Monday, December 16, 2013

The Cripplegate: wrong about Santa being a lie

In his post on Santa, Clint Archer, writer at the Cripplegate, has a few choice words against Santa.

His argument is as follows:
  1. "Misinformation has a way of taking root in our memories."
  2. By late childhood, a young child exposed to the lie of Santa has already been damaged.
    This is because once the idea of 'my parents lie to me' has been implanted, there is no logical stopping point for it. Which means...
  3. Such damage will be manifested ultimately in the rejection of Jesus Christ. 
  4. Therefore, the only logical course is to toss Santa early to ward off apostatizing.
The discerning reader will jump in at this point and say, "Wait a minute! Santa is fiction, therefore what you are really against is fiction. You might as well ban Chronicles of Narnia and Christmas Carol." Archer has anticipated this:
  1. "There is a thin line between fiction and fallacy." He's saying, as one of the commenter said, that pretend fun is okay, as long as it doesn't cross the line into 'pretend reality.'
That's his argument. Now it's my turn.

First, I'd like to see someone who fell away for the reason, and that reason only. Bring forth the man who rejected Christ because Santa was a lie, told, for fun, to him while he was a child. "My parents played silly children's games with me when I was four. When I was eight I had it figured out those games were made up. Therefore I don't believe in God." Show me that person. Prove it. Otherwise this really wild fear falls into the admonition Jesus gave when He said "Do not worry" right next door to "I'm worried they will get autism if I vaccinate them."

Second, the argument rests on the notion that children have no power to discern between imagination and reality. If children do have the power to discern between play and reality, then the whole structure collapses. I think a reasonable person can make that argument, that children can just say "Ah yes, Santa is a fun play game, Jesus is real."
But let's grant them this, that children until teenage years, cannot discern fiction and fact, and that Santa causes apostasy. The problem here is that Santa is a figment of our imagination, which means it's ultimately fiction that causes apostasy. Therefore fiction must go, totally, and fully. Praise God for those farsighted people who banned Harry Potter and Star Wars, for we must have no half hearted semi-agreement, either Santa is to be tossed along with all the kids books, cartoons, games, or he's not. No tea parties, no pulling off your thumb to show them Daddy magic. No talking monkeys that they chase between your legs. No dollhouse. No reading them Robinson Carusoe. Nothing. Let's be real, if you are going to argue that imagination is the tool of the devil, then mean that argument. Own it. If it's true, then it changes absolutely everything, and we ought to man up and abide by it's results. You too parents. No more science fiction, no hypothetical arguments, no television. Should you be any less concerned about your own souls than theirs? In his argument Clint gives no reason for why all fictitious games should also not be banned when he 'proves' some fiction is deadly.

Third, that children cannot discern between magic and reality does not necessarily mean Santa is evil, but rather that Santa's poison is harmless. In the eyes of a child Santa shares a place in that land of wonder along with everything else. Take him out and you still have the whole world still remaining in there to deal with. That child's mind of joy regarding Santa is also shared with halloween, candy, swimming pools, and staying up late for the occasional movie night. Swings at the park, real maple syrup, ball pits, and Jesus are all in there. How do you separate Jesus from that magical world of wonder kids live in? You don't. Your job is not to disabuse them of their wonder, but to join them it in. As an adult are any of those things less magical because you enjoyed them as a kid? Rather, they are more so. As we age the wonder deepens, ripens, and grows into something more splendid.The feelings remain, but as we mature we add to it knowledge. Your teaching them is to take that little sapling of joy and add to it light and water so that it bears for them delightful fruit. Teach them to continue to look at the world, not to quit.

If I understand the Cripplegate terrible argument correctly, the real fear they have is getting Jesus out of that stage of wonder before it collapses and destroys everything in it. But maybe, we shouldn't. We should feel wonder, and fresh awe, any time we consider Jesus, the God-Man, being born in a manger in Bethlehem because the Romans had commanded everyone from the line of David to go there. The maker of the infinite reaches of space had no room and yet there was no room for him at the inn. We should feel a since of magic at the wise-men gazing into the heavens until the time was right, and He was revealed in the stars. We ought to feel awed, if we feel awe at anything, that Jesus was born as a helpless baby that needed to be carted out of danger by Joseph.We need to exercise our muscles in this regard.

Choose not to do Santa by all means, but let's at least be honest and be done with this small minded notion of 'lying' to our children.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

AWANA high school ciriculum change

1 Cor 14 is getting changed to be more inclusive and tolerant toward the Assemblies of God regarding the gift of tongues.
Just great.
Maybe we can just appeal to the largest number of "Christians" by removing the rest of the ugly doctrines that mark baptists as distinctive.
I hear Arianism was really popular for awhile too, Athanasius should have just split the difference there in order to reach the highest number of Christians.
Dumb Athanasius.

What does Noah and Blood have to do with Jesus

Noah was forbidden from having blood since the life is in it.
Moses and Israel were not to have it either.

But Jesus has us take and drink His blood, which was poured out for the remission of sins.

Why then would God withhold having people consume the blood until the time of Christ? Was He keeping it back and making it special until the mystery was revealed? I wonder.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Knowledge vs Experience

The more I thought of it, the more convinced I am that we should be seeking knowledge of Christ, and not experience of Him on Sunday mornings. We need a faithful man to get up there and give us knowledge and doctrines, even if it's hard.
I want to know Christ, and the power of His rising, share in His sufferings conform to His death, that by any means I may know, and attain to the resurrection of the dead.
After all, God said "My people are destroyed for lack of knowedge." And "They know how to do evil, but of good they know not."

Oh Pastor, set your course to knowing, that your congregation may know. They need epignosis, the real deal stuff, they don't need to experience. They need to know.
Animals experience, men know.

"This is My prayer, that they may know you, just as I know you."

The Plague of Baby Christians

Hitler showed us the way: to grow to a massive size you must find what every tribe has in common, and then appeal to that. Growth is no more, and no less than finding the lowest common denominator. For Hitler, this was the criminal element, and his brownshirts were nothing more than thugs and criminals.

Now this isn't necessarily a nefarious strategy, TV news people in the 1970s did the same to appeal to as many Americans as they could. The political parties do the same to build as broad a coalition as possible. This is, in fact, a universal principle that has been around since mankind began to congregate. But it became a real problem when the church started taking the lesson and applying it accordingly in appealing to the lowest common denominator. Serve milk and baby food and round up as many new believers as you can. Presto! Mega church.
The tacit principle that nobody is speaking aloud here (but I will) is that doctrines are divisive. As soon as you start teaching people about baptism you are going to divide the hearers into padeos versus credos. Teach them about predestination and you divide them into monogerists vs synergists.Best to avoid this, keep your coalition large by not saying anything, or at least, nothing worth saying.

Horton called this Christless Christianity, a faith devoid of the cross and the work of Jesus, but I'm not sure that that's accurate. Yes those hard words like "take up your cross and follow me" get neglected in favor of "come you blessed." No question. But it's not that there is no cross, it's that it's a children's one. All of the adult stuff, propitiation, satisfaction, sanctification, justification, gets thrown out, and what is left is translated into kid speak. "Seek pleasure, avoid pain. Don't get a spanking, don't make God put you on time out." The bible isn't taught in depth, it's skimmed, because that hard stuff would go over the heads of most "busy, hardworking, ordinary people, who have lots of other things to do." All this to say the people in the chairs are treated as children.
As an aside, this perfectly characterizes the churches of Christ while at the same time is characteristic of the mega churches. These are places not devoid of truth, nor are the people who go there totally ignorant, some are even thirsty for truth, it's just they are just mostly ignorant and going to stay that way.

What does this look like? It looks like the purpose driven church. It looks like Blackaby. It looks like survey driven Willow Creek. Find out what the listeners want, and give them that. They like entertainment? Give them that. They want videos? Give them videos. They want Bible? Give it in small doses and only in a shallow manner. Don't jeopardize your coalition.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Conversion begins at home

1 Cor 15:4-8 - "After that, he was seen by above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve After that, he was seen by James; then by all the apostles. And last of all he was seen by me also, as of one born out of due time."

Can you imagine how this went? Jesus had energized His disciples by appearing to 500 or more of them in Galilee, telling them that the Kingdom had come, and that they were to all go ahead into Jerusalem for Pentecost now. They all go ahead of Him, but Jesus stays behind, He has something to do.

He went home. There is one more thing He needs to do before ascending, and that's go back to the home where it all began. He needs to go see His younger brother James, and tell him the truth, and show him that it's all real. I imagine seeing his big brother was God Himself was a powerful moment for James. He knew Jesus growing up, they wrestled together, they worked together, they studied and ran and likely slept together, but now he adds the rest of the picture: Jesus divinity. This gives James a unique knowledge of God, and He was going to make use of it now. He was going to bring His brothers and sisters along.
This reminds me of the story of Paul .

Galatians 1:17b - "I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus."

Upon being converted Paul headed into Arabia and sought God further. He spent time having his eyes opened to the truth of the Messiah, and once this was finished, he headed back into Damascus, the city he was going to rid of Christians, to help them stand up to the Jews using the Scriptures.

Acts 9:19b, 22 - "Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God... But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ."

Gal 1:18 - "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days."

Acts 9:23, 25, 28  - And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him...Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket... And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus."

Now after three years Paul is directed by God to Jerusalem, but the door is closed to him there because everyone remembers him, and everybody fears him, and those who don't try again to kill him. So Paul goes... home. For quite a long time.

Acts 11:25 "Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul"

His plans get put on hold because Paul is now ready, he's mature enough now to preach this message

to his family. His dad the tent-maker who was so concerned and proud of his son that he sent him to study among the great thinkers in Jerusalem. His sister, (her husband?), his mother. God was going to save them, and that through the hands of Paul. And Paul is going to stay in Tarsus as long as it takes to be successful with them. Now of course I don't know how it all went, but I do know this. Acts 23:16 "And when Paul's sister's son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul."

Which all tells me that God cares an especially great deal about seeing the members of our families saved, first and foremost.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Redeemed Work is Play

I was putting the leaves in the green waste bin since it's Autumn, and I had the kids jumping on all the leaves to compact them down so they could all fit. The kids were doing work, but it was actually for them, play.
They got tired of it eventually, and it was my chore, not theirs, so I got them down and went on stuffing leaves into the bin until it nearly overflowed; then I climbed in and started stomping it myself. The 2 year old sees me, grabs the rake and runs to me, "Daddy you're stuck, grab the line, I get you down!" He was so passionate, so hurried and so insistent that it caught me off guard.
What he was doing of course was helping Daddy. Yes, his idea of helping was completely useless, offering a man a rake when held by a kid, but he was trying so hard that I burst out laughing.
And realized that work isn't really work. It's play.

God didn't redeem us and give us tasks to do because He wants to burden us, it's so we could, well, play together. He's doing all the work, we might as well get in there and have a good time about it.God has us rake the leaves so we can jump in them. He has us squish them in the barrel so we could have fun with it. Our works are given to us for our enjoyment, because we're, for a lack of a better word, playing together with Him.

The notion of works to earn our salvation pervades our notion of work. It ends up a colorless, mechanical, joyless thing we do. Work. But for the redeemed, work gets a big infusion of color, life, hope, laughter, joy. Working with God is delightful, so much so that the word work doesn't hold up any longer. Neither does the word play which speaks of a total absence of productivity, but in the end I think play gets closer to what we are in Christ.

And God opened his heart

Long have I heard (Dan Phillips I'm looking at you here) that Jesus never showed mercy to Judas, that he was predestined to hell, and that Jesus never made an atonement for him. But as I was preparing to teach I realized that the repentance of Judas was the highest form of God's love.

Matthew 27:3-5 "Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself."

Judas, as we all know, betrayed Christ, and handed Him over to the chief priests. But upon seeing that Jesus was going to die he realizes his grudge against Christ is not one to death. He intended to punish and afflict Christ, but now that Satan has left him a little bit of compassion comes back. This wasn't good, he says to himself.
He repents, or rather, feels horrible. He's gripped by remorse and sorrow, he cannot escape from the pain of betraying his friend and teacher. They only promised to pay him before hand, so now he goes and gets the money it starts to sink in how little this was worth. He puts it in his bag and starts to walk away, then, plagued by his conscious, turns around and decides to fix this situation. But being a man of material desires, all he can think to do to fix the situation is return the money. He speaks words of sorrow "I have betrayed innocent blood!"
The words thrown back at him are monstrous: so what? What do we care? You helped us, we got the job done. You're one of us now remember?
The supreme moment of insight has occurred. Judas sees who they really are now. He sees how calloused, evil, and heartless they really are. How hypocritical and determined to destroy everything they don't like, and he realizes he has chosen them against Jesus. He's one of them. But he doesn't want to be. So he throws the money back at them and walks out.

And here I come to the point of my post. Judas had been given a great gift, the greatest gift, he was shown how truly awful he really is. God had arranged the circumstances to show Judas just exactly what was in the heart of man.
Without that divine lifting of the veil, we don't ever come to Him. We go on thinking we are good people, people who deserve heaven, and it's only by a work of Him taking away our ignorance that we can come to Him.
It's an act of grace. He's lifting the veil, inviting Judas to look at who he really is, as come find healing for it.
But Judas won't come. He looks at himself, hates himself, and then hangs himself. He would not have Gods grace no matter how it was given.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The need for hard words

I'm reading to the kids at night from the Bible, and we are on Romans. I'm using the 1984 version NIV study bible I got while in high school.
Now, as it turns out, I pretty well have the book of Romans memorized from writing my own book, which made the shock so much worse: the NIV sucks. Bad. Really, really bad. So much so that I was just giving them the KJV from memory rather than subject them to a bad translation.

Maybe I'm getting old and grumpy, but it seems to me they commit a cardinal sin in dumbing down or bottoming out all the theological words. I realized today that I spent so much longer stuck in bad doctrine in the Churches of Christ partly because they love the NIV, and it never jabs you with those tough concepts.It's much easier to run into a real theological problem if you have a bad worldview when you are using a real translation, and not one that has had the edges rounded off.
Those hard words are necessarily sharp. Elect. What do you mean who shall bring a charge against the chosen? Elect arrests your attention.
Flesh got replaced by sinful nature. But flesh really captures more than just a propensity to sin.
So long impute.
Or take Romans 8 for example. The NIV thinks governed is superior to set. But set conveys that the mind is not just fixed on sin, and controlled by it, but resting on it. That's sharp.

I'm thinking that next round they will just do away with the remaining ugly, hard words like justification and glorification. Get those big things out of here. Give me instead the soft pillow words that never challenge me, or demand theological precision. Let me drift idly in an ecumenical fog, wrapped in a warm blanket of non-threatening syllables.
Because that's what God was going for when He breathed out the Scriptures.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

AWANA Trek 1.4 - The Torah

LESSON 4 – The Torah


Opening With Some Facts

  • The first five books center around the idea of the covenant at Sinai being an extension of the Covenant with Abraham.
  • God uses the word hesed to indicate His covenant love. Some bibles translate it as faithful love, or steadfast love.
  • Moses wrote these books.
  • The Sadducees only accepted these as truthful, but didn’t really believe it deep down.
  • The Samaritans only accepted these as truthful, because these don’t mention the idea of Jerusalem.
  • For this lesson I put the breaks on the board and had the kids guess what they were about. For example I had Gen 1-3 and they would guess 'fall.'


  • Creation (1-2) [Jesus is the new and better Adam, Romans 5, 1 Cor 15]
  • Fall (3-6) [Jesus is the new and better Adam, survives temptation in the wilderness, not a garden]
  • Covenant with Noah & the Flood (7-9) [Baptism now saves you, by the death, burial, resurrection of Jesus]
  •  Family line to Abraham (10-11)
  • Covenant with Abraham (12-23)
    melchadezek 14
  • Covenant with Isaac (24-26)
  • Covenant with Jacob (27-36)
  • Joseph (37)
  • Covenant through Judah and Tamar (38)
  • Joseph (39-50)


  • Moses (1-6) [The new and better intercessor]
  • Plagues (7-11) [Jesus took the wrath that was due us.]
  • Passover (12-13)
  • Salvation from destruction (14-17)
    Armies 14, 17 [17:11, As long as Moses raised his hands they won. Jesus died with His hands up.]
    Water 15, 17
    Manna 16
  • At Sinai (18-19) [These things may be understood allegorically. Galatians 3]
  • The Covenant given (the law) (20-24)
  • Tabernacle and priests under the covenant (25-31)
  • Covenant broken (32) [Men cannot keep the covenant even for 5 minutes. A savior is needed.]
  • Covenant re-established (33-34)
  • Tabernacle and priests reestablished (35-40) [Jesus is the door, the way, the light]


  • Laws for offerings (1-7) [Nadab and Abihu: God will not just accept anyone, they must be pure]
  • The Priesthood begins (8-10)
  • Regarding ceremonial cleanliness (11-15)
  • Day of Atonement (16) [There is coming a day, a real day of atonement]
  • Regulations against sin (17-20)
  • Requirements for priests, sacrifices, and blessings (21-27)


  • Camp of the people (1-2)
  • Duties of the Priests (3-10)
  • Rebellion punished (11-16)
  • Faithful priests alone blessed (17-20)
  • Defeat of enemies, the bronze snake (21)
  • Balaam (23-26) [the enemies of the kingdom are introduced. Later: Pharisees]
  • Leadership after Moses (27) [Joshua is the English for Jesus]
  • Covenant signs (28-30)
  • Preparing for the promised land (29-34)
  • Cities of Refuge (35)
  • Inheritance must come from among the people (36)


  • Reminder of sin (1-2)
  • Obedience rewarded (3-4)
  • Ten commandments (5)
  • Exhortation to obedience (6-11)
  • The Laws (repose) (12-26)
  • Curses at Ebal and Blessings at Gerizim (27) [There are no blessings. That comes in Matt 5]
  • Results of obedience (28-31)
  • Last words of Moses (32-34)

Kingdom reminder

  •  The story of the Bible is how God prepared the way for, and revealed Christ.
  • Genesis is a historical prologue.
  • Exodus is the meat of it.
  • Leviticus was the covenant itself that was given.
  • Numbers is the people responding to it.
  • Deuteronomy is the re-issuance after the failure.

Remember the Bible is about types and shadows. This is even denoted sometimes by a formulaic expression in the new testament by the phrase as and so.
o   "AS in Adam all die, even SO in Christ shall all be made alive." 1 Cor. 15:22.
o   "AS the days of Noah were, SO shall also the corning of the Son of Man be." Matt. 24:37.
o   "AS Moses lifted up the serpent in the Wilderness, even SO must the Son of Man be lifted up." John 3:14.

(This lesson ran a little long too, about 5 minutes or so. After this I had it calibrated in to be a little shorter. There is a lot of data here, and I tried really hard to verbally give them the big picture.)


AWANA Trek 1.3 - Evidences

LESSON 3 – Evidences / A Kingdom through Covenants

Primary Evidence for God

  • There are three proofs for God.
  • Conscious – If we had evolved then we wouldn’t have a sense of right and wrong. Right would be murdering the helpless.
  • Creation – All things that begin to exist have an explanation, the universe began to exist, therefore God created it.
  • Reason – God is greater than anything that can be conceived. To exist is greater than to not exist, therefore God exists. It’s complicated and we won’t spend time on it.
  • These arguments won’t work on scoffers who refuse to believe, of which there are many.
  • That’s all I have, and all you will need for now. Your book talks about the dead sea scrolls, which you can read on your own. Let’s go back to the subject from week 1, it will be more helpful for you moving forward.

What is the Main Theme of the Bible?


  • The Kingdom. Acts 28:23 – “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.”


How has that Kingdom arrived?

  • Through the covenants, both old and new.

How the Jews arranged the Scripture

  • The books of Moses and the Prophets. This is why Moses and Elijah were on the mount of transfiguration in Matthew 17. The prophet Moses was head and shoulders above the others, prophets, which is why the book of Hebrews is only concerned with showing Christ greater than Moses, because if he can do that, He’s automatically greater than all the other prophets as well.
  •   The OT is more or less divided into what God said, and what He did. That’s why the phrase “thus says the Lord” is so prevalent. (For you scholars, I’ll just give you Jer 30:2)
  • Sometimes they broken it into the books of Moses, the prophets, and the writings- technical words: Torah, Nevi’im, Ketuvim.
  • Their Bibles ended with 2 Chronicles, which left them a hope that they were not abandoned as a people

    (spend no more than 1 minute on this section.)

How Christians arranged the Scriptures

  • In two halves: Old Covenant, New Covenant. Sinai and the cross stand as THE two places in the Bible. They are at the center.
  • The Jews understood their history in three parts, Abraham to David, David to Exile, Exile to Christ. The Christian has a larger view in mind.
  • Covenant here more nearly means will, like the document which is what is read when you die. For that reason we have the words Testament. This has the happy effect of pointing us toward the fact that covenants are ushered in by death.

The Story of the Kingdom

  • Covenants come at the end of the ‘kindgom.’ They are the primary vehicles for revelation about the mystery of salvation that God has kept hidden.
  • Wisdom literature comes at Solomon, the high point of the representative kingdom, it’s designed to show us and teach us how to interact with the rest of the big picture. It makes the lessons personal.


This is a couple of helpful chart by Vaughan Roberts, who got the idea from Goldworthy. I mostly emphasized the big picture narrative of a kingdom through covenants, and how the covenants are the primary vehicle of revelation.

Some things to note: this lesson ran a little long, although, not very. I also got a talking to by the directors saying don't do this again, stick closer to the script in the book.
I hate to incur the displeasure of the leaders, but in retrospect giving a short talk on evidences and then doing this groundwork has proven invaluable in getting the kids minds tuned in to the big picture of the Bible.

Orthodoxy Chapter 5 - The Flag of the World

So it’s beyond question that our world is a fairy tale, but there’s also no denying that something is seriously wrong with it as well, becau...