Fundamentalism

Fundamentalism began as a movement to counter modernism and liberalism in the church world at the beginning of the 20th century.  Most noteworthy was the book of artless published in 1909 entitled, The Fundamentals.  Most of us who are conservative believers, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Messianic Jews, would agree with many of these articles.  However, as time passed, the Fundamentalists lost many of the battles to the modernists in the denominations. One of the last lost was Princeton Theological Seminary in 1930.  Historians say that Fundamentalism turned inward, became defensive, and acted as if it was fighting a rearguard action. Fundamentalism eventually became dominated by Dispensationalism.  The issues with Dispensational theology are too complex to explain here. Suffice it to say that the same historians assert that Fundamentalism became insular, gave up the battle for the culture and expected an escape in the rapture (seven years before the Yeshua returns to earth, the born again are taken out of the earth).  For many the Church would be in decline, but the few faithful will escape. My professor of philosophy Arthur Holmes looked at these directions and stated, “We have lost 100 years.” In 1947 Carl Henry wrote The Uneasy Conscience Modern Fundamentalism.  Henry was the theological mentor to Billy Graham and the first editor of Christianity Today.   Henry exposed some of the critical weaknesses of Fundamentalism, its lack of social engagement, the disunity of the various streams and more. In 1959 the President of Fuller Seminary and the famous apologist, Edward Carnell wrote a blistering critique and claimed that Fundamentalism had become Orthodoxy gone cultic.  (See his Case for Orthodox Theology). This was typified by an article in the Wheaton College Year Book in 1968  where a student wrote, “But What if I don’t Want too Be a fighting Fundamentalist.”

 

I think the most glaring example of the problem was when Fundamentalist Christians rejected Billy Graham for inviting mainline denominational Christian leaders to be recognized at his evangelistic crusades.  For the Fundamentalists, he was compromising with the enemy.  

 

This was the era when the people began to distinguish themselves from Fundamentalists by calling themselves Evangelicals in contradistinction to Fundamentalist.  At Wheaton College, the flagship Evangelical liberal arts college, one just did not identify as a Fundamentalist. Though the description of Fundamentalism was exaggerated, much was true. 

 

Here are some characteristics.  

 

  1. Simplistic theological approaches.  Sometimes doing biblical theology is not easy. There are different emphases in the Bible and not everything fits a simple black and with the system.  Fundamentalism is given to black and white thinking.
  2. Inability to effectively engage the larger culture and become salt and light in it.  Since the world is going downhill, we are to just get people saved and into the lifeboat.  The culture is part of a sinking ship, the world. 
  3. Fear of those who are not speaking the same language and towing the same black and white thinking. 
  4. A critical spirit that easily sallies off in tirades of criticism of those who are not in the same camp.
  5. A fear of contamination.  One may be holy, but if one connects to one that is not sufficiently separated, then one becomes unholy by association 
  6. A sectarian spirit that easily separates from those seen as not theologically pure enough and not sufficiently holy (not by the Bible commands but extra standards of holiness in the Fundamentalist camp.)  This is part of a hypercritical spirit that heresy hunts and constantly looks for error that is greatly feared. Really the Fundamentalist is insecure.   
  7. Emphasis on doctrinal points that do not hold up to sound scholarship. For example, the pre-tribulation rapture is a litmus test.  Its rejection is thought to be the first step toward liberalism.
  8. An inability to understand the views of others and to engage them with respect showing that they have first been understood.  Fundamentalism is characterized by refuting straw man misrepresentation of others.
  9. Skepticism and rejection of new insights, directions, and methods. 
  10. Difficulty in engaging others who are not perceived as people in whom God may be working. If they are not born again, there is great guardedness. 

 

When I graduated from Wheaton, I was very glad to know that I would not have to deal with Fundamentalists. I could name names, denominations, associations, etc. but will refrain. I became a Lutheran and then was ordained in the Presbyterian Church. I was an Evangelical Presbyterian. This was before Messianic Judaism (1971).  

 

Generally, the Messianic Jewish movement has transcended Fundamentalism.  Embracing Jewish life in Yeshua was rejected by Fundamentalists who saw it as an aberration on the issue of the Church as a third race of former Jews and Gentiles.  Messianic Jews found their support among Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Charismatics. Pentecostalism at one time was quite Fundamentalist but is not so today. This transcendence of Fundamentalism is characteristic of Messianic Jews in the United States, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, England, and Australia.  

 

The NAR Controversy

When I was a student at Wheaton College over 50 years ago, I learned that if one wants to have an understanding of any area of existence, one has to take into account all of the relevant evidence/information available and seek to comprehend it together, as a whole.  This is so for writing history as well as for understanding movements, be they political or theological. In philosophy, we call this test of truth, comprehensiveness. To pass the test, the theory in science, historical account or even a description of a political, social or religious movement, has to take into account all of the relevant evidence.

 

Almost 40 years ago, we believe God helped us understand Ephesians 4:11 ff.  Though the government of the Church is by a plurality of elders, both in a local congregation and an association of congregations, we came to believe that God gives different kinds of giftings to leaders who are called to do different things. (The idea of the restoration of five-fold ministry understanding goes back to the early Pentecostals of over 100 years ago.) Indeed, if one wants to see a strong pastoral congregation, one does not put an evangelist in charge unless he also has the gift of pastor.  Sometimes more than one of the Ephesians 4 gifts is given to one person. Jerry Dirmann, a leader in the Foursquare Church denomination, recently gave a good summary. It matches the synopsis I gave in my 1982 book, Growing to Maturity.  We came to believe that leaders of a growing movement of congregations are biblically functioning in the role of apostles.  Apostle, I should add, with a little “a” in function, but not at the same level as the original Apostles of whom some wrote the Scriptures and were the Eyewitnesses of the Messiah Event.  Though we reject titles before our names, we generally accept the importance of understanding who has been given the gifts and calling to function in various roles. This keeps us from tripping over one another.  In the same way, as the Assembly of God in Australia and the Pentecostal Holiness Church denomination today, we added this aspect to our representative form of government in our network (1984).

 

Since that time, we have become connected to streams of churches that have the same view as we do.  I would encourage you to research some of our historic relational partners. For many years, I served on the accountability board of Larry Kreider’s Dove Network and related to his network in East Africa under Ibrahim Omandi.  They are just one example. Do look them up on the Internet. One of our most important partners was Olen Griffing in Dallas, who planted Shady Grove Church. Olen is the spiritual father of Robert Morris who leads Gateway Church.  This is the 3rd largest Church in America and the #1 missions giving Church in America.  They include us in their mission! Morris’ spiritual father, Olen, is now at Gateway.  The first meeting of the International Coalition of Apostles met at his church. Olen was an original founder with us in starting Messianic Jewish Bible Institutes that came out of the greatest Evangelistic success in Jewish ministry since the first century.  Jack Hayford, the former President of Foursquare Churches, transferred his school, The King’s University, to Gateway Church under Robert Morris. Jack and Robert both related to new stream movements as well as to Pentecostal denominational people. Jonathan Bernis led this effort in the former Soviet Union.  You can easily find Gateway Church and Jewish Voice Ministries. Another amazing movement in Mozambique, under Rolland and Heidi Baker, began with orphanages and now consists of thousands of churches, a university and 3,500 in the schools that will feed the university. (The book Always Enough documents this.)  Heidi led an amazing meeting at King of Kings Congregation in Jerusalem.  We can also note Oral Roberts University, the main charismatic university in America, where Pentecostals and five-fold stream people attend.  The school itself could be seen as connected to these new movements as well as the older Pentecostalism. Christ For the Nations Bible School is another school that teaches five-fold ministry.

 

To honestly and critically evaluate movements, one has to do much travel and research.  My level of such travel and research is more than most, but still very limited. In recent years, books have been written that seek to describe what is happening in the world.  Two of the best are The Next Christendom by Phillip Jenkins at Pennsylvania State University (this was a national religion award-winning book), and Miracles, The Credibility of New Testament Miracles by Craig Keener of Asbury Seminary.  This 1000-page book is amazing, but Craig apologizes for the limits of his world travels!  I have traveled to several nations to evaluate. I have been to East Africa, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, the Caribbean, Europe, Singapore, China, Japan, and Korea.  Peter Wagner, for many years at Fuller Seminary, traveled to research what is happening in the world and wrote several books on it.

 

Here is a summary of what these people found.

 

  1. The advance of Christianity in the world is rapid and multiplying so fast that we cannot keep up with it.  The Christianity that is so advancing is mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, the Global South, and is significantly different from conventional Western Christianity.  It looks like the pages of the Book of Acts.
  2. It is characterized by amazing signs and wonders, miracles that are frequent, documented and credible.
  3. It is driven by Pentecostals but even more so by associations of congregations that do not fit the classical denominational arrangements but are more decentralized and “grassroots”.  The new associations and streams are growing much more rapidly than the older Pentecostalism.
  4. The growing associations are generally led by a strong team of leaders under a visionary leader who is passionate for Gospel expansion.  These new associations are, by some calculations, the largest and fastest-growing segments of Protestant Christianity today.
  5. Some use the terms apostles and prophets to describe their leadership.  Some, though functioning in the same way, do not use the term apostle(s) for their leader(s).

 

So where is the problem?  One of these researchers, Peter Wagner, in his later book gave a name to this phenomenon.  He called what was happening in the world the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). He was not suggesting that the rapidly growing churches in India, China or Africa were linked in some kind of grand organization.  Most of them had no idea of what was happening in other regions of the world. Most had no contact with other movements like theirs. If they all came together, they would have fierce disagreements on many things.

 

We could think all of this is wonderful in an unqualified way, but rapid growth under strong leaders can also have negative aspects.  We have spoken strongly about some of the problematic issues. Some networks have solid leadership and accountability structures. Some do not but instead take on an almost “tribal chieftain” style of leadership.  Some are solid in Bible doctrine, but others are very weak due to lack of education and can come up with strange interpretations of the Bible. Really, it is hard to keep up.

 

Wagner’s name, New Apostolic Reformation, for the phenomena that was happening all over the world (but more in the 3rd world or global south), is a name for movements that include some denominations that we noted above and so many varied types and styles that I still think no one really has a full grasp of it.  Wagner and John Kelly sought to start an association to bring people together who did not know of one another’s existence to bring them into mutual dialogue and exposure, and to learn from one another and to see greater maturity, but it is a very small, almost tiny percentage of the whole of five-fold movements.  Most who come are from North and South America, but some Africans also attend. There is no organization called NAR. It was a label given to what had been happening in the last 50 years.

 

The accusations against these movements are almost ridiculous.  One author points to a tiny number of aberrant leaders or streams and represents this as characteristic.  This frequently happens when critics evaluate movements of which they are not a part and have no detailed experience.  In Pentecostalism, for example, there was an offshoot called the Oneness Pentecostals. They denied the Trinity and claimed that one was not saved unless baptized in the name of Jesus only (not Father, Son and Spirit) and spoke in tongues.  But to say that this is typical, or worse, a defining characteristic of Pentecostalism would be foolish. In the Messianic Jewish Movement we have a mainstream. But there are offshoots. Some, who are not Messianic Jews, teach that the churches are made up of descendants of the northern tribes of Israel or that the Church is Ephraim.  Other groups teach that all Christians are responsible to keep the whole Law. The mainstream Messianic Jewish movement does not teach these things, but those who are aberrant do. They are not us. The Mainstream is very Evangelical in doctrine.

 

The Latter Rain movement, a mighty revival in Canada in 1948 that has greatly fostered Gospel progress world-wide, was key to the birth of the charismatic movement.  However, there was an aberrant group that taught that some Christians could attain to their resurrection bodies before the coming of the Lord. This was called the “Manifest Sons” doctrine, but the Latter Rain was not characterized by this. One really wild claim is that the NAR believes in the “Manifest Sons” doctrine.  I have never met one person in the new stream churches that believed this in my 40 years of ministry. Yes, such folks are out there. Many of the practices of the charismatic movement were from the Latter Rain practices. In a similar way, there are new stream churches that teach an unbiblical doctrine of prosperity, but most do not.  The “Word of Faith” stream churches do embrace and teach five-fold, but they have hardly related at all to other five stream movements. I have a book refuting this false teaching entitled, Prosperity, What the Bible Really Teaches.

 

In reality, the only thing one can say about these movements is that they believe in the five-fold ministry and operate in a network of congregations or churches.  Other than that, they are so diverse. Most believe in the soon return of Yeshua, and some believe Christians will take over the world before Yeshua returns. Some believe in unbiblical prosperity, but others teach such a strong doctrine of the cross that they live in extreme disciplined simplicity.  Some believe in a “chieftain” type model of authority. Some believe in a very humble projection of authority and act in mutual submission. Some believe that we can receive new revelation but that it has to be consistent with the Bible. Most reject this but accept the Spirit helping us and revealing the meaning of the Bible.  If they speak of revelation beyond this, it is to understand the demonic and angelic realms and spiritual warfare. Some are heavily involved in that kind of spiritual warfare prayer while others are not.

 

I have put what we believe about doctrine and government in two books.  One is Growing to Maturity (1982) and the other is Relational Leadership (2015).  Growing to Maturity has been the most used manual for discipleship and basic doctrine in the Messianic Jewish World for the past 38 years.

 

We do embrace the reality that God is doing something powerful in the new streams, but we approach these streams carefully and seek to be an influence in solid doctrine and government. They do not have the hundred-year record of working out their issues like the Pentecostals.  These movements are very recent. In some cases, such as the underground churches in China, they had no choice but to be new streams.

Prophetic Response to the Corona Virus Plague

Announcement:  Before I write on this topic, I have an announcement.  Yuli Edelstein, the Likud speaker of the Knesset has resigned.  This opens the door for a vote on a new speaker next week, which will be chosen by Blue and White.  What will happen in trying to form a government, no one knows. I still pray for a unity government in Israel.  

 

There have been many prophetic responses to the Corona Virus.  Some of these responses are credible and some are a projection of the limited theology of the prophet.  Some who are giving prophecy on a national or world level are not sufficiently proven on this level to be giving such words.  I have seen prophets minister in personal prophetic prophecy with amazing accuracy. In some meetings at 100% though their overall track record in such prophecy may be more like 90%.  They describe personal details about the person who is the subject of ministry at levels that amaze. The testimony of the ones receiving shows this. I have received very accurate prophecy and these prophecies have been a great blessing and strengthened me for future battles.  However, I have seen again and again that when such prophets speak on a national and international level, it is usually wrong. Many years ago, one prophet gave a major prophetic word against invading Iraq. He was able to get it to the President. At the time he was almost discredited but proved to be amazingly right.  The war was a disaster. Saddam did protect the Christians who have since been decimated. He was a buffer against Iran. Many years ago, my colleague Asher Intrater, shared that one prophesies out of the soul and to the extent that the soul is pure, one hears more clearly. The way to accuracy includes a holy life and immersion in the Word.  Many prophetic people build their theology on some passages in the Bible but then misapply them because they are not interpreted in the context of the whole world. I argued in my book Passover, Key to the Book of Revelation, that God would raise such credible international prophets that have great accuracy.  In my view, this has not yet happened or happened in a very limited way, though there are some credible international voices at a beginning level.  

 

Here are some of the prophetic words that I think come from a projection of limited theological bias.  

 

One flow of leaders and churches that teach that God does not bring judgment during this period or at least until the Great Tribulation, has prophesied that this plague is not from God but totally from the Devil.  We are to overcome it by faith and spiritual warfare prayer and doing deeds of love. They are having an international online conference to proclaim this. Here prophecy is colored by simply failing to read the words of the New Covenant Scriptures which again and again show that God still brings judgment in this age.  Anyone ever heard of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5?

 

Other prophetic voices claim that this is the beginning of judgments and that it is a call for repentance. It is from God and due to sin. If you know the stream and the theology of these folks, this is not surprising. There is certainly an element of truth to what they are saying, but God’s working is more complex and the relationship of the Devil and God in such matters is not easy to sort out, not the least in the book of Revelation. Why would the Devil be used of God to bring plagues (Rev. 9) and why do the angels of heaven pour out plagues? And why does the Devil do God’s bidding?  

 

Another voice from the movement that does not like gatherings beyond home groups, and believes only in house congregations argues that God has shut down the larger meetings to bring the Church into the right order.  Of course, many cannot even do this and only can meet by computer! Maybe God is trying to shut down meetings altogether and launch the computer church where we do not gather at all? 

 

I would take a long look at the Biblical concept of “The Day of the Lord.”  It is a foundational Biblical theme. This is the day of God intervening in mighty judgment on the wicked but at the same time, it is a day of deliverance for his people.  There are proximate Days of the Lord, but there will ultimately be a final Day of the Lord before the Second coming. When there are events at this level of world crisis, it is well to look at this Biblical idea and see if it fits the view of this being a “day of the Lord.”  Certainly, such a world plague fits. However, it is obviously not yet the Day of the Lord but could be a prelude. Here are some things in summary that others have presented that I think are worthy and some things I believe I see in the Spirit. I am not seeking to put this out there as if I am a prophet and am not making big claims. 

 

  1. This plague is a demonic thing because the Devil comes to steal, kill and destroy.  Yeshua came that we might have life.   
  2. The Devil is on a leash and God is ultimately sovereign.  So God has allowed this plague for his purposes. What God is after in this and what the Devil is after are two different things. So this is a judgment from God. 
  3. The plague is an opportunity for believers to dial down, renew life in their families, pursue deeper prayer, and to strengthen faith.  It is to identify with those suffering and to intercede for the suffering of the world and for the healing of the Gospel to go forth. 
  4. It is an opportunity to release healing gifts, especially through health professionals who have faith and can bring prayer with their medical expertise. 
  5. It is an opportunity to organize our congregations into prayer cells, home groups and to advance in fellowship through the wonderful gifts of technology that help us in these times.   The fellowship built during this time can outlast the shutdowns. This does not mean that God is against bigger meetings. In the Book of Acts, the larger meeting in Solomon’s Portico was also important.  It is important that every pastor, elder, home group leader, and five-fold ministry leader spur their congregations to be meeting in ways to strengthen prayer and relationships. Congregations that did not emphasize small groups before will be more challenged to organize people into such support groups, but they should do the best they can to do so.
  6. The world is under judgment.  When corporate judgments fall on the world from God’s point of view, though there is demonic attack, whole nations and peoples do suffer.  This is to lead to repentance and also to lead to prayer for mercy and deliverance. 

 

In addition, I do think the Devil wants to use this plague to attack the United States and Israel especially because of the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the promises of the Land to the Jewish people.  Whatever different readers think of Donald Trump personally, the issue of Jerusalem and Israel is very important to God. We do need to pray that this progress is not set back. Political derailment though this challenge poses a threat to the progress made with Israel.  

 

In all of this God has shut us up to much greater individual and family seeking of the face of God. 

 

Israeli Politics and the Coronavirus 

It is most amazing to note that Israel is in the midst of its third political stalemate after inconclusive elections.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party, Likud, is already talking about another election!  At the same time, Israel has embraced the most severe restrictions of any country to try to manage the threat of the virus.  The planes are not flying, and the schools will now be closed. Closing the schools will be a terrible trial for working parents!  There are to be no meetings of over 100 people.  The hotels are mostly empty. Israel’s tourism industry is suspended.  The economic consequences are terrible.  All this is happening at the same time as the United States is holding its presidential primaries.  History may note them as the virus primaries. The United States itself is embracing greater and greater restrictions.  Even the National Basketball League has suspended games!!

What is God up to in allowing this terrible situation worldwide? Could revival follow?  Some are praying for this.

It seems amazing that in the midst of such a plague that Israel is in political limbo.  We really need to see our helplessness and our need for God, for we cannot even form a government.  It is not only that the vote failed to put either the Likud or the Blue and White, the two largest parties over the top.  A government could be formed but for the rigid positions taken by some politicians, an amazing stubbornness.  My two favorite Israeli English language newspapers, the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel are in agreement, and I agree with them. Just where are the points of stubbornness?

  1. Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi) bears responsibility by insisting on remaining the head of his party though under indictment.  The trial procedures begin on March 17th.  There are several things that could be negotiated.  Blue and White would be in a unity government with Likud if not led by Bibi due to the indictment.  They say they will not be in a government led by him due to the indictment. Several solutions could be found.  Likud could choose a new leader and even say that after his trial, if found innocent, Bibi could return to leadership through a new party vote.  Likud could commit to this.
  2. Benjamin Netanyahu insists that all his right-wing partners be included in any government.  This is a non-starter.  This right wing includes the Ultra-Orthodox who have a stranglehold over the government.  I have written many times on how their welfare state within the state is bleeding the government.  They also say that they will not be in a government with Blue and White.  My view on this?  Good.  Let there be a unity government without them.  This would be very helpful.
  3. There are two Blue and White Party members and one Labor-Gesher member who will not allow a government to form through the votes of the Joint List Arab party because the Arabs are not Zionists but want a bi-national state.  This seems really foolish on the part of these three members, since after the vote, Bibi will be gone and there could be a unity government. At any rate, the Joint List will not be part of the government but only give the vote to end Bibi’s reign.  All they are asking is parity in government services spending.  Indeed, this coalition could pass a law that a person under indictment could not serve. 
  4. Blue and White could change their position and accept Bibi in a rotation for Prime Minister with Benny Gantz due to the very bad situation of not being able to form a government and to avoid a fourth election.  It seems dire enough to defend such a change.  They could promise pardon to him for allowing General Gantz of Blue and White to lead the government in the first rotation.  Bibi can lead again if found innocent.  For this to happen, Bibi has to let the Ultra-Orthodox go.  Shas cannot control the interior department.  There has to be a cut in welfare for men to study Talmud and Rabbinic arguments all day! 
  5. The Joint List, including Balad, the more anti-Israel faction, could vote to form the government with Blue and White and accept that only some of their demand can be met since the budget will cannot immediately provide all their demands.  The government can take significant steps. How about a cut in Ultra-Orthodox welfare to finance classrooms, roads, police and hospitals in the Arab areas!  Balad refuses to support a government and has an all or nothing stand.    

There are many possible solutions, but so many are being stubborn.  It is amazing!  And some speak of a fourth election which again would likely be inconsequential. Can Bibi stay in power by having elections forever?    

Meanwhile, the country is in turmoil not only in politically but with the virus.  What a time for us to pray, exercise faith, heal the sick and share the Good News!  What a great time for the Spirit to be poured out. 

Weighing Evidence

I have taught Apologetics for 48 years.   

 

One issue of faith and evidence is that people weigh things differently.  No one really believes without evidence, but people are made up in such ways that different evidences strike them differently. 

 

  1. For example, the famous professor John Warwick Montgomery, Th. D. and Ph. D, was influenced by British Analytic Philosophy.  For him, the worthy evidence was strictly empirical.  The historical documents were trustworthy and proved the resurrection.  So that settled it.  In this regard, I sometimes tell skeptics to simply read Luke and Acts. The presentation there is so very credible.  

 

  1. Dr. Kenneth Kantzer, Ph. D. from Harvard, the dean of Trinity 

Evangelical Divinity School for many years, a great theological teacher, thought the evidence for the resurrection was good, but unless it was part of the total world view that had convincing power, it was not enough.  For Kantzer, the biblical world view in comparison to other world views was the key.

 

  1.  However, those with direct mystical experiences have what is direct empirical evidence to them. This direct evidence to them settles it.  St.  Theresa describes her experiences as certain.  So also Heidi Baker, the famous missionary to Mozambique. If you read her books, her amazing experiences are certain. Her descriptions are sometimes like St. Theresa of Avila. Those with visions don’t always get them as a product of super hard disciplines like Theresa.  The Apostle Paul was simply overwhelmed with a vision on the way to Damascus.  After that, he argued from the Scriptures, but before that, he did not see the weight of the Scriptures that proved the case for Yeshua. The famous child painter, Akiani, has an amazing catalog of experiences since her childhood. You would well to look her up. I have a book of her amazing paintings. Some people just know by reading a text of Scripture.  They know by the witness of the Spirit to them. 

 

  1. Then there the direct experiences of those who have had near-death experiences.  Some who were not believers before becoming believers and become certain of their faith.  The book by John Burke, Imagine Heaven, seems quite credible to me.   

 

  1. I should add those who have seen contemporary miracles.  That settles it for them. I have directly witnessed great miracles but was already a believer. 

 

Now I think that some weigh negative evidence against the biblical world view differently. For believers, the negatives are less weighty than their experience of the evidences.  For others, the negatives such as the problem of evil and suffering or the disproportionate distribution of blessing and suffering are so weighty that all of the positive evidence is discounted.  I think this is a big mistake. As human beings, we have to embrace mystery and the truth that there is enough evidence that we should not discount it due to the negatives.  

 

I think it is well to keep all this in mind in our dialogue. 

 

I think this is all very central to our reflections. 

 

Religiophobia

I recently wrote a post entitled Morality-phobia.  

However, upon reflection, I think the better term is “relgiophobia.”  In that post, I noted that the accusation against those who profess and seek to foster traditional morality in society is that they are homophobes, transgenderphobes. LGBTQphobes, and more.  I noted that this was really wrong. Traditional morality proponents are not afraid of these groupings, but afraid for them and how their orientation will destroy their lives than the lives of others who they convince to join them in these lifestyles.  But I now think that the term that I should use is “religiophobia.” Most civilizations from all eras were civilizations that promoted a moral vision for human sexual behavior and for the relationship between male and female. The societies forested clear sexual distinctions.  Marriage, raising children, and sexual distinctions can be studied for Chinese Confusion, ancient Israel, Indian, classical Roman, African and Islamic societies. Yes, there are differences but there are important levels of agreement across civilizations (see C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man.)  The teaching of the New Covenant Scriptures brings correction and advance beyond all these cultures.  

If there was a modicum of consistency in the movements attacking traditional Christians and Jews,  the attackers would realize that their attacks are against most historic cultures and that all historic cultures are religious cultures.  I think their fear is really toward all traditional religious cultures and their ethical teaching on sexual distinctions and sexual ethics in general.   I think the real fear is in them. They have “relgiophobia.” I define it here. “Religiophobia is the fear of traditional religions and their moral teaching.”  Now some believers do fear these new movements that are accusing us.  They wimp out because they do not want to pay the price of standing for historic moral norms. 

I would add one more point.  It is that atheists and agnostics often have “relgiophobia” because they are committed to explaining all of reality in terms of scientific naturalism, which is not possible and is philosophically incoherent.  These scientists and philosophers who hold to the view of scientific naturalism also have this phobia. It is also the case that some of these folks want to be free to define their own personal life direction without anyone reminding them of classical moral norms and accountability to God. 

 

There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy:  Four Categories of People in Romans 2

I got into trouble with some of the leaders in Israel because of a paper I did some 12 years ago refuting the wider hope view of one of my Messianic Jewish leadership friends.  My paper was called the Narrow Wider Hope.  My paper was partly misunderstood because I used the word salvation for people who were in a pre-salvation state of grace because they were seeking the Truth and responding to the Truth though they did not know the Gospel.  They had not refused the Gospel. However, I did not claim that they would be entering an eternal good destiny without accepting Yeshua or that they would be given a post-death opportunity. My conclusion, in my original paper, said that I believed that such people would be led on to accept Yeshua sometime in their life and before death, though I said I could not absolutely prove this.  My point is that there are not two categories of people, the saved who have been born again through Yeshua and the lost who are on their way to Hell unless through the Gospel they repent and are born again. Certainly, these two categories exist and are primary. But the Bible clearly teaches that there are other categories by which to understand people. Romans 1, and 2 show four categories of people that have not yet accepted the Gospel. 

 

Romans 2 is speaking of people who have not yet embraced the Gospel.  There are two categories of Jews. In Romans 2:7 Paul describes Jews who “By perseverance in doing good are seeking glory, honor, and immortality,” these will receive according to 2:10, “Glory, honor and shalom, (eternal life), to everyone who does good—to the Jew first.  

 

The second category of Jews are those who according to 2:9, “Are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness.”  For them, “There will be trouble and hardship.” (2:9) Also, he says for them there will be, “wrath and fury.” (2:8) Of these Paul notes that though circumcision is of value, if one keeps the Torah, but “if one breaks the Torah, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.”  (v. 2:25)  

 

Then there are two categories of Gentiles who have not yet heard the Gospel.  He uses the same verses to describe Gentiles, the first category are those who, “By perseverance in doing good are seeking glory, honor, and immortality—eternal life,” these will receive according to 2:10, “Glory, honor and shalom to everyone who does good… and also the Greek.”

 

Then there is the second category of Gentiles or the fourth overall.  Those Gentiles who in 2:9, “Are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness.”  For them, “ There will be trouble and hardship.” (2:9) Also, he says for them there will be, “wrath and fury.” (2:8)  Of this one, Paul says that though he is not circumcised, “Keeps the righteous decrees of the Torah, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision.” (2:26)

 

Paul says that God’s judgment is according to the revelation given and that the Jews who “have sinned according to the Torah will be judged by the Torah.”  Gentiles can also be judged by the revelation of God in nature and culture, by what the Reformers called common grace.  He says in v. 14, 15, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the Torah, do by nature the things of the Torah, they are a law unto themselves, even though they do not have the  Torah. They show that the work of the Torah is written in their hearts.”

 

Paul even notes in this that the one who is not physically circumcised will “judge you who with the written code and circumcision—break the Torah.”

 

There are other texts that support this Pauline perspective.  I will just name two. Acts 10:34 is very strong. Peter before preaching the Gospel to the household of Cornelius says, “I truly understand that God is not one to show favoritism, but in every nation, the one who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”   Also, John 1:9 shows that truth is revealed to people who have not heard the Gospel. “He is the light that lights every man.” (KJV) 

 

There are other comments that are important.  First, we should not think that Romans 2 is teaching works righteousness either by keeping the written Torah or by keeping the Gentile understanding of the law for Gentiles.  Much has been written on this and we agree with this perspective. Upholding and keeping the Torah does not mean that one by his own works is saved. Nor does it mean that one can live up to the detailed commands of the Torah. The emphasis on blood sacrifice shows that upholding the Torah did not mean that and was not expected.  Rather it was a matter of faith/faithfulness or a heart of faithfulness to God and his covenant though one falls short. For the Gentile, it is the heart that is seeking the truth and willing to obey it when revealed. All comes down to the right heart. 

 

Secondly, Romans 2 is part of an argument building to Romans 3 where Paul declares that the general condition of Jews and Gentiles is that they are lost.  The category of those who are saved in Yeshua and those who are lost are the categories that most encompass human beings. The two categories of those who are lost in Romans 2, who do not seek glory and honor and immortality, are the largest categories of mankind.  The Scriptures indicate that those who do seek the truth readily and easily embrace the Gospel, for Yeshua said if people had really known the Father they would have accepted him. (John 5:46, 8:42) Missionaries sometimes find tribes who are prepared and ready for the Gospel. It is an easy persuasion.  

 

My point is that if anyone really is seeking the Truth and glory, honor and immortality, they will be led on to Yeshua.  God will bring the missionary and in some cases, we have known, has given visions and dreams leading people to Yeshua. 

 

In addition, Yeshua and Paul make it clear that there are two categories of those who profess to believe in Yeshua. Those who continue in sin will not enter the Kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:9,10).  These are those that Yeshua warns in Matthew 7:21-23, and in Luke 6:46, that they will not enter the Kingdom of God but will be told to depart from Him in the judgment. 

 

In conclusion, another way to speak of categories of people is to say that the Bible gives us three categories of people that include bothJew and Gentile, the saved, the lost and those who are seeking the Truth sincerely but have not yet come to Yeshua. They are seeking by the work of the Spirit (John 1:9).  Again, this third category includes Jews and Gentiles. The lost are those who are not seeking the Truth and also includes those who profess to believe in Yeshua but are continuing in sin. They are still lost. Romans 3 makes it clear that outside of an explicit profession of Yeshua and walking faithfully with Him, the overwhelming state of people is that they are lost.  But thank God, there is an opportunity for lost people to hear the Gospel and be saved!

 

  

 

 

Prophecy and Biblical Authority 

Pentecostal/Charismatics and non-charismatic evangelicals sometimes live in different language worlds.  This produces deep divides that are not necessary even if there is no agreement about some of the issues of theology.  Thankfully these divides are not as great as a generation ago since there have been dialogues, and leaders of both orientations are joined in cooperation in organizations like the World Evangelical Alliance.  Yet sometimes I come across leaders who are still in their more isolated bubble and have not come to yet understand the other. For example, some Evangelicals who would not identify as Pentecostal/Charismatic do have significant experiences of the Holy Spirit and his leading, and speak of the “still small voice” and of the Spirit showing the meaning of Scripture.  Pentecostal/Charismatics should not think that Evangelicals are all rationalists that believe all knowledge is only by rational empirical processing. Augustine himself taught that all true knowledge comes from the illumination/revelation of the Spirit. However, there are Evangelicals and Fundamentalists who have a mostly rationalistic bent. Here are some points that we need to ponder if we are to not be like ships passing in the night without understanding the other.  

 

Pentecostal/Charismatics generally believe in the gift of prophecy today and many in the existence of prophets today.  They almost all believe that prophets today are not 100% accurate but with the gift of the Spirit to all believers, God expects all to test and hear God for themselves and for prophecy to be confirmed by leaders in the community and by the person who receives a prophecy.  God intentionally then has a prophetic gift where his people no longer depend on the 100% accuracy of the prophet as in the pre-New Covenant period, but on their own hearing and confirmation. Evangelicals who claim that only a 100% accurate rule for prophecy can be accepted (or the person could be stoned!) preclude the possibility for mutual progress.  Pentecostal/Charismatics generally believe that the continuing work of the Spirit today means that we continue to receive revelation. The idea of receiving new revelation strikes those who do not know and understand Pentecostal/Charismatics as an alarming claim, but it is not so. Here are some points about that. 

 

  1. The word “revelation” is used by Pentecostal/Charismatics as a parallel synonym term to “illumination” as used among evangelicals.  Evangelicals want to reserve the word revelation for those prophets in the Bible and those who could write Scripture. However, it is obvious that if something is illuminated, then one can see it and it is revealed.  Both believe that the Holy Spirit helps us understand the meaning of the Bible. New insight that is proven out by study of the Bible in context is the experience of both. Aside from heretical and strange groups, Pentecostal/Charismatics do not mean that revelation provides them with an understanding of the Bible that is not to be tested by good Biblical study that proves it to be so.  Craig Keener’s Spirit Hermeneutics is the best book I know on this subject.  God speaks to us and shows us the meaning of his Word but this understanding has to be tested by the Biblical text!! 
  2. Pentecostal/Charismatics also use the word revelation for God showing them things that are not in the Bible.  Some who are not Pentecostal/Charismatics think that by this they believe in having a corpus of revelation that is equal to the Bible and is authority.  Pentecostal/Charismatics do not believe this but accept that the foundations of doctrine are only in the Bible. However, they do believe that God by experience in the Spirit shows us how to approach deliverance from demons, or how to pray more effectively, or the roots of the problems in a city.  The Bible does not tell us everything we need to know; not our vocation, not our calling in the Body, not whom we are to marry or where to live. This comes by the leading of the Spirit. 
  3. Pentecostal/Charismatics use the Bible as a jumping-off point by analogy of something the Spirit is saying today in prophetic exhortations.  This kind of jumping-off point by analogy is common in the New Testament use of the Hebrew Bible. There are many books by scholars showing this usage. Such jumping off is not an exegesis of the meaning of the text.  The text in context is still always the key for Bible interpretation. We try to train our prophetic speakers to say in such contexts that they are not claiming their words to be the meaning of the text.  
  4. Pentecostal/Charismatics minister in words of knowledge or prophecy that is accurate about persons they never met.  They have been called out of audiences, and their lives have been described. It is amazing to behold. The accuracy sometimes is stunning. Some also give words about events to come and they come about.

 

Maybe Evangelicals and Pentecostal/Charismatics can at least understand what the other is saying.  Maybe they will not agree, but at least they will not misunderstand what the other is saying. Yes, prophecy can go bad and be dangerous.  I wrote a book on one church that did fall into error The Dynamics of Spiritual Deception.  There are keys to understanding how this happens and how to avoid it. 

 

The Dangers of Fundamentalist Dispensationalism

In using these two terms together, I am speaking of the joining of two distinguishable concepts.  Dispensationalism refers to an interpretative approach to the Bible that goes back to John Nelson Darby from the middle of the 19th century.  Many are familiar with the distinctions of Dispensationalism.  The classic statement of it was in the Schofield Reference Bible (1909) while the greatest work of Systematic Theology was by Luis Sperry Chafer the leader of Dallas Theological Seminary (the 1930s and 40s)  This established the theology with great detail. These are key distinctions of classical dispensationalism and their problems.

 

  1.  A rigid distinction between law and grace.  The New Testament presents a covenant of grace contrary to the Old Testament as a dispensation of law.  We are no longer under law but grace. One can be saved and continue to live in sin. Any other view is said to be adding works to salvation by grace.  The dedicated life is a second but not required step. This has given rise to hyper-grace theologies and hyper-grace leaders with all its dangers. It abandons the applicability of the Torah.
  2. A rigid distinction between Israel and the Church.  Like historic Pre-Millennialism (before Darby) Dispensationalism affirms the fulfillment of the prophecies made to Israel.  But the catch is that when a Jew becomes a follower of Yeshua, his destiny is no longer with his ethnic nation, but is now with the Church.  Therefore, continued Jewish life in the Messiah would not be fitting. This is why in my early days of leadership in the Messianic Jewish movement in the 1970s, we were attacked by people who believed this. 
  3. The way they made the distinction of Israel and the Church (and there is a distinction rightly to be made) was part of what led to their view of the rapture.  To keep Israel and God’s work with the Church separate, the Church needs to be removed before the 7 year Tribulation. In my youth, it was taught that giving up this view of the rapture was the beginning of the slide to liberalism. Then God again will work through Israel.  The Church with Jewish believers will be out of here. This means that the Church will not be the instrument at the end to make Israel jealous. Nor will Jewish believers before the rapture. They are not seen as the “saved remnant” of Israel that is still part of the destiny of their nation.  It also means that that Messianic Jews are not part of the irrevocable calling of Israel. (One can do a workaround so that the work of making Israel jealous is remembered seven years later when Israel comes to Yeshua. I have seen moderates assert this).
  4. The classical view was cessationist on the gifts of the Spirit.  The supernatural gifts of I Cor. 12-14 were only for the transitional age in the first century before the New Testament was written down.  There is no gift of prophecy. There is no gift of apostle or prophet today. It was anti-charismatic or non-charismatic. 
  5. The Gospel is not the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Kingdom of God did not come even partially in the coming of Yeshua and Pentecost. 
  6. They fear the idea of the unity of the Church (John 17:21) as only leading to a false ecumenicism and deception.  

 

I could say much more but want to be brief.  Today there is a new trend called Progressive Dispensationalist that questions many of these tenants, but most of these are still pre-Tribulation rapture people.  Today Dallas Seminary accepts the Progressives and is a much different place. Progressives are moving closer to my view, historic pre-millennialism.

 

Classical Dispensationalism was also Fundamentalist.  Fundamentalism describes a narrow orientation that is sometimes viciously critical of others that do not follow rigid ideas of separation and purity.  Separation for purity is almost a badge of honor. 

 

There is a fear of contamination.  It tended to cause splits. When combined with Dispensationalism, it holds as suspect all who are not also like them as Dispensationalist Fundamentalists.  It leads to a sectarian approach. It is a narrow Orthodoxy and not a broad Orthodoxy. It will split from and condemn those who do not tow the mark. One of the most glaring historical examples is the 1957 rejection of Billy Graham because he cooperated with the mainline Protestant Church leader whom the Fundamentalists consider suspect. The attack was vicious.  An early example was the closed Plymouth Brethren who condemned taking communion with any other than closed brethren. The sectarian division is characteristic. 

 

Dispensational Fundamentalism is a dying movement.  It produces very little today in world missions which is now mostly growing by Pentecostals and new stream charismatic networks.  So why take the time to deal with this? It is because we still fight aspects of this both in theology and the narrow spirit. For example, the roots of hyper-grace teaching are in this movement though hyper-grace teachers do not endorse the whole system.  The opposition to the role of law is also still very common despite the role of law in classical Christian theology. In addition, there is a severe criticism of charismatic movements, even a vicious slander at times and misrepresentation. The idea of Jewish life in Yeshua is also rejected and opposed.  So, what is to be done? Pray and proclaim a better presentation of Biblical truth. We have experienced this spirit of Dispensational Fundamentalism. The great scholar of yesteryear, Edward John Carnell, called it Orthodoxy gone cultic. Thankfully this is a dying movement. 

Down the Memory Hole

One of the big differences between the Jewish majority in the United States and the Jewish majority in Israel is how they perceive the Palestinian Arabs. In the United States the majority Jewish leadership, Reform, Conservative and secular are all for a two-state solution. Somehow, they think Israel and the settlements are the problem. The majority of the Israelis believe that the Palestinians have been profoundly dishonest and never had any intention of making real peace with a realistic solution. When they rejected the Clinton-Barak plan and then the Olmert-Bush plan, Israelis drew the conclusion of their insincerity. The last proposal was probably way too generous and gave away too much. Since that time, Israel has turned to right-wing governments and the left has lost almost all its power in Israel. Blue and White is a centrist party with many conservatives.

About 10 days ago, the Palestinian Authority, the supposed moderates passed a resolution declaring that the Jewish people never were even in the Land of Israel. They have no roots here. It has always been Palestinian. This is even beyond the claim that the Temple Mount is not the Temple Mount. So where was the Jewish War with Rome fought? In Spain? What happens to Josephus the historian and Roman historians or other records. History to the P. A. means nothing. Can we in any way believe that if the P. A. will put out such position papers that they have any real intention of a real and lasting peace with the Jewish state? Then they name their squares and streets after terrorists and pay terrorist families high incomes. Israelis mostly believe that a Palestinian state will be a terrorist state as a base to attack Israel. When one lives in Israel, one has access to so much more information on the situation. It is quite clear to me that the Israeli position is the right one!! George Orwell wrote about the Communists simply making up history and putting real historical records down a hole to be destroyed since it was not germane to their communist goals. The Palestinians have a huge memory hole!