Archive for the ‘Discernment’ Category
You couldn’t watch or listen to the news for more than a few minutes this week without hearing about the Florida pastor’s plan to burn Korans on the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
After it was reported that General Petraus had expressed his concerns that this could very easily put American soldiers and expatriates at risk in Afghanistan and other countries, I wrote an email to Pastor Jones asking him to reconsider his plans – both as a brother in Christ and as a fellow leader in ministry.
I don’t know if he actually received or read my email. But given that both the State Department and the White House have found it necessary to weigh in on this, my words seem fairly insignificant anyway.
It is now being reported that others are also planning to burn copies of Islam’s holy book, even though Pastor Jones may be ready to change his mind. (Although even as late as 6:00 PM on Friday evening, Fox News is reporting that it still isn’t certain exactly what he is finally going to do.)
I’m quite sure that even though emotions might be running high on the eve of 9/11, there are probably few, if any, ABI readers who would remotely consider such a plan as being anything but ill-conceived and misguided for any number of practical reasons. But the bigger question is whether or not there are biblical principles that should guide and inform our thinking about this. Does the Bible have anything to say about what we can and should do concerning such religious materials – things that arguably contribute to the kind of evil worldview that spawned those horrific events nine years ago?
In the Old Testament we find multiple examples of God’s clear instructions to burn and destroy everything related to the worship of false gods. However, the historical context (Israel’s conquest, settlement and rule over Canaan) and God’s purpose for commanding such actions are equally clear – and we, as Christians, are not at all in a similar situation. On the other hand, there is an incident in the New Testament that does give insight into what is almost certainly the right strategy for us in this age.
In Acts chapter 19, we find an extended report concerning Paul’s two-year ministry in Ephesus (a city in the region that would later be at the heart of the Ottoman empire). As you may recall, at the end of those two years, Paul and his ministry team found themselves in an extremely dangerous situation. The entire city was in an uproar and they were out for blood. Crowding into the city’s amphitheater, the angry mob dragged Gaius and Aristarchus in with them as they shouted religious chants against them for two hours nonstop.
Do you remember what it was that ultimately sparked this riot? A religious book-burning!
But, who was it that was burning whose books? It was a group of men who had responded to the proclamation of the gospel – men whose hearts had been completely changed through faith in Christ – men who consequently burned their own religious books (worth a small fortune)!
I wonder if there might be a lesson there…
Should we be concerned about Glenn Beck’s 8/28 “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington?
I have watched Glenn Beck almost every day since he has been in the 5 o’clock slot on the FoxNews channel and I agree with virtually everything that he says about the fact that we have been witnessing the decline of the principles and values upon which this country was founded. I tend to agree with much of his analysis as to why and how this has happened. I also agree that returning the Constitution to its rightful place in the legislative and judicial realms of government, as well as “Restoring Honor” would be a good place to start to get things turned around.
As a patriotic American I can stand with the half-a-million people who were present at the 8/28 rally on Saturday to let it be known that the majority of the citizens in the United States are not happy about the current state of affairs. And I could stand with Glenn Beck if we were only being called upon to exercise our rights as outlined in the Constitution with the goal of restoring integrity and honor to the governance of our country.
Many liberal pundits and politicians are calling Beck a radical right-wing hate-monger who is leading a bunch of angry, old, white, disgruntled, leftovers from the McCain / Palin run for the presidency. The last thing I would want is to be identified with either those who are saying such things or the caricature they have used to cynically portray the majority of decent Americans in this country.
However, just as with the Manhattan Declaration last fall, this issue has been taken out of the political, civil and legal realm, and brought squarely into the religious / theological realm. This presents a serious problem that seems to be lost on many who should be concerned, including a significant number of evangelical leaders who joined him on his program on Friday and who were standing with him on the platform this Saturday. Through his radio and TV programs, and now with the immeasurably successful “Restoring Honor” rally, Glenn Beck has arguably become the single most influential religious leader in America.
It is true that Mr. Beck frequently talks about the need for personal faith in Jesus Christ. He regularly uses the language of conservative evangelicalism. He has devoted entire shows to decry the liberal gospel of collective salvation through social justice reforms and its cousin, Liberation Theology.
However, Glenn Beck is first and foremost a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons. He often speaks about his Mormon faith and how much it means to him. And he credits his recovery from a life of self-destruction through alcohol and an immoral lifestyle to the faith he found in the Mormon church. He was baptized into the Mormon church in 1999 by his radio talk show co-host and close friend Pat Gray.(1)
Now, even though he has been around for awhile, in our celebrity-driven culture, Glenn Beck has become an overnight sensation with superstar status in his new role as a spokesman for many (though certainly not all) religious conservatives. He has eclipsed presidential candidate and fellow-Mormon, Mitt Romney, and is possibly now more influential than Sarah Palin (who is known for her open identification as a born-again evangelical Christian). Again, this is a serious problem precisely because he is on a faith-based mission.
Beck has repeatedly insisted that the Restoring Honor rally was to be decidedly non-political in nature – and he worked hard to make sure that happened. He fervently asked his radio and television audiences to leave their signs at home and to not expect that this would be a pre-election campaign rally:
First of all: No signs. Don’t bring your signs. Bring your hearts. Bring your open minds. That’s it. Bring your kids. Your kids are important. If you bring a sign, you’re going to be disappointed. No signs.(2) (click here for transcript)
But more importantly, he pulled together a group of religious leaders to make sure this gathering was understood to be explicitly religious. For those that might doubt that the goal was to make Restoring Honor about a return to religion, on Monday’s program, Mr. Beck explicitly said that the whole thing was entirely about “God and faith.” He also believes that God gave a clear sign of his approval and blessing on Saturday:
I want to show you first [the] miracle that happened at…9:59, what happened was there was a flock of geese that ran. It was a flyover, if you will. Someone caught it on tape. Here’s the flyover. This was happening just as the opening music was starting. We wanted to have a flyover, but you can’t fly over in the District of Columbia. It was perfect coordination and perfect timing. Coincidence? Maybe. I think it was God’s flyover.
It was not supposed to happen. We couldn’t get a flyover. We couldn’t even get anybody dressed in a military uniform to present the flag. We tried for almost a year. We couldn’t get it done.
Thank God we had our flyover. (3) (transcript)
The concept to ultimately make this a religious rally can be clearly seen in an exchange months ago between Glenn Beck and historian David Barton on the April 29 Glenn Beck Show:
Beck: So I want to talk to you a little bit about something else you and I talked about off-air for a while and that is the Black Robe Brigade.
Beck: And America, I’m going to ask you now if you have your pastor or your priest or your rabbi, whoever it is, tell them to turn on the show or take down this information because this is important.
You have to do this. The media is not going to it. The government is not going to do it. The parties are not going to do it. They don’t care. They’re about power and control.
If you care about the Constitution, this is what you have to do.
Tell me about the Black Robe Brigade. What were they? Who were they?
Barton: The Black Brigade or Black Regiment were the preachers, because they wore black robes. Black preachers, white preachers — they all wore black probes. And the British specifically blamed the preachers for the American Revolution. That’s where the title “Black Regiment” came from. One of the British officials talked about that.
It’s interesting that the British so hated what the preachers — they claim if it hadn’t been for the preachers, America would still be a happy British colony. So they blamed it on the preachers.
When they come to America, they start to decimating churches. They went to New York City. Nineteen churches — they burned 10 to the ground. They went across Virginia burning churches. They went across New Jersey burning churches. Because they blamed these preachers.(4) (transcript)
On Friday night, at the Kennedy Center, Glenn Beck hosted a program called “Divine Destiny,” attended by approximately 1900 religious leaders who were personally invited to the event. On a section of his website devoted to FAQs about Divine Destiny, we find the following:
Glenn Beck’s Divine Destiny is an eye-opening evening at the historic Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C that will help heal your soul. Guided by uplifting music, nationally-known religious figures from all faiths will unite to deliver messages reminiscent to those given during the struggles of America’s earliest days. The event will leave you with a renewed determination to look past the partisan differences and petty problems that fill our airwaves and instead focus our shared values, principles and strong belief that faith can play an essential role in reuniting the country.(5)
On Friday evening, Mr. Beck was introduced by Pat Gray:
This building was [filled] by invitation [to] some of the best and bravest pastors, priests, rabbis, clerics in the country. Tomorrow, we will announce the beginning of the Black-Robed Regiment. And here is what’s amazing, here’s what’s amazing, they keep saying this is a political event, and it is not. It is not a political event at all. I’m convinced that not just this event, but this time period is going to be remembered as the beginning of the great awakening in America.(6)
So, it is clear that Glenn Beck’s intent was to personally recreate a Black-Robed Regiment to lead the way in “restoring honor” to our country. On yesterday’s (8/30/2010) program which was devoted to discussing the many important aspects of the rally, one of the main focal points was the support and platform presence of his “Black Robe Regiment.” There were 240 religious leaders, standing arm-in-arm in a display of unity with one another, with the man who had pulled them together for this explicitly religious event and with God. They were there because of their desire to take a stand for truth and a return to integrity and honor in leading this nation, which is a good thing. But they were also there because of their conviction that the only solution to the problem and the only hope for the nation is a return to God – and therein lies the problem, because it begs the question, “Which God?”
As you listen to Glenn Beck and read the many forums where this is being discussed across the internet, you will find that what happened this weekend is being celebrated and hailed as a true breakthrough because of the diverse religious views that these 240 men and women represent. The group consisted of Protestant pastors (including evangelicals like John Hagee), Catholic priests, Jewish rabbis and Muslim imams. (I have searched everywhere on the internet for several hours trying to find a listing of these 240 religious leaders, without success. If you find anything, please let me know.)
These leaders represent such divergent views of God that we cannot think that this is a call to rally together under the banner of the God of the Bible. Allah is certainly not the God of the Bible. Jews emphatically deny that Jesus is the God of the Bible. Catholics, who are still bound by the decrees of the Council of Trent, are obligated to view evangelicals as heretics if they wish to remain true to the official teachings of the Church.
And then there is the god of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In her weekly e-update, “Understanding the Times,” which came out today (8/31/2010), Jan Markell (Olive Tree Ministries) writes the following:
The theme of the Friday gathering of spiritual leaders and the Saturday rally was an encouragement to turn back to God. The not-so-subtle theme was “many faiths, but one God.”
I believe many conservative Christians would have been relieved if Glenn had not brought out Mormon doctrine that very few are familiar with. He stated at the Saturday event that the American Indians are the “chosen people” — blatant Mormon doctrine. The crowd applauded in approval. You can view that here at the 4:30 mark.
He stated — and has affirmed this on his radio and television programs — that God is the only answer. While much was troublesome last weekend, who else is sticking their neck out saying we have to turn back to God and gathering hundreds of thousands in the process? It would be wonderful if Franklin Graham or even Joel Rosenberg could attract a half-million people and deliver the true gospel. We aren’t quite there yet. Again, by default, we defer to Glenn Beck.
The weekend opened on Friday night, Augsust 27, with Glenn’s “Divine Destiny” program which again, is straight out of Mormonism. Many participants have implied, or blatantly stated, that Glenn is a “saved Mormon” or on the way to becoming one.
Leading up to the statement referred to by Jan Markell above, beginning at the 3:01 mark, Beck says the following:
The story of America is the story of humankind. Five thousand years ago, on the other side of the planet, God’s Chosen People were led out of bondage by a guy with a stick, who was talking to a burning bush. Man first began to recognize God and God’s law. The Chosen People listened to the Lord. At the same time those things were happening, on this side, on this land, another group of people were gathered here and they, too, were listening to God.
How these two people came together, again, happened because people were listening to God. They didn’t have the right to worship God the way they saw fit. So, they got down on their knees – and they didn’t want to come to this land – they just did because they thought that’s what God was telling them to do. And with malice toward none, they got into their boats and they came.
God’s Chosen People, the Native Americans and the Pilgrims (applause).
As Markell noted, this is pure Mormon doctrine. The following is from an article in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism on the Brigham Young University library website:
The Book of Mormon, published in 1830, addresses a major message to Native Americans. Its title page states that one reason it was written was so that Native Americans today might know “what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers.”
The Book of Mormon tells that a small band of Israelites under Lehi migrated from Jerusalem to the Western Hemisphere about 600 B.C. Upon Lehi’s death his family divided into two opposing factions, one under Lehi’s oldest son, laman (see Lamanites), and the other under a younger son, Nephi 1 (see Nephites).
During the thousand-year history narrated in the Book of Mormon, Lehi’s descendants went through several phases of splitting, warring, accommodating, merging, and splitting again. At first, just as God had prohibited the Israelites from intermarrying with the Canaanites in the ancient Promised Land (Ex. 34:16; Deut. 7:3), the Nephites were forbidden to marry the Lamanites with their dark skin (2 Ne. 5:23; Alma 3:8-9). But as large Lamanite populations accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ and were numbered among the Nephites in the first century B.C., skin color ceased to be a distinguishing characteristic. After the visitations of the resurrected Christ, there were no distinctions among any kind of “ites” for some two hundred years. But then unbelievers arose and called themselves Lamanites to distinguish themselves from the Nephites or believers (4 Ne. 1:20). (7) (click here for article)
On Sunday, John McTernan posted the following on his blog:
My heart is very heavy as I write this. I attended two events led by Glenn Beck. Friday night, I was at the Kennedy Center for a Glenn Beck special. He had a gospel choir singing with a mixed group of speakers. Beck was freely talking about the “LORD.” There were speakers from other religions. He was talking about the need for a spiritual revival, who can argue about that! The problem is that Beck is a Mormon with a different Jesus.
There were several prayers offered at this event and NONE were made in the name of Jesus. I was deeply grieved after I left.
On Saturday, I attended the huge rally. If it was just political, I could accept Beck as a leader; however, it went way beyond that. I am not questioning anything about Beck’s character or motives. What I am deeply grieved about is that this was not led by the real church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Is America in such desperate spiritual condition, that masses of Christians will follow a Mormon for spiritual revival? (8) (click here for his blog)
Again, just as in the Manhattan Declaration, Glenn Beck is calling people of all faiths to come together “in the spirit of God” – and in keeping with Mormon doctrine, he is specifically calling together what Mormons believe are the three strands of God’s Chosen People (Jews, Christians and Native Americans) under the leadership of Beck’s new Black-Robed Regiment. Beginning at 4:40, he introduces the following guests who represent these three groups:
I would like to introduce you to Rabbi Daniel Lapin (applause).
This is John and Kyla Ward. They are direct descendants of the Native Americans that met the Pilgrims on the shores as they arrived. (applause)
And Pastor Paul Jehle is a direct descendant from those that arrived on the Mayflower.
To restore America, to restore honor, we’ve got to start at the beginning and look at the pattern, when people came together, of different faiths, in the spirit of God, and the first thing they did was pray together.
At this point, Pastor Jehle delivers the opening prayer for the rally in unmistakable evangelical terms, clearly naming Jesus Christ as the “Redeemer” and the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” closing with the words “in Christ’s name, amen.”
However, we have seen this before. Shortly after the Manhattan Declaration was published, Governor Mike Huckabee commented that perhaps it could be considered as comparable to Luther’s 95 Theses. And concerning the Divine Destiny event and the Restoring Honor rally, following the sentiment expressed in Pat Gray’s introduction at the Kennedy Center, NaplesNews.com published an article with the title, “The Fifth Great Awakening: The Restoring Honor Rally in Washington, D.C.” (The author, Edward Wimberley is a fairly well-known “educator and Presbyterian minister“):
The Second Great Awakening occurred almost a century later and resulted in the emergence of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), The Seventh Day Adventist Church, The Advent Christian Church as well as the dramatic expansion of Baptists and Methodists throughout the Western States. The Third Great Awakening spanned the 1850’s through the early 1900’s and produced the “Social Gospel Movement,” Christian Science, the Holiness Denominations, and the Nazarenes. The leaders of this era included Mary Baker Eddy, Dwight L. Moody, and evangelist William Ashley “Billy” Sunday.
How is it that the emergence of the Mormon church and the rise of the Social Gospel Movement can be seen as contributing factors in the Great Awakenings? Do these not instead have all the marks of being dark spiritual opposition to the broad work of the Spirit of God at specific times in this country’s history? Both movements have contributed to incredible confusion and the deception of millions of people including an alarming number from among those who would consider themselves evangelicals. That Mormonism is once again contributing to spiritual confusion, while pulling in evangelicals, is evidenced by the following comments from someone who was at the “Restoring Honor” rally:
I was actually at the 8-28 event in DC… It WAS an evangelical Christian event. Beck made some ecumenical noises up-front and I was prepared to be very disappointed, but almost every single speaker, other than Beck…and all of the major ones, were un-apologetically evangelical Christians. Their words on faith carried far more weight than Beck’s. I heard “Jesus, Lord and Savior” or similar terms through the whole program.
I really don’t understand Beck’s spiritual journey. I think that he would have considered himself a terribly back-slidden Christian 15 years ago when he was a raging alcoholic who’s life was out of control. He turned to Mormonism, found his way out of the bottle and rebuilt his life. He clearly is comfortable with evangelical Christians…he surrounds himself with them.(9)
It was an “evangelical Christian event?”
The Naples News article continues:
In a very real sense, the nation has drifted afar from its religious and patriotic foundations.
However, the spiritual drift of the nation ceased on Saturday October 28, 2010 on the National Mall between the Washington and Lincoln Memorials. On that day, hundreds of thousands of Americans from all walks of life and from virtually every region and ethnic community gathered together to recommit to the task of restoring America’s honor by reaffirming an individual commitment to faith, duty, honor and country.
This profound contemporary spiritual renewal was ushered in by the most unlikely of leaders, a recovering alcoholic, high-school graduate, and college dropout with an unsavory past. Moreover, it was predominantly (though not exclusively) a “Christian” renewal prophetically introduced by a Mormon layman.
The following is from a December 23, 2007 interview with Joel Osteen by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday,
Wallace: And what about Mitt Romney? And I’ve got to ask you the question, because it is a question whether it should be or not in this campaign, is a Mormon a true Christian?
Osteen: Well, in my mind they are. Mitt Romney has said that he believes in Christ as his savior, and that’s what I believe, so, you know, I’m not the one to judge the little details of it. So I believe they are.
And so, you know, Mitt Romney seems like a man of character and integrity to me, and I don’t think he would — anything would stop me from voting for him if that’s what I felt like.
Wallace: So, for instance, when people start talking about Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, and the golden tablets in upstate New York, and God assumes the shape of a man, do you not get hung up in those theological issues?
Osteen: I probably don’t get hung up in them because I haven’t really studied them or thought about them. And you know, I just try to let God be the judge of that. I mean, I don’t know.
I certainly can’t say that I agree with everything that I’ve heard about it, but from what I’ve heard from Mitt, when he says that Christ is his savior, to me that’s a common bond.
I am deeply concerned that Mormonism may now be on a fast-track to be accepted into mainstream Christianity, and perhaps even Evangelicalism. That this is even conceivable is very troubling. Returning to Jan Markell’s article, she notes the following concerning the teachings of Mormonism:
* God was born and raised on another planet.
* He has a harem of wives.
* They produce spirit-babies that are sent to earth; there they gain bodies and earn sainthood.
* Jesus is the brother of Lucifer.
* Jesus is the chosen/elected savior by a council of gods from other worlds.
* America is the promised land, not Israel. The holy city is Independence, Missouri, not Jerusalem. Jesus’ latter-day agenda is to return to Missouri.
* America’s founding fathers were “spirit babies” who created a “sacred Constitution.”
* The U.S. Constitution is as sacred as the Book of Mormon. In the latter days, it will be under siege and will be saved by Mormons. Thus, we must “reclaim America” to save the Constitution and usher in a genuine age of Mormon leadership. They want to build a Mormon kingdom on earth, similar to modern day Dominionists/Kingdom Now proponents within Christianity. Founder Joseph Smith had a socialistic philosophy and wished to have a society that shared things in common.
Markell’s last point is referring to something I just became aware of late last week when ABI co-founder Jimmy DeYoung alerted me to what is known in Mormonism as “The White Horse Prophecy.” The “white horse” in the prophecy by Joseph Smith is a reference to the first horse of the four horses of the Apocalypse.
An article about The White Horse Prophecy can be found on the pro-Mormon website, FAIR (The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research) at this link. According to the prophecy, someone within the Mormon church is going to appear on the national stage to rescue the Constitution – in conjunction with a group of people that Joseph Smith identified as the “red horse.”
On today’s Glenn Beck Show, he emphatically reiterated that his goal is not to be a religious leader. Yet, a few minutes later, he also remarked that he believes we are now witnessing the 3rd Great Awakening— the first of which, he noted, was largely led by George Whitefield. And more than once (including again today) I have heard him infer or even state that this movement—this new awakening—is something that has started with him and which he is leading.
Even though I question whether or not another Great Awakening is actually underway, that someone with Mormon convictions could suggest that they might be at its forefront should be of deep concern to evangelicals. However, that a Mormon could be enthusiastically endorsed and embraced as such a leader by a significant number of conservative evangelicals seems to say far more about the state of the church in the United States than it does about Mr. Beck.
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restoring_Honor_rally, accessed 8/31/2010.
2. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,600310,00.html, accessed 8/31/2010.
3. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,600442,00.html, accessed 8/31/2010.
4. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,591785,00.html, accessed 8/31/2010.
5. http://www.glennbeck.com/content/articles/article/198/44012/, accessed 8/31/2010.
6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restoring_Honor_rally#cite_note-32, accessed 8/31/2010.
7. LSD Beliefs, accessed 8/31/2010.
8. http://johnmcternansinsights.blogspot.com/, accessed 8/31/2010.
9. From an email to an acquaintance of mine
ABI Quick Survey: What is your opinion of the July 15 CT article by Mark Galli?
A couple of days ago, I published a blog (copied below) concerning an article written by Mark Galli for Christianity Today.
If you have read the comments following the article on the CT website, you have seen mixed responses from the readers. The majority have been negative, but some have expressed their support, suggesting that his perspective was appropriate and helpful.
I hope you will take a moment to participate in our brief survey to express your views (which we will publish in about a week).
Christianity Today Senior Managing Editor Mark Galli’s recent article sparks controversy.
Christianity Today’s identification as “A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction” will almost certainly be called into question once again by many readers because of a July 15 article by Mark Galli in which he calls God “such a drama queen.”
He reduces God to being little more than a totally-out-of-control diva:
“So what we have, for better or worse, is a melodramatic God. He yells and throws dishes, and walks off in a huff, slamming the door behind him—and then he turns around and gives his life for us.”
The article requires no comment other than to ask, “What next?”
Christianity Today Senior Managing Editor Mark Galli’s recent article sparks controversy.
Christianity Today’s identification as “A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction” will almost certainly be called into question once again by many readers because of a July 15 article by Mark Galli in which he calls God “such a drama queen.”
He reduces God to being little more than a totally-out-of-control diva:
“So what we have, for better or worse, is a melodramatic God. He yells and throws dishes, and walks off in a huff, slamming the door behind him—and then he turns around and gives his life for us.”
The article requires no comment other than to ask, “What next?”
(This article is available in downloadable and printable PDF, 2 column article format: Click here to download)
According to an April, 2009 article on MSNBC, a Washington Post/ABC poll released that month became the first to indicate that the number of Americans supporting same-sex marriages (49%) is now greater than those who oppose it (46%). Although the two numbers are within the typical poll margin-of-error of each other (±3%), there does seem to have been a significant shift in attitudes over the preceding 5-year period, when a Post/ABC poll put the percentage in-favor at just 32% in 2004.
Between 1982 and 2007, Gallup reported a significant shift in attitudes toward the acceptability of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle. In 1982, only 34% indicated that homosexuality “is an acceptable alternative lifestyle” with 51% indicating that it is not. However, in 2007 the numbers had more than reversed with 57% of Americans stating it is acceptable and only 40% indicating their belief that it is not.
On the other hand, one encouraging statistic is that over 80% of evangelicals still oppose gay marriage, with a statistically negligible shift since 2004 (according to a 2008 Pew Research Center poll). However, the pressure is on evangelicals because in the mainline churches only 40% oppose same-sex marriage – essentially the same as the Post/ABC poll results for the general population.
The “Homosexuality-Neutral” View of Scripture
Coinciding with the increasing social pressure to accept the homosexual lifestyle, is additional pressure by those who take this a step further by seeking to defend their views on biblical grounds. In most cases, the passages which have been historically understood to condemn homosexual behavior are interpreted as being at most “homosexuality-neutral” (my term). In other words, it is argued that these passages were not intended to address the issue of loving homosexual relationships, but rather inappropriate sexual behavior in general, that in some cases simply happened to involve homosexual acts.
To many — not all — liberal/progressive believers, the Bible is silent on loving, consensual same-sex sexual behavior. God accepts persons of all sexual orientations and approves of sex that is consensual, non-manipulative, safe and within a loving, committed relationship. Liberals and progressive have a range of beliefs concerning save, consensual, and casual sex by heterosexuals, bisexuals or homosexuals.
However the Bible condemns:
• Male rape of other men.
• One of two behaviors:
–- Either men engaging in ritual sex in Pagan temples, or
–- Men having sex in a woman’s bed.
• People having sex that violates their sexual orientation. For example:
–- Heterosexuals having sex with a member of the same sex.
–- Homosexuals having sex with a member of the opposite sex.
• Men sexually abusing children. The passage also condemns young victims of sexual molestation.
• People engaging in bestiality: having sex with non-humans.
Some gay Christians would contend that the Bible condemns only promiscuous homosexual behavior (not homosexuality in general), just as it condemns heterosexual promiscuity.
Passages Cited as Affirming Same-sex Relationships
Beyond arguing against traditional interpretations of certain passages, some Christian gay groups also cite other passages which they claim affirm same-sex relationships. One such group is Gay Christianity 101, which contends that the relationship between David and Jonathan was explicitly homosexual (reference):
Did God bless David and Jonathan, a same sex couple in romantic, committed, sexual partnership? The Bible devotes more chapters to their love story than any other human love story in the Bible. What does God intend us to learn from that dramatic emphasis?
Many gays believe that Jonathan and David were same sex lovers, based on the way God presents their story in scripture and based on the Hebrew words used to describe their relationship.
Although Gay Christianity 101 acknowledges that this is not the view of even most gay Christians, it is the one, as a gay-friendly ministry, they hold and promote. After presenting six other possible interpretations, it is concluded that a seventh one best fits the text. (reference)
David loved Jonathan. In reminiscing about Jonathan, David describes Jonathan’s love to him as “wonderful, passing the love of women-wives.”
To make David’s statement refer to platonic friendship, ‘I was closer to Jonathan than to any of my close female friends’ is a woefully inadequate understanding of the text.
Because Jewish men in David’s time did not have close, platonic friendships with females to whom they were not related by blood or marriage, it better fits the text to accept David’s statement at face value.
The romantic, emotional, sexual love between Jonathan and David was more wonderful than the romantic, emotional, sexual love between David and his wives.
It is also suggested by some that Ruth and Naomi had a sexual relationship as did Daniel and Ashpenaz (both in a brochure on the state of Connecticut’s website, Homosexuality and the Bible, p. 13). Other passages which are said to involve homosexuals who are not condemned (and therefore at least implicitly affirm them), include Matthew 8 and Luke 7 concerning the Roman centurion, and Acts 8 concerning the Ethiopian eunuch.
In the remainder of this article (and at least one subsequent article), it will be demonstrated that the attempts to find homosexuality-compatible interpretations fail to adequately handle the relevant passages, while the historical condemnation of homosexuality has solid biblical support.
Arguments for the Neutrality of Scripture Regarding Homosexuality
GENESIS 19 AND THE CITY OF SODOM
In dealing with the exegesis of 19:5, the author of an article titled “Bible Abuse Directed at Homosexuals” makes the following argument:
The key verb here, transliterated ya,da (or yadha’ ) , is usually translated as “know.” This verb appears 943 times elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures, where it generally means “to know a fact” or “to know a person well.” It has an obvious sexual connotation in only ten of these cases, all of which involve heterosexual relationships.
The translation, then, could have the following meanings:
* Gang rape the angels (a common way to humiliate men – especially enemies – at the time);
* Engage in consensual homosexual sex with them (possibly what the NIV translators intended with “have sex with them”);
* Interrogate them. (The city had in the recent past been sacked, and the strangers might have been spies sent to check out the fortifications which provided some protection for the trade routes that passed the city.)
In choosing the proper meaning, consider this. In Biblical times, travel was slow and dangerous, and safe places to rest were few. Travelers could only pray for the hospitality of strangers – an important theme in the Bible. And Jews, having been ill-treated travelers in Egypt, had particular reason to be hospitable, and emphasis on it permeates Jewish law. For many reasons, hospitality, once offered, could not be breached.
Gay Christianity 101 also endorses the inhospitality view (reference):
For almost 1800 years after the events in Sodom, Jewish prophets in the Bible and Jewish authors outside the Bible, understood this story to be about inhospitality, not homosexuality. Sodom is mentioned 48 times in the Bible and never in those 48 passages is homosexuality given as the cause of God’s judgment. Isn’t that interesting? Have you given that astounding fact the weight it deserves in your thinking about this true story?
Some contend that rather than the sin of the Sodomites being homosexuality in general, it was that they intended to homosexually rape the angels (who appeared as men) as a means of humiliating them as their enemies. (reference)
Most feel that Genesis 19 is totally unrelated to consensual same-sex behavior.
It is obvious that Lot wanted to protect the angels from the city mob. The people of Sodom, having recently been under attack by foreigners, might have been worried that the angels were really military spies. Alternately, the mob might have wanted to humiliate the strangers with homosexual rape which is as abhorrent as heterosexual rape.
Furthermore, concerning Sodom, Gay Christian 101 states what it calls “six surprising facts” (reference):
1. Genesis 19 never mentions homosexuals in Sodom.
2. Genesis 19 never mentions a homosexual act being committed in Sodom.
3. Scripture never mentions a same sex relationship in Sodom.
4. Scripture never tells us that the inhabitants of Sodom were homosexuals.
5. Scripture never tells us that God destroyed Sodom because of homosexuality.
6. Sodomite, in scripture, never refers to homosexuals. Every time sodomite is used in scripture, it refers to cult, shrine, temple prostitutes who worshiped the Canaanite fertility goddess.
A BIBLICAL RESPONSE
Sodom and Gomorrah are first mentioned in Genesis 10:13, with the second reference in chapter 13:10-13, where the men of these cities are characterized as being “exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.” In other passages in Genesis (7:19; 15:1; 16:10; 17:2, among others) where the Hebrew is translated “exceedingly” by the NKJV the context indicates that the word carries the force of “beyond measure.” That the lack of hospitality, even to the point of actual ill-treatment, would be described as “wickedness beyond measure” seems very unlikely.
And while it is true that the author of Hebrews writes, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2), it seems immediately apparent that the problem in Sodom was not simply that of not being hospitable. Even if their treatment of strangers went so far as to warrant a rebuke in that Near-Eastern culture, the suggestion that God would have utterly destroyed these cities for this reason just does not seem to merit serious consideration.
The suggestion that the passage could possibly refer to the men of Sodom simply wanting to interrogate the angels just doesn’t seem plausible as a cause for inviting God’s judgment. For a country on a war-footing, having genuine concerns about the motives of foreigners who just showed up could hardly have been considered outrageously wicked behavior. Also, there is nothing in the text that indicates there was concern that these foreigners might be spies in the first place. And of course they had made no initial attempts to hide as they planned to spend the night in the town square (19:2).
Furthermore, the men of the city threatened to treat Lot worse than they intended to treat these strangers, which is clearly a threat of violence (19:9). But even if the treatment that the strangers would receive as captives under interrogation would have been sufficient to warrant judgment by God, this is ultimately a moot point. God had already determined to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah prior to the angels entering the city.
The passage certainly rules out the possibility that the men of Sodom were hoping for a consensual same-sex encounter with the angels (who were obviously thought to be men). But even though gang-rape is fairly clearly in view, neither was this intended detestable act the reason for their coming destruction. Again, God’s stated intent, prior to their arrival, was to wipe out the entire society – because of a lifestyle so wicked and so prevalent that fewer than even ten decent people could be found.
Sodom and Gomorrah were apparently Canaanite – a culture known to be one of the most morally reprehensible in history. The Canaanite fertility cult involved both heterosexual and homosexual encounters with male and female shrine prostitutes. With this in mind, consider this question: Is it reasonable to think that the “beyond-measure” wickedness of these cities could have somehow excluded sexual debauchery as at least a significant part of the basis for their annihilation?
Additionally, the overall flow of the narrative seems to suggest a direct connection between the incident with the angels and Sodom’s societal wickedness. What they were demanding was not something new to them. And certainly it must be asked if such an utterly wicked warfare tactic like gang-rape could even be considered if sexual debauchery were not already characteristic of the entire culture. And, as we know, all the men of the city came out and surrounded Lot’s house.
At this point, it could be argued that we’re still not talking about loving, monogamous same-sex relationships – but about a culture that was characterized by adulterous relationships, both hetero- and homosexual. However, I think there is one more element of the story that specifically pinpoints homosexual behavior itself as the ultimate trigger for the execution of God’s wrath (independent of whether or not it was occurring in a “loving, monogamous” relationship).
The inescapable problem with the homosexuality-neutral view of Genesis 19 involves Lot’s daughters. No one on either side of the debate would defend rape of any kind as morally acceptable. So, whether the rape would be against Lot’s daughters or against the angels (again, who were thought to be men) is another moot point in and of itself.
This means that there had to be some incredibly significant reason why Lot would be willing to allow even his own daughters to be brutally raped by an out-of-control mob rather than turn over the two angels to them. (And nothing indicates that Lot had any reason to think his guests were not men.)
So, what was this additional factor that struck terror in Lot’s heart as he contemplated this no-win situation? Could it be that Lot so clearly understood that homosexuality is such a detestable abomination in the Lord’s sight that he was unwilling to allow the sin of a homosexual encounter to be added to the sin of rape?
Earlier it was noted that not even ten righteous people were to be found in Sodom. But the obvious implication is that there was not a single person in Sodom who was not guilty of whatever specific sin (or category of sin) was in view. Given the overall wickedness of the Canaanite culture – which even included child sacrifice – what could have been the unique sin of Sodom and Gomorrah among all of the Canaanite cities?
And there is yet another factor that hasn’t been noted concerning Genesis 13:13:
But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.
The word translated “men” does not simply mean “people” in the generic sense – it literally means “men,” i.e., “the males of Sodom.”
So, it appears that the “exceedingly” wicked sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was uniquely committed by the men of those cities – and it involved all of the men. As bad as it would have been for the men to gang-rape their enemies, or worship their gods through encounters with male shrine prostitutes – the overall situation was worse than that. The society was dominated by male homosexuality. And the seriousness of this situation brought the complete destruction and utter desolation of those cities as God hurled fire and brimstone – annihilating every man, woman and child – and everything that had life. Only the judgment of the Flood exceeded the judgment that God brought upon Sodom and Gomorrah on that day.
In the next article in this series, we will examine other passages to see if the biblical record as a whole supports the view that homosexual behavior, independent of the context in which it occurs, is the sin that incurred God’s wrath in Genesis 19.
(This article is available in downloadable and printable PDF, 2 column article format: Click here to download)
Bruce Waltke is one of the most well-known Old Testament scholars in the Reformed tradition of this generation. Known by many as a conservative, his comments made in a recently-released 2009 interview may have created one of the most significant theological firestorms to sweep through the evangelical community in recent memory.
(This issue has generated a tremendous number of articles, blogs and comments and because of the sheer volume it has become very difficult to trace everything back to the primary sources for the information I have reported below. However, I do believe that the picture I have presented is accurate.)
“Bruce Waltke: Why Must the Church Accept Evolution?”
On March 24, the Science and Sacred blog of the Biologos Forum posted a 2009 interview in which Dr. Waltke made definitive statements defending theistic evolution, while simultaneously marginalizing and potentially alienating all who still hold to a literal six-day-creation view of Genesis. In the video titled Bruce Waltke: Why Must the Church Accept Evolution? Dr. Waltke makes the following statement*:
…if the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult…some odd group that is not really interacting with the world. And rightly so, because we are not using our gifts and trusting God’s Providence that brought us to this point of our awareness.
(Quoted in an April 9, 2010 article on the Christianity Today website and on many other sites)
* I have not been able to locate the video anywhere on the internet as it has apparently been taken down everywhere. However, that this is an accurate quote is corroborated by many websites.
At the time the video debuted, Dr. Waltke had been a professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) for more than 20 years, but his resignation from the seminary was reported on April 6. Biologos reports that on March 29 he was asked by the seminary to request that the video be taken down. Miscellanies: a Christ-centered blog reported a clarification by Dr. Waltke on March 31 in which he continues to affirm that Adam and Eve are historical figures from whom all humans descended.*
*Although I have not yet found the original, that this is accurate is also corroborated by other websites carrying the same statement.
Although some early reports indicated that RTS had essentially forced his resignation, Dr. Waltke and seminary Chancellor and CEO Robert (Ric) Cannada have subsequently issued a joint statement that this is not true. Dr. Waltke tendered his resignation because of the harm the video was causing RTS and his resignation was accepted as being in the best interests of RTS. (for a post of Bruce Waltke’s statement, click here; for Ric Cannada’s statement, click here).
On April 30, the board of Knox Theological Seminary approved the appointment of Dr. Bruce Waltke as Distinguished Professor of Old Testament. (the KTS statement) (Knox Theological Seminary is a ministry of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, a member of the PCA.)
This “Will Make Us A Cult”
The Alliance for Biblical Integrity holds to Young-Earth Creationism (YEC) and I will deal with some of the specific scientific and exegetical issues in the evolution / creation debate at some point in the future. However, in this article, I am limiting my comments to the general theological and philosophical problems of evolution, including those associated with marginalizing Young-Earth Creationists by suggesting we may eventually be viewed as a cult.
To be fair, Dr. Waltke has stated that he would have given the video a different title and that the interview was edited in such a way to make him appear to be making stronger statements than he intended against those who don’t agree with his views on theistic evolution. The following has been posted on a third-party blog as being copied from a statement on his Facebook site:
I am not a scientist, but I have familiarized myself with attempts to harmonize Genesis 1-3 with science, and I believe that creation by the process of evolution is a tenable Biblical position. I apologize for giving the impression that others who seek to harmonize the two differently are not credible. I honor all who contend for the Christian faith.
However, the statement concerning the problem of being labeled a cult does not seem to simply be an off-the-cuff remark in an unguarded moment. And even if he might state it differently in retrospect or if this was not his intention, his comments do reflect a widely-held view that YEC is only held by those on the anti-intellectual fringe of conservative evangelicalism. Of course, this has been the consensus of the scientific establishment for as long as anyone can remember. But Dr. Waltke’s words seem to imply that we legitimately run the risk of this becoming the common consensus—which would necessarily include that of the evangelical community in general.
It seems surprising that Dr. Waltke would use the word “cult” so loosely and imprecisely. “Cult” is almost exclusively reserved for groups that deny the deity of Christ, yet it seems unlikely that he is suggesting that rejecting theistic evolution is somehow even close to being equivalent to such heresy. So why even use this term—even if to stress his concern that those who continue to hold this position run the risk of losing credibility? At the very least, the term is unnecessarily inflammatory.
The reasoning behind Dr. Waltke’s statement is also puzzling. Ultimately, a primary reason for us to be concerned about being labeled a cult for any reason must be that the gospel message we proclaim will be rejected as a result. But who would reject our gospel over the question of beginnings if not those who already reject it on other grounds—including many in the scientific community?
Will Theistic Evolution Really Help The Cause Of The Gospel?
Is it reasonable to expect that Muslim intellectuals will accept the deity of Christ if—or because evangelical Christians accept theistic evolution? Will Hindu biologists accept the concept of the triune personal God of the Bible if—or because evangelical Christians reject Young-earth Creationism? Will liberal Protestants return to the biblical gospel of personal redemption through faith in Jesus Christ alone if—or because evangelical Christians embrace their view of Genesis 1-11 as merely a collection of myths? Will even one materialistic evolutionist recognize that he has been wrong about God’s existence if—or because evangelical Christians recognize that they have been wrong about Darwin’s theory?
The answer to these questions seems intuitively obvious. These groups all rejected the biblical gospel long before the evolution / creation debate became a scientific issue, a social cause, a cultural phenomenon or a political football. And if anything, the deepening rejection of the gospel within academia has tracked right with the movement away from a literal view of creation – and not even pretending to slow down at theistic evolution on its way to atheistic evolution. Despite Dr. Waltke’s long years of ministry and work in the rigorous field of theological academics, his comments seem oddly naive.
From a scientific perspective, don’t the twin issues of the resurrection from the dead and life-after-death pose least as much of an obstacle as evolution? Concerning the case for the resurrection, the only evidence consists of historical records. Concerning the case for life-after-death the only arguments are purely philosophical / theological. There is no empirical evidence that the spiritual realm exists, apart from a few spurious claims to the contrary. Anecdotal reports of common near-death experiences do not constitute scientific proof. But even if such proof did exist, it would not produce a rush by the scientific community or anyone else to trust in Christ for salvation, because lack of evidence is not the real issue.
Another significant issue is that of Adam and Eve. In a post-video follow-up, Waltke states:
1. Adam and Eve are historical figures from whom all humans are descended; they are uniquely created in the image of God and as such are not in continuum with animals.
2. Adam is the federal and historical head of the fallen human race just as Jesus Christ is the federal and historical head of the Church.
I don’t see how Dr. Waltke’s present position will give him much more credibility as long as he continues to maintain that Adam and Eve were historical figures. Sooner or later, he will have no choice but to abandon one view or the other. Apart from the scientific problems, the virtually insurmountable nature of the logical and theological problems can readily be seen by anyone who thinks through the issue. (These will be discussed later.)
Is Theistic Evolution The Only Credible View?
Apparently, Dr. Waltke has not always thought so. In an article on biblical cosmogony in the Jan.-Mar. 1975 edition of Bibliotheca Sacra, Dr. Waltke asked the question:
Why has the new generation turned from the theologian to the scientist for the answer to his nagging question about the origin of the universe? (“The Creation Account in Genesis 1-3″)
In the quote from the video, and in the subsequent clarification, one cannot deduce for sure that Dr. Waltke has completely ruled out the possibility that the Genesis account can be taken literally. However, he does seem to be very close to that position—particularly in light of his resignation from RTS. This leads us to wonder what has happened over the last 35 years that has caused him to change his views regarding evolution if his high view of Scripture hasn’t changed, as well—something which he also maintains.
Although Dr. Waltke has made it clear that he holds to theistic evolution (as opposed to naturalistic evolution), it is not at all clear that he held to any form of evolution in 1975. In explaining his position in this article, Dr. Waltke refers to a lecture he gave as a guest speaker in a course on genetics at Southern Methodist University, during which he appeared to defend the literal creationist position. His basic thesis was that evolution, like creationism, is a faith position which cannot be scientifically proven.
During the questioning session that followed the lecture, the basic thesis was accepted by both professor and students, but their next question was, “Why should we accept your faith position instead of ours?”
Now the author is not suggesting that by this one experience he has refuted the hypothesis of evolution, but he is maintaining that all answers which attempt to explain the origin of the universe are essentially faith positions. The question that the LORD asked of Job is asked of every man: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”
The following is an excellent statement that he made in the same article under the section, “The Importance of Cosmogony.” (If Dr. Waltke’s views haven’t fundamentally changed since 1975, it seems odd that after 20 years it would only now be in the best interests of RTS for him to leave the school.)
But it may be asked, “What difference does all this make?” It is important because the question of cosmogony is closely related to one’s entire world view. Someone has said that our world view is like the umpire at a ball game. He seems unimportant and the players are hardly aware of him, but in reality he decides the ball game. So likewise one’s world view lies behind every decision a person makes. It makes a difference whether we come from a mass of matter or from the hand of God. How we think the world started will greatly influence our understanding of our identity, our relationship to others, our values, and our behavior. Because the question of cosmogony is important for understanding some of the basic issues of life, intelligent men throughout recorded history have sought the answer to this question. Just as the knowledge of the future is crucial for making basic choices in life, so also the knowledge of beginnings is decisive in establishing a man’s or a culture’s Weltanschauung (“world view”). No wonder the Bible reveals both.
Because of man’s limitation as a creature, he must receive this knowledge by revelation from the Creator. Moreover, because of the noetic effects of sin, he needs to be reborn before he can comprehend that revelation.
Scientists now regularly state that evolution is no longer a theory, but a proven fact—and it would appear that Dr. Waltke has become persuaded that this is true. However, the problem he cites above has not changed, and in fact, it cannot change. As he notes, “The answer is beyond the range of empirical proof” and this is because it involves events that happened in the past.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that God has created the universe such that macro-evolution can actually occur without his ongoing intervention. That macro-evolution could happen and that it actually did happen are two entirely separate issues. The only way there can be a necessary relationship between the two is if God does not exist—and that is precisely the starting point for atheistic evolutionists.
But this begs the question for theistic evolutionists, as well. If theistic evolution is true, then either evolution requires God’s intervention or God unnecessarily chose to be involved. However, this presents a conundrum. The evidence and arguments required for theistic evolutionsists to maintain that God is necessary at some point in the process are essentially the same ones used by Young-earth Creationists. So, what is the advantage when trying to persuade anyone either of God’s existence or of the truth of the Gospel? If the arguments are essentially the same, then on what grounds do Young-earth Creationists run the risk of being labeled a cult any more than the theistic evolutionist who also maintains the view that Christ arose from the grave to be alive forevermore—a view that most scientists would claim to be decidedly “unscientific.”
Irreconcilable Practical and Theological Problems
Ultimately, theistic evolution creates far more problems than it solves. This is not simply an issue of whether or not a given passage should be understood figuratively or literally. Below are just a few of the many questions and problems raised by the theory of theistic evolution.
If theistic evolution is true in general…
• Wouldn’t death have been a part of life for the millions of years prior to the fall of Adam and Eve?
• Wouldn’t biological decay have occurred over the eons, as well?
• Wouldn’t have all the forces of nature that we observe today been at work also—i.e., destructive weather and geological phenomena?
• What, exactly, were the effects of the Fall, if death, destruction and decay had been an inherent part of the creation from the beginning?
• How could God pronounce that all he created was “good,” if death, destruction and decay had been an inherent part of the creation from the beginning?
• How could it be determined scientifically which parts of the evolutionary process were immediately and necessarily guided by the hand of God, and which ones could have happened without God’s direct intervention?
• How would the answer to the previous question fundamentally differ from the arguments used by Young-earth Creationists?
If Adam and Eve were created instantaneously millions to billions of years after the initial creation…
• How can it be explained that Adam and Eve were placed in an environment that was already marked by death, destruction and decay?
• Were Adam and Eve created to live forever in such an environment?
• Did God also at that time create the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or are these simply metaphorical?
• What, exactly, did Adam and Eve do to bring about their spiritual and physical death, if these things are only metaphorical?
• Why did Moses include the details about cherubim and a flaming sword guarding the entrance to the Garden—and how should we understand this passage, if these things are only metaphorical?
If instead of Adam and Eve being independently created, lower life forms had evolved into hominids over the millennia…
• Would it be proper to say that Adam and Eve were animals prior to God breathing into them the breath of life so that they became “living souls?”
• Would it be reasonable to assume that only two such animals had evolved or that these were the only two among many which became living souls—which would be required for them to be the only progenitors of the human race?
• Wouldn’t it be reasonable to suggest that there were many such hominids at that time, who were biologically identical to humans and looked exactly like humans, but really were not?
• What would have prevented procreation between humans and biologically identical hominids—or is it possible that this actually happened?
• What happened to all of these pre-human animals?
These are not absurd questions. And because of these and many others that could be posed, it doesn’t seem that theistic evolution could possibly be more acceptable to unbelievers than Young-earth Creationism. When carefully considered, it actually seems that theistic evolution could be viewed by naturalistic evolutionists as even more foolish and logically inconsistent than YEC.
I understand there are some significant difficulties that remain to be addressed by YEC from a scientific perspective. However, theistic evolution introduces at least as many problems because science and biblical theology must still be reconciled—which is obviously not a burden for naturalistic evolutionists.
Unfortunately, I don’t to see how either Dr. Waltke’s position on theistic evolution or his comments are in any way helpful to conservative evangelicals and the cause of Christ.
This video is from a service at MorningStar Ministries (founded by Rick Joyner) in Fort Mill, South Carolina. A Google search on “Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey” quickly shows that although recently posted, it has received a lot of attention across the internet. It marks just one of the latest in a long string of “manifestations of the Holy Spirit” – which are clearly neither biblical, nor the work of the Holy Spirit, whatever the real explanation.
(Note: I am working on a higher quality video that I hope to post in the near future.)
MorningStar is a fairly well-known Charismatic ministry, particularly known for its emphasis on “miraculous healings.”
From the MorningStar website, in their statement of faith, we find the following concerning the present work of the Holy Spirit through spiritual gifts:
On the Present Ministry of the Holy Spirit
We believe that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and that His ministry in and through the church by the Holy Spirit has not changed from the beginning. We accept, acknowledge, encourage and seek all of the biblical gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit as present and vital for the church to accomplish her full purpose today.
Hebrew 13:8 is commonly cited as a proof-text that the miraculous sign gifts are still in operation today. However, this is both a misunderstanding of the verse and, I would suggest, is a disingenuous use of the verse because all Christians recognize that this can only refer to his unchanging character and not to the ministry of Christ.
Jesus’ character was the same both before and after the incarnation, yet his earthly ministry was completely different than his ministry in the Old Testament before he became a human through the Virgin Birth. His ministry in and through the average believer was significantly different before and after his crucifixion and after the day of Pentecost. His ministry after the day of Pentecost, in the present age, is significantly different than what his ministry will be during the Millennium after his return and when he will be ruling and reigning from the Throne of David in Jerusalem. Therefore, even if God were continuing to give the miraculous sign gifts today, Hebrews 13:8 does nothing to support this view.
This article is by guest contributor Larry DeBruyn, pastor of Franklin Road Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana and the author of the blog, “Guarding His Flock.”
T.D. Jakes and Communion at ”A Table Set for Two.”
“Brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Romans 16:17-18, KJV)
In the Upper Room and to memorialize His upcoming death, the Lord Jesus took the common but symbolic elements of the bread and wine and instituted the ordinance that has come to be known as the Lord’s Table, the Eucharist, Communion, or simply, “the breaking of bread.” Luke records, “And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood’” (Luke 22:19-20). Of the rite established by the Lord to be observed by the church, Ralph P. Martin stated that susequently it became “a fruitful source of heresy and confused doctrine.”  Not only was this to be the case for developing Christendom, but it is also so among churches today.
To boost attendance, congregations within the Church of England have employed the music of the rock group U2. In one congregation, a bishop presided over what is blasphemously–for it’s about them, not Him–called a “‘U2-charist’, a Holy Communion service that employs the Irish supergroup’s best-selling songs in place of hymns.”  The communion service is described:
In what is more rock concert than Book of Common Prayer, a live band will belt out U2 classics such as Mysterious Ways and Beautiful Day as worshippers sing along with the lyrics, which will appear on screens. The [nightclub] atmosphere will be further enhanced by a sophisticated lighting system that will pulse with the beat . . . 
USA Today reported that “U2-charist” worship has also come to Episcopal congregations in the United States, and likely will find its way into other denominations and congregations as well.  One worshipper, a Roman Catholic who attended a “U2-charist” at a nearby Episcopal church in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., Bridgett Roberts, age 15, remarked of her experience:
It makes you, like, warm inside. Usually at church you love Jesus and everything. But this way you can express how you feel. 
Now in a recent message, “Communion,” Bishop T.D. Jakes eroticizes the ordinance.  On a DVD presentation, he begins his remarks about the Lord’s Table as follows:
One of the most personal, intimate things you can do is to have communion. It shows who you are to Him. It expresses that you are one with the Groom, that the Bride is connected to the Groom through the blood; they have fused together and become one; that they have the same DNA; that they’ve been devined by God; that the covenant has been ratified in the blood much like intercourse signified the ratification of blood in a wedding ceremony. 
Then he continues:
When the man and the woman come together, the Bible says, ‘They shall cleave together and become one flesh.’ His body and her body, her body and his body, they become one entity which is what they were at first when God made Adam. He made one person, male and female He created them and called his name Adam. And when He got ready, He pulled her out of him. And so that’s why we have the right to come back together because we were together in the first place. (The audience stands, shouts, claps, and raises their hands.) 
Then Jakes drives home the point:
When Jesus says, ‘Take, eat. This is my body that was broken for you,’ He says, I want my body in you. (Pause . . . shouts and claps) I want my blood in you. And every time you celebrate this rite, it is a reminder that you belong to me, and I belong to you. And he said, ‘I will drink no more wine until I drink it new with you and the kingdom of God. Communion is the most romantic ordinance. Eh, Eh, Eh. (He laughs. Pause . . . the audience shouts and claps.) It is the most romantic ordinance between two lovers. 
In the observation of communion, the Bishop’s remarks are grossly inappropriate for a number of reasons.
First, why associate the ordinance with sex? Jakes heaps up sexually suggestive words, phrases and sentences—intimate; Groom; Bride; fused together and become one; intercourse; wedding ceremony; shall cleave together and become one flesh; her body and his body; (Jesus says) I want my body in you; Communion is the most romantic ordinance . . . Eh, Eh, Eh; It is the most romantic ordinance between two lovers.
The Apostle Peter warns against false teachers who, “when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure [deceive] through the lusts of the flesh” (2 Peter 2:18, KJV). Decades ago, A.W. Tozer noted that,
The period in which we now live may well go down in history as the Erotic Age. Sex love has been elevated into a cult. Eros has more worshippers among civilized men today than any other god. For millions, the erotic has completely displaced the spiritual. 
Second, to pursue the biblical mystery (Ephesians 5:32), Jakes makes it seem that the Groom and Bride are already married, when in fact the Church’s marriage to Christ will not officially take place until the future Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:5-9). As a group, Christian believers may be compared to a Bride awaiting their Groom’s return (Matthew 25:1-11). Though the one-year betrothal period in biblical culture was considered to be legal marriage (When Joseph discovered Mary was pregnant, he wrestled with the idea of divorcing Mary for infidelity, Matthew 1:18-19.), couples lived lived apart from each other during that time. That’s why as His Bride, we’re to observe the ordinance that remembers and preaches “the Lord’s death until He comes” (Emphasis mine, 1 Corinthians 11:26). The ordinance by which the Lord requests His Betrothed to remember His sacrifice on the cross for their sins ought not to be turned into something akin to a seduction!
Third, in understanding the metaphor-mystery of the Bide’s relationship to the Groom (i.e., the Church’s relationship to Christ), earthly sexual connotation regarding that relationship ought to be removed. In answer to Jews who had posed a hypothetical question about the Levirate Law to Him, Jesus responded: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:29-30, KJV). So even when the Bride is married to the Groom, that marriage in heaven will not be comparable to human marriage on earth for at core, earthly marriage is about covenant-committment. The fact that the Church’s relationship to Christ is explained by the metaphor-mystery of marriage, especially from the perspective of the period of betrothal during which the bride and groom were separated, stands opposed to those who like T.D. Jakes, attempt to eroticize the ordinance in a earthly-fleshly and human-sensual vein.
Fourth, one must wonder what the preacher means when he asserts that communicants become devined by ingesting the elements (the bread-body and wine-blood) of the ordinance. By asserting that divine DNA infuses them, is Jakes advocating that magically transubstantiated elements possess the power to divinize communicants?  His words suggest this to be the case. According to his scheme of spirituality, the communion elements become a magical-mechanical-means whereby Christians become “gods.” By ingesting divinity, they become divinity. In the ancient church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, this process is known as deification (Greek, theosis or theopoiesis). Jakes’ bold language seems to “deliberately [evoke] the pagan language of apotheosis (humans, especially emperors, being advanced to the rank of deity) . . .” 
Fifth, in his sermon “Communion,” Jakes makes it seem as if the Lord’s Table is individual when in fact it’s communal. The ordinance is not observed between two lovers, but rather between Jesus Christ and the many who were/are His followers; initially, the original band of apostles/disciples in the Upper Room, and subsequently, all Christians who would come to believe in Him as their Savior and Lord (See John 17:20-21.). So Adolph Schlatter noted that in addition to Baptism, the Eucharist “constituted a second act that powerfully moved believers’ thoughts and desires and bound them together as a united community.” 
Sixth, for believers, the attraction of the Lord’s Table is the work He already accomplished for us. The ordinance’s focus is upon Jesus’ past death. It’s all about remembrance, not romance. The Lord ordered, “This . . . do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). The Apostle Paul twice repeated, once for the Bread and then for the Cup, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24, 25). As Washington D.C., abounds with granite memorials remembering those who died in the cause for our and other nations’ freedom—the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, etc.—so the elements are taken in the memory of the One who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, He who died for our spiritual freedom. The church must not allow sensuality to undermine her spirituality. The Table of the Lord must not be turned on its head to impress others of being some sort of bacchic rite (Bacchus was the Roman ”party” god.), something that for reason early Christians called their meetings the Agape, or Love Feast (See 1 Corinthians 11:20-22), pagan stoics accused them of. After all, communion is about redemption and reverence, not romance! 
To conclude this presentation dealing with an aberrant, even abhorrent, treatment of Communion, A.W. Tozer may be quoted again. He wrote:
Now if this god Eros would let us Christians alone I for one would let his cult alone for the whole spongy, fetid mess will sink some day under its own weight and become excellent fuel for the fires of hell. But the cult of Eros is seriously affecting the Christian church. 
For reason that the cult of Eros will not leave Christians alone in this wired world of the Internet and is therefore affecting the church, this pastor is forced to issue a public disclaimer of what T.D. Jakes has made “Communion” out to be. The Eucharist should not be eroticized. 
 Italics mine, Ralph P. Martin, “Lord’s Supper, The,” The New Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas, Editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962) 751.
 Jonathan Petre, “Hymns replaced by U2 lyrics at church,” ReligionNewsBlog.com, January 30, 2007. Online at: www.religionnewsblog.com/17326/hymns-replaced-by-u2-lyrics-at-church.
 Gary Stern, “Episcopal ‘U2-charist’ uses songs in service,” USA Today, October 26, 2006. Online at: www. usatoday.com/life/music/2006-10-25-u2-churches_x.htm.
 Bishop T.D. Jakes, “Communion,” The Potter’s Touch. Online at: http://en.sevenload.com/videos/FBdNHJu-20090419-Communion. Video transcribed from minutes/seconds 16.04-19.55.
 A.W. Tozer, “The Erotic Is Rapidly Displacing the Spiritual,” Renewed Day by Day, Daily Devotional Readings, Volume I, Compiled by Gerald B. Smith (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1980) May 13 reading. I thank my friend Pastor Robert C. Gifford for bringing Tozer’s devotional to my attention.
 As regards Jesus’ statement, “This is My body” (Luke 22:19; Compare Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; 1 Corinthians 11:24.), R.P. Martin notes: “There is no ground for a literal equivalence as in the doctrine of transubstantiation. The copula ‘is’ is the exegetical significat as in Gn. 41:26; Dn. 7:17; Lk. 8:11; Gal. 4:24; Rev. 1:20; and in the spoken Aramaic the copulative would be lacking, as in Gn. 40:12; Dn. 2:36; 4:22. The figurative, non-literal connotation ‘ought never to have been disputed’ (Lietzmann).” See Martin, “Lord’s Supper,” 750.
Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach (1804-1872), a German philosopher who believed the Christian faith was a “dream of the human mind,” and therefore was no friend of the faith, especially the Roman Catholic, wrote of the elements: “The wine and bread are in reality natural, but in the imagination divine substances.” See his, The Essence of Christianity, George Eliot, Translator (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 2004) 245.
To explain the sense of “is” in the sentence, “This is My body,” a seminary professor once took a picture of his wife out of his wallet and said, “This is my wife.” So, “The bread becomes under His [Jesus’] sovereign word the parable of His body yielded up in the service of God’s redeeming purpose (cf. Heb. x. 5-10); and His blood outpoured in death, recalling the sacrificial rites of the Old Testament, is represented in the cup of blessing on the table. That cup is invested henceforward with a fresh significance as the memorial of the new Exodus, accomplished at Jerusalem (Lk. ix. 31).” Martin, “Lord’s Table,” 750.
Indeed, as the Apostle put it, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7b, KJV).
 John A. McGuckin, “Deification,” The SCM Press A-Z of Patristic Theology (London: SCM Press, 2005) 98.
 Adolf Schlatter, The Theology of the Apostles, Andreas J. Köstenberger, Translator (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998) 47.
 The sense of the Greek noun “remembrance” (anamnesis) is to remember again “in an affectionate calling of the Person Himself to mind.” See W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., “Remembrance,” An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984) 946-947.
 Tozer, “The Erotic.”
 See also Pastor Larry DeBruyn, “Evangelicals: Emergent and Erotic,” Guarding His Flock.com. Online at: http://guardinghisflock.com/2009/06/08/evangelicals-emergent-and-erotic/#more-3.
Postscript: I want to thank Mrs. Gaylene Goodroad, a member of Franklin Road Baptist Church, Indianapolis, Indiana, for drawing my attention to Bishop Jakes’ internet sermon.