Monday, October 31, 2011

Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder, pain...[/caption]

In honor of the spark of the reformation, I would like to post these courtesy of ConradAskland. Happy Reformation Day.

Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther
on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences
by Dr. Martin Luther (1517)
 Published in:
Works of Martin Luther:
Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed, Henry Eyster Jacobs, et Al., Trans. & Eds.
(Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915), Vol.1, pp. 29-38


Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.

In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


       Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.


2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.

3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.

4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of the Canons.

6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by God and by assenting to God’s remission; though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such cases were despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven.

7. God remits guilt to no one whom He does not, at the same time, humble in all things and bring into subjection to His vicar, the priest.

8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to them, nothing should be imposed on the dying.

9. Therefore the Holy Spirit in the pope is kind to us, because in his decrees he always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.

10. Ignorant and wicked are the doings of those priests who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penances for purgatory.

11. This changing of the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory is quite evidently one of the tares that were sown while the bishops slept.

12. In former times the canonical penalties were imposed not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.

13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties; they are already dead to canonical rules, and have a right to be released from them.

14. The imperfect health [of soul], that is to say, the imperfect love, of the dying brings with it, of necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the fear.

15. This fear and horror is sufficient of itself alone (to say nothing of other things) to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ as do despair, almost-despair, and the assurance of safety.

17. With souls in purgatory it seems necessary that horror should grow less and love increase.

18. It seems unproved, either by reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of merit, that is to say, of increasing love.

19. Again, it seems unproved that they, or at least that all of them, are certain or assured of their own blessedness, though we may be quite certain of it.

20. Therefore by “full remission of all penalties” the pope means not actually “of all,” but only of those imposed by himself.

21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope’s indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved;

22. Whereas he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to the canons, they would have had to pay in this life.

23. If it is at all possible to grant to any one the remission of all penalties whatsoever, it is certain that this remission can be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to the very fewest.

24. It must needs be, therefore, that the greater part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and highsounding promise of release from penalty.

25. The power which the pope has, in a general way, over purgatory, is just like the power which any bishop or curate has, in a special way, within his own diocese or parish.

26. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which he does not possess), but by way of intercession.

27. They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory].

28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.

29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.

30. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.

31. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e., such men are most rare.

32. They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon.

33. Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;

34. For these “graces of pardon” concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man.

35. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary in those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessionalia.

36. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.

37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without letters of pardon.

38. Nevertheless, the remission and participation [in the blessings of the Church] which are granted by the pope are in no way to be despised, for they are, as I have said, the declaration of divine remission.

39. It is most difficult, even for the very keenest theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the abundance of pardons and [the need of] true contrition.

40. True contrition seeks and loves penalties, but liberal pardons only relax penalties and cause them to be hated, or at least, furnish an occasion [for hating them].

41. Apostolic pardons are to be preached with caution, lest the people may falsely think them preferable to other good works of love.

42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to be compared in any way to works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons;

44. Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only more free from penalty.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.

46. Christians are to be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are bound to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no means to squander it on pardons.

47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and not of commandment.

48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.

49. Christians are to be taught that the pope’s pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them; but altogether harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God.

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter’s church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.

51. Christians are to be taught that it would be the pope’s wish, as it is his duty, to give of his own money to very many of those from whom certain hawkers of pardons cajole money, even though the church of St. Peter might have to be sold.

52. The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even though the commissary, nay, even though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it.

53. They are enemies of Christ and of the pope, who bid the Word of God be altogether silent in some Churches, in order that pardons may be preached in others.

54. Injury is done the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or a longer time is spent on pardons than on this Word.

55. It must be the intention of the pope that if pardons, which are a very small thing, are celebrated with one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The “treasures of the Church,” out of which the pope. grants indulgences, are not sufficiently named or known among the people of Christ.

57. That they are not temporal treasures is certainly evident, for many of the vendors do not pour out such treasures so easily, but only gather them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the Saints, for even without the pope, these always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outward man.

59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church were the Church’s poor, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.

60. Without rashness we say that the keys of the Church, given by Christ’s merit, are that treasure;

61. For it is clear that for the remission of penalties and of reserved cases, the power of the pope is of itself sufficient.

62. The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.

63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last.

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the Gospel are nets with which they formerly were wont to fish for men of riches.

66. The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now fish for the riches of men.

67. The indulgences which the preachers cry as the “greatest graces” are known to be truly such, in so far as they promote gain.

68. Yet they are in truth the very smallest graces compared with the grace of God and the piety of the Cross.

69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of apostolic pardons, with all reverence.

70. But still more are they bound to strain all their eyes and attend with all their ears, lest these men preach their own dreams instead of the commission of the pope.

71. He who speaks against the truth of apostolic pardons, let him be anathema and accursed!

72. But he who guards against the lust and license of the pardon-preachers, let him be blessed!

73. The pope justly thunders against those who, by any art, contrive the injury of the traffic in pardons.

74. But much more does he intend to thunder against those who use the pretext of pardons to contrive the injury of holy love and truth.

75. To think the papal pardons so great that they could absolve a man even if he had committed an impossible sin and violated the Mother of God — this is madness.

76. We say, on the contrary, that the papal pardons are not able to remove the very least of venial sins, so far as its guilt is concerned.

77. It is said that even St. Peter, if he were now Pope, could not bestow greater graces; this is blasphemy against St. Peter and against the pope.

78. We say, on the contrary, that even the present pope, and any pope at all, has greater graces at his disposal; to wit, the Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written in I. Corinthians xii.

79. To say that the cross, emblazoned with the papal arms, which is set up [by the preachers of indulgences], is of equal worth with the Cross of Christ, is blasphemy.

80. The bishops, curates and theologians who allow such talk to be spread among the people, will have an account to render.

81. This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it no easy matter, even for learned men, to rescue the reverence due to the pope from slander, or even from the shrewd questionings of the laity.

82. To wit: — “Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial.”

83. Again: — “Why are mortuary and anniversary masses for the dead continued, and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded on their behalf, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?”

84. Again: — “What is this new piety of God and the pope, that for money they allow a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God, and do not rather, because of that pious and beloved soul’s own need, free it for pure love’s sake?”

85. Again: — “Why are the penitential canons long since in actual fact and through disuse abrogated and dead, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences, as though they were still alive and in force?”

86. Again: — “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is to-day greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?”

87. Again: — “What is it that the pope remits, and what participation does he grant to those who, by perfect contrition, have a right to full remission and participation?”

88. Again: — “What greater blessing could come to the Church than if the pope were to do a hundred times a day what he now does once, and bestow on every believer these remissions and participations?”

89. “Since the pope, by his pardons, seeks the salvation of souls rather than money, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons granted heretofore, since these have equal efficacy?”

90. To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy.

91. If, therefore, pardons were preached according to the spirit and mind of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved; nay, they would not exist.

92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace!

93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!

94. Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hell;

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations, than through the assurance of peace.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

[Book Review] "Why Men Hate Going to Church" by David Murrow

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]St. Simon (Samaan) church in Aleppo is conside...[/caption]

There is a gender gap in today's churches and author David Murrow has exposed this secret to let us know what to do about it. I've been lamenting for years about the targeting of Christian radio to women and the lack of interest in men's Bible studies. Murrow has expressed all my thoughts and ideas about men avoiding church and church events in this little gem of a book, first released in 2005, but now completely revised and updated for 2011. I was not supposed to receive this book for review, but then again, by the sovereign hand of God, I did receive it and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is not a book on doctrine or theology, nor does it pretend to be. Murrow writes practically, with lots of humor, about the state of men in the church.

He speaks of how our churches are feminized buildings, with flowers everywhere, and feminine colors. We offer group sharing time, which men generally abhor. Our worship songs speak of intimate love with a seemingly faceless man. We speak of relationships instead of coming alongside each other. Our ministries involve door-to-door evangelism instead of practical needs evangelism. In other words, we speak the language of women, not men. Liberal churches have been the worst at this, replacing the language of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with more feminine words. They hire and promote women and homosexual leadership. Men do not see a desire for the things of the church, but they are desiring to live their faith. The church has failed at allowing them to live their faith.

I recommend this book for anyone looking to revitalize their church to reach men. It's not about starting a men's ministry or revitalizing a men's ministry. It's about getting men involved in the church again, from children's ministry to ushering to practical needs. Giving men the opportunity to live their faith in the church is what this book is about. We can have the right Bible teaching and the right songs, but if there's mostly women doing the work in the church, what good is it. There's a reason, I think, that the women's Bible studies outdo the men's in attendance by 20 to 1. Women would do well to read this book too to see what they can do to help keep men in the church.  As a men's Bible study leader for a number of years, it has changed my view of what I may be doing wrong. This is a must read in today's church for lay leaders, pastors, and ministry leaders, men and women.

Disclaimer: I received this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What if Mitt Romney were a Muslim?

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Mitt Romney[/caption]

The question has to be asked. What if any of the candidates were a Muslim? Would we even be looking at their values what they stand for, or would we only see their religion? Mormonism and Islam have both very similar histories, so similar that I would almost call Mormonism the Islam of America.  Both have founders that claim to have had visions from angels. Both founders claim to have seen golden tablets from God on which contain the words written down in their respective books, the Qur'an and the Book of Mormon. Both religions have violent beginnings to establish themselves, including their own 9/11s.

We also have to really question as to whether or not Mitt Romney really represents the values of the true follower of Jesus Christ. He only became pro-life when it became expedient to do so. In other words, it never appears that he became pro-life out of conviction. Maybe he did, but I've never seen it.  What about the healthcare debacle in Massachussetts? He's all for forcing people to buy into healthcare whether or not they want to or can.  Religion also should play a big part in anyone's daily and personal life. As a Mormon, Romney holds to a lot of ideals which do not line up with the Bible at all. For someone to call Mormonism a cult is one thing, but in reality, it's another religion.

They do not consider non-Mormons to be Christian, but consider them to be apostate, much like Islam. They believe they will become gods and Jesus was not divine, but only a man become god. They subjugate their women and their women have very little place in the kingdom to come except to continue to be "slaves" to the men, much like Islam again. Is someone who follows this religion someone you want as President? Too many Christians have fallen in love with Glenn Beck, another famous Mormon. In all honesty, it's rather sickening. We justify it about as much as justifying divorce.

To be honest, I think we would have a harder time a candidate if he were Muslim than if he were Mormon, just because of the stigma attached to it, even though there's very little difference between the two religions except for the monotheism of Islam. My point is that we cannot justify getting past one person's religion when it probably defines who they are. As well look at the presidential candidates, we must look at their voting records, their values, and their personal life. All of this can define who a person is. There's only one person in the field that is consistent in everything he does, but I'll leave it to you to do the examining to find out who that is. His initials are R. P.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

[Audiobook Review] "The Radical Question" by David Platt

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="194" caption="Cover via Amazon"]Cover of "Radical: Taking Back Your Faith...[/caption]

In The Radical Question, author and pastor David Platt wants you to ask of yourself what you would do with your life in light of what Jesus has asked of His followers, that is, to give up the American Dream and whatever else we hold on to in order to follow Jesus. Platt uses his experiences in traveling overseas to a Chinese house church and as a pastor of what could be considered a megachurch to show us that we are not following Christ's commands to follow Him in everything. We grasp for material goods, press for job promotions, and generally ignore Christ's commands to be light in the middle of a dark world. We are to be disciples and followers of Jesus, and yet, we care more about our iPhones and iPads than we do about the persecuted Church. In the past couple of years, I've felt this longing myself that I wasn't doing enough. Hence, one reason I recently left a job in a Christian university to pursue one among unbelievers. Platt's pamphlet of the same title as this audiobook helped change that perspective a little. As did continuing reading God's Word and the Holy Spirit's conviction. Are you being changed by the Gospel to chase after Christ? Or are you saving retirement to move to Florida and pick up sea shells on the beach?

This audiobook was provided free through ChristianAudio's reviewer program. I am not required to give a good review, just an honest one.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Be Courageous Men

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Courageous' logo.[/caption]

I have not seen the new movie Courageous yet and may not until it hits DVD, but I have heard good things about it. This post is not about the message behind that movie that fathers need to be courageous and stand up to be the fathers they are supposed to be to their children. That's a great message, but the bigger message should be that Christian men need to be courageous in the Church at large. I would like to refer to the following article as the basis for the rest of my post:
Baptist Fellowship Offering Cash Incentives to Churches Considering Female Pastors

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri (CBFMO) will offer cash incentives to any member church that is willing to consider hiring a female pastor.

CBFMO leadership decided in September to pay interview, travel, and other expenses incurred by search committees that include a woman in their list of candidates in hopes of expanding the number of women in church leadership.

None of the 50 CBFMO churches have female senior pastors.

"The whole idea behind it, honestly, is to reduce the anxiety or risk that churches feel," CBFMO associate coordinator Jeff Langford told Christianity Today. "Search committees don't want to break new ground or rock the boat."

There already is a lot of anxiety surrounding searching for a pastor, he said. Search committees want to make a good decision but not one that is too progressive, so often they choose what feels comfortable to them—a male candidate, he said.

Paying expenses is a way to lessen that risk of opening the door to a woman pastor, he said.

So, there is nothing here from the CBFMO about even recognizing the idea that Scripture clearly teaches that the offices of elder and of deacon are to be men in the context of saying that they are to be the husbands of one wife. The apostle Paul also clearly taught that he did not allow women to hold authority over men, him being an apostle of Jesus Christ shows Christ's authority on this matter. This Co-op wants to remove the anxiety in hiring a woman pastor. Really? How did we get to this point? Have we come so far that we now bow to women to be our leaders in matters of Scripture that we are willing to pay search committees to hire woman "elders"? This continues to stem from the secular women rights movement of the early 20th Century. Not all of the rights fought for are bad: better wages, right to vote, secular leadership positions in business, etc. However, by the 1970's, the movement had seeped into the church, and major denominations split over some of these very issues (the P.C.A. and P.C. USA denominations come to mind).

In short, men have not been courageous in the Church. They have allowed women to dictate to them what scripture should teach and they have gone along with it. For what? Unity? I doubt it. Women hold a power over men that cannot be explained and men fear it. This is not to be a woman-bashing post, but a post to hold up Scripture as authoritative over whatever secular society may tell us. What has woman pastorship and eldership in the church gotten us? It has gotten us squabbles over the affirmation over homosexuals in the Church, more particularly homosexual clergy and same-sex marriage. Look at the churches that deny that homosexuality is a sin. Nearly all have women leadership, either at the top or near the top. This includes the Methodists, Lutherans, and the Presbyterians (U.S.A.). This comes from weak men in the Church who have not taken up their God-given right to lead the Church in Scriptural  matters.

Our women's Bible study at church has over 20 women consistently. That's great. I'm glad that they are able to get together, study scripture, and converse among themselves. Our men's Bible study has three, sometimes four attending. We study scripture, discuss it, and apply it to our lives. There's a disconnect somewhere. Then again, we don't get some former football player that couldn't hack it in the NFL to come speak to our group about how we can be "manly" men and avoid all the bad stuff he saw in the NFL like other churches may do to attract a crowd. Scripture is what we stand on and where we will stand. Courageous men in leadership is not a problem in my church. I do see it as a problem in other churches. This is why we have a co-op offering to pay for churches to hire women pastors. Maybe someone needs to pay them to study scripture better.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Distasteful Halloween Decorations

WARNING: Graphic images

Yesterday, I wrote about Christians and Halloween. After seeing the second news story in a week about a 911 call with regards to a Halloween decoration, I felt it was time for a followup.  The first news story appeared on October 3 as the following:

Graphic Halloween decoration scares driver, prompts emergency response

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Halloween decorations are supposed to be scary, but one just off Organ Church Road in eastern Rowan County, NC scared a driver so much that he called 911, nearly prompting a full emergency response.

The call came into Rowan County's 911 Communication Center Monday morning.

The caller said that he saw what appeared to be a man trapped under a riding lawn mower.

Emergency responders and an ambulance were dispatched to rush to the scene, but before they could get going, someone who heard the dispatch called 911 to assure them that what the original caller saw was a Halloween decoration, not a person trapped beneath a lawnmower.

The second news story appeared today, October 5 as:

Another Halloween display triggers 911 call, emergency response

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Another North Carolina Halloween display triggered an emergency response – this time it was a "man" hanging by his hands from the rain gutter of a South Charlotte home.

The first incident happened earlier this week in Rowan County when a driver saw what he thought was a  bloody body under a riding lawnmower. The Rowan County motorist called 911.(Click here to read that story and listen to 911)

The latest false alarm happened Wednesday around 9:00 a.m. when a person on Houston Branch Road in Charlotte thought they saw a man who had lost a ladder and was in big trouble.

The reporting person said they saw a man hanging by his hands from the gutters on the roof of a home.

The Charlotte Fire Department was dispatched to the scene in the 2900 block of Houston Branch Road.

The "man" was actually a dummy and was hanging by its hands from the gutter of a home.

Too far or just clean fun? It seems that by the comments, many readers are suggesting they think it's too far. Why is it that people have plenty of problems with Nativity and Cross scenes around Christmas and Easter, but have very few problems with scenes such as the ones mentioned in the news articles. And they say Christians are hypocritical. Then again, the people who set up the decorations may claim Christianity as well, but who's judging motives here.

Think Free Download by John Piper - Audiobooks, MP3, M4B, iPhone Apps, Free Downloads!

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]John Piper's church. Also see here[/caption]

Think Download by John Piper - Audiobooks, MP3, M4B, iPhone Apps, Free Downloads!.

Publisher's Description:
John Piper’s newest book will help Christians think about thinking. Focusing on the life of the mind helps us to know God better, love him more, and care for the world. Along with an emphasis on emotions and the experience of God, we also need to practice careful thinking about God. Piper contends that “thinking is indispensable on the path to passion for God.” So how are we to maintain a healthy balance of mind and heart, thinking and feeling?

Piper urges us to think for the glory of God. He demonstrates from Scripture that glorifying God with our minds and hearts is not either-or, but both-and. Thinking carefully about God fuels passion and affections for God. Likewise, Christ-exalting emotion leads to disciplined thinking.

Readers will be reminded that “the mind serves to know the truth that fuels the fires of the heart.”


[Book Review] The Grace of God by Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley tackles the topic of God's grace in this longer book of his. Once again, Stanley's down-to-earth writing style for the layman shines through as he makes this topic accessible for everyone. Stanley loves to use real examples to drive home his points in relational style that's as if he's sitting right there with you.  As for the topic, just a smattering of Bible verses, as usual, but with good quotes to take with you. Stanley wants to make it clear that you did not save yourself, but God's undeserved grace did. He wants you to see God's grace in a way that keeps you from beating yourself up over your sin. If you have been saved by God, it is by God's grace.

This book was provided free by Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program.

[Book Review] Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Image by jramspott via Flickr"]0G5J2088.jpg[/caption]

There is no doubt that Andy Stanley is a good communicator. I enjoy listening to his podcasts from his church on a weekly basis and was able to visit Northpoint Community Church (where Stanley is the senior pastor) once to attend a children's ministry conference. In this book, Enemies of the Heart (previously It Came From Within), Stanley speaks to us about four emotions that control us and tells us how to break free from these. These four emotions that he describes are guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. It's an excellently written book, in the typical Stanley-storytelling style. He uses real life examples with a smattering of Bible verses to make his point.

If you've ever read anything from Paul Tripp, however, you have heard this before, called idols of the heart. Tripp's is a little bit more expanded and goes right on down to sin and pride as the root causes. Stanley never does this. Stanley writes as if you can do this yourself, without full reliance on the Holy Spirit. That's not to say that Stanley's theology is off on this point. Stanley is writing for a broader audience. He has many non-Christians who watch his sermons and read his books. Tripp's audience is a lot narrower. I believe there is one major enemy of the heart and that is sin. These others are byproducts of sin. Stanley does not go that far and that is the caution I have with this book. The book is good and well-written. Stanley does make his case well and I've heard the sermon series on this topic. However, the caution is that Stanley doesn't go deep enough. It may be his theology or doctrine that prevents him, whatever that is, since he stays away from theological/doctrinal disputes. Whatever it is, the root cause of all of these things is sin.  These others are idols, as Tripp puts it.

Note: this book was free as part of Multnomah's Blogging for Books program.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Christians and Halloween

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Jack-o-latern[/caption]

It's no secret that I'm not a fan of Halloween. I've had Romans 14 thrown at me about judging Christians who celebrate Halloween, been called narrow minded, and have had people try to explain that it's just fun as long as you don't dress up as ghosts, goblins, skeletons, or whatever other creepy creature is out there.  But I have to ask, "what is the redeeming feature about Halloween?" I have yet to ever receive an answer. I also don't get where someone gets the idea that I'm judging those Christians who celebrate Halloween. Maybe I am, to an extent, but who's the weaker brother here? So, before I get into a rant, let me explain my ideas behind Christians and Halloween.

Halloween has morphed from what used to be called "All Hallow's Eve." All Saint's Day followed by All Soul's Day are the next two days which are traditionally celebrated by the Catholic Church in which the saint's are honored and those who have not reached Heaven are prayed for that they would. Definitely unBiblical, obviously, according to Protestant doctrine. Halloween can also be traced to Samhain, a Celtic/Gaelic festival celebrating the end of Summer.

In the American tradition of Halloween, kids typically dress up in costumes such as ghosts, skeletons, Batman, Darth Vader, and princesses, and go around from house to house saying "trick or treat" in order to get candy. Simply the whole "trick" part should be considered unBiblical in that it is basically a threat that if you don't give me what I want, I'm going to do something bad to you. Should we, as Christians, partake in such foolishness? It is just good, clean fun, right? At least, that's what I've been told before. Dressing up has it's tradition in scaring away evil spirits. As Christians indwelt by the Holy Spirit, should this be an issue for us?

Christians in America simply are not very discerning. They really could care less about what traditions mean. Even our modern Christmas and Easter celebrations have their roots in pagan traditions that have been "Christianized" mostly by the Catholic Church. We offer Halloween alternatives such as Judgment House and fall festivals. One alternative that I don't see a problem with necessarily is Reformation Day. Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on October 31, and we, as Protestants, should remember that we hold a debt of gratitude to the reformers such as Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and others for leading us out of the bondage that the Catholic Church had people in.

Let's be discerning as we go into this season and see all of these unBiblical things around us. We are to be salt and light to a dying world, but we should not celebrate the world. We must celebrate life. Halloween represents death. Even scary movies are all about death. I don't care what fun you may think they hold, they do not celebrate Christ. There is not a redeeming quality about them. There is not a redeeming quality about Halloween.