The Atheist Secular Fortress

Ancient cities built amazing walls, fortifications that turned their cities into fortresses.  One morning a few days ago I woke up at the end of a dream.  I saw a huge castle-like fortress that represented the power or strength of the atheist-secular culture that now dominates the Western World.  It was built of huge stones and looked impregnable.   Then I saw that explosives placed in strategic places could bring the whole thing crashing down. 

After this, while still woozy and waking, I thought of the huge statue image in Daniel 2 representing the four major empires of the ancient world and some say in the feet the revised empire of the last days.  A stone cut out crushed the feet of the statue and it crumbled and became as nothing whereas the stone became a great mountain that filled the earth.  The stone is the Kingdom of God.  Some say that stone is the Messiah King.  However, it will fill the whole earth. 

I knew the interpretation that only a great revival would bring down the fortifications of the city.  There could be great revivals placed at strategic locations of the fortifications. They would be as explosions bringing down the fortifications.  (This could lead to the last days’ great revival.)  Surely only a mighty outpouring is the only way to overcome. 

We live in a world where government and big tech media control speech and information at levels that were unimaginable a few years ago.  Even in scientific and medical matters, once a mainstream view has been declared, other views are canceled, even if held by top scientists.  Of course, this is really anti-science since science progresses through argument and dissent.  Oftentimes, the dissenters in the history of science were found to be correct.  Today we see this in COVID science, climate science, gender issues and so much more.  However, the greatest shutdown is on worldview matters.   

Regarding a biblical worldview, today we have amazing apologists for biblical faith.  I can name many.  I am an apologist and wrote a textbook on apologetics.  The power of their augments reaches few who are within the atheist secular fortress and subject to the strongholds of the mind of the prevailing media culture.  Yet, the quality of the evidence today is the best we have ever had.   

I herein note two examples.  First is the new and powerful evidence for the intelligent design of the universe.  How many in the secular atheist world know that the consensus of the top scientists (especially astrophysics) is now that given the complexity of life and the amazing arrangement of the forces of the universe, that there is almost zero chance that life could have arisen spontaneously by chance.  Scientists have written papers on “the anthropic universe” meaning that the universe as a whole seems to be perfectly arranged and fine-tuned to support human life.  The end of the steady state theory of the universe and the consensus on the “big bang” theory (the singular event) brings years of atheist reasoning to an unwanted conclusion.  What to do?  Atheism has to be maintained so some like Steven Hawking posit the multiverse theory, that our universe is one many. What is impossible in probability with our universe can be made probable, it is thought if we posit enough chance-based universes.  This is whistling in the dark!  There is no possible evidence for it!  We are locked into our universe. Plus, when we begin with the universe before life, there is still no probability to produce the design quality of single-cell within this universe. It could never happen.  How many know that this convinced the leading atheist philosopher in the English-speaking world, a top philosopher of science, Dr. Antony Flew, to declare there this a God.  How many know about Dr. Thomas Nagel, maybe America’s leading philosopher at NYU to declare that the Darwinian chance theory of evolution is impossible and incoherent?  Though still wanting to be an atheist, he has to posit something of mind inherent in the universe (Mind and Cosmos). We can add many more examples, but one is amazing, the former atheist physicist of MIT, Dr. Gerald Schroeder.  He became convinced of the existence of God and his design in the universe.  He became an Orthodox Jew and has written many books related to his discoveries. 

The second point is about miracles. From the vastness of the universe to the personal level, we speak about contemporary miracles.  There is a stunning plethora of supernatural miracles being done in the name of Yeshua, Jesus, today that are not capable of being explained by natural law. No stretch of the imagination can explain them.  These are instant healings, including resurrections from the dead.  These are well documented.  Dr. Craig Keener’s monumental two-volume set, Miracles, or The Credibility of New Testament Miracles, speaking of New Testament like miracles today, is so well documented that many mainstream Evangelicals have endorsed it.  We know people who have received such miracles.  Keener is so well regarded that he is today the President of the Evangelical Theological Society.  About 120 years ago, the famous healing evangelist John Lake did many miracles.  His miracle stories were reported regularly in the Portland press.  This does not happen today. 

The control of the cultural elite in the West has built a fortress of media that prevents the information from being conveyed.  The whole fortress has to fall. I believe that the only answer is a mighty revival that is so grand that the secular atheist fortress cannot resist it.  It is time that we all join in every city and town to pray for it, in regular gatherings, in 24/7 prayer sets, and more crying out to God to send a mighty revival on his people. Pray also that the fortress is destroyed. Only when his people are generally empowered can we break through. 


Unity and Fear of Ecumenicism, Essay 18

I have a little book, a reprint of the 1946 100th-year anniversary edition, of a short history of the World Evangelical Alliance.  One of the goals of the WEA was to promote the John 17:21 unity of the Church.  This was considered one of the keys to the return of the Lord.  It remains so today for the WEA as it networks hundreds of millions.  Instead of competition, they seek cooperation in every city and region of the world.  They believe that the prayer of Yeshua will be answered before He returns.  “That they may be one that the world will believe.”  This was the heart of the great Zinzendorf and the Moravians in Herrnhut in the first half of the 18th century. 


However, in many Dispensational circles, the quest for unity is feared as something that will lead to deception and perhaps the great falling away or apostasy.  When classical Dispensationalists looked at John 17, they often interpreted as for the local church. Nott all hold this view. As one leader told us last year in a gathering of leaders here, John 17:21 is only saying that a local congregation in unity will be more successful.  As an example, he described a congregational picnic in a public park.  If the people show a lot of love to one another, the unbelievers in the park will be drawn to this love.  It is about the world around the local people of God.  In addition to the hope for unity, they do not see Acts 2 pointing to a great last days revival before the return of the Lord. 


Dispensational eschatology, or last days teaching, noted the Bible’s warning of a coming last days apostasy (II Thes.2:3).  That apostasy or rebellion, they believe, had already begun as mainline denominations compromised with evolution, critical approaches to the Bible, and denials of Biblical truth. The Ecumenical Movement also quoted John 17 in their question of unity in the World Council of Churches and other efforts. Many of these churches have departed from biblical truth. This, they believe, is all leading to the false world religion that will be part of the one world government of the Antichrist. 


They see other efforts for unity, Evangelical, charismatic, or Pentecostal all leading to the same danger. What is the answer to this?  First, one cannot get around John 17.  Anyone who reads this honestly has to conclude that unity will characterize a revived worldwide Church before the return of the Lord. This Church will complete the task of world Evangelism and making Israel jealous.  Secondly, this unity is based on a solid biblical confession of faith.  For example, the WEA has maintained its doctrinal standards from 1846 until today. However, to do so, they have to eschew the narrower fundamentalism that finds fault and criticism for all kinds of non-essentials and separated them from others on that basis.  The unity is maintained by the Reformers’ dictum.  “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things love.”  We cannot merely evaluate from an American perspective.  From a World perspective, we are closer to the fulfillment of the prayer of Yeshua than ever before except for biblical times. 


What are the consequences of one’s view of John 17?  If one agrees that the prayer of Yeshua will be answered then we are to give ourselves to cooperative unity locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.  This will greatly strengthen the Church.  However, if we do not believe this it will lead to independence, lack of mutual accountability, competition, and local churches that just build their little fiefdoms.  


The Identity of Messianic Jews and Dispensationalism, Essay 17

When the first Messianic Jewish Congregations were beginning in North America (1970-1975), there was quite a bit of attack against the new Messianic Jewish movement.  We were told we were, “Confusing law and grace,” “Re-erecting the wall of partition” and “Going back under the Law.”  Some Reformed leaders also had a rejection on the basis of the wall of partition argument and the idea that ethnic Israel is no longer elect but affirmed the replacement theology idea that the true Israel of God is now the Church.  But that is a different argument that will be addressed in a later essay. Here we want to just note the Dispensational view. 

In classic Dispensationalism, there is still an election that pertains to the Jewish people, Israel.  Israel will be preserved and God’s promises to them will be fulfilled in the Millennial Age.  However, the Church is defined very much like some of the early Church fathers, as a third race and in spiritual and essential identity its members are not Jew or Gentile. This is clearly stated in the little C. I. Schofield classic, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.  “Neither Jew nor Gentile” in Gal. 3 is a proof text despite the text also saying, “Neither male nor female.”   One is part of one of only three mutually exclusive categories, Jew, Gentile, or Church.  

God’s purpose and plans require keeping the Jew and Gentile separate and as noted in an earlier essay, Israel will become God’s primary instrument on earth only after the Church is taken away before the tribulation.  Messianic Jews on this basis are wrongly confusing identities and callings. Living a Jewish life is not fitting for members of the Church.  A limited ethnic identity may be accepted like Italians, Poles, and Russians but no deeper real spiritual identity or Jewish election identity.  A Passover seder is unacceptable as is keeping the Sabbath. 

However, such definitions imply the rejection of other clear passages and in some cases explain them away.  First of all, this includes the clear definition verses on the identity of Jewish believers in Yeshua, Romans 9-11.  In Romans 11:5 when Paul speaks of a “remnant saved” at the present time, it implies that they are the remnant of Israel, not people who have left their identity as part of Israel for a new identity as a “third race.”  When Paul states that we are to follow him who magnifies his ministry so that we might see some of Israel saved, he connects this some as important in being connected to all of Israel being saved, for the acceptance of all of Israel would lead to life from the dead.  (Rom. 11:15)   As if this was not enough, Paul goes on to argue that those who follow Yeshua from the Jewish people are, “The first fruits” that sanctify the rest of the nation.  It is not possible to be a sanctifying first fruits of the nation if not a part of the nation.  The nation remains set apart and made holy by the sanctifying remnant.  

Paul’s practice is fully in line with this teaching.  He has no problem living a Jewish life and showing that he is still part of Israel.  He takes a Nazarite vow (Acts 18:18) and later brings a sacrifice completing this vow and professing that he lives as a Jew in Torah obedience (Acts 21).  Paul professes Jewish life loyalty through the rest of the book of Acts before rulers and lastly before his people in Rome. 

Jewish identity in Yeshua is not as neat as the three separate identities but is truer to the text.   The Messianic Jew is part of national ethnic Israel, its identity and destiny, and also a Jewish part of the One New Humanity of Jew and Gentile in Yeshua.  Things are much better today for Messianic Jews: there is much more support.  However, there is still pushback against Messianic Jews due to the conscious or unconscious bias of classical Dispensationalism.  We have to reject the wrong separation of Israel and the Church. Their destinies are intertwined. 

Dispensational Fundamentalism Part II, Essay 16

How dispensationalism swept the American Evangelical World in the first part of the 20th century is an amazing story.   With the Schofield Reference Bible and its notes becoming the Bible of the Evangelical world, the domination was complete.  Yes, Reformed Evangelicals (Lutheran, Presbyterian, Reformed, and Methodist) did not buy in, but they were smaller and less influential.  It has taken many years for Evangelicalism to extricate itself.  

I trace the beginning of the process of extricating to a group of scholars in the late 1940s.  Dr. Carl Henry, the theologian for Billy Graham and the editor of Christianity Today wrote the Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism in 1947.  The critique hit hard on the abdication of a biblical approach to social issues and justice.  The absence of Dispensationalist Fundamentalists from the Civil Rights struggles of the 50s and 60s was a case in point.  The theology of just getting people to be saved and to escape the tribulation departed from social responsibility.  This was far from the 19th century Evangelicals like Charles Finney, and the Beecher family (Lyman, Henry Ward, and Harriet who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin.)   Would slavery had ended the dispensationalist quietist views on social issues dominant in the 19th century?  Dr. Morris Inch, Theology Professor at Wheaton and a classmate of Dr. Martin Luther King was quite passionate about this. 

Besides Henry, other groups of young scholars were breaking ranks.  Edward John Carnell the famous professor of apologetics and philosophy of religion at Fuller Theological Seminary and then President wrote The Case for Orthodox Theology, arguing for Evangelical Orthodox theology.  He included a blistering critique of Fundamentalism, but mainly Dispensational Fundamentalism.  He passionately critiqued its narrowness, censoriousness (finding heresy to criticize everywhere), its social quietism, and strange methods of Biblical interpretation and speculation.  He was mainly speaking of Dispensational Fundamentalism.  He argued that Fundamentalism was Orthodoxy gone cultic.  It did not begin that way when the brilliant scholars wrote The Fundamentals.  

George Ladd of Fuller wrote Crucial Questions and the Kingdom of God (1951) where he broke from Dispensational Fundamentalism on the issue of the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of the Kingdom which, according to Ladd, is the Gospel we preach. It is not just the Gospel for the Jewish people in the coming tribulation as they taught in contrast to Dispensationalism’s Gospel of Grace.  Ladd’s early work harkened back to the pre-dispensational pre-millennial views that were so common among those who were early Christian Zionists.  (For example, Lutheran scholar J. A. Bengel-1687-1752) 

The great Evangelical philosopher at Wheaton College, Dr. Arthur Holmes, of dear memory used to say in reflecting really on Evangelical Fundamentalism, “We have lost 100 years.”  Perhaps at that time not really 100 but easily 60. 

Dispensational Fundamentalism is still the majority popular Evangelicalism but is in decline.  In the Evangelical scholarly world, outside of its own schools that define doctrine so narrowly that only Dispensationalists can be on the faculty, Dispensationalism is in decline.  Think of Wheaton, Trinity, Gordon Conwell, Asbury, Denver, Regent Canada, Regent in Virginia, Wycliff, Tyndale (Oxford), and I could go on and on.  Even in a few of the leading dispensational schools, we hear of Progressive Dispensationalism which is 50-70% return to pre-dispensational pre-millennialism.  However, there is still much work to do to get beyond this, to prepare God’s people for revival, partnership with the Messianic Jewish community, and to fulfill the prayer of Yeshua that we might be one.  This is especially the case in Israel where due to mission influences, there is still a great influence of this viewpoint. 

The Necessity of Worldview Rooting for Dialogue

We are living in an age when there is a profound clash of world views, the classic western worldview and the modern atheist/agnostic worldview.  The latter can accept some aspects of eastern mysticism but not any concrete faith that provides the foundation of ethical norms for society. 

Nowhere is this clash of world views more revealed than in the issue of human sexual identity and purpose.  It is a window into the whole world view battle. 

The foundation of ethics in a biblical worldview is God’s revelation of his will expressed in his law and the teaching of the Bible, theistic revealed ethics. Other societies also intuited that their ethical systems had to be rooted in a transcendent realm, the Chinese, the will of Heaven, the Hindus the laws of ethics and karma rooted in Brahmin, in the Greeks, the realm of the eternal forms which include the Good and the eternal values.  The impersonal views of the Greeks end up being more subject to questions and weaknesses (witness the Greek Sophists and skeptics). 

There is no foundation for ethics in the modern atheist/agnostic worldview. All is based on the consensus of the society, and its emotive preferences, at a particular time.  Nothing holds things back from very bad directions. A very little is taken from the Biblical worldview by Marxists and leftist radicals but with no grounding.  That little is that a better world should be sought that is a more equal, humane, and provides greater provision for all, a better world for fewer people. This value of a better more humane world is rooted in the Bible and only societies influenced by the Bible have this ethical orientation See English atheist Tom Holland for this argument.  Holland is brutally honest about both the lack of grounding today but embraces the hope that this humane orientation will prevail. In the Bible, all ethics on a human plain is rooted in the value of human beings as created in the image of God.  However, an ethic of the survival of the fittest and the serving of an elite by the masses can easily gain ascendency as we saw with Nazism.  However, the atheist/agnostic worldview has very little behavioral guard rails.  Their views on a more humane order are short-sighted and lead to sorrow and destruction.  They seek to cancel those who argue against them.   Because there is no objective ground for ethics, emotional preferences reign. 

In the Bible’s view, God created human beings in His image and provides the rule book or guard rails that lead to human flourishing.  Such guidance is clear on the matter of human sexuality. God created male and female for complimentary identities to be fulfilled in heterosexual and lasting marriage (see Matthew 19 and the teaching of Yeshua on this).   Sexual distinction is to be fostered in the way we raised children and intentional biblical social construction is important. The Torah enjoins distinctions of dress as well. Children are raised so the distinction will be attractive and complementary to the opposite sex.  The expression of sexuality leads to a bond that is the basis of family life. Family is highly valued as the essential unit to produce a humane society of people who act in ways that are beneficial to the society over the long run.  Those very few born without normal sexual organs are to be loved and find a way to choose an identity that will not undercut the norm.  Others that do not fit into sexual heteronormality and marriage are encouraged to live single lives serving the kingdom of God with deep friendship and community.  (See Matthew 19 and I Cor. 7)

The atheist/agnostic worldview can find no basis to define any human essence. Biology itself does not define gender today.  Yes, hormones may lead to opposite-sex attraction for most, but gender is a human social construct. As such sexual and gender identity is fluid and anyone can choose identities according to whatever they feel.  Feeling dominates.  One must not disagree with their feeling/identity since that is hurtful.  Homosexual identity, bi-sexuality, poly amorosos, transgender and every kind of identity is affirmed along with all the sexual expressions that follow therefrom.  The only rule is that the adults consent.  Yet with the flood of pornography and promiscuity, enforcing consent, is more and more difficult.  This is because sexual promiscuity seeks stimulation from breaking rules since “the high” is no longer experienced in normal consent. Violence is and will thus increase.  Also, the big argument now taking shape is that children can consent.  If they can choose a gender at young ages, why may they not choose sexual experiences; thus argue pedophiles. 

It is not an accident that this sexual revolution leads to family breakdown.  Family breakdown is a desired end of a contingent of radical leftists.  Marx argued that the family fostered inequality.  The state needed to raise the children.  It is no accident that the founder of Black Lives Matter (an avowed Marxist) argued that they were against fostering the heteronormal family system.  The ideal of the radical left is to foster communal child-rearing.  We see this today in the teachers’ unions that seek to work with young children on gender issues in secret, not telling parents.  They foster the world view of gender fluidity with young children and groom them if they give any indication of sexual questioning, though they are way too young for such decisions on sexuality.  The end of all this in a generation will be anti-social adults who are simply not sufficiently bonded to parents and family to become healthy productive and trustworthy citizens.  The breakdown of law and civility is certainly a result of great increases in poverty.  The correlation between family breakdown and poverty is one of the strongest in social statistics.  The state cannot overcome this.  

All of this fits a larger world vision to re-create the world around a subjective and chosen vision. Not all of it is incompatible with the Bible but most are.  A generation ago, George Wald, the Harvard biologist spoke of “A better world for fewer people.” His nemesis was Julian Simon of the University of Maryland who argued against his population bomb predictions.  However, a better world for fewer people means many less people.  The more radical desire a world of 500 million people.  The abortion agenda fits their desire for a small population world.  Decoupling sex from marriage and family is helpful in moving toward that world.  Easy access to abortion also fosters the goal.  The child in the womb is not in the image of God and can be killed.  Libertine sexuality requires easy abortion.  However, this is not publicly admitted.  We can argue if families should be smaller and population growth limited.  But the agenda of the left is quite anti-family.

There is one more very troubling orientation among some in science and history.  The human being as given is not sacred, so there is no compelling reason to not recreate a new super race.  A bio-engineered human, maybe part robot, is envisioned by Yuval Harari, a professor at Hebrew University who has related to the Davos World Economic Forum and its leader, Claus Schwab, who seeks to foster a one-world order controlled by elites.*  It is anti-democratic. 

The revolution vision of Herbert Marcuse (An Essay on Liberation), requires pitting ethnic groups against one another and the breakdown of the present order to be replaced by an authoritarian government worldwide that will foster a more equal world for fewer people.  Of course, the elite will keep wealth and privilege but will create a more equal order for the masses.  If communication is controlled then the masses can have an illusion of democracy, but real control will be in the elite who will move the world to a better world for fewer people, with sexual libertine orientations, few children communally raised, and sexual orientations all embraced toward the end of this “better world.” The danger is that the humane idea will break down in violence to those who do not go along as we see in historic communism.  I am quite sure that violence against those who foster a biblical worldview is on the way.  Believers stand in the way of what they see as progress. 

Unless believers understand this as an anti-Christ worldview and see what we are up against, the battle in prayer, witness, and proclamation will miss the mark.  Believers will not be left free to live out their convictions in their own communities, but as in communism in the past, they will be forced to bow to the beliefs of the new world order.  Without a massive revival, this direction will continue and will not end well.  

*Yuval Harari at the World Economic Forum, quotes

Again, I think the biggest question in maybe in economics and politics of the coming decades will be what to do with all these useless people?  The problem is more boredom and how what to do with them and how they find some sense of meaning in life when they are basically meaningless, worthless?  My best guess at present is a combination of drugs and computer games as a solution for (most).  It’s already happening.  I think once you’re superfluous, you don’t have power. 


Harari goes on to outline a transhumanist vision of the future in which brain-computer interfaces make our footedness in the material world obsolete, human relationships become meaningless due to artificial substitutes, and the poor die but the rich don’t.

Of course, the biblical view is joy and creativity with worship forever. No boredom forever. 

Tikkun Means Restoration

Recently I read two books that prompted this article on the theology of Tikkun Global.  The first was an amazing, definitive book by Jon Mark Ruthven, The Cessation of the Charismata and a short history of the World Evangelical Alliance written in 1946 on its 100th year anniversary.   The first book can almost take your breath away.  It shows with amazing scholarship (over 600 footnotes) that the kind of power in the Spirit ministry of Yeshua and the early Body of the Messiah was meant to continue throughout this age until His second coming.  

Dr. Ruthven recently passed away. My view is that this book cannot be refuted, and I am in accord with most of it.  Dr. Ruthven understands the Gospel of the Kingdom, that the Good News is the invitation to enter into and live from the Kingdom of God which has broken into this world.  The Gospel of the Kingdom is demonstrated in signs and wonders.  The power of the Spirit and prophecy is in all believers and is also manifest in the gatherings of believers who exercise his gifts.  There is far more to come in God’s power and in the progress of the Gospel. This is something that began to be restored in the 18th century, became much greater in the 19th and then after Pentecostalism was born has continued to grow until the present time.  Much was lost in history that is now being restored. 

The second book gives an amazing window into the Evangelical world.  However, three things stood out as I reviewed the 19th century.  It was the fact that the WEA was pursuing and fostering the vision of the prayer of Yeshua in John 17:21 that his followers would be one, “that the world might believe,” in Yeshua.  We are to be one as He and the Father are one. This prayer is to be answered before his return. As it was in the beginning, in Acts 2 when all were one, so it will be in the end, worldwide, and this unity will be restored. 

In addition, the WEA believed that Yeshua would come after the Gospel had been adequately preached to all the nations.  We see this as requiring an understanding of the Gospel of the Kingdom confirmed by signs and wonders (Mark 16:17,18).  Today the WEA is over 600 million and 400 million are Pentecostal/Charismatic.  This spring a few of us Messianic Jewish leaders in Israel met with the leaders of the WEA!!

Thirdly the WEA believed revivals would be a key to see the progress of the Gospel.  They pointed to revivals that were key in the past and expected more in the future. 

My readers will know that these three are part of the five foundations of Tikkun theology, the other is the election and calling of the Jewish people and their salvation (Romans 11:11-31), and a five-fold leadership that pursues the four other foundations (Eph. 4:11ff).  

In Acts 3:21 Peter says that He must remain in heaven “until the time of the restoration of all things.”  The word restoration is translated into Hebrew as Tikkun, restoration.  Most restoration takes place after the return of Yeshua. However, we can see that some does take place before because of emphases and realities lost in Church history.  Restoration took place in the Reformation, then in the Moravian and Wesleyan Methodist movements.  In the 19th century, the spiritual healing or cure movement took place.  The people of this movement saw themselves as a restoration movement. Many do not realize that the famous A. B. Simpson who founded the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination and Nyack College was part of this restoration movement.  A. J. Gordon was part of this movement. He was the founder of Gordon College and Seminary, one of today’s leading Evangelical institutions.  The Pentecostals from the early 20th century saw themselves as a restoration movement.  Restorationism, without disparaging the Church in history, is an important 300-year thrust.   

When the Lord showed us that we Messianic Jews were a restoration of a Jewish living Yeshua movement, he also showed us the restoration of the Church to power, revival, unity, world evangelism effectiveness, and partnership with us in making Israel jealous.  The salvation of Israel requires these restorations.   Thus, we formed a network in 1984 to foster this restoration view and in 1991 named ourselves Tikkun, Restoration.  

I have been inspired by these two books.  Now I say of us, that we are contending for a restorationist Messianic Jewish movement in partnership with a restorationist-oriented Church worldwide. 

Dispensational Fundamentalism Part II, #16

In our last essay, we noted the origins of the term “Fundamentalism” in the series on the Fundamentals published from 1909 onward and then connected to the Niagara Conferences.  It was a scholarly and amazing series that included Orthodox Evangelicals of all stripes.  All can benefit from reading these articles. 

However, as Fundamentalists lost the battles for the mainline denominations, as higher critical and Darwinian nostrums gained more and more currency, scholars say that a reactionary negativism became more and more dominant.  World War I left many with a great pessimism about social influence.  Yes, they would say, we have to make a living in this world.  However, to really seek to better society was considered a waste of time.  Yes, if people became believers, in a limited way they could have some positive influence, but the world was moving toward the last days.  The great apostasy in the denominations was upon us and the Anti-Christ would soon appear.  Opting out of cultural engagement became dominant.  It is debatable that Wheaton College, the bastion of Evangelical arts and science education, ever went so far.  However, some began to push back hard on the trends that dominated Fundamentalism.  Legalism, cultural opting out, and the pre-tribulation rapture as a litmus test of faithfulness was more and more seen to be aberrant.  Carl F. H. Henry, the theological mentor to Rev. Billy Graham wrote about this in his important 1947 book, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism.  Its opting out was given a great critique.  (1947).  Arthur Homes, Wheaton’s most important philosopher, and many think its greatest professor in the last half of the 20th century used to say we had lost 100 years of cultural influence.  I actually think it was only 50 or 60, but he was tracing attitudes in Darbyite influence for 100 years.  Wasn’t Wheaton founded to both spread the Gospel and to be an influence in cultural formation in all spheres?  It is no accident that Wheaton was an influence to transcend Dispensational Fundamentalism. 

A group of young men decided to face the best scholarship that liberalism had to offer.  They would defend Evangelical Orthodoxy in the face of liberalism.  They studied at schools such as Harvard, Boston University, and Basel in Switzerland.  Such names as Edward John Carnell, the great Christian apologist who became President of Fuller Theological Seminar in Pasadena, California, Bernard Ramm, the Baptist scholar, Kenneth Kantzer Wheaton, and then of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, who studied at Basel and Harvard, and Arthur Holmes from Northwestern.  Reformed Scholars were also very important.  Some argued that Dispensational Fundamentalism as it finally hardened into its mid-century orientations, was actually aberrant and cultic.  

The words of Edward John Carnell were amazing and quite painful to all of us who were involved in our young years. Simplistic theological approaches prevailed.  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. Carnell in his book, The Case for Orthodox Theology, called Fundamentalist Dispensationalism “Orthodoxy gone cultic.” Here is a list from Carnell and others. 

  1. 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. 
  2. Fear of those who are not speaking the same language and towing the same black and white thinking. 
  3. A critical spirit that easily sallies off in tirades of criticism of those who are not in the same camp.
  4. 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 
  5. 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 hyper-critical spirit that heresy hunts and constantly looks for error that is greatly feared.  Really the Fundamentalist is insecure.   
  6. 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.
  7. An inability to understand the views of others and to engage them with respect shows that they have first been understood.  Fundamentalism is characterized by refuting straw men and misrepresentation of the other.
  8. Skepticism and rejection of new insights, directions, and methods. 
  9. Difficulty in engaging others who are not perceived as people with whom God may be working. If they are not born again.

We are so very glad that Evangelical Orthodoxy is moving beyond Fundamentalist Dispensationalism.  There is still a way to go. 

Astronomy and Atheist Propaganda

The other evening, I was watching the news.  There was an interview with an astronomer touting the amazing capability of the new telescope that was way more powerful than the famous Hubble telescope.  We now see, due to the penetration of light years, times very close to the origins of the Universe.  Something of the mystery did come through.  The universe began as what is popularly called a “big bang,” but it is more accurately called “the unique singularity.”  From a point of the dimension of a speck of dust, came all matter and energy in the entire universe.  All was super dense beyond our comprehension, and all we know as the whole universe was packed into it, all the galaxies, billions of stars, and planets.  After hardly any time passed, it was the size of a baseball, then a basketball, and then all else.  For an account of this, see Gerald Schroeder’s amazing book, Genesis and the Big Bang.  Dr. Schroeder was an MIT Ph. D. graduate and physicist, a very high-up scientist.  His study of science led him to believe in God, and today he is an Orthodox Jew.  His other books, The Science of God, and The Hidden Face of God, are well worth reading.  They show that belief in God as the designer of the Universe is the most rational and plausible conclusion from the scientific evidence.  From the point of no dimensions to the complex design of the cell, the conclusion is inescapable.  A naturalistic explanation, in simplified terms, of time, plus chance plus matter, cannot be the explanation of the universe and our existence. 

Back to the interview!  The interviewer then asked that in the context of the billions of stars and planets, did he think it was likely that there was intelligent life on other worlds in the Universe.  The astronomer voiced his certainty.  It is likely that there are planets like the earth with the circumstances that would give rise to life.  Many may not have realized it, but they were just given propaganda for atheism.  How so?  Note the statement, “Circumstances would give rise to life.” Really?  How?  It assumes that as our world came about by chance including sentient life and human beings, so also it would happen by chance in another world.  When we read Schroeder, William Dempsky, Michael Behe, and many others, the idea that naturalistic circumstances would give rise to life has been discredited.  There is zero possibility for that scenario.  The right answer to the question of the reporter about other worlds with intelligent life would be, “Yes, there could be intelligent life on other worlds if God so willed and intervened to bring it about, but we do not know if He did.”  Billions and billions of planets make it no more likely that a designed cell would come about, for without God it is impossible.  As Schroeder notes, the statement by the famous biologist George Wald, that time gives the answer as to how chance could bring about life is false.  There can never be enough time. 

Sadly, in the program after program naturalistic propaganda is pushed on all of us, including our children.  There is no credible naturalistic explanation for our existence, and even trillions of stars do not make a difference.  It is self-delusion that just presenting huge numbers makes chance more capable of producing a cell.  

Dispensational Fundamentalism Gains Dominance in American Evangelicalism, Essay 15

This essay is part one of two essays on Dispensational Fundamentalism.

In the last half of the 19th century, critical approaches to the Bible began to make inroads into several of the mainline Protestant denominations.  Their leaders did not deny the basic creedal confessions of Christianity or reject the historic moral consensus of Western Christian culture.  That would not happen to a large degree until the last half of the 20th century, but those who were weak in confession were allowed to remain.  Conservative churchmen saw that it was only a matter of time and apostasy would come.  The Bible as God’s inerrant Word was rejected by many.  Princeton Seminary held out until the 1930s.  Central to the decline were higher critical approaches to the Pentateuch.  It was claimed that Moses did not write the Pentateuch but that it was a product of a long development of material that was added from the 9th to the 4th century.  They saw the movement from more primitive material to a more advanced understanding in the book of Deuteronomy and the Prophets.  The New Testament would also be given a critical evaluation.  There was a quest for the historical Jesus and only what survived the critical evaluation really was from Jesus.   Some also embraced a social Gospel where social action was not an extension of true faith in a divine Jesus and the influence of the Prophets, but social action replaced supernatural faith and conversion.  The theory of evolution was being embraced by some Christian leaders and evolutionary ideas of development from George Hagel, the German idealist philosopher, were influencing Christian scholars. 

From 1878 to 1901 a group of scholars met at the Niagara Fall Conferences in New York and created the Niagra Statement of Faith.  This was a very influential statement and was embraced by many denominations, Bible Colleges, Christian liberal arts colleges, and seminaries.  I noted this when I led a study on the doctrinal confession for the Student Council at Wheaton College in 1969.  It was in my view a good statement but a little too rigid on a few things.  It was based on the old Niagara Statement. 

From 1910 to 1915 a group of scholars worked on an historic set of essays entitled The Fundamentals A Testimony to the Truth.  The original essays were 12 volumes but later condensed to four which are available today.  The authors were like a who’s who of conservative Protestants from many denominations.  They included Dispensationalists and Reformed and other thinkers.  The essays are worthy of study today. 

However, a strange thing happened.  With the pessimism that resulted from World War I, the Dispensational version of Fundamentalism appealed to more and more people. The clear and well-written notes of the Schofield Reference Bible (1909) were very appealing.  The appeal to a literal hermeneutic seemed to be a corollary of Fundamentalism though the meaning of literal interpretation in Dispensationalism was very simplistic and not evenly applied. The social Gospel was not only rejected as a false Gospel but social engagement in the culture was also rejected.  In the most amazing way, Dispensationalism more and more dominated the Fundamentalist movement.  Yes, the Reformed thinkers were still important but became more and more a minority.   My spiritual father at Wheaton College, Dr. Evan Welsh, a graduate of Princeton Seminary, lived through this period and observed as the Dispensationalist variety of Fundamentalism became more and more dominant.  Many rejected cultural engagement.  The famous Wheaton Philosopher professor, Dr. Arthur Holmes, used to say regarding cultural enragement, that we had lost 100 years.  

This disengagement and turning inward included a reactive orientation that became more and more narrow.  One sees this narrowness previously in the founder of Dispensationalism, J. N. Darby who led the closed brethren. They would take communion with only other closed brethren.  The famous Chinese saint, Watchman Nee was originally Closed Brethren, but left this movement to embrace fellowship with all true believers and was Open Brethren.  This narrowness became deeply rooted and even engaging areas of study were considered dangerous and rejected.  Suspicion was very strong and led to splits in conservative denominations. 

For Dispensational Fundamentalists, Dispensationalism was Fundamentalism and visa versa. For much of the Evangelical world, it was so.  The manifestation of this in 1957 was the Billy Graham Crusade in New York.  Because Billy Graham had church leaders on the Platform giving support to his crusade, some of whom had questionable views, Fundamentalist leaders like Jack Wyrtzen of dear memory rejected Billy Graham and separated from him.   Graham was vilified.  This harsh judgmental spirit became deeply rooted.  Thankfully much of Evangelicalism has now come out from this.  Many Evangelicals did not want to be called Fundamentalists.  This was the case with Wheaton College during my years there in the late 1960s.  However, there is still a Fundamentalist segment of Evangelicalism, and they still unfairly censor and judge.  Disagreement within the boundaries of Orthodoxy is occasion for severe condemnation.  We will pick up on these themes in the next essay. 

The Differentiated Soul

As a Wheaton Philosophy major and then an Assistant to the Professor of Philosophy of Religion, I wrestled with what was called the mind-body problem.  The atheists in philosophy and brain science were more and more saying that the mind and brain were the same thing.  The mind was simply a matter of brain states.  The mind or soul did not transcend the brain.  When the brain is dead, the person ceases to be.  The well-known atheist analytic philosopher J. C. Ryle argued against the idea of the transcendent mind as the “ghost in the machine.”  They were less clear on just what the mind was since mind language, mental pictures, ideas and so much more can not be described in terms of brain states.  As the famous German philosopher, Martin Heidegger argued, one cannot reduce the “lived experience” and the terms in which we describe it to the terms of physics and chemistry.  Yet the problem remains.  What happens to the person, the mind, consciousness, or soul when a person dies or when an old person becomes senile.  

I dealt with this on a personal level when my dear grandmother began to lose some of her mental capacities.  Soon after my mother visited, on the same day, my mother would talk to her by phone, and then she would ask why my mother had not visited in such a long time!   After her fall, a broken hip and hospitalization took a toll and greater senility resulted.  From 1971-1972, near Wheaton, I worked as a cook in a nursing home and saw senility up close.  A dear Baptist woman, Anna Giesfield, used to come into the kitchen in her wheelchair and offer to help me.  She said lots of guests at the resort were coming for dinner, and we needed to get ready for dinner.  I assured her that we had it all under control and she was there to enjoy and relax.  This was sweet senility.  However, others just moaned and seemed lost, not knowing where they were or what to do.  Was their brain deterioration proof that the mind/soul or whatever was so dependent and part of the brain that both were dying together, gradually ceasing to be?   As a follower of Yeshua and a believer in his resurrection, I knew that somehow the person transcended physical death and awaited the resurrection, but I did not have good enough answers.   

About two decades ago, a brain physiologist, Mario Beauregard, wrote a book called the spiritual brain which proved that operations of the mind and soul transcended the brain.  The reality of quantum physics also pointed to events that had no brute physical causation explanation where events at one place miles away from another place had a parallel effect there with no seeming physical connection.  

However, in recent years, I believe I have more clarity.  Two things have added to this clarity.  First is the extensive literature on what is called Near Death Experiences, (NDEs).  I call the most amazing of them death and resurrection experiences.  The best book I know on this is by John Burke, Imagine Heaven.   The second is the literature of a new movement inspired by Jim Wilder, who calls himself a neuro-theologian.  Two books present his views well, The Other Half of Church by Michael Hendricks and Jim Wilder, and Rare Leadership by Wilder and Marcus.  

The central thesis of Wilder is that we must get a hold of new research into the distinctions of the left and right brain.   The left brain is the logic information processing part of the brain, and the right brain is the intuitive, fast track, immediate processing and response part of the brain.  Much of our immediate behavior processes through the right brain and decides before the left brain gets started.  If we are to disciple character, then we must disciple the right brain.  Wilder presents an amazing outline of brain responses and the different parts of the brain that do different things in that amazing fast-speed response.  However, though Wilder says that spirit transcends the brain, and he and the Life Model Works movement which he inspired is very strong on hearing the voice of the Spirit and gasping God speaking to us, Spirit to spirit, one could wrongly conclude that the books are teaching that we are our brains.  

Here is where the NDE literature and John Burke come in.  This literature proves to an open-minded person that the soul transcends the brain and that God can separate the soul and the brain.  In an NDE persons experience themselves leaving the body and having total and heightened awareness.  They describe the scene where their dead body lies.  They accurately describe the room, what the doctors were doing, nearby rooms, if drowning, those around the pool, or in a car accident in the same detailed types of description.  They sometimes accurately see events happening in the areas nearby.  There is no naturalistic explanation for this.  They often then go through a tunnel and if they are followers of Yeshua,  end up in Heaven.  They see Jesus and loved ones and have conversations, sometimes with amazing and accurate information.  Sometimes those who are not followers of Jesus go to heaven, but others go to Hell.  They are given an opportunity and a choice to go back.   They travel back, enter into their body as they come to.  The pain resumes whereas out of the body they were gloriously pain-free.  They remember their experience and return to recover with new faith and to live with a new faith-confidence.  There are a plethora of such documented experiences.

So how do we put Burke and Wilder together?  There is a way.   Both are so important.  We learn that to interact and have authority and affect things in this physical realm, we must have a physical body.  This does seem to be biblical.  When we leave the body our time of major influence in this world is over though there is something to the fact that we are in communion with those who died and there are experiences with those who have died from time to time (J. B. Phillips, the translator, with C. S. Lewis).  Our direct experiences with God and of revelation do transcend the physical brain.  It is my view that we should see the brain as the manifestation in this world of the soul.  The brain is the most central and important manifestation of the soul in this world.  We must have an earth body not just the part of the person who does appear in heaven as if physical but without an earth body. I prefer to use the word soul over the spirit to differentiate the spirit as the deepest part of us where we have intuitive and direct communion with God.  In the Bible, the two terms are not clearly distinguished, but I believe there is a tendency in this direction.  Plus, the soul is not only manifest in the brain, but though that is primary, but in the larger body (See, Babette Rothchild, The Body Remembers).  

The soul/spirit together is the transcendent center of our human existence.  As such it is no ghost in the machine but is a differentiated complex reality.  The brain has 171 billion cells.  Why should we think that the soul is any less complex? This is a thought experiment, not a scientific assertion, but why should we not think that the soul would have 171 billion soul cells parallel to the brain cells plus connection to body cells beyond the brain.   Therefore, what happens when a person dies, or becomes senile, or has a death and resurrection experience?  I believe that in the death and resurrection experience or when a person dies God separates the brain and body from the soul totally.  However, in senility or brain images, nothing of the soul ceases to be, however, that aspect of the soul that gets through on the physical plane of life in this world no longer has access. The soul is fully there but part of it cannot get through.  Sometimes some relief for the injured takes place by other parts of the brain developing the functions.  When the brain deteriorates the soul just cannot get through.  However, until then soul and the physical are so totally integrated that we cannot distinguish them.  We are fully psycho-physical beings.  We must think in terms of other dimensions, multi-dimensional thinking.  The soul is integrated into the brain but is also other dimensional.  We also access the soul through the brain. When we train the brain we train the soul.

Then, in addition, in this world the brain and soul are so closely, almost totally joined and integrated, you reach the soul through the brain.  If you train the brain (Wilder’s term) you are training the soul.  In this space-time physical world, we cannot distinguish them except in the supernatural realm of the Spirit and revelation or illumination. 

However, let us not think of the brain as the sum of the human personality.  Let us rather think of the soul as really there, as differentiated in functions as the brain, and as transcending the brain.  The brain and soul learn as one.  The brain responses are also soul responses.  Therefore, we speak of left-brain/soul and right brain/soul.  

I don’t know what my readers will think of this essay, but I can rest on this way of seeing things. It is the conclusion of many years of reflection.