Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dave Miller's book

Dave Miller's book, Richland Hills and Instrumental Music: A Plea to Reconsider, deserves a fair hearing by anyone who would like to think through this issue.

Dave is a good friend, a careful student, and well-qualified to deal with this discussion. Thanks to Paul Sain and the brethren at Pulaski, thousands of copies have been distributed quite widely. They need to be.

Miller's handling of the disciples teaching in the Temple is worth the price of the book.

We are to buy the truth, and truth is not always cheap. It is easy for people to accommodate the popular in our culture and not ask the harder question: what does God will? You see, it costs to do what is right rather than what is popular.

Go to to find out more about Dave. Books will available quite widely.

With thanks to Dave Miller,

Saturday, October 20, 2007

When People Say No to Christianity

For some years I have spent considerable time looking at the culture and society around us. Occasionally I find a book of rare value to this study. The one I am suggesting to you today is just such a book. David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, in association with George Barna, have given us an eye-opening volume, worthy of reading more than once. The book is titled "UnChristian." That is what outsiders think of Christianity.

They perceive that Christians are hypocritical, too consumed with converting, too judgmental, sheltered, and anti-homosexual. Their perception comes from the baggage they carry after they had attended church for a while. They are skeptical and bored with Christianity. They believe that the Christianity they have seen is both shallow and unbelievable.

They regard Christianity as too much of an enterprise. Too many "feel good" things to make a lasting change in one's mindset and life. They have little regard for Christ when they make life-decisions, even though they believe religion (Christianity being just like all religions) has good teaching and values. There is much to learn from their perceptions, if we are intending to help them find a meaningful relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Any Boomer evangelist struggles with how to reach a postmodern generation (ages 16-29) that has a mindset far different from the one we learned. God no longer has a serious voice today, since many people are listening to their inner feelings as to what "feels right" to them.

One of the reasons logic doesn't work well today is that young adults are mosaic in their thinking rather than linear. The live in a contradictory world with multiple voices and feel the need to give attention to a bigger picture than mere Christianity.

The parable of the soils (Luke 8) has never been more true than it is today. For many the seed is already stolen. Others pass through Christianity till it demand something from them. Still others are too busy with life to give their faith the attention it deserves. They don't produce much.

I have taught the course in Church Growth at NSOP and will always be interested in the literature in this field. This book should be required reading.

Now, for the folks who have all the answers, help us all to discover how to approach the outsiders aged 16-29! If you have positive suggestions, please share them. If you are only wanting to slap the church, then re-write your post. I do not mind honest criticism, but I have little patience in people who only want to slap. The question is how to do we make things better. I have not seen any evidence at this point that imitating the enterprise denominations or community churches is working. Many of the back door outsiders went to churches like that.

let's think together,


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Does Jesus Care about Doctrine?

Recently, a post on another blog read:
I don’t fully comprehend your emphasis on doctrine. Jesus never placed doctrine at the center of his good news. If anything he marginalized notions of doctrine (e.g., the sabbath is made for man). Thus, IMHO, I think any talk about doctrine (as typically conceived in our fellowship) as a central concern is a grave error. Wrong right out of the gate. If Jesus is our hermeneutic then doctrinal conversation should always be a marginal conversation. The early church was called The Way. Not a way of believing but a way of living. To miss that point is to, well, miss the entire thrust of Jesus’s life. Again, in my opinion.

This is such a good example of postmodern thinking. It makes Jesus into our own image rather than listening to what Jesus said. Consider how important Jesus considered his sayings, teachings, or doctrine:

Matthew 7:21-23 Hearing but not doing my words is like building on sand. The one who enters the kingdom of heaven is the one who does the will of God.

Matthew 10:14 “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet."

Matthew 15:1-14 The teachings of men render worship vain. Every plant (human tradition) not planted by my Father will be rooted up.

Mark 8:36-38 “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37“For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Mark 13:31 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away."

John 8:31-32 “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

John 12:48-50
“He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. 49“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 50“I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”

John 17:17ff.

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19“For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

20“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

John 18:37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

This is a simple and hardly exhaustive sample of the high place Jesus placed upon his words or his teaching. Jesus placed His words in a critical role. We are commissioned to preach and teach the gospel (a message). Whether people believe that message will determine their relationship with the Lord and affect their eternity.

It is "sand theology" to treat the teaching of the Lord as if it doesn't matter.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A common sentiment, but....

A fellow blogger says:

"My dear friends, if the use of instrumental music will send a Christ-follower to hell, then we're all going to hell. Over something. We're all wrong about something!!"

Through the years, I've noticed that when someone disagrees, one trick they use to try to make the opposition look bad is a statement about "going to hell." Judgment does not belong to us; it belongs to God. We are not in the place of God (Gen. 50:19), even when we deal with the guilty.

It is a smoke screen to pull out the "going-to-hell" complaint. One could just as easily apply this common complaint to any number of subjects. I remember hearing the same complaint from any number of people who objected to the Biblical teaching on the church, baptism, or various moral questions. Such statements are designed to make the person who is saying something is sinful to appear judgmental and thereby hypocritical.

Another complaint I've heard is the "Jesus didn't die over....." whine. Any time I hear that one, I know the person is stinging over the matter and has no other answer.

A more realistic understanding of the instrumental music issue or any issue is this: does such a belief, behavior, or practice violate an instruction of God? We must determine first whether something is a sin. If indeed the matter violates the instructions of God and is thereby sinful, then it can potentially be a salvation issue. Any sin can be a salvation issue.

That we are all imperfect, having imperfect knowledge and living imperfect lives, is not under question. What is under question is if ignorance is a license to self-made religion. Are we to assume that we can (because the water is presumably muddy) act on our own initiative? Do we really think that ignorance grants us the right to presume upon the grace of God?

Now I can perceive a novice or babe in Christ being judged less strictly. The disobedient who did not know the master's will will be beaten with few stripes rather than many. What of the church leaders who, departing from a unified view, presume to embrace out of a supposed uncertainty the right to self-made religion? Will not teachers incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1)? Will not leaders who grant permission to go beyond the instructions of Scripture be held accountable? Can people plead endlessly they lack certainty (all the while acting without evidence from the New Testament)? Do people never have to repent of self-made religion? Can they knowingly continue to practice their presumptuous ways?

Paul said, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).

One must wonder if God's will is so hard to understand that a passage like Ephesians 5:15-17 is itself impractical and impossible. Do we believe we can obey it? "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." You'd think to hear some talk that we can't understand anything. To hear some talk, there is no such thing as damnable heresy. To hear some talk, we should never admonish the factious (a divisive heretic) man. To hear some talk, self-made religion is as salvific as the revealed will of God.

In the end, the "going-to-hell" argument is designed to hush up the Truth, to bully away anyone who reminds us of right and wrong. When people can't find evidence to support an unauthorized practice, they resort to complaint and fault-finding. The point of the complaint at the top of this post is to make it appear that anyone who thinks instrumental music is wrong is arrogant and judgmental. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is said, "we are all wrong about something." There is a difference between being mistaken through human weakness and in willfully driving a wedge in the body of Christ by pushing a divisive practice and making fun of anyone who disagrees.

Well, Phil, do you think you know everything or that you are always right? Of course not, I am a fallible sinner saved by the grace of God, dependent upon His mercy for salvation. I understand what it means to be saved, since I cannot save myself. But in all my weakness, I do not suppose that I can presume upon the grace and never need repentance.

The blood of Jesus can certainly cleanse those who walk in the light. Walking in the light is not sinlessness, because no one is capable of sinless perfection. But people can fool themselves, thinking they are in the light, when they are not (1 John 1:6). Sand theology does not yield the same results as rock theology (Matt. 7:21-27). Sand theology is when people build where they want rather than heed the words of Jesus. Self-made religion and innovations are sand theology. Those who plant their own plants will find themselves uprooted (Matt. 15:14). That's what Jesus says about it. That is how He feels about such things. I take that view because He has expressed His will in the matter.

think, think


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Myopic Judgmentalism

We live in a strange age that hates any kind of negativism or judgmentalism. That's the real taboo of our day--saying anything negative about anyone. If anyone says something is wrong or sinful, he opens himself up to all kinds of attacks, slander, and abuse. And there are plenty of judgmental people ready to pounce on the person who dares to be judgmental. It escapes their notice that they are doing the very thing they condemn (Rom. 2:1-3). Their thought is: "it's all right for me to condemn you for condemning someone or something, but don't you condemn anything or anyone." These folks become judges of judging-- or what they perceive to be judging.

You see their definition and perception of a judge is often out of line with God's will. To listen to them speak of the grace of God, there is no such thing as sin or heresy. Now should anyone bring up the fact that God says something is wrong, and POW! this person (in their mind) is "judgmental" and deserves to be attacked, abused, and slandered.

But what if he out of love toward God and neighbor is right and obligated to warn another that such an act or belief displeases God and is sinful. Is it judging to warn? Does the Christian have no obligation to warn of the consequences of sin? (Rom. 1:14-16; Ezek. 3:18ff.)

Why then, do people today punish the person for doing the will of God? The myopia (short-sightedness) of our culture is its bullying against Christian morals. It does not realize how morality is needed today. To bully people who mention something is sin is to take up the cause of sin against God.

You can't mess with God like that. When you tell Him to shut up and bully those who speak for Him, you end up having to face Him. He will step into the picture. You don't want that. God is loving, but He won't take being ignored or dismissed for long. Failing to listen to God is neither full of love or grace. When people dump God's teaching for their own desires, they are dumping the only hope they have. They are insuring their lives will be more and more filled with fear and misery. Amorality is no blessing.

Myopic judging is when people give themselves the freedom to beat up on anyone who warns people to follow God's will and leave sinful practices. They do not see their own sin.

Think, think, think

Friday, October 05, 2007

Seeking true unity--assessment of a review

Bobby Valentine recently reviewed my chapter in Seeking True Unity. Here is my response to his review:

I appreciate Bobby. He cares about the Lord and His church. I told Bobby in the beginning I felt that he was not an unbiased jury member but rather a witness or advocate for the defense. Reading his response to my chapter confirms that.

Some important points:

  1. Being a member of the church and being in fellowship with God are two different things. One may by error lose fellowship with the Lord and His church and one’s salvation.
  2. One who willfully and persistently adds to the teaching of God and leads other men to do so has sinned against God and cannot remain in the fellowship of faithful Christians.
  3. When McGarvey left the Broadway congregation in Lexington, he did not leave because he no longer considered them brethren. He left because they introduced an error, which he could not participate in or approve or fellowship. When H. Leo Boles spoke in Indianapolis in 1939, he did not speak from hate or treat those in the Christian Church as anything but brethren. He used the words “brother” and “brethren” throughout the speech. Like McGarvey, he could not fellowship “brethren,” because they had left the truth and needed to come back to the truth.
  4. When people leave the Word to practice unauthorized forms of worship, they separate themselves from the will of God. They may think they are disciples, but they are not truly disciples (John 8:31). When people go beyond the teaching of Christ, whether on the subject of Christ’s nature, or a host of other essential topics, they lose their relationship with God (2 John 9-11) and are not to be welcomed or supported.
  5. When men venture into the practice and teaching of error, they leave God. They divide themselves from God. They cannot have unity with God unless and until they repent and leave their error. The Restoration leaders pledged to leave the errors of men and to return to the truth. In Revelation 2:18-25, Jesus distinguished between those who held to the teaching of Jezebel and those who did not. He rebuked them for tolerating that woman and her teaching. The church at Pergamum also held false teachings and practices. Jesus threatened them and called them to return to Him. Repentance is returning to the Lord by ridding ourselves of error and practicing the truth.
  6. The unity God desires from His people is not a loose confederation of people who ignore their errors. The unity of the body of Christ is to follow after the model of the unity between the Father and the Son. Can you imagine the Son following after his own initiative? Can you imagine the Son not following the instructions of His Father? Jesus’ very identity as the Son arose out of His dogged and exact devotion to the will of His Father (John 8:28-32; 12:48-50; 14:31). In like manner, our identity with Christ arises from our remaining, continuing, and dwelling within the words Jesus spoke. When people cease to hear God’s will, they cease to have an approved relationship with the Lord (James 5:19-20).
  7. Faithful Christians must shun those who teach false doctrine and adopt humanly-devised practices that split the church (Rom. 16:17-18; Tit. 3:9-11).
  8. Just because people claim to be Christians does not mean they have a positive relationship with Christ (Matt. 7:21-27). Men do not get into heaven by inventing their own means and doing things their own way—that is “Sand Theology.” Campbell and others required immersion because sprinkling is not baptism. They required faith before baptism, because the Bible does. Unlike Woodmont and Oak Hills, which grants brotherhood and gives fellowship to sprinkled infants, the Bible only recognizes one baptism—that of a penitent believer who understands what and why he is being baptized. One may believe he is right with God and even argue with Christ at judgment, but that does not make him right.
  9. Unity is possible only when people serve and obey the same Lord. If they hear voices in addition, they will be hybrid Christians not true disciples. If they practice what the world clamors for, they will be children of their age not true Christians.
  10. In John 17, Jesus prayed for His people to be sanctified in the truth (God’s word which He gave them) before He prays for them to be one. Jesus’ prayer for unity was not a prayer for the unifying of truth with culture but for keeping the disciples already taught and sanctified in the truth unified. The idea that we are supposed to drop truth and righteousness to accommodate error was never in the intent of this prayer.
  11. I do not plead for narrowness on our part as if we good make one hair white or black. I plead for devotion to the narrow way of Jesus. I have no misgivings about my own emptiness. I realize that only Jesus has the way, the truth, or the life. When I hear people (who ought to know better) recommend that we loosen up to the false practices and beliefs of those who teach another gospel, another body, and another baptism, I do not see that as restoration. I see that as compromise and rebellion. One wonders if Bobby read the Kelcy quote on page 18. I have only one Lord. I was not baptized in the name of Campbell, and Lipscomb was not crucified for me.
  12. As to inferences, Campbell must have inferred Proposition 6 of his Declaration and Address. Campbell infers and binds that you must not infer and bind. What right has he or any other man to say that some which is God’s truth is not to be bound on anyone? Now Bobby here calls me sectarian for my thinking about thinking. It is quite postmodern to put down thinking, unless you are the supporting a postmodern agenda. (“thinking correctness”) If you agree with him (that Campbell is right to infer and bind that you should not infer and bind), it’s all right to think; but the person who reasons from the evidence of Scripture by inferring what the Scriptures imply is sectarian and narrow.
  13. My assignment was not to prove instrumental music was wrong. My assignment was to discuss the restoration plea: the need to come out of error and to return to God’s word for our beliefs and practices.
  14. My reference to 1 Timothy 4, 2 Timothy 4, and 2 Peter 2 (et. al.) on page 18 had to do with the early church and its fall into error. Restoration has to do with that which has been corrupted. To suggest a different context shows weakness in your skills, Bobby.
  15. Did Paul fellowship those in error? Yes, for a time. He taught and admonished them, expecting them to repent. In the cases where false teachers did not repent or were harming the church, Paul disfellowshiped them (Rom. 16:17; Titus 3:10-11). Do you not recall Hymenaeus and Alexander and Philetus (1 Tim. 1:19-20; 2 Tim. 2:17-18)? Jesus did not put up with Jezebel or the Nicolaitans; and he rebuked the churches for doing so.
  16. I realize the immaturities and weaknesses at Corinth, but do you recall 2 Corinthians 13:1-4? Paul expects to spare no one who sins (neither the immoral nor the rest). Yes, God can forgive a weakness; but to suggest something other than “go and sin no more” is presuming upon the grace of God. Paul could overlook their error due to their immaturity, but he does not tolerate continued error or disobedience. There is an end to patience with error in Paul, and just because he is patient early on does not mean he will remain so.
  17. Bobby, I think makes more of the dish illustration than is warranted. I was illustrating a meaning of the word “restoration” in the physical sense.
  18. I highly resent the suggestion that I have bound my “opinions” as a test of fellowship. The fact the early church sang is clear in Scripture. The fact that we are to remain in the words of Jesus and not add or subtract to them is also clear in Scripture; both facts are evident. Atchley must make the water muddy to give his opinion guess (we can use IM) credibility. He believes in his guess so strongly that he is willing to split the church further to practice it. We were unified before he pushed his guess (an opinion is a guess in the absence of evidence) to the making of conflict. Now, who is binding opinion—the fellow who guesses or the fellow who sees evidence?
  19. Did Paul use his worship as a Jew in the Temple as a basis for bringing the instrument into the church? Did Paul worship in the church with an instrument? Paul understood the difference in covenants, that what was appropriate in one was not appropriate in the other. Did Paul offer animal sacrifices at church? Ridiculous.

Phil Sanders

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Problem of Patternism

For some patternism is a problem. We must wonder why...

The earth travels around the sun in a pattern. The moon travels around the earth in a pattern. Day and night, the seasons, seedtime and harvest, and the seven days of a week all happen in a pattern.

Every one of the trillions of cells in my body has a specific DNA pattern. My teeth, fingerprints, retina, bones, and muscles follow patterns. I remain amazed at my fearfully and wonderfully made body with its respiratory, circulatory, nervous, reproductive, and digestive systems. I thank God for my skin with its nerves that measure heat and pressure. I thank God for my balanced eyes and ears and nostrils. My brain (and yours) is the single most complex structure in the world with connectors between its billions of cells. Amazing.

In my yard I have oak, elm, maple, apple, and redwood trees. Did you know that every leaf on each of the trees has an identical vein pattern with every other leaf?

God's creation is full or order, design, and pattern. Everything God ever made, He made with intention. Everything is by His design and functions according to His will and glory. It is incredulous to me that some are suggesting there is a pattern in everything God ever made except God's family, God's kingdom, God's vineyard, Christ's body, the church.

Rigid patternism is to some heresy, legalism to the extreme. They prefer to speak of the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, as a nebulous, undefined organism made without order and capable of re-design in the re-maker's image. In their thinking it is a piece of clay that never quite takes form.

While the New Testament never debates baptism, the progressive non-patternists believe that any mode of baptism can be straightened out by a little prayer. While the disciples of the New Testament only baptized those old enough to believe, progressive non-patternists see little reason to disturb the peace of those baptized as infants. While the New Testament speaks of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine in remembrance of Jesus, progressive non-patternists feel no need to limit this memorial meal to bread and wine. While women in the New Testament did not assume preaching or leadership roles, progressive non-patternists see little need to remain within that culture. (Perhaps Eve came first?)

You see, rigid patternism means that we may have to confront our religious friends who didn't follow that pattern and ask them to correct an error. For the progressive non-patternist, it is much easier to ignore the Scripture and assure the person in error of God's grace anyway. After all, getting along and not offending is more important than anything--God won't mind... Or will He?

Are we not supposed to remain in the Lord's Word to be true disciples? (John 8:31-32)
Are we not supposed to handle God's Word accurately? (2 Tim. 2:15)
Is there not one faith handed down for all time? (Jude 3)
Is there not one body, one gospel, one baptism, and one faith? (Eph. 4:4-6; Gal. 1:6-9)

Am I not supposed to love the Lord enough to keep His commandments? Am I not supposed to avoid conforming with the world? If there are no patterns, how can I know anything?

Non-patternism is fuzzy thinking, muddy water, and self-contradictory. It doesn't represent the truth, because it is too busy chasing the changing cultural with all its relative truths.

Isn't the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus a pattern? (Rom. 6:3-7, 16-18)

think, think