Geordi and Riker Talk to the Pakleds, or Bill Nye Talks to Folks in Kentucky

I wasn’t going to spend nearly the entire program reviewing the Ham/Nye debate, but that’s what I ended up doing.  In the process we figured out the best analogy for Nye’s attitude toward Kentuckians: that of Riker to the Pakleds on Star Trek the Next Generation!  We even played a clip for those who are not familiar with that, uh, story line.  Anyway, an entire hour of discussion of worldviews and the like on today’s DL.

Here is the audio for the show:

Here is the YouTube link:

Oh, and about that audio player…

I have received a number of complaints about the audio player that suddenly disappeared from the Dividing Line pages. Well, I discovered that the player was loading the entire program that it was linked to every time the page was hit. Apparently this is the case with robots and whatever else comes by scrolling through our pages. At least this is the only explanation that I can come up with at the moment for why our bandwidth charges tripled over that same period of time. So, as a cost control measure I had to kill the player from the site. However, the audio links to the programs are indeed still there and when you double click them they will still play on your local machine. Even better, if you right click them you can download the file as well. On the other hand, there is always Youtube where we don’t get hit for bandwidth at all. 🙂

The MRL (Ministry Resource List) Reborn and Restocked (Updated)!

Over the past five or six years our Amazon wish list, which we call the Ministry Resource List, has been a tremendous blessing and assistance to our work here at A&O.  Unfortunately, Amazon isn’t overly good at letting us know who bought what, and that leads to problems.  So, we’ve moved the MRL to our store.  In essence, what we will do is list the requested materials, and if you want to help, you just donate the cost of the item.  You get full credit, we get the item, and there is full documentation to keep all those three letter government agencies happy.

Now it just so happens that I have thrown a bunch of items on the MRL because, well, new opportunities have just come up and I have a bunch of studying to do and almost no time to do it!  So, if you can help, here’s the new link to the MRL (you can always find this link at the bottom of the main page of the website).

UPDATE:  many thanks to those who responded.  I’ve added a software item against all my better instincts, Microsoft Office 2011.  Why?  Well, I much prefer writing in Mellel (a very nice, clean Israeli word processor for Mac), but you can’t avoid having to have Word in some form these days.  And here’s the problem: in the current book I’m writing I have word length limitations, and Word seems to be the “standard” in that area.  I just finished a chapter, for example.  Maximum words: 4000.  Mellel said my chapter was 3990.  Pages said the same file is 3864.  Word says is it 3803.  I can do a lot with nearly 200 words, but do I HAVE 200 words?  My current edition of Word (2008) crashed 45 times while editing the book on the Qur’an (woohoo!).  Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but maybe, just maybe, the newest edition (2011—irony!) will be less liable to crashing during editing?  In any case, it seems we will be using Word as the final word (ha!) on the number of words, so, there you go.

The Molinist God is a Seahawk’s Fan, and Calls, on Today’s DL

So we reviewed William Lane Craig’s comments about how the prayers of football fans could influence which world God chose to actuate (even trying to figure that one out will put you in something like a causality loop that will turn your brain to mush and make you a Jerry Seinfeld fan) and then played his comments on his most recent podcast where he said, “No, no, I will not debate Calvinism against a fellow Christian.”  So those of you who hoped to hear Craig defend his position in formal debate, hear the cross-examination with equal time frames—you know, all that stuff that is so beneficial and useful (and Craig can’t argue that point, since, of course, he debates as much as I do), well, so sorry.  That debate can only take place in some other possible world that evidently could not be actuated.  Probably due to Bronco’s fans or something.  Then the phones lit up and we took calls on all sorts of topics.  In fact, one caller just kept moving from topic to topic, so we even got a few extras in for the fun of it!

Here is the audio for the show:

Here is the YouTube link:

Confessions of a Former Charismatic, Part 2: Why I’m No Longer a Charismatic

In part one of this “confession,” I talked about some of my experiences as a Charismatic, including the time I encountered Benny Hinn. For the formative years of my Christian life, I fully embraced the Charismatic viewpoint. I spoke in tongues, believed that God raised up healers and prophets today, and considered churches that weren’t practicing “The Gifts” to be dead. In this second part, I want to talk briefly about why I changed my views.

Before I begin, let me be clear on this point: I believe there are many sincere, genuine Christians who are Charismatic in their pneumatology. They truly love the Lord, do much good in His name, and are trying to serve Him faithfully. I have known many such people over the years. The majority of Charismatics I’ve known would want nothing to do with the Word-Faith movement. While they might share Benny Hinn’s belief in the continuity of the Apostolic gifts, they would reject much of what he teaches with regard to health, wealth, prosperity, and would cringe at his irreverent—even blasphemous—“Holy Spirit ministry.” As a Charismatic, I never really bought into the health and prosperity teachings. What captured my attention were the supposed manifestations of God’s activity in “words of knowledge,” “slaying in the Spirit,” “speaking in tongues” and so forth.

My conversion to cessationism (for want of a better term) was not the result of a single event or a particular book. It was a process that began after I left university and started giving more time to considering the questions I had previously shelved. If God is sovereign—and I was becoming more impressed in my studies at how extensive God’s sovereignty is—why does He need to be a “gentleman,” as Benny Hinn would say? Surely He could impose the Spirit on us and have us all speaking in tongues, if that was His will for every Christian. There are examples in Scripture where God sends spirits of one kind or another without regard to people’s feelings. He sent an evil spirit upon Saul, and I’m sure He didn’t ask Saul’s permission (1 Samuel 18:10). When the church was filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, it was an act of God done in His timing, and in the way He desired (Acts 2:4).

Through books like A Different Gospel by D. R. McConnell, and Christianity in Crisis by Hank Hanegraaf, I became increasingly aware of the bad theology undergirding the Word-Faith movement. As I said above, many Charismatics would distance themselves from the Word-Faith teachers, but I had to wonder: would God bless bad, even heretical theology with the miraculous? If the miracles in Acts were used of God to confirm the gospel message, would God perform tongues, healings, and “slayings” to confirm Benny Hinn’s gospel? If not, then why do these things happen at Benny Hinn crusades? If the “miracles” at a Benny Hinn meeting are not of God, then could it be that the same things happening elsewhere are also not of God? How would one know?

As time went on, I found that while I still clung to a belief in the continuity of the Apostolic gifts, that belief had absolutely no impact on my life. I stopped speaking in tongues. I spent less time waiting for an audible voice of God and more time studying His Word to know His will. In short, I became a practicing cessationist. And to my shock, my Christian growth wasn’t stunted as a result! This led me to wonder exactly why I still believed in the continuity of the Apostolic gifts. What purpose did they serve in the church today? If the canon of Scripture is closed, why look for prophets with new revelation? If Scripture is everything that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells me it is, then what else do I need to hear from God other than the inspired Word He has already revealed?

I felt no loss at leaving the Charismatic movement behind, and I still don’t to this day. I do, however, feel sad at the wreckage I’ve seen among former Charismatics who have since left the faith. I’ve heard too many testimonies of self-proclaimed atheists who were formerly members of Charismatic churches. Our culture has a fascination for the supernatural. Popular television shows and movies betray a hunger for unexplainable manifestations, and weird, seemingly-spiritual experiences. If Christianity is nothing more than another flavor of strange supernatural stuff, then its no wonder worldly-minded people go elsewhere. And when people like the English mentalist Derren Brown can use hypnotism and other psychological techniques to fake Benny Hinn-type manifestations, we shouldn’t be surprised when people who have trusted in that kind of thing as their evidence of the truth of Christianity walk away.

A few years after my experience with Benny Hinn at the Birmingham N.E.C., I returned to that same venue, this time to see Paul McCartney in concert. The place was packed out, and Paul put on a dazzling two-and-a-half hour show. I have no doubt, that if Mr. McCartney had called me up onto the stage, I would have experienced the same kind of adrenaline rush, and light-headed excitement I felt that day with Benny Hinn. With the right set of psychological expectations, I would have been just as susceptible to being “slain in the Spirit.” I don’t say that because I’m now skeptical of Charismatic experiences, but because I have, over the years since that time, recognized those same feelings in different contexts.

Where I Am Today

I believe God can do the miraculous. He can grant someone the ability to speak a foreign language. He can heal the sick without the intervention of medicine. But I don’t believe God guarantees that He will always do this. Instead, the Word indicates we can expect persecution, tribulation, distress, and famine (Romans 8:35). Indeed, God ordains sickness and trials in order to glorify Himself (Genesis 50:20; John 9:3). And there are harsh words in the New Testament regarding those who seek signs and wonders (Luke 11:29; John 2:23-25; John 4:48).

One of our problems is that we have become so used to God’s grace in our lives, we fail to recognize the miracles He is working in our midst every day. The fact that our propensity for sin is restrained, the fact that hard-hearted sinners become lovers of God and servants of Christ, the fact that the penalty for my sin has been paid by Another—these are all miracles, no less remarkable than the raising of Lazarus from the dead. And what was the raising of Lazarus other than a sign pointing to that greater wonder: the resurrection of dead souls to new life in Christ?

My study into the gifts of the Spirit have lead me to the conclusion that the sign gifts displayed and described in the New Testament were given at that time for a specific purpose. Nothing in the Scriptures convinces me that those gifts were intended to be permanent. They served the purpose of establishing the church and validating the message of the Apostles. We have that message in Scripture, and we have the confirmation of that message in the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, testifying to us of the truth of the gospel. First Corinthians 12-14 is not a manual on how to use spiritual gifts, but was written to correct the abuse of those gifts within the church at Corinth. While those gifts are no longer functioning within the church, the truths Paul preaches regarding the supremacy of love and the necessity for order within the church are certainly applicable to us today.

I believe the Holy Spirit is alive and working within the church. His ministry is evident in the lives of believers as they grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. The unity I see between believers within my local church, and throughout the world, is evidence of the Spirit’s activity. How else could the body of Christ hold to various positions on secondary issues, and yet speak with unanimity on the essentials of the faith? How else could brothers in the Lord like James White and Michael Brown disagree in love, and defend the faith shoulder-to-shoulder? As I see lives transformed by the gospel, marriages healed, and the kingdom of God advanced, I am convinced the Holy Spirit is continuing to do His work in Christ’s church today, as He has for the last two thousand years.

I hope this brief summary of my journey is beneficial to you. May the Lord use it to help and encourage His people.