REALITY SETS IN Monday, Oct 28 2013 

The last two Shepherd’s Staff articles have revealed some disturbing realities. First, that doctrinal error is rampant in our circles; second, that there is widespread ignorance of what the Bible text actually teaches, and finally, that there is a segment of people who are busy defending error. It could be summed up as ignorance and apathy sprinkled with denial. This premise has been constantly confirmed as we have tried to use social media to bring attention to God and His glory by discussing the Bible.

I definitely don’t know everything, and over my fifty-three years of ministry have learned that I know even less than I thought I did! There are some things, though, that are clear, and years of consideration and discussion about the Bible text have left them as a solid foundation. One of these principles is that what a person states he believes is not nearly as important as how he reached that conclusion. How we view God and His Word will make all the difference in our conclusions.

GOD AT THE CENTER OF ALL THINGS

The Bible begins and ends with God, and everything in between is about God’s revealing himself to man. God is the source of truth, and only He has the answers. All man-made systems and much of man’s wisdom are flawed. Fallen man does not have the ability to create anything perfect, despite which much of Christianity has made man the center of almost everything. Perhaps that is why people feel free to rewrite scripture when they come to something in the text they don’t like.

I don’t get a lot of hate mail, but crude personal attacks and unacceptable language are a clear confession of man-centered thinking. This is not about the discussion of ideas — such exchanges are welcome — rather, it is about personal attacks on someone’s character. For the person who presses the discussion of content and meaning, such unkindness can be expected; but what is of greater concern is that these attacks are often against God, not against a human being.

Much of the defense of error comes from those who think it is terrible to disagree with someone, particularly if they are a popular Moderate Evangelical. Some fly to the defense of flawed men with respect to a person, but have little concern about the offense to God. They are unable to separate the discussion of ideas, content, and meaning from the individuals who hold those ideas. They are so occupied with form that they tend to miss the heart of the issue.

Redemption, the person of Christ, and the failure of man are all great themes throughout scripture; but they are not the central issue. God and His glory constitute the centerpiece of the scriptures. The reason some men choose another subject for their focus is because of their motive: it allows them to build their own system in disregard to God…at their own peril.

POINTS OF INTEREST

The discussions I referred to at the outset of this article included the Millennium, the Rapture, the Kingdom, the New Covenant, and some practical issues such as benevolence being an obligation of the believer. All of these had one thing in common: the various views all came from the fact that participants used different systems of interpretation. It was these systems that allowed them to stray from the centricity of God and to put man at the center instead.

The problem here is that when man is considered central, people are no longer sensitive concerning the offence to God. That is why error is winked at or ignored, and what is even worse is that it is defended. The current worship systems are filled with theological abuse and error, but who seems to even notice or care? The mainstream of publishing pushes erroneous doctrine, and hardly a murmur is heard. If someone does challenge this disdain of God and His word, he is attacked as being anti-intellectual or a “baggy pants”, a backwoods know-nothing.

Let me dare to illustrate this. When a major Evangelical figure states in a public forum that Christ did not die for Hitler or some other evil figure, there is silence, no matter what is the clear statement of scripture. The humanly devised system has to be right; no matter that it includes rewriting the text and inserting convenient wording.

So, when the ESV study notes (in reference to John 16:7 – It is to your advantage that I go away) read as follows: “This is because while Jesus was on earth he could be in only one place at a time, but the Holy Spirit would carry on Jesus’ ministry over the entire world at all times. In addition, in God’s sovereign plan for the unfolding of history, the Holy Spirit would not come in new covenant power and fullness until Jesus returned to heaven.”, there is silence.

At best, this is misleading; but at the worst it is an attack on the person of Christ. This is what happens when we are silent. It is the result of pressing a humanly devised system on the text and making it say whatever the “scholars” want it to say.

GO AHEAD, MAKE MY DAY!

I don’t even have to guess at this one. In the next article, I will confirm that the responses to such questions will be just as they were outlined at the beginning of this article…but then, “who am I”?

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HOW COULD IT HAPPEN? Friday, Sep 6 2013 

Recently we discussed the tragedy of young, immature men in the ministry who have been drawn into errant theology by intellectuals who pretend to be loyal to the scripture. I have no obligation to protect those who are responsible for this moral crime and no obligation to protect those who allowed themselves to drawn into theological error. I have repeatedly demonstrated how the path to liberalism is a gradual process. Those who have chosen to abandon the one biblical hermeneutic may move along this treacherous route quite slowly, while others hasten to their fall from truth.

With a great deal of grief, I think of a young man who, by the grace of God, sat under the teaching of godly men and was shown the value of biblical text, but who later made the mistake of listening to those who have left the authority and sufficiency of scripture. Those teachers were intellectual and philosophical, and that combination often leads to an arrogance which allows folks to twist the text in such a way as to produce their own desired ends. It is simply a rewriting of the scripture. The end result was that the student, in a very short time, moved from a biblical context to a tragic end with the liberalism of amillennialism.

This heartache sent me on a search for an answer to the question, “How could this happen”?

ALMOST EVERY DAY

It dawned on me that almost every day I have contact with people who ought to know better, but who appear to be incapable of recognizing theological error. Some of these individuals are well educated, with graduate and post-graduate degrees. Some of them majored in theological disciplines, and others have spent a good part of their lives in some kind of ministry. So what went wrong? Why is truth not high on their list of priorities?

My pleasure, as well as my responsibility, is to read. My computer is filled with emails, messages from blogs, and notes from people commenting on all kinds of things. These folks talk about people, schools, missions, and ministries, but never seem to ask the question of what they believe. The latest gossip, idea, or opinion fills the pages; but there is very seldom a question about the theology behind all that. Don’t they know about a theology that is biblical? I can’t imagine that they don’t care. The crisis grows when someone does ask the question about doctrinal error. Such a sincere discussion is seen as an attack on some person, or a lack of love. Instead of searching the scripture to discover the truth about a subject, the person who asks a question is attacked personally. We learned a long time ago that a person who attacks the messenger instead of dealing with the message has a hidden motive.

COMING TO AN ANSWER

Jesus taught us that we are not to be respecters of persons. The Bible is about God. Man is spoken of throughout its pages, but the Bible is a revelation about the Sovereign Creator. That is how we are to deal with doctrine and theology – it is all about God. When someone teaches error, we should hasten to the Bible and the God of the Bible for answers. Instead we quickly go to the defense of some contemporary evangelical figure, even if he is speaking against the clear statement of the text. Others jump on the historical band wagon and defend some theological system or historical writer or teacher. There is not a human living who is not flawed. There is no movement, denomination, creed, or theological system that is not tainted with error, so why do they rush to defend everything but the scripture? Some say the scripture needs no defense, but it is that kind of cute talk that buries professing Christianity in error.

This approach doesn’t mean that we can’t have appreciation for people, organizations, and movements. On the other hand, though, all of these things call for us to ask questions. We cannot please God and actively cover error, nor should we ignore error. What kind of pride would ignore the responsibility given to every believer to compare scripture with statements and printed material?

YOU KNEW THIS WAS COMING

Going back to the journey I described at the beginning, something became very clear. Every one of the statements that troubled me had one thing in common: those who ignored or covered error hold a flawed hermeneutic. To the person who is committed to the authority and sufficiency of scripture, a correct system of biblical interpretation is imperative. If there is no single system of hermeneutic, then anyone can make the Bible say what he or she wants it to say; and that is exactly why we have error. Many have chosen a system that allows them to insert whatever they want into the biblical text. I remind you that this is exactly what is being done with the constitution of our country. It is the practice of liberals, a way of thinking, and a mindset. That is the reason why, when someone abandons the one biblical hermeneutic, he can come up with any kind of theology or invention to replace it. That is how a well-intentioned student can leave the truth behind and rapidly take the journey from truth to the liberalism of a-millennialism. Not only do I have no obligation to protect those who are following this path, but I have no reason, either, to be silent about the evil – no matter how intellectual it may be – of destroying the futures of young men.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN? Wednesday, Aug 14 2013 

A recent communication from a long-time friend in my home state has once again brought to the surface a very serious issue. The church where he had been a member for most of his life called a new pastor, who failed to inform the church of his intent to remake the church into the emerging-church model. While only God knows his motive, the result became very public. When those who had sacrificed, given, and served for years to create a healthy local assembly began asking questions, they were stiff armed. As time passed, people who had comprised the heart of that church ministry were told to either fall in line with the new plan or leave. In the end, yet another previously healthy congregation moved into the emerging-church tragedy.

We need to begin by agreeing that it is clearly dishonest for any man to accept the leadership of a church without being upfront about his intentions. Even if it is a theological issue that needs to be corrected, he must be transparent.

The question is often asked, “How do you know when the emerging church is emerging in your church”? It has happened to some of you and very soon is about to happen to others. That is what this article is about.

A CLEAR VIEW OF THE EMERGING CHURCH

In reality, the emerging church is simply the road to the emergent church. In the latter, because that movement is at home with heresy, a theology that is biblical is almost destroyed. The emerging church is a façade. It looks good to those who are not settled in their theology, but it is fraught with doctrinal error. No church has ever entered its clutches without having its theology compromised. That cancer is covered by defenders of the movement by “complicating to confuse”. What is needed instead is an approach that “simplifies to clarify”.

To avoid revealing the theological weaknesses of the emerging church, a liberal tool is used: all conversation about it is steered toward culture and methodology rather than the dangers of doctrinal deviation. Although many of their methods are not inherently evil, some are dangerous. Methods, however, are not at the center of this problem; theology is. The emerging church uses its methods, and the ensuing debate about them, to turn from truth. Every church that has headed down the road of the emerging church has been lulled by the siren song of “methods”. When the doctrinal compromise which has occurred is finally realized, by then it’s too late; it is but one more step to the emergent church where at first doctrine doesn’t matter, and finally it is hated. It all begins with the mantra that “the Bible doesn’t speak to that”. Methods do matter, and the Bible records the death of some who were not careful about this.

THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION

If a church is leaning toward the emerging model, don’t expect to see much of a doctrinal shift from the pulpit; it is more subtle than that. The attitude about the content of sermons, and even their length, may create some valid questions. When the pulpit is removed from the “worship center”, members should begin to ask, “What is central here?” Many churches helpfully place Bibles in the pews for anyone who may not have one, but that is, of course, no longer necessary if the Bible has become merely a fetish in man-centered worship. Don’t waste your time judging any individual churches about each of these things; one single issue will only serve to create a question and not necessarily an answer.

A majority of the churches which are moving left have had a major shift in their style of worship. I have pledged not to get in the middle of the “worship wars”, so I will be brief with this. The concern with this topic is that much of the move in worship styles has left the true meaning of worship behind, a telltale sign of the emerging church. Jesus made this plain to the Samaritan woman: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth”. (John 4:24). How can we worship God when truth is left behind and when we sing lies? How can we worship God when man, rather than God, is the center of a side show misnamed “worship”?

Music is one of the best indicators of the emerging church infection. Some say that the Bible does not speak to this subject, but that is more of a confession than an observation. If you walk blindfolded into a “worship” service and can’t tell whether you’re in a church or a nightclub or a rock concert or a bar, something is definitely wrong. Showmanship and low-talented performances where you have no idea what the words even are that are being sung should leave you with questions. Even over-used phrases that border on “vain repetition” should make us begin to ask some questions.

FINE TUNING

Any one of these things by itself might not be a condemnation, but taken as a whole they should set off the warning lights. It is clear that every church which has made this transition gave the warning early on in the form of culture, methods, and worship changes. One could not say that the leaders in every case knew what they were doing, but in the end they had to give up something theologically. So…if you are asking, “Is this emerging in my church?” you’d better spend some time thinking about what is going on and asking some Bible questions. If there is no one in your church who has the ability to understand a theology that is biblical, then ask someone who does.

I wasn’t born yesterday, and I have already heard time and again the defense of the emerging church arguments, so if you have input, please make it theological – not philosophical.

ALL THE KING’S MEN Monday, Jul 29 2013 

Most of us older folks can recite the nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty, which begins “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall”, and ends with “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again”. I feel sorry for the pessimists in today’s world as well as the optimists. When either group looks at the condition of our nation and this world, they are very apt to draw flawed conclusions. A biblical Christian, on the other hand, is a realist in that he can observe and discuss the terrible plight we are in but at the same time can clearly see the answers that we need. Some individuals solve problems by simply ignoring them, and there are situations where this might be the best approach. In the case of a “clear and present danger”, however, ignoring the reality can be deadly.

Never in the history of this planet has there been such a worldwide destabilization as there is today. Anyone looking for a stable government, economy, or moral standard, or a peaceful setting, searches the world in vain. For the believer, this is no surprise; the Bible clearly tells us what to expect in the end time. The question is what should we do with this reality?

Never before in the history of this once-great country has there been such a drastic plunge into moral degradation, economic insanity, lawlessness, lack of leadership, and ever-present danger. This is the way of any unregenerate society because it has no moral base, having turned from the Sovereign Creator to the worship of man. The old Wild West was tame compared to the violence in our cities and now in the entire countryside. The question once again is – what should we do with this reality?

Never before in the history of the American church has there existed such disdain for the very Word of God, the Bible. Culture has become the rule of morals and methodology. While all the statements and creeds may still be in print, their contents are very seldom found in the pulpits or in the hearts of those who call themselves Christian. The church has become the favorite whipping boy of those who openly revile God. It has been marginalized to the point that biblical Christianity has next to no major impact on society at all. Society not only rejects the church; it openly mocks it. The question is…what should we do with this reality?

DEADLY SILENCE

From a human point of view, we have a Humpty Dumpty nation and world; there is nothing on the horizon that can mend its broken condition. The judgment of God is apparent in the whole of society, and even creation echoes this. The optimist would disagree because he wants there to be an answer for his own comfort and safety, but his is a false hope. The liberal mind has no answer; it only creates problems and blames them on someone else. Denial and false hope actually keep us from coming up with an answer to this calamity.

Many Christian leaders have not only recommended false hope, but have provided a partial truth, and a half truth is dangerous. It is true that the answer for an individual is the gospel because once someone is saved, his world and future are changed forever. It is true that when a person is saved, the positive influence on his surroundings is an answer. From an eternal point of view, the gospel is the answer; and it has immediate influence on the culture.

For the biblical Christian, we begin with the gospel as described in I Corinthians 15:1-4. I say with respect that the gospel is not the whole counsel of God. A church that preaches only the gospel is only partially obedient. The believer who thinks that sharing the gospel is his sole responsibility will in the end be disobedient to the scripture. The whole Bible is the whole counsel of God. The whole must be believed, taught, and shared with the world around us. If you tell me that I am not to speak to the issues of life openly in society, you have asked me to be disobedient.

Silence is deadly, and the church is paying the price for its silence in our culture. That silence happens because some well-intentioned leader has told you to keep God’s Word to yourself or within the four walls of the building where the local church meets. Morality, abortion, sodomy, and dishonesty are not political issues; they are biblical issues first. If believers refuse to obey God and speak to these issues in public, only the lies of the devil’s children will stand.

NOW FOR THE ANSWER

Silence is not an answer. Ignoring the reality of a tragic society is not the answer. The answer is in the hand of God and in His Word. It is of great comfort to know that the biblical Christian has read the last chapter. God wins, and we are winners because we are in Christ. Our struggles are temporary, and defeat is a fleeting thing. Dr. M. R. DeHaan used to say, “Victory may not always be possible, but faithfulness always is”. Those who have accepted the biblical teaching of the any-moment catching away of the church and the second coming of Christ just prior to the Millennium can rejoice in these answers clearly defined in the text of scripture. These are the final answers, and there can be no doubt about them.

We are still waiting for the sound of the trumpet and the “Blessed Hope”. This is the real world we live in. So, what is the answer to the dilemma of living in this “present evil world”? It begins with our willingness to ignore those who call for silence. We have a duty to speak truth openly in the home, in the church, and in society. It is the gospel that saves, but it is truth that leads one to the gospel. It is the Bible that contains the true gospel, but the Bible is also authoritative in any matter to which it speaks.

The answer is in our obligation to glorify God in all we do. Silence does not glorify Him. It is not our responsibility to change the culture – only God can do that – but it is our responsibility to share with the whole world the truth, all the truth contained in the book. Our world has had a great fall, and it is not our job to put it together again, but we can be obedient. This is no time to hide truth under a bushel.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

The book The Weeping Church was first published in 1985. It has been in constant publication since then, and now Faithful Life Publishers has printed the third edition. It continues to be an effective tool for pastors and churches who are seeking to follow the clear teaching of Scripture as to the polity of the local church.

Faithful Life Publishers.com,The Weeping Church, Clay Nuttall, D.Min ISBN 978-1-937129-80-4

BAD DOCTRINE LEADS TO HERESY Wednesday, Jul 17 2013 

The past few weeks have produced some serious frustration for me. I continue to be grieved over the number of younger men who have become prey to doctrinal error. In the main they appear to be enamored with the arrogance of scholarship and intellectualism. Much of this wind of doctrine has come from the misguided influence of the Reformed theology. The basic problem however is the hermeneutic they have adopted. While they would call it biblical it is nothing more than the old allegorical system that has done so much harm to foundational theology. The façade for this farce is the use of the original languages. While language is first in the hermeneutical process it produces false conclusions when it ignores the whole of biblical interpretation that God has given to us.

Most of us would condemn the use of proof texting. This is what the average doctrinal error and cults are made of. The intellectual however has turned proof texting into an art form. Instead of using a single text or a few texts to prove a point, that does not exist in any of them, the pseudo-scholar uses page after page of proof texts before assigning a meaning that doesn’t exist in any of them. This process ignores the whole teaching on a subject and as a result produces error. It is built on bad habits of interpretation such as making an exception the rule and causing similarities to be equals. The product is philosophical theology rather than a theology that is biblical.

AN EXAMPLE

Several examples will suffice to illustrate the error of inserting human presuppositions into the text. The Body of Christ, the church is made up of those redeemed individuals from Pentecost to the Rapture. This is the bride of Christ it is not the same as the wife of God discussed by the prophets. Even the slightest attempt to weld national Israel with the church is subject to suspicion and will identify an errant hermeneutic. I am fully aware of the proof texts used to destroy the clear separation of the two. This includes the bifurcating the special ministry to the church, by the Holy Spirit that began at Pentecost.

The church, the body of Christ, is a whole it is a solid unit. Members are a part of this body but they are not the whole. The body of Christ, the heavenly church, is not complete; it has never met and will not meet until the catching away of the church prior to the tribulation period. Members in a local church may be part of the body of Christ but they are not equal to the whole. For that reason the local church, with its many unsaved members is not equal to the body of Christ.

When the heavenly church, the body of Christ is caught away the bridegroom will “present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27; Rev. 19:8)). The teaching is elementary, unless one deliberately complicates it. At this point not one member of the body or the whole has any flaw or blemish in any way. Our salvation and everything that the bride inherently is, eternally, depends on the finished work of Christ. Our works or service has nothing to do with our eternal state or status. To reject this is to attack the veracity of the finished work of Christ.

When Christ returns at the Second Coming, prior to the Millennium, His bride, the body of Christ will return with Him. This complete body “shall reign on earth” (Rev. 5:10) “with” Him. This unity of the bride with the bridegroom is without exception. No member of this glorious church will be absent for any reason from this eternal relationship or status.

AN OLD ERROR

One cannot assume that scholars are always right. Actually we can assume that they are often wrong. This is true of and old error proposed by some scholars. I speak here of what is called “The doctrine of eternal rewards”. At the heart of this error is the idea that some members of the body of Christ will not share in the millennial reign with Christ and that some will not share in the heavenly city, the eternal state. This state of limbo or purgatory is blamed on the unprofitable servant texts in Matthew and is simply a long list of proof texts that ignore the clear teaching of scripture on the body of Christ. This odd teaching arises from an errant hermeneutic sprinkled with the dust of proper use of the language. It may not be as deliberate as it looks but is an effort to “complicate to confuse”.

Our task in bible interpretation is to “simply to clarify”. We also need to begin with the things that we most assuredly know. The clear teaching of the church as bride of Christ and as the one body of Christ in union makes such humanly devised presuppositions impossible. The bible was not written for scholars to toy with. It is written to us as the average believer. While we are grateful for honest and faithful grammarians and well qualified scholars but God has given the average believer a way to know when the experts are not telling the truth. That is what the one biblical hermeneutic is all about. If those who have divided the body into pieces, as to state and status, would have just asked questions of the text their answers would have stood the test of the whole. The reader always needs to ask these who, where, when, why questions before attempting to assign personal meaning to the text. If one does not know who the text in question was written too, how could you expect the bible to answer?

The one biblical hermeneutic is the correct system of interpretation. It is mathematical in that if we use the system of interpreting and the rules that apply to language everyone will come to the same answer every time. The variances in conclusions therefore rise from ignoring the system or violating the rules so that all errors actually rise from and errant system or a breaking of the rules of interpretation.

ONE ERROR LEADS TO ANOTHER

An additional problem in this area of theology is a faulty view of the Judgment Seat of Christ. The texts are very clear on this event. It is our human invention that creates the misunderstanding. The Bema has nothing to do with salvation. We are at the Bema as a result of our salvation through the work of Christ. This judgment is about the service of sons. All sons are equal at this point. The only question here is what rewards are given to whom. This is a positive time and the highlight of it all is that Christ not servants are honored in that all crowns are ultimately cast before the Lord (Rev. 4:10). The center of this scene is Christ and the main issue is the awarding of crowns.

Teaching on this subject is often overwhelmed with the negative. It is true that all service done in the flesh with be burned. It is true that some members of the body of Christ will not receive rewards. That would be sad but that is not the purpose of the Bema. The main purpose is positive, it is rewards. I do not mean to set aside disobedience or un-confessed sin but that is not the focus, it is a by-product. This is another reason why the whole hermeneutic must be used in viewing scripture.

In addition to the micro/macro context, the historical setting of the text always helps answer little questions. The Holy Spirit used the Bema seat because the actual historical event confirms the positive view. The Bema was a raised platform where the judge sat. One of these is still standing in the old city of Corinth. When a race or sporting event was over the Bema was used by the judge to honor the winner, often with a crown of olive leaves. That was the sole purpose of the judge. While it is true the non-winners were not mentioned the judge did not lecture, condemn or exile those who failed to win the event.

When the Judgment Seat of Christ is concluded every member of the bride will stand included and equal “In Christ”. That is because their state and status eternally was settled by the sacrifice of Christ not the works of the believers. This is all so simple and points out why bad doctrine leads ultimately to heresy.

BIRTH IS THE BEGINNING OF DEATH Thursday, May 23 2013 

I have often said that in the creation of any local church or institution are the seeds of its own destruction. A careful look at the history of any one of these will confirm this. The wise mind will be able to see those seeds long before they come to fruition. Human organizations and documents are always flawed since only God could create, or write, a perfect one. The Bible is a perfect document for those who have a high view of scripture. The Body of Christ, the Heavenly Church, is viewed as “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish”. (Eph. 5:27) No one could honestly say that about any local church or institution. When Adam sinned, he died spiritually and also began to die physically, just as God said he would. Some institutions die a slow death; others race full speed to their destruction.

The problem is that people are blinded by loyalty and thus are unable to be objective about their own church or institution. They will foolishly say that their organization is the same as it has always been, with no movement away from its foundation. Some loyalists know better, but are quick to use “turn-speak” in an attempt to hide a move to the left. Others are just plain ignorant or apathetic, and some are too fearful to ask the right questions.

A WINDOW TO DEATH

We are now into graduation season. I am astounded when I read the list of schools that some of our graduates are headed for this fall. Do parents have no idea of what an institution believes? Are they without knowledge, or don’t they care? It could be because of any one of these reasons, but why would mothers and fathers send their young minds to a place where their intellectual, spiritual, and moral being would be under attack every day? There is no doubt that many adults have no idea of what is being taught. On the other hand, it also appears that the average parent would not even know what questions to ask in order to find out the truth behind all the promotional glitz of a certain school.

In our circles, the new theologies are “headed for the cliff” at breakneck speed. So-called “Christian” schools have embraced a number of these erroneous doctrines. Many of the “winds of doctrine” are cleverly based on intellectualism; after all, the scholars must be right. This, however, is only one of the problems. To assume that a popular, well known communicator who is widely published couldn’t possibly be wrong is a disaster. The truth is that many in this category have buried followers in an allegorical theology that leaves Bible truth far behind. Young men caught in the power of pride have no way to question the viability of the false teaching that currently covers the theological landscape.

HOW ABOUT THE LEADERS?

It is heartbreaking to realize that parents do not know how to protect their children from this creeping culture of doctrinal doom. Where are the pastors on this issue? In Acts 20, it is made clear that the pastor/shepherd/elder/bishop/overseer has a responsibility to protect the sheep while “grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock”. (Acts 20:29) Do they not know the dangers that lie in wait for these young hearts and minds? Are they afraid to speak up about the spiritual, moral, and intellectual traps? Over fifty-three years of ministry, my interaction with various institutions has been quite involved. Watching schools drift, or race, away from a solid foundation is painful; but seeing that many dear friends still support and send students to those schools is absolutely heart-wrenching. These are not people we hate. They are dear friends, but why are they so blind? The answer often given is foolish philosophy. Is it just a difference of opinion or another point of view? That would certainly cover a whole lot of disobedience and ignorance.

What can be done when leaders do not know the scripture or are willing to sit idly by while others corrupt those we love? The problem here isn’t just a lack of knowledge of scripture and theology; it is a lack of interest. What I do know is that every error that is being carefully injected into churches and institutions comes from the same root problem – the fact that many, if not most, of our friends have never been taught the one biblical hermeneutic and so have missed the heart of a theology that is biblical.

IS THERE ANY WAY TO SEE IT COMING?

No leader ever suddenly steps into the pulpit or college chapel and announces that he no longer believes in the virgin birth. Such a move to error is a slow process, and the path is usually camouflaged. The move to wrong views about sign gifts, the timing of the Rapture, the New Covenant, and the merging of Israel and the Church is a subtle one. Those who have a motive tend to simply pick at things. They make small adjustments in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the church, salvation, etc.; and only the careful observer will realize what is happening. Only courageous believers will be willing to point out those errors publicly, and they should be prepared for the vicious attacks they will receive for doing such a thing.

Those who are leaning left always complain about the “whistle blowers” on the right; however, they never miss an opportunity to brand them as “anti-intellectual, baggy pants know-nothings from the back waters”. Despite their protests, there is something that gives them away: they hide behind culture and methods, claiming they have changed their methods, but not their message. Sorry, that just won’t fly. Parents and pastors need to be aware that hard turns to the left on cultural issues are always accompanied by questions about a shift, slow or rapid, in their theology.

THIS IS NOT A PERSONAL ISSUE

Those who have a high view of scripture and who are sensitive to small steps to the left are left to wonder why others choose to wander. We have long-time friends in ministry who appear to be numb about these shifts. It puzzles us why they remain in support of institutions which are communicating theological instability. Why do they send their children there? Why do they remain on boards? The only answer is ignorance or apathy. That is not an attack on their person; it is an expression of grief for them.

Let me sound a warning: If you have read this and are beginning to wonder if your church or institution is in view, don’t write me. If you have to question whether or not any of this applies to your loyalties, you already have your answer. You should be asking these questions of those who are taking your money and your youngsters. If you don’t know what to ask, seek help from those who do. Begin with the culture smoke screen. People who hide error are good at smoke and mirrors, and please don’t ask why I do not state any names. Others will do that for you; my task is to deal with ideas.

A NATION OF FOOLS Thursday, Apr 18 2013 

In April of last year, I greeted you with the words, “Unhappy Atheist’s Day”. Atheists do have their day to be recognized, and that would be…April Fool’s Day. We are warned in scripture not to call someone a fool in a light manner. In this case, however, we are only repeating what the sovereign creator has recorded in Psalm 14:1 – The fool hath said in his heart, (there is) no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

In our most recent national election, voters gave clear evidence that they have chosen to be identified as fools. This (possibly) majority vote gave new meaning to the term, “a nation of fools”. I doubt if a majority of those voters would actually call themselves atheists, but there are those who are willing to do so. They are the stated fools, who admit – by God’s definition – that they belong to a nation of fools. The remaining part of that voting bloc admits to being fools only by the way they speak talk and live. They are demonstrated fools, who live as if there is no God who is the final authority on all things.

This discussion is not about our nation having originally been a Christian nation; I will let others debate that. On the other hand, though, how could anyone possibly think that we are a Christian nation at this point in time? Some would argue that we are a secular nation, but that is not true, either. Everything that is being advanced by this nation of fools today is really based on what they believe. Their belief system is actually their religion, and it is not difficult to identify. While the goal of Islam is to be a majority and to extend its cruel rule over all the earth, Muslims are not yet the majority in our nation. The religion of fools that now has a majority has one common god, and that is man himself. Man has, for them, become autonomous; he doesn’t need, nor does he want, the God of the universe.

FOOLS LEADING FOOLS

A majority of fools has placed foolish leaders in charge, but this elite group is demonstrating every day that, through their new oligarchy, they will press their folly on the entire nation. This is true in every phase of government. The majority of our Supreme Court members have chosen to mock the one true God with most of their decisions, the most recent trend of approving sodomy being only one of the most egregious. For years, they have been closing the public sector to God, at least from their point of view. Instead of having a court jester, as in olden days, they have become an entire court of fools, according to God’s definition.

The present administration has morphed from its former false claim of support for Christianity, to ignoring it, and now even to open hostility. While it openly and without apology has given honor to Islam, it now pushes the agenda of that movement, which is based on violence and hate. At the same time, it is criticizing and condemning biblical Christianity, the very heart of a peaceful society.

Our Congress, for the most part, has joined the massive movement that has led us to become a nation of fools. Like other leaders in government who have sworn to uphold the Constitution, they have run roughshod over the founding elements of this nation that were put in place in order to protect good citizens. The very people who were chosen to protect all citizens – including people of faith – have marginalized and maligned those very people. This folly on the part of our leaders is the reason why this nation is now so deeply divided.

Some moderate evangelicals at this point are going to brand these thoughts as anti-government rhetoric. I warn you not to go there. It is nearing the time when your support of fools, by God’s definition, is going to return to bite you as well. Your affinity to this failure is why the govern-ment has become the god of our beloved land. Who needs the true God, anyway, when we have a government that can solve any problem and will take care of us from the cradle to the grave? The problem with this setup is that the only way government can play god is to make slaves out of the rest of us; and a fool is really a slave, even if he thinks he is in charge.

THE SOURCE OF THE FOOL’S FOLLY

Any Bible student should be able to recognize this failure of leaders in the history of the nation of Israel. The people became evil because the leaders became evil. In every case, the Old Testament declares that the nation was judged by God; and in time, some were sent into exile for their rejection of God’s leadership and law.

With this in mind, it is worth asking when God will bring His judgment on our country. Perhaps it has already begun, and we are unwilling to recognize it. How could any serious student of the scriptures think that the murder of millions of infants, and the accommodation of sodomy, will be ignored by God? At all levels of society, morality has reached the level of a junkyard dog’s.

We might begin by asking what made it possible for such a nation, founded on biblical law and principles, to sink so low. One of the answers is education. Like it or not, fools are in charge of today’s educational system. Intellectual fools, perhaps, but nevertheless having dictated, “no god but man”. The terrible truth is that believers have supported these fools and paid them to destroy the morality of our youth, who now have become the fools in charge.

NOT EVERYONE IS A FOOL

At every level of society, there is a light. Thank God there are still true believers as identified in the book of 1 John. These saints have “kept the faith”; they have “fought a good fight”, and they will be “faithful unto death”. This week I was asked, “How long do you think it will be before true believers may have to go underground?” At the present rate of the advancement of the evil led by the elite fools, I doubt if we will have ten years. Because I am in the evening of my life, I may not see that day; but I think of our children and grandchildren and what we must teach them.

Peter has the answer to this question, and it begins with perspective. We shouldn’t be surprised. Beloved, think it not strange considering the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” (I Peter 4:12) We should find joy in the fact that we will suffer for Christ. “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s suffering; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (I Peter 4:13)

Consider reading The Coming Conflict; The Separation of Church and State, by Clay Nuttall; available at http://www.FaithfulLifePublishers.com

KINGDOM THEOLOGY Friday, Mar 22 2013 

When I began my formal training for the ministry in 1958, the kingdom was an important part of liberal conversation. People talked about “bringing in the kingdom”, “building the kingdom”, “growing the kingdom”, “for the kingdom”, and many other such characterizations. It was obvious that they were not referring to what the Bible teaches about kingdom theology. In recent days, moderate evangelicals have made some of these same terms popular by use. The problem is that their errant view of this important subject has bled into our own ranks.

It appears that much of the time people do not understand what they are referring to when they use the word “kingdom”. Some may be using it only because they have heard other people doing so, while others simply may not have a biblical view of the subject. Music is the worst place from which to get your theology, but it has been readily used by those who are basically without understanding of the subject.

When I hear the word “kingdom”, I am forced to ask, “Which kingdom is that?” Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, in his excellent book, Israelology: The missing Link in Systematic Theology, discusses this issue at length, attempting to categorize the several facets of kingdom theology. Dr. Fruchtenbaum notes that with each kingdom one must identify (1) the ruler, (2) those ruled, (3) the realm that is ruled, and (4) the period that is covered by the kingdom. One might add other clarifying points, but this is sufficient for my discussion. You can pursue this line of thinking if you choose further study.

DIFFICULTIES

One of the major problems in this study is that if the one biblical hermeneutic is not used; there is no hope of getting a consistent answer. The tools of interpretation that are undeniable must also be utilized. The first tool is that “the part is not equal to the whole”. While one kingdom may be part of another, that does not make them equal. Those who tend to isolate a text in order to arrive at a presumed end will not find a biblical answer; therefore, the answer is always in the whole and not in a part. When we view a single text, we have a question, but not an answer until the whole is carefully considered. One of the dangers of presupposition is that it makes it easy for a reader to invent something. You have a kingdom when the text states there is one; concluding or assuming something that is not in the text is destructive. Finally, “similarities are not equals”. Just because the word “kingdom” is used does not mean that it is equal to all or any of the others.

There is a point in this discussion where we become aware of the “Lucifer Syndrome”: “I will know as much as the most high God”. If we don’t have a clear answer, there is always the temptation to create one. I fear that some of our best scholars have done this upon occasion. We don’t have to know everything, so it is perfectly alright to say “I don’t know”.

VIEWING THE KINGDOMS

If I consider that most of our readers are conservative, it should be evident that there are some kingdoms outlined in scripture about which there should be no debate. God is the ruler of all things for time and eternity, and there is no exception to this. It includes all time and space, every grain of sand, and the entire universe. We will let you argue about the name, but this universal kingdom includes all other kingdoms; yet it is not like any of them. This kingdom is the whole; all others are the parts. Finite humans are not building, growing, or making this kingdom. While we may participate in it, God is totally responsible for everything about it.

Most of us would agree that there is a millennial, Davidic, messianic kingdom to come. Christ is king of this one-thousand-year rule, and it will include all the earth and the people living on it. It is prophesied, but it is not here yet. We are not building it, growing it, preparing it, or making it. We do not need to pray for it. It will come in the time that God has promised. Theologians love to invent things, and they even like to take credit for things they have not done and cannot do. This kingdom is part of the universal kingdom, but it is not the whole. It is similar, but not equal to it.

Any elementary student of the Old Testament would know that there was a kingdom that was a theocratic monarchy. While that kingdom may be characterized as folding into the millennial kingdom, it is not the same as, or equal to it. That kingdom is part of the universal kingdom, but it is not the same as and not equal to it. It may even have similarities, but it is a part and not the whole.

There are many earthly kingdoms recorded in the Bible. There is even a kingdom of darkness over which Satan reigns. Even these are part of the universal kingdom, because God rules over all things and has the final word on anything.

WHAT IS NOT A KINGDOM

You will note that some of the kingdoms other folks might list are missing. This was done deliberately, because at this point they tend to enter the “guessing zone”. I will admit there is a lot of room to discuss the various terms used in that circle of debate. What needs to be made clear is that we do not live in a kingdom age. Yes, the church is part of the universal kingdom; and we will reign with Christ in the messianic kingdom. The church, however, is not a kingdom. Such a view is not stated in the text, and Christ is not king of the church. Yes, he is the Lord, the head, the bridegroom, the cornerstone; but the text does not say he is king of the church. He is ruler, but similarities are not equals. He is king of Israel, but that does not make him king of the church.

We are not building, growing, making, or producing a kingdom or the church. God is building the church, and it is dangerously assumptive to attach our name to His creation. This is the age of the church; it is not the age of a kingdom or the kingdom. So, is it alright to sing “King of my life, I crown thee now”? That would depend on what He really is to you personally. I want Him to rule my life. I want Him to be Lord. I want him to control me. You can call it anything you choose, but the question would be, “Is He ruling your life and mine”?

THE BIG LIE Monday, Feb 18 2013 

The unregenerate heart holds few surprises. While it may not be as evil as it might be, one can only wonder at the amount of sinful activity it produces. We are always surprised when a child of Satan actually participates in something good, because that is not his nature. The world of communication is filled with man’s efforts to cover sinful attitudes and actions. The use of “turn-speak” is only one example. Using new words with cloudy meanings in order to cover old words that hold harsh reality is certainly nothing new. Claiming good intentions in an effort to hide heinous perversions has simply become a way of life. When Jesus was faced with the question of good, however, He said “…there is none good but one, that is, God”. (Matthew 19:17) Only the true child of God has the capacity for true good, and this is because the God who is good dwells in each believer.

Not only is it possible for the redeemed one to have good in his/her life; it is expected. The surprise comes when a believer chooses to speak or do evil, because that is not the nature of the God who dwells within. The saint is out of character when attempting to cover up his sin and disobedience. We call this the “Adam syndrome”. Never in my lifetime, though, have I seen such a prevalent practice among those who profess salvation as is evident today. This attitude has become epidemic, but remember the old spiritual that said “everyone talking about heaven ain’t goin’ there”!

The covering up of sin has become a much-used tool in both evangelicalism and fundamentalism today, and we need to focus on one particular aspect of this practice. There is a well-worn but foolish phrase being used constantly which tries to convince us that methods do not relate to belief: “We have changed our method, but not our message”. That is impossible, and down in their hearts, they know it. Denying the link between methods and faith is part of the Adam Syndrome; it is “The Big Lie”.

OUT OF THE HEART

Jesus taught that all issues, both evil and good, flow out of the heart. (Matthew 12:35) Any attempt to divorce action from motive in the normal life is impossible. For both the children of God and the children of the devil, the source of any action or method comes from the heart. The inner man represents what we believe, and every word or deed in your life today comes from what you believe. This is not a light matter; men want to be free to do their own thing without any interference from a holy God. There is only one real reason why the pseudo-scientist pushes the folly of the Big Bang theory and evolution – it has to do with what they believe. The first chapter of the book of Romans details this motive: it is the motive of fools, both in what they believe and in what they refuse to believe.

Paul writes that God expects better things from believers, because actions do come from what they believe. When trying to cover a rebellion of the flesh, a believer is acting out of character and violating his new nature. The practice of covering one’s own base desires by trying to separate them from what he believes is nonsense. It is dangerous to try and cover actions that rise from anything but the true faith detailed for us in the Word. (Proverbs 28:13-14)

DEFENDING THE IMPOSSIBLE

It is impossible for a person to do anything that does not rise from his belief. There is a positive side to that. A person who changes his method because of greater understanding of the Word finds it beneficial. We never really arrive; we just continue to grow. As a result, positive changes that rise from our belief are good for us. The whole point of this article, however, is that to say there is no relationship between method and message is a statement without merit. It is impossible, since all our actions rise from our beliefs.

Many of today’s changes in methodology result from a lowering of theological standards. The opposite is also true in that the change in methodology may affect our view of biblical authority. Francis Schaeffer rightly pointed out that a society is affected by art, music, literature, media, law, science, and medicine. It is also true that a society is reflected in these categories. That is why, when you see or hear something in an area, you are often able to tie it to a certain historical cultural setting.

The question is, “Why would anyone deny that methods and messages are joined by a silver cord?” It is because this is the nature of the flesh. We want our own way, even if it means we have to attempt to tell God what to do. So strong is our lust for the present cosmos that it becomes easy to say that “God has not spoken to this” or “He is not interested in that area of life”. The truth is that God desires to supervise our “every thought to the obedience of Christ”. (II Corinthians 10:5) That is true of both what we do and how we do it, particularly in ministry. Defending an unsupervised methodology is like telling God to mind His own business… and He will; you can be sure of that!

WHO DOES THIS?

It is very interesting to note the sources of some of these new approaches for which so many of today’s leaders seem to be clamoring. In the majority of cases, the ideas are not coming from trusted biblical theologians; rather, they come from people who may know about the Bible, but who demonstrate that they do not know the Bible. On the receiving end, we can only wonder why people in our circles are so quick to swallow ideas that have not been tested by the text of scripture. In many cases, it may be that they are unfamiliar with basic Bible theology and therefore are not wary of adopting things that do not rise from our basic beliefs.

This discussion is similar to the defense that left-leaning leaders offer in academic institutions. They tell us that they still have their original statement of faith, but it is neither taught nor practiced; it is nothing but paper and ink. This flawed model is where a lot of flawed method comes from. It makes no difference where the error is born; denying the connection between practice and faith, method and message, is downright dangerous. It is not only a lie – it is the Big Lie.

THE SINE QUA NON OF HERMENEUTICS Thursday, Jan 31 2013 

According to the clock of life, I am living in the last minute of mine. This sobering thought has caused me to approach this new year with a different perspective than heretofore. The following are some of the things I have determined to consider. I will not let other people determine who my friends are. I will not be afraid to speak the truth, hopefully in love, no matter what doing so may cost me. I will not be intimidated by pseudo-intellectuals and prideful scholars. I will use plain speech so you will not have to wonder what I mean. I will not be silent when truth is falling in the streets. I will not attack another person’s character, and my discussions will be about ideas and not about people.

With these things in mind, I will spend massive amounts of time in reading and research. I will do those things that others may not be able or willing to do. I will focus on those areas that God has highlighted in my life through these fifty-three years of ministry and academic pursuit. In my reading already this year, something has become very clear to me: it is a waste of time to read and write much of what is found in most of the blogs. Even the scholars are disappointing in that they run in endless circles with little help for what really matters in life. They remind me of the philosophers at Mars Hill, …which spend their time in nothing else, but either to tell or hear some new thing. (Acts 17:21)

In my reading, I have noted a common thread among these “minglers” of the mind. There is a lot of talk about interpretation and the use of literal interpretation, but there is very little evidence that the one biblical hermeneutic found in the body of scripture is used. It appears that many of these commentators have copied the liberal pattern, where they “complicate to confuse”. There is very little evidence that the normal hermeneutic is understood or used. This is one of the reasons my focus will emphasize the “normal, plain, consistent, literal” interpretation; this is the “sine qua non” of hermeneutics.

JUST A SIDELIGHT

For the last thirteen years, God has involved us in a ministry in the Arabic world. Upon arriving there, we found a zeal and passion that is seldom found among American Christians. On the other hand, there was almost no possession of a theology that is biblical. There was a lot of admixture, but little that represented the solid core of dogmatic theology. What we quickly learned was that there was little biblical understanding of how truth got into the scripture and how it is taken from the scripture. The first step was to deal with inspiration and revelation, resulting in a text that was without error or the possibility of causing error. With that part of the training settled, the most difficult task was to teach the one system that God has given for extracting that truth from scripture. The bad habit of “personal interpretation” was hard to erase from even the best of our friends. In due time, the one biblical system – normal, plain, consistent, literal – became clear to some of them. It was as if the light suddenly went on! In the words of leaders in that country, “the whole of scripture suddenly became consistent and clear”. We taught them to ask, “What does the text say?”

These servants of God have learned to let the text speak for itself. Prior to this time, they had inserted or assumed anything they wanted the text to say. Many of them wept as they saw that the one biblical hermeneutic was mathematical, scientific in nature, and reliable. Students who were used to coming up with a dozen different ideas were finally able to find a unanimous interpretation for texts that had only confused them in the past. Their confidence in the scripture was settled, and they will never be the same. Admittedly, some went away using the word “literal”, but they were still rewriting their own Bibles out of habit.

BACK HOME ON THE FARM

Here at home, listening to and reading the works of our peers, I discovered the same thing. Many of our friends give lip service to the normal use of language, but they often change the rules. The result is theological confusion. I often refer to the “theological error of the month”. Moderate evangelicals have taken the lead on this dark trail. The “emerging church” at least tries to hide its mismanagement of the biblical text, but the “emergent church” is proud of their heresy. Why would they teach that there is no hell? Might it be because they are going there?

At the same time, my real concern is more nearby, in the circles in which we travel. A caller to our radio broadcast some years ago asked, “Why are there so many denominations?” “After all’, she said, “don’t we all use the same Bible?” “Use” is the operative word here. That is exactly why there are so many different denominations and beliefs. It is rank disobedience to use the Bible to get our own way and to make the text say what one wants it to say.

Even though it rises from the same problem, my concern is not broad denominational disagreement. The real issue is why, in our narrower fellowships, we have so many divergent interpretations of the same text. A fellow professor told me that it was because we have all brought “presuppositions” to the text, making it impossible for each of us to get the same answer. He was right, in that we do bring presuppositions to the text; all of us do. He is wrong, however, about the trusted, mathematical system that God has given us. That system – the “sine qua non” of hermeneutics – will, if we allow it, erase our presuppositions and open our hearts and minds to the truth in the text.

SIMPLIFY TO CLARIFY

The liberal mind deliberately “complicates to confuse”. A sickening reality of modern education is that it pretends to be “fair and balanced” about truth. The biblical Christian, on the other hand, strives to “simplify to clarify”. This is at the heart of the teachings of the greatest Teacher that ever walked the face of this earth. Our Lord’s effectiveness is clearly shown in the way that He taught as well as what He taught. Christ passed these great truths on to us so that we will remember that what is important is obedience to the scripture, not the shrewdness of the human instrument. We need add nothing to the foundation of hermeneutics; the system of interpretation God gave us is the “normal, plain, consistent, literal” use of language. Obeying the grammar, the context, and the historical setting of the text will give us truth in place of presupposition. It will also tell us when someone is pulling our theological leg.