Category Archives: Polemics

Who Hates Jesus?

This may seem like an odd question to ask, but the answer may surprise you. It surprised me, partially because I did not intend to ask the question. I am currently trying to acquire a language for the purposes of ministry, and I am taking a topical discussion class with a handful other evangelicals who are seeking to acquire the language for the same reason. The topic for our most recent class was “Who is Jesus?” We had to answer the question in the target language. Here is the English translation of what I said.

Who is Jesus? This is an important question, very important. The Bible tells us that no one can come to God without Jesus. It tells us that if we know Jesus, then we know God and that if we don’t know Jesus, then we don’t know God. So, we have to know who Jesus is, right? So, who is Jesus?

The writer of Hebrews says in 1:3 that Jesus is the image of God, that he “is the radiance of God’s glory and the image of his nature or essence.” If this is correct, if Jesus and God have the same essence, then we will see agreement between what the Old Testament says about God and what Jesus says and does in the New Testament.

So, let us see something from the Old Testament that summarizes God’s character in Deuteronomy 32:39 and 43, “See now that I, I am He,
 and there is no god besides Me;
 It is I who put to death and give life.
 I have wounded and it is I who heal,
 and there is no one who can deliver from My hand. Rejoice, O nations, with His people;
 for He will avenge the blood of His servants,
 and will render vengeance on His adversaries,
 and will atone for His land and His people.” In these two verses, we see the nature of God. We see that God judges his enemies and that he loves his own people.

So now, if Jesus is the image of God, then he will also judge his enemies and love his people. Let us see what Jesus says in Matthew 23. Eight times Jesus says, “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.” In verse 33, he says, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” But, what does Jesus say in John 6? He says that everyone who is given to Jesus by the Father will come and that Jesus will not cast him out. Here, we see both the judgment of Jesus and the love of Jesus.

In the Old Testament, God’s hates his enemies and loves his people. In the New Testament, Jesus hates his enemies and loves his people. Jesus really is the exact representation of God’s nature. This is why you have to love Jesus in order to love God. If you love Jesus, then you love God. If you don’t love Jesus, then you don’t love God.

I thought my message was fairly straightforward. I expected all the professing believers around me to be in agreement that Jesus and God have the same nature and that God, through Jesus, judges his enemies and redeems his people. However, the people around me were shocked. I was told, “Jesus loves everyone and does not hate anyone.” To this, I responded, “If God hates people in the Old Testament (Ps 5:5), and if Jesus is the exact representation of God, then Jesus must hate people.” I was then told that “God judged people in the Old Testament because Jesus had not yet come. Now that he is here, we live in a time of grace.” To this, I responded, “Was there no grace in the Old Testament? Is there no judgment today?” I was then told that “there was some grace in the Old Testament, but there is no judgment today.” To this, I responded, “But God does not change. There are both judgment and grace all around us.” At this point, the discussion deteriorated into meaningless nonsense as the people around me expressed their general disapproval of the way I had portrayed Jesus.

The only logical conclusion I can reach is that these people hate Jesus. To be more precise, they hate the Jesus who I portrayed to them in class. This also happens to be the same Jesus who is revealed in the Bible. This is bad news for them because it means that they hate God. To be more precise, it means that they hate the God who is revealed in the Bible. This has left me wondering . . . who else hates Jesus? Who else is there, of those who profess to know and worship and love God through Jesus, who actually hates the true nature of God? If you have put your faith in a god who does not judge his enemies, then you worship a figment of your imagination. If, however, you have placed your faith in God who judges his enemies and redeems his people, then you should listen to Moses and rejoice, for God will avenge the blood of his servants and render vengeance on his adversaries and atone for his land and his people (Deut 32:43).

The Four Reformed Spiritual Laws

It may surprise you to hear that, at one point in college, I was on the student leadership team for Campus Crusade for Christ. That is, until I was told that they emphasized “spirit” and I emphasized “truth” and that we didn’t make a good fit. Apparently Paul was confused when he put those two together. 

You may think of me as a troublemaker for joining the group and getting kicked out. I certainly didn’t join to create strife or engage in meaningless debates. I joined because, up until the year that I joined leadership, the group had been an enjoyable place for fellowship. It was our local “youth group” – and not the corrupt megachurch kind. However, the year that I joined, corporate sent out some new leaders to the area who seemed to have only one thing in mind: handing out tracts and getting people to “pray the prayer” so they could report numbers back to hq. Obviously, I wanted no part in this, so I decided to push back. 

I’ll leave the positive case for biblical evangelism to one of our Missionary-Evangelists and simply say I do not believe evangelism-by-tract to be the way to go. And, as you probably know, Campus Crusade uses (or at least used) the four spiritual laws as their tract of choice. The problem with the four laws, aside from the tract issue, is that they promote a false gospel. Christ didn’t die simply because He loves all mankind (which isn’t true in the way they use the word love anyway). He died because of the sin of His people. There is much wrong with those “laws”.

One of my acts of “rebellion” was to write a biblical version of the laws. I simply took their structure and replaced the rules with Biblical truth. They are slightly tongue-in-cheek in presentation, mostly because I would never actually use a tract. But don’t let the harshness of the presentation deceive you: these are the truth. So, without any further ado, the Four Reformed Spiritual Laws:

1. God might love you, but He probably hates you.

If you are one of the elect then God loves you. The number of elect is drastically smaller than the number of the damned and it is therefore probable that God hates you.

Psa. 5:4-6; Matt 7:13-14; Luke 13:23-28; Matt 13:10-15; 2 Thess 2:8-12

2. Man is sinful and the enemy of God and deserves the full wrath of God.

God has a standard of perfection which no man can ever hope to live up to. From birth man is doomed to an eternity of damnation if nothing is done to appease God’s wrath.

Rom 3:10-18; Deut 32:39-41; 2 Kings 22:17; Rom 9:6-26

3. Jesus, the Christ’s death on the cross is the only propitiation for man’s sin.

Jesus, who is the Christ, led a sinless life and died on the cross as an unblemished Lamb to satisfy God’s wrath. The Christ’s resurrection on the third day is proof that He is truly the God-man and victor over death.

Rom 3:21-26; Isaiah 53:4-6; 1 John 4:10; 1 Cor 15:20-28

4. Repent unto everlasting life!

Only he that is granted repentance from God may be saved through the washing of rebirth and regeneration by the Holy Spirit and become an heir according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:3-7; Eph 1:3-12; Acts 2:37-42; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 13:1-5

The Good Samaritan and bad Theology

It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is for a preacher to reach inaccurate conclusions when he approaches the biblical text with bad theology. I heard a sermon last week on the Good Samaritan. The preacher read the parable from Luke 10. The parable in his Bible was the same as the parable in my Bible; but at the end of the sermon, I felt like I was in some sort of Star Trek episode where there are multiple realities and where no one knows which reality is the real one.

We all know the parable. A man is walking down the street and is robbed and beaten nearly to death, and the man is left bleeding and dying on the side of the rode. A priest comes by and ignores him. Shortly after, a Levite comes walking down the road and also ignores the bleeding and dying man. Then, a Samaritan comes and tends to the man’s needs. Jesus says that the Samaritan is the one who behaves like a neighbor and who fulfills the law to love your neighbor as yourself.

At this point, the preacher and I were in agreement. Then, he started to apply this text to the lives of the people in the congregation. He claimed that the doctrine that should be derived from this parable is that people in the church should go about looking for people outside the church for whom they can do nice things. People in the church should give food and money to people outside the church who don’t have as much food and money as they have. Church members should spend their days actively looking for unbelievers who have some kind of material need that can be met, and then they should meet that need. This is where I started to get confused. The preacher read the same parable that was in front of me, but he reached a wildly different conclusion.

Maybe I missed something. Maybe there is something in the parable about the Samaritan going around looking for people to whom he could give his money, so I read the parable again. Nope, the Samaritan just happened to be walking down the street, and he wasn’t handing out money and food to people who simply did not have as much money and food as he did. He was walking down the street and happened to come across a man who had been beaten nearly to death. The man was in need of medical attention. His life was in danger, and the Samaritan gave him the attention he needed. That’s it. How can anyone read this parable and conclude that the church needs to give money to poor people? The parable clearly teaches that caring for the immediate needs of a man who has been beaten by thieves is a fulfillment of the command to love your neighbor as yourself. It says nothing about handing out goods and services to poor people.

This is what happens when preachers approach a text with bad theology. Having already determined (based upon what, I have no idea) that the main function of the church is to pass out goods and services to poor people, preachers begin to see things in the text that are not actually there. They have a preconceived notion in their heads, and they insert that preconceived notion between the lines in the text. It is a delusional practice, but it happens all the time. It’s a sad day when preachers begin to put words in God’s mouth. It’s supposed to be the other way around. Preachers should be speaking God’s words, not trying to make God speak their words.

If you have ever been told that it is your Christian duty to give money and food to people outside the church who have less money and food than you, I urge you to read the parable of the Good Samaritan and do what he does. If you come across a man who has been robbed, beaten, and left for dead on your way home from work, stop and tend to his needs. In doing this, you will be loving your neighbor as yourself. If, however, you pass by someone ringing a bell outside the grocery store at Christmas time and feel a tug in your heart to give, feel free to ignore that tug. Whether you put a dollar in the jar or not has nothing to do with loving your neighbor.

Why Are We Here?

We have received some not-so-supportive responses to our recent polemic posts. We’ve been criticized for what we’ve been saying and how we’ve been saying it. Last week Pastor Doug responded to the question of tone. Today I’d like to respond to the more fundamental question – why say anything negative in the first place?

The answer to this question is quite simple: we believe that it is the job of the Church – and specifically the elders – to proclaim what is true and rebuke what is false. This has been the job of God’s authoritative representatives from the beginning. From Moses and the Prophets to the Apostles and their delegates, God has charged his representatives with the most solemn duty of speaking for God.

Our goal is to live up to the charge given by Paul in the third and fourth chapters of 2 Timothy. Paul is writing his last letter to his son in the faith to encourage the young pastor and to emphasize the most important parts of his ministry. It’s a powerful letter throughout, but everything in the first two and a half chapters is building up to this, the most important part of the letter:

But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

There are (at least) three important principles to glean from this passage. First, just because someone is acting “in the name of Christ,” it doesn’t follow that they are doing what is right. Second, the initial response to false teaching is to “continue in the things you have learned.” And third, elders are charged with preaching the truth and refuting false teaching.

The name of Christ is spoken by many who have nothing to do with Him. Go back and read all of 2 Timothy 3, 2 Peter 2 or Jude and try to deny this. Paul and Peter are not describing the leaders of other religious institutions – they are describing what will happen inside the Church. This shouldn’t be anything new. The history of the Church – especially everything recorded in the OT prophetic books – is filled with men rebuking the leaders of the Church for their sin. Nothing has changed in the New Covenant except for the fact that things are only going to get worse.

This fact is lost today and I think it is because of a misapplication of Philippians 1:15-18:

Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.

How are we to reconcile 2 Timothy 3 and Philippians 1? In Philippians, Paul is describing bad men teaching the right thing (the Gospel). In this case it doesn’t matter who the mouthpiece is as long as the truth is being preached. However, when describing false teachers, lies are in view and there is no circumstance where this is acceptable. To confuse these two wildly different circumstances exposes a fundamental inability to interpret the Scriptures. Just saying the name of Jesus doesn’t make you a legitimate Christian leader – faithfully doing what elders are ordained to do makes you one!

So, how should the elder respond to false teaching? They should hold fast to what has been delivered in the Scriptures. The Scriptures must be the sure foundation of everything the Christian, and especially the elder, does. But, the elder has an additional responsibility to build on this foundation: they must preach the truth.

Timothy is charged – in the most solemn manner that Paul could imagine – to preach the word, reprove, rebuke and exhort. Notice that Paul tells Timothy to do one positive action – preach – and three negative actions. According to Paul it isn’t enough to simply promote the truth, he must speak out against what is false. Nowadays we don’t take this command very seriously. The church has been convinced that as long as you say what is right there’s no need to condemn anyone else. Live and let live. Preach and let preach. Why can’t we just all get along? We do this because we don’t consider what a false teacher really does: they harm the sheep and make God to be a liar.

Harming one of God’s people is a serious matter. How did Jesus accuse Paul, then Saul, of his persecutions of the Church? Why do you persecute my people? NO! He says “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) Jesus so identifies with His people that a malicious act against one of us is taken as a malicious act against Himself. You see the converse in Matthew 25 – a righteous act toward one of us is taken as a righteous act for Him. If this is true for God’s people in the case of physical harm, it is certainly true in the case of intellectual and spiritual harm. And if you don’t believe that teaching what is false is harmful to God’s people, read what Peter has to say in 2 Peter 2:

But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness

If they are fit for destruction, will those they teach be any better? If they will suffer wrong, can we expect only blessing for those who follow? If they receive the wages of unrighteousness, what will their followers earn? If the fate for these men is so terrible, how could it be any better for those they take down with them?

However, this is not all we can say about false teaching. What makes false teaching even worse is that it makes God out to be a liar. The elders are God’s officially delegated mouthpieces. We have been charged with preaching and teaching that which has been delivered to us. And what has been delivered to us but God’s own word? When anyone speaks a lie in God’s name it is evil, how much more so when it is one that has been specifically charged and appointed to speak the truth? God’s established authorities will be held accountable for those they care for and for what they say.

So, we speak out because it is the right thing to do. God has called His elders to refute what is false because he cares about his people who are being enticed by false teachers and because He cares about His name that is dragged through the mud when it is used to promote lies. As we look to the Church today, we see false teaching almost everywhere. There is no denying that things have gotten and continue to get worse. Turn on the “christian” TV station and you will see fool after fool that men have accumulated to tickle their ears. We speak so adamantly against what is false because there is so much falsehood out there! What other loving response could there be? Is it loving to see someone believing or teaching something false and turn a blind eye? We have been accused of hate for our actions – how much further from the truth can it be?! Refuting false teaching is the only way to save them from the destruction Peter describes in 2 Peter 2.

To preempt what is surely the first response to what I am saying, I must say that we do not do this because we think that we are the only ones that are right. We are not so foolish or arrogant to think that we have exclusive claims on the truth. We speak because we know we are not alone. God always has a remnant and we want to minister to them.

The Church today focuses almost exclusively on the world. Almost every service is “seeker sensitive” and organized to make unbelievers feel welcome. Every “ministry” is dedicated to taking the time, effort and money of God’s people and spending it on outsiders. All of this is done with a false piety that believes the world is all that matters. The Church has been very successful in accumulating “teachers in accordance to their own desires.” And while this is done, God’s people go unfed and neglected, told time and time again that they don’t matter. Do elders forget Christ’s identification with His people? When the sheep are neglected, God Himself is neglected. God always has a remnant and we want to minister to them.

So, if you are one of His in the midst of the wilderness that is the church, we want to encourage you. We want to help you get some meat. We don’t have any desire to steal you from your current congregation, we want to encourage you and help you know the truth so that you can work to refine it. We want a hearty and heart-felt debate based on the issues we raise so that people learn how to think and not just follow feelings or mysticism. And we must refute the lies that are being masqueraded as Biblical Christianity. God is not honored by falsehood, but He is most certainly honored when it is shown to be false.

In Defense of Harsh Speech Among Christians

In light of recent posts and comments, it seems timely to write something in defense of the use of harsh speech and satirical tone in communications between professing believers. The most recent critiques of the theology and practice of certain elders of Hillside Community Church has caused quite a stir. As usual, there has been no comment whatsoever about the actual content of the critiques. Instead, we have been condemned for the tone and style of the critique. I do not believe the authors have sinned in what they said nor do I believe they have sinned in the way they said it.

The standard argument used by most Evangelicals is that we are required to submit to our leaders in the church. So far, so good. Submission is defined to exclude the use of harsh language with leaders or fellow believers. That is where the problems start. I Timothy 5:1 is quoted (“Do not sharply rebuke an older man, bur rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters…”) and universalized to support the position that it is always wrong to use a harsh tone when communicating to fellow Christians.

Hebrews 13:17 is quoted (“Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”) and universalized in support of the position that it is always wrong to use a harsh or mocking style with any person in Christian leadership. Submission, it is argued, precludes harsh style.

The harsh words of Jesus for the folks He came into contact with are dismissed as being in one of two categories. First, they were words spoken to people who were heretical apostates. It is argued that if a person (or group of people) has been properly declared to be a heretical apostate, it is then proper to use harsh terminology. That is the only time, it is said, it is proper to use a mocking style. Second, Jesus is God and was infallible in His use of harsh tones and mocking style. As a result, men are not permitted to use a harsh tone and a mocking style since they are not infallible and only God is permitted to use a harsh tone with people who are not heretical apostates. In this case the old question “What Would Jesus Do?” no longer applies. According to this position, we should only do what Jesus did when He did things that were not harsh or mocking (again, with the exception for groups that have been declared heretical apostates).

I believe it is fair to assert that Evangelicals believe it is always sinful to use harsh tones or mocking style when communicating to fellow believers who have not been properly declared to be heretical apostates. Harsh tones and mocking style are alleged to be disrespectful and to not show the requisite honor that we are required to have for one another. Hence, since there has been no judicial proclamation that the elders of Hillside are heretical apostates, it is sinful for us to use a harsh tone and a mocking style when we write in critique of their horrible actions. I disagree.

Several items need to be considered about this topic. First, let’s look at the example of Paul in Acts 23. Evangelicals use this passage in support of their position. They say that Paul repented of the immoderate and sinful use of an insult against the High Priest. I will show that just the opposite took place. Second, let’s look at the example of John the Baptist in his dealings with the religious leadership of his time. Third, let’s look at the issue of how our culture can influence the way we think about this topic.

Acts 23:1-6 contains the first part of the encounter between Paul and the Sanhedrin. Paul begins his defense before this body of religious leaders by asserting his innocence before the law. Ananias, the High Priest of the Council, ordered him to be struck in the face for saying that he had a clear conscience before God. After he was struck, Paul shouted out, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall. And do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck.” Luke records that some bystanders then informed Paul that Ananias was the High Priest. Paul then said, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.'”

Evangelicals assert that Paul’s statement quoted above constitutes repentance and an apology to Ananias. That can hardly be the case. Paul did not apologize. Paul did not address Ananias. Ananias never responded to his alleged request for forgiveness. Paul could hardly have been unaware that Ananias was High Priest. What was Paul doing when he quoted Exodus 22:28? Calvin gives us some great insight into this passage. He says, “Therefore Paul knew what place he (Ananias) had when he said that he abused his power….Therefore, subscribing to Augustine, I do not doubt but that this is a taunting excuse….plain speech becomes the ministers of the Word. For seeing there be two sorts of ironies, one which is covered with subtlety and means to deceive, another which figuratively points out the matter that is at hand; in this second there is nothing which does not well fit the servants of Christ….he (Paul) denies that Ananias is to be counted a priest of God, who hath corrupted and perverted all the order of the Church.”

Calvin clearly asserts, I believe quite properly, that Paul was mocking Ananias with his response. Ananias was the legitimately constituted religious authority over him and he mocked him nonetheless. Calvin goes on to deal with the question of submission to unjust authority. He says, “When the spiritual government does degenerate, the consciences of the godly are at liberty, and set free from obeying unjust authority.” The question is not merely if a person (or group of people) has been declared to be a heretical apostate. The question has to do with the justice of the proclamation. When an unjust proclamation is made and enforced, the Christian is required to resist. Clearly Paul had no problem with using a mocking style when he confronted those who issued unjust orders.

As far as the harsh tone of Paul was concerned, Calvin goes on to say this, “So Paul did not speak for his own sake, that he might, with sharp words, requite the injury done to him by the high priest; but because he was a minister of the word of God, he would not wink at an offence which did deserve sharp and serious reprehension; especially seeing it was profitable to bring to light the gross hypocrisy of Ananias….If the spirit of meekness is reigning in us, we may handle the wicked according to their deserts, as it were out of the mouth of God…”

The message is simple. A harsh tone and mocking style are not wrong provided the motivation behind their usage is not based upon selfish revenge and vindictive pettiness. However, when a biblically justifiable anger is brought to bear upon a grievous act of tyranny and oppression by a religious leader, it is entirely proper and correct to use a harsh tone and a mocking style in responding to the tyrannical behavior.

Matthew 3:7-10 contains the record of John the Baptist addressing the Pharisees when they presented themselves to him for baptism. The Pharisees were the legitimately constituted religious authority over John. At this point in time nobody had declared them to be heretical apostates. Jesus, in fact, said that they were to be respected because they “sit in Moses chair”. This example of John cannot be dismissed as an example of dealing with a heretical apostate group. Furthermore, these people were coming to John to be baptized. They were not looking for a fight.

Here is what John said to them as they approached him for baptism. “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” That is rather harsh and intolerant speech. Here is something of what Calvin had to say about the words of John. “Does any one suppose that John acted improperly, in treating them with so much harshness at the first interview? I reply: They were not unknown to him, and the knowledge he had of them was derived, not from acquaintance or experience, but, on the contrary, from a secret revelation of the Spirit. It was therefore necessary that he should not spare them, lest they might return home more inflated with pride….Those whose habits of uttering falsehood to God, and of deceiving themselves, lead them to hold out hypocrisy and pretension, instead of the reality, ought to be urged, with greater sharpness than other men, to true repentance. There is an astonishing pertinacity, as I have said, in hypocrites; and, until they have been flayed by violence, they obstinately keep their skin.”

Notice what Calvin is saying here. Sometimes it is necessary to use an extremely sharp tone just to get through to a hypocrite. The hypocrite is an expert at creating an alternative universe that he can live in consistently. The use of mocking is designed to get through to them.

Calvin always emphasizes the importance of not being motivated by selfish ambition when using a harsh tone and a mocking style. He says, “Yet let all godly teachers beware, lest, while they are influenced by a holy zeal against the tyrants of the Church, they mingle with it the affections of the flesh.”. This will be my principle (indeed it has been my principle for many years): If the cause is just and the audience is deaf, employ massive doses of satire, harsh tone and mocking style. If the cause is motivated by selfish ambition and my own hurt feelings, keep the mouth shut.

I have used Calvin extensively in my defense. I have been told that Calvin cannot be used in defense of harsh speech because he lived in a time when such things were common and he was, therefore, unable to overcome his culture and see the impropriety of it all. Calvin, we are incessantly told, was quite the nasty person himself. Using him to defend my style is akin to using the writings of Hitler to defend my anti- Semitism.

There is no doubt that Calvin lived in a different time. That is not the question. The question is this, was his time better or worse than ours with regard to the issue of harsh tone and mocking style in communication? The question is was his culture more biblical in it’s approach to communication than ours? I would argue that his time was much better than ours and that his culture was more biblical in it‘s communication style.

How many Christians bemoan the cultural bane of politically correct speech? How often have you complained about the need to take course work designed to teach you how to speak in such a way as to never offend anyone? How often have you observed that nothing is really being communicated anymore because we are all so terrified about how we speak? I believe most everyone can related to what I am saying. We all recognize that our culture is a culture that regulates speech in order to eliminate all offense, real and imaginary. We also recognize that that regulation is a degeneration of genuine communication. Why then, do we have such a problem with the old, straight-forward style of communication?

Augustine said that if something was ridiculous it deserved to be ridiculed. Luther was infamous for his tirades against anyone and anything that opposed him. Calvin’s Institutes contain one insult after another for those who disagree with him. Erasmus wrote a book entitled “The Praise of Folly” that is entirely and completely a satirical mockery of those who opposed the Reformation. Luther, thinking Erasmus had not gone far enough, wrote a letter to Erasmus that was entirely a satirical mockery of him. All of these documents are considered to be classics of Christian literature. Today, however, we have no stomach for such style. We have adopted the communication standards of the world and we roar in objection if anyone ever deals with us in a harsh or satirical fashion.

I believe the earlier style of communication is more biblical. Paul opposed Peter to his face, in front of the brethren, when he reproached him for separating himself from the Gentile believers at meals. Do we really believe that he spoke to him according to the modern, seminary trained, objectively stoic, style that we demand of ourselves today? Do we really believe that he first praised Peter for all the good things he had done before getting around to the little, teeny-weeny problem that he had with his behavior? I don’t think so.

Jesus called Peter “Satan” and told him to “get behind me” when he objected to the way of the cross. That was hardly a pleasant conversation. We are to be like Jesus. The mere fact that He is perfect and we are not does not mean we are to ignore all of His harsh statements. If that were the case, no preacher would ever be able to preach because his preaching is not perfect. The mere fact that we will not be perfect in our use of harsh tones and mocking style does not mean we are never to do it. Yes, we will make mistakes. Yes, we will sometimes be harsh when we should not be. But we must never throw out the baby with the bathwater.

We have become a nation and a culture of communication sissies. We are quick to jump up and down and assert our rights the moment somebody says something in a tone or a style that we do not like. Get over it. Grow up. We know this is true. We talk this way about secular communication all the time. Why do we not see it in our Christian communication?

Paul wrote to the Galatians and called them “fools” and “hypocrites”. He said that he wished that some of their teachers would “castrate themselves”. That hardly sounds like acceptable speech in our culture today. That hardly sounds like an acceptable tone for a pastor to take when addressing his congregation. Paul wrote to the Corinthians elders and mocked them. He said that they were “wise” when he meant that they were foolish. Then, he said that they were “babies”. Then he said that they were “arrogant”. Then he said that they were braggers. Then he said that their behavior was “shameful”. Write a letter like that to any church today and all you will hear in response is how offended they were at the tone and the style of the letter. The content would be ignored. Paul was not ignored. He followed up his accusations with a threat to come to them “with power”. That meant that he had the apostolic power to providentially execute them for ignoring him. He got their attention.

We need to recognize that the Church has adopted the culture of the world with respect to our communication style. We need to grow up. We need to get tough. We need to recognize that there is a time for harsh and intolerant speech.

I do not believe it to be the case that we are only permitted to use a harsh tone and a mocking style whenever we are dealing with heretical apostates. I believe we are permitted to do so whenever we are dealing with specific behaviors that are horribly tyrannical, oppressive, and immoral. Our response says nothing about the eternal state of the souls we are talking to. That is not the issue. Christians are so quick to go to the question, “So you are saying I am not a believer?” NO! A thousand times NO! I am not saying anything like that. The only time that can be said is when a person has been justly excommunicated. I don’t know what the state of the soul of the other person is. It is none of my business. I am just dealing with the facts as they present themselves. I am saying that, based upon the facts as they are, what you are doing is viciously wrong and needs to stop immediately.

Mr. McSwain is a Hypocrite

At the end of February, Steve McSwain wrote a blog for the Huffington Post titled “6 Things Christians Should Just Stop Saying”. McSwain writes from the perspective of the modern christian and details the six most offensive and untrue things that the old, nut-job christians say. It’s been a few months, and I’m sure many have condemned the things Mr. McSwain has said, but I can’t resist adding my two cents. The post is just so bad…

1. The Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God.

Mr. McSwain kindly informs us that the Bible is full of errors. He tells us that no one can prove him wrong because no one has access to the original manuscripts. Of course it’s true that we can’t look directly to the autographs to prove inerrancy, but McSwain apparently fails to recognize that no orthodox Christian attempts to go that route to prove inerrancy. He doesn’t seem to care about the reasons to believe in inerrancy and is comfortable condemning those that hold the orthodox position as liars without giving evidence for his view.

Since he doesn’t argue for his view, I don’t feel compelled to argue for my view. What I would like to know, however, is why McSwain even looks to the Bible in the first place. I read, study and apply the Scriptures because I believe it to be the Word of God that has been revealed through men and faithfully transmitted through history. But what can McSwain think of the Bible? If it is so “replete with errors”, why trust anything that the book has to say? I will venture to guess how McSwain determines the parts of the Bible that are in error: anything that he doesn’t like. Which leads to his second point.

2. We just believe the Bible

Under point number two, McSwain describes how he does not believe the holocaust actually happened and that he is a Nazi. At least that’s my interpretation of what he said…

You see what I did there? I have Mr. Koukl to thank for this fine rhetorical device. Any sane person should read what I assert above, read McSwain’s actual point number two, and conclude that the above interpretation is idiotic. There is, in fact, such a thing as the wrong interpretation.

McSwain informs us that Christians don’t believe the Bible, they believe in their interpretation of the Bible. Duh. In order to process any information I must interpret it. What he’s really trying to say is that any interpretation of the Bible is ok because the Bible means whatever you want it to. Again, I would like to ask McSwain a couple of questions. If any interpretation is valid, what do you think of my interpretation of his statements above? What would you say to someone that interprets 2 Peter 1:20-1 as saying that Scripture is not a matter of personal interpretation since such an interpretation would exclude your view? And what does sincerity have to do with the validity of a viewpoint or interpretation?

I don’t even understand why he brings this point up. If the Bible is “replete with errors”, there’s no point in looking to or interpreting it. There’s no real meaning of the text and, even if there was, it would be obscured by the many many textual errors. The takeaway ought to be: just throw the book away, there’s no way to get it right.

But what is the most fascinating aspect of this view? That McSwain writes an entire article (and, after looking at his website, apparently a couple of books) to prove that the orthodox Christians that interpret Scripture are wrong. So much for respecting their sincerely held interpretation.

3. Jesus is the only way to heaven

This entire section is just bizarre. McSwain claims to be a Christian, but misses the entire message of the Gospel. According to our kind interpreter, the only verse in the entire Bible that indicates the exclusivity of the Gospel is John 14:6. Furthermore, even though the plain meaning of the words of Jesus might indicate He is claiming exclusivity, to say so is just an incorrect interpretation of His words.

McSwain informs us that many sincere Christians interpret that verse differently. Again, I have to ask, what does sincerity have to do with anything? If I sincerely believe 2+2=5, does that make it true? Of course not! Yet, for some reason we should believe that sincerity is the magic talisman that makes any idiotic interpretation as equally valid the correct interpretation, if there were such a thing. But I still don’t know why we’re even talking about interpretation because this verse is probably filled with errors and bears no resemblance to anything Jesus actually said.

McSwain goes on to describe an alternate interpretation of the verse in question. Well, that’s not really true – he describes the context and why Jesus was talking to the disciples, but he never actually tells us how the words “no one comes to the Father but through Me” mean anything other than “you can only access God the Father through Me.” I don’t even know how to construct that second quotation in a way that doesn’t use basically all the same words – the meaning is so obvious in the original. Of course Jesus isn’t telling the disciples that Buddhists are going to hell (per McSwain’s straw man interpretation). But He most certainly is telling them that He is the only way. Thomas asks Jesus how they will know the way to the place being prepared for them. He doesn’t say: “as long as you are trying to be a good person and are being spiritual, any religion or belief system will get you there.” May it never be! He says that they will know the way if they follow Him because no one else can lead you there.

McSwain finishes this section by reasoning that no one can judge another interpretation as true or false because no one is infallible. This is utter nonsense. There is a meaning to what is in Scripture and it has been determined by the author of Scripture: God. John 14:6 is not a difficult passage to interpret – the plain sense makes common sense so there is no reason to add any other sense to it (again, thanks to Koukl for that explanation). Any other interpretation is about as valid as believing that John 14:6 teaches that we should only buy and drive Toyotas.

The most disturbing idea in this section is that Christians only claim exclusivity because of John 14:6. Again I have to ask, how has this “christian” missed the entire point of the Gospel? McSwain does not believe “Jesus was drawing a line in the sand between him and some new religion he was creating and all the other religions of the world.” That is true, Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion, per se. He came to free His people from bondage to sin by the power of His blood. He came to propitiate for our sin. He came so that those who were at enmity with God could be at peace with God. Without Him, you can’t be with God. What clearer line could there be!

4. The rapture of Jesus is imminent

McSwain isn’t really talking about the doctrine of imminence in this section, so the title is a bit misleading. In fact, I tend to agree with what he says here. I think that people like Hal Lindsey are crazy and they should stop making us look bad, but for very different reasons.

5. Homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle and it is a sin against God

At this point, I’m not sure I have much more to say about the actual doctrines in question. McSwain clearly rejects the Bible as authoritative or even helpful in discovering truth so it is nearly impossible to ground the debate. McSwain clearly think that morality is relative to the moral, spiritual and religious environment and not based on the objective moral law of God.

6. The earth is less than 10,000 years old

McSwain browbeats us yet again with high-sounding rhetoric and no content. He’s not stupid enough to think that the Bible could accurately describe the origin of all creation, but if you are, please keep it to yourself.

He finishes by exhorting Christians to stop talking and saying stupid things but instead to love. As usual, there is no definition of love or description of what loving actions look like. Just a sound byte.

Well, I have one statement that I would like McSwain and his confederates to stop saying…

No, it’s not about interpretation, even though he spent the entire article condemning alternate interpretations. Though this is incredibly hypocritical, inconsistent and intellectually dishonest, that’s not my biggest problem.

And no, it’s not about his low view of Scripture, even though I have no clue why he would even “treat the Bible as important” since it is so full of errors. In fact, I have no clue what he is using to ground any of his views other than his own feelings.

It’s: “I’m a Christian.”

Mr. McSwain, we get it. You’re hip and cool and new age and post-modern and all the rest of it. But you are most definitely not a Christian. To say so is just plain dishonest. Please, go start your own thing that you can define any way you want instead of hijacking the term “Christian.” Nobody cares how sincere you are about it, you reject everything that the Bible teaches and that the Church has upheld for 2,000 years. You’re free to believe whatever you want, but when you claim a label for yourself, everyone expects that you actually believe what others in that group believe. You can pretend that we’re all wrong, but please don’t pretend to be something you’re not.

Mr. Thoemke Condemns the Reformers and Most Believers Throughout Church History

Mr. Thoemke wrapped up Matthew 7 in his sermon this past Sunday in which he addresses the kind of fruit one must exhibit in order to enter the kingdom of heaven on the last day and how to ensure that such fruit is produced. Verses 19 to 22 say, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (NASB).

His listeners are rightly encouraged to consider the fruit of their own lives and not just look at the fruit of the people around them. Then, he provides the formula that, when followed, ensures that one knows God, does his will, and enters the kingdom of heaven. He says:

Do what it takes to get to know Jesus. That means studying his word . . . but it also means getting with people that you know know Jesus, that you see by their fruit there’s something more than just head knowledge; but more than anything, you need to begin a dialogue with Jesus if you are not doing that. It may be awkward to be driving in your car having a conversation, listening, saying, “God, what do you want to speak to me?” [and] talking to him about all the things going on in your heart. This may seem awkward; but I will tell you what, if you will commit to that relationship, commit to building that conversation, there will come a point it will become natural. That’s the way it is with Jesus. He is challenging us to know him, then we walk in his will, and then the fruit of our lives equals a committed follower of Jesus Christ.

What Mr. Thoemke says here is quite subtle. When I first heard it, it sounded like the rest of the jargon that comes out of his mouth, but then I listened to it again. Notice the argument he is making. He is saying that you need to know Jesus, not just know about him, which is true. Then, he reveals how it is that you are to come to know him. First, read the Bible. Second, spend time with people who have more than head knowledge. Third and most importantly, you need to have a dialogue with Jesus. A dialogue consists of two people speaking and listening to each other. You have to talk to God, and he has to talk to you. And when he talks to you, you had better hear his voice. Eventually, it should be natural for you to hear God’s voice throughout the course of the day. This is the most important element in the equation. Talking to God and listening to his voice is different from and more important than reading the Bible. It is the only way you will get to know Jesus. It is the only way you can know and do God’s will and is, therefore, the only way your life will produce the fruit that is necessary to enter the kingdom of heaven on the last day.

That is Mr. Thoemke’s argument, and what it necessarily means is that anyone who does not have a conversation with Jesus and hear his voice outside the Bible cannot know him and is, therefore, incapable of producing the fruit that is necessary to enter the kingdom of heaven on the last day. This is a radical statement to make. Mr. Thoemke is saying that the reformers and the vast majority of Christians throughout church history are condemned to hell because they practiced Sola Scriptura and never heard God speaking to them. Indeed, Mr. Thoemke condemns you to hell if you don’t hear God’s voice outside the Bible. I, for sure, am condemned, for I have never heard God’s voice outside the Bible. I have no idea what he sounds like. I talk to him a lot, but he never responds verbally. He never calls me on the phone or sends me an email. All I know about him and his will is what is written in the Bible, which according to Mr. Thoemke, is not enough.

Oh well, at least I will be in good company in hell. I will still get to rub elbows with St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, John McArthur, and everyone else who has ever held the orthodox view of Sola Scriptura.

Mr. Thoemke Does not Know the Jesus of the Bible

I recently came across an article in the August 29, 2013 issue of the Golden Transcript, a weekly newspaper in Golden, CO. The article is titled “A Driving Force” and can be found here. If you are interested in community service projects or anthropology, it is a fascinating read. What I found most interesting, though, is what it reveals about Mr. Thoemke’s theology. This is the same Mr. Thoemke I wrote about last week who is a pastor at Hillside Community Church. The article is essentially about how Mr. Thoemke is a driving force in the Golden community, but his own words reveal more than just what he is doing for people in the community.

As Mr. Thoemke tells the story of his faith journey, whatever that is, he says, “I always saw and read in the scriptures what Jesus did and he was really into helping the poor.” I am not sure where Mr. Thoemke has been seeing this or what scriptures he has been reading, but the Jesus I read about in the Bible never did anything for the poor, whoever they are, much less was he “really into helping” them. I am not kidding. Go and read all four gospels and try to find an instance where Jesus actually does something for a person who is described as “poor.” You won’t find it because it is not there.

It is true that God commanded the nation of Israel to provide for the orphan, widow, and alien in their midst through the tithe. It is also true that the church should continue this practice, the practice of providing for those within the church who, for whatever reason, cannot provide for themselves. This is, of course, something completely different than providing goods and services to strangers in the community free of charge.

It is also true that Jesus healed some people who may have been poor, but the fact that their economic situation is not something that any of the writers chose to include tells us that it was not important. It tells us that Jesus did not look at and treat people based upon how much money they had. He treated people based upon two things, their spiritual condition and their spiritual need. Even when he healed people, he did it in order to demonstrate his power and authority. Every single person he healed eventually got sick or old and died. The healing did not last. It was merely a sign that pointed to the full redemption of our souls and bodies that we will see in the eternal state.

Mr. Thoemke does not stop there. He goes on and gives us more insight into what he actually believes. While talking about his personal struggle with feeling the need to spend time in the city and also spend time in his church, he says that Jesus “spent very little time in the religious community.” This was apparently the evidence Mr. Thoemke needed in order to “finally give up the hat of being in the church all the time and just [move] into the city.” There are two things that are horribly wrong with this statement.

First, if Jesus spent very little time in the religious community, where exactly did he spend his time? I am dumbfounded that Mr. Thoemke, a pastor of at least 13 years, does not realize that the nation of Israel was a religious community. I would be willing to bet that every single individual who Jesus spoke with would have considered himself to be religious. They all celebrated some sort of religious festivals. They all adhered to or knew when they had broken religious behavioral standards. All the Jews were members of a local synagogue, which was at the center of their social and cultural lives. I would say that the society in Jesus’ time was more religious than the religious sectors of modern American society. To say that Jesus spent very little time in the religious community is simply bizarre.

Second, Mr. Thoemke’s thinking that giving up on being in the church full time and moving into the city, whatever that means, indicates that he has no idea what his role as a pastor in the church actually is. Why would a pastor be thinking about spending time anywhere other than the church? An evangelist may want to spend time outside the church, but isn’t a pastor’s job to care for the flock? Is the flock not found exclusively in the church? What would we think of a shepherd who left his flock of sheep on the hillside, no pun intended, so that he could go out and look for other people’s goats to feed and water with the food and water that should be going to his sheep? This would be a terrible shepherd who should not be allowed to care for sheep, but Mr. Thoemke does the same thing and thinks he is doing what Jesus would do.

When a person reads the Bible and concludes that Jesus is something he is not, it is a sign of reprobation. It is not foolhardy proof of reprobation, for we were all once just as blind and unable to see God for who he is. Still, it is a frightening sign. For Mr. Thoemke to lack the ability to see the Jesus of the Bible or to comprehend with any sort of accuracy his own role as a pastor is sad and pathetic. If you ever find yourself listening to the dribble that comes from Mr. Thoemke’s mouth, I would encourage you to stop up your ears. If you choose to listen, though, I urge you to at least think critically and ask lots of questions.

Mr. Thoemke is, Apparently, a Selfless Propagator of new Life

I recently wrote an open response to Mr. Shive regarding the Law. After writing it, I began to think that maybe that one sermon was a poor reflection of the overall teaching at Hillside Community Church in Golden, CO. Maybe if I listened to more sermons, the questions I had raised would be answered. So, I decided to listen to the most recent (as of August 26, 2013) sermon, which can be found here, and see if it would shed any light on the questions I had. This sermon was preached by Mr. Thoemke, who is also a pastor at Hillside. The basis of his sermon is Matthew 7:7–14.

I did not understand much of what he was trying to teach. His exposition of verse 12, though, I found quite interesting. Verse 12 says, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (NASB). Mr. Thoemke then defines what it means to treat people the way you want them to treat you, saying, “This is committing to selfless living. It’s serving those in need, family, friends, coworkers, neighbors. Bless them. Encourage them. Be involved, and you will be living out God’s mission of the kingdom.” He then goes on to give a detailed example of the service that he and others are doing in the community. It is quite reminiscent of the way Mr. Shive paraded around their service in Nicaragua. That, however, is not what I found most interesting.

The most interesting part is that Mr. Thoemke defines treating people the same way you want them to treat you as going around and performing voluntary services for people in the community. He apparently arranges and participates in all sorts of service projects where they repair people’s homes and hand out food to people. This is interesting for two reasons. It is interesting first because it means that Mr. Thoemke wants the community to repair his home and give him food, all free of charge. If he is doing it to them, then it must necessarily be what he wants them to do to him. It is interesting second because it has nothing to do with what Jesus is talking about in verse 12.

The command to treat others as you would want them to treat you is simply a rephrasing of the last part of Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We know from Matthew 22 that the whole Law and the Prophets stand on this along with the greatest commandment. Is that not exactly what Jesus says here in Matthew 7? Treat others the way you want to be treated, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Clearly, Jesus is referring to the second table of the Ten Commandments when he says to treat others the way you want to be treated. The problem for Mr. Thoemke, though, is that nowhere in any of the Ten Commandments does it tell us to go around performing voluntary services for strangers. Rather, we are told to respect people’s life and property. You don’t want people to kill you, so don’t kill them. You don’t want people to steal from you, so don’t steal from them. You don’t want people to be a false witness against you, so don’t be a false witness against them. Treat people as you want to be treated.

Mr. Thoemke missis all of this as he touts his community service. He even goes so far as to say that people in the community are coming to life because of the voluntary services he provides. He says that “people are suffering in the community, and the simple fact that we want to come in and help them with simple things around their house makes them come alive.” Wow! I thought the gospel was the power of God unto salvation for those who believe. Apparently, the voluntary service of Mr. Thoemke is the power of God unto salvation for those who receive it.

Given the other ridiculous things he says in the sermon, I should not be surprised at his departure from orthodoxy and propagation of social justice what is essentially his own version of Liberation Theology. Here are a few quotes I compiled while listening to the sermon:

“The kingdom is a new set of rules and principles.” Really? I was under the notion that the kingdom of God is the realm in which God exercises his authority over his people.

“It is the relationship with Jesus that pulls us in and helps us figure out how we live the principles of the kingdom.” Really? I was under the notion that God’s objective revelation in the Bible is how we figure out how to live the principles of the kingdom.

I felt like grace in this city “was only going to come by asking God to show us how to break through, asking him for the tangible work of the kingdom to move into action amongst the streets we were looking down upon.” I don’t even know what this means.

“We no longer need the Law and the Prophets to lead us to Christ. Our relationship motivated out of true love and the principles of the kingdom will lead us to some up all those things.” Really? I was under the notion, again, that God’s objective revelation found in both the Old and New Testaments is where everything is summed up.

It is not a total loss, though. At the end of the sermon, Mr. Thoemke addresses those of his listeners who may be confused by what he had been saying. When I heard that, my ears perked up. I was certainly confused by virtually everything he had to say. Fortunately, Mr. Thoemke provides a solution for those of us who might be confused. He says to us, “All the life we are talking about this morning begins in a conversation with Jesus Christ.” Wow! Thanks Mr. Thoemke. Next time I bump into him, I will be sure to strike up a conversation. Until then, I guess I will just have to remain confused.

An Open Response to Mr. Shive Regarding the Law

Mr. Shive is a pastor at Hillside Community Church in Golden, CO. He recently preached a sermon, which can be found here, on Matthew 5:17–48. Jesus begins the passage by saying that he did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill. He then goes on to explain what the Law says about murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, retaliation, and love. In his sermon, Mr. Shive attempts to define the Law and its intent and then tries to explain the true meaning of the Law in regards to murder and the other issues addressed by Jesus. So many things stand out to me in this sermon. It is not necessary for me to address all of them, but it may be helpful to address some of them. First, though, let me say that I am unable to determine if Mr. Shive is being willfully deceitful or if he is just so deceived himself that he does not realize what he is saying. So, while I do urge you to critically consider what he teaches, I urge you to not judge his character based solely upon what I write here.

As Mr. Shive tries to define the Law and its intent, he informs his listeners that there are numerous things that might be meant by “Law.” He says that sometimes the New Testament writers are referring to the entire Old Testament when they use the term “Law.” Sometimes they are referring to the first five books of the Old Testament. Sometimes they are referring to God’s moral law. Sometimes they are referring to the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, and sometimes they are referring to the pharisaical interpretations of the Law. Mr. Shive fails to both tell his listeners how Jesus uses the term “Law” in this passage and how he uses the term “Law” in the rest of his sermon. Still, that does not prevent him from using the term throughout the sermon.

After failing to define what he means by “Law”, Mr. Shive tries to reveal the true meaning of the Law and makes some contradictory statements about how the Law was designed to reveal our sin but that it was not designed to point out what people do wrong. He says that the Law was never meant to point out the wrongs of the people around us as a way to exclude them from Jesus. Instead, the intent of the law was to draw people deeply into what God’s heart was so that Christians would understand God’s love and favor and grace. He says that the Law was designed to be attractive to the people around us rather than excluding them from us. It is true that the Law reveals God’s character and that love and grace are part of God’s character; but how does the Law draw people deeply into what God’s heart was, and what does that even mean? Mr. Shive does not explain. Neither does he explain how the burdensome and bloody ceremonial laws were meant to be attractive or how all the laws regarding cleanliness and purity, which informed the Israelites of who was to be excluded and who was to be included, were not designed to exclude people. It seems to me that the exclusion of particular people is a key aspect of God’s character and ought to be a key aspect of his church (see 2 Corinthians 6:14). It would be nice if Mr. Shive would explain his position a little bit more clearly and precisely.

He then goes on to say that the Law’s aim is towards love, love of God and love of our neighbors, and he rightly concludes that love is the fulfillment of the Law. The follow up question would of course be: what is love? However, Mr. Shive does not even pretend to attempt to define what he means by “love.” So, all he is really saying is that an undefined word is the fulfillment of the Law. In other words, he has said absolutely nothing. I have no further response to nothing.

Mr. Shive continues in the second half of his sermon and addresses the issues raised by Christ. What I find most fascinating is what Mr. Shive says about murder and retaliation. Concerning murder, Jesus says that anyone who commits murder will be liable before the court and also that anyone who is angry with his brother and says to him, “You good-for-nothing,” will be liable before the court. Mr. Shive fails to properly address the doctrine of anger and tell his listeners when anger should be expressed and when it should be suppressed. He instead says, “You can’t say bad things about people, even in your head. And this is a tough one for me. There are some people I don’t get along with well.” He rightly reads that if you bring your offering to the alter and remember that your brother has something against you, you should leave your offering and go to your brother. He then says regarding those who have something against him, “It’s not their responsibility to come to me. It’s my responsibility to go to them and own my wrongs.” Oh really? Do Mr. Shive and the other elders at Hillside really believe this? Was there not an accusation of apostasy made against Mr. Shive and all the elders of Hillside more than a year ago? I wonder if he or any of the other elders have left their offering at the alter and gone to that brother who made the accusation?

What Mr. Shive says about retaliation is equally insincere. He quotes verse 40 in which Jesus says, “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.” Mr. Shive claims that this should be taken literally at all times and that Christians should give to people whatever they ask. He then touts something that Hillside is doing as a church in Nicaragua as evidence of their love, whatever that is, and deep relationship with God, whatever that is. Apparently, there are some boys in Nicaragua who need a lot of things and who ask for a lot of things from Hillside. The fact that Hillside gives things to these boys is, according to Mr. Shive, evidence that they as a church are being obedient to Jesus’ command. Hmm, let’s test this theory. Mr. Shive, I need $100,000 in cash tomorrow. Will you and or your church please give me $100,000? If you don’t have $100,000, I will be willing to accept whatever you do have.

If they give me a suitcase full of cash, I will be sure to write about it on this weblog and tell everyone that Mr. Shive and Hillside are indeed sincere in their belief that Christians should give freely to those who ask of them. Until then, I can only conclude that Mr. Shive is either insincere or deeply confused in his teaching.

I would like to interact more with what Mr. Shive says about the Law and love; but, as I have said above, I am not actually sure what Mr. Shive says about the Law and love. All I do know is that the sermon was quite confusing and left me wondering if Mr. Shive really believes what he teaches.

If he or any of the other elders from Hillside would like to clarify any of these issues, they are more than welcome. In fact, we invite them to do so right here on this weblog.