The Almost Christian DIscovered

The Almost Christian Discovered

By Matthew Mead, 1661 

A review by Stuart Brogden

This is a review of the 20th century reprint of Mead’s book, with a foreword by John MacArthur. The second sentence in his forward tells us that this book “reveals the force and fervor of Puritan spirituality as vividly as any work” he knew. Ask the early settlers of New England about the “force and fervor of Puritan spirituality” and you may want to ask what was Mac thinking.

Mead’s goal in writing this book, which Mac and I agree with, is that it is far too easy for people to think they are Christians when they know nothing of Christ and exhibit no fruit of His Spirit within. As I heard a fella remark recently, when Jesus saves a person, He changes a person. Mead says he intends no anxiety for the saint; his intention is to cause the “almost Christian” to examine himself. He asks the Christian if the state of the world is grievous to you (page 20) and tells the hypocrite to “read and tremble; for thou are the man here pointed at.” (page 21)

Our author introduces Agrippa (page 27) as an almost Christian, as well as the foolish virgins (page 35) and the rich young ruler (page 33) and he tells us (page 29), the “saint may almost perish but certainly be saved; the hypocrite may almost be saved yet perish.” And he goes on to tell us (page 40) “there can be no grace without knowledge, yet there may be much knowledge without grace.” This contrast between two categories of people is found throughout Scripture and it is good for people in both categories to understand them.

Throughout the book, Mead sets up contrasts to show these things more clearly. We are reminded again and again that attitudes and behavior can be evidences of saving faith, but they are not proofs thereof. This is the central theme of the book. The almost Christian may: be trembling at the Word (page 74), delighting in the Word (page 75), belonging to a church (page 77), confessing sin (page 59), have hope in heaven (page 78), and engage in behavior modification (page 82) and not be a Christian! Would you not agree? Any concerned pagan can do these things and not be in Christ.

And yet this same author, in this same book, says (page 43) that people who preach, pray, and serve people in the church have spiritual gifts and not be a Christian; that a man can have the Holy Spirit within (page 100) and not be a Christian. Mead develops this idea, conflating the spirit coming upon or speaking to a person (such as Balaam) with the Spirit indwelling a person. He claims Judas was indwelt by the Spirit because he cast out demons and says a man may have the Spirit “transiently, not absolutely.” The Spirit may be in a man yet not dwell in the man. “The common work of the Spirit” doesn’t save (page 126). Is it proper to say that the spirit that moves a man to do religious things but does not save is the Holy Spirit? I think such false actions are the work of the spirit of the age!

There is also a theme of perfectionism weaved through this book. In pointing out the dangers of what I would call false confessions, Mead (pages 62 & 63) seems to be saying that sinlessness is the mark a saint yet says (page 70) that Christians have regenerate and unregenerate parts in them. We are told (pages 131 & 132) that the one who loves God with his whole heart, soul, and strength is a Christian. Is it just me that has problems with truly being totally devoted to Christ? Mead would have me think so! He follows this thread, telling us (page 159) man must give all to God or not be saved. Pressuring people to confess these things makes them lie about their condition and makes them disciples of John Wesley rather than of Christ. Our ever present lack of perfection is meant to remind us of our ever present need of Christ – His mercy and grace that He freely gives the children of God. Isaiah was a godly man, but when he got a good glimpse of God, he was reminded how sinful he yet was. This is our condition – redeemed but not yet glorified.

Mead says (page 161) that none are excluded from the kingdom of God unless they exclude themselves. Does this mean people are in the Lamb’s Book unless they rub their own names out? He goes on to develop a works-based justification. This was noted early on as he said (page 43), “to know, to practice what we know – that is gospel-duty. This makes a man a complete Christian.” He tells us (page 207) that we must first show man his sin, then his Savior; calling this the “constant method of God.” I used to believe this, but a study of the effective call in Scripture shows some people are confronted with their sin (sometimes using the law to do so), but not all are. It’s simply incorrect to call it the “constant method of God.”

Our author gives us good counsel on what a Christian looks like, telling us (page 136) “the Christian disclaims self and Christ is most advanced.” Amen! Do we promote self or the Lord Jesus? And he leaves us (page 205-6) with another contrast that should settle down into our souls: “The saint’s peace is a peace with God, but not with sin; the sinner’s peace is a peace with sin, but not with God.” Let’s end with that – it’s so much better than some of the stuff this Puritan has written. It is needful for each of us to examine himself and see – with Whom or what do I have peace?

May the God of peace rule your life!

Sorry, Still Wrong

Yes, just as Todd Bentley who showed up again, so also, it has not taken long for Mark Driscoll to jump back into the limelight again. We knew this would take place sooner rather than later.  Sadly, far too many who claim the name of Christ are willing to show a gross lack of discernment by following the ministries of people like Bentley and Driscoll.

Less than one year after his fall from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Mark has decided that he needed to move to a warmer climate in Phoenix, Arizona where he has filed papers to start a new religious establishment called “The Trinity Church.” In case, you may have missed all the kerfuffle in recent times, this is the same Mark, who reveled in being known as the cussing pastor. This is the same man who was obsessed with pornographic visions of people in his “church” that supposedly came from God. Yes, this is the same man who plagiarized and bought his own books with funds not his own in order to push up his book sales on the best-seller lists.

pray-for-mark-driscoll-300x228

A website detailing far too much to reiterate at DefCon can be found here at The Mark Driscoll Controversy website.  We have repeatedly sought to give warning about Driscoll and will continue to do so as we feel that it is necessary.

For the record, here at DefCon, we do not now, nor have we in the past, nor will we in the future endorse or support any aspect of a man who has repeatedly chosen to mock the God of the Bible. My recommendation to those reading who think that Driscoll is a man of God is to pray for much discernment so you will quickly be able to see what this man was all about, and still is.

This is a man that needs much prayer. Prayer that he will truly repent of what he has said and done in the past. Prayer that people will not blindly follow him as they did under the Mars Hill Empire. Prayer that God will continue to raise up godly men to proclaim the truth of God’s Word whether it is liked or not.

Christ and the Gospel

A review by Stuart Brogden. Book available on Amazon.

The subtitles of Jon Cardwell’s book must not be overlooked or you will be confused. The focus Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 9.43.03 AMof this book is the proper understanding of the biblical gospel – that is the title: The Simple Gospel. What our brother rightly understands is that one cannot have a true understanding of the gospel if one does not have a true understanding of the person and work of the Lord Jesus. Without a biblical Jesus, faithfully fulfilling the requirements of the Law and the Prophets and taking our place in facing God the Father’s wrath for our sins (Him being without sin), we do not have the biblical gospel. The subtitle, Including Other Essays Exalting Christ’s Person and Work, gives us advance notice that we will spend some time reading about essentials that provide the foundation of the true gospel.

In this title chapter our author gives us his summary of what the Bible presents as the gospel:

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the revelation of God, according to the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which focuses on the Person and work of Jesus Christ in His incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and restitution of all things in His bodily return. 1

Note this: the gospel is about the redemptive work of Christ and our need of Him; the gospel is not the entire Bible, although all Scripture has this meta-plan as its ultimate purpose. A little later in this chapter, while reviewing the meaning and significance of the crucifixion, Jon pleads the sufficiency of Christ’s blood, saying, “The power of the purity of Christ’s blood is sufficient to cleanse the redeemed soul from every confessed sin he has committed after he has been saved by God’s grace (1 John 1: 7-10).” 2 While I agree with the intent, I think this idea would be better stated as “The power of the purity of Christ’s blood is sufficient to cleanse the redeemed soul from every sin he has committed or will commit, and is applied when he is saved by God’s grace (1 John 1: 7-10).” For we are commanded to confess our sins, all the sins of the redeemed are forgiven when he raised from spiritual death to new life, not just those committed after salvation and not only those confessed.

Still in this section, Jon brings to our mind the picture of Christ suffering God the Father’s wrath for our sins – a much more horrifying punishment than physical death on the cross, as painful and horrible as that is. If we don’t see Jesus being punished spiritually for the sins you and I committed, we are taking His sacrifice too lightly. This is closely tied to this statement: “The shame that comes to our souls in the light of the revelation of the offense our very lives bring to God, far exceeds the shame of Adam and Eve when their nakedness was revealed to them.”3 Far more powerful than our shortcomings in our foolhardy attempts to keep the law or earn God’s favor by our own strength, seeing the glory of God in Christ will undo us as it did Isaiah and the Apostle John and others who were privileged to see Him clearly. This is the power of the cross!

When he quickly reviews the resurrection’s part in the biblical gospel, our brother tells us two dear truths: “The resurrection of Christ is God’s open display to the entire creation of His seal and acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice.” 4 and “When we speak of the resurrection of Christ we also speak of God’s assurance of a resurrection to come. God promises to all whom He has saved in Christ will one day be resurrected from the dead. The importance of the resurrection is such that a denial of the bodily resurrection of Christ means a denial of the faith altogether (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).” 5 Let no one who claims Christ forget the import of the resurrection – if Christ be not raised from the dead, we are to be most pitied.

His last section on The Simply Gospel is about the restitution or restoration of all things. We cannot, Jon tells us, fully comprehend the recreation of heaven and earth and the Lord’s glorious return without understanding the biblical doctrine of hell. And, he goes on, we cannot rightly comprehend either the new earth or hell if we do not rightly comprehend God! “The same presence of God that is a consuming fire for the wicked dead, Christ’s presence is peace and comfort (2 Corinthians 1: 3), and fullness of joy with pleasures forever more at His right hand (Psalm 16: 11).” 6 This oft-repeated exhortation to see the Lord as He is in His glory and power is a welcome one that does the souls of the saints much good.

Chapter 2 – Propitiation through Faith is an enlightening walk through Romans 3:23 – 27. Our faithful author tells us, “Romans 1: 17 is the key to this epistle, Romans 3: 23-27 is most certainly the door the key unlocks.”7 and “It is through this door one must pass in order to enter life eternal. In one way, it may be here that the Lord’s cryptic words become especially insightful: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10: 9; cf. 10: 7). The door of this passage is that wicket gate Mr. Bunyan’s allegory refers. Jesus Christ is that door, that wicket gate, and His cross, His propitiation, is eternal treasure.”8 Such exegesis is welcomed in this day of shallow, superficial reading, as is this: “To sum it up, God’s righteousness was openly displayed and manifested in the… Person of Christ Presentation at the Cross Power of Christ’s resurrection Perfection in Christ’s ascension.”9 As the Apostle Peter told us (2 Peter 1:12), we need to be reminded of the essential things even though we already know them. Cardwell does well in this regard, as he desires to stir up the saints of God to dig into the Word and walk as those who have been raised from the dead. I do wish Jon had spent some time on exploring what Paul meant by the phrase, “the law of faith” in verse 27. I think it is tied to what he elsewhere calls “the law of Christ,” which (I believe) is defined by the Lord’s answer to the Pharisee in Matthew 22:37 – 40 (I highly recommend Charles Leiter’s excellent book, The Law of Christ).

Cardwell emphasizes the fact that the life of a person who has been raised from spiritual death will be evident: “the result of the saved life will be evidenced by, but not limited to these things: a growing resemblance to the life of Christ in sanctification (1 John 1: 7); repentance of sins as the illumination of His light reveals them (1 John 1: 8-10); a love for God’s Word (1 John 2: 3-5); abiding in the Holy Spirit-led life (1 John 2: 6); exhibiting a sacrificial love for fellow-believers (1 John 2: 9-11); a hatred for the things of this world and hatred for the lusts of the flesh because those things are at enmity with the Father (1 John 2: 13-17); and a love for and discernment of the truth (1 John 2: 20-21).” 10 Let no one go easily on with the lie that one can be saved yet unchanged.

I will only touch on the topics of the balance of the book, each chapter will challenge the reader to examine his belief in the Word and the meaning of specific passages and traditions as Cardwell examines the meaning of the sign of Jonah, the Shroud of Turin, traditions of men, and a few other topics.

The fifth chapter examines the Chief End of Man, and Jon does well to debunk the seeker sensitive madness Rick Warren is famous for, but he also takes the Westminster Shorter Catechism without question to answer the question. The problem with the catechism and its answer is the lack of defining the audience. About which man is it asking about the chief end – fallen man or redeemed man? In the context of the catechism, the very beginning, the catechism must be talking about man in general, not the redeemed. And because of this, their answer fails – because those who are bound for eternal torment do not have, as their chief aim “enjoying God.” Further, I find no support in Scripture that our benefit (the redeemed enjoying God forever) is our chief end. All of creation has as its chief end the glory of God. They should have put a period after the first phrase and worked out the latter portion in a later part of the catechism, making it clear enjoying God is a blessed benefit the redeemed will reap. Jon does point out that, to “enjoy God forever did not mean that man’s ultimate happiness comes as the result of what we receive from God. Following this thought toward its logical conclusion would ultimately suggest that God exists for man’s good pleasure and not the other way around.”11 Amen!

Christian – are you satisfied with your understanding of God’s Word and how it applies to you? I trust that is not the case. This short book is a good one to provoke any believer to dig deeper into the Scriptures, to pray for God’s wisdom, and examine some of those things we have been taught but never have thought about. Take and read!

 

Footnotes:

1 Cardwell, Jon J. (2014-11-15). The Simple Gospel – Including Other Essays Exalting Jesus Christ’s Person and Work: The Gospel Truth of Jesus Christ According to Scripture (The Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ Book 2) (Kindle Locations 172-174). Vayahiy Press. Kindle Edition.

2 ibid; Kindle Locations 210-211

3 ibid; Kindle Locations 241-242

4 ibid; Kindle Locations 252-253

5 ibid; Kindle Locations 259-262

6 ibid; Kindle Locations 299-301

7 ibid Kindle Location 332

8 ibid Kindle Locations 339-342

9 ibid Kindle Locations 361-365

10 ibid Kindle Locations 504-509

11 ibid Kindle Locations 915-917

Jeremiah’s Lament

Jeremiah’s Lament Jeremiah

What In The World Is Going On? – Reviewed by Stuart L. Brogden`

Once more, a “Christian” book touts its status on the New York Times and USA Today Best Seller’s list. Each time I read such a book, I try to find out why worldings would find the book so interesting. This book is a sensational fable presented as fact, based on a theology birthed by Roman Catholic Jesuit priests in the 16th century and a mystic young woman of the 19th century who belonged to the Plymouth Brethren. The priests developed the future-based Anti-Christ and Mary McDonald was given the pre-trib secret rapture in a dream, which she told to John Darby (details on this background here: http://www.dispensationalism.org.uk/). This is not the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. While some Christians have accepted premillenialism since the first century A.D., the dispensational twists (pre-trib rapture, fixation on the Anti-Christ, and focus on national Israel) are new fabrications. If dispensationalism is true, why would Sovereign God keep it a secret from His people for 1800 years?

David Jeremiah starts each chapter with a story from culture or history that sets the stage for his “prophetic clues”. None of these 10 prophetic clues make any sense unless one accepts the fable that dispensationalism is biblically sound. But there is not a single verse in the Bible that supports the pre-trib rapture, not one. Please watch this short video to gain a better understanding of this issue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQgrJ-pYhCM

I will not comment on each chapter – to do justice on such an effort would take a book. One more preface to specific comments: Dispensationalists tend to be guilty of paying heed to current events and finding some prophetic Scriptures that can be wrapped around them, sounding biblical to those who are not disciplined in studying Scripture. To facilitate this, Jeremiah starts each chapter with a tale from recent history or current events. He claims (page xv) to be “viewing current events from the perspective of God’s wonderful Word” but a careful review of his book and of Scripture discloses that he is reading the Word of God through the lens of current events. This leads into his “prophetic clue” of each chapter, as he acts as a pied piper of dispensational error.

The dispensational error of being focused on Israel shows up in a classic way on page 3: “Apparently God finds Abraham and his descendants to be of enormous importance.” This tendency of assigning value to the creation rather than seeing God using sinful, rebellious people for His purposes is a common affliction. Further in this opening chapter, pages 4 & 5, the author brags on the Jews throughout history – as if they, rather than Almighty God were responsible for their success and influence. Yet he admits on page 7 that “The Bible tells us His choice of Israel had nothing to do with merit.” Back a page, Jeremiah proclaims his belief that God’s promise of land was the most important covenant promise made to Abraham and on pages 9 – 11 he tells us it is not yet fulfilled. Yet Hebrews 11:8-10 show that Abraham “was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” In John 8:56, the Lord declared to the Jews, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” Abraham knew the terrestrial property which Israel fully claimed all that was promised by God (read Joshua 21:41 – 45), contrary to the dispensational claim that this promise is yet to be fulfilled. The promised land on Earth was a type and shadow of the Promised Land that Christ will bring all that the Father has given Him unto. Not some dusty bit of the mid-east. Still in the opening chapter, on page 18, we are told that the promise given in Jeremiah 32:37 – 38 is yet to be fulfilled. This promise, however, was fulfilled at Calvary, when Christ ended the Jewish religion and delivered on His promise to pay the debt for all God’s chosen people, giving each new-born Christian a safe refuge and identity as His people.

Chapter two shows a man who knows or cares so little about spiritual realities that he bases a sermon or two on crude oil (page 35), calling it “the stuff of life” (page 27) and a “sign” (the inference I drew is that he considers this a biblical sign). On page 30, the author reveals that he disbelieves the biblical account of creation, believing oil took “eons of time” to create. On page 38, Doctor Jeremiah tells us that Deuteronomy 33:24 (And of Asher he said, “Most blessed of sons be Asher; let him be the favorite of his brothers, and let him dip his foot in oil.) and Genesis 49:22 – 26 indicate there is oil beneath the dirt occupied by the modern nation of Israel. The oil mentioned in Deuteronomy is olive oil, used in medicine and religious anointing. The passage from Genesis simply refers to blessings directly from God in Heaven and indirectly from God here below. To derive a promise of crude oil from these passages is perhaps the worst example of eisegesis (reading assumptions into Scripture) that I’ve seen.

Let me say that I agree with parts of this book. The author’s warning (page 42) that we who profess Christ remain vigilant and focused on the Lord and his admonitions #2 –10 (pages 233 – 234) on how to live until the Lord returns are both spot-on. Likewise, chapter 4 – his warning about Islam – is a bold statement that many soft-hearted, fuzzy-thinking people need to read.

But the balance of the book is in the same vein as the first two – based on faulty presuppositions rather than on Scripture. On page 69, Doctor Jeremiah tells us that Romans 13:11 is a warning about the end of the age, but the context clearly is that of instructing Christians how to live in the world, in light of our firm hope of eternal life. On the same page, we see another common aspect of dispensational teaching – a works-based view of salvation, wherein one is told to “accept His offer of salvation”. The Bible tells us we are drawn to Christ and salvation is “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12 & 13). This Arminian error shows up in a couple places throughout this book and is deceptive and man pleasing – but has more in common with heresy than with biblical truth.

Compounding his error in teaching a pre-trib rapture, Jeremiah devotes a chapter (#5) to digging a deeper hole. He claims 1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 18 describes the pre-trib rapture (page 102) and he calls this a “stealth event” (page 100) which only Christians are aware of (page 206). A stealth event which only Christians witness, characterized by “a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God”. Reads like something everybody will know about – like the resurrection of every soul on Judgment Day.

In chapter 6, we are told that the Bible prophecies a role in the end times for the United States of America and foretells Russia invading Israel. This is in your Bible to same degree as his crude oil find in chapter 2. He relies much on his country, calling our way of life “our lifeline” (page 129). Perhaps he ought to look unto Christ as his lifeline! On the next page, he quotes the “high priest” of pre-trib rapture, Tim LaHaye, who asks, “Why would the God of prophecy not refer to the supreme nation in the end times in preparation for the one-world government of the Antichrist?” I suggest LaHaye and Jeremiah reacquaint themselves with the lesson of Judges 7:2 and Psalms chapter 20. God does not need nor does He depend on horses, chariots, or superpowers.

Chapter 7 is devoted to propping up the fable from Rome that there is a future Antichrist who will rule the world. Remember – this doctrine did not exist until the 16th century and appears to be a Roman Catholic response to The Reformation, which taught that the office of pope was the AntiChrist. In this chapter, Jeremiah quotes A.W. Pink as a supporter of this view. This was true, but Pink later repented and had unkind things to say about dispensationalism, in the same way a former smoker hates cigarette smoke. Read Pink’s later statement, in four chapters, here: http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Dispensationalism/dispensationalism.htm

My suggestion to the reader who wants to know what will happen is to read the Gospel of John and cry out to God for repentance and faith. Christians do not fear tribulation, for our God is a strong tower and a secure refuge. Out God knows how to save His people from harm, in the midst of trouble. We are promised safety from the wrath of God’s judgment (Romans 8:1) but we are promised trouble and tribulation while we live on planet earth: Matthew 24 describes significant tribulation that His people will face; John 16:33 informs us we will have tribulation in this world; Romans 8:35 tells us tribulation will not separate us from Christ; Romans 12:12 tells us to rejoice in tribulation. Rather than being raptured before tribulation, the Bible tells us we will be preserved in and through tribulation! This is more to the glory of God – shielding and protecting His own – than a pre-trib rapture, where He snatches them up before trough times hit. It takes a mighty God to protect His people through the midst of tribulation. Have faith in God!

A New Direction

Street SignHaving been the head administrator for the last several months, I have been blessed to work with some truly wonderful brethren and to interact with a great many of our readers personally. Having been here for nearly two years, I believe that many of the articles we have written have truly been beneficial and God honoring. And I believe those articles have helped many readers to understand the holy nature of God better, causing them to glorify the Lord. With that being said, I have also had the opportunity to be moderator of the comments and the interactions we have with our readers. I have seen the reactions that some of the things we have written cause, not all of the reactions we have received have been pleasant, or even God honoring. In fact, there have often been times where things have gotten downright snarky.

Now, I have never been one who feels that Christians should cower in a corner and not stand up for the truth. I believe that we must stand and proclaim the only truth there is, the word of God. If we were to fail to proclaim the truth for fear of how we would be received, we would be sinning against God Himself. We must not, in fact cannot, compromise the truth of the gospel. However, in standing up for the truth, it is possible for us to be so caustic or arrogant in what we say that we can do just as much damage as we hope to defend against. I fear that in our efforts to defend the solid truths of the gospel, we as a blog, have crossed that line on more than one occasion. The result has been that we have engendered a spirit of divisiveness and even bitterness among ourselves and our readers. For this, I must sincerely apologize.

As Christians we are called to proclaim the truth of the gospel to a lost and dying world. And we are to do so with all the love and compassion we can possibly show. We are heralds of the true and living gospel, proclaiming salvation through Christ alone. We are also called to use our gifts to edify and strengthen the body of Christ. To build it up for good works that glorify our Savior. If we fail to obey these commands from our Lord, we are indeed in sin. Many times throughout the run of this blog, various authors have attempted to make the call for all of us to eliminate the sometimes caustic and arrogant attacks we level at each other. There have been pleas to speak the truth in love and compassion, both to the lost and the saved who frequent our pages. Yet, I continue to see the end result of that which we have posted. I have seen the arguing and spitefulness we have been responsible for. Thus, we have failed to heed our own call.

Now, in fairness to my gifted pool of contributors, I know that the proclamation and defense of the truth will always have its detractors. There will be no end of those who wish to argue and pervert the truth. Therefore, now matter how much love and compassion we write with, there will be those who seek to stir up strife for their own gain. It is not those who concern me. It is those with whom we are true brethren, those with whom we may disagree but are yet in the faith, that we have sometimes eviscerated with our words that I am compelled to apologize to, and ask forgiveness from. While none of us have ever set out to purposefully harm our brethren, our desire to defend the theologies we are passionate about has sometimes been misplaced. As lead administrator, it is my duty to keep this matter in check. I have failed in this and ask for forgiveness from those we have hurt.

One reason I believe that much of this is has occurred is that we are part of that blogosphere that is known as “discernment” ministry. We have long tried to warn believers that there are enemies in the camp. However, in our zeal to defend the bride of Christ, we have sometimes gone after even true brethren for even perceived minor wrongdoings. This has created that spirit of divisiveness and bitterness I mentioned above. While we are supposed to defend the truth of God’s word, we are also to evidence our faith by how we love the brethren. But we when have wrongly taken them to task, what we have actually shown is that we are very good at eating our own.

To that end, I want to say that as head administrator, I am changing the direction of DefCon. I want to take us out of the discernment arena and get us back into the gospel arena. Henceforth, our articles will focus on those things that teach and edify the body, rather than be a constant barrage of what is bad in Christendom. We will seek to teach and expound, building up the body to magnify God and do good works. We will write about how Christians should interact in this world from a gospel centered worldview, about the absolute need to be busy proclaiming the gospel, on things which educate them on areas of biblical parenting, relationships, etc. Along the way, it may be necessary to warn our readers against obvious goats in the camp. We will write about these assaults on the gospel, but no longer will it be our sole focus.

With this new direction will come new responsibilities for us as writers. We must keep our motivations and feelings in check. We must balance our passion for the truth with our need to love our brethren, and even our enemies. We must strive to honor God and His word above all else. I ask our readers to pray for us during this time of transition. Petition God that we would be honest, faithful and true to His word. That we would be a blessing to Him and not a curse. I also ask that you would stand with us, continue to read and comment on our articles. Be encouraging where we are getting it right, and call us, lovingly, into account when we blow it.

Defending Contending has been a blessing to a great many people over the years. As the broken and busted vessel that God has blessed to run it, I desire to see it be an even greater blessing in years to come. I thank you all for your continued prayers and support. May God bless us as we seek this new direction for His glory.

What was Mohler Thinking?

Nearly 4 years ago, Albert Mohler and Danny Akins co-authored an article that never should have 1614332826_Do_Babies_go_to_Heaven_300x245_xlargebeen written. The Bible does not give enough information to be dogmatic about the eternal destiny of infants. It’s bad enough that Doug Wilson (of Federal Vision infamy) believes that a trinitarian baptism make babies (including Roman Catholic babies) Christian, we have otherwise sober Calvinist Baptists telling us ALL babies are saved – if they die before they sin. The hinge pin of Scripture they base this upon is 2 Cor 5:10, which, if taken as a solitary proof text, says one is judged for the deeds he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Their argument is that a baby is unable to do any evil deeds – yet they do not tell concerned parents at what age a baby is able to sin.

God chose before the foundation of the world those whom He would save. It is possible that omniscient God knew/ordained the early death of each infant who dies and sovereignly elected each one. But the Bible must be tortured to pull this doctrine out of it.

Mohler and Akins admit that every infant has the stain of original sin. They spend a few short paragraphs explaining the wretched state of unredeemed humanity – which includes infants. Then they have this:

What, then is our basis for claiming that all those who die in infancy are among the elect? First, the Bible teaches that we are to be judged on the basis of our deeds committed “in the body.”(2) That is, we will face the judgment seat of Christ and be judged, not on the basis of original sin, but for our sins committed during our own lifetimes. Each will answer “according to what he has done,”(3) and not for the sin of Adam. The imputation of Adam’s sin and guilt explains our inability to respond to God without regeneration, but the Bible does not teach that we will answer for Adam’s sin. We will answer for our own. But what about infants? Have those who die in infancy committed such sins in the body? We believe not.

They claim that since the children of the Exodus were not killed, but allowed to go into the promised land – babies go to heaven. This interpretation is not found anywhere the Bible that I am aware of. They claim that since Jesus said “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these” that actual children go to heaven. Child-like faith is what the Lord was talking about – not having any guile. Yet though Mohler and Akins repeatedly state that infants go to heaven they do not address the question of age of accountability. For IF one teaches the salvation of infants who die, one MUST be able to tell parents how old the baby must be in order to be accountable – how else can this false comfort be provided? It is reasonable that man wants to comfort fellow man. Christian man must not make up doctrines to provide false comfort. The entire Bible tells us Christ is our refuge and in Him alone we are safe. He is our protector, provider, and shepherd. Tenuous “promises” taken from muddied waters into which Scripture was stirred is not how we are to seek understanding or comfort.

We must be content to trust God, rather than make up doctrines that our natural minds embrace. It is reasonable to infer than God puts children in Christian homes because children are a blessing from God and Christians will be able to train the children as God commands. It is a stretch beyond the snapping point to say that children of Christians are New Covenant members – yet this is what Mohler and Akins are saying, for none outside the New Covenant can be saved. But the authors go beyond that and claim that ALL infants who die as such (again – with no line drawn as to how old one can be and claim this promise) were elect.

I am not going to recap the entire article – please read it and decide for yourself. But it is not helpful at all, consisting of man’s reason in an area God has not spoken clearly on.

Gospel, Discernment, and Passion 2013!

It is my prayer that this post will prove to be a connection between the matters of presenting the gospel and that of the area of discernment among the body of Christ.

First, I note that each contributor has a different set of giftings for which I am very thankful. When The Pilgrim was the primary owner of the blog, we were blessed in the addition of good men who I believe continue to take Defending Contending in a solidly, biblical direction. Chris, who took over from The Pilgrim, has a huge heart for evangelism and outreach as does Bill Phillips. Manfred, Fourpointer, and Abiding Through Grace have helped to bring a solid reformed perspective to this part of the blogosphere. The Pilgrim and I set a tone for world missions and also the need of discernment in the Body of Christ.

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Yet, each contributor is only human. We make mistakes, and further, we all have areas of sin that the Holy Spirit has to work to correct in our lives. None of us have arrived, nor would we ever want to portray such a picture. As our long-time readers will remember, there are times that we have each had to ask forgiveness for something we wrote, maybe that was in haste or in anger. Through all of this we continue to move forward and desire to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.

For the record, we are not always in agreement with our thought processes, nor with a particular point of doctrine that we seek to understand. However, there is no question that we all love the Savior and desire truth in the inward parts of our heart and soul. My fellow contributors may not even be in full agreement with this post, but I believe I can safely assert that we all have the same desires – purity in the church and a church that is fervent about spreading the gospel message!

Recently, both Chris and I have posted a few articles that have dealt with two areas that are not diametrically opposed to each other. Conversely, they are actually a very necessary part of how we are to operate within the confines of a local church setting. His approach and strong desire for the presentation of the gospel has been matched by my own desire to have a spirit of discernment as we present our case before the thousands of readers we see come to DefCon every week.

In the midst of this, some have questioned our decisions either to bring a spotlight on a pastor, or in not going far enough in our condemnation. This is my main reason for writing this, especially in light of what we are seeing take place at Passion 2013 right now in Atlanta, Georgia.

From a gospel perspective, I believe that if more people were being presented with a Christ-centered message versus a man-centered message that there would be far fewer who were in attendance. The problem with Passion 2013 is that those in attendance are being driven by emotion. Further, they are seeing this event being openly endorsed by men such as David Platt and Justin Taylor. This event is not only being endorsed by well-known ministers, but men who should know better are also involved in preaching there such as John Piper.

The question we are faced with is, “Does such an endorsement automatically place men like Piper, Platt, or Taylor under such a cloud that we have the right to call their salvation into question and classify them as unbelievers?”

This is where the discernment perspective must come in. There are wolves who have always sought to infiltrate the church of the spotless Lamb of God. There will always be wolves. There can be no doubt that the salvation of a person is a matter that ultimately can only be known between that individual and the Sovereign God of the Universe. However, the Scriptures make it abundantly clear that we can be fruit inspectors and that by the works of others we can have a clearer picture as to their spiritual condition or lack thereof.

Taking this to another level, we must also consider discipline as found in Matthew 18. First, we must recognize that discipline is to be practiced between fellow believers, but that some aspects can only be effected in a local church setting. As an example, if I have offended another brother contributor, I have the responsibility before God to make that right. However, should things heat up and we have a falling out, neither my church, nor the church where the fellow contributor is in fellowship, have the right to bring another under discipline if they are not a member or in fellowship with that particular assembly.

Therefore, for those who lack in discernment in evangelical circles, we at DefCon can only bring warnings to others. We cannot bring ultimate judgment against another. Further, many seek to use Matthew 18 to make the point that if we have not taken our grievances to that person in question that we have no right to make public our concerns. This also comes from a poor understanding of this passage. The level of discipline is first to be enacted and finalized at the level to which it is either private or public knowledge. For example, if a brother contributor and I have a disagreement and we resolve the matter without it going public in any form or fashion, it goes no further. Restoration has taken place.

However, a person who has a public ministry and has openly stated where he stands or is showing a lack of discernment has taken the matter to a public level. There is no more private conversations necessary for the testimony at stake is no longer just a personal one, but is a dispersion against the Bride of Christ before a lost world.

Either way, at no point, does Matthew 18 give us the freedom to state to the world that the person who is offending others is an unbeliever. We are told and given the right by Christ that if such a person goes all the way to the final step of discipline that they are to be placed outside of the protection of the local church. They are then to be TREATED as one who is an unbeliever. The entire process is to continue giving forth the message to them and seek to provide restoration. This was a primary purpose for the writing of 1 and 2 Corinthians. Matthew 18 was fully enacted, but 2 Corinthians was necessary for the church to see their error in not admitting the brother back into fellowship. In this case, the man in question was in grievous sin that was not even found among the amoral society of Romans. Yet, at no point in either book does Paul question this man’s salvation!

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So, let us look further at the events currently unfolding at Passion 2013. There are some there who are teaching another gospel and are openly teaching or practicing or promoting heresy. This, in my estimation, includes Louie Giglio. It also includes groups or individuals that are practicing doctrines of demons. This group would include David Crowder, Christy Nockels and the band Jesus Culture.

A thorough expose on these groups can be found at Apprising.Org, and I highly recommend any person with questions to go and read my Christian brother’s blog posts before making any negative comments about my inclusion of these groups or individuals. Suffice it to say for now that these music artists are highly charismatic and further give evidence that Jesus is merely a byword, not a Person Who has changed their way of life. For further information, I would highly recommend reading the following post as well on the connections of those leading Passion 2013.

In addition, you have a woman, Beth Moore, who is clearly in contradiction to the teaching of God’s Word. She is considered an elder, teaches and preaches to men, but further is openly involved in the Roman Catholic teaching of contemplative mysticism. This type of meditation and mindless repetitious prayers were openly condemned by our Savior during His earthly ministry. Beth continues to refuse to be corrected and has continued a slide further into the acceptance of Roman Catholics as being on the same road to heaven as Christianity.

The Bible makes it clear that there is only one way to heaven, and what the Roman Catholic system teaches is not salvation by faith through grace alone. Beth is no longer just endorsing religions such as Roman Catholicism. Her teaching shows that she is promoting a completely different gospel. While we would pray and hope that she will see the error of her ways, we can only conclude at this point with the words of the apostle Paul in Galatians 1 – if anybody, even an angel, preach ANY OTHER gospel than what we have preached to you, then let them be accursed. This is not my words, nor is it my decision. Her actions and words bring condemnation upon her and her ministry.

So what about John Piper? Personally, I have learned much from several of his earlier books with the exception of his teaching of “Christian” hedonism. A very poor choice of terminology and shaky theology at best is at play here. However, in more recent times, there have been growing questions about his connections, his endorsements, and I am convinced that this has produced questions about where his theology is changing to from books such as “Future Grace.”

His endorsements are wrong, and I have not seen one thing that convinces me that he is preaching at Passion 2013 with the intention of bringing biblical clarity to the thousands who are gathered. Actually, he now openly endorses the ungodliness that is in place, holds hands with Beth Moore, and has even been captured on video practicing contemplative mysticism! This certainly does bring him into question and at this time, I believe we are only left with two conclusions. First, his lack of discernment continues to drive him down the road towards full-blown apostasy at the expense of biblical truth. Second, while I am not prepared to question whether he has ever come to a point of saving faith, I am prepared to learn from the words of John MacArthur, who has in the past noted that a person who evidences no change, has no fruit, and continues in full-blown apostasy must be concerned as to whether they were ever saved to begin with.

Sadly, the problem is compounded by the inclusion of heretics like Judah Smith, who co-pastors a church with his wife in Washington. His connection includes preaching at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church and Mark Driscoll fully endorsed this event. Yes, this is the same Driscoll and Warren that are so openly welcomed and share pulpits with John Piper. These men all have the same thing in common – they are students of humanist authors like Peter Drucker, who died as a heathen pagan – without Christ.

My prayer is that those who like Chan, Piper, Platt, and Taylor, who have preached and taught the truth will wake up and see the truth. The truth is that they are being sucked into the whirlpool of expediency, the whirlpool that says numbers are more important than truth, the whirlpool that produces ever-increasing numbers of false conversions, and the whirlpool of apostasy that threatens to swallow all the other whirlpools like the black holes of space. Soon no spiritual light will shine forth from their ministries for error, heresy, and the doctrines of demons will swallow any glimmer from view, or it will ultimately prove that there was no light to begin with.

nouturn For now, I would share the words from the apostle Paul as seen in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”

Today, we MUST have the true gospel of Jesus Christ being preached to the world. The church has an awesome responsibility to reach out to the world and share in love the truth of God’s Word. The world must hear that there is ONLY one way to heaven and that is through the finished work of Jesus Christ.

However, preachers, pastors and ministers of the gospel must not only practice spiritual discernment, but they must also teach their people how to discern between what is right and what is wrong. Conferences like Passion 2013 are filled with thousands who are either not saved, or they fall under the category of being let down by the men who were entrusted with their spiritual well-being.

Pastors who have not stood up to this nonsense should repent for putting their people in harm’s way. Parents who have allowed their children to attend such a conference should also repent for putting their children, whom they were given to protect, in the way of the forces of hell that seek to blind the minds of their precious gifts. Men like Francis Chan, David Platt, Justin Taylor, and John Piper have a responsibility to take a stand no matter what it costs in the way of book sales, or affiliations, or even the numbers of followers they have garnered. If there is a time for men like these to take a stand and apologize for their lack of discernment and for misleading the body of Christ around the world by their open endorsements of heresy, charismania, and yes, even the doctrines of demons being openly endorsed by people like Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Louie Giglio and others.

But then again, Paul warned us in 2 Thessalonians that there would come a time before the return of the Lord that apostasy would take place within the church. Maybe this is what we are seeing. I fear for those who have failed in their calling and with their testimony. I fear for what they will face when they stand before the Lord in judgment.

May we not pride ourselves on who we are, nor that we have not fallen ourselves! Brothers and sisters, may our thoughts remain on the Author and Finisher of our faith. May we remember that but for the grace of God, we could be the ones that are where these others now find themselves.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Mark – TJM