Apologetics, Uncategorized

Christian Cultural Shapers

I am particularly excited about a book that I want to put into your hands. We are talking about it all this month. It is by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle, entitled A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World. I want to start with something written in this book, which has to do with changing culture. It goes all the way back to World War II and the statement that “Somebody…had to make a start.” In other words, someone had to make a start with respect to changing the culture instead of being simply an imitator of the culture.

There was a girl named Sophie Scholl. She was just twenty-one years old. She spoke those words, “Somebody…had to make a start.” She said them “to the chief justice of the People’s Court of the Greater German Reich shortly before he ordered her execution.” That was back on February 22, 1943. Sophie and her brother Hans (my dad’s name) and their friend Christoph Probst were convicted of treason in a kangaroo court and sent to the guillotine. Stonestreet and Kunkle write,

Hans Scholl led the underground resistance movement known as the White Rose. From June 1942 until their arrest, Hans, Sophie, and several other University of Munich students covertly authored anti-Nazi pamphlets and distributed them on campus and to nearby communities. Retribution for their crimes was swift. Within four days, they were detained, accused, tried, convicted, and executed. Within weeks other members of the White Rose were rooted out and faced similar fates.

Raised in a nominally religious German home, the Scholl siblings came to a real personal faith in Christ while at the university.

Imagine that! The conversions of the Scroll siblings motivated their actions. In The Fabric of Faithfulness Stephen Garber writes,

Brother and sister began to find a place to stand. Reading the Scriptures in light of the challenges presented by their culture, having conversations with friends about the world and their place in it, meeting older, wiser people who offered them their time and their books — together they molded a vision about what was real and true and right.

Stonestreet and Kunkle observe,

Many Germans, including Christians, chose to remain silent and do nothing to resist Hitler and the Nazi regime. Others embraced the evil Nazi ideology. But the Scholl siblings’ faith that drove them from the sidelines into what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “the tempest of the living.” Hans was supposed to meet Bonhoeffer, perhaps the most famous figure of the German resistance, but never did. Instead, Hans was executed the very day the meeting was scheduled to take place.

Hans and Sophie shared more with Bonhoeffer than antipathy toward the führer. Whether they knew it or not, they also shared Bonhoeffer’s theological vision for culture, which might be summarized this way: “We are Christians, and we are Germans; therefore we are responsible for Germany.”

That was their view, and therefore they wanted to make a difference. This begs the question: “What is cultural success?” Well, it is “a life lived like Hans and Sophie Scholl.” A life “deeply engaging the moment in which God has placed us and courageously navigating the threatening currents, knowing that we serve a cause, and a God, far greater than ourselves.” Think about that from A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World.

Cultural success is recognizing that God has placed us here at this moment in history. He did not — like Hans and Sophie, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and C. S. Lewis — place us at the time of World War II. He placed us at this time in history. This particular time in history. Therefore, at this particular time in history, we cannot simply look back to what others did, although we should and we just did with the anecdote and example of Hans and Sophie, and we cannot look forward to other generations and what they may do. God has placed us here, right now, for a purpose, and to make a difference while there is yet time.

I think about the smoke of the crematoriums wafting over the steeples in the German countryside, and I so often wonder why at that time were German pastor and parishioners strangely silent. Yet, as I wonder about that, I can stop wondering immediately when I look at the present-day church capitulating to the culture. Well-known Christian leaders (I am not going to name them; you know who they are) are strangely silent about the epic waves that are threatening to submerge the Christian church. For some, it is a matter of self-preservation. In the case of World War II, a lot of people tried to justify their apathy by blaming Jews for the Great War. Others believed that Jews were fatalistically destined to face wrath of antichrist; therefore, they did nothing. Then you had people like Hans and Sophie or Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said, “If we claim to be Christians, there is no room for expediency.” Thus, he was willing to denounce a Nazi regime that had turned its führer into an idol and a god. But, not just that — he was willing to denounce a confessional church more concerned with its own survival than with the sin of anti-Semitism and slavery. Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” That is precisely what happened on April 9, 1945. Bonhoeffer was just thirty-nine years old at that time, and he experienced the ultimate cost of discipleship by special order of Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler. Bonhoeffer was hanged at the concentration camp at Flossenbürg. He is a man who was willing to shape culture and today is still remembered when we talk about the culture wars.

— Hank Hanegraaff

Apologetics, Uncategorized

The Dangers of Tuning into Andrew Wommack

Andrew Wommack is a popular Bible teacher whose ministry is extended through radio, television, seminars, the Charis Bible College and various other extensions of the Andrew Wommack Ministries (AWM).[1] A close examination of Wommack’s teaching, however, clearly demonstrates he is doctrinally aberrant.[2]

The most controversial aspect of Wommack’s teaching is its incorporation of Word of Faith theology. As Word of Faith teachers twist Scripture to support the occult belief that faith is a force, words are containers of the force, and through faith-filled words we can speak things into reality, Wommack similarly takes Matthew 18:18 out of context as a proof text for his belief that “We can actually bind up the positive results of sowing and reaping in a godly person and loose the attacks of Satan against them by the words we speak (Prov. 18:21; Jas. 3:5-6, 9-10).”[3]

Just as Word of Faith teachers pitch various “give to get” cons as a means for devotees to obtain financial prosperity, Wommack likewise teaches, “Those who don’t give financially to the work of the gospel will not have God’s financial blessings in their personal lives. On the other hand, those who do give to the work of the Lord will have an abundant harvest of finances.”[4]

Word of Faith teachers tell us that all Christians must be in perfect health because healing is guaranteed in the atonement; likewise, Womack teaches, “It’s never God’s will for us to be sick; He wants every person healed every time (emphasis in original).[5] Moreover, he even makes radical statements like, “The Lord never told us to pray for the sick in the sense that we ask Him to heal them. He told us to heal the sick,” and “Jesus told us to heal the sick, not pray for the sick.”[6]

The binding and loosing mentioned in Matthew 18:18 is neither in reference to the power of words to create reality, nor the commanding of demons. Jesus’ point concerns church discipline. Here the “binding” and “loosening” terms “normally used for tying up or imprisoning versus freeing or releasing, provide a natural metaphor for condemning or acquitting in a court.”[7] Christ’s command is practically worked out when Christians demonstrate truth by condemning sin and confirming righteousness.

Although Christians are encouraged to financially support the ministries of the church they attend, there is nothing in Scripture that guarantees a financial return for our donations. Rather, the Bible sets forth the general principle that sowing seeds of unrighteousness will produce bad fruits, but sowing seeds of righteousness will produce good fruits (Gal. 6:7).

The Bible also teaches that sickness and death are the normal order of things in this life, but that those who have faith in Jesus Christ have the hope of being resurrected and glorified at the end of the age (1 Corinthians 15:42-58), and that believers will no longer experience sickness, suffering, and death (Rev. 21:1-4). Jesus never made any absurd prohibition against praying for the sick; however, James, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes, “Is anyone sick among you? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14, NASB).

Wommack’s view on private prayer languages is also controversial. Concerning 1 Corinthians 12:30, he writes, “Some people have used this verse to teach that speaking in tongues is not for every believer since the obvious answer to this question is no. However, this is speaking about the gift of speaking in tongues that operates in a church service. Not every believer will operate in that gift. But every believer (Mk. 16:17) who has been baptized in the Holy Spirit can speak in tongues in his own private prayer life.”[8]

There is good reason to believe in the perpetuity of spiritual gifts, and that the gift of tongues has not ceased with the closing of the canon; however, speaking in tongues is not normative. Scripture mentions a “prayer language,” which in a sense refers to speaking or praying in tongues (see 1 Cor. 14:14). Some identify this language with the Spirit’s “groanings” that the apostle Paul wrote about in Romans 8:26 (NASB). It is unclear whether these “groanings” refer to words inexpressible in human language or to words unspoken, and Christians disagree whether tongues can be practiced privately as well as corporately. Those who believe that Scripture allows for the practice of tongues in private or personal devotion may refer to verses such as Romans 8:23, 26; 1 Cor. 14:4, 18-19, 28. Some believe that, based on 1 Corinthians 14:19, interpretations of tongues are unnecessary when spoken privately. Scripture, however, emphasizes that without an interpretation the “mind is unfruitful” (1 Cor. 14:13-14, NASB). It is also worth noting that Mark 16:17 is not found in earlier and more reliable New Testament manuscripts, so this passage is very shaky ground upon which to establish a teaching that all Christians speak in tongues. Moreover, the spectacular signs in Mark 16:17 were wonders associated with the Apostles but one need not presume they are to be normative for all believers (cf. Acts 1-28). Keep also in mind speaking in tongues is an issue Christians can debate but over which they must not divide.

Given Wommack’s blatant use of Word of Faith theology, we do not recommend his ministry.

For further study on related issues, we recommend accessing the following Web resources:

What’s Wrong with the “Word-Faith” Movement?

Christianity Still In Crisis: A Word of Faith Update

What’s Wrong With the Faith Movement (Part 1): E. W. Kenyon and the Twelve Apostles of Another Gospel

What’s Wrong With the Faith Movement (Part 2): The Teachings of Kenneth Copeland

Answering Questions about Televangelists

The Perpetuity of Spiritual Gifts

Scripture vs. the Spiritual Gifts?

We also recommend from our bookstore:

Christianity in Crisis 21st Century
B995/$22.99

Notes:

1. AWM, “About Us” (http://www.awmi.net/about_us), accessed Sept. 3, 2008.

2. AWM., “Statement of Faith” (http://www.awmi.net/statement_of_faith), accessed Sept. 3, 2008. Cf. The Essentials of Christianity,” “CP0600 – Heresy and Aberration — What’s the Difference?” and “What Is a Cult?

3. AWM, “Matthew 18:18” (http://www.awmi.net/bible/mat_18_18), accessed Sept. 3, 2008.

4. AWM, “Galatians 6:7” (http://www.awmi.net/bible/gal_06_07), accessed Sept. 3, 2008.

5. AWM, “Faith For Healing Is Based On Knowledge” (http://www.awmi.net/extra/article/healing_knowledge), accessed Sept. 3, 2008.

6. AWM, “Our Authority Releases God’s Power” (http://www.awmi.net/extra/article/authority_releases), accessed Sept. 3, 2008.

7. Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 94.

8. AWM, “1 Corinthians 12:30” (http://www.awmi.net/bible/1co_12_30), accessed Sept. 3, 2008.

Uncategorized

Why Do We Need a Bible Answer Man or a Christian Research Institute Today?

Why do we need a Bible Answer Man broadcast or even a Christian Research Institute today? Can we not just be spiritual people without getting bogged down by religion? Well, does truth matter? Yes it does. Life’s ultimate quest is more than just some subjective feel good experience, or existential bliss. What we ultimately believe determines how we live. If what we believe corresponds to what is ultimately true, then we can live a robust life. If what we believe does not correspond to what is ultimately true but rather to some faulty idea of reality, the consequences can be devastating. The Bible Answer Man broadcast and the Christian Research Institute strive to equip Christians to know what they believe and why they believe it because Truth matters.

Each day this week on the Bible Answer Man broadcast, Hank will be discussing some of the most important issues related to Christian apologetics, including the orgins of life, the resurrection, the divine origin of the Bible, prayer, and spiritual warfare. Elliot Miller, who is the Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal, will also be Hank’s guest at the end of the week.

The issues that will be discussed are befitting for times like these. Postmodern relativism with its denial of absolute truth, its all embracive acceptance of all belief systems, and vilification of anyone who makes a claim to absolute truth has become a stumbling block for many both outside and inside the walls of the church. Skepticism also continues to challenge the faith, like Stephen Hawking’s irrational notion of that “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.” Popular culture also takes shots at Christianity, like Bill Maher who in his motion picture Religulous, writes off the account of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection as mythology—a mythological fairy tale copied from ancient pagan mystery religions concerning dying and rising gods. Blaise Pascal captures the spirit of the age in saying, “Truth is so obscure in our day and lies so well established that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it.”

Christian apologetics is more than just a cerebral exercise of getting a bunch of cold data that can be labeled, categorized, and organized into a system of beliefs that has nothing substantial to offer for practical living. One of the points that Hank has stressed on the Bible Answer Man broadcast and in the resources offered through the Christian Research Institute is that the Bible has been the soul of Western society. All that the ancient world had gained from Greek philosophy was not enough to serve the common good. The world remained divided by race, slaves remained in shackles, and women were denied their dignity. It is only through the divine revelation of Holy Scripture and the transformative power of God’s Spirit that we have come to know the truth: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, NIV). These words of Paul along with the rest of Scripture offered revolutionary ideas that shaped and benefited the Western world—such things as representative government, hospitals, public education, liberation of women, emancipation of slaves, and art and science. Should society embrace secularism, and reject the Bible as its divinely inspired source of truth, then it shall be severed from the very source of its greatness.

The Bible Answer Man along with a multitude of other apologetic resources offered through the Christian Research Institute, such as the Christian Research Journal, the Equip newsletter, podcasts, YouTube videos, the Web site, books, DVDs, free resources to prison inmates, articles, perspectives, fact sheets, and tracts come through our faithful friends who offer their prayers and support that allow us to continue equipping Christians with reasonable answers to the most pressing questions of our day. Please consider joining us in our battle for the truth.

— Warren Nozaki, Research