bad doctrine

Theological Smackdown: The end is the beginning is the end

The last few weeks of Westminster Confession of Faith classes (WCFC) left me feeling a little bit like Hulk Hogan at a press conference…

We’ve changed the order somewhat due to the absence of our venerated leader, who for some reason decided that stuff about end times would be less controversial than stuff about the sacraments.

He was wrong. The chapters on the state of men after death and the resurrection and the one on the Last Judgment ended up being pretty heated.

The judgment study got bogged down in the question of whether Christians go through the process of judgment to be found innocent – or if we skip the process altogether.

It was a case of the one proof text verse the many proof texts – and both sides of the debate walked away thinking they’d won and the other side were idiots.

Our group features some John Macarthur fanboys (surely a breed as rabid as my posse of Mark Driscoll fanboys), who are very rigidly stuck on the idea that dispensational premillennialism is the only way to understand end times.

I’m not one of them. They told me I don’t understand Revelation. Or the Bible. I told them that Calvin was an amillenialist. It got a little ugly.

For some reason they also hold Revelation to be the most important book of the Bible. It’s like a trump card that can be played to render all perspicuous passages of Scripture relating to the same topic unclear at the sake of a fringe interpretation of a complex book.

The millennium sure is a curious little issue to think about – but at the end of the day it’s not a salvation issue. And we have freedom to disagree.

I think it matters though – because it’s the vocal fringe that brand Christianity as a bunch of crazies – and if you have a look at Christian cults – you’ll find that most of them subscribe to a premillennial eschatology. This may or may not be a strawman.

I just think they’re wrong. My thinking, like Dave’s about Christianity, comes from my parents. Check out dad’s most excellent sermon series on Revelation to see what I think about the millennium and the book of Revelation spelled out…

I think we get into trouble when we disregard the style a book is written in when we’re looking to it for meaning. That’s part of looking at context.

I got angry when I read this list of reasons Superman is better than Jesus because the guy took a verse (Luke 19:27) from a parable about a king out of context and applied it to Jesus.

Revelation 1 – “Witness Protection”MP3

Revelation 2-3 – “To Him Who Overcomes”MP3

Revelation 4-5 – “Who is Worthy?”MP3

Revelation 6-7 – “When are we going to get there?”MP3

Revelation 12 – “Defeating the Accuser”MP3

Revelation 13-14 – “The Power – or the Passion?”MP3

Revelation 15-16 – “Exodus Again”MP3

Revelation 17-18 – “The End of the Scarlet Harlot”MP3

Revelation 19 – “Onward Christian Soldiers?”MP3

Revelation 20 – “Pit Stop”MP3

Revelation 21-22 “Coming Home”MP3

One of the things that Willows Pressy doesn’t do that MPC does really nicely is the sermon outline and pithy title. I like the structure a sermon outline provides for my listening – even if it’s just so I know how long the guy up the front will keep talking for – I assume listeners to my sermons feel the same way…

10 further reflections on atheism

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook (and you’ll find a link to add me on the right hand column of this site) will know that my status yesterday was “is looking for a fight”. Well, I found one, a bit, over at the FriendlyAtheist. 

It’s an interesting site. I have some reflections from my discussions there that I think are worthwhile. 

  1. The vast majority of atheists come out of some form of theism – many of the commenters on that blog are former church goers from a range of denominations – there are also a bunch of Mormons. They see their atheism as a natural progression towards enlightenment. 
  2. American culture must be harder on atheists – they all seem so bitter and I suspect that’s largely because the culture of American Christendom is difficult. 
  3. “Good” and moral are different – Christians have made a mistake because of a semantic difference on the definition of good. While Christianity teaches that nobody – not even Christians – is capable of “good” behaviour – this generally means “behaviour that counts towards salvation” – for an atheist it means anything that would be considered selfless or moral. Atheists, as a general rule, seem very angry at the idea they are incapable of moral behaviour because they don’t have God. Which leads them to ask if it’s only God preventing Christians from living immoral lives. (Which was well considered in Andrew’s recent post…)
  4. “Strong Atheists” (those who believe “Absolutely, positively, there is no god.”) are apparently being taught to argue as though they are “Weak Atheists” (those who believe “I don’t believe in God because no one has provided me with any credible evidence that God exists.”) in order to shift the burden of proof to Christianity. 
  5. Thanks to Dawkins and co atheists continue to argue with a caricature of Christianity – and also put forward issues or challenges to Christianity that are considered and covered by the Bible as if they’re compelling evidence – and refuse to accept belief in the Bible on the basis of a history of bad translations, poor doctrine and bad application. For example – David Attenborough, the prominent nature documentary maker – argues that the existence of “evil” in nature (specifically a worm whose only purpose is to burrow into the human brain) is proof that God isn’t loving and doesn’t exist. This dismisses any theological thought put into areas like this – and in fact the basic Christian teaching of the Fall’s impact on God’s creation. 
  6. As a further point on that last one – when the Bible does speak to a “logical” problem atheists have with Christianity it’s rejected on the basis that “the Bible would say that wouldn’t it…” as though considering the issue is part of a grand scheme to dupe us. 
  7. Faith is seem to be a “superstitious logical jump” in the face of conflicting evidence rather than a conviction of truth without all the  evidence.
  8. Atheists hate being compared to Mao – but love comparing Christians to the Crusaders (or in fact any nasty people carrying out nasty acts in the name of Jesus). When you suggest that these Christians weren’t being Christian you’re guilty of breaching the “no true Scotsman” fallacy – when you suggest that their anger at the Mao analogy is similarly a “no true Scotsman” fallacy you’re told that Mao was not motivated by his atheism… is it just me seeing this as contradictory?
  9. A whole lot of bad teaching is coming home to roost – doctrinal clarity is important. Ideas like “God is love” that don’t speak to God’s wrath, holiness, or judgement have caused more harm than good. This is what happens when only part of the gospel is considered with another part swept under the carpet. 
  10. At the end of the day – my staunch “Reformed” understanding of evangelism and election means that I’m not in any position to convince those whose hearts are hardened to the gospel. The parable of the sower would tend to suggest that the standard atheist experience of a choked faith is natural and to be expected for many “converts”…  
  11. And a bonus point – “evidence” is seen to be some sort of magic bullet for atheists – but naturalism presupposes the supernatural – and as soon as something supernatural is demonstrably tested it’s no longer supernatural but just an undiscovered natural entity – God is, by definition, supernatural. He can not possibly be tested in this manner, because we can’t expect him to conform to our “testing” and act the same way over and over again… There are biblical examples of God being tested – Ezekiel and Gideon spring to mind – but these are of no value to this argument… because of point six. This link should take you to what I think is a nice little evidence analogy in one of my comments.

These reflections come from my experience and discussions on these posts. Feel free to critique my arguments or approach in the comments.

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