Month: January 2016

Beware the Modern Pharisee;

 

By Jonathan David Faulkner

The notification pops up if you follow their page; “EMERGENCY ALERT; TUNE IN NOW to Facebook Church.” You click on it, church sounds good right? It brings up a live video stream where you listen to the man paint your sin as a disgrace before God, but he never makes a distinction between sin and you. He rails on about Abortion and about the evils of drinking and doing drugs and all kinds of other things, some of which are not even sins. If you are not a Christian you have just been told God hates you but wants you to repent, if you are a believer you have just been told that God hates you every time you sin, “But don’t worry, there is forgiveness.” If you follow the pages of this man and his wife you see plenty of posts that seem harmless at first, but upon further inspection can be extremely dangerous to the reader if exposed for long periods of time.

If you have attended “Facebook Church” and have liked this man’s page you have found Joshua Feurstein and his wife Jessica. A nationally known evangelist and former pastor who has recently taken social media by storm posting about everything from abortion to why your family needs to all shoot guns. In a video recently last year Feurstein called for Christians to “Get back at abortionist” because it was time to “Make them feel the pain that they were causing those babies.” The video that may have been behind the Planned Parenthood Shooting late last year. He is best known for the “Merry Christmas Starbucks” controversy where he posted a video claiming that Starbucks was trying to take Christ out of Christmas by taking the word Christmas off their cups. His open verbal attacks on Starbucks and on President Obama have earned him fame and popularity.

So why would we, at God’s Heart, which is generally a Conservative Evangelical organization come out against someone who seems to represent the conservative argument? The reason; we at God’s Heart do not see these as truly biblical values, nor as a biblical method for the advance of the Gospel in today’s Society. We do not believe that hate speech towards unbelievers or being intentional abusive to those who think differently than us is going to do anything to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that Feurstein’s videos and tirades fall into the category of “Abusive.”

See, what Feurstein and his wife Jessica teach a radical form of Fundamentalism, dangerous considering fundamentalism is already radical, but unlike than the isolationist thinking of the general Fundamentalist teachings like John MacCarther and James Dobson, who have both called for boycotts of companies for the same reason Joshua started #MerryChristmasStarbucks. Feurstein has actually called for acts of violence against abortionist and even released a tirade at Obama on CNN that caused CNN to pull to the plug on his audio. This is the Westboro Baptist type of Fundamentalism that says that if someone disagrees with you, you should strike them down.

God’s Heart decided to participate in one of the discussions carried out under one of Jessica’s post. The immediate reaction from their followers and Jessica herself was to “Move along if you don’t agree.” Indicating that dissent to their strongly held beliefs is not an acceptable practice. Wellspring Resource and Retreat Center recognizes this as a mind control Technique related to what to what Steve Martin Calls “The Sacred Science” in his book The Heresy of Mind Control.Where questioning the teacher is frowned upon. When the teacher strips your ability to question a teacher, the teacher has exhorted too much authority over you. We were not the only ones told to move along for offering dissenting viewpoints, there were at least two others not related to GHFT.

If you really begin to listen to Joshua and analyze what he is saying you become aware of other issues. While they stick to salvation by grace alone, a new believer gets the impression that he needs to make sure he does not sin at all. The believer who does sin must confess that sin out loud and ask Jesus to take that sin away. While confession of sin is a good and accepted practice, we are not called to publically shame ourselves and then go on as though we are perfect because of our forgiveness. All sin is shameful and separates us from Christ and all sin and are separated from Christ. The beauty of the Gospel is that we have direct access to the throne of GOD and are free from shame and guilt. Confession, between us and God, is healthy, but sitting in shame and crying out over our sins day and night and not allowing ourselves grace for a time is unhealthy and contrary to scripture. Are there times when confession of sin between man and man is a good thing? Yes, there are times it is a very good thing, but in moderation and with the understanding that the confessed sin is forgiven and you have been restored to God and continue to be Justified despite your sin. Confession does not mean you are made perfect and no longer sin, as the Feurstein’s would seem to believe, but that you have acknowledged breaking the covenant with God and know that you have been restored to Him.

Feurstein’s theology, that often links Christianity and being a Republican, is nothing new, Fundamentalism and its legalistic assertions made by its subscribers are the modern day Pharisee’s. Finding its roots in the Appalachian states and then later becoming highly influential in the Midwest and the bible belt where forms of it are still found today. Adding to the Word of God by demanding an unattainable style of living, demanding of you; purity and denying you grace when you fail. Scriptures are pulled out of context and twisted to fit a radicalized viewpoint and any dissenter is immediately cut off and damned to Hell, including Christians like us who chose a more peaceful and relational form of evangelism. Giving Calvinists and Conservative Evangelicals a bad name and reformed theologians a headache since it reared its ugly head.

So while we warn you to stay away from Feurstein and his wife’s teachings, we would like to encourage you to pray for them for they are still your siblings in Christ. For a radical softening of the heart that can only come from Jesus Christ so that the passion they put into tearing others down might be put into building up the body of Christ. This is not a call for Joshua’s demise, instead it is a call to pray for him and treat him as a brother in Christ. Because whether we agree with someone or not, we still have a responsibility to love and pray for them so that they may know the great and many blessings that come with having a deep and healthy relationship with God.

 

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Jonathan Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a  pastor and musician.

 

What Wheaton (and others) have Taught us about Getting Along.

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Jonathan David Faulkner

 

In case you missed it, a professor at Wheaton College was fired for posting what one Wheaton representative called a “nocuous article” which asserted that Muslims, Christmas and Jews worship the same God. The article was written from the historical premise that Abraham was the father of both Isaac, from whom Israel descended and then Christianity and also the father of Ishmael who people of Muslim faith can trace their historical roots to. The article makes some interesting points, and as a discussion piece, it is hard to find anything wrong with the argument. I suppose one could find theological issue with the article, but the professor, in a letter written to the university, explains what is rather sound doctrine on the Christian God and Trinity, addressing her argument as historical, rather than theological, in nature. The professor was released from her teaching duties and Wheaton defined their very Orthodox and Sound Trinitarian theology. While attempting to draw a healthy line between a Conservative Evangelical Worldview. God’s Heart can find nothing wrong with this, despite media portrayal of the situation.

This coming just a week after the controversial statements made by Michelle Higgins at InterVarsity’s Urbana comments. A topic that we have covered at God’s Heart since the news broke. And which has had my own close circle buzzing with debate and discussion since we all returned to Seminary.

Parallel these issues with the continued debate over gun control and planned parenthood and you have one heck of a mess. Which should not surprise us, given that we live in a fallen, depraved world that promotes the desires of the individual over what is truly best for the society. Where voices have to be heard, where presidents cry and churches are criticized for not doing what they are already doing.

We toss about the most un-informed opinions, not stopping to check those facts behind those thoughts. We share Memes on Facebook that openly malign other opinions. We stop thinking, we let others think for us and then we just regurgitate the popular lines in hopes that our cause will be heard and justice delivered. And when that does not happen we strike at the throat of our brothers and sisters for not working harder to help us maintain our goals and for having a different opinion than us.

In the classrooms of most modern universities this is no different, students sue professors for thinking adversely to them. Colleges have to create a “Safe Place” for students who do not want to hear a viewpoint that differs from their own. So professors stop teaching dissenting viewpoints in favor of pleasing their audiences. They are not taught to think, they are not taught to challenge their norms, they are encouraged to stay within their own mindset, closeminded as it may be.

Whether we are talking about Christian Circles or Secular Circles the picture is the same and the question must be asked; can we live like this?

I have a very dear friend, whom I have known for many, many years. We are both believers, but come down on very different sides of the political spectrum. Before we closed 10:31 Life Ministries last year she was a part of our staff. One day another friend came to me and said “Do you know what she supports?” as if there was some big scandal that I was missing on her Facebook page. I told the person that I was well aware of this persons political leanings but did not see why that should exclude a person from ministry. Yes, 10:31 was operated by a Conservative Evangelical and Reformed Theologian, but that did not mean we wanted to hire people that thought like us. On the contrary, I wanted people that would disagree with me, it was after all meant to be a time of growth for me as well as them. Having been on both sides of the theological spectrum, from Liberal, to Fundamentalism until I finally settled on reformed I thought it important to surround myself with people with differing perspectives. While it was true that most of our members were Reformed we did have a fairly healthy group of thinkers by the time we closed our doors.

I did not want to fall into what so many others in the modern world have succumb too, to follow my ideological tribe in hopes of having my ego patted. Yes, I am a conservative Evangelical and a Reformed Theologian, but that does not give me the right to not listen to other men and women of faith and thought because they do not agree with me. I found that absurd and a hindrance to my own education.

Think about it, if you want to have and hold to a strong worldview what does that require of you? It requires you to actually have some idea of what it is you do not agree with. No worldview can truly be considered solid unless one has listened to views that do not line up with that worldview to which they cling. A worldview that is not based on deep thought and reason and even faith can be unraveled quite quickly by the man who has studied. The man who becomes a Christian later in life and forms a Christian Worldview can speak to that other lifestyle and worldview because he has lived it. The Christian who is raised to be a believer has to study behavior and texts to grab an understanding of the secular world. Regardless it is hard to hold a well-formed Christian worldview unless you have studied the alternative and have developed proofs for why your worldview is the better one. Even then you cannot shut out dissenting worldviews and refuse to acknowledge existence.

Unfortunately, this is precisely what happens. We become so convinced that we are right and everyone else is wrong that we isolate ourselves from anyone who might think differently than us. This is dangerous, one because it denies us the benefit of testing our worldview against other viewpoints and, if there is some flaw in doctrine or thought it cannot be exposed and we cannot then deal with it and thus perpetuate it with those who follow us. Secondly we cut ourselves off from true and genuine community, in all reality if someone agrees with you on every point there is a problem, either you have manipulated them into that position, or they are trying to please you. This may not be the case in all instances, but it rare to find people who agree on everything you do.

I do not agree on everything with my closest friends, nor would I want to, most of us do have similar values, but the ones that do not, respect my ability to think differently from them and I respect theirs. Had I rejected the friend mentioned above based on Political Leaning I would have denied myself seven years of close, incredible friendship that has been one of the biggest blessings of God in my life. It is not my job to drag people down an ideological rabbit whole, especially on matters of opinion. It is my job to teach the Gospel and correct false teaching and doctrine when it comes up. For that to be done in righteousness I must surrender myself to learning the mind and heart of GOD and seek to live by the Holy Spirit inside. I can encourage and reason out a worldview with someone, but to demand that they come and join my tribe would simply drive them away rather than draw them in. I do not want proselyte converts, I want disciples of Jesus Christ and students of the Word of God. Men and women who are being made righteous through sanctification by the Spirit, not drones who are going to agree with every word out of my mouth.

My views and thoughts come from long hours reasoning and debating, being sharpened by my brothers and sisters in Christ and by those who are not of the Christian Faith. For the sake of retaining honest dialogue and for the sake of Evangelism, forming a well-rounded apologetic and for the true betterment of one another.

We need others challenging every thought and for that we need others, especially those who think differently then us. It is okay to have friends who are like minded, in fact it is also encouraged, but if those you surround yourself with those who only think like you, how will you ever grow.

 

Why Conservative Evangelicals Should Support Social Justice.

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By Jonathan David Faulkner

In the news this week has been the Urbana 2015 Missions Conference. I had many friends who attended as well as a sibling and have heard many good things about the conference. Alongside those good things have been the coverage of Michelle Higgins comments declaring the Pro-Life Movement to be a “Spectacle.” Higgins is a worship leader, #Blacklivesmatter Activist and director of “Faith for Justice.” In her comments she also took shots at conservative evangelicals who she accuses of bowing to the “Idolatry of white supremacy.” Which she says evangelicals have made their “Sidepiece.”

InterVarsity, who runs the Urbanna Conference, released a statement affirming their support of the Pro-Life Movement. Joe Ho, InterVarsity’s National Director of Asian-American Ministries supported Higgins initial comments and InterVarsity’s embrace of this new Social Justice Movement mentioning the fact that Evangelicals largely failed to support the initial Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. King and others, stating that “I (Joe) do not think our neutrality in those years honored God.”

(Read InterVarsity’s response to Higgins Here)

As a student of Urban Ministry, having served in an Urban setting with Global Expeditions, World Vision and Mile High Ministries. As well as holding a bachelors in Urban Ministry I am not afraid to admit that I identify very strongly with the Social Justice Movement. I have seen, and lived in the conditions that are often being protested against. I have sat out on the street with the homeless, seen the shame on the face of the father who cannot find work. Talked with street kids and worked in impoverished neighborhoods. I love the goal of social justice, it is good.

But Higgins comments reveal several problems with the Modern Social Justice Movement. The first is that it stands deeply divided. Higgin’s attack on the Pro-Life movement, another social justice movement, reveal this to be true. Despite the fact that 60% of abortions are African or Middle American, sparking a #BlackLivesMatter movement within itself. Secondly is the fact that social justice activists are quick to condemn conservative evangelicals who they see as “Unsupportive of their cause.” For instance a mem on Facebook that proclaims “Instead of building mega-churches, we build mega-homeless shelters instead.” Failing to realize that Mega-Churches tend to be the largest supporters of Homeless Shelters and Orphanages and Crisis Pregnancy Centers. The Day Shelter I worked at in Denver, was funded, for the most part, by Grace Chapel, a Mega-Church. The pastor, was a Conservative Evangelical, like myself, who cared for those men and women who came through his door everyday. Third is the push towards Cultural Absolutism, which is reflected in the attitude of condemnation towards Evangelicals and final is the lack of strong doctrine and good theology behind the movement. Take the Progressive Presby’s or the Chicago Protestors from Black Friday, who operate from an extremely liberal interpretation of Jesus that has been modified to justify their actions.

All of this has brought the Social Justice Movement to an all-time low. A point where it is doing little more than clanging like a gong. Leaving Higgins words sounding as hollow as an empty coffee thermos. Not that Conservative Evangelicals are any better, we are just as divided, moreso in fact, due to having much more time to do so. We can have bad theology, we are far from perfect, but largely the evangelical church has sought to live quietly, sometimes to our detriment.

With all the issues given above you might be questioning the title of this article. Wondering why you should become involved with such a mess of a movement and how I could possibly support the kind of “Movement” described above. I gave the reason, because the goal is good, it is, in most cases, a noble goal. Racial Reconciliation is a good thing, one I pray is one day realized. The issue becomes the methodology chosen to carry out the desired “Justice.”

This is where Conservative Evangelicals can have the greatest impact, by bringing in a strong biblically centered, theologically sound and spiritually effective backbone to the Social Justice Movement. See, we have the study, we have the knowledge and the sense of the Holy Spirit that Liberals admittedly lack. We have the moral and ethical background and teaching and have the ability to put that into practice on the individual level. Often times Conservative Evangelicals are very good at this, not all the time, but often times.

Instead of using this study and biblical insight to work to better the earthly kingdom in the hopes of leading people toward the heavenly one most Conservative Evangelicals have chosen  isolationism and some have even chosen anger and hatred. Some have even taken the Conservative Evangelical equivalent to Higgins position and attacked their like-minded brethren. Yet again furthering the division within all Evangelical circles.

So why should Conservative Evangelicals support the Social Justice Movement? For the sake of unity amongst the people of OOD and for the sake of effective spread of the Gospel in its purest and most attractive form, guided by the Holy Spirit, with us as vessels. To marry spirit led sound theology with what I believe to spirit driven zealousness for those in need.

This is a hard road, it will require both sides to lay down presuppositions about the other and acknowledge the good points of both sides. It will require reconciliation and sincerity in attempts to renewal, acceptance of and forgiveness for past mistakes and most importantly an ever deepening devotion to being led by the power for the Holy Spirit by all within the Kingdom of Heaven.

In closing I think that Joe Ho is right, after reading Dr. King Jr’s. Letters and various speeches, Conservative Evangelicals should have supported the Civil Rights movement. Perhaps if we had, we would not be in our present predicament. We are still here though, we can reconcile, we can be united again.

Authors Note: These are the thoughts of a conservative evangelical pastor and you are free and welcome to disagree with the above comments. 

Jonathan Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a pastor. He has served in the projects in Dallas, Wichita and Denver, he is also a musician and writer.