Monday, February 19, 2018

Finger of God: a Review of Darren Wilson's Documentary

Dear Pastor Hughes

I would like to ask you a few questions regarding this film [Finger of God]. I read your blog, but I cannot find any new information. The Church I attend is planning to show this film. Would you recommend we do? If not, why?. Any updated information will help me.

Thanks, Mario

Thank you for your e-mail, Mario. In short, no, I would not recommend that your church show this film. The creator of Finger of God, Darren Wilson, is the same creative mind behind Holy Ghost, a documentary film I reviewed here. Holy Ghost is a charismatic propaganda film completely devoid of biblically orthodox Christianity. Before Holy Ghost, he made Finger of God, and it's just as absurd.

Finger of God begins attempting to qualify some of the more ridiculous "miracles" said to be happening in charismaticism: gold dust falling on worshipers and preachers, perfect and pure gems appearing out of no where, Bibles spontaneously filled with manna (yes, the bread from heaven that fed Israel in the wilderness), and people receiving gold teeth. Wilson even interviews his aunt and uncle who claim God gave them gold teeth during church. Because it happened to someone he knows, it must be true!

None of these tricks have ever been verified as miraculous. In fact, undercover reporters have exposed them as lies. The cut gemstones supposedly showing up at these meetings have even been tested, and they're nothing but worthless cubic zirconia. The gold dust has likewise been examined and revealed to be gold glitter that you can buy in the craft section at Walmart.

The teachers doing these things are deliberately lying to people. But people want them to be true, so they allow themselves to be duped by such obvious gags. Either Darren Wilson is in on these tricks, or he wants so much to believe that the con is real, he forgets his role as an investigative documentarian.

Regarding the whole gag with the gem stones, Wilson says they're not cubic zirconia, but he doesn't take them to a jeweler to confirm that for his viewing audience. Wouldn't it be pretty incredible to get an expert on camera saying, "I've never seen a gem so pure"? No, we just have to take Wilson's word for it that these fake-looking gems (seriously, they don't even look real) are perfect and other-worldly.

The False Gospel of Fake Healing

If you're asking yourself, "Wait, where in the Bible does it say that God will make gems appear or He'll cover people in gold dust or He will turn their teeth into gold?" then you're asking the right questions. The Bible doesn't say that anywhere. In fact, I have to wonder why God would fill a person's tooth with gold rather than giving them a brand new tooth. That would be an actual miraculous healing.

Finger of God is mostly a bunch of stories from people who claimed to do miracles, but none of those stories are ever verified. It's the same nonsense I detailed in my review of Holy Ghost -- laying hands on people in public, and those people claim they feel something, but that's it. That's not miraculous. Every single "miracle" in the documentary can easily be dismissed as either a con, an unsubstantiated anecdote, or the power of suggestion.

I remember laughing at the footage of a guy on crutches being "healed" of his sprained knee. A faith-healer walked up to him, prayed twice that his knee would be healed, and then told him to take his crutches away. The guy started limping down the sidewalk, saying, "I feel better!" Limping. Exactly the kind of gait you'd expect from someone with a sprained knee. The faith-healer probably hindered the guy's healing by telling him to stop using his crutches.

Just like Holy Ghost, Finger of God feels like a promotional film for Bill Johnson and Bethel Church. Johnson is a false teacher who claims that when Jesus was on earth, He was not God. Jesus was entirely human, and He modeled the perfection that any one of us are capable of achieving, Johnson says. That same false teaching is shared in Finger of God. But the gospel message about Jesus being the atoning sacrifice for our sins is never shared.

In the documentary, Johnson shares a story of Heidi Baker (who might be crazy) healing someone in Mozambique, and an entire village believed the gospel. Wilson goes to Africa and films her doing this, but we never see her preaching the gospel. How can someone believe in what they aren't told? The fact is, Johnson and Baker don't preach the gospel. To them the gospel is believing in miraculous signs and wonders. All you have to do is a "miracle" and people will believe in miracles, which is the gospel. No, it's not.

The True Gospel of Spiritual Healing

Miracles, as they were performed in the Bible, affirmed that the word preached by one of God's messengers was truly from the Lord. A miracle by itself is nothing. The word of God is everything. The Apostle Peter said, "And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place" (2 Peter 1:19-21). God's word, the Bible, has been spoken and verified. People hear it preached, they are convicted of sin, and they believe in Jesus. We no longer need miraculous signs to verify it.

Christian words like "gospel" and "miracles" in the name of "Jesus" appear in Darren Wilson's film. But it's a different gospel, different miracles, and a different Jesus. Even if one of the charismatics in this film did a true miracle -- like if I gave Heidi Baker the benefit of the doubt and she actually did restore hearing to a deaf person -- they don't preach the true gospel. Indeed, Jesus Himself warned that some will perform false signs in His name, but He either didn't know them (Matthew 7:21-23), or they did such signs to lead people away from the truth (Matthew 24:24-25).

The true gospel is this: "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ -- by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:5). That's the story of every follower of Jesus -- we were dead in our sins, but we've been raised to life by the One who raises the dead. We've been transferred from the kingdom of darkness that is under the wrath of God to the kingdom of light that is filled with His never-ending love.

That is the most incredible life-saving miracle anyone could ever experience. By faith in Jesus, His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, you were made from dead to alive. Your life has been transformed from following the prince of the power of the air to serving the King of kings and Lord of lords! You no longer chase after sinful passions of the flesh, but you pursue His righteousness of His Spirit. That is the miraculous power of God.

But that's not the miracle Darren Wilson and company cares about. He likes parlor tricks and silly stories, not the truth of the gospel of Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, regenerates the hardened heart to believe, and permanently seals believers for the Day of Redemption. Wilson thinks the Holy Spirit is manifested in Walmart glitter.

Better Alternatives

Rather than Finger of God, perhaps you could encourage your church to go through Clouds Without Water II by Justin Peters. Talk to someone in your church, and if they're interested in doing it, I will personally buy you a copy and send it to you. Also, consider any number of sermon series online. G3 will soon be adding all the sermons from this year's conference free (all of the sermons from previous conferences are already there).

I would also encourage you to check out the new book Defining Deception by Costi Hinn and Anthony Wood. The book exposes many of the lies that have come out of Bethel Church, a center of attraction in Darren Wilson's documentaries. Thank you for your question, Mario. And I hope I've been able to provide you with a helpful response.

The whole collection of Darren Wilson films is to be avoided.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Jesus Is Not Your Flu Shot; He is Your God

Surely by now you've heard about Gloria Copeland's Jesus-is-your-flu-shot video. Gloria, wife of famed televangelist Kenneth Copeland, made international headlines last week after she posted a video on Facebook saying that you don't need to get the flu shot because Jesus is your flu shot. All you have to do is say you won't get the flu, and you won't get it. The video began:
"Well, listen, partners, we don't have a flu season. We've got a duck season, a deer season, but we don't have a flu season. And don't you receive it when someone threatens you with, 'Everybody's getting the flu!' We've already had our shot. He [Jesus] bore our sicknesses and carried our diseases... Jesus himself gave us the flu shot... Just keep saying that I'll never have the flu. I'll never have the flu."
This name-it-and-claim-it garbage doctrine deserves to be ridiculed, and it has been made fun of by  newspapers to talk shows. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel grabbed the video and made a mockery of it on his late-night program. As Todd Friel pointed out, even Kimmel knows Gloria is a hack!

What Gloria Did and Did Not Say

With all the derision Gloria's video has rightfully received, Kenneth Copeland Ministries responded yesterday with an article posted through Charisma News intended to explain Gloria's comments. "Let's clear a few things up about Gloria's talk about the flu," they said. "Gloria did not say or imply that you shouldn't get a flu shot or see a doctor."

Oh, yes, she did. Even Charisma Magazine (which, by the way, is the same as Charisma News) acknowledged what everyone else heard. In an article titled Gloria Copeland: Skip the Flu Shot and Inoculate Yourself With God's Word, Taylor Berglund wrote, "Gloria Copeland said that flu shots were unnecessary because Jesus provides total protection in a recent Facebook video."

In the same article, Berglund pointed out, "In 2013, the Copelands' church was the site of a measels outbreak, in which 21 people became sick, apparently due to lack of vaccination. One church member told the Associated Press, 'To get a vaccine would have been viewed by me and my friends and my peers as an act of fear--that you doubted God would keep you save... We simply didn't do it.'"

The rotten fruit of the Copelands' rotten teaching is on full display in their rotten church. Everyone in their congregation knows what the Copelands teach -- the reason why they are there is because that's what they want to hear! And anyone who follows such teaching does so at their own peril. Somehow their church is still full.

The rest of the Copelands' article in Charisma News contained more lies to cover up the previous lies. They said, "Gloria did not say that if you had contracted the flu, you were a bad Christian who did not have enough faith or who did not pray enough."

Anyone who has a modicum of familiarity with health-and-wealth prosperity teachers knows they say this all the time: if you're sick, it's because you didn't have enough faith. You didn't pray hard enough. You didn't believe hard enough. You didn't name it and claim it enough. It's not the teacher's fault you're not healed; it's your fault you're not healed.

It's true Gloria said a prayer for those who already had a flu (spoiler alert: she didn't "bind up" anyone's flu with her prayer). But for those who did not have the flu, she clearly told them that they could prevent the flu by inoculating themselves with the power of positive words.

The article went on, "Gloria did not say that by simply speaking words, you will not get the flu." Well, it's evident to everyone she did say that. That's why she's getting made fun of. On my podcast today, I played a clip of Gloria saying that you don't ever have to be sick again if you just say you'll never be sick again.

But I don't even have to provide a clip of Gloria saying such a thing because Kenneth Copeland Ministries contradicted themselves in the very next sentence of their article! Here it is in context so you can see the contradiction:
"Gloria did not say that by simply speaking words, you will not get the flu. Instead, she demonstrated how to resist the flu by expressing out loud what the Word of God says about your healing."
That is hilariously stupid. I'm over here on my side of the computer laughing at how absurd that is. Once again, "Gloria did not say that by simply speaking words, you will not get the flu." Rather, "she demonstrated how to resist the flu by expressing out loud..." In other words, she said you can prevent the flu by speaking words!

This is what the Bible calls a seared conscience. They lie to cover their lie and they do not see the contradiction and feel no shame about it. The Apostle Paul wrote, "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared" (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

What God Did and Did Not Say

Jesus is not your flu shot. He's not your health-and-wealth prosperity doctor. He is your God. He will inflict fiery judgment on those who do not know God and did not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus, and He will show unending love and mercy for His saints and to be marveled at among all who have believed (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Who are His saints? How does He show this mercy? His plan of redemption is much more glorious than inoculating us from the flu. In love, He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins and rise again from the grave. All who believe in Jesus will be forgiven their sins and will not be destroyed in eternal punishment. They will be clothed in His righteousness and receive eternal life. These are His saints, those who are being made holy by God.

But even His saints get sick, since we are not yet made perfect. We have not yet taken off the imperishable and put on the imperishable. We still live in this fallen world, subjected to futility by Him who subjected it (Romans 8:20). Should you pray for healing? Absolutely. If it is God's will to heal you, He will. A faith-healer won't heal you because there's no such thing. God will heal you. You're still going to die.

Even the people Jesus healed during His earthly ministry got sick again and died, did they not? Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but Lazarus still died eventually. Jesus said it would be so. He told Lazarus' sister, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26).

Your body is deteriorating. You will get sick. You will die. No amount of positive thinking is going to change that. God cursed this world because of our rebellion against Him. Sickness and death exist because of our sin. Not Ken nor Gloria nor you nor anyone else cannot straighten what God has made crooked (Ecclesiastes 7:13).

But when your body dies, if you believed in Jesus and followed Him in life, your soul won't perish. You will live forever in the presence of your holy, righteous, glorious Creator in His dwelling-place where there will be no more sin, sickness, or death. He has promised He will do this. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4).

How do you get such a wonderful reward? By faith. In that sense, you will be healed by faith! But you are not guaranteed healing in this lifetime. You are guaranteed that your lowly body will be made to be like His glorious body by the power that enables Him to subject all things to Himself (Philippians 3:21). Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

Believe in What God Says, Not What the Copelands Say

You will never hear that gospel in the Copelands' prosperity nonsense. When Gloria says, "By His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5), she doesn't take that mean by Christ's shed blood on the cross we are cleansed from the sickness of sin and death infecting mind, soul, and body. She takes that mean Jesus is your vending machine and He will give you whatever you want. As she said in this sermon:
"It could be healing, it could be physical things, a car, a house, a perfect mate... I have to say to the problem, to the mountain, to the lack, to the situation, to the sickness -- I have to say these words: 'Be removed from me, and be cast into the sea.'"
Whatever you want, you just have to say it and you'll have it. That's what Ken and Gloria Copeland preach. That's what they've always preached. That's what she said in her Jesus-is-your-flu-shot video, and that's what she's always said. She lies about the Bible, and then she lies about what she lied about the Bible. Lies upon lies. She has the seared conscience of insincere liars.

The only people who benefit from the prosperity gospel are the prosperity preachers. She gets filthy stinking rich off her Jesus-is-your-flu-shot nonsense, but you only get filthy stinking lies. Gloria knows you won't actually get the healing she promises. How do I know she knows that? Because in the sermon I just referenced, she preached with glasses on.

Never trust a faith-healer with glasses.

Monday, January 29, 2018

A Review of God Calling by Two Listeners

I'm presently working on manuscript for a book entitled Jesus Called (and Here is What He Said). As you can probably tell by the title, the book is in response to the bestselling devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. But more than being a criticism, I want to teach people what Christ has actually said in His word, the Bible. That's how Jesus speaks -- not in your head or through strange women who claim God has personally addressed them.

In case you're not familiar with it, Jesus Calling is written from the first-person perspective of Jesus, as though Jesus actually said the things Young wrote in her book. If that were true, then Jesus Calling is Scripture. Young has said that she was inspired by another book entitled God Calling by Two Listeners, an admission that her publisher, Thomas Nelson, appears to be trying to conceal.

Both Jesus Calling and God Calling were written by way of a new-age spiritual technique called "automatic writing." It is a pagan practice, not a godly one. A blogger for the website Mind Body Green describes this process here, which is eerily similar to how Sarah Young and the Two Listeners say they wrote their respective books.

You'll have to wait for the finished manuscript to read my critique of Jesus Calling (or maybe I'll post some of it on the blog at a later time). I hope to be finished by next month and maybe have the completed book available in late spring. I've been asked a few times to do a critique of God Calling by Two Listeners, edited by A.J. Russell. The following is an excerpt I have written. Some of this has been adjusted for use in a blog.

In 1932, English journalist Arthur James Russell published a book entitled For Sinners Only about the Oxford Group and its founder Dr. Frank N.D. Buchman. The Oxford Group was an evangelical movement that combined social life with Christian ethics, containing "no hierarchy, no temples, no endowments, its workers no salaries, no plans but God's plan." Perhaps their most recognized contribution to the world today is the addiction recovery program Alcoholics Anonymous, started by two men from the Oxford Group.

The Oxford Group followed four spiritual practices that included sharing with other Christians about sins and temptations, making restitution with all who have been wronged, listening for God's direction, and then surrendering to that direction and following it. Buchman believed that if you gave God enough quiet and uninterrupted time, He would tell you what to do. "Listening means an unhurried time when God really can have a chance to imprint His thoughts in your mind," he said.

Buchman used to begin every morning with Bible study and prayer, but he found this to be unproductive. Evangelist F.B. Meyer, friend to D.L. Moody, convinced Buchman that he needed to be silent and "let the Holy Spirit guide you in all that you are doing." So for an hour every morning, he would sit in what he called his Quiet Time, just listening for God to speak. The results were so life-changing that he wanted to share his new method of meditation—which he considered thoroughly biblical—with the whole world.

As Buchman's teachings were gaining notoriety, two English women read A.J. Russell's book and were captured by the practice of what the Oxford Group called Guidance. Russell shared of a time he told Buchman about visions he had, and Buchman interpreted his visions for him. At the end of their meeting, they sat in "prayerful silence," pen and paper in hand. Russell wrote down all the thoughts that came to his mind, and Buchman "pronounced them to be God-given thoughts."

The two women were so inspired by Russell's account of receiving thoughts from God that they decided to try Buchman's method for themselves. What they wrote from their meditations was compiled into a book entitled God Calling by Two Listeners, edited by Russell and published in 1935 in England (today it's published as simply God Calling). The two women remained anonymous; "They seek no praise," Russell wrote in his introduction.

One of the Listeners explained at the start of the book how the book was written: "We sat down, pencils and paper in hand, and waited. This was in December 1932." She described herself as skeptical, but her friend as deeply religious. Here is what she said:
"My results were entirely negative. Portions of texts came and went, then my mind wandered to ordinary topics. I brought it back again and again, but with no success. To this day, I cannot get guidance in this way alone.  
"But with my friend a very wonderful thing happened. From the first, beautiful messages were given to her by our Lord Himself, and every day from then these messages have never failed us. We felt all unworthy and overwhelmed by the wonder of it, and could hardly realize that we were being taught, trained, and encouraged day by day by Him personally, when millions of souls, far worthier, had to be content with guidance from the Bible, sermons, their Churches, books, and other sources."
She concluded, "This book, which we believe has been guided by our Lord Himself, is no ordinary book. It is published, after much prayer, to prove that a living Christ speaks today, plans and guides the humblest, that no detail is too insignificant for His attention, that He reveals Himself now as ever as a Humble Servant and Majestic Creator."

Where Two or More Are Gathered?

In the opening of God Calling, Russell featured a single page with these words from Jesus in the Bible: "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:19-20, but the reference isn't given in the book.)

Russell meant to suggest that because these revelations were shared by two women who were "gathered together" in Jesus' name, the Lord was with them and the words they wrote were His. But when you look at that verse, Matthew 18:19-20, in context, you will see it's about correcting an offending brother or sister in the body of Christ concerning their sin:
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."
Jesus was talking about church discipline, not how to authenticate secret voices or visions or messages from God!

If the standard of true revelation is simply that two people heard a voice or shared a vision, then Mormonism must be true. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery claimed to receive the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood from John the Baptist in the woods of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, and were then baptized together in the Susquehanna River.

But we can verify without a doubt that Mormonism is not true. We do this by using the Bible. Smith said he received the Melchizedek priesthood, but Hebrews 7:24 says that Jesus Christ holds that position aparabaton, which in the Greek means "permanently" and "without successor." That word appears in all of the earliest texts that we have of the book of Hebrews. Which is more likely: that the Bible is wrong, or Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were conspiring liars?

Now, whether these two women "gathered together" to conspire and lie, I cannot say regarding the intentions of their hearts. We don't even know who they are, as A.J. Russell never gave up their names—or if they, ahem, even exist at all. What I can say is this: using the same standard we use to test Smith and Cowdery's claim—testing them with the Bible—we can likewise verify without out a doubt these Two Listeners did not hear the voice of God.

The book was written as daily devotionals from the perspective of God speaking to them. Most of it is rather choppy spiritualism: "Love Me and do My Will. No evil shall befall you. Take no thought for tomorrow. Rest in My presence brings Peace. God will help you. Desire brings fulfillment. Peace like a quiet flowing river cleanses, sweeps all irritants away" (January 5).

Some of it borders on the weird and insensible: "You will absorb an atmosphere" (January 7). What on earth or in heaven does that mean? "Joy is the God-given cement that secures the harmony and beauty of my mosaic" (January 16). Uh huh.

But then there are the parts of God Calling that are clearly unbiblical. The Listeners, in the voice of God, wrote, "You need me. I need you" (April 19). No, the Bible is unreservedly clear that God does not need us or any thing. Acts 17:25 says that God is not "served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." Romans 11:35-36 says, "Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen."

The women claim God said to them, "I await the commands of My children" (April 3). That is absurd. If I knew a word other than "prideful" to describe such a deep level of human arrogance, I would use it. Do you believe we can command the Creator of the universe? A mouse would sooner tame a lion, teach it to roll over and play dead, enroll in college, receive his doctorate in dental surgery, and remove all of the lion's teeth before any one of us command God to do anything!

Psalm 115:3 says, "Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases." Lamentations 3:37 says, "Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?" Acts 17:30 says, "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent." We do not command God. He commands us, and we must obey Him. It is our delight to obey Him! Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15).

The women wrote that God said to them, "I do not delay My second coming. My followers delay it. If each lived for Me, by Me, in Me, allowing Me to live in him, to use him to express the Divine through him, as I expressed it when on earth, then long ago the world would have been drawn to Me, and I should have come to claim My own" (November 6). This is a common false teaching among new-revelation charismatics, claiming that we determine when the Lord returns.

Seventh-Day Adventist prophet Ellen G. White said she knew when the world would end. She made multiple predictions in 1843, 1844, 1845, and 1851. When the end of the world didn't happen, White blamed her followers: "Thus the work was hindered and the world was left in darkness. Had the whole Adventist body united upon the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, how widely different would have been our history."

Mike Bickle, founder of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, teaches that the second coming of Christ is either sped-up or delayed based on the church's spiritual maturity and readiness. Most Christians are passively waiting for Christ to return, but if they want it to happen, they're going to have to make it happen. Bickle said, "There's a number of really crystal-clear precepts or principles or things that God wants done, and He's not going to do it except that the praying church prays and releases them." Is Bickle also saying that we command God?

We have absolutely nothing to do with what day Christ returns. In Acts 17:31, the Apostle Paul preached that God "has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness." That day is fixed. He knows which day and what hour He will judge the world (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32). Jesus said that the one who says to himself, "My master is delayed," is a wicked servant (Matthew 24:48). Peter said to watch out for scoffers who will say, "Where is the promise of His coming?" (2 Peter 3:3-4).

The two women of God Calling quote familiar Bible phrases like "Take up your cross daily and follow me," or "In my Father's house there are many mansions." But these verse fragments are often taken out of context. They wrote, "Is not the message of My servant Paul now plain: 'Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,' because My Guidance is intensified immeasurably in power, when the two are one in desire to be with Me—but so few have understood it" (April 14).

Well thank heavens those women were around to tell us what God really meant! It's ironic they cited that passage—2 Corinthians 6:14. Paul was not talking about gaining more Guidance power. He was confronting those who were in rebellion against true Apostolic teaching!

If one is familiar with the Scriptures and then reads God Calling by Two Listeners, they will notice a distinct difference in tone between the Bible and this cheeky book. God Calling doesn't sound like the voice of God that we read in the Bible—it sounds like an early-nineteenth century English woman.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Can Women be Pastors and Teach in Seminaries or Not?

On Monday, John Piper responded to a question at Desiring God regarding women as seminary professors. Since the Bible says that only men are permitted to serve as pastors and elders in the church (1 Timothy 2:11-12, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35), should women be teaching at theological seminaries where men, training to become pastors, would be sitting under their instruction?

Piper's answer can be summarized in this statement: "If it's unbiblical to have women as pastors, how can it be biblical to have women who function in formal teaching and mentoring capacities to train and fit pastors for the very calling from which the mentors themselves are excluded?" In fewer words, no, women should not be professors at seminaries. I agree with Piper.

Needless to say, the response has been uproarious. "Women are just as capable of being seminary professors as men!" the opposition argues. "Women can be just as gifted in teaching, leadership, and even preaching!" Sure they can. But that isn't the issue. It's not about whether a woman has the ability to teach. When it comes to having teaching authority over men, she's not permitted.

I say again: this is not a matter of ability, it's a matter of permission. Is a woman capable of being a gifted seminary teacher? Sure. But does God permit her to be a seminary teacher, holding teaching authority over those men who are training to be pastors? No.

Rebellion and bad arguments abound over this issue. The following are some of those arguments from the sphere of social media. Some of these comments were directed at me.

"These types of complementarians try to argue that they don't think women are inferior while simultaneously claiming women are fundamentally incapable of teaching men anything about faith, Scripture, and the Christian life." Rachel Held Evans, TN

Again, that is not the argument. No complementarians are arguing that women are incapable of being teachers. The issue is: in what capacity are they allowed to teach? However capable a teacher Evans believes she is, she has demonstrated over and over that she's virtually incapable of listening to and understanding a viewpoint other than her own on this matter.

Complementarianism, in case you aren't familiar with the word, is the biblical understanding that God made men and women different (duh) and designed them for different roles. Men and women are to work together complementing one another in their strengths and weaknesses. This especially applies to the way God designed marriage, but it also applies to the way God intends the church to function.

There are things God means for a man to do that a woman shouldn't do. Likewise, there are things a woman can do that a man cannot. Yes, a woman can teach. She can teach children and she can teach other women. She can even evangelize. She can encourage and admonish her brothers and sisters in the Lord. But she is not permitted to hold pastoral teaching authority over men.

It's perhaps to no one's surprise that Evans thinks a man can be a woman. Not all theological egalitarians (who believe the Bible permits women to be pastors) also believe men can be women, but it's often a revealing issue. Unless Evans repents, her theology remains fatally poisonous. Rachel Held Evans can teach. And she teaches falsely.

"If you are interested in going to Seminary, please do not give your time or your money to an institution that does not hire female faculty. For the love of God, we do not need any more people serving in the church who have only been taught by men." Melissa Moore, TX

Melissa is Beth Moore's daughter. She works for Beth's ministry, Living Proof Ministries, and has taught through the ministry. Is this Beth Moore's position, that men must be formally taught by women in order to be properly equipped for the pastorate? Does she believe no one should fund or attend a seminary that teaches otherwise? Among my concerns here, LPM continues to demonstrate they are outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy.

Lest anyone be asking themselves, "Wait, can women attend seminary?" let me clarify with a resounding, "Yes!" This discussion is not about whether a woman can attend a seminary. She can. But she shouldn't be a teacher there. Theological seminaries are beneficial institutions of higher learning for both men and women. I compiled a short list of seminaries I recommend here.

"I will never stop arguing for the equality of women within the church. How sad it must be to search for God in a book and ignore the wisdom of a living reflection of God, created because it was not good for man to be alone." Colin, CO

No person has more wisdom about God than the Bible has, which is God's word.

"Gabe, I'm curious why you think God used women as the first people to share the gospel news of Jesus' resurrection if God doesn't want women preaching." Morgan, NY

I responded to that argument here. Again, no one is saying that women cannot share the gospel. [Edit: Watch a beautiful example of a woman publicly sharing the gospel here, cued to the spot.] They are not permitted to serve in the formal capacity of overseer, shepherding the flock of God, His church, by His word.

Unfortunately, God's word seems not to matter much to Morgan. He later tweeted, "Thinking this morning about how the arguments for the abolition of slavery in this country went beyond the Bible, and our arguments for LGBTQIA inclusion and egalitarianism should, too." I looked at Morgan's profile and he's currently battling cancer. Morgan, if you don't repent, this false teaching that you've embraced will do far more damage to your soul and the souls of others than cancer is doing to your body. I have prayed for you.

"You're misinterpreting a dodgy passage to justify your misogyny. So-called Christians did that for centuries with slavery and anti-Semitism, too. Pathetic." Anonymous

Dodgy passage? There are literally no examples of women pastors in the Bible. The subject of women in leadership is addressed in more places than 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. Those are just the most hot-button passages. Isaiah 3:12 says that one of the signs God is judging a nation is when women are ruling over men.

We read in 1 Timothy 1:10 that those who enslave others are behaving contrary to the sound teaching of the word of God. So those who once used the Bible to justify enslaving people and those who use the Bible to justify women pastors are both abusing Scripture.

"So you are okay with subjgating women but not having slaves. Got it. Just misogyny not racism. You're a peach." Leigh, TX

A woman sitting in church under the pastor's teaching is no more being oppressed than a man sitting in church under the pastor's teaching. Are men who aren't pastors being subjugated? Then neither are women who aren't pastors.

"Any time you think you are above others and that they don’t have the same rights and privileges as you simply because they were born female or black or with red hair or whatever—you are treating them as less-than. I don’t believe that’s what Jesus would do." Leigh, TX

"Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness." This is a great privilege. It is not oppression. A woman, especially a wife (Ephesians 5:22-24), is a picture of how the whole church is to submit to Christ. If you find no joy in this, you're saying to God, "I hate your way."

"Aw—thanks for mansplaining the Bible to me. Since I’m just a dumb girl, I couldn’t possibly read it for myself and understand. Dude—I’m a deacon and a Sunday school teacher and a graduate of Baylor. Enjoy your patriarchal church. I’ll stay at mine that values me and all people." Leigh, TX

This may come as a shock to you, but we have great women in our church who serve, teach, understand the Bible, are college graduates, some with advanced degrees, and are greatly valued as much as men. My wife has completed a higher degree of education than I have. She served on a school board before we were married, and I've boasted about that. I'm proud of her. This idea that complementarians don't value women shows your prejudice, not mine.

"Literally every Christian females worst nightmare. [WWUTT's] comments are literally everything I’m working to bring down. Your interpretation of Scripture is harmful and inaccurate and you use God’s Word to oppress women simply because of our gender -- which is not God’s idea." Sierra, PA

When I asked her to clarify how this was a Christian woman's worst nightmare, she refused to engage and insisted I was the one unwilling to reason. If teaching what the Bible says, that women are not to be pastors and seminary professors, is "literally every Christian female's worst nightmare," does she mean to suggest my wife and daughters are living in a perpetual hell? And I'm the unreasonable one?

I have pastored hundreds of men and women. I have never heard -- not one time -- a single complaint from any woman in my church that she's living a real-life nightmare because she's not being invited up to the pulpit to preach. "That's because you're oppressing her! She's afraid of speaking out!" my critics might say (I know this because I've heard them say it). Pardon me for being blunt, but you're being an idiot (Proverbs 12:1).

Do you know what I regularly hear is a Christian woman's worst nightmare? That her husband is not a Christian, that her children are not Christians, or that her parents aren't Christians, and they might die in their sin and go to hell. Then we pray and cry together. My eyes filled with tears just typing that sentence.

In the words of Paul, "Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame" (1 Corinthians 15:34).

"Gabe, it brings me no joy to tell you you're wrong and need to repent. But I will rejoice when you do. If you can't accept disagreement on this small point, you need to examine what you think the gospel actually is. Hint: it isn't having the 'right' ecclesiology." Brent, SC

I tweeted last week that this isn't an essential doctrinal issue, nor am I making it one. A person isn't saved to heaven or condemned to hell based on whether or not they think a woman can be a pastor. While it isn't an essential issue, like I said, it's certainly a very telling one. Does God's design and intention for men and women matter or not?

In the first chapter of the Bible, we read, "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27). In the second chapter, we are given details into the creation of the first man and woman: Adam was formed first, then Eve as his helper (Genesis 2:18). Adam's description of her and his union with her becomes the first song sung in Scripture (Genesis 2:23). These issues are not just important. They're beautiful!

It is a beautiful thing to behold a man and the way God created him, and to behold a woman and the way God created her. He did not create them at the same time. He created them separate and for different purposes, but He redeems them in Christ as fellow heirs of the same reward (1 Peter 3:7). To see a man or a woman as anything other than what God made them to be is to see them as less than what God made them to be.

These issues do not exist in a vacuum. We're having this debate about God's role for men and women in ministry in the midst of a culture that thinks it's criminal to say a man is mentally ill if he desires to mutilate his genitals in order to be a woman. Are we as Christians going to stand on the side of God and His word and what He has said about whom He has created in His image, or aren't we? Are we going to follow His word or the word of the culture?

Joshua said, "Now therefore fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if if is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:14-15).

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. As the man of my house, it's my responsibility to make that decision for my wife and for my children, and lead them according to His ways. That's in Ephesians 5:25-27 and 6:4. I can confidently conclude this blog saying, "Thus saith the Lord."

Sunday, January 14, 2018

False Alarm: Hawaii's Close Call With a Ballistic Missile

Yesterday, the state of Hawaii fell into a state of panic. At 8:05 a.m, the state's 1.4 million residents and hundreds of thousands of visitors received on their cell phones the following alert: "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL." The alert also blared on Hawaiian television stations.

People took screen shots of their phones and starting posting the pictures on social media. Islanders starting tweeting and texting their goodbyes. Parents lowered their children into storm drains. Friends and even complete strangers hugged in the streets and cried tears together.

Within twelve minutes of the alert, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard posted online that it was a false alarm. But it would take 38 minutes for another push-button notification to be sent out to everyone's cell phones informing islanders of the false alarm, and that there was no real danger.

What could possibly have been the cause of such a message? Very simply, it was human error. "A state emergency management employee apparently pushed the wrong button," reported Hawaii News Now. The state's emergency management was attempting to run a drill, but rather than a test, they accidentally ran the real thing.

Considering the rising tensions with North Korea, it's of little wonder why such testing would be so important. North Korea, under their tyrannical leader Kim Jong-un, has demonstrated their nuclear capability, not only by successfully detonating nuclear weapons but also launching an intercontinental missile that can reach Hawaii and further.

It's important to be safe, but surely the islanders were not happy about the unnecessary panic. The governor also expressed his frustration with the bungled drill. But all things considered, yesterday's false alarm could have been worse. A lot worse. And I'm not talking in the sense that it could have really been the real thing.

Had North Korea received word of the drill, which included the words, "This is not a drill," they might have assumed the United States was attempting to launch a preemptive strike. Maybe the U.S. wanted to alert their own residents of an inbound "ballistic missile threat" to prepare them for an inevitable retaliation.

This false alarm, this mistake, this error, could very well have provoked North Korea into launching a nuke. Like I said, it could have gone much, much worse. Praise the Lord that it wasn't.

I pray there are some strong evangelists on Hawaii's islands that are able to use this terrible experience to share the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ will a population of still-shaky people. What if yesterday had been the day you would die? What would have happened to you? Are you prepared to die? Is your family prepared?

What do you think will happen to you on the day that you die? It is an incredibly important question. The Bible says it is appointed for a man once to die, and after that comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). If you appeared before God in judgment, what would He say to you? Would He say, "Well done, good and faithful servant" and let you into heaven? Or would Jesus say to you, "Depart from me, I never knew you," and then cast you into hell?

Everyone has sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Sin is why there is so much misery in the world. It's why there's sickness and disease and death. It's why there's evil and injustice. It's why people fear the itchy trigger-fingers of hot-headed dictators that could annihilate millions at the push of a button -- because this world is full of wicked, fallen people.

What we deserve for our sin and rebellion against God is death (Romans 6:23). But two thousand years ago, God sent His Son to this world as a man, Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life and died on the cross for our sins. He rose again from the grave in His own body, then ascended into heaven where He is seated at God's right hand. Everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but will have His everlasting life. Our sins are forgiven and we're made innocent before God by faith in Christ.

Everyone who believes in Jesus belongs to Jesus. If you belong to Jesus, you will obey Jesus (1 John 2:4-6). Whoever has Jesus Christ will have eternal life. No matter what happens to you in this life, you will not perish in the next. You will live forever with Him in His eternal kingdom, where there is no more dying, no more tears, no more suffering or panic of any kind (Revelation 21:4).

But whoever does not obey Jesus does not have life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36). The wrath of God is on every person who doesn't follow Jesus. However you meet your end in this world -- accidental death, fatal disease, old age, or a ballistic missile -- it won't even compare with the suffering that you will endure for all eternity if you didn't believe in Jesus in this life.

But if you do believe in Jesus, the suffering in this world doesn't even compare to the glory that awaits us when we meet Him on the other side. You are saved from your sins by faith. Jesus took the penalty from you on the cross. He took the bomb of God's wrath so you won't ever have to know what that's like. Believe in Him, and do not be afraid. The Lord your God is with you.