Monthly Archives: September 2018

A Dispensationalist Perspective: Zionism #11

Clarence Larkin was a famous dispensationalist Bible teacher in the 20th century, largely due to his influential maps, such as this one about typology in the Bible. Click on the image for more detail.

Clarence Larkin was a famous dispensationalist Bible teacher in the 20th century, largely due to his influential charts, such as this one about typology in the Bible. More on the role of typology in our understanding of Israel and the land in the next post in this series. Click on the image for more detail.

If you have been following this series so far, on “Christian Zionism”, it should be reasonable at this point to conclude that a stalemate is at hand. The question of Christian Zionism; that is, “Does the land, for national ethnic Israel, continue to play a role in Biblical prophecy?,” probably belongs in the category of “disputable matters,” in the language of the Apostle Paul, in Romans 14:1. Different sides on this debate have their Scriptural proof texts, to support their argument. Thus far, we have seen that the Bible lacks a clear, consistent witness that rules either a pro-Zionist or non-Zionist position completely off of the table.

As a general rule, when different godly Bible teachers, who seek to honor the Bible as God’s Word, are unable to agree on particular details of Scripture interpretation, then some discretion is in order. Believers should avoid unnecessary dogmatism.

Nevertheless, this does not mean that the underlying issues in the debate are inconsequential. God often uses vigorous discussion to open our eyes more deeply to His Truth.

When it comes to God’s promises, Israel plays a central role in Holy Scripture, so we need to listen to what God’s Word is telling us. Plus, there are still geo-political, cultural issues in the background that often obscure what Scripture teaches in these debates. Therefore, we need to facilitate good conversation in our churches to try to grapple with the larger, broader themes of our underlying interpretive “grids.” So, now we begin to approach the promise of the land, starting from the interpretive “grid” of dispensationalism.
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Return to Zion(ism)

I am going partially “off-the-grid” for a few weeks, but I am going to do something different with the Veracity blog, during the meantime…..

I have gone through a number of fits-and-starts, but I am once again returning to a blog post series I started a few years ago, on the topic of “Christian Zionism.” I got interested in this almost 25 years ago, when I took a trip to the Holy Land. During my years in college, I heard quite a bit about “Israel” at church, and the role “Israel” has in Bible prophecy. But my tour to the land of Jesus left me with a lot of questions, as I met some other believers, who complicated my previous narrative about “Israel.” They were reading their Bible in a much different way than did my church in college.

I learned that two people can be “Bible-believing” Christians, and yet look at “Israel” in very different, even conflicting, ways. As with other controversial topics, such as predestination vs. free-will, the age of the earth, the exact nature of the “End Times,” charismatic gifts in the church, women in ministry, etc., such debates can be difficult to work through. As an exercise in learning how to appreciate a different Scriptural perspective, I decided to take some time to really dig into “Israel,” in particular, looking into what the Bible had to say about “Christian Zionism”; that is, what view should New Testament believers have regarding national, ethnic Israel, and God’s ancient promise to Abraham, and his descendants, about the land.

That study eventually led to a series of 18 blog posts (that I never finished… I stopped at #10) on the main topic, with a number of rabbit trail side trips. To narrow the focus, I started the series by way of asking the question, “Was the year 1948, with the founding of the modern-day, nation-state of Israel, a fulfillment somehow of biblical prophecy?”  Two years ago, my church held a two-week panel discussion with our pastors, on Romans 9-11, that sought to get at the underlying biblical themes, by attempting to answer that question, broadly speaking (week#1 and week#2).  

If you want to get the full-flow of what I have been working on …… you can catch up here…. or start here…. stay tuned to the remaining eight posts in the series, with one post coming every two or three days. As always, please feel free to leave your comments, questions, and challenges….. I will be back after that with something new and different…


Statements: Is “Social Justice” a Gospel Issue?

Søren Kierkegaard said that “doctrine collects people.” He was not painting a very positive picture of “doctrine,” but the idea gets at what the propagation of doctrine does: it collects people together, but it also divides them from others who do not embrace that doctrine.

Conservative evangelical Christians have been inclined to draft “statements” in recent decades that function to draw together like-minded Christians, and separate those who do not stand by such statements, in the same manner as Kierkegaard’s understanding of “doctrine.”  In 1978, there was the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, that sought to define what it means to say that the Bible is without error. In 1987, there was the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, that sought to resist a growing trend within evangelicalism, to rethink God’s purposes for manhood and womanhood within the family and within the structure of church leadership and ministry. In 2017, there was the Nashville Statement, that sought to address challenges from the surrounding culture, with respect to sexuality issues, such as same-sex marriage and transgender identity. Also, in 2017, there was the Reforming Catholic Confession, designed to broadly speak of what it means to be a Protestant Christian, remembering the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, with Martin Luther.

All of these statements have received varying amounts of attention and criticism from within the ranks of conservative Christians. But the most recent statement, in 2018, the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel, has proven itself to  be more contentious than any of the preceding statements.

This new statement, signed chiefly by such Christian leaders as Southern California pastor, John MacArthur; Arizona Reformed apologist, James White; Idaho classical homeschooling champion, Douglas Wilson; and Florida Ligonier President, Chris Larson, among others, has drawn over 7,000 co-signatures, many of them being pastors, all across the United States. Much of the impetus behind this statement is driven by concern over worldly philosophies making inroads into Christ’s church, in the area of so-called “social justice.”

One thinks of well-known movements in the culture at large that can be included: such as #MeToo, the social media propelled movement raising awareness of sexual assault and harassment, in the workplace, and even in the church, and #BlackLivesMatter, a similar movement seeking to campaign against violence and systemic racism towards black people. While the signers of the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel say they oppose sexism and racism, they are also concerned that such popular movements within the wider culture are taking values from the secular culture, and using them to undermine Scripture in the areas of race, ethnicity, manhood and womanhood, and human sexuality.

For example, supporters of the Statement say that legitimate concerns over sexual harassment are being used to weaken God’s plans and purposes for church leadership, with respect to men and women, saying: “In the church, qualified men alone are to lead as pastors/elders/bishops and preach to and teach the whole congregation.” while also denying that “the God-ordained differences in men’s and women’s roles disparage the inherent spiritual worth or value of one over the other.”  With respect to race, the Statement denies that “Christians should segregate themselves into racial groups or regard racial identity above, or even equal to, their identity in Christ.Read the Statement for yourself for more detail.

Critics of the Statement , such as Southern Baptist leader, Russell Moore, are concerned that the Statement does a poor job of defining important and crucial terms, such as the key phrase, “social justice.” Southern Baptist seminary president, Al Mohler, is not persuaded that the Statement adequately understands the problem of racism, and too easily dismisses certain people, real victims of racism, as being “entitled victims.”

Christians should think carefully about movements within the culture, under the light of Scripture. But the polarized response to the Statement , even from those on the least progressive end of the theological spectrum, shows that more work needs to be done to move the conversation forward. No matter what one thinks of the Statement, it is evident that evangelical Christians are far from being unified on these matters. There is an urgent need within the church to listen better to and understand one another.


Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible: A Review

As a teenager, the first church I started attending, after coming to have personal faith in Christ, was an Independent Baptist church. My closest friend at the time took me there, as it was known for its expository teaching from the Bible, something that was lacking in my more nominal Protestant upbringing.

They also had great potluck suppers.

These people loved their Bible, and I was hungry for it. I devoured what the preacher had to say. The problem was that I had a hard time understanding the Bible version they were using:

It was the King James Version (KJV).

Do not get me wrong. To this day, I love the KJV. There are aspects of modern translations that simply do not hold a candle to the KJV. But some of the KJV English can be rather…confusing. For example, take the all time classic, Psalm 23:1:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

The first phrase I got, as a 17 year old, but “I shall not want?“… I shall not want, what? Shall I not want the Lord to be my shepherd??

Huh???

So, I went down to the local bookstore, to see if I could find a Bible translation that was easier for me to understand. I found something called the “NIV” (New International Version):

The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing.

Ah, that made better sense. Because the Lord is my shepherd, I have all that I need.

But here was the catch: In addition to the NIV, the book store had a whole shelf of different Bible translations. Today, the situation can be even more bewildering, with even more Bible translation choices available. Which one do I pick? Continue reading


Explore God

 

The Williamsburg, Virginia community is privileged to take part in a 7-week conversation, where people can ask the big questions. What are your big questions? What are the big questions that your neighbors, co-workers, and fellow students are asking?

  • Does Life Have A Purpose?
  • Is There a God?
  • Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?
  • Is Christianity Too Narrow?
  • Is Jesus Really God?
  • Is the Bible Reliable?
  • Can I Know God Personally?

Over 20 churches are participating in our community, to ExploreGod, by inviting friends, neighbors, and really, just anyone, who would like to meet together for seven weeks, in various settings across our community, September 16th through October 28th. A video below explains what happened a few years ago in Austin, Texas, when they participated in ExploreGod.

What are your questions?

 

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