Kirk Cameron’s Revive Us National Family Meeting

Last night, I went with members of our small group to a local movie theatre, to view Kirk Cameron’s Revive Us, a film urging Christians to pray for America, and be involved in the political process. Along with former Presidential candidate and brain surgeon, Dr. Ben Carson; public intellectual and Charles Colson BreakPoint radio commentator, Eric Metaxas; and inspirational author/speaker, Jennifer Rothschild, who has been physically blind since a child; Cameron led what he called a “national family meeting.”

I had some mixed thoughts about the movie event. It was actually better than I thought it would be. But let me tell you about why what Kirk Cameron is doing is significant, then speak to the difficulties I had with the film, and then close by telling you what I thought was really good about Kirk Cameron’s Revive Us.

Unless you have been disconnected from the power grid for the past year or so, you have probably heard something about the 2016 Presidential campaign, perhaps one of the most …. errrh ….. uuhmmm…. “interesting” cultural events I can ever recall in my American life. Lurking underneath the present national discussion is a very profound cultural shift going on in American culture, that has been having repercussions in evangelical Christian communities. Christian leadership has been undergoing great change, as elder statesmen, like Billy Graham, are no longer providing the type of glue needed to keep evangelical Christians together. Denominational barriers are breaking down, but with the fast pace of information exchange brought on by the Internet and 24×7 social and news media, Christians are finding it difficult to figure out what really brings us together. If doctrine is not able to unite us, then what does?

Most of the news we hear in these media outlets is bad news. Christians are anxious about the nation’s future, as the presence of some critical, assumed Christian values in the culture at large appears to be rapidly disappearing. For many, the voting process is about deciding over the lesser of two evils. “Where is our culture going, and why does it look like God is not doing much about it,?” as many of my Christian friends might put it.

Into the breach steps in Kirk Cameron, an outspoken, Christian movie actor. Frankly, I was a bit nervous about what Cameron might do. Though I will have to give him credit. He admits that he is not the smartest guy in the world, and he has a lot of passion about what he cares about, and I share many of his concerns. But I was a bit embarrassed by some of the factual and interpretive missteps in his 2012 cinematic attempt to “correct” popular errors in American history, Monumental. When we attempt to fix false understandings of history by passing on further misinformation, where key facts and ideas are misrepresented, it only leads to further confusion.

So, I really had a rough start, in the first twenty minutes or so, of Revive Us. Dr. Ben Carson suggested to Kirk Cameron that Americans need to learn the “real history” about America. Carson is a brilliant brain surgeon, but “real history?” I can give him some leeway here, but this is coming from a man who believes that the pyramids of Egypt were built to store grain, from the days of the Biblical Joseph, instead of accepting the well-known archaeological research, showing that the pyramids were actually burial tombs.

But when Cameron interviewed Eric Metaxas in Independence Hall, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, there were moments I wanted to crawl under my seat. Yes, the importance of religious freedom as being essential to the American experiment, and that only a virtuous people can keep democracy, are two basic ideas that we are losing in an age when the knowledge of America’s past is being forgotten, as many young people seem more interested in their iPhones than they do in learning about history. As I have noted before, Metaxas is to be commended on this account, but he injudiciously passes on half-truths to an eager Kirk Cameron, according to historian Robert Tracy McKenzie, a Christian scholar teaching at Wheaton College. Metaxas misled the audience when he recalled that Benjamin Franklin, hardly an orthodox Christian, called for prayer at the Constitutional Convention in the late 18th century. Metaxas conveniently does not tell Cameron that Franklin’s call to prayer was ignored by most of the other participants at the Convention. Franklin later wrote, “The Convention, except three or four persons, thought Prayers unnecessary” (Eric Metaxas: That is kind of an important detail to leave out, do you not think?).

Furthermore, Metaxas wrongly attributes the aphorism, “America is great, because America is good,” a phrase currently serving as a motto for the 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate (who also gets it wrong as well), to Alexis de Tocqueville, the famous French observer of American culture in the early 19th century.

Thankfully, pastor Francis Chan finally got the evening back on track. Chan reminded Kirk Cameron that the central issue regarding the plight of the American nation is ultimately a problem with the American church. Pray for the nation, yes, but the real battle is to pray for revival in our churches. For too long, Christians have looked to the state to provide assistance in promoting Christian values. Instead, we as the church, as Christ’s body, are to  lift up His name. Then and only then, can we expect God to move among our secular neighbors and institutions, throughout our nation.

So, by the time, we got this idea straight…. at least, I hope we got this straight… I felt much, much better about Cameron’s “national family meeting.”  Sure, it was a bit weird to think of going to the movie theatre, watching a film recorded from the week before (apparently, this was a second showing… presumably the first showing was a live event), and trying to maintain a sense of worship. For those Christians who treasure the classic hymns, you might have stumbled a bit with the contemporary worship music Cameron had lined up, nearly all played in U2-style, with lots of drums, guitars, and acoustic delay.

Furthermore, Cameron’s urging that all Christians should get out and vote on November 7, referring audiences to lookup, failed to account for the theological reasons why some Anabaptists would conscientiously object to voting. But the nuances required to address issues like these were not in Cameron’s purview. Cameron’s goal has been to encourage Christians, who do not think too much about wider issues in the culture, to start thinking more about these things, and engage these issues instead of waiting on the sideline.

Thankfully, neither name of the main Presidential contenders were mentioned during the nearly two-hour film. No flashpoint issues of public policy distracted from the main theme. In this way, I was glad that this was not a “political” event, despite the undercurrent of American election controversies that are difficult to ignore. To the extent that Cameron was able to encourage Christians to view the question of America’s future as really a question about the condition of evangelical churches, and the need for revival in our homes and churches, I would then say that Cameron did well to call this “national family meeting.”

Jonah’s Nineveh and Modern-Day Mosul

In July, 2014, militants of the Islamic state blew up the Tomb of Jonah, a memorial site with significance for both Muslims and Christians, as it honored the famous Old Testament prophet, called to preach in the city of Nineveh, now part of modern-day Mosul, in northern Iraq.

In July, 2014, militants of the Islamic State blew up the Tomb of Jonah, a memorial site with significance for both Muslims and Christians, as it honored the famous Old Testament prophet, called to preach in the city of Nineveh, now part of modern-day Mosul, in northern Iraq.

Much of the attention surrounding the Book of Jonah focuses on the story of Jonah being swallowed for three days and three nights by a “whale.” There is a lot of confusion about this. For one thing, the actual Bible text calls it a “great fish,” and not a “whale” (Jonah 1:17). But in this post, I want to focus briefly on the city where Jonah was called to preach: Nineveh.

Nineveh was the capital of the ancient Assyrian empire. The Bible talks quite a bit about the threat that the dreaded Assyrians posed for the Israelites, a threat that was eventually realized by the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, in the 8th century before the birth of Christ. So, you only imagine the horror experienced by the prophet Jonah, first mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25, when he was called by God to urge the citizens of Nineveh to repent, and come to know the God of Israel.

Nineveh was the last place Jonah wanted to be.

The city of Nineveh is in the news quite a bit these days. Nineveh is part of the greater city of Mosul, in Iraq, where a coalition of military forces have been trying to force the Islamic State out of the city. Many skeptics may dismiss the story of Jonah as a “fairy tale,” but the story of what has happened in today’s Mosul is tragically real. For example, thousands of Christians have had to flee the city from the Islamic State, and surely, some remain, fearful for their lives. We should pray for them. Given what we know about Nineveh/Mosul today, I can relate a bit to Jonah’s desire not to go the Nineveh. I would not want to be there either! Continue reading

One Reason Why John Stott’s Stand Against Martyn Lloyd-Jones Mattered

Fifty years ago this week, the great British evangelical independent preacher, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, clashed with Anglican, John R.W. Stott, another great British pastor, over the future of the evangelical movement in the United Kingdom. Jones was urging evangelicals to leave corrupt institutions, whereas Stott pushed back, reminding fellow evangelicals of the importance of maintaining a Christian witness. Stott’s argument won the day, yet Puritan historian, Iain H. Murray, believes that the acceptance of Stott’s efforts led to evangelical compromise. However, the following blog post, by British blogger Alastair Roberts, offers a different perspective, that I find helpful to think about.

Alastair's Adversaria

A couple of days ago, Justin Taylor published an interview with the Rev Dr Andrew Atherstone, upon the fiftieth anniversary of a pivotal event in English evangelical history. At the National Assembly of Evangelicals on October 18, 1966, two of the biggest figures among British evangelicals in the day, the Welsh minister of Westminster Chapel in London, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and John Stott, rector of All Souls Church, had an important dispute about the future of evangelicals within the Church of England.

Lloyd-Jones gave an address calling for evangelicals to pursue visible unity with other evangelicals, accusing Anglican evangelicals of schism for their failure to unite with evangelicals outside of the Church of England, and of serious compromise for their continued involvement in a mixed denomination alongside doctrinally and spiritually unfaithful persons. Although he was the chairman, Stott publicly responded to Lloyd-Jones’ remarks, resisting his claims and appeal to Anglican evangelicals.

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Who is the AntiChrist?

Luca Signorelli. The Deeds of the Antichrist (1499-1504). Signorelli portrays the devil counseling the Antichrist. With an American Presidential election coming around the corner, I wonder who so-called "prophecy experts" might be pick as the one and only Antichrist?

Luca Signorelli. The Deeds of the Antichrist (1499-1504). Signorelli portrays the devil counseling the Antichrist. With an American Presidential election coming around the corner, I wonder who so-called “prophecy experts” might pick as the one and only Antichrist in our day?

So, who exactly is “the” antichrist?

Back in high school, I knew someone who was convinced that President Jimmy Carter was the antichrist. Carter was a very convincing orator in the 1970s, connecting extremely well with voters frustrated with the then current political situation. Carter even said that he was a “born again” Christian. But by negotiating a peace treaty in the Middle East between Israel and her enemies, was Carter fulfilling the prophecy of Daniel 9:27, the antichrist who would “confirm the covenant with many?”

Okay, let us fast-forward some 35 plus years. He may not have been the best President we have ever had…. but the antichrist?

A lot of people speculate on who this antichrist might be. From military dictators to American presidents, the list of possible candidates seems about as endless as the human imagination (some folks even vote for their favorite picks). Most people get their information about the antichrist from books, movies, late-night cable TV, neighbors and friends.

But how many people know what the Bible actually teaches about the antichrist?  You might be surprised to discover that a lot of popular ideas about antichrist owe more to overly fertile imaginations than the clear teaching of Scripture.
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Did An Army of 600,000 Israelites Conquer the Land of Canaan?

The traditional Sunday School image shows Joshua leading about 600,000 armed Israelites into the land of Canaan, across the river Jordan. But was that really the size of Joshua's army?

The traditional Sunday School image shows Joshua leading about 600,000 armed Israelites into the land of Canaan, across the river Jordan. But was that really the size of Joshua’s army?

When we read about the nation of Israel crossing the river Jordan to enter the Promised Land, in Joshua 4, something stands out, if you read very carefully. Joshua 4:13 tells us this:

About 40,000 ready for war passed over before the Lord for battle, to the plains of Jericho (ESV).

From this verse alone, you might think that there were a total of 40,000 soldiers in the army of Israel, set to conquer the land. The problem is that according to a census taken prior to the crossing of the river Jordan, of all of the Hebrew men of fighting age (Numbers 26:1-4), the census gave a total number of 601,730 (Numbers 26:51). A previous census taken near the beginning of the wilderness journey, just after the Exodus from Egypt, reveals about the same number, 603,550 (Numbers 1:45-46). The second census is different in that the first generation in the wilderness had perished, replaced by a new generation, leaving only Joshua and Caleb from the first generation still among them, but the numbers are in the same ballpark. Clearly there is a problem lining up the 40,000 armed men that crossed the Jordan with the some 600,000+ recorded in each census.

Nevertheless, the problem is more difficult than this: Assuming a 600,000+ army, this would give you a much larger population total, if you include women and children, at least around 2 million.

That is a lot of people.

In Deuteronomy 7:1-7, we read that God was sending the Israelites into a land to clear away seven different nations of people, each nation being larger than Israel herself. That means at least 14 million people were living in the Promised Land that Israel was to possess, in Canaan, which would be greater than the current population of the corresponding land in the Middle East now. Considering that Gaza alone is one of most densely populated places on earth, it is difficult to comprehend such large numbers of people in the ancient near east, particularly when the current archaeological data shows that the land of Canaan was far less populated then than it is now.

How do we try to resolve this difficulty?1
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