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Dr. Paul J. Dean Christian Blog and Commentary

Paul Dean

Dr. Paul J. Dean's Weblog

The cracks are showing in Big Evangelicalism. Part of the issue is confusion, as untold numbers of Christians are more influenced by our culture than the Scriptures. At the same time, some of our leaders have simply capitulated. We could certainly deal with any number of things including Revoice in the PCA or the muddy waters constantly flowing from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC. The crack du jour though is the further slide into the pit of Critical Race Theory, as Big Eva jumps on the woke bandwagon in the aftermath of the brutal murder of George Floyd.

Christians Issuing Statements

While some urge us to consider the hundreds of years of burdens our black brothers and sisters bear, and by the way, in their parlance our black brothers and sisters include unbelievers, our genuine black brothers and sisters tell them not to project that wokeness on them. African-American believers find their identity in Christ, not in their skin color or what happened to others in the past. On the other hand, one black leader in Big Eva said his identity as a black man outweighed his identity in Christ. That’s a crack a mile wide.

So Christians everywhere are issuing statements concerning what we owe our black brothers and sisters; how we can’t tolerate racism in our police force and our culture at large; and even how we stand with the protestors including rioters, pillagers, and looters. To be fair, some object to the beatings and murders we’ve seen on television or video in the midst of the chaos, and others object to the destruction of private property, yet, their objections are mitigated by the expressed sentiment that we whites just don’t understand their plight, and they therefore support the protests in general.

Systemic Racism?

A large segment of evangelical leaders have bought the lie that America is racist at its core; that systemic racism means that whites are racists because they’re white whether they realize it or not. They see groups and not individuals. Police are racist. Whites are racist. Not individuals. And of course, the problem is not human depravity, but white privilege. What is the solution then in that construct? It’s not the gospel, because even Christian whites are still racist.

 

It’s interesting, nd sad, how our leaders blow with the cultural wind. When Eric Garner was brutally murdered by the police six years ago, a number evangelical leaders defended the police officers involved and police methods in general. I called them out then: to defend the police in the Eric Garner case is idolatry. The man was brutally murdered by those in power, as he pleaded for his life telling them over and over again, “I can’t breathe.” Now, the police in the George Floyd case can’t be defended either. Once again, those in power brutally murdered a man when he was already subdued. But this time around, our leaders have played the woke card. The officers involved are racist they say. We must put a stop to racism in the police force. 

The Real Issue

Here’s the issue: as of this writing, we don’t know whether the officer in the George Floyd case is racist or not. Moreover, even if he is, racism is not the issue. The issue here is police brutality. That brutality is rooted in human depravity. The woke crowd would have us believe that black men are being hunted down in the streets. While every black man murdered by a cop is tragic and should be dealt with by the rule of law, the notion that blacks are being hunted is false. In fact, far more white men are killed each year by the police than black men, even though far less white men than black men are involved in the types of crimes that invite potentially violent altercations with the police. Check the CDC on that. We certainly need to reevaluate police methods and rid out bad cops -- those with a penchant for over-aggressiveness and violence. But to blame the problem on racism is to miss the real cause and thereby fuel greater problems including the increasing racial divide that leads to the violence we’re witnessing on our televisions right now. It’s only going to get worse.

As a side note, we must also understand that while racism is evil, it’s not a crime. Yes, we should seek to rid our world of racism, and the only way to do that is through the gospel. But to say that racism will not be tolerated in our culture -- I have to ask -- what does that mean? If it means we’ll work to eliminate it with the gospel or other kinds of messaging, then fine. If it means we’re going to somehow outlaw views and attitudes with which we disagree, then no. Freedom of thought, religion, and speech is sacrosanct, even thought, religion, and speech we abhor.

Black Lives Matter, Antifa, the State, and Lawlessness

Yet, what we are witnessing is the fostering of a race war, chaos, and lawlessness in our streets by bad actors, namely Black Lives Matter and Antifa. They’ve joined forces to create the mayhem. Their goal is to overturn the current social order. The leaders of these groups are of the same persuasion as others promoting woke ideology -- it’s rooted in cultural Marxism. Their goal is the destruction of the current order that a new socialist order can be put in its place. And Big Eva has fallen for the deception.

How can we condone in any way, shape, or form the murder of George Floyd? How can we condone in any way, shape, or form police brutality? How can we condone in any way, shape, or form, the rioting in our cities? How is it that the mayors of major cities have pulled the police back and allowed the destruction of private property to the tune of billions of dollars, not to mention the injuries and deaths of their citizens as a result? It’s all evil, and it all must be unequivocally called what it is. If we as Christians don’t speak the truth, who will?

What we’re experiencing is lawlessness. And that’s where the government should step in. The biblical role of government is to protect the citizens in their God-given rights including the rights to life, liberty, and property. Yet, it’s the government who put George Floyd to death. It’s lawlessness. It’s the government that’s allowing the destruction of our cities. It’s lawlessness. And don’t forget, it’s the government that’s locked down our entire nation and brought about even more death and destruction on untold numbers we don’t hear about who didn’t get the medical attention they needed, despite the fact our hospitals weren’t near capacity; or on those increased numbers who committed suicide; and on so many more. And yes, it’s lawlessness -- because they had no right to lock us down. No man and or entity has the right to do such no matter what the reason.

And that’s why I’m calling on Big Eva to repent. Racism is evil, but that’s not the problem. The problem in our culture is lawlessness. Let those who love God and man say so.

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The word of God, inscripturated, is our authority on all things, including the word of God, or prophecy, which is a word from God, or direct revelation from God. In Part 1, we looked at a couple of unbiblical views of prophecy. We turn here to two more.

The Reformed-Charismatic View

A number of persons who hold loosely to Reformed Theology have adopted a quasi-Charismatic view of prophecy. They would say that prophecy is a primary means of encouraging one another in the church. God might impress a message upon you that is meant for someone else. You have a general idea of what the message is, but you might not get all the details right. In fact, you might be completely wrong. You might misunderstand the message. Nevertheless, you are to give the message to build up another even if ultimately the message is not from God at all. This view is similar to Matt Chandler’s view outlined in Part 1, but without some of the more bizarre elements. The proponents of this view cite Agabus in Acts 21 who predicts Paul will be bound by the Jews and turned over to the Roman authorities. They say it didn’t happen the way Agabus prophesied, though it generally came to pass. In other words, his prophecy had errors in it, though the gist of it was true.

As with the first two views highlighted in Part 1, this view does not line up with the biblical definition of prophecy. The biblical gift is a direct, accurate, and infallible word from God. There are no errors or misunderstandings when someone has the genuine gift of prophecy. The Reformed-Charismatic view is built on a stretched interpretation of the Agabus prophecy in Acts 21. It is clear in that account that the Jews are responsible for Paul being bound and turned over to the Roman authorities. There is nothing in error or inaccurate about the prophecy. Here is a case when otherwise careful exegetes are grasping at interpretive straws to support their preconceived notion of what prophecy is. We don’t impose our view of prophecy on the text of Scripture. Rather, we extract it from Scripture.

The Evangelical View

Then there’s the view that prophecy today is not direct revelation from God, but powerful preaching. That preaching might be against sin, or the state, or those in sin. It’s preaching that seemingly carries a weight of authority by virtue of the boldness of the preacher and the message he delivers. But even here, one has no right to redefine the biblical gift of prophecy. If it doesn’t fit the biblical definition, it might be powerful preaching, it might be a wonderful exposition of Scripture, but it’s not the biblical gift of prophecy.

Miracles & Revelation in Redemptive History

There were three primary periods in redemptive history when miracles occurred: the time of Moses and Aaron, representing the law; the time of Elijah and Elisha, representing the prophets; and the days of Jesus and the Apostles, pointing to the establishment of the New Covenant era. The miracles served to authenticate the claims of those who spoke for God as well as Jesus’ Messiahship. Along with healing, the gifts of prophecy, the word of knowledge, and tongues were sign gifts. We’ve also alluded to the fact that they were revelatory gifts. They were given in the first century that God’s New Covenant community might have a revelation by which to live under that covenant, just as Old Covenant Israel had received the Old Covenant revelation to guide their lives in that context. While we’re merely scratching the surface here, 1 Corinthians is instructive, as it not only tells us what purpose the revelatory gifts served, but also the fact that they would cease at some point during the church age.

The Corinthian Church

The Corinthian church had a lot of problems, to say the least. One of those problems concerned those who had revelatory gifts. They were prideful, called themselves “spirituals,” and asserted their gifts were superior than those with ordinary gifts. Paul corrects them by saying that every gift is a manifestation of the Spirit at work in them, for He is the actual gift. He also tells them the Spirit’s work in them in particular ways is all of grace.

Prophecy Ceased

As 1 Corinthians 13 unfolds, Paul says that love of the brethren is more important than the revelatory gifts (vv 1-2). Love will never cease, says Paul, but the revelatory gifts will (vv. 8-10). They will cease when the “perfect” comes. He’s not referring to the second coming of Christ. Keep in mind the context. Paul’s not talking about the coming of Christ. He’s talking about revelation from God, the unveiling of the “mystery.” That’s what he’s referring to in v. 2 when he refers to understanding all mysteries. The word mystery is a technical term in the New Testament that refers to something given in seminal form in the Old Testament, but now fully revealed in the New Testament. So the coming of the perfect is not the second of Christ, but the completion of the New Covenant revelation. The word translated “perfect” refers to the goal, realization, maturity, or completion of something. We have these gifts in part, that is, we receive God’s revelation piecemeal, but when the completed revelation comes, the revelatory gifts will be done away. They will no longer be necessary.

Paul gives a couple of illustrations to drive home the point he’s talking about the completed revelation of God. The revelation is brought to maturity, just as a human being is. Having the full picture of God’s word is like seeing someone face to face as opposed to looking at a face in a mirror. The mirrors of Paul’s day were more akin to tarnished silver. Again, Paul is not talking about seeing Jesus face to face. That is to read Jesus into the text. It’s an illustration. Paul is saying that he will know God’s word fully just as you can look at him and know him fully.

Finally, in the very last verse of the chapter, Paul says, in contrast to the revelatory gifts that will vanish away, certain things will remain: namely faith, hope, and love. The contrast here is enlightening. Faith and hope won’t remain once Jesus comes, for those things are not necessary once we see him (Rom. 8:24; Heb. 11:1). But Paul says those things do remain. He means they remain now in the church age until Jesus comes. By way of contrast, the revelatory gifts will cease; they won’t remain until Jesus comes. As we’ve seen, they ceased with the completion of the New Covenant revelation. Hence, those gifts are not in operation today.

No doubt some will want to know how then we encourage one another? We do so with the word that God has already given us.

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I hear more and more talk about the gift of prophecy and how it serves a major function in authentic church life. We’re told that we’ll experience life in the Spirit in a greater way, and the church will more effectively build itself up in love. If that’s true, then that’s what I want. Yet, I wonder if Christians aren’t satisfied with biblical life in the Spirit consisting of heartfelt worship regardless of our emotional state, dealing with sin at the heart level, and engaging in plain ole encouragement of one another, among other things. I wonder if Christians are conditioned to want something more -- to seek the experience. We’re trained that way, especially in America, and we’re taught that way by an increasing number of pastors and pseudo church leaders.

What is Prophecy?

What is the gift of prophecy? Biblically, prophecy is direct revelation from God. That’s it’s main feature. The bible is filled with prophets declaring, “Thus saith the Lord.” They had a word from God, and it was one-hundred percent accurate. And yes, while prophecy may be primarily described as forth-telling the word they had from God, it often had an element of foretelling the future. If the prophet declared anything contrary to Scripture already given, or made a prediction that did not come true, he was to be put to death (Deut. 13; 18).

Charismatic View

Today, there are other views of prophecy. Of course, if they contradict the Scriptures, they’re false views. Broadly speaking, there’s the Charismatic view. Those holding this position assert they receive direct revelation from God, yet often that revelation contradicts Scripture. They might predict a financial windfall for someone, or a healing, but more often than not these things fail to come to pass. Many predict that Christ is coming again in a particular time-frame, something the bible clearly tells us no one knows. Further, they redefine the gift of tongues, a gift that also involves direct revelation from God. Tongues is just an old King James era word for known languages as defined in Acts 2. Charismatics claim the gift of tongues is an unintelligible heavenly language. When spoken to others it is prophetic. They also claim tongues is a private prayer language. Neither of these claims is biblical. The notion the gift of tongues refers to a heavenly or private prayer language flows from misinterpretations of certain verses in 1 Corinthians 13 and 14.

Matt Chandler's View

Another view that’s gaining popularity is that put forth by Matt Chandler and others. It really falls into the Charismatic view, but has slight differences. He illustrated on one occasion by asking an audience to imagine he had a dream. By way of summary, in this dream he saw a pirate ship; it had a number of canons that were firing; a shark was chasing it; and a number of other things happened. He then asked the audience to imagine that this dream was a word from God that he was to give to a friend. Chandler said you don’t really know what the dream means, you might get some of it wrong, but nevertheless, you must go to your friend, and tell him about the dream. You don’t try to interpret it by surmising that Jesus is the shark for example. You simply go in obedience with the prophetic word. You might ask, “Does that mean anything to you?” It might not, he said. Even so, you'll be experiencing more of the Spirit, and those who engage this way will be edifying one another.

The major problem with this view is two-fold. First, prophecy is not defined in the bible this way. If you don’t know whether the word came from God, whether you got it right, or even what it means, then it’s not biblical prophecy. Second, we’re not told in the bible to use the gift this way: taking dreams or impressions that make no sense to anyone and dispensing them to others. Christianity is not built upon random, nonsensical notions that pass through our heads. It’s built on truth. That’s one reason Paul says God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33).

The Gift of Exhortation

The church edifies itself in love by speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 3). Why not merely engage in the simple practice of encouraging one another with the Scriptures? For some, apparently, it’s not exciting enough.

Of course, there are other views of prophecy. And, there is the main question: is the gift of prophecy in operation today? We’ll turn to those issues in Part 2.

Sign up free for "True Worldview News," a weekly e-mail newsletter highlighting relevant news stories affecting Christians. Dr. Dean’s comments on selected stories along with editorials are included. The newsletter also features True Worldview, a twice-weekly podcast hosted by Dr. Dean and his daughter, Christi Johnson.

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