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Friday, December 9, 2011

In Defense of the Duggars

I was shocked and saddened at the news, yesterday, that Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar had miscarried their twentieth child, seemingly so soon after they had just announced their pregnancy.

Even more shocking were the droves of scoffers and the morally indignant who flocked to Facebook and Internet comment threads to capitalize on the tragedy.

Their message, of course, was clear: it was her fault for having so many children; she had it coming.

It was the last statement, in particular, that had me up in arms.

No one, not even Michelle herself, I think, would dispute the fact that her age and previous miscarriage put her at a higher risk for another failed pregnancy.

That is not the issue.

The comments were not simply "she had a higher risk of miscarriage so I'm not surprised" but also "she deserved her miscarriage for having so many children".

Sex before marriage? - Sure! - Cohabitation? - You bethca! - Abortion? - Why not?

How about being the loving parents of nineteen, well-behaved, well taken care of children without government help?

*Gasp* Surely not! Why that's "immoral", "unethical", "irresponsible", and "selfish"!

Not surprisingly, the Bible is at odds with contemporary wisdom on "family planning" and the ultimate controller of life and death.

Scripture is clear that it is God who gives life ( 1 Timothy 6:13) and sets the measure of a man's days (Job 14:5).

We also read that children are blessings (Psalm 127:3-5, John 16:21).

God has also given us a charge to procreate (Genesis 1:28, 9:7, 35:11).

This is a blessing AND a command.

One doesn't have to think to hard whether or not the Duggars have any biblical for their family planning philosophy.

Heck! As far as I can tell, their "unusual" family is exactly what we should see if the biblical perspective on procreation is played out in the lives of someone who can properly raise and take care of many children.

This is not hard to imagine when one understand that we are to have and raise children for the Lord and His glory. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Or that God wishes to share Himself and His absolute goodness and splendor with as many people as possible in our world. (2 Peter 3:9)

I have to ask why anyone wouldn't jump at the chance to have and raise children (adopted or natural) in the hope that they may one day have the privilege of glorifying God and enjoying him forever.

Unselfishness and responsibility preclude abusing God's blessings not accepting them gratefully with the intention of bringing Him honor.

As long as a person is in position where they can fulfill God's command to procreate, rightly and with integrity they should have no qualms about doing so.

I must say that while birth control divorces sex from its procreational purposes, it is not explicitly condemned in the Bible and, therefore, must be treated accordingly.

In short, no child, born or unborn, should be denied the opportunity to have and share the glory of God here on earth and in heaven, especially not for selfish purposes.

Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar are doing nothing but obeying the Word of God and others would do well to take notice and follow their example.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Not So Brief Rebuttal of James White

The scriptural teaching on the purpose of baptism finds little support among today's evangelicals and none among Calvinists, most of whom operate under a flawed view of man's depravity and a faith-at-the-exclusion-of-anything-else view of salvation.

Reformed theologian and apologist James White is no exception. In his article "A Brief Rebuttal of Baptismal Regeneration" Dr. White seeks to "point out a basic, foundational error" of "such groups like the Church of Christ" who "have some doctrine of baptismal regeneration" and to "briefly respond to a couple of the more often used proof texts provided by proponents of baptismal regeneration".

This article caught my eye because Dr. White more than suggests that the Churches of Christ ( a capella or more mainline, instrumental he does not specify) believe that the water in baptism somehow conveys of channels grace in some form or another, a la baptismal regeneration.

This of course is a gross misrepresentation of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement (SCRM) view of salvation.

The purpose of this article expose some foundational errors in Dr. White's understanding of salvation and then lay out a more accurate view of baptism and its connection to salvation taken by SCRM people.

Dr. White's full article may be found here:

Part 1: Dead Men Can't Be Baptized

Dr. White writes:

"Man in sin must be freed from slavery to sin. He cannot free Himself, but must be freed by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This is an offensive truth to the unregenerate man, as the response from these would-be self-made disciples indicates (8:41, 48). Men do not like to hear that they are, in fact, totally dependent upon God's grace for salvation--they do not want to know that they are incapable of saving themselves, or even of coming unto Christ for salvation, outside of God's gracious drawing (John 6:44). But as the Lord Himself said, we are slaves to sin. Slaves must be freed."

I really love this passage because it so accurately expresses man's complete hopelessness apart from God and his grace. Man's deadness in sin only serves to highlight the mercy and grace in God's universal drawing (John 12:32; John 6:44-45). Dr. White also writes:

Paul describes the lost man's condition with the graphic language of death. "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins" he tells the Ephesians (2:1). How can a dead man be made alive? Only by the work of God, just as he told the Colossians, "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ" (Colossians 2:13).

This statement is more than humorous considering the fact that Dr. White completely ignores the time at which one is made alive, stated one verse prior to the Colossian's passage. Colossians 2:9-12 reads:

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; 11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Church of Christ theologian Dr. Jack Cottrell writes about this verse:

Here two things are said to happen in baptism. First, we are "buried with Him", i.e, with Christ. According to Romans 6:3-4 this means we are buried into the death of Christ. To be buried with Christ into his death means to receive all the saving benefits of his atoning death; it means to come into contact with his justifying blood and thus to receive the forgiveness of sins.

The second thing that happens in baptism is that we are "raised up with Him". This refers to the initial act of indwelling Holy Spirit. As soon as God gives us his Spirit (as promised in Acts 2:38), the spirit infuses life into our dead souls. Our spirits our raised from the dead by the same life-giving Spirit that raised Jesus' body from the tomb (Romans 8:10-11; see Col 2:13). (The Faith Once for All; pg. 363)

Wow! It is no wonder Dr White skips right past this verse. He then appeals to the "total incapability " of man, trying to show that unregenerate man cannot even want to be want to be baptized.

He quotes Romans 8:5-8 and then writes:

Those who hold to baptismal regeneration would have us to believe that one passes from being a "natural man" to a "spiritual man" through baptism; yet, from whence does this desire to be baptized come? Is God not pleased when we are baptized? Of course. Yet, Paul said that the one who is still fleshly cannot please God. If such a person is the enemy of God, enslaved to sin, how is it that he is able to do such a spiritual and pleasing thing as to desire to be baptized? Obviously, this is impossible.

First of all, SCRM people believe that baptism is the occasion of salvation not the means; but what about the desire to be baptized? Where does it come from? The answer is our faith, which comes as a result of contact with the word of God ( Romans 10:17).

But the Bible says the " those who are in the flesh cannot please God".
How then can those in the flesh have faith and be baptized? We must understand the context of Romans 8 is speaking about the law not the gospel.

Dr. Cottrell writes in his Romans commentary:

What is the nature of this inability? Calvinists see in this text the concept of total inability, which is the idea that sinners are so totally depraved that they cannot respond to the gospel without God's selective irresistible grace. However, Paul's point here has nothing to do with whether a person controlled by his flesh can respond gospel. Rather his inability is related to the law. Such a person is unable to obey any command of the law as God wants it done an as the law requires.

The key words are "as long as." A person cannot be pleasing to God in obedience to his law as long as his mind remains set on the flesh. But there is no indication whatsoever in this text that a sinner is unable to respond to the gospel, or unable through the power of the gospel to redirect the set of his mind from flesh to Spirit. The context shows that "cannot please God" refers only to an inability to be subject to the law, and does not imply an inability to respond to the gospel. The failure to make this distinction is the main error of the Calvinists' interpretation of these verses
. In other passages it is clear that sinners are able and expected to respond in faith and repentance (John 3:16; Rom 1:17; Rev.22:17; Matt. 23:37).

But Dr. White isn't through:

Baptism signifies our death to the old way of life and our resurrection to new life in Christ, as Paul uses it in Romans 6:1-4. Unless we have died to sin, and been raised with Christ in reality prior to our baptism, the symbol becomes meaningless. So we see that the position that posits baptism as the means of regeneration and forgiveness ignores the most basic teachings of Scripture regarding man's inability.

The Churches of Christ see baptism as the literal occasion not means of our death burial, and resurrection in Christ. In this view the symbolism makes perfect sense. We die and our buried with Christ in the watery grave of baptism (we our saved and justified) and our raised to new life by our faith (receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the affects thereof) at that event. Baptism as a "salvation-event" is not man saving himself but man being saved after obeying the gospel. (1 Peter 4:17; 2 Thessalonians 5:8; 1 Peter 2:6-8, 4:7;)

In taking the position they do, the baptismal regenerationists not only make man capable of things he is not, but they reduce God's grace to a mere aid, and make the death of Christ a theory that is dependent upon man's act of obedience, rather than the finished and effective work that the Bible teaches it to be (Hebrews 10:10-14).

Dr. White has defined spiritual "deadness" a priori to mean incapable of obeying the gospel. We have already shown this to be false. It is a fact of Scripture that without God's grace there is no salvation- period.

Again, in the SCRM view, baptism is the event at which we are saved by God's grace, thus baptism is a salvation-event and not a procuring cause.

The last part of his statement is rich considering that even on Dr. White's Calvinism, the elect are not saved until God unilaterally regenerates them enabling them to have faith. It Christ' death still a theory until that moment? Dr. White does not tell us. In fact saved through faith (Eph. 2:8) presupposes we are not saved until we do something, namely have faith.

In summation, we have seen that Romans 8:5-8 in no way precludes obedience to the gospel but to the law and that man is able and expected to believe the gospel (John 3:16; Rom 1:17; Rev.22:17; Matt. 23:37). In addition, the biblical "salvation-event" view of baptism in no way minimize man's sinfulness of spiritual depravity but underscore it, making man truly responsible for forsaking the gospel, since he can indeed do otherwise. We have also shown that said baptism does not makes man a "little helper" in his salvation but an obedient recipient of God's grace.

When the veil of "total depravity" is removed we can begin to see more clearly God's purposes in baptism and the grave responsibility man bears for rejecting the gospel. Parts 2 and 3 hopefully coming soon!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

In Defense of Bible Bowl

I am a Bible Bowler. No, I do not participate in a Christian bowling league but rather I compete in a national Bible memory competition with other teens every month at my church as well as with teens from around the country at our annual national tournament. Our local round-robin competitions include devotions to start off the day and times for prayer before every round. The competitions can run pretty long but I always have fun and enjoy fellowshipping with other Believers. The individual rounds, which are set up in a College Bowl format, can get tense at times but it is up to us to police ourselves and make sure we are acting in step with Jesus. I have seen my life and the lives of others changed by God's Word through this program and I feel like this is a great way to empower youth AND adults through the power of Christian love. It's not perfect program but it sounds pretty good, right? Well, some would disagree. For example: I was accosted by a youth leader who accused me and hundreds of other Bible Bowlers of being divisive and implied that there is something unethical about "competing for cash prizes", as he characterized the Christian college scholarships which are given out at our summer tournaments and national competition in addition to added gift certificates. He impugned my character as well as the character of hundreds of other kids in programs such as AWANA, Bible Bowl, Bible Quiz, and Bible Bee. This is my defense of these great programs promoting biblical literacy.

1. Bible Bowl and other such programs engender divisiveness.

My view is that Bible Bowl doesn't bring out or put into a person any feelings that are not already present consciously or subconsciously. Bible Bowl doesn't make people divisive in any scripturally, sinful sense BUT a person can use Bible bowl as an object of division. We can control our feelings and are responsible to make sure that it is us who are in control over our feelings and not our feelings controlling us. If a person chooses to be divisive it is not a Bible Bowl issue but a heart issue. We don't shut down a program because it can be abused rather we exhort each other to keep everything in proper context and that is what happens all the time at Bible Bowl. Nearly every month at our local round robin whoever gives the devotion will stress the point that the verses that are embedded in our minds need to make it to our hearts and hands. We cannot force someone to not feel a certain way but we can encourage and correct them. This is all that can be asked of those parents sponsors coaches and players who are part of the Bible Bowl family.

2. You can't undergo discipleship simply from rote memory.

Perhaps, but as my coach always says the Scripture has to be in your head before it can be in your heart. Bible Bowl is under no obligation, spiritual or otherwise, to teach theology or Bible studies to go along with the memorization. With that in mind, prayer and student led devotions are always apart of the program schedule. Because Bible Bowl does not have a Bible study type format does not make it unprofitable, to say the least, RATHER when a person goes into a Bible study they are equipped with biblical knowledge they have received from their Bible Bowl studies.

3. "Ca$h Prize$"

There is nothing wrong with incentive monetary or otherwise for a job well done as long as that is not the end goal. Show me a verse in the Bible that implies otherwise. Any added prize or even a trophy becomes sinful when it characterizes the program or takes away from the overall goal of the program or eclipses the spiritual aspect of the program.

4. There are /better/more productive/ more uniting/ insert benefit here/ ways to learn the Bible.

Maybe. There are probably worse ways too. What's your point? Bible Bowl has proven itself productive and biblically sound even if it's not perfect. As for the unity issue, kids need to know that they are not the only ones out there with a desire to know God's Word and being around the like-minded in a such a setting fosters much unity and church awareness.

5. Why give the prizes if it's all about learning God's Word?

Fair question. Some of the awards such as scholarships and mission trips go back into the Kingdom. But things like gift certificates are given not because God's Word is not sufficient but because people like gift certificates. Seriously there's no complex reason and it does not take away from the overall goal so I don't see a problem.

There are so many more better questions and better answers but these are some of the ones I've come up against. I hope that we would support and encourage programs that promote biblical literacy rather than demonize them and in all things we should voice our objections in love. Anyone wanting to know more about Bible Bowl should go to