Tag Archives: Theology

Re-Examining the Divorce Controversy

The following subject comes up periodically, requiring me to give a biblical explanation.  Therefore, for those who may not have done much study on it, let us consider the question of divorce and the pastorate.

My Story

I will never forget the phone call I got from a church in Rome, GA over 20 years ago. Someone on the other end of the line was part of a search committee looking for a new pastor.  They had gotten my resume and were impressed enough to give me a call.  Everything was going well until they asked a very pointed question, “Bro. Anthony, does your wife have a spouse that is still living?”  With an undeniable tone of frustration, I replied, “Yes, ME.”  

Unfortunately, this would not be the last time something like that happened.

What I encountered on the telephone that day was not unusual, nor unexpected, but it stung. You see, even though our (then) pastor told me marrying Valerie would “put the final nail in the coffin” of my ministry hopes, I chose to marry a woman who had been divorced – and there were consequences.

However, I was aware the scripture (1 Tim. 3:2) being used against me was lacking in exposition, and it was ultimately up to God whether or not I pastored a church.  So, after much study, I felt peace that what I was doing was right (but it didn’t hurt when the late Dr. Spiros Zodhiates gave us his approval).

But let me be clear about a few things…

wedding picture fourFirst,  I have never been divorced, so for me the whole argument of 1 Timothy 3:2 should be moot.  Second, my wife was left with no choice but to divorce; furthermore, it happened before she was a believer.  Third, my wife’s ex-husband remarried and divorced again before I even met her. By all accounts my wife was free to remarry, so both she and I were clear from any “adultery” issues.  

Also, I am “the husband of one wife,” and Scripture NEVER said a bishop “must be the husband of one wife who was the wife of only one husband, ever.” Just a minor observation.

So, what DOES the Bible say?

1 Timothy 3:2 says,  “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife...”  Also, verse 12 says, “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife...”  The difficulty with these verses is not what is being said, but how it is interpreted.  

Is Paul telling Timothy that in order to be a pastor, deacon, or elder in a church, you must have only been married once?  Could it even be possible that Paul is saying that a man of God MUST have a wife, because being single would disqualify one from ministry?  These are things that have been debated for centuries.  

Some believe that a pastor, deacon, or elder should have never been divorced (or married to a divorcee) . Others believe that in order to be a proper leader, one must be married.  Still, many commentators believe that the proper rendering of the Greek is “one-woman man,” implying faithfulness and character over the number of wives.  

In reality, what the Bible says is one thing, but as William D. Mounce put it, “The Greek gives us a range of possibilities, but our theology is going to determine our interpretation.” 

I think there’s another way to look at it…

Take a look at 1 Timothy 3 and read through verse 12.  The best I can figure is that there are between 16 and 17 qualifications for the bishop, and between 6 and 8 for the deacons.  All of these are preceded with a literal or an implied “must be,” as in “must be blameless,” or a “must have.”  How does this affect the argument that an elder “must have” only been married once, never remarried, or never divorced?    

Think of any great man of God you know that has stood behind the pulpit and faithfully proclaimed the Word of God.  Has he always been blameless?  Has he always been on his best behavior?  Did he ever get drunk, covet, lose his patience, or curse his wife or children in anger?  Was he ever a novice, a beginner subject to pride? If so, then according to the logic of some, he should never be able to preach or lead in God’s church, for just as a man “must be the husband of one wife,” so he also must be “blameless, vigilant, sober, well-behaved, given to hospitality, patient, never greedy, and always in control of his house and children.”  

Do you see it?  If your interpretation leads you to believe that the bishop must have only had one wife – ever – then the same hermeneutic (the study of the principles of interpretation) should apply to the other “must be’s.”  

  • Must be the husband of one wife” = never divorced.  
  • Not a novice” = never been a beginner in the faith.

Doesn’t make sense, does it?

1 Timothy 3:1-12 is in the present infinitive tense (i.e., must be / dei einai).  The requirements listed are ones that describe a man of character and faithfulness, of sobriety and gravitas; not a beginner or one untried and unproven.  What I see is a list of requirements that may not have always been present in a man, but should be NOW, after God has done a verifiable work in his life.  In other words, the Bible says a bishop “must be,” not “must have always been,” or “must have never done.”  

Paul said, “and such were some of you:  but ye were washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:11

Here’s my point…

I believe that there are plenty who are sitting back or hiding out because someone has convinced them that they are used up and un-usable.  For example, I can think of men right now who, for whatever reason, are divorced.  Yet, these men, now Christians, are sold-out, God-fearing, faithful, Spirit-filled fathers and husbands with proven testimonies and unimpeachable character.  Sadly, however, because of mistakes made when they were young, unsaved, and stupid, they cannot serve as deacons, much less as pastors.  

On the other hand, I can think of several pastors today who were once murderers, drug dealers, fornicators, extortioners, and abusers of mankind (do I need to explain that last one?). Yet, only because they don’t have “divorced” to add to the list of past sins, they are accepted and given full authority as leaders in the church. 

Sad.

It’s time the body of Christ re-examine this issue in the light of GRACE.

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Filed under baptist, Divorce, General Observations, Independent Baptist, legalism, Relationships and Family, Uncategorized

Let’s Get Controversial…Where Do the Babies Go?

Hanging Out

Right now I am sitting in the office of the Ringgold Wedding Chapel, just hanging out, so to speak.

I’m here, today, to officiate 3 weddings, but in one wedding that is about to take place the family brought their own minister.

I don’t feel like going and watching a wedding just for the fun of it, and I don’t want to sneak over and steal any food from the reception hall while the bride and groom are otherwise distracted. So, like I said, I’m just hanging out for a little while.

What a perfect time to stir up a theological stink, right?

Babies

We should be thanking God for the surging tide of pro-life sentiment sweeping much of our nation right now! I firmly believe that the killing of infants in the womb is murder, for I believe that each and every fetus is an actual human being, regardless whether or not they vote for Republicans or Democrats.

But all this talk about abortion, the right to life, and millions of babies has brought back to mind a conversation I read years ago on a Calvinistic website (Monergism.com). It was just one of several “conversations” that eventually pushed me from Calvinism and helped define my theological stance as that of “provisionist”

The conversation was between two pastors and the subject was the funeral for an infant.

The first pastor discussed how challenging it had been to preach the funeral for a child, just a baby of less than a year old. He went on to say that the only thing he could do to help the grieving parents cope with the loss was to reassure them that one day, some day, they would be reunited with their child in heaven (since both parents were believers).

The second pastor, however, brutally chastised the first pastor for giving the parents of the dead child a false hope! Yes, he rebuked the first pastor for telling the parents they would one day see their child again because – now get this – he had no way of knowing if the deceased baby was “one of the elect.”

The second pastor said a better thing to have told the parents would have been the truth…that if the baby had been one of the “elect” they would see him again, but there’s no way to know till we get to heaven.

I still remember the burning indignation that welled up within me as I read that. With my face flush, I hammered out on the keyboard something akin to the following: “If I had been one of those parents, and you had told me that about my child, I would have given you the opportunity to go see where my baby went.”

Where Do They Go?

But, let’s be honest, what else is the reasonable conclusion to the Calvinist position on this subject? Are all babies who die too early to have accepted Christ (including those murdered in the womb) members of the “elect,” or is there the possibility that some were predestined to salvation and others were predestined to damnation? Even though some of you Calvinist friends of mine might not believe in “double predestination,” what is your answer to this?

Are we going to accept the proposition that God, the one who said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” is the same God who would, for His own pleasure, doom any number of consciousless infants to an eternity in hell? Is that EVEN a possibility within your theological systematic?

You may use the comment section to calmly and kindly discuss. 

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Filed under Abortion

There Is a Robust Response to Calvinism (IF You’ll Listen)

Many of you are Calvinists. I’m not.

Unfortunately, many think that there are no good arguments supporting a traditionalist view. Honestly, even many in my own denomination (SBC) have belittled and mocked the intelligence of those like myself for having not yet been enlightened by the “doctrines of grace.”

Let me put it this way, I know pastors who are more Calvinistic than John Calvin’s signature. These guys can get borderline contentious if you even suggest that Romans 9 and Ephesians 1 might not mean what they think it means (“inconceivable!”). To disagree with their interpretations is akin to attacking their tulip garden with a weed eater – they don’t like it.

However, I have attached video which offers a robust and biblical argument against the doctrine of reprobation as argued from Romans 9.  I am not posting this to start a debate or argument. My purpose is to offer you another perspective of which you may not have heard.

Believe it or not, there are intelligent Bible scholars out there whose names don’t end with Piper, Keller, or Dever 😉 The only thing is that you must be willing to listen.

Just food for thought.

For further reading, below is a link to the article by Dr. Eric Hankins that is the subject of this video. It was originally published in the Journal of Baptist Theology & Ministry

https://soteriology101.com/2018/04/09/romans-9-and-the-calvinist-doctrine-of-reprobation/

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Filed under Preaching, salvation, Theology

Do You Hate to Sin?

I hate it when I sin.

Some people hate to get caught, but I wasn’t caught. No one saw or heard or anything – only God.

I hate it when I sin because of the feeling it leaves, the drain on emotions, and the sense of powerlessness that leads to feelings of failure, defeat.

I hate it when I sin because I knew better! I knew better! It’s not like I didn’t know the consequences. It wasn’t like this was something I’d never before encountered. I just walked right into the sin and just committed it, just like it was the natural thing to do.

Oh, but that’s the issue, isn’t it? Nature. That battle between the redeemed and the unredeemed, the spirit and the flesh. How I look forward to the day when this tent in which I dwell is redeemed, also!

I hate it when I sin!

But you may be asking, “Aren’t you a pastor? Aren’t you supposed to be a spiritual and religious leader? How can you be talking about ‘sin’ like this? Won’t it hurt your reputation?”

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:8

The Truth is in me. I’m not perfect, just forgiven.

And that’s really why I hate it when I sin; it’s because I know I’m forgiven! Yes, I’m already forgiven! I’ve been saved, justified, reborn, adopted, and have received the righteousness of Christ…and I know a little about what it took for that to happen…

“Forgiven” by Thomas Blackshear

It took the Cross! It took Calvary! It took Jesus bearing my griefs…carrying my sorrows…being stricken and smitten of God…being afflicted…being wounded for MY transgressions…being bruised for MY iniquities…accepting MY chastisement…and taking MY stripes so that I could walk away free (see Isaiah 53:4-5).

He – Jesus – did all that for me…all because of my sin…because He loves me (Romans 5:8).

But you may ask: “If you know you are already forgiven, then what keeps you from going out and sinning all you want?”

Two reasons. First, my “want to” has been changed. Second, it’s like the Apostle Paul said it: the love of Christ constraineth me (2 Corinthians 5:14). The thought of His love for me…what it took to redeem me from sin…to purchase my salvation…what He endured on that cross…the scourging He willingly accepted…it’s like ropes wrapped around me, binding me, “constraining” me.

Nevertheless, there are times when I sin. And I hate it. Romans 7:15-25 just about sums it up.

I thank God that where my sin did abound, grace…OH! What a word!…did much more abound (Romans 5:20)!

Then you may ask: “Well, if there’s more grace than there is sin to forgive, why not just keep sinning so that grace may ‘abound’ even more?”

Read Romans 6, is all I can say.

If you sin just because you can…there’s probably something major you’ve missed along the way. Maybe there’s nothing “constraining” you.

I hate it when I sin.


God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you. – Psalm 51:10-13 CSB

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Filed under Christianity, grace, Love of God, Struggles and Trials, Theology

Christmas IS the Gospel

This month will see a lot of Christmas sermons preached, and if you actually go to church somewhere, you might actually get to hear some 😉

But if you aren’t planning on attending any church services this December, or if you just can’t get enough of sermons on the subject of Christmas, I would encourage you to listen to the one I’m attaching below.

Several years ago (2012) while pastoring at another church, I delivered a sermon entitled “Christmas Is the Gospel.” It was recorded on my iPhone that was sitting on the pulpit, so don’t expect too high a quality of production.

Why did the angels tell the shepherds what they are about to hear was “good tidings”? Pick up a Bible and turn to the book of Luke, chapter two, and follow along.

Listen: Christmas IS the Gospel

And remember, “sharing” is caring 🙂

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Filed under Christmas, God, Preaching, salvation

A Doctrinally Worthless Bumper Sticker

Dear blogger friends,

Have you ever had so much to write, but being sleepy, tired, worn out and ready for bed kept you from it?

Have you ever wanted to launch into the deep waters of controversial topics only to realize the sails of your little boat were too tattered to catch the wind?

Well, that’s about how I feel right now. I’m tired, sleepy, and I need to get up early in the morning.

However, I saw a bumper sticker today that really got my goat, so I have to say something.

You see, just tonight I was going through a small book that was given to me by a Muslim “apologist,” and my head is still spinning from all the twisted scripture he used to “prove” his obscenely ignorant arguments. The former Baptist converted to Islam, then he wrote a book meant to “prove” that Jesus never claimed to be God nor died on the cross.

If there was one verse taken out of context, there were ten. If there were ten times he made ignorant inferences, there were a hundred where he proved nothing more than that he never studied the Bible as a Baptist, much less as a Muslim.

Maybe, just maybe, if this man had spent more time in the Word of God studying what it actually said instead of being caught up in some social or racial “gospel,” he might have never fallen victim to the foolishness he now believes.

And that’s where the above bumper sticker comes in… It’s about the most useless attempt at profundity I’ve ever seen; it makes no sense whatsoever.

You may think that “Jesus [loves] Feminists” is a wonderful truth, but let’s take a moment or two to unpack it.

First of all, Jesus loves feminists. Yes, He does.

However, Jesus also loves prostitutes and murderers, so what’s the point?

Jesus loves sinners, and that’s why He went to an old, rugged cross to suffer and die for the sins of the world. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Are feminists sinners? Is that what they’re saying?

Or, is the bumper sticker implying that Jesus loves feminists, but not chauvinists? Is it saying that Jesus prefers tree-hugging egalitarians over traditionally conservative complementarians? Does Jesus love some people and not others? Is that the point?

On the other hand, maybe it’s simply trying to say that Jesus loves feminists, also. Like, Jesus loves the chauvinists, the complementarians, the macho men, AND the feminists.

If that’s the case, then Jesus loves everybody, right? So what’s the point of the bumper sticker?

Unfortunately, the above bumper sticker does nothing glorify the love of Christ. All it does is pander to those who need to be affirmed.

Truth is lost in ambiguity; the reader learns nothing.

What a doctrinally worthless bumper sticker!

I did say I was tired, didn’t I?

And just for fun… watch “What it’s like to date a feminist in 2018.”  https://www.facebook.com/allieCRTV/videos/1986330614991509/


(Please send all your hateful and angry comments to Wally Fry – he’s got far more energy than me)

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Filed under Culture Wars, current events, General Observations, Marriage, politics, self-worth

Distinctions Worth Noting

This morning I came across a quote I posted to Facebook several years ago. Being Sunday morning, and being that I am a Baptist pastor, this is a great quote from a theologian with Chattanooga roots, Dr. Timothy George. And to think, we actually attended the same school 🙂

“The Baptist tradition finds a place within this narrative as a distinctive reform movement within the wider evangelical renewal, a reform within the reform, so to say. Baptists are indeed heirs of the Reformation, but they are not, nor have they ever been, mere clones of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, the Anabaptists, or anyone else. For Baptists, the great doctrines of the Reformation were refracted through the prism of persecution and dissent which informed their intense advocacy of religious freedom and, especially in the American setting, the separation of church and state (which does not equal the divorce of religion from public life). With all true Christians, Baptists profess loyalty to Jesus Christ the Lord, the eternal Son of the heavenly Father who “for us and our salvation” became man. He died for our sins on a cross, rose triumphantly over death, ascended to the Father, and one day will come again in power and glory. In the meantime, he still reigns, rules, and redeems through the Holy Spirit.” – Timothy George

The Body of Christ (the Church) has many members, each distinct in its own way. I just felt these distinctions were worth noting.

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Filed under baptist, Christianity, Theology