This blog is the combined effort of four senior pastors of different churches. Their desire is to point you toward living a God-centered, gospel-focused, Christian life.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Why Bring Up the Judgment of God?

The recent terror attacks in Boston, the flooding in Central Illinois, the fire in the town of West, Texas, the trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, the threats of nuclear war from North Korea, the debates over immigration, gun control and same sex marriage—all of these create a sense of pain, even of doom.  Are we right to be concerned, or is this merely the continuance of things as they always have been?

On the one hand, there are always rotten things going on in the world.  Anyone could have collected a bunch of bad news from any given time and concluded that the Apocalypse was upon us.  On the other hand, the kinds of departure from biblical morality and the speed of that departure are so alarming that it seems foolish not to consider the judgment of the Lord drawing near.   Optimists tend to minimize the alarm, while pessimists relish in it.  So, it is important to take a measured, biblical view of such matters.

The Bible tells us that there will be tribulations before the Great Tribulation (Acts 14:22).  The Bible tells us that there will be many antichrists before The Antichrist (1 John 2:18).  Whether or not we are right at the very end of this age or not is less important than the certainty of God’s judgment of evil.

So, I am writing this article to point out why I believe that I must increasingly speak of the judgment of God, if I am to be faithful both to the Word of God and to the needs of our world.

Consider the pace with which a collective understanding of natural law has receded.  “Natural law” means “a system of law that is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal.  .  .  Natural law is a view that certain rights or values are inherent in or universally cognizable by virtue of human reason or human nature.” (  Romans 2:14-15 describes this natural law, written on the hearts of people:   For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.”

People do have the natural law written on their hearts, but I believe that the suppression of truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) is leading to a rebellion of this natural law as never before.  Their “conflicting thoughts” are increasingly excusing them.  That is, what people know in their hearts to be wrong, they work extremely hard to convince themselves that it is not wrong, so that they are finally convinced that wrong is no longer wrong.  In fact, they become convinced that wrong is right, and right is wrong, and those who believe the right are the worst enemy of all.

Human sexuality is the clearest illustration of what is happening.  Premarital sex was once universally acknowledged as wrong, even if people did engage in it.  Today, we no longer call it wrong.  Even so-called evangelicals are waffling on this issue.  Consider a blogger named Jamie whose blog is entitled, “Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary.” (  Her three sons are all teenagers.  In jargon that could only be charitably described as vulgar (such is the nature of blogging these days), she intones against the view that maintaining one’s virginity before marriage is all that big a deal.  “I  . . . want [my boys] to understand that the kind of sexual purity the Bible calls us to doesn't begin or end with Virginity,” she writes.  While Jamie is straightforward that premarital sex is wrong and she desires that her sons not have premarital sex, she also leaves the door open that failure is not only an option in this matter, it is almost a certainty.  With such convictions as these, I fear that her sons have no chance at morally pure lives.

There is too much left unsaid in the blog--the glory of God in chastity and the ruin of the soul that comes from sexual immorality in particular are ignored (see 1 Corinthians 6:18-- Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body). There is far too casual an approach taken with an almost "I know that I'm fighting a losing battle here with my boys, so I'm not going to get over worried" attitude. We have lost contact with the sacredness of the body in a Gnostic ying yang of alternately indulging everything or denying that any of it matters.  I understand that Jamie intends to be provocative and satirical, but in my judgment, she has missed wildly the biblical view of human sexuality.

The CDC's latest statistics on STD's are pretty daunting.  Over 110 million Americans are actively infected with some STD (there are approximately 250 million people over age 18 in the US).   There are 20 million new infections annually. See:
The physical, emotional, and spiritual harm of sexual immorality cannot be trivialized. God's grace to forgive is very real and true.  However, to trivialize the issue to say that it won't eventually matter or to say that defeat is inevitable or to say "forgive me God for the sin I am about to do" is to surrender to a lie. And that lie will devastate you, even when God forgives and heals.

A consequence of our failure to abide by natural law in human sexuality has extended into a debate over same sex marriage.  On this matter, the Apostle Paul makes a "natural law" argument against homosexual behavior (Romans 1:26-- For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature.)  Wayne Grudem offers this helpful explanation of the phrase, “contrary to nature”:   Some object that the phrase “contrary to nature” in Romans 1:26–27 shows that Paul is only talking about people who “naturally” feel desires toward a person of the opposite sex but who then practice homosexuality. Paul says, “For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another” (Romans 1:26–27). According to this view, Paul is not saying anything about people who “naturally” feel desires for a person of the same sex, for such desires would not be “contrary to that person’s nature.” However, this is reading into the text a restric­tion that has no basis in the actual words that Paul wrote. He does not say “contrary to their nature,” but “contrary to nature” (Greek para physin), a phrase that is used several times in literature outside the Bible to speak of all kinds of homosexual conduct as something contrary to the natural order of the world. In other words, Paul is not saying in Romans 1:24–27 that some people switched their innate heterosexual urges for contrived homosexual urges, but rather that people exchanged or left behind sexual rela­tions with a true sexual complement (someone of the other sex) to gratify their inward urges for sex with members of the same sex. Paul sees such people as choosing to follow their desires over God-ordained creation structures.  (See the whole article at:

However, today’s culture laughs and mocks this natural law argument.  The "common ground" of understanding precisely what is natural law keeps shifting, and quickly. The problem is that our nation's Founders understood (and the larger culture was in almost universal agreement) that rights derived from God, not from government.  As such, only God grants human rights, and government either is good and agrees with God or is bad and denies these rights.  This also led to cultural agreement that God, not government nor the populace, is the author of both rights and commands/prohibitions.  Now that we do not have a consensus on God as a culture, we cannot derive our rights from Him, and we cannot derive right and wrong from Him either.  We find our “rights” either in the tyranny of the majority or the tyranny of judicial fiat.  Either way, what is being trumpeted as a new birth of freedom will become heavy handed tyranny pretty quickly.  Basing our society on the principles of the French rather than the American Revolution will lead inevitably to the same results as the French.

Once rights derive not from God but from popular will or judicial fiat, the fears of the religious opponents to same sex marriage are not imaginary. It will begin by ignoring religious rights in the marketplace and mandating that wedding providers (photographers, cake makers, etc.) must make services available for same sex marriages. Then it will be restrictions on free speech and inclusion of any perceived slight against homosexuals as hate speech.  Finally, there will be restrictions and mandates on religious institutions.  In fact, these things are already here.

I have been called "nonsensical, bizarre and paranoid" for sharing such views.  My intention, as I noted at the outset, is not to be an alarmist.  However, I believe that this denial and suppression of natural law by what appears to be the majority in my culture calls for an increased emphasis of teaching on the judgment of God.  In my next article, I hope to share why a message of judgment, appropriately given, is the most gracious, loving thing we can do.  I hope to share Jesus’ message of judgment, the purposes of God in judgment, and the revelation of the grace of God in the judgments of God.  In all this, my purpose is that we ourselves might be a people of repentance, humbling ourselves before God, and calling upon His grace to save us.

With prayers for your growth in grace,

Scott Boerckel

Monday, April 22, 2013

Thoughts on The Orthodoxy of Heresy

One of the most influential classes in college for me was an introduction to historical scholarship. Several books were assigned, including one purporting to reveal the true identity of the “real Jack the Ripper”. As I flipped through the book at the campus bookstore, reading excerpts of the tabloid-style chapters, I wondered why such a ridiculous book had been assigned for a college-level course.

At the beginning of the semester, the professor explained our assignment. Our task was to read through the book and explain mistakes the author had done in his scholarship. What fallacies did he commit? What errors in logic? What faulty conclusions? The assignment helped make me a more critical reader.

Unfortunately, careless readers encourage careless scholarship.

In preparation for this summer’s church history class at The Gospel Institute, I’ve been reading The Heresy of Orthodoxy, by Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger. The book is a brilliant and scathing critique of something called the “Bauer-Ehrman thesis.”

Seventy-five years ago, Walter Bauer theorized that early Christianity was much more diverse than previously believed. He argued that “orthodoxy” was an invention of the fourth-century church. The early church, claimed Bauer, lived with many competing strands of Christianity. Kostenberger and Kruger argue:

This form of orthodoxy, Bauer maintained, had nothing to do with an original form of Christianity that can be traced back to the New Testament or to Jesus. Instead, it was simply the belief of the Roman church. The heretics of other cities and their theologies were relegated to the sidelines largely because they lost the battle with Rome.

Bauer’s thesis influenced many scholars and, despite the acknowledgement that his foundational assumptions were flawed, they continue to push the general narrative that orthodoxy  grew out of diversity. His influence has not waned over the past few years. As the authors note:

In more recent days, Bauer’s thesis has received a new lease on life through the emergence of postmodernism, the belief that truth is inherently subjective and a function of power. With the rise of postmodernism came the notion that the only heresy that remains is the belief in absolute truth—orthodoxy.

Throughout the book, Kostenberger and Kruger effectively destroy the Bauer-Ehrman thesis. They demonstrate that even though there was diversity in the early church, there was also an early distinction between true versus false teaching. They also show how orthodoxy permeated a geographically diverse and expansive area. Quoting Larry Hurtado, they conclude:

Well before the influence of Constantine and councils of bishops in the fourth century and thereafter, it was clear that proto-orthodox Christianity was ascendant, and represented the emergent mainstream. Proto-orthodox devotion to Jesus of the second century constitutes the pattern of belief and practice that shaped Christian tradition thereafter.

In other words, orthodoxy came first. Then came divergence from the faith, i.e., heresy.

Why is this important?

First, I think it is important to understand the roots of the scholarly attack upon orthodoxy. When you hear about “alternative gospels” and suppression of “early Christianities," it’s good to know the scholarship behind these statements.

Second, it is important to understand how bias affects scholarship. Harold Bloom once said that the Jesus of the alternative Gospel of Thomas “speaks to me” in a way that the canonical Jesus does not. His bias for the message of the Jesus presented by the Gospel of Thomas caused him to elevate its importance. Kostenberger and Kruger contend:

The intriguing question is why the Bauer-Ehrman thesis commands paradigmatic stature when it has been soundly discredited in the past. The reason it does so, we suspect, is not that its handling of the data is so superior or its reasoning is so compelling. The reason is rather that Bauer’s thesis, as popularized by Ehrman, Pagels, and the fellows of the Jesus Seminar, resonates profoundly with the intellectual and cultural climate in the West at the beginning of the twenty-first century (233).

Third, it demonstrates the importance of studying Church History. The more we study the history of the church, the easier it is to detect poor scholarship. 

This summer, we'll be talking through church history and ways that the study of it helps us in our understanding the faith once delivered to the saints. I'm looking forward to a fun and challenging study and hope you'll consider joining us!


Monday, April 15, 2013

It's Spring! by Pastor Art Georges

It’s spring!  Spring is a time of growth.  Christian, are you growing?  What do I mean?  At the beginning of the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul states that his ministry was aimed at bringing about the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5).  If you meditate on that statement, its implication is that faith in Jesus Christ brings about an obedience to the things of God.  Paul says nearly the same thing at the very end of Romans when he states that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is able to lead to obedience of faith.  We might even think of the statement at the beginning, and the same statement at the end, as serving as bookends to all that is said in the book of Romans.  So a fitting summary to Romans would be: A right standing before God comes through faith in Jesus Christ, and that faith in Jesus Christ leads to obedience to God.
When we talk about saving faith, what we are really talking about is a faith in Jesus Christ that changes the way we live; saving faith transforms us from those who formerly practiced disobedience to God’s laws into those who obey God’s laws from the heart (Romans 6:17). 

Now, when I talk about obeying God’s laws, don’t simply think of the Ten Commandments.  Think more simply of the two greatest commands, to love God and to love one’s neighbor.  In fact, you could reduce those two down to one: love your neighbor.  The reason you can reduce is because God’s word teaches that if you love your neighbor as self, you are loving God, and if you don’t love your neighbor, you don’t love God (1 John 2:9-11).

So, when you think about what it means to be growing as a Christian, you want to think in terms of growing in your faith in who God is, all that He has promised to you who believe, and how He is more than able to deliver on His promises to you.  And growing in your faith in His promises, you will correspondingly grow in your obedience to His commands, His ways, to love.

For example
, you have enough, just enough, but enough to be warm, filled.  You have a place to lay your head, clothes on your body, enough food.  And you have money in your pocket, not a lot, but some.  What is more, your faith understands that God is behind your having enough.  Praise Him!  And then you see a need, but it is a bit disconcerting, because you fear that if you help to meet that need, then there might not be enough to cover your own needs.  Unbelief forgets that God gave what you have, and fears that you can’t cover your own needs.  FAITH believes that God gave what you have, and trusts God’s promise to provide for all your needs as you seek to live out His kingdom here on earth.  And kingdom ethics that depend on faith are to love others, and help where there are needs, and let God care for your own.
When you act in faith, you have an opportunity to see God work in your own life, thus growing your faith for the next challenge (yes, they continue until we are home).  Equally as important to God, you get to show the person you are helping that God is enough for you, and He wants to be enough for them, if they don’t already know that or need to see Him in work!

When we gather together to worship and to be taught, the Bible reminds us that the goal of our instruction is to bring about a greater measure of love, from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  And that is how we can grow.

Putting Our Heart on the Road

This Sunday night, our family will meet together to consider the next steps before us as we pursue a building ministry. The following are some of the thoughts I jotted down that will appear in the program. I'm excited about tomorrow and the opportunity God has placed before us.

At this moment, our church is preparing to invest in a resource that will proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and prepare His people to worship Him forever.

In the book of Haggai, we encounter a people who are in the midst of a building project. They are rebuilding the temple and their commitment is half-hearted. “The time has not yet come for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt,” they complain in Haggai 1:2. Droughts, political oppression, and selfish desires conspire to make building the Lord’s temple seem like wearisome labor. 

God’s call on the people is simple: “put your heart on the road.”

The expression means to think deeply about the path you are travelling. As the Israelites look at their circumstances, they should realize that the selfish path they are on yields no lasting joy: “You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away” (v. 9).  Satisfaction, says the Lord, will only come from pursuing Me.  Despite the obstacles, put Me first!

The questions before those of us whom God calls to participate in the ministry of Bethany are relatively simple: Do I have a passion for God? If so, is that love for His glory manifested by my use of the resources He has given us?

These are questions my family joyfully wrestled with over the past few months and years as we anticipated investing in this building and the ministries that will be done through it in the future.

Brothers and sisters, aren't you glad God brought us as a family to this point? We have a tangible way to evaluate use of the resources God has given us, to “put our heart on the road.” The building ministry will challenge us to think through all areas of our life.

I believe that over the coming weeks, God’s people are going to demonstrate their desire to see His glory manifested through the ministries at Bethany by giving generously and joyfully.

I do not know exactly what that will look like. But I’m excited I get to go through it with you. I’m excited that we get to “put our heart on the road” together!