Monday, August 25, 2014

So, who exactly is critical of allegory? Really!

On July 18, 2014, Dr. Kevin Bauder posted an article critiquing the national FBFI conference held a little more than a month before in June. Now, right up front I want to note that I too was at the conference.
On a personal note, I must say, Dr. Bauder, the handlebar mustache is one hundred plus years too late. Please, if you desire to be taken seriously then trim the ends of your mustache, the handlebar mustache gives you a comical look, but I digress.
Back to the article, towards the closing of his article, Dr. Bauder gets to the real reason for his writing, the criticism of Calvinism. Now, I give him credit for coming to this in a much better tone than he did back in the early summer of 2009 when he ranted and ran off on his tirade against about five minutes of Pastor Danny Sweatt’s message at the southeast regional FBFI conference in the spring of that year. Back then, Dr. Bauder didn’t just tirade and rant in one article but did so in two articles and finished with snippets from his inbox about his self-made brouhaha. Here in 2014, during the panel discussion Thursday morning it was mentioned that five point Calvinism had no room in the FBFI. Personally, I heartily rejoiced with that proclamation.  Anyone who has had any contact with a five point Calvinist knows that their mindset is, “my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts,” and “I’m right, you’re wrong.” No, there is no room in any organization, or fellowship, or church for that matter, for five point Calvinism and the Biblical alternative (which isn’t Arminianism, by the way, though Calvinist only see things as either/or, Calvinism/Arminianism).
Dr. Bauder continues and voices his displeasure with a message delivered which he calls a “moralistic allegory of Scripture” and wonders how the fellowship could have tolerated such preaching.
This writer is struck by Dr. Bauder’s dislike for the allegory from the pulpit. Dr. Bauder dislikes this? How can this be? I am dumbstruck! I am really quite astonished and sit in utter disbelief that he would say such things about allegory. The reason that I am in this state of shock is because I clearly remember this same Dr. Kevin Bauder writing an allegory. He titled it, The Fortress. He posted this article on February 11, 2011 at his, In the Nick of Time blogsite. Now, there is a hugh difference though between Dr. Bauder’s allegorical article and that preacher’s “moralistic allegory of Scripture.” When that preacher was finished with his message, all who heard him knew exactly what he said and what he meant. No one with any gray matter between his ears who heard the message could walk away wondering, just what did he mean by all that “moralistic allegory of Scripture”? However, we are still wondering just what exactly is Dr. Bauder talking about in his article? The reason for this difference? The preacher explained his way through his “moralistic allegory of Scripture” like any good allegoristic author would do, so that his listeners/readers can fully understand him. Dr. Bauder has not followed suit. He has left the full meaning of his allegory to the whims of the readers’ imagination, so we are left with multiple “truths” being touted by the various readers, with no possible way of determining which “truth” is “the truth” that the author wished to convey. I would have to conclude then, that the preacher at the conference knows how to use allegory for the benefit of his audience, and Dr. Bauder has yet to master allegory. Hey, maybe that’s why Dr. Bauder voiced his displeasure.

In closing, let me say quite clearly, I am not opposed to expositional preaching. As Dr. Bauder pointed out, “Dr. Steve Hankins also delivered a good expository sermon” and I heartily concur and state that it wasn’t just “good” it was excellent. Dr. John MacArthur should listen to the sermon, he could actually learn what expository preaching really is. I preach expository messages. I also preach topical, textual, and textual-topical sermons (to use John A. Broadus’ homiletical classifications of sermons). Variety from the pulpit is a necessary piece to the evangelizing and edifying efforts of the preacher as he stands behind that sacred desk and proclaims God’s Word.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Elvis has left the building

…So goes a popular line when referencing someone who has left. With Matt Olson’s recent posting at his website and Sharper Iron’s subsequent linking to it in their SIfilings, we certainly see that he has left his position he once held as a Baptist pastor. Our Biblical distinctives as Baptists start with, “the Bible is our only (or sole) authority for faith and practice.” In Matt’s opening sentence he repudiates the very foundation of his previously held position as a Baptist. Here is Matt’s opening sentences,
There are many ways we grow in our Christian faith and one of the most significant ways we do this is through the thoughtful reading of good books—often beginning with the Scriptures. Not only are the Scriptures the very words of God, true and authoritative in every way, they go beyond giving us just an intellectual knowledge of God to bringing us into a relationship with Him through His Son. This work is supernatural and transformational. Because of this fact, many believers make an effort to read their Bibles daily. Few, however, expand beyond this to other Christian literature. Over the past two decades of ministry I have become more and more convinced that the study of other literature is an invaluable resource.
Wow! “There are many ways to grow in our Christian faith”?! The greatest harm here is that he intersperses some truth with this off the wall, unorthodox babble. Matt, where is the Scriptural support for such a statement, that we can grow our Christian faith with some other source other than the Word of God? Paul in Romans 10:17 is rather explicit, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Our faith comes by the hearing of the Word of God, not man’s writing no matter how “Christian” his literature might be. Instead, we see the influence of these “two decades of ministry” in which he has been pouring over men’s writings to the point of leaving his Biblical mooring of the Bible being his only source for faith. He has imbibed and accepted the notion of the reformed thinkers that say we need a theologian to give us the understanding of the Scriptures. I have posted in another article this statement,
In a book titled, An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics, Dr. Mal Couch does an excellent job researching and expounding a literal, historical, grammatical approach to interpreting the Scriptures (i.e. Dispensationalism). I would encourage you to find a copy and add it to your library. In chapter 8, titled, The Allegorists Who Undermined the Normal Interpretation of Scripture (pp. 96, 97), he writes,
“With allegory the antics of the gods were purified, but who determined the allegorical interpretations? By whose authority were words and concepts changed? If there were no ‘guidelines’ as to the meaning of the ‘new’ message, how did readers know the authors’ intentions? These problems consistently overshadow allegorical interpretation
The personality most cited for the change to allegorical interpretation is Philo (ca. 20 B.C.-A.D. 54), ‘A philosophical Jew who possessed both reverence for the Mosaic revelation and fondness for Grecian metaphysics, [who] aimed to explore the mystical depths of significances allegedly concealed beneath the Old Testament Scripture.
Philo taught that the milk of Scripture was the literal but the meat was allegory. Thus, there was hidden meaning. The Word of God had two levels: the literal was on the surface, but the allegorical represented the deeper, more spiritual meaning. Therefore, anyone who simply interpreted the Bible on its most natural, normal way was simple and missing the great meanings of the Scriptures. Ramm writes,
Philo did not think that the literal meaning was useless, but it represented the immature level of understanding. The literal sense was the body of Scripture, and the allegorical sense its soul. Accordingly the literal was for the immature, and the allegorical for the mature.
To reiterate, allegorical interpretation creates meaning through the interpreter. Accordingly, allegorist believes the average person may be reading and interpreting wrongly without the help of a scholar or, in the case of Scripture, a wise, well-trained theologian. Often, even today, allegorists look down their noses at those who take the Bible at face value with a normal, literal hermeneutic.” (emphasis mine)
Since this system of interpretation (which is the basis for Reformed theology) requires “a wise, well-trained theologian” to give the fuller, deeper understanding of the Scriptures, then those who are confessedly not a theologian must locate someone who they believe is and place themselves at his or her feet for further instruction. This leaves them at the mercy of the “theologian” for spiritual growth/maturity rather than where the Scriptures places that responsibility which is on the individual (II Peter 3:18 for starters).
That folks, is dangerous territory. History has shown us repeatedly, that relying on other men for our spiritual understanding because we are unable to comprehend apart from their expertise, has enslaved Christianity and deadened the church to the point of the lost running things rather than the regenerated believer. Reformed theology has no place and cannot reside within a true Baptist church, for our very foundational distinctive is at odds with the foundation of Reformed theology’s allegorizing of Scriptures and subsequent reliance upon theologians for its understanding. One or the other foundation will win out, they cannot co-habitate in a church.
Matt must be rather na├»ve of the plethora of Christian literature that is out there for the reading when he states, “Few, however, expand beyond this to other Christian literature.” Christian literature is all the rage and has been for quite some time, to the extent that secular publishing houses have bought some Christian publishing houses (Multnomah Press comes to mind) because it makes good business sense. Even when we narrow down “Christian” to the purer sense of the word, this too has experienced growth and popularity. Now I am not against reading good Christian literature. I have a library and desire to see it grow. The volumes I possess are helpful to me, but they do not to grow my Christian faith because I have read them. My faith doesn’t grow because I read author X’s book on Y. My faith grows because I read the Word of God and the author, God the Holy Spirit, takes that Word and transforms me, changes me, conforms me into the image of Christ. Author X can NEVER accomplish that.

Elvis has left the building and Matt Olson has left the anchored, Biblical position of Baptists down through the centuries who rightfully, Biblically stated, “the Bible is our only (sole) rule for faith (and practice).”

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dr. Albert Mohler’s second visit to BYU: or Balaam’s second chance

Well, here we are again, addressing the issue of Dr. Albert Mohler’s foray into Mormonism. Oh, to be sure and to make it clear, the message given was not in any way caving into any form of recognition of Mormonism (but then neither were Balaam’s messages, they too were spot on). The message itself is not the issue, just as Balaam’s messages were not the issue. To use another blogger’s grandiose title, we have Dr. Albert Mohler, a great “defender of the faith” standing with a crowd of the enemy of that faith (again, much like Balaam standing with the Moabites, enemies of God’s people the Israelites).

What is to be gained by this interchange? Mohler would have us to believe it is to garner support, common cause of moral values, to have future cell mates. Is Mohler so ignorant of Mormonism to think that they would not, for the sake of expediency change their position on certain moral issues when they clash with society? Look at Mormon history. From its founding polygamy was the norm, was their teaching, was necessary for the propagation of future worlds, but then came Utah’s statehood desires. Obviously, polygamy had to go in order to gain acceptance, so the powers that be rescinded polygamous beliefs and monogamy was the order of the day. That was in the decades leading up to the Utah’s 1896 statehood. Fast forward to the 1960’s, now we have the civil rights issue of the segregation of blacks. In Mormon teaching, blacks were not capable of becoming Mormons. They were a despised race, but then came those societal pressures again, and voila, the powers that be came through in a pinch and blacks were accepted. Is there any reason why we should believe the outcome would be different for the societal issues of our day such as homosexual marriage? Utah is already being confronted with the acceptance of homosexuality, do we really think that the Mormon elders will resist to the point of being jailed? But I digress a bit.

I wish to draw our attention to these couple of statements; “You are a university that stands, as all great universities stand, for the importance of ideas and the honor of seeking after the truth. I come to honor the importance of ideas and the centrality of the search for truth with you.” And then in closing, “I pray that God will use this lecture to his gloryand I pray God’s blessings upon you until we meet again.” (emphasis mine)

Really, Dr. Mohler, BYU is a university “seeking after the truth”? Is there any professor at BYU that is teaching Christian doctrine concerning Jesus Christ, the Son of God? Is there any professor laying bare the fallacies of Mormon doctrine? If not, then there is no way that it could be said that they are “seeking after the truth.” This is a Mormon institution of higher learning preparing the next generation of Mormons to propagate Mormon doctrine, not to propagate or seek after the truth.

The closing phrase of Mohler’s speech rings rather worthy of John’s condemnation, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (II John 10, 11)

I call our attention to this quote,

The proper response to such false teachers is a major concern of John’s second epistle. John is directly concerned with one particular way of denying the gospel, refusing to confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. John says that many people (presumably, people who view themselves as Christians) do not make this confession. Such persons, says John, are deceivers and antichrists (2 John 7). They do not have God (2 John 9).

John’s teaching cannot be limited to only Christological errors, however. The problem with denying that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is that it eviscerates the gospel. This is a different way of denying the gospel that the one that Paul encountered among the Galatians, but the response of the two apostles is decidedly akin. The similarity of their reactions suggests that their attitude ought to be directed toward all those who profess Christ while denying the gospel.

John cautions his readers to beware lest they lose their full reward (2 John 8). At first glance, this caution is puzzling. How would such a loss be incurred? John hints at the answer to this question in his instruction about proper responses to those who teach apostasy. John tells his reader not to receive these teachers into their houses nor even to give them a civil greeting (2 John 10). (emphasis mine)

Most likely these prohibitions are intended to apply to ministry relationships rather than social interaction. Nevertheless, they probably seemed as severe to John’s original readers as they do today. Then or now, what John required is a violation of basic civility. He demanded that no recognition or encouragement at all be given to someone who was teaching a false gospel, not even the encouragement of a civil greeting. (emphasis mine)

John had his reasons. Even the most insignificant encouragement to someone who is proclaiming a false gospel brings one into fellowship with the evil that follows (2 John 11). Apparently Christians can gain a share in the evil that apostates do. The apostate and the one who encourages the apostate have a common stake in the results of the false gospel. That is probably why John warned his readers about losing their reward. God would hardly reward someone for helping to spread apostasy.

We might debate some of the implications of this passage, and in a full discussion some qualifications would be appropriate. Still, I think that one thing is reasonably clear: Christians who make a habit of encouraging apostate teachers are hardly models of Christian discernment. We should treat them as people who have a share in the evil of apostasy. (Four Views on The Spectrum of Evangelicalism, pp. 39, 40)

The author of this passage has continued to give Mohler a pass on his indiscretions and I don’t expect him to change even with Mohler’s second foray with Mormonism. He will in all likelihood find some “loophole” to try to wiggle through (like, Well, Mormons aren’t truly apostates therefore the passage in II John doesn’t apply with Mohler and Mormonism. Never mind Mormonism’s attempts at Christianizing their doctrine and their damning of millions of adherents to an eternity in hell by their Godless beliefs).

I have made allusions to Balaam along the way and I find Mohler’s foray into Mormonism in a bit of a parallel. Oh, the invitations are different, to be sure, but will the outcome be any different? Balaam’s messages were spot on, “thus saith the LORD.” Mohler’s messages have been spot on in his proclaiming exclusivity to the faith found in the Scriptures. But does anyone hold up Balaam as a paragon, an example to follow, one to imitate? No, the Scriptures are clear in their renouncing Balaam. Should we not be doing the same with Mohler? Or will there continue to be those within Fundamentalism who will make excuses for Dr. Albert Mohler because he’s been such a “defender of the faith”?