Monday, October 17, 2016

Donald Trump is not David, Paul, or Samson

Donald Trump is not David or Solomon. He is not the Apostle Paul. He's not Samson. He isn't Nebuchadnezzar or Cyrus either. He's Donald Trump. To try and mirror him with any of these biblical characters is nothing but eisegesis -- imposing something on the text the reader wants it to say but it doesn't actually say.

The bias should be obvious. If Trump can be Nebuchadnezzar or Cyrus, why can't Hillary? And why is Trump only comparable to someone like Kings David or Solomon, Samson or Paul, and not someone like Kings Saul or Ahaz, Balaam or Simon the Magician?

I've made a comparison before between Trump and Ahaz. King Ahaz refused to ask the Lord for help just as Donald Trump has refused to ask God for forgiveness. At last year's Family Leadership Summit, Trump was asked if he has ever asked forgiveness for his sins. "I don't bring God into that picture," he said.

Consider the story of Simon the Magician, who had everyone in Samaria believing "he himself was somebody great" (Acts 8:9). Then Philip came preaching the gospel and the people believed, including Simon. This was a guy skilled in illusion and he became amazed when he saw the apostles performing miracles. So he offered them money that they would give him the same power that they had: "Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit."

Peter rebuked Simon, saying, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity."

Simon responded, "Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me." Notice that it doesn't say Simon repented, nor does it say he was "cut to the heart" as the men of Jerusalem were when Peter was specific about their sins (Acts 2:37). It just says Simon asked them to pray for him, rather than praying himself.

The apostles were given authority to determine whether or not a person was walking in forgiveness or still lost in their sin, as the church has also been given this responsibility (Matthew 18:18, John 20:23). Simon had believed and was even baptized. Yet notice that Peter said his heart wasn't right before God: "For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity."

Good grief, why doesn't that describe Donald Trump? Instead, we've got men holding up Trump as a Christian because he was presumably introduced to Christ (by a heretic, the attractive blonde one, of course), rather than calling him to repentance realizing that by his own words, he isn't a Christian at all. (Did everyone just totally miss the comment he made two months ago that becoming president is the only way he'll get to heaven?)

They compromise their own witness by not actually checking their facts and not even checking behind them before guilting believers into voting for him. They say "Trump, or else" in the name of fantasy Supreme Court justices and the protection of religious freedom, either not hearing or deliberately ignoring that Trump says he's evolving on same-sex marriage (the same words Obama and Hillary have used) and is in favor transgender bathroom laws.

Trump has said that Republicans need to compromise on abortion, and that Planned Parenthood does good work. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards even thanked him for it. Not a single word was said by him in either debate or the Republican National Convention about defending the unborn. At the March for Life in January, every republican candidate vowed to protect unborn children except Donald Trump. How do you not even use pro-life speech at a pro-life event?

The portion of the evangelical right holding up Donald Trump is holding up their version of Donald Trump. Hey, you can even find their version of Trump in the Bible. To overlook Trump's sin in favor of a voting bias, comparing him to biblical men who finished well like David, Paul, Nebuchadnezzar, and Samson, is selfish, uncaring, and -- okay, I'll just say it -- it's stupid.

Proverbs 12:1 says, "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid." That verse doesn't just apply to those who receive or won't receive reproof. It also applies to those who issue or won't issue reproof. Why do they not rebuke? Because they hate it. They're stupid; foolish, senseless, and dull of mind.

It's much easier to just accept or wave off whatever Donald Trump says and does in the name of voting for #NeverHillary than to take a principled stand and say the man is wrong even if saying so might mean Hillary will win. Evangelical men have a real opportunity here to defend women, as we should. Here's a chance to preach that being a Christian is not about voting republican or having a conservative ideology; it's about following Christ and obeying His commands. Instead, they're standing for Donald Trump.

It is wrong of him to talk about women the way he does -- and continues to do. He still says disparaging things about women. It wasn't "locker room talk" that happened ten years ago. Trump's most recent interviews with Howard Stern were two years ago, boasting about his conquests in bed and judging the bodies of famous women like he's walking through a meat market. In addition to these instances of his unabashed lewdness, you hear his disparaging comments about women in his everyday speech. Last week he denied hitting on a reporter from People Magazine, and his alibi was she was ugly.

And he still has the gall to say, "No one has more respect for women than I do." He said it in the debate last week, and he said it on Twitter over the weekend. This is not a repentant man. An apology that includes the words, "This is nothing more than a distraction," while attacking your opponent's actions as being worse is not an apology. I am personally offended that anyone would actually defend Trump's self-proclaimed "respect" for women.

I am a husband with a wonderful, beautiful wife and the father of three adorable children (one more on the way). Two of my kids are girls. I do not take lightly the comments of any man who boasts about sleeping with another man's wife, or would devalue my daughters because they're female and would think even less of them if they couldn't win a beauty pageant. That is not pro-life. That is appalling.

The man is a strip-club owner, a serial adulterer, a racist, a gambler, and a bully, arrogant and godless. He has personally invested in things and ideologies and practices that open the door for abortions, not close the door on them. To be pro-life means more than just hating the idea of abortion (and I don't think Trump even goes that far). It means valuing life. All life. Every sex, race, and age, able-bodied or disabled, from conception to natural death.

Picking and choosing parts of Donald Trump to compare with parts of biblical characters is dangerous. Peter said the ignorant and unstable twist the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). It also leads others astray. It teaches those who don't know much about the Scriptures that we can bend the Bible to mean anything we want it to mean and excuse virtually any kind of behavior.

If we can find a biblical reason to shrug at adultery, misogyny, compulsive gambling, bullying, coarse speech, and a litany of other sins Trump gets away with, then we don't need the Bible. Not only is its truth suspect, the Bible can't even be considered a moral book if it allows for immoral behavior.

This is also unloving toward Donald. Rather than confronting a man and holding him accountable, preaching the gospel that saves, false teachers are waving him off and saying, "Meh, David did the same thing. Samson did that, too. Hey, Paul and Nebuchadnezzar used to kill believers!" All of those men were repentant. Donald Trump is not. Would you rather Donald Trump perish in his sins just so Hillary Clinton won't become president?

The Bible says that God hates sin (Psalm 5:4-6, Proverbs 6:16-19, Revelation 3:16). Among those sins that God hates is perverted speech (Proverbs 8:13), of which Trump has no lack. The Bible says, "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them" (Ephesians 4:6-7).

Those who are sexually immoral, impure, sensual, idolatrous, divisive, bitter, jealous, driven to fits of anger, revel in rivalry, dissensions, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these "will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21). The cowardly, faithless, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars will be thrown into the lake of fire forever (Revelation 21:8).

But Jesus Christ died for all sin. There is not a sin He won't forgive. Whoever believes in Him will be forgiven their sins, for Christ has died in our place and satisfied the wrath of God. But understand me here: the grace of our Lord is never, ever an excuse to sin. As Paul said, how can we who have died to sin and are alive in Christ continue to live in sin (Romans 6:2)? We would still be enslaved to our sin if that were the case. John said if we say we have fellowship with God while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1 John 1:6).

Those who hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, who turn from worldliness and sinful passions to follow Jesus, will confirm their calling and election with virtue, growing in the knowledge of God and His word, will be self-controlled, steadfast in the faith, living godly lives, showing brotherly affection and love for one another. "For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:3-11).

So again, Donald Trump is not David or Solomon, Paul or Samson, Nebuchadnezzar or Cyrus. He's Donald Trump. He needs to be held accountable for Donald Trump's sins, told to repent and believe in Christ Jesus the Lord. By the way, the same goes for Hillary Clinton, also a foul-mouthed, baby-killing, racist woman-hater. She needs to repent for her own sins, too; to be wretched and mourn and weep (James 4:9), and believe in Christ as Savior and King.

This has been a deplorable election. But I believe God in His Sovereignty is not done. I pray that in the midst of such immorality He is raising up moral and godly men and women, who stand upon principled and biblical truth, who are not afraid to speak up, call evil evil, and promote what is good and righteous in the eyes of God. It is when the night is darkest that such stars tend to shine out the brightest (Matthew 5:14-16, Philippians 2:14-16).

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Preach the Word: Responding to 5 Common Arguments for Not Having to Preach From the Bible

In 1 Timothy 4:13, the Apostle Paul instructed, "Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching." Later he wrote, "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching."

Yet there are liberal theologians who argue that we don't need to use the Bible when we preach. We can talk about Jesus without the Bible, they say, what He said and what He did, even though we don't know about any of that without the Bible. Ironically, they have biblical arguments to explain why they don't need to preach from the Scriptures. (If all of this sounds confusing, that's because it is.) The following is a response to the five most commonly (mis)used passages.

This is part 2 of my critique of Andy Stanley's 7,500 word article in Outreach Magazine last week, "Why 'The Bible Says So' Is Not Enough Anymore." But this didn't start out being a part 2. I began writing this blog two weeks before Stanley's article and was delayed in finishing it. When Stanley presented 4 of these 5 exact arguments, it just made sense to turn this into a response to Stanley.

Stanley labels his arguments Exhibits A, B, C, and D, all taken from Luke who wrote the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. I'm going to add an Exhibit E which comes from John's gospel.

Exhibit A: Peter and the Jews

After Christ's ascension into heaven and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the apostles went into Jerusalem and delivered the first "Repent and believe!" sermon in the history of the church. Acts 2:5 tells us that the crowd consisted of "devout Jews from every nation under heaven," and by the power of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, they heard the gospel in their own languages. Peter showed them how Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the Scriptures, quoting also from Joel and the Psalms.
"This Jesus, delivered up according to the definition plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it. For David says concerning Him, 'I saw the Lord always before me, for He is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.'" (Acts 2:23-28)
Stanley says, "Throughout the message, Peter leverages his version of 'The Bible says,' 'The Scripture teaches.' This makes perfect sense given Peter’s audience. This was a group that held their Scriptures in high regard. If their Bible said it, that settled it. It didn’t hurt that most of Peter’s audience believed those particular Scriptures pointed to a future Messiah. Peter simply connected the dots. He connected their existing belief, which was informed by the Jewish Scriptures, to a current event."

The reason Peter referenced the "Jewish Scriptures," Stanley argues, is because the Jews already accepted the Scriptures as authoritative. We can't use that same method for preaching the gospel in a Post-Christian culture that Stanley says knows the Bible (they don't) because not all millennials accept the Bible as authoritative. Here are three points in response.

First of all, that's wrong. There's nothing in the New Testament that indicates the Old Testament Scriptures were reserved for the Jews who accepted them as true. In fact, in Acts 17 at Berea, the Scriptures were given to both the Jews and the Gentiles who came to hear Paul speak in the synagogue. "Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men" (Acts 17:12). Paul quoted and explained the Old Testament to both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 3:10-18, 1 Corinthians 1:19, Galatians 3:6, and Ephesians 4:8). He said the Scriptures were written for our instruction (Romans 15:4), and said this even to those who didn't yet accept it as true (1 Corinthians 9:10).

Secondly, consider this: At what point does the word of God become authoritative? When God says it, or when people accept it as authoritative? In Exodus 20, the entire nation of Israel heard the voice of God deliver the Ten Commandments, yet clearly the people didn't revere His word. After they heard Him say, "You will have no other gods before me," they turned around and worshiped a golden calf. Should God have withheld His words until the people were ready to receive it as authoritative? According to Stanley's reasoning, He should have.

Third, just because an apostle wasn't referencing an Old Testament writer by name doesn't mean they weren't referencing the Scriptures. I'll elaborate on this point in the next exhibit.

Exhibit B: Peter and the Gentiles

In Acts 10, Peter preached to the Gentiles at Caesarea. But unlike his sermon at Pentecost, Peter didn't reference Old Testament names like Joel and David. But again, that doesn't mean what Peter said wasn't from Scripture. After all, when he talks about the resurrection of Christ in verse 40, it was in accordance with the Scriptures (Luke 24:27, 45-46, 1 Corinthians 15:4).

What does it mean to reference the Scriptures? Obviously it doesn't mean quoting chapter and verse because the chapter and verse markers didn't come about until the 15th century, so Peter didn't have them. Does it mean that Peter has to name the Old Testament prophet he's referencing? Can he still use their words without mentioning their name, and that's still a Scriptural reference?

Instead of going back through Peter's message at the house of Cornelius, let me select a shorter example. Consider this sermonette preached by Paul and Barnabas to the pagans at Lystra:
"Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." (Acts 14:15-17)
Now where did Paul and Barnabas get these phrases like "vain things" and "living God" who "made the heaven and the earth" and that He "allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways" yet gave them "rains from heaven and fruitful seasons" and "food and gladness"? These are all references to the prophets.
  • Vain things: "And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty." 1 Samuel 12:21
  • Living God: "My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God." Psalm 84:2
  • Maker of heaven and earth: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1
  • Allowed all nations to walk in their own ways: "For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever." Micah 4:5
  • Rains from heaven and fruitful seasons: "I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit." Leviticus 26:4
  • Food and gladness: "These all look to you, to give them their food in due season... and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen man's heart." Psalm 104:27, 15
Paul and Barnabas didn't name the prophets Samuel, David, Micah, and Moses because the pagans from Lystra didn't know who they were. That's not the same thing as saying Paul and Barnabas didn't use the Scriptures because the pagans from Lystra didn't receive them as authoritative. The word of God was still their authority, and Paul and Barnabas did not withhold it.

Here's something to keep in mind: Andy Stanley is a pastor of a church making excuses for why he doesn't need to preach the Bible to his church. Yet notice the examples he's using are non-church settings. Preaching to the Jews at Pentecost or the Gentiles in the home of Cornelius was not the church, for they were not yet sealed by the Spirit of God. The church is instructed to be devoted to the reading of the Scriptures, encouraging and admonishing one another by them (Colossians 3:16). This is a point I'll come back to as we go on.

Exhibit C: Paul and the Jews

Here is perhaps the most abused Scripture in Stanley's exhibition hall; his use of 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. He uses this to compare Paul's sermon at Antioch (Acts 13) with his sermon at the Areopagus (in Exhibit D), but for the sake of brevity, let's just stick with his Corinthian argument. Paul said the following:
"For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Paul expounds upon this in the next chapter: "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1).

That's the explanation. This is very simply Paul being a humble servant, counting others more significant than himself (Philippians 2:3), being considerate and not causing anyone to stumble by anything he does, showing empathetic love for others so to leave the door open for the gospel and building them up in the faith.

This wasn't just Paul's conviction, as he says that all of us are to be imitators of him. He explains it this way to the Romans: "We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up" (Romans 15:1-2).

Now, Stanley's explanation for 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 is very exclusivist, meaning that he attempts to interpret these five verses on their own and disregard every other verse outside of them. Here's what he says (and pardon me for the odd paragraphing, but this was how he put it):
Let this phrase rattle around in your mind for a few minutes:
"… so that by all possible means I might save some." 
Which means, Paul? 
"All possible means." 
So, you may take one approach one day and a different approach a different day? Am I reading you right? 
"All possible means." 
Is that really necessary? Doesn’t the Spirit do the work? 
"All possible means." 
But isn’t it enough to preach the Word and let the seed fall where it may? 
"All possible means." 
And why do you go to such lengths? 
"… for the sake of the gospel." 
What if we just did that for a year? What if we opted for the "all possible means" approach? What if we decide to do whatever it takes?
The work of the Spirit (Titus 3:5), sowing seeds (Matthew 13), and being all things to all people are intertwined. The way Stanley words this -- whether or not it's his intention -- it's like he's singling out "all possible means" and mocking the concepts of the work of the Spirit and sowing seeds. Yet they're entirely biblical concepts. We're not meant to reach people simply by "all possible means" alone without the gospel or the Spirit of God.

You can be all things to all people until you're blue in the face. Unless the gospel is declared and the Holy Spirit works in the heart of the hearer, no change will ever take place. Paul said previously to the Corinthians that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). He came to them not with lofty words of wisdom but with the testimony of the gospel to be received by spiritual people.
"For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:11-14)
You can't do 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 and ignore 1 Corinthians 2:11-14. Do you know what happens when you think you can save people by "all possible means" without understanding the power of the gospel or the Spirit of God? You open the door to sinister slicks like Todd White who does his street-magic healings making people think he's growing a person's leg out to even it with the other one and solve their back problems. It's a total con and he knows he's lying. But if it means a person comes to know Jesus, who cares? It was by "all possible means," right?

Another thing that happens is an evangelist can become an outright jerk. He'll beat people over the head with signs or berate them with a "turn or burn" gospel that they've heard twenty-two times today alone. He skewers people with his spiritual sword and shouts in triumph only for his hearers to harden their hearts even further. After all, it's by "all possible means," right?

"All possible means" does not mean "absent the gospel of Jesus Christ." It doesn't mean lie to people or yell at people. We should be able to lovingly relate to others and empathize with them, so that we may by "all possible means" share the gospel. The gospel and good doctrine still need to be ever-present, with gentleness and respect. It is the Spirit of God who saves, not us. Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (John 6:63).

Exhibit D: Paul and the Gentiles

The Apostle Paul and his missionary brethren came to the Greek city of Athens, a city full of idols. He preached in the synagogue and in the marketplace the words of Jesus and about His resurrection. Now, the Greeks were a people that valued new knowledge, so even though they thought this resurrection-speak was complete craziness, they wanted to hear more. So Paul went to the Areopagus, or Aries Rock (later named Mars Hill by the Romans), a place used for public discourse in the presence of the gods. It is there that Paul preached:
"Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: 'To the unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  
"And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us, for, 'In Him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we are indeed His offspring.'  
"Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:22-31)
It's interesting to me that as much as Stanley loves Exhibit D, he doesn't reference the actual words of Acts 17 all that much. Instead, he summarizes it this way: "[Paul] tells the Athenians they need to repent of their idolatry. But that’s it. He doesn’t reference all the other things they needed to repent of. And the list was long. But the most unusual facet of his message to this elite group in Athens is that he never mentions Jesus."

There's a couple of problems with that loose summary. First, Paul didn't just tell the Athenians to repent of their idolatry. He told them to repent because the judgment of God was coming. Why repent from worshiping false gods? Because if you don't, the true God will destroy you. By the way, that's something you won't hear Andy Stanley talk about in his sermons: the judgment of God upon all evil-doers. For all his chest-beating, saying he's doing things Paul's way, Stanley doesn't actually preach the way Paul preached even at the Areopagus.

Secondly, Paul did mention Christ! He was known in Athens for preaching about a God named Jesus rising from the dead (Acts 17:18), and that's why the Athenians wanted to hear what he had to say at the Areopagus. Paul was, to use Andy's term, connecting the dots. He was saying, "The one who will come in judgment is the one I've been preaching about all this time."

Here's another very important distinction: the Areopagus wasn't church. It was open-air evangelism in the public square. Stanley proudly admits he sometimes preaches entire sermons without ever referencing the Bible, and Paul's message at the Areopagus is one of the examples he uses for why he doesn't need to. But Paul wasn't in church. He was speaking in the presence of pagan idols, making a particular point about an "altar to an unknown God" whom he points out is actually known and will judge all the earth through this Jesus he had been preaching about. Context, Andy!

Acts 17:22-31 is not permission to preach sermons without the Bible. Because again, we are to be devoted to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and to teaching. Where does 1 Timothy 4:13 fit into Stanley's method? How about 2 Timothy 3:16 which says, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." Why does Stanley put more energy into explaining why he doesn't need to use the Bible instead of teaching the Bible? What the Apostle Paul said was Scripture. What Andy Stanley says is not.

Charles Spurgeon once said, "A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home and never preach again." A sermon without the word of God in it is a sermon without Christ in it. For it is Christ who is defined as the very Word of God (John 1:1).

Exhibit E: Jesus and the Woman at the Well

This is an Exhibit that Stanley didn't use, but I hear it referenced fairly often when it comes to seeker-friendly preaching: Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. It's a longer example, 45 verses in length, but I'll try to keep it brief.

Jesus and His disciples were passing through Samaria, which Jews just did not do because Samaria was full of Samaritans. He sat down by Jacob's Well while the disciples went to find something to eat. While He was there, a woman came by to draw water and Jesus asked her for a drink. She said, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?"

Jesus replied, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." Not knowing what He was talking about, the woman proceeded to argue with Him, but He said, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

The woman said, "Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water." Jesus said, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered, "I have no husband." Jesus said, "You right to say you have no husband. For you have had five husbands and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is quite true."

The woman said, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship." The mountain she referred to was Mount Gerizim where the Samaritans believed true worship ought to take place (according to Deuteronomy 11:29). The Jews claimed that true worship was to happen on Mount Moriah, which was where the temple was built. Indeed, it was built there by the command of God (Genesis 22:2, 2 Samuel 24:18-19, 2 Chronicles 3:1).

The Samaritans actually had an incomplete Bible. They only accepted the Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Law written by Moses. This is why Jesus went on to tell her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews."

When He says, "You worship what you do not know," He was saying the Samaritans worship in ignorance because they've rejected the words of the other prophets of God. If she knew the Scriptures, she'd have known that the promised Messiah, whom the Samaritans also believed in, was coming through the Jewish people, specifically the tribe of Judah whom the Jews are named for. Saying that He would give her "living water" was a reference to the prophets who foretold about this living water (Jeremiah 2:13, Zechariah 14:8, Isaiah 12:3). Get that: Jesus was making references to Old Testament prophets she, as a Samaritan, didn't accept as authoritative!

Jesus went on to say, "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

The woman said, "I know that Messiah is coming. When He comes, He will tell us all things." In other words, she's appealing to moral relativism. She's saying, "You believe what you want to believe, and I'll believe what I want to believe, and when that Messiah shows up, He'll be the one to tell us who's right and who's wrong."

That's when Jesus lovingly drops the hammer: "I who speak to you am He."

Argument over.

The woman ran back into town and brought scores of people with her to hear the testimony of this man claiming to be the promised Messiah. Up until that point, He'd not yet made a claim to be the Messiah to anyone in Judea. But He revealed His identity to this woman in Samaria, and "Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman's testimony, 'He told me everything I ever did'" (John 4:39).

Many liberal theologians will reference this story and say that Jesus didn't use Scripture in His witness to the Samaritan woman, therefore we don't have to use Scripture in our witnessing. But as I've demonstrated, there were plenty of Scripture references. I gave some of the citations to help understand the meaning behind Jesus' words and the woman's responses.

Liberal teachers are also fond of saying that Jesus didn't tell her to repent of her sins, but that's a misunderstanding of the context of the exchange. He did in fact point her sin out to her, and she knew that He did. Jesus is the one who searches mind and heart and judges the thoughts of man (Jeremiah 17:10, Revelation 2:23). Remember, it was by that testimony of the woman, "He told me everything I ever did," that people believed in Him as the Messiah.

But again -- and this goes back to the point I made earlier -- this is not a church setting, and Jesus is God. Whatever He says is the word of God. You can't say Jesus didn't reference the Scriptures with this woman when everything He said became Scripture. The words of Jesus and the words of His prophets and apostles are the words of God. The words of a pastor are not. This is why a pastor's sermon needs to be under the full authority of the Scriptures, preaching the word, not twisting Bible verses for his own personal use.

Wrapping Up

Stanley makes several appeals in his 7,500 word article for pastors to leave the old way of doing things, and instead do things his way. I'd like to offer a counter-challenge. Put the Scripture back into your sermons. If you really want to meet the unchurched or the dechurched or the post-churched where they are by "all possible means," then go to where they are, which is not in church. Go out on the street and do Acts 17 evangelism there. To those who say, like the Athenians did, "We will hear you again about this," invite them to church to hear more Scripture, which the Spirit of God has conditioned their heart to receive.

Stanley is also sure to mention that he doesn't use notes when he preaches, and Paul didn't use notes when he preached either. Well, I also don't use notes when I preach -- it's just me and a Bible (unless the sermon I'm doing features a number of quotes, in which case I'll have a print-out of those quotes in front of me). But even if I have the passage I'm reading memorized (my fellow elders will testify to this), I will still open the Bible and read it so that the congregation will see that these words are not mine. It is not by my authority that I speak. I submit to the authority of God's word. Sometimes I do quote entire sections from memory. But otherwise, I want people to see I got this from the Bible.

I take no teaching instruction from anyone who says, "Try it my way," if that way includes excuses or "exhibits" for why we need to stop saying "the Bible says so." As Dr. Mohler pointed out, a mature Christian faith will say more than that, but no less than that. It is the gift of God to His ministers that we might be able to stand before His people and declare, "Thus says the Lord!" God willing, I will preach the word until my dying day.

Monday, October 3, 2016

"The Bible Says So" Is Enough: a Response to Andy Stanley

"First, the elephant in the room," says Andy Stanley, beginning a 7,500 word apologetic argument published by Outreach Magazine on Friday. "I believe the Bible is without error in everything it affirms. I believe what the Bible says is true, is true."

So there you have it. Stanley believes the Bible is inerrant. Only, not really.

The article follows recent scrutiny incurred by Stanley when he said at a conference last month that if he were the evangelical pope, he would tell pastors to take the spotlight off the Bible and put it on the resurrection. The silly thing is: you don't know about the resurrection without the Bible. In that same conversation with Dr. Russell Moore, Stanley openly and proudly admitted that sometimes he preaches entire sermons without ever quoting Scripture.

Stanley doubled-down on his statements when, in a sermon the following Sunday, he said that the old Sunday school song, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so" is fraught with problems. This is a fine approach to teaching the Bible to children, he said, but we need a different approach to reaching grown-ups -- one that doesn't begin with the Bible, or, judging by his preaching, includes much of the Bible at all.

This is despite the fact that the Bible says faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Of God's own will, He brought us forth by the word of truth (James 1:18). Jesus said that the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live (John 5:25). His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him (John 10:27). Where else do we hear these words but the Bible? One cannot know God without it. But Stanley wants pastors to introduce people to God without it.

Sound criticisms have abounded, not the least of which were two stellar articles written by Drs. David Prince and Albert Mohler. Stanley thinks his approach is cutting-edge. He thinks it's the way millennials today need to be reached. Prince and Mohler pointed out Stanley's ideas aren't new at all. They're just repackaged liberalism. But Stanley has ignored all these warnings. He thinks the problem is we're all stick-in-the-muds who want old and busted instead of the new hotness.

Now he's tripled-down on his messed-up apologetics with a written article entitled Why 'The Bible Tells Me So' Is No Longer Enough. He began by assuring everyone that he believes the Bible is inerrant. He even attempted to add weight to his statement by name-dropping his dad, Charles Stanley, and his seminary professor, Dr. Norman Geisler, who participated in drafting the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. It felt a bit like saying, "My last name is Ford, therefore I know a lot about cars."

In practice, Stanley doesn't really believe the Bible is inerrant. He says it, but doesn't follow it. If the Bible is without error, it is ultimate. No other word can be higher. No other word is more authoritative. Just like the law that applies to every citizen, the Bible has authority over every person whether they believe it does or not. But Stanley doesn't follow that. He believes his word must come before the Bible. It's as if he's saying, "Yeah, I believe that. Now put that Bible away, pastor, and listen to me."
"To recap, yes, I believe the Bible is without error in everything it affirms. Yes, my approach to preaching is not traditional. Yes, my approach at times leaves those outside our local congregations wondering if I’m still an evangelical. So in light of all that, along with the fact that here I am once again having to explain myself, shouldn’t I consider changing my approach? No. Actually, I would like you to consider changing yours."
If Stanley was presenting these things as merely his opinion, perhaps it wouldn't bother me so much. It would still be problematic and needing to be addressed given how influential he is, but it wouldn't be nearly as concerning if he was just talking about his own approach to preaching. Unfortunately, he's telling other pastors to do things his way. And there are going to be men who will follow him because they like the idea that their words are more impacting upon millennials than that silly old book I have to lean over every Sunday.

"Eight years ago I shifted my approach," Stanley says. "I didn’t announce it. I just did it. The results have been remarkable." And that's what's going to draw these unstable ministers his way -- Stanley's numbers. The reason why they need to change, Stanley says, is because the world has changed. We're not merely a non-Christian society. We are a post-Christian culture.
"In a non-Christian society, people may have never heard anything about Christianity and, therefore, have few to no preconceived notions. A post-Christian society is the opposite. In a post-Christian society, people have been exposed to Christianity (in our case, for generations) but are opting out for a different worldview, a different narrative through which to make sense of the world. In a post-Christian society, people know the stories; they just don’t believe ‘em. Or in many cases, they don’t believe ‘em anymore."
Here's the thing -- No, they don't. More than likely, they never knew the stories in the first place. This is a common American evangelical myth: the false idea that everyone has heard the Bible and therefore we don't need to preach it. Everyone knows the Easter and the Christmas stories. They're dates on the calendar, so that makes everyone an expert. Everyone has heard all about global floods and burning bushes and talking donkeys and boys slaying giants and Psalm 23. They've heard all that, and they don't believe it.

Except they don't know the stories. They don't just disbelieve the stories, they don't even know them. For crying out loud, there are people who say they believe the stories who don't know them! We are not a Post-Christian culture -- we are a biblically illiterate culture. Saying things like "'The Bible tells me so' is not enough" will do far more to advance that illiteracy than solve it.

Stanley says he wants to teach "educated, dechurched millennials" that even if a global flood or a Hebrew migration from Egypt never happened, "it does nothing to undermine the evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus and thus the claims he made about himself." Actually, yeah, it would. (Rob Bell made this same claim over a decade ago. It's not new.)

In this way, dechurched millennials know more than Stanley: they know that if Noah and the Ark or Moses and manna from heaven or Jonah in the belly of a big fish are myths, the rest of the Bible is myth, too. After all, Jesus used all three of those Old Testament examples as references to himself. So if they're myths, what reason do we have to believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead? In their skepticism, they at least know that much. That doesn't mean they know what the Bible really says.

I do street evangelism on an occasional basis and through another ministry witness to over 100 high school students weekly, only half of whom will say they attend church or any kind of youth group. Most people I encounter -- I'm talking 8 or 9 out of 10 -- claim to have grown up in church, and they can't even say John 3:16 with me or list half of the Ten Commandments (watch this 2-minute video where people can't name the 10 commandments but can rattle off 10 beers with ease).

I use the Bible when I do evangelism. I might end up saying "The Bible says" a good 20 times per encounter. I've got no leg to stand on without it. The Bible has the authority, not me. Occasionally someone might get testy and say, "Oh, so I just have to do what you say because you're the preacher, is that it?" I'll calmly reply, "These aren't my words. It's what the Bible says."

I encounter people who think they know the Bible until I start quoting it, then they're completely lost. It is by hearing the word of God that every mouth is stopped (Romans 3:19) and they become knowledgeable of their sin (Romans 3:20) so they might repent of it and worship Christ as Savior. People don't know the Bible. They suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).

Contrary to what Stanley wants you to believe, the problem in American evangelicalism is not that preachers are saying "The Bible tells me so" too much. What's more the problem is that preachers are not saying that.

Several years ago, I was participating in a community-wide prayer event with several other pastors. We had decided which pastor was going to lead prayer at different points in the service. What had not yet been decided was who was going to lead the congregation in the Lord's Prayer at the end.

One of the more seasoned pastors, a Baptist minister, arrived late, so he was volunteered. He immediately declined. "I won't do anything without a script," he said rather sharply. Another pastor was asked to do it. "No, I can't do it from memory," he said unashamed. The pastor who was doing the opening and closing was asked to go ahead and do it. "I don't know which words to use. Trespasses? Debts and debtors?" All the other pastors laughed.

It's no wonder the American Christian layperson can't dispense Bible-basics when our pastors can't even do it!

There's some element of truth to the understanding that we live in a post-Christian America. At the presidential debate last week between Trump and Hillary, neither one of them mentioned anything remotely religious. It was the first presidential debate in my lifetime where neither candidate made at least some kind of reference to their faith. I can still remember the debate between Bush and Kerry where Kerry, the Democrat, went after Bush's faith by quoting the Bible, saying, "Faith without works is a dead faith" (James 1:17).

Civic religion is all but gone from the public discourse. So, yeah, in that sense, we are a post-Christian nation. But guess what? Our approach to the gospel is exactly the same as it was when we were calling ourselves a "Christian nation." Faith still comes by hearing the word of Christ. And how are they to hear without someone preaching (Romans 10:14)?

Stanley has always tried to distance himself from having to preach the word. Despite his "post-Christian" arguments, this recent controversy is nothing new. Way back in 2009, Stanley told Ed Stetzer that expository preaching was "cheating."
"As part of my shift, I stopped leveraging the authority of Scripture and began leveraging the authority and stories of the people behind the Scripture. To be clear, I don’t believe 'the Bible says,' 'Scripture teaches,' and 'the Word of God commands' are incorrect approaches. But they are ineffective approaches for post-Christian people. I don’t regret teaching my children that the Bible is God’s Word. But my grown-up kids understand their confidence in the Bible is rooted in their confidence in who Jesus is based on the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James and the apostle Paul."
Pardon me for being blunt, but that's just a really ignorant statement. His grown-up children understand that their confidence in the Bible is rooted in their confidence in who Jesus is based on the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James, and the Apostle Paul? The writers of the New Testament? In other words, their confidence in the Bible is because the Bible says so!

In keeping with his paradoxical apologetics, Stanley spends the last half of the article giving biblical reasons why we don't have to use the Bible when we preach to unbelievers. We can preach without the Bible because Jesus did it and the apostles did it. There's a very simple rebuttal to that approach to preaching, and it is this: The words of Jesus and the apostles were Scripture; your sermon, pastor, is not. Argument over. But that would be too easy.

Because Stanley's novella of an article is 7,500 words, and I'm at 2,000 words, I will address that in a part 2 entry to come later this week. Let me close with this. Stanley says the following.
"If someone is first convinced the Bible is God’s Word, you can leverage 'The Bible says' language. But let’s be honest. What do you call people who first accept the Bible as God’s Word before they’ve read the Bible? What do you call someone who takes someone’s word for something as significant as 'This book is the infallible Word of God?' What kind of person would go for that? 
A child."
That's the most sensible thing he says in the whole article. Unfortunately, when Stanley says it, he's being disparaging. Jesus says "a child" is exactly what we're supposed to be like.

In Matthew 18:3-4, Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." In Mark 10:15, he says, "Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."

Praise God for a child-like faith. As the Apostle John said, if we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater (1 John 5:9). "The Bible says so" is enough.

"Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." John 8:47

Monday, September 12, 2016

These Words Shall Be On Your Heart

On Friday, my kids and I visited a local museum. It was the last weekend for their dinosaur exhibit. One section of the display had a timeline showing the different periods in which different dinosaurs lived -- like the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, etc. And of course, the timelines were labeled in tens of millions of years.

My eight-year-old, as she read it, unashamedly said aloud, "149 million years? Why are scientists so ridiculous? Don't they know that God can create everything just like that?" I noticed a couple of men standing nearby who began to snicker and whisper to one another. I couldn't hear what they said. Nevertheless, I was a proud dad.

I took out my phone, down to its last 1% of power, pulled up my ESV Bible app (shameless plug), and showed Annie 2 Peter 3:1-7. There Peter says, "For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly."

I told her, "See, Peter says that they deliberately overlook the facts, that the earth was created by the word of God. In Peter's first letter, he said that Jesus is, 'A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,' and that people stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do" (1 Peter 2:8). I also made a point to tell her that there are good scientists who see God in all that He has created, and they look at science through the Bible rather than looking at the Bible through a bias of naturalism, though most are blinded by their desires. Then my phone died.

God created all things, that much my daughter knew (and as I've written about and spoken about before, it didn't happen over billions of years). I wanted to show her that the Bible also tells us why there are people who don't believe God created all things. They deliberately overlook the facts, and they stumble on the rock of Christ Jesus, as they were destined to do.

This is how I teach my children, infusing the word of God in all that we do. Where'd I get that idea from? The Bible: "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

Wherever you go, the word of God goes with you. In all that you do, teach your children the word of God: How does God's word apply to this? How does it apply to that? Well, let me show you. What we as a family read about in the devotions we do every morning, we then apply to what we encounter throughout the day, being thankful for all things and giving God the glory.

Sermons With No Bible

So according to this passage in Deuteronomy, if we are to --
  • write God's word on our hearts
  • teach it to our children
  • talk about it in and out of our homes
  • consider it in our work or leisure
  • apply it when we walk out the door
  • through it filter every thing we do and look at 
then how on earth could we ever find any reason not to use the word of God?

Yet in the recent controversy surrounding Andy Stanley's apologetic preaching method for reaching unbelievers, that's exactly what's being done. Arguments and excuses are being made for times when it is okay to exclude the word of God -- deliberately, intentionally, and strategically leaving it out.

Stanley thinks we need a more grown-up faith, and that grown-up faith is not based on a biblical foundation. When we were kids, songs like Jesus Loves Me were great songs: "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." But as adults, that's silliness.

For Stanley, this is not about style or a pastor's personal conviction in how he reaches a certain audience. This is being presented like: "Here's why people leave the church: because of the Bible. Here's why you walked away from the faith: because of the Bible. Here's why you need to come to Jesus: and it's NOT because of the Bible. The Bible is not the foundation of the Christian faith."

"This is where our trouble began." Andy Stanley, referencing the song Jesus Loves Me.

Andy Stanley is the pastor of North Point Community Church based out of Atlanta, GA. North Point has their main campus, plus five other campuses, plus several satellite churches, all reaching nearly 40,000 people each Sunday. That's not including the number of people watching online and receiving Andy's teaching through other means: books, seminars, video conferences, Bible study apps, etc.

In other words, a lot of people hear this message emphatically reducing the importance of the Bible. I see it affect people and churches in my area. Though I'm pastoring a small church in Kansas, I hear Andy Stanley's name come up all the time. Stanley is more passionate about making sure people know the Bible is not needed for you to be a Christian than he is about telling people what it says.

Two weeks ago, at the ERLC national conference in Nashville, TN, Dr. Russell Moore had a sit-down interview with Stanley in which Stanley said that sometimes he preaches sermons without ever quoting the Bible. He was rather proud of the fact. This came as a shock to some. I wasn't surprised. I've listened to enough of Stanley's sermons to hear an entire message go by without any Scripture.

In some sense, I'm grateful he said it. I've tried to warn others about Stanley's preaching and they don't believe me when I say he actively wants to reduce Bible use and uses it very little himself. Stanley has been saying for some time that he wishes pastors would stop saying, "The Bible says." At the ERLC conference, he said that if he were an evangelical pope, he would make pastors take the spotlight off the Bible and put it on the resurrection. The following Sunday, in a sermon entitled The Bible Told Me So, he doubled-down on his hermeneutic by saying Christianity is about an event, not a book.

The absurdity and the confusion of that statement is that you don't even know about the event without the book. The Old Testament predicted it, the New Testament recalls it and expounds on its significance. The eyewitnesses to the resurrection did not believe the resurrection without the Scriptures. They were there, they saw it, and they didn't believe their own eyes. 

I talked about this on the podcast Friday and mentioned the story of the two disciples who were walking to Emmaus. Jesus, having just stepped out of the grave that morning, started walking with them, but they didn't recognize him. When Jesus asked them what they were talking about, Cleopas said, "Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn't know what's been going on?" And they told him about Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified and buried and some women went to the tomb and found it empty and saw angels who said he was alive.

Jesus response to them was this: "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:13-27). Before he showed them he was Jesus who was alive, he showed them the Scriptures!

When the Apostle Paul made his apologetic case for the resurrection, he did so "in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-5). The Scriptures said it would happen, then it happened, the disciples were shown how the Scriptures said it was going to happen, then they were shown that it did happen, then the Scriptures written by those who saw what the Scriptures said would happen continued to say that it happened, according to the Scriptures! You cannot separate the event from the book. Even the disciples neither knew about nor understood the event without the book.

Yet Stanley is purposefully trying to reach unbelievers without the book that speaks of the glory, power, and majesty of God (and presenting a very misleading version of church history in the process). There's a saying that goes, "What you reach them with is what you reach them to." If you reach unbelievers with a form of Christianity that contains no Bible, they will accept a form of Christianity that contains no Bible, which is no Christianity at all.

Impotent Apologetics

Dr. David Prince of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote about Stanley's sermon and pointed out that his arguments are just repackaged liberalism. Driving the point home, Dr. Prince mentioned Luke 16:31 where Jesus said, "If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead."

A minister from Indiana contended with Dr. Prince saying, "The Scripture he uses to proof-text his point has been ripped out of its context and misapplied. It is taken from Jesus' parable about the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The audience Jesus was addressing in that parable is Jews, for whom the Hebrew Scriptures (Moses and the Prophets) were already considered authoritative."

That doesn't matter. Guess what? Unbelievers have Moses and the Prophets too, regardless of whether or not they've heard them and accept them as authoritative. This isn't the local phone book we're talking about here. This is the word of God. It applies to absolutely everyone. The law of the land still has authority over you whether or not you know what it is. Likewise, the law of God has authority over you whether or not you know what it is.

The Bible says it's the responsibility of the church to be a pillar and buttress of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15); presenting the word of God to the world (pillar) and defending against those who try to malign it (buttress). Paul said, "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'" (Romans 10:14-15)

Yet Stanley wants to reduce the importance of the Bible in the calling to go preach the Bible. His defenders say that isn't so. As that Indiana minister said, "I'm convinced that [Stanley's] critics are either not listening to him very closely, or they are intentionally misrepresenting him." He concluded his article by stating, "The point of all of this is that Stanley is making an apologetic case." Oh, I'm aware that's what Stanley is trying to do. It's just that his apologetics are really, really bad.

One of the main illustrations that came out of Stanley's sermon was this: "Christianity does not exist because of the Bible anymore than you exist because of your birth certificate. Your birth certificate documents something that happened. And if you lost your birth certificate, the good news is: you do not go out of existence."

Dr. Prince points out, "This logic minimizes the uniqueness of the Word of God and is right out of the classic theological liberal playbook. Liberals have historically asserted, 'The Bible is not the Word of God, it is merely a witness to the Word of God.'" (Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think Stanley referred to the Bible as the Word of God a single time in the same sermon in which he was diminishing its importance.)

The Bible is not mere history. This is the powerful word of God. How did all things come into existence? By the word of God, right? God said "Let there be" and there was. Get this: the same word that brought all things into existence is the same word that brings about saving faith. Someone shared the word of God with you, and you believed it, and you have faith.

James 1:18 says, "Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth." Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ." No one is brought to faith but by the word of God. The Bible says so.

Stanley doesn't get that, which is why he's trying to bring people to the faith without the Bible. His defenders are always quick to fill in the blanks that Stanley leaves blank: "What Stanley really means is this! What Stanley is really trying to do is this!" I'm convinced his praisers are either not listening to him very closely, or they are intentionally misrepresenting him. (Zoinks!)

The defense of the Christian faith without the Bible is powerless apologetics. Stanley openly and proudly admits he is out to "take the spotlight off of the Bible." If Stanley's church sees anyone won to the faith, it is a very, very weak faith, if it's the Christian faith at all.

Faith Like a Child

The disciples asked Jesus, "Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" Jesus called a child to him and put the boy before the disciples. He said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:2-4).

In his sermon The Bible Told Me So, Stanley says that Jesus Loves Me is a precious song, and we should teach children, "Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so." But that kind of theology is not for adults. You need a grown-up faith in which, according to Stanley, the Bible is not foundational. It's great for kids, but bad for adults. That's a great big load of manure.

"I hate manure."

People, I must tell you, because I love you and I care for you: Have nothing to do with Stanley's garbage. It is dangerous. It will keep a person from the Kingdom of heaven. No one is above the word of God. We must humble ourselves and be like children. Or as Peter put it, "Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation -- if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good" (1 Peter 2:2-3).

Woe to the person who wants less of the word of God. Without it, they cannot be sanctified, and therefore they have never been justified. They will "accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions" (2 Timothy 4:3); teachers like Andy Stanley, who is all about less Bible. Woe more-so to the teacher who will withhold the word of God that rescues from death and gives life.

Andy Stanley, if by some weird chance you happen to read my blog, repent of your nonsense. Apologize to your congregation. Tell them you were wrong. If there is any kind of humility about yourself, resign from your position as pastor until you can understand that the Bible is the word of God, and it is only through that word that anyone is saved -- washed clean from their iniquity and clothed in the righteousness of Christ, in whom we have the forgiveness of sins.

In 1 Timothy 6:3-5, it says, "If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth."

Just as I teach my children the word of God, I also teach it to my congregation. They are children, too. They are the children of God (1 John 3:1-3). How can I expect children to have the word of God written on their hearts if I won't tell it to them? When the devil comes whispering, "Did God really say," as he did to Eve, I want my children -- in my home and in my congregation -- to know what God really said. Likewise, I also listen to men who preach the word of God because I am a child who needs to be fed this pure spiritual milk, too.

The Bible is our response to everything. In it are the words to eternal life. The word of God should be withheld from no one -- no believer, and especially no unbeliever. Don't dumb it down, don't leave it out. It is only by the word of God that men are saved, brought from death to life in Christ. Romans 1:16 says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe."

The Bible tells us why people leave the church, and it isn't because of a Sunday school song. It's because it might become plain to all of us that they were never of us to begin with (1 John 2:19). Examine yourselves to see that you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

You know, there's something Andy Stanley said I happen to agree with. There are people who have left the church because they were told, "The Bible says so." The Bible says they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:9-11

Friday, September 2, 2016

Gambling With Donald Trump: Why He Is Not Some Higher Moral Choice

The election is about two months away. It is an election of the Liberals: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, or Jill Stein. Pick your poison. "But wait! Don't forget about Darrell Castle of the Constitution party!" Right, the conspiracy theorist who backs the birther movement and believes 9/11 was an inside job.

I haven't said much about Donald Trump in a while. The conservatives have chosen, and they've chosen a non-conservative. How a casino mogul, strip-club owner, porn mag pusher, thrice married, adulterous, racist, arrogant, obscene, godless bully qualifies as conservative just goes to show that liberals aren't the only ones running gleefully toward the abyss.

Since I last wrote anything about Trump, there was a 5,300 word article by Systematic Theology author Wayne Grudem about how voting for Trump is a morally good choice. Grudem acknowledged that Trump was not a man of good character, but that shouldn't matter. We need to defend the unborn and protect religious freedom. (A pastor by the name of Justin Bullington provided my favorite response to the article.)

Several other theologians and pastors have stumped for Trump. This morning, Eric Metaxas, author of perhaps the most extensive biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer (which I have and enjoyed, edit: but has its problems), offered a string of arguments on Twitter about why a Christian should vote for Trump. The following is Metaxas' plea. Each bullet-point is its own tweet:

  • I'm not voting for Trump because he's a paragon of virtue, but because electing HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] will forever end true Religious Liberty in America.
  • Let's put it another way: A Vote for Trump is not a Thumbs up for "Trump". It's a vote against what HRC will do that is forever UNDOABLE.
  • We've had so much Religious Liberty in America for so long most of us hardly even know what it is or when it's being gravely threatened.
  • You cannot undo Supreme Court Justices who think biblical values are divisive, bigoted, and un-American. They're lifetime appointments.
  • Defending the unborn doesn't mean electing someone perfect on that issue, but electing the better candidate on that issue. And that's easy.
  • If you care less about the unborn than about your "witness" or "conscience" in voting for someone you think boorish, I beg you to reconsider.
  • Wilberforce often worked w/people on the other side of the aisle -- sometimes despicable people -- if it could help the suffering Africans.
  • Bonhoeffer did not like getting involved in the plot to kill Hitler, but for the sake of the suffering Jews, he did what he thought he must.
  • Bonhoeffer even thought what he was doing might be sinful, but he knew doing nothing was the greater sin. And he cast himself on God's mercy.
  • Many friends sat out voting for McCain and Romney, giving us eight years of unconstitutional over-reach, secularist legislation, and more.
  • This is not a time for being so "heavenly-minded" we are no "earthly good." Not to act is to act. Not to vote is to vote. Please reconsider.

As with Grudem's appeal, there are three main issues being argued for here: a vote for life, a vote for religious liberty, and a vote for conservative Supreme Court justices. Metaxas was able to say it in much fewer words.

Also like Grudem, Metaxas took some shots at those who are not voting for Trump. The very title of Grudem's article implies that not voting for Trump is morally wrong. So in Grudem's eyes, I am doing something immoral because I am not going to vote for Donald Trump. Likewise, Metaxas believes I selfishly care less about the unborn than I do my own "witness" or my "conscience."

What's worse though -- I shuddered at reading it -- is he's actually asking people to sin and vote for Trump; though it "might be sinful." The ethics of Bonhoeffer aside, the Bible says not to "do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating does not come from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin" (Romans 14:21-23). His whole appeal disregards the principles given in Romans 14.

This idea that voting for Trump will save the unborn, preserve religious liberty, and result in conservative Supreme Court justices is nothing more than wishful-thinking. There is zero evidence to believe any of these things will ever happen. Really, how long have politics been around? Have we forgotten how all of this works? Ronald Reagan once joked, "It's been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first." (In case you don't get the joke, the first oldest profession is said to be prostitution.)

You judge a candidate more by their record than by the words they're spewing to appease constituents at a rally. Though Trump has never held public office, he still has a history. And when you look into that history, there's more reason to believe he's a Trojan Horse than a preservative in the life of America.

The Big Gamble

In the March 5, 2016 edition of World, there was an article written by Jamie Dean entitled The Big Gamble that took a look at Trump's history with Atlantic City. He made lots of fantastic promises. He promised he would "make Atlantic City great." On April 2, 1990, he walked out on the iconic Boardwalk to Survivor's Eye of the Tiger, like he's done at rallies now. People flocked to see him, all hyped up on the big promises he brought to the Vegas of the East.

By 2009, he had declared bankruptcy on his casino enterprise for a fourth time. He once owned several casinos, and one building still bears his namesake with TRUMP written in big, red letters. But all he owns now is a small portion of the Taj Mahal. The Taj and all its debt was bought out by a billionaire friend after the company went into bankruptcy in 2014.

Once the largest casino complex in the world -- with "gold doorknobs, marble countertops, $14 million worth of chandeliers, and bell hops wearing $1,500 turbans" -- all the money spent on the Taj Mahal has been unsustainable, and efforts to revive the business have failed. At one of last year's presidential debates, Trump thumped, "I had the good sense to leave Atlantic City. I left Atlantic City before it totally cratered. And I made a lot of money in Atlantic City, and I'm very proud of it."

According to Dean, "Those left behind weren't as proud. Indeed, Trump's company left local contractors, vendors, and low-level investors with pennies on the dollar when his enterprises declared bankruptcy. 'He had stiffed hundreds of local businesses and left them with financial claims that they would never recover,' Steven Perskie, a former state lawmaker, told NJ Advance Media last fall."

About 30 percent of Atlantic City residents now live below the poverty line, more than double the national average. "The town is $400 million in debt," Dean reported. "New Jersey legislators are considering a state takeover of the famed city. The casinos aren't immune. Along Pacific Avenue, four of the former gambling giants sit shuttered and empty, like monuments to a bet lost on high stakes."

Ladies and gentlemen, Donald Trump's America.

Well that went well...

In addition to his Atlantic City record, Trump is a long-time friend of the Clinton's. He and his son, Donald Trump Jr., gave money to then-Senator Hillary Clinton in 2002, 05, 06, and 07. It's been shown many times how Trump has given at least $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary attended Trump's wedding to Melania in 2005. Overall, he's given many more dollars to baby-killing democrats than he ever gave to republicans.

For most of his life, Trump has been pro-abortion and a supporter of partial-birth abortion. In April, the Washington Post did a break-down of Trump's record on abortion, and noted that he took five different positions over the course of three days. That's very, very significant. It shows us that Trump does not know what it means to be pro-life.

When Trump is pressed on his presumably pro-life ethic, he has no idea how to answer because his ethics aren't what he says they are. Have those on the side of life ever asked him hard questions on his moral position? In that confab with evangelical leaders back in July, did they ever actually press him to clearly state his values asking tough questions, or did they merely hear him say "I'm pro-life," and accept it as though lip-service is the tell-tale sign of the heart?

"But Pastor, the Bible says out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks!" Sure, with evil. In Matthew 12:34, Jesus said, "You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." Elsewhere the Bible says, "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips" (Romans 3:13). Trump's character is evident and testable. He is not an honest man.

If the value of life is so important to Grudem and Metaxas the way they say it isn't as important to me, then why are they merely taking Trump at his word and insisting that other Christians do the same, rather than demanding hard evidence that he values life the way he claims he does? Why is the burden of proof on me, the voter, and not on Donald Trump, the candidate? "But Pastor, he gave a list of nominees he would appoint to the Supreme Court, and it's a pro-lifer's dream panel!" Yes, that's called appeasing his constituency. That's not hard evidence.

Trump has done nothing to show he's pro-life except say that he is. When you listen to all the words around that claim, he has no idea what it means to be pro-life; therefore, he can make no significant strides to protect life. Think about it: Ronald Regan, George Bush Sr., and George W. Bush all had a history of being pro-life, and yet Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land. Bush Jr.'s Chief Justice appointment, John Roberts, is the reason why Obamacare is the law of the land. What makes you think Trump is going to do more and make better decisions than they did?

Trump is so bad at understanding anything about being pro-life, he still thinks Planned Parenthood does good work -- and said this in the summer that Planned Parenthood was being exposed by David Daleiden as harvesting human organs for profit.

Absent from the Republican National Convention in July was any mention of fighting for the unborn. Donald Trump said more about fighting for LGBTQ issues than he did about the sanctity of human life, which was nothing. We have no reason to believe Trump's appointment as president will make any kind of dent in the slaughter of the unborn. We have every reason to believe he would be just another liberal president. Or worse.

How About Not Gambling At All?

Since based on Trump's record and his character there's no good reason to vote for him, that then leaves the debate up to this: "Well, at least Trump is not Hillary Clinton, and Hillary's America would be worse!" Really? I'm not convinced. Like I said, pick your poison: will it be strychnine or cyanide? Both of them are deadly choices for America in their own ways.

"So we should just vote for no one then?" Why not? To borrow from Bullington: What if the best thing for this nation is for Christians to stand with integrity and show the world that they won't vote for any 'ol lawless demagogue simply because they have an "R" by their name? Contrary to Metaxas' appeal, there is no such thing as being "so 'heavenly minded' we are no 'earthly good.'" That is a lie from the pit of hell.

Paul said to the Colossians, "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the thing that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:1-3, 23-24).

He said to the Philippians, "Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself" (Philippians 3:17-21).

There are more ways to change this country than voting for President of the United States. Continue to stand forth with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the gospel that has the power to transform and save lives. Be hated by the world not because you're a Trumpkin but because you're a Christian. "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3:12-13).

If you're shilling for Donald Trump, you are being deceived. You've got to understand he is using you, just like he used Atlantic City. When it's no longer profitable for him, he'll drop you in a gutter. His record confirms it. You don't have to do a lot of digging to realize he already thinks very little of you.

Remember though, there will be other matters on the November 8 ballot than who will be President. Know what's on your state's ballot, who the candidates are, and where they stand on the issues. I don't vote for anyone who's not pro-life. I believe all persons are made in the image of God and that I am to judge righteously, speaking up for the mute and defending the rights of the destitute (Proverbs 31:8-9). Life is the first unalienable right in the Declaration of Independence. If a candidate won't defend life, they won't be principled on any other issue.

I'll be making check-marks on November 8 (or filling in circles or pressing a touch-screen or whatever my district will be doing). But I won't make any mark for President of the United States. Maybe I'll write-in a name. That's a fair protest, too.