When the Good News becomes bad

In When The Good News Becomes Bad, Dr. R. Scott Clark gives an informative overview of the historical and biblical context for properly understanding the Gospel, and especially its distinction from the Law. Explaining the importance of the topic, Dr. Clark writes:

The word “Gospel” is so familiar and frequently used that it is possible to lose sight of its genuine meaning, “good news.” This question is vital as we face a series of movements within our churches which seek to redefine the meaning of the Gospel. In each case we are being offered “another Gospel” (Gal 1:6). The Good News of Christ faces a threat on the order of that faced by the Galatian Christians.

Beth Moore rebukes articulate, discerning young woman; here’s the fascinating email exchange that followed

In her blog post, It’s Hunting Season for Heretics, Beth Moore condescendingly rebuked a young woman, Jessica Lam, for daring to label her a false teacher. Moore then reached out to Jessica, and an email exchange ensued. In making the transcript of the conversation public, Jessica writes:

Here is my brief conversation with Beth Moore, with my husband’s commentary. It breaks my heart that she transforms so quickly from someone who is “here to serve me in every way,” to refusing to answer my last question. Pray for her, pray for her followers, and pray for me and my husband as the spotlight is on us during all of this.

Dustin Germaim has additional commentary over at the Pulpit and Pen blog.

Todd Pruitt weighs-in on Beth Moore’s ‘direct revelation, sloppy exegesis, and squishy ecumenism’, wonders why SBC sells her books

Todd Pruitt, LeadPastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Harrisonburg, VA, is right on the, uh, money.

False teacher Beth Moore objects to being called a false teacher

File this one under, ‘Well she would, wouldn’t she?’

Erin Benz of Do Not Be Surprised… gets to the heart of the problem with Moore in her post, Why Beth Moore and Not Me? The Danger of Claiming to Receive Direct Revelation. Do Not Be Surprised… has extensive additional coverage of Beth Moore, as does Pastor Chris Rosebrough’s Fighting for the Faith programme.

Law and Gospel: Luther’s Small Catechism on the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed

Martin Luther’s Small Catechism demonstrates his pastor’s heart. The sections on the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed are introduced with the exhortation, ‘As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.’

Taking each commandment in turn (according to the Lutheran numbering scheme), Luther explains not only what is forbidden, but also the corresponding positive obligations that are implied (and taught elsewhere in Scripture). In this way, Luther gives a simple explanation of the Moral Law – God’s pattern for how we should order our lives.

By showing us how we ought to live, the Ten Commandments inevitably accuse us, demonstrating as they do how far short we fall of God’s standards. And, as James wrote, ‘whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all’ (James 2:10). The Law thus shows us our sinful, fallen state before a just and holy God. It demonstrates that we are deserving of His eternal condemnation.

Our sin having been revealed by the Law, we realize that we are unable in any way by our actions to earn or merit God’s favour. Apart from Christ, we are ‘by nature children of [God’s] wrath’ (Eph. 2:3). We begin to understand that we need Someone who will take away our sins, Someone whose perfect obedience will be counted as ours, so that we can stand without fear of condemnation before Almighty God. The sternness of the Law, then, makes us ready to hear the Good News of the Saviour whom God Himself has in His love, grace and mercy provided for us – even Jesus, His only begotten Son.

It is therefore no accident that Luther in his Small Catechism places the Apostles’ Creed immediately after the Ten Commandments. The second article of the Creed presents to us the answer to the Law’s demands: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for us.

Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, Jesus lived the life of perfect obedience to the Moral Law that we could not (Gal. 4:4–5). Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate and was crucified, bearing in our place the punishment for our sinful failure to keep the commands of our Creator God. Jesus died and was buried. On the third day, He rose from the dead, that those who are trusting in Him and His righteousness alone might be declared righteous before God. Jesus ascended into Heaven, and now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there, He shall return to judge the living and the dead.

Here then, are the first two sections of Luther’s Small Catechism.

Continue reading Law and Gospel: Luther’s Small Catechism on the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed

Perry Noble issues an apology

Perry Noble of NewSpring has apologised for saying that there is no Hebrew word for ‘commandment’, and also for a Tweet he made.

Noble has notably not apologised for his false claim that God expressly told him to preach the Christmas Eve sermon, nor for the general content of that sermon (which he seems still to be defending). He also gives the appearance of attempting to evade the full measure of his culpability by saying that he unwittingly entered a ‘debate in which godly people are on both sides of the issue’. As has been amply demonstrated, the facts are abundantly clear.

Nevertheless, Noble’s apology is to be welcomed. Also to be welcomed is his acknowledgement that he fully understands and feels ‘the weight of James 3:1 that clearly says that people who teach God’s Word will be judged more strictly’.

Since this apology represents a significant change in tone from his attempt to redirect attention away from the main issue just the day before, James Duncan’s brief pause to see how matters develop would seem to be a good example to follow. Let us continue to pray for Noble’s full repentance.

The Church Growth Movement: innovating like it’s 1894

I was struck by three things while watching the opening minutes of NewSpring’s now infamous Christmas Eve service: first, by the vast effort that had been put into the production; second, by what must have been the incredible expense of the whole enterprise; and third, by the utter irrelevance of the entertainment experience to the faithful proclamation of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins. As a taste, here is the opening set:

For those who cannot (or do not wish to) watch the video, here are the lyrics to the song:

Hang all the misletoe
I’m going to get to know you better
This Christmas
And as we trim the tree
How much fun it’s going to be together
This Christmas

Fireside is blazing bright
And we’re caroling through the night
And this Christmas will be
A very special Christmas for me

Presents and cards are here
My world is filled with cheer and you
This Christmas
And as I look around
Your eyes outshine the town, they do
This Christmas


Try to reconcile this performance with Luke’s account of Christ’s commission to the church:

 Then He [Jesus] said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.

Luke 24:44–48

Christ has tasked His church with preaching repentance and remission of sins in His name to all nations. Nothing less, and nothing more.

It is perhaps a little unfair to single out NewSpring. They would no doubt say that they are being ‘innovative, using modern methods to communicate a timeless message’. In this, NewSpring is merely representative of the Innovation Cult that has subjugated so much of the visible church.

Still, even if one were to grant the premise that ‘innovative’ and ‘modern methods’ may be used, what exactly does a performance of Chris Brown’s This Christmas have to do with the ‘timeless message’ of (one presumes) repentance and the forgiveness of sins? Anyone? It is abundantly clear that NewSpring – and the other churches of the Innovation Cult – are rebelliously off-mission.

Have you noticed how the most self-professedly innovative churches all look just the same? (An unsympathetic observer may be tempted to think that they exhibit rather less innovation than they do slavish imitation.) This uniformity is an inevitable consequence of the seeker-driven method, for in their desire to make themselves attractive to the cultural zeitgeist, these churches conform themselves to the image of the world. The great irony is that they thereby denude themselves of the one thing that the world does not have.

If the leaders of the Church Growth Movement had any sense of church history prior to their own, they would realize that their supposed ‘innovation’ is nothing other than failed 19th century revivalism of the kind repudiated by C.H. Spurgeon in his 1894 sermon, The Lord Leading; David Following:

Oh, what would some preachers do to get the people to hear them at all? Ah, what are they not doing, dear friends? As things now go, I should not wonder at all if we were to have, in some of our places of worship, a part of Mr. Barnum’s show, in order to attract a congregation! We have all kinds of fiddling, and tinkering, and I know not what, going on to get people to come and hear what is called the gospel. “Oh,” said one, “but he brought so many to the place!” Yes, if they had had a clown out of the theatre, he would, no doubt, have brought still more. If that is all that you want – simply to gather a crowd together – it is not so very difficult if you are not squeamish about the means you employ.

But, oh! when God sends the people to hear the gospel and nothing else, and they come and listen to what a man has to say to them about heaven and hell, life and death, the cross of Christ and the way of salvation, that is the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees.

C.H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (vol. 40; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1894), 79–80.

Spurgeon preached repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ. He has his (eternal) legacy. Those whom he was critiquing held their circuses and attracted great crowds, yet now are completely forgotten.

Spurgeon’s insight is that it is no great feat to gather a crowd, if one is willing to use any means. He spoke hyperbolically of P.T. Barnum’s ‘Greatest Show On Earth’, but the Church Growth Movement seems to have missed the joke. It employs pastors of the ‘creative arts’ who transform worship services into entertainment experiences with song-and-dance routines, worthless stunts and assorted other madness. Even children are enticed with sacrilegious novelties such as fire engine baptistries, replete with sirens and confetti cannons.

The Church Growth Movement’s huge numbers are therefore no impressive feat, readily achievable as they are through mere human effort. And, having attracted such crowds through means that appeal to the unregenerate nature, the megachurch leader dares not tell them plainly that their sin condemns them before a just and holy God. He cannot proclaim repentance and remission of sins. He is unable to give the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus. He is utterly constrained in what he may say, for a crowd so easily gathered will just as readily scatter at the foolishness of preaching the cross of Christ.

This is why the doctrine and preaching of the seeker-driven megachurch is necessarily so powerless and pitiful. This is why those churches are full of false converts and starving sheep. The seeker-driven method militates against the message of the Gospel. The two cannot long coexist.

The seeker-driven megachurch – failing to preach Christ to 10,000 people at a time

The entire Church Growth Movement is thus seen to be founded upon a false premise, for the ‘timeless message’ of Christ crucified and raised from the dead may only be communicated through the means that Christ Himself has ordained. And that means is the foolishness of preaching that message.

You cannot entice people to be saved, for they are dead in their sins and – apart from the working of the Holy Spirit – incapable of any move toward God. And the Holy Spirit does not, will not work repentance and faith through an entertainment experience. No, Paul says, ‘faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ’ (Rom. 10:17, ESV). Jesus, then, comes to us only through His Word, Baptism, and Supper.

May God therefore cause us to pray the Lord of the harvest to send out faithful labourers into His harvest – workers who will rightly divide the word of truth, preaching the Law in all its ferocity to frighten comfortable sinners, and the Gospel in all its sweetness to comfort frightened sinners. May the Holy Spirit grant seeker-driven leaders – and we ourselves – to repent and truly believe the words He breathed through Paul:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1 Cor. 1:18–25

Photo credit: The Greatest Show on Earth!, peddhapati.
Video credit: NewSpring. Reproduced for the Fair Use purposes of criticism and comment.

The Gospel for those broken by the church

You need to hear The Gospel for Those Broken by The Church (audio, video, PDF), a masterful presentation by Dr. Rod Rosenbladt of the Good News about Jesus. It is tailored for those who are mad at or sad about Christianity because of their experience with the church.

So, if you are one of the sad or mad ones, this is certainly for you. Or, if you know someone who has been hurt by the church (and you do), this will help you understand their experience and enable you to comfort them with the true Gospel. Perhaps you are a pastor? Listen to understand the confusion of Law and Gospel that too frequently occurs in our churches. Whoever you are – believer or unbeliever – this message is for you.

Dr. Rosenbladt begins:

This evening I want to address a particular problem: What a Christian might be able to say in conversation with people who see themselves as “alumni” of the Christian faith.

And, of course, I am not referring to those who have been translated by death from what Christians call the “church militant” into the “church triumphant!” I mean people we meet or know who say that they once believed that Christ and His shed blood, freely justified them before God, freely forgave their sin, freely gave them eternal life — but who add that they no longer believe these things.

It seems to me that in the four Gospels [roughly, the biographies of Jesus of Jesus authored by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John], virtually every person who rejected Jesus’ claims to be God and Messiah, the Savior of the world, went away either sad or mad.

First, I’m going to try to deal with today’s “sad ones,” the longing, the “having- given-up-on-Christianity” ones. Second, I want to talk a little about the Gospel of Christ for today’s “mad” ones, the angry ones.

Photo credit: Leanda Xavian.

Round-up: responses to Perry Noble on the Ten Commandments

We have already covered Perry Noble’s claim that there is no word in Hebrew for ‘commandment’, and his subsequent doubling-down on that error. However, there have been further rebuttals of Noble’s dangerous false teaching and, since he is lead pastor of NewSpring, the largest church in the Southern Baptist Convention, Nobel’s errors propagate widely. A round-up of the best responses may therefore prove helpful.

Responses to Noble’s original claims:

  1. James DuncanNoble rescinds the Ten Commandments for 2015
  2. Pastor Chris RosebroughJesus Called Them Commandments, Mr. Noble
  3. Pastor Chris RosebroughPerry Noble’s False Hebrew Information (audio, segment discussing Noble starts at 32:50)
  4. Dr. James R. White, director of Alpha and Omega Ministries – Yes, Perry, Hebrew Has Multiple Words that Mean “Command” (video and audio)

Further discussion, and responses to Noble’s subsequent spin and obfuscation:

  1. James DuncanNoble departs Christian orthodoxy, announces he’s staying put
  2. Pastor Chris RosebroughPerry Noble’s Explanation (audio, segment discussing Noble starts at 45:15)
  3. Pastor Kevin Boling, host of the Knowing the Truth radio programme, interviews James Duncan – Perry Noble’s Problem with God (audio)
  4. Janet Mefferd interviews James Duncan – Janet Mefferd Radio Show (audio)

Photo credit: Detail from Moses Smashing the Tablets of the Law, Rembrandt, 1659.

Is efficiency a virtue in the church?

The monarchial government of many seeker-driven churches is certainly efficient. When a leader is supported by a board of subordinates whom he has appointed, and can just as easily remove, he is well placed to Get Things Done. Nevertheless, is efficiency a virtue in the church?

In a reflective, thought-provoking piece entitled Is Efficiency A Virtue In The Church?, Dr. R. Scott Clark suggests that a desire for efficiency can militate against the very means of grace through which the Holy Spirit works in Christ’s church. Here is an extract:

It’s not obvious from Scripture that our Lord is much interested in efficiency. He established an institution (the visible church) to which he gave the keys of the kingdom (Matt 16) and slow, even cumbersome system of church discipline (Matt 18) that, in execution, may take a long time to work out. My argument is that was intentional because the church is populated by sinners who, in an “efficient” system would be more apt to use the church not to love and serve one another but to hurt them. There are benefits to efficiency in business. A product that is produced more efficiently is probably going to be less expensive and more affordable for a greater number of people and government is rarely efficient and that wastes tax dollars and sometimes even human lives. Nevertheless, one of the calling cards of twentieth-century totalitarianism is that it was efficient, that it made the trains run on time. That experiment did not end well.

Loving people, caring for them takes time. People are sinful and sin results in brokenness and restoring (e.g., in church discipline) them takes time. The preaching of the Word and administration of the sacraments takes time. In the ordinary providence people might have to hear essentially the same message 10 times before it sinks in. The Spirit works when he and where he pleases. Ministry is much more like farming than it is like factory work. Perhaps that’s why Scripture tends toward agrarian metaphors of planting and harvesting.

I also think I understand the attraction of efficiency and church-growth thinking. It’s a subtle form of rationalism. Ministry, after all, is a mystery. Why does that one, who seemed to show so much enthusiasm and so much fruit suddenly apostatize and how is that the other one, who never seemed to “get it,” who was late for church, who was never going to be a leader in the church, turn out, on his death bed to have been a fundamentally faithful, grace-filled believer? That’s a mystery. There’s no way to fix or speed up the work of the Spirit through the Word and sacraments. So, when so someone comes along with a slick plan that seems to make ministry that much more “rational” (that was a buzzword in government and business in the first half of the 20th century) it’s hard to resist. It’s something that elders, who might also be businessmen can understand and support. It seems to build bridges but it also, subtly perhaps, puts us just a little bit more in control of church and ministry and tends to marginalize the Word, sacraments, and Spirit (were that possible).

Photo credit: Ryan McGuire.

Perry Noble of NewSpring doubles-down on Ten Commandments error

James Duncan continues his excellent coverage of Noble’s rookie error on the Ten Commandments.

Here’s some good advice for Noble: when you make a mistake in the pulpit, repent and put it right. The shed blood of Christ is sufficient to atone even for such sins. When you instead spin, obfuscate and attack your critics, you demonstrate that you do not love the Truth.

The seeker-driven megachurch leadership model

The church growth movement’s leadership model is not that of the Chief Executive Officer, but the absolute monarch. CEOs report to a board of directors who, in the case of a public company, are themselves accountable to shareholders. Self-appointed, vision-casting megachurch leaders refuse to hear godly criticism and are truly accountable to no one. Forsaking the faith and practice of the historic, orthodox Christian Church, they impose the vain imaginings of their own hearts upon flocks starving for the Bread of Life.

And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy out of their own heart, ‘Hear the word of the LORD!’”

Thus says the Lord GOD: “Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! O Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts. You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle on the day of the LORD. They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD!’ But the LORD has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed. Have you not seen a futile vision, and have you not spoken false divination? You say, ‘The LORD says,’ but I have not spoken.”

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you have spoken nonsense and envisioned lies, therefore I am indeed against you,” says the Lord GOD. “My hand will be against the prophets who envision futility and who divine lies; they shall not be in the assembly of My people, nor be written in the record of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord GOD.

Ezekiel 13:1–9

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

1 Peter 5:1–4

But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:42–45

Photo credit: Henry VIII and the Barber Surgeons, Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1543.

A (very gentle) introduction to creeds, councils, and heretics

While on the topic of evangelical amnesia, the White Horse Inn offers by way of antidote a very gentle 35 minute audio introduction to Creeds, Councils & Heretics. Programme notes are also provided.

On the reading of old books (and creeds and confessions)

Speaking of C.S. Lewis, although his theology was in places deeply problematic, he was nevertheless quite brilliant. His essay, On the Reading of Old Books, would, if taken to heart by western believers, do much to counter the church growth Innovation Cult that blights so much of today’s visible church.

Originally written as an introduction to an English translation of Athanasius’ On the Incarnation, Lewis’ short essay has been much reproduced. It is worth your time, and you can read it here.

Evangelical amnesia

Robert Tracy McKenzie, professor and chair of the Department of History at Wheaton College, writing in his review of Mark Noll’s From Every Tribe and Nation: A Historian’s Discovery of the Global Christian Story:

So by what path did God lead him [Noll] to a deeper, more vital faith? To quote a famous essay by C. S. Lewis, it was through “the reading of old books.” American evangelicals, like modern Americans generally, are “stranded in the present,” to quote a haunting phrase by Christian historian Margaret Bendroth. … We cut ourselves off from the vast majority of all the Christians who have ever lived, implicitly assuming that we have nothing to learn from those who have gone before us. You can see this “chronological snobbery” on display in almost any commercial Christian bookstore. The shelves will bulge with the latest hastily written book from the pulpit celebrity of the moment, but good luck finding anything dating to the first nineteen centuries of Christian history.

Danger comes with such tunnel vision. As Lewis understood, contemporary books mainly reinforce what we will already believe—including what we wrongly believe. They cast light where we already see and deepen the darkness where we are unwittingly blind. The only antidote, Lewis maintained, “is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.”

The Josh Alcorn suicide: thinking from a Christian worldview

In a forthright episode of the The Dividing Line that is certain to upset those who prioritize tone over truth, Dr. James R. White, director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, offers a biblical perspective on Josh Alcorn’s recent suicide. Dr. White writes:

The hatred being heaped upon his parents, the abuse the young man suffered at the hands of the LGBT “community” itself that encouraged his self-destructive thinking, and the sinfulness of Josh’ own attitudes and actions, must be examined. If Christians continue to imbibe the spirit of the age and refuse to call men to a higher standard, one based upon their true nature as creatures made by God’s hand in God’s image, we will be guilty of encouraging more and more Josh Alcorn’s, and the destruction of more lives.

TBN to launch free-to-air terrestrial broadcast channel in UK

The Trinity Broadcasting Network – purveyor of false prosperity gospel pedlars such as T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn – is to launch its UK-wide terrestrial broadcast channel on 5 January 2015.

According to TBN’s announcement, the new channel will be available to ‘95 percent of the television households across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland’.

Take Heed Ministries offers further comment (PDF), calling the launch ‘a bad day for the Gospel’.

Perry Noble of NewSpring Church rescinds the Ten Commandments

James Duncan demonstrates that Perry Noble is unqualified for the pastoral office.

Pastor Chris Rosebrough has also reviewed Noble’s erroneous understanding of Hebrew.

Round-up: responses to Kurt Eichenwald’s Newsweek article, ‘The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin’

Several cogent responses were provoked by Newsweek and Kurt Eichenwald’s ignorant Christmas polemic against the Bible and historic Christianity. Here are the best:

  • Dr. Michael J. Kruger, President and Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC, wrote a two part rebuttal on his blog: part 1, part 2.
  • Dr. James R. White, director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, devoted two episodes of his Dividing Line programme to refuting Eichenwald’s piece: part 1, part 2.
  • Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a blog post.
  • Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, also authored a post.