A Warning for True Believers Who Lack Faith (Part 3)

(From Maranatha Baptist Seminary Journal; used by permission. Read the series so far.)

The Context of Hebrews 6:4-8

The proper interpretation of Hebrews 6:4-8 must be consistent with its context. Therefore, three aspects of its context are discussed. First, the context of the entire book of Hebrews is summarized. Second, the immediate context of the paragraph (6:4-8) is examined. Third, several Old Testament themes that form the background to the paragraph in Hebrews 6:4-8 are discussed.

General Context of Hebrews 6:4-8

The book of Hebrews was most likely written to a group of Jewish believers who were part of the same house church.1 The location of this house church has been the subject of great debate.2 Fortunately, it is not necessary to specify the exact location of the church in order to interpret Hebrews 6:4-8. It is necessary, however, to clarify three introductory issues. First, what is the purpose and theme of the book of Hebrews? Second, what is the author’s method for accomplishing that purpose? Third, what content does the author of Hebrews use to fulfill his purpose? Read more about A Warning for True Believers Who Lack Faith (Part 3)

Review - Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel

Image of Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel
by Kate Bowler
Oxford University Press 2013
Hardcover 352

I’d had this book on my wishlist for a while; it seemed like the prosperity gospel was as popular as it was egregiously wrong—and it was increasing in both respects. It seemed so impossible to take it all seriously; I was hoping someone could help me understand its origins and teachings.

Then the author of this book, Kate Bowler, who is my age, wrote a beautifully profound article on her own terminal cancer in the New York Times, and before I finished reading the piece I bought her book.

I listened to an audio version, read well by Bowler herself. I apparently missed out on the appendices (though I skimmed what I could on Amazon), so my review may be slightly skewed.

I’ll start with the (apparent) criticism and end with the praise: Bowler doesn’t manage to create much of a narrative. Her chapter titles—Faith, Wealth, Health, and Victory—do develop themes within prosperity teaching, but throughout much of the book, the word “concatenation” kept coming to my mind. I felt like I was being introduced to preacher after preacher, ministry after ministry, with very little coherence to hang all the details on. Read more about Review - Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel

Homosexuality, Changing Times, & The Bible (Part 3)

(Read the series so far.)

Modern Issues

Fans of the original Star Trek television series will recognize one of the opening lines to each show as Captain Kirk said that he and the crew of the Starship Enterprise wanted “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” You don’t have to be a Trekkie to recognize that when it comes to the 21st century and the LGBT agenda we have gone where no one has gone before. We have entered new territories. Questions, discussions, accusations and the like have emerged that have never appeared in the past. In the remainder of this article, I want to address some of these issues.

Is LGBT Attraction Similar to Racial Differences?

One accusation often used to stop criticism of the LGBT agenda is that those who are opposed are reacting just as racists do. If we find someone unacceptable because of their ethnicity and we treat them as inferior, we are committing the sins of racism and partiality (cf. James 2:1-7 which actually deals with mistreatment of the poor).

Does it then follow that if we are not in agreement with LGBT and accepting of their behavior, we are committing the same sins? Not at all. LGBT behavior is a moral issue, not a racial difference. As Christians, we are called to love all people including LGBTs, but that does not mean we are required to agree with their sinful lifestyles and philosophies. Read more about Homosexuality, Changing Times, & The Bible (Part 3)

The Flexibility of Rome

A few years ago, I stopped by a friend’s church in Washington, D.C. to walk to lunch with him. He had just finished a gut-wrenching meeting where a recent church member explained he had converted to Roman Catholicism without informing the pastors of the church.

The church member’s main justification for the conversion was the intellectual dearth among Protestants and particularly Baptists. And he held this out as the force that drove him to cross the Tiber.

My friend valiantly attempted to share the gospel with the young man from God’s Word and to pull him back to the true faith. But the deed was done, and the excuse was that Baptists lack intellectual and academic validity. And this excuse was given to a pastor with a doctorate in church history from Cambridge. Read more about The Flexibility of Rome

From the Archives: Do the Religious Beliefs of US Presidents Matter?

Detail from The Prayer at Valley Forge, Arnold Friberg 1999

(Used with permission from Baptist Bulletin July/Aug. 2012. All rights reserved.)

Do the religious beliefs of U.S. presidents matter? Though the question is not new (Baptists, as well as Protestants and evangelicals in general, wrestled with “the Catholic issue” when John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960; Kennedy spoke to allay their fears), American voters appear to be headed toward a 2012 election with unusual religious features. As of this writing, the top-tier choices include a vaguely “Christian” candidate and an indisputably Mormon candidate. The latter appears certain to become the Republican nominee for president. This development has many taking a fresh—and anxiety-tinged—look at what they believe about separation of church and state.

For conservative Christians, the situation is especially uncomfortable. They believe deeply that President Obama’s political philosophy and policies are harming the country and that he must be defeated, yet they find Mitt Romney’s Mormonism disturbing. After all, though the Mormon religion is suffused with old-fashioned American values, it’s a religious newcomer born entirely by reinventing major components of the Christian faith—and that sort of reinventing is a profoundly “unconservative” thing to do to the religion that built Western civilization. Read more about From the Archives: Do the Religious Beliefs of US Presidents Matter?

Homosexuality, Changing Times, & The Bible (Part 2)

(Read Part 1.)

What Does the Bible Say?

We need to turn now from the rapidly changing values concerning sexuality, as is exhibited in our culture, to the never-changing teachings of Scripture. As Christians, we recognize the absolute authority of the Bible, God’s revealed Word, and humbly submit to whatever it proclaims, whether it is popular or not, or as Paul says, “in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2).

In this regard, it is worth noting that while the Bible says relatively little on homosexuality, what it does say has always been understood, until very recently, even by unbelievers, as a condemnation of the evil nature of the act. And while relatively little is said about homosexuality as such (a fact that the pro-LGBT contingency highlight), a great deal is said about the sinfulness of immorality, of which homosexuality is included. There are seven strategic biblical passages that deal directly with homosexuality.1 Read more about Homosexuality, Changing Times, & The Bible (Part 2)

Homosexuality, Changing Times, & The Bible (Part 1)

In 1979, Francis Schaeffer wrote,

The thinkables of the eighties and nineties will certainly include things which most people today find unthinkable and immoral, even unimaginable and too extreme to suggest. Yet—since they do not have some overriding principle that takes them beyond relativistic thinking—when these become thinkable and acceptable in the eighties and nineties, most people will not even remember that they were unthinkable in the seventies. They will slide into each new thinkable without a jolt.1

Schaeffer was referencing issues such as abortion, in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Abortion, which previously had been recognized as evil, was at the time rapidly finding acceptance in American culture. In light of shifting values concerning abortions, Schaeffer predicted similar devolution in other moral areas. Would he be surprised by today’s approval and promotion of all things homosexual? What was considered throughout most of human history as sinful behavior and, until 1961, declared a crime in all American states and more recently as a psychological disorder,2 has now been embraced by people from all walks of life. Read more about Homosexuality, Changing Times, & The Bible (Part 1)

A Warning for True Believers Who Lack Faith (Part 2)

(From Maranatha Baptist Seminary Journal; used by permission. Read Part 1.)

Several views see those described in Hebrews 6:4-8 as genuinely saved individuals. At least four variations exist within this general category.

Hypothetical Rejection

Those who hold the hypothetical rejection view suggest that the author of Hebrews desires to shake true believers loose from their moral lethargy by mentioning what would happen if they “fell away.”1 These believers would lose their salvation and face eternal condemnation. According to this view “fall away” means to reject the gospel of Christ, and the judgment that follows is the eternal condemnation of the unsaved.2 However, proponents of this view are quick to point out that this “falling away” is impossible for true believers. The author of Hebrews is merely using a hypothetical impossibility to warn true believers about continuing in their spiritual immaturity. Hewitt states, “The writer by the use of the phrase if they shall fall away does not say that the readers or anyone else had fallen away. He is putting forward a hypothetical case as the RSV translation, ‘if they then commit apostasy,’ suggests.”3 Read more about A Warning for True Believers Who Lack Faith (Part 2)