The Danger of Presuppositions

The Danger of Presuppositions

The Sabbath before the command, a sermon by Voddie Baucham

reviewed and analyzed by Stuart Brogden

This review is not intended to malign or condemn my dear brother and friend, Voddie thBaucham; it is to expose the errors one can be led to if presuppositions are left unexamined, if documents other than Scripture are held too tightly. This sermon sums up much of what caused me to withdraw from Grace family Baptist Church; it violates many of the basic rules of hermeneutics that Voddie taught me, apparently having his view distorted by his “confessionally colored glasses” as Bob Gonzales put it.

To the sermon, which can be listened to here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=410151353280

Early in this sermon, Voddie asserts “Israel mirrors New Covenant people.” This is fundamental to the message of this sermon, but is it true? A mirror is intended to give an accurate image of the object, as when Scripture says Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God (Col 1:15) and He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Heb 1:3). Israel, however, is NOT a mirror image of the church which was purchased by the blood of Christ Jesus. Israel was a type, a shadow – providing a useful but imperfect image of the antitype, the church (Hebrews 8:1 – 6). They were a mixed seed of mostly unregenerate people. While the local church will have wheat and chaff growing side-by-side until the reaping (Matt 34:31; Rev 14:15), the universal church is pure and undefiled in any way (Eph 5:27). This cannot be said about Israel; it is NOT a mirror of God’s redeemed people. But it’s important for Voddie’s entire message that we agree that we are Israel (as he points out later), because the Scriptures tell us that the covenant was made with Israel and the words written on the stone tablets testify of that covenant (Ex 34:27 & 28). Moses emphasizes (Deut 5:2 & 3) this covenant was made with national Israel, not the patriarchs. And not – by implication – with Adam or the redeemed. As we will see, if Israel is not a mirror of the church, this message fails.

Still early in the sermon we are told, “Understanding the Sabbath is one of the most important junctures in our theology.” I agree with him on this. It will be apparent, however, I do not agree with his understanding of the Sabbath. Then he says, “Is it 8 of 10 or 9 of 10 who deny a Sabbath commandment?” It’s clear he simply made up this number, apparently to demonstrate the pitiable condition of the apathetic saints who disagree with him. Before getting into the substance of his argument, I am compelled to point out a subtle but glaring aspect of his repeated description of non-Sabbatarian Christians as those who deny or do not believe in a Sabbath command. Speaking for myself, I do not deny that the Bible has a Sabbath command. I believe in the Sabbath command. I simply look to the Scripture to inform me as to the subjects of this – and other commands. I deny that the Sabbath Command is binding for people in the New Covenant. I openly agree that it IS binding on those in the Mosaic Covenant, but not all men universally. By phrasing it as if we deny that the Bible commands some people to keep the Sabbath, Voddie implies though we cut objectionable parts from our Bibles. It is more likely, as we will see, that sabbatarians add parts to the Bible – reminding me of an author who describes dispensationalists as people of the invisible Scripture. Voddie taught me to tackle the best argument of those I disagreed with, as any victory over a weak argument would be meaningless. He appears to have forgotten this counsel, as this sermon engages only weak (or made up) positions.

One of the main tenents of his argument is that the Decalogue, as a unit, is equal to God’s moral law. This is not explained or defended from Scripture. As his beloved Second London Baptist Confession states in chapter 19, paragraph 3 (referring to the tablets of stone mentioned in paragraph 2), “Besides this law, commonly called moral …” and not one single verse is referenced. As one author I recently ran across observed, when theologians don’t have a biblical defense for something they assert, they use phrases such as “commonly called”. This is an appeal to a false authority – a logical fallacy. This is another aspect of preaching Voddie taught me – do not fall into the use of logical fallacies to make your point. Doing so lessens the authority of the message.

Therefore, he concludes, as a moral law, the Sabbath is binding on all people. From this position, He mocks 7th day Sabbatarians, whom he describes as 1 of the 10 who don’t get “truth” as he defines it. Another 10 percent hold to the idea of a “Christian Sabbath”; the remaining 8 of 10, a huge majority of Christians, deny the “Christian Sabbath” and are unable to explain why. Voddie is well aware of scholarly works by credible Christians who provide solid biblical defense for why the Sabbath is for Israel and not the Christian. D.A. Carson’s From Sabbath to Lord’s Day and Terrence O’Hare’s The Sabbath Complete are two such books that I know he is aware of. Is it sophistry to assert that, in general, all those Christians who deny the “Christian Sabbath” cannot explain why they hold that position. I betcha 9 of 10, or maybe 10 of 10 people who believe the Decalogue equals God’s moral law cannot explain it from Scripture. This is because Scripture does not define “moral law” nor does it equate that concept to the Decalogue. That correlation is simply not found there. That’s why the Westminster and Second London Baptist Confessions say the Law given Moses is “commonly called” the moral law. This is a concept originally put down on paper by Thomas Aquinas, the same one who developed the triad view of the Mosaic Law.

Baucham makes the interesting observation that since the Sabbath command was introduced in Exodus 16, chronologically before the law was given to Moses, and because it is allegedly rooted and grounded in a creation ordinance, it transcends the Decalogue. This is a double assertion based on his confessional presuppositions, not found in Scripture. When YHWH instructs the infant Hebrew nation about the Sabbath, using manna as the object, it is clear they were not familiar with the Sabbath, it was something new to them. This is the first record of the Sabbath in Scripture. It is another argument from silence to claim the Sabbath was known, kept and enforced from creation. The mention of the 7th day in the Decalogue does not establish a creation ordinance; it is given by God as an example for Israel to help them understand His command to rest from their work. John Calvin, John Gill, and John Bunyan each held a high view of the Lord’s Day, but dismissed and argued against the idea of a Sabbath creation ordinance. Circumcision was part of the Mosaic Covenant given before the Decalogue – does it also transcend the Decalogue and bind all people?

Voddie asserts that the 7th day of creation sets the pattern for work and worship. He later calls this God’s rhythm for life. I completely agree that YHWH was demonstrating for us our need for rest from work in sanctifying the 7th day of creation to Himself, as a minimum. Since all creation and the gift of work were soon to be cursed by the Fall, I also see the 7th day rest pointing to the One Who will do away with the ravages of sin and provide true and eternal rest for weary souls. Scripture tells us that God gave the Sabbath to the Hebrew people through Moses:

You came down on Mount Sinai, and spoke to them from heaven. You gave them impartial ordinances, reliable instructions, and good statutes and commands.  You revealed Your holy Sabbath to them, and gave them commands, statutes, and instruction through Your servant Moses.  You provided bread from heaven for their hunger; You brought them water from the rock for their thirst. You told them to go in and possess the land You had sworn to give them. Nehemiah 9:13-15 (HCSB)

YHWH gave the Sabbath to Israel as part of the ordinances, instructions, statutes, and commands, through His servant Moses. When Nehemiah continues on to describe YHWH’s kind provision in the desert, giving the Sabbath command to them is not listed. But taking the command in Exodus 16 into account, we can be sure YHWH taught and revealed His Sabbath to Israel at that time – but it was not given as the sign of the Mosaic Covenant until Sinai. There was a Sabbath before the commandment. It began as a teaching of the concept to the Hebrew people, not as a continuation of something they knew for generations since Adam taught Seth. In Exodus 16, when Israel is rebuked for trying to gather manna on the Sabbath, God tells them the Sabbath is to be kept by the families staying in their homes. There is no corporate worship, nothing standing as a type for the “Christian Sabbath”.

Voddie tells us, “Whenever you see Israel messin’ up – stop and insert yourself. That is you and me before we came to God. Forget generalities – this is you and me.” Again, the notion that Israel is a mirror of New Covenant saints shows up and seems innocuous. Voddie also taught me to be careful about inserting self into a Scripture passage, often using Jeremiah 29:11 to teach this. It appears he forgot this lesson. While all Scripture, including Exodus 16, is for our edification (1 Cor 10:6; Rom 15:4), not all Scripture can be applied directly to us. Israel is typological of all sinners, but that is NOT the same as saying you and I are Israel in this passage. Being less than careful in this matter can lead to serious errors – as when people drink poison and handle snakes by inserting themselves into Mark 16:17 & 18.

He quotes Ian Campbell from Why Easter makes me a Sabbatarian. This is an interesting article, easily found on the Internet, providing a defense of the Westminster Confession’s view of the “Christian Sabbath”. Despite Campbell’s assertion to the contrary, the pre-command for Sabbath-keeping in Exodus 16 is given only to Israel, not all people; same as the Decalogue. Nothing in the context of either scene comes remotely close to including Gentiles. Voddie admits the Decalogue summarizes the Mosaic Covenant, yet declares “the Sabbath was not just for Israel.” His continued conflating God’s moral law with the Decalogue leads him to impose the Decalogue universally. “If the Decalogue is a communication of God’s righteousness, then everyone is responsible for upholding it.” If by upholding it Voddie means we are bound by it (as the 1689 says), then he will run into myriad problems throughout the Bible as God’s righteousness is revealed and communicated in ways that even Christian Sabbatarians would not claim. The crime and punishment of Achan in Judges 7 comes to mind.

If everyone is required by God to keep His Sabbath, why is the only record of the Decalogue we have contained in the monologues by Moses, communicating this law (the summary of the Mosaic Covenant) to that people? If it was commonly practiced from creation, why is there no Biblical record of anyone other than Israelites being instructed about the Sabbath or punished for violating it? There is plenty of punishment meted out on people for murder, theft, idolatry, etc., before the Decalogue is published, giving warrant to the notion that there is a moral law at work in all humanity. Yet nowhere in Scripture is the Sabbath held up in this light; it is a sign of the covenant between God and Israel. The tripartite view of Mosaic Law is difficult to demonstrate, as when we try to separate moral law from ceremonial in Leviticus we see they are interwoven everywhere one looks. Principals of moral law and ceremonial and civil law are there to learn from; but they are not neatly defined and set aside (sanctified) as separate records.

Voddie claims Sabbatarians are the only people who see all men responsible before God for keeping His law. Others say man must voluntarily enter into covenant with God to be held accountable. This is another logical fallacy – the Excluded Middle: assuming there are only two alternatives when in fact there are more. Are Sabbatarians the only ones who embrace God’s sovereignty and monergistic work of justification, and the Christian’s responsibility to pursue godliness? Reading from Luke 6, wherein Jesus makes the claim He is the Lord of the Sabbath, Voddie asks, “would Jesus claim to be Lord of something that was abolished?” What if the Sabbath is by design a type of the rest we find in Christ as He redeems us? We are told to rest in the Lord (Psalm 37:7) and are invited by the Lord Jesus to find rest in Him (Matthew 11:28 – 29). If He gives us spiritual rest when we come to Him in faith (which He graciously gives His elect), is He not, in this way, continuing as Lord of the Sabbath? No one enters into His rest unbidden by Him – He is Lord of the Sabbath! Jesus does not promise the pale imitation of the rest provided for by temporal respite; He gives the eternal rest that can be found nowhere else. Baucham then runs to Hebrews 4:9 to claim THAT as a Sabbath – the weekly “Christian Sabbath.” For each of the types spoken of in Hebrews 3 & 4, the Spirit recounts how the infant nation of Israel failed to enter His rest in Canaan because of unbelief (Heb 3:7 – 19), how we who do believe enter that rest (not in Canaan, but in Christ; Heb 4:3), and He speaks, again, how Creator God rested from that work on the seventh day (Greek word hebdomos, #G1442; Heb 4:4), and how the (spiritual) rest promised to those who believe is different than the (temporal) rest Joshua promised (Heb 4:8). Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people.  For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:9-10 (HCSB)) This rest, sabbatismos (Greek word G4520) is used nowhere else; it is found only in verse 9. If it were to be a weekly Sabbath, we would expect to see sabbaton (Greek word G4521) which is used 68 times in the New Testament, overwhelmingly to describe the Jewish Sabbath. If the temporal rest Joshua sought was singular occurrence and the rest from creation was a singular occurrence, why would the rest believers gain when we are adopted by God be a weekly event, rather than a singular, ongoing rest in the finished redemptive work of Christ Jesus? The Jewish Sabbath was a pale ceremonial rest from work to demonstrate their trust in YHWH, not an instruction to develop corporate worship. As a command to rest from that work which provided food for themselves and their families, the Jewish Sabbath serves a wonderful type for Christians – to rest from that work which seems to earn God’s favor and find true rest in the finished work of Jesus, the antitype; not a weekly spiritual respite.

Where does the Sabbath command include worship? This question is never asked nor answered in this sermon. One might think it central to the idea that the command to rest from work had been changed not only in the day in which it is to be observed, but as to its practice. We are to assume worship is commanded; Voddie does, and then strains to accommodate the change in day: “The commandment is 1 day in 7, not the 7th day.” This is simply not true. If it were true, each tribe of Israel could have established their own day of the week to honor the Sabbath given by God as a sign of the covenant. We know they did not do so. The commandment is “the 7th day”; the example from creation is “the 7th day.” Exodus 20:9-10 (HCSB) You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the foreigner who is within your gates. From Strong’s Hebrew dictionary: Number 7637, shebîʿâ, is found 98 times in the KJV and means “seventh” 96 times, “seventh time” once, and “seven” once. Since this word is used myriad times to describe the Jewish Sabbath (there being no other kind in Scripture), how could it mean any day in a given week? Our English translations (NIV, NASB, ESV, HCSB, KJV, and many others) all say “the seventh day.” I didn’t find a commentary written by men in either camp who interpret this word as “one day in seven;” they universally interpret it “the seventh day.” And as with creation, the day after the sixth day is specified as the day of rest, not worship. But Voddie says “8 out 10 Christians do not believe that there is a Sabbath command … this means that going to church is optional.”

In truth, we see clearly a Sabbath command; we don’t see it given to anyone other than national Israel and we don’t see it commanding worship. There’s a HUGE difference! Voddie continues to portray only two extremes – you believe in the “Christian Sabbath” or you believe worshiping God with His people is not important. This is another example of the Excluded Middle fallacy. There are many Christians who understand the Sabbath command to be a sign of the Mosaic Covenant and yet eagerly and willingly participate in regular corporate worship with the saints. People indwelt by the Spirit of God will increasingly desire to please Him and will not degrade into the slouches Voddie posits as the end of all who neglect his idea of Sabbath keeping. Being burdened by a law from the Mosaic Covenant will not transform them. The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) was emphatic on this point:

some of the believers from the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to command them to keep the law of Moses!” (verse 5) … Now then, why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? (verse 10)

In this comparison between the Christian Sabbatarian position and those who do not agree with it, Voddie lumps all non-sabbatarians in with Ed Young’s horrible Easter Sunday extravaganza. “This command, which has been place since the creation of the world…” Again, there is no record of any Sabbath command or Sabbath keeping until Israel was instructed in Exodus 16. Law against murder is clearly in view, for example – yet NOTHING about Sabbath until the Exodus. There is no command or instruction to move the Sabbath to the 8th day. Christian gatherings on the 8th day (prayer, praise, preaching, and fellowship of the saints) have no connection to the commandment – which was to stay in your house and rest from your work. The false contrasts continues.  He states that only Sabbatarians give the Lord every Sunday, and everyone else only Easter. Voddie heavily expounds, “the timeless command observed by us on this day speaks volumes.” And “As God’s people, this is what God commands of us” – to gather twice as much manna on Friday so we won’t gather on the Sabbath. “But if you believe there is an obligation for God to be worshiped on this day, ‘but you do whatever to rid yourself of the guilt of playing sports on Sunday’ … is the day His or is it not?” “That’s the question – is the day His or is it not? We cannot embrace the blessing of the Sabbath without embracing the fact that it is a command.” He implies the “Christian Sabbath” is the only means by which saints can gather and participate in the ordinary means of grace our Lord has given us.

A long quote from B.B. Warfield’s sermon on the “Christian Sabbath”, pressing the command and obligation of the Sabbath, with no exegesis to show how this command is binding on Christians as is claimed. Voddie touts the notion that we must be commanded to worship each week because the world does not see its need to worship God – sounding just like Walter Chantry’s pragmatic plea to keep the Sabbath as a means of redeeming the culture (Call the Sabbath a Delight). Paraphrase: ‘Only if you get the “Christian Sabbath” as a command do you get the blessing God intends for you in this day.’ How ‘bout this, as an alternative: Jesus kept the law of Moses and the prophets, not just the Decalogue. He earned the right to be our lamb who takes away sin. We find the blessing of our rest in Him and His finished work.

He laments, ‘Failure to attend church regularly will cause your soul to shrivel. Failure to give God this day is to your great harm and detriment.’ Again – Christians want to gather and worship our Lord; the command does not command worship.

‘What does the Sabbath teaching in Exodus 16 tell us about Israel and us? First, it was commanded and very specific. Gather twice the bread on the 6th day … As the people of God, this is what God commands us. Again, 8 of 10 Christians do not believe the Sabbath command means they think going to church is optional.’ I agree with Voddie that we who claim Christ must trust Him to provide for us and not view work as an ends to be pursued to the detriment of our souls. This principle is taught us by the Sabbath command given the Hebrews. This is how types are interpreted, discerning the way they apply to us, rather than assuming equivalence.

“Ancient writers wrote about how extraordinary Israel was where in 1 day out of 7 everything stopped.” He doesn’t tell us the name of one of these ancient writers, but the official record of Israel’s history, the Scriptures, tell us Israel routinely profaned God’s Sabbath command and were punished many times (Ezek 20 & 22 for example). “This 1 day in 7 set them apart inwardly.” FAIL! Only the Spirit of God can do this! He presumes equivalence between “the Lord’s Day” and the “Christian Sabbath” and assigns spiritual blessings to Christians for keeping of the Law of Moses – which the Apostles declared a burden no man could bear.

“This is the day when we let everything else stop!” And yet – Voddie has repeatedly taught that it’s OK for people to enjoy sports and recreation on Sunday as long as it does not conflict with church. The Christian values the community of faith on Sunday, but meets with God every day. It’s not just the 8th day that is God’s – every day is. Our Sabbath rest is found in our Savior, not in a shadowy ceremonial type that was fulfilled in the person and work of our Lord.

FINALLY he tells us our day of rest is the rest we find in Christ (IAW Heb 4:9, perhaps?); but it’s still only a weakly (no misspelling!) rest for Voddie, rather than the ever increasing rest we enjoy as He sanctifies us. “He gives you six days – do you not believe He can multiply your bread on the 6th?” We mostly work 5 days in this country and ought to trust in our provider more than our employer – but that work is as much as ordinary means of grace as any other provided for us.

Voddie condescendingly dismisses rules for Sabbath keeping, pointing to Exodus 16:23 – claiming they were permitted to cook the manna on the 7th day, just not permitted to gather (the text does not say they were permitted to cook manna on the 7th day). Therefore, he declares, there are no lists for what it means to keep the Sabbath! But what says the Scripture? There we find many rules for Sabbath keeping – not only those made up by the religious rulers.  Exodus 31:15 (death for working); 35:1 – 3 (which forbids kindling a fire); Numbers 15:32 – 36 (death for picking up wood); Leviticus 25 (describes the Sabbath Year – why do Christian Sabbatarians not practice this?); Numbers 28:9 – 10 (burnt offerings); 1 Chron 9:32 (bread of the presence); 2 Chron 23:8 (military guard); Neh 10:31 (showing the Sabbath applying to Israel, not others); Neh 13 (God’s wrath promised to come on Israel for their profaning the Sabbath); Jer 17(prohibition of bearing burdens). No rules for Sabbath keeping, no penalties for breaking those rules? No lists for what God means to keep His Sabbath? Contrary to what Voddie says, the biblical Sabbath has rules, penalties, and lists. If the “Christian Sabbath” he holds to does not, it does not bear witness to the Sabbath in Exodus 16 he is pressing upon his flock.

Voddie claims the typological aspect of the Sabbath comes into play after the first resurrection. It’s only a weak weekly observance until you die. He declares that the work of ministry is permitted on the Sabbath and then says his Sunday ministry (preaching) is not work – it’s worship. Preparation for preaching is work. Why, then, defend the work of ministry on the Sabbath if that is not work? A day off to rest his body is fine, but he will not dare call it a Sabbath, “because the Sabbath is the Lord’s Day, not mine.” Every day we live is the Lord’s Day, not ours – just as every good thing we have is a gift of God and not our own (1 Cor 4:7).

My dear brother gives us many good reminders about the value of Christians gathering for corporate worship – yet no exegesis showing how the 8th day is defined by the 4th word. He simply gives a naked assertion that the 4th word “goes all the way back to creation.” The Scriptures are silent on this topic in that era; it violates Sola Scriptura to teach that it does. No argument from me that to work six days and rest one is a God-given rhythm for life. The Sabbath command teaches this – it does not teach nor require worship. “This is what we must learn, saints – that God will give us 7 days of provision in 6 days of work.” IS THIS THE APPLICATION OF THE 4th WORD FOR CHRISTIANS? I rather treasure the surety of my soul! Just as God rested from His work of creation to show us a pattern for life and point us to the promised seed, Christ rested from His work of redemption to provide us an eternity of rest – rest that starts as soon as He redeems us and gets better every day until He returns to bring the ultimate glory to His name by recreating the heavens and earth and putting a final end to sin for His saints. That’s my Sabbath – the God-man who is Lord of the Sabbath, He bids me find my rest in Him.

To borrow from Kim Riddlebarger’s Reply to John MacArthur (located here: http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/a-reply-to-john-macarthur/), This is hard to say, but in his sermon Pastor Baucham set up and repeatedly attacked a straw man.  His was a pyrrhic victory over a phantom foe.

Sissified Needy Jesus?

Pastor Voddie Baucham preaches the truth firmly and solidly from the Scriptures. His message is loving but it is a warning to those that think Jesus Christ is just some mamby-pamby God who has to have us in order to justify His own existence. He needs nothing from us.

Do You Follow a Celebrity Pastor?

20130111-145456.jpgIn most cases, when you hear the phrase “celebrity pastor,” you tend to think of individuals like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Steven Furtick or Ed Young, Jr. In each one of these cases, if you are one who believes that preachers should actually preach the Word of God, you probably get a very bad taste in your mouth. You immediately want to scream, “False teachers! Away with them!!” And quite honestly, that’s how I feel too. But there is another kind of celebrity preacher, one that many of us don’t realize is a celebrity. But yet, they are celebrities because folks like you and me have made them into celebrities. Yes, that’s right, I said we made them that way. Those of us who appreciate sound, biblical preaching, who detest the seeker friendly, rockstar image of those “other” pastors, we have celebrities of our own. And that can be a problem.

Many of us greatly appreciate the preaching of godly men like R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, James White, David Platt and Voddie Baucham. We are blessed to hear these men rightly exposit the Word of God. We love how they take great time and care to preach the Word in context so that God is magnified and we rightly understand our need for His forgiveness through Jesus Christ. So much do we appreciate their godly work that we listen to countless sermons online (or on our iPods), we read the books they have written, we share copious quotes from them via Facebook and Twitter. We even will go to conferences, sometimes at great expense to our finances and time, so that we can hear them magnificently handle the Word of God. And, without even realizing it, we have created them in our minds as the “ideal” preacher, the kind that these rockstar pastors should really model themselves after. In other words, they have become a celebrity in our mind.

This is not to say that good godly preachers like these should not be esteemed. It is a rare treasure these days, it seems, to find a pastor who is willing to be in the public view that will unashamedly stand on the Word of God. We should give them due respect for their duty and devotion to Jesus Christ, for their unflinching stance for the preaching of the true gospel. What I am talking about is that we actually may create an unhealthy, or at least unbalanced, image of these men when compared to the local church. Think through this with me for a moment, how many times have you shared or tweeted quotes from your pastor? You know, the man who has faithfully preached in the same pulpit for five, ten, or even twenty years. Do you follow him on Facebook or Twitter? Do you wish he would at least get with the times to get on Facebook or Twitter like the other guys do? Have you ever stopped and told your pastor about the great sermon that R. C. Sproul preached, or recommended that he read the latest book by David Platt? Have you spent an inordinate amount of time talking to people in your congregation about the conference you just came back from where John MacArthur was the keynote speaker, or complained that you couldn’t go to it at all?

Imagine yourself in the place of your pastor. He’s not famous. Maybe he only has a congregation of a couple hundred people, maybe it’s only fifty. He spends all week preparing a sermon meant for you and those you attend church with. He loses several hours of sleep each week when he is called out to the hospital to minister to a dying parishioner, to counsel a loved one who is severely depressed, to comfort family who lost a child in an accident. He’s never written a book, he doesn’t have a podcast, his budget barely even allows for a computer to keep records on, much less the high tech equipment and talent to set up a nice website. Yet, each week, he dutifully climbs up to that podium and faithfully preaches the word of God to a body of believers. He is just as important as the big names mentioned above, yet he’ll never see the notoriety they do.

Now see yourself through his eyes. You love your pastor dearly and you listen and grow form his devotion to the Word each week. Yet, during the rest of the week, you are downloading sermons from Sproul, MacArthur or Platt. You pour over their books and study notes. When you have a theological question, you pull out their study bibles. You go to their conferences and you come back far more excited than you ever do at the home bible study he heads up. All of this creates an enormous amount of pressure for your pastor. He cannot hope to ever hold the position these godly men do, yet he somehow has to keep the attention of his congregation so he can keep preaching the Word to them. Does he then sacrifice his time to minister to his flock so he can begin writing that book? Should he mimic their teaching styles, or preach the things they preach about? What about those conferences? He could never host one himself, so should he join with other churches to put one on? If so, how selective should he be about who to partner with? You see the dilemma he is faced with? In the eyes of the local pastor, his congregation is enamored with the “big time” preachers. There is a lot of pressure to measure up.

Now please understand, I am not saying that Christians should only ever listen to just the teachings of their local pastor. We can benefit greatly from the godly teachings of pastors, great and small. It is certainly worth our time to read and learn from many great learned scholars, for it will help in our growth and understanding of scripture. We have the liberty to even attend the conferences where these men preach, and can be greatly edified by it. But there must be a proper balance. God put us in a certain place, at a certain local church, for a reason. Scripture teaches us that all Christians are bestowed gifts by the Holy Spirit for the edification of the body of Christ. And where you are planted is where you are to employ those gifts! If you spend most of your time following the “big guys” then your local body is being starved of the gifts you were given for their benefit. When you take time and money to attend that big conference while your local church struggles with its annual budget, you may well be misappropriating the finances God gave you for that body’s benefit. When you share the podcasts and videos of the other pastors, folks may flock to their godly teaching and benefit from it. However, if you took your internet savvy, could you not create a site for your church? You could then share those weekly sermons so that other may benefit from the teaching you have grown under.

The point of this article is not to decry our love for great and godly preachers, but to draw our attention back to our local churches. Let us spend maybe less time, effort and money building up the big names, for God will maintain their ministries with or without us. But let us take just a bit more time, a bit more care and certainly more effort to build up our local congregations. As we build up and edify the local body, we can send out more laborers for the harvest into our local communities. And as more laborers go out, the gospel reaches more people and the local church grows. The more the church grows, the more great and godly preachers can go out into the world and accomplish the work that we are expecting the big name preachers to do. Let us be about the business of supporting our local churches brethren and let the “celebrity” preachers be an added benefit to where we are already being blessed

Sermon of the week: “Brokenness” by Voddie Baucham.

Your sermon of the week is Brokenness by Voddie Baucham. This is a powerful message on King David’s brokenness that you won’t want to miss (unless of course you’re a Rob Bell fan or like the book The Shack since Baucham pulls no punches on these conduits of false doctrine). This is one of Baucham’s best messages and I encourage all DefCon readers to download this one.

Quotes (908)

voddie-baucham How does a mother build biblical truth into her daughter’s life, nurture her, guard her, and encourage her toward the application of that truth, then send her into an environment that will oftentimes by its very nature be hostile or at least ambivalent toward that truth? How does a father raise his son to respect young women and protect their purity only to send them off to the youth building with exposed midriffs, low-cut tops, and skin-tight jeans?

– Voddie Baucham

Shame on Challies.

I have never been what you could call a “big fan” of Tim Challies but I’ve never been able to put my finger on exactly why . . . that was until now, when I was recently made aware of a review he wrote concerning the film Divided.

Inaccurate. Distorted. Inflammatory. These are some of the words that come to mind that describe Challies’ review of the film.

I wouldn’t necessarily expect a favorable endorsement of Divided by a man who sends his own kids to the Canadian government schools to be educated, but his full frontal assault of the film was a little over the top. To say that Challies has a beef with the family-integrated model of church worship is a grave understatement.

Youth ministry proponents may disagree with the concept of families worshipping together during church services, and they may be oblivious (willfully or otherwise) to the evidence (statistically, empirically, or experientially) of the destructive nature of youth ministry, but please, I implore you to be reasonable about your arguments and refrain from resorting to less than accurate, wildly imaginative fabrications designed to persuade others away from a practice that was the norm for the church for almost 2,000 years.

If you think I’m being a little too sensitive about Challies’ hit-piece of the film (a conduit to advance his dislike of Family Integrated Churches), don’t miss the fact that even some of Challies’ own readers have disagreed with his scathing assessment of the film. On the comment thread for Challies’ review of Divided, a commenter named Matt said:

Wow. Tim, I will have to say, this review is uncharacteristically harsh, and even mean. The tone that you are stirring up here is not in any sense the tone that the movie has.

I’m flatly shocked and disappointed in such a brutal and uncharitable word from a brother that we’ve all known to have a real eloquence and gentleness even toward those with whom he differs.I really want to say this plainly. After having watched the film, your review could not be less accurate or more one-sided. I am so sad that you’ve chosen to behave publicly in ways that you have condemned when others participate in the same sort of activity.

Shame on you, Tim.

What makes Challies’ review even more disturbing is when you contrast his brass-knuckled review of Divided with his reviews of two culturally popular demonically inspired, and utterly anti-Christian works that have received acclaim from the world.

Berean Wife has astutely compared Challies’ reviews of The Shack and Twilight with that of Divided in her post simply titled Destructive in which she quotes Challies:

Divided The Movie

It’s a destructive message wrapped in a poorly-made documentary. The church would do well to ignore it.

The Shack

All this is not to say there is nothing of value in the book. However, it is undeniable to the reader who will look to the Bible, that there is a great deal of error within The Shack. There is too much error.

Twilight

My suggestion to parents would be to leave this book on the shelf instead of handing it to your teenage girl (and especially your young teenage girl). At the very least, read it yourself and see if your conscience is clear before you hand it to her.

Finding something of value in a book rife with doctrines of demons and blasphemes against God, and suggesting parents first read a lust-laden book (written by a Mormon) about teenage vampires in order to see if their consciences are clear before handing the book to their daughters, while conversely labeling a Christian film like Divided “destructive” and urging Christians to avoid it, renders the objectiveness of Challies’ reviews very suspect.

And while Challies encourages Christians to broaden their horizons by reading non-Christian, mainstream works because . . . 

Common grace tells us that Christians do not have the market cornered when it comes to what is true and what is wise.

and

To read widely is to engage with people who think differently and who approach very similar issues from a radically different worldview.

and

If you want to understand the people around you, why they are the way they are, what influences them, why they make the decisions they do, you will do well to read the books they read.

. . . he then tells the church that they’d be better off ignoring Divided. Is it just me or does this reveal not only a glaring hypocrisy, but also proves that Challies is operating with an obvious agenda?

I highly recommend Fred Wolfe’s retort Response to Tim Challies’ Review of Divided Movie (HT: Theonomy Resources) as well as Berean Wife’s response to Challies’ in her article Reviewing a Review.

I also urge you to personally watch the film Divided in order to judge it for yourself. You can either purchase the DVD or watch it for free online (until September) here.

I conclude by offering some familiar advice to my readers: Regarding Challies’ review of Divided: “The church would do well to ignore it.”

 

My thoughts on youth ministry and Vacation Bible School.

Summertime means BBQ, swimming pools, fireworks, and lemonade. But it also means sweltering heat, mosquitoes, and Vacation Bible School.

For many Christians this is the time of the year when they’re all abuzz about the wildly popular week-long evangelical event known as Vacation Bible School (commonly referred to by its acronym, VBS).

In terms of the high level of anticipation, collective excitement, Madison-Avenue-style marketing, and pulpit-driven hype, this event has vaulted in importance within Christendom to rival that of Christmas and Easter. If there are only three events on the Christian calendar that get highlighted every year, VBS is certainly one of them.

Because of Vacation Bible School’s prominence in the church, I wanted to take this opportunity to make some observations about this annual cultural Christian phenomenon and (by extension) youth ministry as a whole.

Before we begin, allow me to be brutally honest.

First let me say that it is no secret to the readers of this blog (and those who know me personally) that I am a youth ministry abolitionist. I am passionate about this subject and I’ve pulled no punches in my conversations and my treatises about it, but at the same time I do recognize that many involved in these types of ministries are well-meaning and have the best of intentions. Unfortunately, pure motives and best intentions do not excuse or justify the wholly destructive nature of the extra-biblical model of youth ministry (and VBS).

I also want to make it abundantly clear that I do not believe those engaging in various forms of youth ministry are in danger of Hell-fire because of their involvement or participation (for salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone). I also have dear Christian brothers who are involved in youth ministry (in fact one of them leads such a God honoring and holy life that I feel like a heathen next to him and despair that I will never reach his level of love, grace, and sanctification) and although I adamantly disagree with them on this subject, I can still have meaningful fellowship with them.

But I would appreciate the reciprocal consideration from youth ministry proponents regarding their misrepresenting and making a caricature out of those who oppose youth ministry (and those who encourage others to return to the biblical and traditional church model of raising and teaching children) as is so often done.

In their efforts to preserve youth ministry, critics of family integrated worship and family integrated churches (FICs) often defend their position by warning that proponents of family integration run the risk of becoming overbearingly patriarchal, Pharisaical, legalists who erroneously believe that worshiping together as a family ensures their children’s salvation, who refuse to evangelize anyone outside of their immediate family, and who place their family in higher regard than the Bride of Christ.

These are unfair depictions that I keep hearing levied against those who reject youth ministry for family based worship, yet these critics have failed to cite one example of these extreme wayward families they keep warning about (or claimed to have even met one).

Ironically, even though they reject the FIC model because they believe it has potential to be taken to extremes, youth ministry proponents overlook, make excuses for, or simply dismiss the problems inherent with youth ministry. These are not rare exceptions, they are very common and almost the standard. The mountain of dysfunctionality seen in so many youth groups can be cited (and many have been featured on this very blog) as well as the mind-numbing statistics that have proven the utter failure of youth ministry.

I have yet to become or meet even one of these types of families that youth ministry proponents keep warning that we have a great potential to become. Is it likely that there are some families out there who do fit that caricature? I’m sure there are, but these are the exception, whereas it seems to be the norm to see utter foolishness exhibited in youth ministries; so many of which resemble a scene out of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

I sincerely do not write this missive (some would call it a tome) with the intention to cause division or create animosity among my brothers and sisters in the Lord. I pray that this is not received as derision, but as a thoughtful critique; prompting us to examine why we do what we do. It is meant to shed light on a practice that many promulgate without ever examining or even considering what the results (or ramifications) are. I also hope that this will serve as a clarion call for readers to eventually abandon this practice and return to the biblical model of raising and teaching our children in the Lord. But to those who do not, I will still love you, still fellowship with you, and still consider you my brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Continue reading

Quotes (883)

I notice that many here do not like the term “heretic.” There seems to be agreement that one must deny certain doctrines “essential to salvation” in order to be a heretic. This is very new thinking. Look, for example, at the definition in Webster’s Dictionary (1828):

1. A person under any religion, but particularly the Christian, who holds and teaches opinions repugnant to the established faith, or that which is made the standard of orthodoxy. In strictness, among Christians, a person who holds and avows religious opinions contrary to the doctrines of Scripture, the only rule of faith and practice.

2. Anyone who maintains erroneous opinions.

Hence, those ideas that elevate the standard by which one is considered heretical are actually a product of modern political correctness. I do, however, understand that our modern, feminized, extremely sensitive sensibilities are offended by name-calling of any kind (except the names we call insensitive, unkind “heresy hunters”), but that doesn’t change the fact that the term is accurate. In fact we are all “heretics” in some point of doctrine or other. That’s why we continue to search the Scriptures daily. I don’t know about you, but I desire to correct my heresies, not soften the blow by raising the bar so that I never feel the sting of the offensive title.

– Voddie Baucham

Sermon of the week: “Evaluating Youth Ministry – An Abolitionist’s View ” by Voddie Baucham.

Are you a YMA (youth ministry abolitionist)? Perhaps after  listening to this sermon by Voddie Baucham, entitled  Evaluating Youth Ministry: An Abolitionist’s View, you too will join the growing ranks of those who are abandoning the train wreck known as youth ministry and return to a family integrated model of biblical worship.

In this message delivered at the 2009 Sufficiency of Scripture Conference, Voddie outlines his three main objections to youth ministry as:

1). Age-segregated youth ministry usurps legitimate authority and responsibility.

2). Age-segregated youth ministry has not accomplished its own stated goals.

3). There is no clear biblical mandate for the current model of age-segregated youth ministry; it simply doesn’t exist. We don’t have our current model of age-segregated youth ministry because we went to the Bible and the Bible showed us clearly that this is how discipleship ought to be accomplished.

If you’re looking for additional information on the utter failure of (and the lack of any biblical teaching, example or precedent for) youth ministry, then check out the following sampling:

My thoughts on youth ministry and Vacation Bible School

Who’s pastoring the youth pastors?

The state of the youth of the church.

Youth ministry: A “50-year failed experiment.”

Why evangelism is so difficult in the United States.

Peanut butter salvation and other stupid church tricks.

Why does everything have to be dumbed down for kids?

The Gospel is supposed to be the stumbling block and offense, not our behavior.

Another church sanctuary turned into a stage for a worldly dance exhibition.



Samaritan Ministries endorsement.

I wanted to share with the readers of DefCon how thoroughly thrilled my wife and I are about Samaritan Ministries. As an alternative to the high cost of secular insurance companies (many of which fund practices opposed to Christianity), Samaritan Ministries helps Christian families cover medical expenses by use of a network of contributors (members).

Instead of paying a monthly insurance fee, your monthly contribution goes directly to an actual family in need. You receive the name, address, and need of the family assigned to you, then you send your designated share amount directly to that family (along with a card or note of encouragement if you wish). Other needs that are not publishable (meaning they are not covered by Samaritan Ministries) are advertised in the monthly newsletter and members can give to those needs if they choose.

In the event that you incur a medical expense, you simply submit your need to Samaritan Ministries and you receive checks (along with cards or notes of encouragement) from other members to cover your medical expenses. 

I wholeheartedly endorse this ministry and can speak first hand about the value and effectiveness of it. We’ve been members for over a year and have benefited twice: once when one of our children was having breathing problems requiring two separate trips to the E.R. and most recently when our youngest was born, Samaritan Ministries covered the entire cost of the midwifery services and all associated tests and bloodwork. It is virtually impossible to find an insurance company willing to cover maternity unless it is through an employer. Samaritan Ministries recognizes that children are a blessing and by covering maternity needs they don’t perpetuate the idea (directly or indirectly) that children are a burden (financially or otherwise).

Notable members of Samaritan Ministries include Doug Phillips and Voddie Baucham. Baucham offered this endorsement:

Coming into the whole Samaritan Ministries thing and not knowing how it worked, not understanding anything about it, and just really wondering…was terrifying. Then I turned around and watched how Samaritan took care of that whole need [for a fellow pastor’s son]. Samaritan members came along, helped them…the doctors were happy to work with them…it was after that I signed up.

I understand better now than I did before how corrupted medicine has become because of the insurance industry. We walk in and say we’re self-pay, and immediately they take 30, 40, 50 percent off the top. That’s just because all the markup that exists because of insurance and also because of Medicare. These doctors are so happy to not have to deal with all that stuff, that they pass those savings on to you.

When you’re going to the doctor’s office and all you have to do is pay the $10 co-pay, you’ll go for any little thing. Your sense of independence, your sense of trusting in the Lord, your sense of trying to take care of things and do preventative medicine-that goes out the window if the only thing you have to think about is that $10 co-pay, not realizing at all that by participating in that system, you’re actually contributing to these escalating prices.

We love it. I enjoy sitting down, writing my check to a family, feeling that I’m just directly partnering with them, partnering with that need, praying for them. It’s wonderful, and that has been helpful to us.

I encourage readers to check out this wonderful ministry of Christians helping Christians. You can learn more by going to their website:

http://www.samaritanministries.org/

Also check out their blog:

http://www.samaritanministries.org/blog/

And you can even find them on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/samaritanministries

You can also learn more about this incredible ministry for Believers by Believers by viewing this video:

Film Recommendation: “Divided.”

I admit that, although passionate about the subject of the dividing of the family in the church (and the damage it has caused), I was not moved by the trailer for the new documentary on the subject entitled Divided when I first watched it a couple months ago.

It wasn’t until my wife ordered the DVD and we watched it that I realized the documentary was much better than the trailer (seen below) led on.

Here is the description of the documentary:

There is a crisis. Christian youth are rapidly leaving evangelical churches for the world. This well-recognized disaster has been the topic of significant discussion in recent years for both church leaders and modern news media. DIVIDED follows young Christian filmmaker Philip LeClerc on a revealing journey as he seeks answers to what has led his generation away from the church.

Traveling across the country conducting research and interviewing church kids, youth ministry experts, evangelists, statisticians, social commentators, and pastors, Philip discovers the shockingly sinister roots of modern, age-segregated church programs, and equally shocking evidence that the pattern in the Bible for training future generations is at odds with modern church practices.

He also discovers a growing number of churches that are abandoning age-segregated Sunday school and youth ministry to embrace the discipleship model that God prescribes in His Word.

This division in our churches goes beyond just dividing the youth from their parents. The body of Christ is described as one body, yet we see an ever increasing pressure within churches to segregate and divide the body of Christ in all different directions and it’s all being done without any Scriptural instruction, example or precedence to support these divisions.

A kingdom divided against itself will not stand and we see the modern American church being divided into singles groups, women’s groups, men’s groups, seniors groups, services for contemporary music preference groups, services for traditional music preference groups, married couples groups, 20-something groups, 30-something groups, and the list goes on and on.

With all these divisions being promoted within the Western church is it any wonder why we find the bride of Christ in the condition she’s currently in?

This division within our churches is most disappointing when it comes to the youth. What message are we giving our children when they are ushered from the service as soon as the pastor is about to deliver the life giving words of holy Scripture?

This documentary (featuring interviews from such notables as Paul Washer, Voddie Baucham, Ken Ham, and Doug Phillips) is a must-see for everyone who’s in a church that’s currently dividing the children from their parents and from the preaching of the Word.

Listen to Brian Borgman’s message to his congregation in which he dismissed the children from service for the last time in Children in Worship.

See also:

Peanut Butter Salvation and Other Stupid Church Tricks.

Youth Ministry: a 50-year Failed Experiment.

Who’s Pastoring the Youth Pastors?

Quotes (867)

voddie-baucham Whether God smites us immediately as He did Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) or appears to let it slide, we can rest assured that every sin receives just recompense (Romans 3:21-26). Thus, in the economy of God every act of disobedience is ultimately punished whether we see it immediately or not. That is why it is important to teach our children that every instruction is to be obeyed right away. As they get older, they may be allowed to enter into discussion about our instructions, but that discussion should follow an act of obedience, not determine whether or not they are convinced of our position.

– Voddie Baucham

Quotes (821)

voddie-baucham Biblical love says, “I choose to love you, and I’m not going anywhere.”  Biblical love knows nothing of backing out when things get tough. Biblical love gives without expecting, goes the extra mile, sacrifices for others, and views divorce as a tragic and unnecessary plague visited upon a culture that has settled for a lie. Biblical love is not constantly seeking the emotional high that often characterizes immature relationships but instead is content with the depth and breadth that only the love of a maturing, godly relationship can provide.

– Voddie Baucham

A family of families.

Here’s an excellent article from Voddie Baucham in response to those who inaccurately and unfairly misrepresent Family Integrated Churches.

Is the Church a Family of Families?

Part One:

Any church that does not look like the ‘norm’ is always trying to explain itself.   This is a fact we know all too well at Grace Family Baptist Church.  We explain ourselves to those who visit us, those who call us trying to determine if it is a good idea to visit, those who are interested in finding or starting a church like ours, and those who are sure that we are some kind of “Patriarchy” cult.  Sometimes we explain ourselves in painstaking detail.  At other times we use shorthand.  One example of that ‘shorthand’ is our ubiquitous and somewhat enigmatic statement, “The church is a family of families.”

For some people, this captures the essence of the distinction between the FIC, and the neo-traditional church.1  For others, their presuppositions, and/or misconceptions about the FIC (along with the lack of clarity inherent in the phrase) get in the way.  This last group ranges from people who simply wish we were clearer in our statement, to those who find in the ‘family of families’ terminology the theological ‘smoking gun’ for which they have searched in an effort to discredit this “extreme overreaction” to the current crisis in contemporary youth ministry.2

We recognize that this may be an unnecessary stumbling block for those with a genuine interest in the Family Integrated Church concept, as well as those attempting to explain it to others.  Therefore, allow me to offer a bit of clarity as to what we mean when we use the term ‘family of families’ to describe the church.

Continue reading