The Gospel Message in the Sermons of Acts

A continuing debate about interfaith dialogues on Twitter often hinges on whether a full gospel declaration was provided. For my undergraduate degree at Liberty University I wrot a paper, “The Gospel Message in the Sermon of Acts,” that first had to define what is in the gospel. If you click on the title, you can read it. 🙂

Damien and Augie’s Sermon on Angels

Angel with halo

Last Sunday…

Last Sunday Damien came over after church, and he, Augie, and I were chatting at the kitchen table. I cannot remember if I specifically asked what they would like me to preach on, but, regardless, the two boys ended up telling me they’d like one on angels.

And this sermon is a result of that request. 🙂

Because it is a talk for children, it’ll follow our three rules for preaching to kids. Kids, do you remember them? 🙂

  • Use simple words.
  • Keep it short.
  • See #1 and #2.

I’ll do my best with #1…but the way we’ll try to stick with #2 is we’ll limit our sermon to five questions about angels:

  • Are angels real?
  • What are angels?
  • What do angels look like?
  • What do angels do?
  • Should we worship angels?

Does that work for you Damien and Augie? Other kids?

Are Angels Real?

So…let’s start with a fundamental question. Through the ages people have believed in a lot of supernatural creatures that don’t exist like fairies, vampires, and leprechauns. How about angels?

Are angels real? [Read more…]

“The Walking Dead: Man’s Fallen Condition”

Bible with candleA great article by @soteriology101 on total depravity from an Arminian-ish view:

“The Walking Dead: Man’s Fallen Condition”

Au Contraire Mr. Edwards

Hand pointing at youDepending on your picture of the Most High, this may sum up your perception of Him:

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31, English Standard Version).

Perhaps the most famous sermon based on this sentiment is Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” For instance:

We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?

No question, if you reject our Lord, your final fate isn’t going to be positive (when He gives you the separation from Him you want). But, let’s look at a biblical incident where, numbering Israel, David made God quite angry:

And when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you.'” So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall three years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.” (2 Samuel 24:11-13)

Considering the options for punishment, would you agree God was quite cranky?

Yet, in the next verse…

Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man” (2 Samuel 24:14).

David may not have been as smart as his son Solomon (see 1 Kings 4:29-34), but he was pretty wise and “a man after [God’s] heart” (see Acts 13:22). He knew, given the choice of being put in man’s hands or God’s hands…the best choice…hands down (pun intended)…is the later.

Let not our theology say otherwise…

P.S. I have purposely left a lot of reasonable counter-arguments unanswered. Just an article to spur thoughts and discussion…

“Is Homosexual Practice No Worse Than Any Other Sin?”

Rainbow speech cloudAnother (even longer) article worth your time:

“Is Homosexual Practice No Worse Than Any Other Sin?”

Although I can’t say I agree with Robert A. J. Gagnon entirely, I appreciate his logical approach and ultimate appeal to Scripture.

Interestingly enough, where I might differ in accepting one sin as being greater than another is somewhat explained when he says this:

Violations of greater commands are strong indications of a sick soul and of a life that either has never been led by the Spirit or is now turning away from being led by the Spirit.

It is really that some sins are worse or that certain sins are clearer indicators of a likely spiritual problem or distance from God?

An important discussion.

“Critique of The Final End of the Wicked by Edward Fudge”

SkullsWell, I thought my previous post was a little light on Scripture when it got to the section on hell. This one does a bit better….


Alan Fahrner
Theo 202 S04 Summer 1 06
Critique #4

Critique of The Final End of the Wicked by Edward Fudge

Critique

Although I personally think Edward Fudge did a fine job of presenting a case for the annihilationist view of the final end of the wicked, I am probably not the best person to judge. It is "preaching to the choir"—I held the same overall view even before reading his piece. [Read more…]

“The Destiny of the Unevangelized and the Nature of Hell”

FlamesI imagine it’s far from the first time John Piper gave his view of annihilationism, but within the last 24 hours he wrote this:

Annihilation is what the unrepentant want, not what they dread. It would be a reward, not a punishment. Non-consciousness knows no loss.

I’m not going to debate the merits of his logic, but it did cause me to dust off a position paper I wrote while working on my religion degree. So, without further ado… [Read more…]

“What God Has Joined”

Wedding cake with bride and groom split in the middleJesus’ words about divorce appear to leave little room for the practice in a Christian context:

It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:31, English Standard Versions).

And…

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matthew 19:8).

However, as you consider those verses…please take into account “What God Has Joined” by David In-Stone Brewer in Moral Issues and Christian Responses:

If you, like me, find small print a bit difficult to read, click here to open it in a separate, more easily adjusted window.

Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have been divorced.

Is it Okay to Test God?

Man with bullhornA new Twitter friend posted an article which showed that prayer had no effect on the success of heart bypass surgery (and that, actually, those who knew they were prayed for fared worse). For her consideration I shared my article, "A God that Does Not Want to Be Measured Will Not Be Measured."

Although she saw some weaknesses in it, at least she said it was okay. 🙂

Another Twitter friend of mine said that the study was testing God…and testing God is blasphemous. Luckily they didn’t get into fisticuffs :-), but they also never agreed if it was testing or not. (I lean toward yes…but not necessarily intentional.)

Now, the Bible does include people testing God in some respect or another. For instance, Gideon and the wet/dry fleece (Numbers 6:36-40) and Hezekiah and the backward-moving shadow (2 Kings 20:8-11). God doesn’t condemn either, so what gives? [Read more…]

God Gives Us What We Want

I’ve heard this C.S. Lewis quote before…but was glad to run into it in page 72 of my The Great Divorce:

There are two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it.

It should be noted that these are the words of a fictional inhabitant of heaven, not theological apologetics by One of my favorite writers.

Is There a Baby in the Charismatic Bathwater?

Interesting talk by Phil Johnson at the Strange Fire conference:

Jesus’ 7 “I Am” Statements in John

Greek 'I am'Jesus’ 7 “I am” statements in John for my Twitter friends Julie and Mike:

John 6:35 (ESV)

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 8:12 (ESV)

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” [Read more…]

“Homosexuality is not an identity, it is a behavior.”

In a short clip about homosexuality, “Bible Answer Man” Hank Hanegraaff answers, “Can you be a Christian and actively practice homosexuality?”

(The title of this short post is a quote from his response that is very important to the discussion…even in a secular context.)

Quick Arguments Against Pluralism

Bono CoexistOverall it seems that arguing with pluralism is like pushing against the wind. If a pluralist will not even concede the validity of the law of non-contradiction, there is nothing to "push against" to even begin an argument against pluralism. Having said that, there are two approaches: one for a believer, and one for an unbeliever.

With a believer it should be noted that Jesus Himself did not allow for "multiple paths" to salvation. For instance, He unequivocally states, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6, ESV, emphasis added). Additionally, Christ makes it clear the only alternative to that choice is condemnation (John 3:18). Of course, Jesus' words were not new—the Old Testament is also very clear that there is only one path, for example: "You shall have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3). Additionally, it shows no respect for "alternatives"—a great example is Elijah mocking the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:20-40. If pluralism has any claim, how unenlightened it was for Elijah to ridicule someone else's valid faith-path.

No—a believer has no choice but to proclaim there is but one (specific) way to salvation.

With non-believers, first there has to be agreement that (a) there is truth; (b) truth can be known; and (c) truth does not contradict itself. If a pluralist disagrees with any of those, the main argument against him or her is that all nature, physics, etcetera oppose their view. How can someone logically apply different standards in the spiritual realm than those which are axiomatic and perpetually confirmed in the physical one? If the discussion is able to get past that fundamental step, then pluralism will collapse on itself since multiple major religions claim exclusivity. As such, at most one of those can be right (although all may be wrong).

A believer has no choice but to assert a single (specific) path to salvation, and a non-believer, if he or she does not give up basic logic, must choose one—and choose wisely.

[ This is a slightly edited version of a short critique I had as an assignment for Liberty University. ]

P.S. Of course, none of this does not mean various religions cannot "coexist." But "tolerance" means "tolerate," not "accept." It would be foolish to pretend somehow how all the religions in the normal coexist image can all be right…


Image of Bono with coexist found on photobucket.com. I could not find the original, but clearly the photobucket.com one isn’t it…

Why I Am a Heretic

I am no longer going to update this post. Instead please see the Beliefs page to read the most up-to-date list of what I believe.

AKA, "What I Believe"

Guy preaching with a staff and a stone tabletI had an interesting conversation with a Twitter friend, and after he agreed to an uncomfortable implication of his belief system I commended him on being willing to admit it. I then suggested that someone else who held that same belief system would not be willing to make the same admission, to which he replied:

Yes, I believe he would. I probably wouldn’t just throw that out there in the public forum of twitter. He may not be comfortable with saying

To which I replied:

Why not? If it is true it’s to God’s sovereign glory isn’t it?

My response would seem a whole ‘lot more apropos if you understood what belief system it was in response to. 🙂

Either way, although I can understand choosing a proper forum for airing one’s beliefs, I kind of was taken aback at the idea that someone who has no problem debating for his theological worldview then wouldn’t be willing to lay all his cards on the table.

So, here are all my cards. Traditional Christians will find plenty to consider me a heretic, but I’m not going to do a bait-and-switch on you. (Most of this is from a post I did a couple years back on fahrner.us. All biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version. Oh, and I reserve the right to modify this post at any time, so if you want to beat me over the head with my own words, be sure to grab a screenshot. :-)) [Read more…]