Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Ruin of Sin

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

I am becoming more and more convinced every day that the root cause of so much faulty theology comes from a misunderstanding of the sinfulness of man. Whether my wife is talking to the Mormons that came to my door on Sunday evening while I was snoozing with my boys (I’m so proud of her), or whether you’re talking to a Jew or a Muslim (or any other religious affiliation), or if you are simply talking to a post-modern atheistic secular humanist who believes that religion is the cause for all of the problems of the world, the root cause of all of their false concepts of life and the afterlife come from a view that man is inherently good, or at that man is at least naturally neutral.

I am also becoming more and more convinced that a misunderstanding of man’s sinfulness is the root cause of various deviations inside of orthodox Christian theology as well as the fact that it is also a primary cause, while not the only cause, in the divisions between orthodox Christianity and false religion under the guise of a form of Christianity; Roman Catholicism would be the primary example, while it is surely not the only occurrence, of a truly false religion that masquerades under the guise of Christianity. Whether from Rome or a random preacher’s desktop computer, when men hold to the view that man is somewhat good or capable of good things on his own, they usually mess up the doctrine of salvation and consequently do not understand the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have heard (and read) men of many different stripes inside of Christendom make the mistake of commending to man some ability to do something truly good when the men they are referring to have not been transformed by the saving power of Christ that is received through faith. And it is a fundamental denial of the ruin of sin that lead men to create new ways for good people to get a “fair chance” before God. If we understand that there are no good people and furthermore that there is nothing innately good about any human and that all people are unrighteous and wicked to the core of their being, we then see the message of the cross in the correct way.

As a side note, I don’t believe that the errors of the anonymous Christianity as seen inside of protestant circles or the same types of theologies inside of Roman Catholicism come from a purposeful intent to destroy the gospel of God (for the masses, anyway). This error basically holds that there is, or must be, a way that a loving God has set up for those who have never heard of Christ to still be saved. And I believe that the majority of unbelievers, as well as believers, who sit in the pews each week and are sympathetic to this idea, seem to be motivated by the desire to preserve the justice of God. I believe that this is the reason why some less mature or Scripturally ignorant Christians might be wooed by this idea. But I would be amiss if I didn’t mention that while this might be a factor with unbelievers, a primary reason would also seem to be one of self preservation. You see, unbelievers still have the unmitigated guilt of their sin to deal with, and whether they are in a Christian church or not, this fictional possibility helps to soothe their own consciences with the hope that they might qualify for it if their professed faith is false.

The problems that come from a watered down view of the sinfulness of man and the indistinguishable idea of the ability of man (to do truly good things) very often result in views of salvation that are contrary to the gospel. Now, whereas many of my brothers and sisters in Christ are Arminian in their theological persuasion and they will disagree with me on some of the issues surrounding the doctrines of grace (a.k.a. Calvinism), they would ultimately hold to the correct understanding of the ruin of sin. They hold to the position that every man is able to receive salvation by faith in Christ, but it is not anything good about that man himself that lends to his salvation.

The reason for the importance of this doctrine is not in the fact that it is fun or that it makes people feel good to be made very aware of the fact that, just as the famous song says, we are all wretches because of our sin. Neither is it is not a reveling in the imminent damnation of the vast majority of humanity. It is a bold proclamation of the utter ruin of mankind so that Christ will be seen as the most beautiful and glorious Savior that He is. When you have a watered down view of sin and your own sinfulness, then you only need a watered down Christ to save you or to help you save yourself. The Bible doesn’t speak of Christ as a “kind of” or “mostly” savior; He is the perfect and ultimate savior of a ruined humanity. And it is only by faith in Him as He has been revealed through the pages of Scripture that we can be saved from the ultimate ruin of the wrath of God.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Steven Curtis Chapman, Cinderella, Tragedy

I was running on my treadmill yesterday when I heard on the news that Steven Curtis Chapman's 5 year-old daughter was accidentally killed by her brother.

I first heard the song "Cinderella" following the birth of my own daughter in the summer of 2007. I remember telling my wife that it was the first song that I ever had that "butterfly kisses" reaction that daddy's get when thinking about their daughters...I was a weeping mess.

Now, hearing the tragedy in his family and finding out that 1/2 of the inspiration for this song was his daughter, Maria, who died on Wednesday.

God's grace is is the only thing that can sustain and encourage a family in this time.

(This video was made well before this tragedy)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Marriage, Cartoons, Ice Cream, and Beer

If there was any doubt of the truth that American culture is in a downward freefall toward unfettered debauchery and smut in our society, then May 15th, 2008 was a day that pushed those doubts farther and farther out. I am not a conspiracy theorist, so I don’t think that the three things that I am referring to were orchestrated by any one evil mastermind in a corporate office somewhere. However, I do believe and know that there is a demonic lord of the world whose plan is to further corrupt the world and saturate it with unclean and sinful things. So, in that sense, they are all connected.


SAN FRANCISCO , CA -- California's Supreme Court declared that gay couples in the nation's biggest state can marry -- a monumental but perhaps short-lived victory for the gay rights movement Thursday that was greeted with tears, hugs, kisses and at least one instant proposal of matrimony.1

Same-sex Marriage is already legal in Massachusetts, so it was really only a matter of time before this happened again. I’m not surprised that it happened, nor shocked where it happened, but I am upset and concerned that it did happen. The Bible is clear that marriage is between one woman and one man, and this covenant lasts for a lifetime. But when Christians have an equal or higher number of divorces on average as the culture at large, we’ve got a serious marriage problem in our society, but more importantly in our church.

As far as the cultural impact on my society, I am very concerned about this ongoing issue. Leaving aside the fact that homosexuals have the exact right to marry in every state that heterosexuals do; one man can marry one woman. There is no distinction or discrimination on account of your sexual orientation. Leaving aside what this will mean for the raising of children in a same-sex household, the amount of children who will be impacted in homes and schools where this life-situation will necessarily be defended and validated is enormous. But this will definitely speed up the time when it will become illegal hate speech for Christians to declare that homosexuality is a sin condemned by God. It is not the only sin, or the grossest of sins, but it is a vile sin nonetheless. And when it is declared hate speech, it will be prosecutable by law. And this, my friends, is what primarily concerns me. The gospel will begin to be shut-up from the public square under force of law. We will still preach it, but our own families will suffer the retribution of our apostate society.

Cartoons, Ice Cream, and Beer:

Starbucks logo has always had the extremely subtle hint of nudity, I grant you, but their newest version of their logo takes all hints out of it. I find it very concerning that the breasts of a woman are exposed on the logo of a company that is known for its business’s saturation level in our society. I know full well that pornography is more readily accessible to anyone because of the Internet. I also realize that pornography and other lewd activities, like strip clubs and the like, are more accepted in our most tolerant society. This sexual de-sensitivity has gotten to such a point that sex sells everything; from cars to TV, and from coffee to ice cream. And this is just the latest in the over-stimulation and de-sensitization of our society towards sex and nudity.

Our culture is getting so bad, that the flirtatious game of a young girl (grade-school aged) that she plays in the presence of her mother in order to get a free ice cream doesn’t only get aired, but I haven’t heard any outrage over this. In the wake of the Miley Cirus “sex symbol” scandalous photographs, I would have thought that the latest Dairy Queen add would have been more condemned. And for those people who might think that I’m overreacting to this commercial let me ask this: would you want your third-grade daughter playing that sort of sexually charged game to get free ice cream? Would you want your twenty-year old daughter playing that sort of card to get free stuff? Ever wonder where the sexual inhibitions that leads to hooking up and Girls Gone Wild begins? Apparently, it begins at Dairy Queen and Starbucks now.

Not only is the over-tolerance of sexuality and nudity getting ever more pervasive, but so is foul language. A recent commercial for Amstel Light’s prominently used a play-on-words to be catchy for their new add campaign. It goes like this: Amstel Light is apparently made in Amsterdam. “Amsterdam” ends with in “dam” which sounds just like “damn”. Damn is a word that is considered course and has, to the best of my knowledge, not been allowed to be used on TV advertising. But good ‘ol Amstel Light found a way to swear and get it past any censorship. The final line of the commercial is, “One Dam Good Bier”. This, of course, makes no sense if we understand the word “dam” as it is spelled. However, if we understand it in its common usage in our culture as well as the meaning conveyed in this commercial, it makes sense. Its course and foul, and it is on your TV.

Starbucks, Dairy Queen, and Amstel Light didn’t come up with their advertising in a vacuum or in a culture that had not been heading in this direction for some time. Still, when you look at the pervasiveness and acceptance of all things sexual and course, how then can the claim be made that we are a mostly Christian nation. We might have been at one time, but we’re not now. I guess that we still might be a Christian nation if you define “Christian” the way that most of the evangelical world does. With the foul mouthed preachers, the sermon series’ on sex that could well be defined as soft-porn, and the increasing amount of alcoholic saturation of churches, whether it be churches in active bars or beer at bible studies or church events, perhaps America is a Christian culture. Its just that the Christianity of our culture is devoid of Christ and His sanctifying power.

May God have mercy on us.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

An Ancient Idolatry Clothed in Modern Attire

“The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and {they} pour out drink offerings to other gods in order to spite Me.” (Jeremiah 7:18)
“From the earliest ages of the catholic church a Christian people, whether in time of triumph or more especially in time of crisis, has addressed prayers of petition and hymns of praise and veneration to the Queen of Heaven. And never has that hope wavered which they placed in the Mother of the Divine King, Jesus Christ; nor has that faith ever failed by which we are taught that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother's solicitude over the entire world, just as she is crowned in heavenly blessedness with the glory of a Queen.”1
- Pope PIUS XII, 10/11/1954

I have never been a big fan of the Roman Catholic doctrine, adoration, and veneration of Mary, the mother of our Lord, but I must say that I was shocked recently when I was directed to the book of Jeremiah. In chapters seven and forty-four, Jeremiah points out the idolatry of Israel in their worship of a false god referred to as the queen of heaven. Realizing the inflammatory nature of pointing to this correlation between the pagan religion and the Roman Catholic Church’s view of Mary, let me first articulate what I am not saying today.

I am not saying that the Roman Catholic veneration of Mary is the same as the worship of the pagan goddess listed in the Bible. I think that it is reasonable to draw the conclusion that the goddess in view in the context of the Old Testament is most often referred to as Ashtoreth. Whereas Ashtoreth was a fertility goddess and her worshipers often included sex as a part of their ceremonies, those devoted to Mary are influenced more toward celibacy. Primarily due to this difference, I believe that for one to draw the conclusion that simply because the names are the same in both cases that therefore the object of adoration is the same, is not, I don’t think, warranted.

Having that out of the way, I think that the Roman Catholic doctrine and subsequent veneration of Mary is nothing less than idolatry, but I don’t believe that the same goddess is in view as the one worshipped by Israel and the surrounding nations. Even though Roman Catholics have been relentless in their attempts to de-idolatrize the specific acts of venerating saints and relics, but above all the veneration, or hyperdulia, of Mary, I am unable to see how the line that they draw actually makes this type of veneration not a form of idolatry.

Before that, however, Roman Catholics defend the use of this title for Mary because even though it was used to address a pagan goddess, the title “king of kings” was ascribed by Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar. But in the very same sentence that Daniel gives this title to the king of Babylon, he puts him underneath the God who gave him his power.
37 "You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory; 38 and wherever the sons of men dwell, {or} the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given {them} into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. (Daniel 2:37,38a)

Daniel was not ascribing worship to Nebuchadnezzar, nor was he offering prayers or burning incense to him. He was interpreting the king’s dream, and in the context of this interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar is seen as the chief king of human kings while making it clear that he is compared to the One who gave him his power. Furthermore, even if the reference to a pagan deity did not bear the title of queen of heaven in Scripture, the justification of elevating anyone to the status of queen has no basis in Scripture. One example (the only one I could find) of proof texts given for this by Roman Catholic apologists provided Ephesians 2:12, Revelation 1:6 and 5:10 as the defense of the general queenship of Mary. But when you read them, these references say nothing about men and women being kings or queens (in fact, I have no idea what the relevance of Ephesians 2:12 is, look it up), but that we are a kingdom of priests. We are a kingdom of priests, not priests who are kings. The only other reference that seemed to be used to argue the Roman Catholic point that I could find is from Jesus’ words in Matthew 19,
And Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28)

If this verse applies to all believers (as I tend to think that it does) and if it is not simply the apostles of Christ (as it may), then Mary would sit on a throne judging the tribes, perhaps the one right next to me. But this does not declare that those who sit on the thrones will be kings, but that they will judge the twelve tribes of Israel. We cannot and must not be sloppy or free-handed with our theology.

In one attempt to show the supposed absurdity of objections with the general idea of veneration (that are far more in scope than simply in applying to Mary) such as my own, things like the bronze serpent that Moses had made and the Cherubim on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant are brought up as examples of images used in a similar way as the Roman Catholic Church uses relics and upholds certain saints. The most compelling Scriptural argumentation in favor of the Roman view would be those that deal with the bronze serpent that Moses constructed so that the people could be healed from their present affliction.

Moses constructed this serpent at a time when the Israelites were complaining, yet again, about their food and their plight and complained against God and Moses. Because of this, God cursed them and sent venomous snakes into their camps to afflict them,
7 So the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us." And Moses interceded for the people. 8 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery {serpent,} and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live." 9 And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived. (Numbers 21:7-9)

God commanded Moses to construct an image and He commanded that if any Israelite were bitten by a snake that they could look up at this raised up image of the serpent and be healed. But whether it was the supernatural healing from snake bites by looking at the serpent or the supernatural passing-over by God’s killing of the first born because of the Lamb’s blood on the door of their homes in Egypt; the power of God that He displayed both in healing and preservation had no relation to anything intrinsically holy with the things themselves. And this was made even more clear by the fact that when the nation worshipped and burned incense to the statue instead of God who used the statue, it was destroyed with the Ashtoreth poles and other high places during Hezekiah’s purge (cf. 2 Kings 18:4).

Similar to the bronze serpent, any adoration or veneration of any relic, saint, or of Mary that draws any attention to the object or persons themselves and away from God in Christ is also idolatry. Was Mary blessed and honored to have been chosen to give birth to our Redeemer? Yes. Were Joseph and Mary especially blessed and chosen for their part in raising Jesus in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Yes. But does this elevate Mary to some queenly role in the heavenlies because of her own virtue and grace that her own suffering merited at the foot of the cross? No. And I say without any hesitation that this veneration, whether dulia or hyperdulia, is an idolatry and a heresy. Because it is simply, at its core, an elevation of a mere woman to a level that must be described as being at least goddess-like. This special veneration, or hyperdulia, of Mary as the Queen of Heaven (among other things) is not the exact equal of the pagan devotion to the queen of heaven as described in Isaiah, but it is an ancient idolatry clothed in modern attire.
“For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:25)

Mary is not the Queen of Heaven, nor is she the Spouse of the Holy Spirit as Roman Catholics like to refer to her. She is, as I am; a sinner made a saint by the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. She is no more a saint deserving of hyperdulia (or any dulia) than I am.

1 This statement was given at Rome, from St. Peter's, on the feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the eleventh day of October, 1954, in the sixteenth year of Pius’ Pontificate.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Faith in Christ, Faith in Christ, Faith in Christ...

This is the 4th video response to a preacherman777's youtube comments about a possibility of salvation through CHrist's blood apart from faith in Christ.

This discussion was the catalyst for my anonymous Christian post a few days back.

Yoga is Religion

I posted this in response to a news story in my area that indicated that a local grade school (one very close to my home) was having teacher led yoga in the classrooms of 4th graders. Only four days later did I receive a response from my local school. The response answered that the school in my neighborhood is not the one featured in the news story, but doesn't elaborate on whether or not Yoga is going on in my school.

I have replied again (as of today) requesting if yoga is going on at my neighborhood school. And if it is, I have requested information about its use.

more to come...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Salvation Outside of Faith in Christ?

“Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

A modern heresy is gaining traction with popular “evangelical Christians” and churches that seem to be more likely to grab onto Christian fads and trends. These men, who are neither truly evangelical nor truly Christian (for one must first be a Christian in order to be evangelical), are promoting a view of the saving work of Christ that has been described by one proponent as the Anonymous Christian (also called “wider mercy”) view. Whether or not this idea first gained popularity in our modern time based on the influence of any one man, I do not know, but I have found it significant that Karl Rahner, a Roman Catholic theologian, put forth his view in this way,
“We prefer the terminology according to which that man is called an ‘anonymous Christian’ who on the one hand has de facto accepted of his freedom this gracious self-offering on God’s part through faith, hope, and love, while on the other he is absolutely not yet a Christian at the social level (through baptism and membership of the Church) or in the sense of having consciously objectified his Christianity to himself in his own mind (by explicit Christian faith resulting from having hearkened to the explicit Christian message) We might therefore put it as follows: the ‘anonymous Christian’ in our sense of the term is the pagan after the beginning of the Christian mission, who lives in the state of Christ’s grace through faith, hope and love, yet who has no explicit knowledge of the fact that his life is orientated in grace-given salvation to Jesus Christ.”1

While Karl Rahner was a Roman Catholic, ideas that are similar to his have been spewing from the mouths of self professed evangelical leaders and found their way into the theologies of much of modern Christendom. I have personally heard Tony Campolo make comments that put him into this same category of validating the “anonymous Christian” type of theology. Furthermore, the famous “coexist” slogan that was made popular by Bono of U2 fame has a similar theme. This view of the anonymous Christian, as it seems to me, jumps way past the bounds of orthodoxy and right into the heresy of universalism or some form of it.

To put this concept another way; someone who has never heard the gospel, or perhaps they have heard it but they haven’t been won over to believing it yet, but they live in some sort of moral way, they have been (or will be) effectively covered by Christ’s atoning work even though they would not claim to believe in Christ or know about Him. Furthermore, they would even forcefully claim to not believe in Christ as He is revealed in Scripture. This is, on its face, an affront to the exclusivity of Christ, and proponents of this view would be ambivalent as to whether a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, or a practitioner of another religion would be condemned because of his or her sin. These post-evangelical theologians attempt to lean on God’s love and His grace as an all enveloping crutch while using their own unwillingness to pass any clear judgment on anyone based on the Scriptures that teach the exclusivity of Christ as their cudgel. They lean on a misunderstanding of God’s grace and God’s love and, in so doing, they distort and destroy the very attributes that they look to. For God’s love and grace are revealed in His Word in relation to His holiness, judgment, and wrath. All of these attributes have parameters that we have been made aware of in the Scriptures. Therefore declaring that the saving grace of God might be applied to some or to all men outside of exclusive expressed and evident faith in Christ is a travesty that destroys the faith that was once for all handed down to the saints.

Now while many people (I don’t know if I could say “most” with any sense of conviction anymore) inside of evangelicalism would find the above type of anonymous Christianity to be nothing less than a heresy, and rightly so, there is a subtle cousin of this same theological construct that exists within what would seem to be an otherwise orthodox paradigm. This takes the doctrine of the exclusivity of Christ and seems to hold it up when declaring that practitioners of other man-made religions are condemned because of their sin. However, when it comes to the subject of those people who have never heard the gospel, they seem to get wobbly in the knees and attempt to make some provision for those men to be saved other than by grace through faith in Christ.

This may sound like a harmless and loving type of minor theological view to hold, and I’ll grant you that when compared to the blatant heresy of full blown anonymous Christian view it does seem rather harmless. However, claiming that there is a way of salvation other than by faith in the revealed Son of God that may be possible for the unreached heathen to qualify for, again cuts the legs out of the exclusivity of faith in Christ and the power of His gospel.
23 ...He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:23b-24)

And while the first generation of those who hold to this view perhaps may have no other doctrines altered to the point of heresy, I am very afraid that those who follow after them and grab hold of this false application of the need for the gospel to be preached in order for men to be saved will be all the more likely to embrace an anonymous Christian view of the gospel which is no gospel indeed.

And for those men, I feel somewhat hesitant to say, I cannot imagine that they understand Christ and His sacrifice aright. And if you don’t understand the Son rightly nor understand correctly what He has done, you will not be saved from your sins.
"He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36)

The Son commands repentance and faith in Him. That command has been made, and man must respond rightly to that command or be subject to the wrath of God. All men everywhere are subject to the wrath of God and are only delivered to have peace with God (cf. Romans 5:1) through faith in Jesus Christ.

1Rev Norman Wong Cheong Sau, “Karl Rahner’s Concept of the ‘Anonymous Christian’ An Inclusivist View of Religions” (quoting: Karl Rahner, “Theological Investigations Vol 14” translated by David Bourke (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1976), p 283. )

Click here to find my youtube dialogue (video & audio) with a proponent of the lesser view.

Copyright © 2005-2010 Eric Johnson