Welton Academy Staff Retreat

The first week of January was the first annual Welton Academy Staff Retreat. If you haven’t been following the changes, let me give you a quick update.

Karen and I were with Randy Clark for 3 years in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; we then moved back home to Rochester NY and launched out into full time itinerate ministry (I was part time for about 2 years before the move). So for about 6 years we focused on itinerate ministry and about 18 months ago we launched the first year of Welton Academy.

We thought that we would have maybe 100 students in our first year, what we didn’t plan for was that we had over 500 students register. This meant that I had to move from 6 years of working with a part time administrator to having a whole team of staff members. Now 18 months later we have 9 incredible core team members.

Leading a group like this has been a new endeavor. I have always loved listening to audiobooks from the business sector. Having run my own Roofing Company for 3 years in my early twenties, I find business fascinating. Having a large ministry is similar to having a business in the sense that they are both organizations with a purpose and goal, and both have teams to accomplish that goal.

We have a few intentional things that we do. We have a video Skype call every two weeks with all our staff. Our team members live everywhere: Arizona, Alabama, Washington, Delaware, Virginia, Illinois, California, and New York. Like Southwest Airlines, we employ mostly stay at home moms.

We also have a weekly prayer hour on Mondays, and each month we have a different staff prayer partner, which we pray for. With having remote staff members, it has been our challenge to meld hearts and build community. So having an annual staff retreat was an incredible time for connecting. Every week of this year (2015) has been incredible and I will tell you about some of my other trips in the coming blogs, but our time together as a staff was exceptionally special.

The Lord has truly blessed Karen and I by surrounding us with people that carry   the same heart and dreams. I am so excited about the dreams that are coming from the heart of our staff and how we will be walking these out over the next few years. By wading into their dreams, I can tell you this, Welton Academy has barely gotten its feet wet.

Please be praying for favor, health, rest and strategy over all our staff and Welton Academy as a whole.

We love and appreciate you,

Dr. Jonathan Welton

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My Tithing Blog….. Finally

In the last decade, the tithe system of the church has come under a lot of scrutiny and people have been studying and reexamining this concept. I have held back on my opinion for a long time, even though I am emailed almost weekly with questions about this topic. It is such a hot topic that I have chosen to leave this fight alone for a long time, but no longer!

It has been encouraging to see other highly respected leaders step out and abandon the tithing system, for example Dr. Che Ahn the overseer of H.I.M. a network of 40,000 churches writes:

“There are many sincere Christians today who faithfully give the tithe because they believe it is mandated in Scripture, and that mandate is still valid today. I know, for I used to be one of them. I was taught to tithe from the time I first became a Christian as a teenager, and it never occurred to me to question the teaching. My wife and I have always given more than the tithe every year since we’ve been married. However, more recently, I find that my position is changing, due to what I believe is a deeper understanding of God’s grace and its operation in our lives. (Dr. Che Ahn, The Grace of Giving, Location 3645, Kindle edition)

The Scripture most commonly used to support this view [mandatory tithing] is Malachi 3:8-10 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Unfortunately, this teaching on the tithe from Malachi 3 frequently intimidates people, inducing guilt by telling them that if they don’t tithe, they are robbing God and are under a curse. The passage is also frequently quoted out of context. As we discussed at the beginning of this book, when we take a text out of context, we are opening ourselves to a “con.” (Dr. Che Ahn, The Grace of Giving, Location 3691, Kindle edition)

There have been other even more vocal leaders such as Frank Viola and George Barna in their bestselling book, Pagan Christianity, Pages 171-186. They include the facts regarding church history:

“Before the 3rd century priests had no form of income. The people supported them of their own volition. If that was not possible they worked alongside their ministerial roles to support themselves. It was actually Constantine who introduced the idea of a priestly salary, which was a pagan idea. He took money from the municipal and church funds to pay those serving as priests in the empire. We have to wait till the third century before someone suggested a tithe upon believers to support their local priest. Cyprian of Carthage suggested it, however it still wasn’t really accepted by anyone until the fourth century. Even then it was a tiny minority. In fact, it wasn’t common practice till the 8th century and was not law until the 10th century. That’s right, 900 years after Jesus!”

Many modern leaders are upset when a person questions the tithe, they act as though we are questioning a 2000-year tradition of church history, when in actuality, we are challenging a gangrenous teaching that infiltrated the church in 900AD!

 

WHERE DID IT COME FROM?

Tithing was a common practice in the Ancient Near East (ANE), it was not a weekly Sunday morning giving regiment, it was not obligatory, but it was common. For example we see Abraham tithe one time and Jacob tithed one time. It wasn’t something they did yearly and there was not obligation, but they did as was common in there day. The author Phil Drysdale humorously observes that Abraham gave 10% to Melchizedek and gave 90% to the King of Sodom, so if we are to follow his example, we should give 10% to the church and 90% to our local strip club or some other terrible institution, considering that the King of Sodom was pretty much the most evil human alive at the time! (http://www.phildrysdale.com/2014/02/tithing-the-great-commission/)

When we get to the book of Leviticus, Israel is living in a form of government known as a Theocracy, this means “God-Rule.” God was their king and His priests were the government leaders. Levites were essentially filling the role of Congress and God was the President (without checks and balances).

You will notice as you read through the Old Testament that during this period, Israel didn’t have a tax system, which is because the tithe WAS the tax system!

The tithe was ancient Israel’s taxation system, which included three different tithes:

(1) one to take care of the Levites (Government officials),

(2) one to take care of feasts (Government activity)

(3) one to take care of widows and orphans(Social safety net).

Considering that Jesus knew that the destruction of the Old Covenant system was imminent (Matt 23-24) He didn’t attack the tithing/tax system during the Gospels. The fact of the matter is that this ancient tax system has never been followed since the destruction of the Temple system and Jerusalem in 70AD. The taxation system for that nation has disappeared into the sands of time and nobody was about to get it back on it’s feet until about 900AD. Even then, the reinstituted tithe that many of use have experienced nowadays has nothing in common with the Biblical tithe created under the Theocracy.

Add to these facts the New Covenant challenge, now we are all Priests, Kings, Ambassadors, so who is to tithe to whom? If one does not understand the five ministry gifts in Ephesians 4:11-13 and claims that they are “Governmental” then the case is made for tithing on the idea that there are two classes of Christians. Yet these gifts are for equipping and serving the Body of Christ, they are not governmental while the rest of us are non-government. All Christians are government, and some have gifts of authority to be foot-washers.

Now that we have looked at the Old Testament, Jesus, Church leadership, and Church History; we would be remiss if we don’t examine from the Book of Acts to the Book of Revelation.

 

THE MELCHIZEDEK TITHE

From the Cross of Christ initiating the New Covenant until the Book of Revelation (Acts 1-Rev 22) there is only one passage that mentions “tithing” in the New Covenant portion of the Bible and it is in reference to the mysterious Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:5-9, tithe is mentioned five times here).

To understand this passage, we must start by understanding the Book of Hebrews. The main theme through the whole book is that “Jesus is better…” Here is the outline:

  1. Hebrews 1–7: Jesus is better.
  1. Hebrews 1–2: Jesus the God-man is greater than angels.
  2. Hebrews 3–4:13: Jesus the apostle is greater than Moses.
  3. Hebrews 4:14–6:12: Jesus the high priest is better than Aaron.
  4. Hebrews 6:13–7: Jesus is better than Melchizedek.
  1. Hebrews 8–10: The new covenant is better.
  1. Hebrews 8: The new covenant is based on better promises.
  2. Hebrews 9:1–10: The new covenant has a better sanctuary.
  3. Hebrews 9:11–28: The new covenant has a better sacrifice.
  4. Hebrews 10:1–18: The new covenant has better results.
  1. Hebrews 11–13: Faith is our response.
  1. Hebrews 10:19–39: Faith is the natural response to the “better things” of the new covenant, and we connect with it through faith.
  2. Hebrews 11: Adam, Noah, Enoch, and many others give us examples of connecting by faith.
  3. Hebrews 12: Faith is the basis of a better relationship.
  4. Hebrews 13: Faith is a better manner of life.

Now we can pull in closer and look at the tithing passage in Hebrews 6-7 about Melchizedek. Why is Melchizedek even mentioned? He only appears in Genesis 14, Psalm 110 and here in Hebrews 7, those are the only times he is in Scripture and to modern preachers, he is surrounded by a lot of mystery.

The reason Melchizedek is mentioned is because Jesus was born of the tribe of Judah, the accusation would be that He wasn’t qualified to be our High Priest of the New Covenant because He wasn’t even a Levite! (Hebrews 7:13-14 says, “He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.”)

The writer of Hebrews is showing that Abraham was greater than Levites (his descendants), and that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham. Therefore since Jesus is part of the Melchizedek priesthood, then He is greater than Abraham and the Levite priesthood. He is not subject to those systems and their regulations.

Because we do not know for 100% certain who Melchizedek is, there have been many fantastical conjectures to his identity, but one of the main ideas is that Mel is pre-incarnate Jesus. Therefore if Abraham tithed to Jesus, then so should we by giving to our local church, or so the argument goes.

Consider though that Melchizedek is known for his royal priesthood, he was both a king and a priest. Jesus is in the order of Melchizedek, and so are you! 1 Peter 2:9 calls us “a royal priesthood.” We are in Christ and this means that if He is in the order of Melchizedek, so are we! We are not Abraham tithing to a pre-incarnate Jesus, we are in Melchizedek, so WE are BETTER than Abraham! Abraham would have to tithe to us!

It doesn’t matter who Mel is. He could be a monkey alien from the planet zeenoo for all I care, the point is that you are IN the Melchizedek priesthood WITH Jesus, you are not “Abraham the tither” in the story and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

(Since many of you have already accepted this perspective, I will be following up with a blog about how to see giving in the New Covenant. Just because we are not under a mandatory OC tithe system, that doesn’t mean we stop teaching people to be generous giving people.)

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Welton’s interview with Perry Stone and Sid Roth

Sid and Perry are up to it again. Perry’s interview was aired on November 24th, 2014 and you can read the full transcript (Here). Since Sid will never have me back on his show because of my differing endtime views, I have added my thoughts into the transcript below. I have written how I would answer if they included me in their interview, enjoy!

 

#1:

SID: But why is it that many churches today are not interested in hearing prophecy? Look, when I became a believer in the Messiah I couldn’t get enough prophecy, prophecy about why Jesus was the Messiah, prophecy about End Times. But it seems as though the pendulum is swinging.

PERRY: I think there’s a couple of reasons. Reason number one is people think it’s too difficult to understand. Number two, it does contain symbolism, which has to be interpreted from the scripture itself. And if you don’t know the Old Testament, some of that symbolism isn’t going to make sense in the Book of Revelation.

JONATHAN: Sid, I would actually agree 100% with Perry’s answers, those are exactly right! And I would add that you are correct Sid, the pendulum is swinging, after 40+ years of false predictions, Christians, especially the young ones that can do research on the internet, have had enough of the end-time speculations.

 

#2:

SID: Could that be the reason that many Christians are saying, well we’re no longer under the Law, so we won’t even look at the Old Testament.

PERRY: Let me give you an example. In the Book of Genesis, Joseph has this dream of sun and stars bowing before him. In Revelation Chapter 12, there’s a woman in travail and it talks about the sun and the stars, and the moon, and it all refers back to Joseph’s dream. Joseph’s dream was about Israel and that is a picture of the Nation of Israel. So if you don’t understand Joseph’s dream, which is in the Torah, how are you going to understand what’s written in the Book of Revelation?….

JONATHAN: In answer to your question Sid, I have never heard or seen anyone anywhere say that we no longer need to study the Old Testament! That would be absurd! (Although there is truth in not applying the Old Testament personally while living in the New Covenant, i.e. how many Canaanites are we supposed to kill?). Again, I can agree with Perry’s statement above. Yet it is clear Sid that you are targeting some undefined group of people by speaking in nuanced and misleading statements.

 

#3:

SID: When it says, “No longer under the law” and it states that in the New Testament, Paul says it. What does he really mean?

PERRY: Let me just say this real quick, and those in — again understanding the Book of Revelation, understanding where we’re living. The Five Books of Moses, part of that contains is what is called The Law of God. It’s not the Law of Moses, the Law of God. But there was ceremonial, sacrificial and moral law….

JONATHAN: Let me stop you right there Perry. I understand where you are coming from as a Covenant Theologian and believing that Jesus only removed animal sacrifice, but not the Ceremonial or Moral law, but surely in your “80,000” hours of study, you must know that dividing the Law into three separate categories like that would be an abomination to any ancient Hebrew or even a New Testament writer. In fact the theory of dividing the Law into three parts didn’t exist until Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica was written in the 1200s AD. The idea of dividing the Law is fraught with problems because which Laws do we throw out and which ones do we keep? Can I wear a cotton-poly blend? Should I kill Canaanites? Can I own slaves?

 

#4:

SID: Sid Roth here with Perry Stone. And there is a teaching, it’s an old teaching, that’s resurfacing right now. It’s called Preterism, and it basically states that the Book of Revelation is already completed. You don’t even need that book any more. Now you throw out the Book of Revelation, you throw out the Old Testament and you throw out the Word of God. Now Perry Stone, what would you say to someone that walked up to you and said, “Look Perry, 70 A.D., you know what happened in Israel? Everything took place in the Book of Revelation.”

JONATHAN: I am going to have to interject here Sid. Nobody is saying that we should throw out the Old Testament or the Book of Revelation, could you stop exaggerating with your attempt to assassinate the character of preterists? You are on the narrow border of straight up lying. The truth becomes obvious by comparison, if Jesus fulfilled everything on the cross, is that to say that we “throw out the book of Matthew!” No of course not! It actually makes Matthew that much more spectacular and beautiful. Your turn Perry.

PERRY: First of all, let’s talk about who they are. These are individuals that believe that Matthew 24, the Book of Revelation, most of it was fulfilled in 70 A.D. Why do they say that? Well you had the destruction of the temple, destruction of Jerusalem, the Jews being scattered and then Josephus talks about these cosmic signs, stars shaped like a sword, the voice that came in the temple saying, “Let us depart hence,” a comet that was seen over the city. So what they do is they take the cosmic signs that Josephus wrote about, they take the fact the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews were scattered and they basically say all of Matthew 24 was fulfilled.

(JONATHAN: That’s a massive oversimplification, but I’ll allow it)

PERRY: But the problem you have with that, there’s a couple of problems. Problem number one is the Bible says, “There will be a generation that will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of glory and the tribes of the earth will morn.” Show me where that happened in 70 A.D. It did not happen.

(JONATHAN: That’s a simple one to answer Perry, maybe I could respectfully suggest that you put a 100 hours, which would be like two weeks in your system, into reading Preterist answers to that verse. You could start here.)

PERRY: Number two, anybody who’s a Preterist watching, they know this because the people who have revived this doctrine, this is their biggest weakness. They believe the Book of Revelation was written 68 A.D., just about two years before the destruction. Therefore, when John, for example is told to measure the Temple of God in Revelation 11, they say, well that was the temple in Jerusalem. It had to be written by 68 A.D. because the temple was destroyed two years later. Here’s the problem you have. The early church followers, three of them, talk about the Emperor Domitian, who was the emperor in 81 A.D., when he came to power. Now the temple is destroyed in 70 and the emperor, that was the emperor when John wrote the Book of Revelation comes in 81 A.D. and he dies about 94, 95, it blows the theory away. There’s nothing a Preterist can stand on when they understand that history reveals the Book of Revelation was written in 95 A.D., 25 years after the destruction of the Temple. And Sid, the scripture they use in Revelation 11 about measuring the Temple of God is a temple in the tribulation period, not one that existed in 70 A.D.

JONATHAN: Yes, the date of authorship for the Book of Revelation is a foundation that Preterism rests upon, yet it is not a shaky foundation. In fact Dr. Kenneth Gentry (Before Jerusalem Fell) and John AT Robinson (Redating the New Testament) are both renowned world-class scholars, which have written unrefuted books showing the early writing of Revelation to be the truth. (See also)

 

#5:

SID: So if it’s so blown out in the water, why does anyone believe in this Preterist thing?

PERRY: Because they don’t know the Bible or they don’t know how to properly interpret, you know, the Book of Revelation.

JONATHAN: Um Sid, it’s not blown out of the water, that’s why people still believe it and believe it more in rapidly growing numbers.

And really Perry?! Preterist’s are Preterist’s because they don’t know the Bible? Have you ever considered taking a debate class because it may help you understand what an ad hominem argument is (Ad Hominem means responding to arguments by attacking a person’s character, rather than to the content of their arguments. When used inappropriately, it is a fallacy in which a claim or argument is dismissed on the basis of some irrelevant fact or supposition about the author or the person being criticized). Your disrespectful and dishonoring answer is appalling, I would expect it from a televangelist, but not someone with a teaching gift, I expect better from you.

 

#6:

SID: Who gains by someone tossing out the Book of Revelation and tossing out the Old Testament?

PERRY: Well no one gains.

SID: Yeah. And there is someone that gains: the devil.

PERRY: The enemy gains.

SID: The devil gains.

JONATHAN: Wow guys, you are really angry at some Preterists. I know that I will never be back on your show Sid because I am a Preterist and not a Zionist, but I would never have thought you would be so mean and nasty toward a brother in the Lord that believes differently about Revelation. This is shocking.

The interview continues on into bashing “Kingdom Now,” but I would walk out at this point anyway, so I will end here.

Overall, this is not simply about theological debates, this is about people’s hearts and minds and the perspective toward the future.

I will not raise my sweet two year old daughter with the idea that she is the terminal generation and everything is always getting worse. No. She is a world-changer and will bring more of heaven to earth, she already has in my life. Also this approach toward brothers in the Lord that says that if you are a preterist, it is because you don’t know the Bible, and you are benefiting THE DEVIL!

Well, that is a truly dark perspective.

 

Sid and Perry, I love you guys, I wish you were willing to keep your hearts open to learning. Perry, I know I have gleaned from your insights in Israel, and Sid you are so excellent at encouraging the supernatural in our lives, please keep doing what you do best.

Love Jonathan Welton

 

 

 

 

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Ignoring problems is NOT Honor.

Every single day, without fail, I receive email that thanks me for dispelling fear, for empowering women, for destroying legalism, or for modeling healthy leadership. I also regularly receive hate mail (for example read some of the One Star reviews of Raptureless on Amazon).

I have adjusted to the hate mail. I understand that fear creates anger and anger creates hate mail. As old false teachings are being demolished, there will be those that cling to the sinking ship and are angry at me for telling them to abandon ship.

The group that is the most challenging are the ones that like some of what I say but struggle with other things I say. This love/hate relationship is very challenging to navigate. I want to encourage everyone into truth and freedom, but sometimes people get stuck somewhere. I know I am stuck some places, but I want to keep moving toward more freedom.

One of the other major issues is the idea of “playing nice” for the sake of unity. This idea that Christians shouldn’t argue, shouldn’t declare that false teachings are false, that we shouldn’t suggest that someone is off-base. The reasoning is that “If they are not against us, then they are for us.” (Matthew 12:30)

“Or maybe in the midst of the millions of people that will go see Left Behind, even just one person will get saved thus it is worth it.”

Between the fear that Left Behind has caused, the fact that it makes us looks like a bunch of imbeciles and lowers our Christian witness to the world, while destroying generational longterm kingdom thinking, we should all be screaming at the top of our lungs, “this is a pile of demonic crap! And I am not the kind of Christian that believes this.”

Yet the soft minded thinking of “well what about the one person that could get saved? Doesn’t that make it worth it?” No. The answer is no. Did 9/11 cause some people to turn to Christ? Yes. Does that mean we shouldn’t declare it evil? No.

If our ability to get people saved is so weak that we are allowing false teaching so that someone might get saved, there is something desperately wrong with our Christianity.

I know pastors that got saved years ago when they met Jesus while smoking weed. Does that mean that we should go out and start pushing weed so that some people might get saved? No. Then why would we allow anti-Christian false teaching such as Left Behind to continue to blight the Kingdom of Jesus in the hopes that someone will fall into salvation?

Jesus rebuked the spiritual leaders of His day very harshly for how their false teaching had burdened the people (Matthew 23).

The Apostle Paul regularly called out people in error by name (2 Timothy 4:9-10, 2 Timothy 1:15, 1 Timothy 1:18-20, 2 Timothy 2:16-18) and confronted them (even including the Apostle Peter). In Galatians 1:7-10 Paul goes so far as the say that those that present a different Gospel should be accursed! And as for sarcasm and passion, Paul says in Galatians 5:12 that he wishes that those he is arguing with wouldn’t just circumcise themselves but would just cut their whole penis off!

I have never said anything close to that on Facebook, yet for saying that teaching young mothers to be afraid of being pregnant because we are living in the last days is wrong, I am treated like I am a bully!

Like Paul, I can attest that I am much more bold in writing than I am in person. Most that meet me in person are stunned by my quiet gentle introversion. I am confident, not arrogant, but to the insecure, they cannot tell the difference.

So here’s where we are at, if you are willing to think, to be challenged, to grow, to argue, to be a mature Christian adult; then continue to enjoy my facebook page. But stop asking me to play nice. I won’t. Jesus didn’t, Paul didn’t and neither should you.

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Academic Christianity vs. Popular Christianity

Before we look at specific belief systems and teachings about the Bible, we must consider the difference between the two most prominent subcultures within the larger Christian culture—academic Christianity and popular Christianity.

From an anthropological standpoint, all cultures contain two main divisions—high culture and popular culture. High culture is typically made up of the wealthiest and most educated segment of the population. These people appreciate the finer things in life—things like expensive wine, fine dining, classical music, formal attire, and so forth. The high culture is a minority among the culture, yet it carries a majority of the power and influence. Alongside the high culture exists the popular culture (or pop-culture), which contains a majority of the population and describes in general ways what is popular among the majority. So those who are immersed in pop-culture tend to listen to the music on the radio and pay attention to the biggest new movies. They eat at chain restaurants and shop at chain stores. A third group, called folk culture, often emerges as a reaction to the popular culture. But instead of joining the high culture, they separate from the norm in their own fashion. They pride themselves on making counter-cultural decisions. For example, they may be vegan, birth their babies at home, decide not to vaccinate their children, and follow independent music and movies that rarely show up in the mainstream. The differences between these three groups are significant, yet they are all part of the overarching culture.

The culture inside the Church also contains these three elements. Popular Christianity is the culture of the majority of Christians. In the United States, it includes things like Veggie Tales, WWJD bracelets, and pop-Christian music. The folk element within popular Christianity prefers less mainstream music and makes small attempts to pull away from the Christian pop-culture, but for our purposes here, it is essentially a subcategory of popular Christianity. When it comes to theology and the Bible, popular Christianity takes a very rigid view of truth.

By contrast, Academic Christianity, which is comprised primarily of theologians and intellectuals, has a high value for theological conversation and debate. Some well-known modern theologians like N.T. Wright and Gordon Fee have crossed-over into the pop-culture circle and are being read by non-academics. Hundreds of other theologians in the academic circle are speaking and writing in the language of academia, and their material never crosses over into the pop-culture. Not surprisingly, members of these two groups often have distain toward members of the other group. But it is important for us to understand and value both cultures.

One of the potential downfalls of academic Christianity is described in Paul’s statement in First Corinthians 8:1—“knowledge puffs up.” Knowledge is good, but it must always be tempered with love, which is not necessarily something academia teaches. If we understand all the theology and know all the Greek words, but are terrible Christians in our practical lives with our families and friends, we have a big problem.

However, one of academic Christianity’s strengths is found in the difference between these two words: disagree and disrespect. The popular Christian culture does not handle disagreement well. When leaders disagree, they tend to treat each other with a high level of disrespect, using labels like heretic, false teacher, blasphemer, or even antichrist. Generally such leaders are not willing to calmly and openly discuss their differences but instead make defamatory statements and point fingers. They fear their followers will be captivated by some evil teaching, so they actively try to persuade those under their influence against said evil doctrine. As a result, they influence their followers to also have disrespect toward a given person or movement. In other words, this disrespect has a filter-down system to everyone under a leader’s influence.

By contrast, academic Christianity has a strong appreciation for debate and discussion of ideas without disrespect. This is important for all who want to study theology, because we need to be able to examine the ways other people believe and disagree with some of them while still respecting them as people and fellow Christians. Academics value standing on their own opinion, based on their own study, so they say, “I believe such-and-such for this reason.” This is simply a personal statement and does not have a negative influence. Academic Christianity is okay with disagreement and does not see it as a hindrance to respect. It is okay for people to hold differing views and remain friends.

People in academic Christian culture make personal statements of disagreement that are not intended to influence others. By contrast, leaders in popular Christian culture make defamatory statements against other leaders and movements that are presented as fact and cause an umbrella of disrespect.

The best way to approach theology is with a willingness to disagree and an openness to learning from others. Academic Christianity has modeled this well, and we would be wise to imitate them. Thinking like an academic means believing we need to hear all the different views on an issue in order to rationally decide our own position. In this culture, we are free to hear all the different understandings and arrive at our own conclusions, even if those conclusions are different from those of our friends or leaders. This is why, in academic Christianity, we find many books that present varying views on a particular subject. These books are not written by one author who has an opinion and writes with a slant. Instead, they are a compilation of writings from theologians who are explaining their own personal beliefs.[1] Another type of book common in academic Christianity is a response book, where one theologian writes a book in response to another theologian’s writings.[2]

Part of what it means to disagree respectfully is to quote those you disagree with in a way that accurately presents what they said in context. Academics are very careful to do this, but unfortunately, many leaders in popular Christianity misrepresent those they disagree with. They take their words out of context and make assumptions about what others mean by what they have said. This sort of misrepresenting, misunderstanding, and attacking of others has been happening for a long time, but it is not honoring or helpful to approach disagreement this way. Instead, we need to learn how to disagree without disrespecting and without exaggerating. Throughout this course, our goal will be to understand the beliefs of others clearly and fairly so we can draw our own conclusions.

[1] For example, The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views contains contributions from four leading theologians with differing opinions on the atonement. In similar fashion, Four Views on the Book of Revelation and God and Time: Four Different Views present differing views on these subjects.

[2] A great example of this is Kenneth Gentry’s The Charismatic Gift of Prophecy: A Reformed Response to Wayne Grudem. In it, Gentry strongly but respectfully counters Grudem’s beliefs about the Holy Spirit from an academic standpoint.

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What Does The Bible Really Say About Alcohol?

This week I am sharing a post that has been somewhat controversial. I didn’t write the article, but I agree with it. Personally, I wouldn’t have agreed with it 10 years ago when I was extremely anti-alcohol. Because I have experienced freedom, this is an area that I would encourage others to reconsider.

Here are your keys,” muttered the secretary when I arrived to pick up the keys to my office at Aberdeen University, where I would be studying for my doctorate in theology. “It looks like you’re in The Old Brewery.”

Intrigued by the name, I later found out that it reflected the building’s original function. Aberdeen was founded in the 15th century and used to train monks for ministry. In the brewery, monks brewed vast quantities of Scottish ale, which was served by the liter at mealtimes. And here I was, a post-fundamentalist Ph.D. student studying the Scriptures in a malted sanctuary where late medieval Bible college students once clapped mugs together in an act of worship.

Throughout Christian history, alcohol was rarely a taboo as it is in some circles today. John Calvin had a stipend of 250 gallons of wine per year written into his church contract. Martin Luther’s wife was a famed brewer of beer, which certainly won Martin’s heart. And the Guinness family created their renowned Irish Stout as an act of worship to Jesus. From Bordeaux to Berlin, wine and beer have always been part of church tradition. But what was once considered the nectar of heaven was later condemned as the devil’s libation.

A Smart Approach

Even though some Christians advocate for the total abstinence of alcohol as a moral mandate for all believers, the Bible never requires all believers to abstain from alcohol. It condemns drunkenness and being enslaved to wine (Ephesians 5:18; Titus 2:3), but it never says that tee-totaling is the better way to obey God. In fact, the Bible never says that abstaining from alcohol is the wisest way to avoid getting drunk. Think about it. Alcoholism has been rampant through every age, but the Bible never says that all believers should therefore refrain from drinking.

If Christians want to forbid all alcohol consumption to avoid drunkenness, then to be consistent, they should also avoid making a lot of money to guard against the crushing sin of materialism and the misuse of wealth.

If Christians want to forbid all alcohol consumption to avoid drunkenness, then to be consistent, they should also avoid making a lot of money to guard against the crushing sin of materialism and the misuse of wealth.

Alcohol as a Witness

I sometimes hear that when Christians drink, it ruins their testimony. But quite honestly, I’ve never understood this line of thinking. It’s one thing if you’ve struggled with alcoholism or are ministering in a Muslim country, but for the most part, most non-Christians I know are turned off by the arbitrary dos and don’ts created by modern Christians. I’m not convinced that if my unbelieving neighbor sees me slipping into a pub, I will lose much traction to my Gospel witness. In many cases, the Gospel will shine brighter when you break down wrong assumptions about Christianity by having a beer with your neighbor.

When we strip away all the man-made clutter that dims the Gospel, the full glory of Jesus shines much brighter. A good chunk of the dying world that’s rejected Christianity hasn’t said no to Jesus, but no to a pharisaical version of Him. Some people have been turned off by the Gospel because they’ve thought that becoming a Christ-follower meant giving up having a beer with your friends after work. If this is the “good news” we preach, then the true beauty of a crucified and risen King will become covered in the fog of a man-made, pharisaical “don’t drink” gospel. AA didn’t hang on a cross for your sins and abstaining from alcohol won’t give you resurrection life. Any Christianese, man-made, unbiblical footnotes to the gospel are actually a distraction and offense to the Gospel.

Lower Alcohol Content?

Now, some say that wine in the Bible was nothing more than grape juice and therefore neither Jesus nor the Biblical writers advocated drinking alcohol. Others say that wine was so diluted that it hardly contained any alcohol. But neither of these views can be substantiated by what the Scriptures actually say. If wine was really unfermented grape juice, then why did Paul warn the Ephesians: “Do not get drunk with grape juice, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit?” This doesn’t make sense. It is true that wine back then probably had a lower ABV than today’s stuff. But whatever the alcohol content, people were quite able to get smashed by drinking too much of it (Proverbs 20:1; Isaiah 5:11). Still, the Bible never says not to drink it.

There’s another alcoholic beverage mentioned in the Bible called “strong drink. The Hebrew word for “strong drink,” shakar, refers to fermented barley, which is why some translations call it “beer.” Shakar had an ABV of around 6-12 percent, similar to a Belgium Trippel Ale or a Double IPA. Like all alcoholic beverages, the Bible prohibits abusing beer (Isaiah 5:11; 28:7; Proverbs 20:1; 31:4). But in moderation, drinking beer was encouraged (Proverbs 31:6). In fact, Deuteronomy 14:26 actually commands Israelites to use some of their tithe money to buy some beers and celebrate before the Lord. (Ever hear that verse being read as the ushers are passing the plates?) They were also commanded to offer up two liters of beer to God six days a week and even more on the Sabbath (see Numbers 28:7-10). This is why the absence of beer (and wine) was an outcome of God’s judgment on the nation.

Wine as a Blessing

But the Bible goes further than admitting that drinking is simply allowed. Throughout Scripture, the production and consumption of beer and wine are often connected to the covenant promises of God.

Under the old covenant, wine is a blessing (Deut 7:13; 11:14) and the absence of wine a curse (28:39, 51). When Israel looked to the future, God promises to flood them wine flowing from the mountaintops (Amos 9:14; Joel 3:18) and vats brimming with fresh wine (Joel 2:19, 24).

Jesus signals the beginning of such blessings by creating an over-abundance (150 gallons) of wine at Cana (John 2:1-10). And on the eve of his death, He sanctified a cup of wine as “the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:14-23). When Christ comes back, He’ll prepare “well-aged wine” (Isaiah 25:6)—the stuff I only notice on the top shelf but can never afford—and for theological reasons it will be served, as at Cana, in abundance.

There’s a growing tendency, however, among some younger evangelicals to celebrate their freedom without discipline.

Although a good beer and rich wine are blessings from God, they should be consumed with caution. There’s a growing tendency, however, among some younger evangelicals to celebrate their freedom without discipline. These young, restless, and slightly inebriated libertines are doing some great things for the Kingdom. They’re feeding the poor, living in community and planting authentic churches—or missional communities—all to the glory of God.

Yes, God cares about the poor; He also cares about your sobriety. Enjoying alcohol in moderation takes discipline, and many beer drinkers, I hate to say it, aren’t known for their discipline. A good glass of beer can be celebratory; it doesn’t belong in the hands of an undisciplined 16-year-old playing video games in his mom’s basement. Belgium ale is strong and complex. Savor it, sanctify it, and let it meditate on your palate. Give glory to God, not just to your thirst, when enjoying the blessings that flow from Eden. Drunkenness may not be at the top of God’s list of most heinous sins; neither should it be tossed aside as a relic of American fundamentalism.

Drinking alcohol without celebrating the Cross and Kingdom is theologically anemic. Abusing alcohol mocks the blood of Christ and scoffs at God’s holiness. But moderate, intentional, celebratory and reflective drinking of wine and beer, which contemplates the crucified and risen King and anticipates our future glory, is rooted in the grace that poured from Christ’s veins on Calvary.

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/what-does-bible-really-say-about-alcohol#GU62ju8KWgKfx1fF.99

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I went and saw Left Behind….

I went and saw Left Behind (the Nick Cage reboot) in the theater on opening night.

Although I could beat the movie over the head for its terrible quality, dialogue, etc. I will leave that to every single movie reviewer (Rotten tomatoes gave it a 4 out of 100).

I also will not belabor the point that it is based on theology that is highly flawed. Since I am the author of the free book available at http://www.Raptureless.com it is clear where my stance is regarding that.

Instead let’s look at some of the subtler points.

  1. Throughout the movie, the fundamentalist rapture Christians are talked about as being “weirdos, brainwashed, nutjobs,” etc. Then once they are raptured, they are proven right and so clearly they weren’t nuts!
  1. Also it is reported that several million people worldwide have been raptured.

These are both extremely disturbing concepts.

The first concept gives credence to the idea that it’s ok to be the weirdo rapture lady, because you will be proven right later on. You don’t need to actually be reasonable and defend yourself scripturally, you just have to hold these beliefs and then you will be good to go. Also all the true Christians are pre-trib believers that get raptured. There is no representation of any other endtime view.

The second concept is that out of the 2.2 billion souls that currently claim ‘Jesus is Lord,’ only a few million are truly saved? This is played out further by the conversation with a pastor that missed the rapture. Clearly there are the “Real Christians” and then there are the other Christians (and although there is a sliver of truth in that statement, it is not a few million “Real” out of 2.2 billion).

Now to prophesy.

“This is the generation which will reject the lies of dispensationalism. No longer will the idea of a ‘church age’ prevent them from advancing the kingdom in this day and hour. The Revelation of Jesus Christ will once again be about Jesus Christ and not about the end of the world. The Millennials will not bear the burden of believing in a future tribulation, antichrist one world leader or a sudden rapture. Instead they will plan long term, build businesses and families and lay up inheritances for their children’s children.” 10/3/2014

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