Archive | October, 2010

How Bad Can a Christian’s Doctrine Be Before they Are No Longer Christian?

When I worked at the library at Dallas Theological Seminary during the days of my formal training, I had many beloved friends with whom I worked. We often talked about our dreams of ministry and changing the world through the Gospel of Christ. There was one girl that I worked with who was a foreign student from Burma. I will call her Stephanie. Stephanie and I became good friends. We found we had so much in common. She was incredibly passionate about the Gospel. Her relationship and commitment to Christ was something that I could not help but take notice of. She was in training to be a missionary, hoping one day to take the Gospel back to her home which was in such desperate need. Much of our conversation, naturally, turned toward theology. While we had some minor disagreements here and there, it was never anything significant through the years. She was solid theologically and in love with the same Lord as me. At least I thought . . .

It was just before I graduated that I found something out that would hit like a 10.0 on my theological richter scale. During a conversation we were having, she told me in confidence that she was Modalist. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it is a belief about the doctrine of the Trinity that has been condemned as heresy over and over again throughout church history. In essence, Modalists believe that there is one God who displays himself in three different ways, not persons. In other words, the Modalist does not make a distinction between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is the Son and the Son is the Holy Spirit. God shows himself wearing three different masks. Historic Christianity formally condemned Modalism in 268 at the Council of Antioch and has not looked back since. God is one in essence, three in person. One what, three whos.

Getting the doctrine of the Trinity wrong is not a minor thing. Sure, I believe that people can ignorantly hold to false views of some things, being undiscipled. But what about illustrations like my friend here. She was trained at DTS. She was taught the orthodox understanding of the Trinity left, right, and center. Yet she denied it in favor of a false view.

I did not know how I was supposed to process this. For years I had no reason whatsoever to question the legitimacy of her Christian confession. Her “fruits” were ripe in every other area and every other doctrine. But now, I was left wrestling with the Lord about whether or not she, a convinced modalist, could really be a Christian.

Continue Reading →

Theology Around the Web in 60 Seconds – 10.30.10

1. What do you all think of our new site?

2. This is truly a classic. A must watch. (Thanks to Carrie Hunter for getting this out to me).

3. Mike Licona’s new book on the resurrection of Christ is out. With all my talk ala “defend the resurrection, defend Christianity”, you really should get this book.

4. While you are at it, pick this up.

5. While you are at it….
If you are in or near Denton this weekend. http://onguardconference.org.

6. And if you are in the San Francisco/Manteca area this weekend, come see me as I present a Boot Camp on the History of the Bible.
http://biblebootcampmanteca.eventbrite.com/

7. Finally, if you are here in OKLA.
http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=158961917470931

Where I Stand on the Creation Evolution Circus

As most of you know, I am not an naturalist evolutionist. I am not a Christian evolutionist either. My beliefs concerning the first chapters of Genesis are pretty traditional. When I teach through Genesis, I don’t have a Bible in one hand and a science book in the other. Neither do I feel the need to qualify everything I say with alternative prevailing scientific opinions. Genesis is a theological history, not a scientific book.

However, when the prevailing view of science seems to conflict with my interpretation, I take it very seriously, believing my interpretation might be off. I have a very high view of natural theology and appreciate what God has and is telling us through creation. But I don’t always have a high view of the prevailing view of science.

Issues concerning science and the faith are among the most polarizing issues there are. I would venture to say that today, as of 12:29am CST, Oct 28, 2010, they are the most polarizing. More so than all the Calvinist/Arminian stuff. More so than the Cessationist/Continuationist divide. Dare I say, even more so than politics?

Normally, people can be placed into one of five camps:

1. Young Earth Creationist: God directly created man and all that exists in six literal days no less than 10,000 years ago (give or take a few).

2. Old Earth Creationist: God directly created man sometime in the not too distant past, but the earth is very old.

3. Intelligent Design: If evolution happened, there are markers which evidence that God had to have guided the process through direct intervention.

4. Theistic Evolution: God set everything up so that natural selection would take care of everything without his intervention.

5. Naturalistic Evolution: There is no God. Evolution alone explains the existence of man. Continue Reading →

Halloween: A Missed Opportunity for Evangelicals (Dan Wallace)

When our boys were little tikes, we would take them to our church on All Hallows Eve for a fun-filled night of games and candy. We did this for years. I repent. We missed some major opportunities.

Halloween has become one of those holidays that evangelicals have shied away from. Another way for us to withdraw from the world. We are increasingly looking like our fundamentalist forefathers, whose cries of separation from the world marked them more than love.

How often do you get children to willingly come to your house—children you have never met before, children who are eager and willing to accept the gifts you have for them? What an opportunity for the gospel! Yet increasingly evangelical churches are having their own ‘Fall Fun Festival’ in place of Halloween. It’s certainly safer, but so is living in a cave. Continue Reading →

Dr. Mark Young on the Celebration of Halloween

This is a exerpt from Dr. Mark Young course on missions concerning Halloween. Mark is now the President of Dever Seminary. He is a guy who was responsible for causing many of us students to have complete paradigm shifts in more ways than one.

During this particular class he taught about Halloween, Mark brought the mission of Christ to our neighborhoods and had many of us in tears of shame. It is the class I referred to on the previous post on Halloween. Thanks to Lisa Robinson for getting this excerpt.

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So after Halloween, I go down the street to intentionally meet my neighbors and I knock on the first dark house. I introduce myself:

“You know my name?”

Neighbor: “Oh I’ve heard about you. You’re the professor down at DTS.”

Yeah, yeah that’s me, I’m working downtown – we were missionaries.

Neighbor: “Oh that’s wonderful; you know we really love the Lord.”

“Oh that’s good. You know I noticed on Halloween night that your house was dark.”

Neighbor: “Oh yeah, we don’t engage in Halloween.”

“Really?”

Neighbor: “No, no, no, we go down to the church, we have a harvest festival at church.”

“Really?”

Neighbor: “Yeah, yeah we believe that Halloween is the night of the devil, night of satan.”

“No kidding?”

Neighbor: “Yeah. In fact I meant to talk to you about your jack-o-lanterns, they were offensive to me.”

“Really?”

Neighbor:  “Yeah. You know several centuries ago in England those jack-o-lanterns were used to ward off evil spirits.

“Oh, okay.” Continue Reading →

Jesus with His Lights Turned off on Halloween

Will is dressing up as a ghost for Halloween. I was shocked. He has his Indiana Jones costume that he wears everywhere. I thought at least he would choose the Storm Trooper costume. I have given up on him being a superhero (Batman, Vigilante, Green Lantern, or any other DC character). Sigh… but a Ghost? Where did that come from?

My Fundamentalist right pinky toe started to speak.

Toe: “You know what is going to happen if he dresses up as a Ghost.”

Me: “No, what?”

Toe: “Satan.”

Me: “Say what?”

Toe: “Satan will have a foothold. You and your family will have compromised to evil.”

Me: “How so. I don’t get it?”

Toe: “Ghosts are demons. Or at least they are demonic. Therefore, your son is taking his first step toward practicing demonology. It is a form of Satan worship.”

Me: “Say what?”

Toe: “Exactly, you have already compromised and you don’t recognize it. Next thing you know, Katelynn and Kylee will be dressing up as witches.”

Me: “To what end?”

Toe: “What?”

Me: “To what end? So what? Who cares?”

Toe: “I want a new master. You can just go watch Harry Potter for all I care.”

Yes, then there is  that. Christians on Halloween. Scared to celebrate. Some with more than their pinky toe doing the talking. You know the ones. They are the only ones in the neighborhood who have their lights turned off. “Oh, here come the kids. They are going to come to our door. If we open it, we will have compromised and, in effect, told them that Satan is my friend, that Satan is my pal. Turn off the lights and HIDE! It is the only Christian thing to do.

Ahem…please. Help us. Continue Reading →

Demonology 101: What I Know and Don’t Know About Satan and Demons

As a Christian, I believe in angels, demons, and Satan. The Bible is pretty clear about this.

However, outside of coming to passages that speak of them in Scripture, I have never attempted to make a concerted effort to systematize my theology in this regard. I have not developed a course on angels and demons. I have never taught a class entitled “Satan: Understanding Your Enemy” or anything like that. Why? Because I don’t know that much about them. When it comes to “demonic activity,” an Evangelical buzzword, I don’t really know what it looks like. However, I am somewhat persuaded that most of pop Evangelical demonology systematizes itself around many things that we think we know, not allowing for the vast sea of mystery that is involved here.

Just this morning I prayed that God would protect me from “the Evil one” because this is an important part of our battle: calling on God to rescue us from the devil (Matt. 6:13).

Below is my thoughts out loud about what I know, am pretty sure of, don’t know, and imagine to be the case with regard to Satan and demons.

What I know:

  • I know that demons, including Satan, are not omnipresent.

How could they be? They would have to be transcendent to be omnipresent. They are not God. So they are not transcendent.  They find extension in space just like we do. They cannot be in more than one place at one time.

  • I know that demons, including Satan, are not omniscient.

Maybe they are intelligent. Certainly they are crafty. But they, I assume, are like us, learning and relearning, changing and adapting according to the times.

  • I know that Satan is an adversary and an accuser (that is what his name “Satan” and “Devil” mean).
  • I know that Satan seeks to keep people from having correct thinking (Rev. 12:9; John 8:44).
  • I know that Satan wants us to call into question, change, and distort God’s word (Gen. 3:1-7)
  • I know that Satan and demons can “go into” people and animals distorting their thinking and actions.

Although, I don’t know what this means, it seems as if they desire to find a “home” or an ontological presence in living organisms. That is just bizarre. Maybe someday we will understand why. Could it be that at their “fall” they lost their “bodies” and don’t want to be without a physical dwelling? Just speculating.

  • I know that Satan desires to take the place of God (Matt. 4:8-10)
  • I know that Satan and demons seeks to disguise their deception in a way that appears to be trustworthy (2 Cor. 2:14-15)
  • I know that demons can bring about physical debilitation (Matt. 9:33; Matt. 12:22).
  • I know that Satan and demons have a decent Christology (i.e. they know who Christ is; Mark 3:11).
  • I know that we need God’s protection from Satan (Matt. 6:13)

What I am pretty sure of:

  • I am pretty sure that all demons, including Satan, are beings that have been around from creation or before.

Although, it could be that only some of them have been around that long. Satan was in the Garden, but when did the rest “fall”?

The Parable of the Boat: Illustrating Differences Between Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Arminianism, and Calvinism

Here is a quick illustration that I hope you find helpful to distinguish between the various traditions with regard to divine sovereignty, free-will, and salvation. It is certainly not perfect, but I think it works sufficiently.

Pelagianism

All the people are on the boat with the God. At this point, in their natural condition, they don’t need to be saved as they are not in danger. However, most (if not all) people will eventually jump in the water (sin) and find themselves in need of God’s grace. The reason why they jump in the water is because they are following numerous example of those who jumped before them. This example goes all the way back to the first two who jumped into the water, setting the first bad example. God them offers them a life preserver when they call on him for help. If they respond they will be saved (synergism).

Semi-Pelagianism

All people are in the water drowning. They are born drowning. This is the natural habitation of all humanity since the first man and woman jumped into the water. Their legs are cramping and they cannot swim to safety on their own. However, they may desire salvation on their own. Though they cannot attain it, they can call, with a wave of their arm, to God who is eagerly waiting on the edge of the boat. At the first sign of their initiative, God will then throw out the life preserver (grace). If they respond, they will be saved (synergism).

Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy

All people are in the water drowning. They are born drowning. This is the natural habitation of all humanity since the first man and woman jumped into the water. Their legs are cramping and they cannot swim to safety on their own. God, standing on the edge of the boat, makes the first initiative by throwing a life preserver to them (prevenient grace). Upon seeing this act, they make a decision to grab a hold (faith) or to swim away. If they grab a hold, God will slowly pull the rope connected to the life preserver. But they must do their part by swimming along with God’s pull (grace plus works; synergism). If at any time they let go or quit swimming, they will not be saved. Continue Reading →