Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Are Christians Selling Their Soul for Patriotism? Jan Markell on the Beck problem

Watched a little Glenn Beck today. Yeah, I like him, he tells important truths. If only he wasn't a Mormon. If only a Christian would do what he's doing. His rally was a great thing. If only it didn't have a spiritual snare at the heart of it.

Then I got an email this morning forwarding me something from Olive Tree Views, a ministry I'm not familiar with, but they're saying much the same thing I've been saying: Have We Anointed an Unworthy Shepherd?
By Jan Markell
August 31, 2010

Could we say that the church has failed to wake up very many people so, by default, a Mormon -- Glenn Beck -- has made quite a stir and has become an official spiritual leader? He rallied hundreds of thousands last weekend with themes of faith and love of our country. Americans are desperate and fearful of what is coming upon this land so they look to a Mormon for leadership. I am glad his Saturday event was successful for just some of these reasons:

* Americans came to celebrate America after the highest leaders in our land have trashed her around the world.

* They focused on what was right in America and they also honored our military.

* Faith and patriotism were lifted up -- two items that the Left despises.

* Attendees were passionate -- traveling thousands of miles and, once arriving in D.C., walking for miles, even if handicapped.

* Conservative Americans must gather together to fortify one another. Such events strengthen one another and offer hope. Finding kindred spirits in a depressing age is essential.

* Whether the Left heard or not, the attendees sent a message that they are fed up. November is around the corner and they had better look out.

In light of the positive aspects of the honoring America weekend, could there possibly be a down side?
I'm glad she starts with the positive, because that's what drew so many of us to the event, it's what we need in America. But of course then she goes on to describe the down side so read on. It got her some hate mail but nothing to the extent it's been getting me for mentioning it elsewhere.

She refers us to her own radio program where this was discussed a couple days before the event, and I'm going to put her title in large print because it says exactly what the problem is (click on the title to go to the radio broadcast page):

That IS the problem. That IS the question. That's what we're risking by letting a Mormon lead us. Here's her description of the radio show.

Listen to this broadcast. She does a great job of describing just why we love Glenn Beck before going on to discuss the problems for Christians in the fact that he's a Mormon.
Jan's guests include Brannon Howse, Eric Barger, and Ed Decker. The issue is Glenn Beck. Over two hours, the ultimate question is: are Christians selling their soul for patriotism? Most conservatives love Glenn Beck. He exposes evil and he loves America. He hates what is happening to this nation. But Glenn has another agenda as the panel proves over two hours: The subtle promotion of Mormonism. Listen and learn what is happening, why it is happening, and who are the Christians participating. While many suggest he is a "saved Mormon," the panel says that is not possible. About a dozen sound bytes are played that are revealing. The Mormons want to "save America" because it is the "promised land." God has a covenant with America. Not so. We urge you all to pray for Glenn Beck.
This is a GREAT discussion, everyone should listen to it. One thing that may recommend it is that the speakers are a lot more cool-headed than I am so you'll just LIKE them more. But also they assume that most Christians don't know anything about Mormonism so they go into great detail about what Mormonism is, in such detail that any Christian should recognize why it's a false religion. I tend to assume that Christians must know at least a little about these things because I know them, but apparently the ministries that teach against false religions aren't as accessible to Christians as they were ten or twenty years ago, and for some reason this information isn't available in local churches either. So this broadcast is a GREAT RESOURCE.

She also reports that even on Saturday Beck called the Indians the "chosen people" -- Mormon doctrine there -- and that people applauded. I'm just noting this now because I'm listening to the radio broadcast but I want to come back and link this later.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Right and Left equally PC on the question of Beck's Mormonism

The Left has nothing on the Right when it comes to condemning people for pointing out that Beck's Mormonism is a heresy, as I learned over the last few days. Of course you can also find leftist remarks in the same vein referring to Christians who are "intolerant" of Beck's religion, who are "haters" because we know his religion is a heresy. It would have helped a great deal if at least the Right got it right, but I have to say they are as bad if not worse when it comes to this version of Political Correctness.

Here are some remarks I got from a rightwing political blog to essentially the same message I've been posting here:
...it is clear that you are utterly fixated on hating people who do not share your opinions on theology.
Accusations of "hating" generally come from the left. It's part of the politically correct denunciation of any doctrine they oppose to characterize it in such terms in order to smear it. "Hate" is used to designate an opposing point of view, a view that opposes a doctrine they object to but they apply it to "people" rather than doctrine. There is no emotion of hate involved in any of it. And it's not about persons, it's about doctrine.

This particular quote, by the way, is from someone who thinks he's a Christian but denies the Deity of Christ.
...He did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to show any Mormonism in that rally...I think you know that.
And I thought I was clear that Mormons DON'T show their Mormonism under such circumstances -- it's his BEING a Mormon that precludes Christians from joining with him ON RELIGIOUS MATTERS, not what he says, and again, it matters in the context of a RELIGIOUS rally, not a political rally. But I guess that just falls on deaf ears.

[Much later: I have to note here that I finally got to hear the first part of the rally in which Beck talks about how the Indians are God's chosen people -- so he certainly did show his Mormonism in that rally. But my original point still stands. Simply KNOWING Beck is a Mormon while evangelical songs and messages are being given at his rally, requires you not to participate. Beck has gone beyond politics into religion and there we cannot follow him.]
Glenn Beck's beliefs are none of my business. They are his and God's....and no one else has the right nor the moral authority to judge him.
Nobody is judging HIM (in fact we like him and his politics), we are judging his religious beliefs alone and we DO have the right to do that, and fact we are REQUIRED to do that. But I understand that this comes from someone who isn't a believer -- though he claims to be one and has a well worked out "theology."
Who are you to preach to us? We're adults. If we can accept others who we may feel have good hearts and are sincere, why is that your concern?

You are not the one who judges who is worthy, or faithful. Or have you forgotten that.
If you disagree with me what's the problem, do as you please. Why condemn me for giving my Bible-based view of it?
I'd like to remind you that Glenn Beck is also a son of God, loved by Him. How dare you attack such a man.
Also a son of God? Not according to the Bible. Not according to mainstream Christian theology. But also nobody IS attacking Glenn Beck, I've said only positive things about him personally.

They also can't tell the difference between a personal put-down and a doctrinal statement that may happen to hurt someone's feelings. I really did think better of the Right than this, apparently mistakenly thought there were more true Christians among them. No longer.

I didn't get ONE note of agreement, not ONE Christian able to see that the Bible tells us we must avoid looking like we are in agreement with heretics on RELIGIOUS matters. I did get one person pointing out that the ripe terminology in which a few excoriated my character works both ways and I'm grateful for that much -- that is, it takes puffed up pride to accuse me of that, and it takes a judgmental spirit to accuse me of that.

On the Left, they don't know whether to hate religion or to hate Christians who they call "haters" who recognize that Mormonism is a heresy (and haven't shown one iota of anything remotely describable as "hate" in any of it). I for one have said nothing but positive things about Glenn Beck himself and so has everyone else I've read who nevertheless points out that a Christian can't join in a religious rally with a Mormon. But PC perverts everything. I believe we are now in the period of the Great Delusion and it's going to be very few who can find their way out of it.

Well, I don't want to make too big a thing out of this. It hurts to be talked to like this but I have to remember that my only reason for saying anything at all is to try to be true to God and His word, and it's only to be expected that I will get this kind of response, it goes with the territory. It's hard to learn to love one's enemies and forgive this kind of thing but with the Lord's help I'll do it.

Besides, it only makes sense in the context of the last days that Christians would be getting more and more marginalized, alienated from everything worldly, even the best of political and cultural thought. It has to be that way. And this line from scripture keeps coming to mind: I was wounded in the house of my friends.
Zechariah 13:6 And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
If He was wounded by His friends nobody who claims to follow Him should object to the same treatment.

Anyway, I collected a few links on the media's take on Beck's Mormonism to mull over and perhaps comment on at my leisure.





Later: What IS the problem here anyway? I'm thinking now of my commenter who has also followed me to this post after multiplying comments on previous posts. He says he has an evangelical Lutheran background so he OUGHT to understand why this issue is an issue, but no, he finds fault with me for making it an issue, as if it's something mostly peculiar to me rather than the testimony of the entire church for 2000 years. What IS the problem? Do they not teach the Bible any more? Do they not exhort believers to put God's word above all things in this world? What IS the problem? What have our churches lost?

I thought I'd also add another quote from the blog where I've been so criticized for this same "offense" I've committed of warning Christians that we must not appear to endorse a heresy. It's the usual but he goes on:
And might I ask, where were all the "Christian" leaders in this country? Are they holding events to restore honor to America? Are they giving up their time, their money, and placing themselves in danger in order to rescue this country from the true enemies thereof
I said something along these lines myself I think, and it's a reasonable objection. Where ARE the Christians? Some showed up on the stage at Glenn Beck's rally (but I got the impression that he asked many more who declined because of his Mormonism -- I hope to hear more about that eventually).

Beck really did do something this country needs, that's a really sad thing about all this. We NEED rallies for patriotism like this, and rallies for God too, and I wish wish wish there were Christians who could do it.

I'm beginning to realize that the church is in such bad shape these days -- and of course now I have to add these strange antibiblical responses to a straightforward call to avoid aligning with a heretic -- that all we'll ever get is a Mormon doing it and we can't stand with him on a religious program. Sorry, no, not ever. Titus 3:10, 2 John 1:7-11 (King James only, though, or you'll be misled).

The churches are letting down the country. Judgment begins at the house of God too. (Doesn't that mean we should support Beck? Painfully, no. Of course not. Not when he pushes an explicitly religious program, absolutely not. We've already failed so we're going to disobey more? Great idea there.)

So I agree with this person to this extent. He goes on:
This is exactly the kind of fighting and extremism the left likes conservatives to have --espeically within the religious world. You see, they have the religious right pegged: They always, always, always, get tunnel vision and argue about minute points/qualities, rather than being able to focus on the big picture: What is right for America.
There is NOTHING tunnel-visioned about obeying God. It's Number One Priority.

One thing I think, I hope, I'm gaining from all this, is a more determined separation from the world. I care a LOT less what the left thinks of conservatives at this point -- and what the right thinks as well. I've been learning painfully that what people think these days USUALLY has little to do with the reality. It's hard to take so I argue and argue and argue but I'm coming to face the fact that arguing accomplishes nothing. People still think what they think. It's hard to take but it's a fact and I'm trying to learn to live with it.

But when all worldly avenues fail, God IS there, and I actually feel a kind of excitement at the idea of giving up more of my worldly pursuits to spend more time with Him. I suspect the Glenn Beck situation is just the latest and biggest way He's putting some of His own in a corner for this purpose, to show us the futility of our own methods, to seek Him more. I hope others also get the message.


Some more links I want to add, undigested but provocative, all discussing Beck's Mormonism.

Here's a blogger quoting Russell Moore, whom I also quoted a post or two below:


(Sad to find out in that one that David Barton almost treats Beck as a Christian)




One more rather odd comment from the Beck argument (To be more accurate this is in answer to a previous similar objection that it's "unloving" and "judgmental" to call a heresy a heresy):
I think some feel moved to inform and guide the unbeliever and it takes the form of judgment sometimes.
There seems to be some confusion here. We aren't talking about unbelievers, we are talking only about believers, people who CLAIM to be believers anyway, and if they give opinions about Christian theology that are false that makes them heretics, not unbelievers, and we ARE obliged to identify heretics and false doctrine. AND we do it not for the sake of the heretic, but for people who might be swayed by the heretic. People who are simply unbelievers are something else entirely.

The problem isn't Beck, it's the "Christians" who haven't a clue

Another Christian voice chimes in on Beck. I'm not sure I grasp entirely what he's trying to say but I think I agree with most of it and it seems worth posting some of it here.

From a website called The Florida Baptist Witness
Point of View: God, the Gospel, and Glenn Beck
Article Date: Aug 29, 2010
A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they’ve heard the gospel, right there in the nation’s capital.

The news media pronounces him the new leader of America’s Christian conservative movement, and a flock of America’s Christian conservatives have no problem with that.

If you’d told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times. But it’s not. It’s from this week’s headlines. And it is a scandal.
Good point. This is strange indeed, this scandal, when you think of it in historical perspective. And hey, maybe he's onto something here saying it sounds like a novel about the end times, 'cause this is exactly the sort of thing that we could expect as the end approaches and the church is weakened. I put "Christians" in quotes in the title of this post because it's hard to believe that many of them are really Christians at all because of their doctrinal mush-headedness.

That it could happen at all is bizarre. Yes, a flock of America's Christian conservatives HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH THAT -- the fact that they are being led by a Mormon and think they've heard the gospel.
Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, of course, is that Mormon at the center of all this. Beck isn’t the problem. He’s an entrepreneur, he’s brilliant, and, hats off to him, he knows his market. Latter-day Saints have every right to speak, with full religious liberty, in the public square. I’m quite willing to work with Mormons on various issues, as citizens working for the common good.
Good point that needs emphasizing. The problem isn't Glenn Beck, who is only doing what one would expect him to do.
What concerns me here is not what this says about Beck or the “Tea Party” or any other entertainment or political figure. What concerns me is about what this says about the Christian churches in the United States.
Yes, this is the problem. The most amazing thing is that the CHRISTIANS are accepting this state of affairs. In fact I've been encountering aggressive objections FROM Christians (or people who think they are Christians anyway, as I know some of them aren't) when I've tried to say something about what's wrong with this in the last couple of days.

To be fair, I didn't immediately see what was wrong with it either, though I had an uncomfortable feeling about it. It didn't become clear until it got through to me that this wasn't just a political or patriotic rally but a religious rally, that the God talk wasn't simply incidental but the whole thing was almost a gospel show. We can stand with a Mormon politically, but on the gospel, no. He has a different gospel.
It’s taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined “revival” and “turning America back to God” that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.
This no doubt has much to do with it (though I have to say it is NOT a very long time at all from Schaeffer to this current state of gullibility, what, a couple generations?). But there also seem to be an awful lot of Christians out there who know NOTHING about the Christianity they supposedly espouse. It makes my head spin to think about the various opinions I've encountered recently about these things, and I am definitely not up to discussing any of it yet. But it is appalling what "Christians" think Christianity is about. And besides that there is also an aggressive attitude that they shouldn't have to think about it all, that one shouldn't disturb them with information beyond their present level of ignorance -- an idea I gather comes from some garbled notion that they can only know as much as God has personally allowed them to know (I may have this wrong because it makes no sense to me no matter how I look at it). So the idea seems to be that they shouldn't have to know anything more than they already know, which is basically that whatever they believe is good and anyone who suggests maybe they have something wrong is -- a hypocrite maybe, a Pharisee perhaps, just chock full of sins galore. They will judge you harshly in the most searing personal terms for being "judgmental" if you suggest there is such a thing as an objective standard of doctrine -- yes, criticize doctrine and you get critized personally in return -- really, slammed, lambasted, excoriated. It's truly amazing. And depressing.
...Mormonism and Mammonism are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They offer another Lord Jesus than the One offered in the Scriptures and Christian tradition, and another way to approach him. An embrace of these tragic new vehicles for the old Gnostic heresy is unloving to our Mormon friends and secularist neighbors, and to the rest of the watching world. Any “revival” that is possible without the Lord Jesus Christ is a “revival” of a different kind of spirit than the Spirit of Christ (1 Jn. 4:1-3).

... The answer includes local churches that preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and disciple their congregations to know the difference between the kingdom of God and the latest political whim.

...It’s sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, don’t get me wrong, I’m not pessimistic. Jesus will build his church, and he will build it on the gospel. He doesn’t need American Christianity to do it. Vibrant, loving, orthodox Christianity will flourish, perhaps among the poor of Haiti or the persecuted of Sudan or the outlawed of China, but it will flourish.

And there will be a new generation, in America and elsewhere, who will be ready for a gospel that is more than just Fox News at prayer.
I don't think I can be that optimistic myself. Especially since I think there is most likely not even going to be time for such a new generation to emerge. But even if there is, where are the influences that could possibly bring it about? The dumbing down that has produced the present state of affairs doesn't show any signs of letting up that I can see. Of course somewhere ELSE -- OK, that's possible. Haiti, Sudan, China, great, bring it on.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gathering steam against what Beck did yesterday

A Jewish guy on another blog mentioned that he had expected more of a straightforward patriotic conservative rally than what we got. That made me recognize that I too was surprised at what we got but it took his saying it to make me see it. What we got was something more like The Old Time Gospel Hour -- from a heretic yet.

Yes, the more I think about it the bolder I get about this, the more I know that what Beck did yesterday was try to blur the distinctions between Christianity and Mormonism as much as anything else he was doing there, try to overcome the opprobrium in which Mormonism is rightly held by the majority of Christians by doing what Mormons usually try to do -- act as if they are just another Christian denomination. Since he has such a strong conservative following he can count on some of the Christians just getting in line like unthinking sheep -- because his conservative patriotic message is so powerful. And it is, I agree, that's his attraction, he does a great job with it and I wish we COULD support him, but for a Christian it's a snare, it's poison.

Spit it out, Christians.

Now, I WANT a rally around the name of Jesus myself, nothing would make me happier than a REAL revival in this nation, led of course by God, not a trumped up "revival" of the sort that too many Christians have come to associate with the term, and certainly not a revival led by a Mormon. But I'm sure it was the Christian emphasis yesterday that got me into the event as much as I did, and that's why I've been having to struggle so much to free myself from the entanglement with false Christianity which is what it was really all about. I would love a true Christian rally for this nation on such a scale, but I want it from a true Christian base, not from a Mormon. Beyond that, not just a rally, a man-made thing, but a God-born revival. I yearn for it.

I also wondered what Jews could do with all the references to Jesus, which someone else raised at the other forum too. Well, at a true Christian rally, Jews can stand with us if they can accept our emphasis on Jesus, and some do these days, recognizing honestly that it's America's Christian heritage that provided the freedoms they have enjoyed along with everyone else. But I think they too were flimflammed yesterday. They shouldn't be put in the position of thinking they're there for a patriotic rally only to find out they're in church.

Oh yes, Glenn Beck is a very nice guy, a strongly patriotic guy, a true American conservative, no doubt about it.

Well, the devil wraps his poison in very attractive packages, Christians, he doesn't come poking with his pitchfork. That comes later, after he knows he's got you.


Later: The person who commented on this post seems to think I ONLY want Christians to rally. No, I thought I've been clear, we can have a multi-religion POLITICAL and PATRIOTIC rally, and other groups can have their religious rallies, and my desire for a Christian REVIVAL that is God-brought certainly doesn't contradict freedom of religion. If my commenter had been reading carefully I think he could see that's been my position all along, though I may not always have been clear enough about it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More on why Christians must reject Glenn Beck

I hadn't been watching Glenn Beck lately but since I just wrote about his being a Mormon and how whatever he says about God has to be rejected by Christians for that reason, I did some more research to see how far he has been willing to go in following Mormon doctrine. I'd never heard him say anything specifically Mormon, mostly generic God talk that could place him as an evangelical Christian. It turns out he is indeed a good Mormon and does indeed advertise his acceptance of their false teachings.

Found This blog that gets into specifics.
Most know that he is a Mormon, as he is open about his LDS faith on his show. Most don’t care.

Should we?

Well, until the show which aired on August 18th, 2010, I didn’t. Sure, I knew he was a member of the Mormon church, but other than a few language oddities such as his constant reference to “Heavenly Father” and his consistent use of the phrase “the scriptures” instead of the Bible, I never really saw much LDS theology in his show.

That all changed yesterday.

Now, my point in writing this isn’t to go out of my way to pick a fight with the Mormon Church, but my role as an Elder in a Christian church compels me to defend the flock against wolves, and in this case, Beck has crossed the line into “wolfdom.” Because so many Christians watch and enjoy his show, including many in my own church, I was forced to offer a response.

The premise of his August 18th show was this:

“The Native Americans were descended from an ancient civilization that existed on this continent in pre-historic and Biblical times. This civilization, had large cities and a very advanced culture, including a writing system and higher religious thought”

Beck went so far as to say, “The ancient Indians actually had religious writings which were a proto-Hebrew Bible”. He also offered the “fact” that the Native Americans were descended from the Jews.

He went on to cite various “scholars”, “experts” and “archaeologists” who support this claim.

Not only that, but he mentioned a “shocking DVD”, a documentary, that tells us the true story, a story that has been covered up by mainstream science for political reasons. He even gave the web address for the DVD he was talking about. If history is any indication, he just made those filmmakers very wealthy.

This is powerful stuff. Where have I heard this before?

These are the beliefs held by the Mormon Church, and written about by Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon.
And if you read on you'll find a discussion of some of the main differences between Mormon belief and true Christian belief, such as the nature of God and Christ.

Now that I know just HOW Mormon he is I am even more certain that Christians MUST reject him. This lovely call to restore honor to America is very enticing to conservatives, including me. He's got a genuine patriotism, he's a sincere and likeable guy, he's putting up with a lot of unfair attacks on him too. I wish we could support his work BUT WE CAN'T!!!!

This is a test, people, this is the devil coming as an angel of light to deceive. In fact God is using this to separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. Do not be deceived. America is not our permanent home, our citizenship is elsewhere. It would be great if genuine Christians got up and did what Beck did, but I think the handwriting is on the wall myself. I believe it's Beck because God is judging this nation and He's not going to relent, He's going to force us to choose between Him and ANYTHING in this world, even good things.

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. 9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.

10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

Here's another briefer discussion of the implications of supporting Glenn Beck.

And while I'm at it I should collect a few links to discussions of what Mormons actually believe:



That's enough for a start.


Later: Let me try to be clearer AGAIN: If Beck's rally had been merely political there would not be this problem. And on his show if he didn't argue for his religion at ALL -- which I wrongly thought was the case until I read what I quoted above -- we shouldn't have a problem with that either. But when he comes out with his religion as if it is fact and when he puts on a rally clearly aimed at blurring the distinctions between Mormonism and Christianity, THEN we have a BIG problem.

I'm sorry, Glenn Beck is not a Christian.

Well, I'm torn. Really torn. I saw a couple hours of the Glenn Beck Restoring Honor rally in Washington D.C. I thought Beck did a great job, I thought the overall presentation was coherent and effective, the patriotic themes moving and true. I was glad to see so many out for the event -- 500,000 or so it looked like to me just because the crowd covered the entire area around the reflecting pool, but of course I'm just guessing.

But Mormonism isn't Christianity and the fact that Beck is a Mormon just grates and grates and grates since he's up there doing this IN THE NAME OF GOD. Talking politics is one thing, but talking God is quite another. He never says anything objectionable, he uses Christian talk quite convincingly, but I know what Mormonism teaches and it's got heresies within heresies.

Is Beck duped and doesn't himself know what they teach? I do have to wonder, since he never spells out his theological position {Turns out I'm wrong about that. See next blog post}. But I've had conversations with Mormons enough to discover that they can talk it like any evangelical and then you find out those words don't mean the same thing to them they mean to evangelicals.

But even if he is duped he represents a heretical church, and a Christian CAN'T, I mean absolutely CAN NOT, fellowship -- as a Christian -- with a heretic. Scripture forbids it, Titus 3:10.*

That's got to be why there weren't any big name Christians up there with him. I love Alveda King and I'm sure those who did stand with him are quite sincere Christians. But they are playing with a compromise we are forbidden to play with. You CAN'T have unity with heresy. Can't can't can't.

This is a horrifically hard one because it puts one in the position of choosing between the best of conservative America and scripture, and I identify with conservative America, and with the tea party movement, and I want America to return to God. But not a false idea of God, not even if we are superficially united around "Amazing Grace" and other Christian themes. It's got to be scripture. But what a choice to have to make. I can't join with Catholics when it comes to God talk either. Or Jews. Or Muslims. As long as we stick to political patriotic themes I can join in, but not when we're talking God.

So now I guess even Glenn Beck and some of my favorite conservatives will have to classify me with the "haters." I wish it didn't have to be so.

* Here I must point out that the modern Bible versions obscure the real meaning of Titus 3:10, which is a warning against HERETICS. Most of the new versions, perhaps all of them, replace the KJV word HERETICK with "divisive man" or "factious man" which gives fuel to the heretics themselves to condemn those who would warn against them. I discussed this verse on my blog about the Bible versions.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Some providential encounters with Christian messages, even in a movie on Netflix -- to strengthen faith.

Yesterday I happened to open the Bible to Matthew 14:28-31:
And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
It caught me in a moment of weak faith personally and I would have liked to believe it was speaking to me personally, as the Word sometimes does, reminding me of the Lord's immense powers and the faith that connects us with Him. Chiding me for my lack of faith would make sense at that point, of course, but for a lack of that wondrous degree of faith -- does He expect that of us? Well, why not, really? Clearly He has it to give. I'd like to believe He could be offering me/us such faith, but I didn't have enough faith to receive it if so.

But then I closed the Bible and turned on the radio, which is always tuned to the local Christian station. I often turn it off immediately because it is usually playing music I don't like -- I don't understand how worldly sounds can be expected to carry a spiritual message and the attempt sets up a dissonance in my head -- but at that moment the Bible was being read.

It was the passage about the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, which -- coincidentally -- immediately precedes the passage I had just read in the Bible myself, though I didn't realize it at first:

Matthew 14:15-29 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

Why this coincidence, this immediate juxtaposition in time of the same passage in the word of God? I don't know, but I've been rather depressed (that's between me and Him, not something for the internet) and any reminder of His presence is encouraging, and a reminder of His wonderful powers and the prodding to faith is also encouraging. [Oh for THAT kind of faith!] And since reading about such coincidences can also encourage others, it seems a good thing to write it down.

[Added later: Had the thought that if we really are right on the edge of plunging into the last of the Last Days and are to survive them, let alone be useful to the Lord during them, we would need this degree of faith as the tepid faith of today's churches won't do.]

Then today, still depressed, I was looking for a movie on Netflix and found an extraordinarily unusual movie to watch, one I don't think has ever come up on my lists there before, though I suppose I might have overlooked it. In any case today it seemed like something I would like to see, and it was: A very odd movie, really, a very unlikely movie, a Russian movie completely about living for Christ -- Russian Orthodox style. This is Ostrov (Island) made in 2006, about a man living in a very remote Russian Orthodox monastery, suffering from intense guilt over a past sin he's unable to shake, yet possessed of miraculous powers which make him a starets or holy man, a traditional figure in Orthodox history.

If you aren't into the spiritual story I'm sure it could be very tedious, and some of the member reviews acknowledge that. The scenes are unrelentingly dreary, and there are parts in the beginning that were tedious for me too. But the frequent quotations from scripture gave it a continuously beckoning glimmer of something miraculous being played out, so that I never gave up on it. Even the questionable theology -- demons hate smoke? -- nevertheless confirmed the overall Christian context for me.

Most of the member reviews at Netflix are highly positive, and even those that aren't have something positive to say. Some acknowledge that it takes being a Christian to enjoy it and I think that's true.

A professional critic probably speaks for many unbelievers, however:
An aggravating combination of piousness, arty self-pity, and knowing silliness meant to speak to higher spiritual truths.
I suppose it could be aggravating to someone with no knowledge of the starets tradition or love of the Bible, or belief in a God who judges sin.

Someone else pointed out something that also amazed me about the film, that such a concentration on Christian themes could even be made after nearly a century of anti-Christian propaganda since the Communist Revolution.

Some suspected it is a put-on. There is enough "knowing silliness" in it to support such a suspicion I suppose, but the overall effect on me was its echoes of the writings of the Eastern Orthodox mystics (plural: startsy) I'd read years ago.

I love the mystics -- at least the best of the Orthodox and Catholic and Protestant -- because of their intense devotion to Christ, but eventually I had to abandon my love of their writings because, well, there is too much questionable theology in them alongside the love of Christ and there are many examples of contemporary movements that go off in completely wrong directions under their influence. Eastern Orthodoxy is like Roman Catholicism in its veneration of Mary and particular saints, for instance, which includes the use of icons, and in its emphasis on works and its slighting of the power of the Cross alone to save. But it is nevertheless in this context that you can find such a moving and exalted devotion to Christ that it can raise your own worship to a new height, and it's hard to find fault with that effect. A W Tozer consistently appreciated the mystics for this effect. Still, it takes much wisdom to keep their theology in perspective, which I can't claim personally, and caution is especially needed in reading them.

The movie presents a more conflicted soul than is usually found among the mystics, though, a man beset with guilt that he can never quite exorcise, a man who "plays pranks" that have a spiritual message in them at the same time they may reflect his own conflictedness. Perhaps this portrait of unresolved guilt is simply honest rather than merely a dramatic pivot, since without a clear theology of forgiveness of sin through Christ's death the burden of guilt never can be definitively relieved, and this characterizes both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology.

Intriguingly, the actor who portrays the prankster/holy man, Pyotr Mamonov, is described as perhaps not so much acting as simply playing himself, as he himself converted to Eastern Orthodoxy in the 90s, after having been a well-known Russian rock star.

Looking for more information about him I found this blog, which starts out:
In the summer of 2006, actor Pyotr Mamonov gave a speech in Sotsi, on the Black Sea. It was immediately after the premiere of the film Ostrov. The transcript below shows that he, being a tremendous actor and musician, understands very well the spiritual life and his role in the film was not accidental. His sermon was as follows:
How entirely perverse is our time! The critics discussed recently Pavel Lunghin’s film Ostrov and they spoke of the Church as if it is something mythical, as if it is Ilya Muromets [a Russian mythical hero].

How will you live if you do not believe in something? I am surrounded by the bewildered on the right and on the left.

But when you have faith, even though you might be tired, you will give your place on the bus to an old lady. This also is Christianity. You go to wash the dishes without them asking it of you. Is this a Christian act? It is.
Yes, he has the strong Christian sensibility that deplores the need of the secular culture of the world to treat God's truth as mere myth. His love of Christ's teachings can reflect a merely cultural Christianity, however, and since it is not always easy to tell when that is the case I'll just say I hope it's deeper than that with him since I have no way of knowing.

Later in the same "sermon" he is saying:
Love is to walk with someone and to support them. If we see someone fallen with their face in the snow [something more common in Russia], we quickly assume that they are drunk. What if they suffered a heart attack? Even if someone is drunk, help lift them up, and provide him protection so he will not freeze. But no, we continue along on our way. We escape even from ourselves. We should live not saying “give me”, but “take from me”. Many do not understand what it is to give their shirt they are wearing. We have become accustomed to living backwards.
To my mind this certainly gives authenticity to the role he played in answer to all those who suspect some kind of put-on, no matter what flaws there may be in his theology. I don't know the mind of the director but at least the actor is sincere. His love of the teachings of Christ is lovable in itself.

This is Russian-style Christianity, this emphasis on Christian good deeds. The movie and the actor's words remind me of many other Russian Christians, from Dostoevsky to Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn. As usual, in some cases there is reason to lament that they probably aren't saved, because they have such a strong works-righteousness concept of Christianity, sometimes a merely philosophical or cultural concept of it -- at least toward the character in the movie one wants to emphasize that forgiveness of sin is the preeminent work of the Cross and that to continue to bear the burden of sin raises questions about its saving work in a life -- but again one WANTS to think them saved, and if they aren't, to get the full truth to them as fast as possible.

The theology I find in these Russians is often powerfully Christian in spirit because of its deep love of the Sermon on the Mount and scripture in general, as is true for Mamonov in this "sermon" -- he clearly aims to live it. So did Tolstoy, though Tolstoy's theology left a lot to be desired too, bordering on a social gospel as it did -- still, it was a PERSONAL social gospel, the kind that moves the individual heart to good deeds, imposing it only on oneself and not on society at large, a gospel preached to all of course but never imposed, in contrast with the outrage of imposing the precepts on others that is today's version, including the perversion that underlies all socialism and the likes of Liberation Theology, making a tyranny out of the freedom brought by Christ.

So although I can't fully embrace the theology of this film, there is nevertheless such a power in the voice of the word of God that moves the protagonist -- and so much of the basis of true Christian culture that shines in the actor's "sermon" as well -- there is something peculiarly poignant in it simply because we in the West are on the verge of losing our Christian culture these days, and perhaps have in fact already lost it.

[Aug 25 note: I hadn't been following End Times themes for a while, but recently updated my blog on that subject and just discovered that Jesus' walking on the water is the illustration for the website Endtime Prophecy dot Net. This discovery of course emphasizes to my mind the relation between faith in His miraculous powers and the likely soon unfolding of events in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. I'm hesitant to affirm these coincidences as God's speaking, but then really, why not? Let's take it that way and seek that degree of faith in His miraculous workings. In any period of history such faith should never be rejected anyway, but how much more it should be sought if the church is indeed looking at trials of faith never before faced in this world.]

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Life out of death

When Jesus was crucified, in a sense His disciples also died. Of course in a real sense we all are crucified with Him if we are His, but here I mean that they died in the sense that all their hopes were dashed, all their ideas about what the Messiah was to be for them were dashed. They were plunged into confusion, fear and doubt, doubt of their own ability to judge these things at least, a kind of death, a death to self.

In a sense this is how the cross is to work on all of us, daily killing us to conform us to Christ, and we must submit to it as Christ submitted to the cross of Calvary if we are to benefit from its work. In fact we are to "take it up" willingly. God sends situations to all His own that will kill us, kill the flesh, if we submit willingly and don't fight them. Disappointments, tragedies, insults, enemies. And what is the purpose? That we may live with Him in the Spirit. The flesh profits nothing, it must die that the spirit may live.

The prerequisite for resurrection from the dead is death.

And after resurrection comes the ascension and after the ascension comes Pentecost.

I've been thinking about Pentecost a lot lately. How we need it, how desperately we need that complete immersion in the fire of God. These days so much theology stops short of it. Those who embrace it are likely to go off in wrong directions these days, but the doctrinally correct get stuck far short of it.

The times they are a-galloping to the grand finale

Another thing that is a punch to the stomach is something I keep discovering more and more these days: how many people call themselves Christians who don't have even the most minimal qualifications. You get used to being among people who bandy about Christian terminology and offer up prayers and you assume that therefore they are Christians only to find out that it's all a deception. They are deceived and they are deceiving others. But you don't find this out unless you have occasion to get into the particulars of Christian belief, which doesn't necessarily happen if for instance you are all frequenting a political blog.

So I discovered that someone who seems to be a Christian in such a context turns out not to believe in the Deity of Christ, for reasons that are very similar to those of the Jehovah's Witnesses. He rationalizes "And the Word was God" to mean something other than what it obviously says, just as the JWs do, yet says he isn't a JW and considers himself a Christian.

Anyone who points out that this is heresy by the light of historic Christianity is upbraided for being "judgmental" and for lacking "love," as if the Christian virtues were on the side of the heretic.

This kind of thinking is often encountered in frankly anti-Christian contexts, but now I'm encountering it where Christianity is supposedly embraced.

I suppose this is going to be happening more and more now if it really is the case that we are heading into the last of the Last Days, which of course I've thought for some time now. I thought the signs were adding up a few years ago, but how much more rapidly and insidiously they are accumulating now, and I don't like the feeling in the pit of my stomach. Christ will triumph but it's going to hurt all the same.

Are we soon to see the unveiling of the final Antichrist? We certainly have an antichrist in the American Presidency, but is another to emerge, or will this one become fully possessed by the devil and rise to the position? A perfunctory kiss on the cheek of American Christians while he sells us out to the enemy, and off we go.


Addendum: Another contributor to that discussion objected to being characterized as an unbeliever although he thought the first verses of the gospel of John were from the Old Testament, saying:
This is the best demonstration I can think of for staying away from the Old Testament. It won’t cure you from sinning, but it will surely cure you of reading. For years, I felt passages like this one simply demonstrated what morons people were back 1,000 years B.C., for I felt that if God wanted us to understand, he could have found a better writer.
You'd think a person who would so denigrate and reject the Old Testament -- although in this case it was actually one of the best-known passages in the New Testament which he didn't even recognize but dismissed as moronic -- would readily agree that he isn't a Christian, so imagine my surprise when I was denounced for suggesting such a thing. Apparently for some people you can be a "Christian" by simply claiming to be one without the slightest evidence to support the claim, without even the most rudimentary knowledge of the Bible for instance, not to mention the most rudimentary respect for it.

And the person who suggests otherwise is denounced as "unloving" -- meaning in context unChristian. Just another perversion of truth reflective of the times we live in.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Sovereignty of God over ... everything.

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, but I am surprised. It's hard to understand and hard to accept just how violently many Christians react against the idea that God is sovereign over ALL things, which means of course sovereign over events such as 9/11 and the earthquake in Haiti, both of which I've written about in this blog.

They will say that God IS sovereign ... BUT: ...but not sovereign over earthquakes, ...but not sovereign over jihadists, ...but not sovereign over human will, ...but not sovereign over who is saved (election) etc etc etc.

And here's another puzzler:

We know that God is a sovereign God, but what does that really mean for us in the earth today?
"Really mean?" "For us today?" Huh? Why should it mean anything different for us today than for anyone ever?

And anyone who holds the view of God's complete sovereignty is likely to be severely upbraided and even treated as hardly a Christian at all. Witness what was said against Pat Robertson. The fury of those who object to this idea is little different from that of complete unbelievers. I've been called amazingly bitter names by supposed Christians for defending this perfectly orthodox understanding. I'm called "harsh" and worse for doing this, although my tone as far as I can tell is simply factual and descriptive.

They argue that you can't win people to Christ with such "harshness," ignoring the fact that the discussion isn't about winning people to Christ, and that it is God who is being presented as the "harsh" one, as well as that there is no harsh tone, only words they have trouble accepting. The subject is simply the objective explanation why such events occurred, the subject is not the gospel. We're discussing the plight of Haiti.

Even so, there is plenty of good reason to think people ARE won to Christ by understanding the seriousness of God's wrath we are all under, and won more securely than when the gospel is given without such framing. The idea is that we have to understand that we are rightly condemned before we can rightly value or even understand the meaning of the offer of salvation in Christ. This is how the gospel was often preached in times past, and still is preached in Reformed churches.

For the record, here's a page of links to sermons and articles on various aspects of God's sovereignty.

Here's a similar but shorter list at Monergism dot com.

On this page they list the various sovereignties of God with scriptural sources:

  • God is sovereign over the entire universe: Ps 103:19; Rom 8:28; Eph 1:11
  • God is sovereign over all of nature: Ps 135:6-7; Mt 5:45; 6:25-30
  • God is sovereign over angels & Satan: Ps 103:20-21; Job 1:12
  • God is sovereign over nations: Ps 47:7-9; Dan 2:20-21; 4:34-35
  • God is sovereign over human beings: 1 Sam 2:6-7; Gal 1:15-16
  • God is sovereign over animals: Ps 104:21-30; 1 Ki 17:4-6
  • God is sovereign over "accidents": Pr 16:33; Jon 1:7; Mt 10:29
  • God is sovereign over free acts of men: Ex 3:21; 12:25-36; Ez 7:27
  • God is sovereign over sinful acts of men and Satan: 2 Sam 24:1; 1 Chr 21:1; Gen 45:5; 50:20

And here's a brief article by John Piper on 9/11: Why I Do Not Say God Did Not Cause the Calamity . . .

Perhaps I can at least now say that this discussion is so clearly futile that I won't be attempting it again -- not that I won't write about it here as usual, of course.