Daily Archives: January 4, 2014

The Reality of Death and the Wretchedness of Man

Hellenistic Christendom

I am afraid of death. I have been afraid for as long as I can remember, and that fear can often manifest itself in the form of an episode of major anxiety (sweating, shaking, etc.). I have lost sleep over my fear of death, and I have had to even excuse myself from situations with other people because the anxiety will hit me so bad. I have tried to have conversations with others about my problem so that I might find some sort of remedy – so as to divert the psychological tension associated with my own end. However, strangely I have often received the advice of “repression” -in other words, somehow aim my attention elsewhere so that the fear doesn’t come back. Consider what Psychoanalyst Gregory Zilboorg once wrote on this issue:

For behind the sense of insecurity in the face of danger, behind the sense of discouragement and…

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If You Want to Know How Calvin Really Handled the Bible… Don’t Read Serene Jones, Read Donald McKim

Zwinglius Redivivus

calvin_bibleHe edited this exceptional collection whose authors actually do understand Calvin far better than Jones.

During the past several decades a growing number of scholars have come to appreciate the importance of studying John Calvin’s interpretive work as a commentator on Scripture in addition to his better-known writings on theology. In this volume ten essays by scholars specializing in Calvin’s exegetical methods examine the approaches and themes Calvin emphasized when he interpreted major portions of Scripture. These essays focus on Calvin’s work in his biblical commentaries with appropriate cross-referencing to his other writings, including his sermons. A concluding essay synthesizes the main features of what has gone before to present an overall view of John Calvin as an interpreter and commentator on Holy Scripture. An appreciation of Calvin’s exegetical labors and his work as a biblical commentator are now recognized as key elements in Calvin scholarship.

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Fourteen Predictions for American Churches for 2014 — (part one and part two)

Predicting is as much of an art as it is a science. And if any prognosticator is honest, he or she will tell you that they don’t always get it right. I know. I certainly don’t always get it right.

But I don’t pull my predictions out of thin air. To the contrary, each of them has a reasonable explanation. For these fourteen predictions, I gleaned from several sources:

  • Data-based research, particularly LifeWay Research.
  • Trends that are already underway and gaining momentum.
  • Conversations with hundreds of church leaders.
  • My own experiences, based on 25 years of consulting and research of American congregations.

This year I am adding a new feature, a confidence factor. For example, if I said I had 100 percent confidence that a prediction would become reality, it would mean that I have absolutely no doubt about it. None of these predictions have a 100 percent confidence factor. But none of them fall below 70 percent either. That means I have a fairly high level of certainty about each of these trends.

The order of the trends is random. They are not ranked in any particular priority. Today, I will share the first seven, and then conclude with the final seven on Saturday.

Part one – Read More: http://thomrainer.com/2014/01/01/fourteen-predictions-for-american-churches-for-2014-part-one/

Part two – Read More: http://thomrainer.com/2014/01/04/fourteen-predictions-for-american-churches-for-2014-part-two/

[New post] Outrage! Obama Administration Banned Christmas Carols And Cards For Veterans

The Obama administration’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) prohibited veterans from hearing Christmas carols or receiving gifts wrapped in Christmas-themed wrapping paper, prompting outrage from a congressional committee.

RELATED STORY: Now That He’s President, Obama No Longer Pretends To Be Christian

VA officials in Iowa City, Iowa told representatives of the American Legion that they could not hand out gifts to veterans wrapped in wrapping paper that featured the term “Merry Christmas”

Additionally, the VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia — which treats veterans — banned Christmas carolers from singing Christmas songs with religious references in public areas.

The Dallas VA Medical Center blocked local schoolchildren from giving Christmas cards to veterans because some of the cards included the terms “Merry Christmas” and “God Bless You.” A similar incident occurred in Montgomery, Alabama, where the VA Medical Center blocked veterans from receiving gift bags that included the term “Merry Christmas.”

Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, expressed his outrage over these incidents in a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki provided to The Daily Caller.

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Serene Jones, Sadly, Doesn’t Know What She’s Talking About

Zwinglius Redivivus

Reports the NY Times in a long article on the rise of the ‘New Calvinism’

Liberal Christians, including some Congregationalists and liberal Presbyterians, may just take up other aspects of Calvin’s teachings, Dr. Jones said. She mentioned Calvin’s belief that “civic engagement is the main form of obedience to God.” She added that, unlike many of today’s conservatives, “Calvin did not read Scripture literally.” Often Calvin “is misquoting it, and he makes up Scripture passages that don’t exist.”

She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.  Calvin?  Make up Scripture?  Misquote?  That’s beyond absurd.  Surely the Times can find better liberal experts who have actually familiarized themselves with Calvin’s works.

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When Christianity Abandons Theology, The Result is the ‘Drunken Glory Movement’

Zwinglius Redivivus

hereticsA former drug addict has helped kickstart America’s newest religious craze – a church where worshippers pretend to get high and worship God in ‘drunken glory’.  Brandon Barthrop preaches to a congregation of thousands via bizarre YouTube rants, in which he encourages followers to act drunk in order to commune with Jesus.  The charismatic religious leader insists that ‘there’s no high like The Most High’ – and he has replaced alcohol and crystal meth with snorting frankincense.

A new documentary by Vice has lifted the lid on the world of the drunken glory movement, whose meetings are so raucous they are often confused with outrageous nights out.  The strange new ‘church’ was started in the U.S. by preacher John Crowder, but has now spread across the Atlantic to Britain.

There’s nothing biblical, nothing Christian, nothing appropriate about any of this.  But it is the logical conclusion of the emergent…

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Questions about Prayer: What Is Sozo Prayer?

 

Sozo prayer, or Sozo ministry (from the Greek for “save” or “deliver”) is defined as “a unique inner healing and deliverance ministry in which the main aim is to get to the root of those things hindering your personal connection with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Sozo was created by a group of people from Bethel Church in Redding, California, and modeled after spiritual practices observed at revivals in Argentina. Sozo is strongly mystical in its approach and relies heavily on ideas about God and the Holy Spirit that are not based on biblical fact.

Sozo prayer requires the presence of a mediator / guide, who is trained to walk participants through a time of prayer and reflection that is supposed to facilitate intimacy with God. Intimacy with God is definitely something to be sought; however, the method of attaining intimacy via a journey through the subconscious is questionable at best. Intimacy with God is achieved by Bible study, prayer, regular church attendance, and obedience, not by a mystical “journey” through our past. The Bible warns us to be discerning and wise, and not to be fooled (Hosea 14:9; Hebrews 5:14). The Bible and the Holy Spirit—not our subconscious thoughts or a fallible human being—are our connection to the counsel and the voice of God (John 17:17). Many types of ungodly mystical practices include the presence of a “spirit guide,” but the Bible tells us that our connection to the Father is a direct connection, mediated by Christ (1 Timothy 2:5) and guided by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). No other spirit guide is necessary.

The methods and practices of Sozo are of human invention and require human instruction, without reference to Scripture. In fact, Sozo is much closer to new age mysticism than to Christianity. Participants are encouraged into a mild trance state, while being “led” into a series of mental / emotional rooms or stages where, by connecting to their own deeper feelings and thoughts, they believe themselves to have a new experience with God. Whatever participants feel has happened to them, the Bible tells us it is dangerous to open ourselves up to something that has not been sanctioned by God (Ephesians 4:11–14). Preaching and teaching, evangelism, and the practice of anointing a person with oil, or laying hands on them, for instance, are all shown in Scripture to be spiritually safe and useful. But Sozo prayer does not have that kind of “backing”. It’s kind of like taking a drug that isn’t approved by the FDA. It might not damage you, but why take the risk?

In another part of the Bethel Sozo website, one of the goals of Sozo is to enable participants to “heal your relationship with God to enable you to fulfill your destiny.” But the Bible tells us that a Christian’s destiny is death to self and obedience to Christ through faith in His power and saving grace (Luke 9:23; Ephesians 2:8–9). The things that make us one with God are produced by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and a Christian does not need to be led on a mystical prayer journey to attain them. Every believer is conformed to Christ’s image by His power and has already been blessed with “every spiritual gift in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:3).

In summary, we do not believe that Sozo ministry / prayer is a godly practice or something that is needed, or helpful, for a believer’s fellowship with God. Sozo is much more closely related to mysticism and spiritism than to true intimacy with God. True intimacy with Him happens by illumination of the Word of God by the Holy Spirit and fellowship with Christ as we show love for the Father through obedience to and imitation of Him (Ephesians 5:1).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Marriage: What Does the Bible Say about Oral Sex?

 

Oral sex, also known as “cunnilingus” when performed on females and “fellatio” when performed on males, is not mentioned in the Bible. There are two primary questions that are asked in regards to oral sex: (1) “is oral sex a sin if done before marriage?” and (2) “is oral sex a sin if done within a marriage?” While the Bible does not specifically address either question, there are definitely biblical principles that apply.

Is oral sex a sin if done before or outside of marriage?
This question is becoming increasingly common as young people are told that “oral sex is not really sex,” and as oral sex is promoted as a safer (no risk of pregnancy, less risk of sexually transmitted diseases*) alternative to sexual intercourse. What does the Bible say? Ephesians 5:3 declares, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity … because these are improper for God’s holy people.” The biblical definition of “immorality” is “any form of sexual contact outside of marriage” (1 Corinthians 7:2). According to Hebrews 13:4, only the “marriage bed” is pure and undefiled. According to the Bible, sex is to be reserved for marriage. Period. So, yes, oral sex is a sin if done before or outside of marriage.

Is oral sex a sin if done within a marriage?
Many, perhaps most, Christian married couples have had this question. What makes it difficult is the fact that the Bible nowhere says what is allowed or disallowed sexually between a husband and wife, other than, of course, any sexual activity that involves another person (swapping, threesomes, etc.) or that involves lusting after another person (pornography). Outside of these two restrictions, the principle of “mutual consent” would seem to apply (1 Corinthians 7:5). While this text specifically deals with abstaining from sex/frequency of sex, “mutual consent” is a good concept to apply universally in regards to sex within marriage. Whatever is done, it should be fully agreed on between the husband and his wife. Neither spouse should be forced or coerced into doing something he/she is not completely comfortable with. If oral sex is done within the confines of marriage and in the spirit of mutual consent, there is not a biblical case for declaring it to be a sin.

In summary, oral sex before marriage is absolutely a sin. It is immoral. It is in no sense a biblically acceptable alternative to sexual intercourse for unmarried couples. Within the confines of marriage, oral sex is free from sin as long as there is mutual consent.

*While oral sex is safer than sexual intercourse in regards to sexually transmitted diseases, it is definitely not safe. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, HIV/AIDS, and other STDs can be transmitted through oral sex.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.