Monday, November 27, 2006

A Sin is a Sin. Or is It?

Lying, Cheating, Adultery, Murder. Are they all equal? Is one sin worse than another? or are all sins equally offensive to God?

This post is for all you theologues, especially the non-conflicting and graded absolutists.

Have fun:)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Holiness Convergence:)

Not long ago I spoke at the Joshua Convergence on Holiness. While some got carried away with the symptoms I spoke of rather than the substance, the following is the rationale behind my comments (both the symptoms and the substance).


There appears to be a growing void both in the understanding and the praxis of holiness.

I have been appalled with the freedom that many Christians are assuming in Christ. While it is true that we have been set free from sin and the law, it is also true that we have been set free to serve Christ. We are not our own…we have been bought with a price.

The misunderstanding and thus the absence of holiness is exemplified in the way Christians dress. I am shocked by what I see “Christians” wearing (or rather not wearing). I am even more shocked that others are not shocked. Dress “morals” have been so lowered that they seem almost non-existent. As Mrs. Mary Mohler states, “Christians are wise to remember that modesty is biblically mandated” (“Modeling Modesty,” in Southern Seminary Magazine, Winter 2003, 17). A standard of modesty is desperately needed in our age of “openness.”

The “holiness void” was also on display this summer at the SBC when pastors apparently felt the need to lecture those of us who believe the Bible teaches abstinence from alcoholic drink, about our “extra-biblical” position.

In a comment section on a SBC blog, a pastor went so far as to say, “One of my deacon candidates makes a mean margarita. And it's not an issue. By the way, since we lifted that clause from our constitution and bylaws, our church visitation ministry has taken off, and people in our church are more excited than ever about reaching the lost.” Such statements can only be categorized as sad…truly sad.

While the loosening of morals in the areas of dress and drinking are very disconcerting, they are symptoms of a larger problem.

Millard Erickson (Christian Theology, 1985, p968) states that biblical holiness refers to:
1. A state of being separated or set apart to the Lord
2. Moral Goodness

In other words holiness has to do with our position in Christ, which finds its outward expression in the way we live. Being Holy entails being set apart FROM this world and being set apart TO Christ. This setting apart is demonstrable to the world by the high moral values Christians have. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus said, “May they see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

However, as noted above, many Christians find it difficult to be set apart FROM this world (i.e. – abstaining from the vices of this world), and excuses to remain “like” the world in order to “be all things to all men” run rampant. Such excuses miss the point of being in the world but not OF the world.

This misunderstanding provides the impetus for Christians to ask the unbiblical question: How close to sin can I get? Hence, we are plagued with debates over: 1) How far is too far? 2) Is it wrong to listen to certain types of music? 3) Is it wrong for Christians to watch R-rated movies? Etc.

Such questions overlook the emphasis of the NT. The Bible never concerns itself with how close to sin one can get without sinning. Rather, the question posed by Scripture is: How close to Christ can I get?

Inevitably, one will accuse me of a works salvation. Yet, I am not advocating a works salvation but a salvation that works. Unlike the cults, we do not advocate high morals in order to be right with God we advocate them because we are right with God. When I walk with Christ I long to honor Him through “good works.”

While some Christians struggle with being set apart FROM the world, I struggle more with being separated TO Christ. The command to love the Lord my God with ALL my heart, soul and mind, is convicting. When was the last time I cried out with David, “My soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs for you in a dry and weary land.” Is Christ my last thought at night and my first thought in the morning? Is He my passion and reason for living? Is He truly my Bread of Life?

When it comes to holiness, none of us are where we need to be.

Therefore, we conclude that holy separation is not just from something, it is to someone. When I took my vows to my wife I not only vowed to abstain from others, but I vowed to separate myself TO her: to spend time with her and show my affection to her. When I do this, my love for her grows and I long to please her.

How much more so with Christ. As I spend time with Him, my passion and love grows, and before I know it, I am longing to be separated from this world and TO Him.

Thus, holiness extends beyond dress and drinking, it goes further than lewdness and language, it reaches deeper than music and movies. These are mere symptoms.

Holiness is an inner separation from this world to Christ, which is lived out in an all-encompassing moral purity. God commands, “Be ye Holy for I am Holy.” For those of us who take this command seriously, we must hold on to God’s unchanging hand.

May our moral compass be stayed on the Star of Bethlehem. May our ethical foundation be anchored in the Chief Cornerstone. May our holy virtues flow from the Fountain of Living Waters. That when others see us, we are a mirror to the Father, which causes them to glimpse heaven and thereby proclaim Holy, Holy, Holy.

On another note, Dr. Vines series on Baptist Battles is now available at Anyone who is mildly interested in the current issues facing the SBC would be wise to purchase these. This is the only series of its kind, that I know of, and even if you disagree, we can all learn from these messages.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Southern Baptists are Viewed Favorably

Contrary to what some would have us believe (about ourselves) Southern Baptists are viewed favorably by 57% of adults according to recent research done by NAMB. Even more impressive, only 17% of respondents had an unfavorable view of Southern Baptists. Perhaps the most interesting insight from this study, is the fact that Southern Baptists had more favorable results among people who were very familiar with them. Within the “Bible-belt” (the area where Southern Baptists are numerous and known) 67% of respondents had a favorable view of Southern Baptists.

While we have always been (and probably always will be) plagued with doomsday prophets and pessimistic nay-sayers (who claim people don't like us for our stands), lately there seems to be an increase in the volume of their vociferous speech via the venue of blogs. However, it is good to know the truth.

The positive way in which SB are viewed has caused me to ponder some things. Is it possible that people admire us not just for what we stand for, but also for what we stand against? Is it possible that we are respected by many “good” people because we stand against abortion and homosexuality, while standing for inerrancy?

While some may jump at opportunities to point out all they believe to be wrong with Southern Baptists, I am proud to be a Southern Baptist. And I am excited to share this good news with all of you (I am confident that other blogs will have posts sharing their optimism about who we are as SB).

May we be more grateful for what God has given us. Perhaps we would be wise to learn a lesson from the Israelites who complained constantly and ended up wondering around for forty years. Perhaps, we would benefit more from encouragement than complaints. Just a thought.

I am well aware that Southern Baptists are not perfect and we have our problems, but so has every church I have been a part of, and yet I have nothing but positive comments to make of all the churches with whom I have been associated. God is good and He has blessed Southern Baptists and I am grateful. Are you?

For more information on NAMB’s study please visit:


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I Agree with John Calvin on Tongues:)

As I share my personal understanding of what scripture teaches on tongues allow me to give a preamble (adapted from Kreeft's and Tacelli's "Handbook on Christian Apologetics").
1. I am totally convinced that Christianity is true and the Scriptures are inerrant.
2. I am a little less convinced, but still certain that the SBC has accurately expressed the great doctrines of the faith in the BFM.
3. I am even less convinced, but still confident, that the Trustees of the IMB have accurately understood the Scriptural position of a PPL as evidenced by their actions.
With the above in mind I share my understanding of a PPL with confidence but reverence.

I will not be addressing the practice of tongues from the book of Acts: nearly all-credible scholars agree - tongues in Acts were known languages. I believe the gift of tongues as practiced in Acts is still dispensed by God today according to His good pleasure. I believe God can and does give individuals, on the mission field, the gift of speaking in a language, they do not know, in order for others to be saved. However, I will be dealing with tongues as ecstatic utterances. But before I deal with 1 Corinthians 14, I want to make some observations.

1. We have no Scriptural evidence that ecstatic utterances (commonly called tongues today) were ever uttered in any NT church outside of Corinth. In fact, we have no Scriptural evidence that any believer other than Corinthian believers experienced ecstatic utterances.

The early church did not have the NT: they had the letters Paul and the other apostles sent them, and the OT. We can conclude that the Christians outside of Corinth received no Scripture concerning the practice of tongues – NONE (we have no evidence that the letters to Corinth were circular letters passed to other churches).

It is interesting that Paul did not speak to the Christians in Galatia, Ephesus, Rome, Philippi, Thessalonica, Colosse, or Crete about tongues…he never even mentions it.

I shall logically deduce it is because they were not practicing tongues like the Corinthians, which begs the question as to why the church at Corinth evidently was the only church in the entire world where Christians were practicing ecstatic utterances (especially in light of the Corinthian abuses).

Perhaps more than any other evidence, the silence of Scripture on Tongues (outside of the Corinthian abuses) speaks volumes.

2. Corinth was an area where pagan religious belief included ecstatic utterances, and the Corinthian believers were guilty of bringing such cultish beliefs into the church. Thus, Dr. Yarnell notes, “Examples of ecstatic, untranslatable speech may be found in the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi as well as the cults of Dionysius and Cybele. The pre-Christian background of the Corinthians indicates that ecstatic religious experiences involving unintelligible speech conferred special status upon those who practiced such. Unfortunately, the Corinthian believers brought their pagan religious practices, its attendant elitism, and the resulting social divisions into the Christian church (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10-11; 3:1-4, 18; 11:17- 22).”

It is not unusual for new Christians, without proper discipleship, to syncretize Christian beliefs with the dominant religion of their locale. Perhaps, the Corinthians were guilty here (as Dr. Yarnell implies). This would explain why the Corinthians were the only Christians, we know of, who were practicing ecstatic utterances.

3. Paul was an encourager who always saw the glass half-full. Instead of criticizing the errant and foolish beliefs of the philosophers at Rome he commended their religious zeal. Amazingly, he even took one of their idols and rather than condemn idol worship, he exclaimed that the God which, that idol represented (unknown God) was the God of the Bible. In other words Paul gently pointed out their abuses of religion by pointing to the True God without diluting their zeal in seeking God.

I believe Paul did this (gentle rebuke without diluting religious zeal) on numerous occasions, including the Corinthian abuse of tongues. Rather, than pour water on their zeal and dilute their fire for Christ…he set up guidelines or POLICY:) which would have the effect of diminishing the practice of ecstatic utterances without diminishing the zeal of those who practiced such.

Here was a church divided, and Paul, as a gentle pastoral father, corrected the abuses of tongues in such a way that tongues (ecstatic utterances) themselves were subjugated to an unnecessary and irrelevant gift. And yet those who practiced such were not forbidden from doing so and thus their zeal was not affected: they were able to save face, so to speak.

However, with the new policy Paul effectually stopped the practice of tongues within the church. In fact, if we were to relegate tongues to the minor gift which Paul relegated it to and if churches would follow the policy of Paul, tongues (ecstatic utterances) would effectually cease today. Paul's policy and revelation about tongues included: 1) 5 words of understanding spoke in church is better than 10,000 words in a tongue; 2) Tongues are a sign to unbelievers, so don’t confuse unbelievers, who may be attending your church service, by practicing ecstatic utterances; 3) let no more than 3 speak at a time and have an interpreter; 4) Remember, God is not the author of confusion (thus, if tongues confuses members of the church, then they are not from God); 5) Women are forbidden from speaking in tongues in the church; 6) Let all things be done decently and in order.

4. During the apostolic age the Canon was not yet complete. Paul, Peter, James and other apostles were still receiving Divine Revelation from God (SCRIPTURE). The church did not have the complete Revelation (Bible) yet. Thus, there was still a need for “words” (revelation) from God.

It appears to me that the purpose of most manifestations of tongues (ecstatic utterances) today is to share a word or revelation from God. However, we now have the entire Bible: the completion of the Canon invalidates that purpose. We have no need for further Revelation from God. His Word is SUFFICIENT for every area of life and every trial we face. Any “further” revelation immediately raises RED FLAGS (the Mormon cult originated from “further” words from God). I am amazed that many who are claiming the sufficiency of Scripture are also supporting the practice of tongues, which is facially duplicitous.

5. It is very possible that Paul uses a dual meaning of tongues in his letter to the Corinthians: on the one hand he is speaking of the validity of Scriptural tongues not being forbidden and used for salvation purposes; on the other hand he is creating guidelines but refusing to condemn ecstatic utterances because he does not desire to quench the flames of some of his converts or to create more division in the already divided church at Corinth. And yet his new policy would have the effect of causing ecstatic utterances to cease.

With these observations in mind I conclude that the only Biblically valid practice of tongues was the practice in Acts, where tongues were languages whereby the gospel was shared. I further conclude the Corinthian abuses of tongues through ecstatic utterances did not validate ecstatic utterances then, nor does it today.

I shall now proceed to PPL. Again, let us begin with some observations:

1. Scripture does not mention a PPL anywhere. Such a concept is derived from 1 Cor 14.

2. There is no mention of a PPL in any Commentary or Theological work, of which I am familiar, before the Azusa Street Revival (Modern charismatic Movement). In fact, the linguistic and critical commentaries do not mention it still (they do mention tongues used in prayer but not a PPL). Which implies a belief in PPL is due more to the practice and traditions of men than to God's Word.

3. The individuals that I have had experiences with, who had a PPL, used it to gain NEW REVELATION from God. Such revelation inevitably led to unbiblical comprehensions of Scripture. One lady (a very spiritual woman who loves Jesus very much) spent hours in prayer daily. She was an avid reader of books on prayer, including David Jeremiah’s. She knew Scripture very well and had a PPL. To make a long story short, I will just address the most outrageous revelation she received: she claimed God told her, in her PPL, that she and I were the two witnesses in the book of Revelation!!!

Is it possible that many others are deceived about a PPL as she was?

With these observations in mind, we proceed to 1 Corinthians 14:14. I shall quote from commentaries, which reveal my understanding of this passage. John Calvin gives perhaps the clearest indictment against a PPL: therefore, I will end this post with his comments.

The ICC states: “Paul will not pray in ecstatic utterances that he cannot understand but he will pray with understanding as well as in the spirit.” In other words, Paul’s practice of tongues (1 Cor 14) was not a PPL, for he prayed in a language he could understand, thus his practice was the gift of foreign languages and he sets his practice as the example the Corinthians should follow.

The Translators Guide to the First Letter to the Corinthians concludes similarly: “Paul will use clear intelligible words besides the unintelligible sounds.”

John MacArthur makes a convincing argument that Paul was speaking sarcastically of false tongues (ecstatic utterances) but affirming the practice of the tongues of Acts. He further confirms what others have stated: namely, Paul will pray with the mind and the spirit (intelligible words).

John Calvin felt that the Corinthians were actually practicing the Biblical form of tongues (foreign languages) but doing so in prayer. He says, “for it is likely that the Corinthians also went wrong in this respect that, just as they were in the habit of speaking in foreign languages, so they were also using them in prayer.” He further reveals that, “the gift of tongues was bestowed for the purpose of communication.”

Calvin concludes: “if the gift of speaking in a tongue is kept distinct from the understanding, so that the speaker is a foreigner to himself, as well as to others, what good will he do by stammering along like that...the meaning is now plain. If I devise prayers in a language that is unknown to me and the spirit provides me with a rich flow of words, it is clear that the spirit itself, which controls my tongue, will indeed be praying, but my understanding will be wandering elsewhere, or at any rate will not be involved in the prayer. We should note that Paul thinks it a GREAT FAULT (caps mine) if the understanding takes no part in prayer. No wonder. For what else do we do in praying but pour out our thoughts and desires before God…in view of the fact that spiritual prayer is a means of worshipping, what is more out of keeping with its very nature than its coming only from the lips and not from the innermost recesses of the soul” (our thoughts).