So Nimm Denn Meine Hande...

Monday, May 29, 2006

Fruits of a Tylenol soaked brain...

Here's something I posted on someone's blog tonight...Just some reflections on God's holiness. I am high on Tylenol so I thought it was worth posting here too...sorry if this is total nonsense! LOL


...But, here it is in philosophical/theological language. God is 'holy', which means "set apart", or "seperate". When 'holy' is used adjectivally in reference to God, it means he's "categorically seperate"...i.e. he's in a league of his own. Kinda like Micheal Jordan playing basketball against a can of soup...simply in a totally different class.

God's is 'holy' in all his attributes. He's 'holy' in his love, meaning his love is perfect and infinite; his love is pure; it's categorically set apart from all other, lesser, loves.

God is 'holy' in his wisdom. He's categorically set apart in his understanding of all things...he's smarter than all people of all time added and multiplied together...kinda like Kasperov playing chess with a stump. He's in a completely different category.

Among all his attributes, God is morally 'holy'; set apart and in a league of his own in his own moral perfection.

Now God is God and God is 'holy'. Because God is so amazing in all his attributes, he must tell the truth about himself. (He doesn't do it out of vanity though...a kid once said to me "it ain't braggin if it's the truth!".) Part of God's telling the truth about himself is the radiating forth of his holiness; he wants to share himself with others because he's SOOO awesome! (kinda like how when you eat something REALLY amazing, you cannot help but tell people "That was SO amazing!"...but infinitely more so)

Thing is, God cannot help but tell the truth about himself.

And that's where sin throws a monkey wrench into the equation.

Sin is, at it's very core, setting up anything OTHER than God AS God.

For example:

God created and provides for mankind. Deuteronomy 8:18 says that God gives us the ability to produce wealth. Psalm 24:1 says that God owns everything and in Exodus 20:15 says that God forbids theft.

SO, if we speak or act in such a way to reveal that we challenge God in any of these areas, we essentially declare that he's a liar.

If we're not thankful for wealth, we act as though we are the owns who produce our own wealth (which, according to Deuteronomy 8:18, isn't true.)

If we act as though something is OUR possession and horde it or refuse to share with people who may need it, we reveal that we don't really believe Psalm 24:1.

And if we steal, we reveal that we think our own moral law is higher than God's (which again isn't true).


Because God is infinite in his 'holiness', any infraction of that holiness is also infinite.


Seeing that God must tell the truth about himself, he must respond to our challenges in like fashion. He must give a resounding "I'm afraid you're wrong!" regarding our challenges of his Godliness.


God responds to challenges by 'backin it up'. If God were to respond to challenges to his holiness with anything but infinite, aggressive action, it would reveal that he would set something else above himself.

You see, being holy, God cannot have anything to do with anything or anyone who is also not holy. It's not that such things would 'corrupt' God, but to allow any sinful people to share have fellowship with him would be to compromise his own holiness and say "hey, I know you're sinful, but it's no big deal!" (regarding sin).

Sin is an infinitely big deal. For God to allow such to occur would be for him to elevate his love for someone ABOVE his love for himself...i.e. to deify someone other than himself. He can't do that!

So sin (a challenge of an infinitely perfect God) requires a punishment of death AND eternal, everlasting suffering in Hell (and infinite response to an infinite challenge).

For God to do anything less would be to declare his glory as "not a big deal". It's an infinitely big deal.

So, I'm sure I rambled on WAY to much, but I'm kinda high on Tylenol right now...(recently diagnosed with menopause...but don't worry; I sought a second opinion)


Just a post for the sake of posting, but it's always good to write about the Lord and 'holiness' is a topic that is super neglected these days! Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Foundation of the Answer to the Question of Cessationism: Part 8 - The definition of terms.

Okay. This is where things get dicey; defining terms. I was originally going to try to define the terms and then get on to the exegetical questions of cessationism. After much thought, I’ve decided not to define most of the terms but instead to simply define “cessationism”. I have decided this for the following reasons
  1. There are too many terms to give a thorough definition of.
  2. The terms and their definitions are far to related to the overall argument of cessationism. (i.e. If I were to give proper definitions, this post would become exceedingly long and confusing.)

So, I’m only going to define “cessationism”. Cessationism is the belief that the sign gifts of tongues, healing and prophecy ceased in their function sometime within (or shortly after) the apostolic age.

There are so many misconceptions about cessationism; that cessationists don’t believe in divine healing, that they don’t believe in the Holy Spirit, that they don’t believe in a ‘spirit filled ministry’, etc.

I hope that in the coming posts, I can give compelling argument that not only do cessationists believe in the Holy Spirit, but they are also ‘spirit filled’, ‘baptized by the spirity’ and ‘walking in the spirit’ too. Of course, the catch in all this is how you understand those phrases. Anyway, I’m not feeling hot at all and have to go take some Tylenol. Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Last Thing I Thought I Would Ever Say...

This is something I have needed to do for a long time, but I ask that all my female friends abstain from reading this post. Please don't take that as some sort of temptation, but only a warning that some things cannot be unread and unheard. This is a post exclusively for the guys in my circle of friends:

Well, I sit here sick as a dog, writing a post when I should be in bed. I've got a migraine that feels like a litre of hot coffee is sloshing around in my skull and I'm alternating between the shivers and the sweats. Funny thing is, I cannot go to bed before doing this. Some things are more important than whining and pitying oneself. God won't stand for runny noses that become excuses for disobedience.

Besides, this sickness is from the Lord. I'm not talking about health and wealth though; I'm talking about the obvious discpline from the Lord. I'm not a prophet and I'm not a doctor either, but everything comes from the hand of God and everything has a purpose, and some things are too obvious to ignore. I think I'm going to jump all over here, as there are a million thoughts racing in my head too. (sorry)

Now you're thinking "What's Armchair up to? Is he going to start whining about something in church or confess pride or something?" And, the answer is yes, though pride is not the sin I'm confessing right now.

My sin is the one that destroyed David and Solomon and Sampson and so many other men of God over history; sexual impurity. Now I've not been sleeping around with my harem, nor have I been killing husbands and taking their wives, but that should not be taken as any sort of 'softpeddling' of things. Since the first week of March in 1998, I've been struggling with lust and masturbation, and every failing in my life has been God's hand of discipline (and sometimes judgement) attempting to cleanse me of it. I lost my place at Joe's Place because God was trying to drive lust from my heart. I lost many friends that I value, and I destroyed many relationships. What's worse, I've clouded up my prayer life and tred Christ under foot for so long. I won't softpeddle things now; everytime I masturbated, I nailed Christ to the cross. So, now it's time to draw lines in the sand and uncover my secret sin in a public forum.

(If you're a woman and you're already dishonored my requests thus far, I guess I only pray that your hatred of me somehow recovers; I know how sick godly women get regarding guys who watch internet porn and succumb to lust.)

Proverbs 28:13 says: "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy."

Psalm 32:1-5 says: "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD "— and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah."

I know these are true, but I have not really believed them for so long...I say that evidenced by my attempts to cover things up. My behaviour betrays me and reveals that I'm a liar.

Many years ago, I was driving back from Moose Jaw with a godly friend, and he looked over at me and confessed that he had masturbated the night before...out of the blue. Talk about a conversation taking a turn for the awkward! After a few minutes of his talking, he asked me to pray for him and told me that he HAD to tell me. He said something along the lines of "If I cannot confess my sin to you, my friend, how will I ever honestly confess my sin to God, my judge? God's really the person who matters; what you ultimately think of me is of no consequence."

It's taken me a few years to see the wisdom of such, but now I HAVE to tell you. I have tried to kill sin in my heart with every resource at my disposal, but for so long I have neglected one resource: godly brothers in my life. I have been in such dire need of your prayers but I've been so scared to ask for them. Now God's finally slapped me hard enough that I cannot rest until I do.

James 5:16 says: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

I'm doing this because hidden sin cannot remain in the camp.

I'm doing this because I actually want to serve Christ with a clear conscience

I'm doing this because I actually do want to love the Lord and it makes me filled with sorrow to think of how I've disappointed him so terribly much.

I'm doing this beacuse I don't ever want to have to confess this to my bride if I'm ever married.

I'm doing this because I'm heading to Seminary in 2 months and cannot do so with this burden on my shoulder.

I'm doing this because I have already been disqualified from one ministry and I don't ever want to endure that again.

I'm doing this because I've often wondered what people would say at my funeral if they actually knew how double natured I truly have been.

Finally, I'm doing this because when I think about it, the only thing I'm really afraid of is those blistering, blinding, righteous eyes peering clear through me when the books are open, and finding that I've finally been found out when it's far too late.

Anyway, I don't need to ramble on and on.

Here's what I do need though:

1. Prayers from all that know me. Pray that I would put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:13). Pray that if my right eye causes me to sin, I'd gouge it out and throw it away (Matthew 5:16). Pray that I would not let sin reign in my mortal body so that I obey its evil desires (Romans 6:12). Pray that I would beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:27). Pray that I would get rid of ungodly habits/practices and replace them with godly habits/practices. Pray that I would have the strength to make a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl (Job 31:1).

Please don't try to empathize with me. Please don't give me advice. (If anyone has ever known what should be done to deal with sin, it's me. I've written books on the topic.) Please don't offer to be accountablility partners or anything. Those people are already in my life...they just need to finally be utilized.

Just commit me to your prayers dudes. I'll definitely do the same for you, if you ask it.

Oh, and I guess the anonymity of my blog doesn't assist this either. No sense confessing sins if I'm some nameless face, eh? Well, seeing that most people already know that it's me who writes this, there's not a lot of harm done. Either way, the Armchair Theologian is Lyndon Unger. I live in Saskatoon and attend Forrest Grove Community Church. Now you all have no excuses. SOS. Until Next Time,


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Advice for any budding or weak preachers...

Just a comment. Speaking for 35 minutes and 'sharing your heart' isn't preaching. If you say "turn in your bibles to (whatever passage)" and then don't actually exposit the text, what does that suggest about your view of scripture?

A. It's not perspicuous.
B. It's not sufficient.
C. It's not efficacious.
D. It's not authoritative.
E. It's not that important.
F. All of the above.
G. Who cares? Don't get so worked up about preaching; it's boring anyway!

Oh, and for all you folks who take a pulpit, take note: Phil Yancey and Brian MacLaren aren't deep. They're clever, but wrong. John Eldridge is too...and a flaming open theist. Actually, Phil Yancey is an open theist too. Anyway, if you constantly read clever and wrong literature, you become clever and wrong. Aim for stalwart and truthful, cause I'm so sick of preachers trying to say something 'new' or 'amazing' from the pulpit. These days, I'm simply holding out for something 'true' and 'articulate'...and I'm still holding my breath.

I'll grant that maybe the Bible would be cooler if Max Luccado wrote it, maybe with it being just all simple stories about ducks and whatnot, with each story having a simple moral lesson. Thing is, I don't want to be cool. I stopped trying to be cool in grade 11. Or maybe we should just abandon the concept of lessons altogether (school and learning are BORING, right? Why do we have to do that kind of work on our day off?), have a sing along about how Jesus is my girlfriend and a sharing time where the guy at the pulpit (if you even use a pulpit...they're sooo last Thursday!) is just sharing his heart, because being 'real' is way more important than being 'right'...oh wait. We are. I want to be in California...August 21st cannot come soon enough. Until Next Time,

Whiney McWhine-a-lot

Straight from the Horse's Mouth...

I've often had heated 'discussions' with people about the state of Christendom in other areas of the world. When I was operating in the ACOP and PAOC circles (for around a decade), I'd often hear about revival happening here and there, often accompanied by videos of some fantastic church service with hundreds of people singing and dancing and whatnot (and that one claim where there were "over 100 resurrections" at some revival service...sheesh!). I've sat in services, prayer breakfasts, Sunday School classes and whatnot and heard tale after tale of what's going on overseas. Adding up all the tales I've heard from the last 15 or so years, every country in the world except Canada and the US has been experiencing 'tremendous revival'.

Funny thing is, the stories that I'm often told don't correspond to the first hand accounts that I get from all my missionary friends whom are overseas and I know have their heads screwed on straight. I have missionary friends in so many countries, I've almost lost count (Uganda, Kenya, Rawanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Spain, France, Korea, Japan, China, India, etc...oh and I CANNOT forget El Salvador!). This morning, I got an e-mail from a close buddy who's teaching in a Bible College in Uganda. He wrote this:

" Dear Armchair Theologian,

So good to hear what's going on in your life. I sympathize with your frustrations. One of the challenges of being here in Africa is that short-termers come over and seem to figure that the land is in revival because it seems like everyone is "born again" (overused lingo that I'm getting really sick of), and they worship so passionately, and they are so loving, and blah, blah, blah. Yet we who live here know that what Americans call "revival" is actually nothing more than a lot of screaming and shouting. Nowhere is more obvious that weak preachers supplement weak content by screaming louder than here in Uganda. The Christianity here is what I call superficial. It's pure religion. Luther was right--people are naturally religious, and though they might appear to be truly Christian, they are probably just religious--among the many in the world trying to earn their salvation. Anyway, those are some of the frustrations I'm finding here... (and the e-mail continues talking about specific problems and whatnot, which I don't need to necessarily share...)"

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that there isn't revival going on and I'm not aiming to discourage everyone. I'm just being realistic and saying that things are the same overseas as they are here. I find that the whole 'revival is happening' everywhere is often an excuse to get excited about (insert country name) and get distracted from reading the word, obeying the word, teaching the word, and waging war against the sin in your heart, which are the real starting points of revival. I'd place 'covetting of revival' in the camp of spiritual adultery; the grass is always greener on the other side of Jesus' fence. It's real easy to wish upon a star and say "I wish that Christ was doing THAT here in my church"; but it's a totally different story to renovate the heart and become a personal catylyst of revival here. We DEFINITELY should embrace global evangelism and discipleship, but we should never allow ourselves to hijack such a 'righteous desire' to use it as a distraction from seeking personal holiness. All I'm saying is that I've met my fair share of parents who neglected their families because they were off at church, 'praying for that awesome revival in Uganda'.

Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Foundation of the Answer to the Question of Cessationism: Part 7 - Hermeneutics

Okay. We're now in the 7th lap of what appears to be becoming the Theology 500. Well, let's shift into 7th gear and put the pedal to the metal. I've spent 4 posts hammering home the sufficiency and authority of scripture; it's all you need to know about everything you need to know, do and be, and you sit under the word, not over it. Feel free to disagree on these two points and whatnot, but I'm going to keep on truckin for my 6 (possibly 7) readers who want to GET ON WITH IT.

Now, as I promised in my outline, I'm going to try to slam through my theoretical and practical takes on hermeneutics. Here comes the tsunami! Everyone get their water wings on?

My Philosophical Declaration on Hermeneutics

In dealing with the scriptures I, like all other students of the Bible, bring my own presuppositions along and read them into the scripture. As clearly as I understand my own presuppositions (which can be difficult), I still operate with some conscious presuppositions in mind when reading the Scripture.

First of all, I hold consciously and strongly to a presupposition that “God exists and has revealed himself in the Bible.” I hold God as being the founder, creator and sustainer of reality, simply because his word tells me that he made the universe (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-3, Heb 1:1-3). I am certain that I exist not because my senses tell me that I exist, but because God tells me that he created me. I might get accused of using circular logic. One might suggest that my senses, with which read the scriptures, tell me that God created me and therefore my senses must be my true ultimate authority. I would respond by saying that I, like every other human being, approach the world from a certain foundational “sense-perception naiveté” regarding the world, but I am not certain of anything that my senses tell me. This leads to my second presupposition.

Secondly, I presuppose the general truthfulness of perception via my senses, but not their ultimate reliability (aka. Infallibility). I am certain of my existence because my senses, which are unreliable but not deceptive, are used by God to communicate his self-declared reliable self-revelation to me; the Scripture. Based on God’s propositional declaration of his creation, sustenance of and desires for the universe, along with his propositional declaration of the certainty of his self-revelation, I find two warring declarations. My unreliable senses declare many things about myself, life, creation and existence where God’s reliable word declares many things which oppose my senses (the pleasure of sin, who I am in relation to the cosmos, the nature of life, etc.). God's word is truth and I submit to it. God’s revelation also deals with and propositionally overcomes my own rational defenses of that which I assume to be true (God’s word is more rationally consistent and comprehensively explanatory than my own guesses at how things are). I then, in faith, am moved to believe God’s propositional declarations about metaphysical reality and epistemological access to it. This is my philosophically sophisticated way of saying “God said it, I believe it”. In other words, God’s word is completely, infallibly, authoritatively, comprehensively and absolutely objectively true, and my own guesses at what’s going on in this world are inferior to it in every one of those categories.

My General Declaration on Hermeneutics

I hold to the historical‑grammatical interpretational approach of the scriptures. This incorporates usages of historical context (as well as textual, book, covenantal and biblical contexts) and original languages to establish the specific linguistic construction and context of culture within which the Scripture was written, but I categorically reject much of source, form, redaction, reader response, feminist or narrative criticism on the basis of the naturalistic frameworks within which much higher critical work is done. I foundationally approach the scriptures as inerrant and authoritative, seeking to bring the wisdom of God out from the scriptures (exegete) and not deposit my own wisdom into the scriptures (eisegete). This practically means that all conundrums and puzzles of scripture are only due to my lack of understanding, lack of an exhaustive exegetical process, disregard for the exterior testimony of the Holy Spirit or disregard for the interior self-testimony of the scriptures. I also approach the scriptures with the foundational presupposition of the author's having a single intended meaning of their writings, which is truth. I do not hold the truth as relative, nor are the scriptures relative in their truth. Scripture does not change, nor do the meanings of the individual texts. The Holy Spirit illuminates scripture and reveals the truth therein, not in the sense of mysteriously bringing new and conflicting understandings from scripture, but instead allowing the reader to make sense of the contained text, fully understand the depth of the content, apply it to one's own context and redirect one's life to increasing obedience. Persons with extensive grammatical and linguistic tools are incompetent and wholly insufficient in themselves to understand the meaning of the scripture, though they most certainly will have greater clarification with respect to questions regarding ambiguities of language and grammar. The meaning of the scripture is the scripture and the meaning of the scripture (the application to the heart and the truthfulness of the claims made, not the construction) is spiritually discerned. This is not an exegetical trump card but is instead the standard for proper exegesis as established by the scriptures themselves. God wrote the scripture, God alone fully understands the scripture and only God can comprehensively and coherently explain the scripture.

Categorical Affirmations and Denials

- I categorically deny the understanding that states that the message from God in the text is the “spiritual meaning”, separated from the obvious meanings of the language and grammatical construction, or the historical and textual setting of the text.

- I categorically affirm that the meaning of the biblical text is directly related to and cannot be separated from the actual words of scripture, when properly understood in their historic, textual and grammatical setting.

- I categorically deny that a text can have multiple meanings.

- I categorically affirm a single intended meaning of scripture.

- I categorically deny that scripture has any allegory in it. God chose language to reveal propositional statements of truth to humanity, and language can carry immense depth of meaning, but language is not inherently cryptic.

- I categorically affirm the perspicuity of scripture. Scripture is straightforward in meaning, though not simple to understand.

- I categorically deny that scripture, like all other ancient near eastern literature, can be properly understood by the application of linguistic and critical tools within a framework of naturalist presuppositions.

- I categorically affirm that the Bible, its authorship, its transmission, its preservation and its interpretation are exclusively supernatural events with no historic precedent or parallel. The Bible was not written in the same manner as other ancient near eastern literature, it has not survived intact until this day like other ancient near eastern literature and it is not understood in the same way as other ancient near eastern literature. The application of linguistic and critical tools, when used in a framework of naturalist presuppositions, to understand the Bible as if it were another piece of ancient near eastern literature, are fruitless to produce knowledge or understanding of it’s ultimate truth or beauty.

- I categorically affirm that scripture contains objective truth that stands firm regardless of any or all mankind’s rejection and suppression of it.

- I categorically deny the modern concept of the relativity of truth.

- I categorically deny the possibility of having Cartesian certainty with regard to the interpretation of and understanding of a biblical text. You can never be 100% certain of a text’s meaning unless scripture explicitly interprets itself. Philosophically speaking, only God can be 100% sure of anything, and I’m not God.

- I categorically affirm the possibility of having relative certainty with regard to the interpretation of and understanding of a biblical text. Even though I’m not God, I can know, with relative certainty, what he says to me to the point of having that truth bind the conscience and have the denial of or disobedience to that truth be rightly labeled ‘sin’

- I categorically deny the possibility of certainty on the things that the Scripture is not explicitly clear on. (like traducianism)

- I categorically affirm the possibility of certainty on the things which the Scripture is explicitly clear on. (like the virgin birth)

The 4-H’s of Hermeneutics

Biblical Hermeneutics are only properly done when they have the following 4 components:

  1. Humility (The humble man will admit when he’s wrong and allow himself to be corrected when he errs.)
  2. Honesty (The honest man will allow the text to say what it says and will not attempt to force a foreign meaning onto a text)
  3. Holy Sprit (Any attempt to understand scripture without regeneration, the illuminating work of the Spirit and prayer is useless)
  4. Hard Work (The process of exegesis involves the usage of original languages, plus historical and grammatical tools. The Bible is an amazingly complex book that myriads upon myriads of people throughout the ages have twisted and misunderstood due to simple exegetical incompetence.)

3 Other Important Rules of Hermeneutics

1. Literal and literalistic are not the same thing. A literal reading of scripture understands the existence of figures of speech, symbolism, parallelism and other components of language. A literalistic reading of scripture does not; literalistic readings of scripture approach the scripture like a 3 year old child, with no understanding of nor concern for structure, symbolism, figures of speech or other components of language. When people often criticize literal interpretations, they are quite often mistakenly and actually criticizing literalistic interpretations of scripture.

2. A text without a context is a proof-text. Blind throwing of verses often doesn’t go along with accurate application of scripture. Just because the verse has the word ‘prayer’ in it doesn’t mean it’s actually talking about prayer.

3. The clear text always sheds light on the unclear text. This rule is my own slight re-wording of the 3rd rule of Hillel, an ancient Jewish teacher. It’s very simple. The stuff that’s clear is used to help understand the stuff that’s not clear…and it seems that one of the ‘bread and butter’ tricks of heretics is to flagrantly violate this rule. If you think you can understand a difficult passage without any other verses to give you an interpretive framework, you’re in serious danger of swan diving into the wading pool of heresy…and we all know what happens when a person swan dives into a wading pool…

Okay. Now that THAT is done, we can almost start hitting some texts! Hooray! Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian

I might need my Divinci prescription myself...

Oh man. Some times, I suspect that I'm mentally handicapped. When I get tired, I go nuts and post things on other people's blogs that I shouldn't. Doh! Last night, I posted on and used the phrase "corn-fed Iowa idiot" in reference to God...though in a proper context. Go here and scroll to the bottom to read my sleep-depraved crazy ramblings:

Yeah. I did laugh at my own comment on screwing with the flanel boards in Sunday School though. That part is true. My teacher used to get so mad at me when I'd make John stand on his head in the sailboat. HA! Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Foundation of the Answer to the Question of Cessationism: Part 6

Okay, welcome back sports fans! I'm back on track: chapter and verse attack...The word'll hit ya like it's door knobs in a gunny sack! So sit up straight, and for your bibles please be reachin' cause it's time now on "Reflections" for expository teachin! (one day I'll have to teach a whole sunday school class entirely in rap. That would be stupid, but definitely using my 'spiritual' gifts! Definitely seeker sensitive!)

Back to earth. Okay. I've calmed down. Now for the last several posts, I've been basically hammering home the foundational concept of the authority and sufficiency of scripture; how special revelation (the Bible) interprets general revelation (and more specifically experience) and not vice versa. In this post, I'm going to give the strongest biblical argument for this concept that I know of. This is one of the passages that initially slammed against my own misconceptions and non-biblical ideas about experience and scripture and whatnot. Let's examine 2 Peter 1:16-21 together!

Now in the first chapter, Peter is writing "to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours" (vs.1). He writes that "His (God's) divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness" (vs. 3). He then comments in verse 4 on how God has "given us his very great and precious promises" so that we may become holy and no longer be enslaved by our evil desires.

Peter then lists several spiritual virtues (vs. 5-7) and comments on how the aforementioned virtues "will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (vs. 8). He states in verse 9 that the lack of the aforementioned virtues reveals that a person "is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins". In view of this somber warning, he urges the recipients to make their calling and election sure (vs. 10) Peter then explains to the recipients of the letter that he will continue to remind them of "these things" because he will, one day soon, no longer be with them (vs. 12-15). After this, we get to our focal passage.

Peter then moves into some comments regarding the truth that he has given the readers. He claims that the apostles "did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." (vs. 16). He comments that he was a personal witness to the transfiguration, personally hearing the voice of God (vs. 17-18). He continues on, commenting on the transfiguration, that "we have the word of the prophets made more certain and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." (vs. 19) And the reasoning he gives for this tremendous faith in the 'word of the prophets'?

"Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (vs.20-21).

Now for a little commentary.

1. One must understand what the transfiguration would have meant to a Jew. The transfiguration is recorded in Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, Luke 9:28-36. In that event, a few important things happened. First off, Jesus' glory was unveiled. They saw him appear in glowing garments, like an angel. That would confirm that he was special, if not an angel. That would be quite an experience in itself.

Next, Moses and Elijah show up. One must understand that these are the two spiritual giants in the Old Testament (Abraham was important, but not in the same way that these two were). Moses gave the law and lead the people through the Exodus (God's defining act in the entire Old Testament), and Elijah was the prince of the prophets. For a Jew to actually see these two and hear them talk has absolutely no possible historical paralellism; there's really no way to explain what this would do to a Jew. I'm sure 'deer in the headlights' doesn't begin to even come close. Peter, James and John were so afraid they didn't know what to they offered to 'set up camp' for Moses, Elijah and if they were planning on settling down back on earth. HA! Either way, when both of these dudes show up, this gives pretty strong support to Jesus' messiahship; hence the question about Elijah coming first (Matt. 17:10 & Mark 9:11). The three disciples would have logically wondered what was pulling off here; Jesus had been born and had grown up and now Elijah is showing up second. Seeing Elijah would have been confusing, on that point alone. Either way, when Elijah and Moses show up, all doubts as to whether or not 'this was the time' (of the messiah) would have disappeared in a wink.

Finally, God descends on a mountain in a cloud and starts to speak. Sound familiar? Well, God seemed to show up on mountains and do some talking both in the ministries of Moses and Elijah. And when God says "his is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" (Matt.17:5), that would likely almost melt a Jewish mind. Hence in Matthew 17:6 it says that they fell facedown on the ground, terrified (most likely for their lives). Now God shows up and confirms that not only is Jesus the messiah, but he's also God's son, meaning that Jesus is God. God ascribes diety to Christ.

Bottom line: as experiences go, this is the mother. Having Moses, Elijah and God all show up and confirm Christ's divinity and messiahship would be enough that even if Jesus would have allowed them to talk about it, nobody would have believed them. Either way, this was the experience to end all experiences.

2. On the understanding of just how Peter could have used his witness of the transfiguration as some sort of verification for apostleship, or his teaching, or whatever, one sees his comments in 2 Peter 1:19-21 taking on serious intensity. In verse 19, Peter says that the entire experience of his witness of the transfiguration is 'trumped' by the word of the prophets. (Exegetical note: The rendering of 2 Peter 1:19 is arguably more likely "We also have the more sure prophetic word", though I won't fight this too strong.) Regardless of the rendering you take with verse 19, Peter's argument is essentially the same: The word of the prophets is what the readers should pay attention to, not Peter's amazing experience.

3. And Peter's reasoning? Why would he not want the readers to pay heed to his experience? Well, verses 20 and 21 deal with this. Peter says that when the prophets were speaking, they were speaking by the Holy Spirit. The inscripturated prophesies of the prophets, the Old Testament, was not men simply speaking their own thoughts, or even divinely influenced thoughts. When they spoke (and recorded what they spoke), it was actually God speaking. The Bible is divine speech, and the same voice that Peter had subjectively heard on the mount of transfiguration is the same divine voice that speaks in the scripture. This is what is being talked about in 2 Timothy 3:16 when Paul says "all scripture is theopneustos". The bible is theopneustos, or "God-breathed". The Bible is the very words of God, and the relationship between the scriptures and the words of God are akin to the relationship between breath and speech; they're inseperable.

So, Peter urges his readers to not pay heed to his experiences, but instead to God's word. The former is untrustworthy, the latter is trustworthy. Peter's own experience only confirmed the writings of the prophets, and that's where his foundation of obedience and faith lie.

This is not to say that experience is "bad", or that experience doesn't have any value. Instead, this is only to say that experience is not ultimate. Experience isn't the ultimate authority of the faith. The truth of God, revealed in the Bible, which is God's divine speech, is the ultimate authority; that's what people should heed. So, experience doesn't trump scripture; it only serves to confirm it. If the experience and scripture disagree, then you simply misunderstand your experience. Bottom line and I'm now done hammering this one home. Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian


Well, due to recent postings of, shall we say "more eccentric" elements, I've started looking into certain theological questions and taking notice of certain 'coincedences' of historical alignment. As I was doing my research into another question, I stumbled across some interesting facts. Now, after hours and hours of painstaking research, I think I've discovered the watershed event that has led to the gradual decline of the evangelical church in western canada. I believe that our current state of theological 'backsliding' is directly the fault of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. If they had not cancelled this show, things would be MUCH different in Canada right now:

Just look at the dates! It was cancelled in 1995. I graduated in 1995 and went to Bible College that year. God DOES raise up a faithful remnant when his servants are thrown down! And looking back, Briercrest started going crazy that year too! Other key figures in Canada's theological downfall, like Dick Dewert, all started their 'work' after 1995! Coincidence? I THINK NOT! Who would've thought that the CBC was a tool of the devil? Well, most of us but that's beside the point. I'm going to look into this historical landmark more though. Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Foundation of the Answer to the Question of Cessationism: Part 5

Okay. Now it's been a few weeks since my last installment, so let's review:

1. The Bible is sufficient to instruct us regarding all matters pertaining to life and godliness on any topic, so it's also sufficient to instruct us regarding cessationism and non cessationism.

2. General Revelation is interpreted by Special Revelation (The Bible interprets experience).

Okay. So in the last post, we examined the question of the relationship of Genereal and Special Revelation. Today, we're going to examine the nature of the current validity of the formal principle of the reformation. Sounds simple? Good! It is!

Before we get running like maniacs, let's define the phrase "formal principle". The formal principle is another name for what is otherwise known as Sola Scriptura. Now I've been asked to give a definition of Sola Scriptura before, but I have found a great one from James Boice, which I take from the preface (page 10) of a work he editted called Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1996). Boice writes of Sola Scriptura, saying:

When they used these words the Reformers were indicating their concern for the Bible's authority, and what they meant to say was that the Bible alone is our ultimate authority - not the pope, not the church, not the traditions of the church or church councils, still less personal intimations or subjective feelings, but Scripture only. These other sources of authority are sometimes useful and may at times have a place, but Scripture alone is ultimate. Therefore, if any of these other authorities differ from Scripture, they are to be judged by the Bible and rejected, rather than it being the other way around.

In other words, the Bible is the final word on anything; above all tradition and feeling.

One must remember that in Luther's day (as well as our own), the Catholic Church held to the equal authority of the Pope, the Church traditions and the Bible. The Bible could be 'trumped' by the Ex Cathedra (divine, authoritative pronouncment) sayings of the pope or by quoting some historical creed or the findings of some past church council. Much of Catholicism in Luther's day was a complete spiritual circus, and almost none of it was grounded in Scripture (short of names and places).

In modern times, we don't have a pope or authoritative church least us Protestants don't. I'm a Mennonite, and the closest thing we have to an authoritative declaration is any decision made by the national Mennonite Brethren Conference...and as of late those don't seem to actually say much besides "do whatever you think the Bible says you should do, but don't make too much stink about it". (lol) But, we do still have other ways of 'trumping' the scriptures.

One of them is an appeal to experience. That one was pretty much dealt with in the previous post, but it is the most common.

Another 'trump card' used against the scriptures is an appeal to 'professionals'. In our society of 'professionalism', we like to listen to the 'experts'. If Dr. Phil says something regarding relationships, you'd better write it down. If Simon, Paula and Randy say that you are a crappy singer, you'll never make it in music (And I'd like to point out that all three of them were complete wash outs before they got their current gig! Their most recent claim to fame was that 14 years ago, all three of them had been married to Emilio Estevez...or something...). If you have some crazy idea, it seems a lot less crazy if you can quote someone with a Phd who thinks so as well. All personal ranting aside, we don't like authority, but we also love to know what the 'experts' think (though it seems that we often want the experts to only affirm that we're 'right').

One more 'trump card' is 'logic'. I love this one. Due to the levels of education in our society, everyone has studied a little, but has learned enough to think that they actually know something (one of my favorite professors in graduate school said that education is the process of learning more and more about less and less until you learn almost everything about almost nothing. HA!). I've often had debates with philosophy students who confuse 'logic' with 'ability to comprehend'. Many people think that if they cannot grasp something, it's necessarily 'illogical'. If I had a dime for everytime I've heard "So God is all powerful and is love but still allows evil and suffering? That's SO illogical!", I'd be eating something more expensive than Doritos right now.

So, is the Bible still the ultimate authority, over and above experience and other 'authorities', and even above human understandings? Yup. Why? Well, God has thought all possible thoughts. You're reading this because in eternity past, God designed language and communication, as well as consciousness and thought, and then designed the whole works to operate perfectly so that people could ultimately read my blog. That's his creation; his design. We're examining it and learning how things work (though there's still SO much to learn). God, on the other hand, has the blueprints and understands everything comprehensively. So, when God says something he knows precisely and completely what he's talking about more than anyone, and more than all people combined.

Plus, God has an objective position from which to view reality, so he seems everything in it's cosmic context. God knows how the butterfly in ancient Tibet actually effects the child on the playground in modern Los Angeles. All of creation, including all of time, lies clearly before God, who perfectly and comprehensively perceives and understands it all. All of time was laid clear as part of God's plan that he designed in eternity past. Every event that ever happened and ever will happen has ultimately been ordained by God, and was planned long before the first day of creation. Not only that, but God sees all of time more accurately than I see the 2 dimensional surface of the monitor that I'm typing on right now. He seems every corner, ever tiny bit of it. There's nothing in all creation, past, present or future that escapes his every present, when God says something, he sees it more clearly than anyone else ever could, or even all people combined.

So, does Sola Scriptura still apply today, the same as it did in Luther's day? Well, God hasn't changed. He's still smarter and more well informed than you or I. The Bible hasn't changed, and the God who wrote it hasn't changed. The world has changed, but not so much in form as in practice. What I mean is that people still lust in their hearts; they just have different ways of feeding that lust in this era. Murdering is still sin, though now days it's more common to get shot than killed by an individual wielding a sword. Sin is still sin, and mankind is still in the same predicament as he was in Jesus' day. The dance has changed, but the song is still the same.

How does this apply to cessationism? Simple. If the Bible says "X is true" and your experience, or your churches doctrinal statement, or your pastor says otherwise, the Bible is still the ultimate authority. Your interpretation of your experience is called into question, and possibly your interpretation of the Bible, but the Bible isn't ever, EVER trumped by an experience, regardless of the experience (not to pick on the appeals to experience, but they're by far the most common 'trumps' used against scripture). Nuff said for now, though I have one more post on this issue. In my next post, I'll give a steamroller of a biblical example of this. Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Davinci Gong...

Well, I've heard enough of this Davinci Code crap. As a work of fiction, it quite entertaining...but as a piece of historical research and credible scholarship, it's running neck and neck with a script from the show Stargate SG-1. I'd take the time to write a huge response and critique of the whole Davinci Code nonsense, but that's already been done by many people. Check out the following: - TON of great links here

If that's not enough to straighten out the facts regarding this whole Davinci insanity, you may need one of these:

The Armchair Theologian's Prescription for people who believe the Davinci Code is historically accurate and truthful.

Yeah. Enough said. Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Some ALARMING facts...

Yeah...a good friend sent me an e-mail today and mentioned something in passing that I couldn't help but think about. He was saying how he had been to a pastors conference and it seemed like many pastors he had talked to had been run out of churches for being Calvinists (though I'm not sure what exactly that means...I know that biblical theology isn't usually very popular with the proletariat.) Either way, that got me to thinking about some of the “church growth” crap that I’ve been contending with this year, and some of the horribly anti-Christian ideologies about what the defining marks of a ‘healthy’ church are. My train of thought had me going back to conversations I had with some people at my church this past year on that very topic, and I made some observations that Moses and Elijah had an essentially fruitless ministries. As I was thinking today (and actually right now), I started remembering some other ‘shocking’ details of some of the various ministries in the Bible:

- Moses, the pre-eminent leader of the Old Testament, had a congregation that shrank from 6 million to 2 in the span of around 40 years. That’s a congregational decrease of 99.99996%, or fractionally under 411 people per day. Moses essentially folded a medium sized church every single day for 40 years. When I put it like that, pretty much any ministry flop that I ever make will pale by comparison unless I start right now and go NUTS! Can I fold 14,600 medium sized churches in my lifetime? Well, I can do all things through him who strengthens me…Okay. That might have been a slight misapplication of scripture...Either way Moses should have written a book on church growth. I’m guessing it would ‘stick out’ among the modern offerings with strange advice on the subject: Hire your relatives, hide from your congregation with a veil, disappear on a mountain for months at a time and kill any sinners in your midst.

- Elijah, the second ‘big kahuna’ in the Old Testament, wasn’t much more of an beaming example of successful church growth. Make enemies of the national authorities, run away when things get tough, train only 1 person to take over your ministry (though the double portion of spirit is a great idea) and have only 1 lasting convert (the widow at Zarephath…all the other people that ‘turned back to the Lord’ only lasted short while…read 1 Kings 18+19). Beyond all that, Elijah was involved in the deaths of 940 people (840 prophets of Baal/Asherah and the 100 men that the king sent to get him).

- What about Ezekiel? Well, Ezekiel chapters 2&3 sound like a call to ministry in North America; go a preach to a rebellious people that won’t listen to you (Like 3:7 – “But the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate.”). Talk about a tough calling. He had to preach doom and gloom to his very own people, people whom thought that they were the chosen people of Yahweh (which they were) and that they were ‘untouchable’ (which they were not). He had an essentially fruitless ministry too. Faithful, but no massive revivals or anything.

- Or Jeremiah? Or Micah? Zephaniah? Malachi? Hosea? Nahum? Habakkuk? Zechariah? Amos? Obadiah? Haggai? Joel? Jonah? Pretty much all of those people had fruitless ministries! Well, all but Jonah…Jonah was the only one of those who had some massive conversions. He was instrumental in converting the whole city of Ninevah, though in a typical Old Testament “screw up” in form, he was stinking mad about all his converts. How weird is that?! He has a few hundred thousand converts and he’s all upset!!

- What about New Testament? Well, Jesus had a ministry that had a few hundred people around, but do to teaching ‘too much doctrine’, they all buggered off (check out John 6:60-66). Many other people followed him for a while after this ‘doctrinal washout’, but it only lasted around 2 years. Every single one of his converts eventually left him when he was called to account for his ‘aberrant theology’ before a national church council, and then a supreme court. The whole affair ended up in his imprisonment and eventual execution. I don’t know about you, but prosecution of the senior pastor leading to capitol punishment doesn’t sound like one of the ‘seven habits of a highly effective leader’.

- Or the Apostle Paul? Well, in just one of the churches he started there were divisions and quarrels about spiritual authorities (1 Cor 1:10-17), publicly acknowledge sexually misconduct (5:1-3), a rampage of lawsuits (6:1-8), Older Christians causing younger Christians to sin and violate their conscience (8:1-13), Rebellion and gender fighting (11:2-16), The abuse of communion (11:17-34), The misuse of spiritual gifts (chapters 12-14), false teachings about the resurrection of Christ (15:12-19), inappropriate courtship and dating ( 2 Cor. 5:14-18), and false apostles running around and spreading lies about Paul (2 Cor chapters 10-12). Does that sound like a model church?

How about the church in Galatia with it’s attacks from Judaizers and confusion about the law? Or the church in Colosse with the attacks from the Gnostics? The church in Ephesus with it’s gender confusion issues and open attacks from the cultists?

Admittedly, the New Testament numerical decreases are LESS than the Old Testament, but one would wonder if things would have been better if Bill Hybels or Joel Osteen had been around back then. Jesus and Paul could have most likely benefited from a book on communication and positive marketing. Moses and Elijah, on the other hand, needed a few dozen seminars on leadership, stress management, team building and personal empowerment. For being the Bible, there sure isn’t a whole lot of good examples in there of ‘healthy’, vibrant churches or ‘consistently positive growth’ ministries…Hmmm…


Okay, I hope nobody takes this stuff seriously…it’s all intended as some MASSIVE tongue-in-cheek ramblings. The entire “numbers = spiritual success” idea in ministry is a pagan idea that comes from anti-biblical thinking. Many of the leadership/eldership in churches I know think like business savvy pagans, and will one day have to give an answer before the blazing eyes of the righteous judge as to why they were instrumental in growing huge churches with next to no Christians in them. I’m eternally upset that there are so many people in church leadership/eldership with 30 years experience at being foolish. Just because you’re retired and rich doesn’t mean you’re godly. I haven’t said anything too offensive for a while, so that’s my ‘tactless remark’ for the week. Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian

The ultimate band...

Now those that know me know that I'm a musician, and I love talking about rock and metal bands. I'm also a huge fan of Guitar Techniques, a guitar magazine from the U.K. A while ago there was a 'debate' among the readers of "who would be in the best band of all time". People picked their "dream" guitarists, drummers, bass players, keyboard players and singers...and then went off on why their choice was the only logical one. I had my own entry, but as of today I'd like to officially change it. Here's my new entry for World's Ultimate Band:

1. Lead Guitar = Al Mohler

2. Rhythm Guitar and lead vocals = CJ Mahaney

3. Bass = Mark Dever

4. Drums = Ligon Duncan

Now I know that none of these guys are serious musicians (or more likely cannot play to save their lives and are tone deaf), but can you imagine how awesome the lyrics would be? Imagine how awesome it would be if there was music like Aryeon/Sonata Arctica/POD/Megadeth/Nightwish/Lullacry/Children of Bodom/etc. with lyrics like this:

Effin' rights. I'd spend my life savings buying their CD's. I'd become a roadie and work for free. I'd possibly even consider a TATOO. Where are the good metal/rock bands with lyrics that are good, both morally and theologically? Where's the modern version of Psycho Surgery/Pathogenic Occular Dissnance era Tourniquet? Why is so much Christian music completely bed-wettingly wussy and theologically sleeping with Bill Hybles/Ron Luce/Joyce Meyer/John Eldridge/whoever else is 'nice' but stupid? It's time that Calvinists got a pair and learned to shred. Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian