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The False Teachers
April 09, 2014

A few weeks ago I set out on a new series of articles through which I am scanning the history of the church—from its earliest days all the way to the present time—to examine some of Christianity’s most notorious false teachers. Along the way we have visited such figures as Arius, Pelagius, Joseph Smith, and Ellen G. White. Today we will look at the life and legacy of a man who assumed and further developed theological Liberalism and paved the way for what became known as Progressive Christianity. His name is Marcus Borg.

Marcus Borg

Marcus BorgMarcus Borg was born in 1942 to a Lutheran family in North Dakota. After high school he went to Concordia College in Minnesota determined to become an astrophysicist but soon changed his major to math and physics, and then again to political science and philosophy. As a young man he experienced great doubts about his Christian faith and decided to pursue postgraduate studies at Union Seminary in New York City and here he was heavily influenced by W.D. Davies, a man who laid the groundwork for what has become known as the New Perspective on Paul. After graduating from Union he moved overseas to Mansfield College, Oxford University, where he earned his Doctorate of Philosophy.

In 1979 Borg became a member of the faculty at Oregon State University, a position he would hold until he retired in 2007 as Distinguished Professor in Religion and Culture and the Hundere Endowed Chair in Religious Studies. However, his career as a professor would be overshadowed by his career as a writer and public figure, and his leadership in what has become known as Progressive Christianity, an updated form of theological Liberalism.

Borg is a gifted writer who is adept at popularizing difficult concepts and his prose is attractive for its lively and meditative style. One person he has influenced writes, “Almost single-handedly among progressives, Borg has opened up new avenues of experience and thought for lapsed Christians or nonbelievers interested in re-visioning the Christianity of their childhood. He writes clearly and concisely about the meaning of wisdom, compassion, justice, the kingdom of God, and life as a journey of transformation. His books boldly take us into fresh fields of wonder, mystery, and passion in regard to Jesus, God, the Bible, and the Christian way.”1

His most significant contributions have been as a scholar whose focus has been on the person and work of Jesus Christ. He has written or edited more than twenty-five books, and the great majority of them have been focused on Jesus. He also led two nationally-televised symposia—one focused on Jesus and the other on God—, served as national chair of the Historical Jesus Section of the Society of Biblical Literature, and has made regular appearances on PBS and other television networks. His bestselling book is Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, and it is in this book that he most clearly lays out his convictions. He draws on his own journey, from a childhood, childish faith in Christ to the development of what he considers a deeper, richer, and more plausible set of beliefs based on a historical rather than fabled Jesus. He teaches here that the Christian life is not meant to be rooted in dogma or creed, but in compassion and community.

In 1985 Robert Funk founded the Jesus Seminar, a group of 150 critical scholars who were tasked with re-examining the traditions surrounding the historicity of Jesus, and in particular, his deeds and his sayings. Among these scholars was Marcus Borg. The scholars employed social anthropology, history and textual analysis to attempt to reconstruct Jesus’ life and to separate the historical Jesus from what they take as myth. They famously used a voting system that relied on colored beads to represent whether one of Jesus’ deeds or sayings was authentic. Of the over five hundred sayings of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, they determined that only thirty-one were authentic with the rest being possibly authentic, doubtful or completely inauthentic. Over their many meetings and through much dialog they eventually determined that Jesus was a mortal man who, like the rest of us, had been born of two parents, that he did not perform miracles, that any healings attributed to him were merely psychosomatic, that he did not die a substitutionary death, that he was not physically resurrected, and that the post-resurrection sightings of Jesus were merely visions.

April 09, 2014

Moralism Is Not the Gospel - Mohler: “In our own context, one of the most seductive false gospels is moralism. This false gospel can take many forms and can emerge from any number of political and cultural impulses. Nevertheless, the basic structure of moralism comes down to this — the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior.”

Internet Porn and the Decline of Faith - Joel Miller: “Since the early 1990s, there has been a significant uptick in Americans abandoning their faith. After crunching the numbers, one researcher says contributing factors such as upbringing and education only explain part of the increase. What about the rest?” Could it be related to porn?

When Does Christian Get Saved? - Justin Taylor asks Jim Orrick, professor of literature and culture at Boyce College, when in Pilgrim’s Progress Christian gets saved.

Grumbling and Complaining - Lore Ferguson: “My heart has been a grumbling one recently. I could give you a few reasons I think why my grumbling is necessary or warranted, but the truth is that even talking about those situations would invite more grumbling.”

How the Secret Police Tracked My Childhood - I really enjoyed this article from the BBC: “Fighting the system used to be dangerous anywhere in Eastern Europe. For one protester from a small Romanian village it was disastrous - and also for his family, whose every word was recorded by the secret police. Carmen Bugan, who found the transcript of her childhood, tells their story.”

Nothing that man can present to God by way of sacrifice can ever purchase the blessing of forgiveness.C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

April 08, 2014

Together for the Gospel is fast approaching, and I want to let you know about an event we are calling The True North Luncheon @ T4G. This is a time to get together to talk specifically about gospel advance in Canada. The event is intended for Canadians, or for people who are interested in joining the work in Canada, or for people who are simply interested in learning more about the church in Canada. If Canada is on your mind, or if Canada has been on your mind, you ought to come.

The event will take place on Wednesday April 9th from 12:30pm - 3:00pm (which falls during the conference’s lunch break). It will be held at Immanuel Baptist Church, which is at 1121 S. Clay St., just a 10-minute drive from the conference venue. We’d ask for a $5 donation to cover the cost of a Chick-Fil-A lunch which will be provided for you.

We’ll follow a simple format: We will have a fellowship lunch, and then a panel discussion that will be followed by an open Q&A. Panelists will include: Clint Humfrey, Paul Martin and myself (with others to be announced). Ryan Fullerton, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, will be hosting and leading the panel.

If you have a question, please leave it in the comments section below, and we’ll try to answer it for you.

RSVP

If you would like to come, please RSVP to Keith Hanson at khanson@ibclouisville.org. He can also help you if you’ll need transportation to and from the conference venue.

April 08, 2014
Taking God at His Word

Kevin DeYoung is quickly becoming one of my go-to authors. One of his strengths as an author is taking difficult concepts out of the academy and bringing it to those of us who do better reading at a more popular level. He did this in Why We’re Not Emergent, the book that introduced us to him, and has done it in most of the books he has written since. His newest book, Taking God at His Word, is all about the Bible and about loving the Bible and, once again, it is targeted at the general reader.

He begins in Psalm 119, David’s long love song dedicated to the Bible. He begins here because David’s love for God’s Word, and David’s awe of that Word, is exactly where DeYoung wants the reader to be by the time he has finished this book. This means he starts with the application, so to speak, and then works to the information and the defense—an interesting and rather helpful way of going about things. He wants us, like David, to believe the Bible, to feel love for the Bible, and to do what the Bible says.

In the second chapter DeYoung turns to 2 Peter 1 to look at the nature of the Bible as God’s inerrant revelation of himself, given through the agency of human beings who received and transmitted those words. There is nothing more steady and sure than this Word. “You do not need another special revelation from God outside the Bible. You can listen to the voice of God every day. Christ still speaks, because the Spirit has already spoken. If you want to hear from God, go to the book that records only what he has said. Immerse yourself in the word of God. You will not find anything more sure.”

Over the next four chapters he uses the acronym SCAN to highlight four essential characteristics of the Bible: Sufficiency, Clarity, Authority, and Necessity.

Sufficiency. The Scriptures contain everything we need for knowledge of salvation and godly living. We don’t need any new revelation from heaven.

Clarity. The saving message of Jesus Christ is plainly taught in the Scriptures and can be understood by all who have ears to hear it. We don’t need an official magisterium to tell us what the Bible means.

Authority. The last word always goes to the word of God. We must never allow the teachings of science, of human experience, or of church councils to take precedence over Scripture.

Necessary. General revelation is not enough to save us. We cannot know God savingly by means of personal experience and human reason. We need God’s word to tell us how to live, who Christ is, and how to be saved.

This is to say that God’s Word is enough, clear, final, and necessary.

April 08, 2014

There are lots of Kindle deals today! Exalting Jesus in Matthew (a commentary) by David Platt ($2.99); Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler ($2.99); Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper ($2.99); HCSB Study Bible ($2.99); The Measure of Success by Carolyn McCulley ($2.99); Manhood Restored by Eric Mason ($2.99); Gospel-Centered Teaching by Trevin Wax ($2.99); Truth Matters by Andreas Kostenberger ($4.99); Stop Asking Jesus into your Heart by J.D. Greear ($2.99); The Lion and the Lamb by Andreas Kostenberger ($0.99); Christless Christianity by Michael Horton ($3.99); 

Together for the Gospel - The Together for the Gospel conference begins today, which is why I’m on my way to Louisville right now. You can watch it live beginning this afternoon.

English is Crazy - Yes it is. This poem explains.

31 Days of Purity Ebook - If you want to have the 31 Days of Purity in ebook format, visit the link and have at it.

Inerrant Word - InerrantWord is a new web site from John MacArthur dedicated to the always-important subject of inerrancy. It is part of the lead-up to next year’s Shepherds’ Conference Summit on Inerrancy.

Whisperings - Here is some counsel for pastors and church leaders who find themselves the subject of gossip.

Fall in Love Again - This is a good one from Paul Tripp.

Stop Forgiving Those Who Don’t Want Forgiveness - David writes about those who say they forgive others, even when they don’t want forgiveness. “I understand the motive, and also the desire to present an attractive witness about Christian forgiveness to the world. But it’s not a faithful witness to God. It does not reflect how God forgives, which is to be our pattern and model. Here’s why: God does not forgive those who do not want forgiveness.”

Scanning and Skimming - You’ll want to give this one a quick skim. “Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say.” I put it at the end of today’s links just to make you feel guilty…

The truth of our Lord Jesus Christ is what is worth living for, and what is worth dying for. —W. Robert Godfrey

Godfrey

April 07, 2014

Series Introduction: I live in a small house. I work in a small office in a small church. For those reasons and others I will never have a huge library. When I add a book I almost always remove a book, a practice that allows me to focus on quality over quantity. Over the past couple of years I have focused on building a collection of commentaries that will include only the best volumes on each book of the Bible. I know when I’m in way over my head, so before I began I collected every good resource I could find that rated and reviewed commentaries. I studied them and then began my collection on the basis of what the experts told me. Since I did all of that work, and since I continue to keep up with the project, I thought it might be helpful to share the recommendations.

My focus is on newer commentaries (at least in part because most of the classics are now freely or cheaply available) and I am offering approximately 5 recommendations for each book of the Bible, alternating between the Old Testament and the New. Today I have turned to the experts to find what they say about Ezekiel.

Ezekiel

EzekielDaniel Block - The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 1-24; The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25-48 (New International Commentary on the Old Testament). Block’s commentary is thorough but not dense. He deals with the text so closely that nothing is overlooked, but he doesn’t dwell there, often zooming right out to look at the book’s big picture as well. While there are other excellent commentaries on Ezekiel, the commentators on the commentaries are unanimous in their praise and most rate this one as the most important work on the book, and a must-have for anyone who wishes to preach through it. (Amazon: Volume 1, Volume 2; Westminster Books: Volume 1, Volume 2)

Iain Duguid - Ezekiel (NIV Application Commentary). The NIV Application Commentary has some volumes that are much stronger than others and Duguid’s volume on Ezekiel is considered one of the best. Keith Mathison says, “Duguid’s commentary runs a very close second to Block in my estimation. For those who do not need the detail of Block, Duguid is the place to go. His is a very careful reading of the book from a Reformed perspective. Very helpful and highly recommended.” Other experts commend him for his pastoral tone. (Amazon, Westminster Books)

EzekielDerek Thomas - God Strengthens: Ezekiel Simply Explained (Welwyn Commentary Series). This is considered an introductory commentary and one that will be helpful for the pastor or for the general reader. Derek Thomas has written a number of highly-regarded commentaries and this one reflects his strengths—Reformed theology, sound scholarship, and a pastoral emphasis. (Amazon, Westminster Books)

Douglas Stuart - Ezekiel (The Preacher’s Commentary). This volume comes highly recommended by Derek Thomas (himself the author of a commentary on Ezekiel) and by Keith Mathison. Thomas says simply, “exceptionally good” while Mathison goes into more detail: “Stuart always has helpful insight into whatever text he is discussing, and when dealing with a book as difficult as Ezekiel, such insight is invaluable.” It seems like this would make a good third or fourth choice. (Amazon)

EzekielLeslie Allen - Ezekiel 1-19; Ezekiel 20-48 (Word Biblical Commentary). Apparently W.H. Brownlee began this two-volume set on Ezekiel but died before he could complete them. The work was taken over by Allen who has written a good, though technical, commentary. Tremper Longman assigns it 4 stars and says, “Allen is concerned with both the final form of the book as well as its composition.” Others show some caution but still regard it as a valuable reference work when taken in light of the volumes recommended above. (Amazon: Volume 1, Volume 2; Westminster Books: Volume 1, Volume 2)

And how about you? Have you ever preached Ezekiel? What commentaries do you prefer?

 

April 07, 2014

I suppose it has always been difficult to teach boys about sex. The trouble is that you need to begin those talks while they are still quite young—probably too young to handle the information with the maturity it deserves. This may be especially true today when pornography and other blatant sexuality is so prevalent that we have to address these things at younger and younger ages. Still, every parent does it and blunders through it one way or another.

I sometimes read a magazine called The Walrus. It is a Canadian magazine that exists on the left—just about as far left as you can go, I think. Still, it features some skilled writers and presents a perspective that I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to, so I rather enjoy reading it. In the current issue there is a column called “The Talk” that discusses teaching boys about sex. I realized as I read it that the way I have been teaching my children about sex and gender and sexuality is very, very different from the way society around us would teach them if given the opportunity. We use similar terms, but mean very different things by them. As a Christian, and as a Christian parent, I found it very helpful to have this alternative view so clearly laid out.

The article begins in a ninth-grade classroom on the far side of the country where an organization called WiseGuyz is leading an opt-in sexual education class. The article explains that these teachers face the “radical act of teaching them to question all they have been told about what it means to be a man.” Men from the organization are teaching boys about sex and sexuality and, not surprisingly, the boys are responding with confusion and wisecracks. One of the instructors has just spoken about intersexuality, being born with a combination of male and female physical characteristics.

A few boys nod, but the rest look baffled. Stafford Perry, another facilitator, speaks up. “It helps if you understand that for many people, gender is not just two possibilities but many,” he says. “Being a man or a woman exists on a scale, so it’s not either/or. You don’t have to be one or the other.”

This is key. Much of what used to be considered binary now exists on a scale. When I was a child I was taught that sex and gender are binary—you are male or female, and your gender identity and gender expression will accord with it. There may have been some small scales—with tomboy to princess representing different scales of femininity and rough-and-tumble to sensitive representing different scales of masculinity—but the categories were clear: You were a boy or a girl and if you were a boy you were expected to behave like a boy and if you were a girl you were expected to behave like a girl. Today, though, children are taught that every aspect of sexuality exists on a scale with no either/or. They are taught that this is the normal and natural state of humanity.

The instructor then takes a whiteboard and draws a figure shaped like a gingerbread man. This gingerbread man has a smiley face, a heart, and a starburst at the crotch. And he uses this figure to teach some important lessons—some important terminology.

April 07, 2014

Here are some new Kindle deals: Gray Matters by Brett McCracken ($1.99); The Faithful Preacher by Thabiti Anyabwile ($3.99); A Passion for Faithfulness by J.I. Packer ($3.99); Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology by Together for the Gospel speakers ($3.99); Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood edited by Wayne Grudem ($1.99); The Message of the New Testament by Mark Dever ($0.99); Stand by John Piper & Justin Taylor ($3.99). Zondervan has a big list of reference works and other resources on sale: The New Matthew Henry Commentary ($4.99); Dictionary of Biblical Imagery by John Beck ($5.99); Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary ($5.99); Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, Volume 5 ($6.99 each); Dictionary of Bible and Theology Words ($3.99); How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens by Michael Williams ($3.99); How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth by Fee & Stuart ($3.99); How to Read the Bible Book by Book by Fee & Stuart ($3.99).

How to Identify False Teachers - Denny Burk has a great little article on identifying false teachers.

Without God, Without Hope - I appreciated Charlene’s article in which she remembers her youth and says, “When I hear myself say things like what is wrong with people these days?,’ shake my head in disgust and marvel that human beings could be so rebellious, so foolish, so crass, so arrogant, it is a good sign that I am not remembering where I came from.”

The Greatest Infographic - I enjoy the YouTube channel Numberphile. In this video they discuss what may be one of the greatest infographics ever. “in 1862 Charles Joseph Minard created a much-praised infographic depicting Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812.” It’s pretty amazing.

Is Online Church Really a Church? - No. Ed Stetzer explains.

Portraits of Reconciliation - This is a moving photo essay. “Last month, the photographer Pieter Hugo went to southern Rwanda, two decades after nearly a million people were killed during the country’s genocide, and captured a series of unlikely, almost unthinkable tableaus.”

Teaching Your Children Politeness - Here are some pointers on teaching your children to be polite. 

The Lord Jesus has as great an interest in the weakest saints as the strongest. —Thomas Brooks

Brooks