Book Review: Confronting Christianity

Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin is a new book out by Crossway Publishing. McLaughlin poses twelve difficult questions for Christians to engage with regarding their faith, realities of that faith, how they are viewed by the culture and how it impacts their own lives. But what this book also does is turn the same questions around on the culture who likes to attack Christianity in these twelve areas.

So what are the areas discussed? Atheism, Diversity, One True Religion, Morality, Violence, Literalness of the Scripture, Science, Women, Homosexuality, Slavery, Suffering, and Hell. McLaughlin tackles all of these issues head on without apology.

The book is an easy read. McLaughlin uses stories from her own life and others to illustrate key points and brings science and Scripture to easy levels to understand. Her grasp of the culture wars that contend with Christianity are second to none.

I highly recommend this book to be part of your library to strengthen your faith and to help equip you in the area of apologetics. I easily give it four out of five stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Crossway Publishing in exchange for a fair review.

The Idea of Free Will

Do we really have free will? What is free will? Can we choose to accept Christ in our natural condition? These are all questions that have raged for centuries. Of course, there is an answer to this debate that is not hard to discover.

What exactly is free will? Well, that depends on what you are talking about. We do have free will in the sense that we can choose to do what we desire. But that does not mean that we can choose to accept Christ on our own. Why? Because that is not the desire of the natural man. Romans 3:10-12 confirms this.

We also know that salvation does not come from the will of man. John confirms this in his Gospel.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:12-13 ESV

It is not the will of man or the flesh. It is the will of God, his sovereign election, that chooses us. It is not the other way around.

Later in John’s Gospel Jesus says:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6:44 ESV

We cannot come to God unless He draws us. This is not a denial of free will. This is actually an affirmation of free will. However, the will of natural man will never desire God.

Does John 12:32 Go Against The Doctrines of Grace?

John 12:32 is a verse often used to go against the Reformed Doctrine of Sovereign Election. The argument is that Christ will draw “all people” to Himself, therefore this is not something only reserved to a subset of people known as the elect.

Here is the question. Does “all people” in the verse mean every person on earth or is it talking about something else? How can we answer this question?

To make this verse mean every person you have to ignore a basic rule of biblical interpretation. That is, you must take this verse out of the context of the passage.

If you single out this one verse then yes, it definitely says all people and one can assume that it means every individual person. However, if you look back at verses 20-22 you get the context of what Jesus is talking about.

There were Greeks that had come to the disciples in order to talk to Jesus. This gives us the context. The Jews (which included the disciples) were under the impression that since they were God’s chosen people, they were the ones to whom salvation was promised.

However, John 12:32 shows that Jesus is proclaiming that salvation is to both Jew and Gentile. So “all people” in verse 32 means all people groups Jew and Gentile.

When interpreting Scripture it is crucial that the full context of the passage be looked at in order to arrive at the proper interpretation of that passage.

Pharaoh and Sovereign Election

One of the challenged points of Calvinism is that of Sovereign (unconditional) election. This states that God has chosen some to be saved and passed over others. People challenge this as unfair, unjust, or just plain unbiblical. So do we see any examples of Sovereign Election in Scripture? Of course we do.

In the Exodus story we see the tenth plague, the plague of death. Exodus 11 says the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart against Israel and he did not let them go. Then, in chapter 12, he gives Moses, and by extension Israel, the instructions on how to be passed over by death. These instructions were not given to the Egyptians. They were not chosen to be saved.

The result of this was that the firstborn children of Egypt died that night. Paul even addresses this in Romans 9. Was God unfair? Was God unjust?

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Romans 9:14-18 ESV

God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. God chose not to have mercy on Egypt. The same way, God chooses not to have mercy on some people today but others he calls by his Sovereign choice to come to a saving faith in Him.

The Deity of Christ

One of the most dangerous positions in theology today is to deny the Deity of Christ. This is one of the leading dangers to the Church. The Deity of Christ is undeniable according to Scripture. It is plainly evident from the pages of Scripture. This post will examine only one of those passages.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

John 1:1-18 English Standard Version

John opens his Gospel with a proclamation that Jesus is God. The Word was in the beginning with God and the Word was God. And who is that Word? Jesus Christ.

The Word (God) became flesh and dwelt among us. Christ is that person. Christ is God. There is no denying it.

We must stand against any teacher who tries to claim that Jesus is not God. Some say that the Word was just an idea of God’s. But that goes against the very fabric and context of the passage.

No, Jesus is God. Period. We need to stand firm on that truth.

The Danger of Inclusiveness

Why is inclusiveness in the church a danger? Why are some against using the church service as an evangelistic tool primarily? Why are some against the “seeker-friendly” movement? It is because that is not the purpose of the church.

By allowing anyone to come in and join and preach and teach we allow people who are not grounded in the Word of God to influence the church. This is allowing false teaching a foothold.

The purpose of the church meeting is to disciple believers. It is not an outreach. Now, do not misunderstand, I am not saying that we should turn away non-believers. But they should be there to learn and nothing else. They should not be permitted to teach and preach.

We have to draw a line when it comes to the instruction of the body. There are rules laid out in Scripture for a reason. When the church seeks to win souls primarily from the pew they are ignoring the Great Commission to GO. It doesn’t say bring in, it says go.

John MacArthur got this exactly right when he said:

It is being scandalized by its tolerances, by its inclusiveness. It is kicking the door wide open and embracing anybody and everybody in the name of love and tolerance and openness.

John MacArthur

Should we love everyone? Yes! Should we reach out to the lost? YES! But should we want to allow anything in our churches in the name of tolerance, love, and inclusion? No. That is the true poison that will destroy churches.

“IF” the One Church Plan Had Passed GC2019 — People Need Jesus

by Bob Phillips What follows are plausible pieces in the puzzle of “What If” the OCP had passed the recent General Conference. Some of what follows would have been certainties. All would have been probabilities. Consider the nature, extent and location of uproar, pain and protest to the passage of an imperfectly amended Traditional Plan […]

via “IF” the One Church Plan Had Passed GC2019 — People Need Jesus

Answering Will Willimon

An article was recently published at Religion News with the contents of an interview with Retired United Methodist Bishop, Will Willimon. The article was intended to give some sort of understanding to liberals for what transpired at the General Conference in February. It was a list of reasons as to why the UMC will never unite. But I would contest it is people like Will Willimon that are actually holding the church back.

The bishops labored for two years and came up with these three plans and backed the One Church Plan (which would allow local congregations to decide about LGBTQ ordination and marriage) and pushed that. But the General Conference seems united: We don’t trust bishops.

– Will Willimon

The first problem is that Willimon puts too much emphasis on the Bishops of the United Methodist Church. The Bishops Council, as a whole, is completely out of touch with the majority of the members of the denomination. It is no wonder why they were so surprised when the One Church Plan did not even make it out of legislative committee.

If that unity is disrupted, that puts us back to where we’ve always been: That’s a gathering by Christ of all kinds of people that make up the church.

– Will Willimon

The major mistake Bishop Willimon makes in this statement is that he mistakes what it means for Christ to gather up all kinds of people. Christ does not gather up all kinds of people in the sense he is trying to express and the progressive branch of the church is trying to express. Christ only gathers up the elect. People who are saved, repentant, and seeking to follow Him by making Him Lord of their life.

My message to students is, “If you ever wonder why God calls people like you in the ministry, look at the General Conference. God has called you to save us, redeem us, lead us. Now step up and lead.”

– Will Willimon

This quote is dangerous. Only one can save. Only one can redeem. There is no salvation in any but Christ. There is no redemption in anyone but Christ. There is no direction in anything but the Word of God. That is the problem. A departure from the Word of God.

In a separate article actually penned by Willimon we see something much more diabolical and a man in need of spiritual renewal.

At some point I shifted my own prayers to, “Lord, please melt the hardened hearts and smite everyone who intends to vote against the One Church Plan.”

– Will Willimon

That is right. A retired bishop actually prayed that God would smite those who opposed the one church plan. He prayed that God would smite me. How does this fit in with loving your neighbor? How does this create unity? How does this show the love of Christ?

Will Willimon should be stripped of any and all privileges the church gives him until he repents and he has also shown he is not fit to teach in seminary as well.

Can We Know What The Bible Means?

The question of whether we can know what the Bible means or not is not a new one. The question has come up often when controversy arises. But the answer is simple, yes, we can know what the Bible means. How? We must follow sound principles of Biblical Interpretation.

First, let’s look at how not to interpret Scripture. We don’t go through Scripture acting as if it were written today to today’s audience. We don’t go through Scripture looking for buzzwords and then take things out of context to twist meanings.

So how do we know what Scripture means?

Here are some basic steps.

  1. Observe the passage in our own language. Who is the passage written to? Where was it written? Etc.
  2. Observe the passage in the original language. Are there any nuances of Greek or Hebrew words that might not be conveyed in the English text?
  3. Study the historical and cultural contexts of the day. The purpose of this is that we want to know what a particular passage would mean to the original audience.
  4. Determine the plain meaning of the passage in its original context.

This is not difficult in many cases in Scripture. Yes, there are some passages that are more difficult than others but this is the exception and not the rule. It is not arrogant to say that we can understand the original meaning of the text, nor is it impossible. If it were impossible, what would the point be?

People who say that we cannot know the original meaning with 100% certainty usually say so because the plain meaning and interpretation of Scripture does not mesh with something they want to happen in their life or in society. In other words, they don’t want to see the light.

Another thing to note, and this is important, is that any given passage only has one correct interpretation. Let me say that again, there is only one correct interpretation of Scripture. There can be any number of applications for a passage, but only one correct meaning.

Let me close with an example.

On September 2nd, 1776, General George Washington wrote a letter to the Continental Congress. That letter was written in a different time and culture to a different recipient. Yet, we can interpret that letter with 100% clarity. The army was demoralized and, in Washington’s opinion, underpaid. He recommended the possibility of land being added as an incentive for enlistments.

There is no question to the meaning of this letter from Washington. In the same way, we can look at the books of the Bible, many of which are letters themselves, and interpret the text with 100% clarity.

Book Review: Remaining Faithful in Ministry

John MacArthur’s new book, Remaining Faithful in Ministry, is a convicting, challenging, and motivating read that every pastor or preacher should have in his library.

MacArthur, who recently celebrated fifty years of ministry at Grace Community Church, writes on 2 Corinthians 4 and the faithful ministry of the Apostle Paul. In fact, the book reads almost as a biography of the Apostle.

The book seeks to examine the life of Paul and how he was faithful in his ministry. It does this by looking at nine key areas (convictions) of his life and ministry. These are the superiority of the new covenant, ministry is a mercy, the need for a pure heart, the need to preach the Word faithfully, results belong to God, his own insignificance, the benefit of suffering, and the need for courage.

Throughout each chapter, MacArthur examines the writings of Paul as well as accounts of his life from the book of Acts. Each shows a man who was deeply devoted to God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ after his conversion challenging each of us as believer’s to step up and do the same.

The book is well-written and easy to understand.

Overall, I recommend this book not only to pastors and preachers, but to every Christian. It is a short read that can be finished in one sitting of a couple of hours. It will challenge and convict you and stretch your faith for growth and maturity.

I was given a free copy of this book by the publisher in exhange for a fair and honest review.