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Cults and Christianity IX

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Question #1:

Hi Bob,

Recently I have received a gift of discernment of good teachers from mediocre or badly prepared teachers. I would like to confirm that you are a good one. In fact, to me it is blatantly obvious when a teacher is moved by the Holy Ghost or when he is just relying on human intuition.

Sincerely, without flattery,

Response #1:

Very much appreciated.

We are all charged by the Lord to be as discerning as vipers (Matt.10:16; cf. Rom.16:19; 1Cor.14:20), after all – and also to employ the "fruit test". Getting a stomach ache from the bad apples out there ought to be enough for anyone to move on to the next tree, but some people seem to enjoy the spiritual indigestion.  See the link (which will lead to many more): "Cults and Christianity VIII".

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

[question about friend involved in a church which seems like a cult]

Response #2:

Good to hear from you, though I'm sorry about your friend. I certainly trust my friend Curt Omo of Bible Academy's judgment on these things, so if he is of the opinion that this is a cult, I would stay away from it. Without any details I would be reluctant to weigh in on the specifics myself.

I think respect for a teacher's authority is not a bad thing in and of itself, neither is the recognition that while Bible reading is invaluable, personal study of scripture (i.e., to mine information from the Bible for doctrinal purposes) is no substitute for substantive Bible teaching from an orthodox teaching ministry – because individual Christians can see that things are "wrong" or "right" with an individual teacher's teaching, but they do not have the gift or the training to build doctrine from the Bible from scratch.

That said, it is definitely a characteristic of cults to inculcate their followers to have nothing whatsoever to do with any other ministry or group – and to stay away from personal scripture reading as well (both danger signs if put in extreme ways).

So I'm not sure what to say about this situation you report (without the details); the fact that your friend is still your friend in spite of this new influence is certainly a good sign inasmuch as genuine cults always want their new initiates to break off old relationships (the better to control them), so as to get them to the point of only having relationships with those in the cult (reducing them to a state of total dependency thereby). There are plenty of churches / groups / organizations which have one foot in this type of behavior without being extreme enough to warrant the "cult" label, however, so perhaps that is the situation. Under those circumstances, I'd be more concerned about what exactly is being taught, whether or not it is doctrinally correct and, if not, how far "off" it is.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:

[some specific concerns listed]

Response #3:

Thanks for the update. I stand by what I said before.

It's hard for me to pronounce this fellow and his church a "cult". I certainly disagree vigorously with a number of things in the doctrinal statement such as "eternal security", the supposed necessity for water-baptism, and the belief in a pre-Tribulation "rapture" – all of which are dangerous false teachings. Then again, almost every evangelical church and evangelical denomination in America believes these same three things (and other non-evangelical churches often believe one or two or all three as well). What is unique about the place you are concerned about is the abnormal insistence on respect for the pastor's authority. I have to say that in principle it is correct to respect the elder who is doing the teaching (if you don't, what are you doing in that church listening to that teaching?), but it is also a principle which is very often abused.

Respect for teaching authority is something in my view which a person ought to be motivated to give based on their appreciation of the quality of the teaching without having demands for said respect jammed down their throats. However, everyone is a little different. As long as "Christ is preached", then we have to allow for some leeway in evaluating other ministries (Phil.3:18; cf. Mk.9:38-40; Lk.9:49-50). The authority principle can easily be over done; then again, in most evangelical churches it is "under done". That is understandable, namely, the fact that most Protestant churches today (which are not cults) do not generally lord it over the congregation, since one has to actually teach some substance in order to do so with authority. Whether this place teaches substance or not is a question I can't answer without attending or spending a lot of time I don't have on its materials, but if it does, then that is pretty unique.

I can also tell you that the name of the church and various other things about it I noticed on the website lead me to believe that this person came out of Col. Thieme's ministry at Berachah church in Houston. So did I (in a manner of speaking). That ministry was unique and no longer exists as it did after the Col. stopped teaching many years ago (he is since deceased) – although his lessons are still available via audio tape. While I have always acknowledged my debt to the Col. and his ministry, I have also consciously moved away from everything I found to be incorrect whether in doctrine (e.g., the three noted above) or in style (e.g., hyper-authoritarianism). But I will note that many "wannabes" have taken the more egregious features of that model to extremes without at the same time offering the truly insightful teaching that was the hallmark of Thieme's ministry (and what attracted me to it). As to the individual points you list:

*He preaches sound gospel but believes in one pastor only needed in church.

Most churches I know of have only one pastor – at least only one who does the teaching. That is not necessarily the case in bigger churches, especially in "mega churches", but those I've investigated don't actually teach any substance so it's a difference without a true distinction.

*He appears to have deacons but no other elders.

This is another "in name only" issue. Generally speaking, the New Testament deliberately leaves church organization vague. In the early churches, there were "elders" (literally "old men") and there were "deacons" (literally "servants"), and Paul gives instructions about their qualifications – which is not the same thing as commanding that both sets of officials exist. The former are to govern the church; the later to conduct and direct its non-teaching ministries; the pastor-teacher is the one who does the teaching. Things are left vague, deliberately so, because flexibility is to be the rule in the Church when it comes to local congregations and how they choose to organize themselves. Laying down a profusion of rules – and instituting creeds and denominational structure – is clearly in violation of the spirit of all we can find on the subject in the NT. As long as things are done "decently and in order" (1Cor.14:40), then all is well. The fact of having deacons and elders et. al. will not in and of itself guarantee that things are going well in the church, obviously, nor will their lack necessarily be a problem. The proof is always in the pudding, namely, the content of the teaching. Because of the way human beings "work", one person will naturally rise to the leadership in any organization (whether or not he has a title), and the one who naturally does so in a church – a church in the biblical sense of the word which is doing what the Lord wants – will do so through the quality of his teaching; and that person by any name is the pastor-teacher. It is the teaching which sets him apart and which should command respect by its nature, an earned respect based upon the congregation testing the fruit and seeing that it is good:

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
Titus 2:7-8 ESV

*You must submit to church by-laws or leave and considered heretic if not submitted.

In my personal opinion, no church should intervene in the personal lives of its congregants. The idea of a person being accountable to the church is non-biblical and terribly dangerous. This is one thing that all cults do, namely, attempt to micro-manage the behavior of their members. If that is something this church is doing, I would be averse to it in every way (I didn't see that from the website). I should add that this is something nearly every legalistic type of church does – and there are whole denominations of such churches. This is not something that Berachah did under Col. Thieme – in fact just the opposite. The only exception to the "accountable only to the Lord" rule is if the person in question is involved in gross sin and deliberately makes that obvious to the assembly, flaunting his/her behavior and forcing a reaction (just as happened in 1st Corinthians chapter five).

*No real accountability for himself

Pastors are accountable to the Lord just as every other Christian is; the difference is that pastor-teachers receive a "stricter judgment" from Him (Jas.3:1), and that should give anyone great pause, both the pastor-teacher (so as to be careful to be diligent in both his work and his behavior) and also those listening to him (so as not to judge another person's servant: Rom.14:4). But when a pastor-teacher or any of the governing officials (elders) of a church are "caught out" in gross misbehavior, there is a policy for that:

Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.
1st Timothy 5:19-20 NKJV

*Only face to face teaching verse by verse acceptable and biblical. Other forms (tv internet) are not.

It would be wonderful to be able to receive detailed and substantive teaching in person on a regular basis. But the fact of the matter is that in Laodicea there is so little decent teaching out there at all that the odds of it being available in one's geographical area are slight. And we also have to make allowance for individual tastes: we are all somewhat different and so we all respond differently to different ministries. There is something out there just for us, but we may have to look for it, and we may have to look long and hard until we find it. When we do find it, even if it is only available via pamphlets or audio tapes or podcasts or TV or a website, I see no problem with that – nothing biblical in any case. Col. Thieme's ministry rose to prominence through his tapes and publications which were distributed very widely – that is how I came to know of him and how I learned from him (I only actually attended the church in Houston on two occasions I can remember). And I note that this ministry you ask about also produces audio tapes. So this injunction is odd and unbiblical, but perhaps understandable. Almost all churches out there today are really only interested in two things: fame and dollars (and the two work in tandem). If a person in their area is somewhat interested in them but much more so in a different ministry conducted by these alternate means, then it is a great temptation to suggest that this is "second best" or even not appropriate. But that is certainly not true. Church attendance and church membership, the "holy grails" of Protestantism at least since the beginning of its spiritual decline, are nothing in and of themselves. What matters is what happens when a person attends: is the truth being taught correctly and in substance or not? And if not, attending is a waste of time (joining is not a biblical thing in any case).

To put a cap on this, my initial impression is that while your friend could do better, she could probably also do worse. And that while there is likely to be some spiritual indigestion from the false things noted (and from the questionably authoritarian style), if there is indeed substance being taught (as I say, that proof is in the pudding and I can't weigh in on that second hand), she might be as well off there as in some other physical church where there is nothing being taught at all (which is most other places). I like to think that she's be better off concentrating on Curt Omo's ministry or mine – but I am clearly prejudiced on that point. So I commend you in trying to bring your friend over to something better. It's always difficult to know how to do that. People have to be willing to respond first. Keep this in your prayers and I am sure that the Lord will give you an opening if is meant to be.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
Proverbs 25:11 NKJV

Apologies in advance if there is indeed something more nefarious going on. It's not clear from what I can see, but then there are a lot of wolves out there who have very convincing sheep-suits after all. I will say a prayer for your friend to figure out that at least those three important "teachings" are falsely handled by this place, and so set herself to searching for something better.

Do feel free to write me back about any of this.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

[some clarification]

Response #4:

What you say makes perfect sense, both from the standpoint of your friend (who is following bad advice, obviously, and advice which indicates the serious problems with this "ministry"), and also from your standpoint. Believers who really decide to take the truth to heart are always led to serious ministries. And those ministries, along with the attitude of preferring the truth to all else, always seem to be a separating factor – not because of "orders" from the ministry, but because the truth changes us and also seems to drive away the lukewarm. Having a serious friendship / relationship with someone who is not willing to put the truth first to the same extent as we are is always challenging and often does not work out. The "once saved, always saved" false doctrine is indeed a very dangerous one, and in my opinion you were right to try and help your friend extricate herself from a place that would not only promote it but vilify those who don't accept it.

It's not easy being a loner – and it's not what any of us want. But it is better to walk this road to Zion with only occasional contact from those who are heading in the right direction than it is to sit by the side of the road going nowhere in the company of many who are not interested in advancing. And it's even more important not to join hands with those who are marching in the wrong direction altogether (Ps.1:1-3).

God provides all of our needs. Sometimes we have to wait a bit to demonstrate that we do trust Him. But if we need spiritual companionship (beyond what we are already enjoying) we can be absolutely certain that He will provide that along with everything else we truly need by and by.

You are welcome here at Ichthys any time!

Feel free to write always.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

[thanks]

Response #5:

You're very good to continue being a friend and to continue being concerned for your friend. You can keep praying for her too. I have a feeling that the closer we get to the end the more Christians in general are going to be waking up – at least they will when it starts.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

I was wondering why Christianity has the most denominations than every other religion in the world if I'm correct. All the false religions may have a few sects overall, but Christianity has so many denominations. And it seems like that at times, Christians can't even agree with each other. Is it because some Christians have their pet doctrine? Or do some blindly follow false teachers. I have learned a lot from you (even though I have memory trouble), and I don't think I have ever disagreed with anything you said to me. But when it comes Christianity in general, there are so many differences in doctrine and what they teach. What are your thoughts on this?

God Bless you and your ministry,

Response #6:

Institutional Christianity is the largest "religion", and there are very many offshoots from it which are also large – Mormonism, just for example. Of course true Christianity is not a religion but a saving relationship – with Jesus Christ – and many "Christian" groups (or groups which are Christian in name only as in the example given) are composed of non-believers almost exclusively. In fact, for all denominations outside of Protestantism, that would be my expectation based upon what I know and have heard and experienced; and even within Protestantism, 50/50 saved/unsaved would probably be putting the number of actual believers on the high end. Add to that the fact that just being saved is not the end: we are here to grow, walk with Christ, and help others do likewise (that is the true purpose behind giving, re: your other email), and here most Christians in Laodicea fall far short.

Why are there such differences between groups that do have some believers? Mostly because neither they by and large nor their teachers/pastors are much interested in growing in the truth, so that "doctrinal differences" are more like club colors than any definite commitment to the truth. Those who are truly seeking the truth of the Word and doing so diligently find themselves ever circling in on the perfect center; those who are not find themselves spinning away from it. Therein lies the difference and the problem. Those who seek find (Matt.7:7; Lk.11:19); those who do not, do not.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

How do we classify a pseudo-Christian denomination as a cult. Are there parameters or boundaries that makes false denominations a cult? Some would tell me that there can be Catholics (very few of them) by name only might be saved. I knew a woman at my job who refers to herself as a Catholic, but she seems to follow all the correct teachings laid out in scripture. She doesn't worship Mary, and believes that we are saved by Grace through Faith, and not of works. She also doesn't believe in purgatory. So it seems to me like just as there are counterfeit "Christians", there may be "Catholic" people out there that do not believe the RCC's dogmas and the 7th Day Adventists is a cult, and some don't. are there those out there that call themselves Catholics, and are actually saved? What determines how we classify a denomination as a cult?

God Bless,

Response #7:

There is no technical definition. Functionally, when we use the word "cult" in this country we usually mean some sort of non-traditional group where the participants sever all ties with the outside world, give up their all of their property and all of their freedom to the cult leader, and engage in all sorts of odd and sometimes dangerous behavior. Come to think of it, for many groups which are Christian in name only – and even some awash in legalism or charismatic excess – if we were to use the word "some" instead of "all" in the places it occurs in the definition above, the shoe would fit. All denominations, it seems, are more interested in their secular success (numbers of adherents and finances), their traditions, and their outward forms than they are in the truth of scripture; that is a problem even if it is not as big of a problem as one finds in the R.C. church, Mormonism, and various out and out cults that dot the landscape today.

When it comes to the R.C. church in particular, I don't think I've ever met an R.C. who claimed to believe in everything the church taught or who engaged in all of its practices. But I've also never met anyone who has come to be fully committed to Christ and who has left that church as a result who didn't also claim that it was impossible to be a believer and an R.C. at the same time – so deep does the works-mentality percolate through it.  Note: recently available on this subject is Bartek's series on the cult of Mary (much more far ranging in its analysis of the problems of Roman Catholicism than the name indicates and indispensable for anyone interested in apologetics in regard to that group; at the link).

Classification is not important (and can be misleading). The only important things are a personal, genuine faith in Christ and a genuine commitment to learning the truth of His Word, following it and helping other do the same. These are the only things that cut any mustard with Him.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I have a friend who is a Pastor that organizes his church in this manner below:

He is a pastor of a small country church of approximately 45-50 people, so his examples will be within that context, rather than in the context of a significantly
larger church.

1. Once a month, when he and his congregation celebrate the Lord's Supper, they also take up a special offering for a Benevolent Fund. The monies within the Benevolent Fund are then distributed at the discretion of the pastor (himself) and the two deacons, wherein their must be complete unanimity between those three individuals concerning to whom and how much.

2. One of his ladies has the ministry to organize other ladies to provide meals when a member is hospitalized for some reason, or undergoes surgery or some other health procedure that would hinder normal function. This lady seeks for volunteers to provide a meal, and then organizes the daily schedule for such.

3. If one of his members (or another church or believer with which we have fellowship ties) encountered an immediate financial need that could not be handled by the Benevolent Fund , he would probably suggest a special offering for them to be collected over an appropriate period of time (from a few days to a few weeks). They recently did this over a single month period for one of their missionaries, a missionary in Puerto Rico, after the devastation of the recent storm. In fact, the Pastor did not even think of it; but it was suggested to him by the deacons.)

4. If one of his members has a circumstantial need (such as recently the need by one of their families for fire wood), He will approach those who have the appropriate skills, equipment, availability, etc. and will seek to organize them into a projected solution (usually including his own time and effort in the project).

These are simply examples of his. He thinks that many other formulas could be developed depending on the specific need and circumstance. What are your thoughts on this?

God Bless,

Response #8:

This sounds fine and reasonable to me – as far as you describe it. As long as there is no pressure to give, I wouldn't be averse to any of this. In fact, it seems to me that this is a very good model that mimics as close as I can see the way things were done / envisioned in the early churches. I will say that facts "on the ground" are sometimes somewhat different than described, and even someone close to the situation such as yourself might not see the entire picture unless and until personally involved on a day by day basis. Still and all, as described, this seems to represent a fine adjunct to the function of a local church – never forgetting that the MAIN reason for assembly / community is the teaching and mutual encouragement of the Word of God. Everything else is secondary. If a church becomes mainly a benevolent society (this happens quite often), then it has lost its way, not matter the quantity and quality of its "good works".  Please see the links:

The Meaning and Purpose of True Christian Assembly

Church Polity

Some Questions on Church Polity

How much should we pay our pastor?

The Assembly of the Local Church

Mega-Churches and Emergent Christianity

Church Attendance.

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.

Red Hot or Lukewarm? Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing.

Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation, and the Purpose of Assembly.

Finding a Church – or Something Better? II

Finding a Church – or Something Better?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hi Dr,

Can you give me a quick overview of the difference between Bible study vs sermon? Are Bible study book by book exegesis and sermons topical or can they be interchangeable?

Just your thoughts if you don't mind.

In Christ Jesus our Lord

Response #9:

Sorry for the delay. Difficult week here.

As to a "sermon", well, I think we all know what that is. It lasts anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour (depending on the church, denomination, pastor, and tolerance of the congregation). It is set on a topic, often contemporary. It is chock full of stories, illustrations, and colorful prose meant to impress the audience with the speaking abilities of the speaker. It occasionally references the Bible, but it is not designed to teach anyone anything, not intended to teach anyone anything, and incapable of teaching anyone anything – which is why Christians who have heard thousands of sermons in their lifetimes still know absolutely nothing about the truth.

When you say "Bible study", I assume you mean Christians getting together to study the Bible. This is also very popular in evangelical circles in particular. It usually involves a dozen or more Christians getting together and going over a book or a topic in the Bible. Sometimes there is a leader; sometimes not. What these sorts of things have in common is that no one is in authority, no one who's prepared to teach what is in the text studied, and everyone's opinion "is important". No one is really prepared to say anything that is the result of deep study and deep conviction, and, apart from "knowledge" of some facts (which many or may not be correct), nothing capable of contributing to the biblical process of edification that only comes from actual truth being presented in an authoritative way by someone who knows something of it.

Then there is teaching – which is what you are doing. That can be book by book or topic by topic or a combination of the two. Both approaches are valuable and important in my view. My own ministry has focused more on the latter so far – just because of the way things worked out – but "Coming Tribulation" was a hybrid, using the book of Revelation as the organizing framework. In either case, the pastor-teacher, a prepared and gifted man, works hard to understand a text / topic and presents the carefully considered results to those willing to listen. This is how the flock is fed (Jn.21:15-17); all other approaches lead either to poisoning or starvation (or a bit of both).

Hoping to hear good news from you / for you soon, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hi Bob,

Thanks as always for your wise answers. First, to update you on my health situation [ . . .]

On the Messianic synagogue, it was an interesting experience. Of course it was snowing the day we went so they only had half the normal congregation there, but that was fine. They sang a lot of songs (in Hebrew and English). I didn’t find anything heinous theologically about the lyrics, but it didn’t seem very Christ-centered either. I think they sang “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” for about 5 minutes. I guess that may be a current political issue, but neither it nor any other song they sang had the depth of something like “Amazing Grace”. The rabbi was very nice, but his sermon, which was supposed to be on the weekly Torah reading (Genesis 37-40), seemed like a loosely connected commentary on the last half of Genesis. After having watched all of Dr. Steve Lawson’s lectures on the fundamentals and mechanics of expository preaching from TMS’s youtube page, the difference was significant. After we left my mom said she didn’t get anything out of it either.

There’s a place called ___ Baptist Church that is literally two blocks walking, one as the crow flies, from my parents’ house. It can be seen from our upstairs windows and we’ve been this close for 20+ years. My mom wants to go (in January after they’re done with the Christmas hoopla). I’m sort of indifferent, especially after reading your email, but I’ll go with her to see what they’re doing. I looked on their website and their statement of faith isn’t too bad (by that I mean it’s not the way I would word things, but the way it is worded can be interpreted as orthodox in most respects), except of course the water baptism thing. I think, for me at least, as long as you call Ichthys your church and I can call you my pastor, that works for me and I don’t need to go to a building every Sunday.

However, what you said really got me thinking about my own ministry. I’m aware of the bible’s paradigm of 30 being the age of entering ministry (e.g. John the Baptist, Jesus, Numbers 4:3ff) and I’m a little more than a year away from that, but I also know that’s no reason to not start sooner. It’s no good to anyone if I keep gaining knowledge and keep it to myself. I think the quickest way I can begin “producing” is to start a youtube channel and do something similar to Pastor Omo’s Bible Academy. I actually feel called to teach on several subjects, but more learning and research is definitely needed for at least some of it. For instance, I feel very passionate about defending Creationism and want to do a series on Genesis. But I feel like I need to study more Hebrew in order to be able to properly explain the Genesis Gap. I also feel that I should do a series against witchcraft/the occult/paganism, and would like to do my own translation (perhaps expanded in your style) of Deuteronomy 18:10-11 to try to express the full semantic range of what’s being said there. I have other ideas as well for that medium (pun intended), but on top of that I also want to write a treatise on holidays; beginning with a summary of what the NT has to say concluding with Romans 14, then continuing to an academic study of Jesus’ fulfillment of the spring feasts of Leviticus 23 in his first coming and of the fall feasts in his second coming (as I discussed with you a couple of years ago), and ending with the origins of Christmas and Easter. But there’s a book I have called Calendar and Chronology: Jewish and Christian by Roger Beckwith that I need to read (at least part of) before I can write about Christmas and Easter. I guess in summary, spurred on by your encouragement, it seems I’m getting ready to begin some kind of teaching ministry (whatever it ends up becoming). Thank you, and I’ll probably be asking you questions frequently.

On that note, I would like to make sure I’m understanding a few things aright.

1. From what I got out of Dr. Lawson’s classes (mentioned above), it seems like the only difference between “teaching” and “expository preaching” is that the latter adds exhortations to the audience. Is that correct?

2. I think with all that’s going on that my mom and I would both benefit from a study of Ecclesiastes and Job, and I’ve been preparing to teach/preach my way through them with her. I have a question about Ecclesiastes 1:15 “What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.” I get that the first half of the verse is related to Ecc. 7:13. Does “what is lacking cannot be counted” refer to the fact that if something is “lacking” that means it’s not there, i.e. it doesn’t exist, and what doesn’t exist can’t be counted? Or does the phrase mean that the amount of things lacking in life is uncountable? Does it refer to wisdom/knowledge, in that you don’t know what you don’t know? Should the verse be interpreted as Hebrew parallelism where “what is lacking” is “crooked” and that which “cannot be counted” is that which “cannot be straightened” (which leads back to 7:13)? Or is it all of the above?

Yours in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior,

P.S. This feels like a dumb question, especially after having corresponded for years now, but how do you pronounce your last name? Is the “u” an “uh” sound or an “oo” sound?

Response #10:

Thanks for the update, my friend. I'll be praying for your health.

I'm not surprised at your "church report", and I think you'll find that the Baptists are only superficially different. When I was in Korea on maneuvers back in the 70's, I went to an outdoor city market and was amazed at the different sizes and shapes and colors of the local candy. I have a sweet tooth, so I bought a selection. Funny thing – for all the difference in appearance, they all tasted almost exactly the same, disappointingly semi-sweet. That is how I think about "church" in the USA today. The difference in texture between a Messianic, Presbyterian, Baptist or Charismatic service will be great. The difference in substance, not. Why not? Because there is no substance (in 99%+ of cases). People in this country do not go to church to hear the Word of God. They go for other reasons: guilt, nodding to God, tradition, social life, entertainment, etc. – but not to listen and learn the Word of God. That is why this "church" is on the internet.

On marriage, the one thing more I'll say is that this really is a case of meeting "the right one", isn't it? I think it would be a mistake to marry for the sake of being married. So it really is in God's hands. You can't find her. Only He can bring her to you – as He did for Adam.

I'm thrilled to hear of your interest in ministry. I think you have a lot to offer as a prospective teacher of the Bible, and your excitement over particular things you already want to investigate, teach and explain is music to my ears. Think a little about the form/venue here too. It doesn't have to be traditional (cf. the Ichthys and Bible Academy examples) – and in fact if you are intending on actually teaching actual truth, that won't be welcomed in a traditional setting. Pastor-teachers who take the job seriously and try to convert traditional churches into Bible teaching churches get fired every time; the only exception being where everyone stops coming so that there's no one left to fire the guy. There are a few other young men like yourself with whom I correspond who are either engaging in or preparing to engage in this process. Here are a few links also:

Ministry and Preparation for Ministry V

Ministry and Preparation for Ministry IV

Ministry and Preparation for Ministry III

Ministry and Preparation for Ministry II

Ministry and Preparation for Ministry

Ministers, Ministry, and Preparation for Ministry

Should I go to Seminary or not?

As to your final questions:

1) I don't think it's helpful to categorize these things. I know what teaching is. I know what preaching is. And the two have nothing in common in my view. I do use illustrations sometimes, but sermons are often nothing but. And anytime preaching even comes into the mix, the truth usually suffers – because the speaker is trying to impress the congregation (rather than feed them as the Lord commands). Take the founder of the seminary whose videos you are watching, for example. Worry instead about what it is you want to say, do the work, then tell it like it is. If you have to throw in an illustration et al. from time to time to make a point, that would be fine. But if you are thinking "sermon" from the get-go, this will bollix up everything – the more the congregation laughs and smiles and tells you how "wonderful" the "sermon" was, the farther from the goal you are.

2) On Ecclesiastes 1:15 and 7:13, the theme of the book is the secular perspective of life – which is vanity / the pointlessness of anything in this world apart from Christ. The point of the book is to bring people to the Lord and to an understanding of His greatness, in large part through the means of demonstrating the futility of everything in this life . . . apart from Him. Everything in this life is temporary. It is all dust; like the flowers and grass of the field, everything dies; only the Word is eternal. Once we accept that, once we quit denying the prospect of our own death, our own sinfulness, and the pointlessness of this temporary world, then we are ripe for the truth, for the gospel, for a relationship with the One who made everything, sustains everything, and will give us life eternal through His the sacrifice of His own dear Son if we will but turn to Him.

(14) I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (15) What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.
Ecclesiastes 1:14-15 NIV

No matter how long-lived, no matter how wise, no matter how powerful a person may be, there are things in this world which cannot be fixed; there are things in this world which are beyond the capacity of human beings to account for – which shows our limitations. So . . .

(16) I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” (17) Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. (18) For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.
Ecclesiastes 1:16-18 NIV

The end of all human effort – in this case, using wisdom to "fix things" that are seen or to investigate the unseen so as to "account for the unaccountable" – only results in grief. God is the only solution, the only true font of wisdom, and the only One who can fix the unfixable and account for the unaccountable.

Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?
Ecclesiastes 7:13 NIV

This verse is similar, answering the earlier question of why the crooked can't be straightened. If we wanted to apply this to a broader canvas, the world is crooked, and it can't be straightened out. People give their lives, effort and treasure to try, and they do so all the time, some with better motives than others, but all in a vain pursuit. Better to understand this principle than to go charging off on a world-fixing crusade. First, because that is pointless apart from God (the theme of Ecclesiastes); second because only by accepting the truth of our puny, evanescent reality and our small, temporary existence can we beat down our natural arrogance to the point of having the shred of humility necessary to see God for who He really is and desire a relationship with Him as the One who made us and is willing to save us from our predicament: that is how we become candidates for grace.

Like it or not; agree with it or not, that's "teaching" (not "preaching").

Red Hot or Lukewarm? Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing.

What is a pastor teacher?

Teaching vs. Preaching

Wishing you and your family the merriest of Christmases, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.
p.s., it's LOO-ginbill (also a hard "g")

Question #11:

Hello Dr. Bob,

Yes, I remember now, prophetic foreshortening and double fulfillment. You mentioned it in the SR series. There are plenty of things (new and corrections to previously long-held erroneous beliefs) that I learned there and, now that my mind focuses on the series that I am covering now, those things were somewhat moved a bit to the back of my mind. I was not able to follow the suggested sequence in studying the series, I read that later. What helped me a lot were the timeline charts that places the biblical events in their right perspective and sequence. Understanding that there is a catastrophic event before, and that it led to the six-day re-creation should make the believer always value biblical thinking and spiritual matters most in order to be spiritually safe and healthy. As Paul said, the believers battle is not flesh and blood but against powerful dark spiritual forces.

Anyway, I would like to relate something that to me is important. A few weeks back on a Sunday, my son came home from church and went straight to his room. After a while he came out looking confused. I asked him what the matter is and this is what he told me. During their Sunday school class the teacher, who is a seminary graduate and a pastor taught from John 3. My son asked him what the "water" of verse 5 means, he answered: "baptism." My son said that baptism is not the topic of the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. He answered "baptism" is the meaning, because after salvation a believer is water baptized to be added to the church and in order to do the first step of obedience. To help him understand I said that the "water" is "the water of the word" in Eph. 5:26, where it says something about believers being cleansed and sanctified by its washing, of which the same process is mentioned by Paul in Titus 3:5 about salvation that it is "by the washing of regeneration." I said to him, just like what you say in your writings, context determines the meaning of a word. [Please correct any wrong ideas, especially about teachings, anywhere in this email] This is one of the many instances when he comes to me confused about what he is taught in their church or what he hears elsewhere like from youth fellowship speakers (e.g. "I am happy that Jesus is the first Missionary Baptist and I am a Missionary Baptist like him", "you did not go to church last Sunday" - the word in our dialect for "worship" and "going to church" is one so that the meaning of "worship" becomes: a corporate religious activity in a specific place). These are only a few examples why I feel frustrated with the incorrigibleness of these denomination pastors. They seem to be unaware of the influence they have on their listeners. It is frustrating when seminary trained, many-years-of-service-under-their-belt pastors do not care to verify their teachings even when there are serious questions coming from the pew. But instead lie to save face and call it protecting the flock from confusion and schism, and defending the denomination.

When things like these are discussed during our evening Bible study and I express my views, my wife says, with obvious exasperation, "why don't you go tell many people about your opinions instead of just us" or "you can't expect people to change their thinking right away", and with a hint of me going back to the group. It pains me that my wife's presence in these occasions is just for compliance and not for edification. So I explained to her that it is not my place to go out correcting people and it is unethical and causes embarrassment to everyone concerned; that teachers and pastors are responsible to their listeners/members and accountable to God, not to me (Rom. 14:4); that I had my rightful place and time years ago when I was there as Sunday school teacher and youth pastor and was rejected; that the length of time since I left up to now is enough time for them to compare the Bible with the denomination teachings; that obviously they did not check and if they did they did not examine everything carefully, did not hold fast to that which is good, and did not abstain from every form of evil.

By the way, I also visited my friends from bible school. Most of them have risen in rank within the denomination in their particular places of service. They politely dismissed what I said by saying that they already heard about those things in the past (that I'm just a "johnny come lately"); that those are just matters of difference in or alternate interpretation, no big deal; that what is important is that one should belong to a certain group and accomplish something for the Lord while I still can, (I could almost hear the strains of the hymn "work for the night is coming" playing in the background for this last one). They seem to make it appear that I was only attracting attention to myself and promoting my own agenda in order to be known. In short, me and whatever I bring are inimical to their interests. To them information coming from the internet should be viewed with suspicion, be held at arm's length and are not substitutes for published materials. (This may be the reason why there are requests for you to publish the ichthys.com materials) Dr. Bob, I tried to reach out, was proactive, was ignored and rejected. What more can I, a nobody, do? In spite of all that I am happy where I am today. What matters to me now above all else is my God's opinion about me, that I am acceptable in my redeemer's sight in my deeds, words of my mouth, and in the meditation of my heart because I valued and desired his law, testimonies, precepts, statutes, judgements. (Ps.19:14)

As was the case since the time of the Roman Catholic schismatics who wanted to rid and/or reform the denomination of its corrupt bishops and priests, to the time of Luther and the Reformation, up until today (I for one, on a tiny scale/low level, can say that this is true), attempts to correct false teachings from inside the assembly are futile and troublesome, to say the least. I remember what happened to one of the churches of the denomination founded by Herbert Armstrong, the Worldwide Church of God. When he passed away, it was pastored by Tkach. When he came to understand the doctrinal errors (one example is British Israelism) of his group, little by little he began correcting by preaching from the pulpit. Most members and the wealthy ones did not like it so they separated and formed a different group. Those who stayed lost the tv station, stopped the worldwide publication ministry (the "Plain Truth" had thousands of free subscribers even here in Southeast Asia), the foreign missions program ceased, and, because a few members stayed, Tkach and the remnant moved to a small chapel. Just as new wine is spilled and breaks the old wineskin and both are wasted, and a new cloth causes tear to the old cloth where it is patched and both cannot be used, so the freshness of scriptural truth is not welcome in the old assemblies of traditional denominationalism.

These explanations (among others), which are aided largely by the ideas from your writings, are mentioned when we have our bible study after dinner.

I want to move my thoughts away from negativity and focus on what is scriptural, on what is positive and on what aids in spiritual growth and increase in knowledge of our Lord and Savior. I suppose I am not an agent of change. Maybe there is warrant to a warning ministry in Scripture. Paul even publicly named the false teachers who are in the churches to warn believers about them and their teachings. But Paul is an apostle. I also think about the things Jude said in the context of false teaching and false teachers about having mercy on those vulnerable believers and snatching them out of the fire. So, like you said, it is better to heed the Hebrews writer's call to go "outside the camp", in the same way that our Lord and Savior was crucified outside of the city, and there worship God in a simple "not-go-beyond-the-Word" Biblical way and without the needless distraction-from-the-main-purpose-of-assembly ceremonial-ism. But what if one's family is still inside the camp, which is extremely bigoted even against Baptists who are not Landmarkers? (this is true, I was once inside that camp) Should I do nothing? Is it not sin to not do what one knows to be the right thing to do? Is making an appeal (like Paul calling the Thessalonians to awake from slumber) to earnest respectful treatment of God's Word by correctly interpreting it, and correcting errors where it is applicable, the same as aloofness, perfectionism, being self-righteous, being conceited, spiritual pride? Please, sir, if you have the time from your many duties, I would like to know your answers to these questions. I have my own ideas but I would love to hear from you as I value your opinion also.

On a different matter. Sir, I have a desire to learn the Bible languages. I understand it when you say that the meaning is richer when the Bible is read in its original languages. Just reading my English bible and comparing the same verse rendered in our own dialect, I can sense a slight difference although no major doctrine is affected. So I get the idea (in my own small way of understanding it) that it is something about what the original language means and how it is written in that ancient time and culture that the reader's appreciation of it is improved. But the unfavorable variables in getting to it are just too many to hurdle past - schools here in a third world country do not offer those types of courses; doing it online is expensive and inadvisable for the reasons that you mentioned in your emails to other inquirers; middle aged persons like me can no longer handle the academic demands and the mental and physical rigors of learning old difficult languages, to name a few. Moreover, I checked the sites for used Greek and Hebrew Languages reference books (not counting other necessary books to have), those discounted prices are astronomical in our currency. And even if I had this desire when I was younger, the same aforementioned variables would still be applicable to my situation. All of these to say in short that I have to be thankful with the bible translations that I have, trust in God and be grateful of the help from bible teachers especially you, who are there helping us in our spiritual journey by helping in understanding and by encouragement.

You may get many messages of thanks from folks like me who benefit for free from the fruits of your labor of love, but that's not stopping me from saying thank you again. Thank you for helping me appreciate more the God who immensely cared for all His creation (that includes disobedient ones) by aiding my understanding of the things written in His Word. Keeping you in our prayers, pastor.

In our dear Lord and Savior,

p.s. When Jesus quotes Scripture, is it from the LXX?

Response #11:

It's always great to hear from you, my friend. Let me start by saying thank you for your thoughtful, graceful and encouraging words in support of this ministry (Ps.115:1).

I agree with and affirm and can confirm from my own experience and from observation of that of many others and their testimonies everything you say here. I see nothing that needs correction or caveat, and your experience is much the same as mine in general terms as well as that of many if not most of the readers at Ichthys.

I would love for these studies to be available in traditional print format, but for such a thing to happen money would have to be charged and rights would have to be ceded to a publishing house, even if I took nothing for myself. As things have turned out, the way things are being done now is much better in my view than if they had gone that other way. If I notice a mistake, however small, I can correct it in all my electronic files and post the correction the same day, or if I feel something needs to be expanded or better explained, it is entirely in my hands to do so . . . without begging a press to run an expensive new edition. For more on this issue, please see the link: "All About Ichthys II" (especially starting with Q/A #2).

In my view, you are not doing anything wrong; you are doing everything right. You are in an unenviable position because of your family. Ideally, one's family will see things correctly once the head of the family begins to do so, but life is often not ideal. One of the most common laments I hear from readers who are "gung ho" for the truth is that their families are not sympathetic and not interested in the truth. Cults preach separation at that point; the love of Christ tells us instead to love them in any case and to try to do what is right by them even as we do right by our consciences in regard to our own pursuit of the truth. We can pray for them; we can lead by example; we can seed our conversations with diamonds of truth at appropriate times – trying not to beat them over the head with the truth and sour any chance of their eventual response; and we can be – we must be – patient in waiting for them to come around. There is no doubt that the Lord blesses those we love for our sake, so it is our own spiritual growth, progress, production and walk with the Lord that we must cherish and preserve, for the sake of those we love as well as for our own sake.

I long ago stopped responding to the "guilt-trips" laid on by organizations, denominations, and individuals who believe that being a member of a church and going to a church constitutes Christianity (see the link: "Finding a church – or something better?". The truth is different – and in many ways and cases antithetical to that false dual premise. So I tell people "Ichthys is my church". I, as you put it so well, am responsible to the Lord for what I do or do not do, and His opinion is the only one that counts and the only one I value. This has certainly made me a pariah. I have no good answer to the charge that this ministry is "on the internet". I did what I could to mitigate such criticisms as I anticipated years ago by doing due diligence in my formal preparation, gaining as many degrees and as much formal expertise as I was able to do in the time and circumstances available. But the truth is, that such criticisms are merely excuses from those who are not interested in the truth. If these works were published by Oxford or Cambridge, they would still reject them; perhaps they would say "it's too formal and therefore merely academic and spiritually dead". It was the same with those who had no intention of responding to God in our Lord's generation:

Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: “ ‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”
Luke 7:31-35 NIV

What can we spiritual "adults" do? It seems to me that we have to keep doing the adult thing and let the children play in hopes that one day they will grow up.

This is where you come in, it seems to me. The Church Age is very "long in the tooth". The Tribulation is not far off. The number one job of any Christian who recognizes the times and takes warning is to do what you are doing, namely, to spare no effort in preparing him/herself spiritually for all that is about to happen. As I have been noting and noticing much of late, while scripture predicts that one third of the Church will succumb to apostasy during those dark impending days, one third will be martyred gloriously for the Lord and the final third will endure with faith intact to see His glorious return. The first third makes sense, given the current spiritual status of the Church, but how can the rest of this possibly happen in Laodicea where so few have any interest at all in the truth of the Word? The answer must be, it seems to me, that when the Tribulation does begin, the dire circumstances will force the believers of this generation to "grow up" and "get serious" at last. When they do, they will need a crash course in the truth. So if you are not at present seeing the ministry the Lord surely has for you take shape, my hunch is that when the end times begin, there will be plenty for a truly prepared person such as yourself to do – so be pleased to persevere in your good efforts.

Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
John 4:35b NKJV

As to Greek and Hebrew (and Aramaic to a lesser degree), the lack of a deep knowledge of these languages is no obstacle to learning the truth – provided one has a good source of truth (of which it is my sincere hope that Ichthys is such); lack of tools in these languages does impede original research and in-depth teaching to some degree, of course, since it is difficult to advance detailed doctrinal understanding of the Bible without recourse to the actual, original text. But having such tools is no guarantee of using them in the correct way, and your analysis of the situation is exactly right. My advice to you given the shortness of the time is to persevere in the good course you have charted. If you do want to try your hand at learning Greek and Hebrew, there are good pedagogical texts which have been digitized and are available for free on the internet (see the link for an excellent Greek primer -- I'm happy to weigh in on other free texts) – no need to spend money, but it is no easy matter to learn these languages on one's own at any age. And with the shortness of the time, having the basics of the whole realm of biblical doctrine solidly in one's heart is certainly more important and ought to be the top priority.

As to your p.s., the issue of Old Testament quotation in the New Testament is quite involved. In general, the LXX was the "standard version" for non-Hebrew speakers of that day, of which there were many. For that reason, all of the books of the NT often quote straight from the Septuagint. But that is not always the case. Here is a link which will go into a bit more detail on that subject and provide more links: "NT Quotations of the OT".

Keeping you and your family in my prayers daily, my friend.

Thanks for your good testimony and all of your good efforts for the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church,

Bob L.

Question #12:

DEAR BOB,

Without going into much detail I ran across this magazine the other day and then read about the positive changes they have been made moving toward orthodoxy.

Any Thoughts?.

http://www.equip.org/article/the-worldwide-church-of-god-resurrected-into-orthodoxy/

Response #12:

I would definitely stay away from anything that has to do with Armstrongism. This article claims that the WWCOG is now no longer backing British Israelism, but just because they don't emphasize it doesn't mean they don't believe it (cf. Mormonism and polygamy). This cult denies the Trinity, which means by definition they deny Christ – because Christ is God as well as man. One could go one. Suffice it to say that cults which are in deep denial of the basics truths of scripture may reinvent themselves as less virulent for better public consumption, but they can't really ever recover or morph into true Christian groups. Our Lord made that very clear:

Then He spoke a parable to them: "No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’ "
Luke 5:36-39 NKJV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Dear Robert,

My friend and I have wondered many times why most churches do not deal with Eschatology. As a Lutheran I have struggled with this and the attachment may be an example of why. https://www.livinglutheran.org/2013/06/end-times/

My faith experience tells me that a subject like Eschatology is just too complicated for pastors to deal with.

Have you (others) ever written an introduction to Eschatology ? I know I am not ready for a deep understanding.

respectfully

Response #13:

The introduction to eschatology at Ichthys is: Bible Basics part 2B: Eschatology (at the link).

As to your observation, Lutheranism and Calvinism and many Reformation denominations are historically and traditionally amillennial, not accepting the literal nature of the book of Revelation, e.g., and in general turning a blind eye towards the eschatological passages with which the scriptures are replete in both testaments.

The reformers themselves can certainly be forgiven for this. Luther and Calvin and company had more immediate "fish to fry" in rescuing themselves and their followers from Roman Catholicism – figuratively and literally. Following generations – as is often the case – took their silence or the superficiality of their work in this area as "doctrine" and did not seek to make any advances for that reason alone, branding others who would as heretical. This pattern has been repeated throughout the Church Age, and one sees it even in individual churches where a founding pastor's teachings are held to be "gospel" even in areas where there are clearly problems or deficiencies.

So I don't think the issue is one of difficulty, any more than teaching any area of biblical doctrine is "complicated". Doctrine IS complicated, rightly understood and rightly taught, but most Christians in our Laodicean era are not much interested in it in any event. I encourage you to continue in your good efforts to find the whole truth in every aspect of what the scriptures teach. That is the only true way forward spiritually, and the only way in the end to earn a good eternal reward (see the link): because the truth understood and believed is the only sure foundation for spiritual growth, spiritual progress and spiritual production which glorifies Jesus Christ through spreading that very truth.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Bob

I continue to struggle for an introduction (not real simple but also not complicated) Some way to tweet the interest. I also struggle with by ability use my mac - line spacing etc

Lutheranism and Calvinism and many Reformation denominations are historically and traditionally amillennial, not accepting the literal nature of the book of Revelation, e.g., and in general turning a blind eye towards the eschatological passages throughout the scriptures.

Amillennialism, in Christian eschatology, involves the rejection of the belief that Jesus will have a literal, thousand-year-long, physical reign on the earth. This rejection contrasts with premillennial and some postmillennial interpretations of chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation.
(not accepting the literal nature of the book of Revelation, e.g., and in general turning a blind eye towards the eschatological passages throughout the scriptures.)

Premillennialism, in Christian eschatology, is the belief that Jesus will physically return to the earth (the Second Coming) before the Millennium, a literal thousand-year golden age of peace. The doctrine is called "premillennialism" because it holds that Jesus' physical return to earth will occur prior to the inauguration of the Millennium. Premillennialism is based upon a literal interpretation of Revelation 20:1–6 in the New Testament, which describes Jesus' reign in a period of a thousand years.

Postmillennialism is an interpretation of chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation which sees Christ's second coming as occurring after (Latin post-) the "Millennium", a Golden Age in which Christian ethics prosper.[1] Postmillennialism holds that Jesus Christ establishes his kingdom on earth through his preaching and redemptive work in the first century and that he equips his church with the gospel, empowers her by the Spirit, and charges her with the Great Commission (Matt 28:19) to disciple all nations. Postmillennialism expects that eventually the vast majority of men living will be saved. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ's return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of men and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions Jesus Christ will return visibly, bodily, and gloriously, to end history with the general resurrection and the final judgment after which the eternal order follows.

Response #14:

By all means feel free to adapt, abridge, synopsize my materials – it's for the kingdom of God, after all.

As to (?) your (?) synopsis of the three views, it is fine as far as it goes (see also the links: "Calvinism, Catholicism and Ichthys", "Amillennialism" and "Interpreting Revelation"). You should also be aware, however, that within Pre-millennialism (the biblical view) there is also an important distinction to be drawn between those who – without any biblical foundation – believe in a resurrection occurring before Christ's return (usually called "the rapture"; see the link); whereas in scripture His parousia, "coming/arrival/return" only happens once: the second advent. That is when the Church is resurrected.

This is a key point because most evangelicals have the wrong view on this, which for practical purposes makes their approach to eschatology little different in effect from the amill/postmill schools (these two seem pretty much the same to me), since what all have in common is the underlying premise stated or not that "it doesn't much matter": they don't believe they'll have to endure the Tribulation so any studying of eschatology by those with this false view is never serious because they don't think it could have any bearing on their actual future lives – but it most certainly will matter, and very soon at that.

Feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Bob

Does what I sent make any sense as an introduction to Eschatology? A first pass (not real good but I am trying) from my on-line research. If you are interested maybe you could make some recommendations.

I hope to create just an interest generator - not real simple, but not real hard to understand.

Response #15:

I couldn't recommend the John Piper piece you linked (or anything else by him). The 100 verses seem OK. Are the "seven prophecies" your own? I have a few questions/issues on that one, but if you didn't write it, that's a different discussion.

To be honest, I prefer my own work. Some things can be simplified, certainly, and I do this in responding to readers' emails daily – and eventually post most of these to the website.

Perhaps taking things topic by topic would be the way to go. "Eschatology" is a huge subject, and honestly I don't see any way to boil it all down beyond a certain point. But "the second advent", for example, could be synopsized in a page or two; or "the resurrection", etc. I do this as well and these things can be found at Ichthys (see the "Subject Index" page at the link).

It might be best to think about precisely what point you are wanting to get across as of first importance (the particular audience is key to that). If "the millennium" to "amillennialists", there are strategies for that, e.g.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Dear Robert,

Thanks for your response. I will respond to your email but let me say this first.

In all my years (and there are a lot of them) My friend is the only one that I found was interested in End Times. I never really was until this last year. He is a frustrated Lutheran like myself. You are really the only (Eschatology) scholar that we can call a friend. No discussion in church or anywhere else has been my experience. The church wants to focus on the second greatest commandment ( love your neighbor) and not the first - (love the Lord with all your heart soul and mind). The emphasis on missions and money seems to work better ( and I am sure it is a lot easier).

Most of what I read (or you write ) on "End times" is very complicated and difficult to understand and very lengthy - The focus always seems to be on scholars. I don’t really know if it is important that I understand it all.

I thought I might put together a paper that introduces the subject - can be understood by a simple layman - and then gives direction as to where to go for a greater understanding for those interested. A paper that tells why it is important and that can be understood. I did list what was shown as the key bible verses - (for me it's the Bible confirming the Truth of what we need to understand). I am sure that you can write one far better than Piper.

Begin with something like what Piper has written - What is it about and why should I be interested ( why is it important) - Explain the meaning of the words that you have heard when the subject of End Times come up - Eschatology - End times - Rapture - Tribulation - (pre-mid-post trib ) - 2nd coming.

Your work is wonderful - just help to get others want to seek answers. Maybe write a simple description and use a Pseudonym

respectfully

Response #16:

Thanks for your email. As mentioned, there are a great deal of "simplified" explanations of every subject on eschatology I can think of available at Ichthys. These will largely be found in the "questions and answers" postings and can be perused via the two following navigation tools: "Previous Postings" (check titles such as "Eschatology Issues" of which there are many) and "Subject Index". I think if you would pick a topic such as "rapture" you would see that there is a great deal of information at the site which is not as lengthy as the admittedly detailed "Coming Tribulation" series.

We are all good at what we are good at and not so good at what we are not so good at. I'm afraid that if I were to attempt something such as you propose – and believe me when I say that I already have a lot on my plate and that even if I were to commit to investing even more time than I am currently investing I couldn't justify putting that idea above a number of projects that are already far too "long in the tooth" – it wouldn't turn out to be what you want. I'm not particularly good at the "protrepticon", that is, the genre of telling people why they should find something important. I leave this to others for that reason. When it comes to simplifying, I seem to be able to do that in response to individual questions – to a degree. So, again, I think if we were to take your interests topic by topic that would be much more potentially workable.

As to Piper, if this works for you, I have no problem with that. My issues are 1) he's not my cup of tea (I found as I usually personally find his method and positions confusing in terms of their biblical specifics), and more importantly 2) doctrinal disagreement. One thing easily discerned from perusing this paper you link is the fact that he is a believer in the pre-Tribulation "rapture"; that is a very dangerous false doctrine, especially for the generation which finds itself on the cusp of the Tribulation (namely, "us"; see the link). It seems to me that this should be a concern for you since your godly desire is to wake other Christians up to the fact that these matters are important. But the pre-Trib "rapture" has the opposite effect, because it teaches, wrongly, that believers need not be concerned about eschatology at all because we will be "raptured" out of trouble before any of the prophesied events of the future begin. This false doctrine is therefore encouraging even those with an interest in eschatology to be unprepared for what must soon befall (and so is functionally little different from the post-mil or a-mil positions).

I very much appreciate your good words, and I count you two as friends as well. I do want to help . . . in ways that I might actually be able to help in a profitable way. As I said, I think that the list of verses you have compiled is a good one. It seems to me, since you ask, that anyone reading this list of verses would see immediately that these matters, matters of eschatology, are presented as very real and very important in scripture throughout the Bible. That is the obvious truth. It's hard for me to see how anyone who skimmed through this list would not recognize that fact. So why don't many believers see this – they read the Bible, after all, don't they? Even without this list? Or maybe they don't. Or maybe they are just not that interested in what it says.

It seems to me that this is the real problem, and that is the underlying reason why I'm not a "protrepticon" (or an apologetics) person. Either someone is interested in seeking Jesus Christ or they are not – it's not my job (as I see it) to try to gin up interest that is not there (pearls before swine); and either a believer is interested in learning the truth -- of which eschatology is a fascinating and important part – or they are not. And, sadly, in our present era of Laodicea, the era of spiritual lukewarmness, the majority of our brothers and sisters in Christ are just not interested.

In my early days of becoming "gung ho" for the truth, I thought that it was just a matter of availability. "If only", so I thought, "the truth were made available, most would respond". I have devoted my life to making the truth available. But few respond. It's not the availability of the truth that matters; it is the attitude of heart of every individual Christian. Similarly, it's not the format. These studies are admittedly hard for many people to get into. But if a person were really interested, they would find a way to get into them and get through them – as you have done – despite the difficulties. So I also really think that while what you are proposing is a noble thing, 1) it is best to be realistic about the likelihood of response (some few may well respond, but most probably will not), and 2) while I am happy to help, this might be the ministry that the Lord is calling you to rather than me. We all have our own unique combination of spiritual gifts, we all have a particular ministry to which the Lord calls us, and we are all empowered and given results in the ministry by the Father (1Cor.12:4-6). I pray for your guidance, empowerment and success in the prosecution of this godly endeavor.

The verse list seems a good place to start. "You don't think eschatology is important? It's everywhere in the scripture so it has to be important. Read this list and tell me what you think."

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Robert

Beautifully stated.

Sadly the emphasis at most churches (Lutheran for me but I am sure others) is not the greatest commandment from Jesus but His second greatest commandment.

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Matthew 22:37-39

Response #17:

Thank you !

I think it is inadvisable to pick and choose which commandments we want to follow – and I also question whether what most churches actual do is actually fulfilling the second great commandment: the best way to help our neighbors is by helping them learn the truth, live the truth, and minister the truth, since this is how we all grow closer to the Lord. That is the purpose of a church, the true purpose.

Do feel free to write me any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I wanted to respond to you in your previous email regarding Denominations but I am having computer issues. In my discussions with other Christians in emails from other Christian denominations over the years I have been asked this question several times. Why there are so many different denominations if we all believe the same thing? Anyway, a friend of mine replied back and gave a different reason as to why there are so many "Christian" Denominations. He is actually a Pastor of a local church. I copied and pasted what he wrote here:

"Well, I pulled out the little Gideon Bible I carry in my back pocket and I laid it on a 2'-4' that was laying on a nearby table and said, “Here is the Bible and here are all the different Churches” and made a chopping motion with my hand on the board, along side my Bible. This is most likely the best illustration you can make, to answer this question. I said to him, "This first denomination (closest to the Bible), is the Baptist and from there out you have all the others, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian etc, etc". And I said, “What makes each of these denominations different from each other is how far away from the Bible they are”. Now recently I've been thinking about the subject of Baptist distinctiveness: and as I began to think about the doctrines that set the Baptist denomination apart from others I realized why we are different. And that is because we are not afraid to dig deep for deeper truths in God's word. The one example that are uppermost in my mind at this moment are the doctrine of the "priesthood of the believer”. As I began to articulate some of these Baptist doctrines to other it quickly became apparent that I was taking them into deeper waters and they were used to. Christian Denominations differ, because of how meticulously they study the Band accept the truths they find(in the same way that individual Christians differ). As for how the LORD feels about these differing views among Believers, this can be found in Romans 14:1-ff

V.1 ¶ Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, [but] not to doubtful disputations.
V.2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
V.3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.” (Romans 14:1-3)

The Lord wants us all to get along with each other, because "He has received us", even though some of us may have a deeper understanding of God’s truth, than others do."

Do you agree with his assessment regarding why there are so many Denominations? By the way, he assumes that I am a Baptist, but I like to refer to myself as non-denominational. I diligently study the Word of God through prayer and get help understanding some things in the bible that I can't answer, so that's why I got to someone like you, because you are an expert at understanding scripture. In all honesty, you are the best bible teacher I have ever came across, and I respect you greatly for this. You have taught me so much. I'm pretty sure that there were times when I asked the same questions again because I have memory problems. This one time I placed my glasses somewhere, and literally in a couple of seconds, I forgot where I put it when it was in my suit pocket all along. I absolutely love the Word of God and to study it, and to understand all of what it teaches, and put them into practice in my life. And that is my passion. I believe wholeheartedly that the Lord is using you to give me a greater understanding of the His Word, also because you are reliable and a lot of Pastor's and Bible teachers are reluctant in providing me with answers to Bible questions. Thank you SO much for this.

God Bless you and your ministry,

Response #18:

We've talked about denominations a lot before. There is no biblical reason for them, as I have pointed out many times at the site.

When it comes to Baptists, well, they believe in water baptism (wrong); they believe in the pre-Trib rapture (wrong and dangerous); they believe in life at conception (God gives life at birth, people don't generate it biologically) . . . one could go on. They also tend to be very legalistic; and that is deadly to any sort of genuine spiritual growth. So while, depending on the type of Baptist (there are dozens of sub-denominations as there used to be with the Presbyterians) and the specific church in question (all are different and often greatly so in spite of being part of the same umbrella group), there may not be anything more than a better cover picture on the cereal box . . . with pretty much the same old gruel on the inside.

But you are certainly welcome here a my church, Ichthys, any time, my friend!

Here are some links:

Church vs. church in 1st Timothy

"Where do you go to church?"

Salvation and church affiliation

Red Hot or Lukewarm? Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing.

Aspects of the False Doctrine of Institutional Security.

Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith.

Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.

Characteristics of the New Religion of Antichrist.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hello Bob,

I am “home” in South Africa at present and enjoying time with family and friends and a great Spirit empowered church here in Western Cape. Trust that you are well and think of your encouragement to me during dark times often. Just a quick question that I hope does not take up too much of your precious time in answering.

What do you think of the Alpha course for new Christians? I once read something negative about it but cannot remember the source and my relative is thinking of doing the course.

Always value your opinion.

Thanks,

Response #19:

Apologies for the delay in response. For some reason your email didn't get forwarded to my main account. Possible one of the many complications I've had in migrating my site – necessary so as not to get dropped from Google (I had to make it "secure" and it was a bear to deal with for several weeks).

I'm glad to hear that you are doing well. I pray for you and your family daily.

As to your question, I had never heard of the Alpha course before (not surprising since I am not "in the loop" when it comes to all things new and different). I did a little quick research. I'm not sure I'd be ready to endorse a program that would be acceptable to Roman Catholicism, e.g. I mean, when they stress "commonalities", that sounds good, but salvation is an absolute, and it cannot be had by works. There's no commonality there; quite the contrary. So I guess I'd have to go with Paul and say that if Christ is preached, I'm for it in that regard (Phil.1:15-18), even if the motive or the form or many other things about that "preaching" are wrong and dangerous so that I could not give it the hand of fellowship (both Matthew 12:30 and Mark 9:40 are true, after all).

Things here at the university are difficult at present – prayers appreciated for my upcoming contract negotiation.

Wishing you and your family a blessed new year.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hi Bob,

Was sad to see God's 7000 year plan dishonored as per link below.

Guess we have to be ready for the understandable reluctance of the skeptics to believe us this time round.

http://www.christadelphianresearch.com/gods7000yearplan.htm

Response #20:

Christadelphians are not even believers, so they have a lot bigger issues – and things to answer for – than this.

In Jesus Christ our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Dear Robert

Greetings. I greatly enjoyed your work and your ministry ichthys on your website keep it up your character is admirable and for a sec I thought another Paul from the Bible has risen" the authority and baldness you possess is something not in this era can comprehend and your explicit understanding of the Bible more especially the book of Genesis is quite unique ".
I must say if not all, I have read most of your teachings in series and threads in emails questions and answers but I only wish if you can add or give me a comment on the book called "The shepherds staff" what do you think about it, there is a lot of staff in there from different authors, but none has claimed the entire books authorship except various notes on scholars whose credentials are unknown.

Response #21:

Good to make your acquaintance. Thank you for your kind words about Ichthys.

As to your question, no, I had never heard of "The Shepherd's Staff" before. I found their site on the internet, but they do not identify themselves so I have no idea what group or denomination or affiliation these people have. That is never a good sign, so I would advise the most extreme caution before paying the least bit of attention to anything they have to say. Many cults are very good at masquerading as beautiful and harmless sheep while inside they are ravenous wolves with no actual love for Jesus Christ (though they often make liberal use of His precious Name). Those who actually follow Him do not hide their identity.

I would certainly be happy to answer any questions you have about specific things you have found, however.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Greetings Bob

Thank you for the reply your response was quick and encouraging. I also took a liberty of searching as well and it seem I run up to a lot of threads on the internet but nonetheless I followed one called the Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church and the acclaimed Ralph Mahoney with connections with the Logos Foundation and Covenant Evangelical Church and ties with Howard Carter who has dubious credentials if an not mistaken but I will take your caution and it seems there in a business to make money on donations and fund raising.

I take your word and ministry as a very huge encouragement and support spiritually. I have been brought up and was baptised in Wesleyan pilgrim church and I bet you know there doctrine and beliefs. Can you be of help? Ever since I started reading your website from last year I stopped attending meetings "church" and I think there is no need anymore for maintaining status quo , but this has brought me little joy/peace with those I live/stay with and several times I'm constantly being shot left and right, center and back of these strange doctrines I have been reading from "ichthys ministry".

Since I'm not outspoken I fail to defend myself in speech and debate I guess it's inherent of me I'm a medical doctor by profession ,and mostly I resolve to remain quiet or put my arguments in writing just as this ministry is.

I'm an outcast now from family and friends I have the information but just how can I construct it to them"family and friends" since they have refused to read through your website as I told them to go through and compare the references you give out.

Just how can I teach the word of God? How do I tell them that this doctrine the have only fosters institutional Security but little spiritual growth?

Patiently waiting for your reply stay blessed and wishing you good health.

Response #22:

I'd like to help but I'm a little confused. You mention an "article". Whose "article" is this and what is its significance to you and to your situation?

I did not read over the entire "article" but most of it seems to be pretty standard traditional reformed creed language – as one would expect of a Wesleyan organization. There are some things I would disagree with as you probably know or can guess if you've spent a lot of time at Ichthys (for example, "original sin" is an Augustinian Roman Catholic doctrine without actual biblical support), but most of the things I saw in my quick perusal are not offensive even if they are not helpful. I say not helpful because creeds are problematic; on the one hand they are not scripture; on the other hand they are not long and detailed enough (even the longest ones) to avoid all misinterpretation or to answer all questions on any topic.

I also ask about this because some of the commentary I'm a bit confused about. When I read, "Note the assertion of Jesus' physical death prior to burial", I certainly would agree that Christ was physically dead when He was buried. He was (obviously) physically dead while still on the cross, having "given up His spirit" after bearing our sins in the darkness and suffering in our place (this is proven by the Roman soldier who pierces His side with a lance).

So while I'm happy to weigh in on any of these individual points, it would help me out a great deal if we could tackle them "one at a time" instead of the whole thing at once, and perhaps you could also say a little more about your own problems with whatever it is that is being taught.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Sorry maybe I forgot to mention the article's authors but it was intended to show an outline of the Wesleyan pilgrim church's doctrine. That's the whole summary of it maybe not entirely in details "Article" but now the Article relates to my situation in a sense that of over emphasizing the things now listed below :

- Legalism "following the ten commandments, and other Jewish customs but also mixing things up with the gospel.
- Institutional Security that salvation is only by church in this case to be identified by the Church.
- Baptism of water for the washing away of sins.
- Original sin
- Church polity and the fivefold ministries Ephesians 4:11 (ASV)
- The interpretation Malachi 3:8 (ASV) on tithe and offering.
- Paying of membership fee as some sort of subscription" do you think there is a need for this? Just how can I teach my family in these things they love?
- Singing of songs at the funeral home all night, the preaching of sermons at the burial of a deceased" what do you have to say about this? Is there any biblical basis for explaining these things?

While the outline of the Article seems harmful, the interpretation is strengthened by traditional beliefs and conceptions. Their interpretation of the books of Acts is something that's annoying to even talk about because some part of the doctrine arise from there and the understanding of the Law. The speaking of tongues as they say it's the tongue of angels" justifying that the devil and his cohorts won't intercept the messages, the laying on of hands, saying spiritual baptism on comes through a symbolic representation of water baptism, confession of sins and confessions to one another, the Holy communion as a sacred ritual performed at special Sunday's are many others things" .

Well I personally stopped attending these traditions when I came to realise most things were wrong ,after having read ichthys and begun comparing things that were happening. I stepped down being a youth leader that's were the fuss started coming, as I stopped attending meetings in an instant without notice and it's almost a 1 year and 8 months. Several times my former evangelism director, pastor and his cohorts would come visit me encourage me to start thinking about coming back to the church or perhaps tell them why I have stopped attending meetings, unfortunately I can only explain well in writing and I have attempted to write them letters of which I understand they went through. But things got sour as pressure started coming to my family and friends as to why there tolerating my unbelief because it was clear to them that I have joined satanism on your site, and in defense when I told them to visit your site they refused.
Now from my previous email I wrote that I fail to make an argument verbally or defend myself and what I believe in now but rather put things in writing or refer people to your website but that has shown little or no progress.

My request was that, how can I make these people understand and listen to me?

Response #23:

Okay, I understand (thanks for clarifying).

Your new "list" are all things – as you know from your reading at Ichthys – which are most assuredly not biblical, and you are right to want to put distance between yourself and these false teachings and other examples of "weird behavior" that have no biblical basis (such as the all-night funeral singing you report – never heard of that one before!). In fact, any one of the things on this list would be enough to introduce sufficient leaven into an otherwise holy "lump" to ruin it completely. Taken together, these things are a deadly "cocktail" of dangerous false teaching destined to prevent any sort of spiritual growth at best and capable of swamping anyone's faith at worst.

What to do? You've done what needed to be done in separating yourself. Going back into the quicksand is never a good idea. You got out once. I wouldn't press it. People who are happy with this sort of dangerous tripe are not going to be easily persuaded. In fact they are not to be persuaded at all, especially not as a group. The group will always rally against a threat – which is what you are because you woke up and distanced yourself from the disaster. This is a reproach to them, and they do feel it. In their heart of hearts they all know they are wrong. But they have made their bargain. Your extricating of yourself exposes their lies for what they are. The best way for them to repress their own misgivings and also to ward off any further defection is to have you "repent". If you engage with them, that will be the only thing in their hearts and minds. They will not actually give your truthful positions a fair hearing. In fact, they will not listen at all.

Their poison is like the poison of a serpent;
They are like the deaf cobra that stops its ear,
Which will not heed the voice of charmers,
Charming ever so skillfully.
Psalm 58:4-5

Believe me, I understand the emotional draw. On the one hand, we want to save others. On the other hand, we want to justify our conduct, especially since the slanders against us are untrue because we are actually standing up for the truth. But this is always a very bad idea. Why? Because in the first instance breaking through to a whole church that is founded and organized on perpetuating these false teachings is by definition an impossibility (they won't even open their ears to hear, and individuals who might be inclined to do so are going to be restrained by the rest of the group who will make an example of you to your hurt however they can); and in the second instance God is the One who justifies us – we will always fail when we try to do this ourselves whatever our motivations.

So I advise you to "forget what is behind" and instead "press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (as Paul counsels us: Phi.3:13-14). That is, keep up your good progress in spiritual growth through hearing and believing the truth, walking closer to the Lord in applying that truth, and ministering it to others as the Lord gives you opportunity to do so. If you have some friends or acquaintances in that group who might be responsive, that is best handled individually and not through treating with the group as a whole (that never works – just ask Martin Luther).

Truly walking with Jesus Christ is often a lonely road – or it can seem that way at first. But the farther along it we get, the more clearly we see Him. And having Jesus Christ by our side is better by far than having a thousand false brethren who are serving a lie.

For [Moses] grew strong by seeing the One who cannot be seen (i.e., by keeping his mind's eye on the invisible Jesus Christ).
Hebrews 11:27

Do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Is it possible to be a Christian and not believe in the virgin birth as per William Barclay and Andy Stanley? I do not agree with either of them but I was wondering what your thoughts are.

Thanks for your help.

Response #24:

Good to hear from you, my friend. Hope all is well.

As to your question, well, it's certainly not a good sign! Salvation comes from faith in Christ alone, and that means believing "in Him", who He is and what He did for us. If a person doesn't believe in the virgin birth (why not?) it says to me that he/she is doubting not only the power of God but also that Jesus is who He said He was or that those who wrote of Him really were writing inspired scripture. If our Lord were not both God and man, He couldn't have been our Substitute; and if He were not sinlessly perfect – which includes having no corruption of body, no sin nature (impossible without a virgin birth), then He would not have been acceptable as a Substitute – which of course He was. And if a person doubts all that, then does said person understand/believe that He had the sins of the world poured out in His body on the cross to be judged for them in our place that we might be saved (1Pet.2:24; 2Cor.5:21)? This is the heart of the gospel. I will say that many people are saved without perfect knowledge of all of the wonderful things we learn later about our Lord and His uniqueness and His sacrifice for us. But in the case of "famous preachers" who have no such excuse these failings seem more like deliberate denials of truth. I certainly don't know the answer as to their final status – but the Lord most certainly does, and we will all find out at the judgment seat of Christ where their false efforts will be burned up if they were believers, or at the Great White Throne where their lies will be the basis of their conviction if they were not.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.
 

 

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