Monday, January 07, 2008


It’s time for another rhapsody of issues and thoughts after the pattern I established last month. For this entry I offer you this father teaching his sons how to communicate through musical improvisation.

My church is deeply involved in bringing the gospel to Muslims. That’s why a story like this one where a Muslim father purportedly killed his daughters for their honor hits close to home with respect to my church’s calling. It is all too clear to devout Christians and Muslims the stark differences between the doctrines we each hold as true. But to the secularists in the media, these differences are often not so clear. That’s why I think this could be used by the media to influence public opinion against all religion in general. They haven’t been keen on criticizing Muslims, however. They may play a double standard, generalize the issue and criticize conservative Christians (they’ll call us “fundamentalists”) instead without implicating Islam in general.

Spiritual discernment is needed to wade through the potential ramifications. Someone who has exhibited great spiritual discernment is our Venezuelan missionary, Ised Portillo. Last year we tried to get her to the United States and she was denied a visa. She was not discouraged, and it was almost as though she expected to be denied. Such as it is, we made an attempt again this year to bring her to the United States for a visit. She has been certain that she will be awarded a visa. This morning, she went to the US embassy in Caracas and was indeed awarded her visa.

Her spiritual discernment has been evident in her work with the church in Cabimas. She has gone door-to-door building relationships and sharing the gospel in mission areas and has had dramatic effects such that there is a new mission area that within a year is ready to form a new church. When she comes, we plan for her to work with our minister of evangelism to make new inroads among people here in Statesville who do not know the gospel.

Interestingly, Ised doesn’t have any formal training in theology, church planting or evangelism. Her heart is for serving the Lord and has studied the Bible diligently looking for places to minister in the name of Christ. When she came in contact with English-speaking Americans coming to Venezuela, she endeavored to earn English and a year later was serving as translator.

Someone else who doesn’t have credentials is blogger Tim Challies. He’s recently written a book about spiritual discernment. His lack of credentials has been hotly debated on Justin Taylor’s blog. I haven’t read his book. It may be good or it may be full of theological error. Timmy Brister endorses this book and I certainly respect Timmy’s opinion.

This was the comment I offered in the fray:

There's a lot of stuff here. My observation:

Peter and the sons of Zebedee were common fishermen. Luke was a Physician... and a one-time slave. John the Baptist was a kook who baptized people who were already Jews (although his father was a priest)! Matthew was a publican. David was a sheep herder. Noah was a wine maker who was chosen to build a big boat and turn it into a zoo. Daniel was the chief astrologer in Persia. Moses left behind Pharaoh's schools to tend goats - and he couldn't even talk straight. Abraham took his inheritance from his father early (count the years of his father's life) and tried to kill his son of promise. Haggai married a prostitute.

Jesus was a mere carpenter.

On the other hand, Paul was a Pharisee of high theological training.

What credentials does Paul say are necessary to have spiritual discernment enough to teach about spiritual discernment?

Credentials are certainly helpful, but they don’t guarantee that one will have good spiritual discernment or the willingness to assent to the truth against our baser desires. Answers in Genesis ran a recent article responding to a question about a lack of scientists once believing that the earth is very old who have become scientists believing that the earth is very young after reviewing the evidence. AiG responded with the personal testimony of Dr. Tommy Mitchell, who changed his mind after reviewing the evidence, and a short list of scientists who have accepted the Biblical account of creation. (I personally know scientists that could be on the list, but aren’t.)

Taking the same evidence and either assenting to the truth or so distorting presuppositions ideologically so as to intentionally arrive at a false conclusion is a matter of spiritual discernment. Having debated origins as well as other matters of truth, I’m well aware that merely proving the truth does not equate to eliciting an assent to the truth. I have destroyed opponents’ arguments hands down sending them away with their presuppositions tucked between their legs yet without denying their flawed presuppositions and taking up the truth.

They lack spiritual discernment. It can be argued that the truth was shown them, but they did not believe it because they do not belong to the One who created the truth. I don’t have a problem with that except that I don’t know that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t use a reasoning that better involves their desire to deny the truth to convict them of their delusions. Perhaps in this case, the Holy Spirit would use a discourse that pointed to the problem of sin in the mind of the unbeliever in order to awaken in them an assent to the truth that the Holy Spirit would use to generate living faith.

This, combined with a disheartening for high-order argumentation, has led me to pursue a more devotional style of writing over the last year and a half. Oh, I still offer dry philosophy and analytical theology on occasion, but I strive to learn those things that will be used by the Holy Spirit to manifest the grafting of new brothers and sisters onto the Vine of Messianic faith.

Apparently Timmy Brister, who I’ve already mentioned, is vying for this very thing. Keep an eye on Timmy as he starts to work his devotional chops. If he learns to write devotionally like he writes theologically, we’re in for some good stuff.

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Anonymous Alex Asizzy said...

let me help you in your discussion with the "credentialists"

do NOT try to equate the apostles, who walked and lived with the physical Jesus, or any biblical figure who communed directly with God, to a blogger

bloggers read books and live behind the safety net of a computer screen

the men you mention were literal company to the living God

that slant will never help you in this case

that should have been obvious to you prior to your post

Mon Jan 07, 03:39:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Jim Pemberton said...

27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe."

28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"

29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Alex, unless you deny the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, after your comment you must be prepared to make a judgment on whether such as Tim Challies is a Christian. I'm not qualified to make a judgment on Tim Challies' eternal condition except the evidence of his actions.

His book is about spiritual discernment. It would seem obvious to me that his words in the book should stand or fall on the truth found in the Bible. The Bible gives nothing besides Godly wisdom given by the Holy Spirit as a qualification such that prophets, inasmuch as they forth-tell the truth, are judged according to the revelation in the scriptures in the context of the fellowship of believers: the Body of Christ. Those are Biblical credentials.

Granted, our system of accredited education is rather helpful, but like all human institutions it is flawed and doesn't cover every case. To place your faith in a human system rather than God's revelation is unwise. Get an education for such is beneficial, but recognize that the education should not replace sanctification. Recognize also that there will be those without formal education whose God-given wisdom will confound those whose faith lies in their formal education. Given the Biblical narrative, God does that not infrequently.

Mon Jan 07, 11:22:00 PM GMT-5  

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