Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thinking About Political Atheism

I was reading through the atheist responses to the PastorMatt.tv blog and posted the following thoughts:

The evidence is pretty strong that the most dangerous belief system which has ever been developed is atheism. Atheists protest that Christianity is dangerous and that we’re going to bring back an Inquisition. But let’s be honest, the Inquisition, universally derided even among Catholics, killed a few thousand people over 400 years. Stalin murdered possibly 30 million in three decades. Christianity would never survive with that track record.
The other piece of dishonesty is the equating of Intelligent Design with “teaching religion in the classroom.” Sorry, if a Christian, Jew, and Muslim all agree on something, it is not equivalent to a religion or worship. You don’t get to define a general recognition of some kind of God as a religion simply because you reject all religions. Most people in the world believe in SOMETHING divine. It is totalitarian to demand that the majority of the planet avoid offending your belief system. That kind of thinking, unrestrained, would lead to . . . Oh wait, I already covered that.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Worshiping Jesus in the Mosque?

I received a comment on a previous post, "Insider Movement Introduction," from a supporter of insider movements in Muslim countries referring me to an article published in Christianity Today by Gene Daniels. While this fellow was basically trolling by posting links and not making arguments himself, I found the article extremely enlightening. Only our age of biblical illiteracy and theological decay would permit such an article to be printed in an evangelical publication.

I agreed with the commenter that Gene Daniel's article is very enlightening. The article is a structured interview which purports to be a discussion with a man who came to faith in Christ through a vision of multiplying macaroni and then sought out Christians.

After several years in the church and time in Bible college, the convert left the Christian church and returned to the mosque as a believer in "Isa" (the Koranic name for Jesus). He did so because Christians rejected the Islamic forms of address and greetings as well as Koranic religious terminology. He also seems to object to the refusal in organized Middle Eastern churches to recognize that the Allah of Islam is the God of Christianity. This man believes that the rejection of all of this is not a rejection of error, but of general revelation.

There is some irony that he uses such a term because he also rejects systematic theology, which gives us terms such as "general revelation," and the creeds of the church. Very enlightening indeed.

1) This "believer" is an apostate who has rejected most of what Christians in all cultures accept as what it means to be and live as a Christian. He isn't simply rejecting some kind of Western cultural practices, but Christianity itself. He rejects the creeds, symbols of our faith, crafted by people in the Near East, I might add. And he rejects the church. He is not a Christian.

2) In rejecting Christianity, he shows quite a bit of evidence that he is actually captured by the type of theology that we see quite a bit of in the West, the radical Emergent Church movement (I'm not indicting the entire movement, but the radical wing). Interestingly, this theological movement has made great inroads into missiology. Missiologists trained in anthropology and linguistics have been making the claim that theologians and biblical scholars cannot argue with their ideas because we're not linguists and anthropologists. Their dialogue is unethical and exclusive. I wonder if our "follower of Isa" has connections with these "progressive" missiologists?

3) The idea that the God of Muhammed is the Father of Jesus is dishonest or naive. The Koran explicitly rejects any plurality in God. It rejects Jesus as the Son of God. It rejects Christ's crucifixion. It rejects grace and atonement. A great deal of the Koran was written to dismantle Christianity. It is at its core an anti-Christian and anti-Jewish religion. Allah is no more Yahweh than Odin is - except that Odin's revelations were not geared at attacking the Bible. While many Christian communities use "Allah" as an Arabic word for the God of the Bible, many do not because of the associations with the Koranic deity. The interviewee's habit of referring to the Christian terms as "tribal," echos the Islamic habit of belittling Christian theology. Interestingly, many Muslim countries forbid Christians from using the word Allah because they understand that Allah cannot be the God of the Christians.

4) This interviewee speaks from both sides of his mouth in that he argues that Muslim converts first are Muslim, then are Muslim-Christian syncretists and then become fully Christian, implying that we should not expect Muslims to give up their culture at first. They will continue to talk and worship like Muslims and reject Christian theology. But where do they end up? Well, he ended up leaving the church and going back to the mosque and becoming for all intents and purposes a Muslim with some quirky ideas about Jesus and a mission to undermine Christianity in the Muslim world.

5) The argument that converts should not have to give up their culture is a dangerous one because some culture is created by religion and therefore whatever culture is bound up in a false religion should be rejected. He is arguing that because Islam is an all-encompassing religion which radically transforms culture (Muslims teach extensively on this) Muslim Christians should not give up Muslim practices. The more powerful the false religion, the more Christians should bow to it. I think the same argument was made in occupied Korea in the 1930s.

What Gene Daniels is promoting is evil. Middle Eastern Christians have enough suffering from Islamic persecution without Western liberals trying to subvert the Gospel from within.

Friday, March 15, 2013

An Open Letter to Pope Francis

I congratulate and commend you on your rise to the papal see. I rejoice with much of the world that the Roman Church is now led by a man from Latin America. With others I am encouraged to hear of your humility and rejection of the trappings of riches in your ministry as cardinal in Argentina. I pray that Francis of Assisi truly will be your pattern for ministry, with his passion for the Gospel and care for the poor.

Many of us heard very disturbing news reports concerning the papal curia and the power struggles present there. It seems that not only are there local conspiracies to retain power, money and immunity from gross sexual sin, but the Vatican itself has been home to such wickedness. I know that Benedict seems free from accusation of sin in this, but that he was unable to overthrow the power of the curia and cleanse the Roman Church from the top down. On a local level, the world has seen that diocese after diocese has protected sexual predators from criminal justice and these men have often gone on to assault more children. This is a very great evil that will not escape judgement from our King, Jesus Christ. I pray that you will be committed to confronting evil and casting it from your midst, not simply minimizing the damage to reputation and coffers.

As well, I strongly urge you to cleanse the Roman Church of the cult of Mary. As a pastor from Latin America, you have seen yourself how Mary has become far more than an object of reverence, but an object of worship. No amount of subtle theologizing can justify this. While all Christians should revere Mary as the mother of our Savior, she is not our “co-redemptrix,” object of worship or receiver of our prayers. Latin America and parts of Europe have become bastions of goddess-worship. God is not pleased with this. While it is attractive to the uneducated and superstitious, it incurs God’s wrath and destroys the opportunity for unity in the universal Church.

If you actually care for the poor, you will also reform the Roman Church’s system of merit and indulgences. How sad that five hundred years after Martin Luther exposed the evil of this system (which at the time was also propping up a corrupt curia), you continue to sell indulgences with the promise that “excess merit” from Mary and the saints can be delivered to suffering souls in your imaginary purgatory. There is nothing biblical about this, and it plunders the poor and superstitious. Salvation is a gracious gift, which saves a person completely and does not consign her to purgatory, because Christ “has perfected for all time those of us who are being sanctified.” Your theologians have already admitted that Trent misunderstood or misrepresented Dr. Luther. He never said that salvation can be apart from good works, but that good works are not the basis for our salvation. Can we not agree that Christ’s work is the basis for our salvation? Can we not agree that Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient to fully pardon our sins, even the sins committed after baptism which we all commit? Can we not turn people from fear of hell to a joy in good works?

If you do these things, your church will be transformed. Bring sin into the light, the true light of the true Gospel. Live as Francis with a concern only for the poor and the Gospel.


The Rev. Travis D. Hutchinson
Teaching Elder, Presbyterian Church in America

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Countering the Arguments of the World

(the "Mouth of Sauron," Return of the King)

Today's sermon highlights how "there is nothing new under the sun." The Rabshekah of Assyria gives a compendium of arguments against true religion at the gates of Jerusalem. I've drawn out some of his arguments and pointed out the biblical response to such attacks. The notes (sorry they're just notes!) from my sermon can be viewed here. I pray that they are helpful to you.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The 40th General Assembly Ends Early

Somewhat shockingly, the PCA General Assembly ended shortly before eleven at night on Thursday. The Assembly seemed destined to run until midnite and then all Friday morning, but it picked up speed, largely through the Overtures Committee recommending that the pile of discipline amendments be sent back to Pacific Northwest Presbytery for more work. The idea is that the overtures, while possibly helpful, were imperfect (aren't they all!) and the Assembly didn't have time to perfect them (certainly true). The moderator often calls late night sessions on Thursday if the business is running very long. Nashville two years ago was a late night bloodbath that you probably can still watch online. Sometimes he calls Thursday night sessions if there's a chance we can finish and avoid Friday morning. He did. We did. Score!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

H.P. Lovecraft Gets a Shout Out

Ruling Elder Robert Mattes made PCA history tonight with his reference to H.P. Lovecraft, the father of modern horror-fantasy. Robert was speaking against a proposal to change the PCA Book of Church Order to forbid intinction (taking communion by dipping the bread into the wine).[Correction: He was actually speaking in favor of forbidding intinction, see his comment below.] The motion carried and will be sent down to the presbyteries for ratification and a second vote at the next General Assembly in Charlotte. The floor debate was long, and somewhat heated, and in the end the motion carried by a mere FOURTEEN votes out of around a thousand commissioners on the floor. The problem with the motion, in my view, is that it singles out one non-biblical practice which is very ancient and ignores other more egregious violations of apostolic practice such as swapping grape juice for wine or using tiny plastic shot glasses instead of a common cup.

Assembly Approves Report Condemning Muslim Bible Translations

Note: This post was written immediately after the events and needed some corrections, which I added later in the evening. The Ad-Interim Committee on Insider Movements submitted an eighty-page report on Bible translation which included five recommendations for the Assembly. The report was submitted to us by the unanimous action of the Committee. The first four recommendations passed almost unanimously after brief opposition from the floor. The fifth recommendation concerned funding and will come later in the business. The Assembly received the report, which grants it a great deal of weight in the PCA. Some scholars are calling the document "historic" as it defines biblically, theologically and linguistically why the common biological terms must be retained in the translation of "huios" (son) and "pater" (father) in reference to Jesus and God the Father. Muslim Idiom Translations have translated these terms with such substitutes as "representative" and "guardian."

This action will give guidance to churches supporting translation work, a resource to our mission agency, and place pressure on translation agencies to hold to biblical standards for translation.
Neither our mission agency or the pastor who questioned some of the language of the report in a pre-Assembly packet spoke against the report. I think we're all on the same page with this. Praise God.

Please pray the the Assembly will authorize funding the AICoIM to continue for another year.