Month: January 2015

A Conversation With Robert Morris on Tithing

Doctrine Via Dialectic: Examining Biblical truths by means of fictitious conversations.

This conversation is inspired by Gateway Church’s lead pastor Robert Morris, based on his false and dangerous tithing doctrine.

For a more thorough analysis of the heresy, I recommend Chris Rosebrough’s review on his radio show Fighting for the Faith.

Blogger: Do you realize your tithing doctrine is being called heresy?

Robert: God’s prophets have always been persecuted for speaking hard truths.

Blogger: Don’t you find it odd that your tithing doctrine is based upon an exposition of the Mosaic Law?

Robert: What is odd about that? It is God’s word.

Blogger: It’s odd because Christians are members of the New Covenant. Don’t you know the difference between the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant?

Robert: Of course I know the difference.

Blogger: So you don’t have a problem with teaching the compulsory tithe of Moses to New Covenant Christians?

Robert: Obviously I don’t, or I wouldn’t teach it or have written The Blessed Life.

Blogger: Are you aware of Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians regarding financial giving, which completely contradicts you? For he says

Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9: 7

Robert: Of course I am aware of Paul’s words. I am a pastor, after all.

Blogger: So you have no problem teaching a compulsory tithe, while at the same time knowing that Paul instructed giving should be based on what the Christian has purposed in their heart?

Robert: No, I don’t.

Blogger: I don’t know what to say, other than given this obvious double-mindedness, it is no wonder Mark Driscoll sought counsel from you in the final days of his Mars Hill ministry. The proverb seems to be true – birds of a feather flock together.


God Reveals His Oracles: 2 – Methods of Transmission

Suggested Pre-Reading: God Reveals His Oracles: 1

If we accept the premise that God gives oracles to men, we must take the next step and conclude that these oracles must be communicated in a way that man will understand. It can hardly be considered an oracle if it is communicated in a completely cryptic way. For example, if everyone on the planet spoke English, but God gave an oracle in Spanish, and there was no way to translate the message from Spanish to English, then this could not be considered divine revelation, for nothing in the Spanish message could be discerned by the English-speakers. It could definitely be considered divine speaking, for it was God speaking in Spanish, but since there was no receiver of the message, nothing was revealed and there was no actual communication between God and man.

If we accept this basic understanding of divine revelation, that God speaks oracles using language that the recipients understand, we can proceed to examine the flow of the message from God to man. There are two fundamental ways:

  1. God reveals a truth to all men, or
  2. God reveals a truth to a select audience.

If God reveals a truth to a select audience, then the following can be presumed:

  1. Those who receive His message will share it with those who did not receive it, or
  2. Those who receive His message will not share it and will keep it to themselves.

We have then two models of the transmission of divine revelation, both of which can be diagrammed to aid our understanding.

Diagram 1: God Speaks A Truth To All Men


Diagram 2: God Speaks A Truth To Some Men


So we see that in regards to divinely revealed truths, God either speaks to all or He speaks to some. No matter who He speaks to, if He wants His message understood, He will ensure that the recipients can understand it. If God chooses to only speak to some, but He wants His message to go beyond the receiving audience, the responsibility is on the recipients to share God’s message with others.

It is important to note that the model of communication God chooses to use could vary for each revealed truth. In some instances God might choose to give all men a message, and in other instances He might choose to give some men a message. The next installment of this series will examine how Christians believe God speaks to men, using each of these two models just discussed.

God Reveals His Oracles: 1 – Introduction to Divine Revelation

Suggested Pre-Reading: The Faith Foundations overview

Of the seven aforementioned principles that are essential to Christianity, we will start by discussing the principle “God reveals His oracles”. If God does not reveal His oracles then we cannot talk about the other six principles, for they all derive from the notion that God has spoken to man.

“Divine revelation” is a term commonly used when referring to the oracles (revelation) given to man by God (divine). It is essential that belief in God and beliefs about God are based upon the revelation of God. If God has not spoken, and we only have our own ideas, we will end up in a state of confusion. The world offers too many opposing pictures of reality to make meaningful sense of God and His character. For example, one might say God is a God of love, if they grow up in a nice and tender family. Another might say God is a God of hate, if they grow up in an abusive and dysfunctional household. One might say God wants nothing but the best for us, if they grow up wealthy and healthy. Another might say God is spiteful and wants the worst for us, if they grow up poor and have a chronic disease. Therefore the importance of divine revelation cannot be overstated.

Now, to briefly digress, there is a mode of inquiry into the nature of God that can occur outside of divine revelation. It is known as natural theology and it relies primarily upon human reason to conclude certain truths about God. For example – through natural theology one can come to the understanding that if “good and bad” are to be legitimately objective concepts, then “a god” is necessary to impose the standards of good and bad. If only humans determine the standard, then it is subjective and subject to change in accordance with the whims of society. Therefore, if justice is to be real, if right and wrong are to be real, then a god is necessary. Despite these types of general things that can be concluded via natural theology, it is hard to make specific conclusions. For example, even if we know only God can impose standards of good and bad, how would we know what He considers to be good and what he considers to be bad? We could suggest certain things are bad, like murder or stealing, but we would be unable to come up with a comprehensive list. In order to know what God considers to be good or bad, He would have to tell us.

It is worth mentioning that if you believe in divine revelation then you believe in God. If God has spoken, a corollary is “God exists”. But the inverse is not true. If God exists, it does not necessarily follow that God has given oracles to men. This distinction is important to make, I believe, because one can use natural theology and all sorts of logical argumentation to prove the existence of God, but they have done very little to discuss the claims of divine revelation that exist in the world today. The Bible, the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita – these are all writings that make distinct claims about the nature of God and His interaction in human history. You can’t really use natural theology to judge between these three holy books. You actually have to review the claims of the books and examine what is being said.

If there is one thing to take from this introduction, it is this – divine revelation is the foundation for anything specific we could ever know or say about God.

Malarkey Says Malarkey

In recent years, books related to peoples’ alleged trips to heaven have caused quite a stir in the evangelical community. The books certainly sell and make the publishers money, but what doctrinal value are they providing to the church of Jesus Christ? Are we supposed to take the claims of these people and paste them to the back of our Bible and consider them the latest addition to Holy Writ?

The critics of this genre of Christian literature, known as “heavenly tourism”, have pointed out that in Scripture not even the apostle Paul was willing to describe his trip to heaven. He was uncertain as to how he came to see what he saw.

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows – and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter…So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. (2 Corinthians 12: 2 – 4, 7)

In light of these words from Paul, and the shadow of doubt they cast on all claims of heavenly visitations (which are replete with detailed descriptions), it is not surprising to hear that Alex Malarkey, of the book The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, published by Tyndale House, has publicly recanted his story. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and whether others will come out and recant, and whether the church’s fascination with this genre will finally wane and provide the publishers with no more profit. To learn more about this breaking story:

  1. Read Alex Malarkey’s published statement
  2. Read Phil Johnson’s (John MacArthur’s right hand man) commentary on the heavenly tourism genre.
  3. Read Phil Johnson’s personal correspondence with Tyndale House regarding Alex Malarkey.

Sadly, all signs point to Christian publishers and bookstores having no concern about making money off of false doctrine. We should not be surprised by this, however, for that very same Paul who gave us no detail about heaven gave us great detail regarding these latter days on earth:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money…(2 Timothy 3: 1 – 2)

Introduction to Faith Foundations

It seems appropriate, after more than two years of producing blogs targeting mature Christians, to provide content suitable for a new Christian or a non-Christian wanting to learn about Christianity. Therefore, the next series will be called “Faith Foundations”, and will discuss seven core Christian principles found in the Bible. An overview is provided below:

The Bible is a big book. There is a lot to read and understand. If you are a new Christian, or a non-Christian wanting to learn about Christianity, where do you start? What page do you turn to?

Although there is more than one answer to those questions, it may be helpful to point out that within the Bible is a short list of what are considered “the elementary principles of the oracles of God.” These would be things that are considered essentials of Christianity, foundations of the faith:

  • Repentance from dead works
  • Faith toward God
  • Instructions about washing and laying on of hands
  • Resurrection of the dead
  • Eternal judgment

This list is taken from the sixth chapter of the book of Hebrews. Implicit in the list are two more principles:

  • God reveals His oracles
  • God’s oracles center around Christ

Here is the passage these principles are taken from:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food…Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. (Hebrews 5: 12, 6: 1 – 2)

The goal of Faith Foundations is not to comprehensively discuss the passage above, but to provide a detailed introduction to each of the seven principles listed. Whether a non-Christian, a new-Christian, or an old-Christian, it is hoped that the end result of the series will be a useful primer.