Sunday, April 26, 2009

Faith in April Fool's Day

Dan Phillips at Pyromaniacs had an interesting article about a man who broke up a robbery because he thought it was April Fool’s Day. Phillips brings out that if you were just watching the video camera at the bank you would have thought that this man was performing a feat of bravery.

Think of it. Why was Stewart so calm and so brave? Well, really, he was calm; but he wasn't brave, exactly, was he? Stewart was calm because of his faith. Stewart believed that it was all just an April Fool's hoax. No bravery required.

But here's the thing: he was wrong! He was just (what most folks would call) lucky. If there'd been a gun, we wouldn't be chuckling. Nor would Stewart.

Phillips goes on and ties this event in with James 2:14…

Say it's not Stewart we're watching without sound. It's you. It's me.

Can you tell what we believe, and why? The things we spend the most time on, feel the most strongly about, invest the most of ourselves in — what do they say about our faith? Our priorities, our goals, our rules of engagement — looking at them, what do we believe?

Do we live boldly, confidently, riskily, like people who believe they have a loving, giving, kind, sovereign Father who has dealt fully and finally with all their sins, forever, in Christ? Think of the roll-call of faith in Hebrews 11, and the amazing feats accomplished by people who really, truly believed in the Word of God. Do we live like people who believe that His word is our law, for our thoughts and choices and affections?

Phillips definitely brings up some interesting points. I would like to amplify one point he makes at the end of the post. Faith is not just belief; biblical faith is belief in action. Whenever the Bible speaks about faith is has this implication. Therefore when we define faith we should include action in our definition. Faith without action isn’t really faith.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

A New Take on Omnipresence?

The omnipresence of God is an interesting topic of discussion. While most people take the expression "God is everywhere" as a good definition of the term, Michael Patton takes an entirely different approach.

God is omnipresent. But his omnipresence does not have to do with his extension in space but space’s relationship to him. God is not everywhere if you are talking about his essence.

Here is what I believe to be a better definition of God’s omnipresence:

“Everywhere is in God’s immediate presence.”

I write this because I see many Christians describing God in such a way that toys with pantheism.

I definitely agree with Michael that the "God is everywhere" statement is misleading to people. I believe though that his definition limits omnipresence. It would seem that such a statement is better described as omniscience than omnipresence. I believe that there is a better definition for omnipresence:

God is present everywhere.

One can be present in a room and not be in the walls, and I believe that this is the essence of omnipresence.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

An Unbeliever's Belief in the Resurrection

The resurrection is certainly important to Christianity. Paul says, “If Christ be not raised your faith is vain (I Cor. 15:17).” The resurrection is also of prime importance in the field of apologetics. But, can one believe in the resurrection and still not be Christian?

Pinchas Lapide, an orthodox Jew and New Testament scholar, says an emphatic yes. In his book, The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective, he states that this resurrection has to be accepted because of the unique growth of Christianity.

Thus, according to my opinion, the resurrection belongs to the category of the truly real and effective occurrences, for without a fact of history there is no act of true faith. A fact which indeed is withheld from objective science, photography, and a conceptual proof, but not from the believing scrutiny of history which more frequently leads to deeper insights.

In other words: Without the Sinai experience – no Judaism; without the East experience – no Christianity. Both were Jewish faith experiences whose radiating power, in a different way, was meant for the world of nations. For inscrutable reasons the resurrection faith of Golgotha was necessary in order to carry the message of Sinai into the world.

Thus Lapide views the resurrection of Jesus as along the same lines of other Old Testament resurrections. He sees it as merely another entry into the list of resurrected individuals. Unfortunately, Lapide in his book does not go on and expound his views on other particulars of the resurrection. He does not mention his views on the ascension or the resultant corruption of this Jewish resurrection by Christ’s followers. I would conjecture that he would liken Christ’s ascension to that of Elijah and that the corruption of the resurrection truth took place either through resultant Gentile influence or the Jewish disciples trying to harmonize their view of the Messiah with Jesus’ life.

For evangelical Christians, Lapide’s book is interesting because of his unique belief. Christians assume that if a person believes in the resurrection it almost goes without saying that he believes Jesus is God. This is most likely one of the reasons that the historical proof of the resurrection is one of the most researched and debated areas in apologetics. And yet, it seems that if one accepts the paradigm of theism, he could logically accept the resurrection and not come to faith in Christ.

And so enters faith. Amazingly the area of faith and evidence are controversial in the field of apologetics. For some faith plays a minor role in conversion. Robert Morgan stated in a 1998 journal article for PROFILE magazine that he believed that the truth of Christianity can be established to a 99% of certainty. The remaining 1% is the step of faith you take when you believe.

For some this is hard to swallow because of the overriding emphasis of faith in the Bible. While the New Testament does speak of evidence and is favorable to it, the New Testament does not uplift it as the means of salvation. Rather, it is belief, faith, and trust that brings one to God. In fact, people that hold to this view (referred to as presuppositionalist) argue that there is no 99% certainty without presupposition.

Regardless of ones belief, each person must develop what part faith plays in conversion. So my three questions to you are: does it take faith to believe in the resurrection, what do you think of Morgan’s statement, and what part does faith play in conversion.

Leave comments below.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Is Repentance Motivated by Judgment?

I believe that Christians often think that correction and judgment are the motivations that lead one to repentance. Or, at the least the prospect of judgment should keep one out of sin. While I would agree that there is truth to this statement, the apostle Paul gives a unique angle to the motivation of repentance.

And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (Rom 2:3-4)

The context of these verses flow from the preceding chapter. In chapter one, Paul shows the utter sinfulness and depravity of the Gentiles. As he continues on, he brings worth an imaginary respondent. This person is agreeing with what he said in the previous chapter (Most think that Paul is implying that this person is a Jew). He condemns the Gentiles and yet is involved in the very same actions.Paul swiftly responds that the judgment that is coming on the Gentiles is also coming to this man. What is interesting is that Paul accuses him of despising the goodness. forbearnace, and longsuffering of God. These three graces should have caused this man to repent.

When we find ourselves struggling with sin, it is important to remember these three blessings. God's goodness is seen as Luther puts it... the abounding fullness of His temporal and spiritual benefactions such as the blessings of body and soul, the free use of benefactions such as the blessings of body and soul, the free use of His creatures, the services which they render man, the protection of the holy angles, and the like.
We find that God also forbears our sins. Rather than judging us instantly, he withholds his wrath. Even more amazingly, his long-suffering continues to wait on our repentance.

These three truths should cause us not only to repent but to praise His greatness.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Come to Wayne Grudem's Sunday School Class

Wayne Grudem is a leading scholar in theology. His systematic theology volume is one of the best on the market, and I believe that it should be in the library of every serious student of Scripture.

If you don't have the $30 to shell out for his book, there is good news. You now have the chance to sit in on Wayne Grudem's "Christian Essentials" Sunday School class. Here's the link.

I am thankul to Justin Taylor for bringing this to my attention. Read More......

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spirit Burns - Are You “In", Part Seven

We have looked at many different views of Spirit baptism in this series. Today though, we will finally come to a biblical definition of Spirit baptism.

The third view sees “en” as being interpreted in the same fashion as the prophetic passages of John. Therefore, “en” in I Corinthians 12:13 should be translated “in.” Gordon Fee in his book, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, states that nowhere else does this dative (en) when used with ‘baptizo’ imply agency, but it always refers to the element ‘in which’ one is being baptized (606). Thus the verse should be rendered, “in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”

While at first this doesn’t seem to make sense, a closer examination reveals otherwise. In I Corinthians 10:2, we find that “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Grudem explains that in this verse there are not two locations for the same baptism but one was the element (the cloud and the sea that surrounded the Israelites) and the other was the location (namely Moses which represents the new life of participation in the Mosaic covenant and the fellowship of God’s people) that the Israelites found themselves in after they had passed through the cloud and the sea (768).

Spirit baptism operates in the same fashion. The Holy Spirit is the element that we are baptized in, and the body of Christ or the church is the location that we find ourselves in after this baptism.

This is detrimental to those who hold to an experiential view of Spirit baptism. If it is admitted that I Corinthians 12:13 refers to baptism in the Spirit, then it is impossible to maintain that it is an experience that comes after conversion. In this verse, the apostle Paul states that Spirit baptism made us members in the body of Christ. Thus, Spirit baptism happens at conversion because if one is not in the body of Christ, one if not a Christian.

According to Paul, Spirit baptism is universal and has happened to all believers so it is impossible to say that Spirit baptism occurs after salvation. There is consequently no need to seek Spirit baptism since it is universal and has happened to all believers.

A strict definition therefore is that Spirit baptism refers to the time at salvation in which Christ baptizes us in the Holy Spirit, and all the ministries of the Holy Spirit begin (indwelling, sealing, etc...).

Spirit baptism is a doctrine that affect ones views on soteriology, ecclesiology, pneumatology, and harmatiology. Because of this one can see that it is an important doctrine to clearly understand. While it is clear that Spirit baptism is not experiential, all vital experience flows from the realities which have been brought into being by the baptism in the Spirit.


Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. NICNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spirit Burns - Are You Baptized “By" the Spirit, Part Six

We finally come to our last passage. On this verse hangs the teaching of Spirit baptism. An individuals intrepretation will shape not only his view of Spirit baptism but all doctrines that are connected with the Holy Spirit.
Our last explicit passage is our main passage for interpreting the others. In I Corinthians 12, we find a straightforward verse detailing the doctrine of Spirit baptism.

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1Co 12:13)

The controversy in interpreting this verse centers around the preposition “en” and its translation. In the prophecies of John, found in the Gospels and Acts, the exact Greek phrase is used as found in I Corinthians 12:13. Three different views have been proposed for the translation of “en”. These views are not divided along experiential and non-experiential lines but purely exegetical lines.

1.) The View that En is a Completely Unique Translation

The first view sees the “en” in I Corinthians as a completely unique translation. There are therefore two Spirit baptisms. One in which Christ is the agent (the Gospel passages) and the other in which the Holy Spirit is the agent (I Corinthians 12:13). Myron Houghton states that the baptism by the Spirit places believers into the church which is Christ’s body while the baptism in the Spirit occurs when Christ places the Spirit in us (131). Both baptisms occur simultaneously at salvation.

Grudem explains that Pentecostals are eager to accept this view since it throws out of consideration I Cor. 12:13 in the discussion on what is baptism in the Spirit (767). They state that in the other six verses Jesus is the one who baptizes people and Holy Spirit is the element whereas here in I Corinthians we have the Holy Spirit as the agent. Therefore, I Corinthians should not be taken in to account when discussion is centered on baptism in the Spirit.

The problem with this view is that it really does not make sense when one examines the Greek text because the expressions are identical in the Gospels, Acts, and I Corinthians. If we translate this same Greek expression “baptize in the Holy Spirit” in the other six New Testament occurrences it only seems proper that we translate it in the seventh occurrence (Grudem, 767). Also, it seems hard to fathom that the original readers would not have seen this phrase as referring to anything but the same concept because the Greek words were the same. The last fallacy with this view is that it denies the fact that there is one baptism.

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism. (Eph 4:4-5)

2.) The View that En is Always Translated "by"

The second view sees “en” as being interpreted in the same fashion in all the Spirit baptism passage. The view proposes that “en” should be translated “by.” Walvoord, a proponent, comments on this view:

A strict interpretation of the preposition would lead to this locative idea (translated “in”). The same preposition though is used in the instrumental sense with sufficient frequency in Scripture to free the translator from any artificial interpretation (cf. Matt. 12:24; Lk. 22:49; Heb. 11:37)…It can be said, therefore, that we are baptized by Christ in the sense that Christ sent the Spirit. (147-148)

This view has a major problem. In the Gospel passage, the thought is that just as John baptized in water so Christ will baptize in fire and the Holy Spirit. It is a direct parallelism that loses its meaning if changed. If one decides to translate “en” consistently in the Gospel verse, the result would be confusion. To baptize by water does not make sense. Water cannot become the agent.

In the next post, we will see what is the proper way to interpret this passage.


Houghton, Myron. “Systematic Theology II Syllabus.” Course Handout. Systematic Theology II. Dep. of Systematic Theology, Faith Baptist Theological Seminary. 14 Jan. 2009

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994

Walvoord, John J. The Holy Spirit. 3rd ed. Findlay, OH: Dunham Publishing, 1958.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Insight from a Liberal?

I am currently reading The Making of American Liberal Theology by Gary Dorrien. It outlines the growth of American liberal theology from Unitarians to current times. Even though this book is riddled with the errors of liberal theology, I found some profound insights by one influential liberal.

Horace Bushnell (1802 - 1876) was a man that was orthodox in many respects. His contribution to liberal theology was more of a point of view than modifications of any doctrine. He taught that the basis of theology was located in the intuition of mankind's spiritual nature rather than logical study.

Because of this emphasis, he had great insight into emotional matters that related to spirituality. Upon learning from one of his daughters that she did not get life from reading the Bible, he offered this insightful advice.

My own experience is that the Bible is dull when I am dull; and that when I am really alive, and set in upon the text with a tidal pressure of living affinities, it opens, multiplies discoveries and reveals depths even faster than I note them. The worldly spirit, in some form of indifferentism, shuts the Bible; the Spirit of God makes it a fire, flaming out all meanings and more glorious truths.
The question then is what makes us dull and how does one become alive. I believe that there are several answers. When we ignore the plain teaching of Scripture, refuse to repent and make restitution of the sins we have committed, or become lopsided and neglect other devotional aspects of our lives, we become dull in our spiritual life. Rather than blame the Bible for our lack of life, we should examine ourselves so we bring life to our study.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

The Pseudo-Decline of Christianity

The latest USA Today poll shows that the total number of Christians is down 10%. This is indeed alarming for believers. Or, is it?

Adam in his blog crunches the numbers of this poll.

The big loser are mainline Christian denominations. They made up 18.7% of the population in 1990, and today only make up 12.9% of the population. The mainline denominations are Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans, and the United Church of Christ. These denominations tend to be: more theologically liberal, more focused on social programs and the social gospel rather than the Gospel, and require less reliance on belief in the scripture.

A Jeffrey Hadden poll in 1998 showed 13% of Lutheran Ministers, 30% of Presbyterian Ministers, 35% of Episcopalian Ministers, and 51% of Methodist ministers doubted the truth of the resurrection...

...However, that’s not the full story, the number of Americans identifying as Pentecostal/Charismatic is up from 3.2% to 3.5%. Non-Denominational Christians up from 0.1% back in 1990 to 3.5% today. Christian-unspecificied category has risen from 4.6% to 7.4% and Evangelical/Born Again with no specific denomination has tripled from 0.3% to 0.9%

I find this fascinating. I think one of the most important things one can draw from Adam's analysis is the causes for decline. While no doubt it is more complex than this, we see that when churches forget, abandon, or lessen the mission Christ gave the result is a loss of influence, specifically conversions.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spirit Burns - Pentecostal Acts, Part Five

Christ had died. He later appeared to his disciples and told them they were to wait in Jerusalem for the baptism of the Spirit. At Pentecost, the Spirit came. What happened that day continues to affect the church. This is especially seen in the issue of Spirit baptism. As we continue our study, we will examine the passages in Acts that speak of or imply Spirit baptism.

1.) Narrative Hermeneutics

Experientialists rely heavily on the narrative passages in the book of Acts. With this reliance, the question must be asked: do historical narratives function as precedents for the church.

A general principle for hermeneutics is that unless Scripture explicitly tell us we must do something, what is only narrated or described does not function in a normative (obligatory) way – unless it can be demonstrated on other grounds that the author intended it to function in this way (Fee and Stuart, 119). This is important because narrative passages should never be used to interpret explicit doctrinal passages or be used for doctrine. Almost exclusively, narrative passages should be used to illustrate or apply truth not to reveal it.

In Acts, we find that Luke’s intent was to show how the church emerged as a chiefly Gentile, worldwide phenomenon from its origins as a Jerusalem-based, Judaism-oriented sect of Jewish believers, and how the Holy Spirit was directly responsible for this phenomenon of universal salvation based on grace alone (Fee and Stuart, 120).

2.) Explicit Passages

There are two passages that refer exclusively to Spirit baptism in the book of Acts.

And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Act 1:4-5)

And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. (Act 11:15-16)

These passages clearly refer back to John’s prophecy. What is unique in these passages is that we find that believers were the ones that would be Spirit baptized.

The disciples had already been regenerated because they had believed the revelation they had received and feared God (Erickson, 895). These people were the last of the Old Testament believers, and this Spirit baptism was to transition them into New Testament Christians. Pentecost marked the transition between the Old Covenant work of the Holy Spirit and His New Covenant work and ministry (Grudem, 770). This resulted with the disciples experiencing the change from the Old Covenant less-powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit in their lives to a more-powerful New Covenant experience of the Holy Spirit working in them.

Thus, Pentecost was a day of extraordinary change. Whatever happened when the Holy Spirit fell it resulted in great spiritual power for the disciples.

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Act 2:2-4)

It is interesting to note here that Luke uses the phrase “filled with the Holy Ghost” in the context with tongues. Unless one tries to force baptism and filling as interchangeable, one should come to the conclusion that the baptism of the Spirit was omitted intentionally so as to not confuse it as the cause of the disciples’ speaking in tongues.

Though Pentecost was a great day, some would attach significance to it in ways the Bible does not. A common mistake is to equate the effects of the gift of the Spirit, namely tongues, with Spirit baptism. What is forgotten is that on the day of Pentecost many ministries of the Holy Spirit began simultaneously. Spirit baptism, filling of the Spirit, sealing of the Spirit, indwelling of the Spirit, and spiritual gifts bestowed by the Spirit are all ministries that appeared for the first time at Pentecost. Therefore, it is incorrect to link any of these ministries with the gift of tongues. Walvoord states that the fact that there was evidence of an outward sign of the baptizing work of the Spirit does not equate that evidence with Spirit baptism (144).

3.) Implied Passages?

But what about the events where the Samaritans, Gentiles, and disciples of John received the gift of the Holy Spirit? It would seem that in the case of the Samaritans that Spirit baptism came after conversion.

Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Act 8:15-17)

Walvoord presents an easy explanation for the Samaritan instance. He points out that while the delay of the normal indwelling of the Spirit until the arrival of Peter is difficult to accept it must be admitted (153). He notes though that this phenomenon was never repeated in the book of Acts. It has been previously discussed these early chapters are transitional so it was important that the receiving of the Spirit by the Samaritans be closely identified with the apostles themselves.

In Acts 10, we find the entrance of Gentiles into the church. While it is often debated whether Cornelius was regenerated or not, it is really inconsequential because if he was then he needed to undergo the same transformation that the apostles and Samaritans experienced. Thus, Peter, the one who had been given the keys to the kingdom, had one last group to bring in. So he went to Joppa and introduced these Gentiles to the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Regarding Acts 19, these disciples were baptized by John but had not received the truth of Christ and therefore could not have the Holy Spirit indwelling them. If regenerated, they were neither baptized, indwelt, sealed, nor filled with the Spirit (Unger, 73). They were disciple of John the Baptist but not of Christ. Therefore, they needed to accept Christ as Savior and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Even though the book of Acts sheds more light upon the doctrine of Spirit baptism, there is still not sufficient evidence to discern what Spirit baptism truly entails. It clearly has importance with the advent of the Spirit and the beginning of the church but its unique role remains to be seen.


Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1957

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994

Unger, Merrill F. The Baptizing Work of the Holy Spirit. Wheaton, IL: Van Kampen Press, 1953

Walvoord, John J. The Holy Spirit. 3rd ed. Findlay, OH: Dunham Publishing, 1958.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Anchor and Faith?

All of us have beliefs and opinions, and each effects us in some way. Christianity is different though. If taken to its logical conclusion, the effect of Christianity should influence every area of life. It effects your time, pleasures, goals, etc… Because of this far-reaching effect, everyone at some time has this thought: what if this isn’t true?

C. Michael Paton explains what he does at these times...

When we have doubt, skepticism, and moments of weakness in our faith (and we all do), we search for a place to go, for solid footing somewhere. I often lay my head down on my pillow at night and have a fleeting thought, “What if none of this is true? What if I am wasting my time? What if Jesus is not real? What if God does not exist?” This will normally come after a day of discouragement. When bills are not getting paid, when I have spent the day with my invalid mother, or when I just don’t feel too spiritually connected to God. The thought is “fleeting” not because I suppress it to the back of my mind in order to live in a state of cognitive dissonance, closing my mind and shouting at the doubt in Jesus’ name, but precisely because I intentionally place it at the front of my mind. I want to deal with it. And in dealing with it, there are many things that quickly drown out the doubt, or at least the most significant part of it. There is an anchor to my faith that won’t let me drift.

I think that each one of us needs to be balanced in regard to this, seeking to find many anchors in many places. For example, my primary anchor is the historicity of resurrection of Christ. I am not just saying this to appear academic. It truly is. My doubts quickly fade when I think to myself, “Oh yeah, Christ rose from the grave. What do I do with that?” I look at all of the evidence for the resurrection as objectively as possible and I cannot conclude anything other than that this event actually happened. To deny it, opting for some possible yet improbable alternative, would be an irresponsible use of my reason and judgment. The evidence is simply overwhelming. This anchors my faith more than anything else.

For me, that fleeting question is a matter of God’s existence and not of Christianity. The first though that usually comes to mind centers on the cosmological argument(s) (at its simplest form it states that everything could not come for nothing).

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. (Rom 1:20)

I’ll back it up with Scripture in case I get accused of a lack of faith. Anyway, what is your first thought when that question comes to your mind?

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How to Argue Like Ben

At twenty five, Benjamin Franklin conceived a plan for moral perfection. Originally he had twelve virtues that he sought to add to his life. But when a friend told him he was considered prideful because of his debating skills, a new virtue was added to the list, humility.

It has been said that once you realize you have humility you have lost it. There is perhaps no passion so hard to subdue as pride. Franklin found his pride manifested itself when a debate arouse. Rather than being content with being right, he was overbearing and rather insolent.

Franklin stated that this was clearly seen in his disregard to the opinions of others. He purposed to fix this by not contradicting directly others beliefs and not making any positive assertions of his own. He changed every word or expression that conveyed a fixed opinion such as “certainly” and “undoubtedly” to “it appears to me” or “I believe.” When a person asserted something that he thought was wrong, rather than allowing himself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, he strove to hear him out and then to humbly show why that opinion might not be suitable in that situation.

Franklin said that when he adopted this rule his conversations went on more pleasantly, his friends were more ready to accept his opinions, and it also helped him to admit when he was wrong.

I might also add that asking questions is also a good device to use. We often do not know why a person has come to their conclusions. Rather than assuming, we should find out clearly the reasons he believes he is right.

Also, questions change the mode of the debate from deductive to inductive. It then becomes a process of self-discovery. It is somewhat of a backdoor approach. Rather than assaulting the castle head on, we slip through the back (perhaps this isn’t the best illustration for humble debate :-).

I believe often we confuse the purpose of private debate. The point is not to prove the person wrong but to win him to your side. Your choice between these two will affect your tone and attitude, and I might also add the response of your hearers.

In closing, I believe that Franklin is right: all of us need to practice humility in our debates.
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Monday, April 6, 2009

Spirit Burns - Gospel Utterances, Part Four

There are many questions that have to be answered to come to a complete and biblical view of Spirit baptism. This requires a very precise interpretation of the seven passages concerned with this doctrine. In this post, we will study the context of Spirit baptism in the Gospels.

In the Gospels, we find four texts that refer exclusively to Spirit baptism. All four are attributed to John the Baptist and his description of the character and work of Christ.

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: (Mat 3:11)

I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. (Mar 1:8)

John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: (Luk 3:16)

And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. (Joh 1:33)

In these passages, we find John the Baptist announcing the coming of the Messiah. He describes the Messiah as one who will baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

Many experientialists would interpret the “baptism with fire” as being fulfilled when the cloven tongues of fire appeared above each disciple’s head. In the Gospel texts though, the implication is one of judgment and not spiritual power.

Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. (Luk 3:17)

Also, it is interesting to note that Luke does not include “baptism with fire” in Acts 1:4-5 though he did in his Gospel account. This further goes to show that this baptism had nothing to do with Pentecost. It seems biblically accurate then to attribute the baptism with fire as still waiting to be fulfilled at the Second Advent. Thus, there is no relationship between Spirit baptism and “fire” baptism.

We see that John contrasts “baptism with the Spirit” with his own baptism. This relationship is important in interpreting Spirit baptism. This comparison shows Spirit baptism’s agent and agency. Just as John was the agent and water was the agency into which he placed people so Christ would be the agent and the Holy Spirit would be the agency.

While we find four passages that speak directly about Spirit baptism, the only content we draw is that Christ would baptize people in the Holy Ghost. The meaning and effects of Spirit baptism are not revealed.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

An Open Question to Christians on Social Issues

Two days ago, the Iowa Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in my state. The web is a buzz over the issue. Across America, pastors addressed this topic in their sermons today. In this post, I do not want to speak on the legality or rationality of this decision. Rather, I have some questions for Christians about their involvement in social issues.

American Christianity has always been involved in politics. Believers have not just participated but been leaders on issues such as slavery, women’s rights, prohibition, abortion, and gay marriage. American Christianity is full of victories and failures in the realm of social activism. How effective have we been and what have we lost in this pursuit?

  1. Some have attributed Christianities Christianty's loss of respect as being directly connected to her involvement in social issues. Is this a result of the churches actions or the secularization of society?
  2. American Christianity has fought for many issues. It seems to me, that we been the most effective (and respected I might add) for fighting for the rights of others such as slavery and women’s rights. When we have tried to legislate morality (going to church, paying tithe, prohibition, abortion, and homosexuality), we have had mixed results at best and some outright failures. Is this a principle to go by?
  3. Some would argue that Christianity has the responsibility to be actively engaged in the political arena. John Piper on the other hand states that we should live as though these issues are unimportant. Vote but do not be especially concerned about the outcome since our inheritance is in heaven. Do you agree?
  4. The last question is have we lost opportunities to evangelize because of our focus on social issues?

These are areas that I have been thinking about lately. I am interested in your take so leave comments below.
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Friday, April 3, 2009

Spirit Burns - Practical Experiential Doctrine, Part Three

Spirit baptism is not just a theological concept. It has very practical implications in the lives of experientialists. In this article, we will look at experientialist teaching on how to obtain Spirit baptism and the different views of what that experience entails.

1.) How to Obtain Spirit Baptism

Since the chief purpose of Spirit baptism is to have power for Christian service (Acts 1:8), it is important to strive to obtain Spirit baptism. Experientialists base their “road map” to Spirit baptism on the experiences of the book of Acts. In Foundations of Pentecostal Theology, Duffield and Cleave give four steps to be baptized in the Holy Spirit (312-313).

It is important first off that the individual be a believer. Since who the Holy Spirit descended upon were saved, we should not expect it to be any different.

Next, we need to have repented of our sin. In Acts 2:37-38, Peter states that to receive the Spirit one needs to repent.

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Act 2:37-38)

Third, one needs to be baptized by water (Acts 2:37-38).

Lastly, one needs to have a deep conviction of their need for the Holy Ghost while also having a great measure of consecration.

Experientialist continue to follow their method of using the book of Acts as their authority for Spirit baptism by showing the manner in which Spirit baptism is received by a believer (Duffield and Cleave, 317): suddenly while sitting and expecting him to come (Acts 2:1-4); instantly and unexpectedly, while listening to a sermon (Acts 10:44-46); through prayer and the laying on of the apostle’s hands (Acts 8:14-17; 9:17; 19:6); through the seeker’s personal prayer and faith (Lk. 11:9-13; Jn. 7:37-39).

2.) Views on the Experience of Spirit Baptism

Experientialist all agree that one can know he has been baptized in the Spirit. In fact, it is argued that it is logical that the supernatural experience of the baptism with the Holy Spirit would be accompanied by some definite and unmistakable sign by which the speaker would be assured that he had received the baptism in the Spirit (Duffield and Cleave, 320). There are four groups that advocate their own unique experience.

dsfdsfa.) Pentecostal View

Most Pentecostals state that the only clear Scriptural evidence for the baptism of the Spirit is speaking in tongues (Basham, 61). It is stated that it is the clear pattern given in the book of Acts and is therefore to be emulated in doctrine and practice.

dsfdsfb.) Charismatic View

Charismatics tend to be less dogmatic on tongues as an exclusive evidence for Spirit baptism.

While an experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit may result in the gift of speaking in tongues, or in the use of some other gifts that had not previously been experienced, it also may come without the gift of speaking in tongues. In fact, many Christians throughout history have experienced powerful infillings of the Holy Spirit that have not been accompanied by speaking in tongues. With regard to this gift as well as all other gifts, we must simply say that the Holy Spirit ‘apportions each one individually as he will’ (1 Cor.12:11). (Grudem, 784)

Therefore, while the baptism of the Spirit may include tongues, it technically is an experience in which the Holy Spirit comes upon the believer to anoint and energize him for special service.

dsfdsfc.) Second Blessing View

There is also a group within fundamentalism that believe there is a second blessing and equate that with Spirit baptism. One such man was R. A. Torrey. In his book, What the Bible Teaches, he outlined his three propositions concerning Spirit baptism.

In the first place, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a definite experience of which one may know whether he has received it or not. . . . In the second place, the Baptism with the Holy Spirit is a work of the Holy Spirit distinct from and additional to His regenerating work. . .In the third place, the Baptism with the Holy Spirit is a work of the Holy Spirit always connected with and primarily for the purpose of testimony and service. (270-272)

Most fundamentalists would equate this with the filling of the Spirit and in a certain sense, so did R. A. Torrey. He felt that the baptism with the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, the Holy Ghost fell on them, the gift of the Holy Ghost, receive the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost came on them, the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and endued with power from on high were all expression used in the New Testament to describe one and the same experience (270).

dsfdsfd.) Holiness View

The last view on what the experience that accompanies Spirit baptism is concerns the Holiness movement. Certain groups within this movement associate Spirit baptism with a second work of grace within the believer’s heart. This work of grace refers to the entire sanctification of one’s being that cleanses him from sinful corruption.

It (entire sanctification) is wrought by the baptism with the Holy Spirit and comprehends in one experience the cleansing of the heart from sin and the abiding, indwelling, presence of the Holy Spirit, empowering the believer for life and service. (Church of the Nazarene, Manual, 34)


Basham, Don. A Handbook on Holy Spirit Baptism. 3rd ed. Monroeville, PA: Whitaker Books, 1969

Duffield, Guy P. and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave. Foundations of Pentecostal Theology. Los Angeles, CA: L.I.F.E. Bible College, 1983

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994

Manual, Church of the Nazarene. Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, 2005.

Torrey, R. A. What the Bible Teaches. Basingstroke, UK: Marshall Pickering Press, 1987.

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I found Tim White's post helpful as I wrote my original research paper.
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Spirit Burns - Experiential Arguments, Part Two

In the last article, I presented the views of Non-Experientialist. Our second grouping deals with those who take Spirit baptism to be experiential. This view is primarily promoted by Charismatics, Pentecostals, and certain Holiness movements. Though each group has different views on what the experience of Spirit baptism entails, they all predominantly agree that Spirit baptism is normally a definite experience that is subsequent to salvation.

1.) Spirit Baptism Occurs after Salvation

Experientialist arguments that Spirit baptism occurs after salvation usually follow a unified line of reasoning. The first point is that Jesus’ disciples were born again before Pentecost.

And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. (Mat 8:26)

While the disciples are said to have little faith, they still had faith. Thus, experientialists argue that all the accounts of the coming of the Holy Spirit are not concerned with salvation (Williams, 205). Other such arguments are found in the conversions of the Samaritans and the disciples of John at Ephesus.

Second, even though they were already born again they are commanded to wait for Spirit baptism.

For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Act 1:5)

In this verse, Jesus commands his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Because Christ commanded the disciples to wait, experimentalist state that Christians should wait and ask Christ for this baptism for it will result in increased power for ministry.

Third, on the day of Pentecost, they subsequently received the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. (Act 2:1-5)

2.) The Experiential Definition of Spirit Baptism

Lastly, another key truth for some experientialists is that the baptism is in the Spirit.

John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: (Luk 3:16)

It is argued that just as John was the agent and water was the agency into which the person was baptized so Christ is the agent (or baptizer) and the Spirit is what the person is baptized into (Williams, 199). The effect of Spirit baptism is being enveloped in the reality of the Holy Spirit. Just as water baptism envelopes the individual in the baptismal waters.


Williams, J. Rodman. Renewal Theology. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Reach Forth from the Grave or Something Like That

Perhaps you have heard of Rapture videos. It used to be a big thing a few decades ago. In fact, my Grandpa even had one ready to go (his consisted of the phrase: my, O'my, O'my). Anyway, the good folks at "You've Been Left Behind" will bring your post-rapture fairwell up to the cutting edge of technology.

Yes sir after you are caught up into the sky, you can now send out 50 emails (for a paltry $40 per year). Of course, it would be disastorous to have all those emails go out, and you still be left behind. Then agian, those emails might be the least of your problems.

I am thankful to The NT Student for bringing this invaluable resource to my attention. Read More......

The Pascal Wager

One of the blogs I subscribe to is Cloud of Witnesses. A recurring post is “The Philosophical Word of the Day." Blaise Pascal was featured today. This reminded me of the conclusions I came to on the absurdity of the famous Pascal Wager.

I remember reading about the Pascal Wager during my first year of college. I was impressed by his reasoning and thought it was a good tool for apologetics. I even used it once or twice while witnessing.

While there are actually several corollaries to his argument, the most well known is his “wager” argument. Simple put, it consists of two choices (belief and unbelief). If you do not believe and are wrong you will suffer eternal punishment, but if you are right you will enjoy eternal happiness. So, it is in your best interest to believe because if you are wrong you do not loose anything, and if you are right you gain everything.

As you can see, this is primarily a practical argument. One that I believe has several shortcomings.

First, if you approach God on the basis of skepticism, will he not know? Your motives are insincere at best, and sincerity is an important if not a vital aspect of religion.

Secondly, this argument is for a belief in the “theos”. It does not help one know which religion to choose. Since the motive is based on pragmatism, why not be a pantheist polytheist? Better to worship everything, then to pick the wrong one and thereby anger the god(s) you are trying to please.

Lastly, this argument is only moderately effective for works based religions. It is worthless to Christianity. This is because Christianity is based on belief (faith) not works.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Heb 11:6)

Salvation by grace is vital. There is nothing that we can do to be right before God. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins so that we could be judicially righteous before Him.

Salvation does not occur through pragmatic belief. It can only be realized through sincere faith.
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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Prayer Tips from Johnny & Chachi

Here is a hilarous post from Denny Burk, professor at Boyce College. The question is have you ever been guilty of this? Read More......