Monday, September 29, 2014

An Open Letter to Kirk Cameron along with Glenn Beck, Dave Dwyer, and all their Respective Employees and Listening Audiences

Update:  Related interview with WorldView Weekend (mp3)
Dear Kirk Cameron –

At the outset let me mention that I celebrated your excellent labors with respect to the movie, Fireproof, when it was released. As a husband, father of six children, and pastor, I rejoiced when this work of yours was made public. Gospel-rich and Gospel-centered productions, of significant quality, have become as rare as summer snow in our generation, and for this reason I gladly supported Fireproof and its message by showing it to my family, our congregation, along with several of our neighbors as an outreach tool. I mention this because I want you to know that I wish to express some of my thoughts with you in the spirit of Proverbs 27:6 – “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” The friendship that I have in mind is not a personal one (we have never met), but it has to do with my historic sense of a friendship with you in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I say historic because I am left to wonder about the trajectory of your life and doctrine over the years. For example, your work, Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure, along with the manner in which it was promoted with the help of Glenn Beck, produces multiple concerns. The movie itself focuses on the quest for a “secret sauce recipe card” – a “strategy” – a “matrix” that “built America.”[1] This idea was repeated in your promotional interview on the Glenn Beck program, when Dr. Foster referred to the movie’s message as “the same thing that you (Glenn Beck) have been teaching on your program about internals and externals – it begins with character – it begins in the home.” It seemed quite apparent that the content of your film, along with your description of the Puritans’ historic beliefs, posed no threat to Glenn Beck’s Mormonism, moralism, patriotism, and works-righteousness ideology.

Respectfully, this should give you serious pause.

Whatever your goal may have been regarding the film, your attempted focus on the Puritans’ legacy here in America fell short of the mark. I will leave it to William Bradford himself to issue the core correction to your film’s message:

“…they left that goodly and pleasant city which had been a resting place near twelve years; but they knew they were pilgrims, and looked not much on those things, but lift up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits.” [Hebrews 11:13-16] [Italics mine][2]

Respectfully, the thought of reducing the Pilgrims’ heavenly focus to a mere “secret sauce recipe” for rebuilding earthly kingdoms exceeds credulity. Additionally, I wonder if Glenn Beck knows that if he were found within the company of these early believers, that his religious views would not be tolerated for one second. Would anyone venture to believe that the Puritans could endure a member of a cult which teaches that Jesus Christ is the brother of Satan, both of whom are called the offspring of deities called “Our Heavenly Father” and his God-wife?[3] More importantly, I must ask this: after the promotional tours have been completed and all the Monumental DVD sales have been tabulated, what is to be said about Glenn Beck’s soul along with that of his vast audience of individuals who were exposed to your promotional videos along with the movie itself? Does their hope remain secured in rebuilding America, while clinging to a mere morality that is devoid of the hope in the true Messiah and His eternal kingdom? The great regard that you showed for Christ’s supremacy, sufficiency, and exclusivity in Fireproof seems to have been traded in for a far lesser alternative. But I must ask this question – If you could speak publicly to Glenn Beck and his audience, would you be willing to share the true Gospel of Christ – the one that anathematizes the cult of Mormonism and every other belief system that is raised up against the Knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5)? This very question is why I write to you in hope.

In addition to this, your September 4th interview with Dave Dwyer on The Catholic Radio station, Busted Halo, supplies a similar concern for myself and many others. Throughout the interview, several expressions were given which seemed to convey the idea that you embraced Dave Dwyer as a fellow brother in Christ. This has stirred much discussion among brethren, and many are concerned that a sense of false affirmation was given to Dwyer as if he believes the Gospel of Christ rather than the false gospel of Rome. I realize that there are those who strongly take issue with this - many have charged that such a concern is unfounded; that it is unfair to criticize your actions; that your intentions were of a good nature in the interview and you should be left alone. Of course, any reasoning which seeks to interpret another man’s intentions is a domain of judgment that I will leave to God alone, but the question still remains: did you intentionally speak to Dave Dwyer, a Catholic priest, as a fellow brother in Christ? Those who resist this question as being unfair should consider this alternate query:

What did Dave Dwyer and his audience think?

If Dwyer and his listeners perceived that you [Kirk] embraced him as a fellow brother – a fellow soldier of the Gospel of Christ – then I would suggest that all such collegial debates about what you thought, meant, or intended would vanish upon such a discovery. In the end, the final fruit of your actions is what matters most. Please know that I sought to connect with the Busted Halo program on Friday, September 26th with the above query in mind. With several attempts (by email and by phone) I sought to have Dave Dwyer answer the question: “Do you believe that Kirk Cameron embraces you to be a brother in Christ?” After several tries, the program managers indicated that they were “unable” to get to the question, however, I did have an extended conversation with their screener:

Me: My impression is that you seem to believe (and I'm not assuming that you are speaking for Father Drwyer either) but...

Screener: Yeah

Me: ...but my impression is that you seem to think that Kirk Cameron might have had a more negative view of Roman Catholicism in the past...

Screener: I have heard that there's... there might have been statements taken out of context that might have made people think he had a negative view towards Catholics, but I think even just coming on the show is an example that, clearly he doesn't have any.... that we're all brothers and sisters in Christ...

Me: Right, so In other words, when I listened to the program, there was nothing that I heard that would give me an indication that Kirk Cameron did not think that Father Drwyer was a Christian...

Screener: ...Right....

Me: So, was that your impression?

Screener: Exactly. 100%

Me: Would Father Dwyer... do you think he would...

Screener: Well, I can't speak for him but...yeah I think so, but that is something that he would have to address...

Me: Obviously, but I was just...

Screener: I would assume 100% yes.

When all the dust of the debate settles, I would respectfully suggest to you, Kirk, that there is a grave problem that remains when those who believe a false Gospel are given a false sense of security from someone who has heralded the true Gospel. I say “has heralded” because of this very concern: the more confused and attenuated your message becomes in the public eye, the less capable believers are to affirm you as a clear herald of the Gospel. While I hope that you intend much better than this, please accept this friendly wound: if Dave Dwyer and his listeners continue to believe that Rome’s false gospel is no different than what you have taught, then what good was your interview with him?

Clearly, their souls are more valuable than any movie.

Finally, before calling in to the Busted Halo program on September 26th, I listened to another program where Dwyer discussed sharing his Catholic faith with others. This included using various symbols like crosses and rosary beads as a means of sharing the Catholic religion with others. Amidst the discussion about facing opposition from others, Dwyer made this statement to a fellow Catholic about relating to others:

“I love my Catholic faith, because I have this great relationship with Mary – that when times in my life when I’ve been really struggling – that has gotten me through and given me comfort. If that rustles somebody’s feathers, that is zero percent your fault!” [audio]

Kirk – I would hope and believe that your “feathers” are greatly rustled by such a statement as this. As a Catholic, Dwyer’s Mariolatry is not surprising. Sadly, he is a man who is devoid of Gospel hope, as is evident in his response to this caller’s question from the September 26th program:

Lysa from Charlotte: “There is a passage from the Gospel of Matthew…chapter 7, where Jesus says: ‘Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom…’ and um…I believe these…are disciples…and somebody says to him: ‘Lord did we not prophecy in your name, did we not cast out demons in your name…’ and He says: ‘get away from my you evildoers, I never knew you.’ And I guess my question has always been: If they have evil hearts, how are they able to do works in the name of Jesus?”

Lysa’s question was haunting because, though it was a rich question full of Gospel opportunities; it was sadly handed over to a man whose hope is in Rome’s message of justification by sacramentalism. Thus, Dwyer’s response began with this: “Jesus, and Saint Paul, and all of the other authors of the Gospels were writing about what Jesus said and did… um used rhetorical techniques to get us to perk up and pay attention.” He then concludes that Jesus is saying “walk the talk – put your money where your mouth is – make your actions match your words” [audio]. Unfortunately for Dwyer, Christ’s words are not a mere “rhetorical technique” to get us to “walk the talk.” He is promising judgment for all those who trust in their own righteousness rather than Christ. The problem with these false professors is that their focus in life was set upon their walk as the basis of their justification. Sadly, Dwyer’s answer gave Lysa over to the very condemnation that fell upon those false disciples in Matthew 7.

It must be said – Dave Dwyer is not victim, he is a false teacher.

In short, Kirk, it is people like Lysa, Brett, Kia, Dave Dwyer, Glenn Beck, and the countless host of others who have yet to hear a Gospel presentation that is clear enough to rustle the feathers of those who cling to Mary; who cling to their morality; their earthly patriotism; their Dominionism; their book of Mormon; their rosary beads; or a pantheon of countless other idols that exceed enumeration in this letter.

For their sake and for the sake of a watching church, which needs to see the bold proclamation of the Gospel which heralds Christ’s riches above the royalties of this world - I appeal to you to address these individuals in public, sharing with them the unmitigated truth the Christian’s justification through faith alone in Christ alone for a salvation that is by grace alone – rooted in the authority of the Scriptures alone for a redemption that is to the glory of God alone. Make use of your public popularity that you have garnered through such interviews and films, and direct people to the genuine message of the Gospel – which is clear enough and powerful enough to pierce through the world’s countless heresies and cults. I can assure you that whatever negative consequences may come to you as an actor and movie maker, in eternity, it will be worth it all.

I pray that you would receive this friendly wound for Christ’s sake in place of the world’s deceitful kiss.

Soli Deo Gloria
Michael John Beasley

For anyone else reading this letter, I offer this Gospel testimony to you for His glory. As one who was raised as a Catholic myself, may this be a blessing to you:

  Where do you Stand?: Atheism & Religionism vs the Gospel from The Armoury Ministries on Vimeo.


[1] Cameron: "I wish they (the Puritans/Pilgrims) had left us some kind of a training Manual, some kind of a secret sauce recipe card that we could pick up and go - alright, here's what it is - here's what we do! What do we do? How do we get back to that?" Dr. Marshall Foster [referring to the National Monument to the Forefathers]: "So Kirk - this is that recipe... this is that strategy, that matrix that was what built America..." From the Movie, Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure.

[2] William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 (New York, Alfred A. Knoff, 2000), p. 47.

[3] Gospel Principles, (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah), pp. 9-15.

Friday, September 26, 2014

True Marriage: A Covenant of Love

Quaint and pithy sayings are often mistaken for genuine wisdom, especially when they are given to us from historical figures or men of renown. Great danger comes when the hearer becomes passive with such "wisdom" by failing to measure everything by the standard of Holy Writ. No man can match the ancient wisdom of God's Word.[1] Consider the following counsel offered by Dietrich Bonhoeffer to a young couple about to be married:

“It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, [it is] the marriage that sustains your love.”

We should wonder if this is true. Can it be said that the marriage covenant itself is what sustains love? One problem with Bonhoeffer's statement is that it is rather vague, and leaves itself open to a variety of possible interpretations. Because of this, many today repeat his quote in support of their questionable views of marriage and marital love. Ultimately, the reader should remember that  what sustains any marriage is the Lord Himself. But accepting his statement at face value, I would suggest that Bonhoeffer has created an unhelpful dichotomy - especially for a marriage between two believers. You see, when two genuine Christians enter into the bond of marriage, they are doing so within the perfect bond of unity - agape-love. If they are Christians at all, then the centerpiece for all their affections is rooted and grounded in such love. Now we should clarify an important point here: when speaking of agape-love we are not talking about the self-oriented infatuation which is common in our world (eros-love). Such a distinction is essential, especially since men like C.S. Lewis have popularized the idea that marital love is rooted in such eros-love:

"By Eros I mean of course that state which we call 'being in love'; or, if you prefer, that kind of love which lovers are 'in.'"[2]

Unfortunately, Lewis' interpretations of eros-love reveal a lack of understanding of simple history and etymology. Because of such a shortcoming, he fails to offer a scriptural description of genuine love found between two believers in Christ. What must be understood is that true marital love is rooted in a Christ centered, Christ exalting, love which establishes the perfect bond of unity in all our relationships:

Colossians 3:14-19: 14. Beyond all these things put on love [ten agapen], which is the perfect bond [sundesmos] of unity. 15. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. 18. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19. Husbands, love [agapete] your wives and do not be embittered against them.

Paul's description of the centrality of love in verse 14 should not be seen as separate from his continued instructions in vs. 18 & 19 - all of these summary commands are related to the principal injunction [by ellipsis] to "put on love" as our chief garment in Christ. Should we conclude that Paul has not marriage in mind when speaking of the perfect bond of unity - love, then we have missed too much. Paul's emphasis on the primacy of agape-love is very consistent throughout his writings, and reveals his commitment to the Savior's injunction concerning the foremost commandment of love: Mark 12:28-31, such that “on these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”[3] It is this same bond of agape-love to which the Lord refers when He reveals the basis of His covenant faithfulness to Ephraim, despite their wickedness:

Hosea 11:4: 4. I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love [desmois agapeseos], And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; And I bent down and fed them.

As well, it is such love that is especially modeled in the Savior's relationship with His bride, the church:

Ephesians 5:22-25: 22. Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her..."[4]

The constancy and centrality of love within the marriage covenant cannot be ignored, nor should it be separated from the marriage covenant itself as if it could be in a Christian marriage. Like our faith in Christ, agape-love will wax and wane in any marriage, but what sustains the believer's love is not a covenant, by itself, but the Lord Himself and His unfailing love. If we love at all, we do so, as believers whom the Lord loved first.[5] Without such love, there can be no perfect bond of unity in any relationship. Thus, when two unbelievers face marital difficulties, there is a great danger that looms in their midst. Without the bond of God's supernatural love, there is no substantive bond between them beyond the legal covenant itself. But when two believers face marital difficulty, there is something very powerful and needful there that cannot be removed from the marriage union itself - the perfect bond of unity - the bond of God's love. When two believers face struggles and trials with one another, such is a time that requires an even greater measure of agape-love. Romantic affections will especially wax and wane, but genuine love will always stand as the centerpiece of every godly marriage. If a man were to believe that it is his covenant promise alone that sustains his marriage, he has made too much of his oath,[6] and too little of the power of God's love in his life and in the life of his wife. If he thinks that his marriage can be sustained without love, then he has been reduced to a miserable condition of thought concerning the nature of God's faithfulness, power, and sufficiency. An anniversary card from such a man should never be crafted nor given:

"The first 20 years were great. The next 20 years will be difficult, but just remember - I'm enduring it because of my oath. Happy Anniversary Honey!"

Without the love of God, every marriage is reduced to a mere contractual obligation, with brief hints of eros self-satisfaction sprinkled here and there.

But that is the world’s version of marriage.

I have seen some very sweet and elderly marriages which revealed the fragrant aroma and evidence of Christ's sanctification in their lives - marriages that went beyond 50 & 60 years. It is not that these were perfect people, but what I have witnessed is the power of God's love and sanctification in the lives of genuine believers, such that the perfect bond of unity was a growing reality in their lives, even more real than when they first said to each other: "I do." This is what one might expect from people whose lives are being conformed to the image of Christ on the sure foundation of agape-love. Thus, what a young couple ought to hear is this:

“You will be sustained by the power of God’s love in your marital covenant – for His love, in and through you both, will supply the perfect bond of unity to weather all of the storms, struggles, and changes of life.”

There is great hope in the message of God's great love, and it is for this reason that I have felt so compelled to write Altar to an Unknown Love in view of the many obfuscations of this important subject. The subject of genuine love is nothing to trifle with. Whatever Bonhoeffer meant by what he said, I must prefer Scripture and the power of God to sustain anything.


[1] Psalm 119:100: I understand more than the aged, Because I have observed Your precepts.
[2] C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves.
[3] Matthew 22:40
[4] As the church is called to a loving submission to Christ, so too are wives called to submit to their husbands. The absence of the word love in Paul's instructions to wives must not be construed as denoting an unloving submission: this would be contrary to his earlier point made repeatedly in Ephesians chapter 3.
[5] 1 John 4:19.
[6] Matthew 5:31-37: 31. “It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; 32. but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 33. “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34. “But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35. or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36. “Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37. “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lewis’ and Piper’s Transitive Influences on Evangelicalism

I. LEWIS’ & PIPER’S TROUBLING AFFIRMATIONS OF HEDONISM
II. LEWIS’ & PIPER’S TRANSITIVE INFLUENCES ON EVANGELICALISM
III. THE BAD LEGACY OF MYSTICISM, SUBJECTIVISM, AND SECULARISM
IV. THE GRAVE NEED FOR REAL LIGHT IN A WORLD OF REAL DARKNESS

II. Lewis’ and Piper’s Transitive Influences on Evangelicalism: In a previous column, I examined Lewis’ and Piper’s troubling affirmations of hedonism. In that piece, special notice was given concerning Piper’s troubling praise of atheist Ayn Rand: “I think she [Ayn Rand] points to truth and to Jesus ultimately: she esteemed reason, individualism, and hedonism - and so do I..."[1] The notion of praising an individual whose life was invested in the agenda of blaspheming God seems quite incredible. But Piper has demonstrated such a pattern wherever he finds evidences of hedonism which he believes supports his view of “Christian Hedonism.” For Piper, Ayn Rand (author of The Virtue of Selfishness) should receive some commendation for her love of hedonism, despite the fact that the Apostle Paul saw such hedonism for what it is: a sign of maximal human depravity:

2 Timothy 3:1,4: 1. "In the last days...men will be lovers of self...” 4. “lovers of pleasure [lit. lovers of hedonism: φιλήδονοι]..."

In the pursuit of such hedonism, Piper also insists:

"We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction."[2]

However, his confident assertion runs headlong against James’ forceful rebuke of the hedonistic pleasure seekers of his day:

James 4:3–9: 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions [lit., hedonism: ἡδοναῖς]. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

It should be noted that, according to Scripture, hedonism is not only an evidence of grave sin among the ungodly (2 Timothy 3:4) but it is also a potential and grave danger for the people of God (James 4:1-11). It is difficult to imagine that anyone would think that it is a good idea to promote a view of sanctification which has at its roots mankind’s historic problem of hedonism. As was mentioned in the previous article, J.C. Ryle’s rebukes against using “uncouth” words to promote thoughts about sanctification supply a wise warning that should not be ignored.[3] Novel approaches to biblical doctrine will often sell many books, but Christ’s church is not at all helped by such innovations. Thus, Lewis’ troubling legacy survives, and even thrives in the modern era because of those who rest in a similar philosophy of hedonism:

“You notice that I am drawing no distinction between sensuous and aesthetic pleasures. But why should I? The line is almost impossible to draw and what use would it be if one succeeded in drawing it? If this is Hedonism, it is also a somewhat arduous discipline.”[4]

The advancement of Lewis’ hedonism, subjectivism, and mysticism[5] continues to spread in Evangelicalism today, and there are many who are helping with such an advancement. Just last year, John Piper held a conference entitled: The Romantic Rationalist: God, Life, and Imagination in the Work of C.S. Lewis - 2013 National Conference. At the conclusion of the conference’s final message, Piper offered this rather telling benediction, replete with a Lewisian thrust:

“May God take all the messages of this conference, and all the wisdom of C.S. Lewis, and all the wonders of this world, and all the truth of his word, and grant you to taste and see that the Lord is good. And with the help of C.S. Lewis may you communicate it with a joy and skill as never before to a world full of unsatisfied longing.”[6]

John Piper can at least be credited for his admitted reliance upon, and dedication to, C.S. Lewis. But should the body of Christ join him in such devotion? I think not. What must be understood is that whenever a person reads a book by C.S. Lewis, they are ingesting much more than the work of just one author. With Lewis comes the thinking and theology of mystic and universalist – George MacDonald. When introducing his George MacDonald Anthology, Lewis said this:

“…In making this collection I was discharging a debt of justice. I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him [George MacDonald] as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him. But it has not seemed to me that those who have received my books kindly take even now sufficient notice of the affiliation. Honesty drives me to emphasize it."[7]

By Lewis’ own admission, he was wholly committed to the thinking and teachings of George MacDonald, and this was evident in his writings:

"This collection, as I have said, was designed not to revive MacDonald's literary reputation but to spread his religious teaching. Hence most of my extracts are taken from the three volumes of Unspoken Sermons. My own debt to this book is almost as great as one man can owe to another: and nearly all serious inquirers to whom I have introduced it acknowledge that it has given them great help—sometimes indispensable help toward the very acceptance of the Christian faith…"[8]

George MacDonald’s main labors focused on his fictional writing, though he started out as a pastor (Trinity Congregational Church, Arundel – 1850) where his disdain for Calvinism and his friendliness towards Universalism became evident. Leaving the ministry with much disdain for the doctrine of election, MacDonald advanced his views through his fictional works. MacDonald’s unwillingness to accept God’s true nature as revealed in Scripture is evident throughout his works, however, his sermon entitled, Justice (where his views on Universalism are evident), makes his disdain for God’s justice quite clear:

“Those who say justice means the punishing of sin, and mercy the not punishing of sin, and attribute both to God, would make a schism in the very idea of God.” [George MacDonald, Sermon on Justice, Psalm 62:12]

In this sermon, MacDonald works backwards from his incredulity regarding God’s absolute justice, surmising that not all will be lost in the end. He renounces the idea of penal substitution and then posits his own view of purgatorial reconciliation:

“’…you do not believe in the atonement?' In what you call the atonement, in what you mean by the word, what I have already written must make it plain enough I do not believe. God forbid I should, for it would be to believe a lie, and a lie which is to blame for much non-acceptance of the gospel in this and other lands.”

“I believe that justice and mercy are simply one and the same thing; without justice to the full there can be no mercy, and without mercy to the full there can be no justice; that such is the mercy of God that he will hold his children in the consuming fire of his distance until they pay the uttermost farthing, until they drop the purse of selfishness with all the dross that is in it, and rush home to the Father and the Son, and the many brethren--rush inside the centre of the life-giving fire whose outer circles burn.”

From all of this, the reader should understand that the similarities between MacDonald and Lewis are quite strong, and this will help the reader to comprehend the following fictional dialogue between Lewis and his Master – George MacDonald:

Lewis to MacDonald: "In your own books, Sir," said I, "you were a Universalist. You talked as if all men would be saved. And St. Paul too."

MacDonald: "Ye can know nothing of the end of all things, or nothing expressible in those terms. It may be, as the Lord said to the Lady Julian, that all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well. But it's ill talking of such questions."

Lewis: "Because they are too terrible, Sir?"

MacDonald: "No. Because all answers deceive. If ye put the question from within Time and are asking about possibilities, the answer is certain. The choice of ways is before you. Neither is closed. Any man may choose eternal death. Those who choose it will have it. But if ye are trying to leap on into Eternity, if ye are trying to see the final state of all things as it will be (for so ye must speak) when there are no more possibilities left but only the Real, then ye ask what cannot be answered to mortal ears."[9]

One of the interesting things about Lewis’ work, The Great Divorce, is that the question of Universalism is never completely answered. According to Lewis’ Master, “all answers deceive,” and so the reader is dissuaded from looking into such a query.[10] Though the reader may not recognize it, Lewis’ fictionally constructed dialogue with MacDonald affords him the opportunity to present the words of Lady Julian, a 14th century mystic and Universalist. In her collection of claimed revelations from Christ entitled, Revelations of Divine Love, Lady Julian recorded the following:

THE THIRTEENTH REVELATION - CHAPTER XXVII

"Often I wondered why by the great foreseeing wisdom of God the beginning of sin was not hindered: for then, methought, all should have been well." "Sin is behovable--[playeth a needful part]--; but all shall be well"

AFTER this the Lord brought to my mind the longing that I had to Him afore. And I saw that nothing letted me but sin. And so I looked, generally, upon us all, and methought: If sin had not been, we should all have been clean and like to our Lord, as He made us.

And thus, in my folly, afore this time often I wondered why by the great foreseeing wisdom of God the beginning of sin was not letted: for then, methought, all should have been well. This stirring [of mind] was much to be forsaken, but nevertheless mourning and sorrow I made therefor, without reason and discretion.

But Jesus, who in this Vision informed me of all that is needful to me, answered by this word and said: It behoved that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. [italics mine]

The fabric of thinking in the above narrative, from Lady Julian to George MacDonald, leads the reader to the strong possibility of Universalism – in a manner similar to Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins. It should therefore be no wonder that Bell’s book cites Lewis’ The Great Divorce as an important title for a description of Heaven and Hell. In mentioning Bell at this point I must say that this is one of the central reasons why I was disturbed regarding the hypocrisy of those who lambasted Bell, especially those who lavishly promote Lewis without hesitation. To be frank, why would the following two tweets ever be produced by the same person?:

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Overall, the selective outrage expressed by Evangelicals over Rob Bell remains a disturbing contradiction, with no resolve. Inconsistencies like these are both confusing and shameful. But there are more questions that must be addressed. What awareness is there regarding the transitive influences of George MacDonald and C.S. Lewis in the modern era? Do men who promote Lewis have any possible idea of the murky influences and teachings that they are passing on to Christ’s sheep? It appears that John Piper has some limited sense of this:

“There is a personal side to this question [Universalism] for me. It is one thing to know that there are always "certain people" in the church who deny the reality of eternal hell, and it is another to love an author and then discover he is one of them. Since my college days, I had read three novels by George MacDonald: Phantastes, Lilith, and Sir Gibbie. I enjoyed them. I had also read a lot of C.S. Lewis and benefited immeasurably from the way he experienced the world and put that experience into writing. I knew that Lewis loved MacDonald and commended him highly: ‘George MacDonald I had found for myself at the age of sixteen and never wavered in my allegiance.” “I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him.” “I know hardly any other writer who seems to be closer, or more continually close, to the Spirit of Christ Himself.” …Largely because of this remarkable advocacy by Lewis, I think, George MacDonald continues to have a significant following among American evangelicals. I certainly was among the number who was drawn to him. Then I picked up Rolland Hein’s edition of Creation to Christ, a collection of MacDonald’s sermons. To my great sorrow, I read these words: ‘From all the copies of Jonathan Edwards’ portrait of God, however faded by time, however softened by the use of less glaring pigments, I turn with loathing….’

Piper continues:

“I read further and saw a profound rejection of the substitutionary atonement of Christ: ‘There must be an atonement, a making up, a bringing together – an atonement which, I say, cannot be made except by the man who has sinned.’ And since only the man who has sinned can atone for his own sin (without a substitute), that is what hell is for. MacDonald is a universalist not in denying the existence of hell, but in believing that the purpose of hell is to bring people to repentance and purity no matter how long it takes. ‘I believe that no hell will be lacking which would help the just mercy of God to redeem His children.’ And all humans are his children. If hell went on forever, he says, God would be defeated. ‘God is triumphantly defeated, I say, throughout the hell of His vengeance. Although against evil, it is but the vain and wasted cruelty of a tyrant.’ I mention George MacDonald as an example of a universalist not only because of my personal encounter with him but also because he represents the popular, thoughtful, artistic side of Christianity which continues to shape the way so many people think.”[11]

John Piper’s admission is quite revealing, especially since he is one of the leading promoters of Lewis in the world today, as he said: “…Largely because of this remarkable advocacy by Lewis, I think, George MacDonald continues to have a significant following among American evangelicals.” By this fact it should be apparent that Piper comprehends that he is, to some extent, doing the bidding of Lewis: passing on the legacy of the mystic and Universalist - George Macdonald. Despite this, Piper’s prayer for “the help of C.S. Lewis” continues to stand, unabated.

Finally I should add that the transitive influence of Lewis is not only advanced through his more theological works, but his fictional works are still deeply seeded with his problematic views:

“Any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people’s minds under cover of romance without their knowing it.”[12] (italics mine)

Ironically, Lewis’ use of the words smuggled…under cover strikes a haunting resemblance to Jude’s expression - crept in unnoticed (Jude 4). Any pastor who genuinely cares for Christ’s sheep will not sleep during such a smuggling operation. With all this, I conclude my expressed concerns for now, but there are many more questions about Lewis’ transitive influences that must be addressed in the areas of mysticism, subjectivism, and secularism. These will be examined in the next column.

Overall, the legacy of Lewis cannot be ignored for the good of Christ’s church.

Soli Deo Gloria


[1] March 6, 2014, Ayn Rand’s Tragic Trajectory (Episode 292) https://twitter.com/JohnPiper/status/441732767915601920

[2] John Piper, Desiring God, (Multnomah Books, Oregon, 1996), p. 23.

[3]"Finally, I must deprecate, and I do it in love, the use of uncouth and new-fangled terms and phrases in teaching sanctification. I plead that a movement in favor of holiness cannot be advanced by new-coined phraseology, or by disproportioned and one-sided statements--or by overstraining and isolating particular texts--or by exalting one truth at the expense of another…"There is an Athenian love of novelty abroad, and a morbid distaste for anything old and regular, and in the beaten path of our forefathers. Thousands will crowd to hear a new voice and a new doctrine, without considering for a moment whether what they hear is true.--There is an incessant craving after any teaching which is sensational, and exciting, and rousing to the feelings.--There is an unhealthy appetite for a sort of spasmodic and hysterical Christianity. The religious life of many is little better then spiritual dram-drinking, and the 'meek and quiet spirit; which St. Peter commends is clean forgotten (1 Peter 3:4.). Crowds, and crying, and hot rooms, and high-flown singing, and an incessant rousing of the emotions, are the only things which many care for.--Inability to distinguish differences in doctrine is spreading far and wide, and so long as the preacher is 'clever' and 'earnest,' hundreds seem to think it must be all right, and call you dreadfully 'narrow and uncharitable' if you hint that he is unsound!" J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, & Roots, (Charles Nolan Publishers, Moscow Idaho, 2001), p. XXIX.

[4] Lewis, C.S. (2002-11-04). Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (pp. 90-91). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

[5] Lewis’ views of mysticism will be addressed in the next column in this series.

[6] John Piper, 2013 National Conference - “The Romantic Rationalist: God, Life, and Imagination in the Work of C.S. Lewis.” Message:” What God Made Is Good — And Must Be Sanctified: C.S. Lewis and St. Paul on the Use of Creation”

[7] C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, An Anthology (HarperCollins, New York 1946), pp. xxxiii-xxxiv.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Lewis, The Great Divorce, pp., 124-125.

[10] In the next column, I will address why it is that the Emergent Church movement loves Lewis for his extrabiblical reasoning and inductive uncertainty.

[11] John Piper, Jesus: The Only Way to God, (Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI), pp. 19-21, italics mine.

http://books.google.com/books?id=jDEHAMWQBXYC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Jesus,+the+Only+Way+to+God:&hl=en&sa=X&ei=WJ8XVOPJMJClyASjoYL4DA&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Jesus%2C%20the%20Only%20Way%20to%20God%3A&f=false

[12] C. S. Lewis, 9 August 1939, in The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis. Quoted in Joseph Pearce, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2003), p. 78.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lewis’ & Piper’s Troubling Affirmations of Hedonism

The following article is also featured at Worldview Weekend (here).

For more background information on the legacy of C.S. Lewis: ataul.thearmoury.org

As a follow up to my September 10th article (Victoria Osteen & John Piper’s “Christian Hedonism”: What’s The Difference?) and my related interview with Brannon Howse on September 11th, I wanted to offer a series of columns addressing the continuing influences of C.S. Lewis’, as promoted through John Piper’s teaching on Christian Hedonism.[1] Originally, this entire discussion was triggered by the following tweet from the Desiring God Ministry on September 4th:

image

As was discussed on the September 11th Worldview Weekend broadcast, the notion of issuing partial affirmation to Victoria Osteen’s hedonistic pronouncement is disturbing at best, and it demands further scrutiny by Christ’s church. In addition to Victoria Osteen’s troubling tweet, I also mentioned Piper’s partial praise of Ayn Rand concerning her philosophy of hedonism. Overall, what I have presented thus far is that of a genuine concern for the continued promotion of Christian Hedonism in view of its dangerous undermining of the Scripture’s presentation of love, as an attribute of God and as the foremost of all Christian affections. Some of the things mentioned within these columns will be extracts from my book, Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man, however, many other points will be unique to this series. This article will consist of the first of four topics in the series:

I. LEWIS’ & PIPER’S TROUBLING AFFIRMATIONS OF HEDONISM

II. LEWIS’ & PIPER’S TRANSITIVE INFLUENCES ON EVANGELICALISM

III. THE BAD LEGACY OF MYSTICISM, SUBJECTIVISM, AND SECULARISM

IV. THE GRAVE NEED FOR REAL LIGHT IN A WORLD OF REAL DARKNESS

It is my hope and prayer that those who read these articles will be blessed, deeply challenged, and driven to search the Scriptures for the final authority in everything. The critical analysis of another man’s doctrine and teaching is a serious matter, and I do not take it lightly. Nor do I wish to be cavalier or unnecessary in my treatment of this subject. The doctrine Christian affections is a crucial one, and it is my prayer that this material will supply solid food for Christ’s sheep. If the reader is a supporter of John Piper’s ministry, then please know that my ultimate design is this: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” Proverbs 27:6. If the word wounds us, then let us be healed by its perfect surgery. In the end, a world that will not endure the critical analysis of another man’s teaching is a dangerous place to be. We must all examine ourselves by the standards of God’s word. Overall, my ultimate goal is to point the reader to God’s word over and above the errors of men.

Let’s begin with our first point of consideration:

I. LEWIS’ & PIPER’S TROUBLING AFFIRMATIONS OF HEDONISM: As I have already stated, John Piper’s repeated emphasis on Christian Hedonism is, by his own admission, a construct of thought that stems largely from C.S. Lewis, who said:

“You notice that I am drawing no distinction between sensuous and aesthetic pleasures. But why should I? The line is almost impossible to draw and what use would it be if one succeeded in drawing it? If this is Hedonism, it is also a somewhat arduous discipline.”[2]

The repeated concern that I have expressed regarding John Piper’s teaching on Christian Hedonism is that the biblical notion of hedonism is entirely antithetical to godly Christian affections. It would appear that Piper understands this to some extent since he admits that the term has an “arresting and jolting effect” on others.[3] In addition to this, a repeated emphasis on subjective delight, within the construct of Christian Hedonism, diminishes the breadth of truth about the nature of our relationship with God. During the WVW broadcast on September 11th, I mentioned that Jonathan Edwards called love the “fountain of all the affections.” The broader quote is worthy of mention here:

"For love is not only one of the affections, but it is the first and chief of the affections, and the fountain of all the affections." (Matt 22:37-40) [4]

I also mentioned Thomas Boston’s description of the various Christian affections as being the “ingredients of love” [5] whereby he also said:

“Filial affections are due to a father; love, reverence, delight in him, and fear to offend him, Romans viii. 15.”[6]

Boston’s mention of filial reverence is important since it reminds us of God’s priority for such affections with His people:

Isaiah 66:2: “…But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”

Isaiah 66:2 further expands our sense of understanding of what godly affections entail, to include humility, contrition, and reverence before God in view of the absolute authority of his word. Simply put, those who love God truly will exemplify more than just one or two affections, but will embrace the full spectrum of that which genuine love actually produces in the heart of the redeemed. We must remember that, of all the affections described in the Old Testament Scriptures, Christ calls love the foremost in Mark 12:28-31. Combining all these considerations, this is why I wrote in Altar to an Unknown Love:

“…the foremost commandment encompasses a full spectrum of affections, thoughts, and convictions within the worshipper, including: personal/relational knowledge [yada],[7] trust [betach],[8] delight [‘anag],[9] devotion [gol],[10] rest/dependence [damam],[11] hope [hochelet], filial fear/reverence [yare],[12] and joy [semachot].[13] This is not an exhaustive list of godly thoughts and affections, but it offers a sample of the ingredients[14] of genuine love as found within God's Word.”[15]

The above paragraph supplies a collection of affections from Psalm 37 and other texts. Clearly this is a limited treatment of the full breadth of Christian affections, but it is supplied in order to remind the reader of the danger of limiting the full counsel of God’s revelation on this, or any other subject. It should be noted that John Piper frequently quotes Psalm 37:4 alone whereby David enjoins us: “…delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This is a wonderful and precious truth, however, by sampling just one verse out of Psalm 37 the reader is stripped of the other thoughts and affections mentioned in this one Psalm. John Piper may see this limited exegetical practice as being helpful to his defense of Christian Hedonism, however, this tactic hides the broader realm of love as the fountain of all Christian affections.

All of this brings me back to my expressed concern regarding Piper’s teaching on Christian Hedonism, along with his willingness to issue partial praise for a false teacher and an outspoken atheist: Victoria Osteen and Ayn Rand. The common denominator between these two examples is hedonism. For Victoria Osteen, her comments are self-explanatory:

"I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we're not doing it for God—I mean, that's one way to look at it—we're doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we're happy. That's the thing that gives Him the greatest joy…So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy," she continued. "When you come to church, when you worship Him, you're not doing it for God really. You're doing it for yourself, because that's what makes God happy. Amen?"

The linked article in the Desiring God tweet, by Chad Ashby, alludes to the presumption that Victoria Osteen was “trying her best at a John Piper ‘Christian Hedonist’ impression,” though she was missing the mark. Ashby offers no evidence about how he could know what she was "trying" to do, however he later states that Victoria Osteen was expressing a desire which echoes “God’s original design for us as humans.”[16] Based upon this, Ashby called her comments “half right,” and the proprietors of Desiring God Ministries echoed this sentiment via their tweet. In the case of Ayn Rand, Piper makes his sense of connection quite clear in his paper: The Ethics of Ayn Rand – Appreciation and Critique:

“To this day, I find her writings paradoxically attractive. I am a Christian Hedonist. This is partly why her work is alluring to me.”[17]

Within the “Appreciation” section of this same paper, Piper offers this affirmation of Rand’s individualism and hedonism:

“Happiness, for Ayn Rand, ‘is a state of non-contradictory joy—a joy without penalty or guilt, a joy that does not clash with any of your values and does not work for your own destruction’ (VS, 29). On the basis of this definition, I am willing to say yes to the following sentence: ‘The achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose’ (VS, 27).

imageThe references of “VS” represent Rand’s book entitled, The Virtue of Selfishness. It seems difficult to grasp that any believer would seek to find elements of appreciation within such a book as this, but the reader should also be aware of Rand’s definition of love from the vantage point of her hedonism:

"Love and friendship are profoundly personal, selfish values: love is an expression and assertion of self-esteem, a response to one's own values in the person of another. One gains a profoundly personal, selfish joy from the mere existence of the person one loves. It is one's own personal, selfish happiness that one seeks, earns and derives from love." [The Virtue of Selfishness]

Rand can be credited for her honesty and even her accurate understanding of the biblical definition of hedonism, however, the end product should be refuted rather than praised. Tragically, John Piper believes that Rand’s hedonistic creed - “The achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose” - is an agreeable statement. I say that this is tragic because any effort to Christianize Rand’s creed within the motif of Christian Hedonism will fail for one simple reason: Rand’s important use of the word “own.” Clearly, Ayn Rand rightly understood the principle of hedonism as being selfish, autonomous delight/happiness. As the author of The Virtue of Selfishness, she does deserve that much credit. For her, this was central to her understanding of man’s “highest moral purpose.” However, antithetically (according to Christ), love for God[18] (as those who have been first loved by Him[19]) is the foremost purpose of mankind. These two concepts are not at all close, instead they represent polar opposites of each other. In this respect, Paul’s antithetical warning strikes a deafening tone:

2 Timothy 3:1–2, 4: 1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers… 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure [philedonai] rather than lovers of God [philotheoi]…

Paul’s description of the ungodly affections and actions of men in the last days showcases the antithetical nature of hedonism versus Christianity. As I mention in my book, Altar to an Unknown Love, the Greek words eros and hedone, denoting selfish desire and pleasure, bore a strong family likeness to each other – literally:

“…eros was more than a philosophy of self-pleasure, it was the formal name of the god of love, whose spiritual progeny, hedone, embodied a similar notion of autonomous self-delight.” (Altar to an Unknown Love, p. 65)

Though my book focuses on the corrupt notion of eros, more than hedone, their similarity in concept is important to keep in mind. In the former case, the New Testament writers completely avoided the use of the words eros, eran, and erastes,[20] because these words had “become so steeped in sensual passion, carried such an atmosphere of unholiness about them (see Origen, Prol. in Cant. Opp. tom iii. pp. 28–30), that the truth of God abstained from the defiling contact with them…"[21] In the latter case, hedone is used in the New Testament on just five occasions. In the case of both of these terms, the concept of a relationship with another is not in view, unlike love. However, central to Christianity is the reality that love emphasizes union with another. Thus, the Christian’s every affection is rooted in the idea of union with Christ. Clearly, hedonism stands in opposition to the core realities of Christian faith. In order to see how the biblical writers understood and utilized this term, the following is supplied from The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (TNIDNTT). I would ask the reader to peruse this very carefully:

NT In the NT hedone is found only 5 times. All are in later books and all have a bad connotation.

1. The desire for pleasure fills the man estranged from God. He thinks that he is living out his own irresistible desire for pleasure, and in so doing he revolts against God and his will, but in fact he becomes the slave of the hedonai. He has become a doulos – slave and lives in – sin. He is separated from God, unless God delivers him from this slavery (Tit. 3:3 ff.). 2 Pet. 2:13 ff. give a picture of these people who have given themselves over to their hedonai, showing how they have become the victims of the destructive powers which are in revolt against God.

2. Men estranged from God are not the only ones threatened by the insatiable desires of the impulses (Tis. 3:3). The Christian also remains exposed to this power. Even prayer can be misused as a means to satisfy these passions. Jas. 4:3 shows how vain prayer is under these circumstances. Where unrestricted impulses have their way and hedone rules the life, man’s relationship to God is inevitably threatened, inner – peace is destroyed, and good relationships with one’s fellow-man are poisoned. If a man gives way to his desires, he is entangled in perpetual dissatisfaction and finds himself in a chaotic condition (Jas. 4:1). The NT lists of vices picture clearly and in detail the characteristics and results of hedone. They range from unrestrained sexuality through all the symptoms of lack of self-discipline to a self-centered indifference to one’s fellow-man.

3. The dangers which unchecked impulses have for faith are seen most clearly in the interpretation of the parable of the sower. The word is used only in Lk. 8:14, hedonai tou biou “pleasures of life” (cf. the par. In Mk. 4:19 and Matt 13:22). Where hedone reasserts its mastery, faith dies, choked among the thorns.

4. This process is seen most clearly in false teachers. They entangle themselves in false teaching, lead others astray into it, and become victims of a moral self-destruction. This is described in vivid detail in 2 Tim. 3:1-5 as one of the ways in which “the last days” can be recognized. Here Paul uses the Hel. Forms philedonai, lovers of pleasure, and in contrst philotheoi, lovers of God (both NT hapax legomena, but used already by Philo).

5. Both in epithumia and hedone the sinister power of the instincts is expressed. It is insatiable and directed against God. It lives in man, threatens his ethical standards and enalsves him. The NT warns the Christian not to be driven by them – even if the hedonai are expressly mentioned only in Tit. 3:3 – and not to neglect watchfulness. Hedone as the drive to self-expression can be conquered only by the power of God. We must beware of confounding hedone with the desire for true – joy (chara) which is never rejected by the NT. Joy is satisfied rather by communion with God, often even in the midst of suffering and persecution. If G. Stahlin (TDNT II 926) is correct in seeing the contrast to 2 Pet. 2:13, “They count it pleasure (hedonen) to revel in the daytime”, in Jas. 1:2, “Count it all joy (charan)…when you meet various trials”, then it is clear how paradoxically the Christian’s longing for joy finds its fulfilment and goal. [Bold, italics mine]

I would ask the reader to look at, once again, the crucial thought supplied in the above article:

All are in later books and all have a bad connotation…We must beware of confounding hedone with the desire for true – joy (chara) which is never rejected by the NT. Joy is satisfied rather by communion with God, often even in the midst of suffering and persecution.

The summary found in TNIDNTT, from beginning to end, reminds us that the biblical writers understood the sinful notion of this word. The fact that it was employed, exclusively, to convey the idea of selfish, sinful desire is self-explanatory. Thus, as a biblical term it should be used in a biblical way. However, we see an abundance of people in the modern day employing scriptural terms in unscriptural ways; or using sensual terms in order to convey biblical concepts. During the radio program, mention was made of Mark Driscoll and Ann Voskamp in this vein, but there are many, many more examples that we could expose. In the end, all of this runs contrary to the sound counsel which John Piper confidently resisted in his appendix to Desiring God:

“I am aware that calling this philosophy of life ‘Christian Hedonism’ runs the risk of ignoring Bishop Ryle’s counsel against ‘the use of uncouth and new-fangled terms and phrases in teaching sanctification.’ Nevertheless I stand by the term…”[22]

I believe that Mr. Piper could have benefited further from Bishop Ryle’s mature counsel. Because of this, I will supply a more complete portion of Ryle’s counsel so that the reader can see the very counsel that Mr. Piper admittedly set aside:

"Finally, I must deprecate, and I do it in love, the use of uncouth and new-fangled terms and phrases in teaching sanctification. I plead that a movement in favor of holiness cannot be advanced by new-coined phraseology, or by disproportioned and one-sided statements--or by overstraining and isolating particular texts--or by exalting one truth at the expense of another--or by allegorizing and accommodating texts, and squeezing out of them meanings which the Holy Spirit never put in them--or by speaking contemptuously and bitterly of those who do not entirely see things with our eyes, and do not work exactly in our ways. These things do not make for peace: they rather repel many and keep them at a distance. The cause of true sanctification is not helped, but hindered, by such weapons as these. A movement in aid of holiness which produces strife and dispute among God's children is somewhat suspicious. For Christ's sake, and in the name of truth and charity, let us endeavor to follow after peace as well as holiness. 'What God has joined together let not man put asunder.' It is my heart's desire, and prayer to God daily, that personal holiness may increase greatly among professing Christians in England. But I trust that all who endeavor to promote it will adhere closely to the proportion of Scripture, will carefully distinguish things that differ, and will separate 'the precious from the vile.' (Jeremiah 15:19.)"[23]

"There is an Athenian[24] love of novelty abroad, and a morbid distaste for anything old and regular, and in the beaten path of our forefathers. Thousands will crowd to hear a new voice and a new doctrine, without considering for a moment whether what they hear is true.--There is an incessant craving after any teaching which is sensational, and exciting, and rousing to the feelings.--There is an unhealthy appetite for a sort of spasmodic and hysterical Christianity. The religious life of many is little better then spiritual dram-drinking, and the 'meek and quiet spirit; which St. Peter commends is clean forgotten (1 Peter 3:4.). Crowds, and crying, and hot rooms, and high-flown singing, and an incessant rousing of the emotions, are the only things which many care for.--Inability to distinguish differences in doctrine is spreading far and wide, and so long as the preacher is 'clever' and 'earnest,' hundreds seem to think it must be all right, and call you dreadfully 'narrow and uncharitable' if you hint that he is unsound!"[25]

It is both striking and ironic that the atheist Ayn Rand had a better understanding of the meaning of hedonism than many today. By confessing to be a hedonist, Rand expressed an innate knowledge of that universal philosophy common to all the descendants of Adam: that the chief end of man is his own selfish pleasure. Selfish, autonomous delight is a universal religion practiced by all unbelievers, and this stands as the antithesis to Christianity:

“they will be…lovers of pleasure [philedonai] rather than lovers of God [philotheoi]…”

Once again, it is no compliment to the advocates of Christian Hedonism that an atheist like Ayn Rand has a better grasp of hedonism than they. All men are pleasure seekers, but no descendent of Adam can love God until God first extends His love to us:

1 John 4:19 “We love, because He first loved us.”

Such a miracle of salvation places a heart of flesh within the believer so that God’s formerly unknown love would be known and experienced by His children:

1 John 4:16: “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

And as those who now love God, our every affection flows from the very love that He first gave to us. It is in this union – this relationship of love with God – that we find the fullness and beauty of all genuine Christian affections. All of this is a precious miracle, and it has absolutely nothing to do with hedonism. Because of this, I was filled with absolute incredulity when John Piper went so far as to make this statement earlier this year:

"…here's what attracted me and how I think she [Ayn Rand] points to truth and to Jesus ultimately: she esteemed reason, individualism, and hedonism - and so do I..."[26]

In view of what has been written thus far in this column, the above statement by Mr. Piper is stunning, reckless, and disturbing. Piper’s comments spread a troubling message to his vast audience. By suggesting that Ayn Rand “points to truth and to Jesus” through her esteem of “reason, individualism, and hedonism,” Mr. Piper has dispatched a message that confuses the Gospel itself, for hedonism does not point to God – it points away from Him. Simply put, Ayn Rand didn’t point to Jesus, instead her life exuded a genuine enmity against God through her public blasphemies of His name and proud declarations of autonomy. However, according to Piper, Rand’s hedonism brought her close (but not quite) to the mark of God:

“…This was her biggest problem…she thought that the highest virtue was happiness through reason…and I want to say “yes”… through the right use of reason to know what’s really there. And then she made one massive flaw that totally created many other flaws, that is, she totally rejected the existence of God and that made her blind to what true happiness is and what virtue truly is…she was almost landing on the moon with her rationalism; almost landing on the moon with her individualism; almost landing on the moon with her hedonism and she missed it, because she had no God in her system…”[27]

Contrary to Piper’s assumptions, Rand’s rationalism, individualism, and hedonism reveals a trajectory of complete opposition to God, rather than “almost” hitting the mark. Her lost condition and thinking should remind us of the true value of human wisdom and reason:

1 Corinthians 1:18–25: 18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Ayn Rand, like any other sinner, will never be drawn to God by human wisdom. Those who try to salvage points of praise from the trash heap of human wisdom are engaging in a procedure that is in opposition to the Apostolic example:

2 Corinthians 10:3–5: 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations [logismous] and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…

Paul’s use of the word logismous (speculations/reasoning) is important. By it, Paul reminds us of our relationship with the world’s wisdom and reasoning: we are at war with worldly reasoning and wisdom, and we battle against such things with the true knowledge of God. However, those who employ human reasoning and wisdom are working against God’s campaign of truth, while siding with this fleshly world and its supposed wisdom. Concerning Ayn Rand’s rationalism, it was thoroughly irrational because it was raised up against the knowledge of God. As well, her “individualism” was nothing but pure rebellion:

“I will not run anyone’s life—nor let anyone run mine. I will not rule nor be ruled. I will not be a master nor a slave. I will not sacrifice myself to anyone—nor sacrifice anyone to myself.” [The Ayn Rand Column]

A better expression for Rand’s “individualism” would be moral autonomy (auto + nomos: a law unto herself). Clearly, she would not bend her will to the great Lawgiver. And, as already noted, her hedonism was an honest expression of eros and hedone, as is common among all men until they are redeemed by God Who is love (as already cited):

"Love and friendship are profoundly personal, selfish values: love is an expression and assertion of self-esteem, a response to one's own values in the person of another. One gains a profoundly personal, selfish joy from the mere existence of the person one loves. It is one's own personal, selfish happiness that one seeks, earns and derives from love." [The Virtue of Selfishness]

To be blunt, the reader should receive the apostolic message, while rejecting the thoughts of those who wish to suggest that the godless “point to truth and to Jesus” through their reasoning and wisdom. When it comes to the merits of mere religion or human philosophy, Paul had a remarkably clear assessment of matters: “…in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” Paul, does not say that the wise of this world come close to truth through their reason, individualism, and hedonism, instead he argues that they miss the mark entirely and continue to do so until their world is invaded with the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).

In all of this, the transitive influences of C.S. Lewis and John Piper continue in the present day. It continues to spread like wildfire, and the church must be ready to address these important matters for the sake of Christ’s glory and our Gospel witness within this fallen world. Thus, this subject: Lewis’ & Piper’s Transitive Influences on Evangelicalism, will be addressed in the next column.


[1] Throughout this series of columns, the expression Christian Hedonism will be in italics in order to distinguish it as a manmade philosophy, distinct from any explicit or implicit teaching of Scripture.

[2] Lewis, C.S. (2002-11-04). Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (pp. 90-91). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

[3] John Piper, Desiring God, p. 298.

[4] Jonathan Edwards, A treatise concerning religious affections: (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

[5] Boston, An illustration of the doctrines of the Christian religion, p. 401.

[6] Thomas Boston An illustration of the doctrines of the Christian religion with Respect to Faith and Practice upon the plan of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism: In Three Volumes (Printed by John Reid), p. 277.

[7] For some specific uses of yada, see Psalm 46:10, and 100:3. Also, in Psalm 37 David speaks of “God,” not generically, but personally through his use of God’s personal memorial-name [Lord ~ yahweh]. David’s frequent use of God’s personal name reveals his personal/relational knowledge of the one true God who intimately loves His chosen people as His children.

[8] Psalm 37:3, 5.

[9] Psalm 37:4.

[10] Psalm 37:5.

[11] Psalm 37:7.

[12] Deuteronomy 10:12. “Filial affections are due to a father; love, reverence, delight in him, and fear to offend him, Romans viii. 15.” Thomas Boston An illustration of the doctrines of the Christian religion with Respect to Faith and Practice upon the plan of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism: In Three Volumes (Printed by John Reid), p. 277.

[13] Psalm 16:11.

[14] Boston, An illustration of the doctrines of the Christian religion, p. 401.

[15] Matthew 22:40.

[16] In the comments thread, Chad Ashby tries to clarify his article as follows: “…as people made in the image of God, even in our depravity, we express desires that echo God’s original design for us as humans. Mrs. Osteen may not even know the first question of the WSC, but her statement echoes something about the chief end of man whether she knows it or not. That was the point I sloppily tried to explain in the final portion if the article.

[17] John Piper, The Ethics of Ayn Rand: Appreciation and Critique, June 1 1979 (Revised, October 9, 2007).

[18] Deut. 6:4-5

[19] Deut. 7:7-8

[20] Eros, who according to Hesiod was a primordial deity believed to be one of the three key sources of the family tree of Greek gods.

[21] Trench, R. C. (2003). Synonyms of the New Testament. (9th ed., improved.) (43). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[22] Piper, Desiring God, p. 287.

[23] J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, & Roots, (Charles Nolan Publishers, Moscow Idaho, 2001), p. XXIX.

[24] Ryle's mention of Athenian love of novelty refers to what is described in Acts 17 - a subject that will be addressed in greater detail in chapter 1 of this book.

[25] Ryle, Holiness, p. XXIX.

[26] March 6, 2014, Ayn Rand’s Tragic Trajectory (Episode 292) https://twitter.com/JohnPiper/status/441732767915601920

[27] Ayn Rand’s Tragic Trajectory (Episode 292) https://twitter.com/JohnPiper/status/441732767915601920

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man

ATAULCOVERWEB

eBook and paperback - available at amazon.com. For more information about this book, go to: ataul.thearmoury.org. For more information about The Armoury Ministries, go to: www.thearmouryministries.org

2 Timothy 3:1,4: "In the last days...men will be...lovers of hedonism [φιλήδονοι]..."

For centuries, the world of professing Christendom has faced countless contests regarding the nature of God's justice and love, as well as the doctrines of Heaven and Hell. Rob Bell's book, Love Wins, is just another illustration of this reality. The entire protest revolving around Bell's book was fairly dramatic, however, it produced more smoke and heat than productive light. Despite the loud complaints leveled against the controversial author of Love Wins, what he unveiled in his book should have produced little surprise. There is a very important and untold story behind the whole Bell debate that must be passed on for the sake of future generations. The mystery and oddity of this conflict has revealed a systemic problem - one that is much greater than the premature protests surrounding Rob Bell. Altar to an Unknown Love addresses the untold story which stands behind the scenes of Bell's particular views of theology. What the reader may find surprising is that Bell's teachings are remarkably familiar, and have even been promoted, whether directly or indirectly, by some of Bell's loudest critics. All of this points to a great opportunity for the church in the present day. The conflict surrounding Rob Bell actually supplies an opportunity to rediscover our need to go back to the Scriptures themselves, rather than to the teachings and traditions of men. This is an opportunity for the church to rediscover the priority of Sola Scriptura, now, and for the generations to come.

Review by Iain Murray:


Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C. S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man Michael John Beasley (www.thearmouryminstries.org): Lightning Source, Milton Keynes, 2011, 146pp, £6.50/$10.49

The last year has seen major controversy in the United States over Rob Bell’s Love Wins, A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person who Ever Lived. Interest in that book is now passing, but before it does so, Michael Beasley believes there is a wider issue that ought to be addressed. Bell’s thinking, he notes, has been condemned by evangelicals who are, at the same time, professed admirers of authors from whom Bell has drawn, namely, George MacDonald and C. S. Lewis. Beasley challenges the consistency of this procedure, and if his book is taken seriously—as it deserves to be—it must promote more controversy, for MacDonald and Lewis are widely respected figures. Lewis is virtually an icon of American evangelicalism; on one occasion the readers of Christianity Today rated him as the most influential writer in their lives. But the only dependable foundation for Christian belief is missing in Lewis. He does not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, with the result that his conclusions are a conglomerate of Bible, imagination, and philosophy. Does the absence of that foundation matter when it comes to understanding the love of God—the subject with which Beasley’s book is primarily concerned? From Acts 17, the Athenians’ worship ‘To An Unknown God’, Beasley shows that the saving knowledge of God is only known by divine revelation. Lost man is as ignorant of that knowledge as were the Athenians. Yet, instead of starting with Scripture, Lewis believed that a consideration of love in man can help us to understand love in God. A major part of Altar to an Unknown Love is a refutation of this error. The love to be found in unregenerate man is self-love— love centering around the pursuit of pleasure, and identified by the Greeks (and by Lewis) as eros. But the love of God (never called eros in the NT) is altogether different, and is unknown until a person is born of God (1 John 4:7-10). ‘Those who do not know God cannot know his love’ (p. 52). ‘Without understanding the nature of his love . . . we are left with nothing but our own shifting sands of human affection’ (p. 39).

A reconstructed presentation of the love of God—to be found in all the authors Beasley is critiquing— produces teaching which carries no offence to the natural man. What is more offensive to the natural man than truth concerning the justice of God and his wrath against sin? But that offence is eliminated by the subjective, man-centered teaching here reviewed. The love of God is such, it is said, that it requires him to respect human freedom, and that freedom should control how we think of heaven and hell. ‘The damned’, wrote Lewis’ publisher of The Great Divorce (Macmillan Publishing, 1976), ‘are under no obligation to return to hell. They can stay on in heaven if they wish—if they are willing to forgo their most precious sins’ (p. 86). Or as Lewis said, ‘The doors of hell are locked on the inside’ (p. 89n). ‘We get what we want’, says Bell. ‘God is that loving. If we want isolation, despair, and the right to be our own god, God graciously grants us that option . . . God says yes, we can have what we want, because love wins’ (pp. 85, 122). So it is not justice but love that takes anyone to hell. The divine love, which is claimed to be subordinate to human freedom, leads to men being given what they want. Heaven and hell revolve around man, not God (p. 81).

This thinking does not simply take away the offence of biblical truth; ultimately it takes away the gospel itself. For if God’s determination to judge and punish sin is no part of his character, then a substitutionary atonement ceases to be a part of the Christian message. It is not accidental that none of the authors Beasley is examining believed that in the shedding of his blood Christ was bearing the penalty of sin. The author points out correctly that C. S. Lewis did not belong to evangelical circles in Britain in his lifetime. To our mind he proves the case that Lewis is now so widely acceptable in American evangelicalism because non-biblical ideas are not being recognized for what they are. Artistry in writing, effective story-telling, with a mixture of ‘disconnected scriptural references and thoughts’, are able to achieve wide success in a day when discrimination has given way to popular appeal. These are all characteristics of the writings of Bell, Lewis, and MacDonald. This is not to say that all they wrote is equally deserving of condemnation. Beasley’s strictures on Bell’s Love Wins are rightly the most severe (pp. 114-15). Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, now produced on film by Disney for the millions, is not in the same category, but when ‘more and more preachers are eager to cite Lewis in support of their theological positions’ the warning contained in this book is not unfounded. It raises issues of fundamental importance.

Michael Beasley, a science graduate of California State University, and of the Master’s Seminary, has served in pastoral ministry since 1994. We are impressed and thankful for the character of his writings. His valuable book, Indeed, has Paul Really Said? A Critique of N.T.Wright’s Teaching on Justification, has already been reviewed in these columns.

Iain H. Murray


For more information about this book, go to: ataul.thearmoury.org.
For more information about The Armoury Ministries, go to:
www.thearmouryministries.org

Rob Bell, Love Wins, and the book: Altar to an Unknown Love from The Armoury Ministries on Vimeo.

Relevant articles (re: Worldview Weekend Interview): Victoria Osteen & John Piper’s “Christian Hedonism”: What’s the Difference:
http://www.worldviewweekend.com/news/article/victoria-osteen-john-pipers-christian-hedonism-whats-difference

John Piper’s 1979 article on Ayn Rand (Revised in 2007): http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-ethics-of-ayn-rand