Jerry Johnson — A Skinny Jean Wearing Calvinist?

Several weeks ago, pastor Ed Young out of Dallas went on an anti-Calvinist rant for some odd reason, accusing them of … and I’m not making this up… of wearing skinny jeans. For those of you who know a Calvinist, you know we are hiding under our desks with this new charge! Yes, we’re guilty of wearing skinny jeans. However, I have not worn any skinny jeans since some time in the 1980s.

Of course, I’m jesting. There is nothing wrong with wearing skinny jeans as long as you are skinny. I am not, so I like to wear relaxed fit jeans. Not baggy, gang banger jeans, but jeans with some room in them so I don’t look quite so fat (apparently I am, a friend who turns 99 next November accused me of such while I was on vacation.)

The point is that Ed Young ripped into us Calvinist accusing us of all manner of things, like wearing skinny jeans, in order to tell his congregation of 24,000 that we are … nasty bad people and that he doesn’t like us very much. Poor Ed Young did an absolute terrible job of showing how we are bad, after all, the Scripture never says anything about wearing skinny jeans. BTW, for those of you who do not know, Ed Young is absolutely enamored with what pastors wear since he has started a fashion web site to help inform us that we need to dress more like him.

This tirade of Young’s was answered by those who are bona fide Calvinists and know what we actually believe. You can see Neil’s post here, and James White’s response here. You may remember I met James White back in April.

Young didn’t seem to really know what we believed. Give what his tirade was over, Young might be hard pressed to give one theological distinctive of Calvinism. James White shows that Young really doesn’t know…

BTW, this is one of the reasons I believe in denominationalism. If he were a member a true denomination, they could actually rebuke and deal with Young. But given the state of the non-confrontational churches, there is no real oversight or accountability for people like Young. One reason why he may have gone off the deep end.

In the video below, Jerry Johnson gives his take as well.

Why I’ve Stopped Singing In Church

Well, I haven’t, but Bill Blankschaen has in the churches he attends. We still sing hymns in my church and I love them. Hymns offer a lot of great theology, they are singable without the need of a melodramatic worship teams and boy wonders on the guitar. They also connect us to the church that sang them in the past. No, you won’t hear them on the local Christian radio station. But you won’t hear any great truth about God on Christian radio stations since most of the songs are written for dreamy eyed 14-year-old girls, and nerdy 16-year-old boys.

Enough of what I think, here is what Bill has to say on the topic. He has written his article to those who insist on the latest praise tunes to come out of Nashville:

To be candid, I know how to behave in your church. I’ve been raised in it my entire life. So I know how to fake it when necessary. Lately, it’s been very necessary when the music is playing and we’re supposed to be singing, you know, to God. Frankly, I’m tired of it. Maybe all the “seekers” are enjoying it, but I’m finding it hard to sincerely engage in anything resembling worship.

Instead of feeling the joy of joining with other believers in offering praises to the Almighty, I often feel insulted, bored, and disconnected from 2,000 years of worship history. And just when I think that maybe it’s just me having a selfish and sinful attitude — a very real possibility — a flamboyant electrical guitar solo breaks out. I’m left deciding whether to waive my iPhone and buy the t-shirt or just shut up and go home.

This was the beginning of the end for me when it came to praise music. I always felt like the praise teams in worship were trying to rip me along emotionally, but never gave me any other reason for being moved emotionally except that we were supposed to be emotional. There was never any real content to the praise tunes, just repetition and drivel. But let’s get back to Bill since he puts it much better than I do.

As best I can sort through my own muddled and messy thoughts, I think there are three things that really bother me about the worship music in many Evangelical Christian churches today:

1. They’re really, really simplistic. There, I tried to keep the words small. You certainly put a lot of work into doing that for me each Sunday. It’s not just that most of the lyrics are simple — as in easy to understand. It’s that so many of the songs remind me of the ditties we sang at camp — when I was ten. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure the theology in some of those camp songs was more advanced than the ones I’ve heard in some of your services. But, hey, everybody else seems to be really, really enjoying it so maybe it’s just me. Unless, of course, they’ve also learned how to fake it.

2. They’re all pulled from the latest Top 40 Worship channel. Or so it seems. Most songs I hear in evangelical churches of late have been written in the last decade, if that. I know I’m painting with a broad brush here because there have been some really, really (is this helping?) awesome songs written in the last two decades that deserve a place on the all-time worship songs list. We just usually don’t sing those. Maybe because they’re so three years ago.

What ever happened to the previous 2,000 years of church music history? Oh, I know, every so often you toss a token “hymn” (meaning within just the last century or so) into the mix. But even then, it’s a remix that requires melodic jujitsu to keep up with the quicker pace and fancier chord progressions. One distinguishing mark of the worship music of centuries past is that it generally focused more on content than today’s  simplisitc style.  Songs like “Arise, My Soul, Arise”; “Immortal, Invisible”; “Rejoice, the Lord is King”; or even the simple “I Sing the Almighty Power of God” typified a depth of doctrine that taught us as it revealed the glory of our Lord.

3. They repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And rep — all right. See what I mean? Really, really annoying. Really. The first time we sang the simplistic ditty, I could tolerate it though I thought the infinite God of all creation deserved better. By the fifth time, I was hearing echoes of Jesus warning about vain repetitions. But once you went softer and slowed it down on the seventh time, it really began to resonate with my soul.

Not.

I love the comment about good praise songs that have come on the scene but are no longer sung. He writes “they are so three years ago.” That is what I tried pointing out to a lady in charge of worship at an area church. She won’t be singing the same songs in three years. It’s all about what is cool and hip. When that drives your worship, you probably are not worshipping in Spirit and Truth any longer, since you are not concerned about what the Ancient of Days might have to say about how we worship Him.

Bill continues:

I confess I don’t have a well-developed strategy for modern worship. I’m just a guy in the pews, a husband, father, and former pastor, frustrated that I just don’t feel like singing by the time the worship music ends. It seems that focusing on three things would at least be helpful so take it for what it’s worth.

So here’s what I’d like songs in church to be:

  1. Truthful. Rather than trying to get dumber than a fifth-grader in the worship service (no offense to my fifth-grade daughter), offer truth that grows my understanding of God as we glorify him. He is truth, after all, so it shouldn’t be that difficult.
  2. Written for adults. We’re not camp attendees giddy about it being our first time away from home. Well, maybe some of us are — but the rest of us don’t always want to have to choose between clapping our hands in rhythm with the group or wrestling with the guilt trip you put on us.  Go ahead. Give us songs with deep doctrine that excite our souls. We’re not seekers anymore. Come to think of it, I never was.
  3. Timeless. Let’s sing songs that reach back into the archives of songs proven to have been used by God to edify His people. Mix them in with modern songs, by all means. That’s fine. But don’t feel as if you have to make them sound like they just hit the airwaves last week. Imagine Mayberry today on MTV. Modern? Yes. Watchable? No. Sometimes classic is really cool. Really.

I could mention the need to play the music well, of course, but, frankly, I can live with the best you can give on that one. Make it as excellent as you can, please — just don’t make us sing it ad nauseum or worship your musical talents instead of our musical God.

I think Bill might be on to something. Maybe we should be more selective about what we sing in worship before the Almighty God of Creation. Maybe our worship songs should actually be based upon Scripture truth, that deepens our understanding about Him, His grace towards us and our need for Christ. I would say that it should deepen our understanding of His love for us, but we have so abused that attribute of God for the past 30 years that we should probably give it a rest for a while. Maybe we should focus on His holiness for a while. After all, the attribute of holiness is mentioned in the Bible far more than His love. (I know, this disappoints the love-sick 14-year-old girls, but they don’t read blogs like mine anyway).

Therefore let’s stick to the hymns, or at least not forge them. The church might actually learn about God again if we start singing of His rich truth. You can read the rest of Bill’s article here.

A Sweet Streak

It wasn’t much, but enough to get me excited all over again about the game of golf. I took the boys golfing yesterday (they just ride in the cart, mess up the sand bunkers and run alongside the cart as I head down the fairway.) Given that the boys were with me, I knew I wouldn’t golf well. Add 10 to 15 strokes when I take both boys. But I have to take them if I want to go. So…

Also, it was Monday. I’m always tired on Monday and wasn’t hitting the ball well. But on hole number 9… I had a minor break through. Three successive shots in a row to reach the green in three! I was pumped! It was so sweet to have a sweet drive and two perfect follow-up shots. When I say perfect, I mean perfect. My third shot was 135 yards off the green, and I planted the ball on the green 15 feet away from the hole and it rolled to within 5 feet.

YES, the birdie was within reach… and then the par… sadly, I ended up with a bogey. But it was still a great hole. To have a great hole, everything must come together, and it’s been a while since I have had this happen. Hopefully, the next time, I can bring the putting game back in line and actually get the birdie. What fun!

The Church Is God’s People, Not Anything Found in Nature

I saw this bilge on Facebook and made the simple point that the true church is not nature, a place or a building, but the people of God who are redeemed by Jesus Christ. OK, I wasn’t as clear in my responses to that photo on FB, after all, it was FB, the hallowed ground of random thoughts and random responses.

I get the idea of the shot. The one that posted it prefers to be outdoors, worshipping nature because nature is so beautiful. The problem with this is that is it nothing short of pure idolatry. The moment you worship nature, which is what the statement is indicating, is the moment you enter into breaking the First Commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods besides Me (YHWH is speaking).” Worshipping God’s creation is breaking of that commandment for we are to worship the Creator only.

One of the respondents tried to make the claim that they felt “closer to God” while in such spots than anywhere else. This should send up red flags for every believer in Christ. The moment we start letting our feelings dictate our beliefs and actions is the moment we move from Sola Scriptura to Solo Scriptura… in other words, idolatry and heresy. Our faith is to be built upon God’s word, not our feelings.

I love spending time out in God’s creation as well. But never is that “my church,” or any church at all. God’s creation is God’s creation. We can applaud Him, as Psalm 19 says we should do, but never should we worship the beauty of God’s creation. That is idolatry.

The second problem with this statement, as if the first one wasn’t enough, is that it is based upon the idea that we can worship God apart from His word. True worship of the Triune God is always, and let me stress, alway based upon God’s word being proclaimed. It is not based upon our feelings, something we see, or something we think. It must always come in conjunction with God’s word, the declaration of truth, and our response to that Truth in our adoration of Jesus Christ and Him alone.

I know that many Christians will claim to worship God because of His creation. But again, true worship must always be with His word, not creation. The pastor doesn’t proclaim creation. He proclaims God’s truth. It is through God’s truth proclaimed that the sinner comes to know Christ and is saved by Him. It is through this proclamation that the believer is fed spiritually. It is through the word that we are rebuked, encouraged, and built up so that we may do the work of the ministry. It is only when the word has been proclaimed that true worship has occurred.

Creation, as awe inspiring as it may be, cannot bring this about. This happens only in the true church, where those who have been redeemed by Christ, gather to hear His word proclaimed. In fact, the only place true worship ever takes place is among the people of God, for only those redeemed by the blood of Christ, have any right to enter into the presence of God. All others, have His wrath resting on them and are not admitted into His presence because they enter through the broad road to destruction and apart from the only Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ.

Yes, they may “feel” close to god in their own estimation. But they are far and distant from the living and true God of Creation. His children know better than to look to His creation and … worship. For we are to worship the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not their creation.

Google Chrome Inhibits Comments to Word Press?

Is it just me, or do other users of Google Chrome have trouble posting comments to other WordPress blogs? I switched to Google Chrome because Safari has become exceedingly and abundantly slow. Opening pages is a burden. For instance, I’ve opened another page in a tab and I have rewritten the previous sentence three times and this one and it’s still not open…

I’ve tried Firefox and it didn’t work well for some reason. It could just be my 5-year-old iMac. In the world of computing, 5-year-old computers are ancient… but it’s what I have so I have to stick with it.

OK, time to publish this page… second tab is still not loaded.

Sunday Comics

Time for another edition of Sunday Comics. This is an attempt to help you laugh about all the things that happened in our world over the past week. I know… it’s really hard to laugh about some of the things going on in our government. But it’s worth a try. After all, if self deprecating humor is funny, how about government deprecating humor, like this one:

I’m not so sure about the “god particle” but I do believe in a “sin particle.”

AS we realize just how much our liberty we’ve lost over Obamacare…

I had more, but… these things no longer make me laugh…

Do You Take the Bible Literally?

I don’t, and guess what? I’m still a Christian. I know many of my brothers from Dallas Theological Seminary are taught that if we do not take the Bible literally, then we are not true Christians. The problem is: what does “literal” actually mean? According to Charles Ryrie, it means the normal usage of the word in the text. The problem with this is: who gets to determine what “normal” means?

The True Church has always let Christ and the Apostles define the terms since that puts Christ and the text of Scripture at the center of defining terms as opposed to men being at the center of those definitions. What Ryrie, and the rest at DTS, fail to see, is that they have set themselves up as the final authority’s on what the Bible means. This is a man-centered hermeneutic instead of a Christ-centered hermeneutic. In other words, this type of Bible interpretation is Solo Scriptura instead of Sola Scriptura. It is man-centered instead of Word centered.

For more on this, watch the video below from Jerry Johnson and Against the World.

Morgan Freeman IS GOD??? O No! We’re In Trouble

In an interview with Fox411, Morgan Freeman came out and admitted that he is God. I’m not surprised by this. If we do not believe in the living and true God of the Bible then it is no great leap to conclude that we are gods as well. Here is the interview:

Fox411: Do you think there is a God?

MF: Do I think there’s a God? Um (pause) yeah.

Fox411: You paused.

MF: I paused because I am God.

Fox411: Because every man is created in God’s image.

MF: Yes or God’s created in my image.

This is the major problem with all mankind, both saved and unsaved a like. We want to make God out into our image, as opposed to the God who actually has revealed Himself in the 66 books of the Bible. This is the heart of man’s problem. It is why the first four commandments of the moral Law are so vital in understanding who God is, and who we are.

God simply states: You shall have no other gods before Me. He states this in the context of idolatrous nations that were in the habit of worshipping false gods, but the problem rested in Israel just as much as it rests in our hearts as well. We want so badly to be gods, that we must die to ourselves and our desires daily, taking up our cross as a matter of habit. Every conflict we face, ever sin we jump into is our declaration with Adam that we are god.

Yet Christ calls His followers to be different because He was different. His entire life was in submission to the Father’s will, and this is what He calls His children to do. The only way we can do so is to be in His word, allowing the Spirit to conform us to His image. It is a life-long calling for the believer.

Is Morgan Freeman truly God? Nope. Not in the least. What Freeman is saying is what everyone single man, woman and child has said since Adam’s fall: “I want to be god, and I hope the living and true God doesn’t mind.” The problem is that the living and true God does mind, hence the Ten Commandments and the Cross. Let’s hope God shows Freeman grace to repent of his own idolatry, and grace to us in order to do the same.

Happy? Fourth of July

Yes, I know, there is still a great deal to be thankful for in our country. But the government tyranny continues to increase… So… some thoughts about and from the past:

And this from the Wall Street Journal about the founding of our country.

On Sunday morning, Jan. 21, 1776, at a church in Woodstock, Va., Rev. Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg brought his sermon to a dramatic and unexpected crescendo. His text was taken from the book of Ecclesiastes. “The Bible tells us ‘there is a time for all things,’ and there is a time to preach and a time to pray,” said Muhlenberg. “But the time for me to preach has passed away; and there is a time to fight, and that time has now come.”

Stepping down from the pulpit, the minister took off his clerical robes to reveal the uniform of a colonel in the 8th Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army. He had been personally recruited by George Washington. Outside the church door, drums sounded as men kissed their wives goodbye and strode down the aisle to enlist. In less than an hour, 162 men from Muhlenberg’s congregation joined the patriot cause.

The “fighting parson” was a common sight in the American Revolution. Why? Because American Christianity—anchored in a Protestant understanding of religious freedom—gave its blessing to democratic self-government.

For many evangelical ministers, unconstrained British rule not only represented an oppressive monarchy that trampled on their civil rights. It supported a national church, the Anglican Church, which they feared would impose its doctrines and practices on the colonies if given half a chance. As dissenting Protestants, American churchmen were as passionate about religious liberty as they were about republican (or “Whig”) political principles. “By combining Whig political theory with religious doctrine,” explains historian James Hutson in “Religion and the Founding of the American Republic,” “the preachers forged an especially powerful weapon to mobilize opposition to British policies.”

Despite their theological differences, colonial Americans shared a singular doctrine about the nature of religious faith: It could not be imposed by force but must be embraced freely by the mind and conscience of the believer.

In this, preachers such as Elisha Williams of Wethersfield, Conn., drew as readily from political philosophers as they did from the Bible to defend a “natural and unalienable right of private judgment in matters of religion.” English philosopher John Locke was quoted frequently in evangelical sermons, not only for his political writings on the right of revolution, but also for his defense of religious freedom. “If the Gospel and the apostle may be credited,” Locke wrote in “A Letter Concerning Toleration,” “no man can be a Christian without charity, and without the faith which works, not by force, but by love.”

It is now widely assumed that religious toleration—a hallmark of the secular, democratic West—grew out of the 18th-century Enlightenment. This may be true in much of Europe, but not in the United States. The evangelical preachers who supported the Revolution knew their Bible and believed it. They insisted that the gospel of Jesus upheld the rights of conscience in religious matters—Jesus never coerced anyone into following him, they pointed out—and that republican government would collapse without it.

Liberty of conscience became part of the American Creed. Embraced universally by the nation’s clergymen, it quickened the thirst for political freedom. “There is not a single instance in history in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire,” warned John Witherspoon, the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence. “If therefore we yield up our temporal property, we at the same time deliver the conscience into bondage.”

With convictions like that, it is no wonder the American Revolution brought the minute man and the minister side by side into the fray.

Mr. Loconte is professor of history at the King’s College in New York City. His latest book, “The Searchers: A Quest for Faith in the Valley of Doubt” was published in June by Thomas Nelson.