What Does True Repentance Look Like?

This fall we’ve been going through the various areas of Soteriology (the study of salvation) in our High School Sunday School.  This Sunday we covered conversion/repentance.  One of the main books that I use as a source, and one that I full heartedly recommend is “The Cross and Salvation” by Bruce Demarest.  He provides three areas of true repentance.  They are as follows:

1.  An Intellectual Element- The first thing required in true conversion is to intellectually understand what it means.  You must first, understand the fact that God is a holy God, who is righteous and true altogether.  And that His holiness creates a deep displeasure and disdain towards sin.  The second thing you must know is that man is incredibly sinful.  You must be aware of your sin and guilt.  This leaves us living as ‘children of wrath’ (Eph 2:1-3), condemned before God.  Man must understand that their sin condemns them to Hell, separated from God.  Thirdly, man must understand that God is read to forgive sin entirely.

The interesting thing here is that the first step is often skipped, and the evangelist tends to go straight to the emotional element.  But the  emotional element is often understood.  When I was teaching, I spoke of how this is exactly what people like Joel Osteen does.  He doesn’t talk about sin because it is negative and not encouraging.  His message is, instead, that “God wants you to be wealthy, spiritually and physically.  God wants the best for you and He loves you very much.  Jesus died so you could know peace and joy.”  Unfortunately, the knowledge of sin is often left out.

2. An Emotional Element- The second element can be misunderstood, and often twisted.  This is more than being emotionally moved, but actually abhoring sin (Psalm 119:104) and knowing that it is against God that man has sinned (Psalm 51:4).  This is a truth driven emotion, not a baseless crying.  This isn’t being moved by music, or even a passionate preacher.  It is being emotionally moved over one’s sin.  It is understanding how God is grieved by our sin.

3. A Volitional Element- The third element is probably the most controversial.  This is that one must have a determination to forsake sin and amend one’s life.  Repentance is a literal turning from one’s sin towards the holiness of God.  Proverbs 28:13 says that it isn’t about concealing sin, but about confessing and renouncing our sinful nature.  This is where the Lordship Salvation debate enters.  Here area  few quotes I found on it:

“We take Him for what He is- the anointed anointed Savior and Lord who is King of kings and Lord of lords!  He would not be who He is if He saved us and called us and chose us without the understanding that He can also guide and control our lives.”   A.W. Tozer

“There is only one Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and … anyone who beleives in a Savior who is not the Lord is not believing the true Christ and is not regenerate.  We call for commitment to Christ, the true Christ.”  James Boice

“The gospel Jesus preached was a call to discipleship, a call to follow him in submission obedienc, not just a plea to make a decision or pray a prayer.”  John MacArthur

“The only trust that saves is that practical trust which obeys Jesus Christ.  Faith that does not obey is dead faith, -nominal faith.  It is the outside of faith, the bark of faith, but it is not the vital core of faith.”  C.H. Spurgeon

“For conversion to be authentic and transforming, pre-Christians must make the Lord Jesus Christ the object of their exclusive loyalty.  This means that to the best of their knowledge penitents will forsake all known vice and cling to the Savior as their only hope of salvation. Genuine conversion thus will involve sincere repentance, total commitment to Christ, and submission to the Lord’s sovereign rule.”  Bruce Demarest

J.P. Moreland Making Waves at ETS

This past week was the annual west coast meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in San Diego.  I didn’t attend, but have been hearing more and more about a paper that BIOLA professor J.P. Moreland presented, entitled “How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible  and What can be Done about It.”  Now Moreland is someone that I highly respect.  He’s a giant in the apologetics field and has written some of the best works available today, including “Love Your God with All Your Mind” and “Scaling the Secular City”.  When I first saw the title of the presentation, I figured he was just trying to catch someone’s eyes and cause a double take.  But as I have investigated further, I’ve discovered that he’s serious.

Moreland’s main objective was to say that the Bible is not the sole source of authority for believers today.  Todd Bolen, who was in the room, had this to say:

“He gave an analogy from archaeology that made sense. But it faltered when it got to psychology and fell apart when he started talking about learning about demons from sources outside the Bible. (Did he really say that if you command a demon in the name of Jesus to tell the truth that they will be bound to do so?) He’s so concerned about this issue because of the damage that is being done to American evangelicals (but he made it clear that such problems lie primarily with Americans and not those outside).”

Moreland had this to say

“In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ, and it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.”

Another concern of Moreland’s was that evangelical theology has become so defined that there is no room for new thought.  He says that people are not allowed to find new truths outside the Bible.

To read the paper yourself, you can get the .pdf paper here.

Read a critique here and then Moreland’s response here.

It will be interesting to track the growth of this story.

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“…If Necessary, Use Words”

I believe we have all heard the quote, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.”  In fact, I believe in my rookie years in the ministry, I probably used the phrase myself.  But over the last couple years, I’ve grown to have a large distaste for this phrase.  When I first heard it, I thought it was a fresh outlook on being kept accountable for living a good Christian life.

Then I heard a story that I’d love to relay here:

This is a story of man who was a good employee at his job.  He tried to generally be a good person, obey his authorities, and work hard.  One weekend this employee went to a church retreat, heard the Gospel, and was saved.  He realized that he couldn’t, through his own efforts, be a good person in God’s eyes.

When he got back to his job, he knew he needed to witness to his boss.  He found this to be incredibly difficult and continually found excuses not to.  Finally, the day came when he gathered the courage to do so, and his boss’ reaction was not what he was expecting.  His boss responded with glee!  His boss said, “I’m so glad you’ve gotten saved!  I’ve been praying for you for so long!  And I keep trying to live a good Christian life as an example for you to follow.”  The employee was shocked!  He responded to his boss saying, “You’ve been a Christian this whole time?!  You were one of the reasons why I didn’t think I needed to be saved.  I saw the way you lived your life and thought that I could be a good person a part from God!”

The fact is, it isn’t enough to live a life that preaches the Gospel without actually preaching the Gospel.  I believe the phrase “and if necessary, use words” has become a cop-out for people who think they are not able to preach the Gospel.  Romans 10:14-15 says,

“But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'”

Contemporary Christianity is becoming very concerned with acting like true Christians and helping people where they need help.  Praise God it is that way, but unfortunately, the actual preaching of the Gospel, verbally, has largely been abandoned in a time of relative truth and political correctness.  People are more likely to not get caught up in ‘theological differences’ or ‘negative topics’ in the Bible.  Unfortunately, too many people would rather let their actions speak for themselves, rather then letting their words speak for themselves with their actions backing up their words.  Which is more biblical?

The Wizard, Glenda, Elphaba, and the Modern Subjectivity of Good and Evil

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This past week Leah and I finally went out for my birthday (just a month and a half late) to see “Wicked” at the Pantages Theater.  We had originally intended to go on my birthday, but Micah thwarted those plans by becoming highly ill.  Though he tried the same trick this time, we were still able to get away.  I’ve only been able to see one Broadway play before, and that was “Les Miserables” in New York.  I’ve been in love with the play since.  So it was with great anticipation that we dressed up, drove into Hollywood, and enjoyed a night at the theater!

We were both completely blown away by the musical.  The songs were great, the dialogue  was hilarious, the costumes were eye popping, and the set itself was great.  We had great seats that let us be close enough to really see the faces of the actors, but not so close that we would get a stiff neck or have to turn our head to follow the action on the stage.  We had a pretty good knowledge of how the play went, since a high schooler (thanks Katie!) had given me the soundtrack as a gift last year.

220px-stephdg2005otc.jpgFor those of you who are not familiar, “Wicked” is about what happened in Oz before Dorothy touched down.  It is the story of Glenda, the good witch, and Elphaba, who would become the wicked witch of the west.  The play goes into the story of how they were roommates at college, loathed each other at first, but as time went by, grew to be very close and understand each other.  Soon they are called to meet the Wizard, and Elphaba quickly begins to understand what is going on and who the Wizard is.  This realization drove her to rebel against what the Wizard was doing, and the perception of her being evil was mostly the result of the smear campaign the Wizard and his press secretary put on her.

kate__ana.jpgAs we were watching, Leah and I were both struck with the total subjectivity of truth in the play.  Everyone used to think that the Wicked Witch of the West was pure evil, but as you watch the play, you begin to realize that she was just a victim of circumstances at the worst.  At the best, she was a misunderstood hero.  The only reason we feel the way we do about her is because she was unfairly characterized in such a light.

This is nothing out of the ordinary for today’s society.  In fact, this is par for the course when it comes to our culture.  Truth has become something that is perceived as subjective.  What is truth for one person, may not be truth for the next.   Truth may be truth only because that’s the message that you’ve been told.  And people who appear to be evil may be that way for a very noble reason.  They are just a victim of their circumstances.   Just some interesting thoughts from a great night at the theater!

“The Golden Compass” by Philip Pullman: Reader Beware?

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This past summer I’ve been hearing about this book called “The Golden Compass” by Philip Pullman and how it is ‘Anti-Christian’. When I heard it was going to be a major motion picture, I figured that it would be quite the topic for conversation, so I bought the book and gave it a quick read over the last week or so. I would challenge you to also read the book and not just take my word for it. And if you are a parent, it’s that much more important to read the books your children are reading. Let me say from the beginning, if you don’t want the ending ruined in any way, you shouldn’t read this review. In order to clearly explain things, I will have to give away plot lines.

“The Golden Compass” is a book geared towards children, as that is where I had to go at the Barnes and Nobles I bought it at. It is the first in a series of three books called “His Dark Materials”. It is written by a strong atheist in response to “The Chronicles of Narnia”. The book won the Carnegie Medal for children’s fiction in the UK in 1995, and in 2007 it was selected by judges of the Carnegie Medal as one of the ten most important children’s novels of the past 70 years. (info from wikipedia) The third book in the series won the Whitbread Prize in 2001, the first children’s book to do so. And more recently the first book made it on Al Roker’s book reading club’s book list. Needless to say, these books have won quite the popularity, and the movie coming out will only encourage children to flock to read the books.

Like I said, Pullman is a very avowed Atheist and even said in an interview with a newspaper in Sydney, “My books are about killing God.” That is in fact, what he does in the third book, where a character that is obviously the allegorical character for God. The books and the movie have been condemned by the Catholic League. I would imagine that the movies themselves will ‘tone down’ anti-God rhetoric found in the book. Otherwise the studios would be running far too much of a risk of alienating and severely offending a majority of its intended audience. I should also say here that the movie is rated PG-13, as I would imagine with many of the violent battles and tense situations.

So what is in the book, you ask? Let me first lay out the plot. The setting is a basically a parallel dimension to our world. It has most of the same geographical locations, with a large portion of the book set in London. But this world has witches, talking bears, and every human has what he calls a ‘daemon’. These daemons are small animals that are basically the human’s souls or spirit, but live outside of the person. The reflect the personality of the person, and until a child hits puberty, they can shift depending on the situation the person finds them in. A large portion of the book focuses on the relationship between humans and their daemons.

A very significant plot line that much of the criticism springs from is the fact that society is run by The Church. The Church in the book is obviously modeled after The Roman Catholic Church. They run everything in society and anyone who encourages thought contrary to the Church is condemned, locked away, or even killed. This is a good place to mention that religious figures are generally treated with contempt and distrust in the book. Main characters make habit of mocking them. It ma be subtle, but the anti-religion clamor reaches a climax at the end of the book.

The main character is a young 11 year old girl named Lyra . She has been raised in Oxford at Jordan College and hardly acts as they say a girl should act. She is the good natured kid who is always running around, hanging around with kids she shouldn’t be, going places she shouldn’t go and generally causing problems around campus. There are definitely some behavioral problems that Lyra exhibits that seemingly go uncondemned. Throughout the book she uses foul language, although the author never actually writes a foul word. It just tells the reader that she used every foul word she knew. There are other points in the book where she is drinking hard alcohol or smoking and no one condemns the behavior of an eleven year old.

The main plot is that there are some people that are kidnapping children and it is Lyra’s job to find out why they were taken, where they were taken to, and help rescue them. The child kidnapping hits home with Lyra, as one of her best friends and partner in crime is suddenly missing. She sets off on a mission that takes her on adventures she’s never experienced and makes relationships that go deeper than any she’s previously had. Along the way she begins to discover exactly what’s going on, and what the nature of ‘dust’ is. ‘Dust’ is spoken of throughout the book, and as her journey progresses, she finds out more about it. What they know is that this ‘dust’ is a particle that cannot be broken down and appears naturally. Oddly, researches have found that the ‘dust’ is not drawn to children, but only to adults.

This pushes an organization to study the ‘dust’ and what it is, how it works, and when it attaches to humans. This leads them to kidnap the children in order to study them. They effectually torture the children, and most that are put through the procedure end up dying. As she finds out, the Church is behind the people kidnapping, studying, and torturing. It is not until the last few pages that the bomb, though, is dropped. The Church believes that the Dust is Original Sin. They believe when a child goes through puberty, that they no longer have the ability to reject the ‘dust’. And if they can somehow figure out how to keep this from happening, the Church wil have defeated Original Sin.

For those of you who don’t know what Original Sin is, it depends on your doctrinal position. Most would say that it is the sin nature passed down from Adam. The Catholic Church believes infant baptism erases this Original Sin. So, the Church, in the book, is sacrificing the lives of countless innocent children to figure this out.

One of the greatest dangers of this book is the seed of fear and mistrust of Christianity that it would plant in the minds of children. It is written from an atheist perspective, and I’m sure Pullman would say exactly what countless other Atheists have said: The Church is responsible for more deaths, tragedy, and suffering than any other organization, and all in the name of “God”. This is almost a main tenet of modern atheism. What they don’t tell you are the countless lives lost to atheist tyrants such as Pol Pot, Marx, Stalin, Slobodan Milosevic, Lenin, and Mao Tse-Tung. All were dictators. All were tyrants. All were atheists.

Now, obviously, this isn’t to say that all atheists are cruel, tyrannical dictators with hearts set on mass murder. But their heritage is hardly innocent. The fact is that all men are capable of doing such atrocities, and just because something is done in the name of God doesn’t mean that God approved of such a practice or even that they were genuine believers in God.

My last warning about the book is that it contains some very graphic and tense situations. Comparisons to “The Chronicles of Narnia” are inevitable, and having now read both, I can say with assurance that this has much more blood and gore than “Narnia”. There is talk of people who bore holes in the heads of people, eating the guts of children, the crushing of heads and tearing off of limbs, and similar behavior. Probably the most traumatic moment in the book has to do with what they do at the experiment station. I don’t want to talk about it, as that would ruin part of the book, but I don’t think it is at all appropriate for young children to read. It has very tense situations and subject matter that a pre-teen shouldn’t necessarily be reading.

Besides that, I have to say that the book was very readable, and I can see how it won awards, although it’s anti-God, pro-Atheism stance probably helped it out in that area. I found it a generally entertaining book that read quickly. From strictly a literary point of view, I can see that it is probably going to be a very entertaining movie.

So what should the concerned Christian parent do. If you have any questions, read the book for yourself and use your own discernment as to whether you want to allow your child to read it. I think we too often just dismiss things because we don’t agree with them, and maybe it would be good to discuss the danger points with your child. Our society is quickly being more and more influenced by the new Atheism and voices such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are becoming louder. Do you teach your child to put their head in the sand, or should we seek to discuss these things with them. This may be a good opportunity to teach them discernment. Read through the book with them and teach them to read with discernment. Obviously, this would only be for youth that can discern. But it may be a valuable exercise in their spiritual maturity.

If you’re interested, here’s the trailer for the movie. Speaking of just cinematic quality, it looks pretty good. All I have to say is from the moment I was introduced to what Nicole Kidman’s character would be, I knew she would play the part perfectly.