Monday, March 31, 2008

Opening Day!

The first day of baseball (not counting the goofy games in Japan and the game last night)

Getting off to a good start, the Indians won and are 1-0 and the Tigers lost and are 0-1. I am getting some ugly looks since I am in Detroit and wearing my Indians hat, but my boys are the defending champs until someone knocks 'em off!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hammer and Nail: The #1 Blessing of Homeschooling

Hammer and Nail: The #1 Blessing of Homeschooling

A great, succinct post by Eric at Hammer and Nail. The greatest blessing to our children in educating them at home is providing their educating from an entirely Christian perspective. They still need to learn math, history, science but they must also do so in reverence for the One who made history, who created the creation that we study in science, who gave us the minds to write wonderful literature. We CANNOT separate Christ and education into two separate and often opposing camps. To do so is not being salt and light, it is doing a disservice to our children and being disrespectful of our God. It is time to stop pretending that sending our kids to secualr schools is being evangelistic, and start realizing that for the Christian parent evangelism starts at home.

Most unnecessary headline of the year award

"Clinton Struggling With Her Likability Problem"

From Congressional Quarterly:

If the story of last week's polls was how tough a month March had been for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, a headline in many of this week's polls is that New York Sen. Hillary Rodman Clinton suffers from a pronounced, if not entirely new, problem - she rubs a lot of people the wrong way.
Here's a collection of findings on this score from a range of polls:

- Obama bests Clinton among Democratic voters by margins of 15 percent to 20 percent on the traits of being "down to earth," "inspiring" and "honest," according to Pew. More Democrats think Clinton is "phony" and "hard to like" than they do about Obama.

Wow, they paid someone to research and write that. Hillary is not very likable? Who knew! Next up from CQ: Skunk spray smells bad. As a Republican, I would like nothing more than for Hillary to be the Democratic nominee. Obama is probably more liberal, but he is so darn inspirational and the media loves him. The normal leftist media bias would be in high gear getting him elected, and most Americans are too ignorant to bother finding out what he stands for or what he would do as President. All they care about is that he gives an uplifiting speech and seems nice. Who wants some crotchety old guy, albeit one with decades of service including military service, who talks about specific stuff when you can get some who makes you feel good about yourself. Obama is the Joel Osteen of politics and that is what scares me. Far better to have Hillary who nobody much likes, and McCain would beat pretty handily. At least it would be a substantive race between those two. Make Obama the nominee and this whole thing becomes as deep as a high school class President election.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Does the Resurrection matter?

That is the question tackled by Albert Mohler, both on the Newsweek On Faith dialogue and also on his radio show. It seems like a simple question, but unfortunately we live in a world full of liberalism, cults and other false teachers. Dr. Mohler does a great job in defending the importance of the Resurrection and rebuking those who discount it.

Speaking of cults, when asked the same question, Michael Otterson (a spokesman for the mormon church) ended his answer with the following quote:

To take the resurrection out of Christianity is to gut the Christian faith of much of its hope and promise.

As Dr. Mohler pointed out, that is quite an understatement. If Christ is not risen, then we are fools for following Him and we are still lost in our sins. His comment is a subtle, but valuable, look at the mindset of mormonism which devalues the cross of Christ.

1 Cor 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

1 Cor 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

1 Cor 15:19 If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
This is just fun

Give this a try.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Three Weeks to Together for the Gospel!

Three weeks to go and counting (check out a clever countdown on the Deliver Detroit blog, ticking down seconds until Together for the Gospel 2008 kicks off!) They have posted short snippets from the 2006 conference. Check out this one from Al Mohler, who "gets it" when it comes to the proper Christian response to the culture better than anyone (I hope his new book is one of the "free" ones we get at the conference!)

Saturday, March 22, 2008


It's about both life and death

Great sermon from C.J. Mahaney at the 2008 Ligonier conference. He preaches on just one verse, 1 Corinthians 15:17, and one verse is all he needed:

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

That's the big if, if He is not risen, then all of this is in vain for those who really believe. If the story of the Resurrection is merely a social issue, Easter is a time to go to church and make a show, who cares if He is risen, or still dead or never lived at all. But for those of us who put out faith for the forgiveness of our sins in Him, it means EVERYTHING. A Christ who is not risen means a Gospel that is not true, and a Gospel that is not true cannot save anyone.

How many people will get sermons like C.J.'s tomorrow morning? How many people will get sermons tomorrow morning, sweet as a jelly bean and as nutritious as a Peep? Big crowds don't mean it is time for a watered down, palatable message. Big crowds are a big opportunity, to declare the life, death and resurrection of Christ, to tell people the bad news of our sins but also the Good News of Christ. No one, Christian or not, should walk out of church on Sunday morning unchanged from the way that they walked in.

It is, as Brother C.J. said, not about avoidance of death but about victory over death. When we sing Victory of Jesus, it means that we realize that He was dead, as dead as any man has ever been, but He rose again and in that we share in His victory.

He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. (Matthew 28:6)

Hell hath no fury... a cultist being mocked!

I guess cult leaders Victor Hafichuk and Paul Cohen don't like being mocked and having their false teachings called out. After a couple of posts on Lee Shelton's website, they suddenly came back with a lengthy diatribe condemning Lee, me, Spurgeon, Augustine among others with being false teachers (Uh, Mr. Kettle, there is a Mr. Pot on the phone, something about you being black...) If I am listed in the same category as a giant of the faith like Charles Spurgeon, I must be doing something right.

On a more serious note, some of cult leader Hafichuk's followers post their testimonies. This one, from Ingrid Benson, is heart-rending and shows starkly the fruits of following a cult leader.

Her children lost, her husband dead, her parents estranged from her, all the result of failing to be properly obedient to Victor. One of the hallmarks of cults is to seperate people from friends and family to better control them, and this "testimony" follows that exact pattern. Coming out of a cult like mormonism myself, the similarities between Hafichuk and Joseph Smith are eerie. I thought that men like this could not be successful in the world anymore, but that has been proven wrong. Pray for these men, and especially for their deceived followers, that they may come to know Christ and be freed from the shackles of this cult.

Someone call Hal Lindsey!

A sure sign of the impending rapture!

Look who has joined the blogging world. Yes indeed, intellect extraordinaire R.C. Sproul. Sproul having a blog is like Margaret Thatcher mud wrestling, but the articles are rock solid teaching from Dr. Sproul and others. Worthwhile reading to be sure!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Is it possible to miss the point more than this guy?

What in the world is possessing people to do this?

Philippine devotees nailed to cross

SAN FERNANDO, Philippines (AP) -- Philippine devotees re-enacted Jesus Christ's suffering Friday by having themselves nailed to crosses in rites frowned upon by church leaders in Asia's largest predominantly Roman Catholic nation.
Fernando Mamangon, 37, was among the first of some 30 men scheduled to go through the Good Friday rites in three villages in northern Pampanga province's San Fernando city. Five other devotees, including a woman, were nailed to crosses in nearby Bulacan province.

It was Mamangon's 13th straight year for the rite, which penitents endure to fulfill a vow or pray for a cure for illnesses.

"I started having myself nailed to the cross in 1995 because my eldest son got sick and almost died," Mamangon, clad in a maroon robe with a crown of vines and thorns, said minutes before he was nailed to a wooden cross on a dusty mound in Santa Lucia village....

The yearly tradition has become a tourist attraction, especially in San Fernando's San Pedro Cutud village, which sometimes draws thousands of local and foreign tourists.

Aside from the cross nailings, scores of men pound their bleeding bare backs with bamboo sticks dangling from ropes in a flagellation rite meant to atone for sins.

Aniceto lamented that a surge of vendors and tourists has injected too much commercialism into Holy Week celebrations.

But Mamangon vowed to continue with the practice handed down by his late father, who was nailed to the cross 15 times.

"After being nailed to the cross, I feel so refreshed, like all my sins are washed away," Mamangon said. "I will continue this until my son Alex is cured."

How are the sins of Christians atoned for? By getting ourselves nailed to crosses? Maybe if people bothered to read their Bibles, they might come across these clues...

Romans 6:10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

Hebrews 7:27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

Hebrews 10:10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Let's think about that, we are sanctified through the offering of Christ's body once for all. Note that it doesn't say we should go and get ourselves crucified in order to feel our sins washed away. What these people are up to is not any form of Christianity, but is rather a pagan mysticism peppered with Christian terms. If we could sanctify ourselves by our own actions, our own righteousness, there would have been no need for Christ and His perfect obedience. Praise God that He sent His Son, to do for His elect what they are unwilling and unable to do for themselves.

Someone ought to hook these guys up with some Cadbury Eggs and Peeps, that is closer to the spirit of Easter than nailing oneself to a cross.

Heading for Hockeytown

(Otherwise known as Detroit)

Work is taking me to the Detroit metro area, so I need a new name for the blog. Perhaps "The voice of one crying out in suburbia"?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The dangerous world of junk email

You have to be careful checking into your bulk email folder. Nestled amongst spam for Irish lottery winners and cheap pharmaceuticals, I came across an even more odious email. The subject line of the email said it all....

The Fruit of Cain Multiplied: The Murderer John Calvin

WOW! So I read the text of the email, being a glutton for punishment...

The following paper will be of interest and pertinence to you for possibly several reasons among many. It has been our great honor to discern and identify the error and spirit of John Calvin, whose rule is yet propagated in the hearts of men with evil consequences for all. The Lord Jesus Christ has visited us with the Light of His countenance to put an end to this evil, justifying His servants whom Calvin murdered, and His Name in the sight of all.

The Fruit of Cain Multiplied: The Murderer John Calvin

Show me whom you follow, and I will know what manner of person you are or will become. If you do not know whom you are following, don't you think it is time to find out how and where you are being led? Do you think you will altogether escape the consequences because ignorant? Think again. You already suffer them.

John Calvin was one of the most vicious of wolves ever to pose as a lamb of God. His supremely self-righteous spirit lives on in those who lionize and follow him, even unbeknownst to themselves. Truly, "that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God."

Paul Cohen & Victor Hafichuk

Spurred on by some morbid fascination, I went to the webpage. Who knew that I had the blood of martyred saints throughout the ages on my hands! And who knew that heretic Michael Servetus is one of God's saints and servants, while John Calvin is not! The entire article really deals strictly with Calvin and Servetus. Mr. Cohen rather cavalierly claims the ability to refute Calvin's doctrines, but makes no real attempt to do so in his treatise (and given the juvenile quality of their writings, I doubt he could even articulate what Calvin taught much less refute it).

Aside from any discussion of doctrines, by this criterion alone John Calvin was a false prophet of the first order. How do we know? Because he condoned and excused, when not initiating it himself, the persecution and murder of those who opposed his doctrines and position. These are not the good fruits of a man of God.

We need not even prove the falsehood of Calvin’s doctrines to identify him as preeminent among the many false teachers professing Christ, though we can do that too. What the Lord gave us in this one simple directive is more than sufficient for judging this man by his fruits. One such as Calvin who kills others because they differ with his beliefs is a murderer.

Two issues jump out at me, one with whether complicity with the killing of Servetus makes Calvin a non-Christian and the other with whether or not the failings of Calvin the man negate the teachings of Calvin the theologian.

On the first. True, Servetus was a heretic and was killed and Calvin was in part at fault. It is also true that Servetus was a heretic who denied the Trinity. Calvin was right that Servetus held to a false philosophy but was wrong to have any part in his death. Does that mean that he is cut off from Christ? Are there any Christians who have committed sins, including murder? You better believe it. I seem to remember a fellow, a man after God's heart, who had a man killed so he could have his wife. Was David not a believer?

On the second, holding to Calvinism does NOT mean slavishly following Calvin in everything he taught or believed. I think that Calvin was completely wrong about infant baptism. Does that mean I am not a Calvinist? Hardly. We follow Christ and the teachings of the Bible, and Calvinism as a system is the system that best compiles and systematizes the various doctrines of the Bible into a coherent system. We follow Calvinism not because of Calvin, but because of Christ. Are there Christians who do not buy into Calvinism? Sure, and that doesn't mean that they aren't Christians.

Mr. Cohen and associates seem to paint with a pretty broad brush across the spectrum of Christianity in their list of false teachers, ranging from men like John Piper and Billy Graham to Rick Warren and Benny Hinn. Like so many groups, it seems that anyone who doesn't walk in lockstep with them falls into the false teacher category. I mean, John Piper is a false teacher? And the reason given that Piper is a false teacher in the subtly titled "Piping a Most Hideous Melody"? Because he teaches the doctrine of an eternal, real hell which is a radical idea held by...well every Christian for the last two thousand years.

I will now give you something specific to read there, after having had a chance to look over the site you sent me,

What did I find? A desert, a nuclear waste desert. I see the kind of death and destruction that only man can perform. I know this seems like hyperbole to you, exaggerating something you do not even believe to be true in the first place. You have found inspiration at John’s site, a little oasis perhaps. I do know, however, that truth can be found everywhere in men’s churches and religious works, and that it is the subtle and hidden error lacing the truth in those things that kills, as when Satan tempted Eve with lies couched in godly terms.

One of the biggest and worst lies ever told in man-made Christianity, one that John Piper subscribes to and teaches, is that there is a place of interminable torment and punishment for sinners. Men think to find this doctrine in the Bible, but while it is something the carnal man would wish on others, it is surely not something God has ever said or that ever entered into His mind. He made creation as an act of His love. He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son for it. We are His, bought and paid for by His blood. Would you make something in your own image, let us say conceive a son, knowing and purposing in advance that you would be consigning a sentient being, your very own flesh and blood, to torment that will never cease? What did Jesus say on the cross? “Father, burn them all in hell forever”? Or did He say, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do”? Do you think His prayer was heard and honored? Jesus said that the Father always hears Him because He does that which pleases the Father.

Mr. Cohen and company apparently subscribe into a doctrine of eventual universalism, that all men will eventually be saved, that hell in only temporary. That is one of their many un-Biblical beliefs that they list that comes dangerously close to cult territory (they even try to respond to the question of whether they are a cult, and their response does little to deflect that question)

The Good News is not that everyone gets into heaven without exception, but that in a world of men doomed by their own rebellion and sin Jesus Christ came to save some from eternal hell and give them eternal life. Universalism is any form does violence to the mercy and grace of Christ and His effectual sacrifice for His sheep.

The webpage of "The Path of Truth" is a disturbing look into the world of those who claim "secret" knowledge of the things of God, in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Bible. Everyone who holds to a view that doesn't jive with this "secret" knowledge is of necessity a heretic and false teacher. I pray that Mr. Cohen and Mr. Hafichuk and their followers come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, repent of their false condemnation of Christians and humbly submit to Jesus Christ as Lord.

Beware the emails in your spam file, they are probably there for a reason.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

More from Toledo

OK, after looking over my notes, I decided to do three general overviews of each position as presented by the speakers rather than nine postings on their individual talks. They covered too much stuff and a lot would get lost in the translation. I want to focus on the general points, merits and weaknesses of each position based on the information given by these particular speakers. I know that there is a lot more to each position than what we got in three 50 minute talks each, but I want to look at the merits of each based on the material given at the conference specifically. Then a final wrap-up, and some rest and recovery, and then start to look forward to Together for the Gospel!

Friday, March 14, 2008

The End of Times

(In Toledo!)

Just got back from the first sessions of the Toledo Reformed Theological Conference (and by just got back, I mean after a brief detour to BW-3 for some wings!) The topics were great, the speakers not so much. Dr. Gaffin is a incredibly gifted scholar, speaking for amillenialism, but his speaking skills like those of many highly academic people are somewhat lacking. Dr. Thomas Ice, defending premillenial dispensationalism, was not much better from a speaking standpoint but was way off base on his entire argument (I will post more later, but the only way his arguments hold any water is if you assume that the whole New Testament never was written or at least is irrelevant when exegeting the Old Testament). Dr. Kenneth Gentry, the final speaker and the postmillenial guy, was a breath of fresh air. Very convincing arguments, and very well presented. If I was picking a stance based on the quality of the talks, postmillenial would win hands down! But of course the real basis is the Bible, and what the Word says about eschagtology. I plan to blog more specifically on each speaker, and I am a bit bummed that I missed Steve Camp and Don Kistler speaking earlier today, but finding a job trumps hearing a sermon on this occasion.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The hostility towards homeschoolers

Dr. Mohler continues his analysis of the homeschooling decision in California that is still sending reverberations in the homeschool and national community. Dr. Mohler explores the root of the hostility in Overt Hostility toward Homeschoolers. I am glad that someone with the intellect, national recognition and sober mind of Dr. Mohler is on the side of and vocally supporting homeschoolers.

Here is a quote published by Dr. Mohler...

From their article:

There has always been something decidedly elitist and anti-democratic in home schooling. It smacks of a belief that privileged children should not have to associate with the other kids in the neighborhood and that by staying home, they would not be subjected to the leavening effect of democracy. Moreover, it is apparent from the cries of the far right that there has been a specific policy in home schooling -- to teach only the ideas acceptable to ideologues who fear the contaminating influence of what is commonly known as a liberal education.

Of course, it is the argument of these two retired professors that is truly elitist. They presume to know what is best for all the children of the state -- better than parents. Their hostility toward parents is evident in their argument that homeschool parents teach social studies by putting their kids in front of the television screen "watching Fox with its strange assortment of oddballs pontificating on current events."

Get that? The animus toward evangelical Christians is also transparent:

It's evident that the vast majority who teach their offspring in front of the television do so because they don't want their children to be subjected to such dangerous doctrines as evolution, abortion, global warming, equal rights and other ideas abhorrent to the evangelical mantra.

This means, of course, that these professors demand that all children be subjected to the "dangerous doctrines" they list -- including evolution and abortion.

I guess it shouldn't be surprising to see this sort of vitriol and disdain from pagans and unbelievers. What is shocking and sad is the hostility from some within the church for their brothers and sisters seeking to raise up godly children by educating them at home. That is where the discussion should focus, on the failure of the church to encourage and support Christian education.

I want to look more in-depth at the editorial quoted by Dr. Mohler and the NEA webpage, and comment more on the issue. This is one issue that cannot be shrugged at or ignored, but needs to be faced head-on.
What happens when emotion is pinned down by the Word of God

Many false belief systems rely on emotionalism to trump the plain teaching of the Word of God. It helps to avoid the serious questions when you can appeal to the sinner's emotion. Who wants dry, old, dusty teachings when I can feel good about myself? No false system encourages this more than mormonism. Watch the following video of Dr. James White cross-examining a mormon apologist. When forced to interact with the Biblical text, he is finally forced to admit that he doesn't know the answer, because (he doesn't say this) mormon beliefs have no standing when examined in light of the Word of God.

That is not to say that mormonism is the only system that does this. Any deviation from the Gospel is heresy, pure and simple. There is plenty of teaching going on the church that can fall under no other label other than heresy. The mission of the church is not merely a heresy hunt, sniffing out the slightest deviation in our ranks. In fact, as the Together for the Gospel statement makes clear we can have very strongly held beliefs and differing views on some matters of doctrine and still be united with one another in Christ. But whenever the Gospel is watered down, even slightly, whenever manmade doctrines slip in we need to be ready to give a defense, to show from the Scriptures where the error lies.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Updated list o' sins
(just in time for St. Patrick's Day!)

What does the church really need to focus on in these days? Why the sin of ecological insensitivity, natch!

The Roman Catholic church has come out with new, modern sins for Catholics to avoid. Just when you thought it was safe to not recycle that milk jug, now you have to go to confession for your littering. I wonder if all American Catholics will have to repent in the confessional for being citizens of the ecological evil empire?

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Thou shall not pollute the Earth. Thou shall beware genetic manipulation. Modern times bring with them modern sins. So the Vatican has told the faithful that they should be aware of "new" sins such as causing environmental blight.

The guidance came at the weekend when Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, the Vatican's number two man in the sometimes murky area of sins and penance, spoke of modern evils.

Asked what he believed were today's "new sins," he told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that the greatest danger zone for the modern soul was the largely uncharted world of bioethics.

"(Within bioethics) there are areas where we absolutely must denounce some violations of the fundamental rights of human nature through experiments and genetic manipulation whose outcome is difficult to predict and control," he said.

The Vatican opposes stem cell research that involves destruction of embryos and has warned against the prospect of human cloning.

Girotti, in an interview headlined "New Forms of Social Sin," also listed "ecological" offences as modern evils.

In recent months, Pope Benedict has made several strong appeals for the protection of the environment, saying issues such as climate change had become gravely important for the entire human race.

Under Benedict and his predecessor John Paul, the Vatican has become progressively "green."

This is not to make light of the need to be responsible stewards of the environment. But merely recycling and drinking environmentally friendly coffee is not enough to assure salvation. Rome has a fundamental misunderstanding of sin, and that has led to lists of does and don'ts that mislead people into a false sense of self-righteousness. Rome's big failing is the issue of authority, church over Scripture and priest between man and God in the spot rightfully held by Christ. Sin is not an individual act, but a state of being. No human priest has the right to tell one that their sins are absolved because of confession to a man.

The report also laments how rare it is for Catholics to go to confession these days...

Girotti, who is number two in the Vatican "Apostolic Penitentiary," which deals with matter of conscience, also listed drug trafficking and social and economic injustices as modern sins.

But Girotti also bemoaned that fewer and fewer Catholics go to confession at all.

He pointed to a study by Milan's Catholic University that showed that up to 60 percent of Catholic faithful in Italy stopped going to confession.

In the sacrament of Penance, Catholics confess their sins to a priest who absolves them in God's name.
But the same study by the Catholic University showed that 30 percent of Italian Catholics believed that there was no need for a priest to be God's intermediary and 20 percent felt uncomfortable talking about their sins to another person.

Is it any wonder that when the Roman church makes sin so incredibly confusing that people stop going to confession? Or maybe it is because individual Catholics no longer buy into the authority of the church? Or better yet, perhaps Catholics are reading their Bibles and realizing that the Roman priesthood caste is unbiblical and unnecessary for those who are in Christ? We can only hope.
Danger Zone

The danger of using Scripture to make a point that isn't in the text

It is a common fallacy, especially in a culture that is culturally Christian but gives little credence to the actual tenets of Christianity. Politicians do it all the time, especially in the most misrepresented event in the Bible, the Sermon on the Mount. Someone has a point to make, and they draw up from the Bible or religious traditions a rationale for that opinion or point. Perhaps they really believe it, or perhaps it is simple pandering. Most politicans fall into the latter category (see for example Barack Obama arguing that gay civil unions find their support in the Sermon on the Mount. All manner of ill and deviancy has been cast under the umbrella of "tolerance" exemplified in the Sermon on the Mount, even though that is hardly what Christ intended)

An article in National Review by Colleen Carroll Campbell, Faith of the Feminine, is a prime example of that . Now the article itself is an OK article, but about halfway through Ms. Campbell gets carried away and tosses this idea out there:

The Gospels continued on this trajectory. They depicted God taking flesh in the womb of a woman, a woman who was free to accept or reject her role as the mother of Jesus.

I stopped, read it again and my draw kind of dropped. Let me check the Biblical record here for the description of this event:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1: 26-38 ESV)

Doesn't sound much like Gabriel is asking Mary if she wouldn't mind being surrogate mother for the Son of God. Gabriel tells Mary she will be found with child, carrying a Son and she is to name Him Jesus. Mary doesn't negotiate here, she submits to what she has been told. There is no decision making here on her part. That is not to diminish what Mary did, but it is to point out that she is not "deciding" to be the mother of Jesus or not.

Ms. Campbell is trying to make a point, and it is a noble effort, to show that Christianity is far more woman honoring than secular society has ever been, and certainly more so than most other faith systems. But in doing so, she goes too far and makes her point using the Bible where the Bible does not speak. The Bible is not a word jumble, to be molded to suit our needs. Ms. Campbell is hardly alone here. My fellow Calvinists often can be rightly accused of trying to find a TULIP under every verse of Scripture (and I have been guilty of this as well). Social justice types force liberal political programs into he Biblical text concerning love and mercy. But the rule should always be to let the Bible speak for itself on matters it speaks on, and be silent on areas where it is silent. The Bible does not have a specific address on every possible topic, but it does address every necessary topic for a human to recognize their own sin and the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. And that is good enough.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Valley of Vision

My prayer life has always been poor at best. Reading the Word? Pretty dilligent. Studying theology? Love it! Working out apologetic arguments for various issues. A real passion. But prayer? That is where I have struggled mightily. I don't pray as often as I should and when I do it often seems to lack any real impact on me (I don't expect as some do that my prayers will change God, I just hope that they will change me)

So I bought a copy of The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers (in the nice leather bound edition) and have been incorporating that into our evening Scripture reading. The book is not intended to replace personal prayer with rote recitation of someone else's thoughts, but I do find that it helps me to focus on God centered prayer. It can be easy to get caught up in what I want ahead of what God desires, and that is the surest way to an unfulfilling prayer life. The Valley of Vision really serves as a springboard for prayers, and I have already found it to be a great tool in developing a better prayer life.

The opening prayer of the book really captures the humility and God-centered life of the Puritans...

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.

That is the spirit that is really missing from the church, the setting aside of self in order to glorify God, the recognition that when we try to lift ourselves up we invariably fail and only in glorifying God the most can we truly be content. When we are deepest in the valley, our view is the most clear.

The Puritans are much maligned in modernity, and unfortunately often by the church, but if more Christians assumed and emulated the attitude of the Puritans, a self-effacing, Scripture saturated, Christ focused, God honoring attitude, the church would have far greater impact on the world.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

One week to Toledo

A week away from the Toledo Reformed Theological Conference. Looks like I am going to miss the whole preconference because my company decided to shut down part of my banking center. So instead of listening to sermons on hell and heaven, I get to interview in downstate Michigan. Yeehaw! Then about a month to Together for the Gospel. Good times all around.

Oops, maybe he wasn't a heretic after all

Poor Martin Luther, excommunicated over four hundred years ago, has been branded a heretic by Rome and generally blamed by the Roman church for splintering Christianity. Now the news is coming out that Luther and the Roman Catholic church may be mending fences.

Is the Pope Catholic? Now he plans to rehabilitate 'heretic' Martin Luther

The Pope is planning to rehabilitate Martin Luther - whose actions instigated the Protestant Reformation – by arguing that he did not intend to split Christianity but only to purge the Church of corrupt practices.

Benedict XVI will issue his findings on the 16th-century German theologian after discussing him at the papal summer residence, Castelgandolfo, during his annual seminar of 40 fellow theologians, the Ratzinger Schülerkreis.

Luther was and condemned for heresy and excommunicated in 1521 by Pope Leo X, who had initially dismissed him as “a drunken German” and predicted he would “change his mind when sober”.

Vatican insiders say the 80-year-old Pope - himself born in Germany - will argue that his countryman was not a heretic after all.

James White from Alpha & Omega ministries put together a nice little clip on the subject. Kind of makes it hard to take papal infallibility seriously when one pope say Luther is a heretic, an enemy of the church and another says maybe not. Heretic is a loaded word, and excommunication is a big deal. It is pretty hard to take those back.

Friday, March 07, 2008

How's come Kalvinists kant not reed?

I must be a glutton for punishment. On the No Greater Joy ministries webpage, I came across a series of "expositions" on the book of Romans, by Mr. Michael Pearl. Just for fun (or abuse), I downloaded his sermon on Romans 9. Most Arminians/semi-Pelagians would just as soon skip over Romans 9 because they can't handle it, but Mr. Pearl decided to get after it and the results are to be expected. The word we are looking for is eisegesis, as Mr. Pearl puts on his semi-Pelagian reading spectacles and proceeds to run roughshod over the plain teaching of the text, teachings that are clear in context of both the surrounding text in the book of Romans, as well as the entire Biblical record. These teachings make clear the absolute sovereignty of God over the universe as a whole, and salvation of individuals in particular. But the sinner doesn't like to hear that they are not responsible, even in part, for their own salvation.

At about 25 minutes into this disjointed "sermon", Mr. Pearl muses: "I am beginning to wonder if a Calvinist can even read". Well, in response to that, I am a Calvinist and it is generally agreed by those who know me that I can indeed read. I have been doing so since I was a wee lad, and I even know a bunch of the big words. I suppose it is possible that great scholars and prolific writers like Edwards, Spurgeon, Owens, Hodge, Luther, Calvin, Sproul, Piper all were secretly illiterate and used ghost writers. Perhaps it is more likely that Pearl is merely being juvenile here in front of an audience that either doesn't know enough or is sufficiently complacent intellectually to let these sorts of playground accusations slide by without questioning him.

Whenever someone throws the term "heresy" out as cavalierly as Michael Pearl does, you have to be a bit suspicious of their motives and the strength of their argument. When they get personal and nasty, double that suspicion. There are lots of teachers who casts doubts on anyone's ability to interpret the Bible other than their own (see Perrysburg's own semi-Pelagian Jonathan Modene). I won't use the C word here, but anyone who claims that he, and he alone, understands the great teachings of the Bible (especially when those teachings contradict the teachings of great men of Christ throughout the centuries), ought be viewed as highly suspect. Plenty of "churches" require people to be baptized only by them, to read only a certain translation of the Bible (no shocker here that Pearl is apparently a KJV-Only guy), that the only teachings that should be followed are their own.

Those he does express some measure of admiration for, like Spurgeon, he completely misrepresents or flat out doesn't understand. I am pretty self-confident, but I also realize that I do not have a monopoly on understanding God's truths and that all of us can benefit from reading and studying the works of other God honoring men, today and throughout history. One can only hope that Mr. Pearl can set aside his own preconceptions to the extent that he is able to see the marvelous soveriegnity of God. That is a far greater comfort to man than the Arminian notion that we are at least partners, if not authors, of our own salvation.
Is this homeschooling's Roe V. Wade?

The real hallmark of Roe v. Wade is that in one decision, the Supreme Court (made up of unelected, serving for life, unaccountable judges) created whole cloth a new "right" to have an abortion. Never mind that even the most convoluted and tortured of logic is inadequate to explain where this right magically appears from the Constitution. In one fell swoop, the judiciary created a right, and made that right the law of the land. The big problem is that the judiciary is supposed to determine if laws passed by legislatures and signed by the executives meet Constitutional muster. Are these laws constitutional. In Roe v. Wade, the pattern is reversed and the court created a law, and in doing so essentially prevents the legislature from passing a law reversing their decision because any such law would automatically be considered unconstituional.

We have a similar situation developing in California, where a state Appellate Court has decreed that parents without teaching certificates are disqualified to teach their own children.

A California appeals court ruling clamping down on homeschooling by parents without teaching credentials sent shock waves across the state this week, leaving an estimated 166,000 children as possible truants and their parents at risk of prosecution.

It is a stunning move but one that should have been obviously inevitable for some time. The intrusion of the state into the affairs of families has been getting more and more egregious, and the wedge being driven between children and parents by the state is becoming more pronounced and bold. The issue at hand, as far as I can tell, is the question of whether or not parents are inherently unqualified to teach their own children. What makes one "qualified" is a certificate apparently. By having the job title "teacher", one becomes more qualified than the parents to care for and raise up children.

What makes these teacher's so much more qualified to teach our children? The ability to draw up a lesson plan? Training to control a class full of 30 kids? Being a subject matter expert on the topic they teach? Please! Show me an average public school teacher and I will show you someone who has a rudimentary knowledge of the subject they teach. That may seem unduly harsh and it may seem like a broad brush, and certainly anyone can come up with examples of teachers who are really conversant in their topic (like my sister who teaches biology and physiology), but for the most part teachers have education degrees and the focus is on education methodology, not on the subject that they teach. (That may have changed since I was in college).

Needless to say, the teacher's union is giddy about the ruling:

The ruling was applauded by a director for the state's largest teachers union.

"We're happy," said Lloyd Porter, who is on the California Teachers Association board of directors. "We always think students should be taught by credentialed teachers, no matter what the setting."

No shock here, as the teacher's unions all assume that a) parents are incompetent to teach their own children and b) as a union they have a direct interest is forcing as many kids into the system as possible to boost the number of teachers, and therefore the number of dues paying teachers. I get that, they are an advocacy group and their constituents are teachers, but let's not pretend that this is about the children. It is about $, and that is it.

Ostensibly this ruling came about because the family in question was allegedly doing a poor job of educating their children. Oddly enough, when parents are accused of doing a poor job of educating kids, the state decides to force the kids back into the school system and the teacher's union applauds. When teachers in public schools do a poor job educating whole classrooms full of kids, the teacher's union defends them to the death and the state acquiesces quietly.

We have a perfect storm of liberal judicial activism and nanny statism combined with the iron-mailed fist of the "education" lobby. The Left in America is following the lead of the Left in Europe, and seeking to replace parents with the state. The elite in government and bureaucracy is suspicious of and almost overtly hostile to the parent-child relationship. Parents are viewed as less capable than the state in raising up useful and pliable citizens. The adversarial role of parents and the state leaves children in the middle, being told one thing on Sunday morning and Wednesday night, and something completely opposite and contradictory in school during the week. No wonder are kids are confused.

One of the biggest culprits in this problem is not the teachers, not the teachers union, not the judges. They are just doing what Godless, secular institutions should be expected to do. The big culprit has a different mission and should know better. It is the church. The church ought to do everything it it's power to see that children are raised in a Christian learning environment. Money spent for overseas missionaries is great and vital, but every church that is able should devote some of it's resources, or pool it's resources with other local churches to provide a means for Christian education for those families who are unable to home school or how cannot afford existing Christian schools. That is an absolute necessity, and non-negotiable. Sunday school and AWANA for a couple of hours is great, but the big need in our children and youth is Christ-centered education and far too many parents are not providing that for their kids, and very few churches are doing anything to help.

Think letting Hillary or Obama be the next President because McCain isn't conservative enough is worth it? Wait until decision like this bubble up to the Supreme Court and ask yourself who you want choosing the justices that will hear these types of cases: judges selected by John McCain or judges selected by Hillary Clinton? That should be an easy choice.

(HT: Josh Gelatt)
(Dr. Albert Mohler will be discussing this issue on Monday's edition of the Albert Mohler Show, this show absolutely must be listened to)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Funny stuff

Well it would be funny if it weren't so ignorant. My wife came across a CD at the No Greater Joy website titled: "Sinful Natures". Looks like the entire point of the three CD set of talks by Michael Pearl is a diatribe against Calvinism. One ought not expect a reasoned, well thought out exposition from these CDs, given this description of the set:

These messages answer some of the ridiculous teachings of an ancient heresy sometimes called "Calvinism." For too long, Reformed theology has robbed the church of the power of God. The petals fall off of Calvin's tulip when it is held to the light of the Scripture. Contains three messages: Bondage of the Will, Sinful Nature and Answering Verses on Sinful Nature.

Really, can you be a bit more over the top? Do the teachings of alleged heretics rob God's church, the same church that the gates of hell will not prevail against, of it's power? If so, that is a pretty weak excuse for a church. I would ask Mr. Pearl if he considers the teachings of men like Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther and Jonathan Edwards to be "ridiculous" and "heresy", but given his prior evidence of knowing almost nothing about what Spurgeon belived, that seems a waste of time. Mr. Pearl apparently holds to some sort of odd semi-Pelagian, man centered doctrines. That is a shame, but even worse is his peddling of CDs like these that contain gross misrepresentations and errors.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Huck drops out

Mike Huckabee dropped out a few minutes ago. He ran a heck of a campaign with no money, and was the last guy standing before McCain clinched. I expect him to rally the troops around McCain and work to get him elected. He should be proud of the campaign he ran for the most part and the groundswell of support he raised. If nothing else, it helped remind the National Review crowd that they need us a lot more than we need them!

Dunkin' babies...

I stumbled across an article by Bill Shisko defending infant/household baptism. Bill Shisko is an Orthodox Presbyterian Church pastor and recently debated James White on the issue of who should (or should not) be baptized. I think White kicked him around in the debate, given that Dr. White is an accomplished debater and Bill Shisko doesn't have (as far as I know) the same extensive experience in formal debate. Well after the fact Shisko ran a post-debate editorial where he attempts to reaffirm the accuracy of the infant baptizer position. Shisko listed six points where he believes Baptists are missing the boat. While I certainly can't hold a candle to Dr. Shisko as applied to education and Biblical knowledge, his points ran rather hollow in my mind (in much the same way as R.C. Sproul did in his "defense" of infant baptism). This is obviously not a scholarly rebuttal, but I don't find any of Shisko's arguments to be terribly strong.

1. We have not helped ourselves by beginning with the Old Testament covenants, and then working to the new covenant. It is far better to start with the New Testament data and then go back to the Old Testament roots. This puts us on the same "turf" as the Baptists. We are too defensive about the New Testament! We should stop using the term "paedobaptism" (baptism of infants) and use the more biblical expression "oikobaptism" (baptism of households). The point is not that infants were baptized in the New Testament, but that whole households were baptized.

I would say that this argument also doesn't help his argument! If an adult joins an OPC church, does everyone in the immediate family get baptized? I assume not, but that would be consistent. After all, if we assume that the household includes infants, we must also assume it includes people of all sorts of ages and apparently belief plays no part. If it isn't required for an infant to show signs of belief, what about a middle-school kid? A teen? An adult child living at home? Is the church based on your mailing address? If a person who lives in a household is a obvious non-Christian, do they still get baptized even if they show just the opposite of faith? Or is it reserved to those who show faith and the undecided members?

2. It is not the case that the New Testament always speaks of a person believing before he or she is baptized. Lydia is baptized with her household, but there is no mention of each member of that household exercising faith prior to baptism (Acts 16:14-15). And in the case of the Philippian jailer and his family, the text clearly speaks only of the faith of the jailer himself. Acts 16:34b literally reads, "And he rejoiced with all his household, he having believed in God." If the discontinuity of the new covenant is that only those who personally repent and believe in Christ are to be baptized and received as part of the church, why is that not clearly indicated in a text like this?

The same idea as before. If household holds such an important thing, then we should baptize every family member of every person who converts to Christ, not just infants but everyone. The household idea, taken to it's logical extreme would seem to require this. But household/infant baptizers are horribly inconsistent on who should or should not get baptized. Again, if a married couple joined Pastor Shisko's church, would he automatically baptize everyone in the family, or just the parents or just the parents and infants? If you are little and cute, you get dribbled but surly teens don't? And it really is the case that every person specifically detailed in the Bible who is baptized believed first. Coincidence? What we don't know shouldn't be the basis for what we believe. We don't know if Lydia or the Phillipian jailer went home and told their household of the Gospel and they believed. A household of Jews would hardly rejoice with a new Christian if they were not Christians as well.

3. All of God's covenants have included families. Even the major prophecies of the new covenant clearly indicate the continuance of the household as the basic unit of the people of God... In response to the use of the new covenant passages made by our Baptist friends, we must show that in those very passages the household principle remains as an aspect of the new covenant. If noble Christians "searched the Scriptures" (i.e., the Old Testament) to find out whether the things taught by the apostles were so (Acts 17:11), where would they have found warrant to abrogate the household principle?

Who is the family, who are the heirs? The elect. Christ came to not to unite families (emphasis mine) "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. ".(Matthew 10:34-37) That hardly sounds like temporal family relationships play a huge role in the New Covenant. A person's enemies will be those of his what? His household. The idea of family togetherness is sentimental and sweet, but so is the mormon doctrine of eternal families.

4. Baptist views cannot account for the language used of children in the New Testament. While it is true that Jesus did not baptize little children, what did he mean when he took little children and said, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17)? If, as our Baptist friends say, Jesus was simply speaking of childlike faith, he could have (would have?) used an adult with childlike faith as an object lesson, but he did not. On a Baptist model, how are children regarded as part of the kingdom of heaven (the visible representation of which is the church)?

Uh, well sure they can. Children appear in the Bible (although not specifically by age as far as I can see). Jesus is compassionate toward them, He speaks of their simple faith. Why would he use an adult with child like faith as an example? He was speaking to adults and using a child as an example of child like faith. Doesn't that make more sense? He doesn't say that only simpletons get into heaven. But our faith is not exclusively an intellectual one, one where people are reasoned into faith and become Christians based on the strength of our arguments. People come into saving knowledge of Christ through simple faith in something, in someone, that none of us has ever seen. And yet we still believe with a faith like a child. He goes on...

On a Baptist model, how is it that children are included among "the saints" in Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20 (cf. Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:2)? Paul gives specific instructions to husbands, wives, children, and servants because these were the basic constituents of a household in the first century. How can our Baptist friends instruct the children of their believing adults to "obey your parents in the Lord" (Eph. 6:1)? "In the Lord" does not mean that children should only obey "Christian" parents. Rather, it indicates that children should obey their parents in the context of their covenantal connection to Jesus Christ—which is signified and sealed in baptism. On a "household baptism" model, all of this makes sense. Baptist responses in any of the standard treatments are lame, at best.

Now Shisko includes servants in the household. True enough, but again does that mean that they should be baptized? Do wealthy Presbyterians have housekeepers and au pairs baptized? They should based on this model of household baptism. There seems to be differing standards of baptism for different people based on age and relationship, and then in Prebyterian circles a whole different standard for communion. All based on a few references to households being baptized with no further details. Talk about lame!

Let me flip this around. What the infant baptizer cannot account for is the lack of explicit or even implicit commands to baptize infants. Anywhere. That is the paedobaptist Achilles Heel, and it is a real one, unlike the imagined Achilles Heel we see below. If we were supposed to baptize these little ones based on family relationships, based on households, wouldn't we see some sort of more explicit instruction to do so? Or at least an obvious example of it? The debate is really almost over before it begins because the explicit evidence all points to believers being baptized and never to infants. Then the burden falls on to the paedobaptist to make a case where the Bible does not. That is tough sledding indeed.

5. Can our Baptist friends point to one church that is composed only of the regenerate? This is the Achilles heel of any Baptist view. In the new heavens and the new earth, when the new covenant will be consummated, only the elect will compose the church. Until then, even the best of Baptist churches and any other Christian church will be composed of both regenerate and unregenerate people.

An Achilles heel? I certainly can point to a church that is composed only of the regenerate, the church of Jesus Christ made up of the elect. The Church is not based on the building or the name on the sign, but the Lord of each believer's life. It is true that we can never be absolutely sure that anyone professing faith is truly a Christian, but there is a world of difference between baptism someone who has made a profession of faith and baptizing an infant. No Baptist would knowingly baptize someone who showed no signs of being a Christian, but Presbyterians baptize infants all the time for absolutely no reason other than one or both parents is a Christian. I liken this, flippantly but seriously at the same time, to sneaking up to people on the street, throwing water on them and hoping they become a Christian later on.

6. What exactly is a Baptist theology of children, and how can it be aligned with the specific passages of the New Testament that deal with children? On a household baptism view, we can develop a coherent view of children and the church that does justice to all of the material of the Old and New Testaments. It is the inability of our Baptist friends (including Reformed Baptists) to present such a view that has caused many Baptists who have gotten a taste of covenant theology to abandon the so-called credobaptist (believer's baptism) view and become believers in household baptism.

I would hazard that the cause of Baptists to convert to paedobaptism has more to do with conformity than conviction. It is frankly a lot easier to find a Reformed church that baptizes infants than it is to find a Baptist church that is Reformed. That is hopefully changing, but above all we gauge the truth based not on the number of conversion from one way of thinking to another, but on the fidelity of a position to the entire Biblical message. Joel Osteen is plenty popular, but that hardly is an argument in favor of his heretical views. As far as how we deal with children, we evangelize them, we raise them up in prayer, we teach them the Scriptures not because they are in some amorphous household of faith but because they are sinners and combined with our parental responsibility to teach them, we want them to come to Christ as we do any sinner. Children of believers do not get a free pass because of their last name.

Plenty of children of believers end up not being believers themselves. Plenty of children of atheistic parents become Christians. We ought to be thankful that our salvation is not dependent on our earthly family tree, but rather on the sovereign election and grace shown to us by our Lord. William Shisko is a wonderful Christian from what I have read. He and my Presbyterian brothers are wonderful, and in many, many areas we are in agreement. But when it comes to intentionally baptizing people who show no signs of being a Christian, they are unfortunately flat wrong. Let the Bible speak for itself, especially in areas where by command and example it speaks so clearly.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Unity or Purity?
A great, thought provoking article by Mark Dever leading up to the Together for the Gospel conference...

The question for you and me is, when we teach others the truth, do we do it with condescending pride and arrogance—we know something they don’t? Or do we teach with the humility of one beggar sharing his bread with another?

Compromise is bad. Cooperation is good. But how do you tell the difference? What are the primary doctrinal positions for which we need to contend, and what are the secondary doctrinal positions about which we can disagree with charity and love?

Excellent questions, and one there is no easy answer for. Which is more important, purity or unity? I will admit I am more of a purity guy. If it is important enough for me to have a position on it, it is important enough to fight about. But there is a need for some sense of unity in the body of Christ. So which is it, unity or purity?

On the one hand...

Unity merely for the sake of unity leads to acceptance of heresy

If our only concern is to get along and be one body with no differences, we will invariably allow heretics to creep in unawares. If we compromise on one issue, why not the next? And the next? And eventually we find ourselves not debating election or eschatology, we find ourselves desperately trying to hold back the tide of homosexual clergy and witches as pastors.

Being unified does not require us to apologize for those things that we hold to be true. If you believe in the Biblical doctrine of election, don’t feel obligated to apologize for it for the sake of unity. Don’t feel obligated to point out that other Scriptures may appear to contradict your deeply held beliefs. If you don’t really believe it, don’t bring it up. And if you do believe it because the Bible speaks in uniformity about God’s predestining and His sovereign grace, don’t dance around, declare it as one of God’s precious and wonderful truths. If seeking unity requires you to gloss over strongly held beliefs, it may be that the unity is not the kind you should be seeking.

What is the basis for unity? Is it going along to get along? Is being nice to one another the highest Christian virtue? Or is the basis of our unity the truths which we declare and hold in common? What unifies us should be what saves us, and just as a compromised Gospel is a Gospel which cannot save, unity in anything other that the fullness of the Gospel, unashamedly declared regardless of cost is not true Christian unity at all. What divides us from the world is what unites us with each other, and more importantly with Christ. That is the only unity that matters.
On the other hand....

Purity at all costs leads to people sitting by themselves in church.

The only person who I agree with 100% of the time is the handsome fella looking back at me from the mirror. And luckily I am confident that he is right on, all the time. The problem is (and this is really the main problem in the world today) is that not everyone else believes exactly the same way he does. Holding firmly to the faith delivered once and for all to the saints requires holding fast, contending earnestly and being willing to separate from those who deny Gospel truths. It is often unpopular, but heaven is not a popularity contest. The purer the Gospel, the more sinners will find it offensive, and if the cross is not offensive to sinners, it isn't being declared properly.

Where do we draw the line? Where should we draw the line? How do we determine what is a non-negotiable versus what we can agree to disagree on? I would throw out that anything that falls outside of a few categories falls into the camp of non-essentials. They may divide how and where and with whom we worship, but it is not an issue of breaking Christian fellowship. Issue like justification by faith, the deity of Christ, the inerrancy of the Bible are the essentials. Issue like baptism, church government and eschatology fall into the areas of honest disagreement in the Christian family. Albert Mohler's article on Theological Triage is still the gold standard on what should divide us and what should not. We must be pure where the Gospel demands we be pure, but we also must not make demands on others that the Gospel does not require.