Thursday, November 28, 2013

False.  The bible is full, from beginning to end, of warnings and stories of the false.  False prophets, false teachers, false Christs, false apostles, false leaders, false doctrine, false teachings, false beliefs, false spirits, false believers.

In the Old Testament, God warns of false prophets, and not only that, but gives his people a test they can use to determine if a prophet is false.  False prophets are predicted many times.  In the New Testament, Jesus warns of the leaven of the Pharisees' teachings, their false humility, and pretty near curses them to their faces.  He warns of false prophets and false Christs to come, that they will come deceiving, and bringing amazing signs and wonders to lead many astray.  He warns of blind leaders of the blind.  He warns even of a false disciple in his own midst, one that will turn the very Son of God over to a death sentence.  The apostles warn of false prophets, false teachers, wolves in sheep's clothing.  Paul warns the elders at Ephesus that ravenous wolves will arise from their very own group of men.  John warns us to not believe every spirit, but to test the spirits.  Jesus commends a church in the book of Revelation for proving that self-proclaiming apostles are false.

Not only are there numerous warnings in the bible about those who are false, there are numerous mentions as to what these false people will do and how they will do it.  We are also told many times what to look for to determine if somebody is false.  These are dire warnings, given with the most extreme urgency and listing the most horrible consequences.  And to finish this, we are not only told about other people being false, we are given lists of sins that we can be tempted with that will take us down the same path.

If you ask me, this is a pretty amazing thing about the bible.  Think about it, and see if you don't agree.  If you question this, consider the following.

What other human group, organization or philosophy - no matter how good the cause may seem - takes such pains to warn others of false deceivers that will arise from within its own system?  Do political parties to this?  Do the Republicans and Democrats warn the public, saying, "hey, future candidates and office holders from our party will take illegal campaign contributions, have affairs with interns, be involved in scandals, take bribes and tell lies, and here are all the signs to tell if they are doing these things"?  Whaaa, heck, no!  Are you kidding?  How about groups that are opposed to, let's say, sexual harassment?  Are these groups going to inform the masses that there are false victims out there that will make up false stories to falsely incriminate somebody to further the cause based on false pretenses, and here are all the signs to look out for in case somebody does?  Again, are you kidding?  How about the police?  They warn all the time about what criminals do and what to watch out for, and they occasionally warn about what to look for when somebody is impersonating a police officer, but do they ever warn about rogue cops and bad apples and corruption from within the department and how to discern?  I can't remember this ever happening.

The bizarre thing is that when there is a big name within Christianity that is proven to be a scam artist, child molester or any other false professor of the faith caught in some huge scandal, or some seemingly innocent group turns out to act like some cult, people act like they're surprised.  People take it as reason to blaspheme God, to claim the bible and its teachings are false, to slander good Christians, to dismiss the whole of religion.  Why would the bible be false because of such things?  The bible predicted it, after all.  We've all been warned.  And it's not like all of Christianity is sweeping all of these things under the rug like other organizations often do.  True, there are cover ups and hiding facts and things like these (which is all part of the false), and there have been large scandals throughout history, but there are also numerous organizations and many more individuals that spend large amounts of time to investigate, uncover and expose the false teachers and such.  The bible even tells believers to expose these things.  Historians point out such things from the past and Christian publications document things happening right now.

Heeding the warnings and avoiding the pitfalls will go a long way to keep from being false.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Strange Fire Misfire

The "Strange Fire" conference held by John MacArthur and friends has caused quite a stir in Protestant circles.  But what is somebody like me supposed to make of all this?  Here it is.

John MacArthur is a cessationist, believing the gifts believed in by the charismatic movement have ceased.  I used to be a cessationist.  I was a cessationist, mainly, because I attended cessationist churches with cessationist leaders and listened to teachers that were cessationists.  The only arguments to the contrary were from continuationists - those who believed that the gifts in question continue to this present day.  Their arguments were mostly brought by the cessationists in order to show how they were wrong.  So, I had a biased view of the issues.

I'm not a cessationist

I stopped being a cessationist when I stopped listening to cessationist arguments and the proof texts they used.  I found that I could not support their arguments from the bible alone.  Their arguments were largely logical conclusions that they reached.  The foremost is the closure of canon.  The gifts of tongues and prophesy were used by God as new revelation because the bible wasn't complete yet.  The New Testament was still a work in progress.  Once the bible was complete, God stopped bringing new revelation because the bible is our final authority.  With the bible complete, we no longer need revelation.

But where does the bible say that all use of tongues and prophesy necessarily introduces new revelation not previously available to God's people?  If prophesy is declaring the word of the Lord, it certainly can include declaring an already existing part of scripture but simply applying it to a given situation.  Same with tongues.  Tongues were speaking to somebody who spoke a different language, but the hearer heard your words in his language.  Why does that necessarily mean new revelation?  In Acts, on the day of Pentecost, those who were speaking in tongues were simply "speaking the mighty deeds of God." Acts 2:11.  Additionally, Paul says in Corinthians that tongues shall cease.  But he doesn't say when.  So, I don't buy the arguments for a cessationist viewpoint.

I'm not a continuationist

But neither am I a continuationist.  By that I mean that I don't believe that these gifts are a normative thing for all believers in all ages.  I reject the idea that all true believers must speak in tongues or prophesy, and I also reject the idea that tongues are a second blessing that come at a later time than conversion.  One is baptised at conversion, then a second "baptism in the Holy Spirit" gives one extra gifts.  I don't believe this, and the arguments of the continuationists are the same as the arguments of the cessationists; logical conclusions based on their own interpretations.

I'm neither

I'm neither a cessationist nor a continuationist.  I hear of Acts-like conversion stories for Muslim converts in the Middle East.  I've heard of people claiming to speak in tongues.  But for me, experientially, I've never heard anybody speak in tongues, and I've never had anybody directly tell me they speak in tongues.  And I attended a Pentecostal church for two and a half years!  I'm open to God being God and using what He wants when He wills.  I don't have these gifts, but what if others legitimately do?  I can't prove they don't, and I can't prove they do.

But I can question the extremes on both ends, legitimately.