Monday, April 27, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The 2008 Chamberlain Holiness Lectures At Wesley Biblical Seminary

Every year, during the last week of September or the first week of October, my theological alma mater, Wesley Biblical Seminary hosts the week long Chamberlain Holiness Lectures. This past year, instead of inviting an outside speaker, five professors from WBS gave the lectures. These five lecures reflect the outstanding scholarship as well as the deep love of God among WBS's faculty. They also give the listener a clear exposition of just what is Holiness from a historical Wesleyan perspective. They make it clear that this theology is not just a sectarian phenomenon but has been a major factor in shaping the religious mindset of the developing American nation. They also demonstrate that Holiness reflects the ultimate purpose for man as outlined in the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. The proclamation of Wesleyan Holiness Theology is the rational for WBS's existence. Wesleyan Holiness theology is the theology this blogger seeks to make known. Here are links to each lecture plus a brief synopsis of each one. (Which unfortunately, do not come close to reflecting the richness of the contents of these lectures.):

The Holy One of Israel by Dr. John Oswalt: Why didn't God identify Himself as The Holy One at the beginning of human history as recorded in Genesis? Because God had to establish His trustworthiness to mankind before he could fulfill His purposes for Man to be in fellowship with Him. God demonstrates that He is completely trustworthy through the accounts of His dealings with Abraham, Jacob and Joseph. Genesis also demonstrates that for God's goal of mankind to be in the image of God, sin had to be defeated. Another way to state that we were to be in God's image is that we were to be holy as God is holy. (Gen. 17:1) This holiness is not just an Old Testament standard that was made irrelevant by the New Covenant, but is what we are to be in Christ: Eph. 1:4, 2:10, 3:19, 5:1-2, II Pet 1:4. Holiness is reflected in the relationship of Israel to God, who had delivered Israel from slavery. If Israel would trust the God who had delivered them, if they would show their trust by entering into a God's Covenant with them and obey that Covenant, then they would become God's royal priesthood; they would partake in God's most essential attribute, Holiness. Mere deliverance from slavery was no more the final goal of God anymore than the forgiveness of sins was God's exclusive purpose for sending His Son to men. We who are forgiven are to be reflecting God's character by our treatment of others. Holiness is not just one of the attributes of God; Holiness is God's supreme attribute. Holiness is the box in which all the other attributes are contained. In Revelation, God is called Holy in three important passages: 4:8, 6:10 and in chapter 15.

You Have Come To Mount Zion by Dr. Gary Cockerill: The Church in North America has become just a provider of services. How does the Church escape this situation? By recovering Church life as the community of God's Holy people. A picture of this community may be found in Heb. 13:1-6. The early life of the the people of God was characterized by brotherly love. Brotherly love in this passage is not just part of a list of characteristics; brotherly love is the foundation of the characteristics found in this passage. Then the author of Hebrews, who Dr. Cockerill describes as the pastor who wrote Hebrews, goes on to warn his flock to avoid those dangers which destroy brotherly love, such as greed. The wilderness generation in Exodus typified the faithless generation. Their repeated behavior revealed the same lack of trust in God present in us before our hearts are cleansed of sin. Heb. 4:14-10:18 describes how Jesus cleansed us of sin so we can be in God's presence. Hebrews tells us that those of us who have had our hearts cleansed of sin are made perfect through Christ's cleansing. It is after this cleansing that we can approach Mount Zion, the Holy of Holies, which is God's presence. Dr. Cockerill does not state whether the Holiness movement is dead, but he maintains that the only path for its revival is not fresh theology, but a return to a Holiness of heart and life that is manifested in the community of brotherly love.

Freedom and Progress: The Pillars of Christian Perfection by Dr. Ron Smith: Most religious historians who have examined the role of religion in American history are Calvinists. Not only do Calvinists misunderstand Methodist theology; they refuse to see how historical Methodism shaped the American mind. While Calvinism was the dominant theology of American churches at the time of the founding of the nation, its theology of the total depravity of man presented a problem in a new nation whose ideology was optimistic about man's capacity within an environment of political freedom. Holiness theology spoke of perfectionism, not a state where man no longer commits sin, but of the Holy Spirit living in the hearts of those who repent. This presence of the Holy Spirit allows men and women to reflect the love of God in our treatment of others. In loving others as God loves us, then we become perfect as God is perfect. (Matt. 5:48) Holiness, as compared to Calvinism, is an optimistic theology that spread rapidly across the new nation in the 19th century. Its doctrine of Prevenient Grace aligned itself with the new nation's optimism concerning human capability to govern itself. In its rejection of Predestination according to Calvinist theology, Methodism radically identified with all, especially lay people. Men such as Asbury lived and worked among them as other groups did not. Methodist doctrine was given great thought in these years. Contrary to what Calvinists contend, Methodism was not just "experience driven" religion. Nor was it, as Calvinists maintain, just a narrow sectarian movement. By the end of the 19th Century, it reflected the natural, intellectual, social impulse of most Americans. The current Holiness movement grew out of the discontent of many with religion after the American church split over the issue of slavery. The Holiness movement seeks to bring wholeness to the church in America again through the proclamation of what Wesley would call "Christian Perfection."

Publishing His Mercy To The World by Dr. Matt Friedeman: Dallas is considered to be a Christian ministry mecca. Yet despite the number of Christian ministries and mega churches in the Dallas area, Dallas ranks high in all the negative statistics concerning crime, broken families and illegitimacy. But it is little use focusing on Dallas alone, according to Dr. Friedeman. The same is true in all areas of the U.S. Why is it that even in areas where the Christian presence is huge, the Church seems to have little impact on society? Because the Church is raising its members to stay within its walls. What are the Evangelistic cures to a post-Christian America? First, all disciples must be trained to see themselves as evangelists. Too much has been made of the quote from St. Francis of Assisi: "Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words." The fact of the matter is that it takes verbal direction to lead another into surrendering to Christ and to becoming a disciple. Another remedy is to plant more Churches. This may stike some as odd since it seems in some places that there is a church on every street corner. Yet the lecture features the statistics to show that in the 20th century, the number of churches per person declined dangerously low. Dr. Friedeman points out that Wesley did not just preach, but he employed a methodology, derived from his theology, that not only educated disciples as to doctrine, but also got them to move outside the church walls. Wesley's converts reached people no one was reaching and cared for the physical needs of the bottom rung of society. Wesley' preaching and discipleship methods completely turned the culture around. The same cannot be said for Billy Graham. He made no impact on 20th century America. One reason is that Graham chose a wrong methodology with which to operate. Instead of organizing new converts into new churches, he left the discipleship to already existing churches, which were too inward focused to be trusted to disciple the newly saved. Jesus was always on the move, consequently, so were his disciples. As Jesus poured His teaching into them, He also had them engaged in ministry, enhancing their character in action. The early Church shocked pagan philosophers by its care for the needy. Dr. Friedeman recommends reading Wesley's Sermon #98. In it, Wesley quotes Eph. 2, in which it states that we were not only saved by grace, but that we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Holiness As Self Giving Love by Dr. Bill Ury: The title refers to the connection between the Wesleyan understanding of Holiness and the Trinity. The life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Trinitarian terms is one of self giving love. Each member lives to support the others, not pursuing their own separate agendas. Jesus told His hearers the He came from the Father, and that whatever He did, He first saw his Father do. By saying this, Jesus was locating the origin of all love in the person of the Father. When Jesus emptied Himself of all but love, this action is not just to be looked upon as what He did but as an demonstration of who He is. Jesus was responding to the Father in love. The Father sent His Son, who is in the nature of God, not just because Man blew it in the Garden. The Father sent the Son because He so loved Man and wanted to demonstrate this love in a self giving act, sending His only Son to die for them. The Holy Spirit Himself talks not of Himself, but of the Father and the Son. When the Holy Spirit enters the heart of a believer, the actual life of the Trinity enters us. Our relationship with the Triune God is about more than salvation from sins; God prepares us to participate in the life of God before heaven. In the second work of grace, God himself empowers us to yield all of ourselves to others. As Dr. Ury points out, this Wesleyan understanding of Holiness as self giving love is not a 19th century tack on.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Darwin And The Holocaust

"It should not have been surprising that Hitler under Darwin's influence would follow up by seeking to destroy the Jews. Not because Darwin was an anti-Semite (he wasn't), but because his world view is all about explaining life and its mysteries in purely natural, materialistic terms, leaving no room for God."

In our day in which Darwinian orthodoxy is considered the only acceptable account of the origins of Man and the Universe, who would dare to expose themselves to public ridicule for such a statement? Only a narrow, right wing Conservative Fundamentalist, of course. At least, that would be the answer of the evolutionary vanguard in the scientific establishment and the media. When Ben Stein demonstrated the connection of Darwinism to the Holocaust in his documentary "Expelled", Evolutionists went into hysterics denouncing Stein. ExpelledExposed, a website maintained by the National Center for Science Education, has an entire article devoted to ridiculing the link between Evolution and the Holocaust and the now discredited science of Eugenics. It is Expelledexposed's goal to make one think that the only ones who believe in such a link are Conservative Protestant Fundamentalists/Evangelicals who deny the evidence for Evolution. It is the hope of Evolutionists to embarrass anyone from challenging Evolution by labeling Evolution's opponents as Christian Fundamentalists. Surely, they reason, very few "sophisticated people" would want to be associated with them. See this article from last October on this blog for the historical basis for the linking of Evolution to the Holocaust and the tactics of Evolutionists on this subject.

Actually, the statement above is from David Klinghoffer, an Orthodox Jew. Klinghoffer wrote an article earlier this month entitled "Judaism in the Year of Darwin." In it, Klinghoffer maintains that the war against Creationism as portrayed in Genesis is not just the Christian Fundamentalists' fight. Orthodox Jews also read Genesis as God's word and its Creation account as actual history. Klinghoffer also details the historical connection between Evolution and the Holocaust. Reading this article and the historians cited in it should be argument enough against those who deny the connection. I thought bringing this article to your attention today would be appropriate since today is Holocaust Memorial Day. (Thanks to Dave Bartlett for bring this article to my attention.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Audio Impressions

The Hitchens/Turek Debate On The Existence of God: On 5/07/07, atheist journalist Christopher Hitchens debated the Rev. (?) Al Sharpton on the existence of God. The event was more of a publicity stunt rather than a real debate due in no small part to Sharpton's refusal or inability to argue from the Scriptures. Even Hitchens sounded astonished at Sharpton's poor performance. However, Hitchens debated the topic again on 09/09/08 which Christian Apologetics speaker Frank Turek, and this time, it was a real debate. Turek was allowed to speak first and he laid down eight challenges to the materialist world view which Hitchens barely addressed. The thrust of Hitchen's argument was that much of the wrong the Church did in history is proof that belief in God leads to tyranny. Turek pointed out that without a personal God, there is no standard for right and wrong, which Hitchens tried to counter by claiming falsely that Turek believes only Christians are capable of moral action. Much of Hitchen's argument hinged on negative stereotypes of people of faith (mainly Christians) which have their roots in propaganda against the Church or from deviations of the Church from the Gospel. A default position of Hitchen's argument is that the Catholic Church is synonymous with the Church Universal and so much of his rhetoric is aimed at Catholic doctrine and history. (Turek is not a Catholic.) A question from the audience for Hitchens asked him to explain how something came from nothing. He dodged the question by asking if Socrates knew of DNA, after all, he rationalized, these questions have been around long before the discovery of DNA. What that has to do with anything, I don't know. The debate lasted two hours.

Christian Evangelism of Jews: Here is a conversation between Christian Stan Guthrie and Rabbi Yeheil Poupko concerning Christians witnessing to Jews. Both men are friends and the debate is friendly. Still Yehil Poupko resents such Christian activity while Stan Guthrie defends it while acknowledging past persecution of the Jews by the Church. The whole conversation lasts a little more than thirteen minutes.

Os Guinness: This lecture, given at Dallas Theological Seminary on 11/24/08, is entitled "The Survival of The Fastest." It is just over an hour. This is the first time I have ever listened to Guinness speak. Despite the fact that he expresses some political opinions that I strongly disagree with, there is enough in the speech's content that is still worth bringing to your attention. Guinness not only questions the wisdom of the secular principle that speed is the optimum value of any enterprise, but he laments the adoption of this principle by the Church. Four points for Christians stand out. First, he makes the point that change just for the sake of change is really a form of nihilism since the proponents of this view offer no objective standard to evaluate whether the change is good or bad. Second, he contrasts modern speed with the Christain view of presence. In particular, cell phones can keep two people from mutually engaging with one another, even if they are together. Also, cell phones can distract us from the worship of God. Third, Guinness takes issue with the view that the world is so chaotic that the most spiritual response would be a withdrawal from the world along the lines of Monasticism. Guinness points out the the world that Jesus ministered in was just as chaotic, yet he did not respond like a monk. Instead, Jesus lived in a pattern of engagement and withdrawal, much like what is advocated by Dallas Willard in "The Spirit of the Disciplines." Fourthly, Guinness repeats Francis Schaeffer's critic of modern Christianity's attempts to link current events to specific Biblical eras. This approach, which Schaeffer labeled "this and that," is not a way to approach prophecy.

Assisted Suicide: Steven Drake, who blogs for the organization "Not Dead Yet" was recently interviewed on radio concerning the group "Final Exit." If you have been following the news lately, then you would heard of "Final Exit," which is a group who assists people who wish to commit suicide. An undercover investigation has led to the arrest of some of the group's leadership. According to Drake, not all those who were "aided" in dying were actually suffering from terminal conditions. The interview is a little over ten minutes. I do not know what the title of Drake's position is in "Not Dead Yet's" organization. Earlier this year, this blog linked to "Not Dead Yet", an organization dedicated to opposing and exposing the Assisted Suicide movement for what it is, a movement to remove from society those persons with disabilities which they see as being a drain on society's limited resources.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Remarks From Sarah Palin

Some remarks from Sarah Palin caused a stir recently, especially among staffers from the McCain Campaign. Palin recounted that right before she went onstage to debate Joe Biden, she had looked for someone to hold hands with her and join her in prayer. The remarks that provoked criticism were that as she was searching for that person to pray with, she knew that the McCain people were not the type of people she was looking for. Should she have made these remarks? To some, these remarks indicate a mean spirited judgementalism on her part. Others defend her by pointing out that by that time, she had gotten to know the McCain people surrounding her and that they are not people who shared her faith in Christ. I side with the latter. Even if the latter opinion is correct, should she have made these remarks? They prefaced a story about her youngest girl which could have been recounted without these remarks. Does this show a lack of judgement on her part? Or was she shrewdly cementing her support among the Conservative base of the Republican party? Whatever the case, it was a good speech, making the point that disaffected Democrats can be won over without compromising Conservative principles. At this point, I do not know who I'll be supporting in 2012: Palin, Jindal, Sanford, or someone else. Yet this speech indicates that Palin is the only Conservative candidate who can emotionally connect with voters. Here is a five minute clip from Palin's speech on You Tube. The controversial remarks begin after four minutes.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Evidence: It Must Be Seen To Be Believed

"Evidence." This video must be seen to be believed. For 7 minutes and forty seconds, all the viewer sees are faces of children. What's the message? You won't find out till the very end and the answer is worth the wait. The mood is enhanced by creepy minimalist music. The message at the end will take you by surprise. I became aware of this video from Italy through the blog The Constructive Curmudgeon. I could not establish a direct link through You Tube for "Evidence", but it can be viewed by linking here to the blog post on The Constructive Curmudgeon concerning this video.