Social Network Links
Powered by Squarespace
Search the Riddleblog
"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources

 

Living in Light of Two Ages

____________________________

Tuesday
Mar272007

Is It Finally Here?

real ID.jpgChristians are having a fit over the "Real ID Card."   To no one's surprise, some are claiming this is the dreaded "mark of the beast."  According to an article on  STLtoday.com (Click here: STLtoday - News - St. Louis City / County) . . .

"Several evangelical Christian groups say the federal Real ID Act, which will standardize state drivers licenses and link them to corresponding national ID numbers by 2009, represents the `mark of the beast,' the devilish number 666 that is attached to the godless.  The nearly 2,000-year-old passage is referenced along with the prophetic locusts, plagues, oceans of blood and rivers of fire found in the Bible. Soon after, according to scripture, the antichrist takes control of the world and Jesus Christ returns.  In short, new national ID numbers could spell the beginning of the end, some Christians believe `This is getting treacherously close to prophecy in the scripture,' said Irvin Baxter Jr., founder and president of Endtime Ministries in Dallas.  And some Missouri legislators are listening. Some Christians interpret verses from the book of Revelation that say humans will be `marked … so that no one can buy or sell who does not have that mark' as a prophecy of a global numerical control system to be used by the beast, or antichrist. The number would be used during the Great Tribulation, which some Christians believe will precede the second coming of Jesus. State Rep. Jim Guest, a frequent participant on Baxter's radio show, is sponsoring a bill that would exempt the state from complying with the federal law.  The Missouri House overwhelmingly approved Guest's bill last Thursday, 146-4. It has moved to the Senate for consideration. Guest, a Republican from King City in northeastern Missouri, said his main reservation with the program was its potential for `Big Brother-like' abuses.  `We could be tracked by machines everywhere we go,' said Guest, referring to provisions that require `machine-readable' technology in the ID cards. `This could signal the death of individual freedoms and rights.'"

Christians have worried about social security, credit cards, product ID#'s and bar codes when they were first introduced--rarely ever thinking to ask "just what is the theological significance of the mark?"  Meanwhile, the implications of such cards upon civil liberties should be given careful consideration even apart from end-times nuttiness.  You gotta love the prophecy pundits--sometimes they warn us about the right stuff (the loss of personal liberties) for all the wrong reasons (misunderstanding the Book of Revelation).

Come to think of it, given the crappy rate of return the government gives me back on all that money I paid into social security, that can only be the work of Satan!

Monday
Mar262007

Who Said That?

question mark.jpgWho Said That?

"The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man.

1. That there is one only God, and he all perfect.

2. That there is a future state of rewards and punishments.

3. That to love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself, is the sum of religion.

These are the great points on which he endeavored to reform the religion of the Jews. But compare with these the demoralizing dogmas of Calvin.

1. That there are three Gods.

2. That good works, or the love of our neighbor, are nothing.

3. That faith is every thing, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit in its faith.

4. That reason in religion is of unlawful use.

5. That God, from the beginning, elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned; and that no crimes of the former can damn them; no virtues of the latter save.

Now, which of these is the true and charitable Christian?  He who believes and acts on the simple doctrines of Jesus?  Or the impious dogmatists, as Athanasius and Calvin?"

OK--leave your guesses in the comments section below.  Please no google searches or cheating.  You need to guess! 

Friday
Mar232007

The Achillies Heel of Islam?

Muslim Women.jpgTwo recent news stories illustrate Islam's public relations problem (exposing its dark side) as it spreads into the West.

In the first report (Click here: The Sun Online - News: Judge gives the OK to wife hit), "The terrified partner, a 26-year-old mum of two, filed for a quickie divorce after her husband hit her and even threatened to kill her. But the judge in Frankfurt, Germany, rejected her application — quoting a Koran verse which some have controversially interpreted to mean a man can beat his wife if she acts in an `unchaste' fashion. A divorce court judge ruled a man was right to beat and abuse his wife — because the Muslim holy book allowed it." 

Can you imagine what will happen if Sharia law is ever tolerated in the West?  And where is the outcry from the supposed champions of women's rights--the political left?  Many on the left actually believe that Falwell, Dobson and the Christian right are the true enemies of women.  The left's silence about Islam is deafening . . .

In the second news story, (Click here: Woman re-interprets Koran with feminist view | US News | Reuters.com) "A new English-language interpretation of the Muslim Holy book the Koran challenges the use of words that feminists say have been used to justify the abuse of Islamic women.  The new version, translated by an Iranian-American, will be published in April and comes after Muslim feminists from around the world gathered in New York last November and vowed to create the first women's council to interpret the Koran and make the religion more friendly toward women.  In the new book, Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar, a former lecturer on Islam at the University of Chicago, challenges the translation of the Arab word `idrib,' traditionally translated as `beat,' which feminists say has been used to justify abuse of women.  Why choose to interpret the word as 'to beat' when it can also mean 'to go away'," she writes in the introduction to the new book. The passage is generally translated: `And as for those women whose ill will you have reason to fear, admonish them; then leave them alone in bed; then beat them; and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most high, great!'  Instead, Bakhtiar suggests `Husbands at that point should submit to God, let God handle it -- go away from them and let God work His Will instead of a human being inflicting pain and suffering on another human being in the Name of God.'"

If only feminist theologians do to Islam and the Koran what they've done to the Bible and mainline Protestantism, ironically they'll set Islamic expansion back decades!

Of course, the preaching of the cross is the best means to oppose Islam, but news reports like this along with the rise of feminist scholarship in their midst certainly cannot help the Islamic cause. 

Any thoughts?

Tuesday
Mar202007

Who Said That?

question mark.jpgWho said that?

"You know what happens? [in Revelation] Chapter 20, the Lord sets up His Kingdom. That's right. Look at verse 4, `I saw thrones,' what are they for? Look at the end of verse 4, they're for the saints who lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. You know what happens at the end of the thousand years? Verse 7, Satan is loosed a little while, he's been bound the whole time. He's loosed a little while. He goes out into the world and you know that during the Kingdom there will be some people who went in in physical bodies, they'll have kids, they'll repopulate the earth, they'll be a population all over the earth, some of those won't even believe in Jesus Christ though He's been reigning in the city of Jerusalem for a thousand years."

You know the drill!  Leave your guesses in the comments section below!  No google searches please. 

Friday
Mar162007

Sodom and Gomorrah Were Married????

Bible Knowledge.jpgIt certainly comes as no surprise that people don't know much about Christianity, or even religion in general.  According to a recent USA Today article (Click here: Americans get an 'F' in religion - USATODAY.com), when asked, 50% of high school seniors thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple!  60% couldn't name even five of the Ten Commandments. 

As to the latter, that's actually better than the results White Horse Inn producer, Shane Rosenthal got when he asked these same questions at the Christian Bookseller's convention some years ago.  My guess is that those who could name only some of the commandments, named only "second table" commands, like those prohibiting adultery, theft and murder.  They probably don't know enough about God to know any of the first four commandments.

OK, so we all know this is the case.  Why another article (or post) on this?  The author of a new book addressing the topic of the general ignorance of religion in America (Stephen Prothro, from Boston University, who describes himself as a "confused Christian" -- of course, he was raised Episcopalian), makes an important point.  Ignorance of these things is not just sad, it is dangerous.  His solution is to sell his book (Religious Literacy:  What Every American Needs to Know)!  That's not quite mine.

Prothro does make the important point that ignorance of Christianity and other world religions is no longer an item of trivia or a sad commentary on American morality.  It is now a dangerous thing when most people don't know even the basic differences (doctrine, history and culture) between Christianity and Islam, or between Islam and Judaism.  Not knowing these things, how then can they understand why the Shias and Sunnis are fighting over Baghdad?  Why are Muslims so dead set against Israel occupying Palestine and especially the city of Jerusalem?  And what about all the religious images invoked on the evening news from the apocalyptic zealot who runs Iran (and may soon have the bomb), to something seemingly mundane, like Bush misquoting the Bible to make a political point?

While the debate rages about how to teach religion in the public schools--a sign to me that we are deeply in trouble--Protho's thesis is important.  For the well-being of the American republic, people need to know these things!  People who don't know these things, nevertheless still vote and determine public policy as well as foreign policy.

Meanwhile, it is vital that churches get to work.  We must do our best to ensure that Christians know the Scriptures, that they are catechized in the great doctrines of the faith, and that they are taught basic apologetics along with the tools of evangelism.  But churches should also be equipping their members to know the  doctrinal, historical and cultural differences between Islam, Christianity and Judaism!  The secular public has an excuse.  We do not.

So, when 50% of high-schoolers think Sodom and Gomorrah were married, its more than a sign of ignorance--it is a warning.  Especially, when I notice the new Mosque down the street is packed out on Friday afternoons and I know they are not taking these matters lightly.

Your thoughts? 

Tuesday
Mar132007

Why John MacArthur Is Not "Reformed"

Richard Muller.jpgJohn MacArthur's opening lecture at the Shepherd's Conference created two main points of contention.  The first has to do with the on-going debate over eschatology (specifically the millennial question).  MacArthur--who is an ardent dispensationalist--stated and defended his position.  That's OK and no one is surprised or upset about that.  But people are upset because MacArthur so badly misrepresented amillennialism, and because he defined "premillennialism" as though it were dispensationalism.  Not true.  The loud howls of protest to MacArthur's dispensationalism coming from historical premillennarians is proof.  We'll talk more about this matter in the coming days.

The second point of contention is MacArthur's questionable attempt to co-opt "Calvinism" from amillenniarians and claim it for the dispensationalists.  This is seen in MacArthur's remarkable claim that amillennialism is inherently "Arminian." 

As I thought about drafting a response to this claim, it occured to me that it has already been done.  In 1993, Richard Muller--who was my Ph.D. dissertation advisor and acknowledged by all as the leading authority on Reformed scholasticism and Calvin (Click here: Amazon.com: The Unaccommodated Calvin: Studies in the Foundation of a Theological Tradition (Oxford Studies in His)--published a short essay entitled, "How Many Points?"

In this essay, Muller demonstrates why people like MacArthur are not Reformed.  MacArthur may hold to the "five points", but Muller shows why MacArthur is not "Reformed" nor a "Calvinist" in any meaningful or historical sense of those terms.

Before you read Muller's essay, please remember that the issue he's tackling is not whether those outside the Reformed churches are truly Christians (they are, if they are trusting in Christ).  Muller is not saying that they have nothing good to contribute to the cause of Christ, nor any other such thing. 

The specific issue Muller tackles is "who is Reformed?"  And John MacArthur is not.

__________________________________

How Many Points?

By Richard A. Muller (and published here with his kind permission) 

I once met a minister who introduced himself to me as a "five-point Calvinist." I later learned that, in addition to being a self-confessed five-point Calvinist, he was also an anti-paedobaptist who assumed that the church was a voluntary association of adult believers, that the sacraments were not means of grace but were merely "ordinances" of the church, that there was more than one covenant offering salvation in the time between the Fall and the eschaton, and that the church could expect a thousand-year reign on earth after Christ's Second Coming but before the ultimate end of the world. He recognized no creeds or confessions of the church as binding in any way. I also found out that he regularly preached the "five points" in such a way as to indicate the difficulty of finding assurance of salvation: He often taught his congregation that they had to examine their repentance continually in order to determine whether they had exerted themselves enough in renouncing the world and in "accepting" Christ. This view of Christian life was totally in accord with his conception of the church as a visible, voluntary association of "born again" adults who had "a personal relationship with Jesus."

In retrospect, I recognize that I should not have been terribly surprised at the doctrinal context or at the practical application of the famous five points by this minister — although at the time I was astonished. After all, here was a person, proud to be a five-point Calvinist, whose doctrines would have been repudiated by Calvin. In fact, his doctrines would have gotten him tossed out of Geneva had he arrived there with his brand of "Calvinism" at any time during the late sixteenth or the seventeenth century. Perhaps more to the point, his beliefs stood outside of the theological limits presented by the great confessions of the Reformed churches—whether the Second Helvetic Confession of the Swiss Reformed church or the Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism of the Dutch Reformed churches or the Westminster standards of the Presbyterian churches. He was, in short, an American evangelical.

To read the rest of this essay, Click here: Riddleblog - "How Many Points?"
 

Monday
Mar122007

Who Said That?

question mark.jpgWho said that?

"I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world."

Place your guess in the comments section below.  No google searches (or cheating).  The goal is to guess "who said this?"

Saturday
Mar102007

A Quick List of Amillennial Resources in Light of MacArthur's Charges

God of Promise.jpga case for amillennialism.jpgIn the wake of John MacArthur's recent and unfortunate comments about amillennialism, a number of you have emailed me, asking some variant of this basic question:  "I have a great deal of respect for Dr. MacArthur and am troubled by what he said."  Some felt he raised serious issues and wanted immediate responses, while others were just plain angered and wanted ammunition to fight back.

Let me respond to this by simply reiterating some of the basic amillennial resources currently available--resources of which Dr. MacArthur is obviously not aware, or sadly, chose not to consult.  I have already mentioned some of these books in my previous post, but now want to take to time to explain why these particular volumes are important, especially if you are troubled by Dr. MacArthur's comments.

In light of MacArthur's "five questions" (Click here: Pulpit Magazine » Blog Archive » Why Calvinism Necessitates Premillennialism), these are books that all parties  interested in this topic must read.  Those of you who are dispensationalists and claim to be "Reformed" this especially applies to you.  Don't just take MacArthur's word as the "last word."  See for yourself if what he said about amillennialism is true and whether or not his dispensationalism stands up under biblical scrutiny.

The first is Mike Horton's God of Promise (Click here: Amazon.com: God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology: Books: Michael Horton).  Covenant theology is the glue which holds Reformed theology together.  Covenant theology is not a product of medieval-Reformation scholasticism which is then mechanically imposed on the biblical text.  Horton argues that covenant theology is Scripture's own internal skeletal structure.  So, start here.  Read Horton, and interact with his arguments and biblical evidence.

The second is my own A Case for Amillennialism (Click here: Amazon.com: A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times: Books: Kim Riddlebarger).  I make the case that as a Christian, the Christ-centered New Covenant is the hermeneutical lens through which I must read all of Scripture (even the Old Testament).  I am not a Jew.  Christ and the Apostles tell me what the Old Testament means (in terms of how it reveals Christ in type and shadow).  The New Testament tells me how Christ and his church fulfills the Old Testament covenant promises.  I also deal with important biblical passages like Daniel 9:24-27, Romans 9-11, the Olivet Discourse and Revelation 20.

The third is Dennis Johnson's Triumph of the Lamb (Click here: Amazon.com: Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation: Books: Dennis E. Johnson).  If you are a dispensationalist, claim to be Reformed, and have not read the Christ-centered amillennial interpretation of Revelation, then shame on you!  If you have a scholarly bent read Beale.  But Johnson's work reaches similar conclusions, is accessible and devotional.  You need to read this and see for yourself if it makes better sense of the biblical text than do dispensational commentators.

Fourth is Hoekema's The Bible and the Future (Click here: Amazon.com: The Bible and the Future: Books: Anthony A. Hoekema).  I'll never forget reading it for the first time, just as I was questioning my own life-long commitment to dispensationalism.  I was pushed over the edge.  It is much more comprehensive than my own book, and is very, very, helpful.  Had Dr. MacArthur bothered to read this, he would not have asked the four questions that he did, nor caricatured amillennialism.  He may not have agreed with Hoekema, but he'd be forced to answer particular arguments and not set up straw men who are easily torn down.

Last is the "millennial debate" book, Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (Click here: Amazon.com: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond: Books: Darrell L. Bock,Jr., Kenneth L. Gentry,Robert B. Stri).  Strimple makes the case for amillennialism, Blaising for premillennialism, and Gentry for postmillennialism.  Strimple does a brilliant job.  This book represents the proper temper and tone that any truly profitable discussion over differing millennial views ought to have.  It is well worth reading.

I have long believed that anytime Reformed amillennialism is a given a fair hearing in premillennial and dispensational circles, people may not come away convinced (indeed, many are convinced), but they stop saying "amillennialists don't take the Bible literally," that our views are the same as "liberals" and Roman Catholics, and that we have no biblical support for our position.

For a thorough list of Reformed amillennial books, commentaries and studies, see the list here: Click here: Riddleblog - Reformed Amillennialism.

For a list of on-line sources, Click here: Riddleblog - Links to Helpful Books, Essays, and ChartsJust remember that on-line sources can never take the place of book-length treatises.

Wednesday
Mar072007

With All Due Respect to Dr. MacArthur . . .

John MacArthur.jpgAll of a sudden I started getting emails . . .  Lots of emails . . .

"Did you hear what John MacArthur said about amillennialism at the Shepherd's Conference?"  "He said Amillennialism was intrinsically Arminian, and that every self-respecting Calvinist should be premillennial!"  "He even said that Calvin would be premillennial were he alive today!"  On and on it goes.

This barrage of email was precipitated by Tim Challies "live-blogging" report on Dr. MacArthur's lecture (Click here: Challies Dot Com: Shepherd's Conference (I).  You might want to take a look at this if you haven't.

All I can say is, "calm down."  OK, MacArthur fired a shot across the bow.  But until I've read the transcript of his talk, I won't respond to any specific points, other than to say, if (and that's a big "if") he's been accurately quoted, then it really is too bad that someone of his stature would say the ill-informed things that he did. 

From what Tim Challies reports, I don't recognize my own position in MacArthur's critique.  I am certainly self-respecting (to a fault), and I am a Calvinist, who is well-known for my advocacy and defense of the Reformed faith.  I am also amillennial and think dispensational premillennialism defaults at a number of points.

If you wish to be "fair and balanced" about these things, then I'd plead with you to first read Horton's God of Promise (Click here: Amazon.com: God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology: Books: Michael Horton), Hoekema's Bible and the Future (Click here: Amazon.com: The Bible and the Future: Books: Anthony A. Hoekema), and my A Case for Amillennialism (Click here: Amazon.com: A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times: Books: Kim Riddlebarger), and then see if MacArthur's arguments still hold water.  It would be a shame if he gave such a talk and yet was not at all conversant with the major (Calvinistic) writers who set forth and defend the other side!  Sounds like he is not.

More on this to come, I am sure!

Wednesday
Mar072007

Everybody a Theologian . . .

wikipedia.jpgIt has been said that the internet is the great equalizer.  Anyone with a blog or webpage can be a self-appointed "expert" and publish to the world at will.  That's not always a bad thing.

But those with real degrees, real theological training, and who have written real books (subject to peer review and hard-nose editors), look no different on your computer screen than someone who, as Dirty Harry once put it, "is a legend in their own mind." 

While there are frauds in every discipline, now news comes that a Wikipedia "expert" on religion and theology is not a theologian with a Ph.D. (as claimed), but a twenty-something who lives in Kentucky and who has no advanced degrees and may have attended a community college for a semester or two.  In fact, his "reference" for his articles on Romanism on the Wiki was Catholicism for Dummies.

According to an article on the Telegraph.UK (Click here: News | Telegraph) . . .

"Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia, has been plunged into controversy after one of its most prolific contributors and editors, a professor of religion with advanced degrees in theology and canon law, was exposed as a 24-year-old community college drop-out. The editor, who called himself Essjay, was recruited by staff at Wikipedia to work on the site’s arbitration committee, a team of expert administrators charged with vetting content on the online `free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit'. But no-one apparently vetted the credentials of Essjay, who claimed to be a tenured professor of religion at a private university and contributed to an estimated 20,000 Wikipedia entries. In fact Essjay was actually Ryan Jordan, a 24-year-old from Kentucky with no advanced degrees who used texts such as Catholicism for Dummies to help him correct articles on the penitential rite or transubstantiation. He was unmasked after the New Yorker magazine ran a long feature on Wikipedia last summer that referred to Essjay’s contributions to the site and how he would spend up to 14 hours a day editing, `correcting errors and removing obscenities'. The piece described him as a `professor of religion with a PhD in theology and a degree in canon law' and noted he was serving his `second term as chair of the mediation committee' which rules on disputes over information posted on the site.  But last week Essjay was forced to resign after a noted critic of the online encyclopaedia contacted the New Yorker and told the magazine his biographical information was fake. `He holds no advanced degrees,' the New Yorker stated in an editor’s note. `He has never taught.' The magazine added: `At the time of publication, neither we nor Wikipedia knew Essjay’s real name.' Essjay had told them he hid his identity because `he feared personal retribution from those he had ruled against online', the New Yorker said."

_____________________________ 

It goes to show that just because someone has a blog or a website, and passes themselves off as an "expert," it doesn't mean squat!  You may be dealing with someone who has no education or knowledge, who is using second-rate sources or hearsay, and who may even be plagiarizing others (who may also be knuckleheads). 

So, when it comes to the blogosphere and cyper-space, it is caveat emptor!  Many with blogs, it seems, are suddenly "experts."  Granted, some of the best blogs out there are run by laymen and women with no formal theological training.  That's fine.  My point is not to be an educational snob.

But always learn to check out both personal credentials and sources when reading blogs.  Quoting what someone else said on a blog (who may not have a clue themselves) is not a very effective means of contributing something of value.  Self-appointed experts may be doing nothing more than spreading gossip and falsehood--like the person who said that "Calvin never believed in justification sola fide" (and who shall forever go nameless to spare them the shame they deserve).  Of course, they'd read it on someone else's blog and admitted to never having read Calvin themselves. 

If something is not properly sourced and documented, then don't believe it until you check it out!  You might be "learning" from someone who was "quoting" someone else who was "misquoting" Reformed Theology for Dummies.