Authority, Obey, Submit?

I recently made a Facebook post which had more activity than most of mine attract. It had to do with the topic of biblical submission to a pastor or elder. I love this topic of discussion because we know something about the quote from personal experience. Here is the Tweet from the “pastor,” which I assume he is but didn’t check to see.

It spurred enough discussion that a friend reached out and asked if I had any articles on the topic. I couldn’t recall any at that time, but now that I’ve searched the memory banks, I remember an article I wrote a long time ago.

I’ve since removed it because I don’t believe in what I wrote any longer. I want to clarify that I’m not against biblical submission, I’m not against biblical authority, and I think that pastors/elders have a certain amount of both. However, it must be within the context of the limits of how far the Bible extends this authority. Herein lies the rub for the fundamentalist crowd.

Here is how I started that article from 2012

“The human condition is to rebel against authority.  It’s in our fleshly nature.  Our desire is to seek self and when someone tells us what to do that generally goes against our own self interest.  If you had a negative thought when you read the title of this post, maybe I’ve already made my case.”

The tone with which I spoke is enough to nauseate me today. While I don’t believe the paragraph is untrue, it needs a different presentation. While I also think that I made some decent points, I lacked experience, and I also lacked grace.

Suffice it to say that we need to be careful who we listen to and how much stock we place in their analysis of the Scriptures. I’m not trying to discount my knowledge or my sincerity, but sometimes we/me can be wrong.

So what about it?

Where do we allow the authority of elders to enter into our lives? Many that I call my friends are fundamentalist survivors. They’ve been through the over-shepherding model of church, and they have rightly rejected it. Whether knowingly or not, this over-shepherding is a product of the 1970s. I’ve written briefly on the topic before here.

John MacArthur famously said when asked how much authority he has, he said “none.” I like the answer because he was expressing his power only comes from God. In Fundamentalism, overly anxious elders love authority, submission, and obedience.

Diotrephes loved authority, but only his own.

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority  (3 John 9).

Pastors and elders that love authority tends to place themselves in a hierarchical position. They are the leaders, now obey. At the root of the problem is the desire for control or power. The leader elevates himself to the top position where there are usually rules for thee but not for me. It is all very predictable.  

What’s the right balance?

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17).

The biblical call to obey leaders is evident from this passage. It is a good passage, I love the passage, but if I’m to be a Bible student, I need to prevent this from being an authoritarian’s delight.

A quick aside: since leaving former fundy church (over three years ago now), I’ve never heard this passage brought up by any leadership we’ve been apart. Not once. In the former fundy church, Hebrews 13:17 made the quotation rotation regularly.  I dare not say weekly, but it might have been weekly.

If I need to boil it down to the most base position, it’s these areas where church leaders possess authority, and by no means is this comprehensive, but it outlines some basics.

Humility – all flows from a humble spirit

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews (Acts 20:18-19).

Paul sets an example of how to lead and how to live before the people of God. Any leader that does not walk in humility is not worthy of following.

Preaching – a primary task of pastoral care is appropriately handling the word of God

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

False teachers, unqualified leaders, and Diotrephes types will distort the truth, bend the truth, and manipulate the truth to suit their desires. Be on the watch.

Error in the church – conflict is inevitable, and the humble, servant leader must confront blatant sin

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them (Acts 20:28-30).

Notice, I said blatant sin. Sin that is really sin. Not some hyped-up, made-up sin. I have something in mind, and those that know, know what I’m talking about.

I was thankful to have an opportunity to preach on this topic:

Love People – Most people recognize love when they see it

For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you (2 Corinthians 2:4).

Through humility and love, Paul’s example of servant leadership is an example we should all seek after. His love for the church was evident. He confronted when needed, but it was always in humility and with a desire for restoration.

These are just a few of the ways pastors and elders should exercise authority, but none of them should ever be in an authoritarian manner.

The above quote (Tweet) is an attitude of entitlement and authoritarianism. The man above has a desire for preeminence. He desires to be the go-to guy. If you need advice, he has it. If you don’t need advice, you should ask him anyhow.

“Hey pastor, should I wear the blue suede shoes or the red shoes?” Unless he’s asking you to sin, you should take his advice, says the authoritarian pastor. Be aware, dear friends, there are many of them out there waiting to prey on their next victims. Stay in the word, stay in prayer, seek discernment and wisdom. Stay humble, or get humble.

Kevin

What About Free Will?

“But what about free will?”

“What about it, I said”

“Doesn’t free will provide the answer to the problems in the world?”

“Can I ask you a question?” “When you finish college and get a job, will you have to show up to work?”

“I suppose if I want to get paid, then I will have to show up.”

“Yes, so is your will free? We are always subject to something.”

“Oh, look what time it is, I’ve got to go, or I’ll be late for class…”

Point made. 

I’ve had this sort of a conversation dozens of times. The question revolves around making choices and making choices without consequences, from my experiences, in discussing free will with people, especially on a college campus. Some of them are genuine inquiries, and some are hoping to deliver the death-blow to the conversation.

What is it about man’s free will, and how does God factor into the ability for us to make real choices. How God be sovereign over all things? It’s not an easy topic. I’m writing some articles that defend the Christian faith, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do so—being forced to defend what you believe is an essential aspect of the Christian faith.

Christianity requires faith but not blind faith.

Free will, Defined:

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary provides this:

  1. : voluntary choice or decision
  2. : freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention

Webster’s 1828  dictionary says this:

  1. The power of directing our own actions without restraint by necessity or fate.
  2. Voluntariness; spontaneousness.

It seems to me both of these are similar and accurate. The newer definition says there is no divine intervention, and the 1828 version says without restraint by necessity or fate. The difference in thought is quite different it seems. In 1828 Noah Webster knew that God was involved in everything. I’ll get to that point later on.

I want to firmly say that we make “free will” decisions every day that have consequences. God is not forcing our hand, nor is He influencing these decisions so that we are puppets on a string. I will argue God’s Divine control, but not in the way Determinism posits.

The brilliant men that wrote the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith have nicely summarized the argument, and I would commend anyone interested in further study to investigate the 2nd London Baptist Confession in Modern English.

Chapter 9 – Free Will – paragraph 1.

1. God has endowed human will with natural liberty and power to act on choices so that it is neither forced nor inherently bound by nature to do good or evil.1

1Matthew 17:12; James 1:14; Deuteronomy 30:19.

It is also critical to recognize how God factors into the created world and His creation’s management. God has decreed all things from the beginning to the end but provides us (the creature) decision making power.

Chapter 3 – God’s Decree – paragraph 1.

1. From all eternity God decreed everything that occurs, without reference to anything outside himself.1  He did this by the perfectly wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably. Yet God did this in such a way that he is neither the author of sin nor has fellowship with any in their sin.2  This decree does not violate the will of the creature or take away the free working or contingency of second causes. On the contrary, these are established by God’s decree.3  In this decree God’s wisdom is displayed in directing all things, and his power and faithfulness are demonstrated in accomplishing his decree.4

1Isaiah 46:10; Ephesians 1:11; Hebrews 6:17; Romans 9:15, 18. 2James 1:13; 1 John 1:5. 3Acts 4:27, 28; John 19:11. 4Numbers 23:19; Ephesians 1:3–5.

The Confession provides a critical understanding of how God works in His creation and how humanity can function consistently with clear and legitimate choices. If we reconsider our dictionary definitions, the modern Merriam-Webster definition seems to be more aligned with the Confession than one might give at first blush; however, we know that if God has decreed all things that will come to pass, at the bottom of it all, God has a purpose.

The most important conclusion we can draw is that the universe is purposeless without the Divine influence. In the article I wrote on God and Evil, I outlined that God can control all things and even allow or decree evil and still not be the author of evil. I’m sure this is distasteful to many, and I’ll admit sometimes causes me grief. I don’t believe we are truly human if we don’t recoil at the trouble with evil. Similarly, God controls all things (ultimately) but allows and even decrees specific actions and so-called “Free Will” decisions that bring Him glory. For example, how can we not rejoice at Corey ten Boom’s faith and courage without there being a Holocaust? How could Arthur Schindler’s “list” not inspire us to help others? How can we even know goodness without badness, or light without dark?

God’s ways and thoughts are far higher than ours, and while to some, it may sound too simple, it is far from simple. 

Man’s Decision-making Ability

If I have correctly defined free will, my task next is to show that man has the rational ability to decide on matters, and they are, in effect, “real.” I believe the real decision and God’s providence are inextricably linked, so I want to use a well-known Bible narrative to illustrate my point.

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan. They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits (Genesis 37:17b-20).

Joseph was the favored son of Jacob was despised and hated by his brothers. When Joseph finds his brothers, the brothers seize the opportunity to throw Joseph in a pit, sell him as a slave to be sent to Egypt, and lie to their father that wild animals have killed Joseph. The decisions these brothers made were their own. They freely made them, and they had severe consequences. Joseph, Jacob, and many others were affected by these wicked and evil choices. God had a good reason for this to happen, and it plays out in the Redemption story, but it is a long and grueling journey that eventually lands Joseph in the number two spot in all of Egypt. God had a plan to use it for good and His glory.

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Genesis 50:19-20).

We see that ultimately God had decreed that the brothers would commit evil acts against Joseph for good. The decisions these brothers made were real, they had consequences, and God allowed it to happen, and we can even say, caused it to happen, but yet was not the author of sin. How does that work?

Second Causes

Joseph’s brothers perfectly illustrate an agent of second cause. God didn’t come down to Dothan and make the brothers conspire to kill Joseph. Why did the brothers do this? Once again, I believe the Bible can answer our question, and it begins back at the beginning.  Adam and Eve are serving God in the garden. They are naming the animals, Adam is tending the garden, and Eve is preparing a delicious meal of…. Oops.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:6-11).

It is “simple” from this point forward. The ground is cursed, man is cursed, the woman is cursed, and all humanity has been plunged into sin. Adam served as a representative of all of us. Man’s free will is now corrupt. 

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—  (Romans 5:12).

We have inherited sin from Adam, and we are born into sin through the curse, which is the explanation of it all. The world we inhabit is full of sinners. I don’t think I would need to convince most people this is true, but the issue is not convincing you others are sinners. The problem is convincing you that you are a sinner.

Most will say, yes, I know that I sin. I’ve told lies, I’ve stolen things, I’ve blasphemed the Name of God, but in comparison to those around me, I’m pretty good. I give money to the poor, and I provide for my family. I might send money to an organization that helps people. On the scales of justice, I’m better than the average Joe. 

And you know what? You’ve got me convinced. I’m, however, not the one that matters. God’s requirement for justice and holiness is perfection, and the way we judge ourselves is by comparing it to the law of God.

The Free Will Argument Summarized

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:15-18).

The Protestant Reformation began with a Catholic Munk, Martin Luther, nailing 95 theses to the Whittenberg castle door in Whittenberg, Germany. Luther saw many contradictions between the church of Rome and what the Bible taught. To reform the church of Rome, he started a revolution. Luther wrote a brilliant article with 19 arguments against the concept of Free Will called The Bondage of the Will. You can obtain a free download here from our friends at Chapel Library.

In Argument 2, Luther says this:

“This universal slavery to sin includes those who appear to be the best and most upright. No matter how much goodness men may naturally achieve, this is not the same thing as the knowledge of God. The most excellent thing about men is their reason and their will, but it has to be acknowledged that this noblest part is corrupt.

Paul argues the same thing in Romans 6 and throughout much of Romans. Man is corrupt, and while we are all capable of good and decent things, they cannot put us in a right relationship with God.

The ability to get right with God, to have our will conformed to God’s and the image of Christ comes via the new birth (John 3:3). We must believe that Jesus is the Christ and that He came to earth and lived the life we can’t, being a substitute for us on the cross and paying for our sins through His life, death, burial, and resurrection.

Jesus is the ultimate reality.  Anyone who desires knowledge of God and man’s ability to have a free will pleasing to God must reconcile with God through Christ. One day we all must stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and dealing with Him in the here and now is a necessity to dealing with Him in the judgment.

Jesus says this about Himself: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36).

If you want ultimate free will, the Son provides that in Him, and this leads to a bigger question, the ultimate question. Who is Jesus, and why did He come to earth? Was He just a good man, a moral teacher, or some obscure Jew living in ancient Palestine? All history flows through this man, and He makes many claims about Himself that, if not true, made Him the ultimate con-man in all history.

Perhaps, we will deal with this next time.

Kevin

My Response to Tony Miano: “God Hates Divorce in the Church”

What do you do when you’ve made a grave mistake? You look around, and you assess the situation, you try to determine the best course of action, and then, of course, you double and triple down on your current mistake. Most people will chuckle and say, you know what, I’ve done that. We’ve all done it.

Tony Miano is currently doing that by choosing to double down on his mistake of moving to Davenport, IA, and aligning himself with Grace Fellowship Church. I have to believe that somewhere in the corner of his mind, he is contemplating whether he has made the biggest mistake of his life. However, blinded by his pride and inability to admit his mistake.

After all, how many people do you cut out of your life to deny reality? A lot, apparently. I’m talking about some of his closest friends, former elders, and countless others who have been in his life for a long time. The close to a dozen now families left GFC after his arrival that continue to testify against the issues and abuses they experienced under GFC elders’ leadership and primarily the pastor Mike Reid. I’m one of them.

I’ll make the disclaimer again it brings me no joy to write this article, but I feel compelled since Tony felt compelled to write a backhanded slap, passive-aggressive essay at those who have left and worked to expose the issues. Tony is well-known for his passive-aggressive nature and even wrote a post about those that are passive-aggressive. Tony was passive-aggressive when we left GFC. He posted this the day after we left, insinuating we had stabbed them in the back.

I think they call this projecting. Instead of defending yourself, you project what you do onto others. It’s a very creative technique utilized by those engaged in gaslighting, and generally with a narcissistic tendency. I’m not accusing Tony of being a narcissist. I like Tony, and I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent with him, but when I sat down with Tony for a couple of hours after we left GFC, he wanted to articulate to me that he had left churches in the wrong way, and he urged me not to go in the wrong way. He assumed I was leaving in the wrong way. First of all, he had no idea what we had been through, but that’s for another day and covered in previous articles. I recognize these “attacks” have probably felt somewhat relentless. That’s the goal. They need to shake Tony out of his slumber and alert those that know him best to ask him to wake up.

I’m writing to show that Tony, in his own words, is often his own worst enemy. In an attempt to defend himself, he condemns himself. I’m not saying Tony isn’t an intelligent man or a gifted man. He is far beyond me in many of his abilities, but like all of us, he has blind spots, and rather than admit that he continues to double down and talk down by making accusations against those of us that have seen enough not to want to take it anymore.

In Tony’s most recent article, he compares God hating divorce from Malachi 2 to improperly leaving a church. I’ve linked the article here. I’ve also copied below this article in its entirety for the eventual reality that Tony will probably take it down after this article comes out. 

I will highlight two critical errors Tony has made in this comparison. The first thing to point out is Tony has adopted, from Mike Reid, there are only (3) ways to leave a church. We have heard this before from Mike Reid on the Remnant Radio Podcast, which has disappeared. I’ve highlighted that here in my blog post. For a moment, we will consider this an accurate statement, as Tony has provided some scriptural proof texts.

If this is true, I’ve argued this before, and recently my good friend Todd Pearson pointed this out on his podcast, Tony is a hypocrite. Tony left Grace Community Church in California outside of these parameters. He may argue he had “mutual consent,” but I know for sure that is not true. His elders had deep concerns about GFC. Those concerns have come to fruition as the “ministry” has received more unwanted attention. 

Furthermore, Tony cites the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 26, paragraph 13. Although it claims the 1689 is their confession, I may briefly add that GFC only uses what they approve of from the confession. I’ve made those points before. Paragraph 13 is an essential part of Chapter 26, but it doesn’t stop there. Paragraph 15 tells us the remedy for this offense.

Paragraph 15. In cases of difficulties or differences, either in point of doctrine or administration, wherein either the churches in general are concerned, or any one church, in their peace, union, and edification; or any member or members of any church are injured, in or by any proceedings in censures not agreeable to truth and order: it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, do, by their messengers, meet to consider, and give their advice in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the churches concerned;29 howbeit these messengers assembled, are not intrusted with any church-power properly so-called; or with any jurisdiction over the churches themselves, to exercise any censures either over any churches or persons; or to impose their determination on the churches or officers. (Acts 15:2,4,6,22,23,25) (2 Cor. 1:24; 1 John 4:1)

On at least three separate occasions, I made this offer. One of which I posted in the blog linked above. As I pointed out, the problem with this which churches would help remedy the situation. It was tried before by Sycamore Baptist Church, but they were accused of sin. The elders of GFC try and stack the deck and overwhelm anyone that would dare stand against them, but these are things Tony Miano does not know about because he hasn’t been there long enough, and he hasn’t had conversations with the other side. I would encourage him to contact the elders of Sycamore and ask about it.

How did Tony leave his former churches? In my discussion with Tony, he admitted that he had poorly left before, and because of the lessons he “learned,” I shouldn’t do the same leaving GFC. He never did mention to me that day at Starbucks how he left Grace Community Church (GCC). If it was by the standard, he claims in his article. I believe he failed. He says this:

 After a comprehensive look at the New Testament, one will not find a laundry list of reasons for leaving a local church. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find more than three: being sent out by the church (church planting, missions, mutual agreement–including for reasons not always missional, etc), excommunication, or death.

Being Sent: Acts 9:23-25, 30; 11:19, 25; 13:2; 15:22-29; Phill 2:19, 25, 28; Titus 3:12

Excommunication: Matthew 15:18-17; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

Death: Acts 5: 1-11; 1 Corinthians 15:6, 20; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16

If an American Evangelical Confession of Faith existed, it would likely significantly add to the biblical list of three.

I will say I agree with Tony on his point that people far too quickly depart a church. We have a complete agreement in this area, but what I’d like to ask Tony is being faithful members of a church (GFC) for nine years, being a Deacon for four years, always in good standing with the leadership, demonstrate to him that we left for the reasons he has stated? Or is it possible there was more to the story? Is it possible that the other families left had similar experiences that had caused them to say, “enough is enough?”

Does he know how I went to Mike and presented what I could best articulate at the time as the reasons for our concerns? Does Tony realize my concern was for my family’s spiritual health and well-being, and I attempted to convey the issues of legalism and authoritarianism to Mike Reid in hopes he would work to help change the course of direction? No, Tony didn’t realize nor would he hear those things, because, for him, he had found “paradise.” 

The second issue I would like to bring up is the poor exegesis involved in Tony trying to connect Malachi 2:16. I will quote the NKJV since I know that is the translation GFC utilizes.

“For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” (Malachi 2:16).

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is for those who don’t read Greek or Hebrew to check multiple translations. The value in doing so can provide tremendous insights into the word of God. I appreciate several translations of this verse, but I’ll show the Lexham English Septuagint. The LES provides a very practical, literal translation to give a better understanding.

16 But if, while hating, you dismiss your wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “you will conceal the wrongdoing of your thoughts,” says the Lord Almighty. “So observe yourselves, and never desert your wife.” [1]

I believe Tony should be embarrassed at attempting to make this comparison. We shouldn’t use the Scriptures to our advantage to make a point that we desperately want to make, then find a verse, twist it, bend it and distort it to make a point that scripture never intended nor never meant. While we can find verses to make an application, I’d argue you would have to struggle to apply what Tony is trying to do in this article. I’m going to try and give Tony the benefit of the doubt. He says this:

With that kind of closeness, because of the inherent sinfulness of all involved, there will be difficult times. When those difficult times come in a local assembly of believers the wrong response, just as in a biological family, is to divorce or otherwise abandon the family. God hates divorce between a husband and wife. I think He also hates divorce within the context of the local church.

What Tony may forget is that we were a part of that church for nine years, I’ve made that point before. I’ve heard Mike Reid quote Malachi 16 more times than I can count. He was firmly against divorce. I’m glad he was, but I also believe he has a severe misunderstanding of this verse, and now Tony is doing the same to this verse and not considering the context of Chapter 2, specifically. 

Before I get into the topic of divorce, we need to look at this in context. The argument in Chapter 2 is that the priests have been unfaithful to the Lord in dealing with the people.

So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. (Mal 2:4-7).

If we want to connect the dots between divorce and the church, here is the starting point. The priests had the job of protecting, ministering, and watching out for the children of Israel’s spiritual welfare. They are messengers of the LORD of hosts. We can draw this parallel between New Testament elders and pastors because they also are charged with protecting, ministering, and watching out for Christ’s sheep. But what if they don’t do that?

But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.” (Mal 2:8-9).

God does indeed make a comparison between the husband and wife relationship. He also compares the Priest and the children of Israel, but this does not play in Tony’s favor.

13 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. (Mal 2:13-15).

Here is where this goes wrong. These priests were showing disdain and hatred for their wives and the people of God. Remember what the LES said?

16 But if, while hating, you dismiss your wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “you will conceal the wrongdoing of your thoughts,” (Mal 2:16a)

The context of Malachi 2:16 is faithless ministers that hate their wives and desire to divorce them. God is giving this warning directly to them. In reality, if Tony wants to make this connection, he should acknowledge the faithless minister that is doing damage to the congregation. I believe this is the most egregious part of the misdiagnosis of the passage.

However, if we look at the actual divorce concept, is there ever any circumstance in which divorce is permissible? I think Tony should ask Mike. I know the answer to the question.

Barbara Roberts writing an academic paper on Malachi 2:16 from domestic abuse angle, asks some legitimate questions.

So if an abused woman finds herself in a situation where Malachi 2:16 is being used to deter her from divorcing her husband, she can point out that the verse does not apply to her situation and her ‘instructor’ is in error, at the least.

She goes on:

If Malachi says God hates divorce, this places Malachi in opposition to Moses, who condoned disciplinary divorce for cases of abuse or neglect (Deut 21:10-14). It also sets Malacchi against Ezra, who required divorce of foreign wives when the continuation of the Jewish nation was in jeopardy. And it begs the question: If Malachi says that God hates (all) divorce, why did Jesus not quote Malachi when the Pharisees claimed that Deuteronomy 24 approved of divorce?

Where we can connect here, using Tony’s logic, how long is it required of abused church members to sit under the authoritarian leadership of rogue pastor’s that use the word of God to club people into submission? Do we have a right to divorce them? Or should we stay and enjoy the beatings? Perhaps try explaining that to the victimized wives that continue to relive these nightmares by a “well-intended pastor.” 

Barbara Roberts is primarily dealing with how modern translations render this wrong, and she says this:

God is addressing abusive men: You men! Shallach! Let go! Release! Give up! The parallels with Exodus are obvious: You, Pharaoh, should let go of the people you are oppressing! Release your slaves. You, Mr. Abuser, should let your wife go free! Release her from your cruelty! Give up your power and control over her!

Emphasizing the importance of the instruction, God followed it with “says the Lord, the God of Israel” – a two-fold appellation for God which is used nowhere else in Malachi. Perhaps God anticipated the abusive priests and abusive husband would retort with harsh words (cf. Mal 3:13a) so he hit them between the eyeballs with his command before they had a chance to answer back.

Those who insist on construing God as the one who hates and reading shallach as infinitive construct need to ask themselves how much their translation is consistent with reality. Is it consistent with the heart and character of God? Is it consistent with dynamics of abuse where men abuse their wives?

While I have some empathy for Tony in his ignorance, he has no idea the level of hurt many, and dare I say most, have in their experience with GFC, Mike Reid, and the elders. He can’t comprehend why they wanted to get out. For one, his treatment is different. I tried to explain that to him, but he didn’t understand, and I’m sure he still doesn’t. People feel abused, and they didn’t want to take it anymore.

If Tony ever cares to be honest with himself and those that are part of the “Kangaroo Court” (quote by Tony about us “criticizing” GFC), he is free to reach out to me anytime, and I’ll gladly explain many things to him. He and Mike Reid have a standing offer to come on the Apologetics Live Podcast and explain their side of things.

Given Tony’s behavior thus far, and what I’ve seen in the past, blocking anyone that dissents, or dares question him, unfriend, avoid, don’t answer; eventually this goes away, attitude, that won’t solve the problem he finds himself. The evidence is overwhelming, but yet the love is still there, and it’s real. Nobody desires to hurt Tony or Mike Reid or GFC. I personally, and most I know, want to see repentance and reconciliation. Again, I will give Tony the benefit of the doubt that he doesn’t realize how much GFC has caused hurt and pain. The more he supports it, the worse it gets for him. I hope he will recognize that and heed this advice.

When you are in a deep hole, stop digging. 

Kevin

Here is Tony’s article titled: Something to Think About: God Hates Divorce in the Church

Divorce in the church is a serious problem, but not likely in the sense that first comes to mind. God hates divorce–in marriage and in the church.

Closer than Siblings

At the end of our Sunday evening meetings, our church family has the opportunity to corporately share their praises and thankfulness to the Lord. Last night a young couple announced their engagement. We knew it was coming soon, but that didn’t dampen our joy.

Then, like we do every Sunday night, we all enjoyed dinner and fellowship together.

Scripture tells us that the early church had “all things in common.” It was not merely a cultural distinctive or a sign of the times. The early church was a blueprint and a picture of what today’s church should look like.

The relationships inside a local assembly of believers should be as close, loving, affectionate, supportive, and strong as the healthy relationships between any loving group of biological siblings. Because of the common bond of Christ, relationships among Christians should be even stronger than relationships with unsaved, biological family members.

God Hates Divorce in the Church

With that kind of closeness, because of the inherent sinfulness of all involved, there will be difficult times. When those difficult times come in a local assembly of believers the wrong response, just as in a biological family, is to divorce or otherwise abandon the family. God hates divorce between a husband and wife. I think He also hates divorce within the context of the local church.

For too many professing Christians, the local church is something they *do*, someplace they *go*, and not who they *are.* Their commitment is only as deep as the temporal benefits they derive from *attending* the church. They will *quit* a church for reasons they would never dream of quitting their biological family.

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (the confession to which my church subscribes), in Chapter 26, Paragraph 13, states the following:

“No church members, upon any offence [sic] taken by them, having performed their duty required of them towards the person they are offended at, ought to disturb any church-order, or absent themselves from the assemblies of the church, or administration of any ordinances, upon the account of such offence [sic] at any of their fellow members, but to wait upon Christ, in the further proceeding of the church” (Matthew 18:15-17; Ephesians 4:2-3).

The leading cause of divorce in and from the local church is likely “personal offense.” Someone did something or said something, or didn’t do something or say something, and a personal offense was taken. Instead of doing the sometimes heavy lifting of reconciling with those who have hurt us or with those we have hurt, some people will choose to leave the church. Considering the sinful flesh in which every presently-bound-to-earth Christian dwells, remaining offended is easier than reconciliation.

But God never promised us easy, brethren.

Reasons People Divorce Churches

After a comprehensive look at the New Testament, one will not find a laundry list of reasons for leaving a local church. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find more than three: being sent out by the church (church planting, missions, mutual agreement–including for reasons not always missional, etc), excommunication, or death.

If an American Evangelical Confession of Faith existed, it would likely significantly add to the biblical list of three. Such a confession of faith might include the following justifiable reasons for divorcing a local assembly:

  • Style or type of music
  • Style or type of teaching
  • Length of sermons (too long or too short)
  • Dissatisfied with Children’s Ministry
  • Dissatisfied with Youth Ministry
  • Dissatisfied with Young Adult Ministry
  • The church doesn’t have Children’s, Youth, or Young Adult ministries
  • Too much emphasis on certain secondary theological issues
  • Not enough emphasis on certain secondary theological issues
  • Too many homeschoolers
  • Not enough homeschoolers
  • Too political
  • Not political enough
  • Too patriotic
  • Not patriotic enough
  • Too much personal accountability
  • Not enough personal accountability
  • Conflict with people in the church
  • Want a church closer to home
  • Not enough people who look like me
  • Not enough people who think like me
  • Not enough people who act like me
  • Too much emphasis on evangelism
  • Not enough emphasis on evangelism
  • Doesn’t have an abortuary ministry
  • Has an abortuary ministry
  • Pastors won’t support my self-anointed call to open-air preach
  • Pastors won’t let me/support me (fill in the blank)

Of course, the above is NOT an exhaustive list. Isn’t that sad?

The reasons listed above are some of the actual reasons people have given for leaving churches. Sadly, some of them have been my own.

The Church is not Built with a Revolving Door

God did not create the human family with a revolving door through which family members can simply come and go, join and quit, marry and divorce as they please. Neither did God create the Church, comprised of local assemblies, with a revolving door.

What if a visitor walks into your church building this Sunday, strides up to the pulpit, and announces he is now a member of the church? Would he be considered a member? Would he be given all of the rights and privileges of membership?

Of course not.

Yet many professing Christians, particularly in America and the wider western civilization, think they can quit a church, divorce a church family whenever they want for whatever reason they deem sufficient. Most would never assume the autonomy or authority to make themselves a member of a local assembly. But most would assert the autonomy and authority to divorce a local assembly.

I understand what I just suggested is counter-intuitive to what is acceptable and practiced in western church culture. I understand it is counter-intuitive to the American Evangelical way of thinking–a way of thinking (whether or not American Christians will admit it) that gives autonomy, independence, and even authority to the individual when it comes to leaving or divorcing a local church. While what I’ve put forward in this article might be counter-intuitive to some, it is not unbiblical.

Something to think about.

In the meantime, love your church family.


[1] Rick Brannan et al., eds., The Lexham English Septuagint (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), Mal 2:16.

The Morning After…Part Deux

Well it’s finally over…  I’m sure you are relieved as I am.  I wanted to share a couple brief thoughts.  I normally post on Tuesday and Friday but today thought it was worth wrapping up the election season with a brief note.

God has appointed Barack Obama Joe Biden or Donald Trump as our 45th or 46th President. Not sure if he remains 45 if Trump or 46th?  But whatever, it’s a mess, but this post still holds true, 8 years later. Weird I can’t believe I’m still blogging.

Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Man is still sinful

Romans 3:10-12 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.  They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”

Christ is on His Throne

Revelation 4:2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.  And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.

Pray for those in authority – not just your party of choice

1 Timothy 2:1-2 Therefore I exhort first of all that those supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.

Today is a new day

Today if you are follower of Jesus Christ you have an opportunity to tell someone what Christ as done in your life.  If the topic of politics comes up ask them if they know Christ as Lord and why did He come to earth?  That will get the conversation going.

Kevin

Naturalism

What in the world is naturalism?

Naturalism is the belief that the material universe is all that exists in the universe. You must be able to see it, touch it, or observe it to be real—several other “isms” flow out of naturalism.

Materialism – the belief nothing exists but matter, even mental cognition.

Empiricism – knowledge is limited to our senses.

Determinism – man, is merely a machine and cannot make real choices (free-will).

Relativism – ethics are relative to the person and or culture.

Nihilism – life is meaningless because if life is formed by accident with no intention behind it, there is no reason to believe humanity has a purpose.

Putting On Our Thinking Caps

How did the world come into existence, and where did life come? If we explore this idea and have a meaningful conversation about it, we must boil it down to the two most prominent worldviews. Naturalism is probably the most predominant worldview today. As stated above, we can only know the world around us by observing the natural world.

Naturalism denies the supernatural.

Charles Darwin gave naturalism legs when he theorized that a process of natural selection or evolution was the explanation for the vast difference in life. Given enough time and a single cell of life, everything could evolve into what we have in our world today. Hummingbirds, Orca whales, giraffes, and humans are all a product of a primordial soup, of sorts, that eventually spawned life as we know it. It seems plausible enough for most people to say, “well, yeah, that makes sense,” but does it make sense?

I am simplifying the discussion, not disrespecting Darwin or the reader, but to try and boil it down to the most basic assumptions made in theory.

However, we need to back up. We have made assumptions that single cell life is readily accessible or easily reproduced or made. That is not the case. Science has many answers, but it often has as many questions as answers, and in fact, personal experience shows that often when people throw the word “science” around, they do not know what they mean by science. To define our terms, the science I am talking about is observable. Form a hypothesis, run tests, and record the results. Do this repeatedly until conclusions support the hypothesis.

If this is our starting point, where have we ever observed life formed from non-life?  Life does not come from non-life.

Stephen Hawking said, “because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.” [1] That is a big statement.

In a natural world, we have to either start with an eternal universe or a created universe. The second law of thermodynamics rules out an eternal universe. In short, it states, “the total amount of useable energy in any isolated system never increases” in other words, just like your car will always wear out, so will the universe. It cannot regenerate itself. It is always in decay. That means there is a time limit to the universe.

I’ll come back to the law of gravity in a moment because if we truly have a “nothing” universe, how do we account for the law of gravity? Our second option is to have a created universe, and this requires something that sets the whole thing into motion. Enter stage left, the Big Bang Theory.

Oxford Chemist Peter Atkins claims, “By chance, there was a fluctuation, and set of points, emerging from nothing and taking their existence from the pattern they formed, defined a time. The chance formation of a pattern resulted in the emergence of time from coalesced opposites, its emergence from nothing. From absolute nothing, absolutely without intervention, there came into being rudimentary existence.”[2]

By chance

The chance formation

Emergence from nothing

From absolute nothing

Without intervention

Rudimentary existence

Does this sound scientific? It sounds like someone that knows a bunch of big words put them together and made something up.

Jeffrey D. Johnson argues, “Unless you believe in magic without a magician, the engineering marvel of the simplest cell could not have evolved from non-living matter. For life to begin, the simple cell had to spontaneously appear with all its necessary parts, thrown together in the proper place, creating the semantic information needed for the living cell to reproduce itself.” [3]

Johnson quotes Darwin, “To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd to the highest possible degree.”[4]

World-renowned chemist James M. Tour asks the real question, “Does anyone understand the chemical details behind macroevolution? If so, I would like to sit with that person and be taught, so I invite them to meet with me.”[5]

If Hawkings and Atkins sound absurd, which I believe they do, Darwin and Tour have no idea how this is possible, then what is the alternative? Do we believe naturalism just because we have been taught it in the school system or because most scientists say Big Bang Cosmology is true? Evolution (macro) is true? Is there a reason behind our disbelief in the supernatural?

In this short video clip Christopher Hitchens argues that the warm feeling he gets through doing a good deed, giving blood, is something that evolution has given him for his sake and everybody else’s.

Do not allow that statement to sneak past. How did evolution give this to us? Evolution is impersonal. It cares not for anything other than eliminating the weak and perpetuating itself. There is no feeling in naturalism. How did feelings evolve? They are immaterial. As an example, how do you know your spouse loves you or that you love your spouse? You can’t see love. You can’t touch love. You can’t put it in a bottle and sell it? It is an immaterial thing.

He says it does not require a divine spark or any programming, but it begs the question, why would you give blood? It does not benefit you.  It only helps those weaker. If “survival of the fittest” is real, giving blood or doing good to your neighbor has no benefit. Hitchens also introduces sin into the conversation, although he does not realize it. He discusses sociopaths and psychopaths. In a natural world, sociopaths and psychopaths are only living out their natural order; they happen to be more aggressive about it, but who can possibly say they are wrong?

The Only Other Alternative

The only other possibility is a supernatural world, created and directed by an intelligent being. Within this framework, there are a couple of possibilities, such as the “god” of deism. Deism is an impersonal god that created the universe and has no further contact with the creation. The god of deism allows the world to play itself out.  That is depressing, and it does not describe the God of Christianity. The God that describes himself as being the One and Only God. The beginning and the end, the God that controls all things and spoke all things into existence.

If we boil it down to the two possibilities described here, let us be honest about something. They both involve faith. Darwin, Atkins, Hawkings, nor Hitchens have answers. Science doesn’t have the answer. Science has failed to produce life from non-life. Naturalism depends on faith, and it’s not even a good guess faith. It is blind faith.

Christianity provides answers to incredibly complex problems. It explains how life began, why life began, how evil entered the world, where consciousness comes from, and a purpose to our existence. For example, when Hitchens argues you do not need a “god” to do good things, he is right. Where he is fatally wrong is that he just cannot justify why you would do good, or what’s wrong with doing evil.

Where did this innate sense of right and wrong come from? Why do people do good to other people for no apparent reason?

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

The very opening line of the Bible tells us there was a beginning point for measuring time. There is also an all-powerful being, God, that created all things, and as we journey through the creation story, we will find that God created humanity different from the plants and all the animals.

then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (Genesis 2:7).

God breathed life into Adam, and he created man in the image of God. Man is not only physical, but man is also spiritual. Man has a body, and man has a soul. Man also has a conscience, dictating right from wrong.

Paul writes this in Romans about why people know right from wrong.

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus (Romans 2:14-16).

Even before Moses received the law on tablets of stone, God had written it upon their hearts. Have you ever noticed the shame a young toddler feels when they lie to their parents? Of course, they are not very creative in their lies. It is easy to catch them, but we become more complex and more industrious in our deceit as we grow. The conscience begins to deaden. The callouses form upon the tender part of our inner being, and we lie without remorse.

God’s law tenderizes that callous. Naturalism has no explanation for the conscience. It has no explanation for those laws of gravity that Hawkings discussed. The immaterial does not produce laws of gravity, laws of logic, and laws of math. We see how he had to sneak over to the other side, borrow a little of this and a little of that from the Christian worldview to support his theory, and Hitchens does the very same thing. They know these things exist; they cannot account for them. I’ve argued this many times with some brilliant people, and this goes right past them. They either ignorantly reject this, or they miss the point.

Is it willful ignorance? I do not know, but we must consider it is the effect sin has on human consciousness. The Bible says man suppresses the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). He desires to reject authority, go his way, and avoid responding to the God he denies. They would instead embrace absurdity, then surrender to God.

The supernatural aspect of the Bible relies on written and eye-witness testimony, not to mention the fulfillment of prophetic events and human experience. My good friends Donnell and Connell explain that it is easy to deny it if you throw out all the evidence of super-naturalism.

There is so much more to be said, but I will address some more topics, such as free-will in my next article.

Kevin


[1] Johnson, Jeffrey D. The Absurdity of Unbelief: a Worldview Apologetic of the Christian Faith. (Free Grace Press, 2016), 131.

[2] Ibid 132

[3] Ibid 147

[4] Ibid 149

[5] Ibid 150

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 1:1.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:7.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 2:14–16.