Doug Wilson’s Failure to Safeguard Children
Where are the voices of the leaders of Reformed churches and Reformed networks who can gain a hearing from Doug Wilson and influence thousands of other pastors in their denominations and circles of influence? Where are the voices from The Gospel Coalition? Crossway, why are you giving a voice to a man who will not use his voice for voiceless? Who is asking Wilson, “Where is your grieving heart for this baby and the other victims? What child protection training are you putting in place or experts are you consulting so this does not happen again?”
15 Ways to Fight Lust With the Sword of the Spirit
So how in the world, in this world we live in, and with our sex-saturated hearts, can we obey the seventh commandment?
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Earl Hall writes
… when Trump characterizes himself as a devout Presbyterian and a regular churchgoer, I have to ask, really?
At a Leadership Conference in Iowa, Trump said he had never asked God for forgiveness. “If I do something wrong I think I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t,” he said, shocking many religious conservatives who believe that God’s forgiveness is essential to their faith.
Trump didn’t even seem to realize that it was offensive when he made this comment making light of communion: “When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed,” he said.
And at an August rally in Alabama, Trump declared the Bible to be his “favorite book,” a claim he has repeated since. But asked later that month on Bloomberg’s “With All Due Respect” to name his favorite Bible verse, he declined, saying, “I wouldn’t want to get into it. Because to me, that’s very personal.”
Hall describes Trump’s recent attacks on Ben Carson, a by all accounts really decent Christian guy, in the linked to essay. Unlike Carson, Trump, on the other hand, is ‘Christian’ like every President we’ve had post Jimmy Carter- CINO (Christian in Name Only). Trump knows about as much of the Bible as he does the Qur’an, and it shows.
You would think Evangelicals could see through the facade, but they are so blinded by their hatred of Clinton that they would elect a satan worshiper if he called himself a Christian just to spite her (which, by the way, is an exceedingly poor way to decide an election).
New TV Series to Help Christians Back up Pro-life Position
Christian Headlines reports:
A new TV series which will help pro-lifers back up their position Biblically is set to air.
Todd Friel, the executive producer of the show called Life is Best, says that the show’s purpose is threefold.
“Number one is saving babies. Number two, saving souls. And number three, equipping Christians to prepare themselves to defend the pro-life position,” Friel told OneNewsNow.
Friel says the show will address the core argument in the abortion debate–whether the unborn is a human being or a mass of tissue that can be removed in a simple surgical procedure.
Congress Discusses Planned Parenthood Baby Whose Face Was Cut Open with Scissors to Take Out Brain
Christian News Network has this tragic story:
A baby who survived an abortion as his heart continued beating, but was soon murdered alive as his face was cut through with scissors to harvest his brain, was mourned by an Arizona Congressman during a hearing on Wednesday regarding Planned Parenthood’s alleged harvesting and sale of the organs of aborted babies.
During his opening comments for the hearing, Rep. Trent Franks (R) relayed testimony from one of the most gruesome Planned Parenthood expose’ videos released to date.
“One of these videos describes an incident where one of [StemExpress’ employees procuring organs from babies at Planned Parenthood] calls one of the younger employees over to witness something that was ‘kind cool,’—that one of the baby’s hearts was still beating,” he explained. “The older employee then said, ‘Okay, this is a really good fetus, and it looks like we can procure a lot from it. We’re going to procure a brain.”
“Mindfulness” meditation fad popular with celebrities including Emma Watson can make you dream up false memories
According to Daily Mail, Buddhist meditation, which is what mindfulness is, can play tricks on your mind. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this practice, we’ve provided a link to a well researched article written by Marcia Montenegro. In her piece Marcia makes clear the reasons that Christians must not become involved in Eastern-style meditation.
Mindfulness is the fashionable form of meditation that fans say makes you feel less stressed.
But scientists have discovered one potential drawback – it can lead you to ‘remember’ things that haven’t happened.
People taking part in a 15-minute mindfulness session performed worse than those who did not on a memory test, researchers found.
The group who had been undertaking mindfulness were more liable to falsely imagine items on the test.
Mindfulness has become popular in recent years as a way to improve mental and physical well-being.
Celebrities endorsing it include Emma Watson, Davina McCall, Angelina Jolie and Oprah Winfrey.
Mindfulness: No Mind Over Matter by Marcia Montenegro
Hundreds of Muslims Convert to Christianity Amid Violent Persecution
Posted: 11 Sep 2015 06:04 AM PDT
Hundreds of Muslims fleeing their home countries are finding their peace in Christianity, according to recent reports. In his Berlin church alone, Pastor Gottfried Martens has seen his congregation swell to close to 600 as refugees accept Christ, the Associated Press reports. However, the nagging belief remains that the men and women are only in church to claim asylum and not give their hearts to God.
“I know there are—again and again—people coming here because they have some kind of hope regarding their asylum,” Martens tells the AP. “I am inviting them to join us because I know that whoever comes here will not be left unchanged.” Martens’ Evangelical Lutheran Trinity Church started as a small community earlier this year, according to a translation of their website. Now, it’s a congregation full of refugees from Iran, Afghanistan and Syria. CNN reports millions are flocking to Europe amid the violence in their homelands. FULL REPORT
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One of the most persistent temptations Christians face is that of turning the covenant of grace into a covenant of works. As we pray we must always be reminded that we, who trust in Jesus Christ as our substitute and Mediator, are not in a covenant of works but in a covenant of grace. You […]
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America’s Spiritual Journey Since 9/11/2001
Fourteen years ago today Americans watched in disbelief as radical Muslim terrorists hijacked airplanes and killed thousands of innocent people in an act of barbarism and evil we thought would never hit us here in America. In the following days, some asked “Where was God?” or “How could a loving God let this happen?”. […]
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Answering Critics of the Bible
The Gospel alone has the power to save anyone from eternal damnation. We cannot save anyone–but we can plant seeds of truth in a person’s life and pray that God makes the seed grow. That is our responsibility– to share the truth of God’s Word with lost people. But in a world that increasingly rejects […]
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Real Persecution–Even to the Death
Every day hundreds of Christians are imprisoned or murdered because of their faith in Jesus Christ. And if we ignore their plight, what does that say of our love of the brethren? We are 100% Listener supported. Donate now! Want our news delivered? Get our WEEKLY WATCHMAN digest, published and sent to you every Friday! […]
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Considering the Kim Davis Situation
When the U.S. Supreme Court reached its opinion that homosexual marriage was a constitutional right, many of us knew that rather than the final battle, it was merely the opening salvo in a battle for religious freedom in our nation. The key question that would unfold is this: Can a nation force people of religious […]
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Could It Happen in Your Church?
We all want security. And as Christians committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are blessed by the security of knowing our destination after this life passes. But what about security and safety in this lifetime? Eleven Christians were murdered recently during a time of prayer when a stranger walked in and opened fire. […]
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The reason a bevy of justifiably smug journalists was camping on Harold Camping’s front lawn on May 21, 2011 is because yet another of the preacher-cum-radio-broadcaster’s predictions of rapture had misfired. One would think that after his failed prediction of 1988 Camping’s popularity as an authority on date-setting would have waned. If not then, perhaps after his 1989 repeat performance. Incredibly, his credulous followers remained obdurate about Camping’s abilities to pinpoint an event the Bible says is impossible to predict. When he suddenly appeared to the salivating pack of reporters on…
Are We Living In The Last Days?
Posted: 11 Sep 2015 07:05 AM PDT
Could it be possible that we are living in the period of time that the Bible refers to as “the last days”? And if so, what does that mean for our future? As we approach the final months of 2015, it seems like more people are talking about apocalyptic scenarios than ever before. The mainstream media is doing articles on “end of the world fears“, and it is being reported that 41 percent of all Americans believe that “we are living in what the Bible calls the last days.”
For those that believe, the signs are everywhere – geopolitical instability, moral decay, steadily increasing numbers of natural disasters and a global financial system that could fall apart at any moment. Others mock the idea that we could be living in “the last days”, and many of them point to the amazing technological progress that humanity is making and the unprecedented prosperity that we have been enjoying in recent times. If things are actually “getting better”, they argue, then how could we possibly be living in the end times described in the Bible? And of course atheists are convinced that God doesn’t exist at all, and that all of this apocalyptic talk is just a bunch of religious nonsense. So what is the truth? FULL REPORT
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If I knew Jesus was coming in a few weeks I know exactly what I would do and do right now. I would be an evangelistic powerhouse. Every Christian I would come into contact with would know that He is coming soon. I would tell them to get their minds and hearts off of the temporary pleasures of this world and pursue Jesus with everything in them.
I would tell people in restaurants, in grocery stores, shopping malls, and city parks to please repent because they are going to be left behind if they haven’t trusted Jesus their Savior.
Incredibly disturbing, is a book on the fourth-grade reading list, It’s Perfectly Normal, which illustrates in words and pictures soft-porn to 10-year-olds. Parents are not told which books are on the reading list and are not given an option to reject or pull their child out prior to being taught such perversion.
When it comes to parental rights, educators have expressed: children don’t belong to their parents.
Although some polls have shown that the misogynistic real estate mogul who once favored abortion and carries liberal views on same-sex marriage has had no trouble gaining the support of Evangelicals, Perkins asserted that Trump’s refusal to speak at the conference is a sign that he has no interest in conversing with Evangelicals.
Need Discernment. Who doesn’t?
I read a line from Michael Hyatt’s blog the other day that really struck me as practically discerning: “If you don’t like what you see in the life of the messenger, it’s usually best to ignore the message.” In essence, Michael is advising us not to take advice from people aren’t getting the results you want to experience.
It is of great comfort to us to know that Jesus is perfectly sinless. In the face of unjust suffering He did not sin. He was proven perfect in the suffering. Therefore we can trust Him and His message to us. Since we know He is perfect and we can trust that what He says is true, and that as we are obedient to His word, we will have a good result. We seem to have a hard time taking His advice. There are any number of reasons that keep us from being obedient, but what keeps us from really discerning His voice so we can follow Him?
That question leads us to another question: What is spiritual discernment?
It is the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and activity of God – both personally and in community.
The story of the children of Israel in the wilderness was an ongoing story of discernment. It was about a group of people learning how to recognize the presence of God and then follow as God led. Moses as the leader of the people would routinely ask God what he should do and then lead the people in that way. Moses’ responsive obedience was crucial to the survival of the people he led.
Wilderness survival required the people’s ongoing response to the presence of God, shown through the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. When the presence of God moved, they followed it, and when God stopped, they stopped (Numbers 9). He gave them discernment.
Discernment is about intimacy with God. The people of Israel had an intimacy with God that other nations didn’t have, and that caused the other nations to be jealous and watch in awe.
“You… will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who… will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!’ For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is whenever we call to him?” (Deuteronomy 4:6-7)
The opportunity to be intimate with God and discern His ways was at the heart of their identity, and it was one of the main traits that would distinguish them from other nations.
For us today, it is a lot more difficult to have discernment because we don’t have a pillar of cloud or fire to follow. We don’t get to hear God’s voice thunder from Mount Horeb. We must rely on the subtle, still, small voice of the Holy Spirit witnessing with our human spirits about the things that are true.
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:16)
Spiritual discernment requires us to move beyond our reliance on cognition and intelligence to a place of deep listening and response to the Spirit of God within and among us. To start this means we maintain our commitment to Scripture, silence, worship, intercession, self-examination, and confession as the container for the discernment process.
Characteristics of Discernment
- Discernment is a way of seeing that is first of all a habit, enabling us to see the works of God as they are being revealed in our lives.
- It is a way of being in which we are steeped in listening and responding to the Spirit.
- Discernment is grounded in our belief that God is good, this His intentions toward us are always good and that He has the power to carry them out.
Without this conviction it would be hard, if not impossible, to give ourselves freely and fully to the discernment process. Discernment is also grounded in the belief that the call to love God and to love others is our ultimate calling as Christian people. Thus in every decision we make we could hope that somewhere along the way we will ask, what love would call us to do?
Entering the Discernment Process
A true discernment process begins with a commitment to pray without ceasing. It is a commitment to pray that we would be indifferent to everything but the will of God. We question ourselves as to what has to die in us for the will of God to come forth. As we process our way toward God’s will we are ready to ask for wisdom, which God promises to generously bestow upon us (James 1:5).
Next, we must listen deeply to the experiences that caused us to be asking the question we are asking. Then we must listen to what God is saying to us.
The discernment process involves a commitment to listening with love and attention to our experiences, to the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit deep within ourselves, to others, and to Scripture. We need to list the pertinent facts and information, to those who will be affected most deeply by our decisions, and to that place in us where God’s Spirit witnesses with our spirit about those things that are true.
It is also good to note whether the discernment process in us is being dominated by the opinion of those with stronger personalities or those who talk the most. It is important to enter into silence and “listen within” when human dynamics are getting out of control, when there have been too many words, and when words are no longer helping. Silence can help us cease striving and find our rest in God. It can help us to deal with our inner dynamics and listen to God.
If we are filled with chaotic emotions and neurotic conditions, our affective states will provide no positive guidance. Our goal will be to bring order and discipline into our affective life. As we achieve that discipline, we die and our lives become hidden with Christ in God making discernment more effective.
Is there an area in your life where discernment is needed, where you know no amount of human thinking will provide you with the wisdom you need? Take a few moments to rest in God’s presence and experience your longing for God’s direction relative to the matter at hand. Notice whether you are indifferent to anything but the will of God or whether you are attached to a particular outcome.
A Prayer for Discernment
The Book of Common Prayer gives us a wonderful prayer:
Oh God, by whom we are guided in judgment, and who raises up for us light in the darkness: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do; that your spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and in your straight path we may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
photo credit: Neuse River Greenway via photopin (license)
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** Note, this was originally posted at Justin Peters’ website and is being reposted here with permission. You can view the original post here, or visit his website here. **
If you do not know the Kendrick brothers by name, you almost certainly know them by their films: Flywheel (2003),Facing the Giants (2006), Fireproof (2008), and Courageous (2011). Stephen, Alex, and Shannon Kendrick have just released their fifth faith-based film, War Room. War Room, starring popular Bible teachers Priscilla Shirer and Beth Moore, looks like it may well be the most successful of their films to date bringing in $11 million just on its opening weekend; more than triple it’s $3 million production budget.
Given the popularity of Christian themed films and the considerable buzz about this one in particular, my wife, Kathy, and I went to see War Room on the evening of September 3rd so that I could write a review. For those of you who read my review of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s movie, Son of God, you know that I am a bit skeptical of the Christian movie genre as a whole. Nonetheless, I do want to offer what I hope to be a fair review. This review will not touch on every single facet of the movie or even on every theme it presents, but I do hope to address what I believe to be the most important of them.
War Room is centered around Tony and Elizabeth Jordan, their ten year old daughter, Danielle, and Elizabeth’s real estate client-turned Christian friend, Mrs. Clara. The Jordan marriage is in serious trouble. Tony, a pharmaceutical salesman who travels extensively in his work, is the kind of husband and father one loves to hate. Though a hard worker, he shows little interest in his daughter and pursues a female work interest behind his wife’s back. Elizabeth, played by Priscilla Shirer, goes to Mrs. Clara’s home discuss the particulars of putting it on the market. The meeting, however, went far beyond deciding on a listing price for the house.
Mrs. Clara, an older widow, is a Christian fiercely devoted to prayer which she does in a closet she has dubbed her “War Room.” Mrs. Clara goes to war here, battling Satan who is portrayed as the source of every form of evil plaguing mankind. Rather than plotting troop positions on a military map, Mrs. Clara pins
prayer requests and Scripture verses on the wall of her war room, prays to God, and rebukes the Enemy.
Mrs. Clara begins to ask Elizabeth some probing questions about her family, marriage, and church attendance. Upon learning that the Jordan family is at the point of collapse, Mrs. Clara exhorts Elizabeth to fight for her marriage in her own war room.
Slowly but surely, Elizabeth is changed by her newly found prayer life and by reading the Bible. One day in her war room, she discovers via a friend’s text that Tony has been seen in a restaurant with another woman. Elizabeth immediately prays for her husband and asks God to stop him. God gives Tony a stomach ache in the restaurant preventing him from following through with his adulterous plans.
Shortly after this, Tony is fired from his job. Rather than the anger and sarcasm he expected to receive from Elizabeth upon hearing this news, she offered him love and support. The change he sees in his wife eventually changes Tony as well. He confesses his sin and turns back to God. He seeks and is granted forgiveness from both Elizabeth and Danielle, and the Jordan family is on the fast track of restoration.
Despite his new life, Tony is fired from his job. What his boss did not know, though, was that Tony had been stealing drugs from the company, selling them and pocketing the profits. Though he had gotten away with it, his now sensitive conscience drove him to return to meet with his former boss, confess his theft and make restitution. His boss could easily have turned Tony in to the authorities to face prison but chose not to do so. The Jordan family was spared the loss of being torn apart again just as it had begun to heal. Tony eventually found a new, though less lucrative job, his family grew closer to one another and the Lord, Mrs. Clara’s house sold to a pastor and his wife, and all was well because of the battles fought in the War Room.
The movie was, of course, clean. There was neither foul language nor any innuendos (other than what was about to happen between Tony and his almost-mistress at the restaurant) anywhere to be found.
War Room emphasized the importance of fidelity to one’s spouse and cutting off any potential threats to the sanctity of the marital covenant. The film championed the virtues of character, integrity, and selflessness. The importance of family, and the need for regular church attendance were stressed. Mrs. Clara (a very winsome character in the film) taught Elizabeth the importance of reading Scripture and, of course, prayer. The movie did teach the biblical truth that man is unable to reform himself. “You can’t fix Tony. Only God can.” said Mrs. Clara to Elizabeth.
The Gospel was, well, mostly there. Mrs. Clara presented the Gospel to Elizabeth in one of their meetings and she talked about sin, that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty of sin, was raised from the dead and that a person must believe in Jesus and repent. These are all essential elements of the Gospel and I am glad that they were included. That having been said, even though the proper biblical terms were used, often these terms were not explained. The term “repent,” for example, was used but never fleshed out. The lingo was there to be sure, but without a biblical understanding of these terms they are just that, lingo.
As I’m sure you are expecting, I did find much with which to be concerned. Some of the film’s failures could have been avoided with more careful attention to doctrine and theology and some of the failures, as I will explain in the conclusion, are inherent to the genre itself and unavoidable. I will outline my concerns in a series of “Outs:” Out of Home, Out of Order, Out of Focus, Out of Bounds and Out of Context.
Out of Home
I may as well begin with the most politically incorrect and probably the most controversial point I will make in this review and get it out of the way. Not everyone reading this will agree, but truth is truth.
That men and women are of equal value before God is beyond dispute (Gal. 3: 28-29). That having been said, men and women do have different roles and the role of a young wife and mother is to be a worker in the home. The Apostle Paul writes that older women are to teach “the young women…to love their husbands, love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be blasphemed” (Titus 2:4-5). Note the “workers at home” part.
The context makes it quite clear that the “young women” are those who are married and have children in the home. This text makes it quite clear that such women’s primary place of service is not to be outside of the home but within.
Pastor and teacher Dr. John MacArthur has written that if a young woman is adequately fulfilling all seven of the requirements listed in this passage then she “will probably be a very busy individual” and have little time for work outside of the home. If, however, “she still has time left over, then she would be free to pursue enterprising and creative activities outside the home.”1 It is not that a young woman should never engage in wage earning work of any kind. Proverbs 31, in fact, depicts the godly woman who may do some enterprising work from within the home.
One of the first things I noticed in the film is that Elizabeth worked outside of the home as a real estate agent. Had she been adequately fulfilling all of her duties inside the home, then the case could have been made that this was permissible. This was not the case, however. In fact, the movie actually makes a point that Elizabeth was so involved at her job that she did not know what her daughter, Danielle, was doing at school or in her jump-rope team.
The sad reality is that the fallen world in which we live often requires young women to work outside of the home. Some “young women”2 have been abandoned by their husbands and some may have husbands unable to work due to some type of infirmity. In situations such as these work outside of the home is, unfortunately, unavoidable.
When a young woman can avoid working outside of the home, though, she should. If a young woman works outside of the home out of preference rather than absolute necessity, then a biblical principle has been violated. The issue is not a minor one. Note that if a young woman works outside of the home at the expense of her biblical household duties, then the result is that the Word of God is βλασφημῆται (blasphemetai), literally, blasphemed.
Writes Dr. MacArthur:
The home is where a wife can provide the best expressions of love for her husband. It is where she teaches and guides and sets a godly example for her children. It is where she is protected from abusive and immoral relationships with other men and where, especially in our day, she still has greater protection from worldly influences—despite the many lurid TV programs, magazines, and other ungodly intrusions. The home is where she has special opportunity to show hospitality and devote herself to other good works. The home is where she can find authentic and satisfying fulfillment, as a Christian and as a woman.3
Out of Order
War Room is a theological train wreck chronologically speaking. In other words, it totally gets out of order the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration in a person with the fruits of regeneration.
In their first meeting, Elizabeth tells Mrs. Clara of the distressed state of her marriage to Tony. Upon hearing this, Mrs. Clara asked her, “Have you prayed for him?” There is nothing, of course, wrong with this in and of itself except the fact that Mrs. Clara made this inquiry without having first made certain that Elizabeth understood the Gospel herself. Though Elizabeth certainly was not guilty of the overtly egregious sins of her husband, like he, she displayed little understanding of the Gospel. She attended church only “occasionally” and was biblically illiterate. There was no discernible spiritual fruit in her life to indicate that she was a believer.
Another example occurs after Elizabeth hears the Gospel (most of it anyway) from Mrs. Clara and begins to get on the straight and narrow. Shortly after Elizabeth found out about Tony’s attempt to cheat on her, he came home from his failed dalliance to a meal she had prepared for him. She looked at her husband and asked, “You wanna pray?” At this point in the movie there is absolutely no reason to believe that Tony had been converted. He had little interest in Danielle and he did not love his wife.4 He was selfish, arrogant, was a thief, and had no conviction over his sin. He cared only for himself, had no godly sorrow, and showed no affections for things holy and pure. He was ignorant of Scripture and comfortably so. That Elizabeth, by this time walking with the Lord, would ask her husband to pray assumes that this is something he could do which, as a lost man, he could not.
Save the prayer that one may prayer at conversion, prayer is a spiritual discipline that can only be done by the saved. The movie gives the impression that praying for one’s spouse or asking God to bless the evening meal can be done by one who is lost. This, of course, is an impossibility. Before coming to Christ we are enemies of God (Col. 1:21), dead in our sins (Eph. 2:8-9), and cannot seek Him (Rom. 3:10-11); a condition which precludes any ability to pray (Is. 59:2).
Now, this having been said, I am not saying that this was the intention of the Kendrick brothers. It is probably the case that they were simply portraying how people normally speak. I am not at all saying that theologically they would believe that lost people can pray. The problem, though, is the vagueness in which it was portrayed.
Additionally, and even more worrisome is that the film gives the impression that one can live a life of habitual, unrepentant sin and still be a believer. In her own war room, Elizabeth petitioned “Lord, I pray for Tony that you would turn his heart back to you.”
My issue here is not that Elizabeth is praying for her husband, but that her prayer gives the viewer the impression that Tony was a just backslidden Christian.5 “Turn his heart back to You,” she prayed. Again, Tony was an absolutely loathsome individual at this point in the movie who displayed zero evidence he had ever experienced regeneration.
Christians can and do sin (1 Jn. 1:8) but their lives are not to be characterized by sin. It has been said that a Christian can stumble into sin, but he cannot swim in it. A believer is a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God Who produces in him good fruit (Gal. 5:22-23). Many people living lives of habitual sin are told they are just “backslidden” when they’ve never slid forward in the first place. Charles Spurgeon stated, “Unless our faith makes us pine after holiness and pant after conformity to God, it is no better than the faith of the devils, and perhaps it is not even so good as that.” Whether intentional or not, there is a danger of this film giving some of its viewers a false assurance of their salvation.
Out of Focus
War Room certainly did deal with sin, but it did so, I thought, primarily on a horizontal basis. In other words, though it showed the damaging consequences of sin in relation to our fellow human beings, it did not focus nearly so much on sin’s deadly consequences in our relationship to God.
Tony and Elizabeth both sinned in that they focused on their employment at the expense of their daughter, Danielle. Tony, of course, sinned in his pursuit of a woman who was not his wife. Eventually both came to see how their sin hurt others and they repented. In and of itself, this is good.
What I did not see – or at least what I believed was not emphasized nearly enough – was the vertical nature of sin. There was no mention anywhere in the film of the wrath of God that our sin incurs. There was no mention of God’s wrath abiding on the unbeliever (Jn. 3:36) or that we are saved from it (Rom. 5:9). There was no mention of eternal judgment for those who die in their sins (Lk. 16:19-31).
Without first understanding the wrath of God, one cannot rightly understand the mercy of God. Without first realizing that our sins are storing up God’s wrath (Rom. 2:5) which will be poured out on the ungodly for all of eternity (Rev. 14:10), we cannot truly appreciate His mercy. It is only in understanding God’s deserved wrath that we can fully understand His undeserved mercy. It is His wrath that makes His mercy so precious.
In watching the film both my wife and I were looking for one thing which is a hallmark of every genuine believer: a godly sorrow over sin.
The Bible speaks of two types of sorrow over sin. There is a worldly sorrow which is merely a guilty conscience. A worldly sorrow is one that is concerned only for the horizontal consequences of sin and it leads to death (2 Cor. 7:10).
The other type of sorrow, however, is a godly sorrow. A godly sorrow comes about when we understand that our sin is first and foremost against God. A godly sorrow is when we grieve over our sin because we understand that our sin grieves God and we desire to turn from sin because we do not want to grieve Him. It is this godly sorrow which “produces a repentance without regret leading to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10).
Unless we both missed it, neither Kathy nor I saw any godly sorrow evidenced in either Tony or Elizabeth’s life. There definitely was sorrow over hurting others, but nowhere in the film did we see the kind of godly sorrow exhibited by David when he humbled himself before the Lord and said to Him, “Against You and You alone have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight” (Ps. 51:4).
Out of Bounds
The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:6 exhorts the immature believers in Corinth “not to exceed what is written.” In other words, we as believers are not to exceed biblical parameters. Whether in our theology or in our practice we are to stay safely within biblical parameters for when we exceed these God-given parameters we are opening ourselves up to demonic influence and demonic deception.
Sadly, biblical parameters dealing with spiritual warfare are exceeded throughout the movie. The entire film is saturated with Word-Faith/N.A.R. spiritual warfare lingo.6 There seemed to be as much time and effort expended in binding, rebuking and casting out Satan by Mrs. Clara and Elizabeth in their respective war rooms as there was praying to God.
In one of the more emotionally rousing scenes of the film, upon discovering her husband’s philandering ways, Elizabeth retreats to her war room. As she repeatedly cites to herself James 4:7b, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you,” indignation swells within her and she begins to talk to the devil. “No more, you are done! Jesus is Lord of this house and there is no room for you anymore! Go back to Hell where you belong and leave my family alone!” she shouts.
There are at least two significant problems with this. First, Satan is not in Hell. Only when the eschatological events of Revelation 20 take place will he be thrown into the lake of fire and “tormented day and night forever and ever” (vs. 10).7 The Bible makes it very clear that, for now at least, Satan is quite free “prowling about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).
Secondly, and more significantly, we as believers are not to be addressing Satan. Ever!
Consider that in Jude we have the record of Michael the archangel disputing with the devil and arguing over the body of Moses. Jude records for us that when he disputed with the devil, Michael the archangel “did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” Think about that for just a moment and let it sink in. If Michael the archangel – the archangel – did not “dare” to rebuke Satan then I think it’s probably a safe bet that we should not do so either. Pastor Jim Osman in his excellent book Truth or Territory writes, “What God’s highest holy angel would not dare to do, sinful, fallen men presume the authority to do. It is unthinkable. I have been in the presence of Christians who boldly declare, ‘Satan, I rebuke you in the name of Jesus,’ and I wonder, ‘Who do you think you are?’ Rebuking, commanding, or ridiculing the devil are not tools of effective spiritual warfare; they are marks of prideful, arrogant, self-willed false teachers.”8
It is troubling that noted Bible teacher Priscilla Shirer does not know this and would model such a dangerous and unbiblical practice. By exceeding biblical parameters, people are exposing themselves to the very enemy that they fancy themselves as rebuking.9
Incidentally, given that so many people are rebuking and binding Satan, have you ever wondered how he seems to keep getting back out? It seems that as soon as someone binds him, he’s free again. All of these people binding Satan don’t seem to be tying him up very tightly. And if we can bind and rebuke Satan (Be sure to bind him first. The last thing you’d want to do is rebuke an unbound Satan as he might give you a nasty uppercut when you’re not looking.), why not just bind him from all places at all times and be done with it?
But I digress.
The movie also has a decidedly mystical bent. Towards the end of the film, an older pastor named Charles and his wife, clients of Elizabeth, are shown the home. Charles notices the closed door to the “war room,” opens it and slowly walks inside. He looks around, pauses, backs out of the closet, and then walks back in as though he feels something different in the atmosphere. His wife asks him what he is doing and he says that there has been a lot of praying in this room. “It’s almost like it’s baked in,” said the old pastor.
This is pure mysticism. God speaks to us through the Bible and we speak to Him through prayer. Prayer is an act of obedience that serves to conform our will to that of the Father but it in no way changes the atmosphere in a closet, house, hospital, gymnasium, state or country. This is hyper-charismatic, Word-Faith mysticism.
In another scene Mrs. Clara, Elizabeth and Danielle were on their way to get ice cream when their trip was interrupted by a knife wielding thug demanding their money. The unflappable Mrs. Clara stared him in the eye and commanded, “You put that knife right down in the name of Jesus.” All of the sudden the thug looked dazed and confused. Powerless to follow through with his criminal plans, he fled the scene. Saying “in the name of Jesus” to this miscreant was like giving Kryptonite to Superman.
Throughout the film the name of Jesus is used in this way. It is used almost like a magical incantation, a Christianized version of Abracadabra, to manipulate the physical realm toward one’s desired outcome. Whether used in prayer to restore a marriage or to thwart a mugging, the name of Jesus always got results in War Room.
Contrary to the way in which it is portrayed in the film, saying “in the name of Jesus” is not like putting in coins in some theological vending machine. The name of Jesus is synonymous with the will of Jesus. When we pray for things in Jesus’ name rightly, we are praying for Jesus’ will to be done (Jn. 14:13-14; 1 John 5:14-15). Using the name of Jesus does not always bring the results we desire.
It was fidelity to the name of Jesus that led nearly all of the Apostles to gruesome deaths. It is fidelity to the name of Jesus that has brought horrific persecution to untold millions of Christians during the last two thousand years. Many Christians throughout the world face persecution to this day because of the name of Jesus. Sometimes the name of Jesus gets us not what we want, but what we may not want. Often it is in times of trial and persecution for the believer that God is most glorified.
Out of Context
The thief comes to steal, kill and to destroy; I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10) was quoted several times throughout the movie. In War Room the “thief” is identified as Satan who has come to steal people’s joy and marriages.
While it is not necessarily incorrect to identify the thief in John 10:10 as Satan, the context of the passage argues for a much broader view. The context indicates that the thief includes not only Satan, but any false teacher who claims any way of salvation other than that which is found exclusively in Christ. What the “thief” is attempting to steal is not one’s joy or marriage but rather one’s reception of the Gospel itself. The context is that of salvation, not one of life enhancement.
The movie concluded with one of the most familiar, beloved, and yet taken out of context passages in the Old Testament, 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” The text was shown superimposed on a shot of the United States capitol the insinuation, of course, being that if we will repent that God will heal our nation’s many societal ills.
Though a thorough treatment of this passage is beyond the scope of this article, to apply this verse to the United States of America (or any other country for that matter) is to employ poor hermeneutics. The context of this verse is that it is God’s answer to Solomon’s prayer dedicating the temple recorded in the previous chapter. There has only been, is now, and only will be one country in a covenant relationship with God – Israel.
Another aspect of the movie that was out of context is the entire premise of having a prayer closet in the first place. The film portrayed this room almost as having magical powers. If you want your prayers to be effective, it’s best to pray them in a closet emptied of its contents. Upon first consideration, this idea appears to have biblical support:
When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father Who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. – Matthew 6:5-6.
As we were driving home from the theater that night, Kathy and I talked about how we would be willing to bet that thousands of people will see this film and then go to their homes, clean out a closet and make their own “war rooms” believing that their prayers will become more effective.
Sure enough, just this morning as I was writing this piece, I was watching the Daystar channel as presidents and hosts Marcus and Joni Lamb played a clip from Eyewitness New Fox 58 as Aaran Perlman interviewed two of the Kendrick brothers. A visibly emotional Perlman said, “I saw this movie last weekend with a group of people, I’m gonna start crying before I even get into this. It changed my life so much. This movie, it’s about prayer. It’s about finding a room called the war room and immediately after this movie I went home and ripped everything out of my closet and made my own war room.” “Wow, that’s incredible, awesome! You will see a difference in the days ahead. Write ‘em down so you can keep up with them. It’s great to be able to check off those prayer requests to realize God is alive and well and at work in your life,” Stephen Kendrick responded.
While there is certainly nothing wrong with praying in a closet if that is what one wants to do, the location is not the point. The point Jesus made in this text was not about location but attitude. The point is that we are not to make a show of our prayers as did the scribes and Pharisees and should remove any distractions which may divert our attention away from the One to Whom we are praying. Sincere, humble prayers offered in a living room, a backyard, or in an airplane at 40,000 feet halfway across the Pacific Ocean are heard just as well as those offered in an empty closet. Believing that there is some special power in the location itself is not only mystical, but borders on idolatry. The Object of our prayers and the condition of our hearts are the important things – not the location.
Some will read this review and undoubtedly think that I am being too nitpicky and critical. I have talked to some who have seen War Room and thought that it was great and that it had a solid biblical message. There is no doubt that the film was Christian themed – an element that has drawn the ire of numerous secular critics – but we are enjoined to “test all things” (1 Thess. 5:21) through the lens of Scripture and to “study to show ourselves approved unto God” (2 Tim. 2:15). Charles Spurgeon once said, “Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.”
Finally, as I hinted at the beginning of this piece, I am not a fan of the whole Christian movie (I am not including documentaries in this) thing in general. It is not that I am inherently opposed to the genre per se, but rather that I believe there to be an inherent danger in them. For one, in order to be successful at the box office, Christian movies must be intentionally vague when it comes to many doctrinal matters. Christian films never really go past the basics of the Gospel and, sadly, often even fail at that. Yet the Bible says that we are to pay close attention to doctrine (1 Tim. 4:13) and to persevere in it (vs. 16).
Additionally, these movies are highly emotional. They tug at our heart strings. There is nothing wrong in and of itself with emotion, but emotion cannot be a substitute for obedience to objective biblical truth. Movies in and of themselves cannot bring lasting change to anyone’s life. It seems that every few years or so something new is introduced to the evangelical masses and is portrayed as the next great evangelistic super-tool. Whether it’s a blockbuster movie like the Passion of the Christ, or best-selling books like The Purpose-Driven Life, or Jesus Calling,10 people get all excited. Spin-off products follow and incredible amounts of money are spent chasing after the latest fads. But they are just that – fads. Recall the Prayer of Jabez craze about fifteen years ago? Remember how everyone was praying for God to enlarge their territory? Do you have any friends still praying the prayer of Jabez? Me neither. Without a foundation of sound doctrine, without a constant and proper hermeneutic, all of these things are the spiritual equivalent of a sugar pill.
It is a sad commentary, in my estimation, that so many professing believers get so excited about the latest thing to come down the evangelical pike, but show little enthusiasm in and put precious little effort into reading, studying and obeying God’s Word. Watching a movie is easy. Laboring in the Word is not. But only the latter will bear fruit that remains.
For another excellent review of this movie, see War Room: A Review of the Movie and the Industry Surrounding It, by G. Seth Dunn
For the purposes of this article when I write “young women” I am referring to the biblical definition of the term per Titus 2.
No matter how he may argue to the contrary, if a man cheats on his wife (or vice versa) he does not love her. Such a sin breaks the marriage covenant and is in direct contradiction to the biblical definition of love.
The New Testament never uses this word. It is only used in the Old Testament in reference to Israel.
New Apostolic Reformation is a twin movement of Word-Faith but has even more emphasis on signs and wonders and modern day Apostles. Some of its prominent leaders include Bill Johnson, John Arnott, C. Peter Wagner, Cindy Jacobs and Heidi Baker.
Technically, there will never even be a time when Satan resides in Hell. Revelation 20:14 states that Hell and death are thrown into the lake of fire where Satan and the demons will already be by that time. It is a distinction with probably little meaningful difference, but a distinction nonetheless.
Osman, Jim (2015-01-24). Truth Or Territory: A Biblical Approach to Spiritual Warfare (Kindle Locations 1905-1908). Jim Osman, Kootenai Community Church. Kindle Edition.
For an excellent book on spiritual warfare from a biblically sound perspective see Truth or Territory: A Biblical Approach to Spiritual Warfare by Pastor Jim Osman. Also available is a 6 CD set of 12 interviews with Jim Osman and this writer on the topic of Spiritual Warfare. It is available at http://justinpeters.org/store/
All of these mentioned have massive doctrinal errors.
Peter tells us that “the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness” (2 Peter 3:9). At some point, each of us joins the “some” group. We reach places where it’s painfully clear that our sense of time-urgency must be different than God’s. And it is. We prefer to measure time in minutes, rather than months. But the Ancient of Days measures time by millennia (2 Peter 3:8).
God knows that he sometimes appears slow to us, which is one merciful reason he gave us the Bible. This book, which God took millennia to assemble, shows us that God is not slow, but patient in working out his redemptive purposes in the best ways (2 Peter 3:9). And it shows that he is compassionate toward us when we wait for him for what seems like a long time.
Not as Some Count Slowness
Abraham and Sarah were not only the parents of all of God’s faith-children (Romans 4:16); their lives are perhaps the most famous picture of God’s redemptive purposes in what seems like his painfully slow pace.
Abram (as he was first called) was already 75 years old when God promised to make him a great nation that would bless all the families of the earth and to give his offspring the land of the Canaanites (Genesis 12:1–3).
However, there was a problem: Abram had no offspring. His wife, Sarai (as she was first called), was barren (Genesis 11:30).
Years passed. Still no child. So Abram prudently planned to make his servant Eliezer to be his heir. But God said, “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir” (Genesis 15:4). Then he took Abram out and showed him the night sky and told him that his offspring would be so numerous it would be like counting stars.
But years later, it was still just Abram and Sarai in the tent.
Sarai became desperate and gave up on waiting. She decided that her maidservant, Hagar, could be a surrogate child-bearer for her. This sounded humanly reasonable to 86-year-old Abram, but he did not consult God and the solution backfired, big time.
Thirteen more years went by before God finally told the 99-year-old Abram that 89-year-old Sarai would bear a son, and he changed their names to Abraham (father of a multitude) and Sarah (princess). A year later Isaac is born.
It was 25 years of waiting, while any earthly reason to hope for a child went from highly unlikely to impossible. Their only hope was God’s promise, which was precisely God’s purpose in the long, confusing wait.
No unbelief made [Abraham] waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:20–21)
God determined that all of his true children would be born again through faith to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3) and then live by faith (the faith of Abraham, Galatians 3:7) in his promises alone (Romans 1:17). So he took patient pains to cultivate it in Abraham and Sarah, and he does the same for us.
How Long, O Lord?
One of the most profoundly comforting things about Scripture is how it reveals God’s compassion for us impatient waiters. He knows that he can appear slow to us. He knows that at times we are going to feel like he’s forgotten us and is hiding his face from us. He knows that as he patiently works out his purposes, we will experience circumstances so difficult and confusing that we cry out in bewildered pain.
And so he not only gives us stories like Abraham and Sarah to help us see that we are not alone; he also gives us songs like Psalm 13 to sing.
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me? (Psalm 13:1)
The canonical songbook is full of raw poetry — more raw and blunt than many of us are, even when confiding our pain to a trusted friend. And these were congregational songs! The people of Israel were to sing them together.
And from this, we are to hear from God that he knows our waiting for him can be hard. He knows it can feel to us like he is is taking too long. He gives us permission to ask him, “How long is this going to last?” He reminds us that when we feel like he’s forgotten us, it is an experience common to all his faith-children — common enough to warrant congregational singing about it.
And as we pray or sing such psalms, they remind us that God, in fact, has not forgotten us, that what we feel isn’t always real, and that God’s promises are truer than our perceptions.
Renewed Strength Is Coming
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
God’s chosen pace, as well as his chosen place for us — that bewildering, confusing, painful place where we feel like we’re stuck — is redemptive. More than we know. There is more at stake than we can see and more going on than meets our eyes.
But here are two gracious promises God gives to us when we are waiting long:
From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. (Isaiah 64:4)
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29–31)
Like Abraham and Sarah, God is working for you as you wait for him, and he will bring renewal to your weary heart.
So “be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD” (Psalm 31:24). He is able to do what he has promised.
I’ve noticed that there is a short list of small group ministry moves that can be toxic. They often seem harmless. They don’t look dangerous. But they can cause great damage.
Here are five toxic small group ministry moves:
1. Switching to a different small group model, system or strategy … again. There are several main models or systems and versions of each. Whether you call it idea fatigue or shiny object syndrome, switching models can be toxic. You may have just read a very good book or attended a conference that made a different model sound better, but when you choose a system you need to commit to it for three years. And by that, I mean you need to pursue it headlong for three years.
2. Assigning coaches to experienced group leaders … again. Retroactively assigning coaches to experienced leaders almost never works. It often permanently sours the coach and almost always is rejected by the small group leader like a bad organ transplant. Fortunately, it is possible to provide care for experienced leaders with a little finesse and wisdom.
3. Springing required curriculum on groups. Whether it happens as a result of a last-minute inspiration on the part of your senior pastor or a poorly communicated church-wide campaign, mandating that all of your groups use a curriculum that they didn’t choose can have toxic results (the obvious exception is a sermon-based approach). While there are definitely times that it just makes sense to call all groups to a common study (church-wide campaigns, the desire to align everyone around a single vision, the need to renew congregations, etc.), be very careful about last-minute requirements.
4. Allowing the preferences of the wrong people to select study topics. We should all be clear about this dilemma. Groups that have been meeting longer will often settle into studies that are informative, but not necessarily application-oriented. Unconnected people will primarily be attracted to topics that seem directly related to their own personal struggles or interests. Be careful about allowing the preferences or tastes of the already connected to determine what you select if you hope to connect unconnected people. And be equally careful about adding studies to your recommended list if they don’t incorporate a healthy dose of application.
5. Calling everything a group. If this happened in one church … it happened in 10,000 churches. You may have a desire to be a church OF small groups, but arbitrarily changing what you call classes or studies is delusional and toxic every time.
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I’ve written posts for this site and my own that describe some of the negatives our church consulting teams and “spies” have found in churches. The goal of this post is to show some of the positives we’ve seen in different churches. The topics vary, but perhaps something will help you in your church.
1. Greeters at every door. It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally every one of our team members is greeted when each of us intentionally enters a different door. Those churches are ready for guests.
2. Strong security in the preschool/children’s areas. Sometimes our team members gain entrance to these areas much too easily, but we’ve been in churches that physically halted our team from going beyond the boundaries. I’m pleased to report to the church that their security system worked in those cases.
3. Name tags for everyone. Several folks disagreed with my suggestion about this topic in previous posts, but our team appreciates it when everyone can quickly learn names. Name tags simply make it easier for folks to have conversations with people they don’t know.
4. Assurances about visitor’s cards. Again, I’ve written about why I likely would not complete a visitor’s card at your church. On the other hand, some churches have made it very clear up front—by saying, “We won’t bombard you with visits, phone calls and emails, and we won’t embarrass you”—that they won’t put us on the spot. I’m willing to complete a card for those churches.
5. Knowledge of the community. We do a demographic study of the church’s ministry area, but we don’t give that information to the church at first. Instead, we now first ask church leaders what they think the demographics will show about their community. Most leaders don’t know their community that well—but occasionally we meet leaders who clearly have already focused externally.
The post 10 Things Effective Churches Do Well appeared first on ChurchLeaders.com.
In my last post, I outlined some foundational biblical/theological teaching on the decree of God. We looked at passages of Scripture that speak of God’s decree as eternal, unconditional, unchangeable, and exhaustive. As a result, we concluded that God is properly said to be the ultimate cause of all things.
Immediately, this raises the question: How can God be the cause of actions and events that are evil and sinful—things which God Himself prescribes against—and yet not be rightly charged with unrighteousness? Some people answer this question by appealing to the notion of divine “permission.” In other words, though God is ultimately in control, He doesn’t ordain evil; He merely allows it. I don’t find this kind of explanation convincing for two reasons.
God’s Decree and Divine “Permission”
The first is: I find the concept of divine permission to be inconsistent with the biblical teaching of God’s decree outlined in the previous post. The fundamental meaning of “permission” is “not to hinder what has, or appears to have, a tendency to take place” (Edwards, Concerning the Divine Decrees). The concept of permission is used this way in Scripture (e.g., Mark 10:14; Acts 16:7), and even the etymology of the English word testifies that it has the idea of “to allow to pass through.” In fact, Arminian theologians treat the concept of permission according to its actual definition. Jack Cottrell, an Arminian, puts it this way: “God simply allows these agents to produce what they will. This is true permission, i.e., not efficaciousness but noninterference.” Cottrell is actually using the concept of permission according to its true sense: a response to a future plan or intention known in advance.
But the idea of noninterference, or not hindering what has a tendency to take place, makes no sense in light of God’s eternal and unconditional decree, because in eternity past at the moment of God’s decree there was nothing external to Him. There was no antecedent tendency for anything, no agent on a trajectory asking permission to pass through to its desired end. In eternity past, there wasn’t any evil agent that made an appeal to the divine will to be included in His decree, at which point God, though recognizing it was contrary to His nature, nevertheless granted permission. To put it simply, there was nothing for God to refrain from interfering with, nothing outside of Himself to which to “acquiesce,” as one theologian put it. Indeed, as Gordon Clark says,
The idea of permission is possible only where there is an independent force. . . . But this is not the situation in the case of the God of the universe. Nothing in the universe can be independent of the Omnipotent Creator, for in him we live and move and have our being. Therefore, the idea of permission makes no sense when applied to God. (Religion Reason, and Revelation [P&R, 1961], 205)
Such reasoning has led many to conclude that the distinction between a permissive will and a decretive will is “desperately artificial” (Carson, Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility [Wipf & Stock, 2002], 214). At the very least, those who hold to a Calvinistic view of God’s sovereignty have no desire to communicate what’s actually implied by the use of permissive language (as outlined above). In fact, John Frame goes so far as to say, “we should not assume . . . that divine permission is anything less than sovereign ordination” (Doctrine of God, 178). And I agree. But if we don’t intend to communicate what is actually denoted by “permission,” yet we do intend to communicate nothing less than sovereign ordination, of what meaningful use is permissive language? Why not simply speak of God’s “ordaining” or “decreeing” or “bringing about” all things?
Biblical Examples of God’s Agency in Evil
Well, the answer to that is because it seems to suggest that God is somehow the author of sin, and thus the chargeable cause of evil. We want to avoid speaking of God’s involvement in ordaining evil or sinful events, because we don’t want people to think that we’re saying sin is God’s fault. And of course, that is a noble desire. But I don’t think that permissive language accomplishes that end, because Scripture itself doesn’t mind speaking of God’s agency in evil in very active terms.
In fact, Scripture plainly teaches both (a) that God is unquestionably righteous and (b) that He indeed ordains sinful events and actions. And if that’s what Scripture teaches (and it is), it is not our place to sit in judgment upon and question the consistency of those declarations. Rather it falls to us to receive both as true on the authority of God’s infallible and inerrant Word. That brings me to my second reason for rejecting the concept of divine permission: Scripture.
Consider the overwhelming amount of Scripture that speaks of God’s role in bringing about evil in ways much more positively and actively than we are often comfortable with.
In Amos’s prophecy of punishment to Israel, God asks, “If a calamity occurs in a city has not Yahweh done it?” (Amos 3:6). He does not ask who has allowed the calamity, but who has actively done it (Heb. ‘assah).
Similarly, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, in his lamentations Jeremiah nevertheless understands from whom such destruction comes. He asks, “Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it (Heb. tsawah)? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill (ra‘ah & tov) go forth?” (Lam 3:37–38).
Indeed, it’s worth noting the active language used throughout the entire book of Lamentations: God has “caused [Judah] grief” (1:5), “inflicted” this pain (1:12); knit together this yoke and given her into the hands of her enemies (1:14); and trodden her as in a winepress (1:15). God is actively accomplishing that which He had purposed to do (2:17; 3:43–44; 4:11).
In Isaiah’s prophecy, God declares that it is He who forms light and creates darkness, and it is He who brings about peace and creates calamity (Isa 45:5–7; Heb. bara’ ra‘; literally, “creates evil”). Such statements do not discriminate. God does not distance Himself from evil in distinction to good; rather, He sharply makes the point that He is the one, and not another, who accomplishes (bara’)—and not merely permits—all things (Isa 45:7).
This kind of language that speaks of God’s active involvement is not limited to general evils. His positive agency in sin and evil extends to personal situations.
Perhaps the classic illustration for this is the story of Joseph. Some theologians actually appeal to God’s dealings with Joseph to support permissive language, saying that God “permits some sins to occur [but] nonetheless directs them in such a way that good comes out of them” (Erickson, 425). But this plainly misses the mark of the text. The narrative makes plain that God didn’t just make the best out of a bad situation, as if Joseph had merely said, “You meant evil against me, but God worked it out for good.” You know, Joseph’s brothers had dealt God a rather bad hand, but He did with it what He could and worked it out for good. No, the text says that God meant it for good (Gen 50:20). God’s intentions in Joseph being unjustly sold into slavery were just as active as Joseph’s brothers’ were. He was as sovereignly involved on the front end of Joseph’s trials as He was on the back end of his prosperity. In fact, the text says that God actively sent Joseph to Egypt with His own purpose to preserve life (Gen 45:5, 7). Joseph even says that it is not his brothers who sent him there, but God (Gen 45:8). Neither the language nor the idea of permission is anywhere to be found in this narrative.
Other examples can be multiplied:
The obstinacy and disobedience of Eli’s sons is attributed to God’s desire to put them to death. 1 Samuel 2:25 says, “But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for Yahweh desired to put them to death.” Scripture causally links Hophni’s and Phineas’ disobedience to God’s desire to put them to death. As difficult as it is for our theology, Scripture seems to inescapably declare that God ordained their disobedience in order that He might justly carry out a death sentence upon them.
Later, Yahweh sends an evil spirit upon Saul to torment him. 1 Samuel 16:14 says, “Now the Spirit of Yahweh departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Yahweh terrorized him.” An evil spirit. From Yahweh. It blows my theological circuits too, but it’s in the text. It’s not an option for me accuse the author of 1 Samuel of making God to be the author of sin!
Though Absalom’s incest is an abomination before Yahweh (2 Sam 16:21–23), Yahweh Himself had already declared to David that He will bring such abominations about as punishment for David’s sin: “Thus says Yahweh, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun’” (2 Sam 12:11–12).
Paul tells us that in the great eschatological apostasy, “God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false” (2 Thessalonians 2:11).
And of course, the chief of these examples is God’s agency in the greatest of all evils: the crucifixion of Christ. Can anyone dispute that the sham trial, unjust condemnation, and murder of the innocent Son of God was the greatest evil ever accomplished in history? And yet, the Apostle Peter says Christ was “delivered over by the predetermined plan . . . of God” (Acts 2:23). And again: “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur” (Acts 4:27–28). There can be no more explicit affirmation of God’s sovereign ordination and of the cross—the greatest evil in history.
Considering the weight of this Scriptural testimony, we must conclude along with Calvin:
The modesty of those who are thus alarmed at the appearance of absurdity might perhaps be excused, did they not endeavour to vindicate the justice of God from every semblance of stigma by defending an untruth. . . . Recourse is had to the evasion that [evil] is done only by the permission, and not also by the will of God. He himself, however, openly declaring that he does this, repudiates the evasion. (Institutes, I.18.1)
And with Frame:
God does bring about sinful human actions. To deny this, or to charge God with wickedness on account of it, is not open to a Bible-believing Christian. Somehow, we must confess both that God has a role in bringing evil about, and that in doing so he is holy and blameless. (Doctrine of God, 175)
And we don’t need permissive language to make this confession.
But is there any way to understand how it can be that God is not the chargeable cause of sin, even though He ordains that it be? I’ll try to address that in the next post.
Have we had enough yet? Have we had enough of these miraculous journeys to and from the afterlife? Apparently not. Today marks the release of the long-awaited movie adaptation of Don Piper’s bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven. While tales about journeys to heaven (and hell) far pre-date Piper’s 2004 effort, he is the one responsible for kicking-off the contemporary obsession.
The heaven tourism genre has proven remarkably lucrative to authors and their publishers, tallying well over 20,000,000 books sold over the past decade. 90 Minutes in Heaven is jumping genres and seems primed for box office success, though it may have trouble chasing down 2014’s screen adaptation of Heaven Is For Real which earned over $100,000,000.
To mark the release of 90 Minutes in Heaven I have teamed up with Josh Byers to prepare an infographic we’ve titled Greetings From Heaven: A Modern History of Heaven Tourism. I hope you enjoy it, and would be grateful if you’d share it.
Are you perplexed by the heaven tourism genre? If so, here are some reviews I have written in the past: Heaven Is For Real, 90 Minutes in Heaven, Heaven Is Real, and 23 Minutes in Hell. You may also like to read my article Heaven Tourism.
Wisdom For Your Weekend: your weekly installment of things we’ve been reading (and watching) around the web.
Articles of the Week
Make Time for Books. You’ll Feel Less Busy. Hugh McGuire. You probably don’t believe McGuire. You probably think you simply don’t have time for books. To put it bluntly, you’re wrong. Books are the perfect antidote for the poison of digital stress. McGuire’s got neuroscience to prove it. Perhaps even better, he’s got three rules to help you get back into reading.
When Does Your Religion Excuse You from Doing Your Job? Eugene Volokh. This week’s news welcomes previously unknown Kim Davis to the bright lights of fame—or, more precisely, notoriety. Davis refused to issue marriage licenses after the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision (legalizing same-sex marriage), which led to a brief stay at the cozy Carter County Detention Center. Davis’ situation is actually a bit more complex than it initially seems. But all of this raises the bigger question: when is it appropriate to refuse to do your job on religious grounds? Volokh leads the way.
Responding to the Syrian Refugee Crisis, Mitch M. Many people have been asking how the American church can respond to the increasingly tragic refugee crisis in Syria. It’s not an easy situation, but there are several action steps that we can take. Mitch offers three big ones.
The Power of Pro-Life Women, Katelyn Beaty. The refrain is consistent, and has grown louder in recent days: if you care about women, you will support their right to choose an abortion. But as Beaty points out, this is a false dichotomy. She joins the ranks of many women around the country who are appalled at the idea that abortion is fundamental to women’s power.
11 Easy Steps to Repenting on the Internet, Barnabas Piper. There’s some sting in this one! It’s sad that we all know of a Christian leader who has crossed a line he shouldn’t have—an affair, financial hijinks, or some other shameful misconduct. Contrary to how social media might make it seem, the internet hasn’t created more of these failures. But it has changed the way that repentance happens. And not for the better.
On The Lighter Side
The First Time The New York Times Covered 19 Famous Things, Christine Haughney, Mental Floss. “The big change in Fred Trump’s operations in recent years is the advent of his son, Donald.” … “When the new building of The New York Times shall be completed, why would it not be fitting that the space about the edifice be called ‘Times Triangle’ or ‘Times Square,’ though perhaps it may not be a square?’” … “The Japanese characters pronounced ‘Nintendo’ are harder to translate. They constitute a fanciful expression having no precise dictionary meaning either in Japanese or English.” Yes, these are real. And 16 other goodies in here.
Wisdom For Your Weekend is presented to you by Chris Pappalardo, with occasional guidance from J.D. Greear. This is our attempt to reflect Proverbs 9:9: “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.”
Karen Swallow Prior: “It’s easy to despair when the Bride of Christ proves hypocrite and harlot all at once. But God’s judgment is a mercy. He chastens whom He loves.”
Drawing from the example of history, John Piper gives four ways we can live in our modern day version of the best of times and the worst of times.
Though we often think of men as the primary viewers of pornography, women are succumbing to it, too. What lies are you believing as you look at or interact with another human being?
Are you familiar with catechisms? I wasn’t until recently. Here are six reasons I hope to get more familiar with them in the future.
Helpless. Indifferent. Heartbroken. Far-removed. The refugee crisis is a sad and complex reality in our fallen world. May the Lord gives us grace to know what to do from where we are.
Today’s Kindle deals include 3 from Christian Focus Publications: The First Chapters of Everything by Alasdair Payne ($2.99); Big God by Orlando Saer ($2.99); The Top 100 Questions by Richard Bewes ($2.99). Also consider 150 Quick Questions to Get Your Kids Talking by Mary DeMuth ($2.99) which I’m not familiar with, but which sounds helpful.
This isn’t an article about where or how to educate your children, but about how to reach into public schools. “For many years, our public schools have been seen as battlefields. Nothing much grows on a battlefield, though. Instead, our schools should be viewed as gardens to cultivate. Tending your garden involves nurturing relationships with a small number of people within your immediate sphere of responsibility.”
You know the five-second rule for dropped food, right? Here’s a scientific investigation of whether or not that five seconds makes a difference. And now you know…
I was interested to read David Murray’s article about the question of divorce when there is rampant use of pornography by one spouse. The subsequent discussion is equally interesting. David says: “Until last week, I’ve usually come down on the ‘No’ side, but having seen and heard more and more about this kind of sin, last week, for the first time, I found myself moving towards a hesitant ‘Yes’.”
A New/Old Book. One of the best books you will ever read—and a book every Christian ought to read—now has a great new cover (finally!), new typesetting, and a new foreword by Carl Trueman. It’s a great refresh. Be sure to check out this new edition of John Murray’s classic Redemption Accomplished and Applied.
Nick Batzig reflects on 8 years of extemporaneous preaching. I love the article and the idea, but have never been brave enough to try it!
Kevin DeYoung: “In a day where people disdain hypocrisy more than any other vice and prize transparency more than any other virtue, you can be as obnoxious as you want to be, fail spectacularly, and sin repeatedly, as long as you never pretend to be any better than you really are.”
I think you will appreciate Randy Alcorn’s reflections on God’s kindness expressed in our utter dependence.
ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
(Click title to go to full article)
War Room: A Review by Justin Peters – “Given the popularity of Christian themed films and the considerable buzz about this one in particular, my wife, Kathy, and I went to see War Room on the evening of September 3rd so that I could write a review. For those of you who read my review of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s movie, Son of God, you know that I am a bit skeptical of the Christian movie genre as a whole. Nonetheless, I do want to offer what I hope to be a fair review. This review will not touch on every single facet of the movie or even on every theme it presents, but I do hope to address what I believe to be the most important of them.”
Review: War Room – “This movie has prayer, devil-binding (more on that later), Bible reading, more prayer, the sinner’s prayer (2xs!), more Bible reading, sermon listening, and ESV product placement. It features gym evangelism, ethical quandaries at work, a weepy daughter who asks her mom if she even knows the name of her sport’s team. There is even immorality interrupted by food poisoning. No Christian cliché is beneath the Kendrick brothers, and it is all for the sake saving this one marriage!”
War Room: Dishonoring God – “With its theology, War Room weaves together three serious errors: Manichaeism, name it/claim it, and the belief that evil/sin resides outside of a person and not within. Manichaeism, the dualistic and odd heresy that claims there is a cosmic struggle between the equal forces of good (the spiritual world of light) and evil (the material world of, well, material and darkness), is a kissing cousin of Gnosticism. It’s often worked out in strains of Christianity by the belief that God and Satan are locked in a cosmic dual and that the good side, God, needs the spiritual engagement of His foot soldiers in order to ensure the day to day besting of Satan.”
How to Defeat Modern Day Atheism With Three Easy Questions – “Steve Greene wrote a web article entitled How to validate atheism in one easy step and gives us the most common defense of atheism that is out there. Once again, we see how atheism is built on the Demand For Evidence. But we also know that such a demand is more of a rhetorical trick than a sincere expression of intellectual curiosity.”
Poverty and the New Creation – “The book of Revelation leaves us with an amazing picture. Through his vision’s powerful imagery and symbolism, the apostle John gave us a glimpse of what is to come when the Lord returns: tribulation and vindication, judgment, and the restoration and renewal of creation…”
Tony Miano – Conversation with A Gang Member at an FPA Abortuary
(Note: Today’s “sermon” is in the form of an incredible witness encounter with a gang member.)
I’m Gay and I Go To Church
“All death can do to the believer is deliver him to Jesus. It brings us into the eternal presence of our Savior.” – John MacArthur
The post The Daily Discovery (September 11, 2015) appeared first on Entreating Favor.
Christian Headlines Daily – Friday, September 11, 2015
Interview: Stephen Colbert Discusses His Faith, the Pope, Islam, and More
Ben Carson Names Favorite Bible Verses
Church Leaders in China Detained after They Re-erect Crosses on Churches
Embattled KY County Clerk Delays Return to Work
Religious Organizations Call on U.S. to Take in 100,000 Syrian Refugees
Strange Alliance in Northern Ireland: Evangelicals and LGBT Activists Unite Against Same-sex Marriage Referendum
Atheist Group Targets Religious Practices before School Sporting Events
Hearing Launches Push to Defund Planned Parenthood
Pastor Saeed’s Wife Begins 3 Week Fast for Husband’s Release
What’s an Apostolic Christian and Why is Kim Davis’ Hair So Long?
The Ashley Madison Affair: God’s Grace for Fallen Pastors
Are You Living Fully in the Spirit?
The Dating Apocalypse: Tinder and the Hookup Culture
Controversial Buzzfeed Video Goes Viral
Darwinism Versus the Octopus: An Evolutionary Dilemma
Our Time is Short
Read: Recommitting Your Life To God and Jesus Christ – Restoration and Forgiveness With God and Jesus Christ (Updated Version)
Ready to start your new life with God?
Who do you think that I am?
With that brief question Jesus Christ confronted His followers with the most important issue they would ever face. He had spent much time with them and made some bold claims about His identity and authority. Now the time had come for them either to believe or deny His teachings.
Who do you say Jesus is? Your response to Him will determine not only your values and lifestyle, but your eternal destiny as well.
Consider what the Bible says about Him: Read more
CanIKnowGod.com is a website inspired by LifesGreatestQuestion.com, with new content, images, audio and video that will help you understand more about who God is and how to know Him. The site is mobile responsive and has an infinite scroll which makes for a very user-friendly experience. After you indicate a decision on CanIKnowGod.com, you are directed to a page that details what it means to have a new and transformed life through Jesus Christ. There’s even a Facebook page for daily updates, encouragement and scripture sharing.
Look to Jesus
Have you ever felt a little lost and wished there was a quick-start guide to your relationship with God? This is it!
30 Day Next Steps
John Beckett, a leading Christian businessman, has written a series to read over 30 days for new believers.
New Believers Guide
The New Believer’s Guide is a series of articles designed to show you how to walk in the new life Christ has given you— a life of faith and freedom.
Jesus is the Savior of the world. Discover who Jesus is today in this series.
Know Jesus Christ and your life will be transformed
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