entertainment!

Superstitions permeate our culture, and even Bible-believing Christians struggle with them. Jessica Pickowicz of Beautiful Thing kicks off a new series on this seldom discussed topic with Portraits of Superstition: The Obnoxious Knocker. I like her gentle way of bringing us back to trusting the Lord.

Kim Shay has a wonderful article in Out of the Ordinary entitled Theological Objections that challenges the aversion to theology that floods evangelical circles today. She reminds us what theology is and why we need it.

I’m strongly recommending that you read Glen Chatfield’s Open Letter to “Worship” Leaders and share it on social media.  Yeah — it’s that important!

I absolutely love Does God speak in unidentified promptings? by Elizabeth Prata of The End Time. She approaches the matter differently than people usually do, which makes her point all the more effective. Please read this exceptional essay and consider its Biblical perspective.

 

 

 

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Autobiography With Purpose: The Breaking Point

Twisting ScriptureOur gratitude to Brookville Baptist Church for supporting us through John’s two-and-a-half month hospitalization encouraged us to overlook our disagreements with the many changes that we’d noticed since the 40 Days of Purpose campaign six years earlier.  But by the summer of 2013 (just a year  after John returned home), the tension had again grown, and I felt ready to leave.

John, on the other hand, believed that he could be a good influence on the church once his breathing improved enough for him to teach Adult Sunday School again. In submission to him and because of all the church had done for us, I continued going to services with him, though I couldn’t share his optimism.

In writing this post, I am praying for the ability to write with sensitivity and grace, remembering that several people there are genuine Christians. Hopefully this autobiographical series has demonstrated that God has been merciful to me though times when I lacked discernment, and yet my involvement in poor teaching didn’t negate my salvation. In recording the problems that John and I had with Brookville, therefore, I want to be as careful as possible. In keeping with my desire to honor the Lord as I write this very difficult chapter,  I want to avoid as many specific details as I can, while still explaining the way things affected me and John.

For instance, the removal of Pastor Larry must be mentioned because of the disunity in the church that resulted. John and I were unable to attend the meetings regarding his removal, so I don’t really understand what led up to it other than financial considerations. My opinion of Larry is best left unspoken except to say that I miss his friendship (he was exceptionally good to me and John). Yet his departure must be noted, as I already remarked, for its impact on Brookville.

That summer, Brookville changed its name from Brookville Baptist Church to Brookville Bible Church. They believed that the word “Baptist” carried negative connotations, particularly in New England, where most professing Christians identify as lapsed Catholics. Dropping “Baptist” from the name, reasoned the elders,  would attract more people (with their tithes) to the church.

I never understood why others objected to the name change, and I believe it’s probably just as well. John and I, in contrast to others who opposed it, simply considered it disingenuous because both the sermons and the Adult Sunday School classes grew less and less reliant on Scripture each week. Both venues used Bible verses to advance an agenda of structural change, meant to attract young families to the church.

By October of 2013, Pastor Dennis had retired,  leaving us with an “intentional interim pastor,” whose job it was to restructure the church. By his own admission, preaching was neither his primary gift nor his primary purpose in  becoming our interim pastor (even though  he preached every Sunday) . Instead, he would help us work through our factions, caused by Larry’s removal and the name change) so that we could be “healthy enough” for a permanent pastor.

To our disappointment,  Pastor Dave turned Adult Sunday School into the study of a book about resolving church conflicts. The  book was peppered with Bible verses, which the author used merely to substantiate psychological principles. After a while, John decided that we’d sit out Sunday School because the facilitators scarcely used the Bible.

In late February of 2014, Pastor Dave forced the passage of Scripture to conform to his agenda for change so violently that even a teenager in the congregation later agreed with us that Dave had abused God’s Word. Angry from the sermon, I sat in the coffee area afterwards,  where I overheard the head elder mention a New Age technique he used to alleviate some joint pain. At that point I exploded.

I spent the next hour with the women’s ministry leader, venting about years of frustration with Brookville.  Some of her responses revealed her lack of discernment, increasing my rage. I wanted out of Brookville, keenly aware that it no longer faithfully preached the Word of God. As John listened, he knew that we needed to leave the church. I drove my wheelchair down the ramp, shaking the dust off my feet.

Our meeting with Pastor Dave,Pastor Dennis and the elders a month later confirmed that our doctrinal differences with Brookville couldn’t be resolved.  The letter of dismissal they sent cited my “unwillingness to negotiate” as their reason to terminate our membership.  But sound doctrine is never up for negotiation. With that letter, the Lord assured us that we’d made the right decision.

 
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America At 240

ConstitutionSome of America’s Founding Fathers may have been genuine Christians, but I haven’t studied enough of their biographies and writings to determine how many of them actually demonstrated signs of true conversion. I’ve read some of David Barton‘s materials, which warrant great skepticism, so I seriously question his assertion that 52 of the 55 Declaration of Independence signers were “orthodox, evangelical Christians.” (Actually, Barton’s orthodoxy might well be questioned also…but that’s another blog post.) So let’s agree that we really don’t know how many of the Founding Fathers really knew the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our ignorance of the true spiritual condition of these men means that we probably shouldn’t insist on believing that the United States of America began as a Christian country. Our Constitution certainly drew on very broad Biblical principles, however, as evidenced by this quote by John Adams:

Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

So one could make the case that the Founding Fathers intended our country to operate under some level of Scriptural influence. In that respect, I believe that Christians indeed have every reason to mourn over the moral and spiritual decline of our country. Most Americans used to at least publicly respect Christian values.  But now, and especially since Obergefell vs Hodges, public sentiment runs decidedly against anything that promotes godly attitudes and behavior.

The fact that our presidential primaries have given us Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as the presumptive nominees indicts us as a culture that prefers pragmatism over personal integrity.  As these two candidates raise defiant fists at God’s laws against lying and sexual immorality (among other things), those who support them also openly defy the Lord and His teachings.  We want a  government that gives us “free” stuff and celebrates sexual deviance. We want to regulate every industry except the one that kills our unborn babies, and we want to coerce Christian colleges to jettison their  convictions.

Unless God shows mercy at the GOP convention later this month, either Clinton or Trump will destroy America become the next president.  God’s judgment on America?  Perhaps. Definitely a chilling prospect, either way.

But as a Bible-believing Christian, I don’t entirely despair. Our 240-year-old country most likely won’t reach its 250th birthday, and the freedoms that John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and the 53 others who risked being hung for treason gave us may be snatched from us soon. Yet Bible-believing Christians hope in a sovereign Ruler Who will one day establish His perfect Kingdom. America,  along with the rest of the world, will come to an end (presumably by moral suicide), but God’s Kingdom will never end.

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Saturday Sampler — June 26 Through July 2

Three BunniesAs a tribute to the late Jerry Bridges, premiere Christian blogger Tim Challies lists Jerry Bridges’ Seven Standout Spiritual Lessons. I particularly appreciated the comments on faith in Sovereign Election leading to a broader understanding of God’s sovereignty. The same process happened in my life.

Observing the one-year anniversary of the Obergefell vs Hodges decision, Pastor Gabe Hughes preached  a sermon entitled LBGT and How the Church Should Respond to the congregation at First Southern Baptist Church in Junction City, Kansas. It takes time to read this transcript, but I strongly advise that you make reading it a priority. Hughes covers many important facets of this issue.

I’m skeptical of James Dobson in general anyway.  He did much damage by bringing psychology into the evangelical church, and even more by partnering with Mormons and Catholics for political purposes. So pardon me if I agree with Amy Spreeman’s comments in Wink-wink, nudge-nudge: Dr. Dobson leaves questions about Trump’s regeneration, written for Berean Research.

Jessica Pickowicz writes Bible Journaling – What Every Christian Should Know in her blog, A Beautiful Thing. Be sure to consider her perspective.

Writing for Stand to Reason’s blog, Amy K. Hall looks at the lenient sentence Brock Turner received after being convicted of rape. She then asks, Is This Really the Kind of Judge You Want God to Be? Her essay challenges careful thinking about our objections to the doctrine of hell.

Just when you think he’s fading away, Amy Spreeman writes in the Berean Examiner that Rick Warren resurrects Purpose Driven Conference in U.S. to build “process and paradigm” because God “told him” to. Um, I doubt God did.

If you don’t already subscribe to danielthree18, ladies,  please consider doing so. Rachel’s Theology Thursday: Jeremiah 29:11 post wonderfully teaches the proper context of this popular Bible verse, as well as  helping us see what the Lord actually does plan for Christians.

Pastor Mike Abendroth of Bethlehem Bible Church and No Compromise Radio admonishes Christians to Stop Defending the Bible in this video:

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Autobiography With Purpose: Swallowing Hard

John & Deb Anniversary 2008When Brookville Baptist Church completed the 40 Days of Purpose campaign, John and I returned to Adult Sunday School cautiously, wondering if the Bible Study groups and Sunday School classes would start using more of Rick Warren’s curricula. To our great relief,  no such thing happened.  We praised the Lord that we saw no noticeable effect of the program.

At least not in the church itself.

I noticed myself becoming more distrustful of the pastors and elders. I began praying for them to develop better discernment in regard to doctrine. They had fallen for Rick Warren enough to bring the entire church though the PDL campaign, so I feared future theological compromises. While I realize that  Christians should always assess their leaders against Scripture (indeed, I implore the readers of this blog to evaluate everything I write by testing it against God’s Word), the skepticism I felt toward the leaders at Brookville went beyond being a good Berean.

Yet, my doubts about their discernment didn’t give me a desire to  change churches. I felt wary, but I also believed it was a better church than anything else in our  immediate area. John agreed that we probably couldn’t find anything more faithful to Scripture. Additionally,  he took encouragement from the fact that, because he taught Adult Sunday School two months out of the year, he  could be a positive influence.

In the next few years, John and I noticed changes here and there. Less hymns. An entertainment quality to the Praise Group.  Topical sermons replacing verse-by-verse exposition.  The pastors no longer standing behind the pulpit when they preached.  We told ourselves that all these were minor changes, and admonished each other against being legalistic or judgmental.

I particularly struggled with the content of the music,  having recently acquired an appreciation for hymns. I saw that contemporary praise music,  despite being fun to sing, typically focused on Christians rather than on the Lord. And even those praise songs that actually tried to focus on Jesus lacked the rich theology that I’d found in hymns.  Occasionally, the Praise Group included hymns or songs with strong Biblical content, but increasingly I found the singing portion of the services something to endure rather than a vehicle for worship.

As my struggle with the music progressed, I learned to pray for the Praise Group to gain discernment in selecting songs.  But I especially disciplined myself to daily confess my judgmental attitude.  Over time, I accepted the music as best I could.  John quietly adjusted the lyrics he sang whenever a song expressed unbiblical ideas, and I refrained from singing certain songs altogether.

For better or for worse, Brookville was our church family and we decided to persevere through the problems and praise God for the Biblical elements that, by God’s grace, still remained. Many people there genuinely loved the Lord and served Him as best they could. Yes, the 40 Days of Purpose had caused spiritual erosion,  but we believed love compelled us to overlook the church’s flaws and celebrate its strengths. Little did we know how profoundly they would love us during the roughest storm in our marriage.

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Autobiography With Purpose: Different Point Of View

VBSMon23During our first three years of marriage, John and I enjoyed a couple different Personal Care Attendant situations that allowed us to attend Wednesday night prayer meetings and Vacation Bible School. John taught two month-long Adult Sunday School classes each year and I spent a few months helping with the Junior High Sunday School. We also joined Pastor Larry with the Nursing Home ministry and became part of the Missions Committee.

At home, we regularly listened to John MacArthur’s Grace to You radio broadcasts. At the time, his teaching seemed to complement the bulk of what I was learning at Brookville. On a more profound level, however, I noticed myself responding to much of what he said differently than I responded to Pastor Dennis, Pastor Larry and the men who taught Adult Sunday School. He said things, particularly about the dangers of self-esteem, that I’d always seen in Scripture (but that every church I’d been in explained away).

Once Pastor Jim expressed that he had a few problems with MacArthur’s theology, though he didn’t offer any specific examples. I shrugged off his comment, eager to fit into my new church and understanding that pastors are fallible human beings.

Actually, I shrugged off a few things (most of which I don’t remember), telling myself that churches are imperfect institutions made up of imperfect people. I forgave personal hurts and prayed that I’d repent of judgmental attitudes when I disagreed with decisions or practices. The Lord convicted me to cultivate contentment.

In late 2004, Brookville Baptist Church decided to go through the 40 Days of Purpose Campaign. John had read some of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life, which seemed okay at face-value. During that summer, he used the book as a springboard for an Adult Sunday School class (he later told me that he saw errors in the book, but thought he could correct those errors by how he taught it). Therefore the elders asked John to lead the Adult Sunday School class during the campaign.

In the weeks leading up to the campaign, the church showed promotional videos of Rick Warren to prepare us for the program. It didn’t take long for me to see that Warren repeatedly wrenched Bible verses out of context in order to support his points. I recognized what he was doing because I’d done the same thing years earlier when I worked for Love In Action.

Warren’s shameless misuse of God’s Word prompted me to do some investigative work. To my surprise, I found articles from several sources (including some affiliated with John MacArthur)   confirming my assessment as well as revealing Warren’s pragmatic approach to numerical church growth. I shared my findings with John. He assured me that, if we couldn’t convince Pastor Dennis to abandon the campaign, he would use the Sunday School class to help people exercise discernment when reading the book and watching the videos.

Dennis respected our right to disagree with Rick Warren, but  he didn’t want John to use his teaching position to voice our disagreement. We decided that, during the campaign, John and I would attend Sunday morning services, but otherwise we wouldn’t participate in the campaign. Furthermore, we wouldn’t explain our   lack of involvement unless someone directly asked. Twelve years later, I question the wisdom of that last agreement.

How happy I was when the 40 Days ended and we could assimilate back into church life! But from that point forward, I found myself praying for the leaders at Brookville to develop better discernment. That’s a prayer nobody should have to pray.

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