Where John Hagee (and others) Erred

I’ll be honest upfront.  I’m not a big Hagee fan.  I disagree with a lot the guy says, and wouldn’t necessarily line myself up next to him.  But there is a big difference between what Hagee has said and what Obama’s pastor, Rev. Wright.  What Rev. Wright said was not really based in the slightest on any particular passage, whereas Hagee has said these things while going through passages and teaching on the end times.  Here’s what he said that really got him in hot water.

First, Hagee said that Hitler sent by God to lead to the events that would bring the children of Israel back to the land of Israel when speaking of Jeremiah 16:15.  Anytime you bring up the name ‘Hitler’ and you don’t immediately condemn him, you’ll get in trouble.  Hagee said that God allowed it to happen.  That is true.  Can God use evil people to do his bidding?  He sure did in the Old Testament.  He brought Assyria and Babylon, who were known to be pretty bad bullies on the block, and used them to take Israel out of the land of Canaan.

But the problem is that in that situation, we know that God raised up the nation of Assyria to take the children of Israel out of the promised land.  In this situation, Hagee is speaking where the Word of God is not clear.  He is speaking on behalf of the world, instead of letting the Word of God speak.  God can allow this to happen, but he makes the error when he connects the dots, saying that God allowed Hitler to kill the Jews so that they would go back to the land.

He makes the same mistake when referring to the Catholic Church as the ‘Great Whore’ in Revelation.  Again, you can preach through that passage, but there is no way we can know who the ‘Great Whore’ is until we are in that time.  Hagee makes a practice of speaking where the Bible remains silent, and that is where he gets in trouble. He made the same mistake with saying that Hurricane Katrina came because of the disobedience of the people in the region.

Preachers can think that they are bearing the reproach of the people on account of taking a stand for the Gospel.  But there is a line between being persecuted for speaking truth, or for speaking your own mind.  I believe it is the latter that gets Hagee and others in trouble.  If we are going to face opposition, we better make sure it is the Gospel that is being objected, and not our own words or delivery.

(On a side note, McCain, in reaction to Hagee and another pastor who had the nerve to say that Islam is an inherently violent religion said this: “I believe there is no place for that kind of dialogue in America.”  Speaking from a freedom of speech point of view, that’s one thing that’s supposed to be great about America.  That there is room for people to say crazy things without fearing retribution, as long as its not slander against a person.  I think McCain speaks big here, but not thinking about what he’s saying.  I believe this is protected by free speech.)

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Back From Vacation!

This is just a blip to let y’all know we’re back from vacation!  We had a great time driving up the coast and seeing the sights.  I’ll quickly sumarize the trip and include a few pics for you.  Micah will add some pics on his site later.

Pismo Beach

Our first stop was in Pismo Beach, which is just Southwest of San Luis Obispo.  It’s a great little beach town that is really approachable.  It isn’t too big, and there are a lot of little, great places to eat and shop.  They have some outlets, which we didn’t get to, and a great beach.  We went to the beach for a little bit, and Micah is a big fan of the sand.  He isn’t so much a fan of the water, though.  He quickly learned that you don’t put sand in your mouth, but still had a great time playing with his beach toys.

Driving up the Coast

From Pismo, we headed up the 1 and saw some amazing sights up the coast.  Just a gorgeous drive that is worth the windy roads.  (note, that’s not the word to describe it as a breezy ride, but a road that curves a lot.  I had a friend that looked at a map to Hume Lake that warned that a road was very curvy, but he thought it meant breezy.  he thought, “hey, I got a big pick up, I don’t have to worry about a heavy breeze.”  When he showed up so late, we all had a good laugh that he didn’t know what the REALLY squiggly line on the map meant it was curvy.)

Before we headed up the coast, we stopped in Cambria, which is similar to a small New England town.  We shopped a bit, found a Father’s Day present for my dad, and ate a great little place for lunch called “Linn’s Easy as Pie Cafe”.  I had the best chicken pot pie I’ve ever had.  They serve everything in pie tins, which is cute.  They also had delicious pies and desserts.  We shared a small Blueberry Peach Pie.  Behind the place they had little tables in the shade by some big pine trees and a large windmill.  It was just a great little place to eat that I can’t wait to get back to.

We were planning on stopping by Hearst Castle, where William Randolph Hearst lived.  But we decided not to because the tours were a couple hours and we didn’t think Micah would tolerate it.  We spent more time in Cambria and drove up the coast.  We stopped in Big Sur and found a wonderful, little oasis in the middle of the forrest.  They had the coolest tree houses there, which I’ll possibly throw up pictures of.  Oh, and gas was $5.09 there.  Thankfully, I didn’t need any.

Monterey

Monterey is a town that grew quickly in the 30’s and 40’s with the sardine business exploded.  They were bringing in so many sardines, that they were chopping them up and using them in fertilizer and chicken feed.  But then it quickly died out as the dearth of sardines dwindled.  Now they have Cannery Row, which is a bunch of big, old mill buildings restored as shops.  On the end is the Monterey Aquarium, which is built to look like an old mill building.  It’s a very picturesque part of the city.

The aquarium itself was a fun highlight of the trip.  They have a gigantic 1,000,000 gallon tank with 100 pound tuna, sharks, and other cool fish.  They have a big jelly fish display that was beautiful, and plenty of child friendly things for Micah to play with.  He did get totally freaked out at a touch pool where a couple baby sharks (not sure they were sharks, but they looked like it) decided to fight and jumped out of the water and splashed everyone.  Micah was quite traumatized.

We also drove down the 17 Mile Drive they have there and got to see the Pebble Beach Golf Course that often hosts the U.S. Open and is one of the most picturesque (word of the day) golf courses in the world.  The 18th hole goes along the coast with the waves crashing up against the fairway and the clubhouse oversees the 18th green.  We sneaked down there and watched a foursome finish their round.

Santa Barbara

Our last couple of days was spent relaxing in Santa Barbara.  We were a little disappointed with the hotel, as it was incredibly misrepresented on hotels.com.  The website says that they have all kinds of things there like a jacuzzi, a children’s pool, and an outdoor heated pool.  They had none of it.  It was a great little bed and breakfast that would have been fine if it was just Leah and I, but with Micah, it was quite cramped.

We spent the days walking downtown, doing some shopping, visiting the Santa Barbara Mission (which is really old and beautiful), and lounging on the beach in the evening.  We waited until the sun was going down and went to the mostly empty beach and played in the sand.  We bough Micah a bubbles blower that he loved and we spent time sifting sand and throwing sand on the blanket dad was laying on.  It was a very relaxing end to a wonderful little vacation.

It was quite the change in vacation that I’m used to, though.  It was a transition into the family vacation, where you are doing things for the child more than for the parents.  We hit up quite a few parks and playgrounds, which was fun, too.  The lunch and dinner times were difficult, as Micah was tired of sitting in cars and forced us to leave a few restaurants early.  We ended up eating a few meals in parks, and let Micah run around.  It was a tough stage to take a child on a long road trip.  It was a great vacation, but also a tiring one.

C.S. Lewis Quote

I know, I said I was going on vacation, but I found this quote and wanted to throw it up before I left.

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”  C.S. Lewis

Ok, now I mean it.  I’m on vacation.

Out of the Office for a Bit

I’ll be out of the office from Thursday to Tuesday on our first family vacation!  We’ll be hitting the roads, going up the California coast.  It’s our first real vacation since a three day trip to San Diego a couple years ago.  So we’re packing up the car, throwing the baby in the back, and driving up the coast!  I may have some internet access along the way, so you can check back for some updates!

The Wrath of God

This is piggy backing on a previous post on an article that I read by Carolyn Arends in Christianity Today. Carolyn was kind enough to find the post and give a little explanation and defense, and instead of writing a long response in a comment, I thought, hey, it’s my blog. I can just write a new post. You can refer to the link of you’d like to see the original post and Carolyn’s comment.

Let me first say that the topic of God’s wrath isn’t a topic I necessarily like talking about. I don’t get off on being able to stand behind a ‘big, bad wolf’ and stick my tongue out at people who haven’t repented. If anything, its the exact opposite. I still see the sin in my own heart and when I read of the wrath of God, my knees shake, knowing that that is what I deserve. But, thankfully, Christ bore that wrath on my account. I had nothing to do with averting God’s wrath, and I’m fully aware that I deserved it. When I speak of those on which the wrath of God still dwells, I don’t do it casually, but with the knowledge that, there but by the grace of God, stand I.

I would say that the definition of God’s wrath is one of the most important things here. You define God’s wrath as opposition to sin, but I think that is incomplete. God’s wrath is more than his opposition to sin. It is his punishment of that sin which He opposes. I don’t have to fear God’s wrath, but God still disproves of the sin that entertain in my heart. It is more than opposition. I’d like to go through some passages to see how God’s wrath is defined in the Bible.

In John 3:36 we see that the wrath of God is reserved for those that do not believe in the Son of God for eternal life. The wrath of God ‘remains’ on them. This idea of the wrath of God remaining on those that do not repent is seen also in Ephesians 2:3 where it says that unbelievers are ‘children of wrath’. Romans 2:8 says ‘for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury’. In Colossians 3:6, Paul says that the wrath of God is coming on account of the works of the flesh of the old man. We are not to seek those things on the account of the fact that we have been raised with Christ.

From a quick look at these passages, I think it is clear that the wrath of God is something that is reserved for those who are not believers. I don’t think the article reflects the fact that God’s wrath comes down on those who refuse to repent, and is an eternal punishment, not a temporary correction to steer people away from sin and destructive habits. God’s wrath is eternal in nature, not temporal and correcting.

I also believe the Bible clearly conveys the fact that wrath comes as a result of sin that is ultimately and primarily an offense of God’s nature. God’s holiness is His transcendent attribute that affects and influences everything that He does. He is lovely and righteous altogether. Sin is anything that fails to live up to God’s holy standard and God’s love. Romans 3:23 is simple and clear. Sin is falling short of God’s glory, not His perfect plan for man.

We can see the fact that sin is primarily a sin against God’s holiness by looking at the cross. Christ was put forward as a propitiation for our sin. He took the wrath of God against our sin. It was not done primarily to create a perfect society or to correct a culture, but to satisfy His righteous demand of holiness.

If we confuse this, we make man the center of everything, and remove God’s glory from that position. I think Wayne Grudem says it well: “Although God’s punishment of sin does serve as a deterrent against further sinning and as a warning to those who observe it, this is not the primary reason why God punishes sin. The primary reason is that God’s righteousness demands it, so that he might be glorified in the universe He has created.” (Italics are the original authors, Systematic Theology, 509)

Here is the second comment that was left. I’m copying it here so it can be referred to as a respond to it:

Will try to keep this as short as possible: meaning will have to leave out a lot of supporting stuff. I’m a retired minister (over 35 years) ((LtCol,Chaplain,USARet.); PhD (psychotherapy). Religion/theology is not a “hobby” with me. And, yes, I’m “born-again”.Now then.
1. Carolyn A. is just about absolutely right.; light years ahead of whoever the author of “Preferences and Principles” is. 2. God is no egomaniac. He lives for his glory , yes, – but we are his glory; or don’t you believe we are his “image”. 3. The worst part of Calvin was separating Jesus from God. (”…has seen me has seen the Father.” ;) The glory of the Almighty Sovereign God may be observed in the little dead lamb (now risen). He’s not the “bad cop”. He’s never bad; and I mean by my- our- standard. We know what “good” is; he taught us. He’s no monster, damning big parts of his “beloved” creation whenever he takes a notion to. 4. He’s my Father. I won’t let you talk about him like that! Does it make you feel pious and powerful to be on the side of the “big guy”- as they say today. There’s a lot more psychology goes into people’s “theology” than a lot of so-called Bible study sometimes. 5. Early Christians understood that if you walk away from God you are separating yourself from Love, Light and Life; in short you have chosen hell. 6. Anybody who tells you he just goes by the Bible is an ignorant parrot; he heard someone else say that! Rather than elaborate for days- as I could- on this subject, I’d better quit. Arends is right; largely because she seems to understand Christ/God and is therefore more human. And isn’t God human? Or is the Incarnation a cruel joke? And, by the way, I’m really more conservative than any one who’s written or commented so far. So, it won’t do to write me off as some kind of “liberal”. Thank you for sharing with us, Carolyn. ( forestphilosopher.blogspot.com)

To Bill Borch, I have a few comments.

No, I don’t believe we are His glory or His image. That is Jesus Christ. We are made ‘in the image of God’ (Gen 1:27). Colossians 1:15, speaking of Christ, says “He is the image of the invisible God”. Hebrews 1:3 says that he is the exact imprint of the nature of God. There is a stark differnce between being created ‘in the image of God’ and being the image of God. I don’t believe that man is God’s glory, but I do believe that God’s glory is evident through the lives of His redeemed, through Christ.

You say I’ve (presumably through Calvin) separated Christ from God. But you have just done that yourself by attributing the nature of Christ in relation to the image of God to the nature of man. I don’t separate Jesus from God, but I see that they have different, complementary roles within the Trinity. The Son wasn’t sent unwillingly by a power hungry God, but embraced the cross for the joy that was set before him (Hebrews 12:2). I never used the term ‘bad cop’, but I think my list of God’s wrath in relation to those of His creation that have rejected their Creator speaks for itself.

This is not my own idea or my own my leanings on Calvin. This is my impression from what I read in the Word of God. I don’t get my marching orders from Calvin, but from what God has communicated to me through His Word. It doesn’t mean that its easy to accept the doctrine of God’s wrath being reserved for the rebellious Creation, but my preferences don’t matter. It is what God has said, therefore I must accept it and trust that He has a better understanding of His holiness and the insult that sin is to it than I do.

It is true that I may have been taught by men, but I was taught in the Word of God. If you see an area in which I have failed to represent the Word of God accurately, I’d love to talk about that. But until then, here I stand, for I can do no other.

Finally, on your suggestion that God is human, I’d like for you to defend that belief through the Word of God. The incarnation wasn’t ‘a joke’, but Christ “who, though he as in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8) Christ took on flesh and lived a life that you and I cannot, paid a debt that you and I cannot pay, so that we can be granted a righteousness that we don’t deserve and could not attain.

God is not human. Humanity is God’s creation. I don’t know what being ‘conservative’ has to do with anything. I find it amusing to be accused of not being conservative enough, as I’m usually accused of the opposite. I’m not really concerned with being conservative. I’d rather be biblical, and that is what I strive to be. If you see an area in which I have misrepresented the Word of God, please let me know. I’d like to continue this discussion, but only on the grounds that it is grounded in a discussion of the Biblical text. Like you, man’s opinions don’t really matter to me. I’d rather focus on the revelation of God.

God’s Love vs. God’s Wrath

I don’t often read through Christianity Today articles, but recently I was perusing the one page columns in the back (full disclosure- they are shorter, easier to read, and usually more interesting). When I was perusing, I ran across a column entitled “The Grace of Wrath” by Carolyn Arends (May, 2005, page 64). The title jumped out at me of being an article with some theology and thought involved, so I gave it a quick read and found an interesting conversation.

Arends’ main point is that we have frequently, and often mistakenly, created a bipolar God. We think of the God who is loving and gathers children in His arms, and then we think of the wrathful God punishing sinners with eternal damnation. Arends says, “I unconsciously developd a theolgy that intermittently had God the Son and God the Father in a good cop, bad cop routine, with the Holy Spirit stepping in as a sympathetic parole officer”. She finds a tension between two different pictures of God that we have developed. We don’t want to make God out to be the big downy soft cuddle bear in the sky (my words, not hers), so we remind ourselves that God is also a God who hates sin and must punish it.

Are those two things contradictory? Can a God of love also be a God of wrath? Arends says that God’s wrath is driven by God’s love. Up to here, I agree with her. God is not a hateful God who finds pleasure in arbitrarily punishing His creation. He’s not sitting in Heaven sending hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, or earthquakes just to mess with people. But what Arends says next I disagree with.

She says, “What if God’s wrath is not a caveat, qualification, or even a counterpoint to his love, but an expression of it? What if God grieves sin less because it offends his sensibilities, and more because he hates the way it distorts our perceptions and separates us from him?” She adds that God’s wrath is “his emphatic ‘NO!’ to anything that leads to our destruction.”

Arends has just managed to make God’s wrath man-centered. In other words, if I understand her correctly, God punishes people to show them that the path they are on is not in the best interest more than punishing sin because it transgresses His nature. God is more concerned with man than Himself. God’s ultimate purpose resides in the preservation of man rather than the preservation of His own glory.

I think Arends fails to distinguish a couple of very important things here. First, what is God’s wrath? God’s wrath is focused and reserved for those that have not repented of their sins. Does God correct those whom He loves? Absolutely. But she fails to distinguish what God’s wrath is here. For believers, they need not fear God’s wrath. Romans 8:1 says that there is no condemnation for those that are found in Christ. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences for sin. But I wouldn’t classify that as being the wrath of God. I think that God allows us to suffer the consequences of sin, corrects and chastens us so that we realize that sin is detrimental to us.

Secondly, God’s wrath is not centered on man, but on the preservation of His own glory. It is God’s fury focused on rebellious sinners. God’s ultimate concern is not with pointing people on the right path, but rather with satisfying His love for His own glory. It sounds awfully self centered and prideful to us, but God must satisfy His own glory because He is worthy of it. To say that the primary function of God’s wrath is man-centered, misses the the point. That can be a secondary reason for God’s wrath, but not the primary.

There is grace in wrath shown to man on this side of eternity, because it is another opportunity for man to repent before the final judgment. But Arends fails to distinguish between God’s eternal wrath and the current punishing of sinners on this side of eternity. God can be providing more opportunities for repentance, but ultimately, it is to satisfy His own glory and His love for His own holiness. For God to be motivated by anything rather than his holiness would be idolatry simply because there is no higher cause or motivation for anything.

This article sounded more like dangerous speculation, rather than the result of an honest and deep study of God’s Word. This picture of God was born out of speculation rather than from His Word. God does correct believers to show us the dangerous nature of sin, but that isn’t God’s wrath, and ultimately, God’s wrath exists to satisfy God’s love for His own holiness. If we get this wrong, we get very close to getting the Gospel wrong. We must keep God in the center.

Don’t Waste Your Life

Whenever I get my Sports Illustrated, I usually flip through to see the major articles, scan the little blips, read something if it is Celtic, Red Sox, or Cowboy related, and then I turn to the back page and read the “Point After”. Until the last year, Rick Reilly was the author, but now they have a hodge-podge of columnists take turns writing the column. Last week, Chris Ballard wrote an article entitled “Dale Webster’s Endless Summer”. Dale Webster is a 59 year old man that has surfed everyday for the last 32 years.

Ballard basically hails him as a hero for following his passion. Beginning on September 3, 1975, a day that produced some incredible waves, Webster began his streak. 1976 was a leap year and he thought, why not keep surfing everyday until 2004? When that date rolled around, there was ‘Guinness Book of World Records’
representative on hand, media personalities were there, and surfers showing their appreciation all witnessed Webster going out and surfing for his 10,000th consecutive day. And the next day, even though no one else showed up, he has still went down and has kept the streak alive. What a streak, right?

But what has this cost Webster? His ear canals have been narrowed by the cold water, his eyes are bloodshot and needing surgery, and postponed his marriage to his long time girlfriend for over 10 years because Guinness wouldn’t recognize her as a witness if she was related. He has never visited his in-laws, because they live in Utah. He’s never traveled more than a day’s drive inland. He has no retirement plan, owns no house. Within the last few years, Kaye, his wife began feeling pain in her ribs and an x-ray revealed that they had hollowed out and were basically, as Ballard puts it, “driftwood”. She has multiple myeloma, a severe form of blood cancer.

Dale Webster says, “It started out as a string, then a streak, then a quest. Now it’s almost like it’s become a toll- how much it’s taken of my life.” Ballard observes, “It is his burden and his salvation.” The article ends with Webster saying, “We have this short time on earth- what are we going to do with it?”

When I finished the article, all I could feel was an immense sadness because this man has wasted his life. Immediately, my mind was taken to John Piper’s series, “Don’t Waste Your Life”, and how this man was a living, walking example of how recreation and hobbies can become so consuming and idolatrous. It seems like Ballard doesn’t really know how to react to it. Our culture would tell us to say, “Wow! You’re following your passion! It’s so wonderful to see a man that just chases his dreams.”

But I think our common sense tells us to say, “Wow, that’s sad. This man has sacrificed his entire life for the pursuit of a pastime.” I just feel like Ballard recognizes that this man has wasted it, but can’t come out and say that its all a waste. What stuck out to me the most was the man calling him his salvation, but what has surfing delivered him from? Where will this get him? To me, the whole story is just a sad depiction of a waste of a life, but the good news is that real salvation can still be found after 32 years of wasted opportunities.