Thursday, October 28, 2010

'BUT' Theology - Part 1

Imaged removed
to spare those who may stumble.
This multi-part series is a response to the sermon preached by Pastor Norm Millar at Harvest Bible Chapel in London Ontario on 26 Sept 2010 entitled "Knowing Where You Stand With Jesus." I could have chosen any Lordship Salvation proponent's message on 1st John to explain the same points, but he explores verses throughout the New Testament and what's more this man has a personal connection to The Cross Current (TCC) which I recently resigned from because they have departed from preaching the Gospel of Christ. Norm Millar is the teacher who the remaining members of TCC follow. As I have loved these men dearly, his teaching of them is of particular importance to me.

Also, earlier this month I received a letter from Norm Millar telling me that I have been missed at their church services, and asking me if there were any issues that have been keeping me away. Perhaps this article can explain the issues in some helpful way. Meeting directly with the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel is somewhat difficult as the church assembles some 1,600KMs from my home. Not to mention that I have only attended that church two or three times in the last two years... only when I have traveled to London.

Do you ever find yourself making a bold statement and then having to qualify it with the word "but"? This article is one I resisted writing, because I was holding out hope for some deceived Brethren who would most likely be offended by it. However, there comes a time when you need to shine a light on false doctrine, even when it can be upsetting. Not for the purpose of upsetting people, but for the purpose of showing them they have believed a lie.
Definition: "But"
On the contrary; yet: My brother went, but I did not.
Warning: If you ever find yourself speaking about Salvation in Jesus Christ and you say something like Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, BUT.... You need to stop speaking, step away from the microphone and repent. James 3:1

On the resource page for the sermon, one solitary verse is cited for this message. John 14:15, The NKJV renders this "If you love Me, keep my commandments." though they link to the ESV rendering which says "If you love Me, you will keep my commandments." *UPDATE: I only point out the difference between the two translations because I normally link to NKJV, and Pastor Millar will be quoting the ESV. The difference between the two may appear to be significant in this verse but I actually do not think that it is. This translation rendering variation surely will not be part of my argument against his sermon.

I encourage you to check out his message, so you can see that I do not misrepresent the man who I have spoken with personally, and in person, several times.
“We’re in John chapter 14; a chapter on comfort, we’ve been learning how God through Jesus is bringing this comfort. It is a message of comfort to Disciples as He is about to leave them, and my plan was to go into this next portion verses 15 thru the end of the chapter as we see the Holy Spirit is coming and Jesus promises the Holy helper the Holy Comforter is coming, and that was my plan and yet this week in my study God really stopped me up short and I kinda had verse 15 as just a little introduction I was going to spend about 60 seconds on it and then move on to what I thought the thrust of it and God had other ideas and He, I believe this morning wants us to spend our time in verse 15, so let me read that for you. Then we’ll pray, listen to God’s Word Jesus says to His disciples and to us this morning ‘if.. you.. love.. me.. you.. will.. keep my commandments.’ Let us pray....”
I'm glad Pastor Millar speaks so passionately about this, and is so very clear in his words. For I believe he is correct! It is the most loving thing one can do to biblically exhort and correct a Brother in the Lord. If his passion is sincere, and I wouldn't suggest otherwise, I'm sure he and his disciples will appreciate my efforts here.

He continues;
“and here’s the thing, when you examine yourself don’t use what you think is the measure. Don’t use what you feel is the measure. Don’t even use what you perhaps have experienced in the past as the measure. Use the Word of God as the measure. And that’s very important that we do that.” 
Here again I find myself in complete agreement with the man. I will be challenging his fidelity to this exhortation as I make my way through his sermon. I trust that you who are reading will do the same for both he and I as we continue.

He sums up his introduction by saying that he thinks John 14:15 asks the following of people who think they are saved in Christ.
“Does your profession match up to your life?” He explains “Jesus puts a condition on it, you see, IF you love Me you will keep my commands. He puts it to them and I believe to us, so let me ask you straight up. Do you obey Him?”
After this introduction he sets out to silence obvious expected opposition in his audience. He will hit on this point over and over again throughout the sermon. However, he never quite answers the challenges that are rightly in the minds of those in his audience with their Bibles open. His answers to their (and my) concerns may be emphatic, but they are unconvincing and tend to waffle.
“Now you might right now be thinking ‘you’re talking works salvation.’ Works Salvation is that idea that I earn some right or some standing by something I do I earn a right position or right relationship with God. That’s works salvation and we reject that completely and totally as being completely unbiblical. There’s nothing you or I can do to earn anything with God, it’s impossible. Our sin leaves us in the state of being completely spiritual dead we’re unable, a dead person is unable to respond. We’re not, hear me please, we’re not talking about obedience in the sense of earning something with God. And we just need to keep that straight.
Jesus says ‘if you love me you will obey me. He doesn’t say if you love me that will get you into a right relationship with me.  The love of God comes first into your life, your love for Him responds at the Cross and then obedience follows, but obedience follows.
Question - He first says that love doesn't get you into a right relationship with God, and then in the next sentence says that it does. Why is that?
Jesus ties confession of our relationship to how we live. Our lifestyle our actions our words our attitudes our values our priorities how we spend our time our money what we do daily is tied to what you profess you believe. Listen I followed you around all week and you didn’t know it. Let’s say all week I was following you everywhere you went I was there. Every conversation you had I was there. Everything you did I saw it. Now aren’t you thankful that’s not true?
Question - if these are "true Christ Followers" and thus their "professions match up to their lives" why would they be ashamed of where they went and what they did? Perhaps he's not talking to everyone in the crowd now, but a select group of people? Those who agree with Pastor Millar ought to remember this objection they have right now for when we discuss John 8 later.

Unfortunately, while the idea that he is speaking to a select group of False Converts in his audience seems reasonable, and that it is reasonable will be most helpful to me later.... he proves that he was in fact speaking to the "true Christ Followers" in his audience by including himself. Unless of course you don't hold to his profession of faith, and think that neither does he. (Oh, you should remember how this language works too).
"I'm thankful you didn't follow me around all week either." 
Question - if he's a "true Christ Follower" then why would he be thankful his audience didn't witness how he lived through the last week? I'm asking these questions because I want my audience to see just how absurd this message is. Enjoy the absurdity now, because as this series progresses it will change from silliness to that which will outrage anyone who believes in Christ and holds His Word dear.

I don't want you to loose sight of what the Pastor is preaching here, and apparently neither does he because at this point he says;
“If I followed you around and saw everything you did would I know you loved Jesus?”
“Now listen’ folks how do you know whether you’re a Christian or not?”
Are you getting this? He is saying that our lives show whether we are saved or not, but that he's glad you didn't follow him around. He'll get more specific about this later in his message and we'll return to the thought there, because he's later going to admit that after making people endure about 30 minutes of "testing" which he obviously fails himself, that he's not willing to say that someone who fails the test is not a Christian.  He will also state that he isn't comfortable with saying that someone actually is a Christian, even in cases where there is a tone of evidence to convince him. I don't want to get too far ahead here because we have a long way to go. But isn't he teaching about assurance? Yet he, the guy teaching, can't be assured himself?
"Now listen folks you might be saying I prayed a prayer, I walked an isle, I stood in a service I invited Jesus into my life... you might know the exact date you did that. You perhaps wrote that into your Bible. Listen, nothing wrong with any of that. Don't hear me improperly on any of this, nothing wrong with any of that but is that how you know you're a Christian? The Bible never teaches that's how you know you're a Christian." 
OK, I feel the guy's pain... none of the things he listed as examples are how one becomes a Christian so most obviously the remembering of any of these cannot possibly give assurance of Salvation.  As much as I agree with him on this fact, and so does the Apostle Paul btw (1Cor 15:1-2 where he says that we are saved by receiving the Gospel, that he declares in 1Cor 15:3-4). But here's a question, and it's a serious question. Where in the Bible do we find a way to "know that you're a Christian"? It's actually not a topic the Bible touches on.

In many areas the Bible deals with those who have their doubts about if their sins have been forgiven, if there is in fact a future resurrection.. and so on. In each of these cases the writers give assurance by what Christ has done and the faithfulness of God. Never at all are we taught how to evaluate if we are in fact a Christian or not.  Oh we'll get to 1Jn later, but for now you can read this short article if you find you cannot wait.
"Now let me tie in another verse that is absolutely crucial that ties in with John 14:15 .... 2Cor 13:5 the Apostle Paul at the end of his letter to the Corinthian church, he's had to correct a whole bunch of things there's all sorts of stuff going on in the church, and listen at the end of that he calls them seriously calls those who profess to be believers and he says this verse 'examine yourselves' don't examine yourselves don't examine somebody else 'to see whether you are in the faith.' Whether you are a Christian or not! Examine this about yourselves, 'that Jesus Christ is in you unless indeed you fail to meet the test.' So I would call each one here this morning to do this, examine yourself right here, right now in this time to see if you are in the faith. If you say you are." 
When I have heard Pastor Millar preach in the past he has hammered that when you are reading or teaching Scripture there are three things you need to remember; context, context and context. He does not follow his own instruction in this sermon however. In Fail-Safe For Fallacy I discuss this error more completely in Appendix D, but I'll give you the short version here (Mostly because part 1 of this series is getting very long) and trust that you will be more encouraged and exhorted by the book that this blog post. Please read this last sentence again. Did you understand it?

The part where I say "(Mostly because part 1....)" is called a parenthetical thought. In Fail-Safe I define a parenthetical thought as "a side explanation of something that is not the main point of the current conversation." on Pg 163.

Pastor Millar indicates that because of all the bad stuff going on in the Corinth church Paul tells them to examine themselves to find out if they are really Christians or not.

It seems reasonable enough except for three problems. 1) It violates the context of what Paul is writing. 2) Paul doesn't ever, EVER, give them instruction on how to make such an examination, and what's more he says such blind judgment would be foolish anyway And, oh ya! 3) Paul explicitly states why, and it's not because of the bad stuff going on.

The context of what Paul writes is found by reading 2Cor 12:11thru 13:10. In this you'll find that the Corinthians were challenging Paul's apostleship. They were testing him.  Now here's the passage that Pastor Millar quotes some of, and interprets most heavily. See if you can spot where Paul tells us why these people to examine their own selves, and what his ultimate purpose was.

Check out the NKJV rendering of 2Cor 13:3-6 but in Fail-Safe I quoted Darby, and will do so here as well because of how clearly it shows the parenthetical thought.
Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, (who is not weak towards you, but is powerful among you, for if indeed he has been crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power; for indeed *we* are weak in him, but we shall live with him by God's power towards you,)  examine your own selves if ye be in the faith; prove your own selves: do ye not recognise yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed ye be reprobates?
Now I hope that ye will know that *we* are not reprobates.
Why did Paul tell them to examine "their own selves"? Was it because of the lewd behaviour of the people in the Church? No. It was because these people were questioning Paul's Apostleship. Since you seek a proof in me, examine your own selves. This is a common theme in the letter. See 2Cor 3:1-3 for example. 2Cor 13:5 is NOT Paul telling "professing believers"to examine ourselves to determine if we are in the faith. He is shutting down the ridiculous arguments against him. Are you examining Paul to see if he's an Apostle?

At about 9:40 minutes into his message now he states this, and be sure that this is how fallacy is introduced to people in churches around the world.
"Now as we do this I want to affirm one thing that is very important to keep front and centre. Salvation is only by faith through grace alone. [sic] We're not adding anything to the Gospel we're not adding works in any way please hear me. Jesus doesn't do that and we're not doing that. It's by grace thru... it's by faith through grace alone a number of verses reiterate this Jn 1:12 "all those who believe..." how do you become a Christian? Believe in Jesus Christ. Not adding anything, not adding obedience to that. Not believe and obey and you'll become a Christian. Believe. Jn 5:24.... Jn 6:40... Acts 16:31.... listen you can't work for your Salvation and we don't add any human action or works. It's all of grace and it's all of faith. It's believing. We affirm that completely. BUT....." 
And that's where I got the title for this series 'BUT' Theology.  This sermon is also what gave me the idea of doing the "Bad Kool-Aid" series as well. That series will continue with short answers, but after receiving an email from an old friend which showed his great blindness I felt a detailed rebuttal of his teacher was in need.

Part 1 has been long on quotes because frankly I don't want to deal with anyone accusing me of "misrepresenting" the sermon. It's a typical sermon from a Lordship Salvation proponent, and it's from the Pastor of some people who have been long-term friends of mine. I find the sermon to be very upsetting. Not because it challenges me, but because I wonder why those listening are not reading their Bibles.  We'll see in the coming parts of this series how Pastor Millar explains his "but" and sadly we'll find that the practices he employs are many of which I wrote against in Fail-Safe For Fallacy such as; Proof-Texting and The Elephant Gun Argument which each had an entire chapter devoted to them.

In the next parts I promise to quote him less, and try to just answer his arguments. His tone, heart, and expressed intentions are made clear in this part so I trust you will remember these as we go forward.

You can read Part 2 right here.


Jan said...

We're not adding anything to the Gospel we're not adding works in any way please hear me.

You know, they all do this. A lot.

I wonder who they are trying to convince: us or themselves?


Norm Millar said...

Hi Kevin,

You are obviously free, as we all are, to critique what is put out in public and so I support your right to do this. I am disappointed with the vehicle you have chosen to use for this as you have never contacted me or my elders on this but chose to blog about it. However, that is your choice.

I didn't read all you have here nor will I be following this as I am not a fan of blogs and internet interactions but am committed to the local church with its Biblical structure, accountability and mandates.

My desire is to accurately understand and teach God's Word and I am accountable to Him and to the Elders team God has put in our church and to some other pastors and elders in various other churches as we have made a commitment to partnering with and helping.

Kevin, I see no profit in engaging in a debate or dialogue via internet blog sites as I think God ordained the church for this so I will not bother you with any follow up or response and will not be visiting your site again but I do sincerely wish you God's best in your personal life and in any ministry you may pursue.

Love in Christ Jesus,


Kevl said...

Hello Norm,

Thank you for stopping in, even if it is just a one time thing. Though I truly hope you'll return. I have attempted to speak with your Pastor of Local Missions about this but instead of engaging he told me that we are at "opposite ends of the battlefield" and that he has devoted all the study time he is willing toward the subject.

I have emailed you with some comments as you will remember, but I never received a reply from you.

With regard to blogs, I agree with some of what you had previously emailed me about. Blogs can get out of control. It is obviously important for Christians not to allow that to happen. Passions being what they are, and the supposed anonymity of the Internet... well these things can get out of control very easily.

You said your desire is to accurately understand and teach God's Word, I pray this blessing for you. It is my heart's desire that the men who have been my dear friends who now sit under your teaching would be grown and built up in with the mindset that theology must always be sacrificed for the truth of God's Word.

I hope you will return. For maybe I have misunderstood you in places, though I have spent a great deal of time and effort to understand your teaching. How valuable would it be for people to benefit from your own amplification and explanation, instead of just my words?

In The Hope of Christ,