Monday, May 31, 2010

What is Vision?

As used in Proverbs 29:18.

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (KJV)

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law. (ESV)

Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint; But he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law
. (NIV)

Without revelation people run wild, but one who keeps the law will be happy.

The HCSB notes that "revelation" is literally "vision" and there are cross references to Isaiah 1:1 and Nahum 1:1 where the same word refers to the prophecies of those two prophets. Sorting through various commentaries, most take "vision" to mean the preaching and teaching of the Scriptures, with the Christians adding the New Testament while the Jews keep to the Old Testament.

This difference is critical to a church, ministry or mission. If "vision" simply means a purpose statement or other such business "trick" written about by management gurus, then there stands a good chance of there being a problem. Simply look towards the church growth/"seeker-sensitive/Emergent church/Purpose-Driven movement(s) which are following the writings of Peter Drucker. However, we do have a way to check on any "vision" given.

Really a very simple one. Check it against Scripture. See what it leads to. Being "seeker-sensitive" cripples preaching the Gospel, because it seeks to hide the "offensive" bits even though the Cross is an offense to the world! It is different than being contextual, it is throwing away the "inconvenient" bits of Scripture (in practice if not in theory) that "interfere".

Christian groups (using the "wherever three or more are gathered" rule) must fulfill all the tasks of a church as given in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4:11-16. For some idea of what is required: And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Ephesians 4:11-12) To fulfill the vision (revelation) required by Proverbs 29:18, a Christian group must cover all of these areas, not simply run off after one or two of them and then claim it as a "vision". The pastor or group leader must lead those under his authority to fulfill all of these roles while remaining under his authority, using those that God has given him.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Duty to Discern

An interesting post here on Titus 1.
NOTE: This is very key. Titus was not an apostle but, as he taught that which Paul laid down (apostolic doctrine), he spoke with the authority of God. Many people in church today find it easy to discount doctrinal teaching from a pastor…as simply “his interpretation” or “his opinion”…not realizing that as far as it relates to apostolic doctrine, it is more than a pastor’s opinion or interpretation…it is an authoritative Word from God. (So…we must be very careful not to too easily dismiss what our spiritual leaders in authority say).
I agree with Brother Aiken's note here. It is important to remember that this is referring to Christian doctrine based on Scripture, as Brother Aiken states. The other shoe drops in the next paragraph.

To summarize vv.5-16, we see the qualifications of elders (pastors/overseers) in a more concise list than in 1 Timothy. We recognize that the elder/pastor is a “steward” of God (v.7) overseeing what God has entrusted to him to lead. A characteristic of a pastor that is crucial is his ability to discern and teach theology and doctrine…since his adeptness at this is crucial to exhort (sound doctrine) and refute (those who teach wrong doctrine).
The qualifications are clear, but the last sentence I don't hold strictly to the pastor only for discernment. Discernment is a critical requirement for all Christians. Although they make errors in discernment as they are "younger", they must still continue to discern the best that they are able, like the Bereans did.

And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. (Act 17:10-12) Emphasis added.
Note that they take the word given to them by the pastor (Paul and/or Silas) and then search the Word itself for support. This is a constant and ongoing process for any Christian. By blind acceptance of the "word" of false teachers, because they spoke with authority, apostasy and false teachings enter that and our churches.

The necessity is very apparent to Paul in Crete…since there are false religious teachers among the people who must be challenged, rebuked, and corrected. Many of them are of Jewish descent (v.10) who teach Judaism’s traditions and OTHER man-made traditions as necessary activities to the path of right standing with God (v.14).

Paul does not teach that we “live and let live;” rather, that these false teachers be confronted with “severe reproof” so that they might turn from their false teachings (v.13). Their false teaching is upsetting families and destroying the faith. To not confront, is to tacitly approve of their message and to be a co-conspirator in their destructive works.

Brother Aiken continues here correctly, but it is still much more than the duty of a pastor, it is the duty of every Christian, because if any person comes teaching false doctrines, even if he is (or claims to be) a pastor, the Word is clear on this.

If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. (2Jn 1:10-11) Emphasis added
Coddling these apostates simply encourages them. Those who support them, even while trying to be "fair" and not create a "stumbling block" on a "questionable subject" among their congregation may fall in this area. They can be busy, other things are distracting them and since it is "quiet", it is easy to ignore. It can even be ignored when sermons, even entire sermon series are being preached that totally undercut the "stumbling block" objection. Like a hammer, it chips away at the credibility of any man, especially one in authority, since it gives the appearance of working under a double standard.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Refuting Antimasonic Heresies

For a while now I've been over at the Christian Apologetics Research Ministry (CARM) forums . I moved over there after I encountered the shunning at Rapture Ready.

The antimasonic bumbling around does not offend me as a Mason, I could care less. Their claiming to be Christian and then teaching heretical doctrines in support of their antimasonic beliefs represents a different matter, that evokes a Christian duty to correct error. The fact that their lies are now so widespread that some Christians I know who even disagree with the antimasons have counseled that Masonic membership is a "stumbling block" issue, so maybe Christians should avoid it.

The problem of responding to these false teachers, for the Christian who is a Freemason, always hangs on the balance between Proverbs 26, verses 4 and 5. Of course, Proverbs is a wisdom book, so it is a set of good guidance for everyone as far as I'm concerned, but I might be a bit biased.

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. (Proverbs 26:4)

IMO, most Freemasons who answer these antimasons who claim to be Christian are pursuing the first verse. These antimasons are laying forth an edited argument using only such evidence they can twist to support their position and then launching into a screed based on emotion. The Masonic counters, although well done, simply point out the errors in their faked up "facts" and then appear to figure that is all they have to do. If people stop, think and research, then this approach will work, but it fails miserably against sound bite theology and factoids, the stock in trade of the antimason who claims to be Christian. Then nothing else remains with this approach but to point and yell, "Liar, Liar!", which boils down to what the antimason does to these kind of rebuttals from Masons. This is answering a fool according to his folly, in the sense of this verse. The best option is to remain silent, as Freemasons have done for centuries, but that allows the antimasons to run around shrieking that they have "won" because no Mason will demean himself to get down in the muck with them. Then the second verse comes into play.

Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. (Proverbs 26:5)

Remaining silent then has allowed this cottage industry of lies to flourish and I like the way Matthew Henry put it in his commentary on the Bible:
2. Yet, in other cases, a wise man will use his wisdom for the conviction of a fool, when, by taking notice of what he says, there may be hopes of doing good, or at least preventing further, mischief, either to himself or others. “If thou have reason to think that thy silence will be deemed an evidence of the weakness of thy cause, or of thy own weakness, in such a case answer him, and let it be an answer ad hominem - to the man, beat him at his own weapons, and that will be an answer ad rem - to the point, or as good as one. If he offer any thing that looks like an argument, an answer that, and suit thy answer to his case. If he think, because thou dost not answer him, that what he says is unanswerable, then give him an answer, lest he be wise in his own conceit and boast of a victory.
Emphasis added. Wesley's commentary is more concise:
According - So as his folly needs and requires, convincing him strongly, reproving him sharply, and exposing him to just shame.
Emphasis added. That is why I take the approach I do in rebutting and exposing the antimasonic crowd for what they are from a Christian perspective.

As a Christian who is also a Freemason, I'm not making a Masonic apologetic, I'm simply exposing the false Christian doctrines of these antimasons and they lay themselves open to such by claiming to be Christian. It wasn't the way I always did it, but it is the way that I have learned after prayer and reading Scripture, but that is an entire testimony on how the Lord works in His own ways to make all things come together for good. It might be interesting to Christians, but is not so much for others, so I'll put it in another post. So I engage these antimasons who claim to be Christian over at CARM on Christian theological grounds, firmly rooted in Scripture and expose their falsehoods from there instead of disputing philosophical points from the perspective of Freemasonry. CARM merely keeps the forum open and moderated lightly, so unlike places like Rapture Ready so that when the antimasons are shown to be bearing false witness and possibly teaching heretical sounding doctrine, they cannot ban you for because the antimasons aren't the moderators.

In fact, I'm of the opinion that if I ever moderate a Christian forum, I'll make sure there is a "Cults/Groups" forum with a "Freemasonry" subforum. It keeps the antimasons who claim to be Christian corralled in one place and keeps them from disrupting threads in other forums as occurred to me on the Rapture Ready forums.

I started two threads on CARM, the first being Character Counts where the record of various antimasons who claim to be Christian can be exposed, I intend to keep this one up and eventually get to some of the regular Internet antimasons who post there. The second was The cult of antimasonry which came from a discussion of the false accusations of Freemasonry being a cult. It is based on CARM's listing of cult traits on their website and while it "proves" nothing, it does point out the similarities between practices of "Christian" antimasons and the fact that Freemasonry does not have the traits of a cult from a standard listing.

In the end, what do they have? Lately, we see one antimason to use as an example, Skip Sampson, quoting an entire paragraph from the Entered Apprentice (1st degree or EA) lecture, omitting the topic sentence (i.e. - the sentence that explains the rest of the paragraph generally) because that contradicts the claim he is making. He originally quoted it fully and correctly, but his subsequent posts show how he discards everything that doesn't fit his position. After requoting the first sentence and calling him on it, we get his defense in post #11?
Sorry, don't agree. The quote is accurate, in context, and perfectly clear.
So, cutting out parts of quotes, especially the sentence in the paragraph which defines what the paragraph is talking about is "accurate, in context, and perfectly clear" in the "Christian" antimason's worldview. I know what it makes perfectly clear.

When I called Skip Sampson again on his habit of snipping quotes out of context to make up his "proofs" his defense in the same post revealed the way of the antimasonic method:
Nope. It's called putting in quotes that prove the point. I stand by my conclusions.
Other ways to put this are known as (cherry) picking the data to fit the line or more fittingly for this crowd: "Don't confuse me with the facts because my mind is made up!" Unfortunately, it isn't just bad scholarship that is at issue.

Mr. Sampson was hailed as a hero by several of his fellow antimasonic travelers when he showed up to end the more than a month drought of antimasons over at CARM. Skip as his fellow antimasons before him had, showed that from a Christian perspective, he held a number of the same disturbing heretical beliefs and teachings I have found to be common among the "Christian" antimasonic crowd, since my attention was forcibly drawn to their filth.

Skip has managed to deny the inerrancy of Scripture openly twice in his posts, denied Christ, adds a work to grace, claims to be able to determine others heart condition (an ability of God only) and writes as if his (Skip's) authority is the equal of Scripture. These are all heretical teachings to a Christian and destroy the "Christian" antimasonic position.

It doesn't stop his ability to claim his own beliefs, but they become just that, his OWN beliefs, not those of orthodox Christianity like is claimed by the antimasonic mob. It fits the bill I think of beating them with their own weapons and exposing them to just shame quite well. I can only pray that it will convict some of them convincingly so they will cease teaching and believing in these heretical doctrines.

For my Christian brothers who are Masons, take due notice thereof.