Some Simple Observations

I.) We – The Church – Have A Problem

The Problem Stated – The problem is that we are not particularly Christian as the idea of “Christian” has been historically understood.

A recent Barna group polling survey has recently come out with some pretty grim statistics. (Barna is to Christian sociology and polling what Gallup is in the larger world.)

Barna reveals that in America only 9% of adults think in the context of a Christian framework. That means less than 1 in every 10 people you meet will think in ways that you will find affinity with. The survey found that less than .5 of one percent of adults in the Mosaic generation – i.e., those aged 18 to 23 – have a biblical worldview.

Barna defined thinking in a Christian framework as,

Believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.

In Barna’s research, anyone who held all of those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview. In order to be considered as someone who thinks in a Biblical fashion one had to embrace all of these truths.

Now this is really pretty basic stuff. I can guarantee you if I were to give a description of what it means to think in a Christian framework my description would be far more comprehensive. But … we will go with Barna here for the sake of generosity.

So, less than one in ten of the adults we meet think with a conceptual framework that is Biblical.

However, what do we find when we ask how “Christians” themselves think. Here is where things get a little depressing.

Barna found in his survey that when people who consider themselves “born again” Christians – those who are reputed to be on our team — were asked questions that elicited answers that defined the conceptual framework in which they were thinking only 19% were found to think in the context of a Christian framework. That means less then 1 in 5 people you meet in “conservative” Churches (on the average) think in ways that you will find affinity with.

Ok … let me pause right here and massage this fact in a second. This means that when you go to college – even a “Christian” college 4 out of 5 “Christian” students and “Christian” professors that you engage with will not be thinking Biblically. This means that when you go to a community bible study or a work bible study that 4 out of 5 people who are in that Bible study won’t be thinking Biblically. This means that your neighbor next door who is a “good Christian” fellow has an 80% chance that he does not think biblically.

Now we shouldn’t need to spend to much time explaining why this is important. Simply put if Church members do not think biblically then they will not live biblically. Orthopraxy can not exist without orthodoxy. Further this means that “Christians” will have no capacity whatsoever to be salt and light to a decaying world. Further this means that these people will live broken lives because bad theology or bad thinking hurts people. This means that the Church will continue to be just a reflection of the world and will continue to follow the world into a great abyss.

So as we examine the problems we are facing today in the Church in the West we might summarize that there are several troubling patterns that need to be reversed.

1.) Although most Americans consider themselves to be Christian and say they know the content of the Bible, less than one out of ten Americans demonstrate such knowledge through their actions.

Ill. – When I came to Charlotte 14 years ago I saw this in this Church. As my wife and I started working with the 14-18 year olds in became apparent that they did not know the basic bible stories. They did not know the basics of the catechism. And they did not have a Biblical worldview. Similarly, looking back retrospectively, this was true in the Church I grew up in.

2.) The generational pattern suggests that parents are not focused on guiding their children to have a biblical worldview. One of the challenges for parents, though, is that you cannot give what you do not have, and most parents do not possess such a perspective on life.

3.) That raises a third challenge, which relates to the job that Christian churches, schools and parachurch ministries are doing in Christian education. Just as parents cannot give what they do not have, so Churches and para-Church organizations cannot give what they do not have. Given these statistics we must say conclude that most Churches and para-Church organization do not have and so do not teach a Biblical way of thinking.

4.) Finally, things are not getting better over time. Even though a central element of being a Christian is to embrace basic biblical principles and incorporate them into one’s worldview, there has been no change in the percentage of adults or even born again adults in the past 13 years regarding the possession of a biblical worldview.”

The Church is failing its own people and so the Church needs to be evangelized. The born again need to be born again.

So, this is our problem. Let us take a few minutes to look at solutions that have been offered to correct this problem.

II.) Several Solutions To The Problem Have Been Advanced

Solution A – Form Youth Groups

Just this week I received a solicitation from a Church in West Michigan to send my Jr. High students to a youth conference. I have no doubt that this Youth Conference would have some fine speakers. But I wrote the pastor back asking him to reconsider the whole concept of “youth groups.”

Neil Postman an educator by training and a Professor for years wrote a bit about the problems of putting large numbers of similar aged children in a same setting for sustained periods of time.

Creates a sub-culture where the aspiration is not for the students to become like the singular teacher but rather creates a sub-culture where everybody in the group wants to be like everyone else in the group. The teachers are seen as outsiders, and nobody desires to be an outsider. And because of this, even where there is good teaching being done by a good teacher the teaching is muted by peer dynamics.

Further my experience has been with youth groups that what ends up happening is that Congregations hire people not for what they can teach but because they can relate to the youth group. In other words they hire someone because the kids will like them and the kids will like them because they are so much like the kids.

So, while we wouldn’t go so far as to demonize all “Youth Groups” we would say that “Youth Groups” are seldom a solution to the problem that Barna articulates.

Solution B – Emphasize the Catechism or Scripture Memory

This is good as far as it goes but it has been my observation in many cases that this is to often like giving someone a sexton and a star chart without giving them training out to read such instruments.

In other words what I have seen over the years is that students do these things but they are not helped with seeing how Catechism knowledge or Scripture memory applies to real life. To give Scripture memory and Catechism knowledge without giving a larger context – (A Biblical Worldview) in which those things can find their meaning is like giving people all the particulars without giving them any of the universals. If you give somebody a million trees without giving him a sense of what constitutes “Treeness” it isn’t going to do them much good in knowing trees.

So, Catechism and Scripture memory are good but are not by themselves enough.

Ill. – Jane’s Brothers.

Solution C – Send The Children To Christian Colleges

III.) Only The Scriptural Solution affords Any Hope

Scripture teaches that we are to train up a child in the way he should go, and then it promises, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

So, the Scriptural solution to the problem is training in the home. But as we have seen that is an expectation that is perhaps unrealistic because the parents themselves are not trained to think Biblically and so they can’t train up the child in the way they should go because they themselves don’t know the way they should go.

So, the solution has to be larger then that.

When we think about solutions to this problem we have to realize the magnitude of the problem. Big problems seldom go away without large amounts of work.

First, we have to realize that we are probably not going to think Biblically without first unplugging from this culture. If Barna’s survey is right, this culture in its movies, books, media, is not going to help us think Biblically precisely because this culture is at war with a Biblical mindset.

Second, we will have to prioritize what extra time we have left over after all our committed time is spent to sources that will help us think Biblically. The best of these sources will integrate Scripture with worldview thinking helping us to see the contrast between what it means to think Biblically and what is offered by our non-Biblical culture.

Third, we will have to pass this on to our children but since we are still learning we will have to try and put our children and ourselves with them in the way of people we can trust to help them to learn to think Biblically.

This church has many resources to that end from our three services on Sundays to our Wednesday classes to the pastor’s writings on Iron Ink to our Friday Labri classes.

Of course the ultimate solution to the problem Barna’s survey reveals is,

Renewing our minds so we can take every thought captive to make them obedient to Christ.

Rick Warren Has Been Taken Ill … I’ve Been Asked To Replace Him For The Invocation

Most Just and Benevolent God of The Lord Jesus Christ.

We confess this morning that you are the God above all gods — The Creator God of all the earth. You are the one who determines the end from the beginning and you hold the hearts of all potentates in your palm to do with as you please.

We come before you as a people you have repeatedly blessed throughout our history, and we confess that we have sinned repeatedly and high highhandedly done violence against thy tender mercies. Though we Americans are not all Christian we understand that just as you threw out the Canaanites of old from the land for their violation against your just standards so you hold all of us today — Christian and non-Christian alike — accountable for our sins — both public and private.

For the sake of thy Crucified, Resurrected and Ruling Son we pray that you might be pleased to send all of us an awareness, born of thy Spirit, to make us conversant with our sin and idolatry. Be pleased, for the sake of Jesus to cause us to see our wickedness that we might be instructed to flee to Christ who alone is the propitiation for sin and who alone can heal us, our families, our Churches, and our Nation.

Be with our President most Excellent Father. Cause him to lead us in repentance. Where he stands in need of humbling himself before you we pray that you might grant it. Be pleased, we beg of you, to make our President a nursing father to thy Holy Church so that all the people of this Nation might be blessed.

As the Prophet prayed of old so we ask in this invocation, “In wrath remember Mercy.”

Do all this we pray that thy name might be magnified, so that thy Royal Son Jesus may be made known and so that thy present full Kingdom might be increased so that the knowledge of the glory of the Lord might cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

In the name of Jesus Christ — the one alone mediator between God and Man — we pray


Musings On Genesis

In Genesis, in the Isaac on Mt. Moriah account, God gives a metaphor that He will bring the promised seed through death to life. In Genesis 23, in the burial of Sarah account, God gives to Abraham as his first titled possession of the promised land a grave to bury his wife. This grave was a representative deposit on the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that he would have a land. In that grave God gives the Land to Abraham representatively and definitively.

In the Old Testament, in both the promised seed and the promised land God surrounds the fulfillment of the promise with shadows of death. In the New Testament the promised seed does die and, like Sarah, is laid in a grave. But with the resurrection, death is swallowed up in life and the former occupant of the grave, by Messianic title, becomes the King over all the earth. As the elect are united with Christ they share in His resurrection life and become inheritors of the whole earth which in the New Covenant is the Christian’s promised land.

Like Joshua possessing the land that God promised and that Sarah was buried in, Christians are now then to progressively conquer the earth, by means of teaching, baptism and discipleship, what God has given to us definitively in the Resurrection.

My Kingdom Is Not Of This World

“‘My kingdom is not of [ek: out from] this world,'” is a statement about the source — not the nature — of His reign, as the epexegetical ending of the verse makes obvious: ‘My kingdom is not from here [enteuthen].’ The teaching is not that Christ’s kingdom is wholly otherworldly, but rather that it originates with God Himself (not any power or authority found in creation.”

Dr. Greg Bahnsen
God & Politics — pg. 27

B. F. Wescott speaking of John 18:36 could comment,

“Yet He did claim a sovereignty, a sovereignty of which the spring and the source was not of earth but of heaven. My Kingdom is not of this world (means it) does not derive its origin or its support from earthly sources.”

The Gospel According To John — pg. 260

John 18:36 along with Matthew 22:15-22 are two of the passages that are often put forth as defeaters for the comprehensive sovereignty of the Lord Jesus over this world. Bahnsen clearly shows here, quite in agreement with the Greek scholar B. F. Westcott, that God’s Kingdom, as it manifests itself in this world, is energized by a source outside this world. This is important to emphasize because many people read John 18:36 as proof that the Kingdom of Jesus does not and should not express itself in this world. Often this verse is appealed to in order to prove that God’s Kingdom is only “spiritual” and as such Christians shouldn’t be concerned about what are perceived as “non-spiritual” realms. Support for such thinking, if there is any, must come from passages other than John 18:36.

Worldview Leverage Points & Daniel 9:24f — Seventy Weeks

Worldview leverage points

Those texts, events, or policies upon which there is a great contest over interpretation of what those things mean. In this contest it becomes immediately evident that something larger is driving various interpretations.

For example

The abortion debate
Causes of the hostilities in the nation that transpired between 1861-1865
Whether Homosexuals should be protected by civil rights legislation

These are all examples of Worldview leverage points. Your interpretation or conviction on these issues is largely decided for you before you even consider the particulars because of the worldview you’ve embraced.

Daniel 9:20-27 is a worldview leverage point in terms of

Christ’s Kingship manifested in this world
The success of the Gospel ministry

It becomes a flash point that can turn into intense disagreement.

Now one more thing that is true about what I am calling “Worldview leverage points” is that often proponents of varying Worldview leverage points will try to saturate a culture with their interpretation so that their interpretation becomes the cultural interpretive fallback point. In other words people seek to control the interpretation of these “Worldview leverage points” so that their interpretation becomes THE interpretation.

Example – The McCarthy Era has become a cultural touchstone that is immediately interpreted by almost everybody in such a way that McCarthy wears the evil black hat while the people he was interviewing regarding anti-patriotic activities were the downtrodden and persecuted. This interpretation is automatic because this issue at one time was a worldview leverage point and those who need the McCarthy era interpreted it a particular way and thus saturated the culture with their interpretation so that that interpretation has become the cultural fall back point.

However, “Blacklisted By History,” by M. Stanton Evans tells a different story.

Well, something like this happened in the Church when it came to Daniel 9:24-27 to the point that many people here, though perhaps having never thought a great deal on this passage already have certain assumptions about the text. In many respects that isn’t even their fault since their a-priori understanding was kind of built into the Church’s sub-culture through things like the films the Billy Graham movement made, and through things like the rise of the Bible Colleges in America, and through things like being able to print bibles that had notes in them that supported your Worldview leverage point, and through things like the songs that you were taught to sing in youth group growing up. (e.g. — “I wish we’d all been ready.”)

Because this is so, when a different understanding of the Worldview leverage point in question arises it becomes very difficult to see or understand because of the way that our hard-drives have been written upon.

So because of this understanding that all of us have largely unconsciously adopted I am going to compare and contrast the predominant interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 that has saturated most of our Church culture but is in fact only about 150 years old with a interpretation that is much older and satisfies the text far better.

The popular interpretation comes to us from the school of Dispensationalism. And because I grew up with this understanding as my fall back point it is almost easier to articulate then the position I now hold. It makes the following observations about this passage.

1.) Vs. 24 is a presentation of the whole prophecy

2.) 6 purposes of God (v. 24) are ultimately fulfilled only at the second coming of Christ

3.) Decree to restore & rebuild Jerusalem (v. 25) was issued in 445 by Artaxerxes (Ne. 2:1f)

4.) The seven sevens and sixty two sevens, when understood as 483 years of 360 days each, terminate shortly before the death of Christ

5.) Between the end of the 69th week and the beginning of the 70th week, there is an indefinite time gap, during which the prophetic clock is stopped for Israel and the church age transpires. (This time gap is nowhere suggested in Daniel’s text.)

6.) The entire 70th week is thus future and will begin when a future political leader makes a “covenant” with the people of Israel.

7.) At the beginning of the 70th week, the rapture of all believers will occur, yet life will continue on earth absent the believers.

8.) In the middle of this 70th week, the political leader will stop the renewed sacrifices that have begun in the rebuilt Jewish temple, and a period of great tribulation will commence in Israel.

9.) The 70th week ends with the coming of Christ.

So, as this focuses for the most part on the Second Coming of Christ this is often referred to as the Second Advent view of Daniel 9. Daniel 9 was read the way it, with a Dispensational “Gap,” in order to harmonize it with the rest of their Theology. In other words they developed a Theology and crammed Daniel 9 into their Theology.

Reaching behind the past 150 years when this interpretation became popular we find another view taught during the previous 1900 years in the Church. We will call this majority opinion interpretation the 1st Advent view of Christ’s coming. In this view the emphasis is laid on the finished work of Christ and the resultant punishment upon the Jews in AD 70 in the destruction of the Temple for rejecting their Messiah.

Now, keeping in mind the current popular view that we just gave let us contrast it with the 2nd Advent view.

The seventy sevens of v. 24 are 490 years. These seventy sevens are divided into three periods: seven weeks (49) years, sixty-two weeks (434 years), and one week (7 years). These time periods were specified so Daniel might “know and discern” the length of time involved, just as he had discerned the length and time in Jeremiah’s Prophecy (9:2).

Yet, if that “knowing and discerning” is the purpose of the passage, such knowing and discerning is impossible if an indefinite gap exists between the 69th week and 70th week as the current majority report insists. This is especially true given that the gap created by the majority report is already over four times longer than the entire 70 week period itself.

2.) It is possible that the decree of Artaxerxes in Nehemiah 2 is the decree mentioned by Daniel in 9:25. If we date 49 years from Artaxerxes word we find the streets and walls around Jerusalem had been completed. Some would prefer to begin the 70 weeks with Jeremiahs prediction that Jerusalem would be re-built. If we date 49 years from that point we find Cyrus permitting the Jews to return to Palestine. Regardless, which date we want to start from the point of this statement is that a very specific amount of time will pass between the decree and the coming of the Messiah. (No gap theory allowed.)

The six things to be accomplished during the 490 years in question (vs. 24) were all fulfilled in the first century.

a.) Finish the transgression – Israel’s sinful rebellion against God climaxed with her
rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah (Mt. 21:33-45, Acts. 7:51-52).

b.) Make an end of sin (seal up sins). Israel’s sins were reserved for punishment until
the generation that rejected the Messiah (Mt. 23:29-26).

c.) Make atonement for iniquity. This was fulfilled in Christ’s atoning death. (Heb. 2:17, 9:12-14, 26; I Jn. 4:10)

d.) Bring in everlasting righteousness – This has been accomplished through the redemptive work of Jesus (Rom. 3:21-22)

e.) Seal up vision and prophecy. The eyes and ears of the Jews were “sealed” from understanding the prophecies of God (Is. 6:9-10, 29:10-11, Mt. 13:11-16, Jn. 12:37-41).

f.) Anoint the most Holy – The Most Holy (Christ – anointed one) was anointed in His ascension to the right hand of the Father. (Heb. 9:22-28)

4.) After the seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks, which would imply a time during the seventieth week the Messiah is “cut off.” That is he is cut off from His people – He suffers the death penalty.

5.) At an (unspecified) point following the cutting off of the Messiah, the city and sanctuary are destroyed. The destruction of Jerusalem (v. 26-27) in A.D. 70 was a consequence of the rejection and crucifixion of Christ. It is not said by Daniel to occur within the 70th week.

6.) The one who confirms a covenant in vs. 27 is the Messiah in vs. 26. That the antecedent “He” is not the Prince of vs. 26 is confirmed in several ways:

a.) the word “prince” is not even the subject of the sentence in vs. 26. Main subject is Messiah.
b.) The “end” in vs. 26 is the “end of destruction” not the end of the prince
c.) The Messiah is the focus of the entire passage.

7.) The Messiah did fulfill or confirms the stipulations of the old covenant, and Christ’s covenantal work was directed toward the many (faithful Jews) for almost exactly seven years or one of Daniel’s weeks. The 3.5 years of Christ’s own ministry were focused primarily on the Jews (Mt. 10:5, 15:24), and for approximately 3.5 years after his death and resurrection, the ministry of His apostles was focused almost exclusively on the Jews (Acts 1:8, 2:14, Rom. 1:16, 2:10).

8.) Christ did put an end to sacrifices by His once for all Sacrifice on the Cross (Heb. 8-10, esp. 10:2,9, 12)

9.) The text of Daniel, while providing a clear statement of the events, which mark the end of the sixty-ninth week and the middle of the seventieth week, says nothing about an event marking the end of the seventieth week. It is not necessary therefore to find such an event either in Scripture or history. (contra dispensationalists)

In Daniel 9, we find the coming of the Messiah predicted to the exact year and are told what must come to pass in order for the Kingdom promises to be fulfilled.

The above blockquote from Keith Mathison’s “Postmillennialism,” Appendix one.