March 29, 2012

Happy Atheist Day, Dr. Clay Nuttall

I am sure you know this title is a tongue and cheek statement. On the other hand you may not have heard of National Atheist Day. I have no way of knowing if the following really happened, but it should have. For now we will just accept it as a story that someone made up.


In Florida, an atheist created a case against Easter and Passover Holy days. He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians and Jews and observances of their holy days. The argument was that it was unfair that atheists had no such recognized days. The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the passionate presentation by the lawyer, the judge banged his gavel declaring, “Case dismissed!"

The lawyer immediately stood objecting to the ruling saying, “Your honor, How can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and others. The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, yet my client and all other atheists have no such holidays.” The judge leaned forward in his chair saying, “But you do. Your client, counsel, is woefully ignorant.” The lawyer said, “Your Honor, we are unaware of any special observance or holiday for atheists.” The judge said, “The calendar says April 1st is April Fool’s Day. Psalm 14:1 states, 'The fool says in his heart, there is no God.' Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that, if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1st is his day. Court is adjourned.”


There can be little doubt that we have become a nation with a majority of fools. I understand that most of them would not claim they are atheists but even this rabble category is growing. The fact is that most of the people we know live like there is no God. That makes them “practical atheists”. From that perspective a majority of the people in our country are atheists.

It is very easy to confirm this argument, just listen to the media, entertainment crowd, business community, academia, religion, the courts and government. Almost every conversation and report makes it clear that man has become the god of our society. Not only has human reason become the authority of our culture, but it has invaded the churches. The theology of man is not only prominent, it is the standard and it will not tolerate the voice of those who are truly biblical Christians. Real truth as defined by the sovereign creator is ridiculed and shouted down in every venue. The only arguments that are given any value are those from the atheist majority, who have chosen finite man to be their god.


There are several reasons why the practical and stated atheists have won the day but the number one culprit is state education. It is also where their victory is most evident. Any cursory study of these schools at every level of education produces an irrefutable illustration of the problem. While academia touts its open mind and ability to think critically the evidence is against them. There is no room or tolerance for anything that flows from the true God.

Before you get all bent out of shape, I am fully aware of and thankful for, the tiny minority of believers in that system who try their best to be faithful to the eternal infinite God. Every little victory has worth but we have lost the battle and it is time to admit it. The atheist (man is god) theology is taught every day in the majority of the classrooms. There is no room in the majority of these educational settings for prayer, the bible and the real God. Falsehoods like evolution, Mother Nature and psychobabble are the rule of the day. The religion and theology of the atheist is freely taught and it has been successful.


The rise and great growth of this false religion has been made possible by the wrongful use of tax dollars. Biblical Christians have been forced to pay for the dissemination of this sad farce and the teaching of other religious beliefs. These Philistine schools have taught the children of true faith to think like worldlings. The majority of the teachers in the state system are dead spiritually and incapable of communicating what God wants His children to know. God specifically prohibits the taking of advice from those who are spiritually and morally deficient. (Psalm 1).

The arguments of believers here are a sure sign that the dominant atheist religion has reached deep into our own Christian community. Some believers argue that these unbelievers are intellectual and smart. Of course they are intellectuals, but they are intellectual pagans. Other believers argue that in secular things it doesn’t matter who does the teaching and here you have another answer. For the believer, there is nothing that is not sacred. For us every thought is sacred before God (1 Cor. 10:5). This is what I meant by people in our crowd who have been taught to use human reason as the final authority rather than the Word of God. Why not admit it, they are the majority and most of us don’t even know why we lost. So “Happy Atheist Day” to you.

Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D.Min

A communication service of Shepherd's Basic Care. For those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible Shepherd's Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address,

March 26, 2012

Archival Series: Is NIU Unchanged?” Northland Baptist Bible College Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity

This republication of the January 10, 2011 original is a companion to the previous article, NIU: Let’s Get First Hand on the Facts. It was this article that I forwarded to Dr. Matt Olson, for his personal review, two weeks prior to its publication. In our brief email exchange afterward Dr. Olson cited no factual errors whatsoever!
An individual recently provided me with an official document used at Northland International University. The document is titled, Northland Baptist Bible College Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity. This document was originally prepared by the college and endorsed by the NBBC board. This document was once and still may be distributed to visiting guests with questions about Northland’s stand on issues. Topics that the NBBC Position Statement address, but is not limited to, but includes: Accreditation, Divorce, Promise Keepers, Social Drinking, Billy Graham, Jack Hyles, Calvinism, Bible Versions and Navigators. For today’s purposes, however, I am highlighting four topics from the document. Let’s review these four categories from the NBBC Position Statement and then consider certain current events at Northland in light of those official position statements.

Bob Jones, Jr. and Bob Jones III speak on campus occasionally. We are a Baptist school but appreciate their strong stand on Fundamentalism.1

1. Principles of Music- We believe that all music must glorify and be a direct reflection on the life of a Spirit-filled believer (Ephesians 5: 18-20). We do not believe that music is amoral or “Value-neutral,” but that music plays an important role in the spiritual life of a believer. The style in which a piece of music is written and the manner in which it is performed strongly colors the message of the music. Or desire is to promote the style and type of music that will edify the believer and encourage holy living, and to avoid styles that contradict or hinder the spiritual well-being of the Christian. With these principles in mind, we have developed the following guidelines:
2007 Resolved, "Rock Out?"

2. Types of Music- Sacred music must be conservative in style. The music should support the message, and the message should be scriptural. We avoid music classified as “Contemporary Christian Music”- sacred music which is written or performed in a popular or worldly style. These styles include rock, Blues, Jazz, “big band,” rap, New Age, and other styles normally associated with worldly entertainment or dancing. We also avoid “pop” or rock arrangements of traditional hymns, recordings with the typical rhythm section of bass and drums used in pop and dance music.

Some styles of secular music, such as classical music, marching band music, fun songs, or traditional folk songs may be appropriate for certain occasions. However, some styles, such as jazz, rock, rap, punk, dance band, or New Age are never considered appropriate.

3. Music Performance- We do not encourage a singing or playing style which mimics the style of popular musicians. This includes scooping, sliding, breathiness, unnecessary syncopation, “scat” singing and other techniques common to nightclub, jazz, and other popular singers. We do encourage a style of singing and playing based on traditional, legitimate principles of good musicianship, including rhythmic precision, breath and tone support, proper intonation, and a direct, unaffected mode of expression.
From Resolved 2008

4. Music Performers- Because of our conservative stance regarding music and performance, we do not endorse “Contemporary Christian” artist who use worldly techniques in performing or recording their music.

Christian Rock Music
We view this as a contradiction in terms and reject it as being Christian.

John MacArthur
We have no institutional ties with Dr. MacArthur. We disagree with his view of church polity, but see value in his writings and in his expository preaching. We disagree with his neo-evangelical associations.2

With those NBBC Position Statements in mind, please consider the following four events that took place on NIU’s campus in 2010. Read objectively, and as you do ask yourself, has anything changed in principle and application at NIU?

1) NIU Initiates and Establishes Institutional Ties with John MacArthur
In April 2010 NIU President Matt Olson with Sam Horn, Les Ollila and Doug McLachlan traveled to the Grace Community Church to meet with John MacArthur, Phil Johnson and Rick Holland. This meeting was not publicly disclosed until Matt Olson’s Friends in Ministry open letter (Nov. 2010).3 See- NIU’s Convergence with Evangelicalism and Our Children Learn Not Only By What We Teach Them, But by What We Tolerate

2) Rick Holland, executive pastor of Grace Community Church Founder/director of John MacArthur’s CCM/Rock youth conference Resolved was presented to the undergraduates in an October chapel meeting.4

While NIU views Christian Rock “as a contradiction in terms and reject it as being Christian” by putting Rick Holland in the chapel pulpit NIU’s leadership, at the minimum, gave tacit endorsement to his Resolved conference. Dr. Peter Masters correctly describes Rick Holland’s Resolved Conference as an,
...extreme charismatic-style worship…sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert.... Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment. Pictures…betray the totally worldly, show business atmosphere created by the organizers [Rick Holland].”5
3) Wayne Simien Speaks in Undergraduate Chapel
Simien’s Called to Greatness, among other ministries, offers dance classes for girls age 8-12, “intended to instill in young people a love for dance along with the fundamentals of ballet and jazz,” as well as Jazz/Contemporary dance instruction for girls 13-17. See-
Former NBA Player Speaks in Chapel 6

4) NIU Students and Staff Perform Music From and Dance to Broadway play Wicked
In the video link you will see Wynne Kimbrough, dean of students, on the platform with another student performing the duet lead role along with four off stage (student) dancers. You will see Dr. Kimbrough and five students performing a song and dance selection from Wicked, What is This Feeling, Loathing.

From the Music section of the NBBC Position Statement above, “We avoid music...styles normally associated with worldly entertainment or dancing.” Not anymore! One might assume that since this was Spirit Week on campus that this was done as a parody. Nevertheless, there is no justification whatsoever for this presentation on the campus of a fundamental Christian college. As the NBBC Position Statement indicates, “…some styles, such as jazz, rock, rap, punk, dance band, or New Age are never considered appropriate.”

In his Friends and Fellow Followers letter Les Ollila wrote, “…the foundational principles and historic theological positions to which we have always been committed remain unchanged.” In Matt Olson’s Open Letter to Friends in the Ministry he stated,
Our Music Philosophy: Philosophically, it is unchanged. Let me say it again... unchanged. What we have always been trying to do, and will continue to do into the future, is to make sure Northland’s practice of music (as with every aspect of the Christian life) is built principally on clear teachings from the Bible…. 7
Has NIU remained unchanged? In 2010-11 school year would NIU hand the Northland Baptist Bible College Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity to a visiting pastor and/or parent and state that the university still abides by the philosophy and practice it defines? Is the NBBC Position Statement still in force, or has it been set aside to allow for what has the appearance of a change in direction for NIU? Did the name change from NBBC to NIU negate and dissolve the Northland Baptist Bible College Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity?

NBBC was so “Baptistic” that when the NBBC Position Statement was written they found it necessary to offer an explanation for having in Dr. Bob Jones, Jr. and Dr. Bob, III. Today, NIU presents non-Baptists and Southern Baptists in the classroom and chapel pulpit who are not known as, and do not want to be indentified as fundamental Baptists or with Fundamentalism. Yet NIU’s president and chancellor insist the university “is unchanged.”

The happenings of recent months from Northland’s campus strongly suggest that NIU is moving in a direction that is at odds with some elements that the NBBC Position Statement articulates. In light of tangible evidence that NIU has embarked on a new course in its philosophy and has formalized ties with evangelicals, the administration must decide to either:
1) Publicly disavow the NBBC Position Statement or,

2) Repent of recent activities identified above and live up to the NBBC Position Statement in principle and application. Cease and desist immediately from the new trajectory the administration has set for the university.
What tires objective observers is letters like those from Les Ollila and Matt Olson where they seem to use subjective imprecise language to quell any concerns. Complete details of what is transpiring in the administration and on campus are obscured for the sake of the new philosophy, trajectory and agenda for impressionable NIU students.
“Northland’s new trajectory has a historic parallel. The devastating effects of introducing Evangelicalism’s philosophy and practices into a biblical Fundamentalist setting are no more stark than the demise of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College.”8


1) Northland identified itself as a, “Baptist school but appreciate their (Bob Jones, Jr. and Bob Jones, III] strong stand on Fundamentalism.” Fall 2010 semester’s guest speakers on NIU’s campus (Rick Holland and Wayne Simien) are not Baptists and do not have a “strong stand on Fundamentalism.” So, what is it that NIU appreciates about Rick Holland and Wayne Simien that would have them invited to speak on campus?

2) NIU disagrees with John MacArthur’s “neo-evangelical associations.” Yet, NIU officials (Olson, Ollila, Horn, McLachlan) flew to California to meet with John MacArthur, Phil Johnson and Rick Holland. the meeting resulted in establishing “institutional ties” with the invitation to MacArthur’s executive pastor, Rick Holland, to speak in NIU’s chapel to the undergraduates. Who changed? It wasn’t MacArthur, Johnson and Holland!

3) Dr. Matt Olson’s Open Letter to Friends in the Ministry

4) See- NIU Presents executive Pastor of Grace Community Church to Its Student Body

5) “Resolved is the brainchild of a member of Dr John MacArthur’s pastoral staff [Rick Holland], gathering thousands of young people annually, and featuring the usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship. Young people are encouraged to feel the very same sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert, complete with replicated lighting and atmosphere. At the same time they reflect on predestination and election. Worldly culture provides the bodily, emotional feelings, into which Christian thoughts are infused and floated. Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment. (Pictures of this conference on their website betray the totally worldly, show business atmosphere created by the organizers.)” (Dr. Peter Masters, The Merger of Calvinism With Worldliness)

6) See Wayne Simien’s Called to Greatness Event Information tab, CTG Dance link.

7) Dr. Matt Olson’s Open Letter to Friends in the Ministry

8) Discussion Over the Closing of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College

Additional articles in the NIU series include:
Northland Int’l. University’s Convergence with Evangelicalism: What Does it Mean for Impressionable Students?

Dr. Matt Olson UnInvited from BJU Baccalaureate

Northland International University’s Music Department to be Dissolved
By the end of the 2010-2011 academic year every NIU music faculty member had resigned or had been asked not to return.

Is NIU “Unchanged?” ReDux: NIU Students Engage the Issues, Part One

Our Children Learn Not Only What We Teach Them, but by What We Tolerate

Northland Int’l University Presents Executive Pastor of Grace Community Church to It’s Student Body

March 22, 2012

NIU: Let’s Get First Hand on the Facts

Typically, I will not post comments submitted anonymously. If the writer doesn’t have the character and backbone to identify himself he has no reason to expect his comment to appear. This week, however, I allowed for an example of the kind of misinformed, naive attitude and factual errors that exist in regard to the reporting of the changes that have come to Northland International University (NIU) under the current leadership. The following anonymously submitted comment appears in the thread under, Is NIU “Unchanged?” Northland Baptist Bible College Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity (January 10, 2011).
WOW. I find it interesting how easily people believe information they read and/or hear second and even third hand; and then proceed to make assumptions and attack people and institutions without ever talking and visiting that person or place first hand (not the Biblical model). It is no wonder that Christianity is destroying itself from the inside out with the aid of these negligent and hasty accusations. This is very sad. I have recently visited NIU and talked with leadership there and can emphatically say that your assumptions (and that’s all they are) are drastically wrong. NIU is an excellent institution that is bringing glory to God all around the world.”
My revised reply to that comment follows:
1) Is NIU “Unchanged?” Northland Baptist Bible College Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity is thoroughly documented. It reports what is widely known and irrefutable about the changes and new direction of the formerly biblically separatist school. 

2) I provided a copy of and communicated directly with Dr. Matt Olson about the article two weeks PRIOR to its publication. I gave him the opportunity to identify any factual errors and in his reply he cited none. That is because there are no factual errors! Dr. Olson knows he has an open door to contact me about any of the NIU articles at this blog. I gave him my personal promise that if he identifies any error I will immediately make the correction or deletion. He hasn’t named any errors in any of the NIU articles at my blog because there are no factual errors and Dr. Olson knows it. Now, I challenge you to cite exactly what areas of the article the unnamed NIU leadership allegedly told you are “drastically wrong.” Of course, these leaders won’t mind if I contact them so that they can help me make the corrections. Incidentally, to post here again use of your full name will be required. 

3) I visited the former NBBC twice, once in 2000 and again in 2001. Both were extended visits as a guest of the college in an official capacity. I became very familiar with the college, its student body, faculty and characteristics as a fundamental, separatist institution. The changes evident today are in stark contrast to what I witnessed firsthand over ten years ago. In late January this year I was on campus again, early one morning, to visit and pray for its recovery from compromise, which has at its end a slide towards New Evangelicalism.

On December 27, 2010 (two weeks prior to publication of Is NIU “Unchanged?”) I sent the complete article to Dr. Matt Olson for his personal review with this header:
Dear Dr. Olson: I rarely send an advance on articles that will appear at my blog, but I am doing you this courtesy. Below is a near final draft of an article I will be publishing in January [2011]. I am attaching this advance for your attention. If you have anything you would like to share in regard to the article itself please reply at your earliest convenience. If there are any factual errors I will be happy to make corrections prior to publication.
Dr. Olson responded. He cited no factual errors in the article whatsoever. There are no assumptions only observable facts. It appears our anonymous commenter has been misinformed by alleged NIU officials, these alleged officials may have never read the article in question, the anonymous person was deceived or is acting alone having never spoke to responsible leadership at NIU in the first place. Whatever the case, he/she is woefully misinformed and misguided.

FWIW, in a separate communication with Dr. Olson on another article he requested that I withhold publication of the article. The article detailed an event at NIU that might have been highly damaging.... I gave conditional benefit of the doubt and did not publish the article. So, to anyone who suggests I have not spoken to NIU leadership: You are dreadfully mistaken! I trust Dr. Olson would verify I have communicated with him about these articles if you ask him.

The invitation is open to anyone in leadership at NIU to identify factual error(s) in the Is NIU “Unchanged” article. Just as I offered to NIU president Dr. Matt Olson, two weeks prior to publication, if conclusive proof of an error is provided I will revise or remove immediately. A full name must accompany any submission to a comment thread. Any e-mail I receive at must include the sender’s full name and will be cited. Anonymous comments and/or e-mails will be deleted without reading. This offer is open-ended and applicable of any of the eleven articles I have published in regard to the changes that have come to NIU. All are open for review and correction.

On Monday I am going to republish the January 10, 2011 article Is NIU “Unchanged?” Northland Baptist Bible College Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity for open reading and review. This article has had in excess of 10,000 reads and is #2 most read all time at my blog. Of the eleven articles in the NIU series, Dr. Matt Olson Uninvited from BJU Baccalaureate is the most recommended.

Lord willing NIU will one day reverse course from the change in trajectory toward compromise and worldliness it has been set upon by the current leadership. One day NIU might return to the place and standing before God so it will once again become the “excellent institution...bringing glory to God” it used to be.

Yours in His service,


March 13, 2012

Archive Series: “Crossless” Gospel Advocates Have Gone Too Far

Dr. *J. B. Hixson’s new book, Getting the Gospel Wrong: The Evangelical Crisis No One Is Talking About contains an important section that address the Crossless gospel.

I trust the following notes from Dr. Hixson will make very clear to readers that the Grace Evangelical Society’s ReDefined” Free Grace reductionist theology is a radical departure from the biblical plan of salvation. Furthermore, this effectively erases any lingering notion that Hodges, Wilkin or GES speak for or represent the Free Grace community at large.


In recent years, some theologians have departed from the biblical view of the gospel by suggesting that one can believe in Jesus for eternal life without explicit knowledge that He died and rose again for one’s sins. For these theologians, knowledge of Christ’s death and resurrection as a payment for one’s sins is optional as part of the content of saving faith.

The view that one can believe in Jesus for eternal life without knowing that He died and rose again has been variously termed the “crossless gospel,” the “promise-only gospel,” the “contentless gospel,” the “minimalist gospel,” and the “refined gospel.” This view is being propagated primarily by the Grace Evangelical Society and such notable theological scholars as Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and John Niemela, to name a few. Their self-labeled view of the gospel is termed the “refined view,” indicating that the accepted view of the gospel throughout two thousand years of church history has been incorrect and that they have now provided a long-overdue corrective. Hodges refers to the traditional view of the gospel, as including the death and resurrection of Christ, as “flawed.” Cf. Zane C. Hodges, “How to Lead People to Christ, Pt.2,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 14 (Spring 2001): 9–18. Hodges elsewhere states, “The simple truth is that Jesus can be believed for eternal salvation apart from any detailed knowledge of what He did to provide it.” Ibid., p. 12. See also Zane C. Hodges, “How to Lead People to Christ, Pt.1,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 13 (Autumn 2000): 3–12, emphasis added.

For Hodges and others who hold this view, the gospel is limited to: “Belief in Jesus Christ as the guarantee of eternal life.” Hodges writes, “People are not saved by believing that Jesus died on the cross; they are saved by believing in Jesus for eternal life, or eternal salvation.” Hodges, “How to Lead People to Christ, Pt.2,” 10. According to Hodges, details such as who Jesus is (i.e. the Son of God) and His work on the cross are not relevant to the precise content of saving faith. To be clear, proponents of this view believe Christ died and rose again; they just do not believe one has to believe in the death and resurrection of Christ to be saved.

The present writer applauds the quest for precision in the content of saving faith by those who hold this view; yet, in a tragic example of a theological method gone awry, they have gone too far. Their theological method manifests several errors such as [1] an unbalanced appeal to the priority of the Johannine Gospel (Consider Hodges’ statement, “All forms of the gospel that require greater content to faith in Christ than the Gospel of John requires are flawed.” Hodges, How To Lead a Person To Christ, Part 1, p. 8. And, “Neither explicitly nor implicitly does the Gospel of John teach that a person must understand the cross to be saved.” Ibid., p. 7.); [2] A failure to acknowledge and correctly handle the progress of revelation in Scripture; [3] A failure to acknowledge the changing content of saving faith within each dispensation (In support of their position that saving faith today does not require knowledge of Christ’s work on the cross, adherents of this view often will appeal to the fact that Abraham and other OT saints did not believe in the death/resurrection of Christ. Such an argument evidences a departure from the foundational dispensational understanding regarding the changing content of saving faith. It is self-evident that OT saints did not believe explicitly in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, since the events of Calvary had not occurred yet. But it does not follow from this observation that someone today could be saved without knowledge of Christ’s work on the cross. See note twenty-eight below.); [4] An improper theological synthesis when comparing Scripture with Scripture; and [5] The tendency to read a presupposed theological conclusion into a given passage, thus obscuring the plain, normal sense of the passage.

Sadly, in their commendable effort to eliminate any elements of works or human effort from the gospel, they have stripped it of key salvific components. One proponent of this view stated that it is possible for a person to get saved in the present age by believing in Jesus, and then die and go to heaven, whereupon he is surprised to learn that the Jesus who saved him also died and rose again for his sins. (Bob Wilkin, Question & Answer time during Wilkin’s presentation at the 2007 Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in San Diego, CA, entitled, “Our Evangelism Should Be Exegetically Sound,” November 15, 2007.) According to Wilkin, as long as one believes that Jesus guarantees him eternal life, he can be saved, even if he does not know that Jesus is the Son of God and even if he knows nothing about Jesus’ work on the cross.

Yet, several New Testament passages indicate that explicit knowledge of Jesus’ death and resurrection is necessary for eternal salvation. A detailed critique of the so-called “crossless gospel” is beyond the scope of this present work, but a couple of passages are worth noting here. In 1 Corinthians 1:17–18 Paul references the gospel he preached and refers to the “cross of Christ” and the “message of the cross.” Three verses later in 1:21, he states that one is saved by believing the message he preached. Two verses after that, he affirms once again the content of his message, which, when believed, results in salvation. He states, “we preach Christ crucified…” (1:23). This passage inseparably links the work of Christ on the cross to the content of saving faith. Later in 1 Corinthians 15, in a passage previously discussed in this present work, Paul states that one is saved by believing the gospel, which he then defines as including the death and resurrection of Christ. Galatians 1:8–9 also is instructive here. In Galatians 1:8–9, Paul states plainly that any gospel other than the one he had preached to the Galatians during his visit to them is a false gospel. Scripture provides a record of the precise gospel that Paul preached to the Galatians during his first missionary journey. That record is contained in Acts 13. There, one finds that the gospel Paul preached included quite naturally the death and resurrection of Christ (cf. Acts 13:28–30; 38–39). When synthesizing Galatians 1 with Acts 13, the conclusion can only be that any gospel that omits the death and resurrection of Christ is a false gospel. Many additional passages could be cited that affirm the centrality of the cross in the gospel message, but these should suffice to render the view discussed above as warrantless and unbiblical.

For a detailed treatment of this erroneous view of the content of saving faith, see Tom Stegall’s 5-part series in The Grace Family Journal. Tom Stegall, “The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel, Parts 1–5,” The Grace Family Journal (2007).

See also Gregory P. Sapaugh, “A Response to Hodges: How to Lead People to Christ, Parts 1 and 2,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 14 (August 2001): 21–29.

Reprinted by Permission (Originally posted June 16, 2008 with minor formatting changes for presentation at this blog)

Please continue at Preface to Getting the Gospel Wrong.

*J. B. Hixson is the former Executive Director of the Free Grace Alliance. He also teaches Theology at Grace School of Theology in The Woodlands, TX and Free Grace Seminary in Atlanta, GA. He earned his B.A. from Houston Baptist University, Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, and Ph.D. from Baptist Bible Seminary. He has pastored churches in Texas and Illinois.

Getting the Gospel Wrong is available through Amzon. Or You can order through Dr. Hixson’s website: Not-by-Works.

March 7, 2012

Praying for Wisdom by By Dr. Rick Flanders, Evangelist

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him,” James 1:5
The General Epistle of James could be classified as a wisdom book of the New Testament, similar to the “wisdom books” (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) of the Old Testament. It is also a book that has an emphasis on prayer. In the blessed promise of James 1:5 we find both themes combined. It is about praying for wisdom.

The context is teaching us about enduring trials (read verses 2 through 16). In a trial of our faith one thing we especially need is wisdom from God. “What shall I do?” we ask. “How shall I handle this?” “What is the Lord telling me?” So in the time of trial and temptation, we are admonished to pray for wisdom, and encouraged that God will give it.

Every serious reader of the Bible remembers that Solomon asked for wisdom and got it from God (First Kings 3:5-28 and Second Chronicles 1:7-12). The Lord, in answer to his prayer for wisdom and understanding so that he could fulfill his role as ruler of God’s people, gave him “a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee.” The apostle James now informs us that God is willing to give each of us wisdom to fulfill our roles in the world in a manner that reminds us of King Solomon! Let us look carefully at the promise, the condition we must fulfill to obtain the wisdom it promises, and the results in our lives if we get into the habit of praying for wisdom.

The Promise
1. It is a universal promise! Look carefully at the wording of James 1:5. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally…” God promises to give His wisdom to anyone who needs it and will ask for it. This is amazing! Wisdom in the Bible is the capacity to understand how life really works and the character to live accordingly. This is available to anyone who wants it. Notice that the promise does not restrict the blessing to Christians. “All men” can get wisdom from God. In Second Timothy 3:15 we are told that the holy scriptures “are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is Christ Jesus.” Remember that the Book of Proverbs presents God-given wisdom as “the principle thing,” and admonishes men to “get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding” (4:7). Wisdom, seeing life as it really is, viewing the issues as God declares them to be, is really the chief need of men. Now if men get wisdom, they will get saved. Being “wise unto salvation” in Christ is being aware of one’s sinful condition, of its dire consequences, of its remedy in Jesus Christ, and of justification by faith in Him. This understanding is necessary before a sinner can place His trust in Christ. Usually we call the wisdom necessary for saving faith “conviction.” Even the heathen who pray for this wisdom can have it. The promise is for everybody. 
2. It is an easy promise! The verse says that we should simply “ask of God.” Anybody can do that. Then it assures us that the God we ask for wisdom “upbraideth not.” Upbraid means to “chew you out.” The Greek word from which it is translated is rendered elsewhere in the New Testament “revile” or “reproach.” God won’t respond to your prayer for wisdom by reproaching you for asking a silly question. He won’t put you down for being ignorant. He will kindly give you the answer. Don’t be afraid to ask Him!

3. It is an abundant promise. He says that God gives His wisdom “liberally” to those who ask for it. This means that He will give you all the wisdom you need!

4. It is a sure promise. There are many conditional promises in the Bible, but none are more point-blank and clear than this one. James 1:5 says that if anybody asks for wisdom, “it shall be given him.” There is not much room for doubt or confusion about the meaning here. When we are at a loss about what to do, we should pray to God for wisdom.
The Condition
Verse 6 says, “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” The condition for the fulfillment of this promise in our lives is faith. The nature of the faith that obtains wisdom is explained in the following words and verses.
For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not than man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways,” James 1:6-8
1. The faith required is confident faith. We are to pray expecting God to give the wisdom He has promised. Do not waver in believing.

2. This faith must be persistent faith. Those with fainting, failing faith sink as Peter did when he took his eyes off the Lord. They will not obtain what they seek. We must be like Elijah as he is referenced in James 5:17-18. “He prayed earnestly” because he was convinced that what he was asking God to do was something God was willing to do. And so he kept praying until it happened, both in the stopping of the rain and the giving of rain. We are to pray and pray for the wisdom and guidance we need, doing what God says we should do all along the way: acknowledging Him in all our ways (remember Proverbs 3:6), searching diligently for truth in the Word of God (Proverbs 2:2-9), and seeking the counsel of godly people the Lord has put into our lives (Proverbs 15:22).

3. This faith must be committed faith. The wavering rebuked in James 1 has to do with double-mindedness. A double-minded man needs to purify his heart according to James 4:8. In his heart and mind he wavers between doing the will of God for his life and just doing what he wants to do. The one who gets wisdom from God must be committed up-front to do whatever God shows him he should do. God is not interested in satisfying your curiosity. He will not reveal His will to you so that you can decide whether or not you want to do it. James 1:5 is a promise for people with the faith to follow through and do whatever God wants. My policy for years has been to pray earnestly for guidance, basing my plea on the promise of James 1:5. When the situation involves a natural deadline for my decision, I tell the Lord that I must have the wisdom by such-and-such a time. If there is no necessary and natural deadline, I leave the decision-making open until I have clear leading from the Lord. But if there is a deadline, if it would in some way be wrong for me to postpone my decision beyond a certain date or time, I will assume at that time that God has given me wisdom because of what He promises in James 1:5. Usually I will tell the Lord what I think the right thing is for me to do, based on His Word and the leading of His Spirit, and then I will say that if I am wrong about it I want Him to show me my mistake before I take the step. Otherwise I will move based on the wisdom I believe He has given me, and I will never look back. God has committed Himself to a clear promise in James 1:5 and we should not doubt Him by second-guessing later. How many times I have seen Him reveal His will during periods when I was seeking His mind! How many times I have seen Him work His will through decisions I made as a pastor, as a husband, as a father, and as a servant of Christ, even when I did not have a great feeling of confidence when I made the decision, but based what I was doing on faith in God’s absolute integrity and reliability! It is a great way to live!
The Result
The first chapter of James does not give the final and only reference to wisdom in the book. James 3 teaches us how praying for wisdom regularly will change our lives. Read the words of verses 13 through 18.

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
A life characterized by praying for wisdom and then living according to the wisdom that descends from above will be a life characterized by good behavior, meekness, purity, gentleness, good fruits, sincerity and peace. It is the life required of church leaders in Acts 6, where they are expected to be “men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.” Practicing the habit of praying for wisdom in the way that James 1 says we should pray for it will result in a godly life. So we all need to do it.

Dr. Rick Flanders, Evangelist
Revival Ministries

March 2, 2012

Rick Warren Builds Bridge to Muslims: Is That the Real Story?

This story has been circulating the Christian blogosphere for several days. For scheduling reasons and to let some of the dust settle I held it until now. Following is what we know. I will follow with some commentary and links to related articles.
The Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and one of America’s most influential Christian leaders, has embarked on an effort to heal divisions between evangelical Christians and Muslims by partnering with Southern California mosques and proposing a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.1
Regarding the OC Register story, Rick Warren posted this, “I deeply love my Muslim neighbors but this article contains multiple errors - factually and theologically that neither our dear friends in the Muslim Community nor the Christians at Saddleback Church would agree with.”

No indication has been given to date from Warren as to what those errors are. The OCRegister reporter, Jim Hinich, later responded to Warren’s reaction. He wrote,
I’m the reporter who wrote this story. I’m sorry Rev. Warren feels the story contains errors but the story was based on interviews and documents and it was thoroughly fact-checked. I discussed all of its major points with Tom Holladay, an associate senior pastor at Saddleback, I checked with other sources quoted in the story this morning and they said they did not see any errors. While reporting this story I asked repeatedly to speak to Rev. Warren directly but was told he was too busy for an interview. If any facts need to be corrected I hope representatives from Saddleback will get in touch with me….
Rick Warren is an extreme ecumenical compromiser! He promotes and participates in ecumenism! He has forged ties with the Roman Catholic Church, the Baptist World Alliance and the United Nations. Warren is involved with and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Warren said, “I see absolutely zero reason in separating my fellowship from anybody.” Noting he has theological differences with many of the diverse denominations that invite him to speak, Warren added, “That doesn’t stop me from fellowshipping with them.” When he heard of the SBC’s withdrawal from the Baptist World Alliance, he added, “I thought, ‘This is silly! Why would we separate ourselves from brothers and sisters in the world’?” (Rick Warren, Global Baptists Are in This Together.) Warren signed the Yale Center for Faith and Culture document for unity among Christian and Muslim faiths. (A Christian Response to a Common Word Between Us and You2) This was an, “abdication of the Christian faith to Muslim demands expressed in the ‘common word’.”

The bridge building to Isalm was done long ago. Warren is simply walking the bridge and encouraging others to join him. With Warren’s track record of ecumenical compromise the only real surprise is the surprise and shock being expressed by so many over his latest embrace of unbelievers. What Warren is doing and what he is quoted as having said, while highly disconcerting, is in my opinion not the real story. If this is not the real story, what is? In my opinion the real story is the developing story:

1) Will John Piper continue to embrace, cooperate with, defend and legitimize Rick Warren and his ministry?
2) Will Piper’s T4G counter parts (Mohler, Sproul, Dever, et. al.,) continue to give Piper a pass and cooperate with him in ministry in spite of his alliance and cooperative efforts with Rick Warren?
3) Will self-described biblical separatists Drs. Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran, Matt Olson, Tim Jordan et. al. continue to tolerate, allow for, excuse and/or ignore the New Evangelical trends among their new friends in evangelicalism for the sake of fellowship and cooperative ministry with them?
When our brethren do things that are wrong—caused by an incomplete knowledge of or deliberate disobedience to some teaching of Scripture—we should not merely continue fellowship with them as those who have done nothing wrong, but we should warn them, remonstrate with them and seek to recover them to a Biblical position. . . . If one should ask, Does 2 Thessalonians 3 teach secondary separation?—then the response would have to be given, It depends on what you mean by secondary separation. . . . It is the principle of refusing to condone, honor or utilize persons who continually and knowingly are following a course of action which is harmful to other believers and to the welfare of the churches.” (Dr. Ernest Pickering, Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church, pp. 221-222.)
Will Piper’s ministry, in spite of his obvious shift toward the new New Evangelicalism, be given cover with years old mantra such as, “but he writes such good books…we can learn so much from him?” Will angry young (former) fundamentalists, from their blogs continue congratulate and heap lavish praise on T4G men who write “bad idea John Piper” articles, but continue to fellowship and minister with him? Will leadership in once “militant” separatist churches and schools continue to encourage their congregation/pupils to support and/or attend John Piper’s Desiring God, as well as the Gospel Coalition and T4G conferences? Will formerly “militant” separatists continue to invite non-separatist, compromised evangelicals to their pulpits and classrooms where impressionable students and congregations will be influenced toward compromising the God-given mandates for separation? These are questions that are being answered and will be further answered in time, a very short time.


1) Rick Warren Builds Bridge to Muslims and King’s Way Unites US Evangelicals, Muslims

2) Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to a Common Word Between Us and You

Related Reading:
John Piper to Feature Rick Warren at 2010 Desiring God

John Piper to Feature Rick Warren: What Are the T4G Men For to Do?

John Piper: “I’m Going to Need Help to Know Why Should I Feel Bad About This Decision?”
I can help John Piper “to know why [he] should feel bad about this decision” and to repent of it.
A. Warren embraces deliberate pragmatism of the worst kind.
B. Warren routinely misuses Scripture. The Bible is a tool that Warren manipulates to cover his own ideas with a veneer of divine authority.
C. Warren is guilty of serious theological reductionism: He discounts the value of a well-rounded system of doctrine and even considers doctrine an obstacle to unity.
D. Warren redefines ministry in terms of social activism. Through his cooperative efforts, Warren aligns himself with the same UN that seeks to “rid the world” of unborn infants through their murder while still in the womb.
E. Warren justifies cultural capitulation by embracing anti-God cultural norms.
F. Warren propagates some of the worst soteriological reductionism: “Wherever you are reading this, I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity: ‘Jesus, I believe in you and receive you.’ If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God!” (PDL, p. 74).
H. Warren relies heavily on pop psychology: Popular themes in secular psychology appear regularly in Warren’s writings, shaping everything from outreach strategy to discipleship curricula.
Site Publisher’s Addendum: 
From the March 2011 article, Has Converging With Evangelicals Been a Dangerous and Failed Experiment?

In his incendiary Let’s Get Clear on This Kevin Bauder wrote, “Whatever our differences, I thank God for John Piper.” He also wrote,
“Nevertheless, some Fundamentalists have managed to convince themselves that conservative evangelicals are the enemy. They insist that John Piper is a neo-evangelical. They actually hope to limit his influence—and the influence of other conservative evangelicals—in their churches and among their younger generation.” (Conservative Evangelicals Are Not New Evangelicals)
Brother Bauder in light of these latest revelations of Piper’s direction; have you finally seen enough of his decent into “New” Evangelicalism to “withdraw from, admonish…have no company with,” and especially to “mark” John Piper? In addition to his Charismatic theology is this finally enough for you to openly warn the “younger generation” under your influence to “avoid” John Piper (2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15 ; Romans 16:17 )? Have you finally seen enough to do what you can to “limit his influence?”

In 2008 Dave Doran wrote,
This was the reason for my disappointment with the first T4G conference. In many respects, it was one of the most spiritually beneficial conferences I’ve attended—the message by John Piper alone was worth the time and cost of the conference.” (Potential and Pitfalls of Together For The Gospel, March/April 2008, 9Marks)
Would Brother Doran publish a similar accolade for the message that Piper is communicating today through his ministry with Rick Warren and recognizing Roman Catholics as born again Christians? Of course not! Isn’t it then worth the time and cost to retract earlier accolades for the messages of John Piper and replace those with a warning to avoid Piper today?