Creationist Ken Ham Uninvited From Two Great Homeschool Conventions

Recently a new “Gospel-centered Bible curriculum” was published for parents to use with children. The author of this curriculum began speaking at homeschool events to promote his material, including the Great Homeschool Conventions.

And that’s when the big controversy started…

You see, the author is none other than Peter Enns. Dr. Enns was suspended by Westminster Theological Seminary in 2005 for his book released that year, which denied the inerrancy of the Bible. Enns went on to join with Biologos, which teaches evolution and denies a real, historical Adam. Biologos also teaches that the Biblical authors errred in their writings:

If Jesus as a finite human being erred from time to time, there is no reason at all to suppose that Moses, Paul, John wrote Scripture without error. Rather, we are wise to assume that the biblical authors expressed themselves as human beings writing from the perspectives of their own finite, broken horizons. – See article here.

Here’s Enns denying Paul had a correct view of Jesus and Adam.

The biggest problem with Enns denial of Adam is that Paul’s theology in Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Cor. 15:20-28 depends upon on a historical Adam to make sense to the reader. Enns agrees that Paul clearly believed Adam was a real person. He says “There is really little doubt that Paul understood Adam to be a real person, the first created human from whom all humans descended” (article found here.)

To keep from denying the Christology Paul is teaching in the above verses, Enns has to admit Paul was wrong in believing in a real Adam. Which is where you end up when you deny inerrancy. Jesus also clearly believed in a literal Adam and Eve (see Matt. 19:4, which is a clear reference to Gen. 1:27). Inerrancy itself may not be heretical, but where it leads certainly can be. Without inerrancy, one begins to create their own theology, which Enns is happy to do:

And whatever way forward is chosen, we must be clear on one thing: we have all left “Paul’s Adam.” We are all “creating Adam,” as it were, in an effort to reconcile Scripture and the modern understanding of human origins. – From Enns article here.

Back to Enns promoting his Bible curriculum to homeschoolers. The irony is that most homeschoolers believe in a real Adam and Eve and a literal six-day creation taught in Genesis. I can imagine Enns left out his views on evolution and Adam when speaking at these conventions earlier this year.

But Ken Ham, from Answers in Genesis (AIG), was also a speaker at the same conference. Answers in Genesis often refutes the false teachings of Biologos and Peter Enns, which he continued to do at the recent North Carlina convention.

This week, Ken Ham was uninvited from the next two Great Homeschool Conventions (GHS), the first of which is held next weekend in Cininatti, just down the road from AIG’s headquarters and Creation Museum. The reason given was Ham’s public criticism of other speakers at the convention. Ham reportedly said Enns was a “compromiser” during one of his presentations. Or possible GHS is refering to the blog post he made before going to the convention (see here.)

AIG’s statement about the “uninvitation”, can be found here. AIG reports:

“Ken Ham did mention Peter Enns by name in one of his five talks at an earlier South Carolina convention in Greenville organized by Mr. Dean. Ken showed two video clips of Dr. Enns, done in the context of showing how some modern Christian speakers are compromising God’s Word in Genesis. Ken did say that Dr. Enns was also speaking at the conference and had connections to another convention speaker, Susan Wise Bauer. In another talk about a common Christian viewpoint that compromises Genesis, Ken briefly mentioned that one of the speakers at this convention took that view.”

Other speakers from the convention, like Jay Wile (who has written many science texts for Apologia) have joined in the debate over Ham’s “uninvitation”. Dr. Wile sides with Enns in the matter and feels that Enns is within Christian orthodoxy. When I asked Dr. Wile how Enns can reconcile his views with the fact Jesus and Paul clearly affirmed a historical, Wile replied as follows:

I would disagree with you that Jesus and Paul “clearly” affirm a historical Adam. A symbolic Adam takes no meaning from any of the New Testament. This is why many serious theologians do not believe in a historical Adam.

I then mentioned to Wile the problems with reconciling Enns view of Adam with 1 Cor. 15 and Romans 5. Dr. Wile, claiming to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, stated:

Michael, what Paul believes is irrelevant to the passage. What is important is what God is saying. God is powerful enough to inspire Paul to write the truth, even if Paul believes something that is wrong. If Adam is a symbol, the message of Romans is exactly the same.

This response is illogical. What God is saying is what Paul is writing (assuming doctrine of divine inspiration of Scripture!) What Paul believes is what Paul is writing to the churches. Paul is not speaking prophecy like the OT prophets, who spoke exactly what God told them, and may not have understood the prophecy fully. Paul is writing on the authority of Christ, using Paul’s own mind, with his own background, all of which was providentially brought about by God.

(See Wile’s defense of Enns in the comments on his blog here.)

Being a homeschool parent, this trend of comprising on a Biblical view of creation concerns me. It is subtly making its way into homeschool conventions, textbooks and our children hearts.

It’s interesting this occurred in the same week Rob Bell’s new book on universalism hits shelves. Bell, like Enns, likes to blur the lines and make people question whether we have really interpreted the Bible correctly all these centuries. He questions whether there is even a real place of eternal punishment. Enns denies (and tries to get others to question) whether we can really trust the Bible.

And when certain believers stand up and try to point these false teachings out, they are quickly pounced on by the rest of the flock. After all, what’s wrong with asking the question, “Yea, Hath God Said…?”

Update: Apologia has made an official statement laying out where they stand on the issue. Also, Answer in Genesis (Ken Ham) has announced they stand with Apologia on it’s science curriculum, which you can read here.

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Babywise and Theology: Is the Ezzo Method Biblical?

Are you Babywise? Are you doing the Ezzo method?

These were common questions asked of Christian parents in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Although declining in popularity these days, the parenting methods developed by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo were very popular amongst Christians. Their most popular book, Babywise, was published in 1993 as the secular counterpart to their church-marketed infant care curriculum, Preparation for Parenting.

Now you may be wondering what this had to do with theology. Quite a bit actually, as you’ll see in a just a moment.

Recently my wife and I were discussing her breastfeeding journey of our children, which she has just chronicled on her blog. In our discussion, she would often use the term “feeding on demand”, which made me ask if there was another way to feed a newborn. “What hole have you been living in the last 10 years”, she asked. My wife then promptly informed me there was a popular strategy for scheduling feedings (I would later discover this is often called Parent-Directed Feeding.) One of the benefits of this method is that it allows parents longer periods of sleep at night.

Having been blessed with another baby boy recently, sleep has become quite the precious commodity in our home. So any new tip that would help us gain more sleep would be like gold to us! So I began doing some research.

What I found was surprising.

In their book, Growing Kids God’s Way, the Ezzo’s claim the method they developed  “is a theological framework and the experience and research that we have acquired in the process of successfully rearing our own children.”

From a practical standpoint, there has been much controversy in Christian circles with Mr. Ezzo’s methods. The main concept in the book is to set your newborn on an schedule of feedings, roughly 3 hours apart. “Scheduled feedings designed by parents may put babies at risk for poor weight gain and dehydration”, says The American Academy of Pediatrics in a 1998 statement against such methods. Instead, they recommended “that the best feeding schedules are ones babies design themselves.”

But even more concerning is the Ezzo’s (mis)use of the Bible to support their methods.

Former pastor of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian (and now Wheaton College President Dr. Philip Ryken), wrote about the positive and negatives the Ezzo method for his church in 1998. Regarding the Ezzo’s use of Scripture, Ryken said:

[I]n support of letting children cry themselves to sleep, the Ezzos say, “God is not sitting on His throne waiting to jump up at our every cry, trying to prove that He loves us.”  They also cite Matthew 27:46: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Using that verse to tell you when to pick up a crying baby is not merely nonsense; it is sacrilege.

Focus on the Family also issued a statement in 2004 stating that “Christian leaders have questioned the Ezzos’ use of biblical texts in their parenting materials, highlighting instances in which the authors seem to ignore the original context and purpose of Scripture in order to draw conclusions about their particular approach to parenting.”

The Ezzo’s Preparation for Parenting (now out of print) which contains virtually identical material to Babywise, came under fire for it’s misuse of Scripture as well. Tony Payne, of the Christian publisher Matthias Media, wrote a lengthy article regarding the ethics of the Ezzo methods.

As I delved further into the training material itself, I found this poor use of the Bible to be a distressingly common occurrence. Where there is no specific biblical principle or command to justify a practice, the Ezzos have an unfortunate tendency to analogize. Feeding your baby on a very orderly schedule is said to line up with biblical revelation because God is an orderly God, and has created a world with orderly patterns of day and night, the seasons, and so on (PFP p. 57). Against the idea that a compassionate parent would never leave a baby to cry, the instance of Jesus being left to cry in dereliction on the cross by his Father is cited (PFP p. 144). The idea of a ‘maternal instinct’ is criticized as being contrary to the biblical principle of sober-mindedness (PFP p. 151). And so on and so forth. Using the Bible in this way, one can only be grateful that the Ezzos did not pursue the principles of biblical chastisement that could be gained from Psalm 137:9 (“blessed is he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks”).

Payne makes an important point often overlooked by many Christians, including myself. When we are interpreting and applying the Bible to our everyday lives, we must bring the whole of Scripture to bear on the issue. We cannot simply pick one verse out of context and use it to support our arguments. It is also important to be consistent in our use of the Bible. We should not just apply the verse we think agree with us, but leave out the “harder” verses which speak to the issue.

Kathleen Terner, writing for Hank Hanegraaf’s Christian Research Journal in 2001, said Gary Ezzo’s company had “cultlike characteristics” which include, “scripture twisting, authoritarianism, exclusivism, isolationism, and physical and emotional endangerment of children.” Terner then goes on to report a long list of church discipline issues that have characterized Gary Ezzo’s past.

As a pastor-teacher of a New Hampshire church in the 1980s, Mr. Ezzo was asked to step down “amid complaints of authoritarianism, exclusivism and divisiveness.” Later Ezzo began working as a youth pastor at Grace Community Church of Sun Valley, CA (pastored by John MacArthur.) By 1995, the elders had began asking Ezzo to be more accountable. He then stepped down as a paid youth pastor. In 1997, the elders of Grace Church state they can longer support the methods of Mr. Ezzo’s parent company and put Ezzo under church discipline.

The elders statement, revised in 2000, states:

It appears rather obvious on biblical grounds that Mr. Ezzo’s refusal to heed his own church’s discipline disqualifies him from Christian leadership or public ministry in any context. After all, the first and most important qualification for those who would lead the church is that they be above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2, 10; Titus 1:6).

To see the complete list of events at Grace, as well as other discipline issues, click here. Also Christianity Today had an article on these issues in 2000, which you can find here.

The Ezzo’s left Grace to attend nearby Living Hope Evangelical Fellowship (LHEF). By 2000, Gary Ezzo had been excommunicated from LHEF for a “pattern of sin” which he refused to turn from.

It is possible these concerns with the Ezzo methods lead the publisher to consider dropping Babywise in 2001.

As Christian parents, we should filter every “parenting method” through Scripture. We should also consider the personal character of the author and their interpretation (or lack thereof) when it comes to the Scriptures.

“The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, But the mouth of fools spouts folly.” (Prov. 15:2)

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What is a Commentary?


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Is Ghandi in heaven or hell?

Update: The best review of Love Wins is Kevin DeYoungs long, but theologically accurate blogpost found here.

Is Ghandi in heaven or hell? This is the question Rob Bell asks in his new provocative video, which promotes his upcoming book Love Wins.

Here’s the promo from his publisher (bolding mine):
In Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith–the afterlife–arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic–eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.

Justin Taylor posted this controversial video on his blog last Saturday, and basically says Bell is a Universalist. Below is the video, but before viewing it let’s look at the definition of universalism.

Radical Universalism: Everyone will go to heaven no matter what they believe. “All roads lead to heaven.” Unitarian Universalists

Liberal Universalism: Views the Bible as an imperfect human document containing divine revelations, is not necessarily Trinitarian, and often downplays or rejects atonement theology. They stress “the all-inclusive love of God and tend to be more open to finding truth and value in non-Christian spiritual traditions”. Liberal Catholics, Unity Churches, the Emerging Church movement (Brian MacLaren, Rob Bell!), gaining popularity in some mainline Protestant denominations

Trinitarian (or Evangelical) Universalism: Hold a high view of the Bible, the Trinity, and that Christ is the only way, but reject that the Bible teaches eternal punishment (hell). “Christ died for the sins of the whole world and God will restore all things, right?”

Over at Justin Taylor’s blog, the comment count went nuts, sitting at 1,161 comments at the moment. Many of the defenders of Bell are saying either “Don’t judge, wait for the book to be released…who are we to say that’s heresy…why are you so sure your view of hell is right” or worse, “universalism is biblical”. Over 23,337 people have recommended this article on Facebook. John Piper tweeted “Farewell, Rob Bell” on his twitter account and all the retweets put Rob Bell into the top 10 trending topics on Twitter Saturday. Pastor Kevin DeYoung did a similar post called To Hell With Hell and laid out 8 reasons why we need the doctrine of eternal punishment. Due to all the “controversy”, D.A. Carson announced today he was adding a extra panel discussion to the upcoming TGC conference on universalism and exclusivism.

To see other pastors/theologians/teachers comments on the issue, see the Christianity Today article here.

Why is this important to us, as believers?

1. Many Christians hold to some sort of universalism. They are coming out of the woodwork now that someone has addressed the issue head on. Not the plurality view (all roads lead to heaven). The view I’m speaking of here is either the evangelical universalism mentioned above (there is no hell) or the exception-type of universalism: the “who are we to say the man in the jungle who’s never heard of Jesus will be not be saved?” type.

I admit, in my early seeker-friendly days, I drifted this way. Why? Because the pastor I sat under implied this through his teaching. This pastor taught on hell. But I got the implication from some of his other teaching that “the guy in the jungle somewhere who’s never heard of Jesus” would get a free pass or something.

2. Romans 1:18-32 and total depravity are not taught much in churches these days. All mankind does indeed know God as creator, but suppress the truth in their hearts, exchanged the truth for a lie and refuse to worship Him. Instead they replace God with idolatry, therefore God turns them over to their own degrading sins.

John Frame summarize the doctrine of total depravity well:

Although fallen persons are capable of externally good acts (acts that are good for society), they cannot do anything really good, i.e., pleasing to God (Rom. 8:8). God, however, looks on the heart. And from his ultimate standpoint, fallen man has no goodness, in thought, word, or deed. He is therefore incapable of contributing anything to his salvation.

Also see Romans 3:10-12 where Paul quotes Old Testament texts to show how no one does good, no one is righteous, and no one seeks after God.

All this to say no one gets a free pass. Without Christ’s atoning blood, we are all lost to the lake of fire. As believers, we have to watch that we aren’t contradicting ourselves on this issue too. We constantly have to remind ourselves as believers how hostile we once were to God, how totally depraved we once were. And that it’s not an intellectual problem where we need more information, but a morality problem were our heart is a slave to sin.

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Real Life Examples of How Theology Applies to Life

“Theology, who needs it. That’s just for seminarians in ivory towers.”

Actually, if you’re a believer you “do theology” every day. Every time you make a moral decision, tell someone about your faith, or attend a worship service, you are “doing theology.”

Theology means the study of God, mainly through His Word. Most of the time when people use the term theology, they mean Systematic Theology, but there are other divisions of theology like practical theology, ethics, and historical theology. I like Wayne Grudem’s definition of Systematic Theology, which is “any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today?’ about any given topic”.

Here are some recent articles that show us how theology is being applied throughout the Christian world:

1. Pastor Kabwata explains the effects of “Nigerian religious junk” (imported from mega-churches in the USA) that is now spreading across Africa.

2. The boy in Iowa who refuses to wrestle a girl causes a clash of worldviews.

3. National Review asks the question, “Why is America Quiet on the Execution of Afghan Christian Said Musa?

4. The University of California at Davis has defined Christians as oppressors.

5. Chuck Smith on abortion: the founder of the non-denominational denomination Calvary Chapel, tells a caller “that the Lord would not condemn her if she went ahead and had an abortion at this early stage of the development of the fetus.”

6. Speaking the truth in love can upset quite a few people. Exhibit A: Tim Challies interview with John MacArthur, where charismania and creation Tim asks John, “What are the two or three most urgent theological crises that you see in the North American Church at present?”

7. For this last one, I’ll let you discern what kind of theology this “pastor” has on this video.

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My Top 10 Books of 2010

This year was a record year for the reading of books. I didn’t keep count of the books, but I estimate it was around 50 books. About 70% of my reading is in the area of theology, church history and Christian biographies (with a the majority being theology.) The other 30% are education books, general history, and fiction.

Here are my top 10 books in no particular order. Most were not published this year, but I just finally got around to reading them.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

The true story of how Louie Zamperini went from a kid in trouble with the law to an Olympian to being stranded in the middle of the Pacific during WW2 to being captured and tortured in a POW camp, and by the grace of God being born again and become a missionary to his captors in Japan. I just started this book yesterday based on a review by Tim Challies and kept turning pages last night until the wee hours of the morning. While I’ve not yet finished it, the books has being acclaimed by all, currently holding #2 on the NY Times Bestseller list.

On the Incarnation by Athanasius

A short theological book which covers the topics of Christ’s birth, the reason God sent his Son, and other important issues. While written over 1600 years ago, this modern translation is recommended as one of the best. This book is only around 100 pages, not overly technical and is a must read for every Christian. The Introduction by C.S. Lewis alone, which is often highly recommended,  is worth the price of the book.

Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore

There are many great biographies of Spurgeon, but this one was exceptional and I consumed it in only 3 days while on vacation. The things Spurgeon accomplished for the Kingdom are breathtaking: an orphanage, alms house for widows, a megachurch with true doctrine (rare in modern times), and became such a great expositor that he is known today as the ‘Prince of Preachers’.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

I read this book to the kids last month and they absolutely loved it. My 6-yr old son, who usually doesn’t pay attention during reading time, sits on the edge of his bed, listening to every word. It’s clean fantasy story about three kids who forced to run from a large evil empire of snake-like men. While not in the same league as Narnia or Tolkien, it is good clean fun. Probably for 13 and up if read alone because Peterson vividly describes a few battles scenes. But if read aloud by parents is good for all ages. This is the first of what will be a trilogy, the second of which is my next book on the list.

North or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson

The second in the Wingfeather Saga Triligoy, this continues the story of three Igiby children as they are forced to head north into the frozen Ice Praires. We are currently in the middle of reading this one and loving it. Like the first in the (trilogy mentioned above ) this book is action-packed with good morals and references to “prayers to the Maker”, etc. Highly recommended for family read alouds.

For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Treasures of God’s Wordby D.A. Carson

Always wanted to read through the whole Bible in a year? My wife and I went through this book daily in 2010 and finally accomplished that goal. But most importantly we learned a ton in the process. Written by one of the foremost Bible scholars, this book takes you through the 365-day M’Cheyne Bible-reading schedule. This reading plan takes you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice in a year. Carson’s daily meditations (meatier than a devotional) are short commentaries on one of the four readings for the day. I plan to start volume 2 of this set on Jan 1, 2011 and go through the Bible again this year.

Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith by Greg Bahnsen, ed. by Robert R. Booth

Bahnsen was one of the best, modern defenders of the faith. This book is a compilation of some of his best materials, including the very highly acclaimed appendix, which is an exposition on Acts 17 regarding the method Paul used at the Areopagus. While this volume is a bit more technical than Frame’s introduction below, it is readable by almost every adult Christian. Section three is a great description of how to defend the faith, and the last section provides reponses to many of the questions atheist throw out, like “If God is good, where did evil come from?”

Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction by John M. Frame

A great introduction to Christian apologetics (defending the faith.) Frame is a great teacher and everything I’ve read so far from him is very well thought out. Frame takes you through the best method of defending your faith and gives a few great examples of how to use this technique. I plan to have my kids read this one in their teenage years since it will provide a good foundation evangelism and to help wit the attacks against Christianity.

Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper

Anything written by John Piper is worth reading. This is one of his smaller, more recent works, but it’s packed with valuable content. It’s really a how-to-manual (based on Scripture) that teaches you how to live for Christ. Piper doesn’t mess around and will tell you like it is, calling you out on the idols you are wasting your time on. If you’ve ever wondered how to truly live your life for Christ, this book is for you. If you’re a Christian, you and your children should read this book.

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem
Have you ever wonder who should govern the church, one pastor, a denomination or a plurality of elders? Why are there different views on baptism, the Lord’s Supper, God’s sovereignty, creation and more? Grudem uses every day common language and address these subjects. While you may not sit down and read this 1000 page tome straight through, it is one of the best Christian reference books you can have. I was introduced to it in a Sunday School class at my church and the Lord used it to fan a flame of deep theological study. And if you don’t think theology is a big deal, or you think theology is “not biblical”, you needed this book yesterday.

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The New NIV Translation Forces You To Choose

In 2011, a new translation of the NIV will be published by Zondervan. This new translation will replace the older version first published in 1984. Since the NIV (1984 version) is the most widely used translation in the pews of Protestant churches and the homes of evangelical Christians, a choice will soon have to be made. Will churches and believers switch to the new 2011 version or change translations completely?

In September of 2009 Zondervan released a statement saying that when the new 2011 version came out, they would discontinue the 1984 version and the controversial TNIV as well. The TNIV (Today’s New International Version) was an attempt at a translation which used more “gender neutral” language. It was mostly rejected by evangelicals and their churches, hence the likely reason for its discontinuation. But many feared that the TNIV’s gender neutral language would make its way into the 2011 NIV version. And according to some bloggers who have seen the text, it has indeed done so.

John Dyer has created a few graphics that show what the general picture of the 2011 edition will look like. It appears that 31% of the changes introduced in the TNIV will be carried forward in the new translation. Another site, which can be found here, shows the most commonly removed and added words. Over 2000 uses of the word “he” and “him” have been removed and replaced with words like “their, they, people, them.”

Let’s look at one example (out of many):

NASB 1995 Update – “and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth”

NIV 1984 – “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth”

NIV 2011 – “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth”

I’m no Greek or Hebrew scholar, but the choice to push gender neutral language puzzles me. Especially considering that some mostly conservative evangelical scholars are on this translation team, like Douglas Moo, Bruce Waltke, Craig Blomberg, and Bill Mounce. The Greek word for men or mankind is anthropon. In the oldest Greek manuscripts for Acts 17:26 antrhopon is clearly there. No one disputes this. So why choose to leave it out of the new NIV translation?

I think the reason is more cultural, more “worldly” than some would like to admit. On their website (Biblica.com), when asked about gender neutral language, they state:

“To the extent that gender inclusive language is an established part of contemporary English and that its use enhances comprehension for readers, it clearly was an important factor in decisions made by the translators.”

The support they use for this “established part of contemporary English” is the Collins Corpus Report. This report analyzed different dictionaries, word banks, etc. to determine which words are most commonly used by English speakers worldwide. Not just Christian English speakers, but anyone and everyone. So since the world has changed its used of pronouns to be more politically correct, so should the English Bible?

I will grant that not all the changes in the 2011 NIV are bad. Some are good, and clarify some bad translations in the 1984 edition. But overall, the changes are not for the better in my opinion. This is the danger of “thought for thought” or dynamic equivalence translations. I prefer the more literal translations (NAS, NKJ, ESV). See my previous post here for the reasons why.

Was the Bible written as God’s unchangeable Word or not? Of course the Bible was not written in English, so some translation must occur and there will always be a few nuances lost in translation. But to think that Paul or Matthew or the Prophets or Moses did not know what they were doing when they used the words man, mankind, fathers, forefathers is to question the whole inspiration of Scripture.

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Art and the Gospels

Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds announced a new illumination of the Four Holy Gospels by Crossway. “The artist commissioned for the project is Makoto Fujimura, a devout Christian, and one of the most highly-regarded artists of the twenty-first century.” Watch the video to find out more:

Fujimura – 4 Holy Gospels from Crossway on Vimeo.

You can pre-order it at Amazon for 37% off (click the image below):

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Divorced Men as Elders And the “Husband of One Wife”

Should a man who’s been divorced in the past be eligible for eldership in the church? What about 1 Timothy 3:2 (and Titus 1:6) and “the husband of one wife”?

We must keep in mind that whatever we decide on this issue in regards to elders, also applies to deacons (1 Tim. 3:12).

Over the past few months I have been considering this issue. At first I wasn’t sure where I stood. I tended to lean towards a “no-divorced elder” stance, mostly because I thought that was the more conservative view to hold. Too many churches are moving more and more towards liberal, unbiblical views, so I reasoned that anyone who held a “divorced elder” view was simply starting down that slippery slope.

So I began my investigation. The text of 1 Timothy 3 describes the qualifications for elders in a church. Verse 2 states :

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.

The key phrase is “the husband of one wife.” What does this mean? Is Paul talking about polygamy, divorce, remarriage after the death of the spouse, or faithfulness to one’s wife?

I then began consulting many different sources, which is what a student of the Bible should do when they need extra help. (Commentaries by a trusted source are a good help to the believer. Preaching is simply commentary on the text and your own interpretation of a text is “your” commentary as well.)

The great reformer John Calvin, who I would consider to be on the very conservative side of the scale, believed Paul was forbidding polygamy in 1 Tim. 3:2. Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology , a popular work in today’s Christian seminaries and churches agree with Calvin that that the issue Paul is addressing is polygamy.

Others like John MacArthur, state that polygamy was forbidden for all Christians, therefore Paul is not talking about polygamy here. In his Study Bible note for 1 Tim 3:2, MacArthur says:

Lit. in Gr. a “one-woman man.” This says nothing about marriage or divorce (for comments on that, see note on v. 4). The issue is not the elder’s marital status, but his moral and sexual purity….Some believe that Paul here excludes divorced men from church leadership. That again ignores the fact that this qualification does not deal with marital status. Nor does the Bible prohibit all remarriage after divorce (see notes on Mt 5:31, 32; 19:9; 1Co 7:15).[1]

This agrees with the notes in other Study Bibles I consulted, including the ESV Study Bible, The Reformation Study Bible (also states this verse prohibits polygamy), and the Apologetics Study Bible.

Also its important to note where this no divorce issue might have come from. Ralph Earle believes it had its roots in the Roman Catholic Church, which eventually forbid all priests from being married.

“he must be “the husband of but one wife.” The same was required of deacons (v. 12). Some have interpreted this as meaning “married only once.” By the end of the second century this interpretation was being promulgated, under the influence of an asceticism that led to clerical celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church. Bernard defends this view emphatically. He writes of the phrase here: “It excludes from ecclesiastical position those who have been married more than once” (p. 52). But most commentators agree that it means monogamy—only one wife at one time—and that the overseer must be completely faithful to his wife.[2]

George Knight, in his very technical Greek commentary, comments on this verse as having four options. “It has been suggested that it requires that a bishop (1) be married, (2) have only one wife his entire life, (3) be monogamous, or (4) be faithful in the marital and sexual realm.[3]

The following summarizes Knight’s arguments for or against the above options:

  • 1 Cor. 7ff. rules option (1) out.
  • 1 Cor. 7:39 and Romans 7:1-3 rules option (2) out.
  • Option (3), that this prohibits polygamy remains an option based on historical documents (Josephus Antiquities, Roman legal marriage documents, etc.) showing many Jews practiced polygamy in the Roman Empire.
  • Option (4) Based on 1 Tim 5:9 which describes a widow who had “been the wife of one man.” Since polyandry was not practice in Roman times, Paul is not saying “the wife of only one husband, as opposed to multiple husbands at the same time.”

Knight continues with another reason option (4) is the most reasonable meaning of this phrase:

The second consideration in favor of (4) is that this statement (3:2) positively affirms sexual fidelity couched in monogamous marital terminology (“husband of one wife”). It is analogous, therefore, to the command “You shall not commit adultery,” which is also couched in marital language but which encompasses other sexual sins, as the outworkings of that command in the chapters following Exodus 20 evince. “The natural meaning of mias gunaikos andra is surely, as Theodore [of Mopsuestia, 350-428 A.D.] says, ‘a man who having contracted a monogamous marriage is faithful to his marriage vows,’ excluding alike polygamy, concubinage and promiscuous indulgence” (Dodd, “NT Translation Problems II,” 115). “Promiscuous indulgence” would encompass Jesus’ words on wrongful divorce and remarriage in Mt. 5:32; 19:9.[4]

This interpretation of 1 Tim 3:2, that Paul is talking about men who are faithful to their wife, is in agreement with three other commentators, both of which are considered two of the best conservative commentaries on 1 Timothy. You can view them on Google books here:

One last point that Bill Mounce, a top Greek scholar and author of probably the best commentary on the pastoral epistles, makes his blog about 1 Tim 3:2.

When I wrote the commentary I initially went with Position 4 [married only once]. But when I got to chapter 5 [1 Tim 5:14], I could not say that a widow had to be married only once in order to be enrolled in widows list since Paul encourages the younger widows to remarry. So I went back and changed my commentary to Position 3.

The point Mounce is making is that if we take 1 Tim 3:2 to mean “no divorced” elders, we must also take 1 Tim 5:14 to mean that widows can only get on the help list if they only been married once. But yet if this is true, that only a widow can be married once to get on the list, then why does he tell widows to remarry? Is this not preventing them from being on the list in the future if their next husband dies?

It appears based all the studies on the text and sources I’ve cited that it’s best to take “the husband of one wife” in 1 Tim 3:2 to mean to be someone who is faithful to his wife.


[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible : New American Standard Bible. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), 1 Ti 3:2.

[2] Ralph Earle, “1 Timothy” In , in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 11: Ephesians Through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 364.

[3] George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1992), 157.

[4] Ibid, 158-59.


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Yoga and Christianity

Recently Dr. Al Mohler found himself in a heated debate. Dr. Mohler is no newcomer when it comes debates, yet this time he was a bit surprised at who his opponents turned out to be. It was not the atheists or the Darwinists that opposed Dr. Mohler’s views, but Christians.

What was the issue? Predestination, baptism, or any of the other usual contestants? None of the above. He simply said Christians should not practice yoga. Twenty years ago, this would have been met with the reply “well of course, everyone knows that!” But much has changed in the last few decades, as Dr. Mohler now has proof of.

It all started on September 20 when he posted his article “The Subtle Body — Should Christians Practice Yoga?.” The articles begins with the premise that only in very recent times have Christians even considered participating in Eastern religious practices, including yoga.

The articles begins with:

Some questions we ask today would simply baffle our ancestors. When Christians ask whether believers should practice yoga, they are asking a question that betrays the strangeness of our current cultural moment — a time in which yoga seems almost mainstream in America.

Then on October 7th, an Associated Press writer published a story on Mohler’s article entitled “Southern Baptist Leader on Yoga: Not Christianity.” The next thing you know, Mohler’s views are scrolling across CNN and being summarized in USA Today. Mohler’s reports here that his inbox began to fill up with hundreds of emails from Christians,  call him “insane, incompetent, stupid, vile, fundamentalist, and perverted.” The funniest (or saddest) email stated “How do we know that the apostles and early Christian guys did not use yoga to commune with Jesus after he left?”

So what’s the big deal with Christians doing yoga? Yoga contains both physical stretching and chanting to Hindu gods, which in turn is meant to bring the participant into a higher level of consciousness with that god.

In his words:

When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine. Christians are called to look to Christ for all that we need and to obey Christ through obeying his Word. We are not called to escape the consciousness of this world by achieving an elevated state of consciousness, but to follow Christ in the way of faithfulness.

In response, many Christians have said that they are simply practicing the more westernized version of yoga. The AP article reports that one yoga studio owner has done just that, replacing the Hindu chants with “Christian themes”. The owner reported that “yoga brought her closer to her Christian faith” and “it opened my spirit, it renewed my spirituality”

But yoga is defined as both a physical and mental (spiritual) discipline. Mohler says it best:

I have heard from a myriad of Christians who insist that their practice of yoga involves absolutely no meditation, no spiritual direction, no inward concentration, and no thought element. Well, if so, you are simply not practicing yoga. You may be twisting yourselves into pretzels or grasshoppers, but if there is no meditation or direction of consciousness, you are not practicing yoga, you are simply performing a physical exercise. Don’t call it yoga.

What do you think? Is living a Christian life and practicing yoga a contradiction?

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