Papers

Gardnerian Wicca

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“Wicca.” Many things flood the mind upon hearing that word. To many people, it is synonymous with devil worship, fortune telling, and even human sacrifices. Images of black pointed hats gracing green wrinkled faces burst on the imagination. Is this the truth about Wicca? Is it all about little old ladies running around a cauldron in the company of unruly black cats? Is Wicca in fact devil worship?

A study of the subject will show that there are many different sects collected under the umbrella of “Wicca.” Specifically, there are 28 main branches that are present throughout the world. Keep in mind, though, that these are only the most prominent branches. Because of the relativistic nature of the religion many other unknown sects exist, and many more could develop in years to come. There are significant differences in some of the sects; however they are all very accepting of one another. One Wiccan scholar writes:

As you can see by the number and variety of branches of Wicca, there is really no end of “traditions” that can arise in the religion of Witchcraft, and there is also no end to the disagreements over the definition of any named branch. Wicca is what any witch makes it, as long as the branch is based upon Pagan ideas and deities.

The purest and perhaps most widely practiced form of Wicca, though, is the branch known as Gardnerian Wicca. This is also perhaps the sect that holds to the most traditional Wiccan teachings and practices. All other Wiccan sects share at least some things in common with Gardnerian Wicca, and many sects that exist today are off-shoots from this very branch.

Author: 

Ian Kyle

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Grace for Sale

Subtitle: 
False Teachers, False Definitions, True Bondage
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The Apostle Paul writes:

“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?” Gal. 3:1-2

False teachers and legalists were prevalent in the early church even while the apostles were living. There was a constant battle between a theocentric theology and an anthropocentric theology even then. From the time of the Reformation until about 1825 the prevailing theology was theocentric and more specifically Christocentric. From about 1825 on theology has decidedly shifted to anthropocentrism.

More recently, over the last 40 years or so, there has also been a shift away from teaching the essentials of the faith toward either embracing fads or denouncing fads. On both sides leadership has assumed that because their flocks give mental assent to the essentials in their membership documents or Statement of Faith they therefore understand and can defend the essentials of the faith. This is so prevalent that Pastor Rick Warren announced that we don’t need a reformation of creeds but a reformation of deeds. He declares:

“We know what we believe.”

Contrary to Warren’s claims, pollster George Barna demonstrates that 91% of Born Again Evangelicals and 49% of Evangelical pastors are deficient in one or more areas of essential doctrine. One of the areas this shows up most clearly is the doctrine of Grace.

We could spend our time on the aberrations and bondage associated with cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who write in their publication Our Kingdom Ministry:

“We want to give deserving ones the opportunity to learn of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness and the Kingdom hope.”

It seems to escape their notice that if they are “deserving ones” then the grace they talk about it deserved. On the other hand, if grace is undeserved than there are no “deserving ones.”

We could spend our time on the aberrations and bondage associated with the shepherding movements and new cults such as the International Churches of Christ or Gwen Shamblin and Remnant Fellowship (Weigh Down Workshop). However, I think our time would be better spent looking at one of the more accepted teachers within the church who is one of the better promoters of a false definition of Grace and who has profoundly impacted many churches.

Author: 

Don Veinot

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President, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc.

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Is Brian McLaren Changing Everything?

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To begin with it might be beneficial to view McLaren’s worship video, “I am an Atheist.”

McLaren raises some important social issues in Everything Must Change but in the process he makes false assumptions and builds on them to get to his next point. He misunderstands or misrepresents or misstates (we cannot always tell which it is) what many evangelicals believe. Oftentimes the things of which states that he cannot believe them, we don’t believe either. The recurring theme in his video is:

I can’t believe what they believe, but I believe in you.

Who is the “they” which he refers to in the video? “They believe in the “God of jihad” and this god “converts by the sword.” It sounds as though he may be protesting Islamic extremists but in actuality it is pre-tribulational, pre-millennial Christians that are the “they” McLaren refers to, which comes through very clear in his book everything Must Change.

Why has McLaren become so popular? There are at least two reasons, I think. First, he has tapped into that youthful idealism and the energy that goes with it that wants to change the world. It begins with the idea that the world ought to be perfect, as it was in the Garden perhaps. As we look around we can see the world isn’t perfect and we are looking for whom to blame in order to get them out of the way or at the very least to marginalize them and move on to fixing the world which brings us to the second reason. It is a spiritual AIDS epidemic.

AIDS for the physical body is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Because the immune system is compromised it cannot fight off even simple sicknesses like colds. Spiritual AIDS is the Aquired Ignorance of the Doctrines of Scripture. Like the immune system of the body in the physical disease, many churches today lack good sound biblical grounding along with the ability to think clearly and logically, thereby leaving it defenseless against attacks of false teachings.

Author: 

Don Veinot

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President, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc.

Oneness Pentecostals And The Trinity

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We believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of all things both visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten son of the Father, that is of the same substance of the Father; God from God, light from light, true God from true God; begotten, not created, consubstantial with the Father...And we believe in the Holy Spirit. 1 (The Nicene Creed)

Ever since those words above were hammered out, they have been heralded by orthodox Christianity as the truth concerning the nature of God. However, this belief in the Trinity has been one of, if not the most violently attacked doctrines of the church. Of course, the Nicene Creed was formulated to define the church’s stance on the deity of Jesus Christ, in response Arius, who taught that Jesus Christ was neither eternal nor God.

Arianism was a formidable adversary to Christian doctrine; but it has, for the most part, been recognized as false. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses are the most well-known proponents of this view today, but almost universally orthodox Christians are aware of the fact that they are a cult. Christian bookstores carry a plethora of books that combat the heresy of Watchtower theology, thereby defusing the threat considerably.

However, unknown to many orthodox Christians today, there is another heresy circulating today, which is just as serious as Arianism and also denies the Trinity. This heresy is quite widespread and believed in many Christian circles today—despite being questioned by the church in the third century and officially condemned in the fourth. However, evangelical Christians today by and large do not recognize proponents of this view as fostering a cult, and the particular sect that teaches this heresy is not classified as a cult by the majority of contemporary American Christians. Still, if presented with the facts, few Christians would disagree that this heresy is more malignant than Arianism ever was.

Such is the case with the Oneness Pentecostal Church. I like to refer to it as “the stealth bomber” of the cults, because by using the name Pentecostal, it flies in under the radar and is not recognized as a cult. In addition to their view of the Godhead, Oneness Pentecostals have many reasons to be labeled a cult; but in this article, the aim will be to expose that particular doctrine which is known as modalism or Sabellianism. The discussion will start with a definition of modalism, cover the history of the heresy, and then move to an apologetic against the doctrine of modalism.

Author: 

Ian Kyle

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Postmodern Epistemology

Subtitle: 
A Critique of Stanley J. Grenz and John R. Franke
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In light of the negative critique of foundationalism at the end of the twentieth century, Stanley Grenz and John Franke propose an approach to theology that addresses the current postmodern context. This approach bases theology and epistemology in the life of the Christian community, a community which is, according to Grenz and Franke, called into existence by the triune God who is revealed in the Bible, church tradition, and the culture. The proposed approach entails many aspects, but this study intends to show that the inherent weakness of recognizing epistemic authority in any human community is subjectivity. To be sure, evangelicals should address the postmodern context by abandoning strong foundationalism. But instead of revising evangelicalism according to a postmodern paradigm, Christians may still embrace the objectivity, authority, and intelligibility of truth while avoiding the impossible demands of strong foundationalism. In Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context, Grenz and Franke make a noteworthy and admirable plea to evangelicals to avoid irrelevance in their presentation of the truth of Christianity in the postmodern world by “set[ting] themselves to the task of grappling with the implications of our setting, lying as it does ‘after modernity.’” However, they abandon a correspondence view of truth in favor of a constructionist view, thereby exposing the Christian message to the danger of self defeat.

The purpose of the present study is to analyze and critique the positions outlined by Grenz and Franke in their book, Beyond Foundationalism. The study will be divided into three parts. First, some of the main points of the book will be presented in order to orient the reader to the nature of the positions held by the authors. The second section will be devoted to three points of critique of Grenz and Franke. These points will rally around this question: is the community of faith a sufficient standard to justify true belief? In the concluding section, a brief alternative proposal to strong foundationalism, one that is more consistent with evangelical epistemology than the one offered by Grenz and Franke, will be presented.

Author: 

John D. Wilsey

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Associate Pastor, First Baptist Church, Charlottesville, VA

The Ethics Of Darwin Or The Ethics Of Design

Subtitle: 
How Science And Society Have Been Impacted By The Error Of Evolution
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Since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of the Species in 1859, the scientific community has witnessed obvious and considerable paradigm shifting. The biblical account of creation, which was considered normative in the mid-19th Century, is currently under vicious attack from scientists. However, the field of ethics has also observed tumultuous times since “evolution” was introduced. As we have devolved from moral absolutism of before Darwin’s day to the modern clamoring for relativism, society has to reflect on whether or not this contemporary slant has actually been progress.

One of the reasons why Darwin has become such a hot topic in recent years is that his reach continues to extend beyond his biological system into the religious realm that is its roots. Evolution was not born of the observation of changes among finches in the Galapagos Islands as he tried to submit, but rather due to his penchant toward an atheistic system. Virtually the entire moral morass in which our society currently finds itself drowning is the perpetuation of Darwin’s attempt to devalue and eliminate God from human thought processes.
 

Author: 

Jack L. Greenoe

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Ph. D. candidate and Teaching Assistant at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Evolution Of American Conceptions Of The Role Of Religion In The State: 1630–1789

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Just over one and a half centuries prior to the enactment of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, the Massachusetts Bay Colony established how the relationship between religion and the state would be defined there. In 1630, Governor John Winthrop explained this model in his sermon entitled A Model of Christian Charity. He said that the colonists who were about to establish Massachusetts Bay were entering into a covenant with God. Winthrop’s expectation was that if they were obedient to the covenant, God would “please to heare us, and bring us in peace to the place wee desire, [and] hath hee ratified this Covenant and sealed our Commission. . . .” If they were to fail in their commitment to the covenant, God would “surely breake out in wrathe against us, be revenged of such a perjured people and make us knowe the price of the breache of such a Covenant.” In short, the Puritans were establishing a Christian colony: religion and the state would be unified on the basis of a covenant with God.

A great shift in the American conception of religion’s role in the state would take place over the course of the next 160 years. In 1787, when the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia, they did not intend to follow the Puritan model. Rather than uniting religion and the state, thereby creating a Christian nation, the Convention intended to establish an environment in the new republic wherein the state would not interfere with the individual consciences of its citizens in religious matters. Religious freedom4 would be guaranteed in the United States. The English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704), writing in 1689, stated in his Letter Concerning Toleration, that “the care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate, because his power consists only in outward force; but true and saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God.” While this statement affirming individual religious freedom—without any state compulsion—may be universally agreed upon in contemporary times, it was a revolutionary idea by the eighteenth century. Western society, since at least the empire of Constantine in the fourth century, had agreed that religion and the state were partners in bringing order and providing identity to a nation. The argument for the unity of religion and the state, modeled by the Puritans in particular was taken for granted by Westerners for centuries. To draw a stark contrast between that time and our own, Edwin Gaustad stated, “We of today ask where the state left off and the church began; they of yesterday can only shake their heads in wonderment at so meaningless a question.” Locke’s statement in the Letter is passed over today as a given, but it was radical to Locke’s readership in 1689, and was still innovative at the time of the founding of the United States.

Author: 

John D. Wilsey

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Associate Pastor, First Baptist Church, Charlottesville, VA

Inductive Reasoning, Miracles, and Examples from Number Theory

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It is an obvious fact that any empirical knowledge of physical laws currently possessed by human civilization arose, not from constant observation of the universe at all points in space at all instances in time, but rather through experiments conducted at specific points in space at specific instances in time. In fact, given the relatively small proportion of human beings who are engaged in science research, and given that even scientists do not spend every moment of their time performing experiments, it should be obvious to anyone that human beings are not constantly checking the laws of physics to prove rigorously that exceptions to known knowledge are not occurring. If one additionally considers the relatively short span of time modern human civilization has existed relative to the age of the earth, one realizes the great lengths of time that have passed with human beings not observing the universe. Nevertheless, the laws of physics are assumed to hold at all points in space and time. What then justifies this assumption?

Author: 

Timothy Foo

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Graduate Student in Mathematics, Rutgers University -Newark

Latter Day Atheists

Subtitle: 
The Problem Of Omnipotence In Mormon Theology
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Mormons have taken steps to brand themselves as mainstream Christians. From recent statements by Jimmy Carter to the primary campaign of Mitt Romney, Mormonism is undergoing an extreme faith makeover. Despite these attempts to mainstream, I wish to argue Mormonism isn't a theistic religion and thus cannot be Christian.

In classical theism, God is the greatest conceivable being, possessing omnipotence, omnipresence, eternality, freedom, aseity, and omniscience. In the western tradition, the minimal properties a being must posses to be considered God include omniscience, omnipotence, and freedom. Far from being the greatest possible being of Christianity, the Mormon deity isn't a God in the classical sense. Mormon apologists will grant this, but I hope to show that the Mormon deity cannot be a God according to the standards set forth in Mormonism. The critical issue will be the attribute of  omnipotence.

In this paper, I will argue that the Mormon deity fails to be God because the property of omnipotence, among other biblical attributes in the classical tradition, cannot be instantiated by more than one being. Much has been written on the fact that the God of Mormonism isn't an eternally existing being but rather has undergone a transformation into godhood through a process called eternal progression.

Author: 

Adam P. Groza

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Director for Admissions, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Relatively Unsafe

Subtitle: 
Why The Church Must Be Freed From The Trap Of Relativism
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Just one generation ago, the most quotable Scripture in American churches would have easily been John 3:16. Today, it is arguably Matt. 7:1 "Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” There are several reasons why this verse is so popular among believers today, but the most obvious is the mistaken concept that it provides a safe haven for the tolerance and acceptance of personal sin, regardless of its egregious nature.
It has become apparent in recent years that the church is faring little better than the world in regard to moral relativism. Even within the walls of the church, Scripture is rarely accepted unequivocally as absolute truth. The church is now better characterized as simply a baptized by-product of western individualism. Borrowing the words of the Lord in John 14:6, this paper will examine how the church in America has lost her way, because of the absence of truth. Without a miracle, it may cost her life.

Author: 

Jack L. Greenoe

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Ph. D. candidate and Teaching Assistant at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary