I accepted two different challenges to do the "Ice Bucket Challenge." I, in turn, nominate six people (3 for each bucket).

1. My son Titus Allee
2. Jim Wallace of
Cold Case Christianity
3. Rick Walston of Columbia Evangelical Seminary
4. Jeff Piepho of Revolution Church
5. Tim McGrew
6. MIchael Licona of Risen Jesus
For more information about ALS and the places you can give to support ethical research towards treatment and a cure that respects human life from conception through natural death: http://erlc.com/article/the-faqs-the-als-ice-bucket-challenge

If you want to get involved in giving to help support persecuted Christians around the world check out www.opendoors.org
How do we share the gospel with people who say they accept the authority of Scripture?
I see a lot of people ready and willing to go to war over differences of opinion on various doctrinal issues. Some of the classic examples are, of course, Calvinism versus Arminianism, Young Earth Creationism versus Old Earth Creationism, and of course things like whether you can have a beer once in a while or not. There are plenty of issues that divide churches today and some issues are significantly more important than others to be sure. There are truly some issue which ought to cause division to some degree or another but there are other issues which no one ought to divide over. The question is “How do we decide what makes an issue essential versus non-essential?”

I will not be so bold as to claim I have this all figured out and that you who read this should look at this the same way I do but, that said, I thought I would share with you how I see it.

I divide doctrinal issues into three categories. First rank importance would relate to the nature of God and the question of “What is the gospel?” Second rank would relate to issues that would make it difficult ecclesiastically for believers on opposite sides to worship in the same congregation. Third rank doctrinal  issues are things which should not divide fellowship in any significant way.

When it comes to the first rank issues I think the nature of God and the nature of the gospel are the two most primary issues in Christian theology. I think that because in my understanding they both relate to the most important being in the universe and who He has revealed Himself to be and how we can have a right relationship with him (salvation). I believe errant doctrines on the nature of God and the nature of the gospel are often damning and therefore, by definition, separate genuine Christians from false Christians. It is for that reason that these are first rank matters and if we are to spend our time dogmatically defending any doctrinal position then the issues of who is God and what is the gospel should rank as all Christians primary concern.*

Secondary issues, then, are much less important than the first rank. It’s not to say that they are not important (they are) or that they don’t bear the worth of contending for one position over another (they do). But they don’t divide the body of Christ salvifically and so they are of dramatically less importance than the first rank issues. Examples of second rank matters might be believers baptism versus infant baptism (Credo vs. Paedo). The fact that I don’t believe we should baptize infants to usher them into the covenant community of God is enough to keep me from worshipping as a member in a Presbyterian church. It would be difficult for me to worship regularly as a member in such a church because I would feel by conviction that I would have to teach my children that what the pastor taught on the matter of Baptism was errant. So any issue that similarly and significantly would affect my ability to worship in a certain denomination or congregation is a secondary issue.

Tertiary issues, then, are even lower in significance. These are matters which one could have some disagreements about with other believers but not feel the need to worship in a separate congregation. Perhaps this would be something like the frequency of partaking in the Lord’s Supper as a church or even one orthodox view of eschatology versus another. Any given congregation will have some minor disagreements among themselves about this or that and Romans 14 speaks to such a matter. We ought to have a firm conviction based upon the Scriptures but be willing to respect and agree to disagree with others whose convictions vary from our own.

Now, admittedly, this is just kind of a rough framework for thinking about how to rank the importance of doctrinal issues but I find it a useful one. Clearly some would disagree about what properly belongs in the third rank versus the second and some of that is understandable. Unfortunately some people don’t even think a third rank exists and they are constantly causing church splits or hopping from church to church to church whenever they disagree with someone. That is sad and certainly not in keeping with what Scripture has to say about this.

Even more sad is that some people don’t even recognize a distinction between first and second rank doctrines. Those who would make mode of baptism, or a particular view of the age of the earth or even the doctrine of inerrancy a first rank issue do damage to the body of Christ and they confuse their own theology (whether they be correct or not) with soteriology (salvation). I thank God that he does not require perfect doctrine for salvation but only trust in a perfect Savior!

Romans 14:5-12  "One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then,whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God."

*A right view of God is necessarily tied in with a right view of the gospel. These cannot be separated. Even so, I don't believe a perfect Trinitarian theology is held by most new believers and that God's grace covers error in our theology. What I do think it the case is that born-again believers will always accept the authority of Scripture as they learn more about God and will grow into a fuller understanding of the nature of God. Those who are presented with truth about God's nature from Scripture and who in turn intentionally reject it reveal themselves not to be regenerate because they are not trusting in God as he reveals himself in Scripture and therefore are worshipping a false God.

How does the Bible define faith? What is the relationship between faith and reason? Can a person believe that the gospel is true but still not be a "believer" in the biblical sense? What kind of faith does God want us to have? All of this and more are addressed in this presentation. 

*There is about a 20 second period where the video and audio freeze but it pick backs up and nothing crucial is missed.
I was on the internet radio program "Theology Matters" with the Pellews today and here is the recording of the show. I join the show at about 34 minutes in and then get to talk about the life and works of C. S. Lewis, as well as my research on the same, for the following 90 or so minutes of the show. I hope you enjoy it!
Check Out Christianity Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with TRUradio on BlogTalkRadio with TRUradio Presents on BlogTalkRadio
Well, everyone is talking about depression and suicide because of the recent passing of Robin Williams. I want to say absolutely nothing about Robin Williams, or at least no more than I have said because his death is a deep loss to his family and those who knew and loved him personally and I think we have no right to analyze his life and hash it out publicly just because he was famous. Let the family grieve in peace. My prayer for them is God will grant them peace in this heartbreaking time.

Now, completely removed from the details of the aforementioned specific case, the incident has sparked widespread discussion on the blogosphere and social media about the relationship of depression and suicide. Many Christians have weighed in with some pretty strong opinions and I guess  would like to offer a few thoughts myself.

My first thought is that most of us have no right to be making major medical and psychiatric judgments. I haven’t gone to med school and I don’t know everything there is to know about depression and to what extent it can affect one’s judgment and decision making. So I am just not going to act like I do know all about this and I shall try not to make a definitive judgment about things outside of my area of expertise. With that said here are a couple of thoughts that I think we all ought to consider carefully.

Any time we blame something a person on psychiatric condition and thereby declare them innocent of wrongdoing we need to be very careful. I would not go so far as to say that there are not very real psychiatric conditions that seriously impair a person’s judgment and that lead them to do things they would not do in a more healthy state of mind, I think there is legitimacy to that. My primary concern is that there could easily be a slippery slope if we are not careful in which we absolve all aberrant and immoral behavior by saying “It was not them that did it, it was the disease of mental illness.” You can just imagine the way this could be used to justify all kinds of things and so we need to be careful about saying in a wholesale kind of way “the disease made me/them do it” because the truth is often times that is just an excuse.

Second, some Christians are saying that people who are depressed and commit suicide just needed Jesus in their life and then they would be fine. I think we need to be careful here too. I think it is entirely reasonable to say that this is often true but not always true. We live in a fallen and broken world and that manifests itself both in the behavior of people and also the physical nature of people. That is to say the fall affected both how we behave in our sinful nature and also the physical world and our physical bodies.

This being the case I think it is fair to say that many, many cases of depression (even depression that leads to suicide) is due to the fact that people sought pleasure and meaning in all the wrong things, people and places and found no satisfaction and this caused them great depression. Or, like in my case as a teen, that same thing was true but also exacerbated by external factors like bullies in school who made life hell for me. When I was about fourteen years old I strongly considered killing myself on more than one occasion because I was depressed and miserable because of my own sinful pursuits and because of the sinful people who hounded me as a young teen. In my case when I came to faith in Jesus my whole world changed and I never considered killing myself again. The saving work of Christ radically transformed me and I was set free from a lot of vices in my life. But while I think this is the case for many, maybe even most people who suffer from depression, I don’t dare say that everybody who suffers from depression just needs more Jesus.

It seems entirely plausible to me that depression can be caused by chemical imbalances and things going wrong in the body. Depression can be a true medical condition and not only a moral condition. Undoubtedly there is usually overlap between the two but it seems to me that a person can medically struggle with depression even apart from moral failures. Someone who becomes a Christian and who has a genuine medical condition may still suffer with depression even though they have Jesus and even though they are living a holy and pleasing life before God. If indeed there are medical causes of depression, and I think we are foolish to say there are not, then we need to stop telling people that Jesus will necessarily fix that by coming to him.

This is equivalent to telling people that if they come to Jesus they won’t suffer from Cancer or Diabetes. Some may preach such a message but the Bible certainly does not. The reality is we live in a sinful and broken world and that this is both a moral and physical reality and coming to Christ does not just wipe that away immediately. We look forward to a day when Christ returns and we are given glorified bodies from sickness and disease and where moral impurity is erased from our hearts and minds but for now we have to struggle and fight against those things while trusting in Jesus.

Jesus does not promise you and I a life free from trouble, temptation, sickness or even depression. He promises us eternal life if we will repent and trust in Him to save us from this world and our sinful deeds. I absolutely believe that Jesus can and will help you if you are struggling with depression regardless if the cause is moral or medical, but I refuse to tell you that Jesus will definitely take that thorn from your side if you trust in him. He may, he may not. I don’t know. But the promise of eternal life can be yours by faith in him and that’s an anchor for our soul to cling to no matter how we feel or what we go through.

Romans 7:24-25a “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

1 Corinthians 15:50-57 “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God,who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I am struggling today. I am feeling the weight of the reality of how messed up things in this world really are. I have read about a grandmother who took her six year old grandson into the bathroom and locked the door and killed him while he screamed for his life and his eight year old brother tried to help him. I have seen videos of children being shot in the head (children just like my children) for not being Muslim. I can’t handle it. I can’t.

What do we do with things like this?

I know my reaction is to hate. I mean really, really hate. I have immense hatred that wells up in my heart against the people who do these kinds of things. I want them dead. I want them dead. I hate them. How could people be so evil?

Jesus taught us: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”

In America we apply this verse to when someone says something mean about us on social media or, at worst, when we don’t get a job because they discriminated against us for being a Christian. We have no idea. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you gets real when they start torturing you and killing your kids.

I haven’t even come close to experiencing this first hand and I already hate the people who do such wicked things. But Jesus tells us to love. How can Jesus do that? Doesn’t he see how evil these people are? Does he not know they deserve to die for what they have done? Of course he does. Of course they do.

But lest we forget what the Bible tells us:

As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”  “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Do we think this is talking about “them”? Yes. But have we so soon forgotten that we were them? This is the description of all mankind apart from Christ. We are no different, no less wicked than the people we condemn as deserving hell. Do they deserve death and hell? Yes! But so do we.

As I look upon these sinful and murderous people and I feel hate I am completely wrong headed. Because those whom I hate Jesus says “Love.” Those whom I hate are just like me without Christ. Those whom I hate are people to whom Christ offers forgiveness and eternal life if they will but repent and believe the gospel. And I know the gospel and they do not.

You might think that in some way you are, even apart from Christ, superior to this wicked people. You would be wrong. You and I, given the right (or wrong) upbringing, indoctrination, and culture could be the very same as the people we now look upon with hate. You are indeed capable of unspeakable evil. If you’re honest you know how dark and twisted your heart is and how badly you need Jesus in your life.

God will deal out justice in the end. In the meantime he offers mercy, forgiveness and a new heart to all who will come to Jesus. This is why he says “love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you” because he is asking us to extend the same mercy and grace unto death that Jesus offered for us. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

What is the best way to stop persecution? The salvation of those doing the persecuting. Unrelenting love even for those who take the life of those you love and even your own life. This is what Jesus has called Christians to. Jesus does not ask any more of us than what he himself willingly did for you and for me.

Father forgive me for my hatred. Help me to love the ungodly just as you loved me before I was righteous in you.

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