Category Archives: The Authority of Scripture

Please Don’t Believe Discernment Ministries Without Doing Your Homework

Shadow Bible

A few years ago, people started questioning whether or not self-proclaimed discernment bloggers, as well as those who do discernment podcasts, were really as discerning as we claimed to be. At first, I really didn’t appreciate such doubts. Frankly, I liked the feeling of being “in the know” about false teachers and errors in evangelical circles. I didn’t want anyone telling me to be careful about what I wrote.

I was contending for the faith and being a good Berean as I tipped sacred cows. So were the bloggers I followed. God was, I believed, pleased with my efforts to uphold His Word in the face of growing apostasy and compromise among evangelicals. So calling discernment ministry into question pretty much threatened me.

But before you suppose I now stand against all discernment ministry, take a deep breath. I still grieve over many ways that evangelicals deviate from sound doctrine, and I definitely believe many popular teachers need to be clearly exposed and rebuked. I stand by Elizabeth Prata on her exhaustive research on Beth Moore, I value Michelle Lesley’s compilation of false teachers and I appreciate Leslie A’s series on developing discernment skills. I hope you’ll avail yourselves of each of these excellent resources.

However, over the past six months I’ve noticed serious problems with several discernment podcasts and blogs popular with segments of the discernment crowd. At this writing, I’d prefer not to name names for a variety of reasons. In particular, doing so would promote gossip rather than edify my readers, especially because I’m just beginning to collect my thoughts on these matters.

All the social media bickering between these parties disheartens me. Worse, some of these people have presumed to judge whether or not those who disagree with them are actually saved.  Does God permit us to make such determinations about people who seem to genuinely love the Lord and obey His Word? If so, what criteria may they utilize in making these determinations?

In short, it appears to me that many self-proclaimed discernment bloggers and podcast personalities lack discernment.  Their ministries revolve more around establishing themselves as authorities than around directing people back to the Lord and His Word.

When reading or listening to discernment representatives (including The Outspoken TULIP), please maintain an attitude of skepticism. Hold us up to Scripture, both in our content and in our manner of delivery. Research our claims by going to reputable sources (and no, Wikipedia is not a reputable source). Make sure any snarkiness we exhibit is the exception rather than the rule in how we present our arguments.  None of us gets it right 100% of the time; please make sure that you examine what we say by checking our facts.

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The Boring Way To Develop Discernment

Stained Glass WindowDuring October 2017, you couldn’t go online without seeing multiple blog posts about the Protestant Reformation. Actually, some of us started writing about it much earlier, hoping to build excitement (or at least interest) among evangelicals. We did so primarily because most professing evangelicals fail to appreciate — or even understand — the differences between Protestant theology and Roman Catholicism.

Many evangelicals simply don’t care. They prefer to minimize the importance of doctrine in favor of finding common ground with Catholics.

Even deeper, many evangelicals follow the wider culture’s general disdain for history. Having suffered through a Medieval History class in college with a professor who spoke in a monotone, I do see why people believe history is boring. His class bored me, and I marveled at the history majors who constantly raved about that professor. I suspect many people assume history is boring because they’ve also endured history teachers like that.

The predominate boredom with history frustrated me as I blogged about the Protestant Reformation week after week. By October 31st, I found myself feeling relieved that the 500th anniversary had passed. I looked forward to writing on more popular topics that might attract more readers.

I  wonder if other bloggers felt the same relief. It wouldn’t surprise me.

But I think folding up the Reformation and packing it away until next October 31st might do a great disservice to the body of Christ. Instead of bowing to the prevailing indifference to church history, we need to encourage our fellow evangelicals to understand why the 16th Century Reformers (not to mention Reformers before them) risked their lives to draw people back to God’s Word.

Professing Christians have once again moved away from the Word of God. That’s why they gravitate to popular teachers like Beth Moore and Joel Osteen. Interestingly, people who consider themselves to be discerning gravitate to blogs that expose these false teachers. And, in moments of weakness, I find myself writing articles that allow me to plunk Beth Moore’s name in the title, knowing that doing so will attract readers.

I wish that those who so eagerly seek to be discerning realized that the Protestant Reformation was the greatest example of discernment in Christian history. If anyone really wants to learn principles of discernment, the Reformation definitely offers the quintessential starting place. Why? Precisely because each and every one of the Reformers went back to Scripture. Many suffered martyrdom for their insistence on the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.

The hoopla over the 500th anniversary of the Reformation has given way to blog posts about celebrity sex scandals, Thanksgiving and now Christmas. The pressure to convince postmodern evangelicals that the actions of a German monk in 1517 have any serious meaning as we approach 2018 has subsided, liberating us to blog about subjects that readers crave.

Except we need, more than ever, to remember the Reformation, with its passion to bring God’s people back to His Word. Maybe I won’t blog about the Reformation every week, but I will most assuredly keep it before you, praying that you’ll understand its relationship to Biblical discernment. Hopefully you’ll begin to see how the Reformers teach us to evaluate popular teachers against God’s Word.

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An Uncomplicated Reason To Leave Charismatic Teaching

Out of Charismania

It may appear that I write so vigorously against the Charismatic movement with a vindictive attitude. Indeed,  one or two people have said to my face that they believe I reject Charismatic theology because of hurts I supposedly suffered during my years in Charismatic fellowships.

Fair enough, on one level. Several attempts at healing me from Cerebral Palsy probably did border on spiritual abuse, and it certainly would be understandable if I harbored bitterness over those experiences. Sure, such bitterness would be sinful, but most people would at least understand it. In a way, I suspect the friends I have in Charismatic circles might feel comforted by the thought that my current theological positions are just an overreaction to all I underwent.

But really, I turned away from Charismatic theology because, quite simply, it doesn’t line up with God’s Word.

Yes, I know all the verses Charismatics use to substantiate their teachings. I remember using those very verses in my disputes with non-Charismatics, actually. I believe that many Charismatics genuinely love God’s Word and honestly think the miracles of the four gospels and the book of Acts should be replicated today. I know why they hold such convictions. Their arguments carry a sense of plausibility that I have to respect.

But I have come to very different conclusions as I’ve studied Scripture and learned more about proper hermeneutics. Not that I’m smarter or better educated than they are. Rather, God graciously led me to more accurate teaching on the topic by His grace and for His glory.

Although I’m still far from being a Biblical scholar, the Lord has exposed me to good models of understanding His Word, consequently convincing me that the miracles of the New Testament weren’t meant as normative patterns for Christians after the First Century.

Hopefully I’ll write future articles detailing why we mustn’t apply First Century occurrences to present-day Christianity,  but that isn’t the purpose of this particular post. Today I merely want to communicate that I didn’t renounce Charismatic theology as a reaction to negative experiences, but instead because of my desire to remain faithful to the Word of God. Whatever spiritual abuse I may or may not have endured (and I’ll leave the Lord to make that determination), I only want my doctrine to line up with God’s Word.

My personal experiences are no more authoritative than the experiences of my Charismatic friends.

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Saturday Sampler: October 29 — November 5

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An essay by Ryan Higginbottom in Knowable Word reveals One Temptation of Digital Searching that had never occurred to me. His admonition might spare you from misinterpreting God’s Word.

I enjoy pretty much everything Candi Finch writes on Biblical Woman, but Meet Katie Luther, One of the Protestant Reformation’s Leading Ladies has to be my all-time favorite piece I’ve read of hers. Once again,  we see that history can not only inspiring, but downright fun! I dare you to get through this piece without cracking a smile.

Writing for The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge gives us The Cry of the Reformation: Jesus is our Sufficient Savior!  His article goes to the heart of the Reformation, directing us  back to the Lord Jesus Christ as all a sinner ever needs.

What should 21st Century evangelicals learn from the Reformers’ cry of Sola Scriptura?Michael J. Krueger of Canon Fodder answers that question with What is Sola Scriptura Protecting Us Against? More Than You Think. This article taught me a few things that deepen my appreciation for this doctrine of grace.

On her blog,  The End Time, Elizabeth Prata analyzes the state of present-day evangelicalism against the backdrop of the Reformation. Reformation Day 500 and counting! affirms the sad reality that the Reformation is far from over. Her essay will enhance your conviction that we absolutely must stand on God’s Word, using it as an instrument of discernment.

Reprising an article from Tabletalk Magazine (which I read all the time), the blog from Ligonier features The Holy Spirit’s Ministry by Sinclair  Ferguson. If you struggle with the idea that some of the Spirit’s gifts ceased with the close of the apostolic era, this piece may help you.

I’ve definitely sinned in my attempts to perform discernment ministry. So Lara d’Entremont’s blog post in Renewed in Truth Discipleship, Where Discernment Goes Wrong, rightly convicted me. Please take a look at the post yourselves and see whether or not the Lord would have you reconsider your approach to discernment.

Erin Benziger once again correctly uses Scripture to expose a sin that all of us fall into — usually without realizing it. In Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Envy on Do Not Be Surprised, she illustrates the dangerous potential in this seemingly innocuous sin.

I’m including a second article from The Cripplegate because Jesse Johnson’s Semper Reformanda? addresses seven serious problems in 21st Century evangelical churches. My regular readers will notice that some of his concerns echo issues that I’ve been writing about for years. Please take a look at this thought-provoking blog post.

Commenting on events in the news, Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day concludes that Sin makes people stupid, and explains the world we live in. Her essay matches the power of its title!

I struggle with sinful, self-centered anger.  But Michelle Lesley reminds of 6 Reasons to Recapture Righteous Anger. She makes very interesting and unexpected observations that most Christians overlook.

As someone who has been severely disabled since birth, I read Tim Challies’ essay,  No Better (Or Worse) Time To Be Disabled with tremendous interest. Although he specifies people with intellectual disabilities, don’t think for a moment that these ideas couldn’t eventually carry over to anyone with severe birth defects.

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After Darkness, Light

Post Tenebras Lux

Even among Christians who genuinely love God’s Word and have a passion for Him, I feel like a certifiable nerd these days. Hardly anyone outside on my blogging and Twitter associates seems aware that today marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. And the few who actually do know don’t show a great deal of concern (let alone excitement) over the matter. That was 500 years ago, they reason. They remind me that not everyone enjoys history as much as I do.

A few longtime friends have (if I correctly understand their Facebook comments) expressed hope that I’m not idolizing theology instead of loving Jesus. Certainly, dead orthodoxy poses a danger to any Christian, and therefore self-examination has a place for those of us who write zealously about the issues involved in the Reformation. I don’t want to exalt anything above the Lord Jesus Christ.

I wonder, however, if people accused Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and the other 16th Century Reformers of idolizing theology.

Actually, they accused them of heresy, even though it was the false teachings of Roman Catholicism that caused the Reformers to go back to Scripture and question the Church’s teachings in the first place. Those men and women stood against the errors in the Roman Catholic Church because they loved Jesus and had a passion for His Word.

In order to appreciate their passion for Biblical theology, it helps to understand the development of the Roman Catholic Church. Outlining that history goes well beyond the scope of today’s essay, but I strongly encourage you to read What is the origin of the Roman Catholic Church? from GotQuestions.org. Suffice it to say that Roman Catholicism kept most people in spiritual darkness for approximately 600 years, withholding Scripture from all but the elite so that Rome could maintain political power.

The Reformers began reading Scripture translated from the original Greek and Hebrew, and consequently saw huge discrepancies between what the Word taught and the teachings of Rome. As I’ve said repeatedly throughout this Tuesday series, they risked their very lives (and many died as martyrs) over the theological differences between them and the Roman Catholic Church.

They rightly took the motto, Post Tenebras Lux (after darkness, light), to describe God’s wonderful work of restoring sound doctrine to His people.  The light of God’s Word had at last dispelled the darkness of Roman Catholicism, and the Reformers preferred persecution and death to compromising their theology. Does that mean they idolized theology over the Lord?

I would argue that the Reformers’ love and passion for Christ emanated from their return to Biblical theology. As they rediscovered the doctrines of grace in the pages of Scripture, the light shone brightly, leading them to know and love the Lord, Who had been in the shadows of Catholic tradition for almost six centuries.  To those Reformers, the theology that shed light on the Lord and His will caused them to rejoice in His remarkable grace. They gave Him all the glory. Indeed,  the appearance of light after darkness fueled their passionate love for Him.

Oh dear 21st Century believers, don’t let people discourage you from loving the theology that leads you to a clear understanding of Who Jesus is and what He teaches. As John said to me yesterday, we can’t really love the Lord apart from right theology. Praise God for the courageous Reformers whom He used to bring His people from darkness into light.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ~~1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

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Going Outside The Lines: A Musing On Legalism

Outside the Lines

We live in an age that encourages us to think outside the box. To color outside the lines. Within evangelical circles, those of us who insist on sticking to Scripture (whether in relation to hearing God’s voice, the content of worship services or women as pastors, just to name a few examples) invariably receive accusations of legalism. More liberal evangelicals eagerly label us as modern-day Pharisees, gleefully reminding us that the Lord reserved His harshest criticism for the Pharisees of the First Century.

Occasionally, we deserve such rebukes, I’ll admit.  Sometimes our zeal to remain within the boundaries of God’s Word can indeed lapse over into legalism,  such as rejecting all contemporary praise songs rather than evaluating individual songs on the basis of doctrinal content.  We must be humble enough to recognize instances when we elevate our preferences and traditions to the level of Scripture.

Think about my last sentence for a moment. Didn’t it get to the heart of Christ’s conflict with the Pharisees? Despite the popular idea that they rigidly adhered to the letter of the law, the Lord called them out for making their traditions equal to God’s Law.

Let’s look at just one instance of their legalism:

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” ~~Mark 7:9-13 (ESV)

The Pharisees had cleverly devised a system to avoid caring for aging parents by claiming that their resources were devoted to God. Undoubtedly they worded things very carefully, convincing their parents (or at least themselves) that their tradition superseded the commandment to honor their parents. Essentially, they colored outside the lines of Scripture in order to accommodate their own selfish goals.

Both theological conservatives and theological liberals color outside the lines when we replace God’s Word with our own traditions and preferences. The real modern-day Pharisees aren’t the ones who go back to Biblical principles, but rather the ones who want to think outside the box. After all, the Lord made the lines and the box, not us.

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The Meditation Of My Heart And How To Make It Acceptable In God’s Sight

Psalm 19V14 B&W

I lay awake last night, letting my mind wander into places it had no business going. Not only did my disobedience rob me of sleep I really needed, but much more importantly it grieved the Holy Spirit by dishonoring the Lord. Thankfully, God brought me to repentance fairly quickly, and I drifted off to sleep.

When I awoke this morning, I again confessed my sin to the Lord. As I prayed about it, I remembered Psalm 19:14.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (ESV)

Even though the meditation of my heart had been decidedly unacceptable in the sight of the Lord, I felt a desire to  change that course. So I started pondering about ways to keep my thoughts on things that please the Lord. John MacArthur’s radio broadcasts these last two weeks came to mind, as I recalled him saying something about filling our minds with Scripture so that our thoughts would honor God.

From there, I remembered that an earlier portion of Psalm 19 actually talks about Scripture’s impact on people.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward. ~~Psalm 19:7-11 (ESV)

It follows, seems to me, that keeping God’s Word constantly in mind would guard us against dwelling on sinful thoughts. If my heart’s meditation revolves around His Word, naturally it’s acceptable in His sight. Clearly, it leaves no room for entertaining unclean ideas.

Maybe what I’m writing isn’t particularly novel. But sometimes we forget foundational truths. Sometimes it helps to nudge our memories back to things we’ve known for years. We get caught up in the finer points of doctrine, or in serving the Lord, and suddenly lose sight of fundamental attitudes that Christians need.

My mental activities last night most assuredly were unacceptable. But the Lord showed great mercy in using my sin to direct me back to His Word. For that great mercy, I praise His wonderful Name!

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