Skip navigation

Tag Archives: doctrines of demons

“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.

Read More »

Advertisements

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!

Rob Sivulka on topics often that come up in evangelistic conversations with Mormons.

Apologies to Rob and others: the first 10-20 minutes of the talk are unavailable as the video file was corrupted on my computer.

.mp4 file available under the “Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0” license here:

http://www.archive.org/details/Manti2009

In other words, you can redistribute it freely.

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…

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.

Here are 21 ex-Mormons testimonies that I gathered up from http://www.youtube.com/user/aaronshaf2006

I post these because they give hope to me that my Uncle,, who is a Mormon Bishop,,,will one day be saved.

Interview with Adam’s Road, an Ex-Mormon Christian Band

Paige Richardson’s Testimony out of Mormonism into the Arms of Jesus

Mitzi Nelson’s Testimony out of Mormonism Into Christianity

Tara Sivulka’s Testimony Out of Mormonism

Brian Mackert’s Testimony Out of Mormonism into Christianity

Lana Larsen’s Testimony Out of Mormonism into Christianity

Randy Larsen’s Testimony Out of Mormonism into Christianity

Tosh’s Testimony Out of Mormonism into Christianity

Gabriel Williams’ testimony out of Mormonism to Christ

Gene’s Testimony out of Mormonism into Christianity

Dave’s Testimony Out of Mormonism into Christianity

Tricia Lynn Burton’s Testimony Out Of Mormonism to Christ

Mark Champneys’ Testimony out of Mormonism into Christianity

Angela Haisten’s Testimony Out of Mormonism to Christianity

James Dorrough’s Testimony out of Mormonism to Christ

Ginny and Bud Gundersen’s Testimony out of Mormonism

Blaine Hunsaker’s Testimony out of Mormonism to Christ

Judy Hartvigsen’s Testimony out of Mormonism to Christ

Cashae Gibb’s Testimony out of Mormonism into Christianity

LaKan Gibb’s Testimony out of Mormonism intro Christianity

Zach Collier’s Testimony out of Mormonism into Christianity

Why Mormons Leave: by Sandra Tanner

From a training session for Christians at the first week of 2009 Manti Pageant.

History of the canon and how we got our bible. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCLLCYyVWYQ

http://www.youtube.com/user/Knowwhere…

Thanks to Chris White of http://nowheretorunradio.com for making all his videos available for download and re-distribution here http://conspiracyclothes.com/nowheret…

If you have not checked out Chris’s ministry, your missing out. See all the revelation radio guys radio shows here http://www.revelationsradionetwork.com/ and here http://feeds2.feedburner.com/Revelati… and their video channel here http://feeds2.feedburner.com/Revelati…

 

This video basically discusses how witchcraft is being pushed on children in America and all around the world through the media, entertainment and education. This is something every parent should take a long look at to make themselves aware of the truth of a Pagan Agenda that is targeting today’s children.

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

Cessationism is it True?

by coramdeo on Apr.14, 2009, under Religion

benny_hinn1

First I want to say that I do not believe that Cessationism or Continuationism are “essential doctrines”. Meaning I do not think that your salvation relys on what you believe in regard to them. However, like any theology what you believe will have an affect on your life, and closer you are to the truth the better your life will be. So, like in everything we must desire to adhere to the truth, to discover it, and follow it. When it comes to Cessationism I am no expert, but I do wish to bring here what I have learned. I am in no way so stuck on it that I cannot be convinced of another view.

 

I have agreed with Eric Kemp who authors the Blog Apologia at intelligentscience.org to participate in a informal debate on the topic of Cessationism vs Continuationism. I will be arguing for Cessationism and he Continuationism. I will write the first post and he will respond. We welcome your input and questions at any point along the way. This is our way of challenging ourselves while also benefiting you with both sides of the debate.

For your reference I will be using information found in these Sources:

Ligonier: 1. Miracles and 2. God Speaking

Modern Reformation: 3. Spiritual Gifts

Realgospel.org: 4. Cessationism

I will reference material with the preceding number for the source i.e (3).

I do believe, like many, that Cessationism gets a bad rap and that there are many false views, or arguments against it. First I will give a quick summery of Cessationism, then give some bad arguments against it, and lastly give some good arguments for it. I do not plan on going too in depth, but to be concise and if needed go more in depth in my responses.

As a preface I would like to point out that even if all of scripture can be shown to agree with Cessationism to a reasonable degree, that many people will still not believe it, because to be Cessationist means that you got there because you believe other things about the Bible, revelation, early church, apostles, spiritual gifts, Holy Spirit ect, than Continuationists, and if you are Continuationist, in order to become Cessationist you must change your beliefs on all these things and more, so it is no small task. It of course works the other way too, and Cessationists must change many of their beliefs to become Continuationists. This is because each side interprets the Bible differently in many of these non essentials, so you must change how you interpret and view the entire scriptures. Also this is why so many other doctrines are hard for people to change to, because it requires more than just changing your view on one doctrine. So, please just be aware that these discussions may challenge you and frustrate you, but will not necessarily be enough to convince you, because your views are supported by more than one doctrine. I became a Cessationist because of being convinced of other doctrines, of which Cessationism fits in with, and because it fits into how I understand the Bible and its proper interpretation.

Like in the other articles I linked, I too believe that many people do not understand the Cessationist view or have wrong ideas. Its not like we don’t believe in Miracles (1), we believe God is working Supernaturally, just that He no longer uses some of the Spiritual gifts He gave to the early church, because their use is no longer needed. Not all the gifts are gone, just some, just the ones that God gave to build the foundation of His early church and Scripture, and now since they are both done, built, there is no more need for these gifts (3)(4).

The basic belief is that Scripture is complete now, God gave the spiritual gifts of prophecy, tongues, and healings to validate the Apostles teaching while He built the early Church and Scripture. Since they are now built, there is no need for them now. Now God wants us to get direction from His revealed revelation (the Bible) not secret sayings or verbal communication from Him (2). He no longer needs prophecy, healings, or tongues to prove His word is true, we now have Scripture and the Apostles who were shown to be true through their miracles and gifts. Now God can if He wants, give these gifts again, we are not saying that, but that God doesn’t normally or regularly give them like He did in the early Church.

This is one of the main arguments for Cessationism, namely that our understanding of the Gifts and their intended use, differs from Continuationists. Cessationists now rely on scripture alone to hear from God, to prove His Gospel, and to be the catalyst that saves His people. We believe that 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 should be interpreted as signifying that the gifts will cease once the church is built (4). We also believe that Ephesians 4:11-13 seems to say that the Apostles, and Prophets will only be given until the fullness of the church has come, then they will cease (3). We argue that since you do not see Apostles now days, that you wont see Prophets, although you will see teachers, and evangelists. There are a few reasons for this. Apostles have ceased with the 12, Rev 21:14 seems to show that there will only be 12. Also Ephesians 4:11 says that the church will be build on Apostles and Prophets, and thus it can be inferred that when the church is built, these offices will cease. Timothy who is not an apostle is called a pastor / teacher by Paul and is encouraged to continue on even when Paul is gone. I think the N.T is quite evident that Pastors and Teacher are to continue on, but we do not have much evidence that Apostles or Prophets should continue on, and in light of other passages I think it is best to conclude that Apostles and Prophet offices have ceased.

So we believe that God had a time for the Apostles and Prophets, and the gifts of tongues, healings, and prophecy, namely to build His Church and Scripture, but now that they are both built, we have no need for any of them. We are to now rely upon Scripture alone for our revelation from God, we are to pursue love, faith, and joy and not prophecy, tongues, or healing. We are not to rely on experiences, but the evidence found in Scripture as our bases for truth and revelation. God still does work miraculously especially in His work to save people, and might at times even work miracles as responses to prayer, or just to do the work He wishes to do. However, we do not believe that He has gifted specific people with these gifts to use them all the time. Nor do we believe one miracle to evidence that the gifts are back, but that God is working still in this earth. We have a hard time believing the gifts are still here in the same power they were with the Apostles because we don’t see people being raised from the dead (like Peter did) or lame people being healed (like Peter did), or the blind given sight. We hear about such things, but we see no quantifiable evidence that they are real, or that they are consistent, meaning not a once in a while supernatural occurrence. If these gifts were still working today, considering the number of true Christians now days, one would think he would see tons of miracles happening everywhere, all the time, since we do not, it’s safe to say the gifts have ceased.

Bad Arguments against Cessationism:

1. “I have see people prophecy, heal, or speak in Tongues”.

First experiences should never trump scripture, and you should never interpret scripture from your experiences. Why? Well first our hearts are deceptively wicked, and who can really trust our feelings (4). Second we are called to test the spirits 1 John 4:1, and if we need to test them with Scripture, why is there a need to quote something other than scripture (4)? We are meant to use scripture, to test what other people are speaking, what “spirit” are they speaking / teaching in, does it align with scripture? Experiences can support scripture, but they should never contradict, and if they do, either your interpretation or your experience is wrong.

Second other religions speak in “tongues” or “prophecy” or do “healings”, so it seems they can be contrived, and not the real thing. Also people can be insane and hear voices or contrive such things, how are you sure you are sane or that person is?

Third I have found no proof for any true “healing” miracle to be done, at least the kind like done by apostles. This is more for other people to prove, but in all my study I have not seen a person who was blind, not bad sight, but blind, proven by doctors and others, who was given 20/20 vision instantly and proven by others / doctors. Or a person who had a shrived hand or leg, who was restored instantly in front of witnesses proven by doctors. Or a person raised from the dead. Not that miracles do not happen medically, or that things do not happen to people that cannot be explained, but as far as I can tell this kind of thing happens to non Christians and Christians alike. What I am saying is I have not seen or heard proven that any so called Miracle healer being able to actually perform true healing miracles like my examples before, and more often than not these healers have been proven to be charlatans. If this gift is not performed in power, given to specific people who have done it multiple times in big ways, then I do not think there is evidence for it. If it is sparse, given to random people for a specific time, well that doesn’t prove that the gift of healing has continued, but that God works Supernaturally in this world and answers prayers. A good article on this is Faith Healing and the Sovereignty of God.

2. “No where in the Bible is it specifically said that only Apostles and Prophets will cease along with Tongues and Healings”.

No where in the Bible is the word Trinity also, but we infer from careful study of Scripture that the concept is taught clearly. So it is with Cessationism, we believe that although it is not specifically taught, it is taught by inference.

3. “You guys don’t see miracles because you do not have enough faith.”

Where in the N.T does it say that the gifts are only given to people with enough faith? Where does it define enough faith? How do you know how much faith I have? You are assuming to know something you don’t, you are begging the question. You are asserting what you are trying to claim. You are saying “because gifts are for today, and because you don’t see or perform them, you must not have enough faith, because gifts are for today”. That doesn’t prove anything, it is just an assertion. Just like I could say that you do not have enough faith to see Santa Clause, thus you do not see him. It proves nothing, stop oppressing people with this statement. So many people who “could not” be healed by faith healers were told, “well you just don’t have enough faith”, not “it’s not God’s will for you to be healed” or “I’m a big fat liar”, but “God cannot work unless you let Him” (Faith Healing and the Sovereignty of God). Besides not proving anything, it is actually not Biblical. God doesn’t need your permission, or faith to work. Sometimes He seemingly doesn’t work because a person doesn’t have faith, but other times He does. Take Paul, Paul didn’t have faith in Jesus, didn’t want anything to do with Jesus, yet that didn’t stop Jesus from intervening and giving Paul faith, and changing him. Yes, God doesn’t need you, you are not God’s keeper or boss. This is the biggest problem with this response, namely it brings God down, and makes Him our servant, and brings man up, and makes him God’s boss.

Think about this too. The early church didn’t believe in Tongues, so they didn’t have “faith” in them, but then bam! Flames of fire and the Holy Spirit descending on them in the upper room, and then they spoke in Tongues. So faith doesn’t need to exist first, meaning faith in that Gift, only Faith in God. Thus, if only Faith in God is enough, there are plenty of people around with enough Faith in God, yet God doesn’t give any “gifts” to them in the way you want. Thus your only two options are: you are wrong, or you are pessimistic about how many people are truly saved, when the Bible seems to say a great number of people will be saved, uncountable number. Since you think there are so few people with true faith now days.

Things Continuationists must respond to:

1. If you are going to claim that Prophecy, Tongues, and Healings exist now, then you also are going to have to claim that Apostles and Prophets exist now. But in order to be an Apostle you must have seen the risen Lord in person. Commonly called the 5 pillars of the church, Apostles, Prophets, Teachers, Pastors, and Evangelists.

2. Prophecy is adding to scripture. The nature of O.T Prophecy is communication directly from God, thus it is added to Scripture. The Canon is closed, God is not adding to the Bible any more, so there is no need for this type of Prophecy. And this type of Prophecy would only be adding to Scripture, and if true, on the same ground as Scripture. It was appropriate for the Apostle’s time because Scripture was not finished yet, but now that its finished, there is no need for it. All we need is Scripture as our authority, and it would be undermined if people were running around Prophesying.

3. Is the Canon closed or not? Is God still adding to scripture or not? If no, then why would he need the gifts of Tongues, Prophecy, and Healing now? If yes, then why haven’t we added any more books to the Bible? Are you saying that the Bible isn’t sufficient now? It must not be if you think that the canon is still open.

4. I think the biggest point is that the Bible seems to teach that God would build His church on the Apostles teachings, and that once He has built the foundation of His church on them, He would no longer call people as Apostles nor gift them like He used to. You must argue against this language, and then defend why God would need to add to His Scripture more, because it seems that Apostles and the gifts were meant for that main purpose, namely the creation of the N.T.

In conclusion your beliefs will ultimately be determined on what you believe on certain issues (I am only going to do either or, although there might be many more beliefs, I am going to take the mains ones:

Either you believe that God has given us Scripture alone as His means to teach us, and spread His Gospel, or you believe that God uses the Bible with Prophecy, Tongues, and Healings. But then why not Church leadership too like the Catholic Church? Or why discount Mormons and other false religions, because they speak in Tongues and Prophecy?

Either you believe the Bible is complete or it isn’t. But if it isn’t how do you know what things should be added, and why haven’t we added anything more?

You either believe God gave certain gifts in power for the building of His church, or you believe He gave those gifts for all church ages, even though there is little use, or evidence that they are here, and have to argue that they are limited because of the lack of faith. But again where is it in the Bible? There are plenty of people with faith, why aren’t they all acting accordingly?

You have to believe that either man is dependent on God for gifts like even Faith Eph. 2:8, or God is dependent on men’s Faith to act. Either God gives us the faith, and then we exercise it and He works, or else He waits for us to have faith (apart from Him) and then He works. One seems pretty Biblical one doesn’t.

In the end, we all can be brothers and sisters in Christ and still disagree on these things. But like I said before I do believe that they will have huge ramifications on your own life, joy, and spiritual growth. Let us be Biblical, and gracious to each other, and seek the truth. Let us lay aside our pride, and where we are wrong admit, and where we are right humbly assert. Let us not be so reliant on experiences for our evidence that we miss what God is actually saying in His holy Word. This article is by not means comprehensive, but is intended to spark conversation and debate. I will respond to any criticisms or questions to the best of my ability.

The Ball is in your court Eric. Have fun!

http://www.imthebeggar.com/index.php/archives/cessationism-is-it-true/

=========================================

http://www.thewordonthewordoffaith.com/

THE WORD TVCHECK OUT  THE 24/7 STREAMING/LINIAR LINE UP OF 60+ HRs OF THE VERY BEST Word of Faith EXPOSURE VIDEO AT

THE WORD on the Word of Faith TV 

 

warn

WATCHING TOO MUCH OF THIS HERASY IN ONE SITTING, CAN MAKE YOU PUKE!!! PACE YOUSELF!!!!!!!

http://thewordonthewordoffaithinfoblog.com/2009/04/16/the-word-on-the-word-of-faith-tv/

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! 

 

 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

 

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! 

 

 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

 

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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
Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “The Autonomous Self“, posted with vodpod

 

 

 

 

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

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

 

 

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

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “John Piper and the Prosperity Gospel“, posted with vodpod

 

 

 

Does God Want You To Be Rich?

A growing number of Protestant evangelists raise a joyful Yes! But the idea is poison to other, more mainstream pastors. By DAVID VAN BIEMA, JEFF CHU Posted Sunday, Sep. 10, 2006

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1533448,00.html

When George Adams lost his job at an Ohio tile factory last October, the most practical thing he did, he thinks, was go to a new church, even though he had to move his wife and four preteen boys to Conroe, a suburb of Houston, to do it. Conroe, you see, is not far from Lakewood, the home church of megapastor and best-selling author Joel Osteen.

Osteen’s relentlessly upbeat television sermons had helped Adams, 49, get through the hard times, and now Adams was expecting the smiling, Texas-twanged 43-year-old to help boost him back toward success. And Osteen did. Inspired by the preacher’s insistence that one of God’s top priorities is to shower blessings on Christians in this lifetime–and by the corollary assumption that one of the worst things a person can do is to expect anything less–Adams marched into Gullo Ford in Conroe looking for work. He didn’t have entry-level aspirations: “God has showed me that he doesn’t want me to be a run-of-the-mill person,” he explains. He demanded to know what the dealership’s top salesmen made–and got the job. Banishing all doubt–“You can’t sell a $40,000-to-$50,000 car with menial thoughts”–Adams took four days to retail his first vehicle, a Ford F-150 Lariat with leather interior. He knew that many fellow salesmen don’t notch their first score until their second week. “Right now, I’m above average!” he exclaims. “It’s a new day God has given me! I’m on my way to a six-figure income!” The sales commission will help with this month’s rent, but Adams hates renting. Once that six-figure income has been rolling in for a while, he will buy his dream house: “Twenty-five acres,” he says. “And three bedrooms. We’re going to have a schoolhouse (his children are home schooled). We want horses and ponies for the boys, so a horse barn. And a pond. And maybe some cattle.”

“I’m dreaming big–because all of heaven is dreaming big,” Adams continues. “Jesus died for our sins. That was the best gift God could give us,” he says. “But we have something else. Because I want to follow Jesus and do what he ordained, God wants to support us. It’s Joel Osteen’s ministry that told me. Why would an awesome and mighty God want anything less for his children?”

In three of the Gospels, Jesus warns that each of his disciples may have to “deny himself” and even “take up his Cross.” In support of this alarming prediction, he forcefully contrasts the fleeting pleasures of today with the promise of eternity: “For what profit is it to a man,” he asks, “if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” It is one of the New Testament’s hardest teachings, yet generations of churchgoers have understood that being Christian, on some level, means being ready to sacrifice–money, autonomy or even their lives.

But for a growing number of Christians like George Adams, the question is better restated, “Why not gain the whole world plus my soul?” For several decades, a philosophy has been percolating in the 10 million–strong Pentecostal wing of Christianity that seems to turn the Gospels’ passage on its head: certainly, it allows, Christians should keep one eye on heaven. But the new good news is that God doesn’t want us to wait. Known (or vilified) under a variety of names–Word of Faith, Health and Wealth, Name It and Claim It, Prosperity Theology–its emphasis is on God’s promised generosity in this life and the ability of believers to claim it for themselves. In a nutshell, it suggests that a God who loves you does not want you to be broke. Its signature verse could be John 10: 10: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” In a TIME poll, 17% of Christians surveyed said they considered themselves part of such a movement, while a full 61% believed that God wants people to be prosperous. And 31%–a far higher percentage than there are Pentecostals in America–agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money.

“Prosperity” first blazed to public attention as the driveshaft in the moneymaking machine that was 1980s televangelism and faded from mainstream view with the Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart scandals. But now, after some key modifications (which have inspired some to redub it Prosperity Lite), it has not only recovered but is booming. Of the four biggest megachurches in the country, three–Osteen’s Lakewood in Houston; T.D. Jakes’ Potter’s House in south Dallas; and Creflo Dollar’s World Changers near Atlanta–are Prosperity or Prosperity Lite pulpits (although Jakes’ ministry has many more facets). While they don’t exclusively teach that God’s riches want to be in believers’ wallets, it is a key part of their doctrine. And propelled by Osteen’s 4 million–selling book, Your Best Life Now, the belief has swept beyond its Pentecostal base into more buttoned-down evangelical churches, and even into congregations in the more liberal Mainline. It is taught in hundreds of non-Pentecostal Bible studies. One Pennsylvania Lutheran pastor even made it the basis for a sermon series for Lent, when Christians usually meditate on why Jesus was having His Worst Life Then. Says the Rev. Chappell Temple, a Methodist minister with the dubious distinction of pastoring Houston’s other Lakewood Church (Lakewood United Methodist), an hour north of Osteen’s: “Prosperity Lite is everywhere in Christian culture. Go into any Christian bookstore, and see what they’re offering.”

The movement’s renaissance has infuriated a number of prominent pastors, theologians and commentators. Fellow megapastor Rick Warren, whose book The Purpose Driven Life has outsold Osteen’s by a ratio of 7 to 1, finds the very basis of Prosperity laughable. “This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?”, he snorts. “There is a word for that: baloney. It’s creating a false idol. You don’t measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn’t everyone in the church a millionaire?”

The brickbats–both theological and practical (who really gets rich from this?)–come especially thick from Evangelicals like Warren. Evangelicalism is more prominent and influential than ever before. Yet the movement, which has never had a robust theology of money, finds an aggressive philosophy advancing within its ranks that many of its leaders regard as simplistic, possibly heretical and certainly embarrassing.

Prosperity’s defenders claim to be able to match their critics chapter and verse. They caution against broad-brushing a wide spectrum that ranges from pastors who crassly solicit sky’s-the-limit financial offerings from their congregations to those whose services tend more toward God-fueled self-help. Advocates note Prosperity’s racial diversity–a welcome exception to the American norm–and point out that some Prosperity churches engage in significant charity. And they see in it a happy corrective for Christians who are more used to being chastened for their sins than celebrated as God’s children. “Who would want to get in on something where you’re miserable, poor, broke and ugly and you just have to muddle through until you get to heaven?” asks Joyce Meyer, a popular television preacher and author often lumped in the Prosperity Lite camp. “I believe God wants to give us nice things.” If nothing else, Meyer and other new-breed preachers broach a neglected topic that should really be a staple of Sunday messages: Does God want you to be rich?

As with almost any important religious question, the first response of most Christians (especially Protestants) is to ask how Scripture treats the topic. But Scripture is not definitive when it comes to faith and income. Deuteronomy commands believers to “remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth”, and the rest of the Old Testament is dotted with celebrations of God’s bestowal of the good life. On at least one occasion–the so-called parable of the talents (a type of coin)–Jesus holds up savvy business practice (investing rather than saving) as a metaphor for spiritual practice. Yet he spent far more time among the poor than the rich, and a majority of scholars quote two of his most direct comments on wealth: the passage in the Sermon on the Mount in which he warns, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth … but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven”; and his encounter with the “rich young ruler” who cannot bring himself to part with his money, after which Jesus famously comments, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Both statements can be read as more nuanced than they at first may seem. In each case it is not wealth itself that disqualifies but the inability to understand its relative worthlessness compared with the riches of heaven. The same thing applies to Paul’s famous line, “Money is the root of all evil,” in his first letter to Timothy. The actual quote is, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

So the Bible leaves plenty of room for a discussion on the role, positive or negative, that money should play in the lives of believers. But it’s not a discussion that many pastors are willing to have. “Jesus’ words about money don’t make us very comfortable, and people don’t want to hear about it,” notes Collin Hansen, an editor at the evangelical monthly Christianity Today. Pastors are happy to discuss from the pulpit hot-button topics like sex and even politics. But the relative absence of sermons about money–which the Bible mentions several thousand times–is one of the more stunning omissions in American religion, especially among its white middle-class precincts. Princeton University sociologist Robert Wuthnow says much of the U.S. church “talks about giving but does not talk about the broader financial concerns people have, or the pressures at work. There has long been a taboo on talking candidly about money.”

In addition to personal finances, a lot of evangelical churches have also avoided any pulpit talk about social inequality. When conservative Christianity split from the Mainline in the early 20th century, the latter pursued their commitment to the “social gospel” by working on poverty and other causes such as civil rights and the Vietnam-era peace movement. Evangelicals went the other way: they largely concentrated on issues of individual piety. “We took on personal salvation–we need our sins redeemed, and we need our Saviour,” says Warren. But “some people tended to go too individualistic, and justice and righteousness issues were overlooked.”

A recent Sunday at Lakewood gives some idea of the emphasis on worldly gain that disturbs Warren. Several hundred stage lights flash on, and Osteen, his gigawatt smile matching them, strides onto the stage of what used to be the Compaq Center sports arena but is now his church. “Let’s just celebrate the goodness of the Lord!” Osteen yells. His wife Victoria says, “Our Daddy God is the strongest! He’s the mightiest!”

And so it goes, before 14,000 attendees, a nonstop declaration of God’s love and his intent to show it in the here and now, sometimes verging on the language of an annual report. During prayer, Osteen thanks God for “your unprecedented favor. We believe that 2006 will be our best year so far. We declare it by faith.” Today’s sermon is about how gratitude can “save a marriage, save your job [and] get you a promotion.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever preached a sermon about money,” he says a few hours later. He and Victoria meet with TIME in their pastoral suite, once the Houston Rockets’ locker and shower area but now a zone of overstuffed sofas and imposing oak bookcases. “Does God want us to be rich?” he asks. “When I hear that word rich, I think people say, ‘Well, he’s preaching that everybody’s going to be a millionaire.’ I don’t think that’s it.” Rather, he explains, “I preach that anybody can improve their lives. I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy. To me, you need to have money to pay your bills. I think God wants us to send our kids to college. I think he wants us to be a blessing to other people. But I don’t think I’d say God wants us to be rich. It’s all relative, isn’t it?” The room’s warm lamplight reflects softly off his crocodile shoes.

Osteen is a second-generation Prosperity teacher. His father John Osteen started out Baptist but in 1959 withdrew from that fellowship to found a church in one of Houston’s poorer neighborhoods and explore a new philosophy developing among Pentecostals. If the rest of Protestantism ignored finances, Prosperity placed them center stage, marrying Pentecostalism’s ebullient notion of God’s gifts with an older tradition that stressed the power of positive thinking. Practically, it emphasized hard work and good home economics. But the real heat was in its spiritual premise: that if a believer could establish, through word and deed (usually donation), that he or she was “in Jesus Christ,” then Jesus’ father would respond with paternal gifts of health and wealth in this life. A favorite verse is from Malachi: “‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse … and try Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘If I will not for you open the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.'” (See boxes.)

It is a peculiarly American theology but turbocharged. If Puritanism valued wealth and Benjamin Franklin wrote about doing well by doing good, hard-core Prosperity doctrine, still extremely popular in the hands of pastors like Atlanta megachurch minister Creflo Dollar, reads those Bible verses as a spiritual contract. God will pay back a multiple (often a hundredfold) on offerings by the congregation. “Poor people like Prosperity,” says Stephen Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University. “They hear it as aspirant. They hear, ‘You can make it too–buy a car, get a job, get wealthy.’ It can function as a form of liberation.” It can also be exploitative. Outsiders, observes Milmon Harrison of the University of California at Davis, author of the book Righteous Riches, often see it as “another form of the church abusing people so ministers could make money.”

In the past decade, however, the new generation of preachers, like Osteen, Meyer and Houston’s Methodist megapastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, who gave the benediction at both of George W. Bush’s Inaugurals, have repackaged the doctrine. Gone are the divine profit-to-earnings ratios, the requests for offerings far above a normal 10% tithe (although many of the new breed continue to insist that congregants tithe on their pretax rather than their net income). What remains is a materialism framed in a kind of Tony Robbins positivism. No one exemplifies this better than Osteen, who ran his father’s television-production department until John died in 1999. “Joel has learned from his dad, but he has toned it back and tapped into basic, everyday folks’ ways of talking,” says Ben Phillips, a theology professor at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. That language is reflected in Your Best Life Now, an extraordinarily accessible exhortation to this-world empowerment through God. “To live your best life now,” it opens, to see “your business taking off. See your marriage restored. See your family prospering. See your dreams come to pass …” you must “start looking at life through eyes of faith.” Jesus is front and center but not his Crucifixion, Resurrection or Atonement. There are chapters on overcoming trauma and a late chapter on emulating God’s generosity. (And indeed, Osteen’s church gave more than $1 million in relief money after Hurricane Katrina.) But there are many more illustrations of how the Prosperity doctrine has produced personal gain, most memorably, perhaps, for the Osteen family: how Victoria’s “speaking words of faith and victory” eventually brought the couple their dream house; how Joel discerned God’s favor in being bumped from economy to business class.

Confronting such stories, certain more doctrinally traditional Christians go ballistic. Last March, Ben Witherington, an influential evangelical theologian at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky, thundered that “we need to renounce the false gospel of wealth and health–it is a disease of our American culture; it is not a solution or answer to life’s problems.” Respected blogger Michael Spencer–known as the Internet Monk–asked, “How many young people are going to be pointed to Osteen as a true shepherd of Jesus Christ? He’s not. He’s not one of us.” Osteen is an irresistible target for experts from right to left on the Christian spectrum who–beyond worrying that he is living too high or inflating the hopes of people with real money problems–think he is dragging people down with a heavy interlocked chain of theological and ethical errors that could amount to heresy.

Most start out by saying that Osteen and his ilk have it “half right”: that God’s goodness is biblical, as is the idea that he means us to enjoy the material world. But while Prosperity claims to be celebrating that goodness, the critics see it as treating God as a celestial ATM. “God becomes a means to an end, not the end in himself,” says Southwestern Baptist’s Phillips. Others are more upset about what it de-emphasizes. “[Prosperity] wants the positive but not the negative,” says another Southern Baptist, Alan Branch of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. “Problem is, we live on this side of Eden. We’re fallen.” That is, Prosperity soft-pedals the consequences of Adam’s fall–sin, pain and death–and their New Testament antidote: Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and the importance of repentance. And social liberals express a related frustration that preachers like Osteen show little interest in battling the ills of society at large. Perhaps appropriately so, since, as Prosperity scholar Harrison explains, “philosophically, their main way of helping the poor is encouraging people not to be one of them.”

Most unnerving for Osteen’s critics is the suspicion that they are fighting not just one idiosyncratic misreading of the gospel but something more daunting: the latest lurch in Protestantism’s ongoing descent into full-blown American materialism. After the eclipse of Calvinist Puritanism, whose respect for money was counterbalanced by a horror of worldliness, much of Protestantism quietly adopted the idea that “you don’t have to give up the American Dream. You just see it as a sign of God’s blessing,” says Edith Blumhofer, director of Wheaton College’s Center for the Study of American Evangelicals. Indeed, a last-gasp resistance to this embrace of wealth and comfort can be observed in the current evangelical brawl over whether comfortable megachurches (like Osteen’s and Warren’s) with pumped-up day-care centers and high-tech amenities represent a slide from glorifying an all-powerful God to asking what custom color you would prefer he paint your pews. “The tragedy is that Christianity has become a yes-man for the culture,” says Boston University’s Prothero.

Non-prosperity parties from both conservative and more progressive evangelical camps recently have been trying to reverse the trend. Eastern University professor Ron Sider’s book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, a fringe classic after its publication in 1977, is selling far more copies now, and some young people are even acting on its rather radical prescriptions: a sprinkling of Protestant groups known loosely as the New Monastics is experimenting with the kind of communal living among the poor that had previously been the province of Catholic orders. Jim Wallis, longtime leader of one such community in Washington and the editor of Sojourners magazine, has achieved immense exposure lately with his pleas that Evangelicals engage in more political activism on behalf of the poor.

And then there is Warren himself, who by virtue of his energy, hypereloquence and example (he’s working in Rwanda with government, business and church sectors) has become a spokesman for church activism. “The church is the largest network in the world,” he says. “If you have 2.3 billion people who claim to be followers of Christ, that’s bigger than China.”

And despite Warren’s disdain for Prosperity’s theological claims, some Prosperity churches have become players in the very faith-based antipoverty world he inhabits, even while maintaining their distinctive theology. Kirbyjon Caldwell, who pastors Windsor Village, the largest (15,000) United Methodist church in the country, can sound as Prosperity as the next pastor: “Jesus did not die and get up off the Cross so we could live lives full of despair and disappointment,” he says. He quotes the “abundant life” verse with all earnestness, even giving it a real estate gloss: “It is unscriptural not to own land,” he announces. But he’s doing more than talk about it. He recently oversaw the building of Corinthian Pointe, a 452-unit affordable-housing project that he claims is the largest residential subdivision ever built by a nonprofit. Most of its inhabitants, he says, are not members of his church.

Caldwell knows that prosperity is a loaded term in evangelical circles. But he insists that “it depends on how you define prosperity. I am not a proponent of saying the Lord’s name three times, clicking your heels and then you get what you ask for. But you cannot give what you do not have. We are fighting what we call the social demons. If I am going to help someone, I am going to have to have something with which to help.”

Caldwell knows that the theology behind this preacherly rhetoric will never be acceptable to Warren or Sider or Witherington. But the man they all follow said, “By their fruits you will know them,” and for some, Corinthian Pointe is a very convincing sort of fruit. Hard-line Prosperity theology may always seem alien to those with enough money to imagine making more without engaging God in a kind of spiritual quid pro quo. And Osteen’s version, while it abandons part of that magical thinking, may strike some as self-centered rather than God centered. But American Protestantism is a dynamic faith. Caldwell’s version reminds us that there is no reason a giving God could not invest even an awkward and needy creed with a mature and generous heart. If God does want us to be rich in this life, no doubt it’s this richness in spirit that he is most eager for us to acquire.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

 

 

 

Did The Prosperity Gospel Play A Role In Suprime Crisis?
Oct.03, 2008 in Commentary, Economy
According to this author, the answer is “Yes”.

Has the so-called Prosperity Gospel turned its followers into some of the most willing participants — and hence, victims — of the current financial crisis? That’s what a scholar of the fast-growing brand of pentecostal Christianity believes. While researching a book on black televangelism, says Jonathan Walton, a religion professor at the University of California Riverside, he realized that Prosperity’s central promise — that God would “make a way” for poor people to enjoy the better things in life — had developed an additional, toxic expression during sub-prime boom. Walton says that this encouraged congregants who got dicey mortgages to believe “God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and blessed me with my first house.” The results, he says, “were disastrous, because they pretty much turned parishioners into prey for greedy brokers.”

Others think he may be right. Says Anthea Butler, an expert in pentecostalism at the University of Rochester in New York state, “The pastor’s not gonna say ‘go down to Wachovia and get a loan’ but I have heard, ‘even if you have a poor credit rating God can still bless you — if you put some faith out there [that is, make a big donation to the church], you’ll get that house, or that car or that apartment.’” (more…)

When I read the title of this article, admittedly I dismissed it as far-reaching speculation. But after reading it and taking the time to reflect upon my own experiences in the church, I think the author is on to something.

For starters, I think that there is enough blame to go around–STARTING ON MAIN STREET.

My Atlanta Experience

I remember how pastors would tell folks about how the Lord wanted them to move into home ownership–all while steering them to certain brokers and banks. I remember saying to myself “folks are getting broke off over this and the Lord has nothing to do with it. This is just a plain ol’ hustle.” Brokers would be publicly acknowledged in front of the congregation as they would convince the church that all of this was just his/her way of “giving back to the Lord”. No! He was giving back to the pastor as a way of thanking him for sending the business. Again, the Lord had NUTTIN to do with this arrangement. I saw all of this during the early stages of the housing boom.

My wife and I were part of a megachurch where the pastor made it a priority to move all the renters in his congregation into home ownership. He tied the whole thing into how God moved Israel into the promise land. While I agreed with the pastor that far too many of us have been renting too long, the huge influx of moving folks with bad credit into McMansions had me a bit nervous. This took place right at the time we were preparing to move out of state.

All of a sudden, getting approved for a loan with bad credit was seen as a miracle from God–all because of those generous faith offerings folks were told to give earlier.

“I told the Lawd ‘but my credit is too messed up to get a house’. Then I heard pastor preach about taking a step of faith last Sunday. Don’t you know I applied for the loan and now I am the proud owner of a 5 bedroom house…”.

These types of ‘testimonies’ were common in the churches I attended back when the market was getting hot.

I am of the opinion that any pastor who encouraged parishioners to commit to predatory-type loans while cloaking the whole thing as “God’s will for their lives” should be thrown out of office. Part of me is telling me to name names of pastors who I know engaged in this practice. I’ll chill with that idea for now.

Again, I must stress that churches that participated in peddling these loans do share A PART of the blame.

http://www.blackinformant.com/2008/10/03/did-the-prosperity-gospel-play-a-role-in-suprime-crisis

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

 

 

 

Prosperity Gospel on Skid Row
Difficulties of high-profile pastors may reorient movement—or reinforce it.
Bobby Ross Jr. | posted 1/15/2009 09:40AM

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/february/2.12.html

Some of the high-flying icons of the prosperity gospel—the belief that God rewards signs of faith with wealth, health, and happiness—have run into financial turbulence.

Not all of their troubles can be blamed on the nation’s economic crisis, say critics of the name-it-and-claim-it theology found in some charismatic churches.

“I believe the charismatic movement, of which I am a part, is in the midst of a dramatic overhaul,” said J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine. “God is shaking us.” Grady predicts the movement will look much different in a few years as it refocuses on evangelism and overcoming what he calls the distraction of “materialism, flashy self-promotion, and foolish carnality.” But Scott Thumma, a Hartford Seminary sociologist who studies megachurches, is not so certain.

“Most clergy who preach a prosperity gospel would interpret for their congregation any conflict, scrutiny, or questioning as an attack of the Devil and proof that they are following God,” he said.

Among recent developments:

• In Fort Worth, Texas, a review board ruled December 7 that Kenneth Copeland Ministries’ $3.6 million jet did not have tax-exempt status. The ruling came after the ministry, whose 1,500-acre campus includes a $6 million church-owned lakefront mansion, refused to release the salaries of Copeland, his wife, and others.

• In suburban Atlanta, Georgia, a sheriff’s deputy served an eviction notice November 14 at Bishop Thomas Weeks III’s Global Destiny Church. Court documents indicate the bishop, the ex-husband of televangelist Juanita Bynum, owed half a million dollars in back rent. The church has lost roughly half of its 3,400 members since Weeks and Bynum’s 2007 fight in a hotel parking lot, in which Weeks was accused of pushing, choking, and beating his then-wife.

• In Tampa, Florida, Without Walls International Church—which once attracted 23,000 worshipers—has shrunk drastically after co-pastors Randy and Paula White announced in 2007 they were divorcing. The church faces an uncertain future after the Evangelical Christian Credit Union began foreclosure proceedings November 4 and demanded repayment of a $12 million loan on the church’s property.

• In suburban Minneapolis on November 18, Living Word Christian Center pastor Mac Hammond won the first stage of a court battle with the Internal Revenue Service to keep his salary private. Yet in 2008, he was forced to put his private jet up for sale and cut Living Word’s hour-long television show in half to save money amid falling contributions.
Meanwhile, Copeland and the Whites are among six televangelists whose large organizations have been targeted in a Senate Finance Committee investigation into allegations of questionable spending and lax financial accountability. All six preach some form of the prosperity gospel.

Could followers of the prosperity gospel—encouraged by pastors to “sow a seed” of faith by spending money, often in the form of a donation to the pastors’ ministries—be turned off by the recent turmoil?

Craig Blomberg, author of a 2001 study of prosperity theology, said he expects the movement to “take a small hit among those who recognize that it can’t deliver on what it promises.”

But many followers could view the financial difficulties as consequences for sin and personal failings—from Weeks’s assault conviction to the Whites’ divorce—and determine to try that much harder to please God and prosper themselves, he suggested.

“Some may well interpret this as judgment on the leaders who have abused their positions or proved immoral in other respects,” said Blomberg, a New Testament professor at Denver Seminary. “And many may simply assume this is the time to call others and themselves to an even truer faith so that the ‘system will work’ as it is supposed to in their minds.”

In Grady’s view, the notion that “God blesses us so we can be a blessing” is biblical. What is needed, he believes, is a shift to a more selfless movement where people “realize that God wants to bless us so that we can feed the poor, lift up the broken, and transform society.

“We need that kind of prosperity,” he said, “and I think that is where things are going.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

 

 

 

Is the Prosperity Gospel Financial Heresy?
By Mr. ToughMoneyLove | October 5, 2008

Mr. ToughMoneyLove tends to avoid mixing religion and personal finance for a variety of reasons. However, I am going to make a very brief exception to that policy this Sunday.

This week Time ran a story on the possible role of the “prosperity gospel” in the sub-prime mortgage mess that has played a significant role in the current economic crisis. I certainly don’t agree with the premise that God should be blamed for what has happened. But the article makes an interesting anecdotal review of how believers in the prosperity gospel could be led to accept that divine intervention would prevail over their lack of financial resources. According to the prosperity preacher, that belief is enough to put the believer in a home he or she cannot afford. I think we can all agree that there is no logic to that belief. On the other hand, religion is based on faith, not logic.

I submit that are two hard truth takeaways from this story. First, the “prosperity gospel” is really intended to bring economic prosperity to those who preach it, not to those who listen to it. Second, an all too common rationalization offered by broke people when they make yet another discretionary purchase is that they “deserve” that car or gadget or vacation. The prosperity gospel reinforces that misguided rationalization and gives it another dimension. Just as I believe that poor people are not being punished by God, I also believe that wealth on earth is not bestowed based on spiritual merit.

What do you think about the prosperity gospel as a contributor to current economic conditions?

http://toughmoneylove.com/2008/10/05/is-the-prosperity-gospel-financial-heresy/

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

 

 

 

Maybe We Should Blame God for the Subprime Mess
By David Van Biema Friday, Oct. 03, 2008

TIME.com

Has the so-called Prosperity gospel turned its followers into some of the most willing participants — and hence, victims — of the current financial crisis? That’s what a scholar of the fast-growing brand of Pentecostal Christianity believes. While researching a book on black televangelism, says Jonathan Walton, a religion professor at the University of California at Riverside, he realized that Prosperity’s central promise — that God will “make a way” for poor people to enjoy the better things in life — had developed an additional, dangerous expression during the subprime-lending boom. Walton says that this encouraged congregants who got dicey mortgages to believe “God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and blessed me with my first house.” The results, he says, “were disastrous, because they pretty much turned parishioners into prey for greedy brokers.”

Others think he may be right. Says Anthea Butler, an expert in Pentecostalism at the University of Rochester in New York: “The pastor’s not gonna say, ‘Go down to Wachovia and get a loan,’ but I have heard, ‘Even if you have a poor credit rating, God can still bless you — if you put some faith out there [that is, make a big donation to the church], you’ll get that house or that car or that apartment.’ ” Adds J. Lee Grady, editor of the magazine Charisma: “It definitely goes on, that a preacher might say, ‘If you give this offering, God will give you a house.’ And if they did get the house, people did think that it was an answer to prayer, when in fact it was really bad banking policy.” If so, the situation offers a look at how a native-born faith built partially on American economic optimism entered into a toxic symbiosis with a pathological market.

Although a type of Pentecostalism, Prosperity theology adds a distinctive layer of supernatural positive thinking. Adherents will reap rewards if they prove their faith to God by contributing heavily to their churches, remaining mentally and verbally upbeat and concentrating on divine promises of worldly bounty supposedly strewn throughout the Bible. Critics call it a thinly disguised pastor-enrichment scam. Other experts, like Walton, note that for all its faults, the theology can empower people who have been taught to see themselves as financially or even culturally useless to feel they are “worthy of having more and doing more and being more.” In some cases the philosophy has matured with its practitioners, encouraging good financial habits and entrepreneurship.

But Walton suggests that a decade’s worth of ever easier credit acted like a drug in Prosperity’s bloodstream. “The economic boom ’90s and financial overextensions of the new millennium contributed to the success of the Prosperity message,” he wrote recently on his personal blog as well as on the website Religion Dispatches. And not positively. “Narratives of how ‘God blessed me with my first house despite my credit’ were common. Sermons declaring ‘It’s your season to overflow’ supplanted messages of economic sobriety,” and “little attention was paid to … the dangers of using one’s home equity as an ATM to subsidize cars, clothes and vacations.”

With the bubble burst, Walton and Butler assume that Prosperity congregants have taken a disproportionate hit, and they are curious as to how their churches will respond. Butler thinks some of the flashier ministries will shrink along with their congregants’ fortunes. Says Walton: “You would think that the current economic conditions would undercut their theology.” But he predicts they will persevere, since God’s earthly largesse is just as attractive when one is behind the economic eight ball.

A recent publicly posted testimony by a congregant at the Brownsville Assembly of God, near Pensacola, Fla., seems to confirm his intuition. Brownsville is not even a classic Prosperity congregation — it relies more on the anointing of its pastors than on Scriptural promises of God. But the believer’s note to his minister illustrates how magical thinking can prevail even after the mortgage blade has dropped. “Last Sunday,” it read, “You said if anyone needed a miracle to come up. So I did. I was receiving foreclosure papers, so I asked you to anoint a picture of my home and you did and your wife joined with you in prayer as I cried. I went home feeling something good was going to happen. On Friday the 5th of September I got a phone call from my mortgage company and they came up with a new payment for the next 3 months of only $200. My mortgage is usually $1,020. Praise God for his Mercy & Grace.”

And pray that the credit market doesn’t tighten any further.

http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1847053,00.html?cnn=yes