Sunday, April 23, 2017

AA Articles

Excellent articles on Alcoholics Anonymous can be found here.

Gospel-Centered or Christ-Centered?

Being gospel-centered isn't the same as being Christ-centered. We are to move on from elementary truths of milk to meat. The Gospel, while the good news of salvation, is not what we feed on for the rest of our lives. We feed on the whole counsel of the Word and that necessarily means all the doctrines that mature us. That means hard, deep truths of Scripture. And all of them are knowable which is why they are powerful to equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). I suspect that the popular notion of "gospel centered" is a way to keep Christians immature. We are to grow up in all things in Christ. A great book on this is Ephesians. It teaches a treasure trove of deep doctrine and how it helps in our sanctification. We cannot be sanctified without biblical doctrine (anyone who tells you that, who makes a false dichotomy between doctrine and practice isn't being honest to the Word).
Heb 5:11 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
Heb 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
Heb 5:13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 

Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
Heb 6:1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
Eph 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 
Eph 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,
Eph 4:3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
 Eph 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;
Eph 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
Eph 4:6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
Eph 4:11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
Eph 4:12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
Eph 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

"The Shack" Artist Regrets Promoting the Book

                                                                         photo source

Artist of "The Shack" book cover regrets promoting book. That's good. However, he still has some issues:

Many will still say that the book was intended as just a work of fiction, but the author himself, William Paul Young, is quoted as saying, “The Shack is theology. But it is a theology wrapped in a story.”
Embracing The Shack, as I did, led me to other books, other authors who had started out on the straight and narrow, having solid Biblical beliefs, but strayed off into apostasy land. Rob Bell, Jim Palmer, Brian McLaren, to name a few of those by whom I was inspired. That "inspiration" led me to the edge of this Universalist belief. I thank the Lord that He pulled me back from that edge.The Shack’s story wonderfully painted this picture to me of an incredibly knowable and loving God, one full of forgiveness, but without being judgmental. The fact is that there are two inseparable sides to God. He is both love and judge.
Again, this thing called “free will” has given us the ability to willfully accept God’s gracious gift of His Son, Jesus, who died on a cross to save us from our sins, or willfully reject His gracious gift. Jesus did die for the sins of the whole world, but tragically most of the world has and will refuse Him.
End quote.

Bell and McLaren were never ever solid. Also, there is no such thing as "free will" since Scripture clearly and adamantly states that we are all slaves either to sin or righteousness (Rom. 6:16-22). If we are not redeemed and adopted by God to God, then we remain as children of the devil, under his reign. There is no neutrality toward God and sin for anyone. Basically the "free will" doctrine denies the sound doctrine of total depravity.
Rom 8:5  For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 
Rom 8:6  For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 
Rom 8:7  because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 
Rom 8:8  and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 

1Co 2:14  But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 

Rom 5:9  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 
Rom 5:10  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 

Eph 2:1  And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 
Eph 2:2  in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 
Eph 2:3  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 

Php 3:18  For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 

Universal atonement is blasphemous as it portrays a helpless god who's will is thwarted, although filled with good intentions. It's pushed by those who don't want to offend sinners, but instead assure the wicked God loves them and thus Jesus died for them all. To say Jesus died for all sinners and yet many won't go to Heaven is a FALSE GOSPEL.

Joh 10:26  but you do not believe because you are not part of My flock.

Acts 13: 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

Rom. 8: 30 And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those he justified, he also glorified

Rom 11:7  What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8  as it is written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day." 

Eph 1:4  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 
Eph 1:5  He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 
Eph 1:6  to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 
Eph 1:7  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 

Is. 14: 24 The LORD Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand… 26 This is the plan determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations. 27 For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back? 

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Sound Doctrine of The Resurrection

Looking at 1 Cor. 15-16 , the sound doctrine of the Resurrection is bound to:

the Gospel
Apostolic teaching
our Resurrection
bibliology (Gen. 2 is quoted as are the Prophets)
the atonement
our hope
total depravity
historicity of Adam
Lordship of Christ
The Beginning (Creation, Adam, the Fall)
our inheritance of the kingdom of God
sound doctrine
If a person doesn't hold to the literal-historical-grammatical interpretation of Genesis, then he can't hold to these other doctrines. They rise and fall together.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Scriptural evangelism has well-nigh disappeared from the earth

“Scriptural evangelism has well-nigh disappeared from the earth.
The “Gospel” which is being preached today is only calculated to deceive souls and bolster them up in a false hope.
To make men believe that God loves them, while they are under His wrath (see John 3:36), is worse than a physician telling a diabetic subject that he may safely eat all he wishes.
To withhold the preaching of the Law — its Divine authority, its inexorable demands, its spirituality (in requiring inward conformity to it: Matthew 5:22, 28), its awful curse — is to omit that which alone conveys a true knowledge of sin: see Romans 3:20, 7:7.
To cry “Believe, believe,” and say nothing about repentance, is to falsify the terms of salvation: Luke 24:47; Acts 17:30.
To invite sinners to receive Christ as their “Savior” before they surrender to Him as their Lord, is to present a false “way of salvation.”
To bid the lost “come to Christ” without telling them they must first “forsake the world,” is to fill the “churches” with unconverted souls.
To tell sinners they may find rest unto their souls without taking Christ’s YOKE upon them, is to give the lie unto the Master’s own teaching: Matthew 11:29.”
~ Arthur Pink, "An Exposition of Hebrews”

80% Of White Southerners Never Owned Slaves

Two of several interesting points made regarding slavery in America, by Michael Medved:

Even in the South, more than 80% of the white population never owned slaves. Given the fact that the majority of today’s non-black Americans descend from immigrants who arrived in this country after the War Between the States, only a tiny percentage of today’s white citizens – perhaps as few as 5% -- bear any authentic sort of generational guilt for the exploitation of slave labor.... 

THERE IS NO REASON TO BELIEVE THAT TODAY’S AFRICAN-AMERICANS WOULD BE BETTER OFF IF THEIR ANCESTORS HAD REMAINED BEHIND IN AFRICA. The idea of reparations rests on the notion of making up to the descendants of slaves for the incalculable damage done to their family status and welfare by the enslavement of generations of their ancestors. In theory, reparationists want society to repair the wrongs of the past by putting today’s African-Americans into the sort of situation they would have enjoyed if their forebears hadn’t been kidnapped, sold and transported across the ocean. Unfortunately, to bring American blacks in line with their cousins who the slave-traders left behind in Africa would require a drastic reduction in their wealth, living standards, and economic and political opportunities.... If we sought to erase the impact of slavery on specific black families, we would need to obliterate the spectacular economic progress made by those families (and by US citizens in general) over the last 100 years. In view of the last century of history in Nigeria or Ivory Coast or Sierra Leone or Zimbabwe, could any African American say with confidence that he or she would have fared better had some distant ancestor not been enslaved?

End quote.

Michael Medved, "Six Inconvenient Truths About the US And Slavery"

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The 'Gospel' Coalition Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. and Black Liberation Theology

The "Gospel" Coalition and ERCL is presenting MLK 50 Conference. This focuses on the man as well as promoting the typical liberal mantra of white Christian racism as well as Black Liberation theology. The list of speakers include Russell Moore,  John Piper, Don Carson, and Matt Chandler. Matt Chandler, Thabiti Anyabwile,Russell Moore,Don Carson, and Ronny Flyod sin on the Board sit on the MLK50 Board of Advisors.

The stated purpose of this conference:"Racial unity is a gospel issue and all the more urgent 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s death....The 50th anniversary of King’s tragic death marks an opportunity for Christians to reflect on the state of racial unity in the church and the culture. It creates the occasion to reflect on where Christians have been and look ahead to where we must go as we pursue racial unity in the midst of tremendous tension."

The problem not only is the Marxist Black Liberation Theology, but also that MLK was not a Christian. Public papers by MLK are here.

Basically, MLK denied Jesus' deity, His resurrection, a literal interpretation of Scripture, and a time he he realized he was a sinner in need of salvation by Christ Jesus alone apart from any works of his own (conversion).

In his own words, MLK said of Jesus Christ and the issue of His "divinity":

"Where then can we in the liberal tradition find the divine dimension in Jesus? We may find the divinity of Christ not in his substantial unity with God, but in his filial consciousness and in his unique dependence upon God. It was his felling of absolute dependence on God, as Schleiermaker would say, that made him divine. Yes it was the warmnest of his devotion to God and the intimatcy of his trust in God that accounts for his being the supreme revelation of God. All of this reveals to us that one man has at last realized his true divine calling: That of becoming a true son of man by becoming a true son of God. It is the achievement of a man who has, as nearly as we can tell, completely opened his life to the influence of the divine spirit.

The orthodox attempt to explain the divinity of Jesus in terms of an inherent metaphysical substance within him seems to me quite inadaquate. To say that the Christ, whose example of living we are bid to follow, is divine in an ontological sense is actually harmful and detrimental. To invest this Christ with such supernatural qualities makes the rejoinder: "Oh, well, he had a better chance for that kind of life than we can possible have." In other words, one could easily use this as a means to hide behind behind his failures. So that the orthodox view of the divinity of Christ is in my mind quite readily denied. The true significance of the divinity of Christ lies in the fact that his achievement is prophetic and promissory for every other true son of man who is willing to submit his will to the will and spirit og [sic]God. Christ was to be only the prototype of one among many brothers....

This divine quality or this unity with God was not something thrust upon Jesus from above, but it was a definite achievement through the process of moral struggle and self-abnegation. " End quote.

Scripture however, is very clear to state that Jesus is God. He also exercised omniscience, contrary to what MLK claimed.

Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Joh 1:2 He was in the beginning with God. Joh 1:3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

Joh 1:14  And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

Joh 8:24 "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."

Joh 8:56 "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." Joh 8:57 So the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Joh 8:58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am."

And as for His omniscience:

Joh 1:48 Nathanael *said to Him, "How do You know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."

Luk 11:17 But He knew their thoughts and said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls.

Mat 17:24 When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?" Mat 17:25 He *said, "Yes." And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?"

The denial of the true Jesus by King Jr. has hints of Mormonism (Jesus was a man who achieve divinity) and New Age ("metaphysical" "consciousness").

So why would Evangelicals celebrate a true anti-Christ like MLK?

Here are some helpful quotes from Anthony Bradley's article "The Marxist roots of black liberation theology":

James Cone, the chief architect of black liberation theology in his book A Black Theology of Liberation (1970), develops black theology as a system. In this new formulation, Christian theology is a theology of liberation – "a rational study of the being of God in the world in light of the existential situation of an oppressed community, relating the forces of liberation to the essence of the Gospel, which is Jesus Christ," writes Cone. Black consciousness and the black experience of oppression orient black liberation theology – i.e., one of victimization from white oppression....
One of the tasks of black theology, says Cone, is to analyze the nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in light of the experience of oppressed blacks. For Cone, no theology is Christian theology unless it arises from oppressed communities and interprets Jesus' work as that of liberation. Christian theology is understood in terms of systemic and structural relationships between two main groups: victims (the oppressed) and victimizers (oppressors). In Cone's context, writing in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the great event of Christ's liberation was freeing African Americans from the centuries-old tyranny of white racism and white oppression....
For black liberation theologians, Sunday is uniquely tied to redefining their sense of being human within a context of marginalization. "Black people who have been humiliated and oppressed by the structures of white society six days of the week gather together each Sunday morning in order to experience another definition of their humanity," says James Cone in his book Speaking the Truth (1999)....
Black liberation theologians James Cone and Cornel West have worked diligently to embed Marxist thought into the black church since the 1970s. For Cone, Marxism best addressed remedies to the condition of blacks as victims of white oppression. In For My People, Cone explains that "the Christian faith does not possess in its nature the means for analyzing the structure of capitalism. Marxism as a tool of social analysis can disclose the gap between appearance and reality, and thereby help Christians to see how things really are."
End quote.
Col 2:2  that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself, 3  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4  I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.
1Co 1:21  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 
1Co 2:4  and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 
1Co 2:5  so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 
1Co 2:6  Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 

1Co 2:13  which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 14  But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
Eph 4:17  So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18  being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19  and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20  But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Stay away from CRI. This article by Adan Pesler,while acknowledging some problematic theology in the movie, does say that there is some truth in it. However truth cannot come by way of error. The foundation is a false god, therefore how can it state truth based on that false god? It can't. But Evangelicals love their "fair and balanced" approach; their Post-Modern "truth in everything" view which prohibits them from taking a biblical stance on error and reject the entire thing. Worse, the option given to reading the book or watching the movie is worse: CS Lewis. Here are the troubling quotes:

"The problematic theology in The Shack unfortunately detracts from some valuable aspects of its response to the problem of evil and suffering. One valuable element of the movie’s response to the problem is its hopeful message that there is no unredeemable suffering. God offers forgiveness even to the worst of sinners (so we should too!) and He is able to bring good out of even the most horrific evils. The movie also clearly communicates that although God allows suffering, which He then redeems, that does not mean that He is responsible for causing the suffering. As Papa explains to Mack, “I can work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies. That doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies.”"

End quote. Bold, my emphasis.

The problem is that a false god will always have a false definition of good and evil, sin and obedience. Therefore what "The Shack" offers in regard to evil and suffering will not be what the biblical God says and ONLY what the biblical God says is true and is useful for our sanctification and right thinking.  

2Ti 3:15  and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 
2Ti 3:16  All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 

2Ti 3:17  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 

Those outside of Christ (like those who accept this false god of "The Shack") and are not of the elect  indeed will have unredeemable pain and suffering. Suffering for sin isn't true suffering--it's justice.

1Pe 2:15  For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 
1Pe 2:16  Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 
1Pe 2:17  Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. 
1Pe 2:18  Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 
1Pe 2:19  For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 
1Pe 2:20  For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. 

1Pe 4:15  Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 

For the believer ONLY, can we state most assuredly:

Rom 8:26  In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 
Rom 8:27  and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 
Rom 8:28  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 
Rom 8:29  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 
Rom 8:30  and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. 

Rom 8:31  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 

And notice that "redeemable" suffering is entirely connected to the biblical Trinity. No biblical Trinity, means no salvation, which means no redeemable suffering. It's that simple.

Adam Pesler goes on to say:

"Another valuable element of the movie’s response to the problem of suffering is its poignant portrayal of a God who suffers with us. In The Shack the divine Persons never try to explain to Mack why his precious daughter was allowed to suffer and die, but they share in his deep sorrow, demonstrating their unfailing love for Mack and his daughter."

"To be clear, I do not encourage you to go see The Shack. The potentially healing aspects of the movie’s response to the problem of suffering are unfortunately bound up with unbiblical suggestions about the nature of God and the uniqueness of Christianity. Rather than spending your money on a movie ticket, I encourage you instead to buy a copy of Wolterstorff’s Lament for a Son or C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed and The Problem of Pain."

End quote. Italics, original. Bold, my emphasis.

God doesn't suffer. Not like humans do. To suggest that He does, is to suggest there is something mutable about Him, something lacking, something human. Now Scripture does say God is grieved by peoples' sin (particularly those by believers as Eph. 4 talks about). But that is not suffering. Man suffers loss for example, but the triune God does not. The biblical Jesus, who is God the Son, did suffered in His human flesh during His illegal trials and on the cross, but that was directly His alone and had everything to do with the atonement (He did also suffer infirmities as Hebrews states. He indeed was grieved but that wasn't an identifying with human grief. His sorrow was based on His standard and the violations made against Him and the perfect knowledge of just how totally depraved and dead in sin man is and what awaits those who are not chosen by Him for salvation. He never stopped being God ever, so even in His grief, He wasn't coming from a depraved, incomplete, without knowledge stance. To say God suffers when we do is really to make God man-centered which is blasphemy. 

I believe that when God's people are persecuted, Scripture indicates that they are actually persecuting Him because 1) they belong to God and IN Christ,  and are identified with Him and His name, and 2) we are the battleground on which the Devil is warring with God. I believe this is likely what Is. 63:9 is describing--also various other passages about the reproach of Christ which falls upon us). The world will hate us because we are in Christ and bear His fruit. 

In regard to the false teachings of CS Lewis, go here.

What the Greek Orthodox Church teaches on various issues

What the Greek Orthodox Church is (excerpts):

Holy Tradition, of which Holy Scripture is a part, includes the writings, teachings, and acts of the apostles, saints, martyrs, and fathers of the Church, and her liturgical and sacramental traditions throughout the ages, the oral tradition of the early Church, and the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. All of this collective wisdom and experience through the centuries are combined to form this second great source of sacred authority.
The Sacraments are seven in number. They are the visible means by which the invisible Grace of the Holy Spirit is imparted to us. Four Sacraments are obligatory:
1.    Baptism,
2.    Chrismation (anointment with holy oil),
3.    Confession, and
4.    Holy Communion.

The central worship service of the Church is the Divine Liturgy, which is celebrated each Sunday morning and on all holy days. The Liturgy is also the means by which we achieve union with Jesus Christ and unity with each other through the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

While the Orthodox Church considers herself the Mother Church of Christendom, she cooperates with other churches in programs of educational, philanthropic, and social endeavors insofar as this is consistent with her theology. 

At the center of the life of the Church is the Holy Eucharist, which is the principal celebration of our faith and the means through which we participate in the very life of the Holy Trinity. The major Sacraments are closely related to the Eucharist, and they bear witness to the continuing presence of Christ in the lives of His people.

The Church blesses individuals, events such as trips, and objects such as icons, churches, flowers, fields, animals, and food. In so doing, the Church is not only expressing our thanksgiving, but also affirming that no gift, event, or human responsibility is secular or detached from God. For the Orthodox Christian, all good things have God as their origin and goal. Nothing is outside of God's love and concern.

Death alters but does not destroy the bond of love and faith which exists among all the members of the Church. Orthodoxy believes that through our prayers, those "who have fallen asleep in the faith and the hope of the Resurrection" continue to have opportunity to grow closer to God. Therefore, the Church prays constantly for her members who have died in Christ. We place our trust in the love of God and the power of mutual love and forgiveness. We pray that God will forgive the sins of the faithful departed, and that He will receive them into the company of Saints in the heavenly Kingdom.
Epiphany, one of the oldest and most important Feast days of the Orthodox Church, commemorates the manifestation of the Holy Trinity which took place at the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River. Recognizing rich meaning in this event, Orthodoxy believes that when Christ was baptized, it not only marked the beginning of His public ministry and revealed the Trinity, but also signified that the entire creation is destined to share in the glory of redemption in Christ. While Christ entered into the Jordan to be baptized, two things were happening: He was identifying Himself with the people He had come to save, and He was identifying Himself with the whole of Creation, which was represented by water. Through His baptism, the Lord revealed the value of the created world and He redirected it toward its Creator. Creation is good and it belongs to God.
The Great Blessing of Water is held on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany and on the day itself, following the Divine Liturgy. The Blessing not only remembers the event of Our Lord's baptism and the revelation of the Holy Trinity but also expresses Orthodoxy's belief that creation is sanctified through Christ. The Blessing affirms that humanity and the created world, of which we are a part, were created to be filled with the sanctifying presence of God. After the solemn blessing, the Holy Water is distributed to the faithful and is used to bless homes during the Epiphany season. When the faithful drink the "Epiphany Water," we are reminded of our own baptism. When the Church blesses an individual, or object, or event with the water, we are affirming that those baptized, their surroundings, and their responsibilities are sanctified through Christ and brought into the Kingdom of the Father through the Spirit.
The Orthodox Church worships God alone. Yet, she does offer veneration to individuals who have been important human instruments of God in the history of salvation. Among those so venerated is Mary, the Mother of God, the Theotokos. The Orthodox Church greatly honors Mary because she was chosen to give birth to the Son of God. As one of the hymns declares:
"By singing praise to your maternity, we exalt you as a spiritual temple, Theotokos. For the One Who dwelt within your womb, the Lord who holds all things in his hands, sanctified you, glorified you, and taught all to sing to you ..."
The most beautiful and poetic service of the Orthodox Church in honor of Mary, the Theotokos, is the Akathist Hymn. The word “akathist” means “without sitting.” The congregation stands throughout the Service out of respect for Mary and her unique role in our salvation in Christ. The Akathist Hymn is chanted in four parts during the first four Fridays of Great Lent. On the fifth Friday, the entire Service is chanted.

The Sacrament of Baptism incorporates us into the Church, the Body of Christ, and is our introduction to the life of the Holy Trinity. Water is a natural symbol of cleansing and newness of life. Through the three-fold immersion in the waters of Baptism in the Name of the Holy Trinity, one dies to the old ways of sin and is born to a new life in Christ. Baptism is one's public identification with Christ Death and victorious Resurrection. Following the custom of the early Church, Orthodoxy encourages the baptism of infants. The Church believes that the Sacrament is bearing witness to the action of God who chooses a child to be an important member of His people. From the day of their baptism, children are expected to mature in the life of the Spirit, through their family and the Church. The Baptism of adults is practiced when there was no previous baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity.

Confession is the Sacrament through which our sins are forgiven, and our relationship to God and to others is restored and strengthened. Through the Sacrament, Christ our Lord continues to heal those broken in spirit and restore the Father's love those who are lost. According to Orthodox teaching, the penitent confess to God and is forgiven by God. The priest is the sacramental witness who represents both Christ and His people. 

The Eucharist, the principal sacrament mystery of the Orthodox Church, is not so much a text to be studied, but rather an experience of communion with the Living God in which prayer , music, gestures, the material creation, art and architecture come into full orchestration. The Eucharist is a celebration of faith which touches not only the mind but also the emotions and the senses.

In so doing, Orthodoxy has clearly avoided reducing the Eucharist to a simple memorial of the Last Supper which is only occasionally observed. Following the teachings of both Scripture and Tradition, the Orthodox Church believes that Christ is truly present with His people in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharistic gifts of bread and wine become for us His Body and His Blood. We affirm that these Holy Gifts are transfigured into the first fruits of the New Creation in which ultimately God will be "all in all".

The birth and early life of the Virgin Mary is not recorded in the Gospels or other books of the New Testament, however this information can be found in a work dating from the second century known as the Book of James or Protevangelion.
According to the story found in this book, Mary's parents, Joachim and Anna, were childless for many years. They remained faithful to God, but their prayers for a child were unanswered. One day, when Joachim came to the temple to make an offering, he was turned away by the High Priest who chastised him for his lack of children. To hide his shame, Joachim retreated to the hill country to live among the shepherds and their flocks.
As Joachim was praying, his wife Anna was praying at the same time at their house in Jerusalem. An angel appeared to both of them and announced that Anna would have a child whose name would be known throughout the world. Anna promised to offer her child as a gift to the Lord. Joachim returned home, and in due time Anna bore a daughter, Mary.
It is on the Feast of the Annunciation, that Orthodox Christians commemorate both the divine initiative of God, whereby He took on flesh from the Virgin for our salvation, and the human response, whereby Mary freely accepted the vocation offered to her. He elected to become man, and He desired to do this with the willing agreement of her whom He chose as His mother. Mary could have refused, for she was not a passive instrument, but an active participant with a free and positive part to play in God’s plan for our salvation. Thus, when on this and other feasts the Orthodox Church honors the Theotokos, the Mother of God, it is not just because God chose her but also because she herself chose to follow His will.

On the right side of the icon the Virgin sits on an elevated seat, indicating that as the Mother of God she is “greater in honor than the cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim, who without corruption gave birth to God the Word. 

The three stars on her garments (7) represent that she was a Virgin before, during, and after the birth of Christ.

Further teachings on Mary:

Following her repose, the body of the Theotokos was taken in procession and laid in a tomb near the Garden of Gethsemane. When the Apostle Thomas arrived three days after her repose and desired to see her body, the tomb was found to be empty. The bodily assumption of the Theotokos was confirmed by the message of an angel and by her appearance to the Apostles.

In front of the bed of the Theotokos is a candle (5.) that helps to form a central axis in the icon. Above the candle is the body of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. Standing over His mother is Christ holding her most pure soul. Above Christ the gates of heaven stand open, ready to receive the Mother of God.

We also affirm through this Feast as we journey toward our heavenly abode that the Mother of God intercedes for us. Through Christ she has become the mother of all of the children of God, embracing us with divine love.

End quotes. Bold or italics are my emphasis.

These teachings are in direct opposition to the biblical doctrine of Scripture. Only by and through Christ is a regenerated person, who places full trust in the life, death (propitiation) and resurrection of the biblical Jesus. Baptism which is immersion in water, is for those who already have repented of their sins and turned to the biblical Christ Jesus alone for salvation, realizing there's nothing they can do or add to His work on the cross and His resurrection to get save or stay saved (Matt. 28:18-29).  The Lord's Table is indeed merely symbolic of the cross work of Christ, for even as Jesus gave it for the first time, He wasn't on the cross; moreover John 6, 
1 Tim, 2 Tim, etc. which teach that it is the doctrine of Christ that feeds us; not that Jesus becomes literal bread and wine, but that His life, death, resurrection, and doctrine are the only Truth which brings eternal life. To say Jesus becomes that which is eaten and then expelled from the body is blasphemous. Our unity to Christ comes by way of the Spirit giving us a new heart, a new nature, faith, repentance, etc., not by fleshly means. 

Mary has nothing to do with our salvation in any way. She was an instrument through which the humanity of Jesus was given birth, but she is never hailed as anything more than a believer. In fact, Scripture condemns veneration of Mary:
Luk 11:27  While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed." 
Luk 11:28  But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it."  

Mary doesn't participate in mediating between God and man because only Jesus can do so:

1Ti 2:5  For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 
1Ti 2:6  who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. 

See my other articles on Roman Catholicism for more reasons why these teachings are unbiblical.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hank Hagegraaff Apostatizes

According to Pulpit & Pen:

There are numerous reports that Hank Hanegraaff, the well-known talk show host, and evangelical apologist known as “The Bible Answer Man,” has left the biblical Christian faith for Greek Orthodox tradition.

On Palm Sunday, April 9th, 2017, Hanegraaff was apparently received into the Greek Orthodox church through a rite known as Chrismation, at St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. A well-known Orthodox priest, Thomas Soroka, from St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in McKees Rocks, PA, stated on his Facebook page,
“Many years to Hank Hanegraff (aka “The Bible Answer Man”) and his wife Kathy, newly Chrismated Orthodox Christians as of this morning in Charlotte, NC.”
It is also reported that Hanegraaff hinted at his possible conversion while defending the Orthodox tradition on his radio program a few weeks ago.
End quote.
This is just part of the course for one who denies the literal-historical-grammatical interpretation of Genesis and thus denies Satan was in the serpent talking to Eve, as well as some creatures being literal  and also denies biblical eschatology (he apparently is a partial preterist Amillennialist.  
Biblical doctrine cannot be divorced from each other nor can it be divorced from the very nature and character of God. It all rises together or falls together. When a person denies the Genesis creation account, you can be sure that such a person also denies other doctrine too. Such false doctrines which contradict Scripture are earmarks of someone unregenerate, particularly those who once claimed to hold to the Truth but have studied themselves away from it.