Friday, January 22, 2016

A Cowboy Bible?

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Before I get going on this, I'd better clarify something, even though many of my regular readers (and podcast interview listeners) know: my "cowboy" moniker is not earned. It's a nickname I picked up a few years ago, and it shows my cowboy attitude. I don't know nothin' 'bout no hayburners; tell me to saddle up a horse and ride, I'd probably get kicked, fall off, and land in poo. So, I need a guide. Yes, I lived in the West — the west side of Michigan. Anyway, being a cowboy at heart has helped me get things done. My father had a cowboy attitude as well, which is something I learned from testimonials at his funeral. Anyway, adding some Western-style lingo in posts and articles adds color and personality, I reckon, even though I usually have a conversational style for the most part.

Portions of the "Simplified Cowboy Version" of the Bible are available. But this paraphrase is insulting to both the Bible and to the cowboys the writers are trying to reach.
Assembled from components at Clker Clip Art
A while back, I was looking for cowboy Bibles and came across the "Simplified Cowboy Version". It is not pretending to be a translation, but a paraphrase. As they say on their Facebook Page, "The SCV is NOT a bible. It is a Bible paraphrase. Think of it as The Message (for cowboy and cowgirls)." Oh, thanks a heap! The Message is a dreadful paraphrase-commentary, and should be avoided by Christians.

My problem is that, although the folks behind this at "Save the Cowboy" seem to have good intentions, they are ultimately corrupting the Word of God. For example (again from their Facebook Page):
Jesus calmly replied, "Isaiah foretold the future about you when he said:
'These people will say that they ride for me,
but it's just all talk.
What they call church is just
teaching a bunch of rules and stuff that they came up with. They aren't teaching what God said.'
Y'all don't ride for God. You just make up stuff and say it comes from Him."
-Mark 7:6-8 Simplified Cowboy Version
This makes Jesus look like a dumb hick, and is also insulting to the people they are trying to reach. If you want to give them the Word of God, then do so — without insulting their intelligence. I'm definitely not one of those folks who thinks that the King James Version is the only true Bible and that every Christian should learn how to read its 1769 English. For people who want something accurate but not too difficult, there are many accurate modern Bible translations available, whether full-sized or New Testament shirt-pocket editions. 

I've been pleasantly surprised by the World English Bible, which is available in many forms, including free versions to download. Many people consider the New American Version to be the most accurate version in English, but is not the easiest to read. Also, the English Standard Version is readable and accurate, as is the older New International Version. (A special NIV New Testament, "The Way for Cowboys", has the Bible text, plus some extras for people of a cowboy persuasion. I have one.) Less known is the Holman Christian Standard Bible, which is also considered accurate and readable. The New King James Version is reliable and readable as well.

There are good Bibles available for people who don't want to struggle with the text, and can be used for evangelism as well as discipleship. There's no need to add to God's Word and dumb it down. In fact, this "Simplified Cowboy Version" could be considered blasphemous, but I won't hang my hat on that accusation just yet.

Friday, January 1, 2016

False Teaching and Spousal Abuse

This post will be rough, and I make no apologies. Maybe one, though, the podcast was available for almost two months, and I put it off. Probably because it was difficult for me to hear (including the parts about false Christians). But I have to present it because the material is important.

This is not fluffy feel-good material. Spousal and child abuse are serious problems affecting the church. Where do you go when you have a false church that will not help?
Image credit: Pixabay / Counselling
I don't take kindly toward spousal abuse for either party. (Yes, men are abused by women, but you don't hear about that nearly as much.) One time, I was stretching my arms in Cubicle Land and a co-worker was walking by. I said, "I almost hit poor Caitlin". She smiled and said, "Sometimes I need it." She was probably joking, but I felt a twinge. No, you do not "need it". Ever. If I see some ruffian laying a rough hand on her... Domestic abuse is not just physical violence, it's about control. From a Christian standpoint, it involves spiritual abuse and possible demonic influence. Even more so when the kids are involved...

Someone in an abusive relationship should be able to go to the church for help. Unfortunately, many churches are apostate and have low regard for the Word, emphasizing "seeker driven" and feel-good stuff presented as theology. In the case of Kerri Ferguson, she went to alleged pastors Phil Pringle, Brian Houston, Ian Treacy, and Gary Dench. They were no help. For that matter, they were anti-help.

Chris Rosebrough of "Fighting for the Faith" interviewed Kerri Ferguson. The free download is here, and there is additional information here. I really hope you'll tough it out and listen.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Unpardonable Sin

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Sadly, there are some people who are afraid that they have committed the unpardonable sin and are beyond redemption for eternity. While it is good to be concerned, the unpardonable sin is not something that can be committed casually. Think about it. God is not capricious and willing to condemn someone for such a serious sin committed in ignorance or by something said in haste.

Some people are concerned that they have committed the unforgivable sin, and are going to Hell no matter what. It's not that easy. Here are some helpful resources to settle the issue.
ESV Bible text added to Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees by James Tissot / Public Domain
There are several views on this sin. One is that it cannot be committed today, it was a "game over" for the Pharisees who had been condemning him and had finally crossed the line because of the constant hardening of their hearts. Another view is that this sin is the rejection of salvation, where someone dies without Christ. (In the latter case, the end result is the same.) Even some Christians are afraid that they fouled up somehow, and take the unbiblical view of losing their salvation because of it. Indeed, one view is that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is resisting his promptings to repent of specific sins, and it implies that a Christian can lose his salvation, which is false. But if someone is worried that they have committed this unpardonable sin, that itself is a sign that you are not beyond hope, and the situation can be resolved.

A tragic imagining: Someone has died and stands before God. He asks why that person rejected salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. The offender replies, "I figured I committed the unforgivable sin, so I went on with my business". 

Here are some articles, and a link to three sermons by Phil Johnson on the subject. Although I found the second sermon to be the most interesting, the first one is very helpful in setting it up. The third sermon is interesting as well. To hear those, click on "The Unpardonable Sin".

Helpful articles:
While a truly born again believer in Jesus cannot commit this sin, there is no excuse to "live like the devil". Someone who claims to be a Christian and does not "bear fruit in keeping with repentance" is probably unsaved. In fact, a sign of true repentance is wanting to live to please God. I recommend hearing "Hell's Best Kept Secret" as well as "True and False Conversion", available at this link. The above resources should help settle anxieties and disquieting doubts about going to Hell because of a mistake.

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?