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Lessons from John Allen Chau

TL:DR – His heart in the right place, lack of wisdom and knowledge made for some unwise choices in visiting North Sentinel. God may yet bring fruit of his visit to the island.

The whole thing:

John Allen Chau died presumably between November 16th and 17th of 2018 trying to reach the people of  North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Sentinelese are believed to be one of a few people groups on the planet to have little to zero contact with the outside world.

Both The Guardian and The Daily Mail have extensive articles on the subject, complete with pictures of his last journal entries for you to read and a timeline of events that led up to his death (I personally recommend the Daily Mail first, then The Guardian).

And despite a lie from an article on Patheos, International Christian Concern has NOT called for the prosecution of any natives.

John had visited the Andaman twice in the previous few years, and grew a genuine love and heart for the people of the area. His friends and family say that he’s had this trip planned for at least 3 years and had a genuine desire in his heart to see the Sentinelese people come to faith in Christ.

On social media (including on my own timeline), I’ve seen commentary ranging from mocking (complete with profanity) to praise (calling him a martyr). That shouldn’t surprise anyone who has read their Bible – non-believers have zero reasons to view a Christian attempting to reach an unreached people group as a ‘good thing’.  Death of missionaries on first contact with unreached tribes is also not a new thing.  Jim Elliott and four other men were killed attempting to evangelize the Huaoroni people of Ecuador.

Christianity has always been a missionary religion, as the book of Acts documents the first missionary activity of the church as it expanded throughout the Roman empire.  Men like Stephen (Acts 7) and James (Acts 12) were killed by ruling parties to try and stymie the growth of the early church. That will never change.  The call to give up one’s life to follow Christ (Luke 9:23-27) is not simply metaphorical. We see it in the persecution of the church throughout the world (especially in middle eastern countries). Matthew 28:19 is a command, not a suggestion.  Christians have an obligation to either give or go.

John’s trip to the North Sentinel Island, though well-intentioned (and rightly intentioned), raises a number of issues related to missions including possible breaking of laws (more on this later) and an overall missiology (a theology of how to do missions).

First, the command to spread the gospel has not always gone out without cultural baggage and there have been consequences.  In 1880, Britains, in the name of colonialism, kidnapped several members of the Sentinelese and traveled with them to Port Blair, a nearby inhabited port in the Andaman islands. They did so with the objective of trying to integrate (forced contact) the tribes with the modern world at that time.  Two of the tribespeople died by the time they reached port, possibly of diseases contracted by contact with the British. The British returned the survivors to their island with some gifts, but the language barrier and the forcefulness of being extracted from their land and then returned may not have registered as anything but aggression. The British (who, at that time had colonized parts of India), were looking to use some of the Andaman Islands as a penal colony. Colonization of other nations by European countries was often done in the name of ‘bringing civilization to savages’ (which often included ‘taking the land in the name of Christ’), while at the same time (as we learn from Columbus’ journals), greed, conquest and sexual license.  Our knowledge of the Sentinelese and their history outside of our contact with them is limited; we know they have had contact with neighboring tribes in the area (one anthropologist noted, when they saw members of another local tribe, they became angry).  The same anthropologist (T.N. Pandit) recently commented that he was surprised that the Sentineli killed anyone. He gave suggestions on how to approach them, also relating his own face-to-face interactions with them over several decades.

When American missionaries went west and encountered Native Tribes, they often brought their cultural assumptions (i.e. adjust your clothing to our cultural styles, have ‘Christian names’, live our particular way of life) with them and tried to equate these with the gospel. Nothing in the gospel message says you must change your name to fit a standard ‘American’ name. Nothing in the gospel message says you must change your clothing style (although total nudity would be prohibited) from your native garb to our ‘Christian American’ way of dressing.  They also included things like the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forced many Native Tribes off their land (some went peacefully). European Christianity has had a mixed bag of imperialism and colonialism which have sometimes clouded the gospel message.

The relevance of these facts above is simple; in the life of a tribe which has generally eschewed contact with the outside world, legends of ‘paled skinned men’ in large boats bringing death to members of the community may linger fresh in the oral tradition of the tribe, even a century and a quarter later.  John, being a young white male, had this as a disadvantage before he got off the boat.  The last group of ‘white men’ to visit the Sentineli people (National Geographic in 1974) were also greeted with arrows.

Second, for health and safety reasons, the Indian government has (in the past) declared the island to be off-limits. “Hands off, eyes off, leave them alone and to themselves” has been the official policy.  Every few years, the Indian government sends a boat or helicopter nearby to check on the existence of the inhabitants, but since the early 2000’s, all attempts to contact and integrate the group into modern society have been abandoned (though this may well change with the policies of the current government – more on this later).  The tribe, apparently desiring to be left alone, has been isolated from the remainder of the outside world and its’ diseases and pathogens.  Just as disease was brought from Europe to the U.S. that the Native Americans had no immunity to, so too it is a great concern that when making contact with isolated peoples, that it be done safely.

I’m well aware that this was not a major concern in the past when it came to missions, but as God has enabled us to grow in our knowledge of how the human body works, we now know how easy it is for diseases and pathogens to be transmitted and take precautions.  An uncontacted tribe in the Brazillian rainforest and the Sentineli may not have had the common cold virus between them, but the westerners visiting them do. Well-meaning westerners have spread disease unintentionally to tribes and peoples without immunity to them outside of a controlled and well-planned series of contacts. The Indian government has named this as an area of concern repeatedly.

On a related note, during some of my reading, I have learned that in August of this year, the current government under Prime Minister Modi has removed the RAP (Restricted Area Permit) status from 29 of the Andaman Islands, including North Sentinel. Visiting the island is not strictly off-limits (more on the implications of this later). The Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation of 1956, however, is still in effect, making it illegal to make forced contact with people in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands who are scheduled/protected tribes (i.e. the Sentinelese and the Jarawas for example).

Missions and First Contact

How should first contact be made with a group when seeking to share the gospel ? Every missions agency may not have a sound philosophy for engaging unreached people groups. Every believer may not have studied missiology enough (I confess to be one of them) to have a solid philosophy and approach to missions and evangelism.  There are medical concerns (mentioned) as well as the physical well-being of the people involved.  Most successful groups I’ve seen go in with the purpose of serving the local community first and then sharing the gospel as they work alongside the people in building their community’s resources. The trap, however, is to bring along too much of one’s culture in the process of helping the community.

The Rahab Dilemma

Under the Protected Tribes act, the fishermen who provided material assistance for John to get to the island are being charged (his family is requesting that they drop the charges). He paid off folks to knowingly break the law and get as close (within the buffer zone) as possible without landing on the island. In addition, there was forced (not initiated by the tribespeople) contact (he met face to face with them). Yet, it was done for a good reason (evangelism).

Unlike Islam, Christianity has no doctrine of taqiyaa, so Christians are not permitted to lie during times of war or to unbelievers in the name of evangelism.  At this point, one may try to point to Rahab, the Jerichoite prostitute who hid the spies in Joshua 2 because she knew from what she’d heard that the city was given to the people of Israel by God and would fall to them. She only pleaded that her family be saved when they invaded the city (they were….and Rahab is even an ancient ancestor of Christ).

Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 praise her as being faithful to Christ for both welcoming the spies and for hiding them….but never for lying about it to the King of Jericho when he came looking for the spies.  If you’ve talked with missionaries in unsafe countries, you’ll know that there are times now when Christians in persecuted countries, under duress, have lied to public officials in order to protect other believers or their families from being sent to prison, killed or worse (tortured then killed). They’ve done so with guilty consciences, praying for forgiveness for the lie. There were situations like this in the early church as well prior to the Edit of Milan in 313. This does not excuse the lie or the moral responsibility that comes with it.

With these considerations in mind, I took a look (and a lot of reading) regarding what John Allen Chau did and what can be learned from it.  Here are my four basic observations.

1. John’s heart for missions was at the core of who he was as a Christian. This is good. He was not a ‘colonizer’.  His desire, first and foremost, was to see these people worshiping at the throne of God in their language as depicted in Revelation 7:9-10.  He has a consistent track record (even in his teens, he worked with FEMA during Hurricane Katrina and traveled to a lot of disaster areas to help out over the past decade of his life).

Non-Christians will not understand…well…most won’t.  Penn Gillette, one half of the duo of Penn & Teller, once remarked:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPe3NGgzYQ0

“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

John’s journal entries (again – read The Daily Mail ‘s article and see his handwriting) demonstrate a true heart changed for Christ.  As a believer, you understand the eternal implications (John 3:18) of folks dying without Christ. You understand the implications of Romans 10:1-10. Someone must go. So you preach, you proselytize and you build relationships so you can share the gospel.  I would like to think that John was thinking that the tribespeople would accept him, he would live amongst them, learn their language, customs and ways and eventually be in a position to share the gospel with them. John took scripture seriously – He left the comfort of the US and went somewhere that he knew may well have been the place where he would be killed. He knew the danger and went anyway.

The gospel has that effect. 2000 years ago, a group of fishermen, a former tax collector, a former insurgent and some other guys were gathered together by an itinerant Jewish rabbi.  When their Teacher was arrested and killed by crucifixion, they all fled in fear, some going back to their fishing.  Days and weeks later, these men along with an extended group of followers found themselves publicly preaching the teachings of this same Rabbi without fear of these same Jewish officials.

What happened ?  Jesus changed a heart of fear to a heart of faith. They saw the resurrected Christ for themselves.  They knew that all He spoke was true and finally understood what He chose them for. They stepped forward and dealt with persecutions, attacks, slander, insults and a host of other things which make our present-day lives in America look like glory in comparison.

John Chau had that same heart.  Make no mistake. His journal entries speak in the same voice that the Apostle Paul did as he stood before Governor Festus in Acts 25:11 and again decades later in old age when he wrote from jail while awaiting execution, reflecting on his life’s work in spreading the gospel (2 Tim. 4:7). I have no doubt that I and every other true believer in Christ will meet John on the other side of this life. He seems like a pretty cool guy and is a good example of a life not wasted.

2. John’s zeal could not make up for his lack of knowledge and proper planning. Even with the training he received (he is a graduate of Oral Roberts University), his approach, as an outsider, lacked wisdom, proper planning and proper support. Indian anthropologist T.N. Pandit spent two decades attempting to establish contact with the group, slowly greeting them from a distance multiple times until they chose to come out to the boats in the lagoon area of the shore in 1991. After 1991, virtually every attempt at contact was met with hostile response.  Accidental contact (i.e. two fishermen killed when their boat drifted to the shore by accident in 2008) as well as purposeful contact (i.e. arrows shot at a helicopter checking on the people after the 2004 tsunami) have all been met with aggression.

Another large problem is that he was not sent by the local church.  Every example of missions work in scripture originates with the local church and not simply with individuals with a desire to ‘do missions work’.  Paul, Peter and all of the apostles were either sent directly by Jesus (Matthew 28:19) from the church at Jerusalem or the apostles sent others with the same goal of building communities of worshipers (church planting).  When Paul leaves the elders at Ephesus in Acts 20, it is with tears and thankfulness to God for him and his work as they walk him to his ship.  In 1 Thessalonians 2 and 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul recounts to the Thessalonians how he and Barnabus did not ask them for any funds for their living (even though they had a right to), but rather they labored for their own income so they could serve without burdening the local community. They also did this to serve as an example against idleness – if you don’t work, you don’t eat. This model of coming alongside a local community is a sound one because it gives the community and the individual(s) a chance to build a relationship. The individuals on mission to the community also get to serve the community (because no one will listen to what you have to say if you haven’t demonstrated your care for them as people first).

While I’m here, let me also mention that parachurch ministries (including missions agencies) are not substitute for the authority of the local church (1 Peter 5).  The structure of the church in scripture is consistently elders -> deacons -> laity.  Deacons serve and coordinate. Elders rule, teach and keep watch over the flock.  Hebrews 13:7 is a reminder of this as well.  God put these ‘wisdom systems’ in place to keep well-meaning believers from going out on their own and getting into trouble.   Elders appoint other elders – Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5 – you don’t appoint yourself as an elder. Likewise, as with the example of Paul, missionaries are sent out by the local church, not by the individual following what they believe to be a call from God.

You believe you have a ‘call’ for a vocation from God ? Tell it to the elders, have them pray on it and if it is from God (if it is biblical), He will set you on the path toward it with the blessing of the elders and their support.  He will raise up the infrastructure for you to accomplish this vocational call properly and legally.

If not, you may be full of zeal, but that zeal needs some knowledge, planning, support and maturity before you end up on the beach of an isolated island.

3. He broke laws in order to bring about good. This goes back to the Rahab dilemma I mentioned above. Is it right to do wrong that good may come ? There are times when civil disobedience is right and biblical. Christians in the 1950’s and 1960’s recognized this and followed Dr. King’s lead on non-violent sit-ins and boycotts of businesses in an effort to end segregation. The church grows in areas where Christianity is suppressed (i.e. China, Saudi Arabia and China) because believers gather to worship as commanded by scripture (Hebrews 10:24-25).

I would submit, however, that these situations are different.  Church congregations had been established in these areas and these churches today are supported by local churches and missions agencies. John would’ve been wise, in my opinion, to work through a local missions agency that was working on establishing peaceful contact with the Sentinelese. Several such organizations (i.e. India Missions Association) exist and are already established enough to serve as a ‘command base’ to begin the initiative, including working with the government on a legal basis to establish contact.

I cannot commend John paying fishermen and a network of people to get access to the island illegally (legally, everyone is required to remain 3 nautical miles away from the island at all times).  He did so knowingly (per his journal entries).

4. His work may yet bear fruit in years to come.  He went.  He risked.  John Piper, in opening chapter 5 (pages 79 and 80) of his book Don’t Waste Your Life, states the following:

If our single, all-embracing passion is to make much of Christ in life and death, and if the life that magnifies him most is the life of costly love, then life is risk, and risk is right. To run from it is to waste your life.
WHAT IS RISK?
I define risk very simply as an action that exposes you to the possibility of loss or injury. If you take a risk you can lose money, you can lose face, you can lose your health or even your life. And what’s worse, if you take a risk, you may endanger other people and not just yourself. Their lives may be at stake. Will a wise and loving person, then, ever take a risk? Is it wise to expose yourself to loss? Is it loving to endanger others? Is losing life the same as wasting it?
It depends. Of course you can throw your life away in a hundred sinful ways and die as a result. In that case, losing life and wasting it would be the same. But losing life is not always the same as wasting it. What if the circumstances are such that not taking a risk will result in loss and injury? It may not be wise to play it safe. And what if a successful risk would bring great benefit to many people, and its failure would bring harm only to yourself? It may not be loving to choose comfort or security when something great may be achieved for the cause of Christ and for the good of others. (Piper, pp. 79-80)
Since John’s last journal entry was signed Soli Deo Gloria, I’m inclined to believe that somewhere in his personal belongings is a copy of this book, with these pages and this paragraph highlighted or underlined. He lived his theology out, rightly.
In my own reading on this issue (most of the links I post in this article have been my references), it seems that his encounter may bear some fruit in the area of anthropological studies later. Perhaps, God may raise up a Christian anthropologist at a time when the government is willing to make contact with the tribes and the tribes themselves are willing to connect with the outside world on a limited basis.  Perhaps a man or woman may be raised up to go (again) in this way.
In addition, as mentioned above, the recent (August 2018) revocation of the Restricted Area Permit requirement for North Sentinel island may yet  provide another opportunity for someone to make contact with the tribe positively between now and 2022 when the temporary reprieve on the act expires.  The government has opened 29 of the islands in the area up for tourism to bolster the economy and help bring the already-contacted tribes into modernity, but a window may now be open for the establishment of a church among the tribal populations already contacted.
We will pray and we will see.
Meanwhile, pray for the family of John, that they may be comforted at this time, knowing that He is in glory and worshiping before the throne of God.  His body (according to the fishermen who took him there) is lying in the open on the beach, presumably as a warning for any future visitors to stay away.
Pray for future missionaries, to whom the job of watering and planting will fall. Pray that God give them strength, wisdom and resources to complete the task that John started.
Pray for the Sentinelese people.  As with the Huaoroni, they may be a society whose first response to outsiders is violence.  As God changed the hearts of the Huaoroni, may He also change the hearts of the Sentinelese to be open to the gospel.

Thoughts on Kim Kardashian, gay marriage and….marriage

There’s been jokes about the brevity of Hollywood marriages for years now. Britney Spears and her 55-hour marriage to Jason Alexander a few years ago still strikes me as incredulous and nothing more than a publicity stunt. It got press, but not much, since it seemed to happen on a whim over the course of a weekend spent partying in Vegas. But it, along with the many other relatively short ‘star’ marriages (usually 2-4 years at most) that continue to happen (and dissolve) among stardom go to underscore a lack of understanding about the seriousness of marriage.

Kim Kardashian’s 72 day marriage to NBA star Kris Humphries has been latched onto by homosexual activists and pro-gay marriage folks as proof that the problem (as purported by conservative politicians and talkshow hosts) is not ‘gay marriage’ eroding the sanctity of marriage.

In part, they are correct.

Gay marriage and the desire of homosexuals to ‘marry’, no-fault divorce, Jada and Will’s open marriage – all of these things aresymptoms of a de-valued view of marriage.  George Takei and Perez Hilton have both commented on their twitter feeds that ‘straight’ people are ruining the institution of marriage just fine without homosexual folks’ help.

Both men have a point – but it’s only a small point. They cannot rightly use Kim’s, Britney’s or any other short-term marriage as THE ‘examples’ of straight marriage that are ruining the sanctity of marriage.   To put it in perspective, one cannot look at Britney Norwood and any other two random black people who commit heinous acts of murder and conclude that they are ‘all’ making it bad for black people as a whole.  Just as Norwood’s actions represent her and not all black people, likewise, Kardashian’s 72-day wedding (with a huge payout for the rights to broadcast the wedding….seems like she just made 18 million dollars easy) doesn’t represent ‘straights’ or ‘heteros’ (as I’ve heard one gay person call us).

Where’d the low view of marriage come from ?

While it’s been the purview of the culture to wax and wane on the sanctity of marriage, it is the responsibility of the church to always uphold it. Ephesians 5:22-33 tells us that marriage itself is a ‘great mystery’ and that this great mystery refers to Christ and His church.  Think of it. Marriage is supposed to be an earthly ‘picture’ of Christ’s relationship to His church.

Marriage was the first societal institution created by God – even before the fall (Genesis 2:25-26).  So, political rhetoric aside, it really is one of the bedrocks and basic institutions of society itself, regardless of what form of government you believe is better (or what form of government you live in).

What happens when the church forgets this fact ? We get adultery allowed and almost encouraged in churches. When the church gives a wink and a nod to a pastor and merely ‘sits him down’ for a bit, but then ‘restores him’ to his previous office (even though 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1 CLEARLY state that he must be above reproach – see my comments here), the church’s stance on marriage is taken to be a joke at best and the ‘rantings of clearly repressed individuals who are probably gay themselves’ at worst.  Eddie Long comes to mind immediately.

When we add to it cover-ups by other believers or the simple ‘excusing’ of sin under the guise of ‘grace’ (cheap grace at that) without biblical repentance (and where necessary biblical church discipline which may include excommunication for unrepentant sin), and the church indeed becomes no better than the world.

Notice – I’m not separating marriage and sex in this. God created them to be together, just like one does not get a first down by running off the football field and putting the ball on a parking lot line. We may expect the world to divorce the two – which Paul warned against repeatedly in 1 Cor. 5, 1 Thess. 4:3-8 and many other passages. But scripture never does and believers should renew their thinking to match scripture. Hebrews 13:4 reminds us that God doesn’t consider sex to be a bad thing – it’s undefiled in marriage.  Key words: in marriage.  And God defines what marriage is in Genesis 2. God wrote an entire book on the joy of marriage and sex with Song of Solomon.  God gave section after section of scripture to instruct couples how to deal with each other in marriage and what marriage itself entails (1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5, etc….) and how and why to avoid temptation toward unfaithfulness (Proverbs 5-7).

When the church abandons these things as foundation and begins to imitate the culture, homosexual folks coming up and trying tocall something that isn’t marriage ‘marriage’, folks trying to call open adultery a form of ‘marriage’ and so on really become commonplace.  And when the church knows these things, but does not support and proclaim them openly, the same thing happens.

Thankfully, there are men like Voddie Baucham, Bob Lepine, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Gary Thomas, organizations like Family Life Today and others that seek to purposely proclaim and present a biblically accurate view of marriage, even in the face of society seeking to do the opposite.  As these men continue to step forth and stand in the gap, may those of us taught by them also take up the charge – not to proclaim what we are against as political pundits often do, but to wisely present a biblical case for what marriage really is and moreso – present the person asking with a view toward their need for a Savior – whether gay or straight (remember: 1 Cor. 6:9-10 treats heterosexual sex outside of marriage the EXACT same as homosexuality).

Tim Challies weighs in on Conferencegate 2010….

Tim Challies has always been a cool guy.  At T4G 08, he still gave me 2 minutes on camera, even though he normally doesn’t do video.

This is his take on the issue.  He doesn’t agree that Piper should’ve invited Warren, but he also sees a lot of the same things I do with regard to how people have been reacting to the issue…including stating that we shouldn’t ‘separate’ from Piper has some have already claimed they’d be doing.

http://www.challies.com/church/why-john-piper-should-not-have-invited-rick-warren

We also get a bit more info from Tim – he’s known about this since September 2009 (don’t you love being early in the news ?).

I’ll admit – since blogging earlier, I’ve become less enthused with the idea of Warren as speaker at the DG conference.  I still have a ‘wait and see’ attitude on the whole thing.  I think Piper has enough integrity (doctrinal) to do exactly what Tim thinks he’d do if Warren gets up there and fudges it.  Maybe I’m hoping for the best on it a bit too much and giving too much weight to what I think will happen with Warren.

On John Piper, Sabbaticals and Rick Warren

Okay, so reading the comments on John Piper’s video where he invites Rick Warren to speak at the 2010 DG National Conference, Piper already predicted a firestorm of controversy for his decision.

Boy was he right.

This happens to come right on the heels of him announcing a nine-month sabbatical to work on his marriage and devote more time to his family. So some people are suspecting it’s a combination of poor judgement in all areas of his life which are leading to the ‘step down’ (just read the comments onthe video above).

Some, like Lane Chaplin, have expressed no further desire to support JP.

Others are simply decrying the decision as poor judgement.

Some are ready to toss Piper to the wolves, as they’ve been calling Piper things such as a ‘Trojan Horse‘ for years now.

I find it a bit interesting that Piper’s topic at Together for the Gospel 2010 (which I won’t be attending) is “Did Jesus Preach the Gospel of Evangelicalism ?“, which, in light of the theme of The Unadjusted Gospel, seems rather contradictory.  Why invite a man to speak at your national conference who actually preaches the very thing that you’re going to be speaking against at T4G ?

Upon giving Piper a listen, I *think* I have a fair idea of what Piper is up to.  It’s real simple.

Listen carefully to what he says to Rick Warren and what he asks Rick Warren to preach on.

When I wrote him, here’s what I said. And he’ll probably watch this video too. I said, “The conference is called ‘THINK: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God. I want you to come. You are the most well-known pragmatist pastor in the world. I don’t think you are a pragmatist at root. Come and tell us why thinking biblically matters to you in your amazingly pragmatic approach to ministry.” I want him to lay his cards on the table. I want him to tell us what makes him tick, because he does come across in much of what he says and does as very results oriented and pragmatic and not theologically driven. And yet, I met him for the first time last year at Ralph Winter’s funeral in Pasadena. And we sat beside each other on the platform for three hours. I like him because he sings. And he sings badly. And anybody who’s willing to sing and sings badly — I like him. And we were talkin’ beforehand and he said to me, “I’m reading all the works of Jonathan Edwards this year. I pick a great theologian every year and I read all of his collected works. I’m on volume 17 of the Yale series of Jonathan Edward’s works.” You’ve got to be kidding me. Nothin’ you have ever said would incline me to think . . . *CROWD LAUGHTER – TEE HEE!* So, these guys are gonna go interview him tomorrow, I think. So you can quote some of these things. I do think he is deeply theological. He is a brilliant man. He wouldn’t have the church he does or the PEACE plan or, uh, all the influence he does and of course the greatest sentence in the Purpose Driven Life is the first one, isn’t it? “It’s not about you; it’s about God.” The glory of God. So, I don’t think he’s emergent. At root I believe he is theological, and doctrinal, and sound. And, what makes him tick? Actively in doing church? Uh, I intend to find out. So, I like him. And I’m frustrated by some of his stuff.”

Folks like Michael Horton have interacted with Warren in the past and share the same theological concerns that Piper does in his last sentence here.

What was Piper thinking ?

I’m guessing the following:

1. For all the people who say Piper’s lost it, think for a moment.  The man has written the best present-day exegetical defense of Romans 9:1-23.  As a single author, he’s probably devoted more work toward answering the errors of N.T. Wright regarding the New Perspective.  He’s not stupid.   So when John Piper says “I think he’s sound”, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and not try to disown him as some have tried to do in their talks.  Piper wouldn’t invite, for example, Joel Osteen to speak at DG.  Why ? Simple – Osteen wouldn’t quote from the WCF.  Osteen also wouldn’t read Edwards (or any other theologian for that matter). Warren at least has degrees from Fuller (when it was still moderately biblical) and Southwestern.  So he has demonstrated the very thing Piper says he suspects of him.   Of course, he’s also contradicted the bulk of that in many of his talks, which brings me to point #2:

2. Piper’s question and speaking topic are HEAVILY loaded and quite blatant.  If Warren answers them honestly and from the suspected ‘theological’ basis sitting underneath of what he claims to privately believe, then he will end up refuting a good 99% of what he’s written in Purpose Driven Church and at least 80% of Purpose Driven Life.

3. Piper’s opening up larger dialogue with Warren and challenging him to grow here. He’s doing what some people say they would do if they had the chance.  He’s doing the opposite of simply spitting and cursing at the darkness – he’s lighting a candle here.

I think it’s a brilliant move and a brilliant gamble on Piper’s part.    Having 2-3 extra days to think on it, I’m not sure it will work, as Warren has proven himself to be a bit of a chameleon (and I’ve been around some of his disciples who do the same).  Part of the reason for that, of course, is that they never stop to think deeply about the implications of the doctrines of grace (or theology in general) and simply file away doctrinal truths as facts.

Piper’s invitation cuts to the heart of that sort of thinking.  I’m waiting to see what the outcome will be in Warren’s speech.

Meanwhile, instead of damning Pastor John as some have done, take the time and pray for him.  Ministry is a hard job and many armchair theologians are a bit too quick to hit the ‘submit’ button on their blogs, but not submit their thinking to a theology of grace regarding others.   At worst, treat him as a brother caught in sin and pray for his repentance.  At best, pray that his intentions for inviting Warren have the desired effect and help to bring Warren face to face with bankruptcy of his own pragmatism.

CarBlogging!! Finally!!

Something new I’ve been thinkin’ on for a few months and finally decided to DO:

Expository preaching vs Topical Preaching…..a few thoughts.

WTS Suspends a professor…..

….with good cause.

http://theologica.blogspot.com/2008/03/peter-enns-of-westminster-theological.html

and the issues that led up to it:

http://theologica.blogspot.com/2008/01/enns-vs-helm-vs-beale.html

I just put this post up on Holy Culture Radio as a commentary to all of this:

http://hcr.fm/forum/showthread.php?t=27750

One person commented that it seemed like WTS made the right move.  I commented:
Yep. The language that unorthodox folk use in academia is getting more slippery to nail down…..but that’s normally the case with heresy. It sneaks in sounding legit and sounding open, ‘broad’, loving and friendly. They also have a tendency to try and paint orthodoxy as closed, confining and constricting.

Praise God for WTS-PA being on the ball. I’ve been worried about them for a while now. Prayerfully, this will mark the beginnings of a move back to strict confessional orthodoxy for them.

C.S. Lewis nailed this very issue almost 60 years ago when he penned the Great Divorce. One of the conversations going on is reflective of the same issue here:

Ghost: ‘But you must feel yourself that there is something stifling about the idea of finality ? Stagnation, my dear boy, what is more soul-destroying than stagnation ?’

White Spirit: ‘You think that, because hiterto you have experienced truth only with the abstract intellect. I will bring you where you can taste it like honey and be embraced by it as by a bridegroom. Your thirst shall be quenched.”

Ghost: Well, really, you know, I’m not aware of a thirst for some ready-made truth which puts an end to intellectual activity in the way you seem to be describing. Will it leave me the free play of mind ? I must insist on that, you know.’

White Spirit: “Free, as a man is free to drink while he is drinking. he is not free to still be dry.”

The ghost seemed to think for a moment. ‘I can make nothing of that idea’, it said.

‘Listen!’ said the White Spirit. ‘Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again: even now.’

Ghost: ‘Ah, but when I became a man I put away childish things.’

White Spirit: ‘You have gone far wrong. Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the ‘free play of inquiry’ has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage.’

For those who may miss the simple truth here in the exchange between the Ghost and the White Spirit:

Sometimes, people, in the use of the intellect which God gave them, spend more time questioning (even orthodoxy) for the sake of questioning orthodoxy as to appear intellectual and deep through the constant use and re-use of their intellect. That’s not the purpose of our intellect. Intellectual pursuit for the sake of intellectual pursuit is an idol and useless – a WASTE of the intellect, if you will. The intellect was given to us to find truth, and that truth being found in Christ and His word, being held onto tightly and not deviated from or left.

So while there may be many in the sub-orthodox community who denigrate any strict attempts to return to orthodoxy, Jesus has reminded us that it’s always the BROAD road that will lead to hell, not the narrow one.

Don’t be fooled by smooth sounding words.

Soli Deo Gloria.

What’s the gospel ?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlrvkqhVNO0

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Interesting Times…..Adventures in Evangelism.

I just hit the front page of the site with a brief update to let everyone know I was alive. One issue I said I’d dig into more later was the witnessing encounter this past weekend that we all went to.

‘We’ being Me, Yolanda, Jason and Jolene.

Jason and Yolanda came strapped with tracts and bibles and started before I got there (I ran late). They knew EXACTLY the right corner to hit in the downtown area (Eutaw and Saratoga Street in the Lexington Market area).

I got there…..they were already at work. On my way down, I walked 3-4 blocks with the mailman (his name was tony) who attended a UMC church. It was a good short convo and I gave him a tract.

At the corner, it was CRAZY. We met ‘Mac’ – a 15-year old dude that kinda reminds me of a cross between Young Josh and B-Doe in his mannerism and look…. very intelligent, pretty articulate.

This was [b]his[/b] corner. I noticed that about 6-7 of the same dudes kept ‘circling’ the area. And they were all Nextel-ing each other about the location of the police and moved when appropriate. Mac’s girl had a purse carrying most of his merchandise (which included crack, heroine and weed among other things).

He got to chop it up with Yolanda for a minute while me and J were there. He was actually very respectful and seemed to genuinely appreciate the fact that we were there and not simply beating up on him for what he was doing. He also got to see us interact with several other people, as we were on the corner for almost 2 hours.

People that stood out to me a bit:

Robert – 50+ guy, tall, seemed a little ‘slow’. I shared the law with him, and once we got to the end…. a tear rolled down his face I jumped to the gospel as the solution to the problem the law presented real quick.

Nicoleness & her son (I think his name was Jason…) – Mom claims to be a Christian, but hasn’t been to church in a while. Son goes to Bethel AME, but when was asked how to become a Christian, gave a works-defined salvation plan. Not a big surprise to me. Yolanda spent time with her and the son (I was a part of the convo a little).

Two young girls, 16 and 17 (forgot their names): who also attended churches, but thought that it was about ‘working on it’ instead of repentance and faith.

Gilbert – who works for Lexington Market. Jolene spent time with him for a few and me and J had to walk about 50 yards down the street to find both of them talking. He was interesting because he talked about not wanting thinking it was right to make moral judgments *LOL* but was still a nice guy.

There were plenty of other people we all talked to (I’ll let Jason and Yolanda and Jolene tell their stories).

We’ll be back down there in a few weeks. The tract I wrote up (and there’ll be more on the way shortly) have a short listing of solid churches in the immediate Baltimore area with 1 in Towson included. The closest one to the area that was sound that I pointed folk to is Redeemed’s church – Believers Chapel (it’s also the first one listed on the tract).

Lord willing, I’ll have PDF versions of this tract available on my site soon for folk to DL and use as needed, provided you’re going to actually TEACH folks and not simply ENTERTAIN them when they come to your church.

I’m REAL serious about that. J, Yolanda and Jolene will tell you – we met (literally) DOZENS of people who claimed to be Christians but couldn’t communicate the content of the gospel correctly. And it’s not a matter of ‘well, they just said it differently’. I’m talkin’ about people sayin’ that you basically be a good person, change your behavior and say forgive me God whenever you do something wrong. That’s WORKS. No mention of the cross, no mention of the Savior – nuffin’.

Anyway, enough of that before I start ranting.

Pray for the people mentioned in this post. Pray for the city. My heart BROKE while I was there. I grew up in B-more, used to hang on those very corners…. and it ain’t like it used to be. The heroin and crack slingin’ used to be restricted to a few other places….now it’s in broad daylight.

This is going to be a busy summer for me and a few more of us in the area.

I was encouraged this morning, as I visited Hope Bible Church in Columbia, MD. Hope actually will be starting up a similar evangelism program shortly and they’re going to be going to the local fair and a mall or two, I think.

So keep them in prayer, too.

I have a lot more to say, but this will suffice for now.

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Prayer: Evangelism

I’m taking a short break from HCMR’s boards – too much to answer and not enough time at the moment. I’ve shifted my focus to the unsaved for the moment: I’ve started up a verse by verse Bible study over on ODB.

Pray for it to bear fruit.

We’re doing Colossians. Just posted the opening info tonight (been promising this for a year…. the rest of it should fall into place a bit easier….as all I’ll be doing is asking questions that come about as a direct implication of what the text teaches). Expository questions :)

Oh yeah, and pray for my writing schedule to free up in the next 2-4 weeks so I can resume. I have at least 14-15 topics I need to knock out before the end of the year.

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Top 10 Tactics of Cultic Apologists

I developed these today inspired by a convo with a Seventh-Day Adventist AND with a little inspiration from a top 10 list made up by David King a while back on Catholic Apologists.

Enjoy. Be on the lookout for these.

Top 10 Tactics of Cultic Folks

1. Semantic Obfuscation (word games). Simply redefine words without telling your opponent. Use their words THEIR way and then change meaning without notice. Works well with any of the other techniques listed below.

2. Conspiracy Theories and Drama. Present your view as something ‘hidden’ and purposely concealed. Or present it as ‘new truth’. Present yourself as an enlightener, revealer, and that your greatest desire is to present what’s been ‘long hidden’ from folks so that they too can be in ‘freedom’ (bondage). Present the people who did this ‘hiding’ from you as evil and suspect – if possible, try to numerically associate their name with the mark of the beast. Play on the emotions of the person as much as possible. Works well with #1

3. When Challenged, Feign Insult and Offense. When your facts just don’t add up, call your opponent rude, point out (or make up) character flaws and put yourself above ‘arguing’ with that person. Proudly present your humble attitude in the discussion.

4. When Challenged, Change the Subject. Simply change the subject and begin talking about some other area as an offshoot of the conversation. If you can get them to rabbit trail off, you’ll never have to deal directly with their comments. Staying intently on one subject and critically analyzing and dealing with serious challenges to it will only show your position to be faulty quicker. You want to hold on to conversational superiority as much as possible for as long as possible.

5. Simply Ignore The Obvious and Keep Posting. 200+ earlier years of church history against your contention that Constantine changed the day of worship to Sunday/Invented the Trinity/Removed the ‘Do Not Remove Tag’ from the Mattress/returned ‘Constantine’ late to Blockbuster/invent your accusation here ?

No problem! Ignore facts and say you choose not to answer that at this time. NEVER get back to it. Works well in concert with #3.

6. Cut and paste. Works well when you paraphrase the beginning of someone’s argument to make it look like you wrote it yourself. Gains you plenty of rep on whatever message board/e-mail discussion list/website you’re posting on. Can be used in combination with #5 as a follow-up.

7. Cite Obscure Sources. Most Christians today are woefully unaware that the church didn’t start with Billy Graham. So citing some weird and obscure teacher, someone from church history (orthodox or not) and presenting them as legit may intimidate someone just enough to have them back off. Does not work as well when you use the internet, since they can find it just like you did.

8. Feign Intelligence. Use big words to throw your people off, use obscure ‘my group only’ terms that your opponent wouldn’t know about, but that SOUND deep. Even take words they normally DO use and add extra meaning to them to make yourself appear more intelligent. Due to the same factors as those in #7, this may also serve to scare away Christians who know that ‘something’ is wrong with your teaching, but can’t nail it down. Take advantage of their ignorance.

9. Flood. Flood whatever board, list or whatever you’re posting on with post after post after post, in heavy detail, explaining your position. Used in concert with #7, 6, 5, 1 and 2, you’ll produce at least one or two converts from a list or board of 100. Force-feed a child and they’ll eventually swallow some of the food. Same principle.

10. John 13:34-35 them. Today’s Christian has been influenced heavily by the world’s thinking and way of doing things, so that ‘feeling’ and ‘experiencing’ take precedent over ‘believing’ and ‘thinking’. As a result, you can capitalize on the emotions of your opponent OR the emotions of onlookers by using the least offensive language as possible. Remember to constantly appeal to them as ‘brothers’, though, since you both don’t believe the same things about salvation (and in the case of Mormons, you have a fundamentally different view of God), you’re technically NOT brethren… but your audience might not be sharp enough to immediately pick up on that. Once you’ve got the heart strings from your apparent ‘Christ-likeness’, getting them to listen and agree is easier. Especially effective in ‘poisoning the well’ (causing others to shut down to what your opponent has to say) when used in combination with #3. This combo gets more folks into cults than any other.