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Thursday, January 29, 2015

IS JESUS A SOCIALIST?

      When the question is posed: “Is Jesus a socialist?”  The clear answer is “Of course not!”  The claim that Jesus was a socialist was recently posed by Gregory Paul in The Washington Post who tries to argue for a biblically mandated socialism from the early chapters of Acts.[1]  Paul’s claims are nothing new and have likely arisen out of the overall debate our nation is involved in concerning socialism vs. free markets.  President Obama and his crowd want socialism, while the rest of the nation wants to move away from government control of the economy.
What is Socialism?
      We must first start this examination with an accurate definition of socialism.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines socialism as “a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”[2]  Since it is a political and economic theory it always means that in reality the government owns or regulates the economy.  When the government regulates but does not own the means of production, it is called fascism, as in Nazi Germany.  When the government owns and controls the means of production it is called communism, as in the former Soviet Union.  Both version fit within the broader idea of socialism.
      Where does the Bible teach such a political and economic theory?  According to Gregory Paul it is expounded in the early chapters of Acts.  Paul, not the Apostle, says that Acts 2 and 4 depict socialism.  “Now folks, that’s outright socialism of the type described millennia later by Marx—who likely got the general idea from the gospels.”[3]  Paul also contends: “the Bible contains the first description of socialism in history.”  Not content to have butchered God’s Word in Acts 2 and 4, Paul moves on the Acts 5 and says, “Chapter 5 details how when a church member fails to turn over all his property to the church ‘he fell down and died,’ when his wife later did the same ‘she fell down… and died.’”[4]  Paul furthers his nonsense with the following:
Dear readers, does this not sound like a form of terror-enforced-communism imposed by a God who thinks that Christians who fail to join the collective are worthy of death? Not only is socialism a Christian invention, so is its extreme communistic variant. The claim by many Christians that Christ hates socialism is untrue, while no explicit description of capitalism is found in the Bible—not surprising because it had not yet evolved.[5]
Private Property in Acts
      There is not one shred of socialism in the book of Acts and here’s why.  First, if socialism is in Acts there could have been no private property since government ownership of all property is at the heart of socialism.  Where in Acts was the government involved, except in attempting to suppress the preaching of the gospel?  These were not government officials who are dealing with the early church they are the apostles.  Since the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament, there must be continuity between the two on any matter.  Wayne Grudem observes: “The Bible regularly assumes and reinforces a system in which property belongs to individuals, not to the government or to society as a whole.”[6]  Grudem further notes that individual property rights are assumed in the eight and tenth commandments and throughout the case law given them through Moses.  How can one steal or covet a neighbor’s possessions if there is not personal property?  In the books of Acts, how can one sell personal property and give the money to the apostles if there were no personal property?  If there were no personal property, then the government would have owned everything and they would not have had property to sell.  If the apostles were somehow the heads of a communal gathering, then they would have had control over everyone else’s property and not the individuals who sold their property.
      Second, Paul argues for socialism based upon the statement in Acts 2:44–45, which says, “And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.”  How does this in any way, shape, or form support socialism?  The context is clear, because of the common faith these converts had in Christ (see verses 41–43) they were united in their goal to spread their new faith to others.  However, we know from the previous context (2:5–11) that many of the new converts were visiting Jerusalem from many other countries; therefore, in order to support the physical needs of the out-of-towners while they were being instructed in their new faith, the entire group pitched in to help pay for their needs.  The statement that the believers “had all things in common” meant that many gave their private property to the cause of supporting the new congregation.  This statement demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit at work in their lives so that they willingly gave of their material wealth just as many believers do today from their private property.
      Third, Paul says the reason Ananias and Sapphira were killed by the Holy Spirit in Acts 5 was because they refused to hand over all of their property to the authorities because the community was to own all.  Such a view, in light of the context, is preposterous!  Paul ignores verse 4 in which Peter says to the couple, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?  And after it was sold, was it not under your control?”  Such statements by Peter do not support Paul’s notion that Ananias and Sapphira were killed for not being good socialists.  Instead, they fall within the viewpoint of the rest or the Bible that the couple’s land was their private property, as well as the money received from the sale of their land.  The problem with what Ananias and Sapphira were doing was lying about the amount they were giving to the early church.  Ananias and Sapphira made it look like they had offered their entire proceeds from the sale of their land when in reality they had kept part back for themselves.  Such deceit was not a fruit of the Holy Spirit and the Lord demonstrated early on that indeed the Spirit of God was in their midst because only Ananias and Sapphira would have known that they lied to the apostles.
What Would Jesus Do?
      The claim that Jesus is a socialist is a claim that is not true.  This and similar claims have been commonly made by liberals for at least the last one hundred and fifty years.  Liberals do not believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God and therefore attempt to take the narrative sections of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts) and manipulate the meaning of these texts in order to support their preconceived ideas.  They apparently think that such an approach will appeal to those within the Church who would not otherwise be open to their views.  Therefore when Jesus makes statements about the poor and against the rich, they fail to see from the contexts what He intended.  Instead, they bring in their socialist notion of class warfare as if the poor and the rich are not equally sinners and in need of Christ’s gracious provision.
      In our day, we also see that many within evangelicalism are increasingly adopting liberal views (i.e., unbiblical views) about all kinds of things, especially in the political and social areas.  Liberals often pull words and phrases from the contexts of passages (liberals are not the only ones that do this) and repackage them within the framework of their own ideas.  (This was demonstrated above by Gregory Paul’s article.)  Often they attempt to pit Jesus against other sections of the Bible by painting a picture of Jesus that the Bible does not support.  They then ask questions of this factious Jesus, like “What would Jesus drive?”  They are certain it would not be a SUV.  The same is done when they attempt to make Jesus into the leader of socialism.  They love to take words from the Bible like “justice.”  They repackage it with their standards of justice, instead of God’s standard of justice about which they could care less.  Well, Jesus would do what the Bible said he would do and will do in the future.  There seems to me zero concern about what Jesus will do at His second coming.
Conclusion
      Therefore there are too many so-called “evangelicals” who are advocates of socialism like Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Brian McLaren, Ron Sider, and Tony Campolo, to name just a few.  These ideas are being gradually sown into so-called “evangelical” colleges and universities as “social justice” issues.  Regardless of what these ideas may be or where they come from, one thing is clear, the Word of God is not their source.  In fact the source of such ideas are clearly satanic.  According to Bible prophecy the world is being prepared for a time in which socialism will indeed come to dominate the world under the rule of antichrist.  Thus, it is not Jesus Christ who is a socialist instead it will be the antichrist who will pose as an angel of light in order to use socialism as a vehicle to temporarily bring in a time when the government will attempt to own all possessions, including the hearts of men.  No Jesus is not, has never been, nor will ever be a socialist.  The Bible tells us that Jesus will use all eternity pouring out His unlimited blessings and wealth upon believers.  Maranatha!
ENDNOTES
[1] Gregory Paul, “From Jesus’ Socialism to Capitalistic Christianity,” The Washington Post (August 12, 2011).
[2] Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press, s. v. “socialism.”
[3] Paul, “From Jesus’ Socialism.”
[4] Paul, “From Jesus’ Socialism.”
[5] Paul, “From Jesus’ Socialism.”
[6] (emphasis original) Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), p. 262.
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A More Spontaneous and Genuine Evangelism

It was not Jesus’ intent to say that the individual Christian must change locations in order to evangelize. But it is most certainly the whole church’s responsibility to see to it that we make disciples where we are, now. Evangelism is not to be done later when the move takes place, or when the trip is taken to another far off country, or when the special evangelistic project commences, though it is certainly inclusive of these.
Yet, nothing is more discouraging than evangelism. The mere mention of the word strikes fear in most people. If it is my goal when speaking in a church to make all my listeners uncomfortable and convicted, all I have to do is say, "evangelize!," and the guilt quotient rises as fast as the heads drop. Beads of sweat appear on the pastor’s brow. It is the great undone command, and none of us like to be reminded of it.
In my view, much of our fear comes because we’ve made evangelism too difficult and confusing.
First, we often try to do evangelism in a vacuum. Without a group of people enjoying and discussing the opportunities they have had, and without a leader among them who is active in this area, most of us will not find the ongoing stimulus to keep it up. However, when you find this happening, there is a built-in excitement about evangelism. Being in such a group for a long time myself, I’m finding constant motivation to continue. As I hear the stories of normal people, some of them quite reserved, doing what they can to get the word out, I’m charged up and reassured that God can use even me. That’s the first help I want you to consider.
For some of you, this might mean establishing a weekly small group meeting just to communicate to each other about what is going on in your evangelism. It might be as simple as coming together 30-40 minutes prior to a regular meeting of the church, or meeting with a team of motivated people for breakfast. This meeting should be about your encounters (even the little ones), your concerns, your creative ideas for reaching others, and specific prayer for those you have spoken to or will speak to. In our case, we take 30-40 minutes weekly in our main church meeting in an open session. Much of that time is spent talking about evangelistic encounters. We also take time at the end of the session to pray for each unconverted person who was mentioned. This provides a powerful motivation to do more.
Second, we have the mistaken notion that evangelism is a choreographed set of ideas well laid out, perfectly transitioned, and flawlessly presented. Forget it. It’s not this way. Many of us have tried this with frustration. It is much better to think of evangelism the way the Bible does—"sowing the seed" in any way you can. Any of us can do that. Ever seen a weed grow in an otherwise barren parking lot? Somehow the seed got there and flourished. The simple word in the right place, or the tract well placed might be the means God uses. Well-oiled presentations frustrate because there is no room for serious questions and discussion on the one hand, and it rules out the less verbal among us, on the other. Rejoice over even the smallest of advances! You are sowing the seed.
I don’t wish to say that there is no value at all in memorizing a set plan. But there are many limitations to such methods. The proof is that the enthusiasm for such plans often dies away after the weeks of concentrated effort are finished. Also, among the least desirable aspects of most of these plans is the fact that they may not encourage listening to the person you are addressing. It’s primarily about getting a set of concepts across, rather than finding out the real questions people have and the dilemmas they face. There are people using block plans who work hard at overriding this obstacle, thankfully, but they more prove my point than void it.
Third, we have not made enough of the fact that evangelism has a great deal to do with what you expect God to do. If you raise your antennae as the day begins and ask God to make you an instrument for divine encounters during the day, it will happen—almost every time. Christians living in anticipation of being used by God are like cats on the lookout for mice. They never lose their focus. They seem to sleep with their eyes and ears alert. When you stay ready, you are actually living by the faith you claim to exercise!
Fourth, we have missed the idea of context. Have you ever gone on a mission trip and then come back determined to focus on others who need Christ the same way you did overseas? What happened? You gradually got sidetracked by all the distractions of life. What you need is a mission field here! I’m sure of one thing: if you put a true believer who has his lights on into a dark place, he or she will make a difference. In addition to all the other opportunities "as you are going," you need someplace, or perhaps several places, where your focus is all about people and sowing seed.
For instance, you might make a regular stop at a coffee shop early in the morning. Get to know the workers and the regular customers by name. Then, at the appropriate times, insert a clear word about Christ or pass on a piece of literature for your friend’s comments, or whatever gets the seed out. Others of you might join a club or participate in a community college class (or even teach the class!). You might meet people at the gym, or walk regularly in a mall, or . . . you name it. You can bounce these ideas around in your seed-sowing group. Your regular places for seed sowing will help keep you alert for all the other serendipitous moments you might encounter. (see "The Value of Hanging Out" at www.CCWtoday.org)
Fifth, we have often not made the best literature available in abundance. God brought the gospel to us, not only in the person of Christ, but in words. The history of the use of words in evangelism is remarkable. You should always keep materials available in your purse, car, briefcase, and appointment book. In our church, we make some key tools available at all times for the group to use. Each week people carry out handfuls of books or booklets for use in evangelism. Some also make use of CDs of evangelistic messages. I love for people to write out their own testimony to slip into a booklet. This multiplies the value of the item you are giving away and makes it much easier for people to receive. "Here’s my story about how my life was changed along with a booklet that explains the truths that made the difference. I’d like to give you a copy to see what you think?" This approach is costly. We spend a lot of money providing the best tools for people. But we think it is worth every penny.
Sixth, we have not trained ourselves well in three important areas. It is important to work together on: 1) the content of the gospel, 2) how to converse and build relationships, and 3) some apologetic issues. Interestingly, these are largely untaught. Rather than teaching a block plan, why not study these three strategic aspects of the gospel and its presentation as your training approach?
Teach the content of the gospel itself, not just a set of phrases about the gospel. A man can talk for hours about a car if he understands what’s under the hood. A woman can spend the day talking about decorating the home when she has concerned herself with learning the philosophies and combinations that are involved. But when a plan is learned and there is not much biblical and theological knowledge behind the phrases spoken, the presenter is unsure and uncomfortable. He has memorized a few statements and transitions, but what does he actually know? It is no wonder the believer does not want to venture out. "What if someone asks a question?" he thinks. It is the person that knows the most theology that can answer the best and has the least fear.
Learning how to converse provides a wonderful practicum for the group also. My common way of evangelism is to ask questions. I just keep probing until I discover the person’s philosophy concerning root issues. It doesn’t take a lot of brains to ask the questions. I’ve learned to get into the thinking of the person. They appreciate that. I respect them as I converse, but I keep probing. Sometimes I say, "That’s very different than my view, but please tell me more." I don’t explain my view yet; I’m just salting the conversation. I don’t mind asking personal questions either. In turn, they eventually ask, "So what is your view about this?" This provides an excellent way to present what I believe about the problem and the solution in Christ. It would do the church well to study the simple art of having a meaningful conversation.
Basic apologetics provide another field of preparation. Although simply understanding the theology of the gospel will take most people a long way, learning how to address certain questions and/or objections that might arise with sound biblical apologetics is also very useful. I am more philosophical in my approach to apologetics, but am not without some interest in hard evidences as well. When you don’t have a ready answer, you can just say so. Perhaps you can arrange for another meeting to discuss the issue further, or get the person’s address and send him a book on the subject. It’s OK not to know everything. Nonetheless, it is part of our improvement in evangelism to have some understanding of apologetics.
I’ve been evangelistically-driven for most of my life, talking with scores of people personally all over the world about the good news. I’ve thought this through a lot. Even though I began with a block plan for evangelism, I soon found out its serious limitations. I believe what I’m proposing is a much improved way to make viable, lifelong disciple-makers. I think I can prove this with the people God has placed under my care. There is nothing novel or exceptional about what I’ve said, I realize, but I believe these concepts offer some significant help to those who care about rising above guilt to action.
Copyright © 2013  Jim Elliff
Christian Communicators Worldwide, Inc.
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Does The Grand Canyon Confirm Geological Evolution?

A recent college basketball broadcast on ESPN TV turned into a quick creation vs. evolution discussion, which included a reference to the Grand Canyon of Arizona as an apparent argument for “evolution.” Bill Walton, a retired NBA basketball player who is now a sportscaster, gave his apparently Christian cohost, Dave Pasch, a copy of Darwin’s The Origin of Species and said, “I want to make sure you believe in evolution.” Pasch replied, “I don’t,” and later offered to bring Walton a book that refutes Darwin’s ideas. Walton later commented, “I believe in science. And evolution. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon.” Though the conversation may have been cut short by a producer, this statement seems to show that Walton thinks the Grand Canyon supports the idea of geologic evolution. But the Grand Canyon actually stands as a testament to catastrophe—the global Flood of Noah’s day!
Geologic evolution holds to the idea of uniformitarianism. This is the belief that most geologic features (like those at the Grand Canyon) were formed slowly over millions of years of slow and gradual processes. This version of Earth’s history stands in sharp contrast to the Bible’s account of history. According to the Bible, there was a catastrophic global Flood about 4,350 years ago. Such a Flood would have radically changed the Earth’s surface and would have shaped many of the geologic features we see today. When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, we got a small-scale glimpse of how a catastrophe can radically change the Earth’s surface. Mud flows produced from a subsequent eruption in 1982 carved a canyon 1/40 to the scale of the Grand Canyon in only a matter of hours!
The Grand Canyon Shows Evidence of a Massive Catastrophe
Far from supporting the idea of slow and gradual processes, the Grand Canyon shows evidence of having been formed in a massive catastrophe. The story told by most geologists is that the Colorado River slowly carved out the Grand Canyon over millions of years. But if this is true, where is the 1,000 cubic miles of material eroded from the canyon? It should be at the river delta in the Gulf of California, but it’s just not there. This is just one reason why even some secular geologists realize that the Colorado River couldn’t have produced the Grand Canyon.
But the geologic features of the Grand Canyon are perfectly consistent with a global Flood as described in Genesis. Here are a few examples: The Grand Canyon is home to a fossil graveyardof billions of fossilized squid-like creatures called nautiloids. This seven-foot-thick layer filled with nautiloids of different sizes covers at least 11,600 square miles. How did billions of these sea creatures all get buried at once above sea level?
Some of the sand in one layer of the Grand Canyon likely came from 1,800 miles away in the Appalachian mountains of New York and Pennsylvania. How would these sediments get transported such a vast distance? Also, several of the rock layers that make up Grand Canyonstretch right across North America! What would lay down sedimentary layers containing marine fossils across an entire continent?
Folded, Not Fractured
In several places the rock layers in Grand Canyon have been folded, some even at a 90 degree angle. This had to have happened while the rocks were still wet and pliable; otherwise they would have cracked, not folded. If these rock layers were laid down slowly over millions of years, then how did they remain soft for such a long time? They couldn’t have! The layers had to have been soft when the folding occurred. This means the layers weren’t laid down millions of years after one another. Also, if there were millions of years between deposition of many of the layers, there should be erosion at the boundaries between the layers. Wind and water should have created little valleys and gullies. But there is no evidence of any such slow and steady erosion between the layers! They must have been laid down rapidly one after another.
All of this flies in the face of the idea that the Grand Canyon was formed slowly and gradually over millions of years—but secularists need extremely long periods of time in order for the possibility of biological evolution to even be considered. Instead of showing evidence of a little water over a lot of time, it powerfully demonstrates the effects of a lot of water over a little bit of time. The Grand Canyon is not a testament to millions of years—it is powerful evidence of the global Flood of Noah’s day and its aftermath.
See the Flood Geology for Yourself
And you can see the Flood geology of the beautiful Grand Canyon for yourself through “biblical glasses.” Answers in Genesis along with Canyon Ministries is organizing a few rafting trips down the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River this summer. These trips, hosted by biblical creationists such as Dr. Andrew Snelling, Dr. Danny Faulkner, Dr. Terry Mortensen, and Dr. John Whitmore, will powerfully show you one of the most amazing testaments to God’s judgment on a wicked world. What better classroom than the canyon itself? I’ve been on one of hese raft rips, and it’s a tremondous learning experience—and a lot of fun. You can learn more about these unique creation vacations here. There are still plenty of seats left on Dr. Andrew Snelling’s nine-day April trip. This is a unique trip because you spend two extra days in the Canyon, which enables you to see much more than on any other raft trip. Hurry and reserve your seat before these trips fill up.
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