Our Newest Contributor – Sony Elise

Hello Defending Contending Readers,

Sony EliseI want to briefly introduce a longtime friend of our family, Sony Elise. While she may not be writing as regularly as some of us, I know that what she shares by way of encouragement will be a blessing to you. It has been a while since we have had a Christian lady sharing here and I thought this would be a great addition. While nobody agrees 100% in every area, I know she loves the Lord and bathes everything she does in prayer.

She is a homeschool graduate and has been an editor for magazines and books for almost 25 years. Currently, she works with her brother, Israel Wayne, in a ministry called, “Family Renewal” and she also runs her own Christian editing business, Sony Elise Editing Services. For further details, you may follow the listed links.

Welcome to DefCon, Sis. Sony.

DefCon Writer is on YouTube

20130702-073500.jpgIn addition to blogging and co-hosting a radio program, I also maintain a YouTube account. I have recently begun posting new video blogs there that I wish to share with our readers. In the past, my video efforts were more in the area of highlighting the need for biblical evangelism so as to encourage other brethren to preach the gospel to the lost. However, more recently I have felt burdened to produce videos that encourage and edify the body of Christ to be serious about our faith. It is my conviction that we as Christians need to delve deeper into the Word of God because it is the only source of truth, the only thing that can truly answer the problems we face today. To that end, I have posted two videos (which are linked below) that I hope and pray glorify God and equip the brethren. It is my intent to produce similar videos in the weeks to come. I ask you to consider watching and sharing these videos with other Christians. I also welcome questions and suggestions for future videos. If you have any thoughts on what else you would like to see covered, please email me at defendingcontending@gmail.com.

The Separation of Church and Truth

Cover_RLV_Issue64“Do I have to be a bigot to be a Christian?”  That was the question that Jeff Cook asked in his recent article in Relevant Magazine following the shocking announcement that Exodus International, a ministry focused on homosexuality and the so-called LGBT community, was closing after issuing an apology for “years of undue judgement” and “imprisonment” in an “unbiblical worldview.”  In short, the efforts of Exodus International to speak truth to the homosexual community over the years is now a thing of the past.

Apparently Exodus International had answered Cook’s question with a triumphant “no!”  But it is my allegation that such a question is not only misframed, but it is also misleading.  The better way to ask this question, rather than using the politically charged and culturally expedient word “bigot,” is to ask: “Must one hold to a standard to be a Christian?”

Toward the end of his article, Cook not only tells us that “Christian bigotry” is repulsive and “antithetical to love,” but he also attempts to attach a rough description to it; namely, that it is “irrational devotion to one’s opinions at the exclusion not just of other opinions but of other people.”  I wish to use this description as the framework by which we can peer into the rest of the written piece as a whole.

To begin with, Cook tries to point out, at the expense of 1 Peter 2:9-11, that too often, the Christian wrongly “perceive[s] moral differences as camps as “us” and “them.” marking our opponents and so commencing an ideological war.”  But of course, as 1 Peter 2 points out, it is the very nature of the Church that we are a separate people, called out and chosen.  But how does this logically lead to a situation wherein our enemy are those unchosen and not called out?  Cook assumes that to believe in a separation is to suddenly make others the enemy.  That is a clear distortion of the doctrine of Scriptures.  Regarding whether we have commenced an ideological war, we must affirm that any statement of belief or system of ideas, any creed whatsoever, is an ideology.  And any time written or spoken words are used to express those creeds, especially when they lie in disagreement with the world, is to “commence” a war.

But it is important to note that the war is against the lies of this world and, as the author himself admits, is not against flesh and blood.  There is nothing in our standing strong for the truth that should indicate we are waging war on people.

Now, since our doctrines and systematic theology is mutually exclusive with that of liberalism, (see Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen). we apparently fall within Cooks description of a bigot.  We hold to “opinions at the exclusion… of other opinions.”  But the remarkable irony in this description lies in the fact that his entire article points to a view that is mutually exclusive with my own view.  Does this make him a bigot?  If he disagrees with, say, the Calvinist view of election, whereas I affirm such a doctrine, we must face the fact that Jeff Cook is guilty of bigotry.  For how can God both unconditionally elect his chosen people and at the same time not practice election?  To say this is possible is, to use his own word, “irrational.”  Surely Cook would object here by noting that he doesn’t hate the Calvinist, just disagrees with the doctrine.  And I and fine with that.  But cannot I use the very same objection when accused of bigotry for holding to the immorality of homosexuality?

To believe is to exclude other ideas, but it is not to create enemies out of human beings.

Moving away from the matters of belief and bigotry, we must shift the conversation toward Cook’s claims about God Himself.  Cook predictably opines, citing the Romanist Thomas Aquinas, that “God displays his power, not by eliminating all His opponents but by converting them.”  What is slightly humorous about this statement is that it is a clear breach of the postmodern desire to avoid absolutes.  On one hand the option is this: God displays his power by eliminating all His opponents.  On the other hand the option is this:  God displays his power by converting them.  Both Aquinas and Cook choose the latter.  But this does not mean that to disagree with them is to choose the former.  No, we take a different view altogether: “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.”  (Romans 9:22-23).  To be clear, we hold that God “eliminates” some of his opponents, but also “converts” others.

From the faulty assumption that God’s “mission is to bring all men and women to Himself,” Cook concludes that “our main concern cannot simply be who is ‘right’ but who is redeemed.”  Such a conclusion is remarkably frustrating.  First, as for “who” is right, we hold that Christ is right.  He is the very truth, the very word, that became flesh.  He is the “who!” And we as Christians ought to follow in his glory and proclaim His name!  Second, to say that we as humans ought to be concerned with “who is redeemed” is to say that we ought to take upon ourselves the role of God Himself! Who is or who is not redeemed is a matter for the Lord, not for us, his lowly servants!  That Cook puts this forward in a Christian magazine is absurd and quite concerning.

Off and on throughout the rest of the article, this idea continues to be pushed that if we work on “relating” to the unsaved and “acting” in the right way toward them and being “bound” to our neighbor, then and only then can we convince others that following Christ is a “respectable, rewarding, and an attractive pursuit.”

There is so much wrong in this method. (1) “Relating” to the unsaved does nothing to glorify God if by “relating” we are mimicking or approving their actions.  (2) “Acting” in a specific way so as to convince them that Christianity is the “way to go” is simply a way denying that “faith comes by hearing” the proclamation of the Gospel. (3) “Bound” to one’s neighbor is a distortion of Paul’s statement that he is a servant to all.  To make this concept more Biblical, we ought to realize that we are bound by the Word, bound by Christ, and then we, with Christ, practice the art of servant hood.  But we are not bound to other people.  No, Christ set us free to be bound to Him and to Him alone.  Lastly, by doing all these things, God forgive us if our intent is to convince others that Christianity is a “respectable, rewarding, and an attractive pursuit.”  Christianity is hard.  It leads to persecution.  It is mocked.  It is frustrating.  It is demonized. What is the Christian life? A hip coffee house?  A theme park?

No, the Christian life is a Pilgrimage.  We are on a weedy and pothole-ridden path home.  But home, in the presence of God’s glory, is where we can rest and receive our reward.  And home can only be our future if we “repent of our sins and believe the Good News” (Mark 1:15) which of course, is a “stumbling block” to some and “nonsense” to others (1 Cor. 1:23).

DOMA Declared Unconstitutional by the Supreme Court

supreme-court-of-the-united-states-logo-gif-1Today, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision on the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. In a 5 to 4 decision, the Court ruled the law was unconstitutional. The decision now opens the door for the federal recognition of same sex marriages. There are going to be lots of commentary of the next several hours, days and weeks, so I will add little here about the merits of the decision. Much smarter folks than I will do a far better job of it. My concern is more about what does this mean for the individual Christian.

My first reaction is to ask those who are in utter shock by this, “did you really expect anything less?” I do not wish to sound trite or accusatory here. But in truth, there have been many, including those of us here at DefCon, who have tried to sound the alarm that trying to win moral victories through questionable alliances with worldly organizations was wrong. For the church to be unequally yolked with government bureaucrats and false religious systems was to deny God had any power or sovereignty over the situation. It was, in essence, a refusal to believe in the power of His word alone. Yet, American churches and Christians around the country have made repeated compromises in hopes of moral victories. With each new fight, we were willing to acquiesce a little ground each time in hopes of gaining at least some victory. Now the ground beneath us has been eroded away. Are you really that surprised?

My second thought is this, for years many Christians have warned about the growth of seeker friendly churches, the acceptance of false teachers into the Christian fold and the erosion of the true gospel message. Repeatedly those Christians have been told to be silent by the Evangelical church at large. We have been accused of being divisive, judgmental and down-right mean. We were told that we needed to accept a wider tent concept of Christianity. “Doctrine divides!” has been the battle cry of those who believed that it was wrong to hold to a biblical standard of how to define what the church actually is. As a result, more goats have invaded the pews and the true message of the gospel has been supplanted with self help messages that only reaffirm the unregenerate sinner’s belief they are actually good at heart. With no message that people are wretched sinners in need of a righteous Savior, are you really surprised at today’s decision?

My final thought is this, Christians, you have been commanded by the Captain of our salvation to proclaim the glorious message of the gospel. Have you been doing this? Or have you believed that such a command did no apply to you? Did you leave it to your pastor alone, or have you been willing to step out in faith to proclaim the truth the Jesus Christ came to save sinners? I ask this because that is the only real answer to the situation we currently face. Our nation is embracing a pagan and sinful ideology that utterly rejects the Lordship of our Savior. No amount of political machinations can change the a human heart bent on this course. As we have seen in a very short time, a political victory established with installment of DOMA has now been ripped from our hands. So, was it ever a real victory? Or was it merely a speed bump that slowed things down for a brief moment in time? I would say it was clearly the latter.

The heart of man is desperately wicked, forever tainted by the stain of sin. Therefore, all efforts to bring man under the submission of moral law, which is a noble effort as society benefits from it, is bound to ultimately fail. Man will always reject the law of God because he is bound in chains to his sinful flesh. He will always reject God’s authority in favor of his own. Thus, while we as Christians can and should seek to establish a nation that is founded on godly principles, we should never place our hope in that. It is only the preaching of the gospel to lost souls, preaching that is covered in serious study of the Word and intense prayer, preaching that trusts in the sovereign, supernatural working of the Holy Spirit, that frees man from the bondage of sin. That is what we are called to today.

Christian, if you are staring at the TV right now, wringing your hands over this decision, remember this, God is still God and He is still on His throne. You have not been called to rescue a nation from bad politics. You have been commanded to preach the gospel to a lost and dying people. There are souls today that are rejoicing over this decision because it frees them to further pursue the sins of the flesh. Other rejoice because they see it as another nail in the coffin of Christian principles. Even more will just see it as a necessary change to everyone’s personal morality. Yet, none fully realize they are in rebellion against their Lord and King. They do not comprehend the wrath and judgment to come. My question to you is, do you care more about this decision because it makes your life more difficult, or because it reveals the heart of a people in desperate need of salvation in Jesus Christ? Let us be busy about our Father’s business. Let us be preaching the gospel.

A New Direction

Street SignHaving been the head administrator for the last several months, I have been blessed to work with some truly wonderful brethren and to interact with a great many of our readers personally. Having been here for nearly two years, I believe that many of the articles we have written have truly been beneficial and God honoring. And I believe those articles have helped many readers to understand the holy nature of God better, causing them to glorify the Lord. With that being said, I have also had the opportunity to be moderator of the comments and the interactions we have with our readers. I have seen the reactions that some of the things we have written cause, not all of the reactions we have received have been pleasant, or even God honoring. In fact, there have often been times where things have gotten downright snarky.

Now, I have never been one who feels that Christians should cower in a corner and not stand up for the truth. I believe that we must stand and proclaim the only truth there is, the word of God. If we were to fail to proclaim the truth for fear of how we would be received, we would be sinning against God Himself. We must not, in fact cannot, compromise the truth of the gospel. However, in standing up for the truth, it is possible for us to be so caustic or arrogant in what we say that we can do just as much damage as we hope to defend against. I fear that in our efforts to defend the solid truths of the gospel, we as a blog, have crossed that line on more than one occasion. The result has been that we have engendered a spirit of divisiveness and even bitterness among ourselves and our readers. For this, I must sincerely apologize.

As Christians we are called to proclaim the truth of the gospel to a lost and dying world. And we are to do so with all the love and compassion we can possibly show. We are heralds of the true and living gospel, proclaiming salvation through Christ alone. We are also called to use our gifts to edify and strengthen the body of Christ. To build it up for good works that glorify our Savior. If we fail to obey these commands from our Lord, we are indeed in sin. Many times throughout the run of this blog, various authors have attempted to make the call for all of us to eliminate the sometimes caustic and arrogant attacks we level at each other. There have been pleas to speak the truth in love and compassion, both to the lost and the saved who frequent our pages. Yet, I continue to see the end result of that which we have posted. I have seen the arguing and spitefulness we have been responsible for. Thus, we have failed to heed our own call.

Now, in fairness to my gifted pool of contributors, I know that the proclamation and defense of the truth will always have its detractors. There will be no end of those who wish to argue and pervert the truth. Therefore, now matter how much love and compassion we write with, there will be those who seek to stir up strife for their own gain. It is not those who concern me. It is those with whom we are true brethren, those with whom we may disagree but are yet in the faith, that we have sometimes eviscerated with our words that I am compelled to apologize to, and ask forgiveness from. While none of us have ever set out to purposefully harm our brethren, our desire to defend the theologies we are passionate about has sometimes been misplaced. As lead administrator, it is my duty to keep this matter in check. I have failed in this and ask for forgiveness from those we have hurt.

One reason I believe that much of this is has occurred is that we are part of that blogosphere that is known as “discernment” ministry. We have long tried to warn believers that there are enemies in the camp. However, in our zeal to defend the bride of Christ, we have sometimes gone after even true brethren for even perceived minor wrongdoings. This has created that spirit of divisiveness and bitterness I mentioned above. While we are supposed to defend the truth of God’s word, we are also to evidence our faith by how we love the brethren. But we when have wrongly taken them to task, what we have actually shown is that we are very good at eating our own.

To that end, I want to say that as head administrator, I am changing the direction of DefCon. I want to take us out of the discernment arena and get us back into the gospel arena. Henceforth, our articles will focus on those things that teach and edify the body, rather than be a constant barrage of what is bad in Christendom. We will seek to teach and expound, building up the body to magnify God and do good works. We will write about how Christians should interact in this world from a gospel centered worldview, about the absolute need to be busy proclaiming the gospel, on things which educate them on areas of biblical parenting, relationships, etc. Along the way, it may be necessary to warn our readers against obvious goats in the camp. We will write about these assaults on the gospel, but no longer will it be our sole focus.

With this new direction will come new responsibilities for us as writers. We must keep our motivations and feelings in check. We must balance our passion for the truth with our need to love our brethren, and even our enemies. We must strive to honor God and His word above all else. I ask our readers to pray for us during this time of transition. Petition God that we would be honest, faithful and true to His word. That we would be a blessing to Him and not a curse. I also ask that you would stand with us, continue to read and comment on our articles. Be encouraging where we are getting it right, and call us, lovingly, into account when we blow it.

Defending Contending has been a blessing to a great many people over the years. As the broken and busted vessel that God has blessed to run it, I desire to see it be an even greater blessing in years to come. I thank you all for your continued prayers and support. May God bless us as we seek this new direction for His glory.

The Noble Criminal

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John 18:40“Give use Barabbas!”

There are many in this country today who have watched as the drama surrounding the hunt for Christopher Dorner has unfolded. And while many have been hoping for and anticipating his capture, there has been also, curiously, a small crowd of voices which has been applauding his actions and hoping for his exoneration. The purpose of this post is not to debate the merits of the case or to argue for his guilt or innocence. Any comments in that vein will be deleted as quickly as possible. You can argue that somewhere else.

The point I want to make is this: this approving crowd should not surprise us. Jesus Himself said “Men love darkness rather than light” (John 3:19). It has been that way ever since sin entered the world. We have an early example from Mt Sinai. While Moses was up on the mount, the people were wantonly carousing at the foot of the mountain in a drunken orgy worshipping the golden calf–while God was speaking to Moses the very Law these people were corrupting!

ojsimpsonbronco

But we don’t have to go back that far in time to see why it shouldn’t surprise us that people are actually supporting this murderer (OK, alleged murderer). Think back to 1994. A white
Ford Bronco carrying OJ Simpson was leading LAPD on a low-speed chase through Los Angeles. People were lined up on bridges over the freeway to watch. Were these people hoping that a fugitive from the law would be caught and brought to justice? No. They were encouraging this fugitive to continue running from the law. (Again, not debating OJ’s guilt or innocence. Just sayin’).

And there is another trend. Not necessarily new, but it does seem to be more prevalent over the last several years. That is the concept of what I call “The Noble Criminal”. You see him (or her) in many movies these days. The team of bank robbers who are only robbing the bank to right some dastardly wrong or because one of the character’s loved ones is dying (usually due to the greed of the bank president or some other such embodiment of evil). Examples of these are movies like “Ocean’s 11″ or “Tower Heist”.

tower-heist11 oceans11

Then we have movies where the drug dealer or the prostitute or…well, you name it. Whatever the criminal enterprise, there are probably many, many movies glamorizing and glorifying whatever criminal you can think of. The most recent and most egregious (to me anyway) example of this was “The Sopranos”. OK, let’s get this straight. The mobster–the head of a Mafia family, a man who did not hesitate to kill anyone who crossed him–he was the good guy. The police and FBI who were trying to catch him–they were the bad guys. And people wonder why there are folks supporting Christopher Dorner. It is because we have a culture where The Noble Criminal is looked upon as a hero while those who are charged with apprehending him are evil.

sopranos

But these are really no different than the crowd that stood at the Praetorium that day as Pontius Pilate stood before the teeming crowd, asking them which man they would have released. Would they have Christ–the innocent Lamb of God, the Man who had committed no sin, the Man who was the perfect embodiment of righteousness and godly perfection? Or would they have Barabbas–a murderous villain, a man who had most likely committed crimes so vile and horrible the writers of Sacred Writ dared not even name them?

“Give us Barabbas!!”

To see that man’s will is inclined toward evil, simply read the headlines. Many would rather have Barabbas than Christ.

Civil Disobedience and the Christian

The concept of civil disobedience is not new. Neither is the question of how far a government imagescan go before the Christian is permitted to disobey. This concept of civil disobedience is/ought to be an escalation from the peaceful petition that ought to be the Christian’s first response to objectionable laws. Was Rosa Parks right in her act of civil disobedience? How do we answer such questions?

We must be informed by the Word of God – not our personal preferences and presuppositions.

World Magazine recently published an article focused on this question, you can read it here. Here’s a small excerpt:

Does submitting to civil authorities mean obeying laws that are immoral? We are commanded by God to share the gospel. What if a law barred us from doing so, even privately? We see that obeying government authorities isn’t absolute. It should be clear to Christians that unless there is legal recourse against obeying a law that compels us to sin, we are justified in disobeying it. Is it a sin to offer employees “mini-abortion drugs”?

It is clear from Scripture that Christians are able (obligated, I contend) to disobey the governing authorities if proclamation of the Gospel is outlawed – see Acts chapter 4. Is that the right standard to compare other issues to, as if they become justifiable since Gospel proclamation is?

This question of submitting to political authority has been addressed here at Def Con in the past – see this post as brother Conrad Mbewe examines part of 1 Peter.

The question of disobedience to the governing authorities must be anchored in Scripture – as with anything of import. If God has given us instructions, we who claim to be His must submit to what He was revealed to us! Do you have a pet issue (perhaps home schooling) that would cause you to reflexively rebel against the governing authorities without seeking wisdom from God in humility?  We must be on guard against these issues that are close to us – for it in these that we are most vulnerable to slip into disobedience to God, thinking we are merely exercising our rights – forgetting that we are aliens in this present age, with our citizenship and home in a city whose builder is God.

Since I mentioned home schooling, let me briefly comment on that. In the US of A, it is not now and never has been against the law to home school your own children. Read that carefully. It is not now and never has been against the law to home school your own children. It has been and still is in many places in this country against the law to home school your children in lieu of sending them off the approved institution, but never illegal to home school in addition to the approved educational process. The Bible clearly holds parents responsible for training (educating) their children in the things of God. Rightly done, this covers all academic areas. But the Bible also records for us humble servants of YHWH who submit to pagan education and work diligently to prosper their pagan rulers (Joseph and Daniel come to mind). We must seek wisdom from God’s Word before we decide to go against the governing authorities – for there is no governing authority except those that have been established by God.

So – is it right and honorable to refuse to provide medical insurance that covers abortion? Certainly! The law is set up to allow people to pay for non-compliance. It is a very high price tag for businesses that might cause them to completely change their business model (contractors or part time employees) or liquidation. But think on this: the Bible does not reveal God’s will for man-made institutions. He has created government, family, and the church. Those institutions have responsibility before God as does each individual. A Christian who owns a company has a responsibility before God and he has the same obligation to seek wisdom from God’s Word on this as with personal issues. (Not being addressed in this article are those hell-bound folk who will also answer to God and have no grace to cover them on Judgment Day.)

The Christian that wants to participate in civil disobedience ought to step back and think. Rebellion is as witchcraft. Failure to rightly submit to the governing authorities is rebellion, is as witchcraft. Is that something we want to play games with? 1 Peter 2 gives a “Reader’s Digest” version of God’s commandment:

    Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Let’s wrap up with the obvious text, Romans 13, which includes this nugget: “whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” Read the whole chapter, with a humble attitude. I know it’s easy to despise a government that does not rule the way I want it to. I like my elected officials to have an affection for and submission to the Constitution (at the national level) just like I like my church elders to have an affection for and submission to the Scriptures. But civil governments are mostly occupied by folks not reconciled to God, while church leaders ought to be – and therefore, subject to stricter standards. Most of the things that cause me to consider civil disobedience do not meet the biblical test – they reflect my fleshly desires or my innate sense of self-righteousness. How do you see yourself?

Okay. Your assignment. Voddie Baucham preaching on Romans 13 in two sermons. Listen to part one and part two before commenting. It wouldn’t hurt to listen to Conrad Mbewe’s message from 1 Peter (at the link early in this article). Then let’s discuss like mature, humble blood-bought children of the Creator God and Ruler of the universe.