Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Da Vinci Blasphemy

As the media blitz for the movie version of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code begins, I began to think about the whole concept of the book/movie in terms of its explicit blasphemy. So much attention has been paid to its accuracy, its plagiarism, its wretched writing (Salman Rushdie said it was a book that made bad books look good), that the central idea - that Jesus marries Mary Magdalene and produces children who eventually become the royalty of Europe - has failed to produce any real outrage from the church. Moslems rioted all over Europe because of some lame cartoon of Mohammed, but most Christians seem blissfully tolerant of a hideous blasphemy: that our Lord and Savior, the Second member of the most Holy Trinity, the Word of God, the one sinless human being who ever lived, fell in love with a woman of dubious character, had sexual intercourse, and fathered children. The theological implications are, of course enormous - no real resurrection, no ascension, no real deity of Christ.

But I used the term "blasphemy." It is a Greek word meaning to injure another's reputation. With regard to religion, it is to deny or withhold the honor due to God, or to speak heresy, malicious or hateful speech directed at God, the Church, or the Christian faith. The penalty for blasphemy in the Old Testament was death (Leviticus 24:15f.). Since God is infinitely holy, any sin, no matter how small, is infinitely offensive and deserving of eternal damnation. How despicable, then, is the sin of blasphemy! And yet, how often do we tolerate or even use blasphemous speech in our daily lives? How have we allowed the sacred name of Jesus Christ to become a swear word?

When Martin Scorcese released his film, The Passion, in 1988, there was mass outrage over the mere implication that Jesus was attracted to Mary Magdalene. Will there be outrage this time around, or has our "Christian nation" tired of defending the holiness of its Savior? Will there be calls for boycotting this film? Will there be protests of Sony Pictures, and boycotts of its products, etc.? The issue at stake is the honor of the Savior, but also one wonders how many Christians will begin to question their faith, and how many others will dismiss Christianity as a fraud.

Monday, March 27, 2006

God of All Comforts

A sermon preached at the Fairfield Reformed Church on March 26, 2006, on 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. This is a follow-up sermon to the one preached previously on Isaiah 40:1-5.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Paul's Prophetic Wisdom on Women

"For God is not the author of confusion but peace, as in all the churches of the saints. Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church." (1 Corinthians 14:33-35).

"Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression" (1 Timothy 2:11-13).

God created men and women equal, co-bearers of His divine image (Gen 1:27). Nonetheless, the Bible also teaches that women are more susceptible to spiritual and theological deception, and as the due penalty for listening to Satan over God, woman are placed in a submissive position in the family and the church. "Your desire will be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Genesis 3:16). "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church...therefore just as the church is subject to Christ, so let wives be to their own husbands in everything" (Ephesians 3:22-24; cf. also Colossians 3:18-4:1).

When mainline churches began to disregard biblical teaching on the sexes, and allowed women into the ministry, it was not very long before paganism began to appear in lectionaries, theology, and most prominently, in worship (see Random Responses for a startling video example). It all began with a push for inclusive language, the replacement of male pronouns for God and human beings. An inclusive language lectionary emerged, and soon one could not use masculine pronouns at all in theological programs at universities and even at seminaries (including RCA seminaries).

Feminist theology began to put forward an alternative to the Bible, Jesus Christ, and the sacraments. An entire new religion, born and nurtured under the wings of the Church itself, based upon the worship of Sophia (Greek for wisdom - how ironic, as wisdom here is no where to be found!) began to grow. God becomes a goddess; Christ becomes Sophia; there is no longer any atonement, as the blood of Christ is rejected in favor of a Mother's unconditional love. The sacrament of the Lord's Supper is replaced with milk and honey. Homosexuality is celebrated, and the Bible openly despised and mocked.

Let me offer another example. Jane Spahr, a Presbyterian "minister," recently acquitted (!) for presiding over the marriage of two women, was quoted (on the PCUSA's own website) as saying: "I am stunned by a Presbyterian church so wrapped up now in the lordship of Jesus Christ that we forget how many ways, traditions, and cultures God comes to us." She prefers to worship Sophia, and has rejected Jesus Christ. This is not done in secret, but upheld and celebrated in the highest assemblies of mainline churches. Is not the Apostle Paul's wisdom now self-evident?

The Reformed Church in America is following its "covenant partners" (the Presbyterian Church USA, the Evangelical Lutherans, and the United Church of Christ) down the road to paganism and the feminization of the church. At this very moment, the denomination is spending thousands of our dollars establishing a dialogue on homosexuality. Will Sophia stop by and lend us her holy wisdom? This is not a battle between views of the church. This is a battle between God's people, God's Bible, God's Church, and the forces of satanic paganism. It is a spiritual warfare Paul in his Spirit-inspired wisdom warned us of in Ephesians 6:12, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."

Now that is wisdom.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Jesus In Trouble Again

I don't know if Hillary Clinton is a Christian. She says she is, but then so did Bill. Politicians of all stripes, with the brave exception of Michael Dukakis (and look where that got him), kiss babies and invoke the Lord whenever possible. It isn't hard to be jaded. Even Ronald Reagan almost never went to church.

So it was amusing to hear Hillary bring Jesus into the immigration debate. Her comment that the Republican bill "is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the Scriptures, because this bill would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably Jesus himself," is fascinating on so many levels...

It seems that you just can't keep Jesus out of trouble, including his fictional parable friends like the Good Samaritan. Hillary's understanding of Scripture obviously allows for infanticide (she is pro-abortion), and I fail to see how allowing millions of illegal aliens to cross our borders has anything to do with religion at all. Mexico is not a totalitarian state bent on mass murder or repression. Freedom does not motivate immigrants, money does. The allure of living like characters on television prompts cross-border treks, not the need of the man helped by the Good Samaritan. Bringing Jesus into the discussion, in handcuffs no less, turns the debate into a farce, and highlights how little Mrs. Clinton knows about the Savior. I somehow cannot see Jesus lobbying for the rights of people who want bigger televisions. Loose immigration only delays the needed reforms and economic rejuvenation that would make Mexico a nation people want to move to, instead of flee.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Glory of the Gospel

A sermon preached at the Fairfield Reformed Church, on March 19. The text is from Isaiah 40:1-5.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Are We About To Be Blamed?

Reading this morning's "New York Times," I noticed a book review for American Theocracy. Kevin Phillips, the book's author, contends that America faces three threats: oil addiction, Christian fundamentalism, and the national debt. Of course what troubles me is the middle item, and Phillips' conflation of fundamentalism, orthodoxy, and theonomy. He fears the emergence of a Taliban-like society, where women are denied basic rights, and the separation of church and state has been removed.

What makes all of this important is Phillips himself. He is no leftwing radical, but a former member of the Nixon administration, who has had enormous influence, based primarily on the uncanny accuracy of his predictions, made in the sixties and seventies. He coined the phrase "Sun Belt," and predicted the rise of the Republican party as the population shifted from the Northeast to the South and West. Sure enough, people did move to warmer climes, and the Republicans have dominated politics for the last thirty years. Now Phillips is fearful, and he lumps orthodox Christians, specifically Southern Baptists, in with a mix of radicals, fringe groups, and other threats to America.

Is this the beginning of an intellectual demonization of Christianity? The church in America has always been sneered at by the elites, and ridiculed by the intelligentsia, but now it has been linked with oppression, war, and the erosion of civil rights. For some reason, I catch a whiff of the scapegoat in the air - the opportunity to destroy any form of Christianity which is not a toady to left-wing culture and political agendas. In other words, you may believe in Jesus, but keep your dangerous gospel to yourself. Such is not a living faith, but a sad pantomime of God's unchanging truth.

Abortion Pill Update

According to the Associated Press, two more women have died after they used RU-486, or mifepristone. Seven women have now died from this drug, along with their unborn children. The Senate is now considering a bill called "Holly's Law," named after Holly Patterson, an 18-year old who died in 2003 from taking RU-486. The bill would pull this abomination from the market.

For the complete story click here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Gulf

I received an email from someone today, upset with my position as a theological conservative. They wrote, "I have been a member of the same Reformed church since my baptism many long years ago, and this denomination is beginning to make make me sick to my stomach. Whatever happened to Christ's message of love, the real Christianity?"

To which I replied, "I agree that what is happening in the RCA is making me sick. Whatever happened to Christ's message of a holy God who will rain down judgment upon the ungodly?"

This illustrates the gulf which exists in American Christianity between those who believe that "real Christianity" is about love, and those who believe that Christianity is much more than that, as Christ calls us from the darkness of sin to repentance, and empowers us to victory over sin through the sanctifying power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, there is no real tension in the New Testament between love and holiness. The tension exists only in the sinful heart, which wants to think of itself as righteous, but retain the privileges of a sinful life. The gulf, then, is between our desires and God's holy nature, between His holy expectations and our rebellion. This is the Holy War waged within the soul which John Bunyan wrote of so expertly, having thoroughly plumbed the depths of his own heart. This is the war the Apostle Paul wrote of in Romans 7. This is the war waged in the heavenly places between spiritual forces (Eph 6:12). This is the war being waged in our denomination between those who would use love as a license for sin, and those who would uphold the whole counsel of God.

We have no need for despair, as we already know the outcome: "And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15).

Monday, March 13, 2006

Rx For a Healthy Church

A sermon preached on Acts 2:42-47, at the Fairfield Reformed Church on March 12, 2006, setting forth four biblical principles of a healthy church.

Spurgeon Said It Best

While reading the lastest offering of Charles Spurgeon at Pyromaniacs. I was struck by how much it resonated with my own feelings and experiences.

"This generation has made a god of its own. The effeminate deity of the modern school is no more the true God than Dagon or Baal. I know him not, neither do I reverence him. But Jehovah is the true God: he is the God of love, but he is also robed in justice; he is the God of forgiveness, but he is also the God of atonement; he is the God of heaven, but he is also the God who sends the wicked down to hell. We, of course, are thought to be harsh, and narrow-minded, and bigoted: nevertheless, this God is our God for ever and ever. There has been no change in Jehovah. He has revealed himself more clearly in Christ Jesus; but he is the same God as in the Old Testament, and as such we worship him" (emphasis mine).

Mind you, this was preached in 1885.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Is the RCA Worth It?

I have come to the conclusion that the denomination I serve is apostate, not worth saving, and under the control of Satan. I am tired of being threatened by liberals, castigated for upholding biblical positions, and having my words twisted and used against me. The Reformed Church in America was once faithful, a lily among the thorns. Now it is the whorehouse of heretics, feminists, ecumenists, and homosexuals. It's time to recognize the situation and "come out from among them and touch not the unclean thing."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Is Roe Obsolete?

All the fuss about court appointments and the South Dakota criminalization of abortion, has overlooked a quiet revolution in the murder of infants. In South Dakota, for example, there is only one abortion provider for the whole state. What is an incovenienced woman to do? The answer is Mifepristone. This pill will murder a child in utero up to 63 days, or 9 weeks. Which would look like this little one to the right.

Here's what the website for Mifepristone says about using their product:

What are the benefits to using mifepristone to terminate a pregnancy?
Abortion using mifepristone has several advantages over surgical abortion. Mifepristone carries no risk of uterine perforation or rare complications caused by anesthesia and lower risk of infection. Many women feel that medical abortion is noninvasive, more natural, and more private than surgical abortion. When given a choice between medical and surgical abortion, 57-70% of women choose the medical option. 96% of women in clinical trials of mifepristone said they would recommend this method to a friend (empasis mine).

I suppose killing your child the old-fashioned way, with scalding saline and forceps, can't compare to merely swallowing a pill. But what are the side effects of taking Mifepristone?

All women who use mifepristone experience bleeding and cramping; both symptoms are normal and part of the medical abortion process. Other side effects include nausea, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, back pain and tiredness. These side effects tend to lessen after the third day after taking mifepristone and are usually gone within two weeks. Serious adverse events, like hospitalization or blood transfusions, are extremely rare.

What isn't mentioned is the life-long guilt, the psychological trauma, the sin against a holy God. But hey, let's not get negative. What is truly terrifying is that 96% of women who use Mifepristone recommend it to their friends. That is the moral equivalent of preferring Auschwitz to Buchenwald. But as the ad says, "it more natural."

Governor Rounds signed the anti-abortion bill mentioned here previously, making a huge difference in the lives of the 800 South Dakotans who are normally aborted each year. The office of Planned Parenthood, the only abortion provider in the state, spent yesterday consoling women over this development. "Yes, we're so terribly sorry you can't kill your child today. I guess you'll just have to live with the consequences of your decisions, even in America."

Monday, March 06, 2006

About Last Night

Not being much of a Sabbatarian, I watched the excruciatingly dull Academy Awards. Of the movies nominated, I have seen Crash and Cinderella Man. The only movie which won an Oscar last night which I plan on seeing is March of the Penguins. I thought Crash was very interesting and unsettling. I thought about it afterwards. Cinderella Man was good ole Hollywood schmaltz, and quite entertaining.

The Academy was obviously panicked over DVD intrusions into their $10 billion yearly sales figures. I don't like going to movie theaters. I am short, and invariably a tall person sits in front of me, and I don't like people talking through the movie or those infuriating people who bring their infants because they are too darned cheap to get a sitter. What the Academy should be worried about is making better movies, and keeping foul-mouthed rappers with diamond teeth off the stage. It's hard to be a pimp, as the song goes, but it's harder to have to watch, so I turned it off and went to bed.

Oh, yeah that gay cowboy movie lost most of its chances for Oscar gold. I have heard it was beautifully filmed, but I won't really ever know. I'll be watching penguins cuddling in the snow.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Hopeful Dust

An Ash Wednesday sermon preached on March 1, 2006. The text is Psalm 103:11-18.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Sources of Division in the RCA

There are several groups within the denomination which are advocating for changes in how we conceive of ourselves as a church. For example, the "Chicago Invitation" wants to restore the traditional views of office, and is critical of the business and secular models of administration presently at work in our midst. "Room For All," a recent advocacy group, desires to make the RCA hospitable for homosexuals. In California, classes and churches are writing theological briefs which would move us away from infant baptism to believer's baptism. In the Midwest, Regional Synod Executives are acting like bishops, forcing churches to close, forcing ministers out of their pulpits, and generally running roughshod over our polity. In our two seminaries, heresy and disrespect for the authority and infallibility of Scripture are normative. Reformed theology is not taught, but rather refuted or replaced by neo-orthodoxy, the mumblings of Moltmann and his ilk, or the fashionable musings of feminist, eco-feminist, and a dozen other "ist" theologies which will shortly be as relevant as Marxism.

A recently retired minister, with long experience at all levels of the RCA, said rather boldly that the RCA no longer really exists as a denomination. Instead, we are a loose confederation of increasingly intolerant bodies with no central, unifying identity. What are the sources of this division? Is there a remedy besides secession? I see two malignancies responsible for our weakened condition.

1. A failure to adhere to the doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the Bible.
The Bible is no longer taught in seminaries or pulpits as the Word of God. I recall at a recent classis meeting a minister who began the reading of Scripture by saying, "Let us listen for the Word of God." We were not instructed to listen to the Word. The corrosive effects of higher biblical criticism, along with a hermeneutic of suspicion, have neutered the Bible, stripping it of any real authority. The authority celebrated in most RCA churches is the authority of the individual mind. This is expressed by the phrase that the Bible is authoritative (or infallible) "in that which it seeks to teach." Attempting to arrive at what the Bible seeks to teach is impossible, as each person defines the limits of biblical authority according to what authority they are comfortable giving it. If one is uncomfortable with the Bible's teaching on sexuality, then simply say the Bible is not a book on sex, and therefore it has no relevance.

The only remedy to this chaos is to impose upon the denomination the doctrine of the plenary inspiration of Scripture. This means that every word of the Bible is God-breathed (theopneustos in Greek), and the word "plenary" means simply that every part and word of Scripture is God-breathed. "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4). Thus, there are no disposable parts of Scripture - all were placed in the Bible by the Holy Spirit for specific reasons. These words are, according to our Lord, eternal. "But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail" (Luke 16:17). "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away" (Luke 21:33). The classic text for this doctrine is of course 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God...." Even more explicitly, plenary inspiration is mentioned in Psalm 119:160, "The entirety of your word is truth." If the RCA could somehow find its way back to this high view of Scripture, it would experience both blessing and peace.

2. A failure to enforce strict subscription to the content of our Constitution, especially our Standards of Unity.
The denominations which are experiencing growth (numerically and spiritually) are those which require strict subscription to their creeds and confessions. When a minister in the RCA is ordained or installed, there is only an anemic statement that the Standards of Unity are faithful, historical witnesses. If we wish to be Reformed, then we must insist that our clergy at least be committed to teaching and preaching what is found in the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort. We want clergy who actually believe the content of our creeds and confessions. If they do not, let them find positions in other non-Reformed communions. If you object to the Five Points of Calvinism, or you are uncomfortable with predestination, then you have no business calling yourself Reformed. Lately, those who object to the content of the confessions are busy making mischief by "reinterpreting" the Reformed tradition. They cry out with numbing ignorance and repetition, "We are always reforming!" This, they believe, grants them a license to dispose of Reformed orthodoxy. In truth, the rubric Semper reformanda means increasing conformity to the the Word of God, not increasing deviance from it.

The only practical way of reforming the Reformed Church is to follow the pattern of the Southern Baptist Convention, and overthrow the seminaries, installing conservatives and removing liberals. The seminaries continue to be a toxic waste stream into our denomination, and it is time to stop the flow. Surgery is never pleasant, but without it the cancer will continue to spread until the patient expires. The RCA is already on the table, waiting for the ether.

{illustration: John Rylands Papyrus, the oldest known biblical manuscript, ca. 120 A.D.}