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(by The Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.M., Th.D.)

(12 Sep 2014)

Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with tablets of stone in hand, and announced to the children of Israel:

“I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that I got God down just to ten rules. The bad news is that adultery is still in.”

What is morality about? Does it come from abstract principles or is it imposed by persons? If imposed by persons, is this arbitrary, or is it based on someone’s character? If from character, who is its source? We do not naturally think of God’s law as His gift to us, but since His commandments reveal His holy character, He is giving Himself in them. Moreover, He knows us better than we know ourselves and only desires the best for us; thus, He has given us His commandments so we can live well, much as we give our children rules for their own protection.

The problem is that people don’t want Him. Since we are born in sin, we humans naturally hate Him who is holy. Remember the very insightful lines from the movie Tombstone where Val Kilmer played Doc Holliday (his best performance of all his movies, in my humble opinion). Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) asks Holliday questions, as Holliday lies sick in bed. They are fighting the cowboys, and their new leader is Ringo. Earp has to face Ringo soon in a shootout.

Wyatt Earp: “What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?”

Doc Holliday: “A man like Ringo has got a great big hole, right in the middle of him. He can never kill enough, or steal enough, or inflict enough pain to fill it.”

Wyatt Earp: “What does he need?”

Doc Holliday: “Revenge.”

Wyatt Earp: “For what?” (The camera closes in on Doc, and he pauses to emphasize his answer.)

Doc Holliday: “Bein’ born.”

That’s it. As we’re born into the world, we hate righteousness and therefore hate the Triune God. We are sinful at birth, and the political God-haters hate that idea with an unholy passion. We think we’re born good. We want our own way, not His way. We want to commit sexual sins, murder babies and others, steal, lie, and so on because we love it. We don’t want anyone telling us we are not good. Moreover, we’re at war with God, and rebellion is the only way we can attack Him. Here is what the Lord said:

19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God (John 3:19-21).

So what is the “light”? The light is the Triune God Himself and his holy character. Moral principles do not exist in the abstract. The reason we’re having so much inner turmoil in the USA today is that we have relative values versus God’s unchanging character. Satan’s seed reveal his character, and they want to do the will of their father, the devil (John 8:44). Likewise, we Christians want to see the character of our Father, the Creator of all that is, lived out as revealed in His Ten Commandments. Thus, we’re at war, the Triune God verses Satan, Christians vs non-Christians, the seed of the woman vs the seed of the devil (Gen. 3:15). It will not end until the Second Coming, but we Christians will gradually conquer (1 Cor. 15:24-27), and then the Second Coming will occur.

There is no political solution for our nation, except that of repentance, confession of our sins, and coming to the Triune God through the Son of God. Anything short of this adds more fuel to the fire of our judgment. Both sides of the aisle are given to idolatry. Both believe that a few tweaks of the political process will cure our problems. Both believe that new management is what we need, not a radical confession of sin, and turning to God through Christ.

Some will call what I’m saying a “religious” solution, and as a result they will easily dismiss this article (to get the book this article comes from, go here.). My response is that any solution is necessarily all these: political, religious, moral, etc. It is impossible not to have a religious solution, for every solution either invokes God (religious) or rejects Him (religious). Every solution assumes some view of some god, some view of morality with some authority behind that morality, either by might or by votes. Some of the most religious people I know are atheists who are very committed to their faith and worldview. (Read the very insightful book by Christian philosopher and scholars, Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.)

Others will object that we’ll never get enough people to agree with that. In other words, the answer is allegedly how many people will sign off on God. But that is precisely the problem; they don’t believe that God is the answer but people. We don’t need millions of Christians to turn the nation back, though that would be ideal, but we need a few who believe God. Remember Gideon in the Bible who defeated 120,000 men with only 300 (Judges 6-8), but the Triune God was on his side, of better Gideon was on His side. It is not that the Triune God and one are a majority; God is the majority—period. But He normally uses humans to accomplish His will, so we just need a few people who have faith in Him. Will you be one of them?

But political conservatives think that conservative politics is the answer to our moral decline. Some otherwise conservative Christians make the USA and its Constitution their religion with liberals and those in power (conspiracy theories) as their enemy. The religion of politics will not save our country, not even conservative politics.

But there is a dark and very powerful mind behind the events of radical Islam, behind our moral decline in the USA, and behind our financial problems. There is only One who can—and has—defeat him. We Christians will not turn to Jesus without severe pressure, probably in the form of some judgment—bomb attacks, germ or biological attacks, chemical attacks, and so on. I’ve heard several times on interviews of high ranking military personnel saying that cyberspace attack would be devastating because our whole country runs on computers and internet access, such as financial institutions, power plants, and so on. But I can think of something just as bad, if not worse. If those who hate us just fly to the USA, perhaps sick persons but with no visible symptoms, and fly all over the country spreading an air borne disease that incubates a few weeks, they could disperse it everywhere. No one would know he had the disease until millions had it. The hospitals would be full, and if no cure, where would the hospital staff get a cure for themselves?

Christ is the only answer, and we must confess our sins to Him, turn from our “values” to His unchangeable law-word, trusting in the free gift of His salvation from our sins.. This is our only hope. AMEN. Ώ

(by The Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.M., Th.D.)

(6 Sep 2014)

(my forthcoming update of my book on dispensationalism will cover these matters in more detail.)

Last blog I wrote about the definition of “Israel,” which is taken for granted. We saw that there are many biblical and contemporary approaches to “Israel.” “Israel”  could be the Northern ten tribes that were taken captive in 722 BC by Assyria; or it could be those living in Palestine when the Lord came the first time; or it could be the elect Spiritual “Israel” (John 8:39-44; Gal. 6:16; Rom. 9:6); or it could be one person, Jacob; and so on. Paul stated that the true Jew was not the one by physical birth nor by circumcision but one of the heart who loved the covenant Lord:

28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God” (Rom. 2:28-29).

The interesting thing is that current dispensationalists think that the true Jew is the one outwardly, just by physical birth. Likewise in Romans 9:6, the great apostle to the Gentiles said, “they are not all Israel who are of Israel.”

Then in John 8:39-44 the Lord Himself stated that though the Jews He was speaking to were Abraham’s seed, nevertheless they were of their father the devil. Being of Abraham’s physical seed was a step in the right direction, but they must also be believers in the Lord of Glory who came to fulfill the covenant.

Here is a good summary of what I was saying two blogs ago, written by the brilliant evangelical Anglican scholar, Gerald Bray, in his systematic theology, titled God Is Love (p. 557). Dr. Bray has traveled worldwide, and speaks many languages. My comments on his material are in brackets ([]).

. . . the church is deeply divided about what the prospects for the Jewish people are. [I disagree with this statement. From the early church until Darby in the mid-1800s, the church was united that the hope of the “Jews” was in Messiah, belief in Jesus. It has only been in the last 100+ years that such has been challenged. The dispensationalists are, was, and always have been in the minority. They are primarily a USA phenomenon, and have only existed from the mid-1800s. Virtually all Christians are creedal (especially the Nicene Creed that states we believe “in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church,” which means not two peoples of God. The Nicene Creed is the most universal one, being held to by all three branches of Christianity, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodoxy, and most Protestants.] At one end of the spectrum are those who believe that, in restoring an independent Jewish state in Palestine, God has fulfilled the promise made to Abraham that his descendants would possess the land. They believe that the ingathering of Israel has already begun and that when it is complete—about a third of the world’s Jewish population now lives there—Christ the Messiah will return. It is important to understand that, although this view is clearly “pro-Israeli,” it is not held by any significant body of Jewish opinion, nor is it official policy of the state of Israel. In other words, pro-Israeli Christians do not correspond to any significant group within the Jewish community itself [today], even if elements of what they believe can be found among different (and often mutually antagonistic) Jewish circles.

At the other end of the spectrum are those Christians, historically the vast majority, who claim that although Jews may have some advantage over Gentiles, they cannot inherit the promises made to Abraham in any way other than by having faith in Christ because he is the fulfillment of those promises. . . . The end result is the same. In the final analysis, Jewish Christians are saved on the same basis and in the same way as anyone else” (p. 558).

Here is a summary of the fulfillment of the types and shadows of the Old Testament to the New Testament, showing bud (Old Testament) to flower (New Testament) fulfillment, and Christ is the fulfiller of all things:

From Ephesians 2:11ff:

Notice here that we have both covenants and promise used and in the sense of fulfillment of the Old Testament, thereby demonstrating continuity. Observe that the Gentiles are now included:

Gentiles from OT to NT in Ephesians 2:11ff

Formerly (v. 12) Now
Separate from Christ Brought near by Christ (v. 13)
Not citizens of Israel Fellow citizens with Israel (v. 19)
Strangers to the promises No longer strangers (v. 19)
No hope Hope (v. 16)
Without God With God (v. 18)

Results: The New Israel

  1. Both groups (Jews and Gentiles) now made into ONE new body (v. 14).
  2. The two made into ONE new man (v. 15).
  3. Reconciled both in ONE body to God (v. 16).
  4. Gentiles are fellow citizens with the saints (the true Jews), and are of God’s ONE household (v. 19).

Who is Israel according to Paul here? Israel existed before (Eph. 2:12, 19) but continues today (Eph. 2:13-21) in a different form: Jews and Gentiles are on an equal ba­sis in the same body. But Paul emphasizes that the Gentiles are now members of God’s true Israel (vv. 12, 19).

As we begin to summarize the Old Testament fulfillments even more, let us recall what Leonhard Goppelt said in his most excellent study of Old Testament fulfillment in the New Testament, titled Typos. In his Introduction, he says that fulfillment has basically two elements: historical continuity and escalation. In other words, there is a historical connection between the Old Testament type and the New Testament fulfillment, such as the Passover, veil in the temple and Christ’s flesh; but there is also escalation, which means that the fulfillment is much greater than the type. To continue the example, Jesus was the lamb of God who took away the sin of the world, and because of who He was, His sacrifice was once for all. There can never be another sacrifice without demeaning what the Son of God did. We can never go back and offer the Old Testament sacrifices again, which is what would happen if the “Jews” rebuilt the temple. Some might say that would just be memorials, symbolic, not effectual signs of the covenant, to which I say, that is all they ever were. Thus, when Jesus sent His Roman general Titus to destroy Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple, it indicated that God was judging them for rejecting His fulfillments in Christ. Now that the old covenant is fulfilled in the new covenant, we do not go back to the types and shadows, which is the message of the whole book of Hebrews. The point of the Bible is not the fulfillment of one man (Abraham), his seed, and one piece of real estate, but the fulfillment of mankind, the seed of the woman beginning with Adam (Gen. 3:15), going to Christ, who brings everything together. Consider this chart:

Fulfillment of Old Covenant by Christ as the New Covenant Head:

Adam                  Sabbath

Noah                    Sabbath                              Rainbow

Abraham            Sabbath                              Rainbow                            Circum

Moses                  Sabbath                              Rainbow                            Circum                Passover

David                  Sabbath                              Rainbow                            Circum                 Passover                              nation/kingdom

Fulfillment of all:

Christ                  Heb 3-4                             Christ judged                    baptism                Lord’s Supper                    Church

Col 2:16-17                         1 Peter 3:21                       Col. 2:11-12        1 Cor 5:7                            1 Pe 2:9

Let’s put this another way. The great symbols of God’s covenant with Old Testament “Israel” were these (in no certain order):

  1. Circumcision, fulfilled by Christ who was circumcised. Now baptism fulfills this without blood (Col. 2:11-12). Both indicate a joining with the people of God.
  2. Passover, now fulfilled by “Christ, our Passover, who was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7)
  3. Tabernacle and temple with all the sacrifices that prefigured Jesus, who by His once for all sacrifice fulfilled the tabernacle, temple, and all the sacrifices. Indeed, when Jesus from the cross cried out with a loud voice “it is finished” (John 19:30), the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. There could never again be a temple and sacrifices that were acceptable to God. Hebrews 10:19-22 gives us the reason:

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Moreover, this offering was once for all as is clearly stated in Hebrews 10:10-14.

  1. Pentecost was the firstfruits harvest of the Old Testament crops, and in Acts 2 was the firstfruits harvest of those coming to faith in Christ, including both Jews and Gentiles. Furthermore, the Old Testament put a curse on those at the tower of Babel, turning one language into many, while the New Testament fulfillment reversed the curse by the power of the gospel, turning many languages into one. There can never be another Pentecost.
  2. Another huge sign of the covenant was the land promise. When the Old Testament body of covenant people called Israel were in favor with Yahweh, they had good worship (tabernacle/ temple), good sacrifices, and dwelt peacefully in their promised land. When Israel was under judgment for their sins, God destroyed the temple and removed them from the land. That happened in 722 BC when the Assyrians took the northern 10 tribes of Israel from their land, never to be heard from again. They had no temple. About 150 years later when the southern two tribes turned away from their covenant, they were taken to Babylon (586 BC), out of their land, and the temple destroyed. When their judgment was over, they went back to the land, restored the law, rebuilt the temple, and rebuilt City of Jerusalem with the covenant blessing of Yahweh.
  3. We have not only the temple and land, but also Jerusalem that was destroyed. Now we are not to think of that city as the ultimate one because the Church is the city, as Scripture clearly teaches:

22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar– 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children– 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all (Gal. 4:22-26).

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel (Heb. 12:22-24).

We see that our new city is Mt. Zion, the new and heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12; 21:2, 10). All God’s people from Adam to the last one saved will be one, not two peoples of God. Christ is not a bigamist with two brides, an Old Testament Jewish one and a New Testament Gentile one. Moreover, as we read in Hebrews 11:39:

And speaking of the Old Testament saints, of whom the author of Hebrew spent his longest chapter on from Abel to Abraham, and so, concludes that the New Testament saints to whom he is writing are included in that one people of God:

37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented–38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they [Old Testament saints] should not be made perfect apart from us [New Testament saints]. (Heb. 11:37-40).

 

Notice these comparisons and contrasts between the first and last parts of the Bible:

Genesis 1-3
Revelation 21-22
Creation of heaven and earth New heaven/new earth (first past away; 2 Peter 3:1-13)
Fall into sin, cast out of garden No more sin, new garden
Cannot eat of the tree of life May eat the tree of life (22:2)
Curse on the earth and on man “No more curse” (22:3; see Rom 8:19ff)
All nations cursed Healing of the nations (22:2)
Seed of the woman promised for salvation The Lamb is the promised seed

To put it this way:

We move from one man Adam who failed to the one Man Jesus who succeeded

We move from the sin of the one man to God’s judgment on the garden and the earth to the Last Adam, who removed the curse

We move from one nation to many nations as the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, not from one nation, to many nations, and back to one nation, which would be a reversal (Rom. 4:17-18).

We move from the small parcel of land in the mid-East that is not even what the original “Israel” held, to the whole world: “or the promise that Abraham would be the heir of the world [kosmos] was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:13).  Again, Jesus said at His Ascension,

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matt. 28:18-20).

“Heaven and earth” remind us of the creation in Genesis 1:1 so what we are to understand here is the same that was created and fell is the same that is being redeemed, a new creation. In other words, the land promise has been extended to the church so that we are heirs of the world. Christ has all authority for us to evangelize the whole world, not just Palestine. Jesus said “the meek shall inherit the earth,” not just a few square miles. The word for “earth” is gη (pronounced “gay”, γῆ), which can mean “land” though that is rare. It is translated “earth” by every English translation I checked on Matthew 5:5. Furthermore, if you recall what God said to His people in the Old Testament, that everywhere their foot trod, that land was given to them. In Matthew 28:18-20, we have the same promise; namely, that everywhere the church goes, that land belongs to use. At every point, we win. Our gospel wins, not Satan’s false teachings. Our atonement wins and so we conquer by its power. The cross wins, and in that sign we conquer (as Constantine in the early 300s). When things are bad—as they are now for the church around the world—we must repent, look up, for persecution strengthens the church. The church is like a gas fire: stomp it, and it spreads; leave I alone, and it dies out.

 

We may summarize where we are:

Comparison: Old Covenant (“Israel”)                      New Covenant (Church)

Circumcision                                                                                fulfilled in Christ (Col. 2:11-12)

Passover                                                                                        fulfilled in Christ (1 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 10:10-14)

Tabernacle/temple                                                                     Christ is now the temple (John 2:20-22), and the

                                                                                                                     Church is the temple (Eph. 2:19-21)

Pentecost                                                                                       Jesus poured out His Spirit to begin formally

                                                                                                                 Building His kingdom (Acts 2)

Given the land of Palestine                                                      Church given the whole world

The one nation Israel                                                                  Now the Abrahamic covenant has been

                                                                                                                   Fulfilled in MANY nations.

We don’t return to circumcision. We don’t return to Passover. We don’t return to the tabernacle or the temple and its fulfilled sacrifices. We don’t return to Pentecost. We don’t return to the land. And we don’t return to the one nation but go on to the many nations. In each case, the type has been fulfilled and has escalated to something so much greater!

(TO SEE A SUMMARY OF THE ISSUES THAT REALLY MATTER REGARDING DISPENSATIONALISM, GO HERE.

AMEN. Ώ

(by The Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.M., Th.D.)

(5 Sep 2014)

(my forthcoming update of my book on dispensationalism will cover these matters in more detail.)

One famous Christian person recently said: “As I read the news, I can’t help but wonder if we’re in last hours.” I have great respect and appreciation for what this man is doing for the gospel and for helping the poor around the world. What is an embarrassment to Christians, however, is the end time date setting we hear so much about in some circles, and nearly always dispensational circles. So far they have been 100% wrong.

The dispensationists were jumping for joy when the state of Israel was established in 1948. They had long said that a generation in the Bible was 40 years; add that to 1948, and we have the Second Coming in 1988. In fact, one man wrote a book titled 88 Reasons for the Rapture in 1988, which, of course, did not happen. Then the date was shifted to 1989. Harold Camping put the date at 2011, and on we go. It is virtually never creedal Christians who engage in such speculation and embarrass everyone but those who think they can interpret the Bible apart from 2,000 years of church history. This new doctrine is only 100 years old, but the old gospel goes back to the Apostles; indeed, to Adam and Eve with Genesis 3:15.

Let me quickly add that it is the popularizers who set dates with their predictions, those who are not well educated theologically, not the dispensational scholars. Some popularizers are Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, John Hagee, etc. The scholars who teach at such places as Dallas Theological Seminary generally do not engage in such speculation. When I was a student there in the early 1970s, Dr. John Walvoord, the president of the seminary, said in chapel that we should not say this was the end and fulfillment of the land promise to the Jews because they may be taken out of the land only to return again at some future point. Unfortunately, he seemed to change his mind later when he wrote the popular book Armageddon: Oil and the Middle East Crisis, 1974.

I want to challenge one point taken for granted by these prophets of doom, which is the definition of Israel. I’ve been challenging their understanding of Israel and of the Church since 1985, but now there are two professors at Dallas Theological Seminary, the Mecca of dispensationalism, who are issuing the challenge. Everyone takes for granted that the “Jews” in the nation called Israel today are the Jews of biblical prophecy, but let us pursue this further.

As one professor at DTS recently stated: “Since Paul asserts that ‘not all Israel is Israel,’ (Rom. 9:6), it behooves us to know what ‘Israel,’ we mean when we ask if there remains a future for Israel.” Romans 9:1-5 indicates that Paul had great concern for his brethren according to the flesh, but then in 9:6 he adds “they are not all Israel who are Israel,” which obviously means that just because one was a Jew according to the flesh did not mean he was really an Israelite by the Spirit. So who is the real Jew? Today in the state of Israel, one can be considered a Jew if he was born of a Jewish mother (but what is a “Jewish” mother) or one who converts to Judaism. Some “Jews” in the state of Israel are atheists; are they true Jews? Moreover, Reform Judaism “views Jews who convert to another religion as non-Jews” such as “anyone who claims Jesus as his savior.” Consider this summary as given by these two professors at Dallas Seminary:

1.      Was Abraham a Jew, when he was a Gentile who was called out of the Gentile city Ur?

2.      Do we mean the people who were in the land of “Israel” during the time of Paul’s writing prior to being dispersed by the Roman General Titus in A.D. 70 and by Hadrian in A.D. 135?

3.      By “Jews” do we mean those ethnically tied to “Israel” during Paul’s time who did not accept Jesus as Messiah?

4.      By “Jews” do we mean those ethnically tied to “Israel” during Paul’s time who did accept Jesus as Messiah, and therefore who are “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

5.      Do we mean “Jews” tied to ancient “Israel” by lineage dispersed among the nations?

6.      If 5 is yes, how would they confirm their lineage to be considered among the remnant (Rom. 9:27)?

7.      What about those who cannot be sure of their ethnic ties to “Israel”?

8.      What about those of “Israel” who have died before the future restoration of “Israel” by God?

9.      Are “Jews” the people in the nation of “Israel” created in 1948 by the UN?

10.   Do they need to be orthodox “Jews” living in the state of “Israel” to be considered “Israel”?

11.   If the majority of the population in the state of “Israel” today are not orthodox (and they aren’t) according to the Old Testament law, is it still “Israel”?

12.   Does “Israel” need to expand its borders to include the entire land grant to Abraham to be considered “Israel”?

13.   Is not a true Jew one who is spiritual, not one who is physical, as Paul explicitly states (Rom. 2:26-29; 9:6) and as the Lord Jesus stated (John 8:37-44)?

14.   All who have faith in Christ and are baptized in Him are the seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:26-28) and are the true “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16), the true circumcision is of the heart (Rom. 2:27-29), and baptism takes the place of circumcision (Col. 2:11-12).

15.   Is not “Israel” merely the political state in the middle East?

Will the real “Israel” please stand up? Indeed, these popularizers engage in replacement theology, which they accuse us of doing. They replace the “Israel” of Paul’s day with the church, and the church is said to be a parenthesis in God’s program until it is removed, and then the church is replaced with “Israel.”

On the contrary, Christians from the early church until now have seen the church in the New Testament era as the fulfillment of “Israel” of the Old Testament era, like planting a bud that blossoms into a flower. This is continuity, as we see in Romans 11 where there is one—not two—olive trees, and both Jews and Gentiles are in the one covenant tree. So who is “Israel” and who is the true Jew? We don’t have to guess:

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:26-29).

28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God (Rom. 2:28-29).

Paul calls the church the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16). How can we possibly say that those going to the land of the State of Israel today in the mid-East are God’s chosen people when they sometimes persecute Christians and especially do not believe in Jesus as their Messiah? They will perish in hell when they die. Moreover, many of them are atheists and yet are considered good Jews. Talk about racism! Some dispensational Christians are saying these modern Jews are God’s people simply by physical birth! That was never the case, even under the old covenant, as St. Paul states in Romans 9:1-6, especially in v. 6: “not all Israel is Israel.” (See also 1 Cor. 10:1-13.)

And what is really disheartening is that many ministries are defined by their view of antichrist, not Christ. They have successfully produced a whole generation of Christians who think more about the Man of sin, antichrist than Christ. For example, I heard R. C. Sproul say he could not give away his book on the person of Christ, but books on antichrist are sold by the millions. We would not be so pessimistic about the future if we had a clear view of the majesty of the Son of God. Go to your favorite Christian bookstore and see how books proclaim Christ and how many sensationalize the devil and his alleged power. We must promote Him, not the 666.

It would not hurt my theology if the state of Israel is removed out of the land or stays in it, for they do not constitute any biblical concept of who “Israel” is.

AMEN. Ώ

We Become Like What We Worship

(by The Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.M., Th.D.)

[My responses to the Islamic quotes below are in brackets [] and in blue.]

I read a book by Patrick Sookhdeo, a convert in his later life from Islam to Christianity, from Muhammad to Christ. The title is The Challenge of Islam to the Church and Its Mission (2009). Since it is an inside story, I found it very interesting. There is an appendix by a German convert to Islam (Dr. Murad Hofmann), titled: “Differences between the Muslim and the Christian Concept of Love,” written in September 2007, and another appendix by the Barnabas Fund, “The Concept of Love in Islam,” which appears to be a Christian organization. As a side matter, the Islam scholar is ignorant to what the Church teaches about the Triune God and what our sources are. He quotes the Book of Mormon several times as if it were Christian. That is incredible ignorance; for no one in recognized any branch of the Christian Church thinks Mormonism and the Book of Mormon are Christian.

What the Islamic scholar said about love in the Koran:

  1. “Allah interacts with His creation in a loving manner and commands the love and affection of all true believers” (p. 146). [How can Allah interact with his creation if he is a monad, only having one person. Love requires at least one other person as the object in order to have love manifested. Love directed toward creation but not toward another person is bazaar, at the least. How can a person [Allah] be fulfilled by things {creation]. But if Allah was always just one person, or not really even a person at all as many of their scholars say, how could he ever have loved anything? Above all, love is relational, between beings, and beings of the same peer. (See below where the Son of God is our peer as man and the Father’s peer as God.) Moreover, if Muslims say that when Allah created, he now can exercise love, we have a god who was made complete by his own creation. By contrast, in the Holy Trinity we have three equal persons, each one having the divine essence in its fullness, and each one loving the other two infinitely. Likewise, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit love their creatures because they first loved one another. So Christians can love this one God in three persons because He FIRST love us (1 John 4:19).]
  2. Regarding Allah, Hofmann says: “Nevertheless, He remains unfathomable, unimaginable, unseizable, incomprehensible, indescribable. . . . we must not coin any similitudes for God” (p. 150). “Therefore, we can legitimately go about defining God in negative terms only, listing what cannot be said of Him. . . .” Yet Muslims are “expected to love Allah more than anything else.” [Muslims are stuck having to “define” their god only in negative terms because he/it is allegedly too mysterious, to vague, too high for humans to know him/it. Yet they are to love this unknown and unknowable God. For instance, they can say that he/it is not bound to his word since he/it is sovereign, but they cannot say for sure that he/it is love.]
  3. “As much as the Christian faith, Islam teaches that the love of God must translate into compassion for man. However, Muslims are a bit more hesitant when it goes to use the word “love.” In general they prefer to designate the same attitude as brother—and sisterhood” (p. 151). “Statements on brotherhood in the Qur’an most explicitly refer to relations between Muslims.” [In other words, there is no statement in the Qur’an to love our neighbor as ourselves. Moreover, we can see why because their god does not love unless loved first. Moreover, Muslims treat their woman badly: if their god does not forgive people in love, and whose word can change at a whim, is it any wonder that Muslim men treat their wives so badly. Indeed, being able to have four wives cheapens their value, and being able to divorce them by saying “I divorce you three times” in the presence of qualified witnesses (four adult males), is whimsical. We can see that Mohammed was the product of his time with polygamy being practiced and coming over into Islam.]
  4. “The idea that God might “love” what He created is not self evident. On the contrary, one might argue that love establishes a longing and dependency between the lover and loved one that is irreconcilable with God” (p. 152). [Now we can see the Islamic sense of love: dependency, rather than mutual self-giving. One can love without dependency by giving oneself to another without asking anything in return.]
  5. “Given the dual nature of Jesus [He does not understand Christianity, for we do not teach that Christ had a single dual nature, for that would be impossible for one nature to be both infinite and finite, but we teach that after the incarnation the Son had two distinct natures joined in the one person of the Son of God.] in the eyes of Christians, his love for mankind may be understood more easily by them as corresponding to the human sentiment which all men and women experience” (p. 152). Hofmann says of the love between us and Jesus that it is a “startling intimacy . . . that for Muslims borders on, or crosses over into, blasphemy.” [I’m not sure what Hofmann means by “intimacy” but surely we Christians enjoy a personal relationship with the Father through the Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit that cannot be had anywhere else. The Son added a sinless human nature to Himself. He has always been one person, and that did not change at His incarnation, but now He is also has two natures: one divine that He has always had and the other human. Islam says Allah is too distant and too unlike us to know us on a personal level, but we know the infinite Father through the limited human nature of the Son and the infinite nature of Son. We go to our heavenly Father through the humanity of the Son who as one person is also “connected” with the Father through His deity. Thus, we have a personal relationship with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, all by the merits of the Son who died on the cross for our sins. Of course, He died in His humanity, not in His deity.]
  6. Yet Hofmann maintains that when the Qur’an says that Allah loves, it must mean that Allah “approves” someone, for love involves commitment and is subject to change that cannot be true of one who is immutable. Then Hofmann documents from many passages from the Qur’an that Allah does NOT love unbelievers or transgressors (p. 153). [That is contra the Bible that says: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And very telling, Hofmann says that Allah will love us if we first love him, the very opposite of 1 John 4:19 in the Bible where we read: “We love Him BECAUSE He first loved us.” In the Gospel, the Triune God is the One who initiates love and we sinners respond in kind. Then Hofmann gives away the Islamic view of love.] After quoting some verses from the Qur’an about Allah loving people and creation, he says: “Admittedly, these quotations could be seen as proof for a love of God for His creation comparable to the love human beings are capable of. But this interpretation must be ruled out as incompatible with the very nature of God as sublime and totally self-sufficient.” Then Hofmann admits: “. . . the concept of loving one’s enemy is nowhere to be found in Islamic doctrine” (p. 154). [He then admits that it is constitutionally impossible for humans to love their enemies. That is why ISIS and al queda hate us so much and want to murder us—their god is like that.]
  7. The Barnabas Fund’s says of their book: “The Qur’an never states that God is love” (p. 158). It is insightful when the Fund proclaims that Allah’s love is from his will (he rewards those who act upright) but not from his nature, revealing that Allah’s does not have love as part of his attributes. [Is there any wonder that al qaeda and ISIS hate those they attack and seek to murder them with bombs, suicide bombers, decapitation, raping women, killing children, etc. They have become like the god they worship, full of anger, hate, and demands for submission, etc.] The Qur’an is clear: “He loves not those who reject faith” (Q 30:45). Again, God’s love for the Muslim who follows Muhammad “is a reward rather than a relationship” (p. 159). [In Islam Allah reveals himself through his law, his commands, which call for submission and obedience. By contrast, in Christianity we have a personal relationship with the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who loved us so much that He sent His divine Son to live and die for our sins. A god who is always shouting commands and demanding obedience, and will throw you in hell if you don’t please him, makes for a people who are the same. So save yourself by obedience to God's law is the Galatian heresy that the Apostle Paul confronted in Galatians.]
  8. Again, the Barnabas Fund proclaims: “in Islam God reveals himself mainly through his law (shari‘a) which calls for submission and obedience. While in Christianity God is personal and establishes personal relationships of love with humans, in classical Islam god is seen as totally self-contained and beyond personal relationships. In Islam, although Allah loves certain Muslim people of whom he approves, he is not bound to love them even if they deserve his love. Ultimately God is not obliged to do anything, but acts as he wills, sometimes in an entirely capricious manner” contrary to what he says will happen (p. 160). “The role of humans is to submit, fear, and obey God and his law” (p. 160).
  9. Regarding amputation, stoning, and flogging as required by shari’a law, the leader of the Islamic Center of South Plains in Lubbock, TX, claimed that “harshness was part of shari‘a and any attempt at softening it was giving in to Western Christian concepts which were incompatible with Islam.” The Islamic leader stated that “personalized faith, like that of Christians, leads to corruption and immorality. He preferred the detachment and severity of Islam, citing the Qur‘anic verse: “And let not pity for the twain withhold you from obedience to Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day.” [The Barnabas Fund explains: “In this view, harshness rather than love and mercy are at the heart of Islam. The inference is that Christianity is weak and contemptible because it has love and mercy at its core” (pp. 160-161).]
  10. [Let us Christians know and revel in the grace of the Triune God revealed to us in the Incarnation, and that the persons of the Holy Trinity are one in being and essence, sharing the very same divine nature, yet they desire to have a relationship with us sinners, which can be done through the One who is both God (the Father’s peer) and man (our peer). Therefore, we know how to love one another because we have learned it from the God we worship with each Person of the Holy Trinity loving the other persons, but there is no instance where one Person is said to love Himself. There is no self-love by the Members of the Holy Trinity, as there has to be in Allah with only one person, but each person of the Holy Trinity loves the other two and seeks to exalt them. (Read John 14, 16.)]

AMEN.

 

by Brother Andrew

These two religions are remarkably similar, and both are Christian heresies. It appears that Satan saw that Islam worked so well in the East with Mohammed in the seventh century that he cloned the same approach in the USA with Joseph Smith in the 18th century who founded the Mormons.

The following article was written by Brother Andrew, and can be accessed at this site:

 

http://www.bible.ca/islam/islamic-mormonism-similarities.htm. (Accessed April 18, 2010, slightly edited his article.)

 

  1. The followers of Muhammad and Joseph Smith both killed innocent “infidels” on the same date of 9/11. On September 11, 1857, Mormon militia massacred about 140 men, women and children under the authority of Brigham Young. However, 17 very young children were spared and adopted into Mormon families. They were sold to the highest Mormon family bidder and resold and traded many times afterwards. This event is called “The Mountain Meadows Massacre.” Mormon leaders engaged in a deliberate rewriting of history to deny they were behind the murders. On September 11, 2001 Muhammad’s followers, using the Koran as a guide, sent two airplanes into the World Trade Center killing 3,000 innocent men, women and children. Muslims today have a Ph.D. rewriting history and preach in the mosques that Jews were actually driving the planes, not Muslim terrorists. (Incredibly, many Muslims today deny the Jewish Holocaust, which shows how subjective Muslims are in their approach to history. Since they are repeating the Holocaust, they don’t want to be identified with it so they deny it ever happened.)
  2. Both were allegedly visited by an angel. Joseph Smith was visited by the angel “Moroni” and Muhammad by Gabriel. Galatians 1:6-9 says, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.”
  3. Each has a holy city: Mormons have Salt Lake City and Muslims have Mecca. Both are copying the Judeo-Christian religion with its Jerusalem, though now for Christians Jerusalem is not the holy city, though it was in the past. We now have the New Jerusalem, which is figurative for the Church. (Hebrews 12:22; Gal. 4:25-26; Rev. 3:12; 21:2, 10)
  4. Both were allegedly given visions, and in both cases we must believe the word of one man, unlike the Bible that has hundreds of witnesses over centuries of time in various geographical locations.
  5. Both were told that no true religion existed on the earth. In the published account of his life, Joseph Smith related that he became very disturbed when he was a youth because of the “strife among the different denominations,” and this “cry and tumult” led him to ask God “which of all the sects were right — and which I should join.” He was told that he must “join none of them, for they were all wrong . . . that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt. . . .” (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2:8-19) N. J. Dawood says that Mohammed was also concerned with the fact that the Jews and Christians had “divided themselves into schismatic sects.” In the scriptures given by Mohammed, we read: “Yet the Sects are divided concerning Jesus. . . . Truly, the unbelievers are in the grossest error.” (The Koran, translated by N. J. Dawood, Surah 19, p. 34) In Surah 30, page 190, this warning appears: “Do not split up your religion into sects, each exulting in its own beliefs.” In Surah 3, page 398, we read: “The only true faith in Allah’s sight is Islam. Those to whom the Scriptures [i.e., Jews and Christians] were given disagreed among themselves through jealousy only after knowledge had been given them.” (But which sect of Islam is correct, Sunnis, ISIS, Shiites?)
  6. Immediately after the death of Muhammad and Smith, a fight broke out among the “faithful converts” as to who would succeed Muhammad and Smith. Both groups were plunged into irreparable division that has endured ever since. Islam and Mormonism both have squabbles among themselves as to who is the one true splinter group of their prophet! As soon as each leader died, the movement split. The true lineage of Joseph Smith went to Independence, MO, but Brigham Young took most of the Mormons to Salt Lake City, UT. When Mohammed died, the movement split into two major groups, the Sunnis and the Shiites, with many smaller groups now existing.
  7. Both Muslims and Mormons were to restore the long lost faith as the one true religion. Islam makes the claim that Adam and Abraham were Muslims, a claim that is as ridiculous as it is undocumented from either history or archaeology. Mormons make the unsubstantiated claim that the church in the first century was Mormon.
  8. Both wrote a book that claims to be inspired by God.
  9. Both claimed to be illiterate or uneducated and used this as proof the book was inspired. “How could an illiterate man write the Koran or the Book of Mormon?” Joseph Smith is claimed to have had only a third grade education.
  10. Both claimed the Bible was lost, altered, corrupted and unreliable.
  11. Both claimed their holy book was the most correct and perfect book on earth.
  12. Both claimed that their new “Bible” was based upon a record stored in heaven. With Islam, it is the “mother book” that resides in heaven with God. With Mormonism, it is the golden Nephi plates that the angel Moroni took back to heaven.
  13. Both claim that the versions they have in our hands today are identical to what the prophet revealed and that parts are not lost, altered, and corrupted. The Mormon claim is proven false by a book called 3913 Changes to Book of Mormon by Sandra Tanner. The Islamic claim is proven false by a book (In Arabic language) called, Making Easy the Readings of What Has Been Sent Down by Muhammad Fahd Khaaruun. Both books show that the copy of the book of Mormon and the Koran used today are different from what was originally used when each religion was started.
  14. Both claimed to be the ultimate prophet of God.
  15. Both claimed they were persecuted because of their pure faith.
  16. Both were polygamists who had many wives.
  17. Both borrowed from paganism/polytheism. Muhammad incorporated the polytheistic moon god called “Allah” and “Allah’s three daughters” into Islam. Basically Muhammad chose Allah from within 350 known gods that were worshipped in Arabia and proclaimed the moon god to be the greatest and only God. Smith borrowed from a doctrine called “pyramidology” and the Masons and other magic systems.
  18. Both received “after the fact corrective revelations” from God. Muhammad retracted the Satanic verses and Mormons retracted Smith’s divine order mandating polygamy.

 

“As many false reports have been circulated respecting the following work, and also many unlawful measures taken by evil designing persons to destroy me, and also the work, I would inform you that I translated by the gift and power of God, and caused to be written, one hundred and sixteen pages, the which I took from the Book of Lehi . . . which said account, some person or persons have stolen and kept from me, notwithstanding my utmost exertions to recover it again — and being commanded of the Lord that I should not translate the same over again, for Satan had put it into their hearts to tempt the Lord their God, by altering the words, that they did read contrary from that which I translated and caused to be written; and if I should bring forth the same words again, or, in other words, if I should translate the same over, they would publish that which they had stolen, and Satan would stir up the hearts of this generation, that they might not receive this work: but behold, the Lord said unto me, I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing: therefore thou shalt translate from the plates of Nephi, until ye come to that which ye have translated . . . I will shew unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the Devil.” (Book of Mormon, 1830 edition, Preface)

19. Mormons, contrary to the Bible, “baptize the dead,” which is alluded to in 1 Corinthians 15:29, but says nothing about what it means or even that it is required. But Mormons have developed a whole theology on this one verse, and so they gather genealogies of all men who live on earth. This contradicts the Bible: “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9). While the Bible says avoid focusing on genealogies, the Mormon church makes it their central focus of mission. Mormons have even been criticized for baptizing, by proxy, the Jews who had died in Nazi Holocaust camps. When lists of genealogies are collected, living Mormons are baptized on behalf of those on the lists, who have already died. In this way, Mormons view every man who lived, as being Mormons. In the same way Muslims claim that all men are born Muslims and when they learn the truth of Christianity, they are apostatizing from their first faith. Muslims re-write history by proclaiming Jesus and the Apostles were Muslims in a similar way that Mormons are baptized by proxy for dead Jews (for example) with the expectation they will be Mormons in the next life. Yet gathering of large genealogical lists no more makes dead people Mormons in the next life, than re-writing history makes Jesus into a Muslim.

20. Both the Islam and Mormon religions have those who follow the “original doctrine” of the founding leaders and like these founding leaders, are violent, polygamists, and have revelations from God justifying their evil actions.

21. Both Muslims and Mormons (and Jehovah’s Witnesses) have progressive revelation. JW’s call it “new light.” Muslims call it “Nasikh.” Jehovah’s Witnesses were once instructed to celebrate Christmas, birthdays and salute the flag, but “new light” changed all that. Mormons, like all Muslims, were originally polygamists until “The Manifesto” against polygamy came as a revelation to John Taylor, over 40 years after Smith’s death, on the eve of the US government outlawing the practice of polygamy. New revelation always replaces older revelation that became inconvenient to the prophet.

22. Both require faith in a prophet outside the Bible to go to heaven. The Mormons require faith in Joseph Smith and the Muslims faith that Mohammed was God’s final prophet.

(by The Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.M., Th.D.)

Muslims constantly put down the Christian view of atonement, saying that their god Allah just forgives our sins without atonement, without justice being fulfilled. But if Allah forgives without justice, we have a compromised god, one that forgives based on what? The Muslim view is that forgiveness is based on human works. But how can a finite human satisfy the justice of an infinite God, and if that justice does not need satisfying, why do Muslims say that people go to hell? Is there justice after all?

Moreover, their god is not even a person in any meaningful sense so how could one be reconciled to him/it? Only persons can be reconciled. One is not reconciled to a chair or nondescript being.

One wonderful aspect of the Holy Trinity is that He is three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and one Person (Son) can establish both justice and mercy for us with another Person (the Father, three persons in one being). We can (and do) have a relationship with the Father through the merits of the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Since one man sinned that brought death (Adam), so one Man died to kill sin and bring us life and righteousness (Last Adam, 1 Cor. 15:45, 47). Moreover, the Christian atonement is a free gift, not something we earn, if we could. Here is what the Bible says:

being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:24-26)

Notice the highlighted words. WHOM God the Father set forth, which means a person (Son of God) was offered to a person (God the Father). Our justice and mercy is a Person, the Son of God. PROPITIATION is upholding justice, taking the punishment, which a Person (Son of God) did by voluntarily giving His life’s blood for us. DEMONSTRATE HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, which refers to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God, upholding the Father’s infinite righteousness by dying in our place, taking our judgment. And my favorite statement in the Bible is THAT HE MIGHT BE JUST AND THE JUSTIFIER OF THE ONE WHO HAS FAITH IN JESUS! Christians receive both justice and justification! We receive justice in Jesus, who took our judgment, and we receive justification by faith in Jesus, who imputes to us His justice or justification. At the Cross where Jesus died, mercy and justice kiss one another (Psalm 85:10). We, as sinful persons, are accepted by God through the justice/justification of Jesus, the Lamb of God!

Why do Christians offer other people and other religions peace and love while people like Al Qaeda and ISIS murder everyone? They murder other Muslims, Christians, and all religions different from their brand of Islam. And when I say murder, I mean decapitating people, crucifying Christians, raping and brutally chopping women to pieces, giving Christians one opportunity to convert to Islam or be killed, murdering children, and so on. They continually offer blood atonement to their angry god; and since it does not satisfy, they keep offering it. The only sure way for them to go to heaven is to offer to Allah their own blood in a jihad as a self-atonement while murdering a non-Muslim.

We now have thousands of them doing just that to untold thousands of Christians and other Muslims in Iraq, Syria , against the Jews in the Gaza Strip, whom they vow to “wipe [Israel] off the map,” etc. They are as evil as anyone in history, including the Romans who crucified millions, especially Christians, and the Barbarians. The only difference between them and Hitler is the degree to which they have murdered people, but they are gaining on Hitler. Their approach in kind is the same—kill all Jews and Christians–only the degree of mayhem is less, for now. Is it any wonder they deny the Holocaust: they are repeating it and don’t want the identification.

But know for sure that Muslims believe in atonement; it is just not done by their god but by themselves to a god who only knows how to give commandments, not one who knows how to love. (See my next blog on Islam and the Love of God.)

We become like what we worship, and those Muslims who worship an angry god who only gives commands, become like him/it: full of wrath, judgment, anger, death, and full of commands and demands. Here is what we read of such false religions:

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

Christians offer life, love, and mercy; Muslims offer death, hate, and slaughter, each according to his God. The fruit reveals the root. AMEN.

 

 

 

(by The Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.M., Th.D.)

Once upon a time, there was the great Reformation that formally began under Martin Luther when he nailed up the 95 Theses on the door of a church in Wittenberg, challenging the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church regarding Indulgences. An Indulgence is a work a Christian does to lessen the time he must stay in purgatory to be cleanses of his sins before he can go to heave. The Reformation, practically speaking, began at least 200 years earlier under John Wycliff in the 1300s and Jon Hus in the 1400s, both of whom were declared heretics by Rome. By the time of the Reformation, Wycliff was dead, but they exhumed his bones to undo his Christian burial. Hus, even though Rome gave him safe conduct to and from his meeting, was burned at the stake. So were Anglican scholars Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, and Hugh Latimer in the 1500s.

The title of this article is Doctrine versus Experience, but the word “versus” need not be there. Indeed, Paul—and the Bible in general—do not see a necessary contrast between doctrine and experience, and Paul bases experience on doctrine.

But we must be careful to define these two things. Doctrine is easy enough: it is what Holy Scripture tells us about God, ourselves, the Son of God, sin, and so on. Experience is how we live in light of such unchanging truths. The problem develops when we try to establish doctrine based on our experience, or when we think that doctrine is just spouting off propositions about God with no thought of living for Him or having His joy, peace, love, etc manifested in our lives. Experience without doctrine is heat without light; enthusiasm without knowledge quickly leads one into heresies of all kinds. Doctrine without experience is cold, ineffective, quickly becomes mean spirited, like quoting Greek conjugations just with the idea of getting them over. Once learned and recited, they can be quickly discarded.

We have both kinds of Christians in various denominations, and though I’ll give some examples (from my denomination also, the Reformed Episcopal Church), I do not mean that there are not fine exceptions in each denomination. On the one hand, in Presbyterianism, there can be—and too often are—egg head Christians, those who have knowledge without love. These people love to blast other Christians, demonstrating how much more knowledge they have than other Christians, as if propositions alone meant one knew and loved God. As I grew up, we used to say one could know God with his head but not his heart, and is that not what St. Paul stated?

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Cor. 13:2).

One the one hand, though I’m not charismatic, what are we to think of the experience of millions of charismatics worldwide who claim to be able to heal others and to speak in tongues? Does experience have no place?

On the other hand, in Charismatic circles there is the tendency to derive doctrine from one’s experience. I’ve heard many times, “I know tongues are for today because I have experienced them.” No amount of biblical exegesis would convince Charismatics otherwise. My point is that this is a wrong priority.

Surely, there must be a balance somewhere. As Presbyterian theologian James Henley Thornwell (died 1862) stated:

Truth must be exhibited warm and glowing from the fullness of the Christian heart. It must be not nakedly truth, but truth according to godliness. The writer must know it, because he has been taught by the Spirit and feels its power. This living consciousness of its preciousness and sweetness and glory is absolutely essential to save a system from the imputation of a frozen formalism. Infuse life, and you have a noble organism. (The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell, 1:35)

So what is the point? It is that we must have objective truth based on the unchanging written word, but also truth that moves us, that has the fire of the heart and the Holy Spirit to make us new. It is a shame to hear the word written, confessed, sung, preached, and tasted in communion, and have the people sit like a pile of stones with grim faces, afraid to express any emotion lest they be considered weird. I’d rather be weird for Jesus. But emotion in itself without truth means nothing, and truth without emotion is deal formalism, but at least the latter has the gospel.

I took some postulants to the ministry to a church growth seminar provided by the ACNA (Anglican Church in North America), of which we (Reformed Episcopal Church) are a part. We were supposed to hear about how to do church growth. Instead, we constantly heard “God told me” such, how one pastor followed the leading of the Spirit with subjective feelings and grew a church. What was conspicuous by its absence was anything from God’s written word. Another told us how to receive the Holy Spirit, as if we could be Christians without Him: “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Rom. 8:9). It seems that just using the Bible and common sense is not enough, but we must divine God’s will apart from Holy Scripture. How is one to know that it was God speaking to him and not the pizza one had?

Now consider this experience: I’m not charismatic, but there has been a phenomenon in the last 100 years as noted by several modern church historians. Throughout our planet, there has been a huge movement of charismatics, a movement of the Holy Spirit they would say, a revival of huge proportions.

But consider that what the historians report (Alister McGrath; Christianity’s Dangerous Idea; Philip, The Next Christendom): of the two billion Christians in the world, about half of those are Protestants, and of those more than half are charismatic in some form. They may be distinct, independent churches, various denominations, or within various denominations, and virtually all denominations, such as Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, Baptist, to some extent Eastern Orthodox, and even the Roman Catholic Church, have had charismatic growth. Though we may question some of their “experience” with good doctrine, yet how are we to account for so many coming to know Christ? Of course, we all know that no church is infallible; even Rome does not claim that except for the Pope and that on rare occasions. Is it possible that many can be converted without their doctrine being perfect? I suggest there is no other way any of us are converted to Christ except through imperfect humans with imperfect doctrine.

And what is their origin? We now know they came from everywhere, at the same time, and independent of one another. As modern church historian Alister McGrath has recently stated:

A number of roughly contemporary movements with recognizable shared beliefs and expectations emerged in the first decade of the twentieth century, but without any obvious indication of reciprocal causality.

The picture that is now becoming clear is that a series of local “Pentecostalisms” emerging in the first decade of the twentieth century. The 1906 revival at Azusa Street was one of them. So was the 1903 revival in Pyongyand, Korea; the 1906-7 revival at Pandira Ramabai’s Mukti Mission in Poona India. The Manchurian revival of 1908; the revival in Valparaiso, Chile, in 1909; the revival that broke out in the Ivory Coast, the Gold Coast, and the Liberian Kru in 1914; and other revivals in Norway, China, Venezuela and elsewhere. (Alister McGrath, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, p. 422).

The Pentecostal movement is leading the way south of our border and in Africa. Moreover, there are numerous Muslims who are saying that Jesus has appeared to them, telling them to leave Mohammad and seek out Jesus in some particular church, and they are being converted to Christ. But—and here is the point—they begin to read the Bible, to trust in the Triune God, and to worship with other believers. If one of them came to my church, I would not want to try to talk him out of his vision but to point him to Holy Scripture and to worship.

Were all these movements gospel centered, with the Son of God presented as the center? I don’t know, but we do know that the Holy Spirit exalts Him (John 16:14). Pentecostal or charismatic growth has been explosive the last hundred years, especially the last 50 years (in my lifetime). It is Protestant, holding practically to the Apostles’ Creed, though perhaps they do not say it in their worship services. Of course, there are heresies, such as the “Oneness” movement spawned by charismatics, who deny the Holy Trinity, believing that Jesus is the Father and is the Holy Spirit. In other words, God is role playing, not having three persons but one who manifest Himself as three different persons at various times. But this is a small movement, and Protestantism has had its heresies that it has created before Pentecostalism came along, though Pentecostalism itself is not a heresy. Moreover, the word-faith movement also tends to be heretical, saying either that the Son of God was not God while on earth or at least did not manifest His divine attributes while on earth. They say things like Jesus did his miracles only by the power of the Holy Scripture, not by His own attributes; and since we have the same Holy Spirit, we can do all that He did. Since charismatics are long on experience and short on doctrine, they are easy prey to those who claim to have the same kinds of experiences. I’ve written a book on the word-faith movement: (http://www.footstoolpublications.com/AdPages/Man_as_God.htm).

I repeat that I am not charismatic, and I could never hold to their view of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (my doctrine over their experience), but can we not at least recognize that something most unusual has happened, that millions of people have come to Christ through this movement? God has been striking straight blows with crooked sticks for many centuries. Pentecostalism began all over the world at the same time, with basically the same expressions, and with the same basic gospel? How do we explain that? My view is that their sensationalism is wrong but their gospel emphasis a good one.

Those who reject charismatics based on their doctrine do not seem to understand that what really matters, according to the Church for the past 2,000 years, has been given to us in the three creeds, especially the Nicene Creed, but the Apostles’ Creed and Athanasian Creed also. It is not the claiming of supernatural gifts that makes one heretical (or orthodox) but the denial of the historic Church’s teaching as given in the creeds. I may disagree with someone over speaking in tongues and over the so-called “word of knowledge” they allegedly receive, but that does not mean they are condemned as heretics to suffer in hell forever. Orthodoxy is the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation of the Son of God, His death and resurrection, Ascension, Second Coming, forgiveness of sins, and Church and Sacraments that make up the essence of the Gospel—not tongues.

For me, doctrine is always the foundation for experience, never the reverse. The bottom line for me is to obey Holy Scripture, obey those over me in the Lord (Heb. 13:7, 17), and do what I like. AMEN.

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