Your Questions Answered (Article + Podcast)

Initially, I started this blog specifically to answer questions I repeatedly received from people in my church and community. This format was just an easy way for me to answer a lot of people at the same time. I know, I know, that’s a very introverted thing to do. Also, it probably demonstrates my conversational laziness as well. I knew, too, that the questions being asked were pretty common questions in other church settings as well, which turned out to be truer than I realized at the time.

Often people will write with a question and begin by apologizing for being a bother. I always try to respond by assuring them that there is no such thing as a stupid question. And, if pastors can’t or won’t answer the difficult questions, they aren’t fulfilling their God-given leadership role (2 Timothy 4:2). There is a sentiment floating around asserting that we shouldn’t respond to questions asked in the spirit of entrapment. That is to say, a question designed to back someone into a corner and elicit a response that can be misconstrued or used against the answerer. I sympathize to a certain degree with that mindset. However, it’s worth noting that Jesus still responded to the Pharisees when they poised their poisonous questions.

Regardless, if we’re not careful, we will fall into the trap of viewing every questioner as bad intentioned when they are just uninformed or misinformed. Even the first apostolic sermon on salvation was preached in response to a question (Acts 2:37-38). Many years ago, I was influenced by the book by Conrad Gempf called Jesus Asked. That little book opened my eyes to something that should have been obvious to me as a prolific reader of the Gospels. Jesus avidly employed the Socratic method of answering questions with a question. Jesus rebuked with questions (Luke 8:25, Mark 8:21), provoked deeper thought with questions (Mark 11:28, Mark 12:16), and asked rhetorical questions (Matthew 21:31, Mark 8:19). It’s nearly impossible to find a passage where Jesus interacted with people that He did not ask a question or a series of questions. That illumination forever impacted my thinking on preaching, teaching, and engaging in thought with others.

I believe Jesus utilized questions for several reasons: One, it forced the other person to think and engage. Two, it introduced new lines of thought and brought clarity to issues. Three, it was more approachable than domineering. Four, it put the questioner on the defensive rather than the offensive. Five, it took Him out of the faulty framework of preconceived ideas contained within the original question. Six, it invited people to find Truth in answering His question rather than simply believing a declaration. There is a time for declaration, and Jesus made plenty of bold declarations (John 14:6, John 10:7). Still, there is also a time to ask questions and invite others to find the answers with us, which has always been the philosophy of Apostolic Voice.

That was a ridiculously long way of saying keep the questions coming. Sometimes your questions send me on a journey of discovery. Some questions are humbling because they show me how little I know about the Bible. In a recent podcast (click here to listen), I thoroughly enjoyed tackling some great questions from you folks. I’m posting that Q&A in written form for those who prefer reading over listening. Or for those who might want to easily reference back to this article in the future. No names are mentioned because I wouldn’t want to risk embarrassing anyone.

Q1: How should we feel about going to church when a threat or danger is at hand?

Before jumping into a biblical discussion of this topic, allow me to begin by pointing out the obvious: There is always a certain level of danger when we physically gather for worship. I know this question is likely referring to COVID-19. I think it helps if we put a few things into perspective. Here’s some simple math, 38,000 people tragically die in car accidents each year in the United States. Meaning, just driving to church has some inherent risks. Sadly, 28,000 people die of the common flu each year in the United States. Also, I think we have to weigh the physical and spiritual risks of not attending church.

Some Common Sense Observations

I’m not qualified enough to emphatically argue the suicidal impact of the shutdowns, but I have the common sense to know it’s been substantial. People have been alienated from friends, sequestered away from family, blocked from healthy social interaction, kept from education, hindered from church attendance (and church socialization). We’ve all been fed a steady diet of fear, politicized, marginalized, and handcuffed by despair with seemingly no end in sight. You can’t tell me all that hasn’t harmed people in ways we can’t even fathom right now. Books and studies will look back over these things and tell countless stories of tragedy. My heart breaks for children who endured 2020-2021 (and maybe 2022) during their most formative years. They will deal with neuroses and developmental disorders that go far beyond the ordinary. On the other end of the spectrum, elders who are certainly the most vulnerable to COVID-19 among us have suffered tremendous emotional pain and loneliness in their twilight years as we have tried our best to protect them. It’s truly sad.

The Long-Term Fallout of Fear

I’ve written about spiritual problems and solutions related to COVID-19 in the past (A Christian Manuel For Navigating Uncertain Times, Unmasked – Cogent Covid Thoughts). However, we are only just now seeing the overwhelming negative spiritual impacts of our churches being severely impaired and restricted for over a year and a half. An alarming 7% of past churchgoers claim they will not be resuming in-person services again even once the pandemic is over.[iii] That stat is probably higher because many who will not return to church aren’t willing to talk about it with pollsters. And the falling church attendance is minor compared to the spiritual devastation many people have experienced due to increased carnality and lack of accountability. Countless churches are reeling from that reality. Not to mention how the media has demonized worship or the social stigma of churches being labeled super-spreaders.

What Does the Bible Say?

Before jumping straight to “forsake not the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25), let’s go a few verses back and examine the context of that often-quoted verse. Remember, Paul (the writer of Hebrews, in my opinion) was no stranger to danger. He was beaten, stoned to death, imprisoned, and shipwrecked (2 Corinthians 11:21-33). The First Church met under threat of death, persecution, imprisonment, and more. So, Paul did not write from the Western standpoint of one who has never genuinely suffered for the Gospel or to gather. Hebrews 10:22-23 are admonishments to remain pure (holy), faithful, hopeful, unwavering, and uncompromising. Hebrews 10:24 is a call to think carefully about how we can encourage one another to do all of the above, love our fellow Christians, and do good deeds. All of that was Paul’s way of leading up to the importance of Hebrews 10:25, which is a familiar verse to most churchgoers.

So, when Paul said, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:25).” He emphasized the universal human need for the people of God to gather regularly if they are to remain strong in faith, love, and works. Paul (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) had already considered the intrinsic dangers of gathering in that apostolic command. Yet, he gave no caveats or wiggle room for the Church to use as convenient excuses. In fact, he doubles down by denouncing those who had already forsaken assembly and encouraging the future church to gather more often as the rapture draws closer.

To drive the point home, Paul continues in Hebrews 10:26-29 with a grave warning about sinful Christians and backsliding. Christians who willfully sin after receiving the knowledge of Truth have no further sacrifice for their atonement (Hebrews 10:26). They can live with terrifying anticipation of the fiery judgment of God because they become adversaries of God even while calling themselves believers (Hebrews 10:27). If people were put to death for breaking the law of Moses, shouldn’t we expect far more significant punishment for disrespecting the blood of Jesus, trampling the son of God, and insulted God’s grace (Hebrews 10:28-29)? These four verses aren’t randomly placed after Paul’s apostolic command to gather. They are a continuation of that discussion. Because gathering together is one of the most important and effective resources God has given to keep us from sin and backsliding.

Gathering together is one of the most important and effective resources God has given to keep us from sin and backsliding.

Full Transparency

To be fully transparent, I do believe in being careful and using wisdom. I’ve lost friends and loved ones during this pandemic. My church has experienced heartbreaking COVID-19 related deaths. My father almost died when he contracted COVID-19, and it turned into COVID-pneumonia. My church has socially distanced, rearranged seating, canceled Sunday School for over a year (to protect the elderly teachers), worn masks, sanitized the building, provided sanitizer to saints, launched a live stream, and canceled many services to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during peak outbreaks. We’ve made hard calls and tried to use as much wisdom as humanly possible. But we also realize that fear cannot become hysteria, and our church is an essential service. Indefinite shutdowns are not an option, and any shutdown is the last resort.

Practical Considerations

There might be times when you should miss a church service. It should be a tough call on your part. Once missing church becomes easy, you’re in a downward spiral. If you have a fever or feel like you’re contagious to others, you should feel excused to stay home. Do your best to stay connected to that service remotely, either through technology or word of mouth. And remain accountable to your pastor or other saints (depending on your church’s protocol). Refuse to be that person who misses church and expects everyone else to call you. If you are a grown adult, you should keep yourself accountable to peers and leadership. If you are especially vulnerable (age, preexisting conditions, compromised immune system) and your church hasn’t canceled services, consult your leadership about it. Take extra precautions when you attend, wear a mask, keep a distance from others (wave hands, don’t shake hands), and ask to be temporarily excused from church responsibilities that might cause too much direct contact with people. Trust that your pastor is making godly decisions to keep you physically and spiritually safe.

There might be times when you should miss a church service. It should be a tough call on your part. Once missing church becomes easy, you’re in a downward spiral.

Refuse to be that person who misses church and expects everyone else to call you. If you are a grown adult, you should keep yourself accountable to peers and leadership.

If you have enough faith to go to the grocery store, you have enough faith to go to church. If you have enough faith to go to work, you have enough faith to go to church. If you feel comfortable being around people outside of the church, you should go to church. It really is that simple. The Church is an essential service for your soul. And if you are responsible for children, you should be factoring their spiritual well-being into your decision-making process too. Wisdom and caution are good things, but fear and hysteria are contrary to the Christian life.

If you have enough faith to go to the grocery store, you have enough faith to go to church. If you have enough faith to go to work, you have enough faith to go to church.

Wisdom and caution are good things, but fear and hysteria are contrary to the Christian life.

Power, Love & Sound Mind

In 2 Timothy 1:2-7, Paul charged Timothy to have peace (inner calm and spiritual well-being). Then, Paul praised the faithfulness of his godly mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). He reminded Timothy to keep the gift of God stirred up inside of him, which he had already received by the laying on of hands (2 Timothy 1:6). Then, Paul launched into a verse that we often quote, and you’ll quickly recognize it even though I’m citing the Amplified version: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control] (2 Timothy 1:7). Notice the entire context of Christian power, love, and soundness of mind involve things connected to gathering as the body of Christ. If we want power, love, and stability of mind, we must not forsake assembling together.

The entire context of Christian power, love, and soundness of mind involve things connected to gathering as the body of Christ. If we want power, love, and stability of mind, we must not forsake assembling together.

Q2: What age is appropriate for an apostolic to start dating?

My daughter Julia Lynn is fourteen, and she is lovely, talented, brilliant, sweet, introverted, kind, and godly. Needless to say, I have strong opinions and emotions related to this topic (you’ve been warned). Also, I’ve written an in-depth article on apostolic dating called 6 Dating Standards for Apostolic Singles. So, I’ll resist the temptation to repeat all of that here. If dating questions are relevant to you or someone you love, I recommend thoroughly reading that article. However, I did not specifically address this question in 6 Dating Standards for Apostolic Singles, probably because I had older singles in mind at the time. Still, this is a very relevant and essential question to answer. It’s a question that should be taken seriously and not frivolously.

Real Life Dating Principles

Let me lay some framework around my answer. The Bible clearly states that we should abstain from sex outside the marriage covenant (Hebrews 13:4). I also know that human nature makes that incredibly difficult, especially in our current culture, unless we have careful guard rails in place (1 Corinthians 7:2). Keeping that in mind, I do not support long engagements or dating for years on end. Also, I do not believe an apostolic should marry outside the faith. And I don’t endorse casual dating. I think all dating should be to find a godly person, marry that person, and serve the Lord together. Meaning, the moment you realize someone isn’t marriage material, that relationship should end. Never date just to cure loneliness, fit it, kill time, fulfill lustful desires, or any other reason outside of sincerely looking for a person to love for a lifetime in holy matrimony.

All dating should be to find a godly person, marry that person, and serve the Lord together. Meaning, the moment you realize someone isn’t marriage material, that relationship should end.

Never date just to cure loneliness, fit it, kill time, fulfill lustful desires, or any other reason outside of sincerely looking for a person to love for a lifetime in holy matrimony.

The Answer… Kinda

Because of everything stated above, I feel that it is unwise to date before seventeen. For most people, even seventeen is probably far too young to begin dating. Why? Because you shouldn’t date unless you are mature enough to realistically get married within a year or year and a half (at the latest) of dating an individual. Most people are simply not spiritually or emotionally mature enough to get married by eighteen or nineteen. You would be an extremely rare exception to the rule if you are that person. Furthermore, you can’t be the one to decide if you are mature enough to be dating. You must allow elders, parents, church leaders, and godly friends to make that assessment for you (and with you).

A Few Quick Guard Rails

Before you reach an age where you could realistically think about getting married, all your relationships should be kept on the friendship level, at arm’s length, and never exclusive. You certainly shouldn’t be spending time alone with friends of the opposite sex or engaging in long intimate conversations via phone, text, or social media. That’s basically the definition of dating, whether you call it dating or not. This answer is probably a little frustrating, but I don’t think there is a one size fits all age where everyone should start dating. Seventeen at the absolute earliest and probably early twenties is a good average timeframe to begin dating safely. But even then, I default back to an earlier dating guard rail, never date just to date or to cure loneliness. Only date an individual if you see real marriage potential in that person and have the approval of godly mentors around you. Never date secretly or without consulting godly elder mentors (not just your best friends and peers).

Love God First & Foremost

Again, if you’re interested in a more in-depth conversation about dating, follow this link (6 Dating Standards for Apostolic Singles). Don’t be that flaky, wishy-washy, needy person who can’t live without a dating relationship. Learn to love yourself and be happy with who you are before you start the long, complex process of loving someone else. Keep God first, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Q3: I’m sitting with a dying friend suffering with stage 4 lung cancer. I would like topics on learning to trust Jesus and faith.

First, let me say to you, and everyone suffering from similar pain, that I’m so sorry for your situation. I know the heartbreak and helpless feelings are difficult to endure. And we can be forgiven for wondering how and why awful things like this happen. The feelings of our infirmities touch God, and He draws close to those with broken hearts (Hebrews 4:15, Psalm 34:18). Sometimes the hurt numbs us to the presence of the Lord. Allow the Lord to draw close to you and give you the peace that only He can provide.

The feelings of our infirmities touch God, and He draws close to those with broken hearts (Hebrews 4:15, Psalm 34:18).

Encouragement from Mother

My mother has written and spoken about this subject beautifully from her suffering and fiery trials. I encourage you to read her article called Praising the Lord in All Things and listen to her talk about it in this conversation called Talking with Mom (Rebecca French) About Pain, Sickness, Parenting, Faith, Ministry, Pastor’s Wives, and People with Special Needs. She has a unique perspective and special anointing that ministers to the hurting. I know her words will help you and anyone suffering or watching helplessly while a loved one suffers. Know that you’re not alone, and ultimately peace always comes while we wait on the Lord.

Four Simple Strategies for the Brokenhearted

I could write a lengthy essay about how the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Or I could wax eloquent about how sin ushered pain and suffering into the human condition. And I could write philosophically about how God is good even when we don’t understand His plan. But I know none of those things will help you right now. But I do know a few simple things that have helped me through similar situations.

One, turn your pain into prayer. Tell God every hurt, disappointment, frustration, sadness, and ask Him all the difficult questions. He hears, cares, and answers when you call out to Him in desperation. When the pain is deep, don’t turn to anything other than God for relief. Two, keep connected to prayerful friends who will encourage you and pray for you. Our flesh wants to withdraw when hurting but resist that urge and stay (or get) closely connected to godly people. Three, find an encouraging Bible verse (if you don’t already have a favorite one) and quote it to yourself all the time. Write it down and read it. Write it over and over again. Put it on sticky notes all-around your house and car. Make it your screen saver on your phone. Let it penetrate past your mind and settle down in your soul. Four, don’t miss church. Again, it’s tempting to pull away when we’re hurting, but skipping church is like unplugging ourselves from the power source we desperately need. Bring your pain to the altar and anoint Jesus’ feet with your tears.

Turn your pain into prayer. Tell God every hurt, disappointment, frustration, sadness, and ask Him all the difficult questions. He hears, cares, and answers when you call out to Him in desperation.

skipping church is like unplugging ourselves from the power source we desperately need. Bring your pain to the altar and anoint Jesus’ feet with your tears.

Q4: How many books will be opened on Judgment day? I only remember the Lambs Book of life. But as I have been reading, it says books. What are the books that will be opened?

Two passages of Scripture mention a plurality of books that will be opened on the Day of Judgment. The prophet Daniel described an apocalyptic vision (waking thoughts) and wrote, “the judgment was set, and the books were opened (Daniel 7:10)”. He was alluding to a courtroom scene where everything was rightfully placed, the court was called to attention, and the books were opened. In this particular context, the books shown are books of judgment. The book of Revelation seems to be referencing the same future apocalyptic scene where there will be a great white throne of judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). If these two passages are describing the same future event, John the Revelator (the writer of Revelation) received more details in his vision:

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12-15).

The Book of Life & Books of Judgment

There are at least three books described in this vision. The names of all believers are listed in the book of life (Revelation 20:12). The “earth dwellers” names are not in the book of life (Revelation 13:8; 17:8). The first set of books mentioned appear to be the same books Daniel saw in his vision (Daniel 7:10). But John saw an additional book of life, and God revealed that anyone whose name is not in that book would be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). That will be the final eternal sentencing by God upon each individual human.

According to What They Had Done

The lives of all who did not obey the Gospel and live according to God’s eternal Word will be completely exposed before God. Every selfish and defiant act and ungodly thought will be called into account. Even the secret sins, which it seemed no one knew about, will be brought to light and judged (Luke 8:17, Romans 2:16). All will be judged individually for their works according to God’s standards and principles, with consideration for motives and opportunities (Luke 12:47–48), which indicates differences in the sentencing and degree of punishment but not in the duration. The torment of the lake of fire is unquenchable. It will last forever (for a detailed examination of what the Bible teaches about Hell, consider reading What About Hell? – Everything You Need to Know).

It appears to me that the names written in the book of life will not be judged by what they had done. Instead, they will be judged by what Jesus had done for them. However, the names listed in the judgment books (we have no idea how many books there will be) will be adjudicated based on their works. And because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that will be an unwinnable case for them (Romans 3:23). Furthermore, it appears that hell will bring forth the dead who are unsaved before the final judgment (Revelation 20:13). Meaning, the Day of Judgment will be more of a formality than an actual legal proceeding. The unsaved will have already tasted Hell, and the saved will have already experienced a sample of Heaven’s splendor.

The names written in the book of life will not be judged by what they had done. Instead, they will be judged by what Jesus had done for them.

A Final Possibility

Some scholars speculate that one of the judgment books mentioned might be the Bible itself. In my opinion, it would make sense for one book to be a record of every individual’s earthly conduct contrasted to God’s divine law recorded in Scripture. If God judges us according to our deeds, the standard of judgment will also be present, which is the Word of God. I have no problem accepting that as a possibility. All speculation aside, I just know my name needs to be in the book of life.

Q5: In Genesis 6:1-4, are the “sons of God” fallen angels, and did they marry and reproduce with the women of the earth? If not, what is the explanation of those chapters?

Genesis 6:1-4 is one of the most highly debated topics among saints and theologians alike. I’ll give my humble opinion on the subject as best I can. There are two (some would argue four) possible answers to your question. First (and most plausibly), the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4 refer to the godly “sons of Seth” marrying the heathen daughters of Cain. God’s covenant people are often referred to in the Bible as “God’s sons” (Exodus 4:22, Deuteronomy 14:1, Romans 8:14). This view would explain why God eventually forbade the Israelites from marrying Canaanite women (Exodus 34:16, Deuteronomy 7:3).

Most plausibly, the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4 refer to the godly “sons of Seth” marrying the heathen daughters of Cain.

Demonic Offspring

However, it is a widespread opinion that the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis were fallen angels marrying mortal women and producing giants. Although, you should know the word Nephilim or giants could mean giants in the sense of their fame, strength, or renown and does not necessarily refer to actual giants in the sense of height. There is some credence given to this idea in Peter’s epistles and the epistle of Jude (Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4). I don’t believe this view to be accurate. Proponents of this view still leave us with more questions than answers.

Final Possibility

It would be far more plausible, in my opinion, to say demon-possessed men married and produced wicked offspring rather than believing literal angelic (spiritual beings) married and had half-human half-demon offspring. As best we can tell from Scripture, actual angels (or demons) are incapable of doing such a thing. Otherwise, Satan and all the fallen angels would most certainly be doing just that regularly trying to wreak havoc in this world. They do not, and that alone is enough to convince me that such a thing is impossible.



Don’t Settle for an iTunes version of the Gospel (Article + Podcast)

My kids inherited my deep love for music. But, unfortunately, they’re also picky and opinionated about the music we listen to regularly (also something they inherited from me). So, my iron-fisted reign over the music played in the car is being overthrown a little more each day. Complicating things further, my kids aren’t in total unity about which songs are “super great.” So, when they both like a particular singer, a tiny shred of heavenly peace fills our daily commutes.

Recently, we accidentally discovered Matthew West, a Christian solo artist. His lyrics are godly, and the kids are wild about it. Julia loves Becoming Me, and Talmadge thinks Amen is the anthem of the ages. After about a week straight of playing the “Anthem of the Ages” and the “Sweetest Song Ever Penned,” I couldn’t take it anymore. It turns out you can have too much of a good thing. So today, I gathered the kiddos around my outdated iPhone, fired up the iTunes store, and started sifting through all the Matthew West songs available. Fifteen dollars bought us all a little much-needed peace and sanity.

For those that don’t know, when you’re searching for music on the iTunes store, it allows you to listen to short clips of the songs before making a purchase. This had my kids up in arms. They reasoned that people couldn’t possibly decide if they liked a song in just a few seconds, which is kinda true. Their recommendation was to buy every song, but Matthew West has a big musical portfolio, and that was out of the question. So, we settled for doing our best to sort out which songs we truly enjoyed with limited information.

This whole process conjured up all kinds of happy memories from my childhood. Memories I happily shared with my kids. They were shocked to hear that you couldn’t buy one song at a time in the good old days and store them on your phone. They gasped at the concept of having to buy an entire CD and needed a detailed explanation of the word cassette tape. But, on the other hand, my eyes probably shined with joy telling stories of running into the Family Christian Store to buy the newest Steven Curtis Chapman album and listening to the entire thing from beginning to end. Not only would I listen to every word of every song, I’d open that slipcover and read all the lyrics, credits, and thank you’s too. Yep. Those are some of my favorite childhood memories.

Those days are long gone. The only album I’ve purchased in full in the last several years is this one – and you should too. People typically buy one song per album. Usually, it’s a song they heard on the radio. Anyone with any musical taste knows the radio hit is rarely the best song on the album (I told you I was musically opinionated). We miss so much great music in the age of iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and whatever the other newfangled digital platform is ascending nowadays. We bypass wonderful songs because the little five-second clip doesn’t do it justice. We ignore songs because they’re not on the local Christian radio charts. Charts that increasingly seem to only have about five songs in rotation.

I may be pining for the old days now, but in reality, I love the convenience of not carrying 300 CDs around in my car. Also, it’s nice having all my music available at the touch of a button. Music is much cheaper when you aren’t forced to buy the entire album. In other words, there’s no going back now. And musically speaking, maybe that’s fine.

Every cultural revolution and technological advancement have unintended (or at least corresponding) sociological consequences. For example, many people approach the Bible like an iTunes playlist. They get little biblical snippets here and there, mostly from easily accessible digital sources. They’re familiar with the top ten Bible verses but rarely know the context or framework of their favorite scriptures. Their theology and understanding of the Gospel are based on sound clips and abbreviated versions that sound great but lack depth and richness. This is evidenced by nationwide lagging attendance during midweek Bible study services and further demonstrated by Christians who lack transformation and basic biblical knowledge. Unbelievers see and hear the lack of mainstream Christianity’s depth and want nothing to do with that slick, naive, cheap, polished brand of empty believe-ism.

Every cultural revolution and technological advancement have unintended (or at least corresponding) sociological consequences.

Unbelievers see and hear the lack of mainstream Christianity’s depth and want nothing to do with that slick, naive, cheap, polished brand of empty believe-ism.

It’s not possible to pick and choose the “highlights” or the “best of” moments of the Bible and leave the rest out. Jesus put it this way: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word the proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).” Many churches are filled with sincere unsaved people who have not truly obeyed God’s Word because they unwittingly settled for an iTunes version of the Gospel. And the world is full of people who have rejected the iTunes version of the Gospel because they quickly recognized it as inconsistent, indefensible, and unsatisfying. You see, cheapening the Gospel doesn’t make it more palatable. It actually renders it worthless to the world. A little fly in the perfume gives the whole bottle a rotten smell (Ecclesiastes 10:1).

It’s not possible to pick and choose the “highlights” or the “best of” moments of the Bible and leave the rest out.

Many churches are filled with sincere unsaved people who have not truly obeyed God’s Word because they unwittingly settled for an iTunes version of the Gospel.

The saving power of the Gospel is more than mental assent, a moment of sincere belief, or an ecstatic emotional experience. The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Before you can even enter into the plan of salvation, you must believe that God exists and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Many people believe in the idea of God but reject Jesus. But to embrace the Gospel, we first must believe that Jesus Christ is both Lord and Savior (Acts 16:31, John 3:18, John 4:42).

The saving power of the Gospel is more than mental assent, a moment of sincere belief, or an ecstatic emotional experience. The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

The heart of the Gospel is the teaching that we must undergo our own spiritual death, burial, and resurrection just as Jesus did physically (Romans 6:3-8, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 2:12-13). There is one recorded instance in the Bible where bystanders clearly asked a question about salvation (Acts 2:37). Peter gives the most concise biblical answer in the following verse, and everyone in the early Church followed that apostolic foundation for salvation. Next, the apostle Peter preached: “…repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).” That precise formula is the only way to be birthed (John 3:3, 1 Peter 1:23) into the Kingdom of God.

The heart of the Gospel is the teaching that we must undergo our own spiritual death, burial, and resurrection just as Jesus did physically (Romans 6:3-8, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 2:12-13).

There is one recorded instance in the Bible where bystanders clearly asked a question about salvation (Acts 2:37). Peter gives the most concise biblical answer in the following verse…

Essentially, repentance is our spiritual death (Galatians 5:24, Romans 6:11, Galatians 2:20, 1 Peter 2:24, Romans 6:6), baptism in Jesus’ name is our spiritual burial (Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12-13), and the infilling of the Holy Ghost is our spiritual resurrection (Romans 6:5, Colossians 3:1, Romans 8:8-14). Furthermore, the infilling of the Holy Ghost is first evidenced by supernaturally speaking in unknown (previously unlearned) tongues (languages) just as they did in the book of Acts (Mark 16:17, Acts 2:4, Acts 10:46, Acts 19:6) and every time from then on. And, baptism is only salvific when done in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12, Colossians 3:17, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27, Acts 10:48, Romans 6:3).

Baptism is only salvific when done in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12, Colossians 3:17, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27, Acts 10:48, Romans 6:3).

After we are obedient to the fullness of the Gospel, all the old sinful things pass away, and we become a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). We walk in agreement with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Meaning, God not only saves us from our past sin, but He also empowers us with His own Spirit to live righteously (2 Peter 1:3-4). The extra good news of the Gospel is that God doesn’t just save us and leave us the same: He saves us, changes us, dwells within us, and continues to strengthen us daily. Now that’s excellent news, and we’ve only scratched the surface of what it means to be transformed by the power of God.

After we are obedient to the fullness of the Gospel, all the old sinful things pass away, and we become a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).

We walk in agreement with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Meaning, God not only saves us from our past sin, but He also empowers us with His own Spirit to live righteously (2 Peter 1:3-4).

I know that isn’t the slick version of the Gospel many people have seen on TV or heard on the radio. It doesn’t fit nicely on a bumper sticker. God didn’t design the Gospel to blend in with our overly commercialized culture. No. The Gospel is timeless, changeless, and sacred. So please don’t settle for an iTunes version of the Gospel that doesn’t save or satisfy.

Podcast Featuring the Above Article

9 Signs of a Prideful Heart (Article + Podcast)

God resists the proud (James 4:6), which is bad news for a church if it is full of pride. Spiritually dry and deadlocked churches are usually filled with pride. They’re spiritually stuck because God is literally resisting their efforts. What they’re doing might seem good on the surface, but their motivations are displeasing to God.

Spiritually dry and deadlocked churches are usually filled with pride. They’re spiritually stuck because God is literally resisting their efforts.

Scripture is very clear about proper motivations; God doesn’t just care what we do. He cares how and why we do it. For example, God doesn’t just want us to give, and He wants us to give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7). Jesus warned against displaying our righteousness just to be seen and admired by others; there’s no reward for that kind of conceited righteousness (Matthew 6:1). Paul even warned that preaching the Gospel must be done for the right reasons (1 Thessalonians 2:4). In a staggering display of immaturity, the disciples asked Jesus to decide who was the greatest in the kingdom; Jesus took it as an opportunity to teach them that without childlike humility, they would never see the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:1-35).

Scripture is very clear about proper motivations; God doesn’t just care what we do. He cares how and why we do it.

In a generation obsessed with talent competitions and spotlights, it’s no surprise that the thirst for attention has crept into the Church. It’s evidenced in pulpits and pews. It’s on full display if you know the signs. There are certain “tells” or “giveaways,” so to speak. There really is no way to overemphasize the importance of guarding our churches against being infected with prideful leaders. Even more importantly, we should carefully monitor our own motivations and quickly adjust when and where needed. Below are nine sure signs of a prideful heart. I use this list to check my own motives and those seeking positions or platforms in my local church. Many of these principles are universal and can be translated into any paradigm or organization.  

  1. They want to SING but they don’t want to SERVE.

  2. They want to PREACH but they don’t want to PRAISE.

  3. They want to LEAD but they don’t like LEADERSHIP.

  4. They want to TAKE but they don’t want to GIVE.

  5. They want RESPECT but they don’t show RESPECT.

  6. They want the SPOTLIGHT but they resent SACRIFICE.

  7. They like PUBLIC EMOTIONS but they dislike PRIVATE DEVOTIONS.

  8. They are SELFISH rather than SELFLESS.

  9. They produce FOLLOWERS rather than DISCIPLES of Jesus.

Now reread this list, but this time replace “they” with “I” and be brutally honest with yourself.

AVP Ep. 44 | 9 Signs of a Prideful Heart

Special Guest Stan Gleason & Book Review of Follow to Lead: The Journey of a Disciple Maker

If you’re reading this article, you probably identify as a Christian. But are you a disciple? And if you are a disciple, are you a disciple-maker? Those are the questions posed in Follow to Lead: The Journey of a Disciple Maker by Stan O. Gleason. On the surface, it’s hard to pin down a category for Follow to Lead. It’s a leadership book, but not really. It’s a church growth book, but not really. Follow to Lead is a lifestyle book that challenges the reader to commit to a radical biblical lifestyle mandated by Jesus. Rather than selfishly hunkering down in our salvation bunkers, Gleason admonishes the Church to obey the Great Commission and go make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Gleason is emphatic that this co-mission isn’t just for a chosen few, especially sanctified saints, certain personality types, pastors, evangelists, or any other ministry mantle we can envision. No Christian is exempted from the mandate to make disciples.

The co-mission isn’t just for a chosen few, especially sanctified saints, certain personality types, pastors, evangelists, or any other ministry mantle we can envision. No Christian is exempted from the mandate to make disciples.

Interestingly, Gleason focuses on the ancient method of discipleship employed by Jesus during his relatively short earthly ministry. Unarguably, the replication of Jesus’ ministry through His disciples even after His death, burial, and resurrection was remarkable. Notably, though we often forget, the rabbi (teacher) relationship with the disciple (trainee) was not unique to Jesus’ ministry. This method was an integral part of Jewish culture, and it was highly relational. When Jesus invited fishermen to follow Him, they knew what He was asking of them. They were entering into a rabbi-disciple relationship. Jesus poured Himself into the chosen twelve in ways it was impossible to do with the multitudes. Yet, a little introspection reveals most modern churches are more interested in shaping the masses than discipling the few close to them. Gleason lovingly but convincingly cautions the Church to lay aside excuses and make disciples of our neighbors who will then make disciples of their own.  

Jesus poured Himself into the chosen twelve in ways it was impossible to do with the multitudes. Yet, a little introspection reveals most modern churches are more interested in shaping the masses than discipling the few close to them.

A thread runs throughout the chapters of Follow to Lead, reminding us repeatedly that there’s no such thing as discipleship without relationships. This concept seems intuitive, but not in this modern culture that keeps us globally connected yet locally disconnected. We’re partitioned off from one another by phone screens, computer screens, and tablet screens. Our communities are carefully fenced in, and we rarely know our next-door neighbors. However, Gleason implores us to break down these self-imposed barriers and disciple our neighbors by building trust, maintaining relationships, and being ready to teach. If we all genuinely followed this model, our churches would be overflowing within a few short years.

There’s no such thing as discipleship without relationships. This concept seems intuitive, but not in this modern culture that keeps us globally connected yet locally disconnected.

Follow to Lead is filled with practical examples for implementing a paradigm-shifting mindset in a local congregation. Transforming the culture of a local church begins from the top down. It’s hard work. But what a powerful transformation would take place in our local churches if we all simply did what Jesus commanded us to do. Gleason lays the groundwork for helping church leaders nudge a congregation away from being department-minded into being relationship-minded. This unifying concept brings everyone together in the mission of discipling the lost into a deep, Bible-based walk with God. With that in mind, our language matters. So, Gleason encourages us to lay aside terms like “soul-winner” and “evangelism” and pick up more appropriate (in it for the long haul) terminology like “disciples-makers.” As Gleason says:

After you “win,” then what? When you win, it’s over, but when you make disciples, the process is ongoing. Regardless of the implications, you can see the difference terminology makes when communicating the mission of the Church. Jesus did not tell us to win anything, but rather to go make everything.

I’m not ashamed to admit that Follow to Lead challenged my thinking and poked holes in some of my internal excuses. But it didn’t just leave me feeling shame. It inspired me to reach out to my community with fresh passion and renewed vision. Gleason isn’t presenting a theory but a theology. A theology of missiology that is relevant in every culture and region. Undoubtedly, practical application in your life and church will probably look slightly different from mine or even Gleason’s. Regardless, our mission and mindset will coincide because Gleason calls us to follow the most remarkable example of all… Jesus.

Gleason isn’t presenting a theory but a theology. A theology of missiology that is relevant in every culture and region.

AVP Episode Featuring Stan Gleason

Don’t Let Where You Are Right Now Keep You From Where You’re Going

I don’t know where I picked up this little phrase: Don’t let where you are right now keep you from where you’re going. It might’ve been on a coffee mug. Perhaps it was something my grandma Smith said in her quiet, wise way. Maybe it was a quirky line in a long-forgotten song. I’m not sure, but I do know that over the years, that trite little phrase has been just the stabilizing mental note I’ve needed in difficult situations. Hey! Wait! It was on a bumper sticker. That’s where I first saw it: Don’t let where you are right now keep you from where you’re going. That’s mildly embarrassing to admit, but it just goes to show that God can inspire us in thousands of profound and sometimes profoundly silly ways. Anyway, the spiritual epiphany I got out of that phrase boils down to an admonishment to keep walking in the will of God even when the way forward seems perilous and the problems appear insurmountable.

Keep walking in the will of God even when the way forward seems perilous and the problems appear insurmountable.

Know You’re Not Alone

If you’re feeling like every effort you make to progress forward in the will of God is met with roadblock after roadblock, you’re not alone. Do the promises of God feel desperately far away? Then you’re the person I’m talking to right now. Overwhelmingly people feel as if they will never get where they want to go. Not just that, but they feel as if they can’t get where God called them to go. There are long seasons filled with potholes, debris, and manmade roadblocks littering the paths of life. It can be incredibly frustrating when you’re just trying to be faithful to God, but you feel stuck. These are dangerous seasons of life because we become especially prone to bitterness, discouragement, backsliding, compromise, and bad decision-making. Life isn’t fair. It just isn’t. And regardless of your level of anointing and favor with God, you will endure these seemingly (heavy emphasis on seemingly) endless seasons of isolation and obstruction. Let me say this clearly, your most significant danger in those seasons is you. It isn’t your enemies, your circumstances, or even your frenemies. It’s you.

Lessons from David’s Mistakes

Recently while I was complaining to the Lord in prayer (something I do more often than I care to admit), an often-overlooked season in the life of David came to mind. David was in an awkward position because he was already anointed to be the next king of Israel. He had earned great fame and recognition by killing Goliath, but King Saul was insanely (possibly even demonically) jealous of David. It must have been a confusing time because David went from being everyone’s favorite to the most wanted fugitive in Israel. Adding to the confusion, Saul would try to kill David, and then he would beg David’s forgiveness and ask him to come back home. So, almost overnight, David went from palace life to hiding in caves with his band of six hundred warriors.

David Began With Good Intentions

Interestingly, we know early on that David was trying his best to make righteous decisions despite the injustices. Twice he had the opportunity to kill King Saul (1 Samuel 23:14-24, 1 Samuel 24:22-26), but David refused to harm God’s anointed. Most of us would probably have found a way around that godly conviction, but David remained firm in his resolve to do what was most pleasing to the Lord. If you can forgive a little reading into the text, it seems that David kept hoping Saul would genuinely repent and put an end to the madness. But as we know, Saul’s madness was only beginning, and his ending would be tragic.

David Overwhelmed With Worry

We don’t know for sure how long this season lasted for David. But most scholars agree David ran from King Saul for at least eight to ten years. That’s a long season of being stuck, discouraged, and depressed. Long enough to start questioning God’s anointing. Certainly, long enough to doubt that God is going to keep His promises. I don’t know what the tipping point was for David, but somehow, he let the frustration with where he was in that moment take over his decision-making. Instead of remembering where he was going, David became overwhelmed by where he was. Because he focused on the problems instead of the promise, David made a terrible decision:

1 And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me anymore in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand. 2 And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath. 3 And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, even David… (1 Samuel 27:1-3).

A Classic Mistake

David made a classic mistake. He joined the enemy out of desperation. Rather than trusting God to protect him, he fled to the enemy’s camp for safety. A close reading of chapter twenty-seven reveals that David tried to balance his unholy alliance with Achish. Rather than invading Israelite provinces, David and his men attacked pagan cities, but David would lie and tell Achish they had pillaged Israelites. He thought he could play both sides by tricking Achish. Like David, many Christians have tried to balance worldliness and godliness simultaneously, but the outcome is always more compromise and more pain. Unholy alliances, no matter how convenient or superficially necessary, always demand that we abandon more and more core convictions, eventually draining us of all righteousness. Think about it! God anointed David to be a Philistine killer, but now he lived among them and depended on them for safety.

Many Christians have tried to balance worldliness and godliness simultaneously, but the outcome is always more compromise and more pain.

Unholy alliances, no matter how convenient or superficially necessary, always demand that we abandon more and more core convictions, eventually draining us of all righteousness.

The Necessity of Spiritual Guidance

I think it’s relevant and necessary to pause here and remind you that no church hurt justifies joining the enemy’s camp. Sometimes wicked Sauls take advantage of God’s people and force Davids to go on the run. I have been there. I’ve seen it many times. Decisions during these seasons should be made carefully and prayerfully. Going back to the biblical text, Samuel died during this season. So, David lost his spiritual mentor. His pastor’s voice was silenced, and now his first big decision without spiritual guidance was horrible. The spiritual key here is that good spiritual guidance is something worth seeking. Samuel might be dead, and Saul might seem unbeatable, but there’s a Nathan out there somewhere. Always seek good godly spiritual advice in seasons of despair. But let me warn you, the devil will try to convince you there aren’t any holy prophets left to find. Ignore that lie and move on.

No church hurt justifies joining the enemy’s camp.

Samuel might be dead, and Saul might seem unbeatable, but there’s a Nathan out there somewhere.

Always seek good godly spiritual advice in seasons of despair.

The Consequence of Compromise

David lived with the Philistines for a year and four months. And things went pretty good until they didn’t. Predictably, King Achish asked David to do the unthinkable:

1 And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel. And Achish said unto David, Know thou assuredly, that thou shalt go out with me to battle, thou and thy men. 2 And David said to Achish, Surely thou shalt know what thy servant can do. And Achish said to David, Therefore will I make thee keeper of mine head for ever (1 Samuel 28:1-2).

Now David’s alliance with the Philistines required that he participate in active warfare against the people of God. Astonishingly, David agreed to do it. Don’t let the immensity of that pass you by; David was on the verge of battling the very people God had anointed him to rule. See how easy it is to let fear and discouragement send us in the opposite direction of what God has planned for our lives? Thankfully, God is merciful, and He often saves us from ourselves. David would have participated in that battle if not for several Philistine generals who objected to him being with them in action. God was protecting David in more ways than one because while David and his men were preparing to fight with the Philistines, the Amalekites raided his village and burned it to the ground. They took all their wives, children, and valuables. When David and his little army returned home, it seemed as if they had lost everything they had ever loved. David’s loyal band of warriors even considered stoning him to death in their anger and frustration. It was a hopeless situation set in motion by poor leadership on David’s part.

God is merciful, and He often saves us from ourselves.

The Reason for the Season

At this point in David’s life, it didn’t seem possible he would ever be a man after God’s own heart or the most highly esteemed ruler in Israel’s long, storied history. But David did something he should have done before he allied with Achish:

…David encouraged himself in the Lord his God (1 Samuel 30:6).

I believe this is the moment David finally became a man after God’s own heart. Rather than passing the blame or shifting responsibility, David sought after the Lord for strength. David took a moment with God to recalibrate himself before making any decisions. And then he called for spiritual authority to help bring clarity before making any decisions about how to proceed:

7 And David said to Abiathar, the priest, Ahimelech’s son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David. 8 And David enquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all (1 Samuel 30:7-8).

Everything shifted in David’s life when he learned to call on the Lord rather than search his own flawed heart in times of trouble. You’ve probably heard it preached a thousand times how David went to the enemy’s camp and recovered everything the enemy had stolen. It makes for great preaching. But the larger lesson is that God saved David from himself. David should never have taken his family to Philistine territory. By doing so, he positioned his family and followers for pain. God allowed everything to be taken away from David to help him remember where he was going in the first place. David had to go through those awful seasons so he could write with assurance, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me… (Psalm 23:4)”.

Everything shifted in David’s life when he learned to call on the Lord rather than search his own flawed heart in times of trouble.

God allowed everything to be taken away from David to help him remember where he was going in the first place.

David had to go through awful seasons so he could write with assurance, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…

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If We Want Our Kids To Stay In Church (Here’s Five Things We Need to Talk to Them About) – Article + Podcast

Below is a list of five key subjects that the Church (and parents) must address forcefully and often if we want our kids to stay in church. Four of the five areas are subjects that the Church has largely remained silent on in the last several decades. It’s time to face the ugly reality that the Churches retention rate of young adults is rapidly dwindling. The stories of tragedy are countless and remarkably similar. The scenario usually goes something like this; Jamie graduates from high school where humanism, atheism, secularism, and every other “ism” you can imagine has been crammed into her head for the last decade or more.  But until recently, Jamie always went home to a mom and dad who worked hard to combat the onslaught of worldly concepts and temptations infiltrating her mind.  But when Jamie goes to college, she faces the same battles that she fought in high school, only now they are even more intensified.

It’s time to face the ugly reality that the Churches retention rate of young adults is rapidly dwindling. The stories of tragedy are countless and remarkably similar.

One key element changes to Jamie’s disadvantage; she no longer goes home to the stability of her parents. Jamie has more freedom, independence, responsibility, pressure, more temptations, more opportunity for failure, and less support. Sadly, the Jamies in our churches are often not equipped to withstand the philosophical, moral, spiritual, and psychological battles that blindside them fresh out of high school.  Somehow, somewhere before Jamie reaches these critical years, she must develop her own intimate, personal relationship with God if she is going to withstand the cultural onslaught that young adulthood brings.

The kids in our churches are often not equipped to withstand the philosophical, moral, spiritual, and psychological battles that blindside them fresh out of high school. 

So what is the Churches role in all of this? I believe it is significant. In fact, it is paramount. Outside of parents, nothing can impact and shape students’ hearts like the properly functioning body of Christ. It is vitally important that the Church (especially the leadership) is aware and concerned about their young adults’ challenges. I recently heard a pastor say that every father is called to be a youth pastor. I didn’t hear nearly as many “amens” as he deserved for that statement. So often, parents place all the heavy lifting on their church to teach their children about the things of God. But that’s a reversal of what God originally intended. Parents train up children, and the Church comes alongside parents in that responsibility.

Often, parents place the heavy lifting on their church to teach their children about the things of God. But that’s a reversal of what God intended. Parents train up children, the Church comes alongside parents in that responsibility.

Backsliding is never instantaneous but rather a slow, hard, often silent development. It is an internal process that usually doesn’t manifest itself outwardly until it has almost completely germinated. That’s why Scripture admonishes us to “Train up a child in the way that he should go… (Proverbs 22:6).” Nothing can replace the shaping done during an individual’s formative years (arguably adolescence and young teens).  When Jamie goes to college, she will subconsciously draw from behaviors and patterns learned long ago. Therefore, for the Church to retain its young adults, it must maintain thriving child, adolescent, and pre-teen ministries. Parents, please take advantage of formative years and equip them for a lifetime of success. Spiritual development is a lifelong process that best begins at the youngest age possible.

Backsliding is never instantaneous but rather a slow, hard, often silent development. It is an internal process that usually doesn’t manifest itself outwardly until it has almost completely germinated.

For the Church to retain its young adults, it must maintain thriving child, adolescent, and pre-teen ministries.

Parents, please take advantage of formative years and equip them for a lifetime of success. Spiritual development is a lifelong process that best begins at the youngest age possible.

I’m writing this with a sense of urgency, heaviness, and humility. As the father of a teenage girl and a pre-teen boy, I know the magnitude of our job. I know how magnetic the culture can be for our kids. I know how oppressive peer pressure can be for our daughters. I know how exhausting it can be to truly train kids in the Word. It’s not a thirty-minute sermon or an hour-long Bible study with a friend; it’s a twenty-four-hour-a-day teaching lifestyle. It’s answering hard questions at midnight when we just want to sleep. It’s stopping when we’re in a hurry to take advantage of a teachable moment. It’s intentionally opening our Bibles and creating time for devotion. It’s uncomfortable conversations that we just want to avoid. It’s saying no when it would be easier to say yes, and it’s saying yes when it would be easier to say no. It’s repeating ourselves over and over again. It’s explaining something one more time for the millionth time. So, here are five things we must be talking about regularly if we want our kids to stay in church.

I know how magnetic the culture can be for our kids. I know how oppressive peer pressure can be for our daughters. I know how exhausting it can be to train kids in the Word. It’s not a thirty-minute sermon; it’s a 24 hour a day teaching lifestyle.

  1. Science and the theory of evolution in particular. We should not be anti-science, however, we should be anti-scientific theories that have an anti-God agenda.
  2. Morality, God’s plan for human sexuality, and the family. Hollywood, public schools, the internet, peers, and every other facet of culture talks about these issues night and day.  If the Church is going to remain relevant it cannot stay silent or fearful of these subjects.
  3. The Bible and why it can be trusted as the literal Word of God. It’s no secret that the Bible has been under attack in one way or another since its inception.  They may not be burning Bible’s in the streets but liberal academia has been doing their best to undermine it for centuries.  They don’t care if you read it as long as you don’t trust it for absolutes.
  4. Popular culture, holiness, and what it means to live righteously. Of course, just because something is popular doesn’t make it evil. However, just because it’s popular doesn’t make it acceptable either.  The Church must stand on the front lines of the culture wars and promote godliness in a clear, loving, well thought out way.
  5. Relationship with Jesus. None of the above will matter without a close, experiential, relationship with Jesus. Relationship will sustain a heart even when storms rage all around.

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9 Types of Church Services and Why We Need Them (Article + Podcast)

Many people approach church with preconceived ideas or expectations about what makes an excellent service. Rather than allowing God and the ministry the liberty to lead us, we stand (or sit) in judgment if God doesn’t “show up” in the way we expect Him to. In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself in many ways: burning bush, cloud by day & pillar of fire by night, whispering, thundering, and the list could go on and on. The moving of the Spirit is more than just a dance (and I’m all for dancing in the Spirit), and it’s more than only a time of blissful silence (and I’m all for those quiet and deep moves of the Spirit). Verse number two in our Bible gives a clue as to how the Spirit operates; “…And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2).” John 3:8 compares the Spirit to the wind that blows where and when it wants to blow. My point is simply that the Spirit of God is not predictable, controllable, entirely understandable, and it is certainly not able to be manipulated by you or me.

The Spirit of God is not predictable, controllable, entirely understandable, and it is certainly not able to be manipulated by you or me.

It seems counterintuitive for an Apostolic to say the Spirit’s moving is more than emotional (although it can often be emotional). It’s foolish to relegate the Holy Ghost’s operation to mere emotion because our emotions often play tricks on us. The Holy Ghost can and should cause us to celebrate, speak in tongues, sing, shout, become demonstrative, and extravagant in our praise. However, we should also be receptive when the Spirit convicts, corrects, rebukes, teaches, perfects, and other various things that are sometimes painful. In other words, if we are genuinely seeking God’s will every time we gather together as the children of God, we will lay aside our manmade expectations and sincerely ask God to have His way. With this in mind, I have compiled a list of nine types of church services.

It seems counterintuitive for an Apostolic to say the Spirit’s moving is more than emotional (although it often is emotional). It’s foolish to relegate the Holy Ghost’s operation to mere emotion because our emotions often play tricks on us.

Comforting Services (John 14:26). Some church services are meant to bring comfort to our hearts. This can happen in many ways, but the Holy Ghost is indeed the great Comforter (John 15:26, John 16:7).

Evangelistic Services (Acts 2:38). Often church services are designed to evangelize the lost and answer the question, “…what shall we do (Acts 2:37)?” When the Spirit moves to reach the lost, it is vitally important that those of us who are already saved remain involved in the process. Spiritually mature Christians are ok when a service isn’t explicitly aimed at their needs. If you emotionally check out of evangelistic services, you need to check your Holy Ghost pulse.

When the Spirit moves to reach the lost, it is vitally important that those of us who are already saved remain involved in the process. Spiritually mature Christians are ok when a service isn’t explicitly aimed at their needs.

Reminder Services (John 14:26, Jude 1:5). Regardless of how long we have been following Jesus, we still become forgetful. Even worse, sometimes we slip into complacency, and so the Spirit often moves in our church services to remind us of things that we should already know.

Proclamation of Truth Services (John 16:13). When the Spirit moves, it guides us into truth. Proclaiming truth is one of the Church’s primary functions, and all of its activities should lead to the Truth.

When the Spirit moves, it guides us into truth. Proclaiming truth is one of the Church’s primary functions, and all of its activities should lead to the Truth.

Prophetic Services (John 16:13). Apostolic churches must be comfortable with the reality that God has not changed, and the gift of prophecy is still authentic. I know that prophetic gifts are sometimes abused, but so is everything else. The Church as a whole profoundly needs genuine prophetic gifts to be in operation.

Prophetic gifts are sometimes abused, but so is everything else. The Church as a whole profoundly needs genuine prophetic gifts to be in operation.

Family Reunion Services (Galatians 4:6). God is our Heavenly Father, which makes us brothers and sisters in the Lord (Galatians 3:28). Therefore, it is appropriate that we gather together and honor our family heritage. I think of this as a family reunion because the Church is not just one congregation. The Church is comprised of a massive number of congregations from all over the world. There should be times when we connect, refresh, uplift, and encourage one another.

Teaching Services (Ephesians 4:11). It’s important to remember that the apostle Paul included teaching within the parameters of the Five-Fold Ministry. Teaching services equip, train, and solidify our minds. Mature Christians covet good teaching.

Teaching services equip, train, and solidify our minds. Mature Christians covet good teaching.

Celebration Services (Exodus 15:19-21). We should celebrate the goodness of God all the time, but when God does something especially tremendous, we should focus our celebration around it. Some services will celebrate the goodness of God.

Giving Services (1 Chronicles 29:9, 2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Although consistent giving is needed, sometimes a spirit of sacrificial giving is required to advance the Church’s mission. This is the type of service that usually meets the most resistance. Even pastors fear this kind of service. Don’t let fear or carnality keep you from reaping the blessings birthed out of sacrificial giving.

Although consistent giving is needed, sometimes a spirit of sacrificial giving is required to advance the Church’s mission.

Conclusion

Healthy churches experience a blend and balance of the nine types of services mentioned above. Furthermore, healthy Christians are comfortable with each of these service types. Unhealthy churches get stuck overemphasizing two or three types of services to the exclusion of the rest. This creates a spiritual imbalance. Every church service contains some elements of the things mentioned above, but there is an overarching theme that God is directing us towards. Learning to be sensitive to the Spirit is one of the most important spiritual disciplines a believer can cultivate.

Learning to be sensitive to the Spirit is one of the most important spiritual disciplines a believer can cultivate.

Apostolic Voice

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4 Problems Preacher’s Kids Face (Article + Podcast)

If you’re a preacher, a preacher’s kid, or someone who loves the ministry and wants to be sensitive to their needs, this article is for you.

Today is my son’s seventh birthday, and he loves the Lord and legos very much. I think his love hierarchy is Jesus, his sister, and his legos. I trail those things by a small but pronounced margin. On a sappy parental note; I love his toothy grin, his high pitched (and very frequent) laughter, his sensitive heart, and his never-ending questions that leave me scratching my gradually balding head.

My son has the distinction of being a second-generation preacher’s kid and a fifth-generation Apostolic Pentecostal. He’s got a pretty stalwart legacy of faith behind his little lego littered life. He’s too young to feel the pressures of being a PK, but with every passing birthday, I know he’s getting a little closer to feeling that burden.

My nine-year-old daughter is just starting to show the telltale signs of PK pressure. I recognize them quickly because I faced them myself. Sometimes they’re subtle, and sometimes they’re manifested dramatically. Even before having kids of my own, I’ve had a heart for PK’s. I’ve been privileged to speak at several PK seminars over the years, and listening to their stories takes me right back to my childhood faster than Odyssey’s Imagination Station (if you don’t know what that means, do yourself a favor and look it up).

I would never minimize the challenges that every child faces. Indeed, these are challenging times for children in general. It’s also true that being born into a preacher’s home is a tremendous privilege with certain built-in advantages. Some unique difficulties and problems are specific to PK’s. In the hopes of helping, or at the very least drawing some awareness to the issues, I am listing a few common PK problems below.

1. Extreme Feelings of Loneliness & Isolation

Because there are so few peers that can relate to the ministry lifestyle’s unique challenges, PK’s often feel lonely and isolated. They suffer in silence and deal with a lot of unresolved emotional tension. They usually feel ashamed to voice these feelings to their parents because they genuinely don’t want to hurt them or sound harsh towards the things of God; they cherish so deeply.

PK’s often feel lonely and isolated. They suffer in silence and deal with a lot of unresolved emotional tension. They usually feel ashamed to voice these feelings to their parents because they genuinely don’t want to hurt them…

2. Bitterness Towards Saints

PK’s parents are incredibly busy. Ministry isn’t something you can turn off or punch a time clock and be done for the day. Saints often don’t realize that the ten minutes you just spent on the phone with them is only one of a series of hundreds of ten-minute phone calls that interrupted yet another family moment. Not to mention all the mandatory church events, bi-vocational ministry homes, impromptu counseling sessions, and mountains of prayerful study time that sequesters preachers away from their families. Meetings, administrative work, conferences, ministry-related travel, the business of life, in general, keep pastors and their families overwhelmingly busy, too, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Also, pastor’s wives are unpaid workers with heavy loads of responsibility. They labor alongside their husbands, and although they are technically not on staff, they shoulder an immense amount of time-consuming work. All of this can leave a PK feeling like everyone else is more important than them. Every need is more urgent than their need. Every crisis trumps their crisis. So, they retreat and grow bitter (or jealous) towards the people (or the church in general) who regularly pull mommy and daddy away. If left unresolved, those feelings can morph into bitterness towards mom and dad.

It’s not uncommon for kids to feel a level of bitterness towards their parent’s job responsibilities because it keeps them busy and away from home, but when children start feeling that way about the place they are supposed to go for spiritual nourishment, real dangers are lurking.

Pastor’s wives are unpaid workers, and although they are technically not on staff, they shoulder an immense amount of time-consuming work. All of this can leave a PK feeling like everyone else is more important than them.

3. They See the Ugly Underbelly

No matter how much their parents try to shield PK’s from the worst aspects of a church, it is impossible to keep it all neatly hidden in a drawer. PK’s see their parents attacked by saints and sinners alike. They see their parents disrespected by people they thought were respectable, and they have a front-row seat to the tragic showing of every backslider’s decline. Sadly, disgruntled saints will sometimes try to use a PK to get at their parents or cause a church rift. This is disgusting at best, but not unusual.

PK’s see their parents at their highest high’s and their lowest low’s. They see Elijah calling fire from heaven, and they see him running from Jezebel too. These are challenging scenarios for a child to process and still love their church family as they should. Others may only see the public displays of respect for ministry, but PK’s see the ugly moments when the masks come off.

PK’s see their parents attacked by saints and sinners alike. They see their parents disrespected by people they thought were respectable, and they have a front-row seat to the tragic showing of every backslider’s decline.

PK’s see their parents at their highest high’s and their lowest low’s. They see Elijah calling fire from heaven, and they see him running from Jezebel too.

4. Unrealistic Expectations

PK’s live under a different set of expectations than most kids. And it can go from one extreme to the other. On the one hand, many people stereotype PK’s as being trouble makers, spoiled rotten, or bratty. On the other hand, many people expect PK’s to bypass their childhood entirely and act like miniature, perfectly mannered adults. PK’s live in a glasshouse where their every move is under the watching eye of curious people. Everything they and their parents do is highly visible and scrutinized. The feeling of always being under a microscope can devolve into spiritual and emotional suffocation.

Some PK’s live under the overwhelming pressure to grow up and be in the ministry just like their parents. I’ll never forget, I was all of eleven years old when someone very seriously asked if I knew Greek and Hebrew like my father. To complicate things even further, if PK’s do feel called to the ministry, they face the all-too-familiar critical eye of a watching crowd. Will they be more anointed than their parents or less anointed than their parents? Will they be as talented as their parents or less capable than their parents? Some PK’s balk at the emotional reality that some shoes just seem too big to fill.

PK’s live in a glasshouse. Everything they and their parents do is highly visible and scrutinized. The feeling of always being under a microscope can devolve into spiritual and emotional suffocation.

Preacher’s Kids Are People Too

Bottom line, kids are kids. Preacher’s kids must learn, grow, laugh, cry, win, lose, fall, and get up just like every other kid. They have strengths and weaknesses. They have unique talents and special abilities distinct to them and them alone. Some are called to pastoral ministry, while others are not. They are not puppets to be used in an irreverent game of tug-of-war. They have peculiar challenges and unique advantages at the same time. Saints who love the ministry will love PK’s with grace, sensitivity, and understanding. And yes, your pastor and his wife will appreciate it more than words can express.

Preacher’s kids must learn, grow, laugh, cry, win, lose, fall, and get up just like every other kid. They have strengths and weaknesses. They have unique talents and special abilities distinct to them and them alone.

Saints who love the ministry will love PK’s with grace, sensitivity, and understanding. And yes, your pastor and his wife will appreciate it more than words can express.

Final Note: For those that might be wondering, as far as I can tell, no one in my church has ever been anything but sweet to my children. I truly appreciate the kindness and consideration that Apostolic Tabernacle shows my children on a regular basis.

AV Podcast with Talmadge

I had so much fun creating this episode with my son, Talmadge. We had so many cool bonding moments and laugh-at-ourselves moments putting this together. We hope it blesses you and your family and that you enjoy listening to it. If you do, please leave us a like and a review on iTunes and your socials. Oh, and for those of you who prefer to read, I’ve added a transcript of Talmadge’s opening remarks. He very earnestly and thoughtfully laid out his top three PK problems. Or, at least, the ones he’s willing to share publically right now. Thanks and God bless.

Ep. 26 | Talmadge’s Cold Open: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Talmadge:
I’m the son of your host, Ryan French, and my name is Talmage, and this is Apostolic Voice, the podcast. Today, my dad is going to talk about four problems preachers’ kids face. This topic is something I can relate to as a preacher’s kid. And we know it’s a subject lots of people are interested in because, for the last four years, the blog article called 4 Problems Preacher’s Kids Face at http://www.ryanafrench.com has trended in the top 10 and has been downloaded over ten thousand times. I wanted to add what I faced as a preacher’s kid, and maybe this will help others. Number one, we often feel the embarrassment in the pressure to speak with people all the time. Number two, feeling self-conscious about our appearance and voice because we are in the spotlight more than other kids. Number three, sometimes preacher’s kids feel inadequate and unimportant compared to their preacher father. I reminded dad that PKs are all unique people with their own set of needs, and they need to be recognized for who they are as a person. So if you’re a preacher or a preacher’s kid or someone who loves the ministry and wants to be sensitive to their needs, this episode is for you.

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Fiery Evangelism – What Can Elijah Teach Us About Revival Today?

Simply put, evangelism is spreading the Gospel by whatever means possible. Having said that, preaching and word of mouth are still the most effective forms of evangelism. But whenever I preach or teach on the subject of evangelism, I can almost hear the internal sighs and groans. No one likes to feel pressured or guilt-tripped into evangelism. We all know that we could and should do more to reach the world around us. There are very few Christians so hardened that they don’t care about lost souls. So if we care, why don’t we share (see what I did there)?

Immediately following the outpouring of the Holy Ghost and fire on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:3-4), a powerful force of organic evangelism was unleashed into the world. They literally turned the world upside down with the Gospel, and they did it without cell phones, blogs, websites, television, radio, or reliable transportation. They didn’t formulate catchy sermon series that cleverly incentivized evangelism by every member of the church. Rather, when the Holy Ghost fire started falling, people were attracted to the warmth of the blaze. In a cold world, the fire of the Holy Ghost will always attract a crowd. Not only that, when people left the Upper Room, they were so full of that same Holy Ghost fire they couldn’t help but spontaneously share their experience with others. That’s what genuine evangelism looks and feels like.

In a cold world, the fire of the Holy Ghost will always attract a crowd.

When people left the Upper Room, they were so full of Holy Ghost fire they couldn’t help but spontaneously share their experience with others. That’s what genuine evangelism looks and feels like.

If evangelism feels forced, fake, fancy, or frightening, then you have likely lost the fire. I have seen desperate individuals, hurting families, and broken churches hungry for the fire to fall again. Elijah desperately needed the fire of God to fall from heaven too. His story has much to teach us regarding how God operates. Here are five things that we must do if we want the fire to fall. All five are taken directly from Elijah’s famous showdown on Mount Carmel.

If evangelism feels forced, fake, fancy, or frightening, then you have likely lost the fire.

23 Let them, therefore, give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under 24 And call ye on the name of your gods. I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well-spoken. 25 And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under (1 Kings 18:23-25).

1. We must not settle for manmade fire.

Over and over again, Elijah emphasized that they were to put no fire underneath the sacrifice. He knew that it would take God’s fire to impact his culture. Many churches try to substitute heavenly fire with manmade fire, and they end up with a form of godliness that ultimately denies the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5). This isn’t always done intentionally; many times, it’s an act of desperation rather than an act of rebellion, but nothing can replace the true power of the Holy Spirit. Refuse to settle for false fire.

Many churches try to substitute heavenly fire with manmade fire, and they end up with a form of godliness that ultimately denies the power thereof.

Nothing can replace the true power of the Holy Spirit. Refuse to settle for false fire.

And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down (1 Kings 18:30).

2. We must repair the altars.

Notice that Elijah didn’t build an altar from scratch. He repaired an existing altar that had fallen into disrepair for lack of use. We lose the fire when we lose sight of the significance of the altar of repentance. There can be no resurrection power without a cross. It’s amazing how repentance warms things up in the realm of the Spirit.

We lose the fire when we lose sight of the significance of the altar of repentance. There can be no resurrection power without a cross.

And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed (1 Kings 18:32).

3. We must acknowledge the name of the Lord.

Whatever we do in word or deed, it should be done in the name of Jesus (Colossians 3:17) because there is no other name by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12). And one day, every knee is going to bow, and every tongue is going to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Romans 14:11).

33 And he put the wood in order, cut the bullock in pieces, laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. 34 And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. 35 And the water ran round about the altar, and he filled the trench also with water (1 Kings 18:33-35).

4. We must be willing to sacrifice.

When Elijah had them dump twelve barrels of water on the altar at the tail end of a three-year drought, he demonstrated tangible sacrifice. In essence, he was saying, “Lord, if we don’t see fire and rain today, we’re going to die.” There can be no fire without tangible sacrifice, whether our money, time, energy, or things. In fact, God requires all of the above.

There can be no fire without tangible sacrifice, whether our money, time, energy, or things. In fact, God requires all of the above.

36 And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. 37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench (1 Kings 18:26-38).

5. We must have faith in God’s Word.

In the end, it all became a matter of faith. Either Elijah trusted the voice of God, or he didn’t. It’s really no different with us today. We either believe in the power of the Gospel, or we don’t. We either believe that God is still pouring out his Spirit, or we don’t. Do we believe God will do what He said He would do?

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Oneness Theology, Church History & Where the Church Is Right Now – Podcast Transcript with Dr. Talmadge French

Below is the podcast transcript (episode 22) of a candid conversation between me and my dad, Dr. Talmadge French, author of the best-selling books Our God Is One, and G.T. Heywood: Early Interracial Oneness Pentecostalism. This is probably one of the best discussions you will ever hear about church history, the oneness of God in Church History, The Burning of Michael Servetus by John Calvin, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the Existence of Truth during the Dark Ages. If you’d like to listen to the entire podcast conversation I’ve attached it to the end of this article.

Ryan French: [00:01:44] You are my dad and you’re the premier Apostolic Pentecostal oneness historian, probably in the world, and I have a unique and rare opportunity to be able to just drag you in here kicking and screaming to talk about church history. And so I’m really excited about it and I hope we’ll do it fairly regularly. But what I wanted to do today is kind of backtrack from where most people want to start, which is the turn of the last century. And we’ll get to that. But there’s kind of that long gap of church history, certainly for us as Pentecostals that we don’t discuss as often, maybe as other traditions or denominations do. And certainly, the Dark Ages. Which brings me to the very first topic that I wanted to have you weigh in on. And it’s also a question that I receive a lot from people through the website and at www.ryanafrench.com. And it’s basically this question and I’m going to ask it to you the way people ask it to me. Do you believe the Church and by the church, I mean full truth, people filled with the Holy Ghost, baptized in Jesus’ name? Do you believe the Church existed throughout the Dark Ages and somewhere up until the outpourings of the Holy Ghost at the turn of the last century… Basically from the Book of Acts until today? Do you believe that a remnant somewhere, even if it might have been just a small group, do you believe it existed?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:03:45] Ok, well, that’s the question that every apostolic is interested in, because and it’s not just apostolics, but every Christian group has to believe or hope that their faith is a Bible faith, whether you can prove a direct line all the way back or not. Right. And of course, Pentecostals are like all restorationists. They believe that Pentecost and speaking in tongues is biblical. Therefore, our experience is biblical. So what happened during those intervening years and so on? And then secondarily, you have the issue of like for me, I was Trinitarian, but came to an understanding of oneness, belief, like millions of people have. And so I wanted to know, how did my faith line up with the apostles? That is what I’m saying, actually, apostolic. And if so, what happened to it? Yeah. So the short answer for me is, yes, the church has always existed. But what’s really important is, I mean, that’s important to be able to say, OK, my faith goes all the way back. But how do I know that and how does it work itself out? And the truth of the matter is that church history itself is extremely complex because of the way we interpret church history, there was a great deal of things going on all the way back to the time of the apostles. So I’ve spent a better part of my faith, especially since I’ve been apostolic looking at the historical record, trying to understand what people were saying and what actually occurred back there. And I would… I’d summarize it like this so we can maybe go to the next step. But that the fact of the matter is, for a very long time, the apostolic faith was definitely being preached in the early church. But there came a time when it began to evolve into something else so that after about the time of Sebelius, around two eighty-five roughly right in there, it started to be less and less where the truth was one hundred percent believed in all the churches. There came to be what I call an attack of intellectualism on the church, especially Greek intellectualism. And there was also a movement which was pretty well connected to Greek intellectualism. It was called Gnosticism; it was a movement that believed they were super-spiritual. And these things have always been what they’ve been throughout church history, but when that began to take effect, then the Greek mind, the intellectual mind began to try to square everything with Greek, with Philo and the Greek intellectualism. And the Church began to become more diverse so that you would have these really super smart guys out there at the periphery of the Church that were saying, well, Jesus is not actually the one God, he’s in the one God. And you begin somewhere in there around two hundred. And later, the beginnings of what we would think of as a trinitarian way of thinking or a binatarian way of thinking. And eventually, by the time you get to the councils in three, twenty-five, and so on, you’ve got full-blown Trinitarianism or debates about Trinitarianism and who Jesus was. And was he God or was he just in the Godhead? Well, these are things that the Bible doesn’t even address because they’re not biblical, but they’ve become pretty powerful by the time you get to the councils, and by the time the Catholic Church is an issue which is around 500, you’ve got I mean, just think about how long America’s been here, in about five hundred years of Christianity. That’s a lot of time. And by the end of it, you have Truth, and you have error all throughout Christianity

Ryan French: [00:08:18] Would you say it’s kind of a merging of the secular and the sacred or maybe a merging of secular philosophy in the same way and even throw government in there?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:08:31] Right. Because when you get to the time of Constantine in three hundred in the Council of Nicaea, there wouldn’t have been a Nicaea had there not been a Constantine who had converted to Christianity. But many, many scholars will tell you that Constantine was not much of a Christian, but yet he had the greatest impact on Christianity. And so, I would…

Ryan French: [00:08:55] Can we pause for the low information. I, I know we have a lot of wonderful listeners out there who may not know who Constantine is. Could you just give a brief description?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:09:07] He became the emperor of Rome. The Roman emperor.

Ryan French: [00:09:11] So was that roughly around three hundred?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:09:14] Let’s just say around three…

Ryan French: [00:09:15] Around three hundred. By then, the Church was in full swing…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:09:20] …and when he became a Christian, then the Roman Empire became Christian whether they were Christian or not. Right. Right. So, it was a whole new era.

Ryan French: [00:09:30] So in a lot of ways. You had kind of the advent of the Christians in name only.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:09:35] Well, it was definitely Christian in name only. But see, a lot of Christians today have a struggle with that because they want to believe that all of this error that’s going on in Christianity and the diversity of Christianity was just part and parcel of it. They don’t want to believe that at the very beginning there was a pristine Church that held to a pristine doctrine. So how do you explain in the Bible them baptizing in Jesus name and three hundred years later, they’re advocating for Trinity baptism? How do you explain that? Well, you go to Matthew chapter 19 and try to prove that’s the real baptism and they can’t do it. So, but of…

Ryan French: [00:10:16] …wouldn’t we as apostolics, point to Jesus himself who warned that there would be wolves that would come in and there would be false doctrines and false Christ of all kinds?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:10:29] And Paul himself said it was happening right under his nose

Ryan French: [00:10:33] Right in the beginning, Judaizers…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:10:34] But those errors, of course, weren’t Trinitarian, you don’t see anything remotely Trinitarian until close to two hundred, certainly, I’ve had a lot of Trinitarians say to me, well, oh my goodness. Well, if it could happen if Trinitarianism evolved by two hundred, it could have been one hundred years earlier as if the one hundred years doesn’t make a difference. Look at America right now, how quickly it’s gone from one type of country almost into socialism or bordering on it. We’re literally battling right now for the soul of America all within twenty-five years. So, think of that.

Ryan French: [00:11:16] Amazing how in one or two decades the whole world can change.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:11:19] And if you add a century to it, so in a century you could have a church, for example, a Pentecostal group could start off as holiness and one hundred years later, not even know what holiness is.

Ryan French: [00:11:33] Not even resemble what they began as…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:11:35] I was a part of a Pentecostal group that was strict holiness. And then within twenty-five years, they dropped it and moved on to something else. And today they don’t even know if they’re Pentecostal.

Ryan French: [00:11:46] I was listening to a podcast the other day. I can’t remember his name. The podcast is called Apologia and they’re Trinitarians. I think they consider themselves Southern Baptists of some kind. And he was really attacking… Actually, the podcast, for the most part, they’re pretty interesting. But out of nowhere, he started attacking what he called Modalists. But of course, he’s talking about oneness people and he wasn’t attacking us because I think he was looking at a kind of a charismatic, non-denominational, kind of wishy-washy group. They’re not really oneness, but they’re not really Trinitarian either. They’re just kind of a “whatever” kind of a deal. And it was so interesting because he had spent the beginning of the episode talking about Sola Scriptura and the inerrancy of Scripture, which, of course, I was on board with that. It sounded like something I would say that we’ve got to hold… we’ve got to pull all of our doctrines out and hold everything up to the light of Scripture, which is language that I identify with. But then when he started attacking modalism or the oneness and basically rebuking this group very strongly for basically rejecting what he called the Triune God or the Triune Godhead, he never used the word Trinity, which I thought was interesting. He always used the word triune. Instead of appealing to Scripture, he never once appealed to Scripture to do that, he appealed to church history. And I thought, how interesting, you just spent your forty-five minutes basically saying we’ve got to hold all of our beliefs up to the Word of God. But then when you’re defending your triune belief in the Godhead and a triune baptism and all of this, instead of going back to Sola Scriptura, you’re going to church history and stopping there and you’re not even going all the way back in church history. You’re going…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:14:00] Well, it’s really enlightening that you’re hearing this podcast and they’re doing this because that’s exactly what goes on with Trinitarian thought. Now, that doesn’t mean that Trinitarian scholars don’t think they can prove the trinity in the Bible. They basically think that they’re proving the trinity in the Bible through a series of hints. Like how can you have a Son if there’s not a Father? And so, everything’s through hints. There’s no direct teaching about it.

Ryan French: [00:14:39] You’ve got the dove and Jesus and the voice…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:14:42] I’ve often said this, and this is the way most oneness people think. If the Bible meant to teach a trinity, it would say there is a trinity. Now, then you would have the problem that Moses did not believe in a trinity, and the God of the Old Testament then and the revealed God of the New Testament would be very different. So they would say, well, the Son came. This is Trinitarian logic. So the Son came, was born, and came to earth and that proved there was a trinity before. So the logic of Trinitarianism theologically is not rooted in the Bible. It’s rooted in what the church accepted over three hundred years. And so, they have several issues with it, of course. But let’s go back to this group then that says, well, we’re going to condemn oneness people because of church history. That’s basically what they’re doing. They’re saying that we have to trust the church. So, whatever the church said in three hundred or five hundred, no matter that it became Catholic…

Ryan French: [00:15:46] I was just going to say, why aren’t we all Catholic then?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:15:48] Well, we would be if we followed that logic. But they’re not following logic. The only thing they’re following logically in that period is the doctrine of the Trinity. They don’t believe much else about it. And of course, the Catholic Church had lots of issues that even to this day are so far from Scripture. And oneness people are simply saying the trinity is not found in Scripture, therefore we don’t embrace it.

Ryan French: [00:16:18] This guy went so far as to say, and I’m not even mentioning his name because it’s not worth it to me, but I’m just wanting to think through the logic of how… I view him, I guess, as maybe a stand-in or a type of that group’s way of thinking. He was basically saying that if you’re not Trinitarian and again, I thought it was fascinating he never used the word Trinitarian or Trinity, but if you don’t believe in the triune Godhead, you’re not a Christian. You’re a cult of Christianity. In fairness to him, I’m actually thankful that he believes what he believes and that he’ll fight for it because I feel much the same way. But in reverse, I feel like, for example, I look at the Catholic Church in some ways as a Christian cult as well, at least theologically. I don’t mean that everyone in the Catholic Church is a cult, but at least the leadership of it. But then there’s also this secondary growing movement. That. Other generations have not seen like my generation is seeing, and that is a middle group that says, well, it doesn’t matter if you’re trinitarian or oneness. Because what people will say and I know you’ve heard this, that it’s all, it’s just semantics. It’s just semantics. So that’s why you have a lot of people, and we’re really rabbit trailing, but this is a great discussion. You have a lot of people who will say, how we’ll all kind of meet in the middle and we will baptize people and we’ll say in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, whose name is Jesus, and then they feel like they’re covering all their bases. And they’ll say, well, when you speak of the Trinity, we’re actually oneness. But then you have groups like this guy at Apologia who considers that to be heresy, and then you have groups like us on the complete other end of the spectrum. How do we start to combat? What I think of as the growing trend towards this kind of middle ground wishy-washy it doesn’t matter?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:18:42] That is exactly the most important question because what you’re really describing is the state of the Christian church today. You have Christianity, let’s call it Orthodox thinking. All right. The fellow you’re describing, whoever he is, is typical of people that are trying to hold on to Orthodoxy. Now he would be opposed to Catholicism. I’m just guessing. And so, in most of its varieties. But yet what he means by Orthodox thinking is there has to be something that roots, that roots the church and that’s Trinitarianism. Now, the fact of the matter is, though, that Christianity has moved away from that. They’re no longer looking at trinity. Christian liberalism is no longer worried about the trinity. This has been going on for a very long time. We’re talking seventeen hundreds all the way to now. So, we’re talking a very long time where Christians have begun to quit… For example, the deity of Jesus will this fellow you’re talking about is going to fight for the deity of Jesus. So really what we’re

Ryan French: [00:19:58] Really common ground there, which is interesting…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:19:59] We have common ground.

Ryan French: [00:20:01] It’s weird because we wind up almost having common ground with people who are very opposed to some of our beliefs…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:20:06] His starting point is the trinity. You either start with the trinity or you’re nothing. That’s what he says. Right. Liberalism has no starting point whatsoever. It’s what we think of it as sort of the squishy middle. All right. Now, Catholics are very Orthodox. They are basically unchanged now. There’s lots of troubles in the Catholic Church, but they’re basically unchanged. They’re still holding to the idea of the pope and the universal nature of Catholicism and the trinity. They’ve altered almost nothing regarding the trinity, even though many Catholic scholars have come along and wondered about the possibility of modal thinking and so on.

Ryan French: [00:20:51] And there’s even been outpourings of the Holy Ghost in the Catholic Church, is that correct? I don’t mean in the church as a whole, but in individual churches and…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:20:59] Absolutely, there’s been a major outpouring in all denominations and people have accepted speaking in tongues. It’s somewhat fading at the moment.

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Dr. Talmadge French: [00:22:48] What we’re seeing then is that there’s what liberalism has become, and what the oneness movement has become, and this is what this fellow is reacting to. The oneness movement, if you look at various groups that have diverged from Trinitarian thinking, you could think of the squishy middle and the liberals as diverging from Trinitarian thinking. But it’s not wholesale abandonment of Trinitarianism. But so you look at the groups out there that say, I just don’t think the Trinity is the right answer. Well, the largest group of those are oneness people because we’re talking somewhere between 30 and 50 million living believers right now that stand strong for oneness theology. All right. And so these folks are trying to hold on to a complete one hundred percent trinity is the answer. Well, the Catholic Church does it and they’re doing it. And we might call him the orthodox conservative element, they are doing it.

Ryan French: [00:23:50] Is there anybody else who holds on? And I know there is. But we could just for people who might be thinking with us in this discussion, aside from the Catholic Church, aside from maybe the Southern Baptists, are the Presbyterians still holding on to Trinitarianism?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:24:07] They’re split on the issue; Lutherans are split over lots of issues. So, you have a lot of liberals who would talk about the trinity, but they don’t believe in the Trinity in the way that we would think of as Orthodox. Right. They’re not quite sure of, for example, the deity of Christ is extremely squishy in the middle…

Ryan French: [00:24:35] Can you explain to people who may not understand what you mean by the deity of Christ…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:24:39] That Jesus is actually God…

Ryan French: [00:24:40] So maybe mention a popular, I’ll use the word heresy or false doctrine, that people are falling into about the deity of Jesus, that he was not God…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:25:04] Liberal Christians like, you know, it goes all the way back to the seventeen hundreds of people like Schleiermacher who thought that you could never be certain that Jesus was Divine. He wasn’t necessarily Divine. What he did was from God. So, the heresy would be what conservatives today would refer to as the Fatherhood of God, that God was just the Father. The Son was not Divine. So, you would end up with one God, but Jesus wasn’t part of a Godhead.

Ryan French: [00:25:40] What would you call that doctrine?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:25:42] Well, I call it liberalism or theologically, it was this idea of the Fatherhood of God.

Ryan French: [00:25:48] Now how is that different from Divine Flesh?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:25:53] Oh, totally. Yeah. There’s no relationship. Divine Flesh is that Jesus was not only God but that his flesh was Divine. His flesh was not his actual flesh. It was not an actual flesh. It was Divine something. Yes. Which is which is heresy!

Ryan French: [00:26:08] Which denies the humanity…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:26:10] It sacrifices the real humanity of Christ. So that’s a totally different error which is not just something that we see in Pentecostalism, it’s something that you see all the way back to the time of Luther. This idea that there was for example, that all comes from the idea that the Catholics said you could eat the actual flesh, the Eucharist, that when you take the Eucharist, you put it into your mouth, it becomes flesh. So, in that came all kinds of error, which, of course, is one of the problems with Catholic thinking, just one of the things. But you see, the fellow you’re talking about is attempting to hold on to the absolute trinity of God, whether the Bible ever taught it or not, because what they’re going to do is extrapolate it back. Now, in other words, say, even though the Bible doesn’t explicitly teach it, it’s there and that’s what they believe, though they never said it. Now, that’s, of course, rather crazy to say they believe something they never said they believed and never even used the word trinity.

Ryan French: [00:27:12] Yeah, I was going to say… So, this is kind of how our relationship for those that don’t know, I’m very privileged to serve with Dad, going on nine years now, here on the south side of Atlanta. The way we work in our church is, dad’s the genius and I’m always kind of the everyday weird word guy, but speaking of the word weird to use completely nontheological terminology, don’t you think? I don’t mean this in an ugly, disrespectful way. Just logically, isn’t it weird to go to church history? To pull the doctrine of the Trinity, but then ignore church history to leave the Catholic Church and then try to go back to the Bible? Just logically, isn’t that flawed? It’s flawed in so many ways…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:28:17] So one way to think of it, if we could not get too complex, is that they look back into church history and try to find the trinity. And of course, it did develop in the hundreds and hundreds of years so that you ended up with basically just one church that was Catholic. Now, that doesn’t mean there was just one church because we started up this discussion asking the question, did the oneness movement go all the way back? And I said, well, the answer is yes, it does go all the way back. But the question is, how does it do that?

Ryan French: [00:28:54] Well, and my answer is always that this movement goes all the way back to the Old Testament. Right. But you know that that’s a simplistic answer.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:29:02] So what oneness people need to be doing is finding out how it went all the way back, because you’re not going to have the enemies of the oneness of God looking for answers for how the oneness was embraced. I’m quite convinced by church history that there were tons of oneness people. And I see…

Ryan French: [00:29:25] Yes. OK, so we’re going to jump into that in just a second. But I keep feeling the need to backtrack for people who aren’t… I know we have people who have these kinds of discussions and read these kinds of things all the time, but I know there are some wonderful people out there and maybe this is the first time they’ve really used some of these terms. So, let me go all the way back to kind of the beginning. And you used the word restorationist. Can you just give a brief definition of what a restorationist is? OK, and you know, we’re restorationist.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:29:57] Many Christians that are not Pentecostal are restorationists and almost all Pentecostals are restorationists. A restorationist is someone who views Christian faith as something that they lost.

Ryan French: [00:30:17] Martin Luther for example?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:30:18] Well, Lutherans are not, strictly speaking, restorationists, but there were many restorationists…

Ryan French: [00:30:27] But Martin Luther himself was…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:30:28] Martin Luther saw himself as restoring to the church what he viewed as Catholicism’s having lost. So, you end up with Lutheranism now, Lutherans themselves did not view themselves as strict restorationists. And like Pentecostals do, Pentecostals view themselves as restorationists because people were not baptizing correctly. Well, let’s say, for example. The Catholic Church baptizes infants, yes, so do Methodists, so do lots of people, but restorationist-minded people say we have to go back to the Bible to find our answer. Or oneness Pentecostals say that not only for the way you baptize but people speaking in tongues. Well, did speaking in tongues stop? No. But did the church as a whole stop preaching, speaking in tongues? Obviously, they did. Certainly, was not practiced in the era of the Catholic dominance and so on, and so now does that mean nobody was speaking in tongues? No, I suspect a lot of people were speaking in tongues, but it was not something you got away with because Catholicism basically choked it up. There was a whole lot of rooting out people that didn’t believe what they wanted you to believe.

Ryan French: [00:31:51] That tags perfectly with where I wanted to go next, which is kind of a twofold question. I wanted you to maybe introduce Michael Servetus to people who maybe have never heard of him before. You might give some information they don’t know. But also tagging into that, at what point did the Catholic Church become militant in the sense that they forced you to believe with the sword? You’ve got the Crusades and you’ve got the Catholic Church burning people at the stake. I often tell people, well, of course, in history, if you’re oneness and if you were speaking in tongues you were probably going underground because otherwise you might get burned at the stake. Or you might have your tongue cut out. So, when did that start? When did the church become violent, which to me is evil, of course? Can you imagine if the Church was trying to be militant today how we’d be…?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:32:59] You know, it’s interesting because the group that you were describing at the beginning that is trying to hold on to strict Trinitarianism and condemning oneness people would probably say that when Calvin burned Servetus at the stake that that was OK because how dare him deny something that Calvin believed was 100% theologically correct.

Ryan French: [00:33:27] So for people who don’t know John Calvin…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:33:30] Was a reformer of Protestantism who had Servetus because he was oneness had him burned at the stake.

Ryan French: [00:33:39] So what time are we talking about here?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:33:41] That was in the fifteen hundreds.

Ryan French: [00:33:45] So you’re about a thousand five hundred or so…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:33:49] So we’re talking five hundred years ago. So, think of it. The Church involved in five hundred years at the beginning from an Apostolic Bible group. By 500 years later you have basically them talking about is Mary the mother of God and is there a pope that rules the church? None of that’s in the Bible. And yet that’s where the church is. Trinitarianism is pretty rampant in Christianity by then.

Ryan French: [00:34:15] John Calvin, even today, you have Calvinism and probably, I think, one of the most dangerous, deadly false doctrines that still permeates a lot of. Quote unquote, Christian thinking is what I call once saved, always saved, or the doctrine of eternal security, where no matter what you do, you can’t be plucked from the hand of God. You can be an adulterer. But if you’ve said your prayer and all that, then you’re saved. Or you’ve got some people who are Divinely destined for Hell and some people are Divinely destined for Heaven because God chose… All of this is Calvinism or finds its roots in Calvinism. And so, you have this massive segment of Christianity that puts Calvin on this huge pedestal. And yet he was a murderer. In my mind. I consider him wicked. Are you willing to say? We’ve talked about this, but are you willing to say that Calvin was a wicked maniac. And I know he was a genius in a certain sense, but…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:35:15] Oh, I don’t think anyone that burns people alive, is anything short of a wicked person. OK, so but to what I was referring to a moment ago, I’ve been very outspoken that Calvin’s behavior was unbelievable. And he was no. It turns out that here he was one of the most outspoken critics of Catholicism in the fifteen hundreds, and yet he used the same tactics. That was to kill the people he opposed, kill the opposition. Now, I had a professor because I’m oneness, but I haven’t always been and had a professor at a Christian university that I attended told me that you have to expect you’re going to be burned alive if you oppose theological thinking. And I said, so you’re saying that killing Christians is OK? And he said, no, no, I’m not saying that. I’m trying to say you have to understand that we have to forgive Calvin. I said, no, I cannot forgive Calvin. Nobody can forgive Calvin. But God. He murdered a man for no reason. So in other words, using that was the Catholic notion. And by the same token, Catholics forgive their past for killing, who knows how many thousands of people. I mean, in horrific ways, just think of the Inquisition. But to simplify this, though, what actually occurred. So you got 500 years of the early church where there was things happening, where the faith and speaking in tongues and baptism in Jesus’ name was becoming a minority and people were pushing it back. I call it the Dark Ages and I don’t get this from oneness people. I get this from conservatives who now are nervous about using the term the Dark Ages, where they begin to move into a period of time where one group began to take control of Christianity and everybody like you couldn’t, for example, at the time of the Reformation, which was fifteen hundreds and the hundred years or two-hundred years before that, you could be executed for owning a Bible. Yes, for printing a Bible, because the Catholic Church said nobody could control the Bible but them.

Ryan French: [00:37:41] Amazing stories of people who got a Tindale Bible and go hide in their closet to be able to read and…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:37:48] So a lot of people were really moving back into what I’m thinking of as a New Dark Age and have been for a very long time. It’s probably the era just before the coming of the Lord. But what actually occurred is that in that era where, for example, you could be executed and were executed by either a Catholic or a Protestant if you immerse people. If you just took a person out and baptized them in a river and buried them and they found out about it and got caught. You could be executed.

Ryan French: [00:38:31] So and then in modern history, I don’t think it’s as bad now as it was. But, you know, theologically speaking, there was a time where you were culturally burned at the stake or intellectually burned at the stake, you were blacklisted, you were boycotted. If you deviated from at least trinitarian orthodoxy, it’s always amazing to me how you have all these denominations, the Baptists, the Catholics, and of course, the Baptists have all kinds of variations of denominations, the Methodists, the Lutherans…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:39:06] And the Church of God…

Ryan French: [00:39:07] You have all of these and they’re all united by trinitarianism. And if you walk in that orthodoxy, it’s like you’re OK, no matter what else you do. I’ve always thought that was strange and very telling… It’s one of the major doctrines that they have that is non-biblical and totally historical in context. And yet that’s what unites them. And then they put everyone else in this camp of being anti orthodoxy when in reality we’re really the orthodox ones… I want to just say something before we go back. You were talking about people being burned at the stake just for owning a Bible in the Dark Ages, where all of this time in church history, where the Catholic Church controlled the narrative of Scripture because only, they had access to the Bible. So, you were having to completely trust a priest and the pope and his emissaries to tell you what the Bible said via their interpretation. And, of course, we know now that the Catholic Church has moved far beyond the Bible and the pope can speak for God as God, and his word becomes in their way of thinking, just as an errant as the word of God. So that creates all kinds of problems. And so, you have all of these years where people were hungry. This is a whole nother discussion. I’d love to have about men like Tyndale, who you mentioned, and Wycliff, who I mean, they gave their lives to be able to translate the word of God into a language that the commoner could read and understand without having to know Latin or Greek or Hebrew. And they did all of this knowing that they were going to be persecuted and probably killed at some point. And then they distributed these precious Bibles to people, often handwritten, and people were secretly getting them. I mean, some of these stories that I’ve read where I mean, it just makes you weep when people get a Bible and they’re having to hide it, they’re trying to read it for themselves. And so, you have this kind of this imposed dark age of spiritual ignorance where people, God bless them, they’re walking in darkness. But it was really the blind leading the blind. And the blind had no access to light because the Scripture was being completely controlled. But today, I think this is the point I wanted to get at. As you said, it’s like we’re going back to that. But this is different today. It’s like we have a self-imposed dark age where people have more access to the Bible than ever in the history of the world. I mean, even as I’m old enough now to remember a time when if you wanted to read the Bible. You were going to have to go to the bookstore and purchase a Bible for yourself. And if you wanted one that was going to last you were going to have to spend a good deal of money. But now people via smartphones, which it just seems like smartphones, have been with us since the beginning of time, but they haven’t. It’s a fairly recent phenomenon. And the Internet and computers, you can go to Bible Gateway right now and you can read the Bible online day or night, completely free, any translation you want, even horrific ones. But you have access to it. And yet statistics tell us that people are reading the Bible less and less and less. So, it’s almost as if we have this overwhelming access to it and now people are indifferent to it. It’s not that there’s a class of people above us keeping us from the Word of God, it’s that people are keeping themselves.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:43:42] Ok. Well, let’s go back to something we were talking about, and that is what does a man like Michael Servetus represent? Because the initial question has been do I believe that the oneness, Apostolic Pentecostal faith of repenting, and baptizing in the name of Jesus, receiving the Holy Spirit, and living holy, did that go all the way back to the early church? All those centuries, so Servetus represents a person. Who not only died for the very message that I’m preaching right now, but he represents an entire generation of people that believed because even though church history is difficult to trace, because, you know, the victors wipe out a great deal of the writings and..?

Ryan French: [00:44:50] Yeah, they get to write the history.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:44:52] And plus, if you know your children are going to die, if they find out who you are and where you are, you keep that a secret. So, you have these, you know, evidences. So, I’m going to give just a quick answer now that we’re in the context of Michael Servetus, who died brutally, by the way, I mean, of course, you couldn’t be burned at the stake without it being brutal, but the entire episode was brutal. It was a man that at the age of fourteen knew seven languages, I mean, he is one of the most brilliant men of the Reformation.

Ryan French: [00:45:25] …and not just the theologian.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:45:27] And he had gone to Calvin because he wanted so desperately to talk to him about the need to get back to Scripture. And they executed him. So, all of the people that held to oneness views throughout the centuries, we cannot excavate all of their writings even though we know about lots of them, but we don’t know what all of them believe because they’re lost to history.

Ryan French: [00:46:04] They’re not in the iCloud.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:46:05] And yet, if you say that to someone who’s the victor, who says, well, I’m a trinitarian and I am, bless God, it goes all the way back. And you said, well, you have killed all of our people. How are we supposed to be able to then mount a historical defense? We don’t have the ability to dig out their graves and find all their writings. But we know they were there because when we trace the evidence, we can find the group that he came from and why he held the oneness view goes all the way back to his childhood. And it’s difficult to do, but it can be done. We know that in, for example, that in Spain, where he was born, there was a group there baptizing in Jesus’ name all the way back. So, and what that did for me was it didn’t just demonstrate that Servetus believed in the oneness of God, but that he applied it to his understanding of baptism, in other words, he didn’t baptize in a trinity formula because he came from a group that didn’t baptize in the trinity formula and that this is the way you almost have to do history. Throughout the entire period.

Ryan French: [00:47:17] Servetus was a genius. Yes. Don’t you think some of Calvin’s venom towards Servetus was jealousy not just theologically rooted?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:47:30] There’s no doubt it was jealousy. There was a whole lot of jealousy. Yeah, Calvin as a man, not as a scholar, had a lot of faults. And one of them was this. I mean, he’s the great scourge on Calvin was the burning of a Protestant. He was burned. He became the martyr that shocked the world. There’s not a long history of Protestants burning one another. Right. But Servetus who was oneness is the one that they that basically…

Ryan French: [00:48:07] Is Servetus the only individual that we know of that Calvin burned or did… Was that common practice for him to have people executed?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:48:15] No, it was not common practice for him to execute people.

Ryan French: [00:48:20] You mentioned…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:48:21] So I want to say this, since we’re right there, that it’s difficult to understand why a trinitarian would be so opposed to oneness thinking because modalism espouses 100 percent the Father, Son, and the Spirit. Absolutely. And as one God, totally not in a trinitarian sense, but absolutely one God. Jesus is Divine. Jesus is God. The Holy Spirit is God. And they’re all one, actually one. And yet they’re so opposed to it that the hatred for it would literally lead a man to burn another man at the stake. I find it. I mean, to…

Ryan French: [00:49:07] To me, I’m just going to make a very controversial statement, maybe not to us, but to many Christians, it’s demonic. It’s rooted in a demonic…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:49:19] Well, you mean to kill someone?

Ryan French: [00:49:22] Well, trinitarian itself is, well, demonically inspired. I mean, when you have a group of people perverting the word of God and then turning into a movement that’s murdering people. To me, that is evidence of it being a demonically inspired theology. And for that to be the hill that, quote-unquote, Christians would be willing to kill people on. Throughout history and then today, for people to be willing to intellectually and culturally kill people to use extreme language…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:50:04] It’s extreme to burn someone at the stake. And then you also have the context that now after the oneness movement has been around here for over 100 years now. So today the trend is what liberalism is doing to say, I don’t believe in all that holiness and baptism in Jesus’ name and moralism, but I accept that they’re genuine Christians. That’s the trend. Yeah. So, your friend, the fellow you were listening to, he’s in the minority because today…

Ryan French: [00:50:41] He’s rejecting that…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:50:43] He’s rejecting that trend that says, hey, I can accept because the Pentecostal church today, the oneness movement within it is massive. And even Trinitarian Pentecostals are more and more embraced. For example, I’m involved because I have a Ph.D. and I’m involved in lots of things in Pentecostalism. I’m involved with Trinitarians that I totally oppose their theological stance. And yet I’m in academic societies with them trying to get the oneness message in my beliefs and my writings out there. And they’re willing to allow that by not burning me at the stake,

Ryan French: [00:51:26] Not anymore.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:51:27] They’re not anymore that’s the trend. Now, that doesn’t mean there are tons of people that hold to a Trinitarianism. I guess we’d have to wait till the Lord comes to figure out what’s in people’s hearts. But the sad thing is that Calvin didn’t wait, he just went ahead and burned, burned oneness people. That’s what he did.

Ryan French: [00:51:49] Maybe we have someone listening who and I’m sure we do or will maybe they are trinitarians or maybe they’re not sure. And. They’re trying to think through, and I’ve had many sincere people, many sincere, good Christians who when I say this may take it in a condescending way and I don’t mean to be condescending, but what I think of as low information Christians, they don’t really know anything about church history. It’s amazing how many people you meet now. They don’t know anything about church history. They really don’t know their Bible. They might know like for God so loved the world. They might know, John, 3:16 or something like that, but they don’t really know Scripture. And so, they’re trying to very simplistically and sincerely, which, by the way, you know, if you will approach God simplistically and sincerely and you’re truly doing that with a heart to seek after God. You know, I believe the Bible says Jesus himself said seek and you shall find knock on the door, it will open. So that’s a beautiful thing. I’m not criticizing that. But maybe someone’s asking themselves and I even know apostolics who ask themselves this question, what is the difference theologically, and how does it affect our salvation? I always come back to baptism, but if I’m a trinitarian, or if I’m oneness, what does it matter to God? Why would God care how I view it, and I know that’s a big, broad, crazy, strange question loaded with minefields, but what does it matter? That’s really what the middle is asking. What does it matter? Does it ultimately matter if you’re trinitarian or if you’re oneness or…?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:53:35] It must matter. Let’s keep it in the context of our conversation right there. If it mattered enough to a trinitarian to kill a man who didn’t believe it. Then there is an enormous difference in my mind, having been a Trinitarian. And of course, I know a whole lot of oneness people who were trinitarian and there’s lots of them, they get a lot of flak because trinitarians believe that, as you said a moment ago, that if you think that Jesus is God but is not a second person in the Godhead, then you’re not even going to Heaven. That’s how strong they are now, I believe that trinitarianism and oneness doctrine are the same as light and darkness, because trinitarianism is not a biblical message when you say that Jesus is not God himself, but he’s part of God himself. That’s not a biblical message. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. He’s the totality. He’s not part of the Godhead. He is the Godhead. So in my mind, trinitarianism was the godhead of a Christianity that had lost its way. The oneness doctrine is the godhead of the apostles, so it makes all the difference now, which is why we call ourselves apostolic.

Ryan French: [00:55:06] And so they change baptism. From Jesus’ name baptism to trinity baptism. But that in itself is heresy beyond… This is where I always go, right? Because it’s the easiest one to go to. The greatest flaw or the greatest evil of trinitarianism. Is that it now becomes a changing of the mode, the salvific mode of baptism, where now you are baptizing people in titles instead of in the name and we know that the name is really where the efficacy of baptism comes into play. It’s not the water. It can’t be the water. The Bible tells us that over and over again we’re supposed to be baptized in water. But it’s the calling of the name that is where the power comes from. So, you have trinitarianism that now affects the way you’re baptized, that directly impacts your salvation. And then also in the way that you prayed, because I talked to people all the time who are trinitarian and they’ll say or I’ve talked to people who used to be trinitarian and now they’re oneness and they say, I don’t know how to pray because should I be praying to the Father? Should I be praying to the Son? Should I be praying to the Holy Ghost? So now you’re not fulfilling Scripture and saying whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of Jesus. It affects all of it in a strange way.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:56:48] I agree. So, we’re deep here, we’re tiptoeing into church history, but we’re currently in a very deep theological question when we are thinking about how trinitarian thought and oneness thought are different. But that’s precisely what the church, the church was dealing with, going all the way back. What we’ve done is we’ve pulled ourselves for a moment out of just a theological intellectual conversation into a real practical world. How does this theology practically affect individuals and the tragedy of any false doctrine, just like any error, whether it’s religious or not? Error, always falsehood always has practical, real-world implications that wind up hurting everyday human beings who are seeking after God. This is the great tragedy of error and false doctrine. Of course, Jesus warned us this would happen. I’m always amazed when people act shocked that this could happen because it was so clear he couldn’t have possibly been clearer. You’re going to be persecuted. I think as Americans, though, we’re just so spoiled because we’ve had such a long history of freedom, although I think that’s in jeopardy. We may not get to enjoy that, at least not the way we have for much longer. At the rate, we’re going. What’s on the horizon? Only God knows. Only God’s plan is good. The rest of it is looking darker and darker as we go.

Ryan French: [00:58:57] Quickly. And I know we’ve gone close to an hour here, and I appreciate your time. I really do. We’ve already talked about Michael Servetus. I mean, we could just spend an hour introducing Servetus to people. And I feel bad saying what we’ve said without clarifying more for people. My hope is maybe this will spark people’s interest and some people will go dig deeper.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:59:22] Yes.

Ryan French: [00:59:23] Sebelius as well, a different era. But in church history, we do know of some oneness or at least medalists who were speaking of these things. Can you mention just some of the common ones that we know of aside from Sebelius, and give just like the quick bullet point information about who those people, those people might be?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:59:47] Well, there are dozens of oneness… What scholars sometimes call modalists. And the word modalists means that instead of there being multiple persons of God, there is God acting in different modes. So you call that modalism and the trend in modern theology is to think of God in modes. And so Carlebach, for example, spoke of modalism and favorably, but he, of course, still maintained they believed in the trinity. But so all the way back through church history.

Ryan French: [01:00:28] Is it correct to call ourselves modalists? Are we?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:00:31] Well, I’ve always said there’s nothing wrong with it, but sometimes people are uncomfortable, especially current leaders in the modern oneness movement. I think most oneness people are uncomfortable with that because they don’t know where it came from or they think it came from the enemy or something. The fact of the matter is, modalism is a way of describing anyone who holds to a godhead in which the Father, Son, and the Spirit are in some way modal. And Oneness beliefs hold that Jesus and the Father were just modal differences, that the way in which God revealed himself in the Son was not a different person than the God who revealed himself in the Spirit. That’s what oneness is. So, to me, that modalism is fine. It’s just that some oneness people today are worried that there are forms of modalism we disagree with. So, I don’t have a problem with it. But, you know, that’s just the way it is. And so, for trinitarians to say modalists is helpful because they then realize you’re talking about church history, they typically think of them as modes because the term oneness is a fairly recent term. It’s a term that came to be very popular among former trinitarians that had become modalists and their view of who Jesus was. They saw it as a revelation a Divine revelation that Jesus was the Father in his human form, in the mode of humanity and therefore the son was not another person. It was the Father revealing himself. And this is exactly what Servetus taught. It’s exactly what Sebelius thought.

Ryan French: [01:02:24] Is it overly simplistic theologically, because I always go to the overly simplistic, but is it overly simplistic theologically for me and many others who have done it? To use the analogy that I’m a father and a son. Because people say, how can you be the father and son and I often say to people, I’m a father and a son. I could be multiple things at once but that doesn’t make me multiple people. But in the end, I have a legal name that must be used legally.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:02:57] And we can see that we’re moving now again into a very deeply theological way of understanding, which is important. It’s absolutely essential, but it’s difficult for some people, like, for example, trying to understand trinitarianism, you cannot comprehend. It’s not hard because you would have a father and a son who are both internal and they’re both God, they’re both gods within a God. That’s simply illogical. How can you be? And they’re going how can you…

Ryan French: [01:03:24] Right. How in the world can you both be all-powerful? Right.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:03:28] So but the same is true here when we’re talking about trying to explain modalism. Does it mean that I was a father, and I was a son? And of course, it is true of God. God was both Father and Son. How did that occur? Well, at the same time that he was a Father. He also became the Son. He didn’t quit being the Father when he became the Son. So, any modalism that held to that view I’ve just described. And so, this becomes deeply theological, rather because…

Ryan French: [01:04:03] He overshadows Mary.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:04:05] That’s right. The Father and the Spirit. So, the Spirit is the Father’s spirit. The Son is the Father’s humanity, you see. So, God becomes the Son. God is working in the Spirit. They’re not separate persons as though…

Ryan French: [01:04:22] Well, and even with Jesus you have this kind of interchangeable language where I come from my Father, but then I’m sending it. So even Jesus was kind of using interchangeable language that to me if I was trinitarian, would be extremely confusing because how could Jesus be sending his Spirit? You know, how is that even possible if they’re not the same thing?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:04:45] So what we’re doing is we’re explaining how the oneness view differs from the trinitarian view. And so when oneness people view, Jesus, they view Jesus as being the revelation of the Father. He is the Father in his human form. He came to earth in Jesus Christ. So, yes. So, when says, for example, we’ll just give one example that this is very important to oneness theology, that Jesus said it’s not my work I’m doing. Yeah, I’m doing the works of the Father. All right. So it’s trinitarianism that can’t account for that. Now they claim they can because they say the Son laid down his deity or something like that.

Ryan French: [01:05:31] Almost every intellectually honest trinitarian that I’ve ever talked to or heard. At some point will get to a place where they say, I believe in the trinity, but it’s inexplicable. I believe in it, but it’s a great mystery that we’ll never fully understand. It’s the great mystery. How does the average trinitarian deal with Jesus saying something like, you know, Philip, if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:06:00] Right now, my contention is they can’t. Now they will appear to be answering it, they’ll give answers. But, you know, you can give answers that aren’t answers. And that’s what trinitarians have to do when you get to the point where you’re talking about the biblical Jesus. He is not saying I’m another person from the Father. He’s not saying that. But they would then argue they said the opposite. How could you be the same person? This is where trinitarian. But when you’re not going back to John 14, where Jesus said, if you’ve seen me, well, you know, that’s not the question you ask. You didn’t ask that one you ask. Yeah, you did. If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen that his response was, if you’ve seen me, how can you ask me?

Ryan French: [01:06:45] Right.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:06:50] So a trinitarian would have to go back to John 10, four chapters earlier where Jesus said, I and the Father are one. And then they would have to argue that one there doesn’t mean one.

Ryan French: [01:07:02] I was just going to say, how could you even go to John…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:07:08] They have to attempt to build a multiple-person God. That’s still one God, which of course, that in itself is illogical.

Ryan French: [01:07:17] Yes, it’s illogical. Now, this brings me to something I wanted to mention and define for people. We’ve used the word modalist, but then there’s another word people use for oneness people. Apostolic monotheism or monotheistic. So just simple mono meaning one and theistic meaning God. In the Old Testament, one of the great defining characteristics of the Old Testament and the great separator that God gave for the Israelites was the fact that they were a monotheistic people. Israel, the Lord, our God is one in a world at the time where Egypt, they’re worshipping thousands of gods and they have a god for everything. The sun, the moon, the stars, the grass, the bugs. And then you have all of these other pagan nations that are worshipping multiple gods. And then and then God commands. He says, you know, there’s no other God before me. Thou shalt have no other God before me. Do Trinitarians? Now, I’ll just put my belief out there, no matter how offensive it might be, I believe that trinitarians, if you follow their doctrine logically, are polytheists, meaning that they do believe whether they claim it or not, because most of them don’t, but they do essentially wind up worshipping three gods, which to me is an absolute affront to God himself in the sense that God over and over and over commands us to…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:08:56] Yes.

Ryan French: [01:08:57] …understand that there is one God and that we’re to serve him alone. And when you separate him into three persons or beings now, you have done exactly what God essentially in my mind, what Satan did was he came in and he was able to convolute, quote unquote, Christianity to the point that now you have idolatry in the church.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:09:17] Right.

Ryan French: [01:09:19] But the idol that winds up being worshipped is supposedly the true God. But I know that most trinitarians would not. Am I correct in saying most trinitarians would never claim to be polytheistic? Is that correct? Absolutely. No one would claim not to be monotheistic.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:09:37] They do claim to be. And they and technically they are monotheists now, OK, because they say…

Ryan French: [01:09:43] How?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:09:44] The reason they can claim it is that they make every effort from Nicaea till now to say that the trinity itself is one God, but existing somehow mysteriously beyond any human comprehension is that the three that are let’s call them the three divines that are in their right persons? Because let’s just not say persons for now that they’re still. It’s so mysterious. It’s incomprehensible. And of course, what they’re actually doing is having to be oneness. They have to start out being oneness. Yeah. In order to end up with three separate persons and they have to go back where they think they have to end up with three separate persons because there was a Father, Son, and a Spirit.

Ryan French: [01:10:37] So this takes me back and I keep coming to this because it’s so incomprehensible to me. So, if you’re claiming to be monotheistic.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:10:46] Right.

Ryan French: [01:10:48] Because most times when you pin them down, they want to say, well, there’s one God. I mean, I hear this all the time. You can hear it in music, in Christian music, popular Christian music written by trinitarians, where you can have a song written by a trinitarian called One God. I mean, there is one right now. It’s a great song. And I often ask myself, how can they write a song like that and then reject oneness. So why if they’re doing that why would you go to John Calvin for example, if he’s starting with and saying I’m monotheistic, why in the world would he attack someone and be angry towards someone who is monotheistic in every sense of the word? Does that make sense?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:11:38] It makes sense to me. It’s complicated to the average person. We’re sitting here trying to explain why a deeply theological basically leader of one of the largest movements in Christianity murdered another Christian. That’s what we’re trying to explain.

Ryan French: [01:11:56] So that’s impossible. Let’s come to now let’s come to the present.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:12:00] All right.

Ryan French: [01:12:02] The unnamed guy that I can’t think of his name on the podcast, Apologia. How could he spend so much time and people like him? Why would they find it in their hearts so necessary to condemn truly monotheistic people? When yet he himself claims to be monotheistic, how does that jive and are you able to…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:12:27] This is becoming I mean, very, very few people today take the position. I mean, fewer and fewer. He might could name millions, but very few people today look at oneness people and say you’re damned to hell. It’s not like it was…

Ryan French: [01:12:44] Because of your belief, not like it was at the turn of the last century.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:12:47] Things have changed so drastically. And they would consider that unfortunate because we ought to be condemned. We ought to do just what Calvin did. And this gentleman has to be careful because what he’s wrestling with is and it’s a fear of other monotheists that that upholds. Now, if you are violating Jesus himself and saying he’s not God, then you would have the basis on which to begin to condemn, truly condemn someone. But he believes that his trinitarian understanding of the oneness of God, of the one God blessed, that is so true that my denying it or not believing or accepting it, by the way, there’s tons and tons of trinitarians who do not believe the concepts of the trinity in their minds. They can’t accept that. They somehow just believe that it’s just one God. They cannot make this three person distinction that trinitarians want you to do so among their own people. They do it. More and more, but…

Ryan French: [01:13:55] Which is why I think if you’re not a theologian, someone’s listening who’s not a theologian or philosopher, you’re just, you know, a good person who loves the Lord. We have to try and help these individuals.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:14:03] Yes.

Ryan French: [01:14:07] When I say average, I don’t mean that in the sense that, I mean they may be very above average, but I mean average in the sense of their understanding and exposure to the Bible and theology. We have to help them understand there are real life spiritual consequences when you embrace the false doctrine of the trinity.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:14:18] Yes.

Ryan French: [01:14:20] …and we have to try to show why that is in the sense of baptism, in the sense of how you pray, in the sense of how you’re viewing God and does God care how you view him? Well, of course, he does, because the vast majority of the Bible is God very clearly saying to people, it matters what you believe about me and it matters how you worship me. It matters how you serve me. God doesn’t have the kind of the universal philosophical mindset that the world has embraced today where everything’s fine as long as you’re sincere, as long as you’re…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:15:05] Well, basically the modern cultural mindset is it doesn’t matter at all what anybody believes, even conservative Christians today, among some of them, there is this notion that, well, in the end, it’s just all going to be just fine. But the consequences for believing that, look where we are in a culture, the culture is completely anti-Christian. America today is in dire straits.

Ryan French: [01:15:31] Yeah. And the question is, did the church begin that or did the world have it and it trickled into the church in a kind of ecumenical universalistic way of thinking, but that’s almost…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:15:43] Like the chicken…

Ryan French: [01:15:44] Yeah. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It’s really almost impossible to know.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:15:49] Almost impossible.

Ryan French: [01:15:51] It’s tempting. I think for oneness people, you know, the oneness movement and the tongue talking movement and we won’t even throw holiness in. That’s a whole nother deal. But historically, and when I say historically, I don’t mean going back to Servetus. I mean since the turn of the last century we were very persecuted, lots of persecution, physical persecution, but…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:16:18] Right.

Ryan French: [01:16:20] …even greater was the cultural persecution, the rejection, the being cast out from society, being marginalized. When you talk to the elders and there’s still elders today who are right here in our church, we have to Sister Cole, whose father founded Tupelo Children’s Mansion, and the stories of him being taken out and beaten within an inch of his life and the scars on his back and all of the things that people went through, the horrific things that we can’t even imagine. And as horrible as that was, and none of us would want to experience that, in many ways, it galvanized the movement. The church is always, I mean, even when you go back to the New Testament, the Church has always galvanized and grown in persecution. And the Church seems to always struggle in times of ease. I think it’s one of the reasons why you see, for example, this summer, we’ll talk about it hopefully soon. You know, your research on the oneness movement in China, you were shocked when you were writing and studying for the book Our God is One, which was first your thesis for your master’s at Wheaton College. And you studied how the preachers and the pastors, how they were I mean, unbelievable physical persecution, not just being thrown in jail. I mean, to be thrown in jail would have almost been a mercy. But the things that they went through beyond just being thrown in jail, the horrific physical things that happened to them in China, and even today, there’s persecution there.

Ryan French: [01:17:58] And yet the church, the oneness apostolic Church, the revival that has been mostly underground, that has just exploded in that nation. You see that repeated in different places around the world where there’s this great massive movement and outpouring of the Holy Ghost and in nations where there’s great persecution. And then you come to America, where we’re really fairly stagnant right now. And I think a lot of that is because of the ease. So, there’s a danger. I’ve spent a lot of time drawing you into a conversation about why do the hard-core trinitarians reject the modalists and or the monotheists. But really, in some ways, I would rather deal with them. Because at least we can have a discussion where we all believe things then the squishy middle, because the squishy middle, the danger of that, we’re and we get comfortable with the squishy middle or I don’t. But many apostolics do because they’re nice to us. Does that make sense? They’re nice to us. Of course, we’re nice to them, but they’re nice to us in the sense that they might say, well, you know, you’re saved. You know, you’re fine. And, you know, I am, too, of course. And there’s really not a major difference. You know, what you believe is great, and what they believe is great. And let’s all just be in this together. Well, that’s very dangerous.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:19:32] Pulled into the idea that everybody’s just fine is the temptation.

Ryan French: [01:19:38] It is very appealing to the church in this, especially for people who want to avoid persecution at all costs. Or preserve their ease or their assets. We might could say preserve their financial gain,

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:20:01] It reminds me, where it just seems to insert itself in your discussion here, that the last days of Revelation were described to be to ease. Where they simply say, I have need of nothing. And whenever you’re in that area of time, there are always tremendous dangers. And you’re describing.

Ryan French: [01:20:26] Yeah. And I think that I do believe that’s exactly what we are seeing.

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