Bio

Dr. Mike Halsey is the chancellor of Grace Biblical Seminary, a Bible teacher at the Hangar Bible Fellowship, the author of Truthspeak and his new book, The Gospel of Grace and Truth: A Theology of Grace from the Gospel of John," both available on Amazon.com. A copy of his book, Microbes in the Bloodstream of the Church, is also available as an E-book on Amazon.com. If you would like to a receive a copy of his weekly Bible studies and other articles of biblical teaching and application, you can do so by writing to Dr. Halsey at michaeldhalsey@bellsouth.net and requesting, "The Hangar Bible Fellowship Journal."

Comments may be addressed to michaeldhalsey@bellsouth.net.

If you would like to contribute to his ministry according to the principle of II Corinthians 9:7, you may do so by making your check out to Hangar Bible Fellowship and mailing it to 65 Teal Ct., Locust Grove, GA 30248. All donations are tax deductible.

Come visit the Hangar some Sunday at 10 AM at the above address. You'll be glad you did.

Other recommended grace-oriented websites are:

notbyworks.org
literaltruth.org
gracebiblicalseminary.org
duluthbible.org
clarityministries.org

Also:

Biblical Ministries, Inc.
C/O Dr. Richard Grubbs
P. O. Box 64582
Lubbock, TX 79464-4582

Friday, January 19, 2018

THERE'S IGNORANCE, BUT MORE THAN THAT

We've all read the surveys from time to time, surveys about the ignorance of the American people about the Bible.

Al Mohler reports: "Multiple surveys reveal the problem [of biblical illiteracy] in stark terms. According to 82 percent of Americans, 'God helps those who help themselves,' is a Bible verse. Those identified as born-again Christians did better—by one percent. A majority of adults think the Bible teaches that the most important purpose in life is taking care of one's family."

BILLY GRAHAM PREACHED WHAT?

He continues: "Some of the statistics are enough to perplex even those aware of the problem. A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham."

Yes, we've all seen the abysmal surveys, those reports which indicate our homes and churches aren't doing what Luke said that Jesus did--Luke records that Jesus was all over Israel "teaching the people."

Nor or they doing what Jesus commanded: "Go into all the word . . . teaching . . ."  Paul commanded Timothy to "teach the Word." A qualification of an elder in a local church is that he be "skillful in teaching." Where are these people?

WHY THE DEARTH?

We're familiar with all of that, but why the dearth of teaching? That's a good question. One reason for the famine in the land is that's not where the money is. Ecclesiastical fat coffers await those preachers and churches that can create a feel-good experience. That's what people with itching emotions are looking for, an experience to make them feel good once a week.

But there are other reasons. In many churches, preachers have groomed their congregations to expect a weekly beat-down, plus the every Sunday admonition, "Now, this week, try harder; you can be good if you really want to."(contra: Rom. 7)

Another factor is that more and more, people are seeing the Bible as irrelevant, errant, and therefore, possessing no authority.

OLD NEWS, NOW FOR THE NEW

Yes, there's ignorance of things biblical; we know about that, but now, there's more than that abroad in the land.What's happening is a rising tide of hostility toward the Book and Christianity. There's a deliberate King Jehoiakim attitude toward the Scriptures:

"So they went to the king in the court, but they had deposited the scroll [of Jeremiah] in the chamber of Elishama the scribe, and they reported all the words to the king. Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it out of the chamber of Elishama the scribe. And Jehudi read it to the king as well as to all the officials who stood beside the king. Now the king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month, with a fire burning in the brazier before him.  When Jehudi had read three or four columns, the king cut it with a scribe’s knife and threw it into the fire that was in the brazier, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier. Yet the king and all his servants who heard all these words were not afraid, nor did they rend their garments."

When the King, enraged at what Jeremiah had written, took the scroll, he didn't heave it into the fire in toto. No. He took a knife and slowly, deliberately cut it into pieces and threw those pieces into the fire, one by one. This was both a dramatic and emphatic demonstration of his hostility to the Word of God.

Here was a man, the king, of all people, who was to be, by law, a man of the Book (Deut. 17:18-20). Instead of being in it and under its authority, he burned it. This wasn't merely a cavalier attitude toward the Bible, it was calculated malevolence. 

LOOK AROUND

Dennis Prager, surveying the current milieu, writes, "What we have today is worse than ignorance of the Bible. It is contempt for it. Just about anyone who quotes the Bible, let alone says it is the source of his or her values, is essentially regarded as a simpleton . . . " or worse, we might add.

He continues, "And yet, from the time long before the United States became a country until well into the 1950s, the Bible was not only the most widely read book in America; it was also the primary vehicle by which each generation passed on morality and wisdom to the next generation."

Prager writes this perceptive paragraph and asks a penetrating question at its conclusion: "I have believed all my life that the primary crisis in America and the West is . . . the dismissal of the Bible. Virtually everyone on the left thinks America would be better off as a secular nation. And virtually all conservative intellectuals don’t think it matters. How many intellectuals study the Bible and teach it to their children?"

We might ask at least the first part of Prager's question to the leading conservatives in our nation: Rush Limbaugh, Rich Lowery, Victor Davis Hanson, Mark Levine, and Ben Shapiro. (At least David Limbaugh does.) Write them and ask in a courteous letter. See how they respond.

We see the hostility in the media and the arts as they stereotype the idea that we'd be a better society without the Bible by embedding the idea into our movies, books, and TV shows which portray someone with a Bible or quoting the Bible as a lone nut who will eventually kill people if the police don't get him first.

We're so conditioned by the media's portrayal, that when a member of the clergy or a member of a church enters the plot, we automatically know that he/she is going be an evil hypocrite. (It didn't used to be that way, the church-goer and the churchman were the good guys who came to the aid of one and all.)

EXAMPLES

Examples of the hostility abound: A car with just one bumper sticker on it in Portland, Oregon, said,  "So many Christians, So few lions." The Washington Times reported that a ten-year-old New Hampshire girl had been ordered to attend public school. The reason? The state disapproved of her mother's firm Christianity and says she must be exposed to other religious faiths, which being interpreted means, her faith must be destroyed.

Hostility to the Bible and Christianity aren't confined to America; Europe is taking a hostile stance as the following account demonstrates:

"Aideen Strandsson, a Christian woman from Iran, is facing deportation from Sweden after her asylum application was denied by authorities.

"The woman converted from Islam to Christianity . . . and has already received threats from Muslims because of her conversion.

"Aideen came to Sweden in 2014 and received a public baptism. When she pleaded that she could face the death penalty in Iran as an apostate, she got told by Swedish officials, “"It’s not our problem if you decided to become a Christian, it’s your problem”.

That's an example from Europe, now over to England: British author, Philip Pullman wrote a children's book entitled, "The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ." A children's book! We recall Christ mentioned something about a millstone.

ANYBODY PACKING A SUITCASE?

Our elites and glitterati at whose feet millions of sycophants worship, think that we'd be better off as a society without the Bible. Really? Do we see any of those people packing up to move to Albania? How about North Korea? Cuba? Red China? Anybody moving to Iran? Those are some of the countries that ban the Bible.

When Berliners lived in the days of the Berlin Wall, which way were they jumping and tunneling--from Christian West to the atheistic East or from the East to the West?

When the armies of Soviet Russia and the Americans were coming into Germany, one from the east and the other from the west during the final days of WWII, to which of the two armies were the Germans desperately wanting to surrender? The Americans.

You know the answers to all of the above. It's not hard to figure out why: The Bible's impact on the West.

Case closed.




  

Friday, January 12, 2018

WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?

Back then, a group of Jews put their heads down. They hurried across a bridge.They were in a rush because a group of Nazis were yelling at them. Not content with one vociferous insult, they added another--they greeted the Jews with a "seig heil," which is illegal in today's Germany.

Back then, there was the Jewish Quarter with its marketplace. In it were items for sale, anti-Semitic trinkets. You could buy a button with a swastika on it. You could purchase a figure of a Jewish man with a large nose and coins glued to his body. If you needed a magnet, there was one showing a Jewish man as a beggar. Then there was a wooden paddle with a cartoon picture of Jew on it with the words, "I'll guard your money."

Back then, while a group of Jews was heading home from a synagogue service, a gang attacked them. One of the Jews felt a sharp kick in the back as he stooped to tie his shoe. Back then, The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had to flee.

Back then, a passerby shouted, cursed, and shoved a rabbi's wife. The anti-Semite told her, "Get out!" As others looked on, it was clear--no one cared. Nobody helped the Jewish lady. Although there was a police station nearby, the Jews were told, "No use to report it," and no need to ask for protection. It wasn't to be forthcoming from those in power back then.

BACK THEN?

Back then? How far back? What you've just read, the shouts of "seig heil," the trinkets for sale, the rough-handling of the rabbi's wfe, and the pervasive no-one-cares-attitude were not culled from the history books. All those events occurred to a Jewish tour group around Christmas, 2017, in, of all places, around Auschwitz  . . . in Poland. It's not Nazi Germany, it's now. Violent anti-Semitism is today's news in Poland.

WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?

In 1965, Peter, Paul, and Mary sang a protest song in which the recurring refrain was "When will they ever learn?" Poland was a hotbed of anti-Semitism prior to and during the Nazi era. "World Future Fund" reports:

  • In 1936, the Polish government ordered that all shops include the name of the owner on their sign.  This order marked out Jewish businesses.  Attacks on Jewish businesses surged after the marking order went into effect.
  •  
  • In May 1937, the membership of the Polish Medical Association adopted a paragraph into their professional charter excluding Jews from the medical profession. 

  • Also in May 1937, the Polish Bar Association adopted a similar measure.  This was followed by official state action in May 1938 restricting the ability of Jewish lawyers to attain licenses to practice law.
  •  
  • In January 1938, the General Assembly of Journalists in the city of Wilno added a provision to its by-laws stating that anyone Jewish could not belong to their organization.
  •  
  • In April 1938, the Bank Polski, the Polish state's largest financial institution, adopted a provision excluding Jews.
  •  
POLAND SUFFERED

The Polish suffered the heaviest proportionate human losses during World War II, amounting to 16–17 percent of its population. The number of ethnically Polish victims was as high as 2,000,000.

Although the Polish people and leaders have no idea where their irrational hatred of the Jews originates, we do. Although the Polish people and leaders had no idea where those restrictive laws came from, we do:

Satan has tried to wipe out the Jews through the Babylonians, the Persians, the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Hittites, and the Nazis. But he’s failed every time because God is not finished with Israel. Romans 11:26 tells us that some day all Israel will be saved, and this can't happen if Israel no longer exists. 

Therefore, God will preserve the Jews for the future He has promised them in the Abrahamic, Palestinian, Davidic, and New Covenants, just as He has preserved them throughout history, until His plan comes to pass. Nothing can thwart God’s promises for Israel and the Jewish people.

Revelation 12 shows the worldwide ages-long hatred of the Jews is satanic in origin. The Bible also says that those who do not give Israel her rightful place in God's plan will be cursed by God. 

SO?

So that's our question to the rulers of the world and their followers: When will you ever learn?

Friday, January 5, 2018

WHY DICTATORS SHRED THE BIBLE

Dictatorships forbid, outlaw, and put the Bible into the flames and shredders. Why is that? Why is the Book banned in so many countries? What's in the Bible that dictators fear? We're so accustomed to the Bible that we don't read it as a Stalin or a Castro would. If we did, then we'd see what's so scary about the Scriptures. We'd see that the Bible is a serious threat to every dictatorship everywhere. 

LENIN

 The leader of the Russian Revolution of 1917 built a cult-like status for himself: to cite one example, when Russian workers visited him in his office in the Kremlin, they had to go through a disinfectant room before being ushered into his presence. 

STALIN

Stalin, Lenin's successor, instigated his own cult: "Propaganda was everywhere, indoctrinating the people, conditioning them to believing that Stalin was infallible and god-like, working to achieve perfect socialism. . . 

"An example of how grotesque his propaganda was can be seen with the celebration of his 70th birthday: a gigantic portrait of him was suspended above Red Square from a balloon and the day's copy of "Pravda" devoted every line of its 12 pages except for 2 column inches of women's chess to him. 

"Cinemas displayed Soviet documentaries. His images were all around, and there were icons of of him in every home, marches and parades involved giant banners. His image had penetrated society and and bound the people to his constant presence, regardless of their educational background. His cult was visually forced upon them. . . 

"At his funeral, the [adoring] crowds were such that many were crushed to death." (From "The York Historian")

HITLER

Adolf Hitler made school children his propaganda priority. A student describes part of what took place in the classroom: "the students were taught to worship Adolf HitlerAs the teacher entered the class, the students would stand and raise their right arms. The teacher would say, For the Führer a triple victory, answered by a chorus of Heil! three times... Every class started with a song. The almighty Führer would be staring at us from his picture on the wall. These uplifting songs were brilliantly written and composed, transporting us into a state of enthusiastic glee." (From "Spartacus Educational")

BUT THE BIBLE SAYS

From a study of dictatorships and dictators, we can see why the Bible is a dangerous Book to them. First, because the words of Jesus drive a stake through the heart of the allegiance all dictators demand: "And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’" (Matt. 22:37) 

Thus, the ultimate loyalty is to be to God, not to Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, or Castro. We see this ultimate loyalty to God in Acts 4:12, where Peter and John answer the religious dictators of their day with, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Furthermore, the dictators of their day had warned the Apostles with a direct order, as described in Acts 5:28-29. They had said: “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 

The Apostles answered: “We must obey God rather than men." Such a declaration is an assault on every dictatorship because it demonstrates that there exists a higher authority than the state.

The dictator must also convince the population of his own infallibility. The Bible has strong words for him: Jeremiah 17:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10; and John 3:19. To the dictator, these words are intolerable. 

Wherever the Bible goes, it brings freedom.










Friday, December 29, 2017

REACTING TO GOOD NEWS

It was one of the seven greatest events in world history. Therefore, it needed an announcement to interpret the event and that announcement came from an angel: "I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2)

The long awaited Baby (the Seed of the woman as predicted in Gen. 3) is the Savior, the Messiah, and the Lord." And, as the angel declared, this is good news of great joy for all people. The shepherds knew that it was good news immediately; the Magi from the East did too. Their joyous reaction to the event was to travel over a thousand miles to celebrate it.

YET: JOY?

And how has fallen humanity reacted to it? Beginning with Herod and right down to our day, the reaction from the world system to the news has been to censor, and in some cases to declare the new illegal.

Saudi Arabia has banned the angelic news from all schools and hospitals.

N. Korea is so adamant against announcing the glad tidings that the government threatened to open artillery fire on a Christmas tree near its border in S. Korea, calling it "a tool of psychological warfare." (The government tolerates no holiday unless it's linked to the present leader or former leaders.)

Somalia makes an announcement yearly that celebrating Christmas is illegal and gives special training to its security force in order to put an end to all such celebrations.

Tajikistan, an Asian country, bans Christmas trees, giving gifts in the schools, fireworks, and even holiday meals. (!) A government's telling its citizens what they can't cook on one day of the year? Yes, that's how paranoid governments can be if they're totalitarian.

The government of Brunei will put you in jail for up to 5 years for celebrating Christmas. However, if you keep your celebration private and tell no Muslims about it, you may.

Albania is the only constitutional atheistic nation in the world. Naturally, Christmas finds no room in which to lodge in that nation. (I wonder why American atheists don't immigrate to that country. Sarcasm alert)

China bans Christmas and Christianity.

Cuba, just 90 miles from Florida, banned the celebration for 30 years, until 1998. Castro's reason was that people didn't need a holiday; they needed to work the sugar fields. What fun! 

THIS JUST IN FROM THE SHORES OF AMERICA

John W. Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute reflected on his 1950's childhood and our culture today. He wrote in "The Huffington Post;"

"But times have changed. Turmoil surrounds our schools. Police officers walk the hallways, and embattled teachers often act more like wardens than instructors. Sadly, the timeless celebration of Christmas seems to have been lost in the mix as well. Schools across the country avoid anything that alludes to the true meaning of Christmas, such as angels, the baby Jesus, stables and shepherds. Just consider some of the incidents that have taken place in recent years. 
 
"For example, a member of a parent/teacher organization at a Connecticut elementary school was in charge of decorating a large display case in the school’s entrance. For the upcoming December holidays, she was planning to put up a display called “Festival of Lights” and feature a display with a crèche for Christmas and a menorah and Star of David for Hanukkah, along with a document that explains the histories of both events. However, she was told by school officials that no religious objects could be used in the display.

"A kindergarten teacher in a Texas public school was informed that he could not mention the word “Christmas” or tell the historical Nativity story because someone in the district might sue. All other secular customs of the “winter holiday” were deemed to be okay, just not the religious symbols of Christianity. According to the school principal: “We cannot tie candy canes, trees, wreaths, Santa Claus, etc, as a religious symbol. What we can teach is the secular side of holidays. We can have the tree, candy cane, wreath, Santa Claus, etc, anything that is secular. No religious words can be attached. We cannot read aloud to the students any book pertaining to religious beliefs or happenings brought by you [the teacher] or the students. The student who brings a book can read/look at the book silently.”

"Another incident that highlights this extreme Christmas phobia involved a Michigan elementary school, where the principal issued a directive specifically forbidding references to God, Christianity or the birth of Jesus Christ. This is censorship, pure and simple.

"I have yet to understand how anyone can discuss the true — or even historical — meaning of Christmas without at least a reference to the baby Jesus. Surely something has gone wrong when America’s children are encouraged to celebrate the fictional Rudolph but are refused the opportunity to even mention Jesus, who was an actual, historical person. To claim that Christmas is something other than it is — a holiday with a religious foundation — is both dishonest and historically unsound."*

That's the news from around the world this Christmas season. But one question remains: What are you and I doing about and with the angel's announcement? Is our reaction as the shepherds' (evangelistic) or that of the Magi (worship)?

Think about it.

____________________________________________________________________________
For a complete discussion of the legal Do's and Dont's of Christmas published by The Rutherford Institute, see their "Twelve Laws of Christmas.

Friday, December 22, 2017

LEARNING FROM CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS III

The Hitchens brothers are a study in contrasts. Both Christopher and Peter are atheists, but Peter defects from that faith and becomes a Christian. A factor in his desertion was the attitude of Christopher who was angry, belligerent, and pugnacious. That helped start his brother questioning--Is that what atheism produces--hostility toward most things and most people? Whatever he saw in his brother, it wasn't appealing. Peter didn't want to wind up that way.

THE CONTRAST

Let's contrast that with what the Christian is to show: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. That's what Peter wanted to see. Looking at Paul's command to us, we see something else: "make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business." There was a restlessness about his brother Christopher; he was always upset about something, always attacking something or someone. That got old and ugly over time for Peter. 

PETER'S ATHEISM BECOMES OFFICIAL

But in his younger day, Peter was as bellicose as his brother: when he was still in boarding school at the age of 15, he chose to make his rebellion against Christianity and all of the conventions of his upbringing official by the ceremonial burning of his Bible – a gift from his parents - in the school yard.

He said, "I was sure that we, and our civilization, had grown out of the nursery myths of God, angels and Heaven."

After burning the Book, he intentionally began to do the things he had always been instructed were wrong: using foul language, mocking the weak, lying, stealing, using drugs, and betraying friends and family members. Peter and Christopher were two proverbial peas in the proverbial pod.

WAIT! THAT PICTURE!

It was staring at a picture– Rogier van der Weyden’s "Last Judgment" – that Hitchens felt a sudden and true conviction. Seeing the naked figures as they fled the fires of hell, all of his intentional rebellion and misdeeds came back to his mind, and with them, the realization that his life was a testament to the truth found in the painting: that misdeeds required justice, and that if anyone required saving from this justice, it was he. (From "Christianity Today")

Here's how Peter described the day he saw hell while on a cycling trip to Burgundy: I saw Rogier van der Weyden's 15th-century 'Last Judgment:' I had scoffed at its mention in the guidebook, but now I gaped, my mouth actually hanging open, at the naked figures fleeing towards the pit of hell. I had a sudden strong sense of religion being a thing of the present day, not imprisoned under thick layers of time. My large catalogue of misdeeds replayed themselves rapidly in my head. I had absolutely no doubt that I was among the damned, if there were any damned. Van der Weyden was still earning his fee, nearly 500 years after his death.”

This reminds us of Paul's evangelistic message to the Athenian intellectuals on Mars Hill when he spoke to them about Christ and the Judgement to come: "God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31) Not only that text, but also Revelation 20:11-15 declares the coming Judgment. Jesus Himself spoke of it: "Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable  for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” The atheist was running scared.


That old, old painting put the fear of God into Peter Hitchens. He came back to the faith of his childhood; no longer was it a myth unsuitable for the age of jet engines and penicillin. The Bible-burning prodigal had come home.

THE CONCLUSION

What can we learn from Christopher (and Peter)? A combative, argumentative, stance can be a turn-off, just as Christopher's was to his brother. Dr. Andy Woods has a wise admonition for us: "If you clash with everybody everywhere you go, you're not growing in Christ."

We also see that atheism can produce an I'll-show-you-attitude, as Peter delighted in breaking all the moral principles he learned from his parents and even burning the gift from them, not in private, but publicly. That attitude too, becomes unattractive after awhile. Is a life of betraying friends and family something to be admired? Is mocking the weak winsome?

On December 15, 2011, death came for Christopher. Did he come to faith? As far as we know, no, he did not.

Image result for Peter hitchens


Christopher (left) and Peter Hitchens



Friday, December 15, 2017

LEARNING FROM CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS PART II

Christopher Hitchens, angry atheist, author, lecturer, and debater is dying of cancer. During that time, though knowing his condition, he still debates with those defending Christianity in public forums and still attacks anything and everything he deems Christian.

After the debates, as the combatants often do, Christopher and his opponent go out to eat and discuss the night's events as well as the various issues over which they've argued. Over just such a dinner, Hitchens asks Larry Taunton, his opponent of the earlier debate that night, "Why do you think I don't believe?"

That's quite a question, isn't it?

THE DILEMMA

Taunton is faced with a dilemma. "Should I tell him the truth? Should I flatter him? Should I tell him that I don't know? Or, should I tell him the truth?" Taunton chose to tell him the truth: First, he asks Hitchens, "Do you really want to know?" Hitchens says, "Yes, I do." Taunton then says, "[It's because] the cost of your conversion is one you're unwilling to pay as a world-famous atheist."

Hitchens' conversion, were it to occur, would be international news. He would lose the applause of the world, that's for sure. His friendships with the literati and the glitterati would evaporate; he'd be scorned, a pariah in the eyes of the elite who celebrate him. It's hard for us to admit, "I've been wrong all my life." The Apostle Paul had to do that after his Damascus road meeting with the risen Christ.

CARING MORE

Those would be hard words to say to Christopher, so harsh that Hitchens might just stand up and stalk away. But Christopher Hitchens didn't because he knew one thing about Larry Taunton: Taunton cared about him. He was a Christian different from most of those Christopher had met on the debate circuit or anywhere else: Larry Taunton cared more about winning Christopher than he did about winning any debate.

Such a quality is rare in the theological world because there's no more heady wine in that world than being right. At all costs, being right is the Holy Grail. It's all about winning the argument, carrying the day on the field of the verbal battle. It's about shutting down the other person, getting him flustered, angry, and mute. In that world, it's all about the paraphrased Dutch proverb, "Winning isn't everything, but it's way ahead of whatever is in second place."

But when is making someone angry, the goal of evangelism? Paul said the goal was to be clear and to persuade. That eliminates the goal of making someone angry. Shutting someone down isn't to be an end in itself because the goal is to bring Christ to them, but if, along the way, they become offended, so be it, but their offended state isn't our final goal.

There's a text which comes into play in the Hitchens/Taunton relationship, one we've ignored. It's from Proverbs: "When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him." (16:7) Hitchens didn't stalk away because he respected Taunton.

Hitchens, the Englishman, said of Taunton, "If everyone in the United States had the same qualities of loyalty and care and concern for others that Larry Taunton had, we’d be living in a much better society than we do.” That's an example of Prov. 16:7.

What can we learn from the atheist Hitchens? Do that which impressed him, that which caused him to listen to the gospel: speak the truth with courage, from a background of love. That sounds like Eph. 4:15.

After all the debates and after dinner conversations with Christians, after hearing his brother talk about Christ and Him crucified, did Christopher Hitchens become, like his brother Peter, an atheist turned Christian?

TO BE CONTINUED



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Friday, December 8, 2017

LEARNING FROM CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS

There are these two brothers, Christopher and Peter. Both are atheists, but one of them, Peter, becomes a Christian. (It's odd that his parents named his brother Christopher. It means, "Christ bearer," of a Latin origin.) His life was one far from bearing Christ's name. He spent his adult life living like the Roman Emperor Julian who tried the impossible--to destroy Christianity.

What started Peter to rethinking atheism were many things, but one thing was his brother's rage and anger, sometimes a characteristic of atheists. The relationship between the two brothers makes for an interesting story, one throbbing with pathos. But that's another story, one that's the subject of a book written by Peter.

ANOTHER STORY

What is the story here is what we Christians can learn from Christopher, learn, from him instead of dismissing him because God certainly didn't dismiss him, but drew him, like all men, to Himself. But that drawing doesn't guarantee salvation--Christopher, like all of us, was given a free will. He could reject God's drawing.

What Christopher did with his life was to spend it writing, lecturing, and debating his adopted cause. He often debated his brother in public forums, but he debated others as well, and one of those was a professor named John Lennox.

In the debate world, the two debaters will square off in the public arena, and have at each other, engaging in verbal pugilism for an hour or so. Forget our presidential debates, they aren't really debates, but press conferences during which each candidate tries to come up with a one-liner (a zinger) that will win the day.

After the debate, the two combatants will often have dinner together and discuss various issues regarding their differences. They don't usually engage in a heated diatribe, but discuss things man-to-man over whatever food they've ordered.

THE DINNER

Anyway, Christopher Hitchens and John Lennox were doing just that, along with another man, Larry Taunton, who often debated Hitchens. They were having a conversation after midnight at a restaurant and from that dinner we can learn something valuable.

During the earlier debate, Hitchens had done what he always did, express his rage against Roman Catholicism and the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches. He inveighed against them as oppressive political machines, interested only in power, and responsible for many evils throughout the ages.

Earlier that evening, Lennox and Hitchens had debated one another in front of an audience of college students. Now, appropriately, the debate continued offstage.

“Christopher, do you really think that you're undermining our position with references to stuff like that?” Lennox asked. 

He went on to tell Hitchens that he agreed with him and that he could add stories to those Hitchens had told about the dark history of the three entities. He said, "I don’t doubt that the stories are true. I could add more stories of my own to the ones you have told. But they are not the actions of genuine Christians.” Hitchens asked, incredulously,  “You don’t consider the Orthodox Church Christian?” Hitchens seemed confident in the response he would get. 

Taunton then entered the conversation: “Well, it’s not about this or that denomination or what we consider Christian or not Christian,” he said. “It’s really a question of ‘What does the Bible say?'"

SHOCK

Taunton explains what happened next:

"At this, Hitchens sat up, totally astonished. Apparently, this was not the answer he expected. He turned to Lennox and gestured at me. “Do you agree with that, Professor?” “I do,” Lennox declared. “Christ forbade the very actions you are calling ‘Christian’! Christ was even more resolute in His opposition to hypocrisy, exploitation, and the use of violence to promote His message than you are, Christopher.” 

Lennox reached for his water glass, but it was empty. “Perhaps you should be one of his followers?” he added, putting the glass down."

So, there's one thing we can learn: Never assume what a person knows or doesn't know. In all of Hitchens' debates and travels, he'd never heard and understood that Roman Catholicism, the Russian and Greek Orthodox have used tactics and held doctrines that Christ Himself condemned. 

Never assume that a person knows what grace means. Never assume that a person knows what repent means. Never assume that a person knows what the finished work of Christ means. Never assume that a person knows what faith means. Never assume a person knows what John 3:16 means. (One man I talked to thought the words said, "John Three Colon One Six." He had no idea that they had reference to a text in the Bible in the third chapter of the Gospel of John.

This fact was brought home to me when a lady who had listened faithfully to my exposition of the book of Galatians and my hundreds of references to the Mosaic Law was talking with me after our last study of the book. On the last night, after our Bible study, she thanked me for the study. I thanked her and mentioned something about how we were free from the Law of Moses. It was then that she got a quizzical look on her face and said, "You mean Moses, Moses?" I answered, "Yes, of course." 

She told me that whenever I referred to the Mosaic Law in our study, that I was talking about a mosaic of laws from all over the ancient world, laws having nothing to do with the Moses who led Israel out of Egypt. So much for my pedagogical skills.  My problem was assuming that everybody knew what the two words, "Mosaic Law" meant. She had sat there in the auditorium for thee months not really understanding much of what I was talking about. Not her fault, but mine.

Anyway, what makes this account of that dinner conversation more poignant is that at the time, Christopher Hitchens was dying of cancer. 

Did he trust Christ as Savior?

TO BE CONTINUED