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Evangelism / Outreach Archives ~ Aletheia Baptist Ministries Skip to main content

Quick Answers to Social Issues

Quick Answers to Social Issues

by Rick Shrader

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This is a new book of about 100 pages by Answers in Genesis, Master Books. It gives two-page answers to 1) Life Issues: abortion, fetus, right to die, cloning and stem cells; 2) Equality issues: racism, interracial marriage, slavery, sexism, feminism, intersectionality and social justice, genocide; 3) Marriage, Sexual, & Gender Issues: Sex, marriage, homosexuality, transgender revolution; 4) Environmental Issues: climate change, the green movement, animal rights, aliens. Many of these topics take a few small chapters to cover. It is not a deep apologetics book but it gives the believer, especially the layman, biblical answers to today’s common questions. Like most of AiG material, it is biblically based and helpful.

 

Billy Graham’s Passing

Billy Graham’s Passing

by Rick Shrader

Billy Graham was an evangelical evangelist who preached the gospel and saw many thousands of people come to Christ through his ministry.  Though I have not been a supporter of his new-evangelical ecumenicalism, I have always been thankful for many things about his life and ministry.  It will be interesting to see how America today handles the memory of Billy Graham and his preaching.  It is easy to praise a man after he is incapacitated or has passed away.  In many ways today America would not tolerate the evangelical message of salvation only in Jesus Christ, i.e., the Christian message being the ONLY way to God and that through a personal faith in Jesus Christ.  But I think we will see them paying lip service to it over the next few days.

Most evangelicals today would not be able to handle the “old fashioned” style of the Billy Graham Crusade, with its hymn singing and choirs, with George Beverly Shea singing How Great Thou Art, and especially with its public invitation to accept Christ right now, and perhaps even with Graham’s condemnation of sexual and moral sins.  It should be known or remembered that Graham was not the inventor of the crusade method that he used.  Many of us grew up hearing many evangelists preach in tents and large venues and give public invitations.  My own pastor, John Rawlings, who also died a few years ago at 99, preached this way all of his life.  As a fundamentalist, I am also reminded that in those days there was a stronger ability to stand against the ecumenicalism of the Graham Crusades and even that was more tolerated among evangelicals and fundamentalists than it would be today.  Sadly, we are also seeing that methodology (calling evil good and good evil) bear fruit in the evangelical world.

But I am also quick to compliment Billy Graham for a number of things for which I am thankful.  First, that there are, and will be, thousands of people in heaven because of his message of salvation in Jesus Christ alone.  I know many of them personally.  I am thankful that he kept himself clean from moral, financial, and other public failures that seems to have plagued many public religious figures of his day.  I am thankful that he made the public invitation acceptable, something which helped all of us who give invitations.  Many today who will praise his ministry will never themselves give a public invitation.  And I am thankful that even today, the day of his death, many television watchers will hear in his preaching again, maybe in old black and white scenes, the message that salvation is only in Jesus Christ.  He being dead yet speaketh, at least for the next few days.

In my life and ministry over the last fifty years, I could not support the ecumenicalism of Billy Graham.  But I can rejoice in a message of Jesus Christ and I am thankful for that.

 

Thirsting for Authenticity

Thirsting for Authenticity

by Rick Shrader

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It has been my privilege to read the manuscript for Dr. MacLachlan’s new book.  The book is now available and can be ordered on Amazon for a moderate price.  There have been many books written on the condition of the church in today’s culture.  Many are good and helpful and many fall short of being a biblical point of view.  Dr. McLachlan takes the reader through passages of Scripture by solid exegesis and lets its light shine upon the church and the culture.

The first section is titled, “Resetting our Rudder in a Postmodern World.”  Here McLachlan focuses on the world in which the church resides and how it is affecting the church’s walk with God.  The second and longest section is, “Reaffirming the Essentials at the Center.”  These seven chapters emphasize Christ, Scripture, the cross, the gospel, the great commandment, the great commission, and the glory of God.  If you like exegesis you will like these chapters as McLachlan walks through verses and passages with context, grammar, explanation and application.  This is what makes this book stand out among the rest in dealing with the culture and the church.  It is hard to argue with the text.  McLachlan doesn’t always point his criticisms toward the left but applies the pressure on conservatives and fundamentalists as well.  The third section is titled, “Recovering Our Spiritual Vitality.”  There is just one chapter here on the supremacy of Jesus Christ in all of life.  The culmination of Scriptural research ought to be to make our Lord Jesus Christ truly the Lord of our lives.

I don’t often make personal recommendations for books, but having read Dr. McLachlan’s manuscript, I was blessed and I’m sure you will be also if you read the published book.

 

 

When God Closes the Door

When God Closes the Door

by Rick Shrader

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The foremost belief of a sinner who refuses God’s grace is that the consequences of that refusal will never come.  Surely anyone who truly understood and believed in what the Bible teaches about heaven and hell would not take such a chance as this.  But, of course, the fact is that such a person does not believe.  Only recently I spoke about heaven and hell to an audience which included many non-believers, and they smiled and nodded throughout the message, but all the while not accepting the truth of what the Bible says.  Dr. Warren Vanhetloo, my theology teacher in seminary, wrote, “From creation, God had warned of future suffering in the fire of His wrath and had announced that those who believe on Him would escape such punishment.  Information about hell as well as possible deliverance is much more plentiful and specific in the New Testament, both by the Son of God during His earthly instruction as well as from His disciples in later communications” (Cogitations, 2/20/07).  Yet more people than ever think that such a fate will never happen.

Longer than I can remember people have been ignoring God’s warning about hell because of some reason concocted in their own mind:    a loving God would not send someone to a place like that; hell was invented to give the church power over unsuspecting people; if there is a hell it is just a place of separation, not a literal fire; hell is just the place we imagine it to be; or, hell is the culmination of the ongoing narrative of the church over hundreds of years.  Whatever a person’s own reason concludes about hell, the Bible is very clear that hell is real, hot, and long (read Rev. 14:10-11).  The Bible is also clear that God is longsuffering and not willing that anyone should go there (read 2 Peter 3:9).  This is the only reason why the judgment of God which is coming at the end of the age does not take place immediately.

God will one day close the door on everyone’s opportunity for salvation.  Yet throughout history God has left the door open as long as possible to give every person the best chance possible at coming.  But when the door is shut it is shut, “and after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).  If hell and the lake of fire are what the Bible says they are, the realization that the door has been shut on your opportunity for escape is the most unimaginable moment of realization, when God your Creator says, “I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity”  (Matt. 7:23; see also Matt. 25:41; Luke 13:27).

The door to Eden

“Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.  So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Gen. 3:23-24).

The door to Eden was closed.  Adam and Eve had disobeyed God and the paradise which they knew as the garden of Eden was finished.  Their disobedience affected not only themselves but all their posterity including all of us today.  “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12).  There is no way for humanity to go back.  We are all born sinners because of Adam and Eve’s decision to disobey God, actually a decision that was ours as well since we were in Adam at the time.  The Bible makes the fact of our sin abundantly clear.  Adam had a chance to have the door left open but he, and we, must suffer the consequences of his decision.

The door to the Ark

“And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life.  And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in” (Gen. 7:15-16).

The other issues beside our point are interesting.  This flood of Noah’s day was no doubt a universal flood.  Why would Noah have to take two of each kind of animal on the ark if the flood were only local and there were many other pairs of animals to reproduce?  Why even build such a monstrosity if he were not rescuing all non-seafaring animals?  Also, here the Bible tells us that God created all life as male and female.  This applies to the man and the woman also as Jesus reminded the Pharisees, “Have ye not read that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female?” (Matt. 19:4).  We don’t read that Noah had to search and search for multiple gender identities to make sure no one was left out.  But we digress.

The shutting of the door to the ark seems like a calloused thing for God to do.  First, because so many people would die in a terrible way.  Second, because if there is a heaven and a hell, He was consigning them to hell which is the result of their decision not to believe the preaching of Noah.  Third, because after the door was shut there would be desperate cries for Him to open the door, repentant cries of change of mind.  Yet the door didn’t open.  God in His sovereignty knew their hearts.  True repentance is seldom late and late repentance is seldom true, and in this case never true.  Belief must walk by faith and not by sight.  There is no one in hell who doesn’t now believe in hell. But that is not saving faith.  That is why the devils believe these things and even tremble at them, to no avail for their rescue (James 2:19).

The door to Lot’s house

“And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night?  Bring them out unto us, that we may know them. . . But the men put forth their hand and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut the door.  And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great . . . Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven” (Gen. 19:5, 10-11, 24).

Today’s LGBT generation would like to make this incident in Sodom less than it really was.  Some even suggest that the men of the city only wanted to get to “know” these two men (who turn out to be angels, evidently the Angel of the LORD) in the sense of knowing who they were and having a nice conversation with them.  Others think the sin of Sodom was only inhospitality because of a reference in Ezekiel 16:49 which, among other things, mentions their sin of idleness.  Still others think that what happened was only the attempted rape of Lot’s daughters or at the most, attempting the same toward Lot’s guests.

To digress once again, it should be pointed out that Ezekiel 16:50 calls the sin of Sodom “abomination” (singular).  This is important because in Lev. 18:22 Moses wrote, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (singular).  The term “abomination” only appears twice (also in 20:13) in Leviticus in the singular and both times it refers to homosexual sin.  The attempted sin at Sodom was certainly the sin of homosexuality.

The angels shut Lot’s door and struck the men with blindness.  Immediately afterward God destroyed them all with fire from heaven.  “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7).  Jude would agree with Paul in Romans 1 that God gave them over to a reprobate mind (Rom. 1:28).  The door of opportunity which was available to them through the witness of Lot (see 2 Peter 2:6-8) was closed for good and they perished in temporal and eternal flame.

The door of the Passover

“And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper doorpost of the houses, wherein they shall eat it . . . For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment:  I am the LORD.  And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exod. 12:7, 12-13).

I’m sure that the heads of the houses listened carefully to Moses as he gave them the instruction concerning the door posts and the blood.  The previous plagues proved that God was not deceptive when He announced the coming judgments.  If they did not prepare the lamb in the proper way and apply its blood in the proper place, their own children would die along with the Egyptian children.  Once the death angel (Who also seems to be the Angel of the LORD) passed over the door, there was no reversing either death or life.

For Israel it seems that all of them followed God’s instruction and were sparred death in their house.  For the Egyptians, however, the case was just the opposite.  How could God do such a thing to people who did not know any better?  Actually, the Egyptians had as much knowledge and as many chances to repent as any Gentile nation in Israel’s history.  As far back as Abraham, but especially from Joseph’s sojourn through Moses’ ministry, they had multiple opportunities to know Israel’s God.  We see again that when God shuts the door of opportunity there is no going back.

The door at Kadesh

“Tomorrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea . . . Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me” (Numbers 14:25, 29).

We know the story well.  The Israelites were to go into the land and conquer it for the LORD but they were afraid and voted 10-2 against doing it.  When God informed them that they would all die in the wilderness for their rebellion, they changed their mind and said, “we be here, and will go up into the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned” (14:40).  They even made a try at it without God’s blessing and were greatly defeated.  It was too late.  The door of opportunity was shut.  They would die in the wilderness over the next 40 years.  The writer of Hebrews concludes, “And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?  So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:18-19).

There are also examples of God’s closed doors in the New Testament.

The door of salvation

“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9).

All people are sinners and all need to be saved.  Jesus died for every human being and invites all to come to Him by faith.  The door to personal salvation is open as long as the Holy Spirit of God convicts through the Word of God.  That door will close at death.  Again, “As it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:27-28).

Jesus spoke of a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which will not be forgiven (John 12).  Some believe this only applies to Israel and others believe that  continued resistance to the Holy Spirit’s conviction causes Him to stop convicting which would close the door to salvation.  In either case, no one is saved without the Holy Spirit’s conviction, drawing, and regeneration.

The door or the Rapture

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3).  “Behold I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51-52).

The verses describing the rapture of the church could go on and on.  When it happens the church, the Bride of Christ, will be complete and the door will be shut.  Yes, some will be saved during the tribulation but they are not added to the church.  The fact is, that the chance of someone getting saved during that time is very slim.  Paul said, “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thes. 2:11-12).  To miss the rapture is to miss the open door of the gospel era.  “Behold now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

The age of grace continues on for only one reason.  “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).  The rapture is imminent and could happen at any time.  Come while it is still the day of grace.

The door to the Millennium

“And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut” (Matt. 25:10).

When Jesus returns in glory after the tribulation period, and the church returns with Him from heaven (Rev. 19:11-15), He will separate the wheat from the tares, burning the tares in the fire, and then will gather the wheat into His barn, an illustration of gathering the saved into His kingdom.  This division is pictured in Scripture as a separation of wheat and tares (Matt. 13:24-32); those who have oil in their lamps and those who do not (Matt. 24:1-13); sheep and goats (Matt. 24:31-46); and those who have on proper wedding garments and those who do not (Matt. 22:11-14).  Once this division is done by the Lord at His coming, it will not be reversed.  The saved will go into the millennial kingdom for a thousand years, and the lost will be cast out into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 24:51).

The door of the New Jerusalem

“And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day . . . And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:25, 27).

The last two chapters of Revelation describe the new Jerusalem, the heavenly home of the saved for all eternity.  The doors (for there are twelve of them) will be open for the saved but will be closed for the unsaved.  By then the decision of every individual regarding salvation will have been made.  The chance for change will be over.  John continued, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still” (Rev. 22:11).

And so . . .

When God closes the door of opportunity, the door is closed.  Whether that seems fair or unfair, loving or unloving, that is a matter for God and God alone.  A person is wise to go through God’s open doors while they are open.  I trust you have done that and have come to the Lord Jesus Christ for your personal salvation and eternal life.

 

 

The Story of Winona Lake

The Story of Winona Lake

by Rick Shrader

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I came across this book on a used book shelf and it stirred my interest.  I have heard of the Winona Lake Bible Conferences and also the connection of Grace Theological Seminary to Winona Lake.  Gaddis wrote the first edition in 1949 and in 1960 Huffman updated the history with a few chapters.

“Built upon the site of a Hoosier resort of the [eighteen] eighties—born in a chance conversation on a railroad train—planned with the assistance of Dwight L. Moody and Bishop John H. Vincent to incorporate the best qualities of the Northfield, Mass. School and the Chautauqua, New York, center—developed by the financial support of John M. Studebaker, H.J. Heinz, Alexander McDonald, and R.G. LeTourneau—these are only a few of the factors that have make Winona Lake the home of one of the world’s greatest annual Bible conferences.”

These conferences included such names as D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, G. Campbell Morgan, James Whitcomb Riley, W.E. Biederwolf, J. Wilbur Chapman, and Gipsy Smith.  The music was most often conducted by Homer Rodeheaver. The resort would eventually grow into the town of Winona Lake and, perhaps best known to many today, would become the home of Grace Theological Seminary with Alva J. McClain and Herman Hoyt.  The resort/town of Winona Lake would also house many and varying ministries such as the Free Methodist Publishing House, the Brethren Missionary Society, the Rodeheaver Company, the Winona Lake School of Theology founded by G. Campbell Morgan of London, Koscuisko Presbyterian Youth Camp, the Oriental Missionary Society, the Winona School of Photography, and even the beginnings of Youth for Christ with Billy Graham in his early days.  Though the conferences have ended, the seminary still operates and the town itself boasts around 5000 people with an ongoing tourist business.

 

 

Charles G. Finney and the Spirit of Amer...

Charles G. Finney and the Spirit of American Evangelicalism

by Matt Shrader

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This biography was written almost twenty years ago but it has remained the standard biography of this oft-discussed, and oft-maligned, nineteenth-century revivalist. Finney is known for his revivals and his revival theology, his systematic theology, and his socially progressive anti-slavery work at Oberlin College. Whether you want to hear about Finney’s famous conversion story, his “Anxious Bench”, his protracted meetings, or his perfectionism then this is the place to go. It is a book fully conversant with cutting-edge historical studies even though there are no footnotes or endnotes.

Finney is often seen as a pragmatic revivalist who advocated for a perverted Arminian or maybe even a semi-Pelagian view of human depravity. Hambrick-Stowe does a great job in explaining that Finney is best seen within the Calvinism that came from New Haven and Nathaniel William Taylor in particular. This recognition, though a bit technical, helps explain Finney quite a lot. In short, rather than seeing depravity in the constitution of humanity Finney saw it as a depravity of will in the lines of Taylor. This explains how his perfectionism differed from the Wesleyans. Just as Taylor’s theology did not carry the day and eventually wore out, so did Finney’s. Yet, the theological and social-ethical themes that Finney dealt with continue even into modern day American evangelicalism. This, and the fact that Finney is an amazingly interesting figure, makes the book worth reading. I am no Finneyite, but this book was great to read.

 

 

Good News & Bad News About Human Identit

Good News & Bad News About Human Identity

by Rick Shrader

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There are some things about which the Bible speaks clearly and one of those is the makeup of human beings. Yet it is amazing how far away from the plain language of the Bible our society has moved within one generation. In my youth it was risky enough to refer to homosexuals or lesbians rather than men and women. We would not even say the word sex in public and terms such as bi-sexual were a strange anomaly. Now we learn that “sex” only refers to biology but “gender” refers to however a person (I think we can still use that term with some certainty) feels about one’s identification in the world of anything-goes identities. In the 80s the acronym LGB (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual) became popular in an attempt to lessen the embarrassment of the categories. In the 90s it became LGBT, adding Transgender to the list, and now Q is added, obviously referring to queer or sometimes questioning. On a website that offered a list of terms now used, the title had LGBTQ+ because it listed over 50 gender identities, any of which a person may claim as one’s own and for which one may also rightly claim to be slandered. Today one may claim androgyny, binary, cisgender, pansexual, transgender, and even two-spirit gender! In our schools and public places, any offense given to someone who claims one of these, could end in accusations and even lawsuits.

Is all of this important? Well, I think it is and that it may partly determine how the government looks at the church, and sooner than we think. In a Weekly Standard article, writer Jonathan Last titled his article on this subject, “You Will Be Assimilated.” He summarized the growing problem this way,

All of which is a very long way of saying that whatever the Supreme Court rules in the coming weeks in Obergefell v. Hodges, the same-sex marriage campaign is far from over. It hasn’t even reached the point of consolidating its gains. Rather, it is still in its aggressive expansion phase. Next up on the docket are transgender rights . . . and polyamory. Then the push to bring religious organizations—schools, charities, and para-church groups—to heel will intensify. Already, Catholic Charities has been driven out of adoption and foster care in places like Illinois, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia because that organization doesn’t place children in same-sex households. (Tellingly, this rebuff has been deemed not a regrettable by-product of the gay-marriage movement, but a victory for it. The goal is not live-and-let-live.) then will come the big fight over breaking the churches themselves. And if you think that the same-sex marriage movement will stop short of trying to force churches to perform gay weddings, then you haven’t been paying attention.1

As I write this article, the Supreme Court has ruled that gay marriage must be legally recognized in all fifty states. But my purpose is not to delve any further into this sad underworld of our society. Rather, I want to give the good news of what God has created, allowed, redeemed, and proclaimed. Only Christianity has a message of redemption. It describes the world realistically and offers the only solution to fallen human beings who are trapped in their own sin. To understand this, one has to believe that the Bible is indeed God’s Word, a revelation from Him to us, and an infallible record of what God has to say to our situation in any age and culture. In this revelation there is much good news and also some bad news.

Good News! We are made in God’s image.

Francis Schaeffer once said, “Man, made in the image of God, cannot live as though he is nothing.”2 Of all the things God created, human beings are the zenith. Only of human beings did God say that they are created in His very image. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:26-27). Even though God created Adam first from the dust of the ground, and created Eve second from the side of Adam, the Scripture declares that both are made equally in the image of God. We may share life with the other creatures of God, yet none but mankind are given this unique and favorable position. G. Campbell Morgan once wrote, “There was life in the plant, and life in the lower animals, but when God inbreathed to man the Breath of lives, He bestowed a life in which lay the elements of light. In man, creation first looked back into the face of God, and knew Him.”3

In creation language there is only one race and that is the human race. There are only two sexes, or genders, and that is male and female. Jesus said, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh” (Matt. 19:4-5). Because there are only two sexes, male and female, marriage, says the Lord, can only be between a man and a woman. Every other kind of “marriage” is fornication.

Bad news! We are sinners.

The Bible makes no mistake about the existence of Adam and Eve, and neither is it unclear that our first parents sinned. Having been warned of the consequences of their disobedience by God, regardless, they ate of that which was forbidden, “and the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Gen. 3:7). Millard Erickson wrote,

If we choose to investigate the Bible’s depiction of man, we find that man today is actually in an abnormal condition. The real human is not what we now find in human society. The real human is the being that came from the hand of God, unspoiled by sin and the fall. In every real sense, the only true human beings were Adam and Eve before the fall, and Jesus. All others are twisted, distorted, corrupted samples of humanity.4

But the Bible tells us something deeper, more personal than the fact that our first parents sinned: we sinned with them! They were the head of the human race, and we sinned also as part of that race. Therefore we are born sinners. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12, NKJV). L.S. Chafer wrote, “No other human being than Adam has ever become a sinner by sinning. All others were born sinners. Distinction is made at this point between sin as an evil act and sin as an evil nature. By a sinful act Adam acquired a sinful nature, whereas all members of his family are born with that nature.”5

Our whole human race has substantive guilt, i.e., since we received our nature from our parents, both physical and spiritual, material and immaterial, and they from their parents all the way back to Adam and Eve, we were actually present in them when they sinned, and we sinned with them. Sin was imputed to the entire race at the moment of that sin, our “original sin.” In addition, we have inherited sin passed down through the generations in the sin nature accumulated from all of our ancestors.

What a contradiction we are! Created in God’s image but so marred by the fall and past generations of sin that we are hardly recognizable. “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen” (Rom. 1:21-23). Blaise Pascal described us, “What a freak then is man! How novel, how monstrous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth; sink of doubt and error, glory and refuse of the universe.”6

Good news! God loved us.

The reason why John 3:16 is the most well-known verse in the Bible is because it speaks such an obvious truth—if God does not love us, we are without hope. But God does love us! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The apostle Paul pointed out that this love came to us, not because we were lovely, but while we were unlovely. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). What love is this? God loving the unlovely? Yes! The word agape is a word virtually unique to the New Testament. It is not a human love of give and take, but an all-giving love. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). God did not need anything in return from us in order to love us. He just loved us. And since He loved the whole world of sinners, any may come to Him without price and without worth, and find divine forgiveness. C.S. Lewis wrote,

I call this a Divine humility because it is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up ‘our own’ when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer, He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is ‘nothing better’ now to be had.7

“How could God like the sinful, foul, stinking world? How could he embrace and kiss it? He would have to turn from it in revulsion. But he could and he did love it, comprehending all its sin and foulness, purposing to cleanse it and, thus cleansed, to take it to his bosom.”8 Praise God for His great love wherewith He loved us!

Bad news! We cannot recover ourselves.

Human beings, in their sinful condition, find it a difficult thing to accept the unconditional love of God. Surely there is something in us that God sees as acceptable and therefore loves us. We want to give something to God first, something of value, so that God will say, “Ah, this person has something I can accept.” But this is not the case. Though God loves us because of what He did in creating us in His own image, yet because of our own sin there is nothing left in us that can merit salvation. God must love us in spite of our moral bankruptcy. And morally bankrupt we are!

The devil’s lie is that sinful human beings can work hard enough and finally produce enough “good works” that will make them acceptable to God, or at least enough to outweigh their bad works. All false religions are built on this premise. But the fundamental error is that man is basically good enough, or that man has more good than bad in him, or that man, being God’s creation, is all that is necessary for him to one day stand before a holy God and be accepted and not rejected. But man is fallen. He is sinful. Even his good intentions have selfish and evil roots.

The law of God, whether we mean the law of Moses written in the Old Testament, or we mean every moral or “natural” law that God has revealed, has proven that man is unable to produce righteousness that will redeem his soul. In fact Paul states, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:19-20). So Paul can conclude, “There is none righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10), and “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). There is a “curse” that comes with the keeping of law for salvation. “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10). Or, as James so aptly put it, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). But since the Bible plainly shows that no one is without sin, we are therefore all condemned.

Good News! Jesus Christ provides a way for God’s love to save us.

John Newton’s beloved song, Amazing Grace, is so popular even among those who know nothing of that grace, because it seems to say that grace accepts “a wretch like me” simply because God loves me. This, God cannot and does not do. On the one hand God does not accept us just as we are. In that case there would be no need for Jesus to die for us on the cross and resurrect victorious over sin and death. God cannot accept us without our sin being forgiven. But on the other hand we do come just as we are. when we sing “Just As I Am” we mean that we must come to God with no righteousness of our own, with no good works for salvation. We come to God as sinners and undone, needing to be clothed in the righteousness of the sinless Christ. The old song, Rock of Ages, has it,

 

“Nothing in my hand I bring,

simply to Thy cross I cling;

Naked, come to Thee for dress;

helpless, look to Thee for rest;

Foul, I to the fountain fly,

Wash me, Savior, or I die.”

 

In a strange way, the good news is that we are all sinners. Paul concludes in Romans 3 that, happily, “there is no difference: For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:22b-23). That is, it is a good thing that we are not saved by law keeping because then it would be unfair. Some might make it and some might not. But since the fact is that all have sinned, and that salvation cannot come to sinners, God has made salvation by grace through faith, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). You can be saved because, even though you are a sinner, God allows you to come by faith, not by your worthless works.

But one more thing needs to be said here, and Paul makes this plain as well. Jesus Christ died for you and rose again. God accepts Jesus Christ and all who attach themselves to Him by faith. He doesn’t save you by your righteousness, but by the righteousness of Christ. If God merely excused your sin then He would be unrighteous. So Paul concludes, “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay; but by the law of faith” (Rom. 3:26-27). Faith in Christ leaves me nothing with which to boast, except the righteousness of Christ.

And So . . .

We human beings cannot act or boast as if we set our own rules of right and wrong. Outside of Jesus Christ we will choose wrong because that is our nature. And we will be condemned for it. But in Jesus Christ, in His righteousness alone, we can be sinners saved by grace.

Notes:

  1. Jonathan V. Last, “You Will Be Assimilated,” The Weekly Standard, June 22, 2015.
  2. Francis Schaeffer, Escape From Reason (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 1968) 53.
  3. G.C. Morgan, Understanding the Holy Spirit (AMG, 1995) 40.
  4. Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991) 496.
  5. L.S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. II (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1969) 217.
  6. Blaise Pascal, Pensees (London: Penguin Books, 1966) 64.
  7. C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, (New York: MacMillan, 1962) 97.
  8. R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1961) 259.

 

 

Old Paths

Old Paths

by Rick Shrader

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I have always enjoyed studying from Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels and have wanted to read this long treatise for a while. John Charles Ryle (1816-1900) was bishop Liverpool and an evangelical within the Church of England. If the reader can discern the obvious references to that church polity and doctrine, he can greatly enjoy the straightforward style common in that day. Ryle’s own description of the book is, “The longer I live the more I am convinced that the world needs no new Gospel, as some profess to think. I am thoroughly persuaded that the world need nothing but a bold, full, unflinching teaching of the ‘old paths.’ The heart of man is the same in every age. The spiritual medicine which it requires is always the same.” The book has 19 long chapters and can become tedious so I would suggest reading it over a long period of time, perhaps a chapter a week or month when you have time to sit and digest. It will be worth it.

 

 

The God Who Speaks

The God Who Speaks

by Rick Shrader

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             “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” Hebrews 1:1-2

America is quickly leaving a word-based society and becoming an image-based society and so is the church of Jesus Christ. Christians have always been readers and listeners. The invention of radio was a simple diversion where simply sitting and listening began to overtake the struggle of reading. The advent of printed images in magazines increased the ease of perusing through a magazine where one could look at the pictures rather than read the articles. With moving pictures came the theater and the modern wonder of bringing images to life, which was eventually brought into the living room with the television. Few living Americans today have ever experienced a time when these things were not commonplace.

But movies and television are ancient history to today’s young people. They have not known a time without computers and the internet. Many young Christians have never experienced a church service with simple singing, praying, and preaching. Their world is a world wallpapered with images and sounds at home, in the car, at school, in the mall or restaurant, and also at church.

The epitome of image is the commercial—a professional moment created by people who want to make money that invades the world of people who live by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. If one wants to get a true picture of the moral level of a society, he only needs to go as far as the radio, television, or online commercial. Consider the commercial where a product is being sold that supposedly will help you lose weight or increase bodily function of some sort. The pictures shown portray a happy, loving, successful person who is experiencing a perfectly happy moment. But while the pictures are being shown, by law the commercial must audibly say that taking the product may harm you in a number of different ways, actually causing a reaction opposite of what was intended, and in some cases may even cause death. But these ubiquitous commercials obviously work evidently because people watch but do not listen. Of course, the next commercial break will feature a law firm telling you that if you’ve taken the same drug, call because you will be able to sue them for damages and false advertising.

Some feel that our image-based world began in the 1930s in Nuremburg when Adolf Hitler held the first multi-media rallies. Thousands of people crowded shoulder to shoulder watching huge pictures with lights and music. Hitler was spewing the worst audio message imaginable but people were persuaded to follow because of the visual effects. Hitler knew this better than anyone and specifically describes his goal of brainwashing by this image-based methodology, calling it “the magic of influence of what we designate as mass suggestion.”1

Some feel that this all started in 1960 with the first televised presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy. Nixon had been in the hospital and came to the debate physically weakened and looking emaciated. Kennedy, on the other hand, was young, tanned, and good looking. Those who watched the debate on television thought that Kennedy won, but those who listened on radio thought that Nixon won. Image wins in a debate every time. That is why today’s presidential debates are everything to do with image and almost nothing to do with substance.

While attending a pastor’s conference in Denver some years ago I listened to a young pastor explain why we must now fill our preaching and teaching times with multiple visual aids, because today’s youth are now learning from multiple sources that feed all the senses of sight, sound, feel, and even smell. This is how they learn today in school and the church cannot afford to be behind in its pedagogy. Another pastor then asked why the American student ranks almost last in most of the important educational categories world-wide. The leader had no answer.

Ironically we call the historic period of image-based worship the dark ages. Carl Trueman has written, “As regards the cultural trend away from words to images, one could make a case for seeing this as, theologically, an undoing or a reversal of the Reformation and a reversion to aesthetic and sacrament-centered church life of a kind that defined much of medieval Catholicism.”2 He refers to a time when the images filled the beautiful cathedrals and sight and sound became the essence of worship, not the preaching of the Word. God brought Christianity out of this first with a Renaissance of learning, then the invention of the printing press, and finally (and most importantly) a return to the Book in the Reformation. The Reformers believed that God speaks through His Word and therefore the Word must be central in any worship service—sola scriptura!

Much has been written and spoken about the effects of postmodernism on our image-based culture. Authur W. Hunt, III, wrote, “Much of what is going on in our church sanctuaries falls under my definition of postmodernism—that is, a turning from rationality and an embracing of spectacle.”3 Trueman points out that postmodernism has left us with two dangerous results: the death of the author and the medium as the message.4 Postmodernism posits that language changes so quickly that we cannot know the original intent of the author. The author, for all practical purposes, is dead.   Therefore, we have to read all writing, especially old writing, without trying to discover the author’s meaning but rather ask what it means to us right now. In postmodernism this is the only possible knowledge we can gain from writing. No wonder Americans today do not believe we can even discover what the writers of our constitution meant. This is why so many argue for a fluid meaning rather than a historical meaning. Applied to the Bible, however, this means that for all practical purposes God is dead and the only question we can ask is what the Bible means to me, not what the original writers meant. This also means that exposition of a text is largely a waste of time. Emotion and inward searching of the soul become a better hermeneutic.

On the heels of this, the medium virtually becomes the message. How the message is conveyed basically determines what the message is going to be. In this way the hearers (or experiencers) become the final authority. If the author of the text is dead, the hearer becomes his own god by determining what message can fit the medium. Is this a return to medieval Christianity? Have screens and speakers taken the place of icons, altars, incense, and stained glass? Albert Mohler wrote, “Though most evangelicals mention the preaching of the Word as a necessary or customary part of worship, the prevailing model of worship in evangelical churches is increasingly defined by music, along with innovations such as drama and video presentations. Preaching has in large part retreated, and a host of entertaining innovations have taken its place.”5

If God has spoken and speaks today through His Word, the Christian has an imperative that cannot be compromised. The preaching of the Word is God’s ordained means of communication and the exposition of that Word is the most important job of the teacher or preacher. And, we might add, filling of the Spirit Who inspired the sacred text, becomes the most essential methodology in worship. Hebrews 1:1-3 and 2:1-5 make important statements about the God Who speaks.

God spoke in time past

God spoke at sundry (various, NKJV) times and in divers manners. Beginning in Genesis chapter one, we find, “And God said, let there be light” (1:3); “And God called the light Day” (1:5). This pattern continues throughout the six days of creation. In addition, and wonderfully, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit speak among themselves (one in essence, manifested in three persons) “Let us make man in our image” (1:26); “Behold, the man is become as one of us” (3:22); and later, “Let us go down and confound their language” (11:7). From the beginning God has been a God who speaks. God spoke unto the fathers by the prophets. From Abraham and the patriarchs to Moses and the prophets, God spoke in various languages, visions, dreams, handwriting, inspiration, and other miraculous means.

When liberalism tried to “demythologize” the Bible, it wasn’t to take myths out, it was to remove any mention of God speaking through these miraculous means. This has been Satan’s method from the beginning, “Yea, hath God said?” But when Eve “saw” the fruit she was more impressed by the visual than by the word. Why will the unbelieving world today not accept creation? Because it was a miracle, and they have long ago decided that the miraculous never happened and that God has not spoken.

God spoke through His Son

Hebrews also makes plain that God spoke in the most unique way, through the incarnation of the Son both personally and prophetically. God spoke through Christ personally because Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and in Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 1:19, 2:9). He is called the Word, or Logos (John 1:1) because He conveyed the true message from God’s mind to us.

But God also spoke through His Son prophetically i.e., through the very words that Jesus said. “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him” (John 3:34. See also John 6:63; 6:68; 8:26; 12:48-50). This was an historic occurrence that cannot be erased. Our very calendar forever will testify to the fact that God spoke historically through the Son. The gospel is the historical fact of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This can never be undone. The preaching of it can fail, the belief of it can wane, but the fact of God speaking through His Son will judge men in the end.

God speaks to us today

Such a statement as this is much used and abused. I hold to cessationism, i.e., that the miraculous sign and revelatory gifts ceased with the apostles and are not operative for today. However, God also did something in the first century through the apostles which was for us today—He gave us His inspired Word, “once for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Through the Bible God is still speaking with the same authority with which Jesus spoke. Hebrews 2:1-5 tells us that Jesus spoke to those that heard Him (the apostles) and the apostles’ words were confirmed by their own miracles. Mohler said, “If you do not believe that God now speaks from His Word—the Bible—then what are you doing every Sunday morning? If you are not confident that God speaks as you rightly read and explain the Word of God, then you should quit.”6

There have been two errors made historically about God giving us His Word. The first is that God never started. These are those who, through their liberal presuppositions, could never accept that God inspired a Bible. To them the Bible is as any other book, a product of good and enlightened men, but not a divine product of the Holy Spirit. The second error is that God never stopped. These are the cults who believe that God is still giving the gift of inspiration to add to the Word of God—Mohammad, Joseph Smith, etc.   But God spoke once through inspiration (of course, 66 times over 1500 years, but “once for all delivered unto the saints”). But every time we read the Word of God, God is speaking through it directly to us. That is why exposition of the Word is vital to worship.

And so . . . .

By leaving a word-based culture and turning to an image-based culture we are forfeiting the very power of God in our worship. It is not that we cannot use pictures, screens, power point and so forth, but these must always be secondary and illustrious to the main thing, the written and spoken Word of God. After all, God gave us two illustrations to use in our preaching: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But the difference in these illustrations and all others is that the very Word which they illustrate commands their use and explanation. An image-based worship is a return to a more ignorant time, not a progression forward. Arthur Hunt wrote, “Paganism never really died in modern western culture; it was only restrained. American Protestantism effectively suppressed many pagan forms up until the twentieth century; but the advent of the image-based media has brought forth a revitalization of the pagan gods in popular culture.”7 One would be hard-pressed to deny that the common scene at a rock concert is a return to paganism. In fact, it is the world’s idolatry. The church should be very careful in copying it.

Carl Trueman also wrote, “What we need to be concerned about is the replacement of preaching and doctrine in many generic evangelical churches with drama, with so-called liturgical dance, with feelings, emotions and mystical experiences, and, sometimes, with elaborate sacramental ceremonies which make the Catholic Church look positively Puritan by comparison. These all speak of the transformation of Protestantism from a word-based movement into something more concerned with aesthetics of one form or another.”8

If these warnings are not sufficient to make us pause, consider the warning in Revelation 13, a scenario which could realistically happen a short three and a half years from now if the Lord were to come today. Here the “beast” or antichrist is “worshiped” by the whole world, empowered directly by Satan. The whole worship scene is enhanced by “another beast” or the false prophet. This beast constructs the final multi-media, image- based worship service before Armageddon happens. He does it with “great wonders” and “miracles” (both from semeia, image, sign). The whole world will be tattooed with a “mark” upon the skin that shows solidarity with the movement. Is the world not conditioning itself for this type of worship?

Perhaps this article ought to be closed with Paul’s admonition to Timothy,

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;   Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.   For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;   And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.        (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

 

Notes:

1. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (New York: Houghton & Mifflin, 1971) 479. Interestingly, this comes from a section titled “The Significance of the Spoken Word.”

2. Carl Trueman, The Wages of Spin (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2004) Kindle, 793.

3. Authur W. Hunt, III, The Vanishing Word (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2003) 202.

4. Trueman, part 2, “”Short, Sharp Shocks.”

5. Albert Mohler, Jr., He Is Not Silent (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008) Kindle, 260.

6. Mohler, 764.

7. Hunt, 25

8. Trueman, 359

 

 

The Wages of Spin

The Wages of Spin

by Rick Shrader

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I have read and enjoyed another Carl Trueman book. As a professor at Westminster, Trueman is a Reformed theologian and historian. However, almost all the books I’ve read by him are directed more at cultural issues and only slightly affected by his theology. In this book are two sections examining two Reformed theologians, J. Gresham Machen and Benjamin Warfield, both of which make good reading.

The rest of the book is given to the “spin” going on in contemporary worship. In this Trueman speaks with his usual candor and insight. Here are a few quotations from these sections.

“No one should make the mistake of seeing the move to contemporary praise songs and service as simply a straightforward, value-neutral repackaging or rebranding of a traditional product.”

“This ‘Celtic revival’, while superficially appearing to represent a return to history and tradition, is on the whole simply a theological manifestation of the same phenomenon we see in society around us. It is an eclectic and nostalgic appropriation of a pseudo-history which supplies the church with a specious historical authenticity.”

“Acknowledging that God works in history means that we acknowledge that he has worked in the past; and acknowledging that he has worked in the past means that we acknowledge that we may not ignore that past as if we today had all the answers.”

“We must remember that to reduce Western Christianity’s difficulties to the level of bad technique is to miss the point: the real problem is ultimately one of morality, not methodology. Quite simply, the evangelical church has sold its soul to the values of Western society and prostituted itself before the Golden Calf of materialism.”