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Deprogramming Fundamentalists

In his book A New Kind of Christianity, emerging church leader Brian McLaren proposes that a 12 Step program to “deprogram” Biblical fundamentalists from their old way of thinking may be needed. “Even for those of us on this quest, breaking out of centuries-old habits won’t be easy. ... No wonder those of us who want and need to change our approach may need to form twelve-step groups to deprogram our thinking” (pp. 85, 86). He uses the genteel pronouns “us” and “our,” but McLaren is doubtless thinking of die-hards who take the Bible seriously and interpret it literally and are opposed to his “new reformation” agenda toward a church that is “less rigid.”
He has targeted the children and grandchildren of fundamentalists. In other books, McLaren likens fundamentalists to Pharisees. He says, “the exclusive hell-oriented gospel is not the way forward” (A Generous Orthodoxy, p. 120, f. 48). He thinks salvation might be a process rather than an event (p. 229) and says that the practice of “accepting Jesus as their personal Savior” is not getting “the gospel right” (“The Emergent Mystique,” Christianity Today, Nov. 2004). He calls the literal, imminent return of Christ “pop-Evangelical eschatology” (A Generous Orthodoxy, p. 267). He says that we cannot “prognosticate the eternal destinies of anyone else” and that pagan religions are “not the enemy of the gospel” (pp. 92, 63). He rejects the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the infallibility of the Bible, and the eternal judgment of hell.

These are the types of “centuries-old habits” that McLaren wants Christians to break out of through psychology and group therapy, but his emerging Christianity was prophesied in Scripture 2,000 years ago, and wise men will not be deceived. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

- Fundamental Baptist Information Service

My Response: The self proclaimed emergent church in our day is not a new and improved religious concept as its proponents advertise but rather it is simply a re-emergent belief that attempts to redefine the HOLY GOD of the Bible and make HIM more palatable to those who want permission to live as they please. Was not that the motive behind the molding of the golden calf in Moses day?

This Laodicean generation wants to worship GOD when they want to, how they want to, and where they want to. Though many would never admit it, they are repulsed by the commitment that grandma and grandpa's GOD required. Is it any wonder that many are drawn to those who will help them re-mold their god into one which allows a less stringent life-style. Away with a life of discipline, self denial, and devotion. The god of choice is one who endorses a life of religious convenience. Surely HE would not expect us to make personal sacrifices that could somehow be inconvenient to make.

Am I surprised by those who detest the "ole time religion" so much that they feel that a 12 step program (similar to alcoholics anonymous) may be needed to rescue the children and grandchildren from those of us who unashamedly embrace it? No, not really. Those who bow and dance before golden calves are susceptible to any form of foolishness.
What does concern me is that our generation of Christianity is so shallow, that some who presently identify with us will no doubt be attracted to and possibly ensnared by this deceptive philosophy. Apostasy has persuaded an ever evolving church that it's not cool to be old school! The old paths are increasingly viewed as being inferior by a hip-hop crowd that has been weaned off of the bible and replaced by a me-first driven spirituality.
The contemporary mindset loves "a Jesus" who is non-judgmental, does not exercise wrath toward sin, does not send unbelievers to an eternal fiery hell, does not require repentance and the new birth, puts no obligations on people, endorses any and every kind of new bible translation, accepts worldly music, and doesn't like traditional Bible churches. It’s a live pretty much as you please type of Christianity which worldly minded people prefer and they'll follow virtually anyone who will give them that kind of god to worship. In reality, many do not want the GOD of the Bible.

The pressure that has been thrust upon us is do we redirect our course and follow the winds of change lest we lose some of the people we love, including our children and grandchildren? To simplify it even further, do we need to cater to people or do we honor the God who has saved us even if we have to suffer the consequences?
Here's my response to such questions. Though it grieves my heart to think of losing people, I'm more fearful of losing our LORD's favor and intimate presence. I remind us that as a church we are never exhorted to be successful but rather we are simply instructed to be faithful to GOD. The successful ministry can not always be measured by how many "noses" and "nickels" one can brag about counting. I say in the words of 2 Timothy 3:14, "continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them."

In Jeremiah's day, some defiantly said "we will not walk therein" referring to the old paths. But GOD said that the old paths "is the good way" and if we would walk therein "ye shall find rest for your souls". That's good enough for me. I sincerely hope its good enough for our children and grandchildren. Is it good enough for you?


There was a certain Professor of Religion named Dr. Christianson, a studious man who taught at a small college in the western United States.  Dr. Christianson taught the required survey course in Christianity at this particular institution. Every student was required to take this course their freshman year, regardless of his or her major.  Although Dr. Christianson tried hard to communicate the essence of the gospel in his class, he found that most of his students looked upon the course as nothing but required drudgery. Despite his best efforts, most students refused to take Christianity seriously.

This year, Dr. Christianson had a special student named Steve. Steve was only a freshman, but was studying with the intent of going onto seminary for the ministry. Steve was popular, he was well liked, and he was an imposing physical specimen. He was now the starting center on the school football team, and was the best student in the professor's class.  One day, Dr. Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him.  "How many push-ups can you do?"  Steve said, "I do about 200 every night."  "200? That's pretty good, Steve," Dr. Christianson said. "Do you think you could do 300?" Steve replied, "I don't know.... I've never done 300 at a time."  "Do you think you could?" again asked Dr. Christianson.  "Well, I can try," said Steve.  "Can you do 300 in sets of 10? I have a class project in mind and I need you to do about 300 push-ups in sets of ten for this to work. Can you do it? I need you to tell me you can do it," said the professor.  Steve said, "Well... I think I can...yeah, I can do it."  Dr. Christianson said, "Good! I need you to do this on Friday.. Let me explain what I have in mind."

Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, the professor pulled out a big box of donuts. No, these weren't the normal kinds of donuts, they were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited it was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend with a party in Dr. Christianson's class.  Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, "Cynthia, do you want to have one of these donuts?"  Cynthia said, "Yes."  Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?"  "Sure!" Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve again sat in his desk. Dr. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia's desk.  Dr. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, "Joe, do you want a donut?"  Joe said, "Yes." Dr. Christianson asked, "Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?"  Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut. And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten push-ups for every person before they got their donut.
Walking down the second aisle, Dr. Christianson came to Scott. Scott was on the basketball team, and in as good condition as Steve. He was very popular and never lacking for companionship. When the professor asked, "Scott do you want a donut?"  Scott's reply was, "Well, can I do my own push-ups?"  Dr. Christianson said, "No, Steve has to do them."  Then Scott said, "Well, I don't want one then."  Dr.. Christianson shrugged and then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Scott can have a donut he doesn't want?"  With perfect obedience Steve started to do ten push-ups.  Scott said, "HEY! I said I didn't want one!"  Dr.. Christianson said, "Look! This is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don't want it." And he put a donut on Scott's desk.

Now by this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down. You could start to see a little perspiration coming out around his brow.  Dr. Christianson started down the third row. Now the students were beginning to get a little angry. Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, "Jenny, do you want a donut?"  Sternly, Jenny said, "No."  Then Dr. Christianson asked Steve, "Steve, would you do ten more push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn't want?"  Steve did ten....Jenny got a donut.

By now, a growing sense of uneasiness filled the room. The students were beginning to say, "No!" and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks.  Steve also had to really put forth a lot of extra effort to get these push-ups done for each donut. There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.  Dr. Christianson asked Robert, who was the most vocal unbeliever in the class, to watch Steve do each push up to make sure he did the full ten push-ups in a set because he couldn't bear to watch all of Steve's work for all of those uneaten donuts. He sent Robert over to where Steve was so Robert count the set and watch Steve closely.

Dr. Christianson started down the fourth row.. During his class, however, some students from other classes had wandered in and sat down on the steps along the radiators that ran down the sides of the room. When the professor realized this, he did a quick count and saw that now there were 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.  Dr. Christianson went on to the next person and the next and the next. Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time. He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.  A few moments later, Jason, a recent transfer student, came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled in one voice, "NO! Don't come in! Stay out!"  Jason didn't know what was going on. Steve picked up his head and said, "No, let him come."  Dr. Christianson said, "You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten push-ups for him?"  Steve said, "Yes, let him come in. Give him a donut."  Dr. Christianson said, "Okay, Steve, I'll let you get Jason's out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?"  Jason, new to the room, hardly knew what was going on. "Yes," he said, "give me a donut."  "Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?"  Steve did ten push-ups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.

Dr Christianson finished the fourth row, and then started on those visitors seated by the heaters. Steve's arms were now shaking with each push-up in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity. By this time sweat was profusely dropping off of his face, there was no sound except his heavy breathing; there was not a dry eye in the room.  The very last two students in the room were two young women, both cheerleaders, and very popular. Dr. Christianson went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, "Linda, do you want a doughnut?"  Linda said, very sadly, "No, thank you."  Professor Christianson quietly asked, "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn't want?"  Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push-ups for Linda.  Then Dr. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan. "Susan, do you want a donut?"   Susan, with tears flowing down her face, began to cry. "Dr. Christianson, why can't I help him?"
Dr Christianson, with tears of his own, said, "No, Steve has to do it alone; I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not.. When I decided to have a party this last day of class, I looked at my grade book. Steve here is the only student with a perfect grade. Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class, or offered me inferior work. Steve told me that in football practice, when a player messes up he must do push-ups. I told Steve that none of you could come to my party unless he paid the price by doing your push-ups. He and I made a deal for your sakes."  "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?"  As Steve very slowly finished his last push-up, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 push-ups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.

Dr. Christianson turned to the room and said, "And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross, plead to the Father, 'Into thy hands I commend my spirit.' With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, He yielded up His life. And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten. "  Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile.  "Well done, good and faithful servant," said the professor, adding, "Not all sermons are preached in words."

Turning to his class, the professor said, "My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He spared not His Only Begotten Son, but gave Him up for us all, for the whole Church, now and forever. Whether or not we choose to accept His gift to us, the price has been paid."

"Wouldn't you be foolish and ungrateful to leave it lying on the desk?"

Truth Lived...Works


Matthew 11:19b "But wisdom is justified of her children."

Do you remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Goldilocks finds Papa Bear's porridge, but it is too hot. Then she happens upon Mama Bear's porridge but finds it too cold. That is how many people treat church today. They find that at one church, the preaching is "too hot." At another, the church is "too cold." So they finally find one that feels "just right"- sadly it is usually one that involves worship (or other means of entertainment) that is contrary to the Bible.  [warning - rabbit trail: I recall that Goldilocks was satisfied with the porridge being "just right" because it was neither too hot or too cold.  Hmmmm...wasn't the Laodicean church condemned for being lukewarm (Revelation 3)...neither hot nor cold?!?!]

Christ describes our generation and the generation He was speaking to in Matthew 11 in much the same way. People were trying to have it both ways. John the Baptist had a different style; verse 18 says he "came neither eating nor drinking." The Lord Jesus was the exact opposite. But the multitude rejected the same message. The message of John the Baptist and the message of the Lord Jesus were the same-that Jesus was the Christ, the Lamb of God that would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Although the way they delivered the message was different, the truth was the same.

Matthew 11:19b says, "But wisdom is justified of her children." That is, wisdom (truth applied) works. The message-what you are living/saying-is more important than what/how you say it. It is true that I should do all I can to hone my voice and make my presentation crisp, but the truth is what works. C.H. Spurgeon and George Whitfield are two well-known historic preachers. It is said of Whitfield that he could preach in the open air to thousands without using amplification. Spurgeon saw himself less "gifted" in his preaching than Whitfield. Spurgeon said, "Whitfield can preach better than I"-that is, the way he presented the truth-but the Gospel Whitfield proclaimed was no better than the Gospel Spurgeon gave. Truth works.

John was the forerunner; Jesus was the Christ, God in flesh. But they preached the same truth. Nothing is more convincing than the truth. Focus on the main thing, and the passion-the "how"-will come. What if you are not a preacher? The Gospel is still the same. We should work on the way we present it, but truth works. You may hear preachers who are very similar in their presentation, but it is not the way they say it, but what they say. Truth lived gives us the drive for saying the truth.

The United States is different today than it was back in the 1800's. The world seemed much larger than the few hours it takes today to fly transatlantic. Secretary of State William Seward pushed for the purchase of a seemingly insignificant piece of land from Russia-now known as Alaska. The people of his day called the purchase "Seward's Folly," but today his purchase looks strategic and pretty smart! Columbus sailed for an unknown world, in part because of the belief that the world was round, not flat. They were convinced that truth works. May God help us to understand the matter of the truth is that the truth is the matter.

I had a friend recently who told me he was involved in science rather than religion because he was more interested in the truth rather than fairytales. I think it surprised him when I agreed that his pursuit of truth was commendable but to say that science is truth is wrong and to characterize all religion as false was also wrong. I told him that a true belief in God was the highest attainment of truth we could find. Now understand that religious exercise is for fools and the manipulated drones. Jesus doesn't want religious exercise! He wants our attitude to be one that seeks him and strives to please him...not man's manipulative ways to pretend to be holy...but true holiness because God is Holy. The truth doesn't hid behind religious practice and neither should we! The hard part is not saying it or even "doing it" but living it is different than doing it because living implies habit - it has a natural element to it.  So let's preach/practice the truth by living'll work!

In Over Your Head

Matthew 8:26 - "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."

Have you ever been "in over your head?" When I was probably seven or eight years old, I found myself trying to learn to swim.  Literally, I was in the pool in over my head, which meant that even the shallow end was deeper than I was tall! I was in over my head, coughing and sputtering. The next thing I knew, my Dad pulled me out and I was not interested in learning to swim anymore.

About fifteen years later, I found myself standing again concerned that I again was in over my heard while facing the 20 ft. "deep end" of a pool in the Marine Corps.  I was getting ready to step off a high platform with a full combat load to perform a "man-overboard" drill.  This time I was in over my head with a full 50 lbs rucksack. I was going to be treading water and buying time with all the energy I had!

Well, I made it out alive then, too, but I have found that much of my life has been spent "in over my head." Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation where things are bigger and greater than your abilities to handle them? These times are not bad; this is when we look for the help we need. I have sometimes thought we are a little hard on people when we make the statement, "The only time you pray is when you are in big trouble!" I can understand the thinking, but the matter of the fact is, we are always in trouble and I can't think of a better time to be praying!

In Matthew 8:23-27, a group of men find themselves in over their heads. The disciples had followed the Lord Jesus onto a boat, and then in verse 24, a storm comes and "the ship was covered with the waves: but he [Jesus] was asleep." Has it ever occurred to you that the Lord never worries about anything? Nothing takes God by surprise. God never has problems, and you are never a problem to God. But the disciples woke the Lord Jesus and say, "Lord, save us: we perish." In another of the Gospels, the disciples say, "Carest thou not that we perish?" Ever felt that way, that you are about to perish?

Notice that the Lord rebukes the disciples first, then the trouble. Often we want God to take care of the problem first, then work on us. But God is using the problems to teach us. We can learn from this passage that when we follow, we need not fear. Problems can come precisely because you are following.

Not everything is going to be easy after you give yourself to the Lord. You will have problems that you would not otherwise have if you were not following the Lord. There will be problems because the Devil wants to derail your decision to follow Christ. The presence of problems does not always mean that you are doing wrong, nor does the absence of problems mean that you are doing God's will. Think about the disciples: they were safer with the Lord in the boat than they would have been on solid ground without Him.

If "the winds and sea obey him," then it doesn't make sense for us to question God's working or to drag our feet in following Him. (The weather never questions God, but we do.) The winds and sea obey Christ because he made them-He is the Creator. Not only that, but He has power over them-He is in control. And He can calm them.

I never relish being in over my head, and I suspect that you don't either, but may God help us to be smart enough and wise enough to trust Him and ask for the help we need when we find ourselves in over our heads.


Genesis 24:10 "And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor."

One of the last jobs in the world I would want is a wedding coordinator. They are the first person to receive the blame if something goes wrong, but they are the last person you think of when the wedding goes without a hitch! In Genesis 24, we not only find a wedding coordinator, but actually a wedding planner. Abraham sends his servant to find a bride for Isaac. His instructions were to go, find a bride, and bring her back. Isaac, the groom, was not to go; the servant was to come with the bride-to-be. So Abraham's servant leaves with Abraham's instructions and goods.

Now, what type of servant is this man? He is a steward. A steward is not just someone with a job; he is a servant that has been entrusted with the master's possessions. In this story, Abraham entrusted the very life of his son, Isaac, to the servant. A steward must be worthy of his master's trust. Are you that kind of servant of the Lord? Do you see yourself as just a servant, or do you see yourself as a steward that God has entrusted with His goods?

We can learn three keys to our stewardship to God from this servant. First, we can learn supplication. That is, asking God for things on behalf of someone else. A 500-mile trip one-way by camel is not very glamorous. However, Abraham's servant took this job of finding a wife for Isaac personally, and he let God in on it. This bride was not for himself; it was for his master's son. In verse 12, the servant says, "O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee. . . ." And in verse 14, he says again, "I pray thee. . . ." The word "pray" here means he simply asked. He asked God to do something greater than he could do.

Prayer really is a matter of letting God in on what you are doing. Often I have said, "What is it you want so badly that you cannot let God in on it?" Do you think it is better to worry-that somehow this impresses God? If you think you can have it, ask for it. And if you ask for it, keep asking. Don't forget, this was not something the servant needed, but something someone else needed!

Secondly, we can learn speed. In verse 17, the Bible says the servant "ran to meet her." This is a reoccurring theme during this story. In verse 33, he says "I will not eat until. . . .", and he got to the point in verse 49 when he says, "And now if you will. . . ." His reason for being there was completely about his master. He had purpose. There will be no speed in your work without purpose in your day. This servant was a driven man. He had a master, and he "bought into" his plan because he was a steward.

Thirdly, we can learn submission. Verse 34 says, "And he said, I am Abraham's servant." That was his identity. Just look at verse 36: "And unto him [Isaac] hath he given all that he hath." All that Abraham had was going to Isaac. This servant had nothing coming. Yet he showed selflessness and submission. God owns everything, and he has given it to us as stewards. No matter what your job description is, your job is to be a steward. You cannot do any better than that; and you cannot do any worse by not doing that.

The ending to this story is very picturesque. Imagine in your mind a Palestinian plain, just as the sun is setting. Just over the red-orange horizon, Isaac sees the camels coming, and his heart is filled with excitement. All you have to know about this servant is in verse 65. We do not know his name, but his life is summed up by his answer to Rebekah: "It is my master." Apparently so!

I would never want to be this servant-how would you like to pick out a wife for your boss' son? But we can learn supplication, speed, and submission for our stewardship to the Heavenly Father.

The Cavalry is Coming

There is an expression in America that inspires excitement and raises hope. When a situation seems hopeless and the cry is heard, the downtrodden senses his rescue on the horizon. “The Cavalry is coming!” The victim feels he can survive long enough for the men of blue riding on horses to arrive.

We can imagine the excitement and hope raised within John as he looked up at heaven and saw Jesus poised upon that white horse. Someday, we too will shout with joy as we see Jesus prepare to descend upon earth and wage war against the unrighteous. Are you enlisted in this army that Jesus will lead? Is your commander called Faithful and True, The Word of God?  If, so...

Let’s Ride.

The Only True God

Let me apologize in advance for this lengthy post.
As we all know, the "Lord's prayer" was never prayed by our Lord. It was a pattern for prayer: "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name..." (Mt 6:9). To repeat these words over and over (instead of using them as a pattern for prayer from the heart) would be to disobey our Lord and to engage in what He strictly forbade: "vain repetition" (6:7).

Certainly this prayer is only for those who know God as their heavenly Father. It is a grievous error common to pseudo-Christianity to assume the universal Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man. The typical Unity church service, for example, includes this affirmation repeated in unison, "I am a child of God and therefore I do not inherit sickness." Such "positive confessions" have led multitudes astray. Paul declared that we become "the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:26).

The fact that this relationship with God as one's Father does not come by natural birth is clear. To those who boasted of being "Abraham's children," Christ countered, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do" (Jn 8:44). The rebellion of Adam and Eve, by which they became the followers of Satan as "the god of this world" (2 Cor 4:4), made the devil the patriarch of mankind.

That is why Christ told Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (Jn 3:3). This spiritual birth is an absolute requirement, allowing no exceptions. No one will be in heaven who has not been "born again," both "of water and of the Spirit" (v. 5).

There is a common abuse of this prayer among American athletic teams. A high percentage of teams across America (especially in high school football) pray the "Lord's Prayer" either before or after games. Attitudes of participants vary from skepticism, to suppressed ridicule, to a shrugging acquiescence to something that might now and then bring "good luck." This American tradition is an abomination to God.

Phil Jackson, one of the most successful coaches in NBA history, turned from the Pentecostalism in which his co-pastor parents raised him to Zen Buddhism and the occultism of Lakota Indian "spirituality." Yet he still repeats the "Lord's prayer" and has for years encouraged his teams to do so without knowing God or Christ. This unbiblical practice has been one of Satan's major tools of deception.

Confusion reigns over what it means to be "born again" another deception of the devil. The teaching is rather common that Christ's words, "of water," refer to the protective amniotic water sac that breaks in natural birth, while "of the Spirit" refers to being born of the Spirit of God at the second birth. The latter is true, but I'm of the opinion that the former is false.

Everyone enters via the amniotic fluid into the human race. "Born of water" must mean more than that. It would be redundant to say that in order to be born again one must have already been born once. Furthermore, that doctrine would place an unbiblical restriction upon entrance into heaven! Such a proposition would mean that there would be no salvation for anyone who had not experienced natural birth. Thus no fetus that died by whatever means before coming to full-term delivery could be considered a real person eligible for the second birth and heaven, thus allowing abortion at any stage.

The biblical teaching of the "new birth" (becoming a "born-again" person) has caused much controversy. Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and others believe this occurs at baptism. As previously noted (see TBC 8/04), every Lutheran church follows Luther's Small Catechism. At baptism (usually as a baby), one receives a certificate stating, "In baptism full salvation has been given unto you; God has become your Father, and you have become His child through this act...."

In fact, the Bible teaches that baptism (like the "Lord's prayer") is only for those who have believed the gospel. Baptism testifies to the faith by which one was born again. Otherwise it is meaningless. Infant baptism defies Scripture, denies the gospel, and is a major net by which "the god of this world" gathers multitudes into his kingdom, providing them with false assurance that prevents them from seeing their need to receive Christ as Savior and Lord.

How could a church defend baptizing an infant that cannot understand or believe? It was necessary to claim some efficacy, as the Catechisms say, "in this act of baptism...." This occult lie of spiritual power innate in and released by baptism, burning a candle or incense, doing rituals, priestly hand motions, voice tones, etc., has been for thousands of years the essence of ritual magic, witchcraft, paganism, etc., which anthropologists now call shamanism.

This ruinous delusion is also known as sacramentalism-a heresy so vital to Roman Catholicism that it has its own Latin term: ex opere operato (i.e., "in the act itself"). To deny this doctrine concerning any official sacrament is to deny Roman Catholicism, for which the penalty is automatic excommunication (tantamount to being sentenced to hell). Here it is from The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent: Seventh Session...third day of March, 1547, Decree Concerning the Sacraments...Canons on the Sacraments in General [still in full force]:

Can. 4. If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for salvation but...that without them or without the desire of them men obtain from God through faith alone the grace of justification...let him be anathema.

Can. 8. If anyone says that by the sacraments of the New Law grace is not conferred ex opere operato, but that faith alone in the divine promise is sufficient to obtain grace, let him be anathema.

The grievous heresy of sacramentalism continues to seduce in various forms most "Reformed" churches. R.C. Sproul, for example, justifies infant baptism by likening it to circumcision: "The scriptural case for baptizing believers' infants rests on the parallel between [O.T.] circumcision and N.T. baptism as signs and seals of the covenant of grace....The Old Testament precedent requires it" (Geneva Study Bible, p. 38).

The Ethiopian to whom Philip had just preached Christ from Isaiah 53 (Acts 8:29-35) asked, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest" (8:36,37). Philip then baptized him-not by sprinkling or pouring water over him but, obviously, by immersion, for "they went down both into the water" (v. 38). Baptism publicly declares one's faith, identifying the believer with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. One does not sprinkle dirt on a corpse. One buries it.

If "born of water" does not refer to amniotic fluid or to baptism, what could it mean? The second birth is by the Spirit of God and by water (Jn 3:5), symbolic of the Word of God, as in "the washing of water by the word" (Eph 5:26), and "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you" (Jn 15:3). When we believe the gospel, we are regenerated and washed clean. "He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost." Peter declares: "Being born the word of God...which by the gospel is preached unto you" (1 Pt 1:23-25).

Having been brought into the family of God, we address Him as "Father" in prayer. In His high priestly prayer (the true "Lord's prayer" that Christ prayed), He declared, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (Jn 17:3). So the new birth involves knowing the only true God-not being "born again" through baptism, especially of infants.

There are millions of so-called gods and numerous prayers to each of them in the various religions they represent. The Bible condemns every one in unmistakable terms:

For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens....Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name....[F]ear before him, all the earth....[H]e cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth. (Ps 96:5-13)

Such language is ridiculed by the "New Atheists" such as Richard Dawkins, who says the atheists must "spread the good news. Evangelism [to convert the world to atheism] is a moral imperative." Although the Bible clearly distinguishes Christianity from all religions and separates their leaders (Buddha, Muhammad, et al.) from Christ, who is unique, atheists make no such distinction. Consequently, most of their arguments are irrelevant.

The Bible denounces all religions as instruments of Satan to keep mankind in darkness, shut off from the light of the gospel by which alone one can be saved, for "the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not" (2 Cor 4:4).

Atheism is just one of the world's religions, and Satanic blindness is reflected in its arguments against God and Christianity. A recent secular article about the New Atheists was titled, "The Church of the Non-Believers." And it is a church-a church to which everyone must belong, if atheists get their way. In their religious fervor to destroy "religious faith" and to convert the entire world to their religion, they are blind to the true faith that motivates biblical Christians.

Dawkins says, "Faith is one of the world's great evils....[It is] belief that isn't based on evidence [and] the principal vice of any religion." Francis Collins, however (in charge of the Human Genome Project involving 2,300 scientists), who turned from unbelief to faith in Christ, says that Dawkins' definition of faith "certainly does not describe the faith of most serious believers of history nor of most of those of my personal acquaintance."

Many famous scientists, Nobel Prize winners, and some of the greatest historians and legal experts have turned from atheism to faith in the resurrected Christ-not by mystical or emotional experience but from verifiable evidence. The early pioneers in science, like Kepler, claimed that it was precisely their conviction that there was a creator that inspired their science to ever-greater heights.

"Religion is not only wrong; it's evil," atheists fume, unaware that biblical Christianity is not a religion but a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Leading atheists harangue against religion, blind to the fact that the Bible is not about religion. In its more than 1,000 pages, the phrase "religious faith" is not found once, the word "religion" appears only five times, all in one verse, and the word "religious" twice in the next verse. All but one of these seven references is critical of "religion." Furthermore, in these few times that it mentions religion, the Bible never means what atheists foolishly denounce.

In their war against God, Dawkins and his fellow crusaders dishonestly equate Christian "fundamentalists" with murderous Muslims. In fact, atheists are themselves fundamentalists, seeking to impose their warped interpretation of the fundamentals of science on the world.

Nor can the New Atheists be ignorant of the fact that the fundamentals of Islam (according to the Qur'an, Hadith, the dogmas and example of Muhammad, and 1,300 years of history) teach that Islam must be forced upon the entire world by murdering all who refuse to submit to Allah. Christ taught and lived entirely otherwise. Yet the New Atheists persist in equating Islam and Christianity simply because each is considered to be a "faith." Such irresponsible accusations permeate their arguments.

Yes, some who have called themselves Christians (Roman Catholic popes, Eastern Orthodox leaders, crusaders, numerous televangelists, et al.) have been guilty of all manner of evil. In the process, they have violated the teachings and example of Christ. But Muslim terrorists follow both Islamic teaching and the example of Muhammad and his successors who tortured and slaughtered millions from France to China for 13 centuries. Today's terrorism is just a hint of what Islam would continue to do if it could.

The fundamentals of true Christianity promote love, freedom of choice, and forgiveness, not hatred and violence. The latter are the trademark of fundamentalist Islam. To equate the fundamentals of Islam with those of Christianity is reprehensible.

Atheists also perversely equate Christianity with the fanaticism and violence of the Crusades and Inquisition. Yet the crusaders were not biblical Christians; they violated everything Christ taught and slaughtered His brethren, the Jews, everywhere they went. It is gross dishonesty to attribute the crusaders' misconduct to biblical Christianity.

From the days of Christ, multitudes of Christians have never given allegiance to Rome but to the Bible and to Christ alone. They were martyred by the millions by the church of Rome for centuries before the birth of Luther. From the 16th-century Reformation onward, millions of Roman Catholics embraced faith in the Bible and Christ alone and were martyred by the hundreds of thousands by the popes and their armies. To fail to distinguish between martyrs and their murderers is unconscionable.

The New Atheists, led by Dawkins, call themselves "the brights" and look upon theists as dimwits. Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg recently said, "The world needs to wake up from the long nightmare of religion....Anything we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilization." Richard Dawkins says: "I am utterly fed up with the respect we have been brainwashed into bestowing on religion." Religion? As we've seen, atheists are tilting at windmills.

In their fervor to convert the world to their religion, atheists betray their complete ignorance of biblical Christianity. The Bible is not a religious book and does not promote "religion."

Many Christians try to be "scientific" by adopting theistic evolution as compatible with Christianity. Their compromise does not impress atheists. Unashamedly, Dawkins declares that "evolution must lead to atheism" and "the atheist movement has...a moral aggressively spread the good news...."

Dawkins declares, "Should [theists] be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Is there something to be said for society stepping in?" This is dangerous totalitarian talk that makes one fear for parents and children alike.

Author James Perloff put it well: "But remember; 'The princess kissed the frog, and he turned into a handsome prince.' We call that a fairy tale. Evolution says frogs turn into princes, and we call it science....Is that science? Or is it, like the fraud of Piltdown Man, the forgeries of Haeckel's embryos, the misrepresentations of Inherit the Wind, and the coercions of the Supreme Court, merely part of a long effort to deny God?"

"Religious people" and Atheists who end up in hell cannot blame the God they ignore and even hate for excluding them from heaven. We need to rescue as many as we can from the false religion's and the atheist's lies.

More Light, More Responsibility

Genesis 20:6 "And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her."

I recall once while working as an Instructor that we had a storm blow through the area, and the power went out a few times. You know, it's awfully hard to get any work done when it's dark. It is during those times that you realize how important it is to have light!

The same is true spiritually. Without spiritual light-knowledge of God's will and way-it is impossible to live pleasing to God. But, as is pictured so clearly in this story, with more light comes more responsibility. Abraham, a man of great faith, really messed up this time. His faith in God's protection faltered, he asked his wife to stretch the truth, and he ended up in a real mess.

We see two sins committed (or about to be committed) in this story: the sin of adultery and the sin of stretching the truth. Which sin do you think was worse? Well, both sins are wicked in God's sight, and neither sin will go unpunished. But God did hold one man more responsible than the other because the one had more light.

Abraham was a godly man who communed with God and knew what was expected of him. He had seen God work mightily in the past. He knew that stretching the truth would be taking things into his own hands-it would be a step of unbelief. Because Abraham went against what he knew, God allowed Sarah, his wife, to be taken into King Abimelech's harem. Abraham was held completely responsible for his actions.

Obviously, King Abimelech was not completely on the straight and narrow path himself-he had a harem! We know that God does not condone such things, but Abilmelech did not have as much light as Abraham had. He was a heathen king. And yet, we know that he had a healthy fear of Jehovah. After he had taken Sarah into his harem, God appeared to him in a dream and said, "Behold, thou art a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife." That was quite a wake-up call!

King Abimelech responded in humility, pleading his case: "Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? Said he not unto me, She is my sister? And she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this." In other words, "Lord, it was an honest mistake! I didn't know that she was Abraham's wife." The Lord agreed with Abimelech and said, "Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me; therefore suffered I thee not to touch her." Because King Abimelech didn't have much light to go by, God showed him great mercy and prevented him from sinning against Him.

(Just as a side note, notice that the sin of adultery would not have been primarily against Abraham but against God. All sin, no matter who else it hurts, is first and foremost a sin against God.)

Yes, Abilmelech was shown mercy, but now that he had been given light, he was given more responsibility. God tells him, "Now therefore restore the man his wife...." With more light comes more responsibility.

What about us? We have been given much light because we have the Word of God in our hands. Let's not take that truth lightly. Let us recognize our responsibility before God and live according to the light we have been given. Like King Abimelech, if we have a heart that wants to know what is right, God will give us the light we need to live according to His will.