RSS Feed
  1. How Low Elevation Church Has Stooped

    February 20, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    a

    Yesterday’s craziness surrounding the coloring sheet from Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church  shouldn’t over shadow the other news connected with Elevation – namely how they manipulate people into “spontaneous” baptisms.

    This second controversy is, in my opinion, far more dangerous.  I’ll quote from the article by WCNC Charlotte because they state well the problems with Elevation’s Spontaneous Baptism Resource Kit.

    The guide instructs, “Fifteen people will sit in the worship experience and be the first ones to move when Pastor gives the call. Move intentionally through the highest visibility areas and the longest walk.” 
        
    “They had people in the crowd stand up who never intended to be baptized,” said James Duncan, a communications professor at Anderson University and critic of Furtick. “They were shilling for Steven and the intent was these shills stand up and everybody else follows.”

    Stuart Watson, the author of the article, continues:

    More stage instructions tell volunteers to go to staging rooms outfitted with towels, pre-printed t-shirts, sports bras, boxers, makeup remover, hair-dryers and flip-flops. Volunteers are instructed to “pick young energetic people” to go on stage first to be baptized and “not necessarily those who are there first.” 

        
    “Think of the room in terms of a NASCAR pit stop,” the guide reads. “Quick in and quick out.” 
        
    It takes “30 to 45 seconds” to baptize each person as church photographers snap photos. 
         
    More volunteers are told, “You are looking for one or two great stories in your group. When you ID those individuals, place a ‘black wrist band’ on them so that the video crew can interview them….”
        
    The guide then tells the “media team” to be “mining great stories and pushing them up to the video crew.” 

    An additional disturbing detail comes at the end of the article:

    Elevation Pastor Steven Furtick asked me for a face-to-face, off-the-record meeting with me to ask me not to run this report. I spent an hour on the telephone and two more hours in person discussing my reporting, his church and his concerns. 

    Pastor Steven said I have been unfair and this report in particular would hurt Elevation Church members. 

    Does Furtick think that he is free from the consequences of his and his church’s scandalous behavior?  What right does he have to attempt to shift blame onto the news agency for reporting what his own church has freely and publicly published?

    Let’s be clear – Furtick, along with any one else involved in created and pushing forward these events, hurt the members of Elevation church.

    The repercussions of this kind of manipulative, pre-packaged faux-Christianity are clear.  In no certain order:

    • The central rite of Christianity, baptism, is undermined entirely.  Historically, no outward event is of more significance to the Christian faith.  Here Elevation and its leaders have reduced it to a canned production, not substantially different from a flash-mob dance performance.
    • The credibility of the Christian faith and the idea of conversion becomes more laughable and seemingly hollow to a world already plenty skeptical about such things.
    • Other ministries, more legitimate in their efforts to faithfully discharge the gospel call, are cast in a shadow by these big-budget, high-production hucksters while precious resources that could be legitimately used to help people are sucked into the black hole of manipulative pseudo-ministries like the ones taking place at Elevation.

     

    I am confident that a good and sovereign God will have, from the perspective of eternity, called men and women to a saving faith in Himself at these Elevation engineered events.

    Make no mistake, that will only come to pass because His overwhelmingly powerful grace will do good to lost men and women even in the midst of the worst conditions.

    This reality – that people are likely actually converted – in no way overshadows that in the highest degree of likelihood the majority of those involved as “converts” will have been deceived and thus, humanly speaking, hardened to the gospel.

    Furthermore, any legitimate conversions arising from these highly engineered productions does not mean that the productions are justified.  This is a stain on the public reputation of the church and, through it, Christ.

    May God grant Steven Furtick and the people at Elevation responsible for this abusive behavior repentance.  May He also grant that those who have been manipulated to see through the facade of Elevation’s misconduct to the beauty of Christ in the authentic gospel.

    Even so, come Lord Jesus.

    Further Reading
    Pajama Pages (Linked to Above): How Steven Furtick engineered a spontaneous miracle

    Patheos: Steven Futick and the ‘Disneyfication’ of Baptism

    Zwinglius Redivivus - Elevation ‘Church’ – Just Another Cult and Furtick is Just Another False Teacher

    Truth Matters Blog: Mass Baptisms, Invitations, and Southern Baptists


  2. Elevation Church: Where Does Unity Come From?

    February 19, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    Can someone at Elevation Church in Matthews, NC please explain this?  Surely there is some element not present in the page itself that will explain how this isn’t a whole bag of steaming craziness?

    UnityAtElevation

    I ask that because what actually is present on the page (absent some helpful explanatory word from Elevation) is poor proof-texting and cult-like indoctrination.

    1. Proof-Texting: Elevation’s artist did get a correct quoting of the NIV’s translation of Romans 13:1.  However, ripped from it’s Biblical context, combined with the image on the sheet, and the wording about Pastor’s Steven’s vision unifying the church makes that wonderful text justification for not just any craziness Steven Furtick chooses to spew (did I just become a hater?) but any dangerous abuser who lays claim to the title “authority.”

    2. Cult-Like Indoctrination: Just so we’re clear: the unity of the church is never in the “vision” of the pastor; it is the unity of faith spoken of in Ephesians 4:10-16, namely unity built on the teaching of and commitment to the Word of God.

    Any substitute unity built on the vision of a man is temporary at best, often discretionary, and extremely dangerous at best.

    Here’s hoping Elevation clarifies soon.

    HT: Kent Schaaf via Terry Gant.

    *Update 4* The nuttiness keeps on rolling in.  Check out this other graphic from Elevation Church (Source).  Note especially numbers 1 (really, this is number 1 for them; the more I read it the crazier it looks), 3, 7, and 16.  And why does it take until 24 to mention the gospel?  For real – Elevation Church is looking like 1 short step away from a cult.

    a
    *Update 3* Looks like Elevation Church has realized what a thoroughly bad idea this was. Kudos to them.


     
    *Update 2*: Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio has spoken with Elevation Church and confirmed this is legit.
     

     

    You can see the rest of the artwork from the coloring book here:


    *Update 1* Usually I think Matthew Paul Turner should be avoided but we agree on this point.  You can see his post (which preceded mine) for more details on this lunacy.

    Since we’re on the subject of Elevation Church at this moment you need to look at even worse lunacy leaking out of their church on how Elevation manipulate people into being “spontaneously” baptized.


  3. Stay Credo My Friends

    February 19, 2014 by Jeff

    credo

     

    HT: Jared Myers


  4. Baxter on the Use of Scripture in Child-Rearing

    February 18, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    Baxter

    Don’t let the date of composition (17th century) mislead you – there is a great deal of practical wisdom in Richard Baxter’s The Duties of Parents for Their Children.  Great writings, like this one, that come to us through the ages often have survived because their contents have value that is timeless.  This is certainly the case with this particular piece.

    The first “Direct” in this work is confused by Baxter’s paedobaptist theology but the remainder is chock full of careful thinking and practical advice.  One example is found in “Direct V”.  There Baxter offers counsel to Christian parents about how they use Scripture in the discipline program of their home.  Baxter’s idea is to show children the discipline they are receiving is rooted in the clear Word of God.

    Labour much to possess their hearts with the fear of God, and a reverence of the holy Scriptures; and then whatsoever duty you command them, or whatsoever sin you forbid them, show them some plain and urgent texts of Scripture for it; and cause them to learn them and oft repeat them; that so they may find reason and divine authority in your commands…

    The result of this practice should be a well trained conscience that guides them in the private moments parents don’t have access to.

    It is conscience that must watch them in private, when you see them not; and conscience is God’s officer and not yours; and will say nothing to them, till it speak in the name of God.

    Ultimately the desired aim is heart transformation – the kind that arises from the child’s connecting the parent’s discipline to Scripture and thus see the action of their parent reflective of the will of the Lord for their lives.

    This is the way to bring the heart itself into subjection; and also to reconcile them to all your commands, when they see that they are first the commands of God.


  5. Robocop and Descartes

    February 17, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    IMG_0393

    For those who find philosophy boring or irrelevant might I direct your attention to the box office?

    I’ve made no secret about my excitement about the new Robocop remake.  While I was too young (or too naive?) to see the social commentary in the first film I fell in love with the character – a cop who is a robot!  Who wouldn’t?

    The newest installment of the franchise didn’t disappoint me as a fan.  In fact, to my pleasant surprise, the film raised philosophical questions about subjects I’m passionately interested in.

    • What makes me, as an individual, me?
    • What should the relationship between research science and commercial application?
    • Can humanity be reduced to a machine made of meat?
    • Can we really have talk about having free will in any meaningful sense?

     

    Not what you would normally expect from a big-budget action movie, right?

    One of the more interesting issues raised is found in the scene where the reconstructed protagonist is going to take a definitive field test in battle against robot and human opponents.

    – Spoiler Alert

    Unbeknownst to Robocop his corporate backers have been pressuring the scientists who created his new existence to eliminate any human element from their product’s threat-assessment and problem-solving process.  They want the man to function like a machine.

    The solution, according to the doctor, is to let the non-organic part of Robocop do the work in battle while sending feedback to his organic brain which makes the brain believe it is calling the shots.  Doctor Norton says something to the effect that while in combat Alex Murphy (the human component of Robocop) is simply “along for the ride.”

    Sound familiar?  It does if you are familiar with Rene Descartes.  Descartes, leading the way to the Enlightenment, was a man hard-pressed between two intellectual aims.  On the first  hand, his commitment to rationality led him to believe that all of life was merely the product of mechanical forces.  On the other, he was Catholic and wanted to maintain room intellectually for an immaterial, non-mechanistic aspect of humanity.  His solution was to conceive of a mind (or soul) free from the mechanical functions of the body.

    Frans_Hals_-_Portret_van_René_Descartes

    In her book Saving Leonardo Nancy Pearcey explains Descartes’ dilemma and solution well:

    [Descartes viewed the human body] as a kind of robot or wind-up toy.  ‘I suppose the body to be nothing but a statue or machine made of earth,’ he wrote.  Its motion follows ‘necessarily from the very arrangement of the parts,’ just as the motion of a clock follows ‘from the power, the situation, and the shape of its counterweights and wheels.’

    Because Descartes was Catholic, however, he also wanted to salvage the concept of a mind as a free, self-sufficient consciousness connected somehow to the robot body – in his words, a ‘rational soul united to this machine.’

    Cartesian dualism was irreverently dubbed the ‘ghost in the machine.’

    This “ghost in the machine” is just what Robocop is presented as – a human consciousness (with its attendant moralities, values, and other ethical baggage) riding along in a mechanical body that is doing just as it pleases on its own and with great efficiency.

    This radical divide between the conduct of the body and the emotional health of the mind/person is actually quite common in our culture.  It is also completely unlivable.

    Perhaps the clearest illustration of both the radical divide between body and mind and the total failure of that divide to function in real life is seen in the emotional fallout from the hook up culture.  Sexual ethics common today in the West strongly suggest that the physical act of sex should be divorced from emotional ties and expectations of commitment.  The youngest adults among us have been trying to live out these principles in a climate of sexual encounters intended to only be enjoyed on the physical level. However, since humans are whole beings those participating in hook up culture have found that the attempt leaves them disillusioned, wounded, and alienated from the people around them.   It turns out that this attempt to live as a “ghost in the machine” leaves people haunted by the consequences of morally broken choices.

    In Robocop Murphy’s humanity eventually overrides his programming and asserts control over his whole being.  In the case of those trying to live a similar divide between who they are and what they do we find, unsurprisingly, that ther humanity eventually rises to the surface as well.  It turns out that there are grave consequences to me that come from what happens to and with my body – even if I don’t believe it is possible.

    It is important, whether in a philosophy class, a movie theater, or a frat party, to identify the ideas competing for our embrace and evaluate them in light of reality.  Doing so, at the very least, helps us avoid the toxic aftermath following attempts at trying to live as something other than the image bearers we are.  It turns out that Descartes’ (and our culture’s) radical divide between the human body and the human being are just as fictitious as the cyborg protagonist of Robobcop.


  6. Covert Works Righteousness

    February 13, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    sniper6

    Works righteousness is the default setting of the human heart when it comes to religion.  Considering what Paul says in Galatians 2:16 we must beware of the danger of falling into the false religion pursuing our hearts and which, if we embrace it, will leave us condemned.

    One particularly dangerous form of works righteousness (otherwise known as legalism, self-justification, and works of the law) is the version that has attached itself to the familiar terms of Christianity.  This version camouflages itself within the vocabulary of the church, gaining entrance through subtlety rather than the rejection it would meet if it presented itself clearly.

    To help us identify these hidden pits of works righteousness I’ve collected some phrases that are presented as expressions of Christian truth but which are in fact the old, cold, condemning non-gospel of works righteousness: 1

    • Faithfulness finds favor.” (Contrast that with 2 Timothy 2:11-13)
    • Don’t expect a full-time God when you are a part time Christian.” (Contrast that with Romans 7:14-25)
    •  “Your humility determines God’s ability.” (Contrast that with Exodus 33:19 / Romans 9:15, Acts 17:24-25, and Psalm 115:3)
    •  “The faithfulness of God’s Word depends on our faithfulness to God’s Word.” (Contrast this with Isaiah 46:8–11 and 55:10-11)

     

    Remember friend, we do not live in a day when we can simply expect every building with the name church on it or every person holding a Bible while they talk to hold and proclaim the gospel.  We have to be constantly aware of those non-gospels that cloak themselves and lay in wait hoping for an opportunity to lead us away from the saving message of the finished work of Christ applied to us by grace through faith.

    Notes:

    1. Know others?  Let me know in the comments!

  7. Common Core & The Shape of Western Culture

    February 4, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    rottedapple

    Remember, culture is transmitted in large part through stories. According to Dr. Terrence Moore of Hillsdale College in Michigan Common Core is replacing the stories that have built, shaped, and nurtured Western Culture for thousands of years with “post-modern tales of cynicism and ennui.”

    Let me be clear about what I mean when I say “culture” – I’m talking about, at least in part, the way a society of men and women think, including chiefly their moral calibration.  If you take out the story of even a modern text like, for exampleTo Kill a Mockingbird and replace it with A Mother of Monsters you aren’t just swapping one text for another.  You are making a radical adjustment of worldview.

    If Dr. Moore is right, and it appears he is, Common Core isn’t just going to bring horrible scholarship to our students but will in effect attempt to re-create Western Culture in the image of something much less worthy than what it is replacing.


  8. Heaven Is For Real Isn’t For Real

    January 24, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    IMG_0177

    Original Title: Why I Will Not Be Celebrating Easter 2014 at the Movie Theater or Why I, as a Christian, will be boycotting the film Heaven is for Real.

    A few weeks ago I posted an image to my Instagram feed with the caption “I have hate in my heart.”  I did so because I do so. I hate - hate – that there is a movie adaptation of the book Heaven is for Real.  Actually, I am not that thrilled that the book exists, let alone is sold by my denomination’s bookstore (in about as many different packages as they can make a buck off of).  I am positively disgusted (although not surprised in the least) that it has been adapted in to a movie that WILL BE RELEASED THE WEEK OF GOOD FRIDAY.

    I’m sure many, if not most, who read this will think I’m looney, too harsh, or a jerk for the preceding paragraph.  Any chance you’ll hang around for me to explain?

    I’ll have to begin with the source material.  Colton is a cute kid.  What he and his family experienced is an outright tragedy and a gift of God’s kindness.  I’m thankful the Lord chose to preserve his life and restore him to his family.  God is good.

    What has happened afterwards, however, I am not thankful for.  Innocently or not (you never can tell with Christian publishing and retail), his story has become a chief diversion to the central event of the Christian faith.

    Heaven is indeed for real – but Christians don’t believe that because of some supposed experience had by Todd Burpo’s kid, Jesse Duplantis, Don Piper (if you aren’t familiar then my denomination’s bookstore, again, will be happy to make a buck educating you) or any other after-life-experience salesman.  We believe it because Christ told us:

    “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

    The existence of this book, this movie, and their combined marketing campaigns push believers to find validation (or, at minimum , confirmation) of their faith outside of the authoritative declaration of Christ.  This is necessarily a step away from the truth of God’s revelation of and in Christ toward the inward and subjective (synonyms for unreliable).  In reality this book that is lauded as so supportive of our faith ends up taking us in the opposite direction of Biblical faith.

    Interesting, isn’t it, that the one time in Scripture where someone is granted a trip to heaven from which they return to earth that person is expressly told not to discuss what he witnessed and heard.  That establishes a precedent, doesn’t it?  Why, then, would Burpo, Duplantis, Piper, etc get license to tell what Paul said cannot be told and speak that which Scripture says man may not utter?  Doesn’t it seem more likely that they didn’t?  I believe so, strongly.

    Finally, this whole idea of “a confirming witness” coming from these books doesn’t just erode our confidence in the revelation of Christ.  It also, and not subtly, undercuts our appreciation of the resurrection of Christ as the singular confirming event in our faith.  Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 15:1-20 that the resurrection, alone, validates the claims of Christ and our belief in them through the word firstfruits in vs. 20.  This is a technical term referring to the first products of the ripening harvest that guarantee more of the same kind to come in the future; Paul’s usage indicates that since Christ has been raised all who believe in Him will be raised as well.

    It is this final point that so antagonizes me about the film, specifically its release date.  Whether or not you celebrate Easter and despite it’s connection to ancient pagan holidays Western Christians have historically associated that holiday with the celebration of the resurrection.  What we will have is a move away from a historic celebration of the actual historical event which is central to the faith known as Christianity to an innovative, unreliable, marketing-driven counterfeit! 1 To have this unhelpful, distractionary, subversive, and unbiblical narrative released at this time is (at best) a cash-grab aimed at a Christian community far too ready to pay for their deception as long as it comes in “Christian” packaging.

    *Edit* One other point that I intended to make but failed to include in the original draft which my friend Terry reminded me of is addressed to those who think Heaven is For Real might be useful to provoke faith in those who read or watch: that possibility specifically ignores what the Bible says about how faith is birthed in an unbelieving heart.  It is through hearing the gospel that faith comes (Romans 10:17).  The story of Christ’s righteous life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection is that which has the power of God to save (1 Corinthians 1:17-31) – not the stories of afterlife-experience hucksters.  As a matter of fact, this notion of a story about a regular person dying and returning being seedbed for faith is specifically contrary to Jesus’ own words in Luke 16:19-31 – “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, [ i.e. the testimony of Scripture] neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” *Edit*

    So what’s the take-away?  Do I think you are a bad person (or bad Christian) if you read, enjoyed, or recommended Heaven is for Real?  Do I think everyone has to agree with me or feel as strongly as I do about these things?

    No, across the board.

    What I’d like for you to do after reading this post is to make a fresh commitment to be a thinking Christian, to never take off the lenses of discernment no matter what your eyes are aimed at, and to cherish the Word of God and the Resurrection of Christ above every substitute that presents itself.

    As for that Wednesday before Good Friday and Easter?  I hope that you have a chance to spend it in a local church, with believers you live with and love, celebrating the greatest thing that ever happened to us – that greatest events in history – and which gives us the fullness of our confidence.

    Notes:

    1. Or, just as bad, a syncretistic mingling of the two.

  9. Happy Birthday to Huldrych Zwingli

    January 1, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    HuldrychZwingli

    530 years ago today in Wildhaus, Switzerland was born Huldrych (sometimes written as Ulrich) Zwingli, perhaps the most under-appreciated of the Magisterial Reformers. 1   Zwingli is simply fascinating – he arrived at many of the same conclusions as Martin Luther independently (and perhaps in advance) of Luther, out of his movement comes the best of Anabaptism, and his life ends on the battlefield.

    Dr. Jim West of Zwinglius Redivivus has written a wonderful introduction to Zwingli for this New Years Day and I recommend it highly.  Dr.  West’s blog would be an excellent for anyone whose appetite for learning more about Zwingli is whetted by his introduction.

    I recommend spending some of your time today learning about this captivating, helpful, and neglected Christian leader.

    Notes:

    1. Personally, I consider it an out-and-out shame that so few contemporary Christians are familiar with Zwingli.

  10. Always Christmas and Never Winter

    December 27, 2013 by Jeff Wright

    I hope that this Christmas season was phenomenal for each and everyone reading this post.  I hope you deeply and thankfully celebrated the miraculous (even that word seems somehow lacking doesn’t it?) Incarnation of the one true God with a church body you are fully committed to and that is likewise fully committed to you.  I hope you were able to enjoy the company of dear family and friends in merry conversation, recreation, and feasting.  I hope you were able to worship in song, hearing of the Word, giving, serving and hospitality the God who ultimately defined self-sacrificing by coming to be God with us.

    As I am writing these words before Christmas in a post to be published after Christmas I suppose I hope these things for myself as well.

    I am certain, however, that if the Lord allows my mortal life to persist beyond Christmas Day I will also greet December 26th thoroughly glad to have the season past us.

    xmascat1

    Those readers who know me personally know that I describe myself as full of bah-humbuggery in the days leading up to Christmas.  The reason for this is that the days leading up to Christmas start so much earlier every year.  As the title of this post says, in corruption of Lewis’ famous line from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, in our world it appears it will soon be always Christmas and never winter.  I believe this year I saw Christmas decorations and advertisements before I saw the first Halloween pumpkin.  I say with almost no hyperbole whatsoever that I suspect we shall soon spend Labor Day doing our Christmas shopping.  I may live long enough, if the good Lord allows, to see Christmas connect with the sweltering heat of mid-summer and fireworks of patriotic holidays.

    What wonder I feel at the thought of Christmas has a hard time keeping its head above the deluge of cultural Christianity, so obviously far from any connection to the birth of the only Savior.  Is not what we call Christmas in these days of the West in fact an offering to the false god Mammon?

    I agree with C.S. Lewis here fully:  It [the pressure of gift-giving] gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to ‘keep’ it (in its third, or commercial, aspect) in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out — physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.

    And is there a god of sentimentality?  If so he, she, or it is well represented in these days as well 1.

    These combined streams of commercialism and sappy sentimentality added to the 90 days of Christmas advertisements combine to leave me a Christmas burn out long before December 25th arrives.

    What is the answer?  I’m not sure.  I’ve joked that I’m going to consider celebrating Christmas on January 6th as part of the most historic tradition.  That, of course, is only a joke.  I am, however, not joking when I say Christmas is distressing in my personal orbit and I would love to hear how you who are less Scroogish than I manage to maintain your sanity during and affection for this [seemingly] perpetual season.

    Notes:

    1. If so I imagine Christmas Shoes would be the chief liturgical item involved in the false worship.