It is time, once again, to open the feedback files. This list of ten questions was sent to me recently by a new reader of this site. He acknowledged being new to the Reformed faith and posed several questions. And by “several” I mean “lots!”
- What do you think about Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron’s bibical evangelism ministry of “The Way of the Master?” If you have no clue about this, check out www.wayofthemaster.com or www.livingwaters.com. Is this method biblical? Positives? Negatives?
I am not too familiar with The Way of the Master. I have heard of it, but not studied it, so, in what is a rare occasion, I have no opinion.
- Are there any notable doctrinal or theological differences b/w reformed men like John MacArthur, John Piper, Mark Dever, and Al Mohler? Or are they all the same in their views?
I don’t know of any two people who are exactly alike in their doctrinal views. I also don’t quite know how to define notable. But here are a couple of differences you might find among leading Reformed pastors and theologians:
Believer’s Baptism vs. Infant Baptism – While all of the men you listed are Baptist, you will also find notable Reformed pastors and theologians who believe in infant baptism. Among these would be men such as R.C. Sproul and Michael Horton. While those claiming to be Reformed have traditionally believed in infant baptism, this is no longer the case.
Eschatology – I do not know exactly what Piper, Dever and Mohler believe about the end times, but I do know that MacArthur is premillennial and dispensational. Within the Reformed tradition the bulk of people are post-millennial or amillennial, but there are increasing numbers of premillennialists as well. So you will find much variety in beliefs about the last days.
These are two of the more notable differences you will find in Reformed circles. Thankfully these are differences that will not keep these men from working together and acknowledging each other as brothers in Christ.
- What do you think about some of these megachurches like Prestonwood, Saddleback, Fellowship of Grapevine, Bellevue, and Second of Houston? I know there are positives and negatives in every church, but doesn’t seem like they’re getting the bad rep these days? I’ve read MacArthur’s books and all the critiques of PDL at www.seekersensitive.com and happen to agree. What do you think?
This is a topic that has been addressed in many book-length treatments, so one I cannot address adequately in just a few words. But allow me to provide a couple of thoughts.
As you said, there are positive and negative aspects in every church. Thus it is hard to say “Saddleback is bad” or “Bellevue is a bad church” and mean much by it, because much of what Saddleback and Second Houston does is good. Also, there have been megachurches in the history of Protestantism built on solid, biblical teaching. Charles Spurgeon preached the Gospel to tens of thousands of people each Sunday for many years. So I suspect that your question is not based on the size of the church, but on the way people are brought into these churches. In other words, what do I think of the megachurch movement and the associate seeker-friendly philosophies?
In general, I believe that the megachurch, seeker-sensitive philosophy is flawed. Perhaps most of the critiques come down to this: these churches confuse “crowd” with “congregation.” Anyone can gather a crowd, and these churches excel at doing just that. But the crowd is not a congregation. What does it matter if a church has 20,000 people attending on a Sunday but most of the people are unbelievers and are never challenged with the full message of the Gospel? If we remove the offense of the Gospel, we are no longer preaching the Gospel. If unbelievers attend the church and are never offended by the preaching, there is probably a problem. Of course it is not as cut-and-dried as that, but the point is that seeker-sensitivity, as practiced by many churches, does not seem to be a biblical methodology.
- What do you think about the ever-growing Calvary Chapel movement behind the teachings of Chuck Smith, Greg Laurie, Skip Heitzig, Jon Courson, and Bob Coy? What is this ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ concept they emphasize? Are they more of a good thing or bad thing?
I know very little about Calvary Chapels, except that they encourage Dave Hunt to preach in them, which I assume means they are Arminian in doctrine. I also do not know very much about the baptism of the Holy Spirit that they teach, so I will reserve comment.
- I have a MacArthur Study Bible (NKJV). Besides the translation, do you still recommend this for study? I’ll probably buy a NASB Inductive or Study Bible soon, and eventually I’ll add a HCSB and ESV bible as well. Which bible do you primarily use the most? What’s good for scripture memory?
I use and recommend the English Standard Version, having recently moved from the New King James. I find the ESV to be the best combination of accuracy and readability. It is also ideal for memorization. However, the MacArthur Study Bible is excellent and well worth owning and using. We are blessed to have many excellent translations in the English language and you cannot go far wrong with many of them – NKJV, ESV, HCSB and NASB are all excellent.
At this point I am hoping that translators stop making translation-after-translation into English and focus on some of the languages that have no Bible at all, or that have only poor or partial translations. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen because the English translations outsell all others.
- Which bible translation would you recommend to jr. high students? Which bible translation would you teach students? I’m a youth pastor…
I would use the English Standard Version or another solid translation. I don’t believe that children need their own translation of the Bible, especially if this is a dumbed-down version or one of those awful Bible-zines. Give them the full Word of God and allow it to work in their hearts. The Spirit can work through the Word into the heart of a teenager as easily as he can into your heart or mine. It only confuses matters later if they move to a new translation and the passages they are familiar with or have memorized are vastly different.
- Do you have any resources to recommend on how to sensibly, gently refute Arminianism without offending the other person, just having a simple disagreement?
I do not have a single resource I would use, any more than I would have a single resource for evangelism. There are several good books on the topic, but none that is guaranteed to work every time. I would suggest a couple of things:
First, examine why you want to have the person change his view. If you are proceeding from the wrong motives, perhaps you should take a step back.
Second, get to know the person. For some, discussions of this nature will only weaken their faith. Make sure that you approach the person in a way that is appropriate to their personality and to the depth of their faith.
In terms of resources, I would suggest Putting Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton or Chosen By God by R.C. Sproul. Beyond these, there are several books that merely list and explain the various Bible passages relevant to the discussion.
- Just out of curiosity, who are some of your modern evangelical heroes?
I try not to have heroes. Mere humans are so likely to eventually let us down. But I do have many people I much admire within modern evangelicalism. In no particular order I would list men such as James White, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Michael Horton and Al Mohler. And Joel Osteen.
Okay, scratch Osteen.
- Do you ever check out any of these websites? www.monergism.com, www.internetmonk.com, www.propadeutic.com, www.expository.org, www.268generation.com, www.ttwministries.com? What do you think about them?
I have visited most of these sites at one time or another.
Monergism.com – Monergism is an invaluable resource and one I turn to often. John, who runs it, is a friend and someone I much admire.
Internetmonk.com – I have often corresponded with Michael Spencer (at internetmonk.com and at boarsheadtavern.com) and like the guy. We have had our share of disagreements on issues such as N.T. Wright and the inerrancy of Scripture. Don’t even get me started on Thomas Merton. At this point I’m a bit concerned about some of the directions Spencer is taking, but will leave it at that.
268Generation.com – I have heard Louie Giglio speak a few times and have very much enjoyed those talks. However, I know little about the man and his ministry, so cannot say much more.
I do not know enough about the other sites to comment adequately, except to say that the guy over at Propadeutic has a pretty amazing collection of G.I. Joes.
- If you had to pick one book (other than the Bible) for me to read that would rock my world, challenge me, enlighten me, make me read it again, etc. What would it be and why?
Tough question. One of my recent favorites is Putting Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton. Chosen By God by R.C. Sproul is another must-read. For a time of self-examination, Don Whitney’s books will challenge you. You can browse through my book review archives to read more of my recommendations.