Why would any evangelical admire G. K. Chesterton?

In Marketing 101 one of the basic principles they teach you is the Theory of Social Proof.GKC This theory posits that people will adopt the beliefs or actions of a group of people they like or trust. This is otherwise referred to as the “me too” effect. Even if the beliefs or actions of the admired group are not the optimal choice, people want to identify with what they perceive to be the “in” crowd.

In evangelical circles we see this kind of thing all the time. C. S. Lewis is widely quoted by pastors even though he held many beliefs that were at odds with Biblical evangelicalism. See my critique of Lewis’ outrageously popular “Mere Christianity” here.

Another name that keeps popping up in evangelical circles is G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) who converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism in 1922. Chesterton was a Catholic writer and apologist and, as such, was obligated to believe and defend the following:

  • Salvation by sacramental grace and merit
  • Baptismal regeneration
  • Sacramental conference of grace, ex opere operato (sacraments being efficacious in and of themselves)
  • The mediation of priests, Mary, and saints
  • The changing of bread and wine into the literal body, soul, and divinity of Christ
  • Purgatory
  • Papal authority and infallibility
  • Church tradition equal to or superseding Scripture
  • Confession of sins to a priest

So why is Chesterton, whose beliefs were starkly opposed to Biblical evangelicalism, admired by many evangelicals? What’s that all about? Perhaps I might know at least part of the answer. Several months ago I heard a young evangelical pastor, just out of seminary, bemoan the fact that evangelicalism had very few high-brow intellectuals of the caliber of Chesterton. What? You mean there are no William F. Buckleys preaching the Gospel down in the Bible Belt? What’s to become of us?

Praise the Lord for the evangelical saints who uphold God’s Word and salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE rather than arrogant, worldly-minded “intellectuals.”

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” – 1 Corinthians 1:27

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness.” – 1 Corinthians 3:19

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:13

 

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“Risen”

 

“Risen,” a movie about the resurrection of Jesus from the eyes of the unbelieving Roman centurion who oversaw His crucifixion, is scheduled to open on February 19.

I’ll probably go see the movie but I’m a bit skeptical. Hollywood can always be counted on to change the Biblical account in some way – by adding to it, taking away from it, or distorting it. Believers who know God’s Word will inevitably be disappointed (and in some cases, repulsed) by Hollywood’s interpretation of it. The producers suggest the movie is an unofficial sequel to Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” (2004), which certainly had its positive points but also its negative points.

On the other hand, the Holy Spirit can certainly use a film like “Risen” to draw people to Jesus. Hey, the Lord used “The Omen” (1976) as one of the many things that eventually drew me to Him. Ha! I still remember my wife and I fumbling through her deceased Protestant father’s old Bible trying to find “666” in the Book of Revelation after watching that movie. After a combined twenty-four years of Catholic education, it was the first time either one of us had ever opened up a Bible. We had absolutely no idea where to find Revelation!

I pray for the unbelieving souls who are curious about Jesus and who go to the theater to watch “Risen.” When I saw the trailer for the first time, tears welled up in my eyes and a lump grew in my throat thinking about my wonderful Savior who paid the penalty for all of my sins but overcame sin and death and reached out to me with His gift of salvation and fellowship with God!!! If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, what are you waiting for?

 

The church of the 21st-century

My wife and I have a nice 20-minute drive to church on Sunday mornings, mostly onGG a straight stretch of road. Invariably, we pass many people jogging on the side of the road, all dressed in their sporty spandex. The route takes us past a couple of large gyms and the parking lots are always full. It’s great to try to stay in shape but it looks like the gym has become the new church in our increasingly secularized society. People don’t know the Lord so they have to fill the emptiness in their soul with something. Not having the Lord as the center of their lives, they put all of their faith and hope in themselves.

I’m currently reading “The Courage to Be Protestant” by David F. Wells and came across this very relevant snippet last night:

“Health clubs have increased as churches have declined in the West. It is not just a case of people being more health-conscious. It is the recognition that signs of aging betray us as becoming useless in a modernized world. That has to be avoided at all costs. And, perhaps more deeply, it is a case of people searching for a kind of secularized eternal life.” – page 164.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. – 1 Timothy 4:8

“Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” – John 4:35

Talking with Catholic friends and family about Jesus

Talking with Catholic Friends and FamilyTWC

By James G. McCarthy

Harvest House Publishers, 2005, 224 pages

In “The Gospel According to Rome” (1995), ex-Catholic and Evangelical Christian minister, James G. McCarthy, presented a thorough comparison of Roman Catholic theology with Scripture. Although I appreciate that book immensely, it might be too much information for those who desire only a summary view of how Biblical Christianity disagrees with Catholicism.

In “Talking with Catholic Friends and Family,” McCarthy gets down to to where the tire meets the road, examining how Catholics approach their church’s teachings and providing some examples on how to witness to them. For the vast majority of Catholics, their religion is just part of their familial and ethnic baggage. They generally have little knowledge of Catholic theology or the Bible and participate in the church’s sacramental rituals only out of habit and obligation, if at all.

McCarthy gives many examples of Catholics who did choose Christ and left Catholic legalism. This book provides practical information for Christians who desire to share the free gift of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ with Catholic family members and friends.

Used copies of Talking with Catholic Friends and Family are available at Amazon starting at $3.64. See here.

Christians and politics

The presidential candidates have been campaigning for quite some time and there’s plentyTrump of conjecture about which Republican the nation’s Evangelicals are going to support. Here’s my take on Christians and politics:

Beginning in the early 1970s, at the instigation of dominionist theologians like R. J. Rushdoony and Francis Schaeffer, pastors and para-church leaders began the campaign to “reclaim America for Christ.” They argued that America was a Christian nation but that it was sliding into secularism and it was up to Christians to return the country back to some kind of theonomy. Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority ended up leading the charge in the late 70s into the 80s. The pastor of the Baptist church I attended back in the 1980s used to preach thinly-veiled Republican politics from the pulpit all the time. The “reclaim America for Christ” campaign has definitely lost a lot of traction since the heady Reagan years but Republicans still cater to the religious/conservative Evangelical “voting bloc.”

But the Bible says only people can become Christians, not countries. The Bible says when we accept Christ as our Savior we become citizens of a new nation in Heaven (Philippians 3:19-21). We are just foreigners, pilgrims, and sojourners while here in this world (1 Peter 2:11). Yes, the Bible says we are to be good examples; obeying the laws (when they don’t oppose God’s laws), paying our taxes, and praying for governmental leaders so the Gospel will continue to go out (1 Timothy 2:1-3), but too often we Christians in America act like this is our home. We have set our eyes on this world instead of above and our roots go very deep. It oftentimes seems like the most nationalistic and patriotic of Americans are Christians. Can anyone imagine Paul or the other New Testament writers promoting national pride and patriotism? Oy! You won’t read ANYTHING resembling such a thing in the New Testament. The focus was always on Christ, NOT on the nation (or city or area) the early Christians happened to be living in.

Does God really care about the imaginary boundary line that separates the United States from Canada? Does God love Americans more than Mexicans? When we appear before the Lord do you think it will matter one iota what country we lived in? So why are we soooooo prideful when it comes to what country we happen to reside in? Our brothers and sisters in Christ are scattered all over the world. Do we have more in common with our unbelieving fellow Americans than with our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in other countries?

The church in America strayed from reaching the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ to engaging in politics and culture battles. If we Christians in America were half as enthusiastic about evangelism and discipling new Christians as we are about politics and the qualifications (or lack thereof) of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio we might actually make a difference in this place that’s not our home.

I realize a post like this one will rankle more than a few Christians. The line between being a responsible community member and being a nationalistic patriot isn’t always well-defined. This is an issue Christians have wrestled with for centuries. But remember to keep your eyes on your home above. You’re just a pilgrim here.

Postscript: Did I write, “responsible community member“? Ach! What a dummy I am at times. I should have written “responsible emissary to the community.” That’s more like it! Christians need to think more in terms of being emissaries and ambassadors of our Lord in Heaven rather than being deep-rooted, prideful, nationalistic patriots.

“Pope asks non-Catholic Christians for forgiveness”

My, my. Pope Francis is devoting an amazing amount of energy toward ecumenism lately.PoLu All of these conciliatory gestures no doubt irk Catholic fundamentalists but the church’s strategy since Vatican II has been to recover the “separated brethren” using “prudence.”

“When such actions are undertaken prudently and patiently by the Catholic faithful, with the attentive guidance of their bishops, they promote justice and truth, concord and collaboration, as well as the spirit of brotherly love and unity. This is the way that, when the obstacles to perfect ecclesiastical communion have been gradually overcome, all Christians will at last, in a common celebration of the Eucharist, be gathered into the one and only Church in that unity which Christ bestowed on His Church from the beginning. We believe that this unity subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time.”

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19641121_unitatis-redintegratio_en.html

I imagine most Evangelicals are either positive about these developments or aren’t paying attention.

* 500 years after Reformation, pope knocks on Lutherans’ door (previously released as “Pope asks non-Catholic Christians for forgiveness”), January 26, 2016

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/01/26/world/social-issues-world/pope-asks-non-catholic-christians-forgiveness-irks-call-common-prayer/#.VqdEkfkrKM9

* Francis is proving to be a very ecumenical pope, January 25, 2016

http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2016/01/25/francis-proving-to-be-a-very-ecumenical-pope/

* Lutherans receive Communion at Vatican after meeting with Pope, January 21, 2016

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/lutherans-receive-communion-at-vatican-after-meeting-with-pope-report

* Pope Francis: for Christians, baptism is stronger than differences, January 20, 2016

http://www.angelusnews.com/news/vatican/pope-francis-for-christians-baptism-is-stronger-than-differences-9884/#.Vqdwp-grK1s

More on the CSN/Byrds/Buffalo Springfield Jesus Connection

This is the last installment of my CSN/The Byrds/Buffalo Springfield series.Trouble-In-Paradise

Chris Hillman began his music career as a mandolin player for several California bluegrass bands in the early-1960s. Producer Jim Dickson tapped Hillman to play bass, an instrument he never played before, for the fledgling Byrds in 1964. Learning a new instrument and switching from bluegrass to folk-rock was quite a challenge for the nineteen-year-old. The group had tremendous success right out of the gate with their first single, Mr. Tambourine Man, scoring #1 on the U.S. charts. As some of the other original members left, Hillman’s role in the band expanded to include both singing and songwriting duties. He was even able to incorporate his beloved country music into the band’s song list.

As the Byrds began their descent from popularity, Hillman exited in 1968 and joined Gram Parsons to form The Flying Burrito Brothers, a pioneering country-rock group. From there, Hillman was asked to join Stephen Stills’ new venture, Manassas, in 1971 as second-in-command. One of the other members of the group was guitarist, Al Perkins. Most people haven’t heard of Perkins but he was one of the preeminent steel guitar and dobro players of the period. He was also a “Jesus freak,” one of the members of the loosely-knit Jesus Movement on the West Coast. Perkins witnessed frequently to Hillman and he eventually professed to have accepted Christ in 1972 but it wasn’t a genuine conversion by his own admission.

When Manassas ended in 1973, Hillman and Perkins joined Richie Furay, formerly of Buffalo Springfield and Poco, and Eagles-songwriter, J. D. Souther, in the CSN rip-off, The Souther, Hillman, Furay Band. Furay was not at all happy about having a Jesus freak in the group. But Perkins began witnessing to Furay and six months later, he accepted Christ. When the music press broke the story about Furay becoming a born-again Christian, I remember my reaction being something like, Oh, no! Another one of my favorite artists has become one of those “born-agains.”

Furay eventually dropped out of the rock and roll grind to become a Calvary Chapel pastor. Hillman says he genuinely accepted Christ in the early 80s and began attending an Evangelical church. But he was also newly married at the same time and gradually gravitated to his wife’s Greek Orthodox faith. So how does one genuinely accept Christ and then go back and put on the chains of legalism?

Richie Furay continues to pastor the Calvary Chapel in Broomfield, Colorado.
http://calvarybroomfield.org/about/pastor-richie

Richie’s autobiography (see here) was one of the things the Lord used to draw me back to Him a couple of years ago.

After Manassas, Al Perkins continued his career as a performer, producer, and sought-after session musician. And he’s continued witnessing for the Lord.
http://www.alperkinsmusic.com/my-testimony.php

Following Manassas, Chris Hillman eventually put together the Desert Rose Band (1987-1993), which charted eight Country Top Ten songs. At the age of 71, he now plays limited acoustic engagements with former Desert Rose bandmate, Herb Pedersen.
http://www.chrishillman.com/

Turn! Turn! Turn! Roger McGuinn and Jesus

In my previous post I referred to the less-than-auspicious track record of America’s self-RMproclaimed town criers, Crosby, Stills, and Nash. I mentioned the trio came from successful bands; Crosby from The Byrds, Stills from Buffalo Springfield, and Nash from The Hollies. As a huge fan of CSN, I began going back and listening to the music of The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. In this post I’d like to focus a little bit on The Byrds and another member of that band.

The Byrds came together in 1964 with Jim McGuinn on lead guitar and vocals, Gene Clark on vocals, David Crosby on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Hillman on bass, and Michael Clarke on drums. They were all folk musicians who saw the writing on the wall with the rising tide of Beatlemania and attempted to make the switch to rock and roll. Their resulting sound, with McGuinn’s trademark jingle-jangle twelve-string and Crosby’s high harmonies, was a unique blend of folk and rock; a synthesis of Bob Dylan and John Lennon.

The Byrds’ first two albums were wildly successful but the band’s popularity gradually waned as rock drifted toward a “heavier” sound. Over the years band members came and went and by 1968 McGuinn (pronounced mik-gwin) remained as the only founding member. But the Byrds continued to release albums and tour until 1973 when McGuinn disbanded the group to begin his solo career.

At the peak of The Byrd’s popularity, McGuinn, a former Catholic, began dabbling in Eastern religiosity and changed his first name from Jim to Roger in 1967 as part of his initiation. The Byrds’ recorded repertoire included a large number of songs with a spiritual dimension and no doubt reflected McGuinn’s spiritual search: Turn! Turn! Turn!, 5D, I Am A Pilgrim, The Christian Life, Oil in My Lamp, Jesus Is Just Alright, Glory Glory, and Farther Along.

Drugs were a staple of the rock and roll lifestyle and McGuinn was a regular dabbler. By 1977 heavy drug use had brought McGuinn to the lowest point in his life. Elvis Presley’s drug-induced death in August of that year was a wake up call. McGuinn thought, That could have easily been me. The Holy Spirit was working in McGuinn’s life and after talking with some Christian friends, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.

Being a huge Byrds fan at the time (and currently still) I thought McGuinn’s acceptance of Christ and becoming one of those “born-agains” was some very strange stuff. Little did I know the Holy Spirit was using McGuinn’s decision for Christ along with many other people and things to also prod me along. I accepted Jesus six years later.

McGuinn’s witness is still affecting my life. Twelve months ago I was reading a 2004 online article (see here) in which Roger described how he and his wife read a Psalm, a Proverb, and a chapter from the Old and New Testaments and prayed together every day. My wife and I had never done a daily devotion together. I suggested it to my wife and she gladly agreed and it’s been a huge blessing in our lives!

At the age of 73, Roger continues to tour and delight audiences. Nobody plays the twelve-string quite like him.

Coming up I have a few more CSN/Byrds/Buffalo Springfield-related testimonies to tell you about. Be blessed!

“Gotta make a love work out, before you get you’ve got to give” – from “Love Workout” by Graham Nash

If you’re a baby boomer you certainly remember Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and sometimesCSN Young). Having already paid their dues as members of other somewhat successful bands, the three came together in 1969 to form one of the first “supergroups.” The following year, with the release of their second album, they were the hottest band in the world. Their devoted fans hung on every lyric of every song. It was all about bringing down the establishment and ushering in a new era of peace and love; a hippie utopia!

But the troubadours of peace couldn’t even keep things amicable within their own band! The trio split up in 1970 at the very height of their popularity. They would reunite many times over the years only to dissolve again because of the inevitable ego clashes. So much for peace and love.

David Crosby committed quite a faux pas in 2014 when he criticized his former bandmate, Neil Young, for leaving his wife of 36 years for actress Daryl Hannah. “I’m always sad when I see love get tossed in the gutter,” Crosby stated.

Now I see that another of Crosby’s bandmates, Graham Nash, has just recently filed for divorce from his wife of 38 years and the mother of his three children. Nash, age 73, has taken up with an actress/photographer who appears to be about half his age. Where’s the love in that? What 73-year-old would do such a thing? Plenty if they had the chance.

No, this blog isn’t turning into a gossip rag. You see, I was one of those young fans who admired C, S, and N so much. I really looked up to those guys. Back in 1970, as a thirteen-year-old, I thought they knew the “truth” about the world. They blew the trumpet for peace and love and pointed the finger at the “military-industrial complex” but they couldn’t even manifest peace and love in their own personal and professional relationships. Not to pick on Crosby, Stills, and Nash but those self-righteous pontificators are just like everyone else, feeding their own desires and groping in the dark.

Which brings us to the moral of the story. The ONLY Rock is Jesus Christ. EVERYTHING else is just sinking sand.

“For who is God, besides the Lord? And who is a rock, besides our God?” – 2 Samuel 22:32

 

 

 

Catholic bishops say it’s OK to stay home on Sunday because of storm

Winter storm, “Jonas,” is currently POUNDING the East Coast but its path did not bring itwsj here to Western New York. Our area (Buffalo-Rochester-Syracuse) usually leads the nation in snow accumulation every winter, not that I’m bragging by any means.

In response to the very dangerous weather in the mid-Atlantic states, Catholic bishops have declared that church members in the area are excused from attending mass tomorrow if conditions are too hazardous.

Catholics are obligated to attend mass every Sunday and every designated holy day of obligation. If they fail to attend a single mass without a valid excuse they incur a “mortal” sin, which will purportedly damn them to hell if they don’t confess it to a priest. This is evidently not a problem for most Catholics because, according to church sources, only 24% attend mass every Sunday anyway.

The Catholic church teaches we are all born with original sin. They say baptism washes away original sin from the soul and then it’s up to the person to continue to keep the soul clean by participating in the church’s sacraments and by avoiding “mortal” sin in order to merit Heaven.

But the Bible teaches we are all born with a sin nature. We sin quite regularly in thought, word, deed, and by omission. We just can’t avoid sinning, no matter how hard we claim we try. But Jesus Christ, God the Son, the perfect Lamb of God, came to this Earth and paid the penalty for our sins. He rose from the grave, conquering sin and death, and offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all who accept Him as their Savior.

We will all stand before a Holy God someday. Will you stand before Him with your own imperfect, unworthy efforts or will you stand before Him with the imputed, perfect righteousness of the Savior, Jesus Christ?

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior today. Storms, accidents, sudden illness; none of us know what a day may bring forth.

“For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” – 2 Corinthians 6:2

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Catholics excused from Sunday mass during winter storm

1/22/16

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/weather/weather-blog/bs-md-sunday-church-20160122-story.html