Scripture presumes it’s own hermeneutic

In scripture, there is itself a presumption of how to read scripture.

There is a hermeneutic of hermeneutics – so that after we take account of genre, author and audience, time, place and purpose there is a way to read it.

It has a self presumption of its own truthfulness, accuracy and authority. Also that it is speaking in terms of truth as opposed to fantasy, fiction or mythology.

It seems to press against mythological and occult categories with an aggression bent toward distinguishing itself from human innovation and imaginations.

It is read as a witness, an account, a history, an affidavit telling the story as it was with no interest in fanciful aggrandizement.

As with Luke, the fastidious historian, as he gives a careful treatment of what did take place…

“Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,

Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;

It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,

4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.” Luke 1:1

Even the miraculous and the wonderful have this rugged realism built into the narrative accounts so that a reading that would lead to the fantastical never enters in.

There are heroes but never Greek heroics, monsters but no cyclopian minotaurs or medusa, powers but no magic, prayers but no incantations, temples but no demigods, a heaven but no Olympians, a hell but no Styx, no ferry man, no gates, guards or Hephaestus.

The Bible separates itself by a steady stream of historicity and verifiable claims to evidence an interpretation of God and the world consistent with experience and human reason, in hope that men might find the knowledge of God in the person and work of Jesus.

These are real things.

True things.

Neiswonger

Steady yourselves, Christians

I know, I know.

And though challenging and deeply disturbing, not entirely unexpected.

You all knew these things could fall out this way, so be men and women of God about it and steady yourselves.

Are we our own protection or is he our protector? Are we our own strength? Is the political realm the real battle or is it in reality a spiritual conflict writ large upon a stage of worldly history?

So steel yourselves and be Christians.

Steady, focused, resolute, resolved. There will be some difficult times ahead. Evil things will be glorified, promoted and celebrated. Good will be repressed and publicly scorned. Christians and our Christ will be vilified in courtrooms and public squares. Pastors will make their stand and suffer the consequences.

But through all this, history and scripture both being teachers, the church will grow and be purified. Fakers and opportunists that have now revealed themselves will be known for what they are, even as they scurry back to pulpits and keyboards to say, “I was only ever for the gospel.” When in truth their lack of saving faith and scriptural fidelity should now be known to every thoughtful Christian.

But our faith was never in them.

Whatever use or benefit you’ve gained from them take it as a gift and move on. Any that pass by the laws of God, also pass them by. Any that betrayed the church, pass them by. Any that traded in spiritual excellence for worldly glory and the acclaim of the crowd? Pass them by.

I consider all that has come and all that will come a gift, because the church has long been a cesspool of ignorance and self-indulgence that puts any political “swamp” to shame.

And earthly rulers, whether you love them or hate them, they come and go.

You cannot keep them and you cannot depend on them to save you.

If things you loved and cherished have broken down and collapsed then perhaps your faith should have been in stronger things, because the Lord has not failed, not been lax, nor absent.

So do exactly what you know you’ve been called to do in the way you’ve been called to do it.

You’ve fought hard? Fight harder.
You’ve spoken out? Speak louder.
You’ve prayed long? Pray longer.

Nothing is “over”.

Did you expect the whole world to be given to you on a platter? So if you need to mourn a little, then mourn. If you need to cry you know who to cry to. If you need to scream, read the psalms because calling out to God is exactly on point.

But as for the rest, most of you have so far suffered nothing but a bit of personal discomfort. Should you really feel so exhausted? Do you have that right?

So steady yourselves, sanctify yourselves to the Lord and keep moving. Do not allow shame or regret to enter into your thinking. You’ve done what is right, you’ve walked the walk, now raise your head. Do you really have a reason to feel so defeated? This, is not what defeat looks like.

This, is a momentary setback provoked by a national lapse of reason initiated and implemented by the Lord your God. “He sends them a powerful delusion…” He casts them into confusion. He sets them at odds even with themselves.

This is what the coming of a judgement looks like.

You prayed against it, you implored the people like Noah in the days before the flood – but if God in his infinite wisdom chooses judgement over mercy – your calling Christian, if that is indeed your name, is to say

“Yes and Amen.”

Because his people, called by his name according to his purpose, them he protects, and blesses and saves – from the hand of the evil one and all called by his name.

Neiswonger

Christians always play the long game

Christians always play the long game.

Sometimes the long, long game.

For the Christian, an administration under Babylonians, Medes or Persians, Greeks or Romans doesn’t change at all our intent or great commission.

Christ and him crucified.
Christ and him crucified.
Christ and him crucified.

As an American, I love my country.

“Give me liberty or give me death”

But I am still citizen of the Kingdom of God and of a far off country.

Neiswonger

The church in the time of virus

Heard about another Pastor and friend that is losing his call (his employment if you will) in a few days due to Coronavirus related church decline.

This is a pretty serious issue, not just due to the damage to familial well being but to the spiritual life of the community. The spiritual work of holding together the people of God will decline, individual well being will decline, the people, city and state will decline. Unrighteousness will advance and the effective work of the gospel will wane as the churches drift and die.

My specific theological tradition is perhaps more resilient than most to the ebb and tide of worldly cares but no one, no church, no denomination is immune to what we are seeing right now.

So pray for your people, pray for your pastors, pray for your churches, evangelists and missionaries.

Pray for the Lord our God to sustain his people, the church, the kingdom of God on Earth, so that the work might continue and that souls might be saved.

Truth and it’s Consequences

Kant
Darwin
Marx
Hegel
Freud

Everything is an illusion.
Nothing is what it seems to be.
Irrational.
Immoral.
Godless.
Meaningless.

_________________________


Christianity

Things are pretty much exactly what they seem to be.

Even nature is a testimony to the intelligence and providential care of our creator.

In the end, everything makes sense and will be reconciled before the bar of divine reason.

There is right and wrong, there is good and evil.

In him, all things live and move and have their being.

All things were created by him, through him and for him.

God works out all things for the good of those that love him, that are called according to his purpose.

Everything has a meaning.

Everything has a purpose.

____________________________

Evolution makes sense only if you start with the magical propensity of random matter to arrange itself into orderly structures and create intelligent life from the void; magic is at the center of it, occult powers and the god of darkness, space and time.

In it, intelligent, sentient moral beings are the effect of some magical occult properties of matter; such that if you leave a universe alone long enough, people will pop out of them.

The alchemists called this seer’s stone “science” but we all know it as pagan religion in rationalist robes.

Powers, attractions, repulsions, energies. Nothing terms to hide an invincible ignorance.

In the end, we all worship the creator or the creation. It’s a choice we make, the consequence of which is vast. We’re either something or nothing, meaningful or meaningless, the sons of God or of the stars.

But everyone has to give an account of their own existence, right?

Why are Christians interested in legislating sexuality?

Why are Christians interested in legislating sexuality?

Well it’s not just a Christian issue, it’s an every person, every culture, every nation kind of issue. The legislation of morality is pretty much all that states do. So it’s not a question of if sex will be regulated and legislated – it’s just a question of whose morality will guide that process.

If a sexual act is an immoral activity that has an effect upon the public and private lives of the community it should and generally will be regulated. Those are the things that are regulated by law; those with a consequence the community must bear. So theft, murder, assault, marriage, sex and who you have it with and under which conditions (fornication, adultery, homosexuality, prostitution, marriage, divorce, polygamy, pedophilia, pornography and beastiality) are regulated by the state to preserve the good of the person and the well being of the community.

They are also regulated by the church as the institution ordained by God to the spiritual well being of the person and the community.

Neiswonger

Why people walk away from the faith, the reasons they give.

I have had real and in-depth conversation with hundreds of people that have walked away from the church and the faith. There are many common themes. Here are a few.

  1. The group they initially came into the faith within or the church they joined after conversion was theologically unstable or only palpably Christian; generally liberal theology, religious emotionalism or signs and wonders or end of the world movements.
  2. Were never intellectually cultivated during their formative period, or were intellectually cultivated by philosophically, scientifically or theologically spurious resources. If the eventual implication of one’s present belief is that the Bible is not true, the thoughtful person will arrive at that conclusion eventually.
  3. Got into a mean church with angry people looking for someone to hit.
  4. Never really read or studied the Bible. Even if they read it, by their own admission, never really understood it, and might have assumed there wasn’t any clear message to understand.
  5. Never developed a real prayer and worship life.
  6. Their relationship with God was merely abstract or theoretical.
  7. Their relationship with God was completely dependant upon other people like friends, parents, or a marriage.
  8. Deep trauma in childhood was never dealt with and religion was used to surround or deflect from serious emotional suffering, but the gospel was merely of use in this regard as a pragmatic regulation of internal struggles.
  9. The relationship with the church was mainly to compensate for weaknesses in the stability of the family or to reduce intramarital conflict.
  10. There religious life was mainly found in being a member of the right group or holding to a set of special or uncommon beliefs that granted one a special status.
  11. Made moral decisions irreconcilable with the Christian Life so that the psychological conflict between the life lived and the faith professed was too great to bear.
  12. The spiritual life was destroyed by indulgence in drugs or alcohol.
  13. The church or religious leaders that one followed could not answer their intellectual, moral or spiritual concerns.
  14. Moral and spiritual failures of the clergy or church leadership ruins their pastoral image of God.
  15. Moral failures of one’s father, mother or primary source of care or spiritual nurture compromises the view of God as Father.
  16. The ethics of the Bible as thought to be irreconcilable with one’s personal ethics.
  17. The scientifically measurable claims of the Bible are thought to be irreconcilable with the co temporary findings of the sciences.
  18. Unable to overcome a general feeling of depression or anxiety.
  19. Just didn’t work for me.
  20. Married someone or began a relationship with someone that did not approve of or support their faith.

Neiswonger

Stumbling Over Stereotypes

In a recent conversation with friends, I was told that there is a huge bias out there and that the average American looks at Christians as undeniably racist. And because of that bias, that prejudice and that stereotype, we can’t just go up to people and share the good news of the gospel with them, because they think we are racist and therefore won’t listen to us. What we must do first, is repair all the damage that Christendom has done over the past several decades in America so that when we open our mouth to speak, the person will listen to what we have to say.

I had to object to this falsehood, this sort of indoctrinated thinking which, I believe, is at the heart of the problem that we are facing in America today. But first, let me back up a little bit.

When we read Scripture, we read about a Jesus who is constantly engaging with people, all kinds of people, in the public square. He is constantly preaching the good news of the kingdom, sharing the gospel, and talking about sin and judgment and righteousness. And as he went, he led around his 12 disciples and showed them by example what it means to be an imitator of Christ.

Unfortunately, we have come to a place in our Christian ethos where everything we do is largely indoors and among ourselves. Leaders don’t really lead the way Jesus did. Elders (not all, but most) don’t take you into the public square to preach (proclaim) the good news to people nor do they go with you when you are convicted yourself to go. And because most church leaders aren’t leading in this way, multiple generations of Christians have been produced after their kind who don’t have a zealous heart for the lost and dying world around them and very little actual evangelism is happening in our nation today.

So, as I was talking to this person about racist stereotypes towards Christians, I explained that people have all sorts of stereotypes about Christians but that does not change the fact that God calls us to preach the gospel to every creature. And here is the truth: most people in America will have a friendly conversation about things that are eternally important. I talk to thousands of people every year on the streets of Los Angeles about the gospel. Yes, some people that I talk to probably have various negative stereotypes about me, my motives and intentions and they blow me off. Other people are genuinely disinterested in spiritual things. But more often than not, in a matter of minutes, I can go from being a complete stranger to someone to having a warm, loving, friendly conversation with them about the most important truths in life, all because I took the time to show that I genuinely care about them and their well being. I don’t care what color or creed or faith background they come from. I am seeking to share the good news of the gospel with a person made in the image of God so that they might be reconciled to their Creator; and when a person understands that, false stereotypes quickly fall by the wayside.

What we need to remember is that whenever we step out to evangelize those around us, we are either planting a seed or watering a seed. What really matters is that it is God who brings the increase. He simply calls us to be His ambassadors in this exciting ministry of reconciliation. So a major part of the problem with American Christendom and with these race issues, is that Christians simply do not go out of their way to talk to people, like Jesus did. Now, if every Christian in America (or even 1 in 10 for that matter) was regularly talking with friends as well as strangers about the gospel, the stereotype of racism would simply be untenable for them. Why? Because the world would know, based on our actions, that the Christian Church cares about their souls regardless of whether they are Black, White, Asian, Latino, Young, Old, Gay, Straight, etc.

I am convinced that if we did this one simple thing, on a regular basis, the world would be a radically different place.

So, I encourage you to be part of the change. Let’s change the stereotypes and become known as a church who loves our neighbor enough to tell them the truth about how to find eternal peace with the One who created them! To start, simply find a place in your local area where you can go talk to people about Jesus. We don’t need to write our culture off as hopeless. We can change the culture we live in and it is not through anything difficult or complicated. It is a matter of simple obedience to the call to proclaim the gospel to all creation.

Maybe you agree; maybe you disagree. Either way, I would love to hear about it in the comments. Until next time, God bless.

Gallagher

But God is Sovereign…

Life is full of trials and 2020 has had more than its fair share of them. As Christians, we know that we can lean into trials with hope because we know God will use them to build us up and conform us to Christ. When we are going through trials and life is hard, Christians often come alongside one another and offer encouragement along the lines of, “God will use this for good” or “God is Sovereign” and that is absolutely true and I encourage us to comfort one another with these words.

However, as I listen to the way this phrase is used most of the time, I think Christians often forget that God is good not only in His mercy and grace but also in His judgment. I was recently talking with a friend of mine about some disappointing trends that are happening in churches across America (which you can read about here). One takeaway from the trend is that it highlights the laziness of Christian men and the faithfulness and dedication of Christian women. The outcome is an unbalanced and unhealthy church that is not functioning according to God’s design and the reality is that it is not a healthy state for American evangelical churches.

My friend agreed with this assessment and made the comment that “God is using this mess for good.” And while this is absolutely true in the proper sense of God’s goodness, the idea when most people say this is that even though God’s people are walking in disobedience, God will somehow bless it and make everything pleasant in the end. This is where I think we, as Christians, often use this sentiment in a way that misses the full scope of God’s Sovereignty. 

The reality is that God’s definition of good in the face of disobedience could mean that he will gently rebuke us and cause us to repent and reform or he could simply spew a lukewarm version of church out of His mouth. Either way, God would be working things together for good. But being spewed out of His mouth is rarely, if ever, the way people intend to comfort one another when ministering to people with this declaration of God’s Sovereignty (Rom 8:28).

Just consider 2020. The majority of Churches doors around the globe have been shut for six straight months. In these churches, The Lord’s Table has not been open for communion, the saints have forsaken the assembly, they have not continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and they have not walked up the mountain to the house of the God of Jacob. 

I would argue that these are not signs of God’s blessing or favor but I would also affirm that God is indeed using these circumstances for the very best good of His people. And while our desire should always be for God’s goodness to be upon us, my prayer is that we would repent and return to God and His Word so that we may receive God’s good favor for obedience rather than God’s good judgment for disobedience.

From The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 26, Section 2:

Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.

Heb. 10:24–25. And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Acts 2:42, 46. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.… And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.

Isa. 2:3. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

1 Cor. 11:20. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.

Gallagher

Why I as a Christian vote the way I do

I was asked again today why I as a Christian vote the way I do.

I won’t try to convince you to vote the way I do but I can tell you why.

There are two basic interpretations of the world that have shaken out (loosely) into two national parties. Neither is perfect: neither is “God’s Party” but the distance between the two is powerful and worthy of a bit of history.

The present lock down is a general strike of the kind that had been practiced by the Democrats hundreds of times through American history, generally alongside violent rioting.

It’s a shock to people to find out this has been a preferred method for the Democrats to bring about policy changes without due process, but do a few searches and you will be satisfied that it’s true. This tool of conquest has been used through the history of our nation, often causing economic collapse and precipitating war.

In theory, if the economy is not shut down by strike and violence the people will not revolt and overthrow the government. They need to be hungry and afraid and so businesses being destroyed grants both at the same time.

We all feel bad when Democrats burn down family businesses but it is crucial to their method. Businesses create wealth, and wealth gives the individual independence from the state. The intent can range from scientific oligarchy to an agrarian utopia but the means is the same: systemic collapse.

These means were commonly applied in the days of Stalin (in the U.S.) and were still incredibly popular through the 1960s. Burn things down, blow things up, kill people, get woke, force change.

The American people, especially as manifested in the Republican party politics for 160 years, have avoided the disintegration of the nation and the abrogation of individual and personal rights. These rights are prohibitive to a truly anarcho-socialist utopian revolution.

As all know, these revolutions, those principles of government, they don’t work. They don’t work because in reality they are just another form of monarchy and totalitarianism. (In the final analysis what they want is a cultic heresy, a religious community draped in the language of sharing and equality when in truth it demands a universal servitude to a centralized power.)

In the end, the American people and not the government, eventually put an end to it. We’ve just never been crazy enough as a people to drink the poisoned cool aid and give up being free people for the reich or the soviets.

The nazis (nationalistic socialists) and the communists are mere inches apart theoretically (currently available in the form of ANTIFA and a hundred splintered, supporting factions) but the two have always been at war because both want to rule the people after the revolution. (Sometimes battles between groups are not ideological; they’re just about who gets to be King when the blood is dry.)

In the United States, both have been folded into the Democratic Party by political necessity.They simply don’t have the numbers to be effective as distinct political parties or groups.

They had always been sympathetic movements but until then the civil rights issues had kept them apart. Republicans were for civil rights but powerfully against communism, socialism and encroachments upon constitutionally protected freedoms. Once the Democratic parties intent to maintain segregation and Jim Crow laws failed, the socialist and communist movements we’re absorbed into the historical party, contemporary examples being Bernie Sanders, AOC and the Squad.

The Democratic Party is the party of slavery (agrarian socialism), the party of segregation, the party against civil rights and against the free market economy. The party that worships as ideal the learning of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome as opposed to Christian civilization.

As to how the Democratic Party slid so far to the social left, after moderates Kennedy and LBJ sided with the Republicans in the early 1960s during the civil rights movement, it forced the Democrats to absorb social liberals and progressives to save the party.

African Americans had until that time, voted uniformly Republican. The shift took place during that era as the ideology of the nation moved toward seeing the economic divide between business and labor as being definitive of politics in general, something that was never true.

Reagan of course was the answer to this shifting Democratic synthesis that arrived in the form of Jimmy Carter: a southern, baptist, socialist, progressive, liberal, peanut farmer that nearly destroyed the country.

Reagan, a republican, presbyterian, free market, anti-racist, pro-life, free speech, law and order governor from California was the answer to Carter’s socialist ideals.

The Reagan era was an era of remembering. Remembering the real history of the country and confronting the false narratives of the left.

The Republican party hasn’t changed significantly in any of its fundamental policies for 160 years: Anti-slavery, anti-racism, freedom of the person, freedom of thinking, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, a free market, strong businesses for a happy and wealthy people (this kind of thing can actually be planned), protecting the church as beneficial institution, a strong national defense, strong law and order at the local level (to support the market and so the general well being and personal affluence of the people), scientific advancement in service of the economy, opportunity for personal advancement, strong and protected families with a parents rights intact, and a civil society conducive to those ends.

The Democratic Party these days does not support the Jim Crow laws they created but still support many revised segregation policies especially in the universities. Segregated dorms for example, are back, and supported by Democratic colleges, judges and legislators. It works within the present democratic confederacy of socialists, LGBTQ, communists and anarchists because the fundamental worldview, the most basic assumptions about people and the world are still the same.

Which is why the fundamental pivot, the key that holds the entire political frankenstein together, is abortion.

If not for abortion rights the entire monstrosity would fall apart.

If not for the devaluation of human life and the government protected right to kill violently the weakest and most vulnerable among us there would be no such party.

It is what holds them all together.

Why do so many Biden voting Democrats hate Pelosi and Shumer? Because they along with Biden are the old, pre-merger Democrats that still hold some fascination with traditional Americanism.

It is still the party in which people can bind themselves together against the lives of innocent children, the integrity of the nuclear family, against God and country, to protect human trafficking through its legitimization, tacit approval of the opioid epidemic destroying our children, defunding the police but then taking away the weapons we use to protect the weak and the innocent, the encouragement of violence in the streets as the means to the advancement of their agenda, of a general fear that every person has to have of their neighbor because the social environment created through their policies creates a provocation for division and aggression.

Be very clear, abortion today is justified at the heart of the Democratic Party in the same spirit as American slavery. The only thing that has changed is the object of their dehumanization and predatory behavior.

In the old America, there were slave states and there were free states. The free states and the people of those states never owned slaves nor did they permit slavery. Their thinking was different and so their laws were different. Our thinking needs to be different now.

At the end of the day, I think in the most important ways – both parties have remained largely the same, one of them tragically so.

Neiswonger