Saturday, November 29, 2008

Franky Schaeffer and the faith of his father

"Sequels are never equals". There is much truth in that contemporary saying that could be applied to Franky (now Frank) Schaeffer, the son of Francis and Edith Schaeffer. Frank has proving to be the troublesome progeny of two of the most important figures within intellectual evangelicalism.

But apparently that heritage is not something Frank is too proud of. He has already written novels depicting life in a strict, fundamentalist household including Portofino, Zermatt, and Saving Grandma. His recent book is titled Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of it Back. His official website describes him as a "survivor of both polio and an evangelical/fundamentalist childhood." When one compares Evangelicalism to a deadly and devastating disease that has claimed thousands of lives it leaves no room for misunderstanding where he stands.

Throughout the book Frank takes aim directly at his mother and father. Frank Schaeffer's biting criticisms are nothing new. Sadly, age has not diminished his vicious verbal assaults and cruel assaults upon those who are either unable or too charitable to reply (such as his cruel demeaning of the woman assigned as his home tutor and his unfair vitriol towards Billy Graham). Frank has historically been unrestrained in his personal attacks upon anyone who disagreed with him. His power with words makes the attacks all the more savage. But what is new is that he has unleashed this heartless cruelty upon his parents publicly.

In the book he refers to his father as a "professional proselytizer" whose intellectual evangelism was little more than "indoctrination". Those who fell for it were simply "brainwashed". He claims his father's Evangelical beliefs were merely "stunted theological convictions" which Francis held onto for "emotional reasons" that were never intellectually justified. As for his mother, Frank refers to her as a "high-powered nut," who was "best at the martyrdom game".

Os Guinness has responded by saying "with sons like this who needs enemies?" Guinness, a man no one ever labeled as a firebrand, has written a sharp rebuke of both the book and of Frank Schaeffer personally. Keep in mind that Guinness is no outsider to the Schaeffer family. He lived with Francis and Edith for over three years, served several years as one of the leaders at L'abri, and was even the best man in Franky's wedding!

Guinness allows us to see the loving side of the Schaeffers that Frank is determined to hide. Speaking of Frank long-standing verbal attacks against his parents, Guinness writes about Edith: "Several times I saw her reduced to tears in private after his barbs against her. But now in her nineties, with her failing memory, she neither fully knows nor is able to respond to all he has written about her. 'If I read it,' she said to me about one of Frank's earlier books, 'it would probably break my heart.'"

Throughout the work he also has an overt tendency to exaggerate his own importance. The title boldly claims he "helped found the Religious Right", yet to my knowledge Frank never served with the leadership of the Moral Majority nor was ever seen as a catalyst or representative of the Religous Right. Yet in one article article he confidentely asserts, "without my family’s involvement in the pro-life movement it would not exist as we know it. Evangelicals weren’t politicized until after my late father and evangelical leader Francis Schaeffer, Dr. Koop (Reagan’s soon-to-be Surgeon General) and I stirred them up over the issue of abortion in the mid-1970s. " In the book claimed to be "the prime mover and shaker when it came to making sure that Dad got truly famous within the evangelical subculture." He directed a couple of documentaries with lousy cinematography and now this guy wants to be declared potentate emeritus of Evangelicalism! The pro-life movement, like the anti-slavery movement of old, was born out of deeply held biblical convictions. While certainly Frank played a (very minor) role, it was the legalization of abortion for the first time in US history that created the massive and nearly universal Evangelical reaction. As for the fame of his father, it was Francis' brilliant mind and substantive discourse that attracted a following. At best, Frank was the dorky side-car attached to his father's impressive Harley-esque influence.

Throughout the book Frank takes pot shots at everything his mother and father stood for. He belittles his former fan base and advocates a faith which is pointedly postmodern and anti-propositional. The very truth that Francis so nobly championed has been thrown aside by his hot headed son.

How could such a thing happen? Guinness, who witnessed the inner workings of the Schaeffer family for years, offers an explanation: "The real truth is that Franky, as he then called himself, was spoiled. He was more like a poster child for Benjamin Spock than the son of 'fundamentalist missionaries.; Having been born well after his sisters, and having survived polio as a child, he was rarely challenged, disciplined, or denied. As a result, he grew up a "little Napoleon," as some of the L'Abri students called him. He would boast that he could twist his parents around his little finger, and time and again he proved it."

Francis Schaeffer did fail at many things. Like all of us he was an imperfect man. While he invested his life into the hearts and minds of thousands (thus producing an adult son who has been consumed by jealous anger), he failed to capture the heart and mind of his boy. May we serve our God well both on the field and in the home. Our mission field begins in the living room.


Book of the Year Recommendations

Now taking recommendations for the 2008 Book of the Year

Last December I decided to select a "Book of the Year" (see the 2007 Book of the Year). I am planning on doing the same this year and would like to know which books have most impacted you. I also select several "Books of Great Merit", which are either (1) books that were considered for the greater award, and (2) books that did not meet the criteria needed for the Book of the Year but still profoundly impacted me.

I would like to hear which books most impacted you this past year. If you also wish to make a recommendation for the 2008 Book of the Year make sure it meets the following criteria:

1. Has the greatest potential for advancing Christian thinking or Christian living.

2. Is biblically faithful & orthodox in its teachings, even though it may creatively reassert the Christian faith for the present age.

3. Is published within the 2008 calendar year.

4. Is overtly Christian in orientation and intent.

5. Covers an area of Christian spirituality, biblical studies, or theology (Christian literature, while valuable to the Christian life, is not eligible).

6. Has the potential to become a standard classic of the faith.

Just leave a comment below with your recommendations or email them to me.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Book Reviews 'On the Docket'

I've been a little behind in my book reviews since so much of my time has been taken up with exegetical work in Matthew, Ephesians, and Philemon. The following list are a number of books I have recently completed reading or will soon finish. Expect reviews in the coming days:

  • Jonah by Patrick Fairbairn
  • Jonah by Hugh Martin
  • Saved By Grace by Herman Bavinck
  • Life in the Spirit by Martin Lloyd-Jones
  • Invitation to the Septuagint by Karen Jobes & Moises Silva
  • The Gospel Ministry by Thomas Foxcroft
  • The Almost Christian Discovered by Matthew Mead

Reclaiming our Voice: The Church & Culture

Reclaiming our Voice: The Church & Culture

is a term which refers to both the defense and the advocacy of the Christian faith. The word itself comes from 1 Peter 3:15 where believers are called to "always being prepared to make a defense [Greek = apologia] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." Apologetics advances the truth claims of the Gospel and the implications of these claims upon our world. The term cultural apologetics is a subset of this broader goal and simply refers to an engagement with the questions being asked within the larger culture.

Our culture today is wrestling with massively important issues. As a society, we are struggling to bring clarity and definition to the concepts of life, marriage, and just warfare. Even the foundational concept of morality has been endlessly scrutinized and subjected to a high-stakes battle over meaning. Various philosophical forces compete for dominance within this 'marketplace of ideas'. Secular humanism, empirical materialism, pantheistic spiritualism, and Christian theism (all of which are mutually exclusive) each advance answers (e.g. truth claims) to these questions.

The Christian church has historically engaged culture. Paul reasoned with both Jews and Greeks (Acts 17) by bringing the gospel light to bear upon the contemporary discussions of his day. Grounded in God's revealed truth, we recognize that such engagement is a sacred and essential task. I once sat in a meeting with a group of community leaders. During our discussion it dawned on me that I was the only person in the room with a Christian conception of reality. No wonder the group had difficulty arriving at any decision--the base conceptions of truth and reality held by each participant were mutually exclusive. Yet this is the very reason Christians cannot shrink from the task of cultural apologetics.

Christian apologetics contains three distinct elements:

1. It answers the questions the culture is asking (or implying)
Christianity does not, and should not, exist far out in left field. Because it makes claims about the very nature of reality, it therefore applies to every sphere of our lives. It seeks to inform and guide our conception of family, work, ethics, finances, possessions, relationships, character and every other conceivable category. The task of cultural apologetics is to demonstrate the truth Christianity has to offer for any given area of life.

2. It is centered on Christ
According to the old Sunday School joke, "Jesus" is the correct answer to any bible question. This is much more true than most realize. The Gospel claim that Jesus Christ is lord is a claim of his sovereignty over every sphere and domain. Repeatedly throughout the New Testament Christ is brought to bear upon every subject. Cultural apologetics does not merely present a "theistic" point of view, but rather focuses exclusively on the truth claims of Christ's gospel.

3. It is evangelistic in purpose
Apologetics and evangelism are not, and should not be, separated. Some erroneously believe that apologetics seeks to win minds while evangelism seeks to win hearts. Such a nonsense schematic has produced generations of people with unloving dogmatism or unredeemed compassion. A true Christian has both the heart and mind of Christ. Presenting the Gospel as a mere offer of salvation to an individual is a distortion of Christ's good news. Likewise, attempting to shape culture's mind without shaping the heart of the individual reduces the gospel to an abstraction.

There is an every increasing danger within Evangelicalism to confine the gospel to the pulpit, just as the Medieval church would chain the Bible to it. With "gentleness and respect", as Peter commands, we are to take the truth claims of Christ and engage the culture around us. Simply put, this means we must finds ways and means to allow the pagan world around us to hear the Christian point of view.

If the Gospel is true, then we have an obligation to live out and speak out this truth.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Daily Devo - Thursday, Nov 27, 2008

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
Matthew 5:5

Once I was asked to speak at a ministry conference in Los Angeles and was immediately impressed by one of the co-speakers. His self-deprecating humor and humility quickly made him one of the favorites of the conference. Sadly, his humilty didn't run very deep. After the sessions I witnessed as he was confronted by a conference attender who wanted to debate a particular passage of scripture. When it was discovered that the speaker forgot a key bible passage that undermined the view he presented in the session, the attender accused him of 'ignorance'. Before my eyes this speaker--who had earlier demonstrated so much humility while on stage--became enraged and asked how dare this man accuse him so rudely.

In Matthew chapter 5 Jesus is leading us deeper and deeper into a life of faith. He first told us we need to recognize our own spiritual poverty. Then, when we see our sin clearly, it leads to mourning as we weep over our failures. But now he urges us further on to something much more difficult. It is one thing to recognize our own sin, it is something entirely different when others recognize it in us. Meekness is the ability to let go of the insults directed at us and being comfortable when others see (and speak of) our faults and failures. As Martin Lloyd-Jones says, "to be truly meek means that we no longer protect ourselves, because we see there is nothing worth protecting."

But do not confuse meekness with weakness. The martyrs of the Early Church were meek but who would dare accuse these men of weakness when they faced death so boldly? Meekness is not a sniveling, depressed, 'woe is me' mindset. Rather it is the freedom from having to constantly prove our worth. The meek person is the boldest of all because he recognizes his worth doesn't come from inside himself but from above. What can other men possible do to us? Call us a sinner? Tell others about one of our faults? We already knew this and therefore have no need to fear. As John Bunyan put it, "He that is down need fear no fall".

Even when insulted the meek person can stick to the business of showing love, truth, and mercy--the very pillars upon which Christ's kingdom have been built.

"The man who is truly meek is the one who is amazed that God
and other men can think of him as well as they do."
Martin Lloyd-Jones


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pastor Josh Starts Local Squabble: Part 3

Below is my rejoinder to the two (see here and here) responses to my original Letter to the Editor. I had submitted the original letter to several newspapers, but only really followed responses to one of the local papers. Actually, this really isn't a rejoinder since I do not interact with the responses directly at all. Instead, I focused specifically on the issue of the Christian faith and its relationship to abortion (and Obama).


Abortion, Obama, & Faith:

A few weeks ago I wrote a letter to the editor praising God for the election of President-elect Barack Obama. In that letter I expressed gratitude to God for those areas of agreement I share with Obama, and also expressed gratitude for the opportunity to peaceably stand firm where I disagree with him.

I was delighted by the responses to that letter, both publically and privately. It is wonderful to see citizens of this country passionately stand behind our President-elect. As someone who recognizes the sovereignty of God, I understand that President-elect Obama has been appointed by God. He is God’s man, and therefore deserves our truest respect and honor. I was saddened a decade ago when my religiously conservative brothers and sisters used vitriol against President Clinton, and continued to mourn when my religiously liberal cousins spewed hatred against President Bush over the last eight years. We must learn to disagree, even pointedly, while showing the utmost of respect to the other person—particularly our nation’s top leader. It is sometimes interesting to see those who cry the loudest for tolerance quickly become the most intolerant and abusive with their language of others.

The umbrella of the Christian faith is indeed large, and many expressions of that faith legitimately find a home under its merciful covering. But Christianity is not all-encompassing. To be Christian means, at the very core, to recognize our need for a savior, to embrace the free saving message of Jesus, and to live according to his teachings.

One of the central teachings of the Christian faith is a respect for life—all life. If we could go back 150 years in time which among us would not passionately oppose slavery? To enslave another human being is indeed a heinous sin. How much more is poisoning, dismembering, and murdering one too young to protect itself? We argue that a woman has the right over her own body. Slavery proponents argued they had right over their property. We argue that abortion should be an individual or a state decision. Slave proponents argued the same. But it was Christians (men like William Wilberforce in England) who stood up and championed the rights of the oppressed and voiceless. Who will champion the rights of the millions of infants whose own voices will never be heard?

I admire our President-elect. His natural talent is simply amazing and for many he is perhaps most inspirational figure to enter the Whitehouse in decades. During his term(s) I will serve him as a loyal citizen. But, I will forever oppose any policy, any so-called Christian faith, any movement, and any person that allows or promotes the murder of the most defenseless ones in our society. As long as our infants are thrown upon the altar of choice, the Christian community must stand in opposition. As long as pregnancies are seen as an inconvenience, we must show them to be a gift. As long as others seek the further legalization of abortion, we must seek to bring to an end the worst genocide in the history of our planet. As long as leaders claim a faith they refuse to fully live, we must lovingly show others the fullness of the love, grace and truth of Jesus.

To be a Christian means, in part, to fight against the oppression of the poor, the discrimination of women, the marginalization of various races, and the murder of the unborn. The only voice that is today crying out against abortion is that of biblical Christianity. I do not know Obama’s heart, and on some issues he takes a strong moral stance. But on the issue of abortion, his policies do not stem from Christian faith, but rather from an abandonment of that faith. One responder noted that Obama also worships a very great God. If this is true, how wonderful would it be if he gave all unborn babies that same chance.

Pastor Josh Gelatt

Indian River Baptist Church

Emergent Nazism

Don't let the title of the post worry you--I am not drawing any comparisons. The video below is a spoof (watch the subtitles) on the Emergents. If you have been following the emergent movement, and know the leading names, I trust you will find this as hilarious as I did.

Update: I also found this video on an Emergent site. They apparently found it elsewhere and, even though it was a criticism of them, found it humorous.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A brief word about computers

It seems only 11% of my viewers are Mac users. I guess this means I'm not exactly attracting the cutting edge techie crowd in large numbers. As it happens, another 11% are Vista users--meaning whatever techies I happen to attract are offset by incompetents.

What link?

I would post something with more substance, but to be honest, it would just be shameless begging.
Not that I am opposed to shameless begging. In fact, shameless begging does come in handy at times; but honestly no one really likes a shameless begger. Have you really read this far without clicking on the words 'shameless begging'?


Daily Devo - Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Matthew 5:4

I love my three children. They are each so different and God has granted each unique gifts and personalities all their own. My youngest is playful and curious, my middle is outgoing and flamboyant, and my oldest is reserved and thoughtful. Of all my children, my oldest boy is the most sensitive of others--which is indeed a very great gift. Not long ago he came into my office and asked if he could speak with me privately. Shutting the door, I asked him what was wrong. He replied, "Dad, last night I was really angry with you and mom." Listening, I urged him to go on. "I felt like I hated you guys." Upon saying this, he burst into tears and wrapped his arms around me and sobbed, "I'm so sorry for thinking that about you, will you please forgive me?" The next hour was an incredibly tender time of love and reconciliation.

One of the marks of a true disciple of Jesus is Godly sorrow. Such persons experience intense grief and then pour themselves out to God for forgiveness and relief. They are the ones who can recognize how 'poor in spirit' they truly are. My son recognized the anger and hatred that was in his heart, and wanted to be free from those things that were consuming him. However, he also understood that he was unable to "fix" the problem on his own. How can one undo the damage of hatred? In our adult world, how can we begin repair the sin of murder? Rape? Racism? In the same way, how can we undo the insults we have heaped upon God with our sinful ways of living? None of us can go back into the past and make things right from the beginning. Just as a drunk driver can never bring back to life the little boy he killed while intoxicated, neither can we take away the stain of our sin against God.

This.....this is why we must mourn. We mourn because on our own we are trapped in our sins. We are stuck, condemned, destroyed. Yet the beauty of this beatitude is in its hint of hope. When we fall on our knees and call out to Jesus, recognizing that we are trapped in our sinful condition, he (and he alone) offers comfort.


Bob Jones University & Racism

Recently Bob Jones University, known historically for its refusal to admit black students until 1971 and it ban on inter-racial dating until 2005, issued a statement on race. The statement, intended as an apology for its past actions, is beautifully written. One section notes: The true unity of humanity is found only through faith in Christ alone for salvation from sin...For those made new in Christ, all sinful social, cultural and racial barriers are erased (Colossians 3:11), allowing the beauty of redeemed human unity in diversity to be demonstrated through the Church.

For years BJU has taught that the races should be kept separate. Any discussion of admitting blacks or (later) allowing inter-racial marriage was described by the University board and staff as being "contrary to the Scripture". Interestingly, the school admitted Asians and other minorities since it inception, so it seems its racists policies were directed solely at African Americans. Even after allowing blacks to enroll it still imposed a policy that only married blacks were eligible--apparently to prevent them from dating and marrying white female students.

In an interview with Larry King, Bob Jones III admitted that "we can't point to a verse in the Bible that says you shouldn't date or marry inter-racial." However, he went on to defend the ban against inter-racial marriage as being a "principle" found throughout the Bible. Repeatedly he insisted that although the school has the ban, it is an "insignificant rule" that is never talked about (unless, of course you violate it). In that interview, where the school abruptly dropped its ban, Bob Jones III tries to defend its policies and beliefs while simultaneously attempting to leave them behind. The entire conversation is baffling. This most recent statement, made by Stephen Jones (the current president) goes further in actually apologizing for its past actions. But I notice that nowhere in the entire document is there the language of repentance. They write, "like any human institution, we have failures as well." They admit that their actions were "racially hurtful", but they never admit these actions were heinous and sinful.

The letter of apology is significant and we pray it will help, in some small way, heal the pain this school has caused over the decades. However, it would be a grave mistake for the Christian community to simply move past this issue. In my opinion, BJU has so discredited the cause of Christ it has no recourse but to close its doors. They have proven themselves to be mishandlers and false-interpreters of God's holy word. Are we now simply to act as if generations of false teaching never occurred? I see only two possibilities: (1) Close their doors, sell their assets, and give all resources to conservative African-American church leaders. If they are truly sorry for sinning against their black Christian brothers, then this would be the least they could do. Or, (2) They should dismiss every single professor, administrator, and board of director that ever signed an agreement with the previous policies. They need a new group of individuals who are trusted teachers of God's word.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Daily Devo - Monday, November 24, 2008

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God."
Matthew 5:3

A few Summers ago I was playing golf with a wealthy CEO who had given his life to the Lord. One of the things he told me during our two and a half hours together was how he had for years been consumed with money. He had despised the poor as "ignorant and lazy" people who "mooch off the wealth of others". Oh, he was a Christian--at least he went to church. Yet the attitude of his heart was full of pride and superiority. He went on to tell me that it took a collapsed marriage and a failed business to make him realize the ugliness that was inside his heart. Though dripping in fabulous wealth, his heart was locked in an absolute poverty.

Jesus praises those who are "poor in spirit". He calls them "blessed", a term signifying that they are worthy to receive great honor, privilege and reward. To be poor in spirit means to recognize that, in and of ourselves, we are spiritually bankrupt. The true Christian is one who understands that he or she is a miserable creature. There is no room for feelings of superiority within the heart of a follower of Christ.

Yet that's not all. To be 'poor in spirit' also means that we recognize the priceless worth of Jesus Christ who resides in the heart of all believers. The apostle Paul expressed it this way: "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing: as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (2 Corinthians 6:10). Even though we are spiritually poor, Christ makes us rich with the lavish gift of his presence. He is the great reward and pile of riches that is available to all who call upon his name.

However, one thing is very clear: being 'poor in spirit' is not an optional activity. It is not simply a "good thing" to do--our very eternity is dependent upon it. The only ones who will enter God's kingdom are those who recognize their utter worthlessness and sinfulness and who recognize the goodness and holiness of Jesus. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


Pastor Josh Starts Local Squabble: Part 2

Below is the second public response to my Letter to the Editor published in the Cheboygan Tribune. I have drafted a response for the paper, which I will post soon. FYI, a few liberal ministers also continue to denounce me for what I have written--though I have been relieved by much pastoral support coming from across the denominational spectrum. One local United Methodist pastor said, "you are 100% correct. Abortion is absolutely incombatible with true Christianity!". I wish more UMC pastors were of his ilk.

- Josh


At first I was heartened to see the letter from Pastor Josh Gelatt giving praise and thanksgiving to God for last week's election of Barack Obama. But in the middle of his prayer, I was saddened to see him descend to "faint" praise if not outright hypocrisy:

"Praise God for the opportunity to teach our children true faith from false faith. I admire so many things about President-elect Obama, but sadly his faith is not one of them. Our children will be reared under a president who "sounds Christian" in many ways but whose true beliefs and policies counteract the very faith he claims."

This offensive diatribe reminds me of the parable of the Pharisee and his attack on the Publican, an unrighteous tax collector (Luke 18:9-14).

For a pastor to accuse anyone, let alone our new President, of having a "false faith", or only "sounding Christian", or having beliefs and policies contrary to their espoused faith is shockingly hypocritical and unchristian. Enough! Haven't we had our fill of the divisive use of "real Americans" during the campaigns? Now Pastor Gelatt divides us further as either having "true faith" or "false faith".

None of us know what really lies in the heart or souls of our fellow man. We can only judge men by their words and deeds and even then we must be very careful before we attack someone's faith. Was it unchristian for Barack Obama to question the morality of invading a country that did us no harm, or or posed us no threat? Is it "false faith" to condemn the use of torture on our captives? Was it only "sounding Christian" for Obama to turn down lucrative job opportunities to become a community organizer among the poor and unemployed? Indeed, our new President's true beliefs and policies seem to be entirely consistent with the "social gospel" of the Christian message--to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and free the oppressed. Barack Obama has given us a message of change and hope that has inspired 53 percent of Americans (many of them real Americans of true faith) if not the entire world.

But perhaps the words of Barack Obama himself are the best response. At the 2005 Democratic Convention, he said "The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states", he called out to a cheering crowd. "Red states for Republicans and blue states for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too: We worship an awesome God in the blue states."

In a speech he gave to the United Church of Christ last June, he described how--as a 20 something, secular community organizer--he knelt before the cross and became a Christian: "I felt I heard God's spirit beckoning me", Obama said, noting he did not "fall out" of the pew. Rather, it was a cerebral decision. "I submitted himself to His will and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works."

Leonard P.

I'm connected

Charter cable came today and hooked up the internet connection at the new house. High-speed access baby! My public thanks (and apologies) for stealing--er, borrowing--wireless access from my neighbor Shawn (though he seriously needed to add a booster or something, I could only seem to get a connection if there was a strong wind).

Back to blogging with the big boys! Well...

Friday, November 21, 2008

One more reason to become a Calvinist

Did you know that Calvinists are more perceptive than atheists? Apparently it's true, according to a recent study by psychologists at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Bernhard Hommel, the lead psychologist who conducted the study, states:

"Both groups recognised the large shapes more quickly than small, embedded ones, but the Calvinists picked out the smaller shapes 30 milliseconds faster than atheists, on average - a small, but significant, difference." However, he does go on to speculate "that Calvinists might be more inward looking than atheists because they have lived their whole lives with an emphasis on minding their own business." I'm not really sure if Calvinists are really know for minding their own business.

I wonder what other studies will demonstrate regarding Calvinism? Based on our superior perception abilities, I wonder if Calvinists are better at solving that stupid Rubics Cube (remember those things?) or get into fewer automobile accidents (if this is true I demand a decrease in my insurance premiums).

HT: The Contemporary Calvinist

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Emerging Liberalism

For some time many of us have been quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) pointing out the inherent liberalism in much of the Emergent/Emerging movement. These charges have usually been met with a victim-mentality on the part of the Emergents: "we are Evangelicals, why won't you believe us?" Regarding the issue of homosexuality, conservative Evangelicals began noticing among Emergents (1) a refusal to speak about the sin of non-marital sexuality, (2) a equation of speaking about the sin of homosexuality with judgmentalism, and (3) calls for a moratorium on the discussion to "study" the biblical teaching on the matter. All the while Emergents insisted that they were not classically liberal and simply wanted to live like Jesus.

With that said, read this newest statement from Tony Jones, leader of Emergent Village:

"I now believe that GLBTQ [people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, queer] can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state."

You can read the full blown discussion here.

Now, why do you think the Emergent movement consistently refuses to denounce abortion? Why the refusal to speak about the reality of Hell, sin, and judgment or even the exclusivisity of Christ? Could it be because they are pro-choice and deny these historic doctrines? They have betrayed the Gospel and sold out to the pagan culture which surrounds us. Perhaps people will stop this nonesense of saying that the Emergents really are biblical Evangelicals and we are just not "hearing" them correctly.

There are wolves afoot!


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pastor Josh Starts Local Squabble: Part 1

Recently I took one of my blog posts and submitted it (slightly revised) as a Letter to the Editor of several regional newspapers. The letter concerned President-elect Barack Obama. Very soon the negative responses began rolling in. In addition to two written responses, I received a few letters and numerous phone calls. Such negative reaction was expected. The most disturbing thing is the negative response I received privately from other pastors--some of whom consider themselves solidly evangelical. One Methodist minister wrote, "Do you claim to be able to read into Obama's heart and claim his form of Christianity is not legitimate because it is not the same as yours?" He goes on to ask, "Are we now to work at opposing a president because he claims to be pro-choice". He then informs me, after mentioning Bush's "lies", that "our nation has been divided too long. There is a need for us to come together and affirm what we have in common and respect disagreements without questioning a person's faith." What he means is, "We liberals can rebuke conservatives but conservatives have no right to rebuke liberals". [I should note that the above letter was very gracious, which I much appreciate. I am only quoting the more pointed sections].

Here is one of the two responses that appeared in the Cheboygan Tribune: (the other will be posted tomorrow)


I feel compelled to respond to Pastor Josh Gelatt's letter of Nov. 7.

I read the beginning of your letter with such joy and hope. And then I finished your letter. You seem to be supportive of the change that might be coming, and yet your letter still reeks of the suspicion, name-calling, and exclusion that has characterized the last eight years. Yes. Praise God, but also praise Goddess, praise Allah, praise Budha, praise Diana, Zeus, Baal, or an uncaring, empty universe. Praise them all for giving us "an intelligent, competent, African-American" leader.

You point out that though you have "profound disagreements" with President-elect Barack Obama, you recognize his good qualities. Why not offer that same acknowledgment to groups that don't worship in the same way you do; that difference doesn't mean wrong or bad? Maybe you do, but your letter speaks solely of Christians and their need to stand firm in difficult times.

What about the rest of the world? And what difficult times are you talking about? the worldwise economic meltdown? Being on the precipice of a severe depression? Being a pariah to the rest of the world? Having what is arguably the best health care system in the world, yet making it unavailable to many, many of our citizens because of money? Trailing the developed world in the education of our children? Being enmeshed in two wars with two countries that are geographically, culturally, and philosophically on the other side of the world; countries which perhaps do not want our way of life shoved down their throats>

Or, are you "difficult times" more a perceived threat against your particular religious and social beliefs?

You call Obama "pro-choice". You talk of a "renewed onslaught" of the abortion movement". That is languaged designed to incite dissention. Pro-abortion would mean a desire to force all pregnant women to have abortions in the same way that those who describe themselves as "pro-life" wish to force all pregnant women to carry their pregnancies to term. Obama and the choice movement believe that women should have to right [sic] to make reproductive choice. Abortion is simply one of those choices. Obama is pro-choice. I am pro-choice. Many, perhaps even most, Americans are pro-choice. I personally find it astonishing that anyone would think that she or he has the right to tell me what I can or cannot do with my body. What sheer, misogynistic arrogance.

It seems similar to the hubris I see in so many "deeply religious" people. No matter what their faith, there is the haughty, presumptive delusion that theirs is the only way, and no matter what an individual has done in life, if that person doesn't believe "correctly", she or he is headed down, not up.

Keep in mind that it is this narrow-minded belief that has created Islamic states where religoous law is the law. I believe that our almost-exclusively Christian fore-fathers had it exactly right when they carefully delineated between the religious and the secular and make religious choice the law.

You apparently believe that Obama isn't really Christian. Does that mean that he may believe slightly differently that you, or cross himself from right to left rather than left to right, or believe in the three entitites of the father, the son, and the holy ghost rather than the schizophrenia of the three entities in one, or in religious cannibalism through the ritual of transubstaniation, or batpize a baby versus an adult, or believe in full immersion droplets on the head or in the equality of biships rather than one supreme? From what I've seen and read, there are endless differences between the many different Christian churches, but they have one thing in common: they are all Christian. To believe otherwise is to court that arrogance again.

Or is his "false faith" really just his audacity in belonging to a church with a pastor who vocally and vociferously criticizes our government, our country and the leftover covert (and sometimes overt) racism that still exists? Perhaps Rev. Wright goes too far forthe comfort of most Americans, but in this country, he is guaranteed the right to voice his opinions. In the American President, Michael Douglas' President Andrew Shepherd says, in a speech near the end: America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, cause it's gonna put up a fight...You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating, at the top of his lungs, that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours..."

The words may have come from Hollywood, but they resonate in the souls of those who wish for less suspicion, less divisiveness, and less hatred than that propagated by Bush and his junta. Obama and Rev. Wright may believe and worship differently than you or I, but that doesn't make it unchristian. If you believe it does, I can't help but wonder where you would have lined up when Martin Luther, Henry VIII and even John Smyth dared to defy the established "correct" relgion.

Karen M.
Cheboygan, Michigan

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Daily Devo - Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Note: By God's grace life seems to have returned to normal, allowing me to resume a more planned schedule. My temporary home office has been set-up, the move into the new home is 70% complete, and the damage to the home has been/is being repaired. It is so good to be able to spend so much time studying the Word again.

"Wives submit to your husbands, as to the Lord"
Ephesians 5:22

Part 1 of 5

Some time ago I was confronted by a young professional evangelical woman who was angered by a comment I made in a sermon. Speaking on the relationship between husbands and wives, I used the dreaded s--------- word (submission). She was not really interested in hearing a discussion on what the Bible had to say. Rather, she wanted to rant and let me know these views had no place in our modern world. The interesting thing, however, is what occurred some months later. At a public community function, I had the opportunity to praise her husband for the work he accomplished on a certain task. After finishing my speech, this same woman came rushing forward. With tears running down her cheeks, she profusely thanked me for all the words I had said about her husband.

Scripture is unashamed about its call for Christian wives to submit to their husbands. Our contemporary age finds such language offensive, and currently evangelical feminists are twisting themselves in knots trying to get some other message out of Scripture. Yet the reality is that God has designed women in such a way that part of their identity (only a part) is wrapped up in their husbands. As radical and independent as my evangelical feminist friend was, her very response revealed God's design. God created Eve from Adam. Part of who she is will always be wrapped up in him.

William Gouge, the Puritan writer, referred to this as "necessary subjection". It is something that wives are mandated to do because it is part of their very design. But he also discussed "voluntary subjection"*. Throughout the second half of Ephesians Paul has been calling on believers to voluntarily live out required Christian conduct. The apostle seems to believe that women can be intelligent, gifted, articulate, responsible, and fully equal to their husbands
while simultaneously being submissive to them. He is urging (actually he is commanding) Christian wives to embrace submission. This is no attempt to strip women of dignity; rather, it is an attempt to preserve it.

* See William Gouge, Of Domestical Duties: Eight Treatises (London, 1622), page 26.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Almost done

The move into the new home is almost complete. We are in the midst of the really big push, followed by a few days of cleaning up the old house and settling in the new. Added to that is the need to finish a remodel project for a single mom in the church, which is also nearing completion. By mid-next week life should be a bit more settled.

Blessings to all. Check back in a few days.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Prayers and patience

Your prayers and patience would be much appreciated in the next few days. The last several weeks have been quite crazy, as several ministry and personal projects have demanded my time. Tomorrow morning, at 10:00 AM, we will (Lord willing) be signing papers to our new home. We are excited to be establishing ourselves in the community.

Much to be done, but God has been so wonderful thus far. Even in the disappointments we have sensed his guiding hand.

Now, I'm off to the evening service and immediately afterward must solve a dispute among my children as to who gets which bedroom in the new house.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Amending the Marriage Debate

Voters in Arizona, California, and Florida passed amendments to their state constitutions defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. The California decision is particularly important as it reverses a judicial ruling allowing same-sex marriages.

Arizona (Prop 102): YES 56% to 44%
California (Prop 8): YES 52% to 48%
Florida (Amdt 2): YES 62% to 38%

Today, I praise God for...

[I recently submitted the post below as a Letter to the Editor in several regional newspapers. Therefore, this post has been updated and revised to reflect the wording as it appeared in the Papers].

Concerning the recent national election, let us give praise and thanksgiving to God:

Praise God for the election of an African-American to the highest office in the land. Race-relations have been forever altered. As a husband and father in an inter-racial family, I take great pride in being part of such a wonderful democracy. Though I did not vote for Obama, I still rejoice and pray that our country has taken a giant leap forward in beginning to blot out the heinous sin of racism.

Praise God for the election of an intelligent and competent leader. Many of us have profound disagreements with President-elect Barach Obama, but an astute individual will recognize that he is a natural leader with a sharp mind. His leadership abilities are great gifts given to him by a very great God. Pray that he will use them to promote justice and peace.

Praise God for the opportunity for the Christian community to stand against the renewed onslaught of the abortion movement. No senator, and no President, has been more radically pro-abortion than President-elect Obama. The Christian community has the privilege of standing firm in the midst of great difficulty. It is times like these that determine the depth and quality of our faith. I pray that we will be found as having the loving resolve required for such moments.

Praise God for the opportunity to teach our children true faith from false faith. I admire so many things about President-elect Obama, but sadly his faith is not one of them. Our children will be reared under a president who "sounds Christian" in many ways, but whose true beliefs and policies counteract the very faith he claims. With gentleness and respect, we can teach our Christian children to develop spiritual discernment.

[Note: this was deleted when I submitted it as a Letter to the Editor] 5. Praise God for the time to reflect on the true priorities of our faith. For far too long "conservative Christianity" has been lumped together with Republican politics. This election cycle we witnessed an 'evangelical' backlash against this Christian entrenchment. However, the former error was simply and inexcusably compounded with an intentional entrenchment into the politics of the Democratic party. Evangelical Christians now have the opportunity, and the time, to reflect on those issues that should be part of our Christian activism and those issues that should not.

Praise God for the knowledge that God is fully in control. There are no surprises in heaven, and God waits on no angel to speed Him the news of election results. We are experiencing the newest chapter of a book He wrote from eternity past, and should be excited that we have the privilege to be characters within this grand story.

Praise God for the ability to be free from excessive concern about earthy politics. Our true King sits on the throne of heaven and He demands our total allegiance. My emotional and spiritual well-being is not tied to whichever political party controls the government. Heaven is my true home, and one day I will forever be part of that perfect kingdom.

Today, God is to be praised.

Pastor Josh Gelatt
Indian River Baptist Church

Saturday, November 1, 2008

You know your a Northern Michigan local if...

Readers should be aware that just over two years ago I moved to beautiful Northern Michigan from the heart of West Michigan suburbia. Amy and I owned a fun little home in the Ada/Forest Hills area of Greater Grand Rapids. This community was a semi-affluent version of Leave It To Beaver, complete with local upscale coffee shops and wine boutique's (I frequented the former).

Northern Michigan currently serves as the Summer playground of suburbia, but local life is of a decidedly different flavor. It takes a certain breed of a person to flourish year-round in this environment---a hearty-sort and earthy sort of individual who loves the outdoors and does not mind long, harsh winters.

The question for us is knowing when exactly we have made the "switch" from a suburbanite to a northerner mindset. Recently, I have observed a few clues indicating that the switch may be well underway.

Clue #1 - This spring we decided to raise our own Thanksgiving goose (but, we did name it Morgan. It seems naming animals is a decidedly suburbanite trait, though raising them for slaughter is not)

Clue #2 - When a bear (2 nights ago) broke down the pen and killed the goose, I managed to save the down feathers to put in a future pillow or quilt (my guess is that scavenging through the remains of a shredded goose for small feathers would not square well with the suburbanite values).

Clue #3 - When a game preserve offered me several free deer, on the stipulation that I butcher them myself, I immediately said 'yes'.* Of course, I have never actually butchered deer before. I assure you my wife was less than thrilled to see nine dead deer in my garage, and for days we were literally knee deep in venison and body parts. While it is true that a suburbanite might actually engage in such behavior if pressured, the biggest clue is that I actually enjoyed this.

Clue #4 - I am beginning to have an undeniable urge to purchase a pick-up truck.

Clue #5 - The thought of watering my brown lawn never even crossed my mind this past Summer. Suburbanites daily worship the lawn-god.

* FYI, these were donated to feed the poor. They distributed deer to a few other local churches as well.