Sunday, November 29, 2015

Bible References and Mobile Devices

The other day, I happened to visit one of my sites that uses numerous Scripture references with my cell phone. (Some of the articles here can be chock full o' references.) People with mobile devices will see something like Luke 6:22 as plain text, and may be asking, "What does expect us to do, go and look up all of those references?" No, not really.

It takes a passel of time for me to give links to many references in, say, Bible Gateway or something. And that's after looking things up myself in the first place. (This article I did for Genesis Week has a passel of Bible verses embedded in the text, and putting those in took almost as long as writing the article itself.) I have something installed called Reftagger that works with computers that use mouse pointers — just hover over the link, and the verse pops up, as well as a link to read more if it's a long passage. Unfortunately, mobile devices are left out of it. They have to be — no pointers to hover with.


A short explanation of what's going on with Bible references, and why people with mobile devices are unlikely to see what I tried to make available to them.
Reconstructed with a screenshot and clip art of a pointing hand.
So, it looks like my suggestion is that if someone wants to check out my Scriptural support and see if I'm using proper references, come back to the article when you're on a computer that has mouse stuff happening. Sorry for the inconvenience, but I thought I should at least explain what's happening.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Clarifications on Calvinism

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

This is a clarification of some remarks I've made about Calvinism and Reformed theology. Some of those may prompt people to think that I'm an enemy of Calvinism. Not hardly! So, if you're an angry Arminian (read closely, I'm not talking about Armenians), don't be looking to recruit me in a crusade against Calvinism — I get good teachings from both camps.

There are Calvinists who are arrogant, and meaner than a sack full of rattlesnakes, acting like Mormons who are trying to convert Christians from Arminianism or something else to the "doctrines of grace". I don't cotton to being told I'm an immature Christian ("Once you grow in the faith, you'll understand") or even that I'm unsaved because I don't accept all of their views. Someone who acts like that is full of pride, despite the false modesty of saying that "the elect were chosen by God before the foundations of the world". For having no choice in the matter, some are amazingly un-humble — which makes as much sense in me taking pride in winning my division ("display class" thematic) of a stamp collector's exhibition, of which I had the only entry. Hooray for me! (As the crowd yawns.)


Some things I've said in the past may make people think I'm an enemy of Calvinism. No, I'm not an enemy, but refuse the label of Calvinist or Arminian.

Remarks like those above can get me into trouble, what with people putting words in my mouth, reading too quickly, and the like. Fact is, there are Reformed doctrines that I fully agree with.

One is perseverance of the saints (or the somewhat derogatory "once saved, always saved"). That doctrine is misunderstood by its detractors, but I can make a reasonable case for it. This belief is contrary to traditional Arminianism, but briefly, if you cannot obtain salvation by your own efforts, you cannot keep it that way, either. Or was the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross insufficient after all (Heb. 10:10-14, 2 Cor. 5:21, Rom. 4:1-8)? A doctrine saying that you can commit a sin just before you die and end up in Hell is unscriptural, and disgusts me. God did not give us a spirit of fear, but security and peace.

Another doctrine that Calvinists and Arminians agree on, and I join in, is often called total depravity. No, it doesn't mean that nobody can do good things (Matt. 7:9-10). Rather, it says that sin taints every part of us, including our thinking. People can have a measure of "goodness", but do not meets God's standard. Anti-theists and anti-creationists believe they are doing "good" by persecuting Christians and creationists, but their thinking is corrupted, and they are actually doing evil. We have all sinned (Rom. 3:23, 6:23) and need God's mercy (Eph 2:8-9).

When I study on it a spell, it seems that the foundation of Calvinism is the doctrine of election. Now, I cannot debate the subject effectively, and freely admit that there are some support verses that I can't fully deal with. However, there are verses that also seem to indicate that Christ died for all, not just the ones he chose ahead of time that would be saved. When those are pointed out to Calvinists, they give a kind of answer that indicates that the plain reading of the inerrant Word is unclear, and they have the right understanding, so they have to explain it to you. The first two doctrines that I discussed above can be defended without the doctrine of election, but it seems to me that if Calvinism loses that doctrine, the others collapse.

Calvinists seem to have a high regard for Scripture) which surprises me when people like Dr. R.C. Sproul vacillate on Genesis). I've encountered Arminians who not only have a low view of Scripture, but are willing to introduce heresies (theistic evolutionists use a form of the Pelagian heresy). So, I am convinced that neither camp is completely right, but both have truth in some of their views. Also, there are people that I believe will accept doctrines or beliefs because someone they admire accepts them (a kind of genetic fallacy). Whatever teaching or doctrine is presented, compare it with Scripture, keep it in context, and don't reject a fellow Christian who does not happen to hold to your favorite views on these matters.



Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dealing with Important Things

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

For quite a long spell, it's been interesting to me how things come together, and I think I see a divine hand in it. Maybe I'll read articles and hear podcasts on the same topic in a short space of time without planning on it. There have been times when I've been writing an article and a podcast comes along with valuable material that parallels what I'm in the process of doing. It happened again.

A very important truth that I've learned is balance. Ever hear the expression, "Truth out of balance"? That's when truth becomes excessive and harmful because it's misused. (I reckon that we all get a bit unbalanced when we get too agitated about something we've learned, so we study up on it, then maybe talk a mite too much about the subject.) People need to get a proper perspective on the importance and priority of some things. Seriously.

I've been going on about how some Christians get judgmental with each other, majoring on minor issues, and elevating side issues to supreme importance. There were times when I named certain side issues that were not gospel issues, and people proved me right by attacking me personally about the examples I used, and ignoring the points of the articles themselves. (What's with people's egos nowadays? I can discuss a concept and use and example, and someone who was unnamed can complain, "Hey! He's talkin' 'bout me!" Narcissism much?) While I was cognating on judgment and balance and things, oh my, Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries had a podcast that caused me to get the bit in my teeth, jump the corral fence, and get to writing this here article.


Christians can get into majoring on minors, and getting truth out of balance. Then we look down on each other. Some perspective and balance are greatly needed.
Text added to a screenshot of Dr. White's November 13, 2015 video (linked below).
Dr. White is a Calvinist. I do not claim the label of either Calvinist or Arminian, but I like a lot of his material, and even like the man. (Don't reckon he'd care for me too much, I'm a bit of a jerk sometimes.) But I also disagree with some of his views. Regular readers know that I listen to (and link to) material by Chris Rosebrough of Fighting for the Faith. Pastor Rosebrough is a Lutheran! Gasp, horrors! He's taught me a great deal, but I disagree with him on certain theological matters.

Should I, or anyone, have a narrow "Clone Club" perspective, "If you want to be one of his, gotta act like one of us"? If so, I'd have to reject Dr. White and Pastor Rosebrough. Since we disagree on side issues, should I condemn them to Hell? Really, many people act like that. (Maybe you no longer like me because I like someone you don't like. Ever stop to think that maybe someone with whom you disagree on a nonessential matter may actually have something valid to say, and you can learn from him or her? Try extending them some grace and Christian love. We have to prioritize what is essential, nonessential, and actually harmful. (I am not talking about cohabitating with false teachers, ain't no way.) And try mighty hard to listen without a filter from tradition or emotional bias.

Sometimes Calvinists get on my nerves more than angry Arminians, but I still use presuppositional apologetics, which is rooted in Calvinism/Reformed theology. There was a bumper sticker that said, "If it ain't country, it ain't music". I've run into some people who may as well have had a sticker that said, "If you ain't Calvinist, you ain't Christian". Seriously, I was told that if I didn't accept the "doctrines of grace", then I'm an immature Christian, a sinner, or possibly even unsaved! Such a ridiculous attitude is based on circular reasoning and a wagon-load of pride. Fact is, nobody has all doctrines nailed down completely. Tinhorns on either side need to stop looking down on other Christians as if they were "lesser" or even unsaved, you savvy?

Dr. White is friends with Dr. Michael Brown. They have debated each other on Reformed theology, and have teamed up with each other to debate advocates of homosexuality. People have criticized them for being friends and allies on important issues.


Ever heard of dominion theologyDr. Greg Bahnsen was into a form of dominion theology, which is frowned upon by many. He was a presuppositional apologist and a Calvinist, but I like his work anyway. There are some presuppositional apologists who are "better" than others. "I like Bahnsen's explanation of Van Til"..."I'm an advocate of Gordon Clark"..."Jason Lisle's presuppositional approach is not presuppositional enough". Oh, shut up, the lot of you! Division in the body of Christ over which version of presuppositional apologetics is right? Meanwhile, people are going to Hell because you jokers are too busy fighting and debating among yourselves to share the gospel! Priorities, people.

The video and audio (you can pick whichever one) from Dr. White makes many important points. I'd like very much for you to spend an hour and give it some serious attention. Dr. White asks that you try to be consistent, think it through, and see if he makes some points. I know I needed to hear it as well as share it with all y'all.

One thing I'd like you to take note of is how the word "fundamentalist" has changed definitions. With the historical definition of the word, Dr. White and I can be considered fundamentalists. However, today it is not only a pejorative, but implies someone who is legalistic, narrow minded, and just plain ignorant. That second form of the definition is what atheists and anti-creationists use.

There are some other things he touches on in the first few minutes, and the main part begins at the 9:05 mark. Click here to watch or hear "An Hour Long Discussion About What Matters: Freedom, Dividing Lines, Catholicity, the Lordship of Christ".

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What If I Told You...?

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

This is a kind of bridge article for "Christians, Heroes, and Hurt" and another that was previously unwritten, "Dealing with Important Things". In the previous article, I was discussing how some Christians get the bit in their teeth when people they look up to have a downfall. Sometimes, we find out that our heroes are crooks, and other times, we find out that people have other failings. In either case, we find out that people are human after all.

Sure, we know in our minds that everyone has failings, but it seems that we tend to get a mite upset anyway when they show their frailties. The idea for this one came to me because I had a headache when I was writing the last one.


Too many Christians have a fondness for judging each other on superficial matters. More biblical truth and love, less legalism.


What if I told you (or word got around):
  • I took an extended break and used the work computer for personal research, and got in trouble
  • Some of my girlfriends are jealous of my wife
  • I was harsh with an atheist attacker
  • I get spells of anxiety and depression
  • I got away with a hit-and-run with property damage
  • My cologne is very expensive
  • I use strong profanity when software is bucking like a bronco
  • My family and I are not close
  • Some of my contacts are very dangerous people
  • I stole my wristwatch from Wal-Mart 
  • The occasional rye and seltzer sets well with me
  • That the expression "What if I told you" in the "Matrix Morpheus" "meme" was not actually used in the Matrix movies
I'm borrowing from Rush Limbaugh and illustrating absurdity by being absurd. (Come to think of it, I do that frequently.) While the haters take those "confessions" and spread them around, the rest of us can get on with this. The last one listed is true, and I'm not too fond of cologne. Maybe a couple of others are true, but I'm not telling you which. Last "confession": it was kind of fun making up that list. Maybe I should have used "confession bear"?

One reason that I had a period of about fifteen years where I rudely put God on the back burner was because of the way many Christians acted. They — we — tend to get intolerant of people who do not act and think in a way that we think is best. Although I had been hurt, the problem was that I had unrealistic expectations, and took my eyes of Christ. Too many Christians do that. I reckon it's human nature to speak ill of others. Although atheists have a great time badmouthing Christians (with or without cause), there are Christians that like to gossip. That is beyond unhelpful, it is sinful (2 Cor. 12:20, 1 Tim. 5:13, Prov. 11:13 NIV). 

In fact, although it's good to sound warnings when someone is getting bad teachings, we can get burrs under our saddles in the nonessentials. "You believe / do not believe / do / don't do what?" A good part of the problem is legalism. People judge others on little details. If you smoke, drink, have a tattoo, slip up and take the Lord's name in vain, go to movies, play cards, these and a host of other things can disqualify you from being a good Christian in some people's eyes. (Take a look at "The Lie of Legalism" for a good article.) The title track on Steve Taylor's debut EP was "I Want to be a Clone". It talked about rigidity, legalism, church-ianity, man-made rules, and more. Guess what, pilgrim? This is rooted in pride! A powerful line in there was, "If you want to be one of his, gotta act like one of us!" What if I told you that in some places, Christians have a smoke and drink, and nobody thinks anything of it? 

People grow at different rates according to the Spirit's leading; there is a God, and you are not him. Sure, offer advice, counsel, teaching. We all need to be humble and teachable, as long as we compare what is said to us with Scripture, which is the final authority. I'm not talking about sins that destroy lives or disqualify someone from ministry because the qualifications of an elder must be taken seriously. People like Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Kong Hee, and others found out the hard way, but their egos kept them going and some sheeple still follow them.

Christ followers, if you find out about failings or just something you don't like about another Christian, and it's not a violation of biblical principles, let it go. If it's sin, serious error, or something else, admonish him or her with gentleness and Christian love. More biblical truth and love, less judging. Less hurting, especially for no good reason. You savvy?


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Christians, Heroes, and Hurt

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen
Edited 11-22-2015


Despite what many unbelievers seem to think, when people become Christians, they don't have to surrender their humanity. Yes, we make mistakes and have occasional sins in our lives (Heb 12:1, 1 John 1:9), and do many things that everyone else does. That is, we have needs, desires, jobs, eat, drink, breathe, sleep, do some mattress dancing with our spouses, have hobbies, hang around with friends, and so on. We also have people we look up to.

Two things that cause pain to Christians are finding out people we admire have flaws, and also being told that we're following false teachers. But Christians are to instruct each other in love.
Image credit: Pixabay / Unsplash

Who are the Heroes?

Anyone can be elevated to hero status among Christians, just like our counterparts in the world. When it someone of "our own kind", people tend to get excited about someone of their own ethnic, religion, sex, age, country, political views, and so on. Some people that Christians elevate include:
  • A sports star is very public about his or her faith
  • Musicians that mention Jesus favorably, or even make claims to be Christians
  • That smooth-talking Rev. Makeya Feelgood on television
  • Someone who has videos that have some interesting material and maybe "special" insight that nobody else has
  • Your local pastor who really, truly does have something worth hearing
  • High-profile ministry leaders
  • A friend, family member, or even a social media acquaintance
  • Other people that are praised as great Christians, so we get caught up in the excitement
So yes, we have people that we look up to with varying degrees of admiration. This can be all right when it's kept in proper perspective, but can be a problem if we put too much emphasis on those we admire. For that matter, people in entertainment industry are often looked up to for advice on spiritual matters. Who are they, really? We should not be following musicians because they promote certain views, and evaluating their opinions carefully.


Downfall

Seems safe to assume that just about everyone knows the pain of being betrayed by a friend. In Christian circles, that betrayal can have varying sources, many of which are not legitimate. A professing Christian betrays your trust, lies about you, steals your property, or something else may happen. Finding out that you have differing views on nonessentials may be challenging, but depending on how serious it is, there is seldom a need to break fellowship. Finding out that someone promotes Bible-denying heresies, well, they need to be avoided and false teachers are to be exposed (John 3:20, Eph. 5:11, 1 John 4:1, Jude 1:4, 2 Peter 2:1, Matt. 7:15-20).

What about those people that we have placed on pedestals? (There are crooks and hypocrites that present a version of Christianity, and we need to exercise righteous judgment, John 7:24, according to Scripture.) Many of them did not ask to be made into heroes. Whether teachers or media figures, they did not die for our sins and bodily rise from the dead (1 Cor. 1:12-13). When criticizing, are we being judgmental? For example, country singer Carrie Underwood has been forthright about her beliefs, and said that she approves of homosexual marriage. Does that maker her bad, or not a Christian, as some have claimed? Although her choice of a liberal "progressive" church is certainly lacking, her stance on that issue does not disqualify her from the body of Christ (Eph. 2:8-9).

I'm on record as saying that I seek glory for God, not glory for Bob, and I've been very reluctant to use my own experiences, but I hope they will help make some points. Family, friends, supporters of The Question Evolution Project and other social media acquaintances sometimes look up to me for spiritual advice, which is biblically rather scary (James 3:1). I've lost friends over my political views, biblical creation science,  authority of Scripture, cessationism (which has garnered hostility, and one person's friendship cooled considerably when this view was discovered), and others. There are some views that I have that I do not tell anyone because they are irrelevant, or I have not formed a strong argument for them. What if some of my other beliefs became public? In addition, I've publicly stated that I've done rotten things in my past. What if some of those came to light, whether they were fifteen years ago or fifteen hours ago? Would I lose "followers" and friends? That's up to them as to how they want to judge me, but I hope they would judge according to Scripture (which includes forgiveness, Matt. 18:21-22, Luke 17:3-4, Col. 3:12-13), not legalistically, and not from anger because I don't support a pet nonessential belief. I can't live up to each individual's preconceptions, sorry.

You should see that my experiences are relevant to this article. Just ride up on the hill and get the big picture: Christians need to remember that friends, family, religious celebrities, and so on have differing views. We have no business rejecting them over nonessentials, for violating our traditions and preferences, or by being legalistic (Col. 2:20-23). For that matter, we should not be judging them based on rumors or from the claims of unbelievers.


Wounds of a Friend

Now we have to take a fork in the trail toward something that is very important.

Most people don't cotton to getting bad news. What if I told you that popular recording artists Phillips, Craig and Dean have a history of Modalist cult involvement, and their Trinitarian claims are unclear and suspect? Would you disassociate with me? I told someone that Kent Hovind was involved in King James Onlyism (which is legalistic and very divisive), and that friend grew very distant from then on. (For that matter, people put Kent Hovind on a pedestal that is insulting to the rest of creation science, as if he was the only one teaching creation, so they're sure glad to have their hero back, as this image illustrates.) There are times when we feel hurt or even betrayed when a Christian friend informs us that we are following a false teacher or that we need to repent of something. It's our business to watch over each other, and doing it in love.

Christians preach repentance for salvation, and people get mighty riled about that. But we do it because Jesus commands us to (Matt. 28:18-20, Acts 1:8), and because we don't want to see them going to Hell. Similarly, we correct each other so we can hold fast to the truth (1 Thess. 5:11).

It causes me anguish seeing someone I care deeply about getting involved in false teachings or taking a risk at being deceived. Speaking up may cause anger, even when done with gentleness, love, and respect. (There are times when a sharp rebuke is necessary, Mark 16:14, Luke 17:3, 2 Tim. 4:2, Titus 1:3, but we need to be very careful when doing this. But that element is beyond what I am discussing here.) Our guide and authority is the Word of God, and we are to be led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

Some professing Christians meddle in occult matters, a topic that the Bible strictly forbids. Here is a podcast on that subject. Someone is liable to be annoyed that I brought that up, but it's because I care!

Are you angry when someone tells you that you need to repent, or that you're riding a trail that can lead to disaster? Even though some may say things to build up their own egos, some of us genuinely care about you.

Also, those of us who are on the receiving end of information and correction should give consideration to what is offered. For those who give the information and it is not accepted, well, maybe we're wrong, maybe the Spirit is not working in that person on that thing at that moment, or something else. No need to be a rattlesnake and strike every time that person walks by. Let God be God.

Still love me?



 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

"God Told Me": Why Unbelievers Hate Christians Part 3

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

For those who want the background on this unintended series, I discussed the origins of "Why Unbelievers Hate Christians" in "Making Money From End of the World Fears", the reading of which is optional but helpful. You may want to see "Crooks: Why Unbelievers Hate Christians Part 2" as well.

Once again, I was listening to a podcast at work and chomping at the bit to gallop home and write an article on it. 

Christians have enough problems dealing with critics and mockers without some of us giving them reasons to do so. I could write articles on nutty people who profess the name of Christ as a career (as well as false teachers), but there are others who do it far better than I do.

There are professing Christians who claim to have direct revelation from God, as if the canon of Scripture was still open. Such claims need to be challenged from the written Word of God.
Unpopular Opinion Puffin's opinion is unpopular among some people.

Still, this one bothers me, and I hope it can be an object lesson. Opal Covey is running for mayor of Toledo, Ohio. She's run four times before, and lost every time. The part I don't cotton to is that she makes the claim that God told her to do this. Later, she claimed that she won in the past, but the election was stolen. If she doesn't win this time, God will destroy Toledo. Chris Rosebrough asks, "What kid of God does this woman believe in?"

Whoa! Restrain your equines! There are far too many people running around claiming to get direct, personal revelations from God. Worse, there are people who simply accept it as "a move of the Holy Spirit", and if you resist or object, you're resisting the Spirit. (I've heard of people wanting to do the right thing and checking a "word from God" with the real Word of God and being told that they're "blaspheming the Spirit"!) For that matter, giving "credit" to the Holy Spirit for misunderstandings of Scripture and false teaching is blasphemy in itself. Jesus said the Spirit will testify about him (John 15:26), not you, your special secret revelation, your bid for election, and especially false teachings. Give glory to God, not yourself. Watch who you're calling a blasphemer, blasphemer!

This is prejudicial conjecture and bigotry.
Smart Christians compare their actions with Scripture.
If someone says, "God told me...", have them show you where it's written.
What seems to be an all-access pass for these people is tongue-talking. If you cut loose in an unknown language against all the rules in Scripture (1 Cor. 12:10, 1 Cor. 12:30, 1 Cor. 14:27-28, 1 Cor. 14:40), then somehow you're considered legit, and your "prophesies" are on the level.. Not hardly! Satan counterfeits signs and wonders, but what passes as the biblical gift of tongues is actually nonsense, sorry to break it to you. And it is not a "secret prayer language" that makes you a spiritual hotshot, though many get full of pride on this. By the way, why would God need to work your vocal cords and mouth to build up your spirit? Such a claim is based on a Pentecostal or "Charismatic" tradition, which in turn is based on a misunderstanding of the biblical texts. News flash: the canon of Scripture is closed, we're not tacking on new "revelations" — especially on someone's say-so. I suspicion that some of these tinhorns are using their "gifts" to boost their egos as well as make money (Titus 1:11).

Ask questions of these people. Not only have them show where their claim is supported in the Word of God, but if you can point out how they are violating Scripture, why should anyone then believe that their utterance is valid? They are manipulating people's emotions.

When someone makes a claim about God, it needs to be check against God's Word, not tradition, opinion, or emotion. Too many of their followers are gullible, and lack biblical depth and discernment. To people who have depth of biblical knowledge and guidance of the Spirit, these fakers are quickly spotted, and often laughable.

I need to be very clear on another point. Someone may say, "I believe that God led me to do such and so", well, that's a mighty far cry from a claim of having a direct revelation from God. 

We were warned that false prophets would come along (Matt. 24:24). People who claim to give prophesies are notorious for having a terrible record of accuracy. Even though the Bible gives the test of a prophet (Deut. 18:22), some feel that this does not apply since the New Testament began. This implies inconsistency on God's part, and people today are open to deception. Some of this come from the New Apostolic Reformation deception.

Opal Covey was angry with Fred LeFebvre of radio station WIOT. She told him that he was resisting God's will, rebuked him, shook the dust off her feet, and then railed at him in "tongues". Now, I have no idea of what Fred's views are, but Fred showed a better understanding of the Bible than Opal did! From what I saw in the video, he acted in a professional manner. You can see the article and video here. I'm looking forward to adding to this article about her loss of the election and how Toledo is still standing. ADDENDUM 11-02-2015: Opal walked out on Scott Sands of WSPD during an interview today after he challenged her on the tongue-talking and being a "prophetess". I reckon he was a mite irked. Who wouldn't be? Also, she claimed she won, but the votes were stolen. Sure, you betcha.

For more analysis, Chris Rosebrough of Fighting for the Faith discussed this incident (it's the podcast that got me all het up in the first place). My my reckoning, it begins at about the 14:55 mark. To listen for free or download, click here. In addition, here's his update on exceptional wackiness from Covey, starting at the 18:00 minute mark.

When someone claims to have a direct revelation from God, check it with the Word. Most likely, your best bet is to saddle up and ride for the hills. But bring your Bible along, you can trust that. ADDENDUM 11-05-1959: Opal Covey came in last in the election, and Toledo is still standing. I guess who they elected is probably better than an addlepated charismaniac.