The Pastor Who Became the Grinch

Christmas is a time of celebration. It is a time set aside each December to celebrate the birth of Christ. Christmas is supposed to be a joyous occasion, filled with showing good will to one’s neighbor. However, such was not the case in a mall in Amarillo, Texas. Pastor Dave Grisham, originally from Panama City, Florida, took it upon himself to tell a group of kids, standing in line to see Santa Claus in an Amarillo, Texas mall, that Santa Claus does not exist. He was noted as saying, as quoted by the Drudge Report, “Parents, y’all need to stop lying to your children and telling them that Santa Claus is real, when in fact, he’s not.” Grisham went on to say, “When you substitute the lies of Santa Claus in heart of your child for the truth of Jesus Christ, you are bearing false witness against God.” Eventually, Grisham was silenced by a group of fathers who told him that he needed to stop and leave. Being in Texas, Grisham is lucky that is all he got from the angry dads.

grisham-texas
Grisham at an Amarillo, Texas mall before his obnoxious stunt.

Grisham is known for his confrontational tactics with his style of evangelism. He operates a ministry called Last Frontier Ministries. In Grisham’s eyes, he thought he was doing something right. I am sure that in his mind, he thought, “Hey, I’m telling these kids about Jesus. What could be wrong with that?” However, Grisham did far more harm than good. Not only did he make national headlines (perhaps the intention of his tirade), he portrayed Christians as a bunch of nagging, obnoxious, party poopers, who cannot allow children enjoy some innocent fun. In essence, Grisham turned the Nativity (the reason for the Christmas season) into the proverbial Grinch.

Some readers will say, “Yeah, but he did tell the children about Jesus. That can’t be bad, can it?” Others will argue, “Christmas has become too commercialized. Isn’t that what Grisham confronted?” Point taken. However, it must be noted that it is not only important what is said, it is equally important how something is presented. Tactless, confrontational evangelism defeats the purpose it sets out to accomplish.

Aristotle noted that there are three important tasks in communication: logos (the logic behind what is presented), ethos (the ethical and authoritative nature of the speaker), and pathos (the emotional appeal meant to persuade the audience). Grisham arguably teetered around the logos aspect of his presentation. Yet, he completely missed the ethos and pathos aspects. That is why both the Christian and secular communities are frustrated with Grisham.

Simon Peter notes in 1 Peter 3:15, a text that notes the importance of apologetics, that one should “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV, emphasis mine). Gentleness and respect! Grisham failed to display gentleness and respect, especially to the little children.

Remember, we can be right about an issue and wrong in our presentation. When that occurs, we are not persuasive. Rather, we become obnoxious. That is what happened with Grisham. May we (and he) learn from his mistakes. Jesus is the focus of our Christmas celebration. Celebrate Him! But don’t turn Him into the Grinch. To our friends in Amarillo, Texas, on behalf of the majority of the Christian community, you have our apologies. Amarillo, have a wonderful Christmas!

Click here to see the video, courtesy of the Drudge Report. http://drudgetoday.com/v2/r?n=0&s=18&c=1&pn=Anonymous&u=http://www.theamericanmirror.com/video-pastor-heckles-kids-tx-mall-no-santa/

(c) December 14, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Twas the Night Before Elections

 “Twas the night before elections,

And all through the blackness;

Not a Christian was stirring,

Not even a Baptist.”

Well, that may not hold the luster of the classic story “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” but it does illustrate the great anxiety that many Christians hold as we enter into this year’s Presidential election. As many have noted, there is a lot riding on this year’s election as the balance of the Supreme Court weighs in the balance. Many have postulated that America could look quite different depending on who is in office. Perhaps that is true. Throughout this year, pundits on both sides of the aisle have argued that their candidate is best. Vitriolic argumentations have been given to the point that political discussions become aggressive, if not violent, if one does not support the other person’s candidate. But for the Christian, certain truths should be remembered that will help one cope no matter how the elections turn out.

God is sovereign and can use any circumstance for His glory.

God is not a Republican nor a Democrat. A person makes a mistake by claiming otherwise. God is far higher than any political party. Certainly, this year’s election cycle has demonstrated that both parties hold major flaws. Some political pundits claim that both the Democratic and GOP parties may be on the verge of collapse. Perhaps. Nevertheless, God is sovereign. This means that God knows all, sees all, and can do all according to His divine character. God cannot do evil because He has a holy nature. Nevertheless, God can use any circumstance for His glory. But, since God is holy, why would He allow evil to take place? It seems that God would allow evil to take place if it leads to a greater good.

I have had times in my life where I wanted something to happen. I thought things would be so nice if things would go according to my way. However, I later come to find that God allowed me to go through certain difficulties to save me from greater harm. Had I been given my way, things would have become much more disastrous for me in the end. God allowed His Son to die on a cross to permit the salvation of all who would receive Christ’s atoning work. In even the most evil moment of history, God used the circumstance to bring glory. He will do the same regardless of how the election ends.

God is bringing an ultimate end that extends past the election.

There’s a lot of talk these days of people giving money to allow for certain causes. Undoubtedly, evil is abundant in our time. But since the dawning of mankind and his fall, evil has plagued the human race. For those living during the days of the American Civil War, I am certain that many thought that there was no way that humanity could survive. In the sixties, shows, such as the Twilight Zone, imagined nuclear disaster and devastation across the world. Such notions are still plausible today. Despite what has, what is, and what will occur; despite who elected and how; God is bringing an ultimate end that extends past this election. In John’s Apocalypse, the angel said to John, “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and holy still be holy” (Revelation 22:11).[1] The angel is not promoting evil. Rather, he is saying that in the end, God will bring all things to an ultimate end. After the text, Jesus is quoted as saying, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:12-13). God’s work extends past the coming election.

We must trust God even if He does not answer the way we expect.

In the book of Daniel, we are introduced to three Hebrew men known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were told to bow down before a large idol by King Nebuchadnezzar. They refused. The king, then, warned them that they would be thrown into the furnace if they did not bow to worship his idol. Their response was incredible. They said, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O kin. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18). Can we say the same? It may be that God answers your prayers concerning this election. But what it God doesn’t? Will you still love Him? Will you still serve Him? God’s ways are not our ways. His insight is far greater than ours. Thus, we must decide to follow God no matter who is elected.

Conclusion

While many may worry about the 2016 election and while there has been much written about this particular election, the Christian need not worry. God is greater than the 2016 election. God is greater than any of the candidates and the gospel transcends any of the political platforms. God will not be bribed. God cannot be bought. No matter what happens, God is in control. So don’t put your trust in the elephant or the donkey, rather place your trust in the Lamb of God who is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. So our poem should read,

“Twas the night before elections,

and despite the political cesspit,

the Christian found in Christ,

a sovereign and glorious respite.”

© November 7, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001, 2011).

The Debate on Biblical Authority: Mohler vs. Stanley

Debates are often good. What?!? Yes, I reiterate, debates are good. Disagreements, when handled in a godly, civil fashion, can lead to a furtherance of learning and understanding. No one is perhaps better at debating than Baptists…although some Baptist debates lose their godliness and certainly their civility. In the theological world, a debate has been ensuing between Andy Stanley and Dr. R. Albert (Al) Mohler. Stanley is the son of the great Dr. Charles Stanley (pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta) and is senior pastor of North Point Community Church also in Atlanta. Dr. Al Mohler is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky. The debate surrounds the comments made by Stanley in his message “The Bible Told Me So” (see link below). Stanley essentially states that the Bible is not the supreme authority–Christ is. He further goes on to note that if we are to reach individuals in this post-Christian culture, we must appeal to the evidential sources of Christianity and not the Bible alone (Stanley 2016, NorthPoint.org).

Mohler responds to Stanley’s message with a warning. He claims that another individual sought to do what Stanley is supposedly doing. That person is Friedrich Schleiermacher, the father of modern theological liberalism. Schleiermacher, says Mohler, sought to “salvage spiritual and moral value out of Christianity while jettisoning its troublesome doctrinal claims, supernatural structure, and dependence upon the Bible. He was certain that his strategy would ‘save’ Christianity from irrelevance” (Mohler 2016, albertmohler.com).[1] Who is right? Well, without trying to straddle the fence, I do believe that both individuals bring important truths to the table.[2] Mohler and Stanley are correct in at least three areas.

mohler

Mohler is right about the authority of Scripture as it relates to the Christian’s life (2 Timothy 3:16).

If there is a serious problem plaguing the modern church, it is the rise of biblical illiteracy. Biblical illiteracy is not going to be solved by avoiding the Bible. In fact, Christian leaders must engage the Bible even more in their messages and lessons. Quick anecdotes and savvy punchlines will not improve the lack of biblical knowledge in our day. It will take in-depth expository messages to turn the tide. Mohler’s high view of Scripture is justified. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).[3] Paul was addressing the Old Testament Scriptures (also known as the Hebrew Bible). But the New Testament writings would quickly assume the same status. Paul writes to Timothy, “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages’” (1 Timothy 5:18). The first quote comes from Deuteronomy 25:4. But the second quote is especially interesting. Paul quotes directly from Jesus as recorded in Luke’s Gospel. Notice that Paul says “For the Scripture says.” Paul elevated the Gospels to the same status as the Hebrew Bible. Peter also elevates the epistles of Paul in 2 Peter 3:15-16 when the aged apostle quips, “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” Note here again that the New Testament writings are elevated to the status of Scripture. Thus, Mohler is right to be concerned with the lack of Scriptural exposition taking place in many modern churches. It is the Word of God that will bring a change in the lives of believers.

Mohler is right about the inspiration of Scripture as it relates to the final revelation of God (Titus 1:2).

I also share Mohler’s view of Scripture. I hold to the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture. The logic makes sense. Paul reminds Titus, “for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” (Titus 1:2). God does not lie. It is not that God chooses not to lie. God cannot lie if He is absolutely holy. With this logic in place, it stands to reason that God cannot speak falsehood. Giving that the Bible is the revelation of God, then it only stands to reason that the Bible is true and cannot be false. Thus, a believer should place a high value on the written words given by God. I still remember, and will never forget, the advice given to me when I first entered the ministry. My mentors would say, “If you keep your messages between the covers of Genesis and Revelation, you’re on solid ground. If you go beyond these covers, you’re on your own.” I agree wholeheartedly.

Mohler is right about the safeguard that comes with a high view of Scripture.

I also share Mohler’s concern with the erosion that comes when the safeguard of Scripture is removed. Schleiermacher’s well-intended liberalism, which sought to spare Christianity from the flood of doubt coming its way from the times, led to one Rudolf Bultmann. Bultmann, a German theologian, sought to de-mythologize the Bible by removing all its miraculous content. Bultmann, who was undoubtedly influenced by Humean philosophy,[4] led a movement that would ultimately give rise to such groups as the Jesus Seminar and the like. Liberal theology has led to the doubts of many. Liberal theology has not led to the strengthening nor the salvation of Christianity. In contrast, it has led to many towards atheism and agnosticism. Mohler is right to be concerned with the lack of biblical exposition in modern churches.

While Mohler is right on several points, I find myself in agreement with some of what Stanley says as well. I agree with Stanley on three points.

andy-stanley

Stanley is right about the authority of the Christian tradition as it relates to the final apologetic (1 Corinthians 15:3-9).

Stanley points to the authority of the pre-New Testament traditions and sources. I am surprised that Mohler takes issue with Stanley on this point. The Bible’s authenticity is strengthened by the strong evidence relating to these traditions, creeds, and formulae found in the pages of the New Testament. Perhaps the most important of all these early traditions is that which is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-9. Here, Paul relates to the Corinthian church what he had received a few years after Christ arose from the dead. Paul writes, “For what I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:3-7).

The Bible does not hold authority because it is the Bible. The Bible holds authority because it is the truth. The believer should not worry. Christianity is an evidential faith. Christianity has been tested and it stands on its own. Why? It is because Christ literally rose from the dead. Christ’s resurrection is not a fanciful wish or desire. Christ’s resurrection is reality.

Stanley is right about the primacy of Christ above all else (Colossians 1:15ff).

I also agree with Stanley that we must worship Christ and not the Bible. The reason the Bible is the Word of God is because of God Himself. Thus, the Bible points us to the reality of the triune God. Paul, writing to the church of Colossae, notes that Christ “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible” (Colossians 1:15-16a). While we must place great emphasis on the Bible, we cannot allow the Bible to itself become an idol. Our worship is of the risen Christ Jesus.

Stanley is right about the need to appeal to evidence to reach the current generation.

I also find myself in agreement with Stanley in the need to provide evidence for the post-Christian generation which we are trying to reach. Most people are not going to listen to what we say about the Bible until they know that there are reasons to accept the Bible as an authentic document. Apologetics is necessary to do evangelism in modern times. William Lane Craig has noted on his podcast, Reasonable Faith, that we are amid an exciting time. An apologetic renaissance has begun. This renaissance is not something to fear. Rather, it is something that Christians, including Mohler, should embrace. This website has noted the resistance that the modern church has held against apologetics, which is quite bizarre.

So, what can one draw from this debate? I think the following conclusion can be made:

Mohler is right in his strong view of Scripture and Stanley is right in his strong view on apologetics: therefore, the appropriate view consists of a blending of both.

Let me say, I respect both Al Mohler and Andy Stanley. Both have contributed greatly to the kingdom of God. However, I think Mohler and Stanley are both guilty of accepting an “either/or” mentality when they should accept a “both/and” approach to this issue. Yes, the Christian should preach and teach the truths found in the Bible. I think Stanley is guilty of taking too low a view of Scripture. 

Yes, the Christian should engage the evidences and promote apologetics. I think Mohler has taken too high a view of Scripture, bordering on the level of fideism.[5] Quite honestly, the modern preacher should seek to find a balance between Mohler and Stanley’s view. The Christian leader would do well to wholeheartedly focus on the truths of God’s Word, discipling people in the truths of the Scripture, while also standing ready to provide evidence for the faith one holds (1 Peter 3:15). Theology and apologetics are two sides of the very same coin. Both are necessary. Both should be sought. Both should be accepted.

© October 3, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

McKnight, Scot. “In the Beginning: The Gospel—Al Mohler vs. Andy Stanley.” Jesus Creed (October 3, 2016). http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2016/10/03/in-the-beginning-the-gospel/?platform=hootsuite.

Mohler, R. Albert. “For the Bible Tells Me So: Biblical Authority Denied…Again.” AlbertMohler.com (September 26, 2016). http://www.albertmohler.com/2016/09/26/bible-tells-biblical-authority-denied/.

Stanley, Andy. “Why ‘the Bible Says So’ Is Not Enough Anymore.” Outreach Magazine (September 30, 2016). http://www.outreachmagazine.com/features/19900-the-bible-says-so.html/3.

Stanley, Andy. “The Bible Told Me So.” North Point.org (August 28, 2016). http://northpoint.org/messages/who-needs-god/the-bible-told-me-so/.

Notes

[1] For full fairness on this topic and the authors involved, the links to all the writings and resources concerning this debate are posted in the “Sources Cited” section of the article.

[2] In full disclosure, I am a pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention. Even though Mohler is part of the SBC and Stanley has connections to the SBC, I seek to examine the points of view from both participants in this debate.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001, 2007).

[4] Humean philosophy comes from the atheist philosopher David Hume who rejected the miraculous and argued that it was impossible for the miraculous to take place. Furthermore, it assumed that it was impossible to prove that a miraculous event took place in history.

[5] Fideism is the view that faith alone is necessary without any evidence whatsoever. In many ways, fideism is a blind faith and ends up committing a circular reasoning fallacy.

Update to SB-1146 Legislation: SB-1146 Dropped

Earlier this week, I posted about California senate bill SB-1146. As of Friday, August 12th, 2016, I am pleased to announce that California lawmakers have decided to drop California the bill. The bill would have restricted state funding for religious schools due to their religious convictions. A full report on the issue can be found at http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/august/california-drops-controversial-bill-to-regulate-religious.html. In a conversation with Biola professor of politics Dr. Scott Waller, I was reminded, however, that this is only a temporary respite. The move to drop the bill appears to have been financially motivated.

One may anticipate that California Senator Ricardo Lana will take up this issue again at some point in the future. When and if such a time occurs, it is imperative that Christians nationwide stand with our California Christian colleagues and speak out against any legislation that impedes religious expression and religious freedom. For those on the east coast, California legislation may seem unimportant to them. However, history has shown that legislation in larger areas, such as California, often influences national legislation and the legislation of other states. Thus, the church must stand together in opposing any move to impede religious freedom.

Conservative political analyst Todd Starnes noted on his social media video that he was shocked that more voices were not heard speaking out against the bill. In his words, “we were almost too late.” For religious Americans who value their liberty to worship and live according to their viewpoints, and even those who are not religious and value individual expression, SB-1146 was a shot across the bow, warning us to stand ready. This is not a time for cowardice. It is a time for bravery and courage. If we fail to stand up for religious freedoms today, our children and grandchildren may not enjoy such freedoms tomorrow.

Copyright, August 12, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Corrective Note: I was informed of a correction that needs to be made to the post. The bill itself has not been dropped, but rather the more controversial language concerning the religious freedom of universities has been erased from the bill. The bill still holds issues that is of concern to many California Christians. While we can be thankful that the language restricting religious freedoms pertaining to higher education has been modified, we still need to pray that when the bill is overturned August 31st when it comes to a vote.

I would like to thank Pastor Donald Shoemaker, Pastor Emeritus of Grace Community Church of Seal Beach, California for the correction. 

(8/12/16, 8:40 pm ET).

 

Jesus’ Cure to the Racial Divide

On July 18, 2016, I had the opportunity to speak with Melissa Pellew on the Bellator Christi Podcast.1 We addressed the racial divide that has plagued our nation. During our conversation, I was reminded of the lesson I shared with the kids at a local church. The children were diverse in their ethnicities ranging from white, black, to Latino. I shared with them the story found in John chapter 4 where Jesus met the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

In that encounter, Jesus broke several barriers. One, Jesus broke a racial barrier that existed between Samaritans and Jews. Two, Jesus broke a gender barrier as Jewish rabbis normally did not speak to women. Three, Jesus broke the barriers of tradition. Fourth and most importantly, Jesus broke the sin barrier as He forgave the woman of her sins. But as we look at the issues of our time, we also see that Jesus’ encounter offers a cure to the divisions that ail us. Jesus’ approach serves as an excellent model to provide healing and reconciliation.

jacobs well.jpg
Actual Jacob’s well in Samaria.

Listen to the concerns of the person.

Jesus practiced good listening skills. While He was God and knew fully the situation at hand, Jesus still allowed the woman to speak. He heard her concerns and did not dismiss her. Jesus asked the woman for a drink. He listened as she timidly asked, “How is it that you a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria” (John 4:9).2 Jesus also listened to the woman as she exclaimed “Our fathers worship on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship” (John 4:20). Listening is an activity that has greatly been lost. To provide healing, we must first listen to the problems that are on the table. Those issues may be sensitive. Those issues may make us uncomfortable. Nevertheless, when we listen to another person, even if we vehemently disagree with that person, we demonstrate respect to that person.

Create a relationship with the person.

Christianity is relationship-based. Melissa and I discussed on the podcast that people often segregate and divide because of the lack of knowledge of those who may differ from them. Melissa noted that a person should not simply befriend someone to proudly say, “I have a black friend” or “I have a white friend.” Rather, a person should desire to befriend others for the sake of the person, not for selfish pride. Jesus demonstrated such behavior with the Samaritan woman. The woman was shocked that Jesus spoke to her (John 4:9). The disciples were equally surprised that Jesus was speaking with a Samaritan (John 4:27). Jesus did not think to Himself, “This person is a Samaritan. I will befriend her so that I can tell the folks back home that I have a Samaritan friend.” No! Rather, Jesus saw her for who she really was. She was a person who needed salvation, a person who had been excluded from her community. She was a woman who had a horrid past and a displeasurable present condition.

Forgive the failures of the past and present.

The Samaritan woman had a past. She was a woman who had been married five times and was currently living with a man (John 4:16-19). Coming to the well when she did demonstrates that she was an outcast as “women were more likely to come in groups to fetch water.”3 Jesus could have easily condemned her, saying, “You have a past, so I don’t want you in my kingdom.” Rather, Jesus forgave her past and transformed her present.

As a Caucasian Christian, I do not know the struggles that black Christians have faced. When I drove a school bus, I remember the friendship I had with a black Christian man. We spoke about different issues. I remember him telling me about his return from war in Vietnam only to be disallowed entrance to a restaurant in the South because of his skin color. From what he and other black Christians have told me, the struggle is real. It also must be noted that racism comes in all forms and fashions. Thus, discrimination against all whites because of what a few white people have done is just as racist as discrimination against a black person, Latino, or otherwise for what a few in the particular group has done. The same logic applies to police officers. A few bad cops do not mean that all cops are bad. By the way, such accusations are not only morally wrong, they also represent a logical fallacy–the fallacy of composition/division, i.e., judging the whole by the part.

While I have never been in the situations that my black Christian friends have faced, I do know what it is like to be hurt. I know what it is like to feel demeaned and unwanted. I know what it is like to feel like an outcast. From those experiences, I know firsthand the choice all of us face: forgiveness or bitterness. Forgiveness is extremely difficult, but for the Christian it is commanded. Jesus said, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). In the end, a person can find healing in Christ’s forgiveness or can continue down the path of hate-driven bitterness. This is true for a person regardless of the amount of pigment one’s skin carries.

Acknowledge the present problems.

Jesus did not cower and did not waver. Jesus acknowledged the problems that the woman faced and the differences in the traditions that Samaritans and Jews held. For many, it is easier to pretend that the current problems are not real. While I did not agree with the caller on our latest show on all points that he made, I would concede that we cannot pretend that there are no current race-related problems. Like Jesus, we must not cower and waver. We must stand firm, choosing to love our neighbors as ourselves (a pretty important commandment in Matthew 22:39). As Melissa stated on our podcast, “It is time for the church to take the lead on racial matters and provide reconciliation.”4

Provide biblical answers.

Lastly, Jesus did not avoid the problems. Instead, Jesus confronted the issues that the Samaritan woman presented and provided biblical answers to those problems. As Christians we have the answers to the problems our nation faces. We know that God is sovereign and will provide justice in due time. God created all of us in His image, thus illustrating that the life of every human being matters regardless of race. The biblical worldview also incorporates the understanding that heaven will consist of all nationalities and ethnicities. John writes, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb'” (Revelation 7:9-10)!

Conclusion

For the Christian, there is no reason for us to commit to violence. Christianity’s sole message is about love and peace. We must remember that “God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Satan is the one who seeks to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Therefore, the primary message of this article is found in Paul’s great word of encouragement: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Let us pray for peace, love, and understanding.

© July 18, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Revelation 79 [widescreen]

Sources Cited

1 Melissa Pellew, interviewed by Brian Chilton, “Healing the Racial Divide (with Melissa Pellew),” The Bellator Christi Podcast (July 18, 2016), http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pastorbrianchilton/2016/07/18/healing-the-racial-divide-with-melissa-pellew.

2 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

3 D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 217.

4 Pellew, “Healing the Racial Divide (with Melissa Pellew), Bellator Christi Podcast.

5 Christian Responses to a Changing Culture

Throughout the history of the Christian church, believers have responded various ways to their culture. Some responses have been good, whereas other responses have been less than favorable. What are the five responses? This article will examine the five forms of responses that have been made throughout history by five given caricatures. In many respects, these five responses greatly resemble the five Christian models for approaching culture given in H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic book Christ and Culture.[1] The models are given in descending order from the more extreme forms of thought—opposing culture, to those that fully embrace culture.

The Monk.

The first response is that of the monk. This caricature is in no means meant to demean the great work of Christian monks throughout the centuries. However, it is meant to demonstrate the response that many in the monastery have taken over the years. When culture goes amiss, many will withdraw from the culture, completely separating themselves from the culture. This approach resembles Niebuhr’s “Christ Against Culture” approach.

As Christians face a global culture that is becoming more antagonistic towards the Christian faith (something that is anticipated by a futurist understanding of Revelation—which I hold), it is easy for many to withdraw from the cultural arena completely. Some will take the defeated attitude in saying, “I won’t make much of a difference anyhow.” For others, the ideas of a governmental hidden agenda and conspiracy-theory-powered-paranoia will cause the desire to abandon everything in culture. St. Anthony and the desert fathers are exemplary of this model. Also, Tertullian, Tolstoy, Menno Simmons, the Amish, and traditional Anabaptists have taken to this model. But it must be asked: Is this the best model?

The Mobster.

The second caricature may sound odd at first. How could a Christian hold a mobster mentality to the culture? Well, mobsters generally operate by the mantra, “I am above the law.” Their livelihood is based on a system that contradicts the law at hand. The mobster mentality holds that Christians and any given culture will always hold a degree of paradox. The Christian, while living in the world, can never necessarily appreciate the things of the world since the Christian essentially lives in two kingdoms. The Christian will always experience tensions in trying to fulfill the demands of both kingdoms.

Martin Luther is an advocate of this view. The mobster view is comparable to Niebuhr’s “Christ and Culture in Paradox” model. While this viewpoint holds many great points of truth and value, one must ask: Is this the right model to hold?

The Reformer.

Reformers seek to transform. Unbeknownst to many, Luther and the early reformers did not seek to divide the church. Rather, they sought to bring the church back to a point where they felt the church was more biblically accurate. The cultural reformer seeks to transform the given culture with the gospel of Christ. The reformer will seek to convert the values and goals of the culture to the values and goals of the kingdom of God, realizing that such will not take place unless people come to know Christ as Savior.

Many heavyweights of the faith hold this view, which is comparable to Niebuhr’s “Christ the Transformer of Culture” model. Augustine, Calvin, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, John Knox, Ulrich Zwingli, and Francis Schaeffer all hold to the Reformer Model. Is this the correct view? We will see.

The Ruler.

The ruler seeks to dominate a particular area. In a sense, the ruler will always battle to keep his/her power and control. When the Roman Empire dominated much of the known world during the height of their power, the Empire had to patrol areas with their soldiers to forcefully keep the peace (somewhat of an oxymoron).

The ruler mentality of Christians pertaining to the culture holds that change can only take place when the church is given authority over a particular area. The answers to life’s problems are found in the specific revelation of God (i.e., the Bible), thus the only way to bring culture and faith together is to assert dominance over the culture. This model is comparable to the “Christ Above Culture” model presented by Niebuhr. It is said that Thomas Aquinas is the greatest advocate of this model. Is this the best model to hold?

The Politician.

The last viewpoint is the exact opposite of the Monk Model. Politicians have the reputation of avoiding specific answers when presented certain questions. Many successful politicians are wishy-washy as they seek approval from both sides of the aisle. In like manner, the Politician Model is one that seeks to assimilate the culture into one’s faith. Being comparable to Niebuhr’s “Christ of Culture” model, it is no surprise that liberal Christians often adopt this mindset.

Feminist theologians such as Rosemary Radford Ruether, anti-hell theologian Rob Bell, Matthew Vines, “cultural Christians,” and process theologians would fit within the Politician Model. Quite frankly, it is often difficult to pinpoint exactly what the beliefs of many cultural Christians are. In many respects, one would imagine that the culture has shaped their biblical hermeneutics rather than biblical hermeneutics shaping their cultural stance. But in their defense, many of these individuals hold that if Christianity does not adapt to the culture, they fear that Christianity will become irrelevant at best, or will die at the worst. Is this true? Is this the best model?

Conclusion: The Preferred Model

Nearly all of these models hold some value and truth. The monk is correct in thinking that the Christian needs to step away from cultural trends. Christians may find solace in stepping away from the grid from time to time. The mobster is correct in thinking that a paradox will always exist between the Christian life and the cultural life. As the old adage goes, “Christians are in the world, but not of the world.” The reformer is correct in thinking that change must happen through the gospel message. That requires engagement. The ruler is correct in thinking that the Bible holds the right answers to the problems of life. For all the problems of the politician model, it is agreed that Christianity must at least listen to the concerns of the modern culture.

In my estimation, the politician model (if you could not tell already) does not hold the answer for the modern Christian. If the gospel message is lost, there is no Christianity to keep alive. Without the gospel and the truth of God’s word, Christianity has already become irrelevant. However, if the Bible is God’s word (which I believe it is), then its truths transcend culture. Thus, the politician model is the weakest of the four.

The monk model is not preferred either. Christ calls for us to be “my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).[2] It is difficult to tell people about Christ throughout the ends of the earth while Christians are disengaged with society. In fact, many have argued that it is because of this mentality that the universities were lost to secularism in the late 1800s. Princeton, Yale, and other ivy-league institutions used to be front and center for orthodox Christian values. In like manner, it could be argued that the reason our culture has become so secularized is due to the withdrawal of Christians from active service in society.

The ruler model does not seem to be preferred either. The Christian cannot force a person into the kingdom. In like manner, Christian dictatorship leads to a “cultural Christianity” which is not necessarily a genuine Christianity.

The mobster mentality is correct in its assessment. However, it seems that such a view could lend itself to the Monk Model if taken to extremes. Thus, the mobster mentality holds great value, but does not seem to be the best outlook.

In my estimation, I feel that the Reformer Model is best. The only hope that people have is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ can and will transform the culture ultimately in the end. The reformer does not allow his theology to be altered by the culture. Nor does the reformer allow his fears to cause him to hide away from the culture either. He is engaged with the culture and realizes that the only hope for humanity is found in the gospel. Nothing will change unless there is a transformation. A transformation cannot happen without the gospel of Christ. Therefore, the gospel of Jesus Christ will bring change to a troubled culture.

© July 11, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

[1] See the following link for a chart describing the five approaches given in Niebuhr’s book: http://christianculturecenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/christ-and-culture.png.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the New Living Translation (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013).

Combating Independence Day Anxieties

On Monday, July 4th, 2016, Americans will celebrate the 240th annual Independence Day. On July 4th, 1776, the United States declared its independence from England. Americans will gather in various locations to watch fireworks and cook outdoors to celebrate their freedoms. However, this Independence Day is marked by various anxieties. Americans have watched many of their cherished freedoms diminish at the altar of political correctness. Many are uncertain about what lies ahead for their beloved nation which has served as a bastion of freedom for 240 years. Bible-believing Christians comprise many who hold such concerns. How is it possible to truly relish in Independence Day with such anxieties tormenting us? I would like to suggest four ways to combat anxiety on Independence Day.

1. Combat Independence Day anxieties by trusting in
God’s sovereignty.

The sovereignty of God is more than a doctrine of a solid systematic theology. God’s sovereignty provides a distinguished trust. When a person acknowledges that God is in control, worries and concerns tend to fade away. Divine sovereignty is tied-in to God’s omnipotence. John S. Feinberg notes that God’s sovereignty means that “God is the ultimate, final, and complete authority over everything and everyone…God’s sovereign will is also free, for nobody forces him to do anything, and whatever he does is in accord with his purposes and wishes” (Feinberg 2001, 294). If we were to understand that God is moving to bring about a certain end in mind, saving as many people that He knows would be saved, then the anxious times we currently experience would lose the power of uncertainty. For nothing is uncertain with God.

2. Combat Independence Day anxieties by remembering the Church’s past redemptions.

If you are like me, then you have a long-term memory problem. By that, I mean to indicate that I often find myself forgetting about the ways that God has moved in my life before this time. I eventually worry about things that God has already delivered me from in the past. A classic example of this behavior is found with the disciples. Jesus had fed 5,000 men along with countless women and children with a few loaves of bread and fish (Matthew 14:13-21, ESV). The sum total of those fed that day probably ranged in excess of 20,000 people!

Interestingly enough, the disciples were met with another instance where their food supply had dwindled. Jesus told the disciples again, just as He had previously, to feed the crowd. The disciples, yet again, said, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place” (Matthew 15:33, ESV)? I can imagine Jesus saying, “Seriously?!? Are you kidding Me?!?” Well, that would be my response nonetheless. It’s easy for us to forget about how God has moved in the past.

As the modern Church faces restrictions in religious freedoms, it is important to note that the Church has experienced situations like this in the past. In fact, the Church was born in a hostile society where believers comprised the vast minority. God has delivered the Church in uncertain time. Naysayers who claimed that the Church would not make it 100 years from their time have been greatly disappointed countless times over. Voltaire is such an example. Before worrying about your present, remember the Church’s past.

3. Combat Independence Day anxieties by working the present calling.

Many modern Christians are tempted to become calloused and angry over the situations arising. While it is imperative that we stand up for religious freedoms and take our voting responsibilities seriously as Americans, we must not forget the primary calling upon our lives. We are not called to be patriots first, Christians second. Rather, we are called to be Christians first, patriots second. Often believers are tempted to focus more on the things we oppose than the things for which we stand. It must be remembered that the entire law of God can be summarized into two commandments, as Jesus masterfully put it, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40, NLT).

Our first love must be for God and God alone. But in addition to this, we must remember that we are called to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? It is the Christian: both conservative and otherwise. It is the Arab and the Jew; the Muslim and Hindu. It is the Buddhist and Sikh. It is the Wiccan, the Atheist, the Agnostic, and Secularist. It is the Republican and the Democrat. It is the Liberal and the Conservative. It is the White person, the Black person, the Asian, and Latino. It is the American, the Canadian, the Russian, and the Mexican. It is those who live like you and those who do not, those who share your values and those who do not. All of the aforementioned individuals are made in the image of God…even if the person mentioned doesn’t realize that fact.

This brings us to the issue of calling. What is the primary calling for the Church united? Jesus has told us from the beginning that our primary calling is to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLT). Does this mean that we still stand for the truth uncompromisingly? Absolutely we do! But one’s stand must never be allowed to waver one’s commitment to love others the way Christ instructed. If we remember to see others through the lens of Christ, then we will be better focused on the task at hand.

4. Combat Independence Day anxieties by acknowledging future victory.

Beloved, I was reminded of a great truth the other day in my devotions. I came across Paul’s reminder to the Church of Rome where he notes that “what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are…And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:18-19, 28, NLT). Russell D. Moore tells us that a good way to remember the future coming is to walk around in an old graveyard and while doing so, he writes,

“think about what every generation of Christians has held against the threat of sword and guillotine and chemical weaponry. This stillness will one day be interrupted by a shout from the eastern sky, a joyful call with a distinctly northern Galilean accent. And that’s when life gets interesting” (Moore 2014, 721).

Undoubtedly, we live in uncertain days. But the promise that our heavenly Independence Day brings us is that we are redeemed to live a life without worry and anxiety. Our sins have been forgiven. We have a purpose and a high calling upon our lives. So, this Independence Day, instead of mourning the things we have lost as Americans, why not focus on the things we have gained through our risen Lord Jesus?

© July 3, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

Feinberg, John S. No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Moore, Russell D. “Personal and Cosmic Eschatology.” In A Theology for the Church. Revised Edition. Edited by Daniel L. Akin. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2014.

Scripture marked ESV comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Scripture marked NLT comes from the New Living Translation. Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013.

Trusting God in an Anxious World

Today, I read about the United Kingdom’s decision to pull out of the European Union. Without engaging in whether such an idea was good or bad (I’ll leave that to the political pundits), many fear that the global economy could suffer because of England’s decision.[1] It seems to me that every time I turn on the news there is something even more shocking than the day before. For many, the looming thoughts of a global World War III seem more and more like a possibility. How does the Christian remain calm and peaceable in such a tumultuous time? Let me suggest a few points.

  1. The Church has previously endured similar circumstances and survived.

Solomon notes, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).[2] While technology increases in complexity, people never change—both good and bad news. The gospel message remains the same. The Church has endured the persecutions of the Roman empire. The Church made it through the dark ages. The Church has survived times when people thought that the gospel message would die.[3] Church, we will make it through by God’s grace. Yes, we may have to use different tactics and methodologies, but the message of Christ will never change.

2. God is sovereign: He knows what we do not.

God is sovereign. This means that God is in control. Grudem associates sovereignty with God’s power in noting that “God’s omnipotence means that God is able to do all his holy will.”[4] When the prophet Jeremiah asked for understanding pertaining to the events of his day, God inquired, “Is anything too hard for me” (Jeremiah 32:27)? The obvious answer is, “No.” When I have questions and concerns (which I have in recent days), God keeps assuring me saying, “Trust Me! I have this under control.”

3. Jesus never promised an easy road; He just promised His presence.

The Church has largely become spoiled. This is not true of those in the Eastern church and certainly not true of those in the Southern Hemisphere. But in the Western church, false promises of an easy life have overwhelmed the message of Christ. Instead of proclaiming, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27), the Western church has proclaimed, “God wants you to be a multi-millionaire and live an easy life.” It may be that some would enjoy such pleasure, but such has not been the case for the majority of Christians throughout time. In the end, we must be reminded that Christ never promised an easy road, rather He promised His presence. For He reminds us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

4. Each day is a day closer to Christ’s return.

As a futurist, I believe that the Book of Revelation gives a description of what will take place in the end of human history. I will not speculate as to when Christ will return. It is impossible to predict Christ’s coming for He has told us, “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). While it is impossible for one to postulate when Christ will appear to redeem the Church, it is with certainty that one could claim that each day is one day closer to that time. Rather than become depressed at the current status of the world, we need to remember the work that is set before us. We may not have much longer before God calls the Church home.

5. The joys of a heavenly eternity far outweigh the problems of today.

The apostle Paul reminds us that “‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’—the things that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NIV).[5] The eternity that God has prepared for those who love Him far outweigh the problems that we may encounter today. If you are depressed about the events of today, focus your attention on the joys of eternity that await you. Some may argue, “Doesn’t this place less attention on the here and now?” Certainly not! When a person lives with the hope that is found in heaven, the person is able to look beyond oneself and see the larger picture.

Conclusion

The world is currently unstable. Chances are highly likely that it could become even more unstable before it gets better. Nevertheless, Christians have the opportunity to “step up to the plate.” We speak of the trust found in God. Such times allows such trust to be seen in a vivid fashion. While the world becomes an increasingly dark place, the Church has the opportunity to illuminate the light of Christ even more vividly than before. Will you succumb to the darkness of worry and anxiety or will you stand and say, “Let the floodwaters come! I will not be moved from the Rock of my foundation, the Lighthouse shining forth in an ocean of darkness—that Rock, that Lighthouse being Jesus Christ!!!” Christian, what will your response be?

Notes

[1] See Griff Witte, Karla Adam, and Dan Balz, “Britain Shocks World: Breaks with European Union, British Leader Steps Down,” MSN.com (June 24, 2016), retrieved June 24, 2016, http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/britain-shocks-world-breaks-with-european-union-british-leader-steps-down/ar-AAhznhT.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[3] Take for instance the proclamation of Voltaire who predicted that no one would read the Bible in 100 years. Voltaire lived in the 1700s.

[4] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 216.

[5] Scripture marked NIV comes from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011).

© June 24, 2016. Brian Chilton.

The Harassment of Humanity in the Harambe Hoopla

Like many of you, I have been inundated by the media buzz surrounding the killing of the gorilla Harambe. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you know that the gorilla Harambe was killed by the zookeepers at the Cincinnati Zoo due to a 3-year-old child falling into the gorilla’s enclosure. Let me say from the beginning: the whole event was tragic. It was tragic that the gorilla had to be killed. It was a tragedy that the little 3-year-old suffered the horror of falling into the enclosure before being drug around the water while suffering great injury by the 450-pound beast. It is a tragedy! Far more troubling is the feedback that reactionary, controversy-loving, internet moguls have had pertaining to the case. Many people across social media have begun protesting the gorilla’s death. Some naturalist protesters have even issued threats to the mother of the 3-year-old boy. All-in-all, this harassing reaction has brought to mind modern thinking that demonstrate great areas of concern, none of them having to do with the animal’s death, but the devaluation of human life. Let’s look at three areas of concern that stems from harassment from internet activists.

  1. It troubles me that a parenting is being harassed.

I am the proud parent of a hyper-active 7-year-old boy. As any parent will tell you, it is easy for a child to do something ridiculously absurd in a matter of moments. Some protesters have claimed, “The mother should have kept a better eye on the child.” My first reaction to this claim is, “Have you ever had children?!?” If you have, you should know better. I privy myself a very protective parent. Some have even said, too protective. Yet, my son in a moment’s notice has fallen off a chair, run towards the road, reached for a camp fire, nearly fell out of a loft, and knocked down and nearly carried off by the ocean’s waves. All-the-while, I kept a “close eye” on him. Any parent will tell you, things can go crazy in parenting quickly.

Parenting is tough. It does not come with an instruction manual. Kids will be kids. So, to claim that a parent should be held accountable for a necessary action to save her child from certain death is absolutely absurd! Such a notion demonstrates the low societal view placed on the family unit, especially parenting. Kids are undesirable for some. However, the protesters must remember one thing: the protesters were once children. I am certain that they did things that were nearly as ridiculous as falling into a gorilla cage. Their actions may not have caused such a tragic event, but it is possible that they could have. What is the difference? The childhood actions of the protesters did not receive national attention as did this mother and young child. This leads to another area of concern in the realm of expertise.

  1. It troubles me that expertise has been harassed.

The professionals at the Cincinnati Zoo had to make a quick decision. They could either preserve the life of the gorilla while risking the life of the child or they could kill the gorilla and ensure the safety of the child. “Why didn’t the zookeepers use a tranquilizer?” many have asked. Professional zookeepers who deal with large animals on a daily basis have noted that tranquilizers would take too long and, as Jack Hanna noted, would have “aggravated him [the gorilla] further.”[1]

Unfortunately, society has become so self-obsessed that many feel themselves a highly-trained, professional voice on all matters. While the internet has allowed many voices to be heard (which is good), it has also enabled self-aggrandized opinions, which have little ground upon which to stand. The internet has provided a soap-box with a microphone for these uninformed opinions (which is not always good). The uninformed opinions are given the same weight as professionally informed expertise (which is really not good).

In example, I have read posts where the authority of scholars such as Gary Habermas, Michael Licona, and others have been demoted by self-appointed scholars who seek to dismiss the resurrection of Jesus. Why? It had nothing to do with the research of Habermas and Licona but everything to do with the conclusions that Jesus’ resurrection is historically authentic. The self-appointed scholars offered no rebuttal of substance. No evidence to the contrary was given. The antagonists simply desired for their uneducated opinions pertaining to the resurrection of Jesus (and anti-religious sentiments) to hold the same weight as these gentlemen who have spent countless hours and years researching the topic.

Take another example. Say that a medical doctor tells you that you have a particular issue which requires immediate action (e.g. the removal of your gall bladder). Your next door neighbor claims, “Ah, it’s something you ate. No need for surgery.” Whose advice holds greater weight? I hope you say your medical doctor does. So then why must we think that we know more about zookeeping than professional zookeepers?

Note: I am not saying that non-scholarly opinions are not important. However, the facts given by the experts must be given a great deal of weight. Experts can be wrong, and sometimes are. But to demonstrate an expert wrong, the proponent must have substantial evidence proving the contrary. When zoologists and zookeepers tell us that a tranquilizer will not work effectively with a 450-pound gorilla when a child’s life on the line, I will gladly accept professionally informed insight over the layman’s opinion any day.

  1. It troubles me that human life has been harassed.

Most troubling to me is the fact that human life has been demoted lower than that of animal life. The Christian worldview holds that human life holds the highest value. When God created humanity, “in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).[2] Humanity has been given a great responsibility with the natural world. God said in Genesis, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26). Humankind was meant to have dominion over the earth. Instead, modern society has allowed the earth to have dominion over humanity.[3]

In a sense, Christians are called to be humanists and environmentalists. By humanists and environmentalists, I am neither referencing secular humanism nor naturalism. I am, nonetheless, claiming that the believer should hold a high value for human life and should hold a high degree of responsibility for the natural world. Society would do well to place the same value upon human life.

Conclusion

Please note: I am not saying that I take any pleasure in the death of the gorilla Harambe. Like many others, I feel that the entire situation was tragic. I am, rather, claiming that human life holds the greatest value. Make no mistake, the Cincinnati zookeepers had no desire whatsoever to kill this gorilla which they loved so dearly. The zookeepers had to make a quick decision. Would they save the life of the gorilla only to threaten the life of an innocent 3-year-old boy? Or would they kill the gorilla to ensure the young boy’s safety? The zookeepers made the right decision! If it had been my son, I would hope that the staff would have done the same. I am not a malicious person. I despise horror movies because I cannot stand watching someone or something harmed even in a fictional film. I take no pleasure in seeing any of God’s creatures suffer harm. Nevertheless, I would rather that 10 gorillas were shot to ensure that one innocent child was spared. Why? Do I hate gorillas? Absolutely not! I admire the gorilla’s enormous strength and grandeur. Gorillas are part of God’s great creation. Rather, I feel that human life has enormous value, the utmost value. While often straying from the plan of God, humanity bears the image of the Creator. My prayer is that modern society will see human life as God sees it—lives that are worth tremendous value.

 

© June 8, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Note

[1] Jack Hanna, quoted by Chuck Campbell, “Jack Hanna Defends Cincinnati Zoo’s Decision to Kill Gorilla,” USA Today.com (May 31, 2016), retrieved June 8, 2016, http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/nation-now/2016/05/31/jack-hanna-zookeeper-knoxville-cincinnati-zoo-gorilla-killed/85181272/.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[3] I am not dismissing environmental efforts. Rather, I am rejecting the notion that human life is of less value than other life forms on earth.

The Power of a Positive Legacy

Normally towards the first of the week, we examine an apologetic issue of importance. However, today I am still left with the overwhelming importance of a person’s legacy. This past weekend, I helped officiate my grandfather’s funeral service. I learned much more about my grandfather’s early life during his funeral than I had known while he was with us. Grandpa’s brother, Paul Sisk, said that Grandpa had led him to the Lord as well as many in their family. I also heard, from many of his parishioners, how great a pastoral leader my Grandpa had been. One word keeps coming to mind: legacy.

Legacy is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “something handed down by a predecessor.”[1] My Grandpa handed down a legacy of Christian conviction and influence. Grandpa was by no means perfect. However, he did strive to live the best Christian life that he could and used the resources he had available to him to make a difference for the kingdom of God. The issue of legacy makes me wonder what type of legacy I will leave behind. Some may inquire, “Why is it important to leave a lasting legacy when people may not remember us past a generation or two?” Such is a fair question. I feel that we must leave behind a positive legacy for many reasons.

  1. A positive legacy will inspire future generations.

The term inspire is defined as to “fill with the urge or ability to do or feel something.”[2] Inspiration is generally associated with a positive urge or ability implanted in someone. Throughout the Scriptures, we find records of individuals who have inspired future generations to do great things. Abraham is one such example. Abraham inspired the faithfulness of future generations. Abraham is revered not only in the Christian worldview, but also in the Judaist and Islamic worldviews. Others have served to inspire future generations, as well.

Jesus inspired the salvation of future generation. Jesus’ obedience even leading to the cross has inspired countless individuals to face and overcome amazing odds. Jesus noted that those who believe in him “will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).[3] If we look for a perfect example for how one should inspire others, look to the perfect example found in Christ Jesus. For it was Grandpa, who pointed me to Jesus and tried to emulate Christ as much as he could. While we all need heroes of the faith and need to be heroes of the faith for others, we should inspire individuals to always look towards the perfect example found in Jesus.

  1. A positive legacy will influence future decisions.

The legacy of an individual will influence the decision-making of future generations. If a person holds a negative influence over others, the person may propagate bad decisions in his or her children. People who constantly surround their children with drugs and addictive behaviors could influence their children to do the same. But, the opposite is also true.

We often hear about the exodus of youth from church. While we may concentrate on those things that don’t work, I have been seeking information on what does work. Michael Haverluck, writing for One News Now, notes one particular influence that keeps children in church. Haverluck writes,

“Nielson argues that firm and loving leadership at home is essential to keep kids rooted in their faith into adulthood. ‘The 20-somethings who are serving, leading, and driving the ministries at our church were kids whose parents made them go to church,’ Nielson continued. ‘They are kids whose parents punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious. They are kids whose parents read the Bible around the dinner table every night. And they are kids whose parents were tough, but who ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another.’”[4]

I feel that the Nielsen studies are accurate. If a parent does not take church seriously, what makes a person think that their children will? Wishy-washy, buddy-buddy, boundary-less parenting does not lend itself towards good results. God told Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations” (Exodus 3:15). It was Moses’ and the peoples’ responsibility to influence future generations. Modern Christians hold the same responsibility.

  1. A positive legacy will initiate future changes.

One person can make a distinct difference which will initiate a future chain of events. People often like to think that the person is their own person and does not influence anything or anyone else. But this is simply not true. Instead of living isolated lives, people are interconnected through a human network so to speak. The choice of one person may directly or indirectly initiate a future change of some sort.

Take Joseph for instance. What if Joseph had succumbed to temptation? What if Joseph refused to listen to God and interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh? Well, life would be much different than it is now. Because of Joseph’s faithfulness, a chain of events took place eventually leading to the Exodus, leading towards the nation of Israel, ultimately leading to the first advent of Christ. Actions today lead towards decisions tomorrow.

Take again my grandpa. Grandpa became a Christian in part due to the ardent prayer life of my grandmother. What if Grandma had not prayed as she did? What then? I would suppose that we would not have had the Christian upbringing that we enjoy and countless others would have never heard the gospel message through Grandpa. Grandma was influenced to accept Christ due to the moving of the Holy Spirit working through the lives of those close to her. What if those people had rejected the calling of God to share the gospel? What then? We initiate future decisions by our actions and attitudes. A person must ask himself or herself, “Am I purporting positive potential future changes?”

  1. A positive legacy will insulate the furtherance of truth.

A person’s legacy is either that of one who insulates, or protects, the truth, or one who rejects and distorts the truth. The importance and value of the Scriptures were emphasized to me very early in life. My grandpa told me, “Son, if you keep your messages between the covers of Genesis and Revelation, you are okay. However, if you leave the text found between these two covers, you are on your own.” Grandpa’s sage wisdom in the area of biblical exegesis is one that I have tried to keep and maintain in my ministry. It was actually due to this advice that I left the ministry when I had times of doubts. If the text could not be trusted, then I did not need to preach at all. Once God demonstrated the veracity of Scriptures, I could then preach and teach with a newfound fervor.

I am struck by the dichotomy found in the Third Letter of John. John, on the one hand, praises one named Demetrius. Why did John praise Demetrius? Demetrius had “received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself” (3 John 12). The legacy of Demetrius was one devoted to truth. Yet, the same was not true for Diotrephes.

Diotrephes had a legacy that was one not devoted to truth. Rather, Diotrephes was one “who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority” (3 John 9). Furthermore, Diotrephes was involved in “talking wicked nonsense about us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church” (3 John 10). While scholars do not know much about Diotrephes, his legacy has been tainted in the pages of God’s Word. Can one imagine the horror of having one’s legacy recorded for all eternity as one who stood in the way of God’s church? Such is the case for all who allow themselves to be the conduits of falsehood.

Conclusion

Every person will leave behind a legacy of some sort. Theologians, pastors, apologists, and regular congregants alike leave something for the next generation. One must ask oneself, “What will be my legacy? What will others remember about me?” It behooves each person to evaluate themselves and begin building a legacy that will bring about good results. God has been too good for one to lackadaisically and half-heartedly settle for mediocrity. Let us all strive to leave behind legacies that will positively shape the generation to come.

 

© May 23, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes

[1] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Michael F. Haverluck, “3 Factors Keeping Youth in Church Through Adulthood,” OneNewsNow.com (May 4, 2015), retrieved May 23, 2016, http://www.onenewsnow.com/church/2015/05/04/3-factors-keeping-youth-in-church-through-adulthood.

Wrestling for Jesus: The Truth about the Christian and Suffering

My family and I joined countless others in a new phenomenon changing the entertainment business: we subscribed to Netflix. Recently, I watched a documentary on Netflix called Wrestling for Jesus: The Story of T-Money. The movie was based on the life of a wrestler/wrestling promoter who goes by the name T-Money. T-Money had organized a wrestling company that shared the gospel message during the events. The wrestling company was named, as the title suggests, WFJ “Wrestling for Jesus.”

The documentary takes a fascinating twist towards the end of the movie. T-Money and his wife seemed to have the perfect marriage. They were in church bragging about their relationship. T-Money seemed to have everything together bound together in his relationship with God. However, T-Money continuously struggled with the loss of his father who had died by suicide. This was an issue that resonated with me since I also had a grandfather who committed suicide. I understood fully the struggles and questions that he possessed. This agony along with other issues led T-Money and his wife to divorce.

Now with a broken marriage and a broken heart along with his best friend and fellow wrestler suffering a severe injury, T-Money began questioning everything he had ever believed and everything that he had ever heard. With his life in chaos, T-Money decided to fold the company.

The documentary demonstrates the problems associated with the so-called “health and wellness Gospel.” That is, the belief that Christianity promises an existence full of financial blessings and the absence of suffering. T-Money even said, “I’ve heard about God not giving you more than you can bear and about how he will see you through. It seems like none of that is working.”

I suspect that T-Money had bought into the idea that many American churches are promoting; the idea that Christianity means the absence of suffering. It may surprise T-Money and you the reader to know that the Bible NEVER says such a thing. In fact, it may be that the Christian is called to suffer. So, what does the Bible say about God’s support in a time of suffering?

God may call the Christian to suffer (Matt. 10:38).

Being a Christian may mean that one is called to suffer. What??? Yes! Jesus brought a message that falls on deaf ears in many of an American congregation. Jesus said, “whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38).[1] Understand, the cross that Jesus is referencing is not a gold-laced cross found on a piece of jewelry worn around the neck. It was an instrument of torture and death.

This certainly does not mean that the Christian should seek suffering and martyrdom. However, it does not mean that one is surprised when it happens either. The reference may not necessarily point towards even physical brutality. It may also point towards the hardships that are endured by the Christian. Many feel that God will remove any and all suffering when in fact the opposite is often true.

God will provide strength during times of suffering (Hebrews 2:18).

Many misuse the phrase “God will not put more on you than you can bear.” This does not mean that you will not be sometimes called to endure great times of stress. Folks who believe that are often perplexed when they are met with an array of troubles. The phrase would be better understood as God will provide you strength to bear many things. The writer of Hebrews notes that “because he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested” (Hebrews 2:18, NLT).[2] I am also reminded of the words of Jesus when he says, “Come to me, all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NLT).

God uses suffering to strengthen our character (Romans 5:3-5).

God has a purpose behind the Christian’s suffering. Paul writes that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). Suffering has a purpose. It is through suffering that one is strengthened and is given character which leads to a fervent hope found in God.

God uses suffering to share the message of hope (Philippians 1:12-14).

God may use the Christian’s suffering to bring others to salvation. Paul, writing to the church of Philippi, notes that his suffering had a purpose. As he was enduring imprisonment, he was able to reach individuals with the gospel message that he otherwise would have been able to reach. Paul notes that “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it is known through the whole imperial guard” (Philippians 1:12-13). Through your commitment to Christ during times of suffering, you may have a greater impact on others than one who is healthy and vibrant.

God will reward us for the sufferings that we endure (Matthew 5:12).

Jesus indicates that the suffering Christian who endures in their faith will be given a reward in heaven. Jesus says that “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). So, the eternal rewards in heaven will far exceed any suffering endured on earth.

Conclusion

Where in these passages do we find the teaching that the Christian is excused from suffering? Where in these passages do we find a “get rich quick with as little work possible” mentality? Where in these passages do we find the theology that holds that faith will eliminate any and all ailments? Keep looking, because you won’t find such teachings. T-Money had the expectation, at least as it was presented in the documentary, that Christianity excused a person from suffering and hardships. This is certainly not the case. All people are people. The difference between the Christian and the unbeliever is that God turns the Christian’s suffering into integrity and will use their suffering for good, ultimately resulting in an eternal reward. Remember, our Savior died a brutal death on a Roman cross.

Suffering is not something from which the Christian is excused. Suffering, from the beginning, has been ingrained in the Christian experience…but only momentarily. For “What 9).no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Heaven will be worth it all.

timothy-portrait          Note: If T-Money were to read this post, I would want him to understand that the promises that God has made (in that he will never leave you nor forsake  still stand. We must seek his guidance. We must seek his strength. We cannot handle these situations alone. Brother, God is not through with you yet. Blessings.

© February 5, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[2] Scriptures marked NLT come from the New Living Translation (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013).

The 10 Most and Least Bible-Minded U.S. Cities

A Barna research team recently interviewed people from various areas of the nation to see which cities and/or areas were the most and least biblically minded. That is to say, they were seeing which areas held a high view of Scripture. The study evaluated each city’s “Bible-reading habits and beliefs” (Zylstra 2016, ChristianityToday.com). The study interviewed over 65,000 adults in the 100 most populous areas.

The research noted that Tennessee “is home to more megachurches per capita (67) than any other state” (Zylstra 2016, ChristianityToday.com). As previous studies have indicated, “the South remains the most Bible-minded region of the country, with all of the top 10 cities located below the Mason-Dixon line,” (Zylstra 2016, ChristianityToday.com) said Barna. According to the Barna research, the following represents the 10 most Bible-minded cities in the United States:

10. Lexington, Kentucky (44%)

9. Greenville/Spartanburg/Anderson, South Carolina/Asheville, North Carolina(44%)

8. Knoxville, Tennessee (45%)

7. Little Rock/Pine Bluff, Arkansas (45%)

6. Charlotte, North Carolina (46%)

5. Tri-Cities, Tennessee (47%)

4. Shreveport, Louisiana (47%)

3. Roanoake/Lynchburg, Virginia (48%)

2. Birmingham, Alabama (51%)

1. Chattanooga, Tennessee (52%)

In contrast, the top 10 least Bible-minded cities are found in the Northeast and West. They are the following (note, this was a top 100 list):

  1. Salt Lake City, Utah (17%)
  2. Phoenix/Prescott, Arizona (16%)
  3. Hartford/New Haven, Connecticut (16%)
  4. San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, California (15%)
  5. Las Vegas, Nevada (14%)
  6. Buffalo, New York (13%)
  7. Cedar Rapids/Waterloo, Iowa (13%)
  8. Providence, Rhode Island/New Bedford, Massachusetts (12%)
  9. Boston, Massachusetts/Manchester, New Hampshire (11%)
  10. Albany/Schenectady/Troy, New York (10%)

It is interesting to note that Lynchburg (#3) is home to Liberty University, whereas Charlotte (#6) is home to Southern Evangelical Seminary, the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary extension in Charlotte, and a host of other Bible schools. Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute is found between Greenville, SC and Asheville, NC (#9). North Greenville University, a university with a large Christian component, is also found in the area. There are a couple of principles that stand out to me.

First, discipleship works! That is, those who have held a strong biblical mindset are using good discipleship methods in many areas of biblical training, while promoting the Christian worldview. If one considers the Bible to be the authoritative Word of God, then discipleship is mandatory. Not only should one desire to grow with God, but one should also desire to grow others.

Second, evangelism is necessary. Some may be tempted to stay away from areas with a populace possessing a lower Bible-mindset. But, how does that help? Perhaps, we need more emphasis on the Christians and the churches located in the more hostile areas of the nation. The following map, from Christianity Today (taken from Barna), provides the full top-100 list.

Barna Top100

Blessings,

 

Pastor Brian

 

© January 26, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

Source Cited

Zylstra, Sarah Eekhoff. “The Bible is Still Buckled: America’s 100 Most Bible-Minded Cities of 2016.” Christianity Today.com (January 21, 2016). Accessed January 26, 2016. http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/january/bible-belt-buckled-100-most-bible-minded-cities-2016-barna.html

3 Troubling Trends Encountered This Week

This past week, my heart has been grieved. It was not grieved by events happening in foreign nations. My heart was not grieved by any assault by atheistic innuendos. My heart has been grieved by particular things that I have seen coming from the American church. I was grieved in three areas of ministry and faith which were attacked, not by persons on the outside of the church, but by persons who are supposedly church leaders. These trends are highly dangerous.

1. Anti-biblical rhetoric.

The first area represents a trend that is of greatest concern. I read an article this week by a youth leader from the Raleigh-Durham area that demonstrated a troubling trend. The youth leader dismissed the authority of the Bible. He essentially claimed that the Bible was not the Word of God. Of utmost surprise to me what that many people came to his support! I don’t know of a more troubling thing for the church than for its young Christian leaders to be found dismissing the authority of the Bible. It is one thing to hold differing interpretations about a particular area of the Bible, but it is an entirely different problem when one dismisses the Bible entirely. Such a statement is especially troubling since this individual holds a great influence over the youth of his church.

2. Dismissal of biblical preaching.

Another problem I have encountered this week stems from a lackadaisical approach to expository preaching. Perhaps this dismissal stems from the lack of authority given to the Bible. Some feel that preaching is too old-fashioned. People want to hear stories and fancy tales rather than those pesky moral codes found in the Scriptures. The argument goes, “People want to hear about nice things. People want to hear about pleasant things. People do not want to be told what to do.” Would such people allow Jesus into their church? Would they allow the prophet Amos? What about that wildman John the Baptist? These men were teachers and preachers. Jesus expounded upon the Word of God (the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible). He often quoted and explained the texts. Don’t get me wrong! The gospel provides us positive things to contemplate. One of the fruit of the Spirit is joy. However, we must expound all of the Bible instead of picking and choosing those areas that are found most favorable.

I am reminded of the late Dr. Randy Kilby, former president of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute.” He said in one of his last messages before he died, “I hear people say, ‘Preach to the people’s needs. The problem is, you don’t know what the people need. Just preach the Word! God knows what they need” (Randy Kilby, 1998)! We desperately need more Randy Kilbys.

 3. Anti-apologetics.

The third problem has been a problem area for quite some time. This problem area is an anti-apologetics movement within the church. Which is really quite bizarre! Recently, a major denomination chose not to allow the proponents of Intelligent Design to host booths at their annual conference. The move by the major denomination stunned many of the leaders of the ID movement, such as Dr. Stephen Meyer. To compound the mystery of the denomination’s rejection of ID, many of the leaders of the ID movement are also members of the denomination in question.

Conclusion

We need to stay true to the calling that God has set before us. We must remain firm in our faith. But, we also need to realize that, as Jude has told us, in the last days we must be about “building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 20-23, ESV). Pray for those flirting with spiritual disaster.

 

© January 19, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

Dehumanization Found in Bad Sportsmanship

I have a confession to make…

 

Are you ready?…Okay, here we go…

 

I love watching sports.

Yes, I confess, I love watching sports. In the vast ocean of sports, my particular fish of choice is football. I love the competitiveness. The excitement amplifies me. The athleticism amazes me. And the necessity for unity in each particular team (that is, successful teams) compels me. While I have my particular favorite teams (e.g. Green Bay Packers and the Carolina Panthers) and have my lesser favorites…(wouldn’t you like to know), good sportsmanship is prized above all things when it comes to athletics.

That is why I was truly perplexed at last Saturday’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback of the Steelers, was carted off the field with an injury. While he enjoyed his cart ride back to the locker room, some fans began cheering that this person had been injured and threw objects at him. The off-the-field antics by the fans spilled over to the field. Pittsburgh went on to win the game due to unsportsmanlike behavior by some of the Bengal players that literally cost them the game. Being a playoff game, the sting of defeat burned far more than usual.

Let it be said that this one game DOES NOT REPRESENT the good people of Cincinnati, Ohio, the NFL, nor the Bengals organization. Such a thing could have happened anywhere.

How is it that sports overrides a person’s humanity? I understand that we all want our favorite teams to win. But in the end, one team must win and one team must lose. However, a person remains a person. I feel the problem stems from dehumanization which stems from the objectification of a human being. That is to say, a person is not viewed as a person but as an object.

Dehumanization is nothing new. Dehumanization has happened before and unfortunately will happen until Christ returns. Dehumanization led to the gas chambers in Germany, the killing fields of Cambodia, and the countless victims slaughtered across the world.

Am I saying that fans cheering on an injured quarterback is the same as the previous examples given? No. Of course not! However, if left unchecked, such societal ideologies, attitudes, and behaviors can lead to such extremes especially when human life is devalued. So how to we keep ourselves from dehumanizing another person? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Remember that all people are made “imagio dei.”

Despite a person’s nationality, politics, religion, or race, each person is a person made in the image of God. Granted, for some people it is much more difficult finding that image. Nevertheless, each person is a creation of God and is to be valued as such. One of the Ten Commandments states that one shall “not murder” (Exodus 20:13).[1] Why? It is because that every human life holds value. At the end of the day, even if your team loses, the winners are still human (that is unless your sport features fighting robots).

  1. Keep things in proper perspective.

At the end of the day, keep things in proper perspective. If your team loses, how are you really going to be affected? Chances are likely that the vast majority of those reading this article have not invested interest in the teams for which they cheer. Even if you do, is the world really going to come to an end if your team does not win the championship? 

  1. Try to remain emotionally balanced.

Sometimes people who have had a string of bad luck with personify their favorite team. Their team somehow psychologically represents them in a real way. However, this is certainly not the case. We must find a way to keep ourselves balanced emotionally. Try not to allow yourself to become overly excited or overly depressed.[2] How does one accomplish this? Try the final principle.

  1. Keep in tune with God.

When a person sees the world the way God sees it, then the person will not be as apt to become obsessed with their team and, thereby, resist the temptation to dehumanize those individuals on opposing teams. Yes…even if the Chicago Bears were to defeat my Green Bay Packers or the Seattle Seahawks were to defeat my Carolina Panthers…(to quote Dr. Zachary Smith from Lost in Space, “oh, the pain…the pain”).

drzachscream                            sad Packers dog

In eternity, will it really matter who won these games outside of the influence that people have with one another? Not really. Life will keep moving on.

If we keep these principles, we can demonstrate good sportsmanship and, more importantly, maintain the value of every human life.

 

 

© January 12, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[2] A biblical example of this can be found in the apostle Paul. Paul could find contentment in any state that he faced. See Philippians 4:10-13.

The Resurrection Denying Pastor: If the Resurrection Doesn’t Constitute Christianity, then What Does?

jim-rigby.jpgJim Rigby is not a name that will resonate with many. However, Rigby represents far deeper than just the person behind the name. Rigby represents that which is wrong with certain branches of so-called Christianity. Jim Rigby, the teaching elder at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Austin, Texas wrote the following on his social media page on Christmas of 2015: “Apparently, because I don’t believe in a literal resurrection, I’m not really a Christian…This also means I won’t be going to Heaven with many of you.”[1] Mocking the traditional gospel message, Rigby continues his rant in saying, “All that matters is that we admit that we are worthless trash, but that Jesus likes us anyway. Oh, and we have to LITERALLY believe Jesus’ corpse got up…So, anyway, if you believe the ‘good news,’ your physical cadaver will get up too. Hopefully, someone will remember where you are buried and come dig you up.”[2]

 Shocking as it may be, Rigby—a supposed Christian leader—treats the gospel message with more contempt than most atheists would. Houston, we have a problem!!!

There are many things I would like to say about Rigby’s comments. However, I will contain my comments to one general area.

Must one believe in the literal resurrection of Christ to be a Christian?

Well, let’s examine this with four points.

1. Every religion possesses qualifiers.

Norman Geisler writes that “The only alternatives to analogy are skepticism or dogmatism: Either we know nothing about God, or we assume that we know things in the same infinite way in which he knows them.”[3] Only the atheist would assume that one can know nothing about God. Thus, nearly every other worldview would accept that certain things are knowable about God.

Every religion holds qualifiers. For Islam, the Muslim is expected to say the Shahada, an Islamic creed which holds the oneness of God and that Muhammed is God’s prophet. Buddhists are expected to accept the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Jews are expected to hold to the Shema (from Deuteronomy 6:4).

These qualifiers help distinguish the core fundamentals of the particular belief system. Without the qualifiers, the belief system would become non-existent.

 2. Christianity is a religion.

Christianity is a religion and thus possesses qualifiers. Meaning, Christianity is a system of beliefs. These qualifiers distinguish the Christian worldview from other worldviews.

3. One of the earliest qualifiers for Christianity was the belief in the literal resurrection of Christ.

Without exception, Christianity was built upon the belief that Jesus of Nazareth walked out of the grave that first Easter Sunday. Paul writes, “if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless…And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins…And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, 19, NLT).[4] Scholars universally consider 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 as a pre-New Testament formulation that dates to the earliest church. The text reads,

 “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, NIV).[5]

Thus, from the very beginning the church focused upon the literal resurrection of Jesus.

4. Therefore, the belief in the bodily resurrection of Christ is a qualifier for Christianity.

If the literal resurrection was a building block of the earliest church, then to say otherwise would be to dismiss one of the cornerstones of the Christian message. Thus, if one denies the cornerstone of the Christian faith—the literal resurrection of Christ—then one would not find oneself within the parameters of the Christian worldview.

Conclusion

The apostle Paul provides an excellent synopsis to this problem. Paul wrote to the Galatians,

 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-10, ESV).[6]

It seems to me that Paul pegs the problem quite nicely. One must choose whether God or humanity will be served. Denying the core essentials of the gospel places one outside the boundaries of Christianity. I fear Jim Rigby finds himself in such a position. It is my prayer that Rigby will find himself back into the fold of orthodox Christianity.

On another note, it concerns me how several people are attempting to stretch the boundaries of what constitutes Christianity, making Christianity into something that it was not intended.

Jesus did not come to help us feel good about ourselves. Jesus came to save us from ourselves–to save us from our sin. Which leaves us with this question…

 If the Resurrection doesn’t constitute Christianity, than what does?

 

© January 5, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Bibliography

 Clark, Heather. “‘I’ll Try to Keep Down My Screams of Agony’: Resurrection-Denying ‘Pastor’ Mocks Being Hellbound.” ChristianNews.net (January 2, 2016). Accessed January 4, 2016. http://christiannews.net/2016/01/02/ill-try-to-keep-down-my-screams-of-agony-resurrection-denying-pastor-mocks-being-hellbound/

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

 Endnotes

[1] Jim Rigby quoted in Heather Clark, “‘I’ll Try to Keep Down My Screams of Agony’: Resurrection-Denying ‘Pastor’ Mocks Being Hellbound,” ChristianNews.net (January 2, 2016), retrieved January 4, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 22.

[4] Scripture marked NLT comes from the New Living Translation (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2013).

[5] Scripture marked NIV comes from the New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).

[6] Scripture marked ESV comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).