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Aug 6 2010

Calvary Chapel Distinctives: Building The Church God’s Way

by randy

This is my summary and response to the “Building The Church God’s Way” chapter in Chuck Smith’s book, “Calvary Chapel Distinctives.”

Summary

In this chapter Chuck Smith lays out his model for church growth. He believes that the church is God’s and that it is God’s responsibility to add to the church as desired. Smith writes, “We don’t try to motivate people carnally, and we aren’t apt to shout at the congregation (pg 33).” It has been his experience that many churches desperate for growth attempt to bring it about via carnal means. In his past experience, when he was in a denomination, Chuck Smith recalls the pressure he was under to build the church. He was using every kind of device suggested and offered (pg. 36). Understanding the error of these ways Smith coins a phrase that has somewhat become a Calvary Chapel proverb, “whenever you strive to gain, you must then strive to maintain what you’ve gained (pg. 36).”

Calvary Chapel is therefore against church growth movements, programs and the use of spiritual and emotional excitement and the hyping of the gifts of the Spirit in order to draw crowds. He believes that eventually you will always need to out do yourself and bring about more “exotic spiritual experiences to hold the crowd you have drawn through these kind of phenomena (pg. 37).” Smith cites barking in the spirit, uncontrollable laughter and roaring like a lion as examples of attempts to draw people by spiritual excitement (pg. 38).

Instead Calvary Chapel focuses on what they believe to be “teaching through the bible.” Chuck Smith believes that God honors his word and that “it is just the Word of God, which is alive and powerful and ministers to the spirit of people (pg. 39).”

Response

Any discerning person would agree with much, if not all, of what Chuck Smith says here. What many might miss however is that the source of his conclusions and convictions are not biblical, but experiential. In other words, he has not derived his convictions from the bible but from past errors and mistakes he has observed or experienced himself. It is this reason why I believe Chuck Smith has thus continued various other means of “carnal” motivation to draw crowds and entice people.

Chuck Smith is guilty of an overt and overly strong focus on end-times prophecy, a fascination and curiosity prevalent in our modern culture and displayed in modern cinema. Smith himself had gone as far as to make a false prediction of the date of rapture as well other embarrassing statements in several of his books published in the 1970’s. If anyone is guilty of hype-mongering it is Chuck Smith! Calvary Chapel is also known for their rock concert worship services and Charles Finney inspired crusades. In these ways Calvary Chapel violates sola scriptura’s regulative principle of worship.

In contradiction to his statement concerning his disinterest in enticing crowds through improper means, Smith presents his own tactics for attracting people later in the same book. His tactic is doctrinal ambiguity. He states, “You know the beautiful thing about being called Calvary Chapel? People don’t know where you really stand… Calvary Chapel has a sort of mystique about it. “What do these people believe?” “I don’t know, but let’s go find out.” And the whole field is ours. You want to fish in as big a pond as you can find. When you’re marketing something, you want the largest market appeal possible. So don’t chop up the market and say, “Well, we’re just going to fish in this little market here.” Keep the market broad. (pg. 49, 50)” His statements on doctrinal ambiguity for the purpose of marketing are just another unbiblical method for church growth. This is the growth strategy of the seeker sensitive movement.

Conclusion

I agree with Smiths concerning the rejection of the stated church growth strategies. What I find ironic however is that this chapter reveals his agreement with the church growth movement’s source of knowledge (experience and human wisdom). He disagrees with one set of church growth strategies (Charismania) and proposes his own “better” ones. The fear of “going too far” or the consequence of “striving to maintain” is not the biblical motivation for avoiding the ‘carnal’ means listed in this chapter. Churches who embrace the reformed doctrine of sola scriptura maintain that everything God desires in worship is regulated and expressed in his word. By rejecting the doctrine of the reformers and the great biblical scholarship since the churches founding, Calvary Chapel finds itself in the same position as all other modern evangelicals. They must begin building their distinctives from their own ideas and experience. Chuck Smith is the CEO with all the great ideas and wisdom. It is a great irony that in Smith’s boast of teaching the bible alone he has derived his conclusions and regulations not from exegesis but from self. It is a sort of pseudo-sola-scriptura that points at the bible but finds its real source of truth in experience.

Jul 5 2010

Calvary Chapel Distinctives: Empowered By The Spirit

by randy

This is my summary and response to the “Empowered By The Spirit” chapter in Chuck Smith’s book, “Calvary Chapel Distinctives.”

Summary

Calvary Chapel holds that there are three distinct relationships that one can have with the Holy Spirit. One relationship exists prior to conversion, another at conversion and the last is an experience for the believer sometime after conversion. Chuck Smith builds his case by suggesting that there are three prepositions used in scripture when referring to the Holy Spirit. Those prepositions are “para,” “en,” and “epi” or “with,” “in,” and “upon” respectively. Smith finds two of these words together in John 14:16-17 where it states, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you (pg. 28).” Smith finds support for the third relationship in Acts 1:5, “for John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” and Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after the Holy Ghost is come upon you (pg. 30).”

Concerning the first relationship, Smith believes that the Spirit dwells with all unbelievers prior to conversion. It is held by the Calvary Chapel movement that the Holy Spirit is dwelling with all unbelievers for the purpose of “convicting them of sin and convincing him that Jesus Christ is the only answer (pg. 28).”

Chuck Smith believes the second relationship takes place during conversion and is the experience whereby the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the believer. The purpose of the Holy Spirit dwelling in believers is for sanctification. This is the process of conforming every believer into the image of Jesus Christ. Chuck Smith uses 2 Corinthians 3:18 as a reference for this (pg. 29).

According to Chuck Smith the third relationship can take place at conversion, but most of the time it takes place as an experience in the life of a believer after conversion (pg. 32). Smith holds that it is this experience that provides an objective evidence of the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit which allows us to be effective witnesses for Jesus Christ (pg. 29). It is also this experience that Chuck Smith believes gives people miraculous gifts such as the gift of tongues. Smith believes the two phrases, “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” and “the gift of the Holy Spirit” are synonymous phrases for the same thing. He also states that all believers, like the early disciples on the day of Pentecost should wait for this second experience prior to engaging in ministry because it is a necessity for it (pg. 31, 32). In Smiths understanding this is an experience distinct from conversion. Some believers have this relationship with the Spirit and some do not. He ends this chapter with a question in bold-text, “DO YOU HAVE IT?”

Response

Whether one believes that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit continue today or have ceased; both charismatics (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Pg. 763-784) and cessationists with a high regard for the consistency of scripture and its interpretation agree that a two-tiered view of the Christian’s experience with the Holy Spirit is inconsistent with the doctrine of the trinity, and pose inconsistencies to a variety of other doctrines as well. The notion that Christians should seek a second experience or Holy Spirit baptism, like at Pentecost, is a short sighted understanding of what actually took place on the day of Pentecost in the Book of Acts and the promise of the Holy Spirit without measure to all believers (Jn 3:34). Chuck Smith holds to a doctrine of the Holy Spirit invented in 1901 and made popular during the 1970’s pentecostal movement (Grudem, pg. 763).

The Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost was the fulfillment of the long awaited, Old Testament, prophecy and promise of the New Covenant. The disciples’ Pentecost experience is not intended to be a normative, on-going experience for the church, for the obvious reason that they, uniquely, span the period of transition from the old to new covenant faith. Their experience is epoch-crossing, and consequently atypical and non-paradigmatic in nature (Sinclair Ferguson, “The Holy Spirit”, Pg. 80). The baptism (or coming upon) of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:8 is the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit alluded to throughout all of scripture, including Smith’s cited passages in John 14 where the prepositions with and in are located. In the Book of Acts we see the fulfillment of the promise, not a distinct, separate experience.

Based on this chapter in Smith’s book, the anticipated response from Calvary Chapel would be, “Why then do we find this second blessing as a re-occurring event not just at Pentecost in Judea (Acts 2), but also in Samaria (Acts 8 ).” A proof Smith uses on pages 27 and 28 of his distinctives. In order to make sense of the book of Acts, we must not forget the introductory remarks in Luke’s writing. It is precisely this epoch-crossing event that he is documenting at this particular point in the history of salvation. Luke lays out the extraordinary acts of the Apostles and transition as God extends his Kingdom from the nation of Israel in Judea to Samaria and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). It should be obvious now why Luke follows this pattern in emphasizing first Judea (Acts 2), then Samaria (Acts 8 ) and again a similar experience amongst the Gentiles, specifically Cornelius (Acts 10) after citing Peter’s vision signifying the gentile inclusion (to the ends of the earth). God had made it clear at this particular point in historia salutis (the history of salvation) that the promise would extend the whole earth, for God so loved the world (John 3:16). It is interesting to note that Cornelius consequently received the Spirit at conversion, not as a second experience. Later Paul uses the same Spirit baptism language indicating that it is normative at conversion (1 Corinthians 12:13) in presenting the case that no member of the body is less important than another, all are endowed with gifts which vary. We will see that the prophecy concerning the Holy Spirit is not given to SOME Christians with measure as Chuck Smith proposes (requiring a second experience to receive His fullness), but is given without measure at conversion (John 3:34) and is intended for ALL of God’s covenant people for the purpose of fulfilling the great commission.

In order to understand what took place on the day of Pentecost one must first look at the Holy Spirit’s role throughout the entirety of scripture. We find mention of the Spirit of God as early as the creation event in Genesis 1:2. The presence of the divine spirit in creation was to order and complete what has been planned in the mind of God. This is precisely the role of the Spirit in other portions of scripture as well. In redemption: the Father sends, the Son comes, the Spirit vindicates (1 Tim 3:16); the Father plans, the Son sacrifices and rises, the Spirit applies (1 Pet. 1:1-2). Throughout Old Testament teaching we also find another thread: the Spirit of God is the executive of the powerful presence of God in the governing of the created order (Ferguson, Pg. 21).

Sinclair Furguson says, “The Lord’s power-presence is revealed in his Spirit with a view to fulfilling a variety of goals in redemptive history. He not only carries individuals beyond their normal physical capacities; he gives them abilities which extend beyond their native wit. Thus he distributes gifts of statesmanship and craftsmanship. Joseph and Daniel, the two leading figures with savoir faire in the Old Testament, were men in whom ‘the spirit’ of another world was seen to dwell in unusually great measure (Gn. 41:38; Dn. 4:8-9; 5:11-14). Both displayed the characteristics which would be fully expressed in the activity of the messianic Spirit later described in Isaiah 11:1-5 (Ferguson, Pg. 21).”

We see the same thread present in the men who were gifted spiritually for the purpose of building the temple (Ex. 31:1-11; 35:30-35), as well as Moses and the elders in governing Israel (Num. 11:25). The ministry of the Spirit has in view the conforming of all things to God’s will and ultimately to his own character and glory. The problem however, after the fall was that it was limited to specific people and with specific measure, particular for the purpose of bringing about restoration and reconciliation throughout redemptive history.

With the old covenant limit to specific people and with specific measure in mind, it is here that the new covenant promise concerning the Holy Spirit in the Pentecost fulfillment makes sense. Ferguson says, “The Spirit had been active among God’s [OT] people; but his activity was enigmatic, sporadic, theocratic, selective in and some respects external. The prophets longed for better days. Moses desired, but did not see, a fuller and universally widespread coming of the Spirit on God’s people (Nu. 11:29). By contrast, in the anticipated new covenant, the Spirit would be poured out in a universal manner, dwelling in them personally and permanently (cf. Joel 2:28ff.; Ezk. 36:24-32) (Ferguson, Pg. 30)”

It is these last days (Acts 2:17-18) that God has poured out his Spirit on all people. Ferguson states, “The Spirit was then ‘poured out’ by Christ in unrestrained measure, and distributed without geographical and ethnic limitation, ‘on all people.’ Implied in this is the principle that the divinely given, but temporary, distinguished features of the Mosaic covenantal economy were now rendered obsolete. This is the thrust of Acts 2:17-18. In the Old Covenant, the typical effect of the Spirit’s coming was prophecy, with its various modes of production (cf. Nu. 11:24-29; 1 Sa. 10:10-11). It was, generally speaking, limited to only a few, almost exclusively men. Now, in the new covenant, the boundaries of the Mosaic economy within which the Spirit had, by and large, previously manifested himself are rendered obsolete. Both sons and daughters prophesy; young men have visions, old men have dreams. These were, of course, modes of communicating the knowledge of God under the old covenant. Now, in Christ, the old distinctions are nullified. Now all of the Lord’s people possess the knowledge of  God formerly experienced only by the prophets. This is exactly what Moses himself had longed for, although it could never have been experienced under the Mosaic economy: ‘I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them’ (Nu. 11:29). Now it was a reality. (Fergason, Pg 62-63)”

Conclusion

It is clear that Smith takes his prior twentieth century Pentecostal theology and proof-texts it. He points out three prepositions “with”, “in” and “upon” as the justification for this view. It should be noted that:

  1. The presence of three different words, especially as infrequently as they occur and without sufficient context is never justification for the development of a new doctrine that adds to the Christian life experiences to be sought after. This is typical of the modern age that emphasizes feelings and experiences over absolute truth; in particular the word of God. As Christian’s we are not to be seeking after experiences, signs or wonders. The fact that we are believers is evidence that we have an anointing from the Holy One (1 John 2:20, 27 cf. John 14:26). It is obvious by the context of the prepositions used that the writers of scripture were not intending to communicate differing Holy Spirit experiences.
  2. He fails to recognize the true Christocentric nature of Pentecost in bringing the entire earth into subjection to Christ’s kingdom. While Smith would not disagree that the promise of the fullness of the Holy Spirit is for all believers; he would separate believers into two categories: those who are capable of fulfilling the great commission, having experienced the second blessing, and those who are not and are either unaware or must seek it.

In reality, the promise of the Holy Spirit empowers us to obey the cultural mandate restored and recapitulated in the great commission. Instead he attributes it to a 20th century existential Christian experience. The old covenant limited the Holy Spirit to specific people in measure in one way, and Chuck Smith with his myopic pentecostal doctrine limits and measures it in another. It seems Smith misses the point of Pentecost and in the heart of the counter-reformation creates a second class of Christian citizens (ie. priests and laymen) and continues to live in the old dispensation where the spirit came upon select individuals.

Suggested reading for more information:

“The Holy Spirit” by Sinclair B. Ferguson

  • Fergusons treatment on the prophetic fulfillment of tongues is particularly interesting on Pg. 59 in his address of the re-creation and reversal of Babel.
  • His treatment on the Holy Spirit’s role in conviction and conversion (sin, righteousness and judgment) is also related to this chapter (pg. 69)
  • The hypostatic union in orthodox trinitarian doctrine (pg. 28) and the danger of Arian modalism (pg. 31)
  • And of course the significance of Pentecost today (pg. 79 on).

See also:
“Perspectives on Pentecost” by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.

http://www.opc.org/GA/giftsHS.html

http://www.the-highway.com/charismatic1_Gaffin.html

http://www.the-highway.com/charismatic2_Gaffin.html

Jul 2 2010

Calvary Chapel Affiliation Application

by randy

Ever wonder about the process of becoming a Calvary Chapel? Attached is the (CCOF) Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowship Questionnaire and Application.

  1. CCOF Welcome Introduction
  2. CCOF Application Step One
    This initial welcome is sent to foreign entities who inquire about the affiliation process. If they are not familiar with you or your church they will expect to get to know you prior to sending the actual questionnaire (Step Two).
  3. CCOF Application Step Two
    This file contains the questionnaire and doctrinal questions.
Jun 23 2010

Captivity or Prosperity for our Children?

by randy

The loss or captivity of our children is in fact often a sign of a cultural curse. The Lord promises “it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God” (Deut. 28:15), then “you shall beget sons and daughters, but they shall not be yours; for they shall go into captivity” (Deut 28:41), and “your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, and your eyes shall look and fail with longing for them all day long; and there shall be no strength in your hand” (Deut 28:32). No strength in our hand–what a telling expression. Though our children have avoided the relatively easy captivity of Assyria or Babylon, where one’s loyalties tend to become very clear, they have fallen headlong into the far subtler captivity of modernity–individualism, egalitarianism, rationalism, sentimentalism. And our eyes “look and fail with longing for them all day long.” Notice, though, the promise for faithfulness and imagine its cultural consequences: “He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deut. 30:5-6).
(Douglas Jones, Revitalizing Reformed Culture)

When we look to the promises concerning our children, we must remember that this really means looking to Christ, the one in whom all the promises of God are “yea” and “Amen.” the promises are not understood rightly if we understand them in separation from the person of Christ. We look to Christ because the Scripture tells us that in Him “all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Cor. 1:20). The importance of this should become obvious when we consider the details of covenant nurture below. But for the present, if we treat our covenant relationship with the person of Christ as impersonal, this will necessarily corrupt our application of the covenant relationship we have with our children. This is how covenant nurture deteriorates from following Christ into following the instructions on child-rearing paint-by-numbers kit. Simply “following the procedures” is not covenantal faithfulness.

So we look to Christ in the promises. But what is the content of these promises of God with regard to our children? God’s promises to parents are ably discussed elsewhere in this volume, and so I will limit my references to them to just this paragraph. God promises that the children of his servants will continue (Ps. 102:28). He says he will show mercy to thousands of generations of those who fear Him (Deut 5:9-10). Our God keeps covenanted mercy over the course of thousands of generations (Deut. 7:9). God promised that in the days of Messiah He would bless us, our children, and our grandchildren forever (Ezek. 37:24-26). According to Isaiah, we will no longer bring forth children for trouble (Is. 65:23). And our Lord’s mother knew that the Son she bore was not to be the one in whom all generational blessings cease, but rather the one in whom all generational promises are fulfilled (Lk. 1:48-50). These promises are important to mention here because we face the constant temptation to have faith in our faith instead of having faith in God who promises Christ to us and to our children.
(Douglas Wilson, Covenant Nurture: Faith at Work through Godly Parenting)

Both quotes from their respective essays in Benjamin K. Wikner’s, “To You and Your Children.”

Jun 23 2010

Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel & the end times fascination

by randy

This little known book written by Chuck Smith and published in 1978 reflects the end times obsession prevalent amongst modern evangelicals. The book predicts that a rapture will take place before 1981 whereby all Christians will disappear off the face of the earth. The book was taken off the shelves shortly after 1981 and was swept under the proverbial carpet. Attached are some quotes from the book.

Some dispensationalists view Jesus’ words whereby he stated, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” as a reference to the generation that sees Israel restored in 1948. However, in the context of Luke 21 the disciples asked Jesus about the destruction of the temple (v. 7). Jesus tells them what to look for and assures them that it will take place in their generation (v. 32) as it did in 70AD.

According to the dispensationalist interpretation and usage of the date 1948, Smith calculates the end to be no later than 1981. If we allow him to move Israel’s restoration to a future date in Israel’s timeline (1967) and use the same math, the end should have been only 19 years later (2000). Both of these dates have passed without any signs of a rapture.

This one is particularly funny. Normally Smith provides proof texts when he makes statements like, “The bible says…” but here no footnote is given. Can someone fill me in where the Bible makes mention of the federation of European nations? Sounds like someone has confused their newspaper for their bible.

Obviously the day is coming pretty soon since barcodes and UPC scanners are becoming popular in….grocery stores??!!!

I’d like to know what farmers are interested in shaving off thousands of a second from their branding process. Today, laser beams are so popular that kids and professors alike use them for things like laser tag and pointing at things. I guess lasers are pretty cool, but I’m not quite sure where they fit into eschatology.

Sadly modern evangelicals are doing the same sort of speculation with newer technology such as RFIDs, Smartcards, etc.. Kim Riddlebarger provides a much more reasonable, historic and biblical interpretation in his short blog post, “666 and the Mark of the Beast.”

The back cover of Chuck Smiths book:

Jun 21 2010

Calvary Chapel Distinctives: Church Government

by randy

This is my summary and response to the “Church Government” chapter in Chuck Smith’s book, “Calvary Chapel Distinctives.”

Summary

Chuck Smith begins this chapter by stating, “the New Testament doesn’t give a clear definitive statement of God’s preference for church government (pg. 17).” He claims that we find three basic forms of church government in scripture. These three forms are the bishop run (episkopos), the elder run (presbyteros) and the congregational rule.

It is the bishop run and elder run church that Smith claims can be found in the New Testament. He believes that the presence of both forms of government in the NT pose a problem. In his own words, “These two forms of government, by their very nature, seem to clash. Is the church to be led by the bishop, or by the board of elders? Is it the episkopos or the presbyteros? These divisions are so pronounced that today we have two denominations representing both sides of the issue…The fact that they both exist shows that there isn’t a clear definitive teaching about the correct form of church government. Both sides can present a valid case for their point of view (pg. 18).”

A fourth option is then presented. Smith uses the prophet Moses as an example of this type of rule. God spoke directly to Moses concerning the direction of the nation and Moses relayed that to the people. Here Chuck Smith begins to define his understanding of the “Moses model” of church government.

In the Moses model there were elders, however the elders were there to support Moses, not rule on the same level with him. Smith uses the example from Exodus 18:13-27 where when an issue too difficult for the elders was brought to them, “Moses would then go to God [directly] to get clarification on the issue (pg. 20).” It is this form of government that Chuck Smith believes should be implemented in the church today. He explains, “Also, like Moses, within the church we have a Board of Elders who are there to pray with us and support us in seeking the Lord’s leading for the church (pg. 20).”

Elders are viewed as a sort of advisory board whereby they recognize the Pastor’s position of authority and support him through prayer and by providing biblical advice. He says, “It’s necessary to have godly men who recognize that God has called and ordained you as the pastor of the church. Men who will work with you and support those things that God is directing you, as the pastor, to implement within the church (pg. 21).” While he insists the elders should not be, “yes” men, they should recognize the authority God has given the senior pastor. While the senior pastor may delegate certain decisions to the board, the senior pastor maintains the right to override those decisions as he and the Lord sees fit.

Smith explains that this allows the senior pastor to really care for the sheep as opposed to the presbyterian (elder) or congregational model of church government where a pastor is only one of many decision makers. He says that the presbyterian and congregational pastor is a sort of hireling who must do things to appease the will of others in fear of loosing his job. A hireling is less concerned with caring for the flock and doing what is right than he is with giving the multitudes what they want so that he may keep his position (pg. 23).

Concerning the qualifications of an elder and those in church leadership, Smith does not believe that there is anyone who is blameless apart from Christ. Smith says, “So the key qualification for a pastor or leader in the church is to be “in Christ Jesus” and, in this state, blameless (pg. 24).” He does not believe in taking the word blameless from the pastoral epistles in any literal sense (pg. 25).

In conclusion Smith states that the form of church government he created was “more of an episkopos [bishop] form (pg. 26).” He states earlier that it is a modified form of the Moses model (pg. 20).

Response

Part I: Concerning the “clash” between the word ‘bishop’ and ‘elder’

This is a wonderful example of how an external supposition imposed on scripture effects its interpretation. Smith not only starts with the stated presupposition that scripture is not clear, but he also makes the assumption that scripture contradicts itself in this regard. He claims that the mere presence of both words ‘presbyteros’ (elder) and ‘episkopos’ (bishop) in scripture present a problem. Because he believes that scripture is allowed to contradict in this area he denies his responsibility of doing the hard work to properly exegete the text.

Lets adopt Jesus’ supposition that, “the scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35)” and try to make sense of this in a few short paragraphs.

It is true that both words ‘elder’ and ‘bishop’ occur in scripture, but if we are to do justice to the text we must allow the context of scripture to define its own terms. Smith does the very thing he warns against in the prior chapter (pg. 10) by looking to the so-called “failed church of history” in obtaining the definition of the word ‘bishop.’ Lets attempt to use scripture to define our terms.

The word ‘elder’ and ‘bishop’ both occur in the book of Acts. In fact, the words occur together. In Acts 20:17 Paul addresses the Ephesian elders. Later while addressing these elders he exhorts them in verse 28 by saying, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” The word overseer is the same word for ‘bishop.’ Paul in his address to the elders calls these same people ‘overseers’ or ‘bishops.’ The two words are used interchangeably to refer to the same group of people (the elders). There are other places in scripture we can refer to for help on the issue as well.

Titus 1:5-7 makes the same association between elders and bishops:

For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;”

Thomas Witherow in his classic work, “The Apostolic Church: Which is it?” says concerning this text, “This passage strongly confirms the truth of the supposition already made, that the two offices were identical. It appears that Paul left Titus behind him in Crete to ordain elders in every city. To guide him in the discharge of this duty, the Apostle proceeds to state the qualifications of an elder. No private member of the Church was eligible to that office except he was a man of blameless life, the husband of one wife, and had obedient children; ‘for,’ says he, ‘ a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God.’” He goes on to say, “that the term elder, used at the commencement, is exchanged for the term bishop in the conclusion, while the same office-bearer is spoken of.”

There are several other passages of scripture that reveal the same. I have attached this portion of Witherow’s work in the event one is interested in the full exposition. It is clear that the terms ‘elder’ and ‘bishop’ are used interchangeably, they do not clash nor do they contradict. In fact, the term ‘bishop’ is often translated ‘overseer.’ This translation is likely a more appropriate definition of the term considering the context. If they were in opposition to each other then we would do well to declare Paul a schizophrenic and excuse the rest of his writing since he often makes mention of the two words when referring to the same office. An elder is held to a higher standard because he is an overseer or ‘bishop.’ I can use the two words in the same sentence to refer to the same office without contradiction. A bishop is not to be defined as an ecclesiastical pope of some sort, instead it is the specific term for his joint responsibility as an elder, to oversee.

Part II: Concerning the qualifications of an elder or church leader

Perhaps Smith does believe Paul to be a schizophrenic or at least confused since he explains away the qualifications of the elder from the Pauline epistles as well. Rather than citing the biblical qualifications of an elder, Smith explains that Paul’s use of the word “blameless” can’t possibly mean anything significant. Smith declares that there is no man who is blameless. His assertion is that a man can only be blameless in Christ, and so the qualification of an elder is one who is in Christ, or in other words a Christian.

It is clear by the context of Titus 1 that Paul is not simply trying to make the point that an elder must merely be a Christian, only to be found blameless in Christ Jesus. In his use of the word “blameless” Paul is declaring that the office of an Elder, especially those who teach, is a position worthy of double honor (1Tim 5:17) and as such requires a lifestyle that reflects this higher standard. Smith must teach this watered down view of blamelessness in order that he might justify his actions in ordaining and overlooking the sexual sins of pastors in the Calvary Chapel movement. See the Christianity Today article, “Day of Reckoning.

If blamelessness is defined as, “anyone in Christ” then it qualifies a repentant Christian who has committed adultery for the pastorate. The objection is, “who can prove that he has not genuinely repented or that he is not a Christian forgiven by God (and thus blameless)?”

While we do rejoice any time a fallen saint has been restored to full fellowship, that fact alone does not qualify a man for office. Ultimately, this objection does not properly distinguish between forgiveness and the consequences of sin. Children may repent after disobedience, but that does not relieve their parents of the duty to discipline them appropriately. A murderer may truly repent, but he nevertheless must be punished for his crime. A man can get drunk on a bottle of wine or overdose on drugs and then repent, but the physical consequences of the latter will be far more devastating and lasting than the former. Just as this objection fails to distinguish forgiveness from the consequences of sin, so it also fails to see that repentance is a necessary requirement for office, but is not in itself sufficient for office. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 require far more of a man than mere repentance (Hagopian, “Covenant Succession and Church Leadership”).

Conclusion

The New Testament clearly lays out a model for church government. There is no biblical warrant for Smith’s definition of the word bishop whereby a prophet like Moses alone hears from God (Heb 1:1). It is abundantly clear that scripture calls for a plurality of elders. The council of Jerusalem of Acts 15  demonstrates the role of elders and even the need for an Apostle to be accountable to others in matters pertaining to doctrine and church function. While I believe to have sufficiently refuted Smiths suppositions, I admit I have not laid out the entire case for church government. I would recommend Thomas Witherows book “The Apostolic Church: Which is it?” for further study. Chuck Smith makes no attempt to appeal to scripture in this chapter, nor does he present any valid argumentation. He quickly discredits the authority of scripture by declaring it to be broken, or to “clash” and makes room for his own pragmatic advice. This is a pattern throughout his book.

He was quick to raise pragmatic arguments against the Presbyterian model of government by calling the Presbyterian pastor a hireling. It is remarkable that he does not even accurately represent the Presbyterian position and fails to mention the practical pitfalls of the so-called “Moses model” that breeds an authoritarian, cult like rule that results in the disastrous fruit of what Christianity Today documented in its article called, “Unaccountable at Calvary Chapel.” Even if this was indeed the model represented in the book of Exodus, it is clear that Chuck Smith is no modern day prophet like Moses. It would be better stated that Moses is Christ’s archetype and the elders of the church are to collectively appeal to his (Christ’s) leading, especially as revealed in scripture, as the only head of the Church.

As the founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, this chapter serves as an embarrassment to all Calvary Chapels everywhere. While he clearly demonstrates his ignorance of scripture, his low view of its unbroken nature will continue to prevent him from doing the due diligence required to dig deeper and study to show himself approved unto God, a workmen who needeth not be ashamed. Based on his performance in this chapter and the assumptions revealed, I would not trust this man in any explanation of scripture or fair treatment in any matter of faith.

Jun 17 2010

Calvary Chapel Distinctives: God’s Model for the Church

by randy

This is my summary and response to the “God’s Model for the Church” chapter in Chuck Smith’s book, “Calvary Chapel Distinctives.”

Summary

Chuck Smith points out that church history has proven to be a tragic failure (pg. 9). There have been many horrible things done in the name of Jesus Christ under the banner of the Church. Even less than sixty years after the church was established we find gnostic heresy creeping in, the establishment of a priesthood and the establishment of “church organization,” all of which, “Jesus expressed His displeasure with.” Smith states, “For the most part, the church had failed by the end of the first century (pg. 10).”

Smith then draws a parallel between church history and fallen man, “so you can’t look at church history and find the model for the church, just like you can’t look at the history of mankind and find God’s divine intention for man.”  Therefore, “The divine ideal is found in the book of Acts (pg 10).” He also states, “Looking at the book of Acts, I believe we see the church as God intended it to be (pg. 11).”

The reason Chuck Smith believes this to be the case is because throughout the book of Acts we continually find people being led by the Holy Spirit. He cites at least a dozen examples of people being led by the Holy Spirit. He also tells us that Acts 2:42 contains four basic functions of the early church: “Continuing steadfast in the apostles doctrine, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer.” Smith states that if these four elements are instituted God will meet every other need (pg. 11).

Smith indicates that denominations who lose focus on these four elements tend to focus on Church growth and various other programs instead. He finds the early church making the same church growth strategy mistake in the book of Acts. They implemented a failing benevolence program for the widows (pg. 13).

Response

Chuck Smith makes the claim (A) that horrific things have occurred under the guise of the church throughout history, including several churches in the book of Revelation. He inappropriately draws the unrelated conclusion (B) that we cannot look anywhere else but the book of Acts for our model. It is this church that he states serves as the divine ideal (pg. 10). Then he later states that other denominations and churches have wrongly followed the failing book of Acts strategy of Church growth in their “benevolence program for the widows (pg. 12-13).”  This chapter serves as an excellent exercise for someone learning to identify logical fallacies and contradictions.

Not only does he plainly insist the church failed in the first century contrary to Jesus’ words that, “the gates of Hades would not prevail against it (Matt 16:18),” but Smith also insists the book of Acts church was the divine ideal despite later acknowledging it made mistakes we shouldn’t follow either. I’m at a loss for words.

Furthermore, can someone explain why, if the book of Acts serves as the divine ideal for the church must we derive our formulation of church government from the Moses model in the book of Exodus (pg. 20)? I do not want to get ahead of myself considering the chapter on church government is next; but the book of Acts does contain several specific examples of church government.

We have a congregational election for the deaconate, initiated by the elders, in Acts 6. We have the elders teaching and formulating doctrine. We have a model for dealing with doctrinal disagreement amongst elders in Acts 15; note: even the Apostles were not exempt from being subject to the council of elders. Now if we make the assumption that the early church DID have a clear model for church government, believe that scripture doesn’t contradict itself, and acknowledge the other books of the bible, then we can very easily formulate a biblical model for church government! I’ll save that discussion for the next chapter.

In this and prior chapters Smith is also guilty of proof-texting. Proof-texting is the assumption that acceptable doctrine is only found in concise, ordered, statements or verses in scripture. A Jehovah Witness might attempt the proof-texting fallacy to discredit the doctrine of the trinity by asking, “where in scripture does the bible say God is a trinity.” Unless the Christian is allowed to tie together various principles and truths throughout all of scripture, proving the trinity by proof-texting is an impossibility. There is no one concise verse that says it all.

Chuck Smith assumes the proof-texting method when he chooses one book out of 66 for his church model. He also proof-texts by pointing out the four foundational elements of the church from Acts 2:42. By finding one verse that contained several points, he fallaciously adds credibility to his “book of acts only” ecclesiology. What is interesting from those “four foundational elements that guarantee God’s blessing” is that they list only one of two sacraments; baptism is missing. It is also missing the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. One must admit from the context that Luke never intended Acts 2:42 to be an all inclusive four keys to the ideal church. One would do better to take Acts 2:42 and the many directives for worship found in between Genesis – Revelation as a whole.

It becomes apparent very quickly that though Chuck Smith identifies the book of Acts as “God’s divine ideal” there is absolutely nothing from it that he uses as his model. The chapter in this book serves absolutely no purpose at all except to convince an uncritical audience of a meaningless idea that Calvary Chapel is a continuation of the first century, book of Acts church that stands above and outside of history as the only non-tragic church to have ever existed.

A short comment on Chuck Smith’s statement, “so you can’t look at church history and find the model for the church, just like you can’t look at the history of mankind and find God’s divine intention for man.” This comment displays the myopic nature of modern evangelicalism. If we allow scripture to define the history of mankind then yes, it clearly states God’s divine intention for man. Similarly, if we allow scripture to define the history of God’s people then it has much to say concerning the model for the church as well. For the Christian, history is not a separate, secular, entity. True history finds its epistemological value in scripture.

Chuck would have us stand on his shoulders rather than acknowledge the rich biblical scholarship of the historic church at large. I think I sense a new pope emerging.

Jun 15 2010

Calvary Chapel Distinctives: The Call to Ministry

by randy

This is my summary and response to the “The Call to Ministry” chapter in Chuck Smith’s book, “Calvary Chapel Distinctives.”

Summary

This chapter highlights Chuck Smith’s view of what it means to be “called to ministry” and how to know whether such calling applies to you. Smith builds his thesis on the premise that the call to ministry is not a matter of profession, but of calling. Therefore, the minister must know whether or not he is indeed called. He follows that if one is indeed called, the desire to preach the gospel and serve the flock of God will so well up inside of you that you will view the act of ministering as a matter of “necessity” or obligation, not as a mere option. He follows that even in difficult times when you may be tempted to give up ministry, the vision for serving the Lord will continue burning in your heart. “So,” he says, “it takes a sense of calling (pg. 4).”

Smith goes on to describe what true Christian ministry looks like. The word “minister” means servant and true Christian ministry is a life of serving others. He emphasizes the difficulty it may entail financially, the thankless nature and the temptation to grow bitter. We must remember that we are ultimately serving the Lord.

Lastly, Smith also states that those called to ministry must also be committed to God’s word, believe the Bible to be inspired and always be studying it; as he says, “the learning process is never ending (pg. 8).”

Response

As I read this chapter I really did agree with much of what he said. However, I was left wondering why he never used the pastoral epistles which were written to deal with this very topic. There are objective, scriptural, qualifications for an elder. Why doesn’t Chuck cite them? Scripture also  indicates the Church’s role in nurturing, identifying, examining, laying hands on and sending out the future minister. Why does Chuck choose the individualistic approach instead? Smith mentions none of these things and over-emphasizes a, subjective, internal call. In building his case he quotes several verses out of context: “the bible tells us to make our calling and election sure” and “no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God (pg. 3)…”

Later, Chuck Smith privies us to an alarming conversation in which he had with “God” during a period of internal strife. Smith indicates that God had a real conversation with him in which he told Chuck Smith to, “quit your griping” and just serve (pg. 7). It becomes apparent that the internal calling that Smith seems to advocate is more than a passionate desire for sharing the gospel. God communicates extra-Biblical directives to Chuck Smith. The internal call and mystical nature of God speaking becomes Smith’s standard for discerning the will and call of God. We will see that his view manifests sour fruit throughout his life and ministry.

You may think I am being harsh, drawing inaccurate conclusions or being too critical in my assessment of this chapter. However, it has become clear throughout the history of Calvary Chapel that Chuck Smith has no concern for the Biblical qualifications of elders or pastors. In 2007 Christianity Today published an article concerning the moral decay of Calvary Chapel. We find therein a statement from Chuck Smith concerning the reinstatement of several pastors who have committed sexual sin. Smith says he practices restoration and that pastors who have been restored to ministry after sexual sin have gone on to run successful ministries (Rob Moll, Christianity Today, “Day of Reckoning“). Christianity Today documents several situations where this has been the case as well as other alarming words from Chuck Smith.

Smith’s failure to use scripture to formulate his understanding of “calling” has resulted in quite the catastrophe for Calvary Chapel. No surprise considering the chapter seems to encourage the lone-ranger, individualistic, be led by the “spirit,” self evaluation mentality. We’ll see in later chapters that this mentality coupled with a pseudo-episcopal (bishop) form of church government (pg. 26) actually results in a pope more powerful than Rome. One who stands apart from and cannot be contained by scripture OR history.

Jun 13 2010

Calvary Chapel Distinctives: Preface

by randy

This is my summary and response to the “Preface” chapter in Chuck Smith’s book, “Calvary Chapel Distinctives.”

Summary

The preface sets out the purpose of the book: to layout those distinctives that make Calvary Chapel unique amongst other Bible-believing churches. Smith’s claim is that the Calvary Chapel movement has found a unique balance between two kinds of churches on completely opposite ends of a spectrum. There are churches who emphasize the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but do not have a strong emphasis on the teaching of the word of God. There are other churches who have a strong emphasis on teaching the word of God but do not believe the gifts are for today.

Smith makes the statement, “And so it’s important to understand the Biblical principles that make up the picture of why God has allowed us to exist and grow (pg. 1).” The assertion is that the variety of churches that exist in this world exist to appeal to folks of differing personalities. “God, desiring to reach and bless all kinds of people, seems to enjoy having a wide variety of churches so that everybody’s needs might be met, from the highly emotional to the very formal, and all those in between (pg. 2).” Calvary Chapel finds a balance somewhere within this spectrum. The purpose of this book and these distinctives: to declare, establish and make known Calvary Chapel’s position within the body of Christ.

Response

Smith seems to presuppose the idea that there is no right or wrong way, or that we cannot know for sure. Therefore, God’s reason for a lack of clarity in certain areas is to allow folks of differing personalities to fit in somewhere. In other words, we’ll never know the truth and distinctions exist for man to decide what he likes best. This underlining theme justifies the establishment of a church based on “good” ideas and personality instead of scripture.

Throughout the book we will see two conflicting themes. On the one hand, Chuck Smith claims to only take a stand on the essentials, those areas where scripture speaks plainly (pg. 107). On the other hand, he admits at times that the distinctions aren’t always based on scripture. Sometimes, he plainly chalks it up to personality, experience, or good reasoning. We find this theme particularly in the chapter pertaining to church government. Smith states, “We recognize that the New Testament doesn’t give a clear definitive statement of God’s preference for church government (pg. 17).” Yet, Calvary’s government is a distinctive.

The idea that there is no correct or clear teaching in a particular area (non-essentials), it divides, isn’t important or that those areas are subject to the emotions, personalities or the whims of man is the plain and simple fruit of the post-modern era. Not surprising considering Calvary Chapel was born in the culmination of it, the heart of the hippy movement.

Chuck Smith also begins a nasty habit of finding balances between false dichotomies. In other words, he proposes two opposing options in which neither accurately represent the whole. By reducing the options to two purposely flawed possibilities, he easily leads the unsuspecting reader to agree with his “balanced” approach.

Be on the look out for these things as you read through this book.

Jun 3 2010

Covenant and Eschatology

by randy

Covenant theology is synonymous with Christ centered theology because it see’s Christ the redeemer throughout the whole of scripture. Every promise, type, shadow and even the law itself has one united theme: Christ and his kingdom. The unity of the covenants, much like the doctrines of grace, are so clearly proclaimed throughout scripture that it would take quite a feat of gymnastics to deny.

Riddlebarger in his book, “A Case for Amillennialism” takes two chapters to set in contrast the dispensational hermeneutic from the covenantal because they have such a massive impact on how we view eschatology. This is perhaps why those who have a perverted view of redemptive history also have an extremely strange and perverted view of what is to take place in the future. Complicated charts and speculation concerning microchips, nuclear winters, the rebuilding of the temple in national Israel, conspiracies and what might happen in the future overtake the clear, simple and profound message of what has already happened in the gospel and what that means for our future.

If all of scriptures find their fulfillment in Christ, then there are many OT promises that still have profound relevance for us today. If I am going to be consistent and honest there are some passages of scripture which seem to pose a problem, for example: the land promises of Canaan to Abraham and his offspring. “and I will give to you and your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God (Genesis 17:8).” The issue arises in that scripture states that Gentiles have been grafted in and are the offspring of Abraham. “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29). Is the land of Canaan the church’s now to possess?

Dispensationalists believe these prophecies refer to national Israel even though the authors of the New Testament apply them to the church. It is the church who Paul called, “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). It was the church Peter was referring to when he declared, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Additionally, as cited above Paul declares, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:38-29).

How then does this promise apply to us today? Benjamin Miller shed’s light on this topic in his book, “The Kingdom has Drawn Near.”

“As the book of Acts opens, Jesus’ disciples have been hearing a great deal about the kingdom of God, and now it seems their Lord is about to leave them, and they still haven’t seen Caesar overthrown. They haven’t seen a lot of the radical things the Jews were expecting from their Messiah, and so they ask Jesus, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” In effect, they are saying, “Lord, we’ve received all these prophecies over all these centuries about your bringing the kingdom and restoring it to your people. Are you going to do it now, Lord?’

Jesus in a very interesting way adjusts their perspective. He tells them first of all that the issue is not when God is going to build his kingdom. It is not for these disciples, nor is it for us today, to know the precise times and seasons God the Father has set for particular manifestations of Christ’s kingdom in history, or certainly for the final and grandest manifestation of Christ’s kingdom-victory when he returns. We are not to know the times and seasons (verse 7); that is not what we are to be thinking about. We are rather to give our attention to how God builds his kingdom. God builds his kingdom, Jesus says in verse 8, through the Spirit-empowered witness of the church to Jesus Christ: ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses. Your witness will begin in Jerusalem; it will spread to Judea; it will spread to Samaria; it will spread to the end of the earth. You are to be my witnesses. That is how I will build my kingdom.’

The disciples need their perspective corrected in a second area as well. They are still thinking entirely in terms of national Israel. Jesus tells them they need to stop thinking about how he is going to restore the kingdom of Israel and start thinking about how he is going to build his kingdom in the entire world, as their Spirit-empowered witness radiates out from Mount Zion in Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. This brings before us the question: What precisely is the church to witness about Jesus Christ? Of what are we to bear witness?

First, the church is to witness of Jesus Christ that he is the Sin-bearer who brings god’s reconciling grace to the world. That is the first thing we are to tell the world. We are to tell them about the Creator who has a holy law for his creatures, and that humankind has in its entirety rebelled against this law, transgressed it, and refused to obey it. We call this kind of witnessing ‘personal evangelism.’ We talk to people in the world and appeal to the witness in their own hearts and consciences that sin is real. People don’t have to be Christians to understand sin, because God has impressed a sense of his moral requirements upon their hearts; they know the world is full of evil.

<snip>

The church has repeatedly been tempted to seek social transformation without bearing witness to the cross and the resurrection, to Jesus as the Sin-bearer and the agent of God’s reconciling grace. It has repeatedly been tempted to water down its message, and to seek the moral effects of the gospel without the gospel. The Holy Spirit will never own such a message or such a project, for the Spirit has come to bear witness to him who was crucified and resurrected, and this is where we must begin if we would see God’s transforming work in our society. The foundation of kingdom transformation is always the message of the death of the King.

That being said, I fear the church has often borne witness to a half-Christ, because we have not testified of a second thing, which is no less essential. Jesus is not only the Sin-bearer who brings God’s reconciling grace to the world. He is also the Lawgiver who brings God’s renovating grace to the world. By his revealed moral will for humankind, Jesus renovates human life back into that glory for which God created it. Recall what he commanded his apostles (paraphrasing from Matthew 28): ‘Go, and make disciples of the nations, not only telling them about the cross and resurrection, but also teaching them to obey everything I have commanded. I have a law. I have commands.’ This is what is pictured for us in Isaiah 2. The nations stream uphill to Zion, the ‘mountain of the house of the Lord,’ exalted above the mountains, because ‘out of Zion,’ they say, ’shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem’ (Isaiah 2:2-3).

We must understand, not only for our witness to the world, but also for ourselves, that pardon in Christ’s blood is never an end in itself. If in our thinking about salvation God’s pardoning us has become an end in itself, then we don’t understand salvation. God never pardons anyone and leaves it at that. God reconciles us to himself through the blood of Jesus in order that his great purposes in creating human life may be fulfilled. God created humankind for a purpose, and nothing less than the total fulfillment of that purpose will satisfy him.

This means, then, that not only our souls are to be brought under the transforming, renovating rule of Jesus; all human callings, all spheres of human life and enterprise are likewise to be brought under his transforming, renovating rule. I do not expect Jesus to sanctify me only in my soul. I expect him to sanctify me in my callings as a father, as a husband, as a citizen, as an employee. We as a church should expect to see the renovating rule of Jesus transforming all of our callings as fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, kings, magistrates, businesspersons, artists, and so on.” (Benjamin Miller, The Kingdom has Drawn Near, pg 64)