Thursday, April 26, 2018

Biblical Conflict Resolution

I was reading Matthew 18 again today.  This truly is a tough verse to follow fully yet packed with wisdom. 

Read the first part of the verse if you have time.-- Matthew 15:15 

IF a brother or sister SINS again you —-  there must be time with God alone to determine the IF, and discussion prior even with a mentor or friend is encroaching on gossip or slander of the other.  Now if clarity of “what is sin is needed “ that may be sought for clarity and never ever mentioning the offenders name or referring in general to them. I believe we can have no part of naming names.

Example:  someone borrowed my pen two weeks ago and hasn’t return it. 

The verse seems to instruct us as advisors to point to this first verse.  We advise them to pray and determine is there really sin then to go to them and ask them about the pen and do so gently and in love.  The Bible says to “do this privately”, therefore we cannot go at this point, for even moral support. That violates this verse. 

Example:  Joe, I loaned you an expensive pen for your meeting last week and have ask you to return it.  I am asking to have it return shortly, is there a problem that occurred while you had it. I am sure we can work it out as it I just a pen. 

The Second step is to take one or two along.  Interesting. One or two which appears to support the privacy of the first step.  I am thinking about the wisdom of Solomon with the baby and the claim of two mothers (1 Kings 3:16-28).
The wisdom is so clear.  If we get involved before step one a violation occurs in God’s instructions, and I now see how this could be used as unbiblical strengthening of the offense. 

Example:  I am so anger with Joe he stole my pen, I even took Phillip along with me to talk with Joe and Phillip agreed that he was lying about the pen.

The wisdom seems very sound. If the offense is that great in the offended parties mind then it should be great enough to warrant the strength to address it.  If the courage isn’t present, maybe it just simply isn’t a big enough deal.  In all Godly things Phil 4:13 promises the strength and we should be advising as such.

There are many ways to address this in our digital world. Maybe, though I see the possible problem, a text or email may be send.  I would suggest a public setting but private conversation is best. 

This verse links perfectly with 1 Tim 5:19, that we discussed yesterday as it sets up properly the establishment of two or three witnesses. I love when God’s Word crosses books but aligns perfectly. 

Now if this “pen” issue is still not resolved it is much easier on the church leaders.

Example:  Did you go and talk with Joe privately— yes—- did you take Phillip at a later time —- yes and Phillip what did you experience—- 

Now we can take action as a church, since Phillip a non offended party is able to provide testimony about the situation. 

Even in all this we are called to deal with love and gentleness.

Hope it provides clarity for all of us, as Christians, as leaders we are going to be confronted with this time and time again. 

Pastor Tom

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Resurrection Apologetic

     This paper is on an apologetic defense of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This discussion is necessary because without validation of the resurrection there indeed is no real Christian belief system.  This defense is foundational in all discussions of doctrine.  The existence of Jesus is not debated, and the historical fact of Jesus's death on the cross is documented in Christian and non-Christian writings.  The resurrection is the key.  In this paper, the minimalist fact argument will be explained and used in defense of the resurrection. The second step will be to present a reasonable case or apologetic to the stated resurrection using scholarly research and finally reaching a convincing conclusion on the validity of the event. 

Summary of the Minimalist Facts Argument
     Firstly, as Dr. Habermas states, the Minimalist Facts Argument is a "methodology" a way to explain and make a case of a viewpoint of one's facts. There are two basic concepts of the method. The first is the factor of the lowest common denominator[G12], whereas there are verifiable historical facts from multiple sources.  These sources can be Biblical or secular research and the more secular research, the stronger the position becomes.  Secondly, it is vital to secure facts that over ninety percent of recognized scholars will agree.  These scholars should be doctoral or a very least provable experts in their respective fields of study.[G13] [G14] [G15] [G16] [G17] [G18] [G19] [G20] [G21] [G22] 


     There are some factors that are of use in our apologetic discussion.  Dr. Habermas gives us a great basis for our defense in his class lecture entitled, The Resurrection of Jesus.  Dr. Habermas starts with a statement that there are at least eleven verifiable sources for the crucifixion of Jesus and this is a great place to establish a starting ground on the debate on the actual rising from the dead of Jesus. Dr. Habermas actually states, "can you get verification of a miracle?" [1]Meaning that factual events are much stronger arguments in a debate. In Reasons for Our Hope it states that “if Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead bodily from the tomb ... then the faith of every believer throughout church history is in vain.”[2]

    The use of the testimony of women would have been embarrassing and useless data unless it was true which brings increased validity to the writing of Scripture overall.  The life, death, and burial of Jesus is fact and proven in secular sources, as well as the reality of the empty tomb.  There is not much that needs to be taken on faith alone, and the reasonableness of the argument is proven and established. 


Dr. Habermas, The Resurrection of Jesus, lecture accessed February 24th, 2018 on

House, H. Wayne and Dennis W. Jowers, Reasons for Our Hope. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group. 2011.

[1] Dr. Habermas, The Resurrection of Jesus, lecture accessed February 24th, 2018 on
[2] House, H. Wayne and Dennis W. Jowers (2011), Reasons for Our Hope.Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group. p. 333.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Progressive Christianity


What Is “Progressive Christianity” and Why Should You Beware of It?

First of all, do not assume anything! I will define what I mean by “progressive Christianity” here. It is, of course, an indexical phrase which means it cannot be defined except within a particular context. And, of course, different people mean different things by it. And yet, it is being used within churches and denominations and Christian organizations and cannot just be ignored. Generally speaking, at least outside of very conservative Christian circles, it tends to have a positive “ring” and many especially educated Christians are attracted to it. Sometimes, however, it is an insidious and pernicious code phrase for liberal theology being introduced into moderate Christian circles. Many people do not seem to see what is happening in such situations; I believe I do see it and I want to sound an alarm so that others may begin to ask questions they might not think of asking.

When I hear the phrase “progressive Christianity” alarm bells immediately ring, but I resist the temptation to make any assumptions and I try to ask questions or, if that doesn’t work, observe the distinctive “symptoms” of language and behavior within the church or other Christian organization that seem to signal what is being described as “progressive Christianity.” This takes time and attention to details. It is the attention to details and the questions that I often have to ask, based on my observations, that occasionally occasion resistance, even marginalization from those within the church or organization that are busy introducing and promoting “progressive Christianity.”

All such projects require some criteria of normalcy—of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. In some cases (not always), in my experience, “progressive Christianity” signals a paradigm shift away from what has been considered normal, acceptable, standard, orthodox, within the given church or Christian organization. I believe I have become quite adept at discerning this process. No, I do not go about it in “knee jerk fashion,” but take quite a bit of time and careful thought, striving not to work from a position of automatic suspicion but from a position of open-mindedness, generosity, combined with knowledge that, without vigilance, sometimes Christianity is so compromised as to lose its meaning and become something else—while still being called “Christianity.”

*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*

As always, examples and illustrations are called for. I could cite many, perhaps scores of experiences that taught me to be a bit vigilant about this matter.

Some years ago I went to hear a well-known and influential seminary professor and theologian speak. I did not know anything about him except his reputation as an excellent Christian scholar. I went to hear him together with hundreds of other Christians—most of them students. He was being promoted on campus as a Christian worth hearing and being taken seriously. I settled into my seat in the large auditorium next to my companion to the event, another broadly evangelical theologian and campus minister. Everything sounded good until about halfway into the guest speaker’s monologue when he mentioned that he was both a Christian and a Buddhist. My ears pricked up at that as did my companion’s ears. We looked at each other with a bit of surprise and concern. I looked around at the students; many of them were leaning forward with eager anticipation to hear more. The speaker, a professor at a well-known Protestant seminary, continued to explain that he was finding great personal and spiritual help through involvement with a specific Buddhist sect from Japan and he argued that there is no conflict between Christianity and it. I knew much about that particular Buddhist sect—including that it is controversial in Japan (and elsewhere) even among Buddhists! After the speaker’s lecture I spoke with the university professor who invited him as I was not able to get near the speaker who was inundated by curious students. The professor fended off my curious questions as evidence of “fundamentalism.” To my chagrin, and that of my companion’s, nothing came of the event; there was no reaction from the administration after we reported on it to the powers that were. In that case, apparently, being “open minded” meant considering as possible that Buddhism and Christianity can be blended without damage to Christianity.

This experience, among scores of others throughout my adult lifetime, alerted me to what I consider an extremely dangerous mindset among some Christians in America. (I will limit my remarks here to American Christianity although I strongly suspect what I am talking about is a reality elsewhere as well.) What “mindset?” The mindset I refer to is one that regards “Christianity” as cognitively contentless or at least as so cognitively flexible as to be compatible with almost anything—so long as the “anything” is acceptable among educated elites of the American academy.

Within reach from where I sit right now are, on my bookshelves, many volumes that argue, in one way or another, for a Christianity that does not include doctrinal orthodoxy but is strictly defined in terms of feelings and ethics. Years ago, even within my lifetime, this approach to Christianity was commonly called “liberal.” However, also some years ago, even within my adult lifetime, liberal Christians (if they are really Christians) dropped the label “liberal” and adopted “progressive” in its place. Of course, much confusion ensued as many orthodox Christians also consider themselves “progressive” in some ways.

Gradually, however, in my experience (as a Christian theologian for almost forty years now), “progressive Christianity” has by-and-large become a replacement for what used to be called “liberal Protestantism” (although it can be found in some Catholic circles as well).

The first signal (of liberal Protestantism disguised as “progressive Christianity”) is a disinterest, especially among Christian leaders (of congregations, denominations, and organizations) in doctrine. That’s sometimes difficult to detect because progressive Christians (as I mean that here) often talk about doctrines but only as historical relics, not as living realities to be protected and defended (even if reinterpreted and translated for the sake of understanding).

The second signal is a distinct tendency to replace doctrines, in terms of importance for membership and leadership, with “kindness” and “inclusion” as well as “social justice”—usually for some newly discovered “oppressed group.” Included in this tendency is a complete abandonment of church discipline especially as that relates to doctrinal accountability and sexual behavior (except for what is illegal).

A third signal is a determination, however, slow and subtle, to accommodate to trends within academic culture—regardless of their fitness with Scripture and tradition. In other words, the so-called “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” shifts beyond being an equilateral to being one in which reason (defined as what the American academy and its movers and shakers consider reasonable and normal) and experience (defined as what the American academy its movers and shakers consider normal and acceptable) dominate Scripture and tradition. Something to listen for is this now common saying in progressive Christianity circles: “Who cares what Paul said? I follow Jesus.”

A fourth signal is an elevation of inclusiveness to a virtue bar none (or “par none”) within the church, denomination, and/or Christian organization. Of course, “inclusiveness” is never complete; persons perceived to be “discriminatory” in any manner (language, behavior, sentiment) are marginalized if not ostracized.

A fifth signal is the abandonment of the “language of Zion” by which I mean traditional Christian concepts such as “sin,” “repentance,” “salvation,” “return of Christ,” and, yes, “judgment of God.” These are replaced by concepts such as “Kingdom of God” or “city of God”—interpreted as a condition of social justice including inclusion of all people equally without judgment (except discriminatory or perceived intolerance).

A sixth signal is implicit universalism—a complete abandonment of any mention of hell—except perhaps as a code word for misery in this life usually described as oppression—both the oppressed and the oppressors are in a living “hell” from which they need deliverance through social transformation which often includes social engineering via politically correct language.

A seventh signal is the way in which the Bible is described—not as a supernaturally inspired and unique message from God, possessing final authority for faith and practice—but as “our sacred stories”—different in degree but not in kind from other great and inspiring writings.

An eighth signal is the complete abandonment of belief in the supernatural together with a strong emphasis on the immanence of God in all people. The “imago dei” gets reinterpreted as a presence of God in every human person. Together with this comes a tendency to horizontalize Christian recognition of God’s presence—as totally within historical movements for justice and completely within the “face of the other”—especially the weak, the vulnerable and the marginalized.

Finally, a ninth signal is the adoption of hostile language about groups of human beings who dare to defend traditional values. They are often lumped together with racists, bigots, oppressors, “fundamentalists,” and even “red necks” solely because they hold to traditional “family values” or express the opinion that too much is changing too fast in terms of what is acceptable within the church and society.

As in fundamentalism, within many progressive Christian circles an echo chamber develops. In this one, though, those “out of touch” with the latest trends in sociology, social work, education, journalism and the social sciences in general are effectively silenced. There develops a “fundamentalism of the left” that is not really inclusive at all.

I will close with one more illustration drawn from my own life. Many years ago, while I was teaching at a Christian liberal arts college, advertisements began to appear in the student newspaper for a Baptist church that advertised itself as “A Liberal Church.” The combination of “Baptist” and “liberal” intrigued many students and faculty members and soon the pastor of the congregation was in the hallways and classrooms speaking about his “progressive Christianity.” I invited him to speak to my theology classes (two or three years in a row) about “liberal theology” and “progressive Christianity”—not with the intention of infecting students with that but with the intention of allowing him to expose his own double standards and hypocrisy. I admit that I sometimes “salted” questions among students before he came to class. One question (I don’t remember whether I suggested it or not) was asked by a student during the Q & A time after the pastor spoke: “What would you say to a fundamentalist Baptist who wanted to join your ‘inclusive church’?” (The pastor had defined “liberal” as “inclusiveness.”) The pastor answered “I would help him find a different Baptist church to join.”