Friday, May 30, 2014

How Shall Christians Live?

Antinomianism: Is it Alive and Well?

With only three posts in the month of May, it's obvious I haven't had a lot of time. So why do I want to wade into the controversy that's sprung up in recent weeks between The Gospel Coalition, Billy Graham's grandson and pastor Tullian Tchvidjian, who pastors the late D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Presbyterian?

I guess because the subject of antinomianism rising again in the church (especially within evangelicalism) has bothered me for a long time. But a couple of points to be fair. I only learned of this dust-up in the past couple of weeks, and other than articles within The Christian Post, I haven't been able to dig too deeply into it. Here is one article written by Richard Davis Phillips, who who tries to explain where the "sanctification controversy" lies. Tullian, on the other hand, came out with a blast against Sovereign Grace ministries and their handling of a sex abuse scandal. Here's that particular article. Tullian has also written articles in defense of his position. It's quite a mess.

Right now, I am hoping to give the benefit of the doubt in hoping that Tullian doesn't mean what his critics think he means. Antinomianism (without law) is a serious error and is rebuked in Scripture. Yes, we are indeed saved by grace through faith, and that not by works. But our good works and righteous living are supposed to be the proof to the world that our faith is genuine, and sanctification is the process where we become more like Christ. The Apostle Paul makes it so plain: "Shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:15).

We do have a problem with a younger generation of professed believers, who seem to not be bothered at all by premarital sex and a host of other unbiblical behaviors. They are no doubt influenced in part by an antinomian mindset. If they are picking this up in their church youth groups, there needs to be some housecleaning.

I am praying as I look into this more as I have time, and that is a challenge. My personal and work life has been more out of control this year than ever before. But I must look into it, and as a teacher in my church, need to be up to speed in case warnings must be given.

In the meantime, pray for repentance and reconciliation all around. The Gospel Coalition was a well-intended idea. They need to be on the same page on essentials.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Crisis Evangelism in Ukraine

Looks like I'm in one of my busy periods and neglecting the blog more than usual. But I'm posting today to encourage my fellow Christian believers to support a very worthy cause.

If you've been following the news of late, you've heard about the tragic situation in Ukraine—a former Soviet country often called "the breadbasket of Europe" because of its fertile soil and agricultural production. Ukraine has been rattled by political violence and bloodshed since late last year, when former president Viktor Yanukovich abandoned an economic pact with the European Union in favor of Russia. Angry protests broke out in the capital of Kiev, followed by an attempted government crackdown. More than were 100 killed in that violence, and shortly after, Yanukovich was overthrown.

Tensions with neighboring Russia followed immediately. Russia considers Ukraine a vital national interest, and culturally, traces its origins to the Kievan Rus. Ukraine became independent when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, but Russia retained strong influence over Ukrainian affairs. After Yanukovich's ouster, Russia moved into Ukraine's Crimea region, where they maintain a Black Sea naval base. Eventually, Russia annexed Crimea—a controversial move that brought condemnation from the West and heightened tensions to near Cold War levels.

Since then, violence has continued in eastern Ukraine, which is more culturally tied to Russia than the western half of the country where people are more aligned to Europe. Refugees have flooded into western Ukraine from the east and Crimea. Evangelical churches in the country are deeply concerned about the violence, and because the acting president is an evangelical Baptist (itself a first for a former Soviet country), leaders in other CIS nations are falsely blaming Baptists for the unrest. Russian and Ukrainian Christians feel the pressures, yet they realize that their ultimate citizenship is in the kingdom of heaven, and even as they are caught amid the turmoil themselves and are suffering consequences with their countrymen, their desire is to reach out to their hurting people with Christ's love. And that leads me to the purpose of this post.

Most Ukrainian evangelical churches have few resources for the type of massive ministry that takes place here in North America. Yet they want to reach out and seize this opportunity to share Christ. In response to their need, the 80-year-old Slavic Gospel Association has created the Crisis Evangelism Fund to help them in a variety of ways, including food, support of crisis evangelism teams from Ukrainian churches to help pastors and churches in the conflict zones, ministry to refugees, and other means. If you want to find out more and to help, you can click here for SGA's special landing page created to raise awareness and support.

Please prayerfully consider what you can do to help. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is ultimately the only thing that will bring true peace and reconciliation.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Happy Birthday, Orson!

Today is the birthday of the late actor, writer, film director, and producer Orson Welles. I don't think I could really write much about him that hasn't been written, but I'll try to make a small observation. It's been another unforgivably long time since I've posted, so maybe this will make up for it. A little.

I have long said that Welles' crowning achievement, "Citizen Kane," is a good film and an historic film. But in my own list of preferences in terms of what satisfies and makes a great film, I have to place "Casablanca" above it in the #1 spot. A poll was taken—I think an official one—and the results were the reverse. "Citizen Kane" took the top spot and "Casablanca" came in second. We'll agree to disagree on that.

With that quibble, Citizen Kane was great in many respects. It introduced new cinematic techniques, and sort of told the story backward from Kane's death and then flashbacks throughout his life. It was the fictitious story (per Welles) of a media tycoon who was almost Solomon-like in the power and wealth he acquired, only to end up near friendless and alone. His dying words mystified people, but the in the know film watcher will get what "Rosebud" means fairly quickly. Whether or not Welles really based the movie on the late newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst is beside the point. The story itself is one that has been repeated often in human history.

At my church right now, I am leading a Bible study through Ecclesiastes. As do most conservative Bible students, I believe the author was King Solomon reflecting at the end of his life on what really mattered, and how human endeavors are all "vanity and striving after wind" apart from God.

Citizen Kane makes that point in very vivid style. Look at the somber picture from the film above. The great iron gates with a big "K" on them, and the mansion "Xanadu" in the background where Kane died alone, smoke billowing out of the top of the mansion. The scene is black and white, very dark. And very appropriate.

I wonder how many really reflect after seeing films like this? Films can entertain, and my favorite ones do that. In general, when I am seeking entertainment, I am not seeking a sermon or lecture. Nor am I seeking political advocacy. Like Rick Davies sang in "Waiting So Long," - "I don't need no heavy message. Just turn me on and make me smile." (And mind, don't misinterpret that. I am not talking about theology and the Bible. I am solely talking about my own film tastes, and how I prefer a good, engaging yarn or drama rather than an effort to make some kind of "point" to me. But Kane is a bit different. It is a good personal reflection picture because in part, it is so very, very well done. You're being made to think even though you don't know you're being made to think.

The story summation, for me, is what Jesus our Lord said. "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul."