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Tag Archives: Christian cults

“We have no creed by the Bible” is a slogan I have heard from childhood. And it is a noble slogan. We have been a fellowship of sloganeers. “We speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent.” That is one of my favorites. I only wish it were true. If we have genuinely lived by these kinds of directives then why all the splits and divisions within our religious movement over matters about which scripture has usually been deafeningly silent? No, slogans do not make us a people of God’s own choosing.

Leaders among the “restoration churches” have for years been saying that we have no creed/creeds. It appears to me that we have fooled ourselves into believing that if we repeat something often enough and loudly enough sooner or later people will believe it. It’s sort of how creeds are developed in the first place. In other words, if we practice or teach something long enough it will become an “old paths” tradition. Then, if the tradition doesn’t die, it becomes canon law (a creed) and is now a vital enough matter to debate.

Of course not all of us are guilty of accepting all of the creeds that will be here mentioned. So we may pick and choose those of which we are guilty of obeying and enforcing. Not all of the creeds “we” have sired will be here mentioned for two main reasons: 1) I can’t recall them all, 2) Lack of space and/or literary license from brother Charles. Now, if your kindness, dear readers, will allow, I shall launch into my laundry list of ecclesiastical creedalisms developed over myriad of decades of institutional evolution. These are not necessarily listed in order of importance.

First is the matter of the liturgical (orthodox) prayer of the churches of Christ. Our forms and expressions of worship can easily become crystalized. Involved in our prayer creed is the business of who to address. One must direct his prayer to God the Father and to Him alone; never the God the Son, Jesus Christ. Forget that we have a biblical example of Stephen praying directly to Christ. Forget that Jesus is our intermediary to the Father (can you imagine a client never getting to talk to his attorney?). Forget that some may occasionally desire to slip in a small, “I love you, dear Jesus, for what you did for me!”

Not only must we pray exclusively to the Father and never utter a word to Christ or the Holy Spirit (who also mediates on our behalf), but we must at home juncture within the prayer speak the words, “In Jesus’ name.” It is preferable to say this at the closing in a public prayer so that the congregants may Amen in agreement without distress.

Oh, I almost forgot, there is the matter of prayer “language” to the ultra orthodox. Majestic pronouns are often preferred over other, less regal, words (thee, thou, and thy over you and your). Somehow these pronouns are able to convey respect and humility to God in spite of the fact that there were no royal pronouns in the biblical languages. To add to this dilemma, there are also preferred cliche expressions to top things off (of course I try to avoid cliches like the plague. Expressions such as: 1) Guide, guard and direct, 2) Ready recollection, 3) Molestation, 4) Another portion of thy word, 5) Sick and afflicted, 6) Next appointed time, 7) Respective places of abode, et al.

Aside from the matter of “holy” pronouns and catch phrases is the business of regressing into Elizabethan English to speak to deity. Joseph Smith used this technique when he penned his Book of Mormon and “Inspired” version of the Bible. He assumed that if he wrote, “And it came to pass” some 2,000 times that the story would have an obvious ring of divinity. He, as we, used phrases with ancient words like wouldst and couldst and hast and loveth and coveteth. Really brethren, is a prayer more sincere if we say, “Holy Father, we loveth thee and coveteth thy bountiful grace” instead of”Dear Lord, we love you and ask for your generous mercy?” Besides, I tho’t coveting was a sin.

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Have you ever heard that phrase “The ONE TRUE CHURCH” before?

If You have,,, it is most likely that you heard it from a cult member or cult group. ALL cults say they are the “one true Church” (referred to as OTC hereafter). All cults have 3 things in common. 1. The all have distorted teachings about God, specifically Jesus and the Trinity. 2. They all employ a teaching and culture of legalism. And while they may give lip service to “salvation by grace”, they apply a system of salvation by works. 3. They all claim to be “The ONE TRUE CHURCH” !

This idea of the OTC among cults is expressed in many ways, some of them very ambiguously and not always clearly understood by the folks that hear the assertions. The claim to be the OTC by cults, and the many different ways that say or imply it,, is generally called Authoritarianism. Authoritarianism being defined as “Characterized by or favoring absolute obedience to authority, as against individual freedom” (1).

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This question was asked of me, “there are 34,000+ different Christian denominations today. Who is to say which churches constitute the congregations of ‘true Christians’?” My responce follows.
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I seen someone else make a similar statement about two weeks ago and have not had time to comment but would like to do so. The post I am commenting on used 19,000+ as the number of Christian denoms.

I would like to postulate a question that I believe statements like this beg to ask! I believe this is what people mean when they make such comments,,, “With between 19 and 34 thousand different Christian denominations,,,is it not ludicrous to think there is anything but confusion among christians as to what christianity is? Why should I consider joining such a confused bunch? Is there really any logical reason to consider Jesus Christ?”

It is my belief that people who make such claims, as there being 19 – 34 thousand denominations of Christianity, in a sense that there are that many different versions are really saying “you guys are fools and can’t even figure out ya’lls own religion”. Some may actually believe that there are many different versions of Christianity but I believe that most prop up such bogus ideas in there head to justify their denial of Jesus Christ.

FALSE TEACHERS, PROPHETS, GOSPELS AND A DIFFERENT JESUS

Every New Testament book except Philemon contains warnings against false teachings, false prophets and false gospels that teach a different Jesus and Spirit. Paul said there where false teachers among the Corinthians and Jesus said beware for many come false teachers have come to lead you astray. We are told that there are men who secretly introduce destructive heresies and that Satan and his ministers masquerade as servants of righteousness. We are even told that there are doctrines of demons.

To the church at Galatia Paul said “you are being thrown into confusion by people trying to pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ, I am astonished that you so quickly turn from the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel”. We are told to not accept any other gospels than the one preached by the apostles, even if they come from angels or the apostles themselves.

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The aberrant pseudo-Christian cults are united against grace and faith alone for justification/salvation.

Spend some time in a Christian debate or discussion community for awhile and you will learn a few things. First and foremost is that there are so many different ways that people believe and teach about certain biblical topics. For those who are NOT well studied and versed on what is and what is not orthodox Christianity can get confused easily. There are only two groups of Christians. Those who adhere to orthodox teachings and those that hold heterodox or aberrant heretical teachings. The difference is that between true Christianity and Pseudo-Christian cults.

While the vast and flagrant differences of the cults on various doctrines and teachings is the first and most obvious thing that a participant or a lurker in those type forums will learn, the most prominent theme and common denominator among them is their united assault against salvation by grace alone, through faith alone. While most cults claim to be the only true church and the only ecclesiastic outlet of salvation, all cults stand united in denying that salvation is by grace apart from works.

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http://www.mormondoctrine.net/testimonies/five_courageous_women.htm

How much Mormon frustration is projection against the LDS church itself?

Does This Describe You? You’re Not Alone….

I asked a question on an internet discussion board. (CARM)

I sometimes wonder if Mormons who get the most upset at LDS critics are genuinely and subconsciously upset at the “system” because they know that they’re just not measuring up {to LDS standards}?

I don’t expect true-believing Mormons to respond with friendly tone because they have wives and kids to think about. For them to say anything negative about the “church” might be tantamount to divorce or losing a job.

What about ex-Mormons?

When you were still LDS, what happened when you were met with “anti-Mormon” tracts? Why did you get mad? What happened that caused you to feel upset… even when you knew that what the “anti” was saying was true?

(Hey, I’m no psychiatrist nor sociologist. I’ve been thinking lately that the ones who get the most angry might be closer to God than they think. Just musing… or molting.)

Libs responds:

You’re molting? Ewww, messy.

You know, Russ, when I first came to CARM, I was really angry at the things I read, because I thought they were out and out lies. Now, I still think there are things that come up, fairly often, that are not exactly accurate, but for the most part, not lies. After I did some looking around on my own and discovered a LOT of the claims against the church and the prophets were true… then, I really got upset. Angry, fearful, distressed, and finally, very sad. Still makes me sad, at times. And angry, at times.

Sounds to me as if Libs got upset because she found out she was being lied to by her own “church.” Who can blame such a one? Sorry for molting on your computer monitor. 🙂

Magdalena responds:

I think I got angry because at least a part of it rang true, and that put me in a tough spot. You’re supposed to defend the church with everything you have. I was angry at having to defend things that I was doubting on some level. And when you’ve been taught that your eternal salvation hangs in the balance, that can be crazy-making.

The more I learned, the less I could defend. And I was angry at the Mormon church for putting me and other people in that position.

How ridiculous is it to expect people to defend someone who chased young girls, married already married women and lied to his own wife about it? This was supposed to be a prophet? I don’t think so.

The list of ridiculous things you’re supposed to defend is very long. If you don’t, you’re accused of not having enough faith. Well you need to be smart about where you put your faith. I wasted a lot of time and energy defending things that weren’t from God. And that did make me upset.

Sounds to me as if Magdalena was upset that she could no longer defend the indefensible. Sounds like she was frustrated at being lied to… and finally… enough is enough.

Justjo responds:

I was angry because I thought the “anti’s” were just lying, the more I found what they said was true, the angrier I got because of fear… fear as Magdalena said, loosing one’s salvation, loosing the progression one has already made and having to start over again if I left and I was wrong in doing so and had to go back. Angry that the org’s best answers at the time was people who have question lack faith, and Mormons know what God thinks of those who lack faith! Then, to actually leave and hear rumors that you left because of some great sin, you couldn’t live the high standards of the org (who the heck really can!?), or I was angry with someone in the org (as if that would be a reason to leave “the only true church”)… that was what made me angry the most!

As Shawn McCraney said… they were right! “I am a sinner, probably the lowest of the low!” But, name me one Mormon who isn’t. HELLOOOOO!!! I live a higher standard being away from the org than I did in it. Why? Because I am not trying to be something I am not…. perfect. Last but not least… who hasn’t been angry at someone else? Do you leave your faith because of that? SERIOUSLY….

Boy Russ… you must have hit a sore spot in me… LOL…. here… let me vent… tell you what I really think and how I really feel about it…

Yes, the more of God’s truth I found, the angrier I got, and the louder I spewed against those who spoke out against my Mormon religion…

Oh my heck! Sounds to me like Justjo was angry at being guilt-tripped into thinking she’d loose her salvation if she dared to question “Joseph.”

MistyAnn0414 responds:

I think I was upset because I felt I was being “picked on”. I was taught that this was the only true church, and the so called “persecution” was proof of it. I can remember going to the Hill Cumorah pageant, seeing the protesters and thinking very unChristian thoughts about them. I never once thought that maybe there was someone there who just wanted to share Jesus Christ with me. I thought I knew it all, that I had the whole truth. I believed that the people who spoke out against the church were only going on the limited knowledge they had, believing the lies they read in books, and heard from their pastors. You know to this day I have never been in a church where the pastor even mentioned Mormonism. It all came down to fear. I was afraid to go there, to take that step. I knew things didn’t feel right or add up. I just didn’t know what I would do without the church.

Sounds to me that MistyAnn found out that it’s okay to question Joseph and that Christians aren’t necessarily out to merely attack Mormons, but are rather asking Mormons to seriously examine what their “church” is asking them to believe.

Mishamari responds:

I was angry at the institution’s methods because I had been lied to. Milk before meat y’know. I was angry at myself because I was so naive’ and trusting, angry because I was out so much money… I overpaid tithing and when tax time came around I couldn’t get it back. I was sad too, that my loved ones bought into a lie as well and I was the first convert in the family.

I wasn’t presented with any “Tracts” and I don’t recall being upset with any “antis”. I only ran into a few “antis”; one was a roommate and we just agreed to disagree. And another was a gal I met at the library, she belonged to a campus Christian cult (college newspaper warned us about them) and approached me about a Bible study. WE got to talking about church and she said “You do realize your church teaches my people have the Mark of Cain, right?” I was a new convert and wasn’t familiar with such a teaching. She started stalking me around campus and I had to say “If you want to be friends, that’s great. You have to give me some space. If I’m only a project to you then I don’t want anymore contact.” I never heard from her again.

Y’know Russ… now, years later… I think the thing I am most upset about is the misrepresentation of God. This issue is what initially led me out of the church but wasn’t the source of my anger. I’m over the “lie” thing and now I’m angry about how God is defined.

Sounds like Mishamari got fed up with being lied to. Again, who can blame such a one?

The courage of these five women inspire me.

Jesus inspired them.

Jesus inspired them to take a close look at what the Mormon “church” was asking them (telling them) to believe and, more importantly, Jesus inspired them to take a real, close look at who He claims to be.

May Jesus also inspire you to look deeply into his life and then compare that to what Joseph Smith said about Jesus. Can such a person really be the brother of Satan? Or is he who he said, i.e. God in the flesh? (John 1:1 and 1:14) The very God of all creation. (Col. 2)

Jesus asks, “Who do you say I am?”

Just a good guy? A special prophet? Lunatic? Liar? Offspring of God and Mother God? Brother of Satan who proposed a better plan?

Or God.

Choose this day whom you’ll serve.

Jesus or Joseph.

Introduced by Ed Decker. No matter what you think of these two guys, this is a piece of history!



Tired of trying to be a prophet, avatar or visionary but can’t get anyone to blindly follow you? Have you always wanted to know how to manipulate people in the name of any deity, religion or philosophy you want to hide behind so you can advance your OWN agenda of nakedly abusing power? Look no further!

Examines the similarities of cult traits and NPD in the pulpit.
The Seether songs remind me of my former “spiritual leaders” and probably mean more to me than making a statement to the viewers. Watch this before you give me too much head ache.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Ecnm_a0EAtk

See the links in my other videos for more info in Spiritual Abuse, NPD in the pulpit and leaving a cult. Or just read these:

http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/6…

http://www.chameleongroup.org.uk/npd/…

http://www.meadowhaven.org/psychissue…

A Debate with Jose Silva Leader of Silva Mind Control ( Dr. George DeSau Psychologist and Graduate of Silva Mind Control) DEBATE John Weldon and Dave Hunt on the John Ankerberg Show.

Silva Mind Control History

Silva began developing the method; formerly known as Silva Mind Control, in the 1940s before launching it commercially in the 1960s.[1][2]. It developed out of Silva’s conviction that the thoughts and actions of 90% of the world’s population were governed by the the left hemisphere of their brain; limiting them using only logical, intellectual, objective means of problem resolution. Silva believed that by training people to think with both the right brain hemisphere as well as their left they could access information stored at a subconscious level. [1][2] According to Skeptical author Robert Carroll, the Silva method appears to be based on the work of Roger Wolcott Sperry, but with Silva’s own twists in it that make it an inaccurate model. [1]

The Rest of the Article on Link Below http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silva_Mi…

Christian or New Age Mind Control Cult ? TAP BELOW FOR ARTICLE http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/C…

Founder of Freedom Beacon Ministries in Upstate, NY, talks about cult abuse and recovery issues.

What qualifies a group as a cult? Both the sociological and the theological perspectives are examined using nifty, easy to remember visuals.

Freedom Beacon Ministries founder speaks out on the theological definition of “cult”. Based on the two major signifiers found in 2 Corinthians 11:3, 4.

My friend Sean (PappaG) wrote this piece on his blog here.

Sean has a Masters degree in Theology, So it is a quite good rebuttal story,, about when the Mormons last visited his house. I think you will enjoy it.

This is Seans second draft and he is requesting any suggestions that you might have. So pop on over to his blog if you have any. Thanks damon

While I am not a Presbyterian. I definantly call them my Brothers in Christ. I could be a presbetarian or reformed brother if I was not a dispensational pre-millennial -pre-tribber.

This is one of the best debates I have ever heard. I did not know anything about brother keith until yesterday. He is freinds with Chris White from Nowheretorun Radio, and Frankie Lordie from Revelation Radio so I suspected his work would be good. I WAS NOT LET DOWN. TY bro Keith

Is Christianity a religion of peace?

Representing the Christians side:
Keith Thompson
-www.keithtruth.blogspot.com
– has debated Nadir Ahmed and Rich Rodriguez

Representing the Muslim side is Sami Zaatari
-www.muslim-responses.com
-has debated Dr. James White, Sam Shamoun, David Wood

At the end of this debate, the Muslim moderators did not allow Keith to finish and allowed the Muslim debator to continue. In this video, Keith refutes some additional assertions made.

 

Many have having fearful days because of the prophecy that is being fulfilled before our eyes. We don’t talk about this fear, because we fear looking like immature believers, or unspiritual. I wanted to cover this topic in this video and to let those who are having some fears that our God is with us and will not leave us alone during these hard times.

 The bringers of false and strange fire

 

GOD’S GENERALS: The Legacy (includes Todd Bentley, Jim Goll, Benny Hinn, Roberts Liardon, and more)

 

Charles Fox Parham and Freemasonry

Parham was probably a member of the Freemasons at some time in his life.[14] The 1930 biography on Parham (page 32) says “Mr. Parham belonged to a lodge and carried an insurance on his life. He felt now that he should give this up also.”[5] The question is one of timing, the extent of his involvement, and how much of their teachings became merged with his theology. From his wife’s comments, it appears he was originally involved because of the good deeds they did in looking after their fellow man (something he did not feel the churches did a good job of doing), not because of their beliefs. Because many in the Pentecostal movement oppose the Freemasons so bitterly, some have said that he left the organization when he started his “Full Gospel” ministry. This would fit with the comment in the biography. What is clear is that, at the peak of his ministry (between 1900 and mid-1907) he had little time for involvement in any organizations. His bible school and his preaching were an all consuming task. Even his active later ministry left little free time for activities like lodges. Some feel there is evidence that Parham was still a member of the Freemasons in 1928 (they feel he “appeared to still have Masonic tendencies”), but source documents for this are not quoted. They may be drawing an inference from a letter that Parham wrote back home from his Palestine trip where he said “I am going to bring a gavel home with me … I am going to present it to the Masonic lodge in Baxter Springs with my respects.”(p373)[5] Yet if he had been a member then, it is likely that his wife’s earlier comment in the same book, where it tells of Parham’s decision to leave the lodge, would have been different. She said “I had been taught in the Friend’s church not to believe in secret organizations, and was very glad for his decision” [i.e. to leave the lodge].(p32)[5] It is just as likely that the gavel was simply a present for friends he had known since his original involvement. If Parham was involved in Freemasonry, the ultimate question is what the level of his involvement was, when he was involved, and if there are any indications of these beliefs in his ministry, especially during the period of his highest influence in the early pentecostal movement (from 1900 to 1907). Lower level involvement in smaller communities can be more of a social involvement than a belief in or an understanding of their principles (as it appears was the situation with Parham’s early involvement with the lodge).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Parham

A NEW BOOK BY AN EX-COC MEMBER
 
inside-church-of-christInside the Churches of Christ: The Reflection of a Former Pharisee on What Every Christian Should Know about the Nondenomination Denomination By Charles Simpson Published by AuthorHouse, 2009 ISBN 1438901402, 9781438901404 308 pages
 
The Pharisee of Jesus’ day placed obstacles between lost souls and salvation in much the same way that modern day Pharisees hinder today’s salvation seekers from accepting Christ. Inside The Churches of Christ reveals those obstacles as they are manifested throughout modern day Churches of Christ. Author, Charles Simpson, reflects an unmistakable Pharisaical attitude toward other Christians, Christian traditions and Christian institutions typical of those he personally witnessed as a 50-year active member of the Churches of Christ. Dozens of quotes from Church of Christ practitioners from all over the USA validate the legalisms prevalent within this group. Church of Christ readers will come away with a new perspective on the actual theology of their own brethren and the potential impact of that theology on other believers. All Christian readers will have a better view of the non-denomination denomination and gain much insight into the Church of Christ claim of being Christ’s “one true church.”

Who are the Churches of Christ?

The Churches of Christ are an association of churches that trace their history back through the preaching of Barton W. Stone in the American mid-western frontier, an ex-Presbyterian preacher heavily influenced by Methodists and Shakers, and Alexander Campbell, an ex-Presbyterian, then Baptist preacher in the 1790s to 1860s.

The Stone-Campbell Movement began as a unity movement. Alexander Campbell came from the Old Light Anti-burgher Seceder Presbyterian Church of Ireland and Scotland. Campbell rebelled against the rigidly closed taking of the bread and cup in his congregation in Ireland. Only those who passed the catechism were permitted to partake. No other Presbyterians who disagreed with them were permitted to partake with them. (Some trace the Church of Christ penchant for debate and division to their Presbyterian/John Knox/John Calvin/Ulrich Zwingli heritage.) Campbell was a postmaster who spread his teaching through magazines he edited.

The Stone-Campbell Movement, or more familiarly called the Restoration Movement, gained momentum as it followed the frontier of the United States. In Kentucky at the Cane Ridge Camp Meeting in 1801 it became wildly Pentecostal (belief in the present-day miraculous movement of the Holy Spirit). By 1830 the movement was anti-pentecostal and anti-emotional, especially on the Campbell side of the movement. (The Stone side of the movement remained more emotional, believed in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, was more grace-oriented, and was more open to people outside the Churches of Christ.)

In the early 1800s the Churches of Christ/Christian Church/Disciples of Christ claimed to have been the fastest growing religious movement in the world. Alexander Campbell was invited to preach to the Congress of the United States of America.

Four preachers from the Churches of Christ, including Sydney Rigdon, joined the early Mormon Church around 1824 and influenced it to reflect several of the doctrines of the Churches of Christ (including the name of the church and baptism for the remission of sins).

The movement split just before the American Civil War–the richer north opposing slavery and becoming more organized with a missionary society (1843) and adopting organs and pianos, (the Disciples of Christ). The southern portion retained an otherworldly approach and claimed to be the one true church (the Church of Christ).

Restoration Movement groups go by the names of Church of Christ (using instrumental music, mostly in the west, associated with Midwest School of Evangelism in Ottumwa, Iowa), the Independent Christian Churches (the moderate middle of the spectrum, sometimes called the Christian Church, and sometimes called the Church of Christ, especially in Canada and Australia), and the liberal Disciples of Christ (currently discussing ordaining gay clergy, and active with the World Council of Churches) with headquarters in Indianapolis, IN. The O’Kelly movement of the Christian Church eventually joined the United Church of Christ (not identified with the Restoration Movement, but tracing history from the Mayflower Pilgrim Puritans). The southern portion of the Restoration Movement became the Churches of Christ, noninstrumental.

The most famous colleges associated with the Churches of Christ (who worship with a cappella singing) are: Abilene Christian University, Lubbuck Christian University, Harding University, Pepperdine University, Oklahoma Christian University, Freed-Hardeman University, David Lipscomb College, Faulkner University, York College and Rochester College. There are numerous two to four year colleges associated with the a cappella movement.

The noninstrumental or a cappella Churches of Christ split in the United States in the 1950s and ’60s over organization and money distribution. (Can a group of churches pool money to do a special ministry?) The smaller, noninstitutional churches use Florida College, Temple Terrace, Florida.

Until recently, the fastest growing wing of the Movement was the International Church of Christ, headquartered in Los Angeles.

Since the 1970s there has been a growing house church movement in the Churches of Christ, (see also here), many focusing on the doctrine of grace.

Currently the Churches of Christ are shrinking by 2% per year. The larger a cappella Churches of Christ are identifying with the wider evangelical movement (which often looked to Billy Graham for leadership), with a splinter group opting to remain hard-line sectarian (the one true church).

Click here to see what many believe are unbiblical doctrines in the stricter, hard-line Churches of Christ.

http://ex-churchofchrist.com/historyCoC.htm

 

My next few post will come from http://www.dyingtoliveabundantlife.com/entry/teachings  

ABOUT Dying to live the Abundant Life.  

Have you ever wished you could die? Of course, you didn’t really want to kill yourself. You just didn’t want to be here anymore! When life gets painful, who has not wished they could just go somewhere and leave it all behind? In one of his Psalms, David expressed it like this: “O, that I had wings of a dove, I would fly away and be at rest.”

Even the great apostle Paul, when imprisoned in Rome, said it would be better to die so he could be with the Lord. And when listing the many trials he had to endure through his life, Paul said he had “despaired of life.”

This “death wish” is a natural human response to seemingly endless trials. As a counselor for 25 years, I have met many persons who felt this way, even some who were suicidal. But as I counseled suicidal people, I learned this:

There is a right way and a wrong way to die!

When people say they want to die, they mean that they want to escape their painful circumstances. They are disappointed that life is not turning out as they had expected. And the greater their expectation, the greater their disappointment. Many have turned away in anger toward God! Who of us has not felt this way?

And it is not just the BIG things in life that cause us to feel this way. Daily we deal with these disappointments. We are angry because the paper was late this morning; the toilet stopped up again; the car needed to go in the shop for the third time this month. And we say, “I would rather die than live like this.” Wait a minute, you say! What’s wrong with wanting these things? My friend, that is the wrong question! The question is not whether it is wrong to want these things. The real question is: what will you do when you don’t get them? What will you do with your disappointment? And your anger?

The irony is that these hard times are meant to show you that there is something you need to die to, or said differently, to let go of. As children of God, we must learn there is a right way to “die” (let go) and a wrong way to “die” (let go).

This is the point of this webiste.

The real death blow is to give up, or die to, stop insisting on your own way, that is, your expectations of how things should be. This is what it means to die to self. Jesus said, unless a grain of wheat…dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears MUCH fruit. Jesus meant that you cannot be alive to this abundant life He offers unless you are willing to die to your own. When you give up your right to be in charge of your own life, that is, be your own god, you allow God to be God. And the life that He will give you is marked by contentment and peace instead of anger and depression.

Jesus suffered and died and then rose up to be seated at the right hand of His father where He lives a glorious eternal life. He extends that life to us right now – in time. It is called Abundant Life. Jesus invited you to have it, but you have to die to experience it. He calls you to deny yourself, to pick up your cross and follow Him. Picking up your cross means you are taking your place with Jesus, to die to your own will.

Jesus said “I can do nothing on my own…” Why should it be any different for you and me?

Dietrich Bonheoffer says “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” There can be no full receiving of this “new” life while we are unwilling to let go of the “old.”

Are you hungry for more of God? Are you eager to have the abundant life that Jesus offered? Are you dying to live the abundant life?

Jesus said: I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

Through pertinent articles written by Dr. Greg Burts and some of his favorite authors and teachers, you may read more about this “dying to live abundant life” truth. And this is why Greg has written his book Are You Dying to Live the Abundant Life?.

May God bless your journey to Abundant Living! 

 

 

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Dr. Greg Burts is the Founder and Director of the Center for Biblical Counseling.

Greg says, the Lord called me to the ministry of biblical counseling after my own journey away from God because of confusion and ignorance about my identity in Christ. Upon discovering these truths, he became passionate to advance personal spiritual growth in the church through the ministry of biblical counseling. Although Dr. Burts holds a Masters degree in Marriage, Family, & Child Counseling from Azusa Pacific University and a Ph.D. in Psychology from California Coast University, his therapeutic approach is singularly biblical.

You can learn more about Dr. Greg Burts’ ministry of Biblical counseling and training through his website at www.centerforbiblicalcounseling.org.

Dr. Burts is author of two books:

Strategic Biblical Counseling and Are You Dying to Live the Abundant Life?  

While both of these books present and explain the truths contained on this website, the latter was written specifically to accompany the Dying to Live seminar, taught by him in various locations several times a year.

Dr. Burts’ wife Altha, Founder and Executive Director of Well of Life Ministries, has written a book of her own journey of transformation and healing, called Come Up Higher. She has also written a strategic Bible study called Treasures of Truth, which can be viewed online at www.well-of-life.org, where you can also hear Altha’s testimony and learn more about her ministry.

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The Way of the Cross, by Zac Poonen

Jesus, as our Forerunner (One Who has run the same race ahead of us), has opened a way for us to enter the Father’s presence and dwell there all the time. This way is called “the new and living way” (Heb.10:20).

Paul speaks of it as “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus” (2 Cor.4:10). He once said, as his personal testimony, that he was crucified with Christ and lived himself no longer. It was Christ that now lived in him, because he himself had died on Calvary. This was the secret of his amazing life and usefulness to God.

Jesus always walked the way of the cross – the way of death to Self. He NEVER pleased Himself even once (Rom.15:4). To please oneself is the essence of all sin. To deny oneself is the essence of holiness.

Jesus once said that no-one would be able to follow Him, unless he decided to deny himself DAILY and to die to himself DAILY (Lk.9:23). That is clear. It is impossible to follow Jesus if we don’t deny ourselves daily. We may be cleansed in Christ’s blood, have received the Holy Spirit and have a deep knowledge of the Word. But if we don’t die to ourselves daily, we cannot follow the Lord Jesus. That is certain.

Jesus once spoke of those who seek to patch up an old garment with a new patch. This He said would tear the garment. What was needed was to get rid of the old garment and get a brand new one. In another parable, He spoke of making the tree itself good, if we wanted the fruit to be good. It was no use just cutting off the bad fruit.

All these parables have basically one lesson: The old man cannot be improved. He has been crucified by God (Rom.6:6). Now we must agree with God’s judgment on him, and put him off, and put on the new man.

The way of the cross is the way of spiritual progress. If you are not overcoming sins like anger, irritation, impatience, lustful thinking, dishonesty, jealousy, malice, bitterness, and the love of money etc., the answer lies here : You have avoided the way of the cross.

A dead man does not stand up for his rights. He does not fight back. He does not care about his reputation. He will not take revenge. He cannot hate anyone or have a bitterness against anyone.

This is what it means to die to Self.

This way of the cross, like all the other provisions that God has made for our spiritual growth, is also something that we need DAILY, if we are to make spiritual progress.

© Copyright – Zac Poonen

This article has been copyrighted to prevent misuse. It should not be reprinted or translated without written permission from the author. Permission is however given for this article to be downloaded and printed , provided it is for FREE distribution, provided NO ALTERATIONS are made, provided the AUTHOR’S NAME AND ADDRESS are mentioned and provided this COPYRIGHT notice [“Copyright by Zac Poonen”] is included in each printout.

http://www.cfcindia.com/web/mainpages/word_for_the_week.php?display=01_05&year=06

 

ABOUT Dying to live the Abundant Life.
Have you ever wished you could die? Of course, you didn’t really want to kill yourself. You just didn’t want to be here anymore! When life gets painful, who has not wished they could just go somewhere and leave it all behind? In one of his Psalms, David expressed it like this: “O, that I had wings of a dove, I would fly away and be at rest.”

Even the great apostle Paul, when imprisoned in Rome, said it would be better to die so he could be with the Lord. And when listing the many trials he had to endure through his life, Paul said he had “despaired of life.”

This “death wish” is a natural human response to seemingly endless trials. As a counselor for 25 years, I have met many persons who felt this way, even some who were suicidal. But as I counseled suicidal people, I learned this:

There is a right way and a wrong way to die!

When people say they want to die, they mean that they want to escape their painful circumstances. They are disappointed that life is not turning out as they had expected. And the greater their expectation, the greater their disappointment. Many have turned away in anger toward God! Who of us has not felt this way?

And it is not just the BIG things in life that cause us to feel this way. Daily we deal with these disappointments. We are angry because the paper was late this morning; the toilet stopped up again; the car needed to go in the shop for the third time this month. And we say, “I would rather die than live like this.” Wait a minute, you say! What’s wrong with wanting these things? My friend, that is the wrong question! The question is not whether it is wrong to want these things. The real question is: what will you do when you don’t get them? What will you do with your disappointment? And your anger?

The irony is that these hard times are meant to show you that there is something you need to die to, or said differently, to let go of. As children of God, we must learn there is a right way to “die” (let go) and a wrong way to “die” (let go).

This is the point of this webiste.

The real death blow is to give up, or die to, stop insisting on your own way, that is, your expectations of how things should be. This is what it means to die to self. Jesus said, unless a grain of wheat…dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears MUCH fruit. Jesus meant that you cannot be alive to this abundant life He offers unless you are willing to die to your own. When you give up your right to be in charge of your own life, that is, be your own god, you allow God to be God. And the life that He will give you is marked by contentment and peace instead of anger and depression.

Jesus suffered and died and then rose up to be seated at the right hand of His father where He lives a glorious eternal life. He extends that life to us right now – in time. It is called Abundant Life. Jesus invited you to have it, but you have to die to experience it. He calls you to deny yourself, to pick up your cross and follow Him. Picking up your cross means you are taking your place with Jesus, to die to your own will.

Jesus said “I can do nothing on my own…” Why should it be any different for you and me?

Dietrich Bonheoffer says “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” There can be no full receiving of this “new” life while we are unwilling to let go of the “old.”

Are you hungry for more of God? Are you eager to have the abundant life that Jesus offered? Are you dying to live the abundant life?

Jesus said: I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

Through pertinent articles written by Dr. Greg Burts and some of his favorite authors and teachers, you may read more about this “dying to live abundant life” truth. And this is why Greg has written his book Are You Dying to Live the Abundant Life?.

May God bless your journey to Abundant Living! 

 

 

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Dr. Greg Burts is the Founder and Director of the Center for Biblical Counseling.

Greg says, the Lord called me to the ministry of biblical counseling after my own journey away from God because of confusion and ignorance about my identity in Christ. Upon discovering these truths, he became passionate to advance personal spiritual growth in the church through the ministry of biblical counseling. Although Dr. Burts holds a Masters degree in Marriage, Family, & Child Counseling from Azusa Pacific University and a Ph.D. in Psychology from California Coast University, his therapeutic approach is singularly biblical.

You can learn more about Dr. Greg Burts’ ministry of Biblical counseling and training through his website at www.centerforbiblicalcounseling.org.

Dr. Burts is author of two books:

Strategic Biblical Counseling and Are You Dying to Live the Abundant Life?  

While both of these books present and explain the truths contained on this website, the latter was written specifically to accompany the Dying to Live seminar, taught by him in various locations several times a year.

Dr. Burts’ wife Altha, Founder and Executive Director of Well of Life Ministries, has written a book of her own journey of transformation and healing, called Come Up Higher. She has also written a strategic Bible study called Treasures of Truth, which can be viewed online at www.well-of-life.org, where you can also hear Altha’s testimony and learn more about her ministry.

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Bearing the Cross
By John Woodward
May 17, 1999

The story is told of a child in a church service who was intrigued by the hymn, “Gladly, the Cross I’d Bear”. Some time following church, the little one told his mother that he really liked the song they sang about the bear. “What song did we sing about a BEAR?” she asked. The child responded, “You remember, “Gladly, the Cross-eyed Bear”! Hopefully his mom could enlighten him. . .

Perhaps we too feel a little confused about the various facets of the Cross. Andrew Murray noted two fundamental aspects of the Cross. Christ died for us–that is the REDEMPTION of the Cross: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18).

Believers died with Christ–this is the FELLOWSHIP of the Cross: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”(Gal 2:20).

Since our theme this month is “the flesh”, let us study some verses that relate the cross to “the flesh”. Galatians 5:24 states “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” In other words, because the believer is united with Christ, THE AUTHORITY OF THE FLESH HAS BEEN BROKEN! We are free!

Now I think we need to answer two questions arising from Galatians 5:24. First, Does this verse teach that the flesh is no longer present in the believer? No; the context indicates that the believer needs to “walk in the Spirit” to avoid the “works of the flesh” (v.13,16,17-see previous issue). [However, the “old man” (our unregenerate human spirit) WAS crucified with Christ and IS NO LONGER IN THE PICTURE because it was replaced with “the new man” (the regenerate human spirit) — Rom 6:6, Col 3:9,10, 2 Cor 5:17] .

Second, Does Galatians 5:24 teach that the believer somehow directly crucified his flesh? I propose that this crucifixion of the flesh is a consequence of our union with Christ at salvation. Our part was to repent and believe; God’s part was to unite us with Christ and BREAK THE AUTHORITY OF SIN in our lives–(John 8:32).

The believer’s indirect “crucifixion of the flesh” is comparable to the indirect use of “save” found in 1 Corinthians 9:22. Paul wrote, “To the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means SAVE some.” Here Paul aims to “save some” through his preaching of the gospel. Would Paul directly save them? No; God would save them THROUGH Paul’s witness. Similarly, believers “have crucified the flesh” indirectly as a consequence of being united with Christ: “He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Cor 6:17). So through Christ, THE AUTHORITY OF THE FLESH BEEN NULLIFIED BY GOD!

This truth is also taught in Colossians using the symbolism of circumcision: “And you are complete in Him [Christ], who is the head of all principality and power. In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” (Col 2:10-12). Circumcision was the Old Testament sign of the covenant relationship with God. It conveyed the idea of putting off the sin inherited from Adam, and anticipating the promised Seed who would come–Christ (Gal 3:16). Those who are redeemed by Him are spiritually “circumcised”. As the prophet foretold, “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:33). When we walk in the Spirit we are living in accordance with our “new heart”.

There is another use of “putting to death” of the flesh that needs to be examined. In Romans 8:13 we read, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you PUT TO DEATH the deeds of the body, you will live.” Charles Solomon explains, “When flesh is in the ascendancy or control we are functionally (though not organically) separated from the Source of Life which results in a STATE of death (Rom 8:6) while having a STANDING of Life (Col 3:4)”. In other words, if the believer “walks according to the flesh” he does not lose his salvation, but he does hinder fellowship with God. (Fleshly thoughts and actions grieve the Holy Spirit–Eph 4:30).This “putting to death” the deeds of the flesh differs from the FACT of our crucifixion with Christ and the blessings that flow from it (as described above). Rather, Paul exhorts us in Romans 8:13 to apply the Cross to the flesh patterns which still exist in the soul.

Our POWER SOURCE for this is the Holy Spirit: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [for holy living] through His Spirit who dwells in you.”(Rom 8:11).

OUR STRATEGY is to set our minds on the truth, on our freedom, on Christ, and on the Spirit’s active ministry in us: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” (Rom 8:5).

One concluding reference to the cross in the believer’s life is Luke 9:23: “Then He (Jesus) said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Here our Savior calls us to say “no” to our will and “yes” to God’s will–no matter how difficult the consequences. The Lord Jesus demonstrated this commitment in His prayer in Gethsemane (Mark 14:36).

Are we gladly willing to bear His Cross? This involves reckoning our true identity and freedom in Christ. Thankfully, we can rely on His Resurrection life in us to live according to God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will. This is the life God calls us to live–a life without regrets.

Our gracious God, we thank you for the freedom from the authority of the flesh that is our birthright in Christ. As we stand in grace, we choose to live by grace. In Christ’s victory we pray, amen.

JBW May 17, ’99 vol 2 # 20

http://www.gracenotebook.com/pub/163

ABOUT the Center for Biblical Counseling

Dr. Greg Burts, Founder and Director of the Center for Biblical Counseling and Altha Burts, Founder and Executive Director, Well of Life Ministries
 
The Center For Biblical Counseling is a non-profit organization, incorporated by the State of California to provide counseling and counselor training.

For 2000 years, the church has been the recognized community resources for counsel and advice. But, unfortunately, modern day “Christian psychotherapy” has become a replacement for what-used-to-be a pastoral function of caring for souls. The Christian psychology movement is marginalizing pastors and church leaders who are no longer being taken seriously with respect to counseling. Secular psychology has slipped in through the back door of the church; it is chipping away at the foundation of absolute truth with emphasis on self-esteem, self-love, and self-forgiveness. It is time to return the ministry of pastoral care and counseling to the church.

While most pastors want to meet this increased demand, they feel overwhelmed by the need.

The SOLUTION, many churches have found, is to establish Biblical counseling ministries, where mature, gifted persons within the church are able to do this work of pastoral care.

Gifted Biblical counselors can meet this need, and also free the pastor’s time and energy for other pastoral duties.

This website offers you a strategy for your church’s counseling ministry. The objective is spiritual growth through a Christ-centered proclamation of transformation. Biblical Counseling is about relationship with Jesus; the goal of Biblical counseling is Christ-likeness.

Vision

The vision is for lay biblical counseling in every church.

  • Lay Biblical Counselors can extend the effectiveness of the pastors’ shepherding responsibilities by providing one-on-one ministry to hurting individuals.
  • Lay Biblical Counselors promote a spiritual perspective, as they help counselees to apply the Word of God to issues.
  • Biblical Counselors have the advantage of working within the context of the church and can avail themselves of all the associative resources: small groups, bible studies, recovery ministries, to name a few.

About Dr. Greg Burts

Author of two books

“I have written a book to help you understand how to do biblical counseling. Strategic Biblical Counseling, available at Amazon.com or Winepress. I have also recently published a book on personal transformation called Are You Dying to Live the Abundant Life? also available at Winepress or Amazon.com. Also visit my website at Dying to Live the Abundant Life.com.

The Lord’s Calling

The Lord “called” me into biblical counseling after my own journey away from God because of confusion and ignorance about my identity in Christ. Upon discovering these truths, I became impassioned to advance personal spiritual growth in the church through the ministry of biblical counseling.

Twenty-five Years Experience In Biblical Counseling My approach provides a biblical content combined with solid therapeutic techniques that strengthen the counselee’s relationship with Jesus Christ. Although I have a masters degree in Marriage, Family, & Child Counseling from Azusa Pacific University and a Ph.D. in Psychology from California Coast University, my therapeutic approach is singularly biblical.

Pastoral and Counseling Experience

Over the last 25 years, I have been a pastor in two churches. One was very small and one very large. Therefore, I understand the needs of pastors of all kinds of congregations! My wife Altha and I have been involved in many Bay Area churches to assist them in training and equipping individual counselors, and establishing church counseling ministries. My wife Altha is Director of Well of Life Ministries in Sunnyvale and has written a book of her own spiritual journey, Come Up Higher.

Dr. Burts is available to pastors, by email, for consultation.

http://www.centerforbiblicalcounseling.org/about

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SOME TESTIMONIES

Pastors Testimonials

October 15, 2005

John Headley, Cell Director
Pastoral Care
GateWay City Church

To Pastors and Church Leaders,

While creating a peer counseling ministry in our Church we asked Dr. Greg Burts to come in and teach a counseling course. He did, and we are greatly pleased with what he did. We are a Cell Church and our ministry is made up of many small groups. He strengthened leaders to handle situations previously handed over to the Pastoral Staff. Our counseling load is diminishing as leaders are stepping up to the task. They are happily released into victorious ministry and we are enjoying the fruit of it.

I would highly recommend his ministry to you as it is Biblically based, clear and simple, and it can be applied realistically in almost every situation where counsel is needed. Dr Burts is easy to work with and has shown himself to be flexible, according to the needs of the particular Church or ministry he is serving. Thank you.

May 6, 2005

Steve Aurell, Pastor
Recovery and Biblical Counseling Ministries
Central Peninsula Church

In 2002, as our church was expanding in both size and need, the pastoral staff was grappling with how to best utilize God’s resources to help those in times of spiritual crisis. Although our staff would be considered large by most standards the counseling needs were far greater than our capacity to manage. For the most part, when we couldn’t connect them to bible studies, community or recovery groups we would then refer into professional counseling services as the only other option. Unfortunately, for many this is a costly alternative. But the cost is not merely financial for the body of Christ. For the church is called to be a place of restoration where the neglected and rejected sojourner finds peace in the midst of the storm. We cannot afford to take this calling lightly. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

Well, God had a plan for us. I don’t know why I’m surprised. He always seems to act when the need is in line with His vision. This particular plan began to unfold as various circumstances put us in touch with Greg Burts. After meeting with our elders, we bought into his vision for Biblical Counseling ministry. Greg then trained our first round of counselors; many of whom are still ministering in that capacity today. That was September of 2002. We hung our “shingle” shortly thereafter and have been operating at capacity ever since. Greg came back to train the second round of counselors in 2004 and provided us with the tools necessary to then replicate further trainings and internships on our own. Today we have 15 counselors on staff and are in the process of adding 5 more. Our relationship with Greg continues as he often provides support and consultation when difficult counseling issues surface within the ministry.

We are eternally indebted to Greg for his willingness to both equip and empower lay ministers to be an extension of pastoral care. Therefore, I highly recommend the Center for Biblical Counseling to any pastors who are struggling to meet the counseling needs of the church. We have found this approach deeply rooted in the truth of God’s word, intentional in design, and simple to apply. More importantly the Biblical Counseling ministry mirrors God’s compassion for His people. He is the One who works in the deep places of the soul. We are merely the conduits. And when we, as God’s servants, allow His Spirit to both reveal and empower His plan in our lives there can be peace in the midst of life’s storms.

June 15, 2002

Paul E. Sheppard, Senior Pastor
Abundant Life Christian Fellowship
Menlo Park, CA

Dear Fellow Pastors:

Several years ago when our church was understaffed and I was overextended, I began looking for Christian counselors in the Bay Area to whom I could refer some of our members. After my first meeting with Greg Burts I was convinced that God was going to use him to help lighten my load and effectively counsel some of my members, and he did. We found his counseling ministry to be Bible-based, Christ-centered, and rooted in the value of helping people discover who they are and what they have as children of God.

Later, I asked Dr. Burts to help us launch an in-house Biblical counseling ministry. He helped us recruit prospective counselors from the ranks of church members/attendees, led a series of training sessions, and supervised the internship of those selected from the class to be counselors. To this day, Dr. Burts continues to serve as a consultant to our counseling ministry and its director.

I’m convinced that churches will be healthier and pastors more effective when we equip and release lay people to do the work of ministry (Eph. 4:12). It’s a win-win proposition. Believers are given a forum in which to exercise their spiritual gifts, church members/attendees receive genuine help by meeting several times with a caring and qualified Biblical counselor, pastoral oversight is maintained because the counselors are known and approved by the pastor or ministry director, and the pastor is free to focus more time and attention on the ministry of the Word.

Therefore, I highly commend CBC and its training program to every pastor with limited time, giftedness, or inclination to meet with all of the people in your church who desire and deserve to be helped through Biblical counseling.

Students Testimonials

“I prayerfully & patiently waited for this course for one year and it was well worth the wait!”

It has exceeded my expectations because of how my very spirit, eyes, heart and soul have been exposed to powerful truths from God’s word. This class is more of a journey than a mere class because it is lead by the Spirit of God through Dr. Burts. Because of this exposure my life is forever changed; “For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart” Hebrews 4:12 . I can truly say that I am eternally grateful that I am a beneficiary of Dr. Burt’s Ministry. I love him and his wisdom, humor, candor, intellect, knowledge and how he challenged our class to be transformed by God’s word.

Doris Stanley
Manager, Human Resources
Deloitte & Touche

“An uncompromising approach to Biblical Counseling. I was challenged to “higher” heights in God’s Word.”

Florence Wilson
Counselor – Abundant Life Christian Fellowship
Menlo Park, CA

“Dr. Burts’ training has equipped our church with the necessary tools to establish a lay counseling ministry…”

Dr. Greg Burts provided a very simple biblical approach for helping people find answers to very complex issues facing them today. Dr. Burts’ training has equipped our church with the necessary tools to establish a lay counseling ministry, also providing techniques that have been effective in bringing about change and helping people grow in their relationship with the Jesus Christ.

I recommend this training to any Pastor who wants to better meet the counseling needs of their parishioners.

Cora Harper
Director Abundant Life Christian Fellowship
Biblical Counseling Ministry

“Biblical counseling approach is the answer to my prayers”

A perfectly practical, profound yet simple, system of applying truth: Dr. Greg Burts’ Biblical counseling approach is the answer to my prayers personally, as well as for the church.

Geraldine Wilson
Biblical Counselor
Abundant Life Christian Fellowship

link here

 

 

A Response to, “The Prosperity Gospel in Nigeria: A Re-Examination of the Concept, Its Impact, and an Evaluation” (Note: Click on the title to see the article being discussed).

 

Although I am not familiar with the author of this article in online theological journal, Cyberjournal For Pentecostal-Charismatic Research (http://www.pctii.org/cyberj/), I am familiar with pentecostal-charismatic theology in general and with the prosperity gospel in particular. Having spent ten years or more of my life within the pentecostal-charismatic movement, I feel that I am qualified to comment on the doctrinal aberrations and distinctions of various traditions within the broader movement. Additionally, my theological training was completed at Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God in Lakeland, Florida. (Now known as Southeastern University, a mostly liberal arts college). Although my seminary training was completed at Asbury Theological Seminary, I was a member of the Society for Pentecostal Studies for two years.

As a young pentecostal I at first accepted uncritically most of the things which were being taught in my new local church, which was a member of the Assemblies of God denomination, and in home prayer group meetings and Sunday school classes. Although I was well read in the Scriptures, I thought that these folks knew something that I did not since I was only a new Christian having recently accepted Jesus Christ as my savior at age twenty-five. But the longer I was a member of the church and the more I read Holy Scripture some things did not seem to agree with what the total context of Scripture seemed to say. However, I continued to set aside my reservations under extreme peer pressure and group control.

In my opinion the severe control tactics of pentecostal-charismatic groups approaches the level of spiritual abuse and maybe even the level of cults like the Moonies or the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Those who question the doctrines or practices of the group are severely attacked and forced out.

The theological roots of the pentecostal-charismatic movement lies within the Wesleyan holiness movement of the 19th century and its later influence upon those on the more Augustinian/Calvinist side of things in the so-called Keswick or Higher Life movement. The Wesleyan holiness movement further developed its theology from John Wesley’s theology of entire sanctification, which was apparently an adaptation from the Anglican doctrine of confirmation and from an Eastern Orthodox doctrine of deification.

While Wesley’s doctrine of justification by faith alone was taken from the Reformed views of the Moravians, his other doctrinal innovations came from a more semi-pelagian view of things via William Law and Eastern Orthodoxy. The real problem with Wesley’s doctrine of entire sanctification, however, is that it leads to a division between ordinary Christians and those who are “carnal” or “baby” Christians. While Wesley himself never claimed to have attained the state of entire sanctification it is almost certain that he believed he was in such a state. Later holiness theology of the 19th century went beyond Wesley in saying that a second work of grace or entire sanctification could be instantaneously received much like a conversion experience, whereas Wesley taught that entire sanctification was a gradual process and at some culmination later a state of entire sanctification or sinless perfect was reached. Phoebe Palmer, a female lay preacher with the Free Methodist Church, is credited with making this innovation of an instantaneous experience of entire sanctification, thereby laying the groundwork for the pentecostal revival of the 20th century. The Keswick higher life movement borrowed from the Wesleyans and led to such groups as the Moody Bible Institute and the Christian Missionary Alliance.

All this essentially created two groups of Christians, those who were in the know and those who were barely saved by the skin of their teeth. A spiritual elite, if you will, and a not so spiritual second class level of Christians who needed more. This, combined with the extreme emphasis on eschatology and the end times, led to the emphasis on the restoration of all the New Testament spiritual gifts from the apostolic period, including the supernatural gifts of healing, miracles, signs, wonders, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, prophecy, tongues and interpretation, etc. This emphasis on hidden knowledge available only to the spiritual elite sounds an awful lot like gnosticism.

Which brings us to the beginning of a second innovation that sprang up out of the pentecostal revival. From the initial pentecostal revival beginning in Topeka, Kansas and the Bible institute run by Charles Parham to the spread to the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, California with the black holiness preacher, William J. Seymour, the pentecostal movement was prone to heterodoxy and even outright heresy. In 1914 the Assemblies of God was forced to formulate a basic doctrinal statement emphasizing traditional trinitarian theology in response to the so-called “New Issue.” The Jesus Only baptism movement had led directly to a denial of the trinity and the separation of many churches into several anti-trinitarian pentecostal groups.

A third heretical group arose from the theology of the 1940’s healing movement under ministers like Kenneth Hagin and William Branham. Hagin in particular is known as the father of the Word of Faith movement. Hagin initially claimed to have received his doctrines by “revelation knowledge” or by direct revelation from God. Later, however, scholars like D.R. McConnell, formerly a professor of New Testament at Oral Roberts University, exposed the fact that Hagin had instead plagiarized word from word from works by E.W. Kenyon, a baptist minister who had accepted the doctrine of divine healing. The trouble was that Kenyon himself had syncretized his baptist theology with Christian Science and New Thought doctrines he had picked up while a student of oratory at Emerson College in Boston.

This extreme emphasis on visualization and speaking positive confessions sounds like Christian Science precisely because that is the original source of such aberrant thinking. If you will forgive the pun, the Word of Faith Movement is “stinking thinking” in and of itself! I would agree with D.R. McConnell that the Word of Faith movement is indeed a heresy of the first order and that those involved in the movement are in need of a conversion to Christ. The health and wealth gospel or prosperity gospel is really a different gospel and completely foreign to biblical theology.

When the charismatic renewal struck the mainline denominations in the 1960’s, beginning with Dennis Bennett, a Episcopal minister in Van Nuys, California, the pentecostal theology of spirit baptism and spirit gifts was adapted by dropping the pentecostal insistence on the “initial physical evidence of speaking in tongues” as evidence of receiving the second work of grace or Spirit baptism. Unfortunately, liberal mainline converts to the charismatic movement did not forsake their tendencies to accommodate to culture and liberal theology. They also apparently had no problem with Christian Science or the Word of Faith movement as this was readily assimilated as well. Additionally, the traditional classical pentecostal denominations were one by one subdued by the charismatic movement, though they did “officially” stick to their doctrines of initial physical evidence and second or even third works of grace.

Thus, what we see today is a hodgepodge of theology within the charismatic-pentecostal movement at large such that the prosperity gospel is almost synonymous with the charismatic-pentecostal movement. I might also mention that classical pentecostalism has been assimilated into the charismatic movement for the most part. Thus, most pentecostal churches look and sound more like charismatic churches than pentecostal churches. The former emphasis on biblical exposition has given way to an extreme emphasis on the supernatural to the point that experience is the source of doctrine rather than Scripture. It is therefore no surprise that heretical movements within the pentecostal-charismatic tradition have arisen many times since the turn of the twentieth century. I might mention the Latter Rain Movement, the oneness pentecostal movement, the Word of Faith Movement, Kingdom Now, the Shepherding Movement, etc., et. al.

What I find particularly troubling about the article referred to in the link in the title is that the author, Dr. George O. Folarin, seems to have no problem accepting the prosperity gospel as biblical. He as much as admits there are problems with the doctrine in statements like these:

A major problem with the prosperity gospel as presently practiced in Nigeria is that it is not fully delivering on its promises. There are still many sincere Christians who are financially poor, sick, and/or demon oppressed. For Christians who believe in the truth of Scripture, the fault cannot be with God and his promises. It must be the interpretations that prosperity gospel preachers use to justify the theology that are wrong. Some Christians tend to believe that in the attempt to provide answers to the existence of evil on earth despite belief in an all-powerful and all-good God, preachers of prosperity have sometimes ended up creating a truncated gospel of salvation. http://www.pctii.org/cyberj/cyberj16/folarin.html 

The problem is that the prosperity gospel is based more on the confirmation by ecstatic experiences of charismatics or pentecostals than on a sound exposition of Holy Scripture. If Holy Scripture is the final word in matters of faith and doctrine, then experience must take a backseat to Scripture. Also problematic is the origin of the prosperity gospel in the Word of Faith movement, which is itself a syncretization of Christian Science and New Thought doctrines with Christianity.

Dr. Folarin also admits that many adherents, teachers and preachers within prosperity gospel circles have not been discipled in basic Bible theology or traditional Reformed understanding of the Holy Scriptures:

The prosperity gospel, as it stands, however, has serious weaknesses. Some of these are theological. These weaknesses are the results of the faulty hermeneutics that prosperity preachers adopt. Many of them never attended standard theological schools that could help them approach Bible interpretation more systematically. Unfortunately, many of them also never passed through good Sunday School classes that could have helped them in their formative years. Worse still, many prosperity preachers never underwent discipleship training after conversion. If they had been discipled, a fair grasp of biblical theology would have influenced their formulation of prosperity theology. http://www.pctii.org/cyberj/cyberj16/folarin.html

There are other serious flaws in the prosperity gospel, including its understanding of God and Satan as almost equals, which implies dualism rather than the sovereignty of God over all forms of evil (see Isaiah 45:7). The Word of Faith understanding of Jesus as merely a Spirit-empowered man sounds like they either have a deficient understanding of the hypostatic union or they have adopted a doctrine of kenosis which goes beyond merely the voluntary non use of the Son’s divine prerogatives. Thus, the prosperity gospel denies both the sovereignty of God and uses subtle deviations to describe a completely different Jesus from the Jesus described in Holy Scripture. Other issues that go beyond the scope of this brief post could be mentioned. However, I will leave that for another day. It should suffice, however, to note that Anglicans who think the charismatic movement is somehow “conservative” have misplaced their loyalties and joined ranks with those advocating heterodoxies and even outright heresies. If Christ had not said, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” I would have cause to despair.

May the peace of God be with you.

The Thought-terminating Cliché

Clichés are the simplistic, thought-negating, tired, and generally vague notions, ideas, images, and expressions that people use in place of true thought. Dictionaries typically define clichés as trite phrases or expressions, for example:

“You only get out of life what you put into it.”
“There you go!”
“Time takes time.”

What do these clichés really mean? When they are put in equivolent words their inanity emerges. For example:

  • “I’m a work in progress.” = “I’m still not dead.”
  • “Life is a journey.” = “In my life I will go places and do things.”
  • “It is what it is.” = “It exists.”
  • “It will be what it will be.” = In time something will change, or else it won’t.”

In other words these clichés are empty of thought beyond the transparently obvious truth they express. So why are they used so often. Perhaps it is becuase when real thought is desired to truly express the distinct meaning appropriate to a unique situation (a predicament that calls upon some reflection and search for appropriate expression – appropriate to thinker and his/her context) these clichés spring to mind. They come to relieve you of the difficulty of thinking for yourself: they’ll think for you. The more you use them the harder they are to get rid of. Keep in mind that clichés also include the ideas that they express! This is the true danger of using them. By doing so you relinquish your own awareness, feeling, and ideas and surrender yourself to the vagueness of the cliché. Thinking then becomes thought via “clipthoughts”.

Robert Jay Lifton calls this surrender to the cliché “thought-terminating cliché”. When such a cliché is used it does not permit analysis, or discussion. The conversation is over. It is characteristic of totalitarian regimes and totalitarian approaches to relationships. When someone trots out one of the following during the analysis of a complex human problem you know the conversation has ended. These clichés are by nature highly reductive, definitive-sounding, easily memorized, and easily expressed. They are also totally empty in that there is no relationship between the words, their meanings, and the topic or person at hand. Here are some we all have bumped into:

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion.”
“We will have to agree to disagree.”
“Such is life.”
“We are just different.”

Here Big Frank is making reference to the verbal clues (clichés) to the vacuousness of the thought. There are also visual clues, clipart, for example. Perhaps the key notion here is one of awareness of self and the world coupled with an ability to express one’s individual way of seeing things. It requires effort. Here’s William Stafford’s view on discovering his own way of looking at things, which he characterizes in almost romantic terms as finding his MUSE.

http://bigfrankdickinson.blogspot.com/2008/07/clichs-are-simplistic-thought-negating.html

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Forty Things God Provides Every Believer at Salvation
Compiled by Lewis Sperry Chafer
Revised by R. B. Thieme, Jr.

The Thirtynine Irrevocable Assets

1. The Christian resides in the eternal plan of God, sharing the destiny of Christ.

o Foreknown by God—Acts 2:23; Romans 8:29; I Peter 1:2
o Elected—Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12; I Thessalonians 1:4; Titus 1:1; I Peter 1:2
o Predestined in Christ—Romans 8:29-30 ; Ephesians 1:5, 11
o Chosen—Matthew 22:14; I Peter 2:4
o Called—I Thessalonians 5:24

2. The Christian is reconciled by God to God. The sin barrier that separates man from God is removed.

o By God—II Corinthians 5:1819 ; Colossians 1:20
o To God—Romans 5:10; II Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 2:1417

3. The Christian is redeemed (purchased from the slave market of sin). Romans 3:24; Colossians 1:14; I Peter 1:18

4. The Christian’s condemnation (eternal judgment) is removed. John 3:18; 5:24; Romans 8:1

5. All sins are judged by the substitutionary spiritual death of Christ on the Cross. Romans 4:25; Ephesians 1:7; I Peter 2:24

6. Under grace, every Christian receives propitiation for sins instead of judgment. God is satisfied with the death of His Son on the Cross. Romans 3:2526; I John 2:2; 4:10

7. The Christian is dead to the old life (Old Sin Nature) but alive to God (retroactive positional truth). He is

o Crucified with Christ—Romans 6:8;Galatians 2:20
o Dead with Christ—Romans 6:8; Colossians 3:3; I Peter 2:24
o Buried with Christ—Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12
o Raised with Christ—Romans 6:4; 7:4; Colossians 2:12; 3:1

8. The Christian is free from the Mosaic Law. He is

o Dead to the Law—Romans 7:4
o Delivered—Romans 6:14; 7:6; II Corinthians 3:6−11; Galatians 3:25

9. The Christian is regenerated. John 12:10; I Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5

o Born again—John 3:7; I Peter 1:23
o A child of God—Romans 8:16; Galatians 3:26
o A son of God—John 1:12; II Corinthians 6:18; I John 3:2
o A new creation—II Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:10

10. The Christian is adopted by God (placed as an adult son through positional truth). Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:5

11. The Christian is made acceptable to God. Ephesians 1:6; I Peter 2:5.
He is

o Made righteous (imputation)—Romans 3:22; I Corinthians 1:30; II Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9
o Sanctified positionally—I Corinthians 1:30, 6:11
o Perfected forever—Hebrews 10:14
o Qualified for inheritance—Colossians 1:12

12. The Christian is justified (vindicated, declared righteous). Romans 3:24, 5:1; 8:30; I Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:7

13. The Christian receives the unique availability of divine power. II Peter 1:3

14. The Christian is guaranteed heavenly citizenship based on reconciliation. Luke 10:20; Ephesians 2:14−19; Philippians 3:20

15. The Christian is delivered from the kingdom of Satan. Colossians 1:13a; 2:15

16. The Christian is transferred into God’s kingdom. Colossians 1:13b

17. The Christian is placed on a secure foundation. I Corinthians 3:11; 10:4; Ephesians 2:20

18. Every Christian is a gift from God the Father to Christ. John 10:29; 17:2, 6, 9, 1112,24

19. The Christian is positionally delivered from the power of the Old Sin Nature. Romans 8:2; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11

20.Every Christian is appointed a priest unto God. He is

o A holy priesthood—I Peter 2:5, 9
o A royal priesthood—I Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6

21. The Christian receives eternal security.
John 10:28−29; Romans 8:32, 3839 ; Galatians 3:26; II Timothy 2:13

22. The Christian is given access to God. Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 4:16; 10:1920

23. The Christian is within the “much more” grace care of God. Romans 5:910. He is the

o Object of His love—Ephesians 2:4; 5:2
o Object of His grace
o For salvation—Ephesians 2:89
o For keeping—Romans 5:2; I Peter 1:5
o For service—John 17:18; Ephesians 4:7
o For instruction—Titus 2:12
o Object of His power—Ephesians 1:19; Philippians 2:13
o Object of His faithfulness—Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 13:5b
o Object of His peace—John 14:27
o Object of His consolation—II Thessalonians 2:16
o Object of His intercession—Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 9:24

24. The Christian is beneficiary of an inheritance as heirs of God and jointheirs with Christ. Romans 8:17; Ephesians 1:14, 18; Colossians 3:24; Hebrews 9:15; I Peter 1:4

25. The Christian has a new position in Christ. Ephesians 2:6. He is

o Partner with Christ in life—Colossians 3:4
o Partner with Christ in service—I Corinthians 1:9
o Worker together with God—I Corinthians 3:9; II Corinthians 6:1
o Servant of the New Covenant—

II Corinthians 3:6
o Ambassador—II Corinthians 5:20
o Living epistle—II Corinthians 3:3
o Servant of God—II Corinthians 6:4

26. The Christian is the recipient of eternal life. John 3:15; 10:28; 20:31; I John 5:1112

27. The Christian is created a new spiritual species. II Corinthians 5:17

28.The Christian is a light in the Lord (part of the angelic conflict). Ephesians 5:8; I Thessalonians. 5:45

29. The Christian is united with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is

o In God—I Thessalonians 1:1 (cf. “God in you,”Ephesians 4:6)
o In Christ—John 14:20 (cf. “Christ in you,”Colossians 1:27)
o A member of His Body—I Corinthians 12:13
o A branch in the Vine—John 15:5
o A stone in the Building—Ephesians 2:2122 ;I Peter 2:5
o A sheep in the Flock—John 10:2729
o A portion of His Bride—Ephesians 5:2527 ; Revelation 19:68, 21:9
o A priest of the kingdom of priests—I Peter 2:9
o A new spiritual species—II Corinthians 5:17
o In the Holy Spirit—Romans 8:9 (“The Spirit in you”)

30.The Christian is the recipient of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. He is

o Born of the Spirit—John 3:58
o Baptized with the Spirit—Acts 1:5; I Corinthians 12:13
o Indwelt by the Spirit—John 7:39; Romans 5:5; 8:9; I Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; Galatians 4:6; I John 3:24

o Sealed by the Spirit—II Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 4:30
o Given spiritual gifts by the Spirit— I Corinthians 12:11, 2731

31. The Christian is glorified. Romans 8:30

32. The Christian is complete in Christ. Colossians 2:12

33. The Christian is the possessor of every spiritual blessing granted in eternity past. Ephesians 1:3

34. The Christian receives a human spirit (an integral component of Operation Z, along with the Holy Spirit). I Thessalonians 5:23

35. The Christian has all sins and transgressions blotted out. Isaiah 43:25, 44:22

36. The Christian is the recipient of efficacious grace. Ephesians 1:13

37. The Christian is guaranteed a resurrection body forever. I Corinthians 15:4054

38.The Christian is the beneficiary of unlimited atonement. II Corinthians 5:14, 15, 19; I Timothy 2:6; 4:10; Titus 2:11; Hebrews 2:9; II Peter 2:1;
I John 2:2

39. The Christian has equal privilege and equal opportunity under election and predestination. Romans 12:3; Ephesians 3:1619

The One Revocable Asset
40.The Christian is filled with the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. Galatians 3:3.

The filling of the Holy Spirit received at salvation is revoked when the Christian sins. The filling of the Holy Spirit is recovered when the Christian rebounds by acknowledging his sins to God.

http://www.upc-orlando.com/_Assets/pdf/BibleStudies/Women/SimplySoul/fortyThings.pdf

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The Doctrine of Autonomous Self: A Hidden Idolatry
By A. Sutono

Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!

how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven,

I will exalt my throne above the stars of God:

I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:11-15)

I. Background

In this text, Isaiah describes the fall of Lucifer, as well as the cause and effect of it. We learn the cause of him being eternally condemned by God from v.13 and 14 is that he is so filled with pride and self-adoration that he declares himself to be worthy to ascend into heaven and be exalted above the stars of God. He considers himself to be as equally valuable, as equally worthy, if not more valuable and more worthy than God himself that he should be like the Most High. In response, God removed him from his original state and declares that his splendor be nullified and brought down to shame, and he himself be brought down to hell, to a place of eternal torment which is the lake of fire (Rev 20:10) forever as his eternal destiny. When Lucifer was removed from heaven, his name became Satan, and was cast to the earth. In the account of the Fall in Gen 3, after which God offered the promise of deliverance through the atoning work of the LORD Jesus Christ on the cross implied in v. 15, we may observe the correlation between Satan’s sinful ambition to what he tempted Adam and Eve with, which eventually led the couple to sin against God and caused the entire humanity to be totally and hopelessly depraved and under the same condemnation that Lucifer has as a result. The correlation is clearly seen in Gen 3:5, when Satan, disguised as a serpent, said to Eve, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Here are the double lies being offered to Eve springing out of the same principle behind his botched coup attempt; first, that she would be like gods, and thus independent, able to rule over herself apart from God, and secondly, there is not one God, but many gods; each is sovereign over himself or herself.

From here, I would like to state the thesis of this article before expounding further:

1. That the doctrine of autonomous-self, or often referred to as “free-will”, whether it be “Christian” or non-Christian one, though may not appear explicitly, originates from the same spirit by which Lucifer rebelled against God, that is, the spirit of self-idolatry.

2. That the doctrine of autonomous-self is indeed a non-Christian doctrine because there is nowhere in the Bible that teaches such a doctrine and therefore, should be rejected by all true Christians.

I would like to first define what an autonomous self is. I would then attempt, by the use of the first thesis, refute the free-will Arminian argument to defend this false doctrine, particularly in regard to the Fall, salvation, and all the affairs of the world. Finally, I would close with the Biblical basis of my refutation with the exhortation given in the second thesis.

II. Definition of Autonomous Self

Throughout history, there are many who teach the doctrine of autonomous self, among whom is Pelagius. I would now quote from John Owen [1] on what Pelagianism teaches about the autonomous self:

“According to Pelagianism, God gives grace to all who hear the law and the gospel preached. Those who do this are persuaded to repent and believe by the promises of the gospel and the threatenings of the law. The things taught and commanded in the law and gospel are seen to be not only good in themselves, but so utterly reasonable that anyone would gladly receive them if they were not so prejudiced ( i.e., men can themselves respond favorably to the gospel preached by believing in the message without any regenerating work of the Holy Spirit), or deliberately chose to continue with their sinful life. Man has only to consider these promises of the gospel and threatenings of the law to remove these prejudices and so reform himself. When man believes the gospel and obeys it of his own free will and choice (again, no external divine influence at work to convince him of the truth of the gospel, on the contrary, this conviction comes out within himself), then he receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, enters into all the privileges of the New Testament, and has a right and title to all the promises concerning both the present and the future life. So say the Pelagians. Thus man converts himself, and the grace of our LORD Jesus Christ and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit are both excluded. All that is needed is the ability to persuade him to repent of his sin and believe and obey the gospel.”

In other words, the doctrine of autonomous self teaches that men in both unregenerate and regenerate states is completely independent and capable of self-determination of what is good and bad for him (hence the term autonomous) and from which make decision without any external divine influence or swaying to a particular direction.

To understand what autonomous-self is more clearly, let us look at Sproul’s definition of autonomy [2]:

“To be autonomous means to be a law unto oneself. An autonomous creature would be answerable to no one. He would have no governor, least of all a sovereign governor. It is logically impossible to have a sovereign God existing at the same time as an autonomous creature. The two concepts are utterly incompatible. To think of their coexistence would be like imagining the meeting of an immovable object and an irresistible force. What would happen? If the object moved, then it could no longer be considered immovable. If it failed to move, then the irresistible force would no longer be irresistible.”

Then for the definition of autonomous self, I would borrow from David Wells [3], defining the autonomy generation as:

“…those who belonged in this outlook saw themselves as being at the center of life, as being responsible only to themselves, as having the sole hand in deciding what beliefs to hold and what behaviors to follow.”

And therefore, continuing to quote Wells [3]:

“… the self becomes the main form of reality and the pursuit of its rights and unique intuitions, even in the face of others, is what life is about.”

My comment to Prof. Well’s definition is this. Isn’t the autonomous-self then the essence of prosperity gospel, where Christ has been reduced to a lackey or a genie to serve us to accomplish our agenda whether that be family, or money, or career, or, self-healing, self-improvement or anything other than Christ himself? Some may say they don’t believe in prosperity gospel but believe in free-will in the autonomous sense. This, in my view, is an implicit endorsement of the prosperity gospel.

II. Refutation of the Arminian Argument of Autonomous Self

Now I desire to refute biblically a familiar argument in regard to God’s sovereignty in salvation and all events throughout the course of history. In addition, I would also attempt to show the spirit behind all these arguments tends to resemble that of Lucifer as written in Isaiah 14:13-14. Before I go on doing so, however, I would like to point out ‘the goal of the commandment is love’. I can understand new Christians who believe in autonomous self, because I was like that. I tend to think it is natural for new Christians to have such an understanding of how salvation and all the affairs in the world work. I acknowledge I need the humility to understand those who are slow to grasp the truth in the sovereignty of God over all things. The fact is the LORD had mercy on me to reveal what I consider a precious biblical truth of his sovereignty that I have come to love, embrace, and desire to defend with hopefully a holy zeal, holy motive, yet with humility as well in this article. And may the LORD grant the grace to change and transform hearts and minds into ones that acknowledge and submit joyfully under his supremacy over all things (Col 1:18).

The argument that I would like to refute (though there has been many more qualified pastors and theologians than me, past and present who have done this, but I would try to do it from hopefully a different point of view), is a common free-will Arminian / Pelagian argument which was the first Arminian article in their remonstrance brought by Johannes Uitenbogaard and Simon Episcopious in 1610, which was refuted by the Calvinists’ Counter Remonstrance at the Synod of Dort in 1618-1619, in regard to how salvation works as follows. This first article stated the following: “God’s foreknowledge, that is, divine election was conditiond on foreseen or foreknown faith”. In other words, it says “faith is the cause of election” the basis of which is for example in Rom 8:29, refers to God knowing in advance of who is going to believe by their own free will and who is not, and from there God elects them to be saved. Thus man’s faith existing apart from God’s will but from the man himself is the cause of God’s election. In other words, it all starts with man’s free will to choose to be saved. Men are the Alpha, the beginning, not God. Then based on each independent isolated individual’s decision to believe or to desire to be saved where God has nothing to do with because this comes out completely and independently from man and not God, God is obliged to save them because they have faith to believe. Here men call God to account and demand that because they initiated to believe the Gospel, God is required to save them. So God’s sovereignty consists in submitting himself to and making sure the wills of men are carried out. God is not free in ordaining anything because He is subject to the will of men that he values very much even more important and above himself. Here is the worst kind, the most blatant, the most arrogant, and the most blasphemous of man-centered doctrine that is nowhere taught in the Bible, and an example how the Scripture like Rom 8:29 is distorted to serve man’s needs or if I may borrow John Piper’s quote[4], the gospel has been abused for ‘psychological form of mind control’. I regard this Arminian stand on the free agency of man and God as the most self-centered among man-centered doctrines, even more man-centered than opentheism.

Opentheism at least admits the future is unknown, even God has no control over it and anybody could change it. The Arminian doctrine in regard to the free-will of men as we have discussed is worse than open-theism because it teaches the future is already known, at least in regard to salvation, who is saved and who is not, and who makes this decision before the foundations of the world is men. Then God responds to each individual decision either by saving or condemning. Here is the kind of abomination that I dread has been prevailing in the minds of many Christians, because this is how they were taught by man-centered, world-loving, money-loving preachers. Those who teach this doctrine usually insist that God is still sovereign and omnipotent. But I sense this is simply a futile attempt to cover up their self-centeredness and thus, self-idolatry. God, despite his omnipotence, has been domesticated to serve man’s needs. His omnipotence has become subordinate to man’s will and it is his to use for his benefit. Man makes the call first independently out of his own self-determination of good and bad. Then it is God’s turn to follow up on man’s actions and decisions, whether to clean them up if they are sinful, or to bless them if they are good.

As Mark Talbot says [5] (he explains it in the context of opentheism, but I believe it is applicable here as well) that the doctrine of autonomous self teaches that God values man’s free will so much that he is willing to pay any price. God is really good in cleaning things up to the point that the alternative plan B that he executes looks even better, more perfect than the botched plan A that man has frustrated. So in a way, the doctrine of autonomous self treats God like a lackey or a genie in a bottle whom man can stir as he pleases and wills. Everything God does is for the benefits of man, and here is man, the center of the universe and God’s idol. Therefore, men are not only the Alpha, the beginning, but also the Omega, the end of everything God does and the whole entire universe work for. This, I fear, may God forbid, is the desire behind those who embrace the doctrine of autonomous self which is nothing but the very ambition of Lucifer to be exalted above God (Isa 14:13-14) because the resemblance between the two is striking. It is all about desire for control, as Dave Wells pointed out behind autonomous self [6]:

“This preoccupation with the future is really about control. At least, it is about our attempts at controlling the future as it crests into the present by being able to position ourselves to avoid what is disagreeable and to capitalize on what is advantageous. Indeed, we even go further. We imagine that the future begins in our minds and we can actually create it.”

At this point, I would point to Scripture texts (that I also included somewhere else [7]) that I hope the LORD uses to show the fallacy of the doctrine of autonomous-self, to humble its proponents and exhort them to embrace the doctrine of absolute sovereignty of God over all things. While these texts tend to be self-explanatory in themselves but I shall attempt to expound a little on each:

– “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13). John says the decisive power to become the sons of God ( v.12), i.e., to be saved, does not come from man’s will power, but God’s (v.13). Therefore, contrary to what the first remonstrance article says that faith is the cause of election, John says election is the cause of faith. God initiates salvation, not men. Men are dead in their trepasses (Eph 2:1). Physically dead people do not and can not have any desire (inclination) and ability to eat, drink, work, because they are dead, their brain is dead, their heart is dead, their digestive system is dead, and there is no way for them to revive themselves. So also dead Lazarus was unable to revive himself until Jesus called him and infused life to his body to revive him. (John 11). Lazarus did not revive himself. Jesus did. And thus Lazarus couldn’t brag he was alive because of his free will to be alive. Likewise, it is impossible for spiritually dead people to have any desire for God. Their heart is ‘desperately’ or ‘hopelessly’ wicked as Jer 17:9 says. St. Paul affirms the total depravity of humanity apart unless God changes this heart of stone with the heart of flesh (Ez 36:26-27) because “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law. Nor can it do so.” (Rom 8:7). Notice the last part that says “Nor can it do so.” So let us not brag that we have the free will to be christians or we in our sovereignty “decided” to be christians. Let us not think of ourselves more highly than we should (Rom 12:3) but with sober judgment, I’d say, of who we were, and what we are now, and who God is. Do not rob God of something He did and claim we did it. The faith, the willingness to believe, to embrace Christ as our treasure, our LORD does not come from our self-determination, but He purchased it on the cross.

– “All the plans of the LORD stands firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” (Psalm 33:11). God has written down the course of history from the beginning to the end. All his plans will happen, stand firm forever. Everything originates from Christ and returning to Christ, and the details for everything on its way returning to him is fixed and unchangeable (see also Heb 1:2-3, Rom 11:36). God does not make mistakes. God is not a God who is good in cleaning up mess created by men and coming up with plan B. Nobody can frustrate nor thwart nor prevent God from doing anything he wants, Dan 4:35, “All the people of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand, or say to him, ‘What have you done?'”

– “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16) God has written down not only the entire course of history before the foundations of the world, but also the scenario of each individual who ever lives, past present and future. This is good for believers for two reasons (but may cause free-willers to feel dejected because they don’t desire God to make the call for them, they desire to make the call themselves). First, it teaches humility that you and I are creatures and God is God. We have absolutely no right over ourselves because we don’t own ourselves, God does. Secondly, this is good news because God knows you and me better than we know ourselves. Therefore whatever plans he has for us can be guaranteed to be the most absolute best for our good and the magnifying his name first and most importantly (see Rom 8:28).

– “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isa 46:10-11). God is free to do anything he wants according to the pleasure of his will. His decision making is not constrained by anything, not by the will of men, not by the wills of angels, not by the will of the devil. He is absolutely free in making any calls. Isn’t this what it means to be God? If God has to submit beforehand in his foreknowledge to men’s decision to be saved or not to be saved, then men are gods, and God is their lackey.

A question then arises, “How, despite crystal clear words from the apostle that believers are slaves of Christ (e.g., Rom 6:18,22), can there be such an arrogant doctrine as the autonomous self in Christian churches?” The answer is because the LORD Jesus Christ is an infinitely good, gracious, merciful, patient, loving Master. He is not a hard Master at all. Men, seizing this opportunity arising from their deep-rooted corruption inherited from the Fall, reinforced by the temptation of the old serpent, abuse the kindness of Christ for their own glory. Men, out of their odious mind resulting from the stench infected to them from the Fall, distort the grace of the Savior to serve their own vanity, and so distort the message of the gospel, that is the pursue of God’s (not men’s) glory in salvation through Christ. Since Christ is so patient, then it is their opportunity to question him, to hold him accountable to them, and thus, what John Piper pointed out [8], that men placing themselves on the bench and putting God in the dock, instead of the other way around (he actually quoted this from C.S. Lewis). I sense free-willers would feel uncomfortable in hearing what God’s goal is in everything he does in Eph 1:5-6, “… he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasures and will, to the praise of his glorious grace.” that God saves men not because he makes so much of them, but for the praise of his glorious grace, that his name may be magnified, cherished, worshipped for his great mercy upon mankind, “…that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” (Rom 15:9). The only way to cure this discomfort is to acknowledge and repent of the pride and the self-idolatrous spirit behind the doctrine of autonomous self, renounce it, and embrace the doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of God who causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him, and who have been called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called, those he called he also justified, and those he justified, he also glorified. Amen.

References
1. J. Owen, “The Holy Spirit,” The Banner of Truth Trust, 1998, p. 76-77.

2. R.C. Sproul, “Chosen by God,” Tyndale House Publishers, October 1986, Ch. 3, p.?

3. D. F. Wells, “Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World,” Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006, p. 234, 153.

4. J. Piper, “Woe to Those who Trample the Son of God,” Desiring God Ministries (audio), April 13, 1997, http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceL…he_Son_of_God/

5. M. Talbot, “All the Good that is Ours in Christ: Seeing God’s Gracious Hand in the Hurts Others Do Us,” Desiring God National Conference, Minneapolis, MN, October 7-9, 2005.

6. D. F. Wells, “Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World,” Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006, p. 239.

7. A. Sutono, “The Defense for the Sovereignty of God in the Fall of Man,” Nov 25, 2006.

8. J. Piper, “Pastoral Thoughts on the Doctrine of Election,” Desiring God Ministries, Nov 30, 2003, ttp://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceL…e_of_Election/

ttp://www.christianchatforum.com/articles/elect.shtml

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Healing the economy means going beyond ‘What’s in it for me?’
By Douglas Todd 01-10-2009

Healing the battered economy means going beyond the ‘self’; ‘What’s in it for me?’ is not an attitude that will work in the times we face

Many Pentecostal Christians have been among the hardest-hit victims of the economic meltdown in North America.

“Victims” might not be the best word to describe their fate, though. Followers of the popular “Prosperity gospel” suffered because of their own desperation, naivete and uncontrolled desire.

Prosperity gospel adherents have put too much stock in certain Pentecostal leaders in the United States and Canada who preach that God will provide worldly wealth if you just give your soul to Jesus Christ and your donation to the church.

The most prominent proponent of this theology of cars, boats and houses is Joel Osteen, author of Your Best Life Now.

With virtually no assets, many financially struggling Christians attracted to the Prosperity gospel of Osteen and others were eager to jump at the subprime loans offered by sleazy brokers.

Prominent Pentecostals have admitted that many followers believed God was miraculously answering their prayers when a bank gave them a loan they couldn’t afford. However, it’s not only adherents of the Prosperity gospel who have spiritual and moral lessons to draw from the financial collapse. After all, they haven’t been alone in their struggles.

The larger spiritual themes behind this financial meltdown are those of too much blind optimism about the financial system, too much faith in leaders and too much unacknowledged self-interest.

Which brings us to greed.

There can be benefits from modest amounts of each of the Seven Deadly Sins: anger, lust, envy, sloth, pride, gluttony and greed.

While there is something to be said for moderate self-interest fuelling our lives and the economy, greed has careened beyond control on many economic fronts. In the movie Wall Street, Gordon Gekko was not much of an exaggeration of a real-life financier when he baldly preached, “Greed is good!”

Rebecca Blank, senior economic analyst for the Brookings Institute and co-author of Is the Market Moral?, recently said: “Greed is good to most economists. It’s greed that makes people work harder, be more productive, and helps the economy grow. Greed has certain economic advantages. It’s hard for an economist not to say that.

“But greed is clearly partially responsible for where we are right now. There’s a level beyond which greed can go too far, and . . . being greedy for more goods and to make another buck can make me stop paying attention to the effects of my action on you. That is when greed clearly becomes sinful — even, I think, in economics.”

Moral concerns about our over-avaricious attitudes have even been expressed recently by high-profile evangelical Christian leaders such as Chuck Colson (Richard Nixon’s former right-hand man), who has made a career of praising Jesus Christ in the same breath as free enterprise. Like theologian Michael Novak, Colson believes western democratic capitalism is like a three-legged stool, resting on political freedom, economic freedom and moral restraint. “Take away moral restraint and the stool collapses.”

But Colson’s solution — simply to talk more about morality in churches and elsewhere and to wish for greater moral behaviour — won’t make the economic system more stable or fair. That is what was uncovered through a revealing investigation of the moral behaviour of evangelical leaders by scholar Michael Lindsay, author of Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite.

Lindsay found precious few evangelical executives were “distinguishing themselves from their secular peers” by taking salaries capped, for instance, at a ratio between the highest- and lowest-paid employees of 20:1. Most tried to justify astonishingly luxurious salaries.

Just as the Communist Soviet Union fell apart because it wasn’t realistic to expect everyone to embrace the principle of equality, the western capitalist system cannot sustain itself just by hoping everyone will embrace justice.

Without regulations to enforce society’s moral ideals, the scoundrels prevail. Now nearly all of us are suffering because we were drawn, knowingly and unknowingly, into their unrestricted avarice.

As Aristotle said, “At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.”

Spiritual insight into the economic collapse comes from Martin Marty, of the University of Chicago Divinity School, one of the most distinguished religious historians in North America.

Marty believes the economic meltdown grew out of a growing global obsession with the “self.” He points to the way many economists talk about how the “spreading disease” in the global economy will “self-heal.” But Marty believes the modern free world is fixated on terms such as “self-generating,” “self-developing” and “self-correcting.” It’s the kind of thinking that has led many to over-optimistically advocate for an “unfettered” and “unregulated” market that never impinges on the supremacy of the “self.”

But there are crucial limits to the “self.”

Marty suggests Americans (and, I’d add, many Canadians) haven’t been willing to face the dark, shadow aspects of an economic system and foreign policy that focused on serving only the “self” (including that of the nation).

Just as the Iraq war has proved disastrous on human and financial fronts, Marty says the battered economy is making us look at all aspects of what happens when “the self” is glorified as absolute.

“We are well aware of our own virtue, knowledge, power and security, and these are real enough to be celebrated,” he writes.

“But we did not recognize their undersides: vice, ignorance, weakness and insecurity, which overtook us.”

As a Lutheran, Marty responds to the financial crisis with a secular translation of the “body of Christ” theme, which teaches us to reflect on how “we are members one of another.”

Instead of “self-healing,” he wisely suggests the western economic system needs “mutual” healing.

To use the language of other traditions, a Buddhist might say we need economic solutions that recognize we are all interconnected.

In secular terms, the late American political philosopher John Rawls would teach that we need economic policies beneficial to us all, no matter where we find ourselves on the financial ladder.

The simplest way to put one of the spiritual lessons of the economic collapse, however, is simply to make it clear that creating a healthy society has to go much further than asking, “What’s in it for me?”

dtodd@vancouversun.com

http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/thesearch/archive/2009/01/10/healing-the-battered-economy-means-going-beyond-the-self-what-s-in-it-for-me-is-not-an-attitude-that-will-work-in-the-times-we-face.aspx