Does Calling-Out Apologetics Really Work?

Well I don’t know if that is an actual apologetic category, but as I’ve watched internet discussions ignite over John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference and its polemics against Charismatics, I’ve been reflecting more broadly on this approach of using a conference platform as a polemic against certain teaching. And in this case, its against a broad swatch of folks who identify as Charismatic, some of whom are genuinely orthodox. Rightfully, they are really hurt by this approach. In my opinion, the approach is problematic more so than the content, which I pretty much agree with.  It’s not so much that there is some strange doctrine and practice that needs to be addressed.  For the abuses on the fringe that are deceiving a lot of people, yes absolutely. And the pushback I’ve heard validating this kind of approach is that false teaching needs to be called out.

To be fair, I’ve engaged in this myself when shai linne released Fal$e Teacher$. He called some prosperity/WoF folks out specifically by name. It was bold but got much support from people who agreed with him. And I did, so I chimed in here and pepper my blog from time to time with the intent to demonstrate that there is some teaching a lot of Christians are claiming as truth, is actually non-Christian.

man-shouting-megaphoneBut there’s a question that keeps popping up in my mind – are the ones who really need to hear this listening? You can blast false and distorted teaching all day, calling out its teachers. But those who adhere to the teaching are generally convinced of its truth. And I couldn’t help but think that this tactic probably has the opposite affect. The more you call out names and movements, the more its followers will probably tune out. What’s left is raising a megaphone to people who already agree with you. How fruitful is that, especially when unnecessary division has occurred because of failure to make proper distinctions? Continue reading

Cessationism, Charismania and Criticism

shouting guys_anger managementMy heart was a bit heavy as I witnessed the blogosphere light up today over John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference and the broad brush stroke polemics against Charismatics. I appreciated Michael Patton’s thoughts on the subject.

Now to be clear, I am not a Charismatic. But I used to be and commitedly so – third wave, direct experience (direct communication is better; we all should have some kind of experience), charged atmosphere, seeking signs and wonders (or what I thought were signs and wonders). But seven years ago I stepped away due to a challenge by a friend on the disjointed and fragmented way I was reading Scripture. As I studied and considered Scripture from a holistic perspective and learning how to read stuff in context, I transitioned into soft-cessationism. This was not due to any negative experience but as a result of a formulation of a robust view of the doctrine of Scripture and how God sufficiently spoke through it. In other words, when I considered how the 66 books fit together and pointed to God’s redemptive work through the Son and how everything pointed to him, it made me re-evaluate how I understood continuation of gifts, prophecy, hearing from God directly and an over-reliance on experiential phenomenon as proof of God’s Spirit at work.

It was not like I didn’t read the Bible, didn’t believe in essential Christian truths, or didn’t have a commitment to Christ’s church.  In fact, many in my circles genuinely loved the Lord, sought to serve and please him and recognized that he had paid the price for their life. Although, I went to extremes after my conversion away from Charismania, I came to rest in kind of a tense area.  In fact, I have said on a number of occasions, that I went from being a crazy charismatic to a crusty cessationist and now live in a place called tension.

Why tension? Because I discovered that there are actually thoughtful, well read and even scholarly Charismatics who believe in the authority of Scripture and allow it to interpret how to consider God’s work in the world today. I ran across guys like Wayne Grudem and Sam Storms, scholars, pastors and authors. I encountered Vineyard guys like Luke Geraty and others who took the Bible and discipline of theology serious. These folks are not the experience driven, ignore the Bible, anything goes step-child fringe that rightly deserves critique.  In Michael’s article, I appreciated his statement that you can’t judge all Charismatics by the ugly red-headed step children. Continue reading

Some Dissing Required

My friend Miguel asked this question on Facebook today, “Can Christians respect beliefs that are diametrically opposed to their own”. Well, I wasn’t certain if he meant diametrically opposed to Christian beliefs or diametrically opposed to doctrinal/tradition differences within Christianity.

Nonetheless, if it was in reference to beliefs within Christianity, I could help but reflect on a Facebook discussion that occurred earlier that morning. The discussion related to a post I saw associating baptism and communion with magical rites, which basically spit on the idea sacraments.

I agree wholeheartedly with my friend Laurie’s comment in that discussion

I am growing weary of this movement of people whose goal seems to be to dismantle Christianity and the body of Christ and recreate in their own image and to suit their own desires….and all supposedly in the name of Christ. It is one thing to try to address falsehood and error, but this is something altogether different, I think. It feels like mockery.

Yeah, if feels like mockery to me, too. And it typically is because something new has been discovered about Christianity that no one else has figured out until now.

church history chart cartoon

Now new doesn’t automatically mean bad or untrue. But when 2,000 years of Christian tradition is ignored for novel concepts with the accompanying attitude of having it all figured out, I can’t help but not see that as disrespecting the church that Christ said he would build. Now clearly there has been some doctrinal splintering. But even in the disagreements, we should be able to acknowledge some validity in historical development and elements of timeless tradition that are rooted in Jesus’ own commands (including his apostles’ teaching). This transcends doctrinal/denominational perspectives and is not just related to sacraments but any component related to Christ’s church.

So back to Miguel’s question, I hate to say this but when Christians dismiss and disrespect 2,000 of church history, some dissing may be required.

When You Say the Church Replaces Israel…

painting broad strokesAnyone who knows me, knows that I care that doctrinal positions be articulated fairly even if you don’t hold to that position. When we don’t agree with a position, it’s easy for us to make sloppy and sweeping statements or otherwise eliminate distinctions that should be there for a thoughtful discussion. We can tend to paint with broad strokes.

This happens a lot with charges against Dispensationalism, but I won’t go there. No matter whether or how much I move away from Dispensationalism, I will always care that it be treated fairly and will defend correct articulations especially given the modifications that have occurred over time.

So it pains me to raise this charge. One broad stroke, lack-of-distinction statement that I hear made, mainly from Dispensationalists who won’t take the time to understand the church/Israel relationship from a Covenant Theology perspective (there are many thoughtful dispies who do), is that Covenant theology teaches that the church replaces Israel. However, it is certainly not confined to Dispensationalists. In fact, what prompted this post was this article here.   I also find that when concepts filter down to a popular level broad strokes and mis-definitions can occur. Even when I more aligned with Dispensationalism, this particular mis-statement made me scream because it does not accurately reflect the difference in positions between replacement and continuity.

Replacement theology advocates for just as it says, that the church replaces Israel because the Jews rejected Christ, they are judged by God. Israel no longer exists. All promises are now transferred over to the church and do not benefit them. It is a minority view and rightly brings up concerns of anti-Semitism.

Covenant theology advocates for continuity between Israel and the church. The church did not replace Israel but is one of the same organism, beginning with Abraham. Under the new covenant it has expanded to include believing Gentiles.  According to CT advocates, it is the new Israel. Continue reading

Seven Theological Caricatures That Make Me Scream

screaming girlWhat is a caricature? Merriam-Webster defines it as “exaggeration by means of often ludicrous distortion of parts or characteristics” When done with theological positions, exaggerations and distortions are usually a result of shallow or non-existent interaction with the positions being characterized. Instead broad-brushed generalizations are formed, usually because of opponents views, which are not carefully interacted with either!

To be fair, I’m also picking on my own theological persuasion camp just there’s no bias. Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with a position, it drives me nuts when it is not treated fairly. And the only way we can do that is to actually engage with competing ideas and their proponents with the intent on understanding. Building strawmen doesn’t count.

Also, there is typically a range of belief within a particular position that often gets neglected when making sweeping generalized allegations.

So in no particular order…

1) Unconditional election in Calvinism means we are robots who God forces to choose him. No Calvinist believes this or advocates it. Ask and read them and they’ll tell you the human will is involved. But the will is subject to illumination that only the Spirit can bring.

2) Cessationists don’t believe in miracles or the work of the Holy Spirit. No, what cessationists don’t believe is that miraculous events are defined by gifts in the present. Cessationist actually have such a high view of God that they believe he’s powerful enough to speak through his written word and can still govern affairs without the extras. And most cessationists really do believe in miracles and that the Holy Spirit is very much active! But again there is a range.

3) Arminians promote me-centered theology. Not as far as Wesley is concerned, or any other Arminian who truly loves the Lord and seeks to honor his Word and His church. Continue reading