Saturday, May 6, 2017

Contra Mundum "Swagger" or "Solution"?: A Book Review





"If we misread the status quo, we are in danger of missing the real war and of putting too much of our energies and time into minor skirmishes." - Peter Leithart, The Kingdom and the Power
Does this book understand the "status quo", or is it too "in danger of missing the real war"?

The following video is a the book trailer to Contra Mundum Swagger-  https://youtu.be/_qvgMfoZScE


I wish "Contra Mundum Swagger" Following Christ In a Divorce Culture by Jack Shannon was a great book in calling adulterous unions to repentance so that many can be restored in Christ. This book certainly calls adulterous unions to repentance, and in chapter 3, "Your Pastor is an Orgy Referee" call outs the wolves who cater to "remarriage" and remarried congregants. This book also tells these "churches" in chapter 4 that "God Hates Your Worship", and means it. This book even calls for a revival. I agree...but. This book is not completely about restoring the Church so that many can be saved.

Proverbs 6:32,33 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.

I believe the foundation of this book an eschatological remedy to change the world so the Lord Jesus Christ can finally return. Another way to look at it is that it is a proactive response which initiates certain events in order for the the Lord Jesus Christ to return. Contra Mundum Solution: One Man's Solution So That The Lord Jesus Christ Can Return Sooner Than Later? Eschatology by definition is the theology on the final events of history. The focal point of what a person believes about the scripture pertaining to the end times is what people believe about the millennium mentioned in chapter 20 of the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The author is a "Postmillennialist" who believes that we are all currently in the 1000-year millennial period (Rev 20)  and that the Lord will only return when Christianity has conquered the world. The idea behind Postmillennialism is that the world will become a better place to live as it slowly becomes populated with, and eventually fully populated with Christians; only then will the Lord return. Fulfilling the "Great Commission" in this worldview includes taking over all churches, governments, societies, and countries.



The video trailer to this book, Contra Mundum Swagger, is an axe wielding man, who depicts Gideon, entering a prototypical Protestant church building to destroy the Baal and Asherah poles (divorce and remarriage) which have been firmly planted in these “denominations” and “congregations”. The video and book are an analogy from the book of Judges (starting in chapter 6) of how Gideon first destroyed his father’s idols before he went to battle the Midianites. We need to discern that the idols represent "divorce and remarriage", and the Midianites represent…the author believes …the “whole world.” (page 107) 

I suggest that the guy in the video should have rented a demolition ball and destroyed the whole building, leveling it to the ground. 

I was prepared to read this book with a presupposition that it was going to be a solid position on the truth that marriage redefinition began in the church, and that the moral decline of our culture is directly related to the moral decline of our churches. I hoped this book was a call for repentance from adulterous unions. While I was not disappointed in this presumption after reading this book, as it certainly calls ALL remarriages of divorce to repent. However, this book left me wondering if it was more attributed to the author’s eschatology beliefs and his theological stance then it was about making people repent of adultery. I certainly believe it is an effort to help others see the truth in Christ, but even if his motives are pure, I certainly am called to test all things.


I get the point that the book’s purpose was to expose how divorce and remarriage is the foundation of liberalism, feminism, self-identification, and the homosexual agenda. I just wish the emphasis was on the truth that marriage is the foundation of the Gospel, and that we see the perfect representation of God’s love for us through the representation of a husband’s love for his wife…or better yet, how marriage is that great mystery of Christ’s love for His bride (Eph 5:31,32) 

We know how this marriage union is the foundation of generations to come and how children need a father and a mother who obey the Lord. I wish there was more emphasis on not only how divorce has destroyed families and societies, it has also been a destructive onslaught on the lives of children. I know so many adults who are still feeling the effects of their parents’ divorce. Then no one wants to talk about the abuse of many children through step-parents, or how there is this lifetime of animosity and bitterness of divorce.  Divorce always has consequences which often last a lifetime. Therefore marriage must to be an eternal witness of Christ’s love for His bride; and the Church needs to be that witness in how a husband is to love His wife.


A major flaw concerning this book, or a misreading of the "status quo", is that it fails to consider the damage caused by the clergy/laity caste system of Catholic priesthood and papal succession, and the Protestant “Pastoral ministry”. Though the author does consider this in a slightly biased view to defend the other components of the Protestant Reformation, he cannot deny that while the Protestant Reformation was necessary in exposing the evils of Catholicism, the Protestants still clung to some of those evils; they just altered the names. (Priest became “Pastor”, is one such example) In fact, the divorce culture is certainly a “Protestant” invention on how they dogmatically cling to the tenets of the “Westminster Confession of Faith”.  If redefining marriage became a norm after the Protestant Reformation, it certainly had its roots well planted shortly after the last apostle’s earthly bodies were buried in the tombs.


The early church began with the apostles who appointed elders and bishops under certain qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) who were the examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:1-3) and never were they “hired” after taking four years of classes from an "pastoral" approved seminary.  Also, the early church met in homes and broke bread together, there was no specific buildings of worship which required overhead costs. Monologue sermons were not a part of the “order of worship”, and vestments, ordination, and titles were all pagan traditions which slipped in the body...you can include tithing in this as well. Instead of the Holy Spirit guiding the gathering of believers with gifts necessary for exhortation, encouragement, and edification, many “laity” have become passive pew sitters hanging on every word of their hireling preacher. 


You can’t tell me that the Protestant clergy/laity caste system is not directly responsible for marriage redefinition. If this is true, then does not the wrecking ball make a better weapon since the Baal idols and Asherah poles are the concrete of a clergy/laity caste system which supplanted the foundation of the early church?  

The point I am making is that the Medieval Roman Catholic Church was the high-point of anything close to what we see as the “church” becoming a world leader. If you know anything about history, the RCC at this time period was the most corrupt and evil institution in the world.  If the author seeks to see a world run by “Christians” including the current clergy/laity caste system, what makes you think this post-millennial “kingdom now” theory would be any better then what the RCC did in the dark days?


One such ministry makes this point:
"Every time the Church has sought political power, it has ended up being corrupted by the political system. This happened when the Church was wed with the Roman Empire, leading to the spiritual darkness of the Middle Ages." -Dr. David R. Reagan

It must be clear that the true church and body of Christ are “inside” these congregations and denominations of the clergy/laity system. In fact, some of these denomination and congregations are the body of Christ and they just don’t know it yet. Perhaps this is where this book, and what I believe come together. While I believe that wrecking balls are needed, the axe is a good start because it will lead to the Holy Spirit’s movement to what is truly needed…repentance from the sin of adultery so that souls can be saved. (1 Cor 6:9,19; Heb 13:4)


These leads me to understanding the foundation of the book and the author’s worldview asking the question “why write this book now?”. This is made clear throughout the book and culminates at near the end of the book. In the last chapter, “Beauty Will Save The World”, we see the author’s eschatology, as in how he views the history of the world as we know it and especially what he believes about the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is my understanding that the Lord Jesus Christ will return to make all things new and that there will be a period of tribulation prior to His return and His 1000 year reign.
Lord knows I have tried to focus on the here and now, and the Lord makes it clear that we are not to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34) and that we are to focus on the prize (Phil 3:14) and that we are to run the race (Heb 12:1) and that we are to store our treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19,20). But the Lord also answers questions from his disciples about the times of the end. (Matthew 24) It is clear to my understanding that before the Lord Jesus Christ returns, there will be apostasy and a falling away just as in the times of Noah (Matthew 24:37),  and Paul also tells us about the "last days" in 2 Timothy. (2 Timothy 3:1-7)
According to this author, he believes that we are on the “precipice of another reformation”. Is this an eschatological treatise and the foundation of why he wrote the book? He writes:


“There are two aspects that I believe will be present in this reformation. I believe it will be a refinement and assimilation of the Pentecostal movement into every area of Church. I have not mentioned this aspect in this book, because this is not the focus, but I believe it is important to mention because the Holy Spirit’s gifts are necessary for the kind of warfare we will be entering into.” -page 146  Contra Mundum Swagger


We need to be Bereans here. (Acts 17:11)  If this book is about reforming the inside of the Church by destroying the Baal and Asherah poles within the walls, then there must be a doctrinal view behind this book? In this case, there is a specific eschatological view behind this book. What is the thought behind believing that there will be a refinement and assimilation of the Pentecostal movement if this is not the focus? 

The obvious doctrinal foundation of the author is what he believes about what his book intends to accomplish. You do not write a book without first making it clear why you are writing a book, and making it clear that your foundation behind the book is to make a point. In this case, the author does not want to be specific in why he believes that one aspect of this new reformation includes “a refinement and assimilation of the Pentecostal movement", yet it is clear that this is one aspect of his foundation for writing the book.

I believe we are already in spiritual warfare and this is clearly detailed in scripture. (Eph 6) The author makes this point in his chapter “New Covenant Violence”.  In fact, marriage was under attack AFTER Adam and Eve became one flesh. The truth is the Holy Spirit is discarded, ignored, and quenched in the clergy/laity system and that the gifts given by the Holy Spirit are not being used, and when they are being used, the clergy part of the system does everything its power to quench them.

Show me one verse in scripture where the Holy Spirit calls a person into “pastoral” ministry and to take courses in seminary and bible colleges so that he or she can be hired by a local congregation? I would argue that Gnostic thoughts of intellectual knowledge trumping moral character began with Augustine, and were refined by Thomas Aquinas. The author wants us to believe that the men (Instone-Brewer and Keener are mentioned in the book. I have corresponded to both men and called them to repent!) who write books defending divorce and remarriage are fellow believers. Really? How can someone defending sin be a believer?


I am not entirely sold on the idea that "Pentecostalism" is the answer to a “new reformation” as much of this movement is centered on “experience” rather than the word of God. This reliance in experience has often denied the word of God. For instance, when was the last time you heard a Pentecostal tell you that God gifted him or her with the gift of “interpreting” tongues?  I know far too many who will tell you they can speak in tongues, and have no qualms in making a point that they can speak in tongues. It’s as if they do so with prideful arrogance...and if you do not, you must not be saved. Really? 


It is also a point to note that nearly every Pentecostal denomination is a clergy/laity caste system which freely divorces and remarries. In fact, I know one such “tongue gifted” Pentecostal Pastor who defended his own daughter’s adulterous union with "exceptions of experience” rather than the word of God. “You mean to tell me that my daughter must remain unmarried the rest of her life?”

The Lord said that 300 men was sufficient for Gideon to destroy the Midianites, did He not? Who fights our battles, us, or God? There is great teaching  and sermons on God fighting battles to save us from our troubles...yet, there is little said about how God fights battles to save souls...even in the most hopeless of marriages.  
Since I have acquaintance with the author, I asked him a few questions as I was interested in his worldview, and his eschatology:

"Also, you believe that this second reformation will be repentance from adulterous unions. So, do believe this will coincide with Christ’s return?"

“Not really, but I wouldn't dogmatically deny this since nobody knows the day or the hour. However, I pretty strongly believe that Christ is not going to return any time soon. All throughout Church history there have always been people freaking out about the return of Christ and it never happens. I don't think we are any different. I think it's more likely that Christ will return in 10,000 years as opposed to returning in 2 years. We could still be in the early church era. Who knows? I'm a postmillennialist and I believe the world will be conquered by Christianity before Christ returns. I believe the Great Commission will actually be successful and then Christ will return and the resurrection of the dead will occur and Christ will then destroy death. "For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death." (1 Corinthians 15:25-26)-Jack Shannon


These comments answer the question “why” he wrote the book. The author believes the Lord Jesus Christ will return after the thousand-year kingdom, and in this case, the author believes that kingdom is 10,000 years or more. Thus, he believes that there will be reformation which will continue to make the church a factor in years to come. He believes a big part of this is the Church will repent of divorce and remarriage. Yet, and big YET, he believes that “divorce” is still an option in the “traditional view” …more on this later.
“All throughout Church history there have always been people freaking out about the return of Christ and it never happens.”
“Freaking out” or joyfully expecting His return? It “never happens” is not the same that it will happen since no man knows the day or the hour. What is a thousand years to an eternal God, and what will the last 2000 years be for eternity? What about our own lives? But a wisp or a vapor...Yet he believes it will be 10,000 years from now when the “millennial” reign is a literal 1000-year reign? Well, a thousand years has come and gone since the Lord ascended into heaven.    


“I'm a postmillennialist and I believe the world will be conquered by Christianity before Christ returns.”

Is this what the Lord Jesus Christ taught? What about Matthew 24, 2 Thessalonians, and the entirety of the book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ? The Bible does not favor the postmillennial view since Christ Himself that things will go bad, very bad, not that the Church will have dominion over the world. What about the fact that the book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ was written after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 AD? This is important to note since many post-millennial's believe the 1000 reign stated after Temple's destruction in 70 AD.  

Matthew 24:36-39  But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
 
2 Timothy 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good.  Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

“I believe the Great Commission will actually be successful and then Christ will return and the resurrection of the dead will occur and Christ will then destroy death. "For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death." (1 Corinthians 15:25-26)”

The verses Jack uses are out of context without verse 24…
1 Cor 15: 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
The Lord Jesus Christ will put everything in its proper order. It is not the responsibility of the Church to set up an earthy kingdom, we are called to preach the Gospel to all the nations and make disciples.
Acts 1: 6-7 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

Acts 3:19-21 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

The Lord Jesus Christ is coming at an appointed time and it is NOT after the Church puts the enemies under foot. Nowhere does it say in the Bible that the Great Commission is the responsibility of the Church to render the world under its feet so that Christ can return. It is twisting scripture to adhere to postmillennial and “Kingdom Now” theology which stands to place all restoration in the hands of men, and not on the Lord Jesus Christ. 

It very clear to me that this book’s foundation is some form of Dominion Theology and in some sort of “Kingdom Now” form. Is this dangerous theology? Just look at the dark ages when the “Church” ruled. This Dominion Theology puts the axe in the hand of the church and those who do not assimilate will be made to assimilate. It will not only be idols that fall by the axe, it will be heads if need be. This Dominion Theology is really making headway in many churches and is more a rise to a "one world order" then "one world church". Be Bereans; discern the times for the days are evil.  

 Now that we know the theology behind the book, we can see another problem with this book which is directly related to the understanding of marriage, divorce and remarriage. The following are the two views in question. The author lists eight views, but he believes the correct view is the "traditional view". I will compare this to what I believe the Bible says is the correct view in Matthew’s betrothal view. 


The Patristic view (or traditional) view-One may divorce in cases of sexual immorality (especially unrepentant sexual immorality) but cannot remarry.
The betrothal view-One may divorce for sexual immorality during the betrothal period and remarry. -page 21

A problem I have with this is that the traditional view clumps “adultery” with the term “sexual immorality” and the betrothal view does not. The betrothal view is specific to Jewish marriage customs that a wife was a virgin the entire length of the betrothal period. So, the correct word for “sexual immorality” is “fornication” if she was not a virgin on the consummation of the wedding day. Regardless, this betrothal view does not apply today since Christ fulfilled the law, even the law of marriage as forever being as it was in the beginning.  

In both chapter 1 "Your Church is a Brothel" and chapter 2 "The Devil is in the Doctrine" of his book the author seems to believe that the “traditional view” was evident in the writings of the early church writers. I disagree, since the majority of quotes he gives in the book could also be an argument that the betrothal view was a consideration and that to conclude on whether they were one or the other is important to note. The quotes are directly related to either the traditional view or both the traditional view and the betrothal view since both believe that the marriage can only end in death. The difference is the betrothal view does not allow for divorce while the traditional view assumes that the divorce does not end the marriage covenant. 


Justin Martyr (c. AD 150):

“Whoever shall marry her that is divorced from another husband commits adultery: So that all who, by human law, are twice married, are in the eyes of our Master sinners, and those who look upon a woman lust after her.” 


This quote is applicable to both the traditional view and the betrothal view. The reason it is applicable to the betrothal view, is that the betrothal view is no longer applicable today, and that marriage can ONLY end in death. Thus, it is presumed that a divorce is no longer applicable in the New Testament and that  all “remarriages” are adulterous unions. 

I believe there is a very wide divide if a person believes that divorce is permitted because of adultery, as opposed to a divorce is not permitted in any case. The traditional view defends divorce and the betrothal view does not. Even though on the surface it appears that both views defend marriage, I believe the traditional view opens doors to what we have today. If that is the case, then returning to the traditional view today would still allow a spouse to divorce for a lustful glance. (Matthew 5:27-28)

On pages 20 and 21 the author actually makes a case that the betrothal view is true in that the betrothal view prohibits divorce and remarriage. Well if both the Lord and Paul prohibit divorce (which I believe is the foundation of what they believe about marriage), then it is a given that a “remarriage” would be an adulterous union since the divorce does not end the one-flesh covenant marriage.  He writes:


 “The clear teachings on divorce and remarriage (Matthew 5, Mark 10, Luke 16, 1 Corinthians 7, and Romans 7) prohibits DIVORCE (my emphasis) and remarriage in all situations and define subsequent marriages as adultery when the former spouse is alive.” -pages 20 and 21 Contra Mundum Swagger


Paraphrasing this is that both the Lord and Paul are telling us that a divorce decree does end the marriage bond. Divorce was a process under the law of Moses which was specific to a nation which proved time and time to be hardhearted. The Lord fulfilled the law and thus make it clear that post-resurrection marriages are as they were in the beginning. In fact, the divorce process under Moses protected women and was only allowed for “uncleanness”. Regardless, the Pharisees were told that Genesis 2:24 is the foundation of marriage, not Deut 24. Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9 are the foundational verses of marriage definition…PERIOD! Paul understands this clearly because his foundational verses on the matter are 1 Cor 7:10,11

If divorce is prohibited then there is no room to “remarry”. In fact, there are no such words as “remarriage”, “ex-spouse”, “step-parent”, or “blended-families”, because the definition of remarriage is “adultery”. Also, if divorce is still permitted with the "traditional view" and according to the author’s eschatological position believing that the Lord will return when all things are made new by the Church, how can the Lord return? Would the Lord Jesus Christ return if a “Christian” husband and wife are hard-hearted enough to divorce each other? It is obvious that the “divorce” was in the case of “sexual immorality”, right? So how can the Lord return if there is divorced couples?!?!? 

In conclusion, while this book makes a clear call for a return to the spirit of Ezra and the dissolving of adulterous unions the Lord calls “adultery”, the foundation of this book is clearly an “overcomers” attempt to issue in the 1000-year millennial reign of Christ. Is this a concern? I believe it is. The Dominion Theology, in whatever form, puts the emphasis on us to change the world. I will say that the Lord has written the law on the hearts of every man, and that Romans 1 make it clear that no one is without excuse. The danger of the Dominion Theology is that it is a perfect recipe for a one world order and one world religion and a perfect foundation to issue in the coming of the antichrist of the Premillennial position.   

While I am not a cessationalist in any sense of the word, I do believe that many of the “spirits” we see today are not of God. Every believer is called to test the spirits, and when I read this book it became too clear to me that it was not just about a nation, laity, and clergy repenting of divorce and remarriage, it is about an agenda to create a new earth before the Lord returns.

So according to what I believe, I would be considered an enemy of postmilliennial thinking and part of the problem, not part of the solution. So what is required of me should I not assimilate to the "traditional view" and the idea that the Church must be perfect in order to have the Lord return? Would I be "forced" to assimilate?
Call it postmillennialism, dominionism, Latter Rain movement, Joel’s Army, reconstructionism, or Kingdom Now theology or whatever you want to call it, I call it false teaching and a dangerous theology based on good works and not on the finished work of Christ. I too love the Lord and I love His people, therefore it is my duty to protect His people from an agenda of deception.  


Both sin and death were defeated at the cross of Calvary, and the enemy of our souls is already crushed by the King of kings, and Lord of lords. We have eternal life through His resurrection, and until He returns or we fall asleep, we will not see the full power of His glory until He comes again. We are to proclaim this truth until He returns to make all things new. I pray the author considers the implications of his book and how this book is deceptive to those who are new in Christ. We are the body of Christ waiting for the return of the Head, and until then we proclaim the truth that marriage is one man and one woman for life…until then, we will be persecuted. (Rev 12:10-12)


2 Timothy 4:1-5 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

 

In Christ's love,

Neil