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Matt Postiff's Blog

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Posted by Matt Postiff November 18, 2007 under FBC 

Lately I was reminded that some folks that have left Fellowship Bible Church have spread the word that we are a "cult." I wondered what that meant. When I inquired of the best source I could find for information on what these folks are saying, I found that the we are a cult because:

1. We believe the Bible teaches that divorce is displeasing to God and should not happen.
2. We believe the Bible prohibits women from teaching men or being pastors.
3. We have not decorated our auditorium or outside of our building with a cross.

I would hope it is obvious that among any community of believers, including ours, there is not complete agreement on all details of theology. For instance, my position on divorce is "No divorce, but if there is divorce, no remarriage (Mark 10:1-12, 1 Cor. 7:10-11)." But there are divorced folks in our church; there are divorced-and-remarried people in our church; there are folks who disagree with me who have stated their disagreement; and there are probably folks who disagree who have remained silent. And I'm glad they are in our church. But everyone in the church knows that I am going to do the best job I can to show them from the Scriptures why they should not be divorced, and not get themselves into a situation where it becomes an issue. Same goes for the issue of women preachers. I believe 1 Tim. 2:12 is unequivocal on this issue. Others may disagree, but they know I'm not going to invite a woman to preach! I'll leave the issue of the cross decoration for another blog entry, since I don't have any Bible verses to appeal to on that one.

Well, that list still did not satisfy me that I understood why we are a cult. So, I looked up a definition of the term "cult" that is consistent with our fundamental Christian position. From the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, I found this helpful definition:

"A religious group that follows a particular theological system. In the context of is a group that uses the Bible but distorts the doctrines that affect salvation sufficiently to cause salvation to be unattainable. A few examples of cults are Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, Christadelphians, Unity, Religious Science, The Way International, and the Moonies."

That did not help me either, because we are very plainly teaching the gospel of God's grace alone, through the Lord Jesus Christ alone, received by faith alone--the Biblical way of salvation and the only way that it can be attained. I suspect the term "legalism" may have some bearing on the issue (i.e. we are a cult because we are legalistic, that is, hold to some standards of Christian behavior), but I'm not sure. Maybe those folks who are spreading the word that we are a cult could communicate with me directly via email and share some more reasons why they think we are a cult. I will report in this venue if I learn anything more.

Posted by Matt Postiff October 25, 2007 under Society 

I decided I should read Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation to learn about the current state of the atheist community. One thing I learned by reading his initial "Note to the Reader" is that he believes we are in a moral and intellectual emergency because of the supposed Christian beliefs of the population of the United States.

His starting point for drawing this conclusion comes from polling data regarding American religious beliefs--such beliefs as a young earth, God's hand in creation, the inspiration of the Bible, the requirement of believing in Jesus Christ for salvation, and the imminent return of Christ. Although it seems far-fetched to me that such beliefs are really so pervasive, let us accept Harris' undocumented data for now, and his first conclusion that the United States really is an odd country in the world because of these convictions.

Harris proceeds to say, "many of us [speaking of Christians] may not care about the fate of civilization." His conclusion is based on another polling datum, namely that 44% of Americans believe Christ will return soon, and only after devastation on the earth. "It is...not an exaggeration to say that if the city of New York were suddenly replaced by a ball of fire, some significant percentage of the American population would see a silver lining in the subsequent mushroom cloud..."

So goes Harris' argument for the moral and intellectual emergency. But is it a convincing argument? Look back a mere five years before the writing of Harris' book to September 11, 2001. A great disaster did occur in the city of New York. Did a significant portion of the population get some sick glee out of the deaths of thousands of Americans? Did Christ return? Did many people really think great and glorious things were about to happen? Much to the contrary, while a few Christians might have thought they could with certainty ascribe those events to God's direct judgment and a sign of Christ's soon coming, the "significant percentage" recognized the evil for what it was, and prayed for justice and protection.

In short, Harris' conclusion does not follow logically from his argument. Christians are never really glad for evil that is done, even if such evil does indicate that prophesied events are still on the way to fulfillment. His moral and intellectual emergency is fabricated, based as it is on an exaggerated hypothetical situation weakly coupled with some polling data. Harris goes on to respond to this so-called emergency in the remainder of his book. Lord willing, we will look at some more of his arguments in future entries, even if we have to suspend disbelief about his major premise.

Posted by Matt Postiff October 19, 2007 under Society 

Atheist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins wrote in a 1989 New York Times book review, "It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)." He later added a fifth possibility, that such a person is a victim who has either been tormented, bullied, or brainwashed (see his essay Ignorance is No Crime).

If Dawkins would subject his own statement to careful scrutiny and objective measures, he would see that it does not hold up to scientific standards.

Consider the number of scientists who hold doctoral level degrees from secular universities, and are at the same time Christians. I personally know several, and know of many others. Because they have been granted doctoral level degrees, they can hardly be called stupid or ignorant. Their intelligence and knowledge has been objectively validated by the secular establishment. Dawkins might argue that they are stupid or ignorant in the areas of physics, astronomy, geology, paleontology, and other such specialties. The trouble with such an argument is that there are many Ph.D.s in those very fields that do not accept the evolutionary worldview. And many Ph.D.s whose specialties are in other fields are still well-read and intelligent thinkers.

These well-educated, Christian scientists are also not considered insane by any objective measure, even by secular psychiatrists and psychologists. They behave normally, hold jobs, have good interpersonal skills, are well-balanced, and so on.

In addition, these Christian "non-conformist" scientists behave very well and do not have any hidden agenda to promote their views of God and creation. They are not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes, they are of good character, and are quite clearly not "wicked."

Furthermore, Dawkins' statement was overly general. Almost everyone believes in "evolution" in one way or another. Basically everyone understands evolution of technology, or micro-evolution of germs. What creationists object to is the "macro-evolutionary" theory of one species changing into another species.

Finally, I'll give a little personal testimony. I don't feel like I'm a victim of others trying to keep me in the dark on the issues of creation. I've made a careful decision for young-earth creationism. If I am tormented or bullied , it is by scientists like Dawkins who keep calling me names. If I am brainwashed, it is by educators like Dawkins who try to keep views such as ID or creationism out of the public square. Too bad Dawkins does not use the scientific method he embraces to measure his own statements. If he did, he would find them wanting.

Posted by Matt Postiff October 5, 2007 under Hebrew 

When I taught elementary Hebrew at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary during the 2006-2007 school year, I recorded some helps for the students regarding the vowel points. My Hebrew teacher, Dr. Robert McCabe, passed on the audio of a native Jewish man saying the alphabet. Please click the following links to download the mp3 audio.

I also recorded Allen Ross's vocabulary from the first 40 chapters of his Introducing Biblical Hebrew. These files can be accessed below:

 Chapter 2  Chapter 3  Chapter 4  Chapter 5  Chapter 6
 Chapter 7  Chapter 8  Chapter 9  Chapter 10  Chapter 11
 Chapter 12  Chapter 13  Chapter 14  Chapter 15  Chapter 16
 Chapter 17  Chapter 18  Chapter 19  Chapter 20  Chapter 21
 Chapter 22  Chapter 23  Chapter 24  Chapter 25  Chapter 26
 Chapter 27  Chapter 28  Chapter 29  Chapter 30  Chapter 31
 Chapter 32  Chapter 33  Chapter 34  Chapter 35  Chapter 36
 Chapter 37  Chapter 38  Chapter 39  Chapter 40

There is also a complete collection of the Hebrew Bible on mp3. It is available to stream through the Audio Scriptures project. The actual site to visit is Earlier, I was able to download any of the mp3 files directly. This site apparently does not do that now, but requires you to buy a CD. However, the same audio files are available elsewhere. You can search google for them. One nice site is at the University of Washington. Good places to start listening to the Hebrew Bible include Genesis 1, Genesis 12, and Psalm 1.

Posted by Matt Postiff September 14, 2007 under Interpretation 

One of the tensions with my "no polygamy" stance is how to understand the Old Testament, where polygamy abounded. It is first mentioned in Gen. 4:19 where Lamech took for himself two wives. We see many men, including Abraham and Jacob, with multiple wives. Kings David and Solomon had a huge number of wives.

It should be noted first that God never specifically commands men to take multiple wives; rather, the teaching from the time of Adam is one man, one woman, and one flesh (Gen. 2:23-24). Second, it is obvious that God allowed polygamy, and that, good or bad, it accomplished certain things like allowing prominent men to have many children more quickly than they would have been able to have with one wife. It also resulted in intra-family rivalries (e.g. 1 Sam. 1:6). Third, though Exodus 21:7-11 regulates polygamy, this does not necessarily endorse it. Similar regulations were given to regulate or curb the sin of divorce (Deut. 24:1-4) but this did not change God's desire for marriage (Matt. 19:6). Fourth, God's allowance of David to have Saul's wives is simply that--an allowance which indicated a complete transfer of the kingdom rule to David (2 Sam. 12:8). In the midst of the rebuke given by God through Nathan, God is saying that He gave David everything he could ask for and then some, and then David was still not satisfied and wanted yet another wife from a man who only had one! Here is a clear-cut case when taking another wife was done so in adultery.

There is another problem with respect to the Levirate marriage institution which was used for the propagation of the family name and inheritance rights (Deut 25:5-10). The brother of the deceased could do the levirate marriage or not. Presumably if he were already married, then he would have two wives after taking his deceased brother's widow as his own. Fortunately for my position, we are not under the Mosaic Law today so I don't have to worry about this case in the present day as if it were legally sanctioned by God. But it is a legitimate tension in that God gave this as part of the Law and so in some sense endorsed it. I'm willing to live with that tension for now until I have time to think it through more fully. In western cultures, this is not a problem because polygamy is outlawed anyway. In other cultures where polygamy is legal, we should explore why is it used. Is it done for religious or pragmatic reasons? Is it tied to certain religious beliefs, as in Islam? Or is it related to the culture's view of inheritance, property transfer, and sustaining the family name? Or is it simply a way for men to indulge their sinful desires?

All of that may be somewhat less than perfectly satisfying, but I am trying to deal honestly with the Biblical text. What we can say without any doubt, gentlemen, is that God wants you to love your wife as yourself and enjoy her as the gift from God that she is. Solomon might say, "My son, keep my words. Don't look elsewhere to satisfy your desire for love."

Posted by Matt Postiff September 13, 2007 under Church 

I wanted to add some more "interview questions" to my earlier entry on finding a pastor. Some of these should be asked before the candidate ever comes for preaching, particularly the first three questions below:

  • What is your salvation testimony and call to the ministry?
  • Where are you serving now, what is your past church experience, and why are you leaving (if he is)?
  • Inquire from references regarding his past family history (divorce?), problems with character, money, immorality, pornography, drugs?
  • What do you believe are the components of the gospel?
  • Is the Bible inspired? (Yes). Inerrant? (Yes). In matters of faith only or science? (All that it touches)
  • What style of preaching do you do? (Expository, books, verse-by-verse...) At what level do you try to preach?
  • What do you believe about the doctrine of Trinitarianism?
  • What is justification?
  • In what kind of atonement do you believe?

Be sure to explore these areas deeply so you know what the candidate means by what the says.

Posted by Matt Postiff September 4, 2007 under Church 

An alert reader of this page pointed out that my previous wording (now fixed) regarding the "baby brigade" post might mislead some folks to think that we had new babies added to the membership of the church, or that we had four new babies "saved" because of infant baptism or because they were born into Christian families. Far from it, of course! They were gifted by God to four of our church's families, but not until each one makes an individual, conscious decision to follow Jesus Christ are they converted. After that point, they may decide to join the membership of our particular local church, having already become "members" of the church of the truly redeemed at the time of their conversion. No baptism or any other ritual can wash away original sin or bring a baby into salvation. Only Jesus Christ's work on the cross can do that.

Posted by Matt Postiff September 1, 2007 under Church 

A church I know is searching for a new pastor after their former pastor was called to another ministry. I was considering what advice I might give to them. My first counsel is to "stick to your guns and get clear answers from the candidate." When I say "stick to your guns" I mean that the church should not compromise its beliefs to find a pastor. I will use the example of young-earth, 6-day creationism. If you believe in that doctrine, then do not offer the pastorate to a man who does not believe that.

Related to that is the "get clear answers from the candidate" advice. Theoretically, if you ask the candidate if they believe and teach 6-day creationism from a young-earth perspective, then there are several possible answers: No, Yes, or something more vague like "I don't make an issue of that" or "I don't know." Stick to your guns and do not call a man who says anything other than "Yes." If he says "No," you don't want him because he will change the church or make life very difficult at some point down the road. If he says "I don't know," you don't want him because he has not thought through some issues. We are not talking about some esoteric theological point here. This is basic doctrine. And if he says "I don't make an issue of that," he has not answered your question! This is perhaps the worst of all, because he probably does not believe what you are hoping, and he is being equivocal. Maybe he is doing so to appear to be reasonable or just to get the job. It will happen again in the future! The end result will be little different than if he just says "No."

Now the question probably arises in your mind, what issues should we treat this way? Here are some, in no particular order, with my answers in parentheses:

  • Are you King-James Only? (No)
  • Do you believe in 6-day creationism? (Yes)
  • Will you bring contemporary Christian music into the church? (No)
  • Are you Baptistic? (Yes)
  • Are you Fundamental? (Yes)
  • Do you believe in dispensationalism? (Yes)
  • Are you Calvinistic? (Moderately so--four point)
  • Do you believe it is permissible to divorce and remarry? (No)
  • What is the primary emphasis of missions? (Evangelism and church planting)
  • Do you believe in separation? How much? (Yes, including sometimes Christian brothers)
  • Do you believe in premillennialism? (Yes)
  • Do you believe in pretribulationism? (Yes)
  • Do you believe tongues, healing, knowledge, and prophecy are available today? (No)
  • Do you believe in a second blessing after salvation? (No)
  • Do you believe there is more than one way of salvation? What about infants before an age of accountability? (No, Yes)
  • Are you new evangelical? (No)
  • What is your view of the market-driven church, seeker-sensitive church, and church growth movement in general? (No)

Of course, you should explore the candidate's views more deeply than this--what are the fundamentals and what do you believe about them? What does it mean to be Baptist? And so forth.

Posted by Matt Postiff August 31, 2007 under Interpretation 

I did get some feedback on the Polygamy entry from August 16. One query had to do with whether my use of Romans 7:1-3 is valid at all. That is, does Romans 7:1-3 really have any bearing on the issue of polygamy, since that is not at all what Paul is teaching about? Good question--since I am committed to the belief that we must teach the Bible in context and not lift passages out of context to make a point we desire to make.

The answer to this is basically that there is an implication in what Paul is teaching that does have to do with polygamy. It seems quite clear from the passage that polyandry is adultery. "Polygamy=adultery" seems to be a straightforward extension to this. Certainly Paul's point is not to teach about polygamy or polyandry. But based on this implication, a man who runs off with another woman and commits adultery with her, but remains married to his original spouse all the while, is in egregious sin. I don't see anything "sanctifying" about parading that adulterous relationship up to a civil magistrate, having him declare it a "marriage," and then pretending it is better than if you didn't have it legally declared a marriage. Just saying it is right doesn't make it right. Dressing up adultery with marriage vows and a marriage license does not make it any more righteous.

Posted by Matt Postiff August 27, 2007 under Cults, Etc. 

Today in the mail, I received a glossy trifold in the mail from the Christadelphians. I had to review what these folks believe (too many cults out there to keep track of.) But these folks are definitely a cult. Like the Jehovah's Witnesses, they do not believe God exists in three persons--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are strictly monotheists who believe that Christ is a man, and that the Holy Spirit is the emanation of God's power. They also believe baptism is necessary in order to be saved, that souls sleep at death until (some) are resurrected, and that there is no real Hell. Clearly, these people are opposed to many of the fundamentals of the true Christian faith.

Don't be tricked by them. They claim that they can help you read the Bible more effectively. They cannot.

Other references:

What is Christadelphianism, and what do Christadelphians believe? by

Is Christadelphianism Christian by Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry

Posted by Matt Postiff August 17, 2007 under FBC 

In July four new babies were born to families in our church. The baby brigade, with proud parents, is shown below. "Goliath" on the left was born at the end of March; the rest were born in July. We rejoice that God has gifted these little lives into their families and into our care as a local church.

2006 FBC Babies

Posted by Matt Postiff August 16, 2007 under Interpretation 

For the inaugural entry in my blog, I thought what better than to tackle a tough theological issue like polygamy? There are many "sub issues" to this one, such as whether men with multiples wives can be members of a local church (say, in Africa), whether they can take communion or be in leadership roles, how they should handle their wives after becoming saved, whether they should divorce all but one (and which one?) or support them without having relations, and whether the law of their home country has any bearing on the question at all.

Before we can get to those questions (perhaps in future blog entries), it is important to note that Romans 7:1-3 has some bearing on this issue. It speaks of a wife becoming an adulteress if she marries another man while her first husband is still alive. By implication, a man who marries another woman while his first wife is alive also becomes an adulterer. This seems quite obvious to most Christians. The application to the case of polygamy is just that the man who marries a second wife is an adulterer with respect to his first wife. It does not seem to make a difference to me if you call it a marriage or not, as it is no different than if the man has an ongoing affair with another woman. This comes to bear on the question of whether the second marriage is valid, and would have significant impact on the answers to the questions posed in the previous paragraph.

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