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Those Aren't the Words We Would Have Chosen...

posted May 4, 2017, 4:18 PM by Nathan Wheeler   [ updated May 4, 2017, 4:29 PM ]

For the background on this article, read: Why I Walked Out of Hope Church This Morning

Just over two months after my initial contact with Pastor Josh Thompson at Hope Church in Springfield, Missouri, I was finally granted an audience. Josh was joined by Pastor Gary for the meeting. After some idle chit-chat, we circled around to the discussion we had convened to have. I requested permission to record the meeting, but was denied. Thus, I hope and pray to as accurately as possible present what was discussed from memory. I was informed that there was a recording of the worship service that I had attended, but when I requested a copy of the recording, I was denied. I was informed that the pertinent pieces of the service could be played during the course of our meeting as we were discussing them. I was informed that what I had indicated as quotes from the service were not verbatim. I was told that my usage of Matthew 18:15-17 was in error - that making a public statement against a church could only happen where the error had occurred. That is, if an error occurs, it is to be escalated within that church (4 walls and a roof - the building), and can not be escalated beyond the elders of that church (building). Once it's been brought before the elders of the church (building), if there's no resolution, then the dissenting party is to be cast out.

So, what happens if the error is grown up within the whole church? Let it fester? Well, that's the proposed solution - there are plenty of other churches in the area, and apparently this church just isn't a good fit, so go find a different church. Apparently, within the walls of the church, there were other ways I could have approached the situation, other than blogging about it, and making the emails public between myself and the pastor. It was suggested that I could have reached out to the board of trustees or someone on the pastoral leadership team... I just pointed at Josh, and asked if he was on the pastoral leadership team. Oh, right... I did that. Gary explained that the passage in Matthew 18 isn't about who is right or wrong, it's about restoration of the relationship, and that my context is incorrect. Now, I want to be perfectly fair here - there was some recognition that I, as an outsider, could not have known how to do more or contact anyone higher or anyone else to talk about the issues. However, we could not seem to see eye to eye on this point, and finally moved on to the points I had outlined in my original email. I also received what I felt was a very heartfelt apology for the way that my communication had been handled so flippantly and dismissively.

They also were quick to point out that I had passed judgement on the church within 45 minutes, and walked out - that I hadn't even attended a full service before deciding that they were in error. My question in response was: Where do you draw the line? We could draw a line anywhere, from being an error related to salvation specifically, or a number of much smaller errors. The point is that we must absolutely have a point where we say that enough is enough. We have to have a line we will not cross, or anything in the world is permissible and right to us. I choose to draw that line at a place of three very unorthodox doctrines spoken by someone in authority, or a single point of error in the plan of salvation. It seems a little bit random to draw the line here, but I draw this guiding principle from a number of principles found in the Bible. The number three, where I draw my line, is decided from verses which refer to the mouths of three witnesses - these verses are both references to the Triune God, and also references to an appropriate number of witnesses to cause belief in a particular thing. These verses are: Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:5, Matthew 18:16, 2 Corinthians 13:1, 1 Timothy 5:19, and Hebrews 10:28. These specific verses refer to, respectively, legal evidence sufficient for judgement to death, legal evidence for sin, witnesses to sin to restore a fallen brother, a number of repeated times to bring something up, the number of witnesses to take against an elder, and another reference back to the legal evidence sufficient for judgement to death.

To my first point, where I had taken issue with a member of the praise team saying that they had had a revelation from God, and that God's love was a violent, aggressive love - I was told that my quote was not a direct quote, and that my understanding of what was said was very twisted. I was informed that the man who had said that was an outstanding and upright Christian, and within his context, what he said did not disagree with Scripture. The first argument attempted was that God's act of love in sending His Son to die for us was violent and aggressive. I refuted this position, pointing out that the violence and aggression of the cross was God's wrath being poured out on Christ for those who believe - the violence of the cross was not God's love, God's sacrifice was His love, but the violence was wrath. The next defense mounted was on the basis that it was like a man defending and fighting for his family, a much easier position for them to defend. I asked if God's revelations were confusing - clearly that was not the message that I got, nor was it the message that others would have naturally drawn. I asked if either of them would ever describe God's love as violent or aggressive. They were quick to answer that those were not the words they would have chosen.

This was actually the most that I was expecting from this meeting - that they would back it down to a point they could defend, and then hold that position. Gary finally said that he did frequently worry what the perception of those without insight and context into the individual lives of the people of the church might be upon first encountering the church - that a new convert or member would need a lot of context explained to them about things that might be said or done in the church. However, they staunchly vouched for the speaker, and reiterated again and again that he clearly didn't mean it the way it was perceived, but meant it in a way that was in line with Scripture, despite the actual words that were said. They additionally said that they did not hold God's revelation to believers to be on the same level as Scripture, that God's revelation to individuals was personal and contextually relevant. I argued that it should be validated against Scripture, and failing that validation it should not be considered to be God's revelation. While they agreed with my position, they continued to defend the statements made in the name of revelation by God - that what was vocalized wasn't what was meant, and that they would have certainly worded it differently.

On my second point from my original email to Josh, they said that this was, again, a poor choice of words (which I had, again, not quoted verbatim), and could have easily been taken improperly by someone outside of their own congregation. I didn't hear the recording, but they claimed that the speaker in this instance had referred to the heart of God or the heart of the Father, and not the Spirit. They defended the position, however, and said that the speaker had been a younger believer who probably didn't understand the alternate implications of what he was saying. Again, they agreed that they would have certainly worded it differently, but disagreed that it represented doctrinal error, because what was said wasn't actually what was meant.

On the third point, the misguided representation of the parable of the lost sheep, they didn't have a whole lot to say. They said that the recording of that portion had, for some reason, been very quiet and garbled, as though the microphone the speaker was using wasn't being recorded, and was only recorded through the other microphones on the platform. They attempted to defend this from the position that sometimes parables in the Bible had a lot more layers of meaning than was apparent from first glance. I agreed with this position, but added that while this was true, if I were the first and only person to interpret something a particular way, outside of the orthodox position of the Church, then I would seriously question my interpretation. They agreed, but stepped back one more step and claimed that we couldn't prove if a person was the first or not - someone may have taken it that way, but it was never recorded. This is the sort of argument that is used by Catholics defending the perpetual virginity and bodily assumption of Mary - that the belief was simply held commonly true until it was written down, at which point we can clearly see that other people had held that belief. This sort of circular reasoning could be used to defend an indescribable number of heretical teachings, but it's a circular argument to say that the first time something was written down was to defend against a contrary teaching, rather than the thing being written down being the contrary teaching - we simply cannot defend this argument logically.

After we had gone over all the points in the initial email, we talked a little bit about our various backgrounds, during which time I was told that I had a prophet's heart - that my high view of Scripture and strong stance for Scriptural authority both over the church and for teaching my family was to be highly commended. I was told, however, that this led to a very black and white view of things, while a pastor had to be more concerned with getting people from the side of wrong to the side of right. I could have asked some interesting questions around this, but I decided not to. Finally, I brought up three of the other issues that had been concerning to me during the service - all the private conversations going on around the church during worship, the tai chi lady, and the woman who had been apparently screaming in the Spirit. I explained that I understood that the actions of individuals could not always be controlled, but that they often indicated a systemic problem in the leadership of the church. 

They seemed a little surprised by the fact that there had been so many people standing around having private conversations around the church during worship. They understood my (much more mild) reaction to the tai chi dancing, but explained that the lady was (or is?) a professional dancer, and that is how she chooses to express herself in worship. On the screaming lady, they simply agreed that you can't control the actions of individuals, and additionally agreed that this sort of "movement of the Spirit" was almost definitely not in existence at all prior to the 1900's (Azusa Street) if we took a historical look. They agreed that our only Biblical examples of such behavior was under the oppression and influence of demons, and not of God.

Overall, we had a very nice and civil conversation. In the end, I explained to them that, despite whatever they could offer as explanation for these events and the things that people had said, it was a serious problem if a person who just walked into a service for the first time, whether a new convert or a transplant, would be so confused by the things that were said. I also explained that, while I do not invite people to church as a primary mode of witnessing, I would never be able to attend a church where I would feel uncomfortable telling a new convert to attend, due to the potential for confusion that it could lead to - congregational teaching must, by necessity, contain far more milk, and far less meat, and if what was said was so out of place that it was offensive to me, it would very likely also be misunderstood by a completely new believer. If someone could walk in and be confused, then what is happening in the church is not from God, because God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). We must be able to verify what is said against Scripture. We simply cannot assume that someone meant something different than what they said - especially if they say that it is a revelation from God.

I still have major trepidation about this church. I'm concerned for new believers who might find it, and existing members who might not actually understand the difference between what's said and what's meant - especially when the standard appears to be to judge what is meant, and not what is said. Now, they claim that they've had people cross lines and they've had to correct people - cited as telling someone that their baby is ugly, that what they're doing is wrong even though they may be doing it in sincerity. In light of our conversation, I feel like the leadership means well, but has set the bar for truth and doctrine in light of the Scripture far too low. I hope and pray that my words today in this meeting had weight with them, that my warnings did not fall on deaf ears.

Thoughts on #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear

posted Apr 21, 2017, 10:05 AM by Nathan Wheeler   [ updated Apr 21, 2017, 5:23 PM by Nathanael Wheeler ]

So, it came to my attention this morning that someone came up with a lovely idea to have women vent all of their frustrations with their churches online via Twitter. Never mind what those frustrations look like, whether they're rooted in your humanism, or if there's a real problem. Because today, it's all about YOU. Hopefully, some women are still reading, and I'd like to address you first. In fairness, I've spent several hours following and interacting with those who are posting about #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear, and I know this is lengthy, but I'd appreciate it if you'd take just a few minutes to read my thoughts on it - at least the first 5-6 paragraphs.



Women: There's a Biblical prescription for dealing with errors in the church:

"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." - Matthew 18:15-17 (NASB)

These are the words of Christ. They are prescriptive for solving all manners of problems in the church. The key here is that these issues should be taken up with your leadership privately, then get a couple more people if they won't listen. Don't make threats, don't whine, just present the facts, and back them up with evidence. If your leader still won't listen, take it up with the entire church. This part is key. If you can't get the church to agree with you that your brother is in error (even in majority, and not unanimously), you're going to fail right here. The vast majority of the Tweets I've read would end before they began with this simple step of addressing the issue with the church. Especially in America, churches are, for better or worse, a democracy. Anyone can get two or three people who share their faulty viewpoint, but convincing more than half of a church is a lot more tricky. And if more than half the church sides with you on the issue and your leadership still won't listen, then you should find a new church. If you can't get half the church to agree with you, then you're probably wrong in how you're viewing things, in one way or another.

Unfortunately, ladies, the vast majority of you have skipped over this entire process, and now you're bashing the faith that you claim as your own because your feelings were hurt. You were hurt, so, now you're shooting yourself in the foot. You were asking to preach, but you've proven unable to follow God's commands. You were asked to lead a Sunday school class, but now you're not really qualified to do that. You wanted to be a leader, but now you're just part of a mob. If you want to lead in Christian ministry, you have to follow the Christian manual. It's that simple. For the vast majority of you, any church you try to go to that checks your background will probably not really be interested in having you serve in any great capacity until you've proven you can serve with humility, the way that God commanded. You can now expect to be relegated to serving in the soup kitchen, greeting, or some various other important, but non-leadership-of-any-kind role. 

Now that that's been settled, let's move on to the kind of things that are being Tweeted. Christians for Biblical Equality took the time to "keep a record of the profound and heartbreaking stories women and male allies are sharing" and "collected some of the most powerful tweets so far in a list." I feel like it's important that we address four of the fifty-five tweets first. These four actually are meaningful, and heartbreaking:

19. “If the pastor fell into sin and raped you it was you who seduced and tempted him.” –Sierra White

22. “’The ultimate healing would be if you two were married’-- said by the mom of my rapist.” –Tracy

32. “If you stay with your abuser, you might bring him to the Lord.” –Sarah Bessey

37. "If [abuse] is not requiring her to sin but simply hurting her, I think she endures being smacked 4 a season." –Angie Sanderson

I think these comments should have not been put on Twitter in this manner, as a lashing out against the supposed misogyny of the church, but nonetheless they do require special attention. I have personally witnessed two churches who have covered up (or attempted to cover up) spousal abuse and child molestation. I think that the leaders who stood by and did nothing, except to try to keep the victims of these tragedies with their abusers, should be tried as accomplices after the fact. I have never been a victim of abuse or sexual assault, but I have witnessed in my own extended family the damage caused by rape and child molestation. As Christians, we are called to protect the weak and innocent. Any time a person puts their hands on another person to harm them, no matter what the reason, there is no rational individual who would encourage them to stay with their abuser. I am all for reconciliation if it can be made, but I am positively against shaming the victim or protecting the perpetrator.

Sadly, those four Tweets are buried under a mountain of moaning. Thirty of the fifty-five "most powerful tweets so far" are essentially all the same, and all have to do with Federal Headship in one way or another. For those who don't know what "Federal Headship" is, it has to do with imputation - from how sin was imputed through Adam to how righteousness is imputed through Christ. See, Eve actually sinned first. The devil deceived Eve. However, the Bible clearly states that sin came through Adam (Romans 5:12). Why? Federal Headship. Adam was expected to be Eve's leader. He was expected to enjoy Creation with Eve, protect her, and lead her spiritually. She fell first, while away from Adam, but then she took the fruit to Adam, and he ate the fruit also. Humanity was not fallen until Adam sinned. Then God came, and He didn't call for Eve - He called for Adam (Genesis 3:9). Adam was the representative of the human race - the "Federal Head." Fast forward a few thousand years, and Christ dies on the cross for the remission of our sins. Christ becomes our new "Federal Head" (Romans 5:18-19).

So, those thirty tweets about Federal Headship ranged from complaints that women couldn't be preachers to complaints that women aren't seen as heads of their households. Now the most commonly quoted verses saying that women can't be preachers or heads of their household are:

"I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet." - 1 Timothy 2:12

and

"Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord." - Colossians 3:18

While these verses are representative of Federal Headship, there are many arguments against them - things like: "Women were yelling out in church" and "That's not relevant to our culture." Bad news for those of you who hold to those arguments... Paul actually continues to explain his position:

"Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor." - 1 Timothy 2:11-14.

Paul links it all the way back to the Creation and fall of man - notice the phrasing of Genesis 2:18, where God "makes a helper for him", along with God's command to the woman in Genesis 3:16 that her "desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." Was the curse lifted when Christ was crucified? Does the ground still bear thorns and is there still pain in childbirth? Then apparently not. Additionally, these verses don't exist in a vacuum - there are plenty more:

"Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct." - 1 Peter 3:1

"The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says." - 1 Corinthians 14:34

"But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God." - 1 Corinthians 11:3

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands." - Ephesians 5:22-23

Now, yes, the entire context of these verses give commands to men as well, to love their wives. These verses also give commands to be compassionate toward one another. Women never historically took a back seat because of this - they simply had to live under their husband or father's leadership. Proverbs 31:10-31 even describes a woman who is trusted by her husband to buy and sell property, and to essentially run the entire household as she pleases. A Samaritan woman became the first soul-winner, inviting others to Christ (John 4:29-30).

The more recent battle cry has been heard shouted on the Twitter feeds of women hurt by this Biblical truth, "But what about Junia!?" Now, if you're not out battling mindlessly against the perceived injustices of the "oppressive, white males" who simply quote Scripture at you to back up their claims, then you may not know who Junia is in the Bible. She appears at the end of Romans as Paul gives his customary closing to specific individuals in the church:

"Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me." - Romans 16:7 (ESV)

Now, the problem with this verse is that some versions of the Bible say "of note among the apostles," rather than "They are well known to the apostles." This makes it sound like they're part of the apostles, right? Well, there's actually a Biblical outline for the requirements of an apostle when the eleven were looking for a replacement for Judas:

"Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection." - Acts 1:21-22.

So, the requirements are to have been with Jesus from His baptism until His ascension, and ordination by the other apostles. So, based on this verse, the "apostles" were limited to the twelve originals, and any replacements necessary, much like Paul took the place of Stephen. Translating this even loosely to say that apostleship belonged to all who met the criteria, and not only those who were ordained doesn't win you this case. Junia, then, was at best an apostle as a state of being, and not as an elected or selected role - an apostle was just anyone who met some requirements and not someone who was actually called or allowed to do anything specifically as a result.

The next big group of Tweets we on modesty. Oh, how we love to complain about men wanting women to look modest. I once did a poll, to see what women's reactions would be to their husband or a close male friend or relative informing them that their apparel was immodest. The very notion of it was met with hostility. Ladies, no matter what you may think, your body isn't yours:

"The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife." - 1 Corinthians 7:4

If your husband tells you to cover it up, it's not yours, it's his, and you need to cover it up. And ladies, you have the right to tell your husband what he can and can't do with his body as well. Now remember, we are supposed to do everything in love, so we should be reasonable about this. My general rule on this would be that if I wouldn't want to be personally seen by Jesus wearing something, then I don't wear it. If you would wish you'd put on a long shirt over your yoga pants if you ran into Jesus at the grocery store, then you should have. If you would feel like covering up your bikini with a towel on the beach when Jesus showed up, then you shouldn't be wearing it. Modesty is absolutely taught throughout the Bible. You get some freedom in how to interpret this, but just because it's comfortable doesn't mean you get to wear it. Remember:

"But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience - I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved." - 1 Corinthians 10:28-33

"Why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience?" Profound question, and profound answer. If you're doing something that someone has informed you causes them offence, stop. No, it isn't your fault that a man lusts - men lust because men are part of fallen humanity. But if a man is actually willing to admit that he has a problem and would like you to help him with it by wearing something different, why on earth would you shame him and refuse? You aren't showing humility. You aren't acting out of charity. You're saying that your freedom is more important than helping a brother out. You're being selfish, and a stumbling block. Trust me, it takes a lot of nerve to actually admit to a woman that you have a problem with lust. Men are not proud of this, and the general reaction to men when they tell someone is nothing short of revulsion - "Ew, I don't want him thinking of me like that! Pervert!" Then help him out! He's actually sharing a struggle that he has in his life with you!

And finally, we come to the last group of Tweets. Everybody hears these things - men, women, Christians, and non-Christians. "You just need to be patient and wait for a mate. Someone will come along.", "I felt like God wanted me to pray for you.", and oddly enough, "We need you to teach a Sunday school class." The first two, I've been told more times than I can count. I'm married now, so I don't hear the first one any more. The second one, fantastic! You're praying, which is good, and prayers are being said for me, which is also good. This is good for both of us! Now the third. I've been asked this multiple times, at nearly every church I've attended. Every church is looking for Sunday school teachers. Parents want a break from their kids, so they don't want to. People without kids don't want to deal with "other people's brats," and why should they, they don't have kids of their own...

Honestly, I'm always very honored to be asked to teach Sunday school, even if I have to decline at the time. To me, it's a higher honor than even that of "senior pastor." When you're asked to teach a Sunday school class, you are being asked to shape the very pliable minds of the youth of the church. You're teaching tomorrow's leaders. It's both fearful and wonderful at the same time - I have the opportunity to lead every one of these kids to Christ, but what if I teach them something wrong? How can you possibly be offended by that? Oh, you wanted the title and prestige of "pastor" or "elder." What if God had something bigger and better planned for you? And you're just stalling and delaying what God wants to do in your life because you're quibbling over a title. God said if you were faithful in the little things, you would be faithful with much (Luke 16:10), but instead you got offended and decided to go somewhere else to church because teaching Sunday school wasn't prestigious enough for you - you were more important than that. You wanted the honor. But that's not even a Christian attitude to have:

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going." - Ecclesiastes 9:10

I've been in ministries where I felt like I could just do so much more if more authority was handed to me. In some cases, I may actually have been able to do more, but the authority isn't mine to take. God gives the authority. If it isn't given to you, then it has not been granted by God. Period. As we so often tell children, "You get what you get, and don't throw a fit." You bring shame upon yourself, the group you represent, and the name of Christ with this sort of behavior. Stop it! 

Why I Walked Out of Hope Church This Morning

posted Feb 12, 2017, 11:43 AM by Nathan Wheeler   [ updated May 4, 2017, 4:22 PM ]

If you've already read this, and are looking for the most recent update on this topic, see: Those Aren't the Words We Would Have Chosen...


My wife and I have been looking for a church that fits both of our spiritual needs since we got married last August. In our search, we’ve attended quite a few different churches. In the past, I’ve visited literally dozens of churches. Shortly after moving to the last place I lived, I spent a year going to nearly every church in the town and getting to know other Christians in the area, and it was a great experience.

I’ve never walked out of a church service before. I’ve been in some pretty crazy services where people did some pretty crazy stuff, and I’ve never walked out. Other times that I’ve been in those crazy services, it was a simple case of some people who were very genuine, but simply misguided. Today was very different.


Our in-laws invited us to attend church at their church - Hope Church, 2121 S. Blackman Rd., Springfield, MO. (Not to be confused with Hope Baptist Church, which from what I know actually has sound doctrine.) We walked in right on time, church started 5-10 minutes later, as is pretty typical for most of the churches that I’ve ever gone to. “Let’s all stand and worship together.” I’m still tired. I don’t function well in the morning.


Music starts out slow, builds up a little in the first song. People come in and choose the row of seats right in front of us, and carry on their conversation through the rest of the song. Meanwhile, other people are walking to the front of the church and dancing. One guy in the front is jumping up and down with the music like he’s at a Van Halen concert hearing Jump for the first time. This is not something that I'm unfamiliar with. It doesn't make me in the slightest uncomfortable, although I don't participate in this sort of behavior myself.

My wife leans over to me and comments about the people in front of us talking and how it’s hard to pay attention to the service with people talking. As we move into the second song, I realize that over the sound of the music, the sound of conversation can be heard as well, and it isn’t just the people in front of us. Throughout the entire congregation of people, various couples and groups are all talking and having a good time.

That still, small voice tells me it’s time to leave. My wife won’t like walking out. Our in-laws attend here, and they’re going to ask how we liked the service. I’ve never walked out of a church service before. What if people try to stop me on the way out?

After the second song, one of the musicians starts talking. The words out of his mouth absolutely floored me: “When we were getting ready to do that song this morning, I had a revelation from God. God’s love for us is a violent, aggressive love.” He goes on to describe a crazy, stalker god (‘g’ intentionally not capitalized) breaking down the door of your house to get to you. What? I whisper to my wife that I think he just watched the new 50 Shades Darker movie last night or something.

The crowd in the front of the building continues growing, and looks more and more like a concert crowd, swaying and bouncing with the music. The woman in the row in front of us is literally dancing like she’s in a bar. I’m getting more nauseous. I’m trying to hold it in, and just stay. I’m going to have to explain why we walked out to several people, including my in-laws, and it’s not going to be easy. Not everyone is going to understand.

After around 3 songs, one of the guys (I’ve lost track now which person is talking) says, “We’re going to have the prayer team come up here now, and they’re going to release God’s Spirit for you.” Again, what? I don’t even know what to say to this. God’s Spirit is always with all of His children. He doesn’t need His Spirit released for us by anyone. The guy goes on to say that they’ll pray with anyone who wants to come up to the front.

The band continues playing, while the prayer team is “releasing God’s violent, aggressive love” for people. The front of the crowd is now in full concert mode, with just a little strip across the front for the prayer team. Other people around us are still chit-chatting with their friends about nothing to do with church (yeah, I was eavesdropping). I notice that a woman has gotten up on the side of the platform, and is seemingly practicing tai chi or something in rhythm with the music.

In a short break in the music, the pastor comes up and introduces a man from the crowd, and says he has something to say to the congregation. The man gives a shortened version of the story in the Bible about the lost sheep - then somehow twists it into a story about God pouring His Spirit out on people in the church who we might not expect because of the way they look. No mention of salvation, no mention of anything that the parable actually meant. He doesn’t say God’s going to go save people that we don’t expect because of the way they look, he talks about God filling people and working through people that we don’t expect. The pastor backs the man up, saying how that everyone in the congregation is “going to be the one that God goes out and pours His Spirit on.”

I’m done. A woman somewhere up front and to the right is screaming at the top of her lungs. They’ve hit three “wrong theology” strikes and we’re still in just the music & worship portion of the service. I step into the aisle past my wife, and tell her, “I’m going outside, and I’d like for you to come with me.” I head to the door, and the people in the aisle clear a wide path without even being prompted. A man toward the back rushes to the door and opens it for me. I don’t know if it was the look on my face or what, but they seemed eager to let me leave, and I was ready to not be there any more.

I’m a bit shaken by the whole experience. Some people are going to see this and claim that I was “under conviction and needed to pray.” Other people will be able to relate. There was certainly a spirit there, but it was not the Spirit of God.

UPDATE: I emailed the church about this experience, and I'm including the conversation here. The pastor in charge of that particular service denies that anything that I mentioned to him actually happened, and invites me to find a different church:

From: Me
To: info@hopechurch.net
March 1, 2017, 8:45PM

I visited your church on February 12, and I ended up leaving before the worship service had ended. I was deeply disturbed by several of the things that were said and done during the course of the service. I've given it some thought, and decided that I should reach out and speak to a representative from the church about the various things that I had heard and seen. I would love to hear back from you regarding these things, and hopefully open a dialog to establish either what the intended message was of the things that were said, and ultimately to establish God's truth as it is found in the Bible. We can set up a time to sit down and talk, or we can do a google hangout or even a phone call. Please let me know what works best for you.


Thanks,
Nathan Wheeler.

To: Me
From: Gina P.
March 2, 2017, 9:01AM

Hi Nathan!

Thank you for taking the time to contact us about your experience at Hope. I've sent your email to our Associate Pastor, Josh T... since he was leading service that Sunday. He should be in touch with you soon!

Thanks again!

GINA P.
Director of Hope Intro & Life Groups

To: Me
From: Josh Thompson
March 2, 2017, 9:30AM

Hi Nathan,

I received your email in regards to the church service you visited on March 12th.

I wanted to follow up and find out from you what the disturbing aspect of the worship time was for you?

Please respond at your convenience.

God Bless,

Joshua Thompson
Worship and Associate Pastor
Hope Church

To: Josh Thompson
From: Me
Match 2, 2017, 6:29PM

So, the first thing that really struck me was when one of the musicians, after playing a song, made the statement, "When we were getting ready to play that song this morning, I had a revelation from God. God's love for us is a violent, aggressive love..." and then proceeded to describe something that I can only rephrase as "stalker God," since I cannot remember verbatim what was said. The sexual undertones in his description were so overt that I actually leaned over to my wife and whispered, "He must have watched 50 Shades Darker last night or something." This is not descriptive of the characteristics of the God of the Bible. According to the Bible, God draws us to Him (John 6:44, 12:32). God does not chase us down or hunt us. Never in Scripture is God portrayed as in pursuit of man. God's wrath could be described as violent (Genesis 19, for example). God is never in the Bible described as aggressive. The truth is never to be established through a single individual (Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:5, Matthew 18:16, 2 Corinthians 12:14, 13:1), and it never contradicts God's Word (1 Corinthians 14:33).


The second thing that caught my attention may have been a simple matter of poor phrasing. At some point in the worship portion of the service, the prayer team was called up to the front, and the statement was made that they would "release God's Spirit for you." Even as a matter of a poor choice of words, it has some pretty serious implications - on the magnitude of Roman Catholic error in understanding of the very essence of our relationship and interaction with God. The statement implies that I would need another man to act as mediator between myself and God, as opposed to what the Bible teaches (John 14:12-21, Hebrews 4:14-16). I understand that the statement was used to indicate that those individuals would pray with the members of the congregation, but the statement itself contains a fairly concerning error.


The third issue that I had was on the interpretation of the parable of the lost sheep given by a member of the congregation. The story of the lost sheep was made out to be a story about God pouring His Spirit out on members of the church that man would not expect, due to their appearance. This is not the meaning of the story at all. The parable of the lost sheep is singularly about Jesus (the Good Shepherd) bringing back to and keeping His sheep in the place that He has set aside for them (John 17:12). The story is about His sheep (which already belong to Him). One of those sheep is "lost" (not that God would ever "not know" where His sheep was, but it is simply not in the fold, or in the place that the Shepherd has set aside for that individual). Again, going back to the reference to God's "violent, aggressive love," Jesus says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27). God will draw us into the place we should be by His words. He doesn't chase us down - we follow Him because we are His. This parable is simply not about God's Spirit moving through individuals that man does not expect. However, after the gentleman was finished, this interpretation was reinforced and approved of by whoever the individual was who had invited the gentleman to address the congregation.


My wife and I just got married last August, and have been looking for a church home where both of us can learn, grow, and serve. One of the things that I set as a rule as we started visiting some of the churches was a limit of "three strikes" - three doctrinal errors in a single service while attending. I understand that there is no "perfect church," and I'm willing to filter and teach my family how to weigh and balance what is taught at church against God's Word. Three errors in a single service seems like, at least in my mind, a gracious margin for error. This, of course, would be limited to only a single error which would impact salvation. I understand that each of us is at a different point in our walk with God, and each of us is still learning and growing if we are truly hungering after righteousness (Matthew 5:6). This was actually the first time that I've hit three doctrinal errors in a single service thus far. For this I only count errors made from a position of authority or with apparent approval of the church leadership (like someone leading worship or invited to address the congregation). In any body of believers, the individual errors that we all make would total to a significant sum.


There were a few other issues that I noted (but did not count as "doctrinal errors") during the service. However, these were relatively minor, and while concerning, should probably be saved for a future conversation, as they are not related to things said or done under the authority of the leadership of the church.

I appreciate your prompt response, and your attention to these matters, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Thanks,
Nathan Wheeler.

To: Josh Thompson
From: Me
March 13, 2017, 10:59PM

Josh,
I just wanted to confirm that you had received my previous email listing concerns I had with the church service when I visited on March 12. If you would like to sit down and discuss my concerns, I'd be happy to arrange a time.

Thanks,
Nathan Wheeler.

To: Me
From: Josh Thompson
March 15, 2017, 3:08PM

Hi Nathan,

I appreciate you taking the time to share your perspective. I was in that service and did not have those impressions and actually did not hear the things you have mentioned or in the way you have mentioned them. I know that there are literally hundreds of churches in Springfield and hope you and your wife can find a wonderful place to plant and grow!

Blessings,

Joshua Thompson
Associate & Worship Pastor

Hope Church

** UPDATE 2: At this point, having been "dismissed," I posted this article to my Facebook feed, and posted a 1-star review on their Facebook page. The review stated: "The church is teaching heresies, and when asked and confronted about the issue, they deny that anything like this happened, and invite you to find a different church. Contact me if you'd like the whole story and conversation, and I'll be happy to share. We need to pay attention to what's being taught in our churches, and listen to the Good Shepherd, rather than following men."

After having posted that, the pastor contacted me again that evening. The story is still developing, and I will keep this updated.

To: Me
From: Josh Thompson
March 15, 2017, 6:66PM

Hi Nathan,

Our social media person showed me your post from today. With the magnitude of your concerns and public posting that Hope Church is "teaching heresies", if you would still like to sit down and talk about what happened in the service on March 12th, let me know.

We have been in an incredibly busy season with expansion and the needs of our congregation, but will make time to meet.

If so, let me know your availability next week.

Thank you,
Joshua Thompson
Associate & Worship Pastor

Hope Church

To: Josh Thompson
From: Me
March 16, 2017, 6:47PM

Josh,
I'm available to sit down any weekday next week after 5pm, with the exception of Tuesday. Saturday is fairly open this weekend as well. If you need to push the conversation out further, just let me know.

Thanks,
Nathan Wheeler.

To: Me
From: Josh Thompson
March 22, 2017, 5:08PM

Nathan,

We are not able to make it happen this week unfortunately. Every night there is a conflict. What is your schedule like for next week?

Joshua Thompson
Associate & Worship Pastor

Hope Church

To: Josh Thompson
From: Me
March 22, 2017, 8:55PM

Next week I only have Monday and Friday evenings available.

Thanks,
Nathan Wheeler.

At this point, I waited nearly a month to hear back, but no word ever came. I sent the following email, and modified my blog post to include the church name and address, and include the reason I had been visiting the church in the first place - because my in-laws had invited us.
To: Josh Thompson
From: Me
April 21, 2017, 12:06AM

Josh,

I had really hoped that you would be willing to follow up on this, but apparently either the possibility of anything going on in your church being out of line with the Scripture is so far removed from your mind that you don't find it important enough to discuss, or you really are so busy that you can't take the time to talk about it. There are troubling aspects to either of these possibilities. If you're uninterested because you think you are wiser or know more than someone else, then that is a serious problem. If you are legitimately so busy with a building that you don't have time to talk about souls and the gravity of heresy in your church, then that is a serious problem. If your congregation is so in need of you that you can't take a single meal or an hour or two to sit down and discuss this, then that is also a serious problem. Each of these are problems for different reasons and in different areas of the church - arrogance, priorities, and leadership, respectively.

I'm going to give you a bit of background that I think you should be interested in. I was invited to your church. My wife's parents attend regularly in the early service. Since we were unable to make it to the first service for various reasons, but were looking for a church, we agreed to attend, but went to the second service. When I voiced my concerns over what I had seen in the service to my father-in-law, he said that I should contact you. He was certain that you would take time to explain and address any concerns I had. Since he wasn't in the service when these things happened, he was unable to provide any answers. It seems clear that his confidence in you was sorely misguided.

I recognize at this point that you are extremely unlikely to bother meeting with me. I've documented my entire experience with this, including our communication, and it has been posted publicly. This email will also be included in that post, along with any future correspondence or discussions. If, for some reason, you do decide to meet with me (which I would still be happy to do), it will be recorded and posted as well. I have done my best to follow the Biblical prescription for dealing with problems in the church, according to Matthew 18:15-17 - I brought it up with you personally, and tried to meet with you. Failing to be able to meet with you at all, the second step of bringing two or three others with me is impossible. We are left at the final step: tell it to the church. I had started this step, and you said you would like to meet. Since then, it's become obvious that your invitation was disingenuous, and you simply didn't want bad publicity.

I appreciate your time in at least emailing me the few times you did, even if it was to simply deny and try to prevent bad publicity.

Thanks,
Nathan Wheeler

To: Me
From: Josh Thompson
May 1, 2017, 9:59AM

Hi Nathan,

We would still like to meet with you. Are you available to meet during the day this Wednesday or Thursday? We'd also like for you to bring your father in law if that is possible.

Let me know and we can set the time.

Thanks,

JOSHUA THOMPSON
Associate & Worship Pastor

Hope Church

To: Josh Thompson
From: Me
May 3, 2017, 9:51AM

Josh,

I haven't had a chance to talk to my father in law yet, but I would be happy to meet with you Thursday (tomorrow) around 11:45. That's really the only time I have available during the day this week. Sorry for the delayed response, our team at work had a large presentation to complete, and I wasn't sure what day I would have available of the two until last night when everything was completed. Please let me know if this time works for you. Is this time ok for you, and where would you like to meet?

Thanks,
Nathan Wheeler.

To: Me
From: Josh Thompson
May 3, 2017, 10:54AM

Hi Nathan,

Let's plan on 11:45 at Hope. Our middle main entrance is closed during the week for construction. You can enter through the door to the left of the main entrance if you are looking straight at the building. We have no offices due to construction but we can meet in a classroom.  I asked Pastor Gary to join us as well. If you are able to still bring your father in law that would be great. 

See you tomorrow,
JOSHUA THOMPSON
Associate & Worship Pastor

Hope Church

Finally, after two months of emails, a meeting was held. See the follow up, and my thoughts on the meeting: Those Aren't the Words We Would Have Chosen...

What's Wrong: Holiness or Hell!

posted Jan 8, 2016, 2:16 AM by Nathan Wheeler   [ updated Jan 13, 2016, 9:37 AM by Nathanael Wheeler ]

If you grew up like I did, you may have seen the bumper stickers and license plates plastered all over youth camps and camp meetings. You may have heard preachers shout this from the pulpit. It sounds good. It's catchy. Unfortunately, (and please don't just stop reading here...) it's wrong. 

Here's the deal - in logical argument, or philosophy, this is what we would call a "false dilemma." It's the illusion of two choices, borne of an inequality. Obviously, in this case, since you don't want Hell, you choose holiness. It's like asking, "Which is your favorite fruit, corn or oranges?" Since oranges are the only fruit on the list, you'll have to choose oranges. But what if, in fact, your favorite is bananas? In order to look at this logically then, we have to break this down into its component parts:

Hell:
Hell is a place. It's a bad place; a place where people generally don't want to go. I could quote a bunch of verses here about how bad Hell is, but you can probably think of a few right off the top of your head. This is where Christians believe non-Christians will go when they die.

Holiness:
This actually has (at least) two massively varied meanings, and I want to pay tribute to both for the purposes of this argument.

1. In my childhood, "Holiness" referred to a specific set of rules, regulations, beliefs, and practices. This "Holiness" had been around loosely in the early 19th century, but early in the 20th century, a new denomination was formed, taking upon itself the name "Holiness." It was a conglomerate of Pentecostalism, with some fairly heavy Charismatic influence. The people I grew up around referred to this "Holiness" - denomination, coupled with lifestyle - with their bumper stickers and license plates.

2. The other prevailing definition of "holiness" carried through from the 19th century in the form of Methodism, and this meaning is incorporated into many Wesleyan denominations today. This holiness is defined as the outward evidence of an internal change as a result of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. I imagine some of these people had the bumper stickers and license plates as well, but for them it held quite a different meaning.

Now, let's take a look at the opposites of these two items on the list:

Heaven:
Heaven is a place. It's a good place. It's the place that Christians believe they will go when they die. Again, I could quote verses about streets of gold and pearly gates, but you can probably spout off a handful of these as well. Heaven is the opposite of Hell.

Worldliness:
Worldliness is fairly self-defining - behaving like the world, or not behaving like Christ. Worldliness is the opposite for either definition of (H/h)oliness, although again, with varied definitions for each.

For the purposes of this argument, I will have to define one more term:

Salvation:
The redemptive work of Christ. This is the Christian's justification before a holy and righteous God. The Christian receives salvation only through the blood of Jesus Christ, who was fully God (Romans 1:4) and fully man (Romans 1:3), who died physically on the cross for their sins, and was resurrected physically on the third day (Luke 24:39). This sacrifice is what allows Christians to go to Heaven, and rejection of this sacrifice causes non-Christians to go to Hell.

After just reading the definitions you may have a good idea as to what the problem is with the statement "Holiness or Hell," but I'll complete the argument just to be sure you fully understand. 

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." Romans 3:23-24 says, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."

Later, Paul says in Romans 6:1-2, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" Matthew 1:21 says of Jesus, "... for he shall save his people from their sins." Paul here was saying that a life of holiness should be the result of turning to God. We should be more Christ-like as a result of our salvation. 

James Henley Thornwell said, "Hence, it is perfectly ridiculous to represent works as conditions of salvation, since the ability and disposition to perform good works are blessings which we receive from our Savior in fulfillment of his office as Redeemer. Holiness is a benefit received, and not a price paid; it is our meetness for heaven, not our title to it." 

Whichever definition of holiness you may hold, it becomes obvious that Salvation is a necessary prerequisite to holiness, as well as the prerequisite for going to Heaven. Since salvation is the prerequisite for going to Heaven, then not-salvation, or rejection, is the prerequisite for going to Hell. Holiness is the eventual and progressive earthly outcome of salvation, but not a choice against which is the eventuality of Hell. Salvation is the opposite of Hell.

If you subscribe to definition 1 of holiness, you place all of the emphasis on denomination, behaviors, and appearances, with no mention of salvation. Thus, "Go to this church and appear like them or Hell." Alternately, if you subscribe to definition 2 of holiness, you place the emphasis on a requirement which, alone, cannot be met, again with no mention of the salvation. Thus, "Get sanctified or Hell." Salvation of the lost should always be the foremost goal of any form of evangelism. In either definition, "Holiness or Hell" fails to even mention salvation - neither as a prerequisite, nor to even imply its importance.

Unfortunately, "Salvation or Hell" just doesn't have the same ring to it. In light of this, I would like to propose a time-tested replacement, "Turn or Burn." (Just kidding!) Honestly, I'm not fond of any of these little catchy phrases. Either they end up sounding good, but are theologically and logically unsound, or they get a negative response because they typically end up plastered on the same cars that have all the wrong and hateful bumper stickers.

In my experience, the best way to reach out to the lost is to talk to them, and explain the Gospel to them. Tell them of your experience of salvation, and what a difference it has made in your life. We are the living, breathing testimony of God's love, mercy, and grace. We shouldn't need catchy phrases or bumper stickers to spread the Gospel.

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Peace, Good Will Toward Men?

posted Dec 24, 2015, 11:34 PM by Nathan Wheeler   [ updated Jan 13, 2016, 9:39 AM by Nathanael Wheeler ]

A couple years ago, I was sitting at work, listening to Spotify radio, as I so often do, and I heard something that I had never heard before. I heard Jeremy Camp reading Luke 2:8-14 on his album “Christmas: God With Us”. I believe almost everyone should be fairly familiar with the words of this passage:

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'" - Luke 2:8-14

I want to focus on this last verse, Luke 2:14. We all know the story here... Some shepherds are in this field, watching some sheep. An angel pops up out of nowhere, the glory of the Lord “shines around them” (which, I might add, few, if any, of us have ever really seen) and the shepherds are terrified. The angel starts talking to the shepherds, and tells them this Good News which will be told to the entire world, repeating the prophecy found in Matthew 24:14:

"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." - Matthew 24:14

Then the angel tells what the Good News is, that the Savior was born, and the angel tells the shepherds how to find Him. Then all the sudden there’s a bunch more angels who are quoted in Luke 2:14 as saying:

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." - Luke 2:14

We’ve all heard these words. Henry Longfellow wrote a song with them in 1864 that we still sing today -- “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”:

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

But what happened next? Sweet little baby Jesus who was born to bring peace to the whole world grew up into a man, preached for a few years, then was violently crucified. Then all but one of His first followers were martyred over the next few years. And over the next couple thousand years hundreds of thousands of people are killed either for being Christians, or by people claiming to be “Christians” -- through holy wars, crusades, hate crimes, etc.

Why? Why has there been nothing but violence on the Earth since this announcement of peace? Why have so many followers of Christ been slain? Why have so many “followers of Christ” slain others? Peace? Good will toward men? Where is this peace, and where is this good will?

Going back to when I first started writing, I said I heard Jeremy Camp read this passage, but I wrote the words with which you’ll likely be most familiar. What Jeremy Camp read was actually slightly different. It was from a different version of the Bible, rather than the King James Version, and it went like this:

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"
- Luke 2:14

That’s a little different. When I first heard this, I had a bit of a knee jerk reaction. My first thought was that this peace was for all men, and where did the good will go? I thought they had omitted the good will, and I was a little offended. So I looked it up, and I researched the verse a while. What I came up with was interesting.

In 12 out of 19 versions of the Bible I compared, while the wording may be slightly different, the thought was close. The “good will” wasn’t toward men. The “good will” described the men. The peace is toward the men. The men are men of good will. The word that is translated as “good will” in this place is can also be translated as “desire” or “of pleasure”.

The only people who God finds desirable, the only people with whom God is pleased, and the only people in whom is found any truly “good will”, are men who follow Christ. True believers in Christ are the only ones who receive any peace from the Good News. This theme is echoed throughout the New Testament: Paul and Silas singing in a jail cell, Stephen falling asleep in Christ as an angry mob stoned him, the list goes on and on.

We, especially in America, have come to expect peace. So, we mistake a “peaceful life” for the peace of God. Because of this false belief, when trouble comes our way, we mistakenly believe that our peace has been taken away, shattered. When we look at the peace that the great men in the Bible had, we should realize that the peace isn’t in what’s going on around us. The peace that they had was found in the Good News that their Savior had come to Earth and died for their sins. Their peace was found in the fact that, whether alive here on Earth or dead through various means, they would live on, they were forgiven - they were chosen of God to be His children.

We look for peace in material things, in an easy life. We talk about how blessed we are to live in this great country and how easy we have it. We talk about how God has blessed us by meeting our needs with abundance. Could we still say the same thing if we were locked up in a jail cell for spreading His Word? Would we still praise God and show His love, forgiving others as they stoned us for telling the Good News?

I’ve often heard people say things like, “Well, I know I must be doing the right thing because God is just blessing what I’m doing and life is great.” I’ve never heard anyone say, “This must be exactly what I’m supposed to be doing because I have a peace about it and everyone around me hates me and wants to kill me.” I’m guilty of it. If you’re honest, you’ll admit to being guilty of it as well. Jesus even told us that things here in the world weren’t going to be easy. He promised us a life of trouble.

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." - John 16:33

We don’t have peace with the world. We don’t have peace with unbelievers or people of other religions. This doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to pick fights with them, or go to war with them, we’re required to love them. They, however, won’t love us, and that’s ok, because we know God loves us. Romans 5:1 tells us what the peace that we have is:

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:"
- Romans 5:1

We have peace with God. The Good News that the angels brought the shepherds in the field is just that simple - men on Earth can have peace with God! The war between God and man is over, no more sacrifices, no more death - we have eternal life and peace with God. Hallelujah, and amen!

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What's Wrong? - Evolution Vs. God Movie

posted Jul 23, 2014, 9:42 PM by Nathan Wheeler   [ updated Jan 13, 2016, 9:39 AM by Nathanael Wheeler ]

I've seen this movie making the rounds on Facebook by my various Christian friends. First, I want to point out that it certainly is an intriguing movie, and I'm not slighting any of my friends who have shared it. What I want to do here is analyze the means of "proof" that it is using and maybe invoke some deeper thought about the argument. Here's the movie:

Evolution Vs. God Movie


The movie is comprised of several distinct sections, and I'll go over each one in chronological order as they appear in the video. Please read all the way through this, or at least read the last section. In the description of each section, I'm only describing the argument used, and the manner in which it is presented. I'm describing what's wrong with that particular section of the video. In those sections, I'm fairly harsh when it comes to dealing with the logic of their argument. In the last section, I'll explain why.

The Video - Breakdown

Atheistic/Agnostic Affirmation - 0:00-1:08

In the first 1:08 of the video, there's a careful pointing out that most/all of the interviewees are atheists or agnostics. This portion of the video seems extraneous - it doesn't really serve much purpose since atheists and agnostics comprise only around 18% of the world's population. According to these statistics, even 50% of "Mainline Protestant" and 23% of "Evangelistic Protestant" believe "that evolution is the best explanation for the origin of human life on earth."

Therefore, since atheism and agnosticism is such a significant minority in the world view, this section seems to be only intended to discredit the views of the interviewees. It leads anyone who believes that there is a god (of any kind) to view their input as warped from the beginning of the video. If you were to watch from 1:09, and skip this nonsense, you might come off with a more open mind about the topic of conversation - having no predisposition to discrediting the interviewees' statements.

Belief in Evolution - 1:09-2:47

This portion of the video seems harmless enough. All the interviewees believe in evolution. There's some other little stuff thrown in this section though that, in an overview seems fairly insignificant. Mostly there is the pointing out that many of the interviewees are either educated men and women or college students (becoming educated). However, this is a little deceptive trick similar to the previous section. Now, because you believe that these are educated men and women, you simply expect them to be able to provide answers to questions. Specifically, since many were science majors, you expect them to be able to answer questions about science.

The problem with this generated presupposition that the interviewees should be able to answer the questions presented is that it's actually an unreasonable assumption. For example, if you randomly walk up to a math professor and ask him to recite pi to the 50th significant digit, he will be highly unlikely to do so. It doesn't mean that pi can't be calculated to 50 significant digits. It doesn't mean the math professor is a moron. It means that the math professor has simply never found it necessary to memorize pi to that precision. In fact, if you were to give the math professor a little bit of time (or a 15 minute warning) he could probably either calculate it for you or find it somewhere to show you.

Observable Evidence - 2:48-13:48

Now this is where the video stops with the presuppositions and building the interviewees up for looking baffled. Here, we finally come to the meat of the argument presented in this video - "observable evidence." Here again is some deception from the very start though - "A scientific method is based on 'the collection of data through observation and experimentation...' ~ Science Daily." This is a misquote. I'm not sure if the producers of the video simply didn't understand the scientific method, or if they intentionally misquoted Science Daily. The actual statement on Science Daily is that the evidence gathered is "subject to specific principles of reasoning, the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses."

While observable evidence is one type of evidence which can be gathered and subjected to this scrutiny, it is by no means the only type. The statement is made that all this stuff happened a long time ago, and over a long period of time, and so "it can't be observed." The question of observable evidence is only significant when it can not be answered. In return, I can ask a similar question - "Can you provide observable evidence that you were born, and not hatched in a lab?" Suddenly, this question bears a lot less weight. Cuddly baby pictures, like the fossil record, are not "observable" - your birth also "cannot be observed." Since the event isn't specifically repeatable, i.e. you can't be born physically another time from inside your mother, then even those who corroborate the story aren't enough to truly prove to anyone that you aren't a test tube baby from this warped scientific viewpoint.

Intelligent Design - 13:49-16:05

"Something from nothing" is the prevailing theme of this section. No successful model of the Big Bang shows anything other than an initial singularity in which something came from nothing. In other words, the vast majority of modern scientists today believe that the universe as we know it did, in fact, come from nothing. No other model of the origins of the universe have proven successful. Apparently, the interviewer is unaware of this "new" development in the theory of evolution. In fact, scientists originally fought very hard against the Big Bang theory, because "not only did the Big Bang model seem to give in to the Judeo-Christian idea of a beginning of the world, but it also seemed to call for an act of supernatural creation" (J. M. Wersinger, qtd. in Zacharias 58). 

Vestigial Structures - 16:06-17:31

This section deals with parts of the body which are sometimes considered to be leftover parts from evolution, such as the tailbone or the appendix. This part is another extraneous portion of the video. Had scientists not discovered that there was, in fact, a purpose for the coccyx and the appendix, this section would have been left out and nobody would have been the wiser. Since scientists haven't learned of any purpose for the plica luminaris or the arrector pili, those were left out of this video. Thus the use of vestigial structures to prove or disprove evolution is, at best, 50-50.

Famous Atheists - 17:32-20:55

What's the point of this - that people often mistake others to be atheists? People often claim to be Christians, but that doesn't make it so. Quite frankly, very few people are aware to any significant degree what the religious (or anti-religious) views of others are with whom they are not intimately acquainted. There are a significant number of famous atheists - Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye, Stephen Hawking... I could go on. Again, there's not really any point to this - see "Atheist/Agnostic Affirmation." Showing a poster that someone made with errors, and then point out that the only confirmed atheist in the image committed suicide is really irrelevant to the argument of evolution. Professing Christians have also committed suicide. The famous atheists I pointed out have not committed suicide. 

Moral Absolutes - 20:56-22:19

This is really the first section that presents a good argument. Not a great argument. Just a good argument. However, because this argument actually requires significant leading and building time, it isn't given very much space in this video. It's also misrepresented quite horribly by suggesting that Hitler may have been practicing evolution.

Who Would You Save? - 22:20-23:42

This is really just a modified version of a standard "who would you save if" question, of which the most well-known is the Trolley Problem - and this is a pretty bad example of that problem. The only thing that this section shows is the lack of the value of human life within a handful of individuals. Quite honestly, I have had neighbors that I probably would have said I would let drown even without having to make a choice to save my pet - if they had been the only drowning being in the vicinity, I might not have acted on their behalf. Being presented with the reality of someone drowning, however, I'm pretty sure that I would have acted quite differently than my attitude may have appeared had someone asked me that question at the time. I have little doubt that the interviewees in this video would likely respond the same.

Good Person (Liar, Thief, Blasphemer, and Adulterer) - 23:43-32:59

There's a couple second lead-in to this one that seems to have been about dying and going to Heaven or Hell, but it's a little vague... After that, there's another standard question string which is often used by street evangelists. This argument has absolutely nothing to do with evolution. This argument also requires that you believe the Bible to be true. If you don't believe in God, or if you disbelieve the Bible, then this argument is rendered virtually ineffective. If one does not believe in God, they will not believe God will judge them for those sins, so why do they care if they are a liar, thief, blasphemer, or adulterer? 

This section ends with a presentation of a rather simplified version of the plan of salvation, with another couple of little street evangelism "tricks." Again, nothing to do with evolution, and more tricks and guided questions to make the people being interviewed look unbalanced or foolish.

Blooper Reel? - 33:00-33:56

This section really doesn't make a lot of sense. There's a handful of some of the more silly statements, that people made when confronted with particularly outlandish questions, intermixed with a handful of articles with bold headlines about evolution that sound rather silly or outlandish. 

Director's Commentary - 33:57-34:42

A short "Bible vs. Richard Dawkins" statement. Nothing more.

Producer's Commentary - 34:43-36:55

This is really just an ad space. Buy our stuff, visit our web page, and help us spread our materials to other people. Ends with a long plug for the Creation Museum.

Credits/Watch More - 36:56-38:26

Exactly what you expect at the end of a YouTube video. Although a minute and a half is pretty extravagant.

The Video - Summary

Now, whether or not I believe in evolution or the Big Bang theory completely aside, many people whom I firmly believe are Christians do believe in one or both of these theories. I want to very carefully point out that this is not an issue of salvation - you can believe in evolution or the Big Bang theory and still be saved. Salvation has to do with Christ dying for your sins, not what means God employed to create the universe. The Big Bang theory actually gives credibility to an act of creation, rather than doing completely away with the notion of a Creator, as stated in my section on "Intelligent Design."

This video seems to have been put together by one or more street evangelists who believe that they have come up with a way to beat scientists at their own game. These guys at least seem to be well-intentioned, but they are quite far off on a handful of their facts and their presentations of philosophical ideas are really just awful. I don't see this video doing anything positive for building up the Kingdom of God, and in fact, I think it only serves to make Christians who are fooled by this nonsense thump their chests, while non-Christians laugh at the silly Christians thinking they've outwitted the scientists. In other words, it makes Christians more proud, and non-Christians more resistant to the Gospel - it increases the gulf between the lost and the saved.

I realize that there are going to be those who are going to seriously not like my breakdown of this video, but I would like anyone who read this far to seriously consider what good this video actually does in bringing anyone closer to God. In this video, despite all their tricks and confusing the interviewees, not a single person is recorded as becoming a Christian. In fact, I've seen many individuals employ these tricks and the same sorts of questions many times, and it has been extremely rare to see any effect from them, and worse - those who do seemingly convert are in it for the "fire insurance" and there is no real change in their lives, and they are gone as quickly and easily as they were persuaded to come. These reasons are why I am fundamentally opposed to this video, and why I am so harsh against their arguments. 

Works Cited

Zacharias, Ravi. Who Made God? : and answers to over 100 other tough questions of faith. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003. Print.

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