Friday, May 25, 2018

Evan Roberts & the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905: A False Pentecost, Part 7 of 22

While Baptist church membership, and that of old-school evangelicalism, began to decline after Evan Roberts finished his revivalistic course, Pentecostalism boomed, as Roberts’s influence had led many others in the holiness revival to have supernatural encounters with the spirit world similar to those he had experienced.  Donald Gee notes:  “It is impossible, and would be historically incorrect, to dissociate the Pentecostal Movement from . . . the Welsh Revival [through which] . . . the spiritual soil was prepared . . . for [its] rise.”[1]  Jessie Penn-Lewis wrote: 
[T]he Pentecostal character of the Awakening in Wales is unmistakably clear . . . the wider fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy [in chapter two about signs and wonders through Spirit baptism] is at hand.  Undoubtedly we are in a new era of the world’s history, when we may expect supernatural workings of God such as have not been known since the days of the primitive Church. . . . [B]y [receiving] a baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire, “signs and wonders” w[ill] follow.[2] 
Not Roberts only, but very many saw visions and heard voices.[3]  Prominent ministers and witnesses testified that Wales was seeing what “was spoken by the prophet Joel . . . the promise [is] now evidently fulfilled in Wales”:  “If you ask for proof of that assertion, I point to the signs.  ‘Your young men shall see visions!’  That is exactly what is happening. . . . It does not at all matter that some regular people are objecting to the irregular doings. . . . If you ask me the meaning of the Welsh revival, I say—IT IS PENTECOST CONTINUED, without one single moment’s doubt.”[4]  Consequently, throughout the holiness revival of 1904-5 there were “many stories of aerial lights, aerial choirs, flashes and visions.”[5]  “Dreams, religious and otherwise, were registered by the score.”[6]  “During the Revival many persons vowed that they had heard voices in the air calling them by name and speaking to them in distinct tones and words.”[7]  The multiplication of such marvels from the spirit world was natural, since “[v]isions were looked upon as the gift of the Holy Spirit, a mark of Divine favour, and one of the concomitants of true conversion.”  With the the neglect of the Word of God “there were many who appeared to know more about their visions than about their Bible.”[8]  Thus, “Miss Florie Evans,” Evan Roberts’s coworker, “could speak of visions and messages . . . [and] prophesied.”[9]  The marvels attending Roberts made it clear that women were to preach and teach men:
The old objection of many of the Welsh Churches to the equal ministry of women has gone by the board. . . . Women pray, sing, testify, and speak as freely as men . . . the toppling of the hateful . . . ascendency of the male. . . . Paul, it is true . . . found it necessary, while addressing the Church of Corinth, to draw a very hard and fast line limiting the sphere of female activity . . . Christianity, however, is at last sloughing the Corinthian limitation[.] . . . The Quakers began the good work. . . . Now in South Wales we see the fruit of this devoted testimony . . . [i]n the present Revival women are everywhere to the fore, singing, testifying, praying, and preaching.[10]
Indeed, the visions were innumerable, but unlike Biblical visions, where God revealed real, specific, and knowable truth, the visions of the holiness revival either set forth all sorts of meaningless foolishness or specifically taught unbiblical errors.
[P]arishoners . . . heard bells chiming . . . a thunder clap followed by lovely singing in the air . . . [others heard] strange music, similar to that caused by the vibration of telegraph wires, only much louder. . . . The Vicar[11] of a parish . . . heard voices singing . . . [g]radually the voices seemed to increase in volume until they became overpowering. . . . It was as real to his senses as anything he ever heard and the words were distinct, in Welsh.[12]
A “young girl, 18 years of age” who was “almost illiterate” was supernaturally enabled to pray with “the most refined and literary sentiments, couched in admirable phraseology[,]” and her “changed appearance” was very striking, becoming “much more gentle.  Her face, previously course, has now quite a refined appearance . . . [becoming] a Madonna-like face” as she also has gained “contact with . . . her mother, though she has been dead about 15 years. . . . [S]he seems to feel her mother’s unseen influence, certainly seeing and perhaps helping her in her difficulties.”[13]  Another woman “heard the voice of her dead son, and [affirmed] that the conversations that had repeatedly passed between them were as real to her as those that had passed between them in the days of his flesh.”[14]  A “young man . . . heard a voice speaking distinctly.  The Spirit said (in Welsh)” a variety of things, including a command that “in the most public place” the young man was to deliver the message:  “Tell them that hypocrisy is the worst sin against Me . . . [t]he Spirit,”[15] a message contradicting what Christ said was the worst sin against the Spirit, to blaspheme Him (Matthew 12:31; Mark 3:29-30; Luke 12:10).[16]  The man also testified:  “I had a vision . . . a beautiful light, pure, and brighter than any light I have ever seen, and clusters of something very soft and white falling upon me gently and covering me all over.  I called them blessings.”  He also had other “dreams,” although he said, “I doubted whether it was the Holy Spirit.”[17]  The minister Joseph Jenkins was “clothed with strength from above, and he knew it,” receiving power from the spirit world, after “a strange blue flame took hold of him until he was almost completely covered.  It rose . . . from the floor of the room and billowed up, encircling him.  It retreated and returned a second time, and then retreated and returned again.”[18]
            While Scripture states that saving faith comes not by seeing miracles but by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17), in the holiness revival people professed conversion and were led to become members of congregations because of the marvels they experienced.  For example, in a “Revival service” at “St. Mary the Virgin’s Church”:
[A] young man . . . saw a lighted candle emerge from the font [for administering infant baptism and, according to Anglican dogma, regenerating infants thereby] and the figure of an angel shielding it with his wing[19] from the draught that came from the open door.  The flame was very small, and the least breath of wind would have extinguished it but for the protecting wing.  Before the service was ended he gave his adhesion to the Church. . . . [The man testified:]  “I did not believe in Christ before [the vision] that He was our God and my Saviour.  I had always denied Him, but never again, for I believed then [at the time of the vision].”[20]
A woman who was hostile to the holiness revival, but whose husband was part of “the Church Army,” “began to feel very queer,” saw “the room” where she was become “all dark,” and “it seemed as if the room was full, or like a swarm of bees around [her, and she] heard some sound . . . like the buzzing of bees,” and then saw her “four children [who] had died in infancy . . . singing the hymn, ‘O Paradise,’” and then “saw the children again and Jesus Christ . . . [a]s natural as you see Him on a picture[21] . . . behind them, and the children said, ‘Crown Him, Mam,’[22] and they disappeared.”  As a consequence she “has been quite a different woman and is present in all the services.”[23]  A boy whose father was far away testified:  “I distinctly saw my father in the [revival] service [in  a vision].  He knelt alongside of me and looked at me with a pitiful face and said, ‘My dear boy, pray for me.’ . . . I had never taken religion very seriously before, but I do now.”[24]  Another man’s testimony was noteworthy:
[He saw] a faint light playing over his head.  As it came nearer it increased in size . . . he saw . . . a man’s body in a shining robe.  The figure had wings . . . every feather in the wings . . . was heavenly beyond description. . . . [I]t did not touch the ground.  He looked at the hand and saw the prints of the wounds . . . recognized Him as Jesus . . . [and] shouted—“O my Jesus,” and the figure ascended . . . on His wing . . . out of sight.[25]  He felt filled with love, and from that time he can love every one without difference.[26] 
A lady felt that she had been cut off from God until she saw a “vision of Christ in his kingly robes . . . that had set all right.”[27]  At another meeting people were filled with “agony . . . men and women jumping in their seats . . . others testifying that they had received the Holy Spirit, and one person said, ‘Don’t try to understand this, but throw yourself into it.  It surpasseth all understanding.’”  Another who “did not believe much in the Revival” was turned into an advocate by marvels:
[He was] caught in his hat and began walking down the staircase, when he was instantaneously knocked (as it were) unconscious.  He ran down the stair, and he then jumped five of the steps to the floor[.] . . . He looked like a madman . . . and shouted out, “Here is reality to-night.” . . . [H]e ran into the chapel, and on by the pulpit.  He jumped on top of a seat, and he threw his hat with all his might up towards the ceiling of the church, and with a loud voice [gave out his experience.]  “It is above all understanding,” he said.  He remained partly unconscious for a fortnight . . . and he saw a vision of a place beautifully white, and a voice came to him that God would be his refuge and strength. . . . He was moved by the Spirit twice after this fortnight to unconsciousness.  How he escaped from injury while jumping and passing across seats was marvellous . . . he received such physical strength that he thought he could move away a tremendous weight.[28]
Another man, at a holiness revival meeting, testified:
I had a thrill through my body, causing great pain.  I cried bitterly; why, I don’t know. . . . [For a few days] I felt great pain, and . . . I lost all appetite for food. . . . [at a] prayer meeting . . . there was great agony through my body.  Why, I know not.  But it remained through the week. . . . I prayed unto God to forgive my sins and reveal unto me Himself.  I don’t remember the prayer.  I lost all consciousness that night. . . . I perspired very much, so that I thought that water had been thrown over me. . . . A voice told me that [a particular person was] in the meeting to-night by the door.  And I said, ‘No, he is not here[.’] . . . Then the voice told me the second time exactly the same words, and I answered him back[.] . . . I was astonished when I found [out that the voice was] true.  Had the voice only told me once, I would [not] have believed . . . but when I heard the voice the second time, I was surprised [and found out what it said was true]. . . . [M]y body lost all its pain on that Saturday night . . . [and] I am happier than ever[.][29]
By means of such visions, voices, excitements, and marvels—rather than by means of clear preaching of the gospel—vast numbers were professedly converted.[30]

[1]              Pgs. 5-6, The Pentecostal Movement, Donald Gee.
[2]              Pgs. 77-78, The Awakening in Wales, Jessie Penn-Lewis.
[3]              Pgs. 22-23, 100, The Great Revival in Wales:  Also an Account of the Great Revival in Ireland in 1859, S. B. Shaw.  Chicago, IL:  S. B. Shaw, 1905.
[4]              Pg. 87, The Great Revival in Wales:  Also an Account of the Great Revival in Ireland in 1859, S. B. Shaw.  Chicago, IL:  S. B. Shaw, 1905.  Capitalization reproduced from the original.
[5]              Pg. 249, Voices From the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
[6]              Pg. 73, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[7]              Pgs. 136-137, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[8]              Pg. 139, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[9]              Pg. 89, Voices From the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
[10]            Pgs. 55-56, Revival in the West, W. T. Stead.
[11]            Scripture teaches that no mortal is a Vicar; such a title demeans the glory of the Son of God.
[12]          Pgs. 93-94, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).
[13]            Pgs. 135-138, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905); cf. Deuteronomy 18:9-14 and the many other prohibitions in Scripture on contact with the dead.
[14]            Pg. 137, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[15]          Pgs. 94-95, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).
[16]            Of course, hypocrisy is very wicked and should in no wise be condoned.
[17]          Pgs. 94-95, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).
[18]            Pg. 17, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Brynmor P. Jones.  Another vision received by Jenkins was connected to the events that led to Evan Roberts beginning to see visions himself and commencing his revivalistic course (pgs. 58-60, Revival in the West, W. T. Stead).
[19]            While in Scripture the cherubim and seraphim have wings, no angel is said to be winged.
[20]            Pgs. 95-96, 123-124, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).
[21]            Pictures of Christ are idolatry and a violation of the second commandment, for “the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures” (2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, 22:1; Exodus 20:4-6).
[22]            While the children in her vision commanded this woman to crown Jesus Christ, the Bible never tells Christians to crown Him, since the one who crowns another has authority over the one who is crowned.  As the eternal Son of God, Christ has reigned from eternity and will reign immutably to eternity (Hebrews 1:8-10), so nobody crowns Him, while as the God-Man, the Father exalted Christ as Mediator at the time of His ascension (cf. Psalm 110), so that, while the terminology of crowning Christ is not even used in connection with the ascension, the Father’s exaltation of the Son of Man is the closest thing to such an affirmation in Scripture.  The dead children, therefore, tell the woman to do something that is contrary to the Bible.
[23]          Pgs. 93, 130-133, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).
[24]            Pg. 125, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).
[25]            Since the Lord Jesus Christ does not have wings, this man did not see the Jesus who is the Son of God, but another “Jesus” (2 Corinthians 11:4); and the fact that he felt certain emotions as a result of his supernatural experience is no reason whatsoever for thinking that his experiences came from the Holy Spirit of God.
[26]            Pgs. 95-96, 139-141, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).  Further details, unpleasant to repeat to those who rejoice to spiritually see Jesus by faith rather than seeking after His physical appearance, in accordance with the fact that even those who “have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth [must] know . . . him no more” (2 Corinthians 5:16), have been omitted.  It is worth noting that the Apostle Paul testified that he was the “last of all” to see a bodily appearance of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:8).
[27]            Pg. 56, The Great Revival in Wales:  Also an Account of the Great Revival in Ireland in 1859, S. B. Shaw.  Chicago, IL:  S. B. Shaw, 1905.
[28]            Pgs. 127-128, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).
[29]            Pgs. 129-130, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).
[30]            Further records of visions appear on pgs. 95, 100, etc., of Voices From the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Evangelicals Move the Goalposts on Adiaphora

Adiaphora is not a biblical word.  It is a transliteration of a Greek word not found in the New Testament. It's more of a philosophical word that has now become a theological, practical category.  It means, "indifferent things," and in technical language, "disputable matters," and refers to what some might call, "Romans 14 issues," speaking of "doubtful disputations" (KJV) in Romans 14:1.  Someone isn't to judge another believer in disputable matters.  What matters though are disputable?

Evangelicals, compared to fundamentalists or separatists, categorize more matters as disputable.  This list is growing too.  More beliefs and practices are disputable than ever.  How does this happen?  Aren't scriptural teachings and practices set in stone?  The Bible means what it means and it doesn't change in its meaning?  Isn't that liberalism, a sort of loose construction of scripture, or progressivism?

Evangelicals move the goalposts on adiaphora, and it's no wonder, if you read one of the more prominent evangelicals in the world, D. A. Carson in the very first sentence of his journal article in 2015, named "On Disputable Matters":
Every generation of Christians faces the need to decide just what beliefs and behavior are morally mandated of all believers, and what beliefs and behavior may be left to the individual believer’s conscience.
That sentence alone could open a can of worms.  Does every generation of believers need to decide what beliefs and practices are mandated, or has that already been settled?  Do these things change?

Todd Friel deals with adiaphora in a recent session of his Wretched TV, titled, "Principles of Christian Liberty."  In a recent weekly interview with Phil Johnson, Friel says that Phil Johnson greatly influenced what he says in this presentation (maybe speaking of this program with Phil).  Two points stood out to me from Friel that reminded me of the subjectivity or relativism of evangelical Christian liberty, what they believe Christians are still allowed or now allowed to do, that at one time they were not.

First, Friel said that Christians have liberty in "non-essentials."  This is where evangelicals move the goalposts on adiaphora.  They are not telling the truth on this.  It seems like they are lying.  I don't think Friel himself is lying.  He's not a theological heavyweight and he's now heard this mantra of non-essentials long enough that he thinks it's actually in the Bible without providing a single reference for it.  There isn't a solitary reference in scripture that categorizes adiaphora as non-essentials.  Christians don't have liberty to disobey anything in God's Word.

Evangelicals have, like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, ranked doctrines on matter of importance, which justifies unbelief and sin.  I say this is moving the goalpost.  Adiaphora is about disputable matters, which in other words is something not a clear application of scripture.  A common example in the New Testament is eating meat offered unto idols (cf. 1 Corinthians 8-10).

Second, Friel uses the example of "musical styles" as adiaphora.  He's saying that Christians have liberty in musical styles, that musical styles are disputable, so one cannot judge them as wrong or sinful.  This is where evangelicals have voided about every possible application of scripture, allowing them to have liberty in almost everywhere to live how they want.  As a result, they are worldly, fleshly, and sensual, all of which are forbidden.  They are unwilling to make application of scripture in almost every possible way.

As an irony, as I wrote this post, I looked at Phil Johnson's twitter feed and noticed his retweet of an article on an interview of Wynton Marsalis, who berates rap music to Jonathan Capeheart of the Washington Post.  He appreciates the Marsalis judgment of what seems a disputable matter to Friel.  It isn't a consistent position.  Of course we have to judge music.  Of course not all musical styles can be used in worship.  God can't be worshiped with something sensual, fleshly, worldly, or profane.  Using pop music to worship God does more damage to the knowledge of God among men than most false doctrinal statements.

In the Christian Liberty session with Friel, done at the G3 conference, Friel asks Johnson for an example of a Christian liberty, and he says, "Dancing."  Is dancing a liberty?  I would judge that as a poor example by Phil, because Christians don't have liberty in just any kind of dancing, actually in most kinds Christians don't have liberty.  Earlier Jesus said that the truth shall set you free (John 8:32), and He was saying "freedom from sin."  How many forms of dancing are sin?  No one is require to be circumcised or observe dietary restrictions anymore, so Johnson's usage of Galatians 5 doesn't work.  What people today know to be dancing involves numbers of different ways to sin.  Liberty is being set free from sin, not liberty to sin.  This is a major error of most of evangelicalism, including the conservative evangelicals, like Phil Johnson.

It has become almost impossible in evangelicalism to disobey many passages of scripture, because they make it impossible to apply those passages to anything in the real world.  Almost all applications are disputable to them, especially where it steps on their own toes.  Same sex marriage has become disputable in much of evangelicalism because of this very practice.  Friel and Johnson both feed this practice in order to protect this convenient view in evangelicalism.

The Bible does not teach a doctrine of non-essentials.  We don't have liberty in non-essentials.  The doctrine of non-essentials proceeds from postmodern uncertainty.  When Christians have established for centuries certain doctrine and practice, it can't suddenly come into play, just because of a slide in the culture.  It doesn't become disputable, and, therefore, permissible, just as a matter of convenience.

I notice that women wear something worse than long underwear in public now.  Now evangelicals wear leggings, what was once hosiery worn under the outer garments, in public.  That's a disputable matter.  What was once nudity is now accepted and on what basis?  Adiaphora.  This is moving the goalpost, friends.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Convenient Repudiation of Fundamentalists by Evangelical Leaders Now Less Convenient

When I look at the spectrum of evangelicalism (not the book), and I've been watching it the over 35 years of my entire adult life, I see what seems to be a new fondness of especially conservative evangelicals for fundamentalism.  I even hear them calling themselves fundamentalists like they never would before.  You can now read something like the following from evangelicals (from a series about fundamentalism---parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine):
Fundamentalism was never conceived as an outlet for Christian hardliners and extremists. It’s not a dirty word, or at least it shouldn’t be. There are fundamental biblical truths that must be defended and contended for (Philippians 1:16; 1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3). And defending those precious truths is just as vital today as it was a century ago.
Even though the series to which I linked is 2015, believe me when I say this is new.  You would hear dozens of bad things about fundamentalists and fundamentalism before this recent new penchant from conservative evangelicals.  If you did a search, you would find yourself reading or hearing nothing good about fundamentalism.  It would be mocked.  Evangelicalism, however, has reached a tipping point, to where some evangelicals have begun to rethink evangelicalism and whether they want to be fundamentalists.

Even John Piper recently has been positive about fundamentalism, where he would not have been in his formative years and later (here one, two).  With Billy Graham's death, I was fascinated to read about his dad's split with Bob Jones University over Billy Graham's New York City crusade.  By the world and by moderate to left evangelicals, John MacArthur more so (for instance, here) and John Piper (he says, here) some are both called fundamentalists.  C. S. Lewis was called a fundamentalist:
I have been suspected of being what is called a Fundamentalist. That is because I never regard any narrative as unhistorical simply on the ground that it includes the miraculous.
I don't think Macarthur, Piper, or Lewis were or are fundamentalists.  To be, even a historic fundamentalist, someone must believe, teach, and practice a doctrine of separation.  Even if it is not a biblical belief and practice of separation, to be a fundamentalist you've got to separate over the fundamentals.  I still don't read separation from these men.  For that reason, I don't know where they and men like them would and will end.  Perhaps they are preparing to be fundamentalists.

On the other hand, fundamentalism itself is shrinking.  MacArthur leans toward fundamentalism and fundamentalists slide toward MacArthur.  Fundamentalists are less fundamental than ever.  I understand both.

Conservative evangelicals believe the fundamentals and see the value of protecting them.  They aren't separating yet, but they see that's what will be necessary.  Fundamentalists can't defend fundamentalism, so they pitch toward evangelicalism.  The convergence of these evangelicals and fundamentalists has been described as a third way.  I don't believe there is a hopeful future for either of them or their third group, if it emerges.

If evangelicals see themselves as fundamentalists now, then why did they repudiate fundamentalism?  Evangelicals in part built their churches, attracted their numbers, by distinguishing themselves from fundamentalists.  They would have explained it as an evangelistic advantage, but it was a success and numbers advantage, even luring the new additions of the Jesus movement.  It was a convenient repudiation to grow a coalition of worldly Christians.  At that juncture in the history of the United States, worldliness was worldly, but, you know, acceptably worldly.  It's grown unacceptably worldly, and so now it's convenient again to be a fundamentalist.

The moderate or former fundamentalists headed toward evangelicalism are where MacArthur was when he repudiated fundamentalism.  Conservative evangelicals have a successful blend of Christianity with worldliness.  Worldliness itself looks smart, not too stupid to the world.  It's a modern Finneyesque new measure, to make Christianity explainable, less a bunch of losers.  This is combined with an appropriate intellectualism, embracing an acceptable degree of historicism and rationalism.  Modern education stresses diversity and the former fundamentalists push theological and practical diversity, accenting unity over unanimity, allowing for divergence in their convergence in matters eschatological and ecclesiological and methodological.  The adherents are comfortable with the other's lack of dogmatism and consequential non-judgmentalism.  Chalk up the differences to uncertainty, coalescing around willing admission of ignorance, however or whatever they want to call it.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Our Last Recital

Through the years as parents, my wife and I have watched many piano, violin, and trombone recitals and orchestra performances of our children.  The last ever of these occurred yesterday, when our youngest child, our daughter Gabi, played her final violin recital.  She has taken piano, violin, and voice for many years.  She played three numbers, two of which were a surprise.  She played the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35: 2nd and 3rd Movements.  We surprised her teacher when all three of my daughters played for him, whom we refer to as Papa Chukhlov, the Allegro of Vivaldi's Concerto in F Major for Three Violins and Piano.  Gabi and Papa Chukhlov surprised us with a violin duet of Dmitri Shostakovich's Romance (from The Gadfly).  Here is the latter.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Initial thoughts on my debate with Shabir Ally at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater

I praise the true God that my recent debate with Shabir Ally went well, for the glory of His great name and in answer to the prayers of His people.  As you may recall if you read What is Truth, and are even more likely to recall if you prayed for the debate (for which I am very thankful), I debated Dr. Ally on the topic "The New Testament Picture of Jesus: Is it Accurate?"  The debate is not yet live--part of the delay has been that the person who is supposed to process the debate had his computer break, but that has been fixed, so, Lord willing, we will be getting it live in the relatively near future.

I believe that the debate went well, and am glad that it worked out.  It appears that unknown parties were taking down our posters about the debate, as I found out after the fact, but we still had a reasonable number of people in attendance, and having that happen was a learning experience that we can plan about for, Lord willing, debates in the future.  Furthermore, both Dr. Ally and I were interviewed by the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater newspaper, and after the debate there was a front-page article about the event in the paper, allowing information about the Mukwonago Baptist student organization, Set Free, and about both of the speakers and their websites, to be broadcast to all 12,000 or so students who attend Whitewater.

Here is the article from the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater newspaper on the debate:

and here is a link to their newspaper article on the Internet.  The article has some value, although it did not really deal too much with the specific content of the debate arguments. 

Shabir Ally is an intelligent defender of Islam, and, as I expected, it was pleasant to not have to deal with the sort of nasty vitriol and mere appeals to emotion that characterized too much of the argumentation of Dan Barker, President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, in my debates with him.  Furthermore, Dr. Ally denied the accuracy of the New Testament picture of Jesus in the manner in which a scholarly theological liberal would, instead of attacking the Bible by following the crazy mythicism of Dorothy Murdock with her dependence upon Wikipedia for her case, as Dan Barker did.

While Shabir Ally made a reasonable presentation of the theologically liberal argument, he suffered from the severe handicap that there simply is no ancient evidence of any kind for what modern theological liberalism affirms about the New Testament.  Not just the majority, but the totality of all ancient sources and ancient evidence supports the traditional authorship of the New Testament books, and the extant historical data also are strongly in favor of dates too early for the picture of Christ to be corrupted.  When one needs to make a historical case for something for which there is no historical evidence, things are going to be difficult, no matter how good of a debater or how good a scholar one is.

Of course, that is my take on what happened--you can read further about it in my brief summary of the debate on my website here.  I will plan to inform What is Truth readers when the debate goes live as well, Lord willing, and will post it both on my website and on YouTube.  Muslims or atheists who saw the debate, and Dr. Ally himself, might have a rather different take on events.  I suppose you will just have to watch the debate and make your own decision.  I have more on the archaeological and historical evidence for the New Testament here, as well as, for our Muslim friends, the work The Testimony of the Quran to the Bible here. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Biblical Evangelism and an Approach to the Possible Success of Bill AB 2943 in California

News from California travels around the country, so perhaps you have heard about Bill AB 2943 here in the state legislature and its relationship to religious liberty.  People like me don't want it to pass.  We oppose it, but I think it probably will become law no matter how many people in California are against it.  Here is the exact wording of the crux of the California bill:
Existing law prohibits mental health providers, as defined, from performing sexual orientation change efforts, as specified, with a patient under 18 years of age. Existing law requires a violation of this provision to be considered unprofessional conduct and subjects the provider to discipline by the provider’s licensing entity. 
This bill would include, as an unlawful practice prohibited under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual. The bill would also declare the intent of the Legislature in this regard.
The bill continues by also arguing the following:
Contemporary science recognizes that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender [lgbt] is part of the natural spectrum of human identity and is not a disease, disorder, or illness. . . . [S]exual orientation change efforts can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, including confusion, depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidality, substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem and authenticity to others, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized and untrue to self, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources.
Of course, true Christians, those who follow biblical teaching and practice, don't agree.  They want conversion of the above, "lgbtq,"  ("q" means questioning, that is, someone who is uncertain of his sexual orientation) because they believe that those lifestyles are not congruent with a scriptural doctrine of salvation.  They also deny that those are natural behaviors or that those people were born those ways.  God's Word calls for repentance from those because they are sins or perversions of right or God designed behavior.

Another angle on the bill is first amendment rights for Christians:  freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  Do the secular theories of psychiatry prevail over the beliefs of Christians?  Christians would think they could speak and practice biblical truth, the latter under the free exercise clause, but not if the state rules that this causes psychological and even physical harm to "lgbtq."  Some of this might enter into parental rights too.  If a child grows up with homosexual interests and a parent doesn't like it, can he "attempt to convert" his own child.  Churches and church leaders see these confrontations just over the horizon, perhaps generating a constitutional crisis.

For the rest of this post, I'm going to call "lgbtq," sodomites, not as an offense to them, but because I believe and think that it is a more accurate title.  I don't believe there is actually such a thing as "lgbtq."  I like the designation "q" because those people are uncertain, like a lot of people are about a lot of things.  Their uncertainty fuels their perversion.  They are perverse acts and no science has proven they are natural.

Are the authors and supporters of this bill attempting to protect children?  Is that really their agenda?  The bill will do just the opposite of protecting children.  For instance, you have a little boy, who likes dressing up like a girl.  If passed, this will make that easier for him.  Sodomites can confuse, convert, and push their adherents all the way to sexual reassignment surgery without charge.  The authors and advocates are conspiring to legislate the acceptance of Christians or at least gloat in their power to subjugate them.  They don't care about the kids.

In a technical sense, one might argue that Bill AB 2943 doesn't prohibit churches from evangelizing sodomites.  However, based on past history, these types of laws are very often applied later in court to people who "attempt to convert."  The Federalist says that the bill, if passed, could ban Bibles.  My main purpose for writing this post is to contend that the new law won't stop biblical evangelism of sodomites.  A biblical theology of evangelism will not either stop evangelism of sodomites or break whatever interpretation of the new law its advocates might make.


In the history of Christian theology, you read the technical language, "free offer of the gospel."  Not everyone will want to listen to the gospel, but you can offer it to them.  You offer sodomites the gospel.  If they don't want it, you don't have to do more.  Churches offer them the opportunity.  You see in scripture the language of the free offer.
Psalm 34:8, "O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him."
Proverbs 1:24, "I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded."
Isaiah 55:1, "Come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price."
Isaiah 65:1-2, "I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people."
Matthew 22:2-3, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come."
Matthew 23:37, "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"
Luke 14:16-18, "A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse."
The teaching of a free offer originates from scripture.  It is implied in Jesus' teaching and practice of shaking the dust from ones feet, which appears four times in the gospels, including Matthew 10:14, "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet."

Not everyone is going to listen to the gospel, nor do they always want it.  Believers not only have no responsibility to preach to people who don't want to hear it, but Jesus commands believers not to preach to them.  Whenever I approach sodomites with the gospel, which is all the time out of love for God and the sodomites, if they don't want it, I don't give it to them.  I try, but if they are unwilling, as many times they are not, I move on.

Whatever bad AB 2943 will do in California, it won't stop biblical evangelism with anyone.  Conversion comes through biblical evangelism.  If a sodomite doesn't want conversion, then we don't have to give it to him.  It's not our responsibility as Christians to preach the gospel to those who don't want to hear it, and since conversion comes by preaching the gospel, sodomites will only be converted if they will listen.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Churches and their Popular Inclusion of Dress Information on their Websites

Our church doesn't advertise a dress code for our services, contrary to the recent fad where churches address it on their websites.  It's very popular.  It now seems like vital, almost required, information for churches, which would likely sneer at churches that teach on dress or even have scriptural dress standards.  Almost exclusively they want you to know that when you come to their church services, you can dress like you want.

My wife, two of our daughters, and I travel to Europe in two weeks.  Today I read an evangelical tweet that mentioned a church in London, called Gracelife, so I clicked on the website and of the very few words on its front page are these two sentences:
We're content-driven in our choice of songs, and choose a range of music that allows us to express our worship joyfully and respectfully as 21st Century worshippers. There is no particular dress code, and children are very welcome in the service. 
Unmitigated musical style and dress stand as essential information at Gracelife, an ideology elevated to a sacramental status in evangelical churches today.

Usually you will see similar language in a section churches title, What To Expect.  When I searched that phrase with "Baptist" and "dress," I got 379,000 results.  The top site on the first page included, What Should I Wear?  "There is not a strict dress code at Grace Baptist Church for our members or guests."  Next:  "We invite you to come as you are!"  Third:  "There is not a dress code at Pacific Baptist Church for members or guests."  After that:  "At Stockton Baptist Church we don't have a dress code."

If you replace "dress" with "dress code," you still get 117,000 results.  That many church web pages use the words "dress code" in their materials. I haven't looked, but I don't think it is likely that any of those 117,000 say they have a dress code.  I'm not going to try, but  I don't think I'll find one.

I've got two main points I want to confront regarding the no dress code mantra repeated on numerous contemporary church websites.


Speaking in general of evangelism and discipleship, the highlight of no dress code uncovers an unbiblical philosophy of ministry.  You've heard, "Nothing is sacred anymore."  Church very often isn't sacred either.  Church is supposed to be about God.  It can be treated as sacred by how someone dresses in a gathering to worship God.

I think we should assume that the dress information on these websites targets unbelievers, attempting to attract them or lure them with something they would prefer about church, that the path really is strewn with roses.  The Jews seek after signs and the Greeks after wisdom.  Churches aren't to adapt their methods to signs and wisdom.  They are to depend on God, which is to depend on the truth.  Love is in the truth. The change is supernatural.  It doesn't make sense.  It's approached by faith.  The problem isn't intellect; it's rebellion.  The truth isn't the enemy of biblical evangelism.

Methods depending on human means glorify man.  It's not tolerable for believers, since the point of the church is to glorify Christ.  Christ isn't welcoming people into comfort.  All of these offers that clash with the biblical message won't help someone to receive a biblical message.  They are a form of bait and switch.  Unless someone is changing the gospel, the message of the gospel isn't congruent with comfort.

Pragmatic church growth methodology baits with comfort and then switches to surrender.  It makes salvation about you, like a form of therapy, hoping to later see it become about God.  It must start with God and then keep going about God.

Jesus put deny self, take up your cross, and count the cost up front.  The road is a narrow road.  You don't encourage salvation by offering present comfort.

God is seeking for true worshipers.  Worship is sacrifice.  Sacrifice gives something up.  What you want becomes what God wants, not what you want.  Redemption isn't redeeming the outcome of your desires, but redeeming your desires.  Since worship is giving something up, an understanding of worship isn't aided by turning it into what you get.

Comforts of the flesh tend toward the flesh.  You can't and won't flesh people into the kingdom.  Paul calls it carnal weaponry.

Receiving God must be receiving the God, the one and only God.  Receiving God isn't receiving a god that is attractive to us.  People should expect dress that honors God.  God is of the highest value.  He shouldn't be lowered in men's estimation as a means of attraction.  God saves us not by diminishing Himself, but by elevating us.   Men are elevated by having God be of the highest value.


Genesis 3 and several times hence, including with some great detail in the New Testament, teach about dress.  It matters.  Church is about conforming to God.  Unbelievers shouldn't be given the impression that church is about conforming to men.  Churches shouldn't be ashamed of the truth.  If dress means something, which scripture says it does, the world should be told the truth about dress.  It's not acceptable to misrepresent dress to attract unbelievers.

When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, He wasn't saying, your worship doesn't matter.   Blowing through four husbands and shacking up with a fifth was confronted, not avoided because a marriage code would turn her off.  Jesus confronted her with boundaries of God's law.  A right relationship with God doesn't start with concessions to the flesh, as if this is a negotiation.  There is nothing to apologize for.  God has something to say about dress.  We're happy with everything He says, and you should be too.  If you're not, that's on you, not on God, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

Christianity shouldn't present a Christianity the world will like.  It should present Christianity.  It's all good.  True Christians aren't ashamed or embarrassed about any of it.  Christians should like Christianity and not be unwelcome to any of it.  It's all good.

True Christians also understand meaning.  They know what dress means.  Very often, the world knows what dress means too.  Exhibiting a lack of discernment or wisdom about dress doesn't speak better of Christianity.

Love is in the truth.  We are not loving unbelievers by masking the truth.  Love isn't offering something other than the truth.  Love isn't allowing for unbiblical behavior as a means of showing unbelievers how generous believers can be.

Christianity isn't picking and choosing what people will follow and what they won't.  It's changing man into the image of God.  It's not just purifying hearts, but cleansing hands.  The church is the church and it shouldn't be presented otherwise.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Evan Roberts & the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905: Supernatural Spirits & Sleep, Part 6 of 22

Although Scripture states that the knowledge of men’s hearts is restricted to the omniscient God (1 Kings 8:39), Roberts could see into men’s hearts and “discern souls in conflict,” so that although “some called it telepathy,” his supernatural powers were “accepted as one more sign that Evan Roberts was being led continually by the Spirit.”[1]  Charges that “the revival depended on his hypnotic skills and magnetism”[2] were rejected.  After all, “in the midst of another mass meeting in [a] 6,000 seat [auditorium], Evan detected that a hypnotist had entered the meeting and was trying secretly to control him. . . . [T]he man confessed to a theatre audience that this was the truth,”[3] so Roberts was not using hypnotism himself but had clear power from the spirit world.  Roberts knew “when anyone g[ot] up unmoved by the Spirit”[4] in one of his meetings and could “see . . . insincerity and hypocrisy.”[5]  He “kn[ew]” when “people . . . [were] prompted by false motives . . . in their prayers” and would consequently interrupt them and stop them from praying.[6]  He recognized when people had been truly converted, so that at times he would announce that someone had “decided” for Christ and the person would then reveal himself; for example, “at Saron, Evan predicted a dozen individual decisions to turn to Christ,” and “[e]ach time someone surrendered,” validating “his strange new powers.”[7]  He “displayed a remarkable gift of detecting those souls who were secretly trying to come to Jesus.”[8]  In another meeting, “he began to cry out:  ‘There is a soul lost because someone has been disobedient to the promptings of the Spirit. . . . Too late! Too late!’ . . . Oh!  Dear people, it is too late! . . . [H]e explained that he was prohibited from praying for the soul that was lost.”[9]  In a different meeting, at the “peak moment, Evan stopped the meeting and announced that there was someone in the congregation who wouldn’t speak to his brother.  He called for that person to confess his sin, threatening him with divine judgment and ordering him to leave.  Because no one admitted this fault, the people had to remain on their feet a very long time. . . . Some accepted this kind of rebuke from a man whom they took to be a prophet; others felt it was a mistaken act done by an overtired young man,”[10] since Roberts continued “months . . . of serial meetings, all-night sessions, and crises.”[11]  Others called Roberts “an unbalanced crow stirrer, an exhibitionist, a hypnotist, and even an occultist . . . a prophet of Baal calling down false fire by his incantations.”[12]
Roberts, however, had an answer for those who said he lacked sleep.  Such a lack was not a problem for him.  He said:  “God has made me strong and manly. . . . My body is full of electricity day and night and I have no sleep before I am back in meetings again.”[13]  For months, as the holiness revival progressed in 1904 and 1905, “he ate and slept little,”[14] getting “two or three hours of sleep each night,”[15] but the electricity that filled his body kept him going—at least until he experienced one his several serious nervous breakdowns.[16]  In meetings he would often have “nervous collapses” from which, however, he would usually “recover suddenly”[17] and continue the meeting in most cases—at least until he came to the point in 1906 where he was “unable to stand or walk for almost a twelvemonth,” remaining in “convalescence” in the Penn-Lewis household.[18]
Allegedly empowered to see men’s hearts and live without sleep, Roberts “called to a man to confess his sin” and said, “The Spirit has given me that man’s name and age.”  This fact was, Roberts said, to lead those who were “skeptical of the reality of this manifestation” to have “no doubt about it.”[19]  On a different occasion “Evan Roberts became visibly upset and started to threaten someone with divine punishment for ‘making a mockery of what was so divine . . . [m]ocking what has cost God his life-blood.’ . . . After carefully scanning the congregation, again he urged someone to ask for forgiveness and then declared that the meeting could not proceed until the obstacle had been removed. . . . The remonstration went on for another ten minutes, but no one owned up.”[20]  Later in a meeting he “lay a limp, inert mass on the reading desk, with outstretched arms as if pleading.  Suddenly he straightened up . . . pointed to the gallery and declared that some person there possessed a heart full of scorn, skepticism, and sarcasm.  That was an obstacle to the path of the Spirit, and the cause must be removed.  He tearfully appealed to him to repent or quit the building,” and “continue[d] to sob, with his face buried in his hands,” but “[n]o response was made from the gallery.”[21]  He would “place his hand on his neck, as if pressing something down.  There was a jerking back of the head . . . as in persons whose nervous systems are somewhat deranged. . . . [T]hese . . . tremors . . . [are] attribute[d] . . . to Divine influence.”[22]  Roberts also had a time when he was told to “remain in the house for six days in a silence which had been commanded by the Spirit” and “cancelled all mission engagements,”[23] after a fashion similar to what had taken place with the prophet Ezekiel.[24]  On various occasions he would “walk out of meetings after five minutes because he claimed to have discovered [spiritual] obstacles there.”[25]  Surely such actions, and such abilities to see men’s hearts, were evidence of the powerful supernatural forces that were at work in Evan Roberts.

[1]              Pg. 47, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[2]              Pg. 49, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[3]              Pg. 126, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[4]              Pg. 70, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[5]              Pg. 77, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[6]              Pg. 60, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[7]              Pgs. 82-83, An Instrument of Revival, Jones; the pages record substantial numbers of situations where Roberts exercised his powers to recognize true conversions in a great variety of settings.
[8]              Pg. 89, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[9]              Pgs. 90-91, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[10]            Pg. 88, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[11]            Pg. 91, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[12]            Pg. 98, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[13]            Pg. 41, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[14]            Pg. 41, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[15]            Pg. 51, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[16]            By September 1906 he had already had four.  See pg. 161, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  His breakdowns were “a divine plan to equip [Roberts] to do battle against Satanic powers and to train others for battle,” resulting in the teachings of War on the Saints (pg. 174, Ibid).
[17]            Pgs. 113-114, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).
[18]            Pgs. 165-167, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  It appears that Jessie Penn-Lewis’s doctrine that “on the basis of Romans Six you may put in your claim for the healing of any bodily disease” (pg. 134, Overcomer, 1914) failed to heal Evan Roberts.
[19]            Pg. 120, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[20]            Pg. 90, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[21]            Pg. 119, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[22]            Pg. 89, “Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival,” A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).
[23]            Pg. 91, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  cf. pgs. 89-90, 114-115, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).  Roberts broke his silence on the seventh day.
[24]            Pgs. 110-112, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[25]            Pg. 100, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.