Thursday, November 28, 2013

book review—The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism by Michael Beasley

a good answer to this very questionable teaching

A few years ago, there was a TV program called “Flash Forward”. The basic premise was that an event happened in which people all over the world had brief glimpse of what they would be doing at a particular time in the future. When the time they saw finally came, the events unfolded but with certain differences in details for many of the ones the show focused on. Some details are as they had seen, but others were different.

There is a certain parallel between what happened in that show and what some teach concerning prophecy today. There are those who teach that modern-day prophets, assuming there are any, are not required to live up to the biblical requirements that what they prophecy be 100% accurate, that they can make mistakes and will make mistakes in their prophecies, and that these mistakes do not mean they are no real prophets. Prophets today could be as inaccurate as the characters in that show, and not only will they be defended, but those who point out their false prophecies and try to hold them accountable are the ones who are derided.

This book responds to this teaching about fallible prophecy, and I think does so very well. I especially found what he said concerning how Agabus is used to defend the idea of fallible prophecy, and how he defends Agabus as a man who prophesied truly, to be of interest.

Though in the title he addressed how this idea of fallible prophets is being spread in what is called New Calvinism, this idea is no less popular in more normal charismatic circles, and this book should also serve to address this bad teaching among them, too.

I can recommend this book very highly. It would be good for this idea of fallible prophecy to finally be put on the theological junk heap, because it has already caused enough damage, and is plainly without any biblical support. If there are prophets today, they should not try to scamper from under the weight of the biblical requirement that they be accurate in what they prophesy. Prophecy is serious business, it is no light thing to claim to be speaking what God has directly told you to say, and it should not be done frivolously, as far too many modern-day prophets seem to do.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

movie review—The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The art and skill of storytelling is a strange and mysterious one. A few months ago, I was watching some episodes of a certain series which proved to be very effective and very moving. Give that same kind of material to many other directors, producers, and/or writers, and they would likely have made it so sappy and over-emotional and cheesy that it would have been almost unwatchable.

Catching Fire could be considered on the good side of that storytelling equation. At times very moving, almost always well done as a movie, there is little that I would complain about in the movie.

Given the nature of the movie, there are ways in which it resembles the first movie, but in ways that makes it seem very different from the first. There are many of the same kinds of scenes, but with a twist that gives it a different look and even meaning, such as the talk show scene or the chariot ride.

The two big differences from the first are at the beginning, with the added element of the Victor's Tour, and the twist at the end. The tension is ratcheted up, as the unrest shown a few times in the first movie becomes even greater, and overall the movie is very intense.

I remember only one scene that had any serious language in it, and those words were bleeped out. There was one bizarre scene in an elevator, though little is shown. Of course, given the nature of the game, there is also the callous way lives are tossed aside, but that's one of the things the movie is about and even against. There is plenty of action and violence, disturbing scenes with poisonous fog and killer monkeys, and lots of backroom scheming.

If you watch it, be ready for a pretty intense ride. It's not a short movie, but it rarely drags. I can recommend it pretty highly.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

book review--Strange Fire by John MacArthur

a devastating series of sledgehammer blows

This book has certainly stirred up no small amount of controversy in some circles, and I suppose with good reason. Frankly, though, a lot of the controversy seems either ill-informed or ill-adviced.

MacArthur does a very good job of showing how far too much in charismatic churches is going some very disturbing places. Prophets who are free to prophecy falsely and not be accountable for it? Speaking gobblety-gook and claiming it's tongues? Claiming apostles are still around today? All the fake healers putting on shows and leaving the truly sick people out in the cold? And much of this stuff has been going on for over 100 years? MacArthur rightly calls out those who practice and promote those things, and shows from Scripture just how off those ideas are, and then shows what the Scripture tells us how the Spirit works.

Reading parts of this book is liking seeing one sledgehammer blow after another—showing how supposedly spirit-filled ministers fall into immorality again and again, how they couldn't prophecy their way out of a paper bag, how they will do almost anything for money, how they hide the fact that they don't really heal much of anyone who is really sick, how they put more emphasis on the things they feel inside themselves than in what Scripture says. If charismatic churches were to really take these things to heart, this book would signal the end of the too-popular TV charlatans and fake healers and false prophets who have shamed the church for far too long.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

book review—Manifesto for a Normal Christian Life by Bill Johnson

vain imaginations

In regards to the book itself, a good portion of it could have been left out, as it consists simply in Johnson repeating himself, even to the point of repeating the same stories. Even knowing that these are transcripts of speeches Johnson gave, one would assume that the editors would have done some work at avoiding such needless repetitions.

Concerning the contents, well, it's basically typical Bill Johnson—a bunch of made-up ideas he claims to have gotten from out-of-context Bible verses, which don't say what he says they say, all with the intent of boosting the egos of the people listening.

It could be said that Johnson's problems begin with how he says he reads the Bible. “It has not been given to us to try to assign the scriptures to particular seasons...The Bible is filled with rich promises. It is theologically irresponsible to take the great promises of scripture and ascribe them to a period of time for which I have no responsibility.” (Kindle Locations 361-363). This seems to be saying that the context of the biblical passage, who is being addressed and the context of the statement, are not important to Johnson. “If I could encourage you to do anything in your life it would be that, any time you have a problem, get into the Book and read until he speaks to you.” (Kindle Locations 837-838).

There is a way of reading the Bible that I've seen compared to the Magic 8-Ball toy, where you basically read until something “jumps out at you”. This is not a valid way of reading the Bible, and this seems to be something like what Johnson is recommending.

This reckless use of Scripture is evident through the book, when he bothers to use Scripture at all to support his ideas. “In Matthew 10: 8 we have this commission, one of the commissions that Jesus gave his disciples: ‘heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.’” (Kindle Locations 155-156), and he tried to make it seem like this is something we should do today, without regard to either whom Jesus was speaking to, nor even all the instructions Jesus gave here. For example, Johnson doesn't touch on Jesus' command in verse 5 for the disciples to not go to the Gentiles or Samaritans, nor verses 9 and 10 where they are told to not acquire gold or silver for their journey, nor take a bag with them, nor an extra change of clothes or shoes.

“What was it about the shadow of Peter that could heal people? There is no substance to a shadow. Your shadow will always release whatever overshadows you, whatever you live conscious of, whatever you carry.” (Kindle Locations 175-176). The account of people trying to get Peter's shadow to fall on them is found in Acts 5:12-16, and you will not find any mention of a teaching like “ Your shadow will always release whatever overshadows you” in that passage. Johnson is simply making that up. Regarding the account in Mark 4 were Jesus slept during a storm at sea, he says “Do you know why he could sleep in a storm? Because the realm he was dwelling in has no storms.” (Kindle Location 1081). He even gives the passage in his book, and you will not find any such statement in the passage, nor anything like that even hinted at. Johnson is simply making that up. Again concerning that same passage, he writes, “You have authority over any storm you can sleep in.” (Kindle Location 1095). Jesus doesn't even come close to saying that, Johnson has to twist and change Jesus' words to make it seem like He's saying that to the disciples.

Of course, he doesn't limit his ideas to things he claims to have found in the Bible. “People ask me often about a lifestyle of miracles. How do you come into a lifestyle of miracles?... But I found out something. You need to take time to get alone with God, to get in a secret place with God and cry out to him.” (Kindle Locations 680-685). He offers not biblical support for such a claim, and the Bible does not teach this. “Nothing happens in the Kingdom until first there is a declaration. Everything hinges upon the simple faith of people who will make decrees.” (Kindle Locations 880-881). Johnson offers no biblical support for this statement, because the Bible doesn't teach that. This if Word of Faith heresy. “He always manifests himself opposite to his surroundings. He manifests himself opposite to the spirit of the day that has captured the affections and the attentions of a generation. Because he has a better way. He has a better solution. That means that when you live at a time when people are going broke, bankrupt, when there is financial crisis and chaos, and fear is spreading all around you, that’s the time God wants to prosper you.” (Kindle Locations 1245-1248). The Bible doesn't teach that, this is just Prosperity Gospel heresy.

This is only a small sampling of the ludicrous things Bill Johnson teaches in this book.

Where are the church leaders who hold this guy accountable, that tell him that his teachings are not biblical and that he should step down from his pulpit and actually study the Bible before he's allowed to speak before anyone again? It is a testimony to the sad state of the church today that Bill Johnson is considered a successful minister, when he has no idea how to properly handle the Word of God.

For better, far more biblical teachings, I would recommend The World-Tilting Gospel  by Dan Phillips.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

i don't believe in social justice

This is a re-post, with a few corrections.

Why aren't more Christians involved in social justice? Are we callous and uncaring? We don't think so. We can both learn and do

Ken and Deborah Loyd, in the book An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, p. 272

First, there is the question "What is social justice?" That's probably one of the concepts emergents and others who use it aren't likely to define very well. If you look back a few months, you'll see where in Tony Jones' book "The New Christians", he relates how in one emergent church a woman was wearing a t-shirt saying she was a straight woman for gay rights because her Bible teaches social justice.

Journey doesn't have an "official statement" about homosexuality, but there's obviously enough freedom in the community for Courtney to wear her beliefs on her shirt.

Courtney's shirt.
Straight Chrisitians for Gay Rights
(My Bible Teaches Social Justice)

Tony Jones, The New Christians, pp. 198, 197

Perhaps we aren't involved in social justice, because we can see through the rhetoric of social justice, and know what it is--a thin veil behind which leftist policies and politics are pushed.

Social justice seems to be about the legalizing of sexual immorality. It's also seems to be about the enforced silence of those who teach the Bible's stand on such immorality.

Social justice seems to be about punishing some crimes more than others because of perceived "hate" involved, even when unproven (one may almost say 'especially when unproven').

Social justice seems to be about the redistribution of wealth through socialistic economical policies.

Social justice seems to be about scaring people into being "green", despite the evidence against any such thing as global warming.

Social justice seems to be about going into histrionics over deaths in war, while either downplaying over even supporting the many more who die in abortion.

I do not believe in social justice. I do, however, believe in justice. And I believe in compassion.

I do not believe that practicing theft through socialism will solve the plight of the poor. To borrow a quote I read in a comic book, "Communism is the equal distribution of poverty". To try to equalize the field (except for a handful of elites at the top who will find reasons to give themselves special privileges, which is one thing that happened in Soviet Russia), will only result in all being poor, and none being really helped. And there is no justice in the rhetoric of class hatred.

I do not believe that justice demands that we recognize and legitimize sexual immorality. If anything, justice and compassion demands that we call these things the sins they are.

I do not believe that justice demands that we cave in to environmental fearmongers, especially when truth of their claims is being questioned, and when there is such an obvious political agenda behind it.

In regards to how we are to care for the poor, there are things taught in the Bible that should be of help in how to properly do so.

It may be strange that Paul tells the Thessalonians to NOT help some among them who had stopped working and were only idling their time waiting for Jesus to return. He says they should get back to their work.

It may seem strange that Paul tells another church to be wary of what widows they should help and support.

It may seem strange that one can see things in Proverbs that don't seem very kind about some kinds of poor people.

It may seem strange that it's in the Bible that we find the phrase "If a man will not work, neither shall he eat".

It may seem strange that we aren't told that the Samaritan who found the guy left for dead didn't return home, find a few likeminded people, and start wandering the highways and byways looking for people left along the road, robbed or otherwise in ill fortune. He helped one man who was on his way, as he was about his own business.

I know that there are things said about helping the needy, I'm saying the issue is more complex than many emergents seem to want to accept.

They also seem to think that because Christians don't do things their way, then they aren't doing them. They likely don't recognize that there are Christians who give when they have the opportunities, whose generosity takes many forms, who do things quietly and with their eyes open

movie review—Thor: The Dark World

After a few weeks of so-so movies, it's good that things are picking up again, starting with last weekend's Ender's Game. This time, we get Thor: The Dark World, and there was much rejoicing.

This one's pretty fun, though there are some moving moments, too. Loki is less straight-forward in his shenanigans as in The Avengers, and more subtle and indirect as in the first Thor movie. The scientist lady from the first movie, who got only a brief mention in The Avengers, is back, and things between her and Thor come more to the fore here, and stay well within bounds of decency. Which is rather more than could be said about the scientist Erick from both earlier movies, who does get the scenes that were rather a bit much.

The story is solid enough. Dark elves are rather popular, but while the ones in this movie may have been rather creepy with the masks, and they did have some cool flying machines, overall I don't think they'll be quite what the movie is remembered for. The big universes-killng aether thing just didn't seem all that threatening, though it did offer opportunity for some nice visual effects. The big bad guy, Malekith, could have used a bit more development to make him more interesting.

Still, there were lots of things in it to make it worth one watching, and maybe two. The scene that got the most laughs had to do with Loki's illusion-creating abilities, you'd know it if and when you see it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

movie review—Ender's Game

frightening and recommended

It's been a slow several weeks for someone like myself, who enjoys going to see the latest releases in the cinemas. Not that I haven't seen a few, but they haven't been anything special.

One will get a bit of mention here. I went to see “Mortal Instruments: City of Bones”, and didn't come away too impressed. Basically, it was an urban fantasy, complete with vamps and werewolves and 'normal' people who were even weirder than any of those. For what it's worth, it's not one I recommend, you won't miss much if you pass on it.

But there are ways in which it relates to “Ender's Game”. Both are about a teen and a small group of roughly similarly aged people that gather around them. Both are based on books. But where CiB mostly fails at being a very scary movie, there are times that “Ender's Game” is truly terrifying.

It's not terrifying in the ways one may think. It's not the Formics, or the videos and pictures of what they had done, but it's Andrew Wiggins, the Ender of the movie, and the ways the people around him act. There are no vampires who look like vamps have looks since the Buffy series, there are no strange magical beings who seem to come out of nowhere, nor are there any goths in strange clothing acting in strange and perverse ways.

Instead, there is the moment when Ender is playing a computer game, and instead of making the choices that he knew would fail, he makes another move that, for all that it is a game, is rather disturbing, and leads to another scene involving the game that may well be even more disturbing. There are the ways in which Ender is manipulated, the ways his interactions are analyzed and evaluated by those in charge. Finally, there is the twist at the end, which if you haven't read the book may well surprise you, and which I'll not spoil here.

One of the big triumphs of the movie is the Battle Room, it is realized superbly. I can well imagine that there is already a video game in the works for it. The acting power for the movie is very good, but while I wasn't familiar with the boy who played Ender, he did do a good and subtle job of showing the various aspects of a complicated character.

For all of the effects and sci-fi elements, this is one of the more thoughtful and thought-provoking movies I've seen in a while. It succeeded at being both enjoyable and bothersome. While one may feel understanding and sympathy for Ender and those around him, there is a sense in which one can be put off by many of them and the things they do, too.

This may not be a kid's movie, but it's one that well worth seeing. I recommend it.