Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Humbling of a Man of God

This excerpt taken from F.B. Meyer's book, "Moses", pg. 61. It speaks to my heart because of much of what we went through when we left our last place of full time Christian service. I hope that it is an encouragement to those of you Ministers of the Gospel going through difficult times yourself.

When we see our hopes blasted, our plans miscarry, our efforts do more harm than good, while we are discredited and blamed, pursued with the taunts and hate of those for whom we were willing to lay down our lives, we may preserve an outward calm; but there will be heartbreak underneath, and the noblest part of us will whither; as wheat blasted by an east wind, unless we are able to pour out our whole complaint before God.

The agony of soul through which Moses passed must have been as death to him. He died to his self-esteem, to his castle-building, to pride in his miracles, to the enthusiasm of his people, to everything that a popular leader loves. As he lay there on the ground alone before God, wishing himself back in Midian, and thinking himself hardly used, he was falling as a grain of wheat into the ground to die, no longer to abide alone, but to bear much fruit.

Ah, but dying is not pleasant work! It is not easy nor pleasant to forgo one's own plans, to cease from one's own works, to renounce one's own reputation, to be despised and flouted by the very slaves you would save. What grain of wheat enjoys having its waterproof sheath torn from it, its elements disintegrated, its heart eaten into, as it lies helpless, exposed to the earth-forces, in the cold, damp, dark soil? And yet this is the necessary condition which must be fulfilled before it can put forth the slender stalk, like a hand holding to the sun thirty, sixty, or a hundred grains like itself.

From Fundamentalism to Reformed Baptist Theology - My Journey: Part 1

Greetings once again, earthlings.

Yes, I have returned from a hiatus of several months, this time to give my personal testimony from the past few years and how it is that God, by His grace, led me from hyper-fundamentalism to Reformed Baptist theology.  I know that there are some of you who are still in fundamentalist circles, so my blog is not intended to offend any of you, nor am I directing any attacks at particular groups in this case.  I am simply sharing my story and how God has led me to the place I am currently in.  I pray that the Lord will use my story to do four things:

1. Encourage those who have left fundamentalism or some other form of legalism.  You are not alone in your journey.  Others have trod those paths before you and understand what you are going through.

2. Encourage those who were never part of those corners of the Church, but are blessed by the testimonies of those of us who were, and to help others identify those aspects of Christianity which are legalistic and border on being cultish.

3. Warn those who are still part of fundamentalism or legalism, and to encourage them to think critically about what they believe and why they believe it.  Encourage them to engage with other believers of different denominational backgrounds, read and study the writings of their Baptist forefathers, and challenge themselves with the Scripture to prove their doctrinal and philosophical positions.  To adopt the motto in our thinking, "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity."

4. To bring glory to God alone and His Son Jesus Christ, through whom all of these things have come to pass, by His immutable will and foreknowledge. Soli Deo Gloria!

Part 1

The beginning of my story starts the same as most who grew up in a Christian home in North America: going to Sunday School, Junior church and Vacation Bible School from the time I can remember, hearing the Gospel taught and preached every week, memorizing Scripture, and all the other things that go with growing up in an evangelical Baptist church in the 1970s.  I was 10 years old (a little older than most who grow in these types of circumstances) before I made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour.  I was baptized by immersion a month later by my pastor, and became the youngest member of my church a year later.

When I was twelve, a missionary who had served in Papau New Guinea during the 50s and 60s came and preached at our church. It was at this time that I gave my life to the Lord to serve Him in ministry.  Several things happened in my family's life at this time that would have a profound impact on me for the next two decades.  The most important event that follows my journey is that my parents left the Baptist church I had grown up attending.  This is the church where I was saved and baptized, where most of my friends and their families attended, in short, the church family that I associated everything that I knew about Christianity. I am not judging my parents on their decision, because they certainly had legitimate concerns with the direction the church was taking (which played out many years later and justified their concerns), however, we took a different direction in the type of church we began attending.  The church I had grown up in was a typical evangelical Baptist church, and was not much different than what you might find in the conservative evangelical churches today.  When we switched churches, we moved to a whole different spectrum of Christianity known as Fundamentalism.  

At this point, I will give a brief description of Fundamentalism and a comparison with the church I grew up in. Independent Fundamental Baptists (hereafter referred to as IFB) trace their heritage to the great doctrinal battles of the first two decades of the 20th Century between orthodox Christians and the liberals who denied many of the fundamentals of Christianity, including things like the inerrancy of Scripture, the virgin birth of Christ, the vicarious atonement of the death of Christ, the literal resurrection of Christ, and so-on.  A group of those who defended the faith against these heretics came to be known as fundamentalists.  They were not confined to one denomination, but over the years the most predominant denomination which became associated with fundamentalism were the Baptists.  This group became known for its very strict, hard-line separatist stand against any kind of compromise on what they viewed as the "fundamentals".  The problem with this was that, as with any movement, the group was dominated by a few big personalities who foisted their own particular views on certain things they viewed as being "fundamental", but not necessarily Scriptural.  This is not to say that there were many good men within the movement ( I know some of you don't like that label, but that's what it is, historically!) who were trying to do what they believed was right and stand for truth.  However, the opinions and agendas of a few men with big ministries often overshadow the views of less-prominent men with smaller ministries, and the "success" of bigger ministries is seen as the blessing of God upon a man and his ministry-philosophy.  Thus, his opinions and views are spread throughout the movement because he is seen as having more insight, or Holy Spirit-power, or wisdom that others ought to pay attention to.

IFB churches today are mainly characterized by several things: an adherence to the King James Version of the Bible as the only Bible in English (there are several variations to this position as well); a strict dispensational interpretation of eschatology (the study of the end-times), particularly a Pre-Tribulation, Pre-millenial position of the return of Christ; strict standards of dress, especially on ladies, mainly as a dresses and skirts-only, no pants allowed at any time philosophy; and a very strict separatist stand from any group who does not adhere to these standards.  This was very different from the Baptist church I had attended growing up.  We used the KJV, but we also used the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the New International Version (NIV).  Every lady I knew, including my mom, wore pants (though not usually to church).  We associated with other evangelical denominations, so separation was from the world, not other Christians.  (A couple of things at this point for those of you who have little or no background in some of these theological terms I am using: I will try to keep them to a minimum, or I will offer to give definitions as clearly and concisely as I can in footnotes or links to articles that give definitions. For the rest of you, I know that I am generalizing somewhat in my characterization of IFB churches, but it is a huge topic on its own.  I am trying to streamline as much as possible to keep the story moving and interesting, without getting bogged down in the finer details.)

To continue with the story, when we entered the IFB world, it was completely different from anything we had experienced before.  It was like I had left earth and gone to another planet.  Looking back these many years later, I still experience feelings of bewilderment at having been wrenched from my evangelical world into what really is a sub-culture of Christianity that is very detached from reality.  But, being young and impressionable, it didn't take me long to absorb the teachings and philosophies of this movement, and to begin to espouse them myself and distance myself from others who didn't view these things the same way I now did.  Over my teen years, we bounced to a couple of different IFB churches in Southern Ontario, never really getting very close with anyone or getting too heavily involved in the ministries of these churches.  I continued to attend, but spiritually I began to drift  and my heart was more in tune with the world than God's will for my life.

I close this part of the story with the end of my high school years.  I was gifted as a teacher and in music, and thought that perhaps I would be a music teacher.  I also love history, and even thought of a double-major in music and history.  I had not forgotten my call to ministry, but it was far from my mind and I had many other things that were clamouring for my attention and affections. Because we had left behind most of my Christian friends in my childhood church, and since I attended a public school, most of my friends were from my school and were unsaved and unchurched, and this affected me as well. They were great people, but they did not share my faith, and were therefore unable to help me in my Christian walk.  I was longing for a place to really belong, and Christian people who shared my faith, a place where I could really grow and serve the Lord.  But I was also a worldly young man, and as the Scripture says in James 1:8, "He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."  This describes the end of my teen years perfectly.

To be continued........

Friday, February 7, 2014

Creation and the Gospel: Is the Genesis account of Creation just a side-issue?

Many of you are aware of the debate that took place between Bill Nye "The Science Guy" and Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis the other night.  I found it a very enjoyable debate/discussion, and look forward to watching it again with my friends and family.

In the aftermath of the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate, I have been reading some articles examining the content and reaction to it.  This thing really has caused quite a stir out there.  I was not surprised to see that there are Christians out there who try to harmonize the "theory" of evolution with the Biblical record.  But when I hear other Christians actually mocking the Biblical account of Creation, (like Pat Robertson, see here: ) and the comments from many who call themselves Christians, I was disturbed.  Some have even gone so far as to suggest or imply that Creationism is just a side-issue and that those who teach it are causing contention within the body of Christ.  They say that the main thing should be the Gospel, and nothing more.  I would like to give my take on this whole thing and why it is significant and relevant in discussions among Bible-believing Christians.

Almost 100 years ago, Christian leaders in the major Protestant denominations found themselves in a battle for the hearts and minds of the people in their churches and schools.  The battle was not against atheists, agnostics and opponents of Christianity; it was against those who also called themselves "Christians", who claimed to love God and follow the teachings of Christ.  However, these "Christians" denied the literal account of Creation, the historical accounts of Israel in the Old Testament, the miracles of Christ in the New Testament, and even went so far as to deny the virgin birth and the substitutionary death of Christ and his Resurrection.  They were called 'liberals'.  The battle raged for many years, and those who held to the fundamentals of the faith eventually lost.  The liberals claimed leadership of most of the major denominations and their schools and churches.  These quickly turned apostate, and today most if not all of these are completely secular in their beliefs and teachings.  Agnosticism, atheism and humanism are rampant on their campuses.  Start naming some of the largest universities in the United States and Canada, and you will find that many originated as orthodox Christian institutions.  Now they are completely secular, casualties of the secular humanism of liberal "christianity".

Many of the "fundamentalists" and conservative Christian leaders who lost the battles with the liberals over these institutions started their own churches and schools.  Their intent was to have churches and places of education where Biblical, historic Christianity was taught and passed down to the generations of Christians that followed.  What they did not anticipate was that the battle was not over.  Error will always look for a place to root and grow.  The Father of Lies is always hard at work, seeking to plant seeds of deception, lies and wickedness.  Where does Satan aim his biggest guns?  Where does He focus most of his attention in this battle?  The Word of God.  That is one thing we need to get into our minds and heads.  His first temptations was to question the Word of God, "Did God actually say....?"  And today, he is still using the same tactics.  "Did God actually say that He created the heavens and the earth in six days?  After all, modern 'science' has 'proved' the theory of evolution is true.  Why question what everyone else believes?  You might sound like a crazy person, or worse, a religious fanatic!"

Now, I would like to ask a question and make a suggestion.  If we cast doubt upon the literal account of Creation as found in Genesis 1-3, what other part of the Bible do we cast doubt upon?  If the very beginning of the Word of God is just an allegory, if it isn't really factual history of the origin of the Universe, Man, the fall and Redemption, then what other parts of the Bible are also just allegory, that are not really factual history?  What other miraculous events can we toss into the trash-heap of mystical fantasy?

Here is my suggestion: If we give the evolutionists and the secular humanists one inch of ground in the question of origins, then we cast a shadow of doubt upon not only Creation, but upon the Gospel itself.  And to my friends who would question any part of the Creation account and say that it does not matter as far as the Gospel is concerned, may I say that IT IS ABSOLUTELY FUNDAMENTAL TO OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE GOSPEL.  The account of Creation is not just an account of the origin of matter, energy, consciousness and  the space-time continuum, it is the beginning of Gospel history.  The Word of God is the story of the Gospel.  From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 it is the story of the plan of the Almighty Creator God to send His Son, the second member of the Trinity, to become a man, to suffer and die and redeem His elect, His people the Church, and to set them in the Kingdom with Him in His glory for all eternity.

God's work of instantaneous, special Creation is a picture of the new birth of the believer.  Just as God spoke into the void and said, "Let there be light", and it was so, God also speaks into the cold, dead void of the human heart and shines the light of the Gospel.  Just as God breathed into Adam's nostrils the breath of life and he became a living soul, so too does the Spirit of God breathe the breath of Spiritual life into the cold, lifeless hearts of those who were dead in trespasses and sins.  God creates life ex nihilo (out of nothing), whether it be the matter and energy of the universe, or spiritual life in dead sinners.

To doubt the literal Adam of Genesis is to doubt the Gospel.  If you doubt the literal Adam and the literal history of the book of Genesis, then you can cut out key passages in the New Testament such as Romans 5:12-21, which is key to our understanding of original sin, the depravity of man, the source of death and the curse, and its remedy.  Or cut out I Corinthians 15:22 which says, "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive."  Later in the same chapter the Apostle Paul quotes Genesis 2:7 with authority by saying, "Thus it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being.'" (15:45).  In I Timothy 2:13-14, Paul once again attests to the historical accuracy of Genesis by saying, "For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor."  Sounds to me like Paul believed the literal Genesis account of creation and the historical accuracy of Genesis.

This is not a side-issue.  It is critical to our understanding of the Gospel and the Word of God.  Satan has cleverly designed this to divide God's people, and deceive many true Christians.  We need not be contentious as we stand for the truth of the Word of God and the literal account of Genesis, but we MUST contend for it.  We must be informed and speak out for the Truth.  We must be educated and informed so that we are always "...prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame." (I Peter 3:15-17, ESV)