Christianity 201

July 26, 2019

Responding to the Critics

John.18.22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”

This is our eighth time featuring the writing of Shane Idleman, founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California. Today’s devotional is from Shane’s personal blog, to see the complete, unedited article with references to specific ministries, click the header below to read at source.

When Should We Answer Our Critics?

…While I understand that preachers and pastors cannot always give people an answer—I myself don’t have time to read nor answer all the comments on my media feeds—there are times when we should explain our actions. It may not change the minds of those who are hell-bent on critiquing us, but it may clear up confusion for those in the middle.

As I’ve stated before, I tend to be “safely” conservative when considering the power of the Holy Spirit. I’m open but cautious. I think we have too many prophecies and not enough humility; too much self-centered worship and not enough waiting on God. We need both sound doctrine and the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s possible to be “Bible-taught” but not “Spirit-led”—straight as a gun barrel theologically but just as empty. “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

I think it’s time for many prominent charismatic leaders to answer their critics to help those in the middle better understand their theology. Avoiding questions isn’t always good. Sincere people raise valid issues deserving of a response, such as lovingly challenging those who say that Jesus was not God while on earth, that all people should be healed, or taking way too much liberty when it comes to exegeting a passage of Scripture.

Folks, it’s time to solidify our positions. If you’ve said confusing things, explain where you’re coming from. Are you open to re-evaluating your theology in light of Scripture? Sadly, most charismatics are not known for their theology; they must change that…

That being said, I do have concerns about the attitude behind some of the judgmental websites, vindictive videos, and Pharisee-blogs. Critics often forget that “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Arrogance and haughtiness are not positive character traits. The way many condemn others is disheartening. It appears that they actually take pleasure in it. Where is the burden for them? Why don’t they weep before they whip? Why don’t they season their words with grace? I’m all for contending for truth, but it must come from a broken heart that’s been humbled by God. Sadly, this is what many are lacking.

How do I know that they are arrogant and condescending? Because they show little desire to really interact with the folks they throw under the bus. They not only enjoy throwing them under the bus, they enjoy driving the bus. Be careful—history has taught us that arrogant critics often fall via a moral failure or some other silent sin.

For the rest of us, here are some points to consider when answering our critics. Answer them . . .

1. When they are genuinely seeking answers. Most of us are not “out to get you.” We simply want answers. Yes, Jesus remained silent at times, but other times He spoke out, clarified, and lovingly fought back. When He was slapped, He didn’t turn the other cheek. He called the person out for his actions (John 18:22–23).

2. When your influence warrants it. If you are influencing others, you need to be careful. There is a stricter judgment for us. Silence is not always the best option. Sometimes it can be a smokescreen for cowardliness or passivity. Again, it’s impossible to answer all our critics, but if a constant theme arises against the ministry the Lord has given us, we need to address it…

3. When the truth of the gospel is at stake. This is a no-brainer. When essential truths are being questioned, we must respond.

4. When a lot of confusion surrounds our ministry. The devil loves confusion and wants us to avoid bringing light and clarity to questions surrounding our beliefs and actions. …When we’re so busy calling everyone else to repentance, we often fail to look in the mirror.

5. When godly counsel encourages us to do so. When it comes to answering your critics, ask other solid believers who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. We all have friends and family who will confirm our desire to remain silent. Instead, ask those who will look through an unbiased lens.

My heart is for unity in the true body of Christ, but many statements that have been made demand answers. Remaining silent actually gives those caught in the middle pause for concern. For example, I appreciate the heart for revival and healing that some prominent leaders have, but their statements about Catholics and Christians coming together need to be lovingly challenged and clarified, as do some of their doctrinal positions. Moreover, clips are available that show (what appear to be) fake healings by manipulating a person’s foot.

Again, I’m all for genuine healings, but many onlookers need clarification. Leaders, would you consider answering some of your critics so we can better understand where you’re coming from? It’s not sending the right message to the vast majority of us. If so, contact me at Shane Idleman.

True humility recognizes that we are not perfect. We need iron to sharpen iron to ultimately sharpen our theology. We must move out of the ivory tower of the “touch not God’s anointed” superstar mentality, humble ourselves, and be open to constructive criticism. “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).

August 16, 2014

“Perfectly” United?

Christian unity

1 Corinthians 1:10:

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.

One of the wonderful things that can take place online is when people who might normally disagree over certain issues are willing to set those differences aside and come together over a specific cause or concern. It shows that unity is possible even on days we don’t feel it’s very probable.

Even in my own writing, I often find myself disagreeing violently with some Christian authors or bloggers on certain things, and then a few days later, I will use one of their articles here at C201. I know that people who read both blogs must find this confusing; either that or think I’m schizophrenic.

But the verse in I Corinthians one is talking about perfect unity; the implication is that this would mean unity on all things.

But wait; there’s more! If we believe that Paul is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, then it is God Himself who desires that we be “perfectly united in mind and thought.”  Surely there is some context to this verse (see yesterday’s post) that gives us some ‘wiggle room’ on this unity thing, right?

For A to agree with B on an issue, what personal preferences or doctrinal convictions might A have to concede on?

If I believe I am correct about a certain issue, would I be willing to lay that aside in order to be united with the “brothers and sisters” Paul mentions?

Think carefully before you answer those questions. It’s very noble to say, yes I’ll compromise on [substitutionary atonement, baptism of infants, post-Tribulation rapture] in order for us to attain unity, but you’re not truly going to do that with things you feel are part of core doctrine, or things you’ve spent the better part of a lifetime arguing in favor of.

Some would argue that the goal here is merely perfunctory, that Paul is trying to calm down certain quarreling that has erupted (see the next verse, v. 11) but it is interesting that two verses later, the picture he presents is so very similar to our present denominational structure:

12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

We get this today. Doctrinal identity often overshadows our Christian identity.

I don’t believe that denominations in and of themselves are a bad thing. Accountability is a good thing. There is strength in numbers. John Stumbo, president of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination recently said this on the Phil Vischer podcast:

“With mounting pressure against the church of Jesus Christ in North America, it’s a great time to be part of a team”

Furthermore, we see certain distinctions very early on in the first century church. Some believe that in addition to the sects that Paul names in verse 12 above, that there was a group which followed the teachings of the Apostle John. And Paul himself, through his writings no doubt had his ‘Pauline’ followers; to this very day discussions exist as to distinctions between the message of the gospels (what Jesus taught) and the large percentage of the New Testament canon that bears Paul’s name (what Paul taught, that some imply as not necessarily having the inspiration of the Holy Spirit because of its different tenor from Jesus’ teachings.)

So this does get complicated, doesn’t it.

Perfect unity.

The words seem so easy.  Putting it into practice is much more difficult.

May 1, 2012

What Theologians Talk About: Grafted In

So when theologians and seminary academics get together, I somehow doubt they turn on the television to watch 30 Rock or The Voice.  And definitely not The Simpsons. Chances are it’s more like the item we chose to post here today.  Actually, this one is too long to post in full, even with a page break, so you must link; but even if you only get halfway through, it’s important to know that:

  1. There is still not consensus about the interpretation of every single Bible passage, even among Evangelicals,  however…
  2. We can learn a lot in the discovery process of looking at the Biblical evidence that supports different positions, and hearing the heart behind each commentary.
  3. We presently see through a glass darkly; we’re not all theologians…

For example, consider this passage in Romans:

NIV 11:17 If some of the branches have been broken off,  and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others  and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 

and this, earlier in Romans:

NIV9:6 It is not as though God’s word  had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.( Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children,  but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.

Questions arise

  • Are we grafted in to the promises given to Abraham and Old Testament Israel or are we grafted in to the church?
  • Is Israel the ethnic, national Israel or does it refer to a spiritual Israel?
  • Is there a relationship between the olive tree in Romans and John’s vine and branches narrative?
  • Biblically speaking, is every Jew an Israelite?
  • If Israel is in unbelief, how can we be grafted in to that?

Hey, I didn’t say this was easy.

Calvin L. Smith of King’s Evangelical Divinity School in the UK attempts to answer this. He posted his answers on February 12th.  He begins:

In Romans 11:17-24 the Apostle Paul likens Gentile believers to a wild olive shoot grafted into a cultivated olive tree.  The obvious question is, what is it that Gentiles are grafted into? Less obvious, it would appear from the widely differing interpretations, is the answer. Consequently there is considerable division among Christians over the relationship between the Church and Israel. This post explores this issue. It is rather lengthy (I do, eventually, get to an answer), but that’s because I’m often asked about this so it makes sense to post something with a little detail I can people them to…

Continue reading here…  Even if you only scan this or only dig deep into three or four paragraphs, there is value to this, because God’s word is living and active… and sometimes challenging.

HT: Living Journey


April 19, 2011

Christocentricity

By their blogs ye shall know them.

If you read someone’s blog over a period of time you should start to see an emerging pattern of the values they hold to be important.  But a quick check of this one today revealed that, after a year, I have never used a word here which actually ranks high in my list of spiritual priorities.

The word is: Christocentric.

It’s a preacher word, to be sure, and I’m not a preacher; but I believe strongly in Christ-centered preaching, Christ-centered worship songs, and Christ-centered fellowship.

Today I got to test my commitment to that ideal.

It was a simple discussions with a man who is a member of a Christian denomination that many of my friends would say doesn’t represent “the real thing.”  We talked about various things, and many spiritual practices and doctrines were mentioned that could have easily hijacked the discussion, or prove to be red herrings that would have simply consumed much time and yielded nothing productive.

So I kept coming back to the things Jesus said and the things Jesus taught.  That’s actually not easy for me because I’m a sucker for all those other debate subjects.  I love a good argument.  There.  I said it.

But it wasn’t the time or place.  It was a time to focus on Jesus, and draw the conversation back to Jesus every time it threatened to go off in a different direction.  I even explained my strategy out loud a few times; something to this effect:  No one will be won to Christ by clever argument or reasoned persuasion or skillful rhetoric; but rather, they will be compelled to follow only when they have looked directly into the face of Jesus and been won by His love.

It was the best conversation of this type I’ve had; and I think the feeling was mutual, especially inasmuch as we ran 90 minutes.  He was in 70’s and I probably should have offered him a chair, but he was as caught up in the discussion as I was.

Of course, as happens in such cases, the rest of the day was pure insanity!!

…So again, today’s word is “Christocentric” meaning Christ-focused.  Take this word and make it yours.