I can remember eagerly awaiting the conference, encouraging my friends and family to attend, and buying my ticket. For an old or young eager Christian apologist, there is nothing else like it.
On July 18, 2016, I had the opportunity to speak with Melissa Pellew on the Bellator Christi Podcast.1 We addressed the racial divide that has plagued our nation. During our conversation, I was reminded of the lesson I shared with the kids at a local church. The children were diverse in their ethnicities ranging from white, black, to Latino. I shared with them the story found in John chapter 4 where Jesus met the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.
In that encounter, Jesus broke several barriers. One, Jesus broke a racial barrier that existed between Samaritans and Jews. Two, Jesus broke a gender barrier as Jewish rabbis normally did not speak to women. Three, Jesus broke the barriers of tradition. Fourth and most importantly, Jesus broke the sin barrier as He forgave the woman of her sins. But as we look at the issues of our time, we also see that Jesus’ encounter offers a cure to the divisions that ail us. Jesus’ approach serves as an excellent model to provide healing and reconciliation.
Listen to the concerns of the person.
Jesus practiced good listening skills. While He was God and knew fully the situation at hand, Jesus still allowed the woman to speak. He heard her concerns and did not dismiss her. Jesus asked the woman for a drink. He listened as she timidly asked, “How is it that you a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria” (John 4:9).2 Jesus also listened to the woman as she exclaimed “Our fathers worship on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship” (John 4:20). Listening is an activity that has greatly been lost. To provide healing, we must first listen to the problems that are on the table. Those issues may be sensitive. Those issues may make us uncomfortable. Nevertheless, when we listen to another person, even if we vehemently disagree with that person, we demonstrate respect to that person.
Create a relationship with the person.
Christianity is relationship-based. Melissa and I discussed on the podcast that people often segregate and divide because of the lack of knowledge of those who may differ from them. Melissa noted that a person should not simply befriend someone to proudly say, “I have a black friend” or “I have a white friend.” Rather, a person should desire to befriend others for the sake of the person, not for selfish pride. Jesus demonstrated such behavior with the Samaritan woman. The woman was shocked that Jesus spoke to her (John 4:9). The disciples were equally surprised that Jesus was speaking with a Samaritan (John 4:27). Jesus did not think to Himself, “This person is a Samaritan. I will befriend her so that I can tell the folks back home that I have a Samaritan friend.” No! Rather, Jesus saw her for who she really was. She was a person who needed salvation, a person who had been excluded from her community. She was a woman who had a horrid past and a displeasurable present condition.
Forgive the failures of the past and present.
The Samaritan woman had a past. She was a woman who had been married five times and was currently living with a man (John 4:16-19). Coming to the well when she did demonstrates that she was an outcast as “women were more likely to come in groups to fetch water.”3 Jesus could have easily condemned her, saying, “You have a past, so I don’t want you in my kingdom.” Rather, Jesus forgave her past and transformed her present.
As a Caucasian Christian, I do not know the struggles that black Christians have faced. When I drove a school bus, I remember the friendship I had with a black Christian man. We spoke about different issues. I remember him telling me about his return from war in Vietnam only to be disallowed entrance to a restaurant in the South because of his skin color. From what he and other black Christians have told me, the struggle is real. It also must be noted that racism comes in all forms and fashions. Thus, discrimination against all whites because of what a few white people have done is just as racist as discrimination against a black person, Latino, or otherwise for what a few in the particular group has done. The same logic applies to police officers. A few bad cops do not mean that all cops are bad. By the way, such accusations are not only morally wrong, they also represent a logical fallacy–the fallacy of composition/division, i.e., judging the whole by the part.
While I have never been in the situations that my black Christian friends have faced, I do know what it is like to be hurt. I know what it is like to feel demeaned and unwanted. I know what it is like to feel like an outcast. From those experiences, I know firsthand the choice all of us face: forgiveness or bitterness. Forgiveness is extremely difficult, but for the Christian it is commanded. Jesus said, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). In the end, a person can find healing in Christ’s forgiveness or can continue down the path of hate-driven bitterness. This is true for a person regardless of the amount of pigment one’s skin carries.
Acknowledge the present problems.
Jesus did not cower and did not waver. Jesus acknowledged the problems that the woman faced and the differences in the traditions that Samaritans and Jews held. For many, it is easier to pretend that the current problems are not real. While I did not agree with the caller on our latest show on all points that he made, I would concede that we cannot pretend that there are no current race-related problems. Like Jesus, we must not cower and waver. We must stand firm, choosing to love our neighbors as ourselves (a pretty important commandment in Matthew 22:39). As Melissa stated on our podcast, “It is time for the church to take the lead on racial matters and provide reconciliation.”4
Provide biblical answers.
Lastly, Jesus did not avoid the problems. Instead, Jesus confronted the issues that the Samaritan woman presented and provided biblical answers to those problems. As Christians we have the answers to the problems our nation faces. We know that God is sovereign and will provide justice in due time. God created all of us in His image, thus illustrating that the life of every human being matters regardless of race. The biblical worldview also incorporates the understanding that heaven will consist of all nationalities and ethnicities. John writes, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb'” (Revelation 7:9-10)!
For the Christian, there is no reason for us to commit to violence. Christianity’s sole message is about love and peace. We must remember that “God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Satan is the one who seeks to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Therefore, the primary message of this article is found in Paul’s great word of encouragement: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Let us pray for peace, love, and understanding.
© July 18, 2016. Brian Chilton.
1 Melissa Pellew, interviewed by Brian Chilton, “Healing the Racial Divide (with Melissa Pellew),” The Bellator Christi Podcast (July 18, 2016), http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pastorbrianchilton/2016/07/18/healing-the-racial-divide-with-melissa-pellew.
2 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).
3 D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 217.
4 Pellew, “Healing the Racial Divide (with Melissa Pellew), Bellator Christi Podcast.
Throughout the history of the Christian church, believers have responded various ways to their culture. Some responses have been good, whereas other responses have been less than favorable. What are the five responses? This article will examine the five forms of responses that have been made throughout history by five given caricatures. In many respects, these five responses greatly resemble the five Christian models for approaching culture given in H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic book Christ and Culture. The models are given in descending order from the more extreme forms of thought—opposing culture, to those that fully embrace culture.
The first response is that of the monk. This caricature is in no means meant to demean the great work of Christian monks throughout the centuries. However, it is meant to demonstrate the response that many in the monastery have taken over the years. When culture goes amiss, many will withdraw from the culture, completely separating themselves from the culture. This approach resembles Niebuhr’s “Christ Against Culture” approach.
As Christians face a global culture that is becoming more antagonistic towards the Christian faith (something that is anticipated by a futurist understanding of Revelation—which I hold), it is easy for many to withdraw from the cultural arena completely. Some will take the defeated attitude in saying, “I won’t make much of a difference anyhow.” For others, the ideas of a governmental hidden agenda and conspiracy-theory-powered-paranoia will cause the desire to abandon everything in culture. St. Anthony and the desert fathers are exemplary of this model. Also, Tertullian, Tolstoy, Menno Simmons, the Amish, and traditional Anabaptists have taken to this model. But it must be asked: Is this the best model?
The second caricature may sound odd at first. How could a Christian hold a mobster mentality to the culture? Well, mobsters generally operate by the mantra, “I am above the law.” Their livelihood is based on a system that contradicts the law at hand. The mobster mentality holds that Christians and any given culture will always hold a degree of paradox. The Christian, while living in the world, can never necessarily appreciate the things of the world since the Christian essentially lives in two kingdoms. The Christian will always experience tensions in trying to fulfill the demands of both kingdoms.
Martin Luther is an advocate of this view. The mobster view is comparable to Niebuhr’s “Christ and Culture in Paradox” model. While this viewpoint holds many great points of truth and value, one must ask: Is this the right model to hold?
Reformers seek to transform. Unbeknownst to many, Luther and the early reformers did not seek to divide the church. Rather, they sought to bring the church back to a point where they felt the church was more biblically accurate. The cultural reformer seeks to transform the given culture with the gospel of Christ. The reformer will seek to convert the values and goals of the culture to the values and goals of the kingdom of God, realizing that such will not take place unless people come to know Christ as Savior.
Many heavyweights of the faith hold this view, which is comparable to Niebuhr’s “Christ the Transformer of Culture” model. Augustine, Calvin, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, John Knox, Ulrich Zwingli, and Francis Schaeffer all hold to the Reformer Model. Is this the correct view? We will see.
The ruler seeks to dominate a particular area. In a sense, the ruler will always battle to keep his/her power and control. When the Roman Empire dominated much of the known world during the height of their power, the Empire had to patrol areas with their soldiers to forcefully keep the peace (somewhat of an oxymoron).
The ruler mentality of Christians pertaining to the culture holds that change can only take place when the church is given authority over a particular area. The answers to life’s problems are found in the specific revelation of God (i.e., the Bible), thus the only way to bring culture and faith together is to assert dominance over the culture. This model is comparable to the “Christ Above Culture” model presented by Niebuhr. It is said that Thomas Aquinas is the greatest advocate of this model. Is this the best model to hold?
The last viewpoint is the exact opposite of the Monk Model. Politicians have the reputation of avoiding specific answers when presented certain questions. Many successful politicians are wishy-washy as they seek approval from both sides of the aisle. In like manner, the Politician Model is one that seeks to assimilate the culture into one’s faith. Being comparable to Niebuhr’s “Christ of Culture” model, it is no surprise that liberal Christians often adopt this mindset.
Feminist theologians such as Rosemary Radford Ruether, anti-hell theologian Rob Bell, Matthew Vines, “cultural Christians,” and process theologians would fit within the Politician Model. Quite frankly, it is often difficult to pinpoint exactly what the beliefs of many cultural Christians are. In many respects, one would imagine that the culture has shaped their biblical hermeneutics rather than biblical hermeneutics shaping their cultural stance. But in their defense, many of these individuals hold that if Christianity does not adapt to the culture, they fear that Christianity will become irrelevant at best, or will die at the worst. Is this true? Is this the best model?
Conclusion: The Preferred Model
Nearly all of these models hold some value and truth. The monk is correct in thinking that the Christian needs to step away from cultural trends. Christians may find solace in stepping away from the grid from time to time. The mobster is correct in thinking that a paradox will always exist between the Christian life and the cultural life. As the old adage goes, “Christians are in the world, but not of the world.” The reformer is correct in thinking that change must happen through the gospel message. That requires engagement. The ruler is correct in thinking that the Bible holds the right answers to the problems of life. For all the problems of the politician model, it is agreed that Christianity must at least listen to the concerns of the modern culture.
In my estimation, the politician model (if you could not tell already) does not hold the answer for the modern Christian. If the gospel message is lost, there is no Christianity to keep alive. Without the gospel and the truth of God’s word, Christianity has already become irrelevant. However, if the Bible is God’s word (which I believe it is), then its truths transcend culture. Thus, the politician model is the weakest of the four.
The monk model is not preferred either. Christ calls for us to be “my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). It is difficult to tell people about Christ throughout the ends of the earth while Christians are disengaged with society. In fact, many have argued that it is because of this mentality that the universities were lost to secularism in the late 1800s. Princeton, Yale, and other ivy-league institutions used to be front and center for orthodox Christian values. In like manner, it could be argued that the reason our culture has become so secularized is due to the withdrawal of Christians from active service in society.
The ruler model does not seem to be preferred either. The Christian cannot force a person into the kingdom. In like manner, Christian dictatorship leads to a “cultural Christianity” which is not necessarily a genuine Christianity.
The mobster mentality is correct in its assessment. However, it seems that such a view could lend itself to the Monk Model if taken to extremes. Thus, the mobster mentality holds great value, but does not seem to be the best outlook.
In my estimation, I feel that the Reformer Model is best. The only hope that people have is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ can and will transform the culture ultimately in the end. The reformer does not allow his theology to be altered by the culture. Nor does the reformer allow his fears to cause him to hide away from the culture either. He is engaged with the culture and realizes that the only hope for humanity is found in the gospel. Nothing will change unless there is a transformation. A transformation cannot happen without the gospel of Christ. Therefore, the gospel of Jesus Christ will bring change to a troubled culture.
© July 11, 2016. Brian Chilton.
 See the following link for a chart describing the five approaches given in Niebuhr’s book: http://christianculturecenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/christ-and-culture.png.
 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the New Living Translation (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013).
In a Q&A, Carl Trueman was asked about why churches today are losing their young people. Typical answers to this question range from things like the temptations of this world or the irrelevance of the church–your typical answers. But Trueman makes a keen and convicting connection between our parenting and apostasy.
“The church is losing its young people because the parents never taught their children that it was important. I think that applies across the board. It applies to family worship, and it also applies to whether you are in church every Sunday and what priority you demonstrate to your children church has on a Sunday. If the sun shines out and their friends are going to the beach, do you decide to skip church and go to the beach? In which case, you send signals to your children that it is not important.” (Carl Trueman)
Now we know that artificially taking…
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On Monday, July 4th, 2016, Americans will celebrate the 240th annual Independence Day. On July 4th, 1776, the United States declared its independence from England. Americans will gather in various locations to watch fireworks and cook outdoors to celebrate their freedoms. However, this Independence Day is marked by various anxieties. Americans have watched many of their cherished freedoms diminish at the altar of political correctness. Many are uncertain about what lies ahead for their beloved nation which has served as a bastion of freedom for 240 years. Bible-believing Christians comprise many who hold such concerns. How is it possible to truly relish in Independence Day with such anxieties tormenting us? I would like to suggest four ways to combat anxiety on Independence Day.
1. Combat Independence Day anxieties by trusting in
The sovereignty of God is more than a doctrine of a solid systematic theology. God’s sovereignty provides a distinguished trust. When a person acknowledges that God is in control, worries and concerns tend to fade away. Divine sovereignty is tied-in to God’s omnipotence. John S. Feinberg notes that God’s sovereignty means that “God is the ultimate, final, and complete authority over everything and everyone…God’s sovereign will is also free, for nobody forces him to do anything, and whatever he does is in accord with his purposes and wishes” (Feinberg 2001, 294). If we were to understand that God is moving to bring about a certain end in mind, saving as many people that He knows would be saved, then the anxious times we currently experience would lose the power of uncertainty. For nothing is uncertain with God.
2. Combat Independence Day anxieties by remembering the Church’s past redemptions.
If you are like me, then you have a long-term memory problem. By that, I mean to indicate that I often find myself forgetting about the ways that God has moved in my life before this time. I eventually worry about things that God has already delivered me from in the past. A classic example of this behavior is found with the disciples. Jesus had fed 5,000 men along with countless women and children with a few loaves of bread and fish (Matthew 14:13-21, ESV). The sum total of those fed that day probably ranged in excess of 20,000 people!
Interestingly enough, the disciples were met with another instance where their food supply had dwindled. Jesus told the disciples again, just as He had previously, to feed the crowd. The disciples, yet again, said, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place” (Matthew 15:33, ESV)? I can imagine Jesus saying, “Seriously?!? Are you kidding Me?!?” Well, that would be my response nonetheless. It’s easy for us to forget about how God has moved in the past.
As the modern Church faces restrictions in religious freedoms, it is important to note that the Church has experienced situations like this in the past. In fact, the Church was born in a hostile society where believers comprised the vast minority. God has delivered the Church in uncertain time. Naysayers who claimed that the Church would not make it 100 years from their time have been greatly disappointed countless times over. Voltaire is such an example. Before worrying about your present, remember the Church’s past.
3. Combat Independence Day anxieties by working the present calling.
Many modern Christians are tempted to become calloused and angry over the situations arising. While it is imperative that we stand up for religious freedoms and take our voting responsibilities seriously as Americans, we must not forget the primary calling upon our lives. We are not called to be patriots first, Christians second. Rather, we are called to be Christians first, patriots second. Often believers are tempted to focus more on the things we oppose than the things for which we stand. It must be remembered that the entire law of God can be summarized into two commandments, as Jesus masterfully put it, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40, NLT).
Our first love must be for God and God alone. But in addition to this, we must remember that we are called to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? It is the Christian: both conservative and otherwise. It is the Arab and the Jew; the Muslim and Hindu. It is the Buddhist and Sikh. It is the Wiccan, the Atheist, the Agnostic, and Secularist. It is the Republican and the Democrat. It is the Liberal and the Conservative. It is the White person, the Black person, the Asian, and Latino. It is the American, the Canadian, the Russian, and the Mexican. It is those who live like you and those who do not, those who share your values and those who do not. All of the aforementioned individuals are made in the image of God…even if the person mentioned doesn’t realize that fact.
This brings us to the issue of calling. What is the primary calling for the Church united? Jesus has told us from the beginning that our primary calling is to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLT). Does this mean that we still stand for the truth uncompromisingly? Absolutely we do! But one’s stand must never be allowed to waver one’s commitment to love others the way Christ instructed. If we remember to see others through the lens of Christ, then we will be better focused on the task at hand.
4. Combat Independence Day anxieties by acknowledging future victory.
Beloved, I was reminded of a great truth the other day in my devotions. I came across Paul’s reminder to the Church of Rome where he notes that “what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are…And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:18-19, 28, NLT). Russell D. Moore tells us that a good way to remember the future coming is to walk around in an old graveyard and while doing so, he writes,
“think about what every generation of Christians has held against the threat of sword and guillotine and chemical weaponry. This stillness will one day be interrupted by a shout from the eastern sky, a joyful call with a distinctly northern Galilean accent. And that’s when life gets interesting” (Moore 2014, 721).
Undoubtedly, we live in uncertain days. But the promise that our heavenly Independence Day brings us is that we are redeemed to live a life without worry and anxiety. Our sins have been forgiven. We have a purpose and a high calling upon our lives. So, this Independence Day, instead of mourning the things we have lost as Americans, why not focus on the things we have gained through our risen Lord Jesus?
© July 3, 2016. Brian Chilton.
Feinberg, John S. No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.
Moore, Russell D. “Personal and Cosmic Eschatology.” In A Theology for the Church. Revised Edition. Edited by Daniel L. Akin. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2014.
Scripture marked ESV comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.
Scripture marked NLT comes from the New Living Translation. Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013.
Here is an excellent article by Melissa Cain Travis on the need for seminaries to step up their game in the genre of science and faith education.
It should come as no surprise to anyone not living under a rock that “scientific
evidence” is the most frequently cited reason for denying the rationality of the Christian faith. Scientism has basically become the surrogate religion of secular humanism; advocates make grand philosophical pronouncements against Christianity in the guise of “incontrovertible scientific conclusions” about reality. Several of the “New Atheists,” those writing the screechy New York Times bestsellers intended to persuade the masses, have degrees in the hard sciences, which gives many the [egregiously mistaken] impression that religious belief must be inversely proportional to scientific literacy. As Christians, we are called to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Yet, only a tiny minority of believers know how to respond to these kinds of arguments.
I think the root of the problem has many threads, but a major one is related to the usual scope of seminary education. In my own online…
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Timing is everything. If I have something that is of a sensitive topic to discuss with my wife (like say the purchase of a new commentary or academic books like those from the amazing Craig Keener), I do not approach my wife when she is in a bad mood. Rather, I wait until she is in a fairly good mood to broker such a deal. My bookcase already runneth over which to me is a sign that I need to get another bookcase to fill with more books. But that is a different topic, so I digress. Nevertheless, the timing of a series of events changes how certain ends come about. If I approached my wife with the idea of a new commentary after she had a bad day at work, chances are likely I will not get the commentary with her blessings. For those who say, “Well, get it anyway;” I would say, “You’re either not married, or not ‘happily’ married.” As the old adage goes, “Happy wife, happy life.” However, if I caught my wife on a good day and explained the value of the commentary, the end result would likely be different.
When it comes to the order of God’s decrees, timing is everything. In the theological world, there are three orders of God’s decrees that are presented: Supralaparianism, Infralapsarianism, and Sublapsarianism. When we mention the word “decree,” think of this as the timing of God’s decision. I decreed to write this article last Thursday, but I decreed to actually write the article on Monday, June 27, 2016. What are these orders and which fits the biblical narrative best?
Supralapsarianism is accepted by what many call hyper-Calvinists or as Norman Geisler calls it “The Extreme Sovereignty View.” Supralapsarianists accept the following order of God’s decrees:
- God decrees to save some and condemn others.
- God decrees to create both the elect (saved) and the reprobate (condemned).
- God decrees to permit the fall of both the elect and the reprobate.
- God decrees to permit salvation only for the elect.
In this order, God decides to create both those who would be saved and would not be saved, and decides to only give salvation to those whom He chose to give salvation. In this scheme, the individual has no option but to follow the course that God has previously prepared for them. Such a plan is deterministic, or even perhaps fatalistic.
A modified version of Supralapsarianism is Infralapsarianism. Infralapsarianists seek to soften the hardcore determinism found in Supralapsarianism by offering the following model:
- God decrees to create human beings.
- God decrees to permit the fall of humanity.
- God decrees to save the elect and condemn the rest.
- God decrees to provide salvation for the elect.
In this model, God makes the decision to save a particular group of individuals after He decides to allow humanity to fall. Thus, God offers a bit of freedom to humanity. However, after humanity has fallen, God decides to select a few to save.
Sublapsarianism differs from the previous two models presented. Sublapsarianists offer the following model for consideration:
- God decrees to create human beings.
- God decrees to permit the fall.
- God decrees to provide salvation sufficient for all.
- God decrees to save some and to condemn others.
In this model, God creates humanity with a desire to save all, but chooses to save only some. Sublapsarianism is the softest of the three versions presented. One must ask, which fits the biblical narrative best?
Which fits the biblical narrative best?
To answer this question, certain biblical passages must be kept in mind. The Bible does not tell us of the particular order that God followed when creating humanity and developing the salvific plan. However, some passages imply a particular narrative. I wish to examine four segments of Scripture.
Exodus 4:21 and 8:15
In the story of the Exodus, God told Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go” (Exodus 4:21). How did this hardening take place? Well, the reader is provided the answer later in the book. When God alleviated the plagues and “when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the LORD had said” (Exodus 8:15). Through this particular passage, we see that God absolutely knows what a particular person will do in certain circumstances. Notice too, it was God’s grace given to Pharaoh persuading him to repentance that led to Pharaoh’s heart-hardening.
Ezekiel 18:23 and 2 Peter 3:9
In Ezekiel 18:23, the LORD proclaims, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” One will note that God’s pleasure is not found in the death of anyone, including the wicked. This lends to a similar exegesis of 2 Peter 3:9 where Peter, not speaking of the elect but of all people, proclaims, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Some have argued that Peter was writing of the elect, but that makes no sense. For such an exposition would imply that the elect could be lost. If 2 Peter 3:9 is understood in the light of Ezekiel 18:23, which to me seems extremely reasonable, then one must acknowledge God’s desire for all people to repent.
In Romans 11:11, Paul notes that it was the fall of Israel that allowed the world to come to faith. Paul notes that the trespass of Israel was allowed so that “through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:11). This seems to be similar to the allowance of Pharaoh’s heart-hardening to bring forth faith to the people of God.
Perhaps John 3:16 is the most popular verse in the entire Bible. In this verse Jesus says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The passage clearly dictates that the world was in mind with God’s sacrifice. The term cosmos implies the world, or an entirety of the global human race. Such a view is also in mind as Jesus continues in his discourse, saying, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18).
We could spend much more time on this issue evaluating other passages of Scripture. However, with the passages already examined, I think we have a good biblical case for sublapsarianism. Millard Erickson notes, “It is the view that God logically decides first to provide salvation, then elects some to receive it. This is essentially the sublapsarian position of theologians like Augustus Strong” . While there are certainly those that disagree, I would say that sublapsarianism allows for the love of God to be fully seen as well as His amazing power and knowledge. An additional question may be asked. Why did God allow for the fall and for some to be condemned in the first place? I think C. S. Lewis says it well, “Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” A world where the fullness of love is possible to be given and received in its initial form, there must be the availability that such love would be rejected. Sublapsarianism seems to answer this well.
© June 27, 2016. Brian Chilton.
 And yes, I am exaggerating.
 Norman Geisler, Chosen but Free: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010), 15.
 Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 842, 2n.
 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).
 Erickson, Christian Theology, 852.
 Some hold that the verse is part of a section where John the apostle synthesizes Jesus’ message, rather than holding that the section is part of Jesus’ actual message. The NIV 2011 and NET translators hold this view. I personally feel that the section belongs to the teaching of Jesus. John may have compacted the message of Jesus for simplicity’s sake. Nevertheless, I hold that John 3:16 was part of Jesus’ message to Nicodemus.
Four Ways God Has Revealed Himself to the World – http://wp.me/pCHEG-5iR
Today, I read about the United Kingdom’s decision to pull out of the European Union. Without engaging in whether such an idea was good or bad (I’ll leave that to the political pundits), many fear that the global economy could suffer because of England’s decision. It seems to me that every time I turn on the news there is something even more shocking than the day before. For many, the looming thoughts of a global World War III seem more and more like a possibility. How does the Christian remain calm and peaceable in such a tumultuous time? Let me suggest a few points.
- The Church has previously endured similar circumstances and survived.
Solomon notes, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). While technology increases in complexity, people never change—both good and bad news. The gospel message remains the same. The Church has endured the persecutions of the Roman empire. The Church made it through the dark ages. The Church has survived times when people thought that the gospel message would die. Church, we will make it through by God’s grace. Yes, we may have to use different tactics and methodologies, but the message of Christ will never change.
2. God is sovereign: He knows what we do not.
God is sovereign. This means that God is in control. Grudem associates sovereignty with God’s power in noting that “God’s omnipotence means that God is able to do all his holy will.” When the prophet Jeremiah asked for understanding pertaining to the events of his day, God inquired, “Is anything too hard for me” (Jeremiah 32:27)? The obvious answer is, “No.” When I have questions and concerns (which I have in recent days), God keeps assuring me saying, “Trust Me! I have this under control.”
3. Jesus never promised an easy road; He just promised His presence.
The Church has largely become spoiled. This is not true of those in the Eastern church and certainly not true of those in the Southern Hemisphere. But in the Western church, false promises of an easy life have overwhelmed the message of Christ. Instead of proclaiming, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27), the Western church has proclaimed, “God wants you to be a multi-millionaire and live an easy life.” It may be that some would enjoy such pleasure, but such has not been the case for the majority of Christians throughout time. In the end, we must be reminded that Christ never promised an easy road, rather He promised His presence. For He reminds us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
4. Each day is a day closer to Christ’s return.
As a futurist, I believe that the Book of Revelation gives a description of what will take place in the end of human history. I will not speculate as to when Christ will return. It is impossible to predict Christ’s coming for He has told us, “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). While it is impossible for one to postulate when Christ will appear to redeem the Church, it is with certainty that one could claim that each day is one day closer to that time. Rather than become depressed at the current status of the world, we need to remember the work that is set before us. We may not have much longer before God calls the Church home.
5. The joys of a heavenly eternity far outweigh the problems of today.
The apostle Paul reminds us that “‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’—the things that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NIV). The eternity that God has prepared for those who love Him far outweigh the problems that we may encounter today. If you are depressed about the events of today, focus your attention on the joys of eternity that await you. Some may argue, “Doesn’t this place less attention on the here and now?” Certainly not! When a person lives with the hope that is found in heaven, the person is able to look beyond oneself and see the larger picture.
The world is currently unstable. Chances are highly likely that it could become even more unstable before it gets better. Nevertheless, Christians have the opportunity to “step up to the plate.” We speak of the trust found in God. Such times allows such trust to be seen in a vivid fashion. While the world becomes an increasingly dark place, the Church has the opportunity to illuminate the light of Christ even more vividly than before. Will you succumb to the darkness of worry and anxiety or will you stand and say, “Let the floodwaters come! I will not be moved from the Rock of my foundation, the Lighthouse shining forth in an ocean of darkness—that Rock, that Lighthouse being Jesus Christ!!!” Christian, what will your response be?
 See Griff Witte, Karla Adam, and Dan Balz, “Britain Shocks World: Breaks with European Union, British Leader Steps Down,” MSN.com (June 24, 2016), retrieved June 24, 2016, http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/britain-shocks-world-breaks-with-european-union-british-leader-steps-down/ar-AAhznhT.
 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).
 Take for instance the proclamation of Voltaire who predicted that no one would read the Bible in 100 years. Voltaire lived in the 1700s.
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 216.
 Scripture marked NIV comes from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011).
© June 24, 2016. Brian Chilton.
This past week, God has shown me through multiple avenues the importance of relationships. I listened to Garrett DeWeese’s lecture on “Solving the Problem of Evil” and in that lecture DeWeese addresses the importance of relationships. Also, I had a wonderful conversation with Chaplain Jason Kline as he discussed relational apologetics, that is involving relationships in one’s apologetic presentation.
Often times, people think of apologetics as being a “heady, intellectual” pursuit, unconcerned about matters of the heart. While apologetics concerns itself with intellectual matters and the training of the mind, one must understand that apologetics is a branch of a larger spectrum of evangelism. A strong argument could be made that apologetics is part of one’s discipleship effort too as one must be “transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2).
Seeing that apologetics is often intellectual, it is easy for one to lose sight of the greater challenge and the greater goal: not winning arguments, but winning souls for Christ. For this to take place, the apologist must understand the great value of relationships. These relationships should include three things.
- The presence of love must be included in one’s relational apologetic.
Christian leaders should understand the great damage that has been done by the anti-intellectual movement that invaded the church beginning in the 19th century. Modern heresies that have entered the church are a direct result of the emphasis placed on the heart rather than the head. But on the other hand, the apologist, in one’s quest to emphasize the intellectual pursuits of the faith, must not neglect the heart entirely especially as it relates to love. A strong head and weak heart leads to a sterile, emotionless shell of what the Christian life should be. It is a firepit with the wood and coals properly placed, yet without a flame providing heat. What’s the point of a firepit with no fire?
Paul warns vehemently that “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). If I have a strong apologetic with no love, then I am just another “talking head.” Apologist, do you love the person you are conversing with? If not, you may want to step out of the conversation until you have the loving flames of the Holy Spirit burning within your heart.
- The presence of listening must be included in one’s relational apologetic.
In my conversation with Kline as well as DeWeese’s lecture, I was reminded of the great value in listening. DeWeese noted that with Job, “Job’s friends were appalled at the conditions Job faced. They sat with Job silently for 7 days, but it all went downhill from there. Their silence, tears, and ministering to Job helped him more than their words.” As apologists we must use our words to proclaim and defend the faith. But we cannot sacrifice a listening ear in order to do so.
I am from the Southeastern United States. While not as prevalent today, it used to be commonplace to find a group of men gathered around a popular restaurant and/or storefront talking about the issues of the day. My grandpa, Roy Chilton, was a child of the Depression Era and served in World War II. In his time, they had no Facebook, Instagram, or instant messenger. Rather, they had the local gathering place. In my younger years, he took me with him to visit some of his friends at one particular person’s welding shop. The thing to remember about these conversations is that many of the stories become “tall tales;” fun stories based on truth, but exaggerated to make the story sound more appealing. “Conversation” is a loose term to be used in this environment as most of the “conversations” turned into a competition for who could tell the greatest tale. I noticed that Grandpa would not so much listen to what was being said by another as much as he was preparing his next story. Others would do the same.
Apologists should use caution against the use of the same practice. If we are simply preparing our next argument without truly listening to the objections being made, then it is highly likely to miss the objection entirely and leave the seeker more antagonistic in the end. As my grandmother, Eva Chilton, used to say (and it may have been partly directed towards Grandpa), “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason; so that we’ll listen twice as much as we speak.”
- The presence of longing must be included in one’s relational apologetic.
What is the apologist’s goal? What is one in apologetics anyhow? Is it the goal of the person to appear smart and intelligent? Is it the person’s goal to show how many books he or she has read? Or is a person in apologetics simply to join a particular community? Intelligence and community are important matters. However, the goal of the apologist if based on relationships must be to clear the path for the Holy Spirit to operate. It is an evangelistic affair. The Westminster Confession of Faith proclaims that “the chief end of man is to glorify God.” To borrow Westminster’s verbiage, the chief end of apologetics is to win souls for Christ. Does the apologist long to see the person with whom they are conversing come to know Christ? Or is the person simply using the arguments as a means of intellectual chess? A strong argument is nothing without the wooing presence of the Holy Spirit. This means that the apologist, if effective, must be a person of prayer, consistently seeking after and desiring God.
Apologetics is a branch of evangelism. Evangelism seeks to persuade people to accept Christ as their Savior. Therefore, apologetics must seek to persuade people to accept Christ as their Savior. If Christ has truly died for the sins of humanity and has truly risen from the dead according to the Scriptures, then the apologist’s intention must be to see others come to know the reality that is Christ and the salvation that comes from a covenant relationship with Him. Let’s be brutally honest. Sometimes we as apologists can become so involved in apologetics that we come off as jerks to those in which we are trying to minister. For me, guilty as charged. The church needs apologetics. The church needs apologists!!! The church is never going to accept the apologist if he/she consistently berates the pastor or those who are not onboard. If this is true of the church, the lost person will certainly not desire to listen to any apologist (regardless of their credentials) if the apologist comes off as obstinate or emotionless. Remember, Jesus was the greatest apologist of all and He spent a great amount of time building relationships. Apologetics without meaningful relationships often becomes valueless.
© June 20, 2016. Brian Chilton.
 The conversation with Chaplain Jason Kline can be found at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pastorbrianchilton/2016/06/20/relational-apologetics-with-pastor-apologist-and-chaplain-jason-kline.
 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).
 Garrett DeWeese, “Solving the Problem of Evil,” Biola University, lecture notes, 10.
Zondervan has always done a good job of publishing the Five Views Series. One of their recent offerings is called Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). I am eager to read this book. The topic makes me think of the following texts:
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one…
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Great article on the destruction found in negative thinking. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit.
All of us experience negative thoughts from time to time. How we manage our negative attitudes can make the difference between confidence versus fear, hope versus despair, mastery versus victimhood, and victory versus defeat.
Multiple studies have revealed how chronic negative attitudes can adversely affect one’s health, happiness, and well-being. Below are eight common negative thoughts of unhappy people:
1. Self-Defeating Talk
Self-defeating talk are messages we send to ourselves, which reduce our confidence, diminish our performance, lower our potential, and ultimately sabotage our success. Common self-defeating talk includes sentences such as:
- “I can’t…”
- “I’m not good enough…”
- “I’m not confident…”
- “I don’t have what it takes…”
- “I’m going to fail…”
Would you like it if a friend told you repeatedly that “you can’t succeed,” “you’re not good enough,” “you lack confidence,” “you don’t have what it takes,” or “you’re going to fail?” Would you consider this person a real friend? If…
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Recently my family and I returned from our vacation at the beach. We stayed on a local island. Instead of staying at the coastal section of the island, we chose rather to stay at the side where the waterway was found. My wife noticed that many of the houses on the coastal side were in much worse shape than those on the waterway side. The waves of the ocean and the salt-enveloped wind had beaten the coastal homes. In stark contrast, the homes at the waterway were protected by the numerous trees in the area.
I used to live in the area for awhile. A friend of mine, who had lived at the coast for most of his life, told me that storms had previously not affected homes as much as they do now. Why? Many of the sand dunes and trees found on these islands were removed to allow for more residential and commercial areas. Thus, homes, even on the mainland, were more prone to the waves and the wind. In a similar fashion, the Christian Church has been subjected to great flaws due to the erosion of classical understandings of the faith.
Attacks on the Christian church from the outside have gathered a lot of attention. Persecution and financial pressures from outside groups often concern Christian leaders and laity alike. Yet, another threat ominously endangers the Church. No, it is not a threat from any government, world religion, or terrorist organization. This threat comes from the Church itself. “What is this danger?” you may ask. It is the danger of losing classical theology. By classical theology, I do not mean any particular view found in a non-Calvinist or Calvinist tradition. Classical theology, as it is used here, refers to the core fundamentals of apostolic Christianity, or the teachings of the New Testament apostles.
Unfortunately, the fundamentals of Classical theology are eroding in many Western churches. Why? Theological liberalism along with secularism, New Age ideologies, and the desire for relevancy have begun to chip away at the underpinnings of Classical theology. Richard Howe made it clear in a session at Southern Evangelical Seminary’s “National Conference on Christian Apologetics” in 2015 that the Church must reclaim Classical theology. I wholeheartedly concur. But how do we resurrect Classical theology? I feel that focusing on four core fundamentals will help.
- Resurrecting the classical view of divine omniscience.
Divine omniscience is one particular attribute under attack. By divine omniscience, I mean, as Wayne Grudem defines, the ability of God to “fully know himself and all things actual and possible in one simple and eternal act.” Worded another way, Ryrie states that “Omniscience means that God knows everything, things actual and possible, effortlessly and equally well.”
Classical theology affirms that God knows all that there is to know. However, omniscience has been assaulted by New Age Christianity. New Age Christianity often seeks to excuse God from the problem of evil by claiming that God did not know that a particular bad thing was about to occur.
Such reckoning wreaks havoc on the Church’s understanding of God. Why? If God cannot be trusted to know the future, then how can we trust God in His prophetic utterances? How can we know that history will be unfolded as the Book of Revelation proclaims? How do we know that God will really hold the victory in the end? In reality, a person could not trust that God would, or even could, deliver in all that He has promised. Thus, the New Age Christian lacks the trust in God’s knowledge that the Classic Christian holds. As bad as the New Age Christian attacks God’s omniscience, it is even worse when one considers the assault on God’s omnipotence.
- Resurrecting the classical view of divine omnipotence.
Theologically, omnipotence has been understood by classical theology as God’s ability “to do whatever is possible to do.” That is to say, God can do anything that power can do. God has all-power to do all things that are logically possible. God’s omnipotence is a clear teaching of the Scriptures (e.g., 2 Cor. 6:18; Rev. 1:8; 4:8, and etc.). Early Christian teachers accepted divine omnipotence. Augustine of Hippo teaches, “We call Him omnipotent, even though He is unable to die or be deceived. We call Him omnipotent because He does whatever He wills to do and suffers nothing that He does not will to suffer.” So why does New Age Christianity seek to dismiss the omnipotence of God?
New Age Christianity, as it does with the omniscience of God, dismisses divine omnipotence in an effort to explain away the presence of evil. If one could say, “God would like to rid the world of evil, but He just can’t quite do it,” then the New Age Christian feels that God’s omnibenevolence (or all-loving nature) is spared. Some may seek to compromise divine omnipotence in an effort to explain the existence of unbelievers.
The New Age answer causes greater problems with it addresses. If God is incapable of doing all things, then is God truly God? God, properly understood, is the highest being in existence. If God were not all-powerful, then God would really not be God. If God were not all-powerful, then what assures the believer that God will ultimately triumph over evil?
Luckily, better answers are found in Classic Christianity. If one acknowledges human responsibility and the impartation of the human will, then a person can find the answer to these conundrums without sacrificing God’s attributes. Here again, the Classic Christian answer provides a better basis than newer alternatives. In a similar sense, the Triune nature of God is diluted.
- Resurrecting the classical view of divine trinitarianism.
One of the earliest heresies to face the Church dealt with the issue of the Triune nature of God. Christians since the days of the inception of the Church have accepted that God was One God, but in three persons. While most Christians accepted this truth, it was through a process that the doctrine known as the Trinity would be properly understood.
Let me say from the outset that the Trinity was not an invention of Constantine as some have claimed. The Scriptures demonstrate the divine nature of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. One of the clearest examples of the Triune nature of God is found in Christ’s baptism (Matt. 3:13-17). In the particular passage, one will find Jesus who “went up from the water” (Matt. 3:16); the “Spirit of God descending like a dove” (Matt. 3:16); and the Father speaking out from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Why is it that modern versions of Christianity seek to demote the doctrine of God’s Triune nature?
Many New Age versions of Christianity have been influenced by heretical groups. Worldviews found outside of the classical Christian understanding have promoted an idea of God that is antithetical to the classical view. Unfortunately, a severe lack of biblical training complemented with a woeful disregard for intellectual understandings of the faith have led to the inclusion of heresies that have been condemned since the 300s. The disregard for the Triune nature of God has also led to a weak view of Christ.
- Resurrecting the classical view of divine incarnation.
Finally, the person of Christ has been chipped away by modern ideologies. Some have taken the Gnostic understanding of Jesus. In this understanding, Jesus is seen as a mystical and spiritual person. Jesus’ humanity is ignored. Jesus is thus turned into a Marvel comic character. The opposite is also true. Others have sought to demonstrate Jesus’ humanity while neglecting and dismissing the divine nature of Christ. Individuals such as Rudolf Bultmann have sought to “de-mythologize” Christ. Therefore, any miraculous claim given by the Gospel narratives are bypassed as mere myth.
In either case, the Church is (to use a cliché) standing on thin ice when accepting either of the previous alternatives. Paul records an ancient confession saying that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). As Lord, one acknowledges the divine status of Christ. The apostle John also notes that “every spirit that confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2). The Classic Christian view is that Jesus is both God and man in one person.
This article has been somewhat longer than most posts that I write. But it is longer for good reason. The church is at a crossroads in the Western world. Globally, Christianity is growing at a rapid rate. The Western church, however, has faced many problems. The problems of the Western church originate from increased secularization, decreased biblical knowledge, and an explosion of possible distractions—from technology to careers. The church in the Western world has sought to combat this decline by catering to the culture, all-the-while seeking to become relevant.
While I fully acknowledge that methodologies must change, it is a grave mistake to tamper with the fundamental doctrines that uphold the Christian worldview. By “watering-down” particular doctrines, the church essentially commits the same problem that many coastal areas have done. They take down the very things that buffer them from the storms of life. Houses can be rebuilt. But undermined theology can lead to erroneous doctrines which may hold eternal consequences. Let’s fix this problem by resurrecting and maintaining classical Christian theology.
© June 12, 2016. Brian Chilton.
 I use the capitalized term “Church” to reference the global community of Christ.
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 190.
 Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 47.
 In this article, I use the term “New Age Christianity” to denote a modern form of Christianity that is found to disassemble the fundamental core of Classical Christianity.
 I hold to a futurist understanding of the Book of Revelation.
 Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 487.
 Augustine of Hippo, City of God 5.10.
 In varying degrees depending upon one’s view of salvation (soteriology).
 Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).
 Such as the Jehovah Witness movement and the Church of the Latter-Day Saints.
 Also noted by Thomas in his response to the risen Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
5 Things We Can’t Control – http://wp.me/p1hVym-K8