Tribulation Saint

Historic Christianity in the Twenty First Century

Month: November, 2015

WHY A SAVIOR?

4.2.7

Lorenzo di Credi, “The “Annunciation”

 

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief . . .

                                                                                    (I Timothy 1:15; NKJV)

 

This Christmas season is a little odd. The season will go on, of course, as it has countless times before. But as our culture becomes more secular an ostensibly religious holiday like Christmas seems increasing odd and out of place. Supposedly the “reason for the season” is the birth of Christ. But who is interested in Christ anymore?

The fact of the matter is that Jesus was no ordinary human being, and His birth was a watershed in history. Jesus is the Son of God, and He came into the world for a specific reason and purpose. He “came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

But who is a sinner, you may ask? The answer is, we all are. It may be hard for us to see that, but it is true nonetheless. We measure ourselves by each other, and conclude that we are basically nice, decent people because we have managed to stay out of jail. But when we measure ourselves by God’s standard the picture is completely different.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). God is perfectly holy and just. “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). Moreover, He created us for His own purposes and expects us to live accordingly.

“He has shown you, o man, what is good;

And what does the Lord require of you

But to do justly,

To love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?”

(Micah 6:8)

We, however, have not done that. We do not always “do justly.” We cannot say that we truly “love” mercy. And we can hardly say that we “walk humbly” with God. Most of the time we go through life pursuing our own self-interest, sometimes at the expense of others.

While we may look outwardly respectable, inwardly we are a raging cauldron of human passion and lust. What we take pains to hide from others is all too obvious to ourselves: our pride, our lust, our envy, our greed. Our seething anger; our petty selfishness. And in ways subtle and sometime not so subtle, our fallen human nature corrupts and destroys everything we do. We manipulate and extort from others; we become addicted to compulsive and self-destructive behaviors. And God sees it all.

And it all boils down to rebellion against God. We have consciences; we have the Scriptures. We know that what we are doing is wrong, and yet we do it anyway. We try to rationalize our behavior. We even devise elaborate secular philosophies to justify our godlessness. It all amounts to a stubborn refusal to do what our Creator wants us to do. Even our best attempts at civilization are done in defiance of His authority.

Our situation, then, was hopeless. We were under God’s wrath and condemnation. But what God did next was most amazing. “For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “For God so loved the world . . .” The “world,” in biblical terms, is almost entirely negative – it is the sum total of fallen human society in all of its sin and rebellion. Who could possibly love something so ugly and hideous? And yet that is exactly what the text says that God did. This does not mean that God thinks that the world is likable – it most definitely is not. But what it does mean is that God took pity and compassion on us creatures made in His image – on a human society that had become a pitiful wreck of what He had originally created.

And how God expressed that love is even more extraordinary: “He gave His only begotten Son . . .” “His only begotten Son” was His most precious possession, the person Who was nearest and dearest to Himself. And yet He “gave” Him. He sent His only begotten Son into this sin-cursed world to die a horrible death on a cross. And why? So “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The language is taken from the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament, from a prophecy that describes “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation,” at which time there will be a resurrection in which

“. . . many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,

Some to everlasting life,

Some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

(Daniel 12:1,2).

But the only way to gain the one and avoid the other is through the work of a Savior. We all deserve to die. We must have our sins forgiven and our guilt removed in order to live. “For Christ also suffered once for our sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit . . .” (I Peter 3:18). And that, in a nutshell, is why Christ came to earth.

Christmas is, of course, a time of cheer and good will. But it should also be a sober reminder of why we needed a Savior in the first place. He came to rescue us from our sin and misery. Let us “believe in Him” – put our trust in Him as our personal Savior – that we might have everlasting life.

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THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW

 

The recent terrorist attacks, first against a Russian airliner in the Sinai Peninsula and then in Paris last week underscores what a deadly threat the so-called “Islamic State” is to the rest of the world. It is a threat that can no longer be ignored.

French President Francois Hollande said that the international community, led by the United States and Russia, must overcome its divisions over policy in Syria and unite to destroy the Islamic State. “Syria has become the biggest factory of terrorism the world has ever known,” he said, “and the international community is still too divided and too incoherent.”

And yet President Obama is still reluctant to take action. He insists that his current strategy will yield results, but says that it will take time.

The problem is that we don’t have time. The Islamic State is attacking Western targets now. France is a NATO ally, and NATO members are supposed to regard an attack on one as an attack on all. Why, then, doesn’t NATO act?

In a way President Obama’s reluctance is understandable. Whether or not to wage war is one of the most important and yet difficult decisions that any president will ever make. And nowhere is the dilemma more perplexing than in the Middle East. Embroiled in perpetual sectarian conflict, with little hope for the successful establishment of anything resembling democracy, the risks are great and the potential benefits are small. And any president who commits American troops to combat knows that some of them will be coming back home in body bags.

And yet President Obama’s current strategy couldn’t be more misguided and ineffective. It essentially combines the worst of both possible options. On the one hand we are involved in the conflict just enough to antagonize the enemy and give them a pretext to attack us. And yet, on the other hand, we are not committed enough to win a decisive victory and remove the threat. We are, instead, relying on proxy forces in the region whose motives and tactics are sometimes questionable motives and tactics. And by taking a slow, gradual approach President Obama is simply giving ISIS more time in which to stage attacks.

Either we are at war or we are not at war. And it is apparent to nearly everyone besides President Obama that we are at war. We are bombing targets there and they have openly declared their intention to destroy us. And if we at war we must fight to win. As long as the enemy has a base from which to operate they will continue to attack us. The only way to eliminate the threat is to seize territory, and that will require a ground invasion. It is only when the “Islamic State” ceases to exist that it will cease to be a threat.

It is quite likely that the “Islamic State” is looking for just such an apocalyptic confrontation with the West. But the stark reality is that they are a threat to us now, and that threat will not go away until we win a decisive victory on the ground over them.

No doubt a ground invasion will be costly. We must be prepared for a long occupation. And it will not completely eliminate the threat of radical Islam. But ISIS has given us no choice: they are waging war against us now. It is foolish to pretend otherwise.

The sooner we act the better. The longer we wait the more innocent civilians will pay with their lives. Our best option at this point is to respond with massive force and win a decisive victory as quickly as possible. The time to act is now.

NO IDOLS

The Idolatry of the Golden Calf

The Idolatry of the Golden Calf

 

As we have seen in our consideration of the First Commandment, what made Israel unique in the ancient world was its belief that there is only one true and living God, and that He alone should be worshipped. But the Second Commandment introduces another startling difference – God is not to be represented by a physical image. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (Ex. 20:4,5a; NKJV).

There is an obvious reason for this. God is infinitely greater than anything we can imagine. Thus for us to try to make a physical representation of Him would only degrade and demean Him – make Him appear to be far less than what He actually is – like some finite, earthly, created thing. “Take heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth. And take heed, lest when you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the Lord has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage’ (Dt. 4:15-19)

God is infinite and eternal, all-present and all-powerful. The prophet Isaiah describes the majesty and power of God this way:

“Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket,

And are counted as the small dust on the scales . . .

All the nations before Him are as nothing and worthless.”

Isa. 40:15,17

He then asks the very pointed question,

“To whom then will you like God?

Or what likeness will you compare to Him?”

  1. 18

And he goes on to point out how utterly foolish worshipping a carved image is.

Why, then, do people do it? There is a faulty psychology at work here.

“For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire;

He blesses the greedy and renounces the Lord.

The wicked in this proud countenance does not seek God;

God is in none of his thoughts.”

Ps. 10:3,4

This, of course, is the very essence of modern secularism. But what is especially interesting is how the wicked rationalizes his behavior:

“He has said in his heart,

‘God has forgotten;

He hides His face;

He will never see.’”   v. 11

In other words, he develops an anthropomorphic conception of God – God is essentially like us, with all of our human limitations.   Dealing with God is like dealing with the government – it is all a matter of what you can get away with. Or, as God put it, “You thought that I was altogether like you” (Ps. 50:21).

By the same token, when we think about what we would like to worship we often project our own desires onto some imaginary deity. We worship the mirror image of ourselves. The ancient Canaanites worshipped a sex goddess, and the pagan deities of the Greeks shared the same vices as those who worshipped them. Thus the apostle Paul could say that men “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Rom. 1:25).

Again, most modern Westerners would never think of bowing down to worship some crude, wooden stone or metal image. But we still have the same psychology of idolatry. The only difference is that the false gods we worship exist only inside of our own heads. We claim to worship God, but He is a God that we have refashioned in our own image. A classic example is theological liberalism, which has a conception of God, but not one base on the Bible. Beginning with what they would like to believe is true (the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, along with the elimination of the supernatural) then then proceed to rewrite biblical history. But what did they accomplish in the process? A view of history base on pure speculation and conjecture, and a purely imaginary god – one that is significantly less than the Creator-God described in the Bible. In the end the liberals simply succeeded in making themselves irrelevant.

But sometimes even self-described evangelicals are guilty of nearly the same thing. We start with our own preconceived notion about what the role of women should be, for example, and then resort to contorted exegesis to get the text to fit our ideas of what the truth should be. Is this an honest way to interpret Scripture?

In either case what we have done is to worship a “God” of our own making, and in the end we have only succeeded in deluding ourselves. God can only be known as He has been pleased to reveal Himself to us in Scripture, and we must approach the text with humble, honest and believing minds. Anything else is a form of idolatry.

GROWING UP FUNDY

Review:

Fundamorphosis: How I Left Fundamentalism but Didn’t Lose my Faith

Robb Ryerse

Civitas Press, 2012

206 pp., pb.

What is it like growing up in a Fundamentalist home? Are there any alternatives to Fundamentalism? Is it possible to leave Fundamentalism and still be a Christian? Pastor Robb Ryerse explores these questions and gives us some intriguing answers in his book Fundamorphoses: How I Left Fundamentalism but Didn’t Lose my Faith.

As it turns out Pastor Ryerse and myself have quite a bit in common. We were both raised in churches that were affiliated with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC). We both lived, at least for a while, in Upstate New York – he near Utica and I near Syracuse. We both studied, at least for a time, at Baptist Bible College of Pennsylvania, where we both had the privilege of sitting at the feet of the school’s beloved history professor, Dr. Rembert Byrd Carter, or “Doc Carter” as he was affectionately known. We both went on to study at seminaries connected with the Reformed tradition – he at Biblical and I at Westminster. But then our paths diverged.

Pastor Ryerse went on to pastor some Fundamentalist Baptist churches, but became increasingly frustrated with what he found in them and with the whole Fundamentalist movement in general. He eventually left the GARBC to become involved with the “emerging church” movement. I, on the other hand, never went into the formal ministry, but was involved in a lay capacity in a wide variety of churches – Reformed Episcopal, Primitive Baptist, Mennonite, Plymouth brethren, and Reformed Presbyterian. Theologically I moved in the opposite direction from Pastor Ryerse – I looked to the past for answers – to the Puritans and Reformers – and basically became a Reformed Baptist. I am currently part of an informal house church group. Musically I could do without the guitars and drums – give me the old time shaped-note hymns from The Sacred Harp in four part a cappella harmony. And so, having both left the GARBC, Pastor Ryerse and myself have very different perspectives on life.

Pastor Ryerse’s book is part spiritual autobiography and part treatise on Systematic Theology. He tries to be charitable in describing Fundamentalists, but it is clear that he has major problems with the movement. He describes how Fundamentalism didn’t meet his needs, and explains why he is on a path that he thinks will be more rewarding.

Scripture

So what exactly does Pastor Ryerse think is wrong with Fundamentalism? He has a host of familiar complaints – its narrow-mindedness, its judgmentalism, at times its outright hypocrisy. What is striking, however, is his diagnosis of these ills. He basically criticizes Fundamentalists for taking the Bible too seriously, or at least too literally. He tells us that “Emanating directly from their strict interpretations and applications of the Bible, Christian fundamentalists in America have built a rigid superstructure of legalistic tradition that defines their church and home cultures” (p. 21). He then goes on to assert that “Certitude produces legalism,” and “legalism produces judgmentalism” (Ibid.).

His solution is to argue that the Bible is just one of several sources from which we draw our theology. In particular throughout his book Pastor Ryerse measures doctrine by his own experience. “Theology is conceived and born in the minds, hearts, and lives of people who are asking the big questions and seeking answers that resonate,” he says (p. 106).

However, the idea that Scripture should be our only rule of faith and practice did not originate with American Fundamentalists in the 20th Century. What Pastor Ryerse is arguing against is nothing less than the Reformation principle of “sola Scriptura,” and long before the GARBC came into existence orthodox Lutheran and Reformed theologians insisted on the same principle. On this point Fundamentalists are simply following the historic Protestant approach to Scripture.

While I would personally hesitate to say that the “autographs” are “inerrant,” we must nevertheless come to terms with the claims that the Bible makes for itself. “. . .for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Pet. 1:21; NKJV). If this claim can be taken at face value, then the Bible is, in fact, the inspired Word of God, God’s own revelation to us, and is fully authoritative in all that it teaches. Our role, then, is to submit to its authority, not bend it to fit our own desires.

The problem is that by subjecting Scripture to the test of experience we wind up making our theology conform to our lives instead of making our lives conform to what God has revealed. At the bottom of it we are either pursuing God’s will or we are following our own. And the latter is nothing less than self-delusion.

If Fundamentalist doctrine and practice is shallow and superficial, might not the problem be a failure to take Scripture seriously enough?

The fact of the matter is that virtually the only way we can know about God and salvation is through divine revelation. God must tell us what is true about these things – about the origin, purpose and meaning of life, about what happens after death – we have no other path to knowledge about these things. If God has not spoken then we are in ignorance. Thus any theology not based on sound exegesis is a delusion.

Salvation

Likewise Pastor Ryerse’s view of salvation is problematical. He describes the Fundamentalist view of salvation this way: “For someone to ‘get saved,’ they had to believe a certain set of propositions about Jesus. If a person confessed to having these beliefs, we were willing to give her assurance of her standing before God and eternity in heaven” (p. 69). In other words, in this view “faith” is merely mental assent.

Pastor Ryerse’s own view of salvation is that “The real power of faith is not in leading us to a climactic moment of conversion but in shaping the entirety of our lives. The point of our belief is not punching our ticket to heaven but in growing us and growing with us throughout our lives” (p. 70).

The problem here is that he doesn’t distinguish between justification and sanctification. Justification is an act by which we are declared righteous in the sight of God; it takes place instantaneously. Sanctification is a process that begins at conversion and gradually changes us over time. It lasts throughout our pilgrimage here on earth.

It is easy to see how a person raised in a Christian home could be confused on this point. Young children are often encouraged to make professions of faith before they are old enough to understand the basic concepts of sin and redemption. Some churches are reluctant to talk about sin and repentance, which means that their congregations rarely if ever hear convicting sermons. And in the GARBC the situation is further by the fact that sanctification is often described as “personal separation,” as if the Christian life boiled down to little more than “I don’t smoke and I don’t chew; and I don’t go with girls that do.” Thus it is relatively easy for a young person growing up in a Christian home to think that because he is doing all the right things outwardly he must be genuinely a Christian.

The situation is even further complicated by the fact that the pastors themselves often show little understanding of what the new birth is. Thus they will often accept a candidate for baptism and church membership on a bare profession of faith with little or no evidence of regeneration. Then everyone in the church, including the candidate himself, assumes that he is a genuine believer.

What is missing in this scenario is any conviction of sin. What we forget is that God looks on the heart. No matter how righteous and upright a person may seem outwardly, he still is a human being with a sin nature. What we human observers see is a well-behaved youngster who is active in his church and Christian school. What God sees is a heart filled with pride, anger, selfishness, lust and greed. God knows what we are really like inside, and if the motive is present, even when the outward action is not, we are still guilty in the sight of God. What God wants to see is a pure heart, not a proud hypocrite. And here we all fail, no matter how righteous we may appear to be outwardly.

True conversion, then, begins with the conviction of sin. This is not to say that a person must weep over his sins for at least a half an hour before he can pray and ask for forgiveness. Personalities and circumstances differ. But in order for true conversion to take place there must be a clear understanding of the real issue: our sin and guilt before a holy God whose law we have broken and whose justice we have offended.

By the same token true saving faith is not just assent to a set of propositions; it is an act of the will in which we place our trust in Christ as our Savior. We do not just believe things about Christ; we believe in Christ; we place our trust in Him. We rely on Him for salvation. Faith acts on the promises of God’s Word. Faith obeys. Hebrews 11 is the great roll call of faith.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

What is strikingly absent in Pastor Ryerse’s account of the Christian life is the role of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, many fundamentalist Baptist churches have so reacted against Pentacostalism that they hesitate even to mention the Holy Spirit for fear of sounding like “holy rollers.” And in those churches more inclined toward an Arminian theology there is a tendency to downplay the role of the Holy Spirit in conversion. And yet the New Testament makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is the agent of the new birth, and it is the Holy Spirit who creates the spiritual life of the church and makes its ministries effective. Paul could say, “And my speech and my preaching were not with permissive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (I Cor. 2:4). Without the Holy Spirit the church is just plain dead.

The new birth itself is a deep, inward change produced by the Holy Spirit. In the case of a person raised in a Christian home there might not be a dramatic outward change. Such a person will continue to be the same outwardly moral and upright person that he always has been. The real change takes place inwardly. The newly regenerated Christian has a new understanding, and new interests and desires. He is conscious of a new relationship with God. He has a prayer life, and he delights to feed upon God’s Word.

It is here that many nominal Christians raised in Christian homes have difficulty. They go through life simply reacting to the opinions of others. It is all a matter of external pressure. But to really know God in a personal, intimate way is liberating. God’s opinion is the only one that matters. Everyone else’s opinion is only secondary. As someone once put it, “the fear of God is the fear that drives away all other fear.” It was this fear of God that prompted Martin Luther to stand before the Emperor and all the assembled nobles of the Holy Roman Empire and declare, “Here I stand; I can do no other.” If we are feeding on God’s Word, if we are spending time with Him in prayer, if we are growing ever closer to Him, the opinions of men simply do not matter. The only question is, what does God think? If I am truly born again, if I have genuine spiritual life within me, it is no longer a matter of trying to please others and live up to their expectations. My aim is to please God and I don’t need any external prompting.

The difference can be illustrated by the life of Paul. In a sense we could say that Paul had a “Fundamentalist” upbringing, if we could use that term in a Jewish context. He was a devout Jew – “circumcised on the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Phil. 3:5,6). He even had the added advantage of theological training under one of the leading rabbis of his day. But in the end it was of no avail. In a fascinating piece of psychological introspection he describes his inner conflict in Romans chapter 7. Intellectually he had a high regard for Scripture. He could see that “the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Rom. 7:12). But he also saw something else at work inside of himself – something dark and sinister. For all of his outward righteousness he was still a human being, born with a sin nature that led him in the complete opposite direction. This created a strange paradox in his psychology. “For what I am doing I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (v. 15; cf. v. 19). “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (v. 23). And this led to his anguished cry in verse 24: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”   Is it not fair to say that this describes the experience of many today who were raised in Christian homes?

Parmigianino, ca. 1530

The Conversion of Paul

The answer to the question is found in chapter 8: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (8:2). What makes the difference in the life a person who has genuinely been born again is the Holy Spirit, and Paul describes the work of the Spirit at length in chapter 8. The Spirit gives life (vv. 4-11), the assurance of salvation (vv. 14-17), hope (vv. 23-25), and intercession (vv. 26,27). And thus Paul concludes the chapter on a triumphant note: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (v. 37). What makes the difference between chapter 7 and chapter 8? The presence and activity of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer! Is that not what we are missing in our churches today? And Paul is very blunt about the matter: “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Rom. 8:9b). Where does that leave us?

The Church

Which brings us to the subject of the church. In the last chapter of his book Pastor Ryerse describes the type of “emerging church” his is planting in Arkansas. He criticizes traditional churches for putting “belief and behavior ahead of belonging” (p. 202). Candidates for membership have to believe a certain way and behave a certain way in order to belong. At his new church, however, Pastor Ryerse says that “For us, it’s not about who is in and who is out. We see ourselves as a community of people on a journey, trying our best to follow Jesus together. We want to affirm anyone who is on that path, regardless of how far down the trail he or she may be’ (p. 203).

It is a little hard to see how anyone who has sat in Doc Carter’s classes could say such a thing. For Doc Carter, beyond anyone else, was quick to point out that a Baptist church, indeed a New Testament church, should be a believers’ church with a regenerate church membership. And this is important, not just because it is a Baptist distinctive, but because it is the only way that a church can manifest life in Christ to the surrounding community. It is the only way that a church can even begin to function the way a church is supposed to. The operative principle is that each individual member of the church is supposed to be vitally connected to Christ through the indwelling Spirit. The church is supposed to be a spiritual fellowship, the communion of the saints, drawn together by a common love for Christ and for each other. This is why Baptist churches traditionally have had church covenants – you were making a formal commitment to your fellow believers to live the Christian life and to function together as a spiritual body.

Is not our problem today that our churches are not very spiritual? For the most part they have become social clubs, with the paid, professional pastor acting as CEO and master of ceremonies. You can get 90% of the congregation out for a “fellowship” dinner, but scarcely 10% out for prayer meeting. Since when did casseroles become more important than prayer? Is Christ present in our gatherings?

Conclusion

What is largely missing in Pastor Ryerse’s book is any sense of the holiness of God, of the sinfulness of man, of the need for repentance, and of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. Pastor Ryerse seems instead to take a sociological approach to religion. Fundamentalism is a subculture that makes certain demands on its members. But for Pastor Ryerse it was all external pressure – he didn’t feel anything within. At one point he says that “many of us have wondered why some biblical writers speak of God’s presence being so close and near to them while our own experiences have been of a God who is far away” (p. 102). At another point he admitted, “I’m not very good at praying . . . I’ve just never been able to develop prayer as a consistent discipline in my life” (p. 189). In short, what we seem to have here is the psychology of an unconverted person, caught up in a religious milieu but lacking any direct experience with God personally. And thus it was only a matter of time before he would try to redefine his faith to correspond with how he actually felt within.

But in the end as human beings we all have to deal with God as He actually is. In one sense Pastor Ryerse is certainly correct when he says that “theology is conceived and born in the minds, hearts and lives of people who are asking the big questions.” That is, in fact, exactly what most of the great preachers and writers down through the centuries did, from John Bunyan to Martyn Lloyd-Jones – most of them had no academic training in theology at all, but they concentrated on asking the big questions, and tried to understand how the answers applied to life. This is what the older writers called “experimental divinity,” or experiential theology as we might say today, if we could even conceive of such a thing. Pastor Ryerse’s problem is that he is “seeking answers that resonate” with him personally. Rather the great preachers and writers of the past went to Scripture for the answers. (And Moses, Jesus and Paul were no ivory tower armchair theologians!). And that is what we must do. We must go to the Bible and try to interpret it honestly and humbly, allowing ourselves to be taught by God’s Word. We must learn to apply it to our lives. Simply to base our theology on our own feelings and experiences is to lead ourselves astray. We cannot afford to go through life making up things about God because they make us feel good. For this reason I am afraid that Pastor Ryerse’s solution to the problem of Fundamenealism is probably a dead end.