Saturday, December 22, 2007

on a change of locale

Change is a part of life and this blog is changing...

I now have my own domain and am moving to a WordPress based blog at the new site.

For all two of my readers, that will mean you will now access me at

an oxgoad, eh?
fundamentalism by blunt instrument

An explanation of my blog name is in the oxgoad about page.

I am settled on a template for the blog for now but may change everything later on. Or just tweak things here and there.

For now, though, is closed

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

on Piper's advocacy of sinning less often

A recent Piper article is eating away at my mind. I really am appalled by it, but have hesitated to post. It is quite easy to be too critical, especially when it comes to eminently critique-able people like Piper.

The article, Gutsy Guilt, was published in the October issue of Christianity Today.  In order to understand my criticism, you may have to read the article, but I will do my best to represent the article and what bothers me about it.

In his introduction, Piper expresses a concern that young Christians can lose their 'radical' vision for ministry because of failing to deal with the guilt of sexual failure. [BTW, Piper regularly uses words like 'radical' and 'passion', words that really have no place in a Christian context, but that is another pet peeve and another post.]

By failure, Piper doesn't mean merely the use of pornography. No, he says, "The great tragedy is not masturbation or fornication or pornography." I am assuming that he doesn't mean the adultery kind of fornication, but his article doesn't make that distinction clear.

Piper states that his aim in the article is not primarily to help someone gain victory over sexual sin, but rather to gain victory over being defeated or dissuaded from ministry because of sexual sin. He puts it this way:

I have a passion that you do not waste your life. My aim is not mainly to cure you of sexual misconduct. I would like that to happen. But mostly I want to take out of the Devil's hand the weapon that exploits your sin and makes your life a wasted, worldly success. Satan wants that for you. But you don't!

In fact, Piper assumes failure.

Yes, I want you to have the joyful courage not to do the channel surfing. But sooner or later, whether it's that sin or another, you are going to fall. I want to help you deal with the guilt of failure so that Satan does not use it to produce another wasted life.

The great tragedy that Piper seeks to win victory over is that someone who is guilty of some kind of sexual failure will be tempted by the failure to give up his 'radical' vision of ministry and instead will settle for 'the American dream', i.e., materialism.

Piper rightly warns that on account of these things [immorality and the like, Col 3.5-6] the wrath of God is coming. He points out that the Lord came to bring about forgiveness of sin, including these, and that our debts and legal obligations are cancelled if we believe in Christ. All true, of course!

After showing that our debts are nailed to the cross (Col 2.14) Piper points to Col 2.15 which says: "When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him." Piper claims that the 'rulers and authorities' [i.e., demonic forces] cannot damn us because of the cross [true], then concludes that because of this the believer by faith fights against the accusing convicting sense of failure brought about by sexual misconduct and the accusations of demons. [Never mind that Col 2 is talking about asceticism, Jewish dietary laws, and other rituals, see Col 2.16-17.]

What is this fight Piper speaks of?

This faith will fight anything that gets between it and Christ. The distinguishing mark of saving faith is not perfection. It is not that I never sin sexually. The mark of faith is that I fight. I fight not with fists or knives or guns or bombs, but with the truth of Christ. I fight anything that diminishes the fullness of the lordship of Jesus in my life. I fight anything that threatens to replace Jesus as the supreme treasure of my life.

Ok... but what does this fight look like?

With this passionately embraced theology—the magnificent doctrines of substitutionary atonement and justification by faith (even if you don't remember the names)—you can conquer the Devil tomorrow morning when he lies to you about your hopelessness.


When I fall, I shall rise. Yes, I have fallen. I hate what I have done. I grieve at the dishonor I have brought on my King. But hear this, O my enemy, I will rise. I will rise.

When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. Yes, I am sitting in darkness. I feel miserable. I feel guilty. I am guilty. But that is not all that is true about me and my God. The same God who makes my darkness is a sustaining light to me in this very darkness. He will not forsake me.

I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. Oh yes, my enemy, this much truth you say: I have sinned. I am bearing the indignation of the Lord. But that is where your truth stops and my theology begins. He—the very one who is indignant with me—will plead my cause. You say he is against me and that I have no future with him because of my failure. That's what Job's friends said. That is a lie. And you are a liar. My God, whose Son's life is my righteousness and whose Son's death is my punishment, will execute judgment for me. For me! And not against me.

He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. This misery that I now feel because of my failure, I will bear as long as my dear God ordains. And this I know for sure—as sure as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is my punishment and my righteousness—God will bring me out to the light, and I will look upon his righteousness, my Lord and my God. [italics Piper's, underlining mine]

As I consider this suggested approach, I wonder where the fruit of the Spirit is. I wonder where is the humility, repentance, shame, conviction, and true victory. I wonder what to do with the instructions of Eph 4.1-2 where the apostle calls us to walk "with all lowliness and meekness..." Yes, James calls us to 'resist the devil', but how? By humility and submission to God (Jas 4.6-7).

Piper's idea seems to be that if I have my theology right, if I know how to think right about Christ and what he has done, then I can defy Satan. Defiance is different from resistance.

It is important to think right about what Christ has done! But is right theology and defiance of Satan the same as spiritual victory? Is there no need for repentance? No need for actual ... you know ... change?

Here is Piper's conclusion:

When you learn to deal with the guilt of sexual failure by this kind brokenhearted boldness, this kind of theology, this kind of justification by faith, this kind of substitutionary atonement, this kind of gutsy guilt, you will fall less often. Why is this so? Because Christ will become increasingly precious to you.

Best of all, Satan will not be able to destroy your dream of a life of radical obedience to Christ. By this Christ-exalting gutsy guilt, thousands of you will give your lives to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.

Wow... I will fall less often. There's a victory worth pursuing! Isn't it possible to get to 'such were some of you'? (1 Cor 6.11) Isn't it possible to put sinful habits behind us? Must we settle for 'good enough'? Is our only victory the victory of right theology that can snarl in the face of Satan [while falling less often]?

I am all for forgiveness and restoration of the repentant. I don't expect we men in the ministry will have perfectly unblemished lives, especially in our earlier years. But I do expect that we must maintain victory over sin. And there does come a point where persistent failure disqualifies permanently, does it not?

The Piperites will be only too ready to defend their hero. If any of them should read this, they will likely claim I misunderstand. But their hedonistic hero is the one who misunderstands. The great tragedy is that so many lap up this man's writing as if it were holy writ itself.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on a Sunday with the 'outlaws'

This Sunday we had the privilege of having my son's father-in-law, Brad Calhoun with us for our services. I searched the vast reaches of the internet to find a term to describe the relationship between parents of two people married to one another. Alas, I found none, hence my own 'smart-alecky' term, 'outlaws'. We are delighted to expand the circle of our family to include these outlaws.

Brad and his wife Sarah have been Baptist Mid-Missions missionaries in Quebec for many years. They led their church in Matane, Quebec to the stage where the church has its own building and was able to call its own Quebecois pastor. We thank God for this, but for the Calhoun's, it means leaving behind dear friends and disciples and moving to a new place of ministry. For them that means a move to the pastorate of a church in the mountains of western North Carolina, the place where Brad grew up. We ask the Lord to prosper them in this new ministry.

Rather than attempt to give you summaries, I will link you to the audio for each message. First, the morning message, After Darkness Light, a message in keeping with our Christ and the Nations series and giving some of the background information concerning the work in Quebec.

Next, Brad gave us his slide presentation, narrating the history of the work in Matane. Our church has been supporting the Calhoun's in this work for a number of years, so we were very pleased to hear this report on The Ministry in Matane.

Last, we had our afternoon message on Living like Jesus, a message about following the light that we have and questioning the impulses of darkness around us and in us.

All in all, a good day. We  had 67 in the service this week with a couple of interesting visitors (besides our own family visitors). It was one of those weeks where almost everyone connected with our church all showed up on the same day. Even with that there were a couple of people away. Nevertheless, we were blessed to see all those who did come. We also saw some pretty significant spiritual steps taken in a couple of lives, so we are grateful for that.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Thursday, December 13, 2007

on a significant biblical revival

The Jewish nation cycled back and forth from apostasy and revival several times in its long history. One of the most significant revivals is that under King Hezekiah.

A couple of years ago, I led our church through a chronological study of the Bible. In the study, I was so busy preparing study guides and sermons that I think I missed some of the really significant insights my study was supposed to uncover! This year, we are reading the Bible through on the same chronological schedule. For me, it is the first time reading the schedule devotionally rather than academically.

I was singularly impressed this time with Hezekiah. It is noteworthy that the Lord led the writers of Scripture to record Hezekiah's revival in three different books of the Bible, 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah. The repetition heightens the significance. The Lord wants us to learn something here.

The 'Hezekiahan' revival involved a deep purging of idolatry led by the king, then faced a traumatic challenge to faith by the Assyrian invasion of Judah by Sennacherib. Hezekiah's prayer, spreading the blasphemous letter of Sennacherib before the Lord, is an example to us of what real revival faith and Spirit-filled praying is all about.

In particular, the book of Isaiah plays a prominent role in the revival. If you consider the chapters prior to the record of Hezekiah's stand against Sennacherib (36-39), you will find Isaiah's oracles against the nations and against the people of God. I presume most of this preaching occurred in Ahaz' reign. Ahaz is Hezekiah's father and was a wicked apostate king. It is remarkable that Hezekiah became the man that he was, given the father that he had. Following the record of Hezekiah's life, Isaiah's message becomes much more uplifting and hopeful. There are still some oracles of denunciation, but there are also all the Servant songs and other passages of hope and revival. They look well beyond Hezekiah's day to the final, glorious, permanent revival that is to come when the King reigns. [I think the contrast between Isaiah's ministry under Ahaz and under Hezekiah explain the differences between the first and second parts of the book far better than the unbelieving theories of intellectuals who propose "Isaiah" and "Deutero-Isaiah".]

The Bible doesn't tell us how Hezekiah was influenced to be faithful to the Lord. I suspect that Hezekiah was converted to faith by the ministry of Isaiah. Isaiah certainly figures prominently in the life of Hezekiah as a trusted spiritual advisor.

The record of this revival gives encouragement to me. Faithful preaching of a negative word like Isa 1-35 can bear fruit that deserves the postive word like Isa 40-66.

Isaiah 54:1 Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

on a light to the nations and prayer

The busy season is upon us! I suppose this is not a good time to be trying to set up my new web venture, but we want to be ready to use it not only as a resource for our sermons but as an evangelistic tool by the time January rolls around. Much is yet to be done, but we are stepping forward bit by bit.

I am going to adapt our sermon summaries in this space a bit since I am now providing both audio and outline on the web site. I will do less summarizing and try to sum up the appeal the main idea of the message had to me as I prepared and delivered it.

Here are the latest instalments:

Galilee of the Gentiles (Mt 4.12-17) Audio Notes

Have you ever considered the difference between Judea and Galilee? Galilee is part of the old northern kingdom of Israel, and as far back as the judges was only tenuously held by the Israelites. Galilee always had a Gentile influence. During the time of Christ, Galilee held a mixed population of Jews and Gentiles. Why did Jesus spend the bulk of his ministry there?

Isaiah spoke of a light that would come to lighten the Gentiles. Think about what it meant for the Gentiles of Galilee who saw the light of Christ right in their presence? And think now of the light of Christ in our Gentile world? And think about the many many nations immigrating to our shores - Christ is a brilliant light for them as well.

All of this light is wrapped up in the name 'Galilee of the Gentiles'. What grace God brought down to man!

Ask (Lk 11.5-10) Audio Notes

Do you ever get discouraged in prayer? Do you faint along the way? Do you know that the Lord doesn't want you to feel that way?

The parable of the friend at midnight is a picturesque promise (and kind of a backhanded one at that) that the Lord answers prayer. You can count on it. And you can always count on the Lord's answer being good, better than you could ask or think.

But it does seem that the answers start with the asking. The Lord wants you to ask. Do you feel your prayers lack? Then ask. Do you feel the Lord is far away? Then ask. Just ask and keep on asking.

A good deal of our spiritual life is simply missed because we do not pray.


BTW, for our afternoon service, the message on prayer, we had a couple from Singapore show up for a visit. We are kind of excited about that, after I just finished preaching about the Lord being a light to the Gentiles, and the nations moving to Canada. May the Lord shed his light into the hearts of many nations from right here in Victoria!

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Friday, December 07, 2007

on embracing anti-intellectualism

A lengthy discussion on Frank's site prompts this post.

A familiar charge by the sophisticated non-fundamentalist is that fundamentalism is essentially anti-intellectual. The sneering inference of the slur is that fundamentalists are nothing but backwoods hayseeds, barely capable of tying their shoes or of walking and chewing bubble gum at the same time. Fundamentalists are rubes, you see, they lack scholarship. They don't write important books. In fact, they barely write. They do colour, though, and in some of their books they even colour in between the lines.

Well... that is hyperbole, of course. Nevertheless the charge of anti-intellectualism is frequently made and often said to be with some merit. See here:

And while a writer may legitimately quote an author with which he disagrees, it should be recognized that no fundamentalist is called upon in this chapter - an indication at least that the charge of anti-intellectualism against American fundamentalism does contain enough adhesive power to call any critic of neo-evangelicalism to a little self-examination once in a while.

Fundamentalists often leap to their own defense and point to the scholarship of various pastors, college professors, etc.

Too often these kinds of discussions are centred around an emotional imprecision in the use of terms. Anti-intellectual is code for someone who won't join the club. Scholar is code for someone 'who agrees with me,' as one of my former professors once said.

Well what of it? What do these terms mean? Let's try intellectualism first.

1. devotion to intellectual pursuits.
2. the exercise of the intellect.
3. excessive emphasis on abstract or intellectual matters, esp. with a lack of proper consideration for emotions.
4. Philosophy.
      a. the doctrine that knowledge is wholly or chiefly derived from pure reason.
      b. the belief that reason is the final principle of reality.

intellectualism. Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: December 07, 2007).

Let's consider these one at a time. Given these definitions, am I an anti-intellectual? [edit note: change "intellectual" to "anti-intellectual"]

1. No

2. No

3. Yes

4a. Yes

4b. Yes

Now let's look at anti-intellectualism:

1. a person opposed to or hostile toward intellectuals and the modern academic, artistic, social, religious, and other theories associated with them.

2. a person who believes that intellect and reason are less important than actions and emotions in solving practical problems and understanding reality.

3. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of anti-intellectuals or their beliefs.

anti-intellectualism. Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: December 07, 2007).

Am I an anti-intellectual according to these definitions?

1. Yes
2. No
3. Possibly

In a moment I want to look at the definition of scholarship, but what are we to make of these definitions so far?

I am definitely hostile to the so-called achievements of much of our society's so-called intellectuals. Consider those who are lauded as artists, poets, notable Drs. of philosophy and so on in the vast majority of our most prestigious universities. Are these people whose thoughts should impress any believer in Christ? Should we care that we are not considered among their number? Their minds are darkened, professing themselves to be wise, they are altogether become fools.

When it comes to the noted Doctors of Religion in so many seminaries, are they significantly better than the secular intelligentsia? Hardly.

So I am an anti-intellectual and proud of it. Let the evangelicals pursue their intellectualism. They will find that they are numbered among the company of Proverb's fools, chasing after the wind and vanity of Ecclesiastes. Do they think that they make any impressive statement in accusing me of anti-intellectualism? It is just propaganda, plain and simple. Name-calling. What does it gain, and what argument does it advance?

Besides, I embrace the term. Let's hear it, as I said on Frank's page, for anti-intellectualism.

One last "word game". Let's look at scholarship:

1. learning; knowledge acquired by study; the academic attainments of a scholar.
2. a sum of money or other aid granted to a student, because of merit, need, etc., to pursue his or her studies.
3. the position or status of such a student.
4. a foundation to provide financial assistance to students.

scholarship. Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: December 07, 2007).

The first definition is what should concern us here. In the discussion at Frank's site, much was made of the fact that there aren't many fundamentalist's whom poor, benighted Dr. McCune could actually cite in his book. Scholarship, it was maintained, is evidenced by leaving a trail of published works behind one's self. According to, this just isn't so.

Furthermore, the facts prove otherwise. The men and women who populate the faculties of fundamentalist colleges and seminaries are devoted scholars themselves. Their attainments are well known and some of them do write occasionally. I maintain that market forces prohibit much publishing, but be that as it may, the presence or absence of published works are no proof or disproof of scholarship.

I am all for scholarship. I am all for study, diligence, hard work and educational attainment.

And I am unabashedly anti-intellectual.

And proud of it. Y'hear?

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Thursday, December 06, 2007

on our Christmas series, communion, and our website

Yes, boys and girls, that last bit is true. We now have a website for Grace Baptist Church of Victoria. You can find it at

My delay in posting our sermon summaries is mostly due to the usual headaches in starting something about which I know next to nothing, i.e., setting up a website. Thankfully, tools are available and I had done some work on a proposed site some years ago. So what you see is our quick temporary site. We have plans for more later, including an experiment at using it as an evangelistic tool. This blog may also migrate over there also, but time will tell on that.

Now  for Sunday's sermons. We began our annual Christmas series this last Sunday. Our theme this month is the missionary theme, Christ and the Nations.

The Nations Divided (Gen 10-11) Audio Notes

What is a nation? The UN has 192 members, FIFA has 205 members. The World Christian Database says there are over 13,000 people groups in the world. These groups comprise 'nations' by some definitions. How did they all begin? For what purpose did they all begin?

The idea inherent in the notion of nations, nationalism, and nationality is division. This is the theme of Gen 10. You see God repeatedly noting 'their nations' and emphasizing 'division' in this chapter. The immediate cause of the division is revealed in Gen 11: Babel. But the story of the cursing of Canaan in Gen 9 is also linked - a prophecy of imminent division. The ultimate cause is the sin of mankind.

Cause, however, is not purpose. Why division? What purpose does it serve? Is it merely judgement? The division of Babel is a curse, but it is intended to drive men to God. See Ac 17.26-27 and Ac 15.16-17.

What should the nations do with all the frustrations of language, culture, race, ambition, etc.?

  • Turn to God.

What should they do in Sudan over the school teacher who ‘insulted the prophet’ over the teddy bear she allowed her students to name ‘Mohammed’? What should the teacher do?

  • Turn to God.

What should Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and, yes, even Israel do with the frustrations they have with one another?

  • Turn to God.

What should you do with the misunderstandings, frustrations, divisions, conflicts you have with your family members and church brethren?

  • Turn to God.

God is the answer to the divisions of this world. And when we turn the page from the division of the nations, we see these words: "These are the generations of Shem..." God also formed the nations to form a nation from whom would come the One Man who would bring to an end all the divisions of the world.

Sup With Me (Lev 3) Audio Notes

Leviticus 3 discusses an offering called the 'peace offering'. It was a voluntary offering made with fire as a sweet savour to the Lord. It would be offered in the case of a vow, or as a matter of confession, or as a matter of freewill thanksgiving. The offerer may also have to offer a guilt offering or sin offering in order to purify himself before participating in a peace offering. The 'fat portion' of the offering belonged to God and was burned on the altar. A portion of that which remained belonged to the priest, but the rest belonged to the offerer and was consumed on the spot in a meal of fellowship with God.

The NT parallel is our communion feast. If we have been purified by the blood of Christ, and if our manner and walk is pure, we may freely eat. We eat the offering of Christ himself, in communion with himself. We drink the blood of the new covenant, being made one spiritual blood in the family of God.

For the believer whose heart is not right with God at this table, the Lord offers Rev 3.20:

NAU Revelation 3:20 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.


Don Johnson
Jer 33.3