These are very brief summary statements of our positions on various Bible issues and related current socio-cultural issues. These brief statements are in no way intended to be a full presentation, explanation, or defense of these positions. Rather, they are simply a definition of where we stand on these matters. A more complete explanation of these issues is a separate and much larger work, still in progress. It is hoped that this brief work will clearly state our position on these issues. Agreement with these positions is not a requirement for membership at Berea. Those who teach or hold positions of leadership are expected to teach in a manner that is consistent with these positions. Agreement with our statement of faith which addresses the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the Trinity, the virgin birth, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the fall of man and its consequences, and salvation by grace through faith, and the church is essential and is a requirement for membership.
Though these positions are the result of years of study and a great deal of reflection upon the best wording it is possible, even expected, that the wording of these positions may be adjusted from time to time to better align with the declarations of Scripture. It is not enough to say, “I don’t agree with that!”. The matter must always be “For what saith the Scripture” (Rom 4:3). It is hoped that readers will bring any statement they believe to be not in line with the Word of God to the attention of the elders of Berea along with the passages that relate to any differences.
The Bible, in it's original autographs, was inspired by God in such a way that the authors wrote exactly what God wanted them to write. This writing was not merely mechanical dictation, but God prepared the men who wrote in such a way that their different backgrounds and personalities communicated the very words that God intended for our exhortation and edification. God has seen to it that Scripture has been preserved so that we have, in essence, the very Word of God. Textual variations do exist among the thousands of Greek manuscripts in existence, but textual comparison has reduced these differences to negligible significance. The Bible is to be interpreted in a literal, contextual, grammatical, and historical manner. Consistent understanding of the Word of God demands that one's theological position must be consistent with the entire Word of God and be able to reconcile any apparent difficulties. It is inconsistent with a high view of Scripture to ignore those passages which do not fit one's theological perspective.
Words are inadequate to describe the relationship between the three persons of the Godhead — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A paradox seems to exist in any attempted explanation of the fact that the three are one, yet they are separate. Scripture clearly teaches that all three persons are eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, holy, and immutable. All three persons are spoken of as having had an active part in creation and in our salvation. While we may be at a loss to understand or fully explain the fact of the Trinity, we must accept it and teach it as a Scriptural doctrine.
The Nature of Jesus
Jesus is eternal God, coequal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. By His virgin birth, Jesus took upon Himself full humanity and became the God-Man. He was always fully God; He became fully man at His incarnation. He lived a sinless life and laid down His life on Calvary. Though the Jews called for his death and the Romans carried out the crucifixion, Jesus died by an act of His will, laying down his life as full atonement for the sins of all who believe on Him. After three days, Jesus rose from the grave in a literal physical body. While others had been raised from the grave to return to their normal physical bodies, Jesus possessed a physical body that was in a glorified state, therefore He is the first begotten of the dead.
Man was originally created in a state of innocence in the midst of a perfect environment, the Garden of Eden. God created a suitable helpmeet for man, and together the man and the woman were instructed to dress and keep the garden, to rule over the animals, and to multiply and replenish the earth. There was only one tree in the garden from which man was not to eat. The woman was deceived, but the man wilfully chose to disobey God and to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. At that point both the man and the woman died spiritually and began to die physically. God gave to Adam and Eve coats of skins indicating that animals had died as a sacrifice in their place. Since that time, every child conceived by a man and woman has been born under the curse of sin. None are righteous.
A person is saved on the basis of the shed blood of Jesus Christ and his faith in the personal application of that Sacrifice. Although works will follow a genuine conversion experience, works have nothing to do with a person's position and standing before God. Justification is apart from works and nothing that a person could ever do could cause him to be worthy of the matchless grace demonstrated at Calvary. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. To experience the application of this grace a person must trust Christ as his personal Savior. A good way to do so is to call upon the Lord in what has been commonly termed the "sinner's prayer"; "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner...". The saved are eternally secure in Christ on the basis of their one time act of faith in the full sufficiency of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as payment for their sin and complete provision for imputed righteousness. This does not give them a license to live any way they wish, but it does make their salvation based on the death of Christ rather than their own merit. Believers who sin will be chastened by the Lord. If a person lives in habitual sin and experiences no chastening by the Lord, it may be a good indication that they have never been saved.
Israel and The Church
In His first promises to Abraham, God chose a "covenant people" separate from all other nations of the earth. It was to this nation that all of the covenants since Abraham were given. Jesus came to "His own," but the Jewish nation did not receive Him as their Messiah. As a result of their rejection, Israel has been judged by God and scattered among the nations of the world. Yet, the unconditional promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and the people of Israel will one day be fulfilled in a literal manner. The Jews will one day mourn over the One whom they pierced and will be gathered back to the promised land. The temporary partial blindness will be removed and all Israel shall be saved. The Church participates in the blessings and salvation provided by the New Covenant but remains distinct from the nation of Israel and does not inherit the physical blessings associated with being the physical seed of Abraham. At no point in Scripture are Gentile (non-Jewish) believers ever called "Israelites" and at no point are the physical promises of the Jewish covenants ever applied to the church.
The New Covenant
The New Covenant was promised to the nation of Israel as recorded by Jeremiah. Although the New Covenant was ratified by the death of Jesus on the cross, it has not yet been realized. The New Covenant will restore the nation of Israel to the place of covenant blessing with the result that "all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins" (Romans 11:26-27). The writer of Hebrews confirms that this covenant is between God and Israel with clear statements in Hebrews 8:8,10. There is no Biblical indication that there is any covenant with the church, whatsoever. Believers partake of the benefits of the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus as far as both temporal and eternal blessings are concerned, but Church age saints are nowhere said to be party to the New Covenant.
Angels, Elect and Evil
Angels were originally created in a state of unconfirmed creature holiness. Lucifer was the anointed cherub and apparently the highest of all created beings. Lucifer's heart was lifted up with pride and he rebelled against the Most High. In this rebellion, a great host of angelic spirit beings joined him and together all of the rebels fell from their former state of holiness. The majority of angelic beings remained true to Jehovah God, and at the present time some serve as ministering spirits to believers in this age. At different times throughout Scripture, angels have appeared as men to deliver messages from God. Today God speaks directly through his written word — the Bible. Any supposed "angelic messages" are to be tested by the written Word of God. Leadings or promptings believed to be from the Holy Spirit are to be likewise tested by the written Word of God.
The church must be understood in two senses. The universal church, sometimes called the invisible church, consists of all believers in this present age. This body, once completed, will be joined with Christ as His bride. While it has not yet "assembled" there are no grounds to deny it's existence on the basis of semantics in light of clear Scriptural teaching on the matter. The local church is the method which was ordained by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve in fulfilling the specifics of the commission given in Matthew chapter twenty eight and Acts chapter one. A local church assembles for exhortation and edification and scatters for evangelism — individual believers sharing their faith with all who are touched by their life and witness.
Approaching Scripture from a literal contextual grammatical historical point of view, the only possible conclusion is that the millennium is yet future. The literal thousand year reign of Christ upon the earth will be preceded by the rapture for the church and seven years of tribulation, in that order. God will resume His direct dealings with the nation of Israel during the time of "Jacob's Trouble" with the result that "all Israel shall be saved". While the events of recent days seem to indicate that the rapture cannot be far away it must at the same time be recognized that Scripture teaches that the rapture is imminent; that is it can occur and could have occurred at any time since the Lord's ascension. There are no prophecies which remain to be fulfilled; nor have there been any since the completion of the New Testament which can not and could not have been fulfilled between the rapture and the second coming of Jesus to the earth.
The Eternal State
Men are, by virtue of birth and nature, immortal. Once conceived, the immaterial part of man will live consciously for the rest of eternity. The saints of all ages (those who have been justified by faith) will spend eternity in the New Heaven and the New Earth in glorified bodies in a state of everlasting conscious blessedness. The wicked of all ages (those not justified by faith) will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire in resurrected physical bodies in a state of everlasting conscious torment. The Scriptures plainly deny the possibility of either a "second chance" after death or a universal salvation of all men — some will be saved and some will be lost.
The Role of Women In Ministry
The New Testament is clear that women do indeed serve an important role in the Church. Yet, this role does not include serving as "deacons" or "pastors, elders, or bishops". Paul is clear that a woman is not to serve in any capacity that would place her in authority over a man or that would place her in a position of teaching the Word of God to men. In the church, women are equal to men as far as their value and worth are concerned; they are not equal in their function. Neither are men equal to women as far as function is concerned. The specific teaching and training of "young women" is a responsibility given to the "aged women", not to any man. The currently popular practice of ordaining women as deacons or pastors, or placing women in any kind of position of leadership over men, is contrary to the clear commands of Scripture.
From the beginning of creation, God has designed that sexual relations are limited to the relationship between a man and his wife. This was to be a lifetime relationship between one man and one woman. Even before the giving of the Mosaic Law to the nation of Israel, God held mankind responsible for violating the basic moral law of God written in the conscience of all men. This is indicated by the fact that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by the Lord for their open and blatant immorality. In spite of current social and cultural trends in society, homosexuality is not an alternative lifestyle, it is sin. Further, any heterosexual activity outside of the marriage relationship is likewise sin, regardless of the fact that this has become quite common in modern society. While the church has a responsibility to preach the gospel to every creature and to make known the grace and forgiveness of God, the Church must not tolerate immorality among either its members or its leaders. The authority of the Church is limited to its members. It is to be expected, and even desired, that some would visit and perhaps even attend for a time who either are not believers or have not submitted to the Lordship of Christ in their lives. It would be inappropriate to accept anyone into membership who is living in a manner that would make them liable to church discipline.
Believers are to be separated from that which is sinful. Believers are to withdraw fellowship from a "brother" who continues in openly sinful behavior. Believers are also commanded to withdraw from brothers who are divisive. We are not to withdraw from all relationships with unbelievers who continually practice openly sinful behavior. Rather, we are to live righteously in the world and keep ourselves from the evil — in the world, but not of the world. The notion that believers are required to abstain from all behavior that someone else might interpret as wrong is in direct contradiction to the practice of Jesus, the Apostles, and the clear teaching of Paul regarding the eating of meat sacrificed to idols. Jesus and his disciples frequently violated the "rules of behavior" set by the religious leaders of their day and were judged to be sinners by these same religious leaders.. Yet clearly, Jesus never sinned. It was "an appearance of evil" to heal on the Sabbath day, yet Jesus healed on the Sabbath. The Apostles continued to preach even though forbidden to do so by the authorities of the day. Paul acknowledged the freedom to eat meat offered to idols, but encouraged charity in the exercise of their freedom. To suggest that the "appearance of evil" is to be applied to that which is not in full reality sinful or evil , is to practice an inconsistent form of "proof texting" that is out of balance with the rest of Scripture.
The consistent pattern in the New Testament is a plurality of godly men who lead the church under the oversight of the Lord Jesus who purchased the church with His own blood. Leadership by one gifted leader to the exclusion of others who provide mutual accountability is strikingly absent from the pages of Scripture. On the contrary, we never read of "the elder", "the bishop", or "the pastor" of the church at Ephesus, Philipi, etc. We always read of a plurality of leaders in all local churches. The apostles "ordained elders in every church" and Titus was instructed to "ordain elders in every city". The modern practice of "one Pastor" who is over the church and is often vested with "final authority" in the decision making process finds no support in the pages of God's Word. Nor is there any support in the Word of God for congregational rule or rule by a group of men who are elected on the basis of popularity, financial, or social standing in the community. Elders are to be men of integrity who's lives reflect a thorough understanding of the Word of God, a firm commitment to live and minister according to its teachings, and a desire and ability to teach the Word to others. This requirement that these be apt to teach relates to the fact that those who lead the church must understand the Word well enough to effectively teach it to others.
Cessation of The Sign Gifts
The miracles of Jesus and the Apostles validated the truth of their ministry. Specifically, the miracles of Jesus were a very clear demonstration that He was the promised Messiah and the God-Man. Jesus promised that the Apostles would continue the miracles that were characteristic of both His and their pre-cross ministry. Near the completion of the New Testament, miracles became less frequent and then ceased. Paul was not healed of his thorn in the flesh. Timothy was not healed of his stomach problems. Trophimus was left at Miletum sick. Paul was not able to heal Epaphroditus at will, rather, God had mercy. God sometimes chooses to heal today in response to the prayers of the saints, but the "gift of healing" was for the apostolic period and ceased even before the completion of the New Testament canon. Tongues were an initial evidence of the "baptism" of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, 10, and 19; yet, there is no evidence that the gift of tongues continued to be active or even present in any church except the carnal Corinthian assembly. Paul clearly downplayed the gift of tongues and set strict limitations on the practice. The gift of tongues was not to be exercised in the assembly unless an interpreter was present. The speakers were to speak one at a time and no more than two or three could speak. Women were not to speak in tongues in the assembly (1Cor 14:27-40). It is our position that the valid exercise of tongues and the other sign gifts ceased with the completion of the New Testament. While sincere believers may be involved in the modern charismatic revival — the Third Wave, they are deluded as to the origin of the events apparently taking place in their midst.
The Ten Commandments and the Sabbath
The Ten Commandments are an integral part of the Mosaic Law that was given to the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai after their exodus from Egypt. The Mosaic Law was never given to the Gentiles and it was never affirmed for the Church. On the contrary, the Mosaic Law has been done away and nailed to the cross. Specifically, the "ministration of death" and "condemnation" "written and engraven in stones" is "done away" (2Cor 3:6-11). Therefore, we are to let no man judge us "in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days" (Col 2:16). The Sabbath was never given to the Gentiles or the Church, it was a sign between God and Israel (Exod 31:13-17). Even at that, the Sabbath was commanded as a day of rest, not a day of worship or assembly. The Word of God plainly declares that the Sabbath was a perpetual covenant between God and Israel to be kept throughout their generations. After His resurrection, the Lord Jesus met with the disciples on several occasions on the first day of the week. Paul commands that offerings be laid aside on the first day of the week. By the time John wrote Revelation, the church had begun to refer to the first day of the week as "the Lord's Day". It is poor hermeneutics to take the principles of Sabbath observance and transfer them to the Church and to the observance of the Lord's Day.
Water baptism symbolizes our personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and identifies us with His death, burial, and resurrection. It is always by immersion and always an outward expression of our inward faith in the Lord Jesus. There is no Biblical support for "sprinkling". There is no Biblical support for "infant baptism". On the contrary, the New Testament is consistent in that there is never any evidence that anyone other than a person who has exercised personal faith in the Lord Jesus was baptized. The idea that water baptism is somehow a symbol of the New Covenant is without Biblical support. Believer's baptism is a picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Water baptism pictures our salvation and identifies us with the Lord Jesus Christ in a public manner.
No matter how many dispensations are preferred, it is clear that God has dealt differently with mankind at various points in the history of the earth. Adam was told to eat only fruits, nuts, and vegetables. After the flood, Noah was told to eat meat ("every living thing that moveth" - Gen 9:3). Under the Mosaic Law, certain kinds of animals were defined as unclean and the Jews were forbidden to eat them. The Jews were told to approach God with an animal sacrifice. Believers today approach God on the basis of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. All of these distinctions clearly indicate that God's manner of dealing with mankind, and mankind's responsibilities toward God have undergone some significant transitions throughout history. Dispensationalism is basically a recognition of the fact that God's requirements and man's responsibilities have changed through the ages. Conservative dispensationalists would argue that salvation has been by grace through faith in all ages and that the shedding of blood has always been required for salvation. While faith has always been required, the content of the faith has varied at different points throughout Scripture. The Old Testament saints did not understand the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus Christ and to suggest that they were saved on the basis of their faith in His coming death is to clearly go beyond the written Word of God. Even the eleven disciples failed to understand the significance of the crucifixion till some time afterward. It has been suggested that anyone who trusts in the death of the Lord Jesus rather than an animal sacrifice and who fails to observe Old Testament distinctions between clean and unclean animals is, in reality, a dispensationalist.
God has established covenants at various points in His dealings with men. The Noahic covenant was God's unconditional promise to never again destroy the earth with a flood. It is with all mankind, all creatures, and the earth. It is perpetual and unending. The symbol of the Noahic covenant is the rainbow. The Abrahamic covenant was a covenant between God and Abraham. The Abrahamic covenant is unconditional and unending. Though the covenant was ratified in Genesis 15, the full provisions of the covenant have not been fulfilled in that Israel has not yet received and retained all the promised land as an everlasting possession. The Noahic and the Abrahamic covenants are unilateral in that God's promises are not contingent upon man's obedience. The Mosaic Covenant was a bilateral or conditional covenant between God and Israel. In spite of repeated national pledges to keep the Mosaic law, it was broken many times. The Mosaic Covenant was done away when Jesus died on the cross. The Land Covenant (sometimes called the Palestinian covenant) was given in Moab and was in addition to the Mosiac Covenant. It provides for the return of the Jews to the land from which they have been driven and their national restoration as the people of God. This was also an unconditional covenant in that even though God foretells their rebellion and judgement, He still promises to gather the Jews back to the land and back to the place of blessing. The New Covenant is addressed separately. It is also important to mention at this point that although the Bible speaks often of works, grace, and redemption, at no point is there ever any reference to covenants of works, grace, or redemption. This interpretive scheme is imposed onto Scripture and while it may be helpful at points, its overall effect is damaging to the clear understanding of Scripture. This is true in that many literal promises to Abraham and his progeny must be allegorized and applied to the Church in order to uphold the interpretive assertions of Covenant Theology.
Sanctity of Human Life
Life begins at the moment of conception. Abortion kills a living human being. A fetus is a living human embryo, not simply a mass of tissue or a "product of conception." Believers should oppose this dreadful practice as fully and completely as possible, short of using violence. Scripture also teaches that the aged have much to teach the younger generation. Even when their mental capacities have failed, senior citizens have intrinsic worth and value as human beings. Euthanasia is directly opposed to the high value placed on human life by God. Withholding food and water from an individual who is capable of sustaining life is a particularly cruel form of murder. However, this position does not require that all modern means available be used to prolong a death that is inevitable apart from extensive artificial efforts to sustain basic bodily functions. Suicide, whether assisted or solo, is self-murder and therefore in direct opposition to the teachings and principles of the Word of God.
Jesus clearly taught that an offended brother has the responsibility to approach the offender to seek reconciliation and restoration. In the event that this attempt fails, the offended is instructed to take one or two others as witnesses in a second attempt to seek resolution to the conflict. In the event that the offender refuses to heed the admonition of the others as well, the matter is to be taken before the church assembly. The fact that this may prove to be uncomfortable for some is less significant than the continued presence of unresolved conflict within the body of Christ, the church. An accusation against an elder is not to be received without two or more witnesses. An elder that has been found guilty of serious sin is to be publicly rebuked according to clear words of the Apostle Paul. Again, this is not a matter of what is comfortable for the local church; rather, this is a matter of obedience to clear instruction from the Word of God.
Marriage, Divorce, & Remarriage
God's original plan and clear pattern was for one man to be married to one woman for one lifetime. Polygamy was never sanctioned by God, but neither did He forbid the practice. The Mosaic Law provided for divorce as a result of sexual sin. Jesus clarified that this was a deviation from God's divine plan due to the hardness of human hearts. Paul allowed a believer to be divorced from an unbeliever if the unbeliever sought release from the marriage bond. When a divorce was obtained under these conditions, remarriage was also allowed since a divorce ends a marriage. Under Mosaic Law, it was forbidden to return to a former spouse after having been married to someone else. Neither the Lord Jesus, nor Paul comment on this provision in the Mosaic Law. It is clear from all passages that the death of one spouse ends the marriage and a widow(er) is free to marry again. Paul even encourages the younger widows to remarry. In a situation where a divorce has taken place apart from these allowable exceptions, the question of whether reconciliation is possible must also be considered. If a divorce was not allowed and reconciliation is possible it must be sought. If reconciliation is no longer possible because one of the spouses has remarried, there seems to be some leeway for the other spouse to remarry, even though the divorce may not have been for one of the specified exceptions.
The principle of being good stewards of that with which God has entrusted us argues for good management of all of our resources — personal, natural and environmental. Yet, it is also clear that one day this earth will be destroyed by fire and God will create a new heaven and a new earth. The earth is not our mother and we are not her children. Humans are either the children of God or the children of the devil. In neither case does the survival of the human race depend upon our management of global resources. Much of modern environmental science is founded on the faulty presupposition that mankind is the product of an evolutionary process and we are therefore children of our planet. This concept stands in direct opposition to clear declarations of Scripture.
"Lordship salvation" is the teaching that a person must accept Christ as Lord and Master of all areas of their life in order to receive salvation. Lordship salvation insists that a person who does not initially submit to the Lordship of Jesus has not made a personal commitment to the Lord and is therefore not converted. It is our position that while Scripture clearly calls upon believers to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives as a matter of personal surrender and full service to Him, unbelievers are incapable of understanding or making such a commitment. Their sole responsibility before God is to acknowledge their sinfulness and their total inability to approach God except on the basis of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and to trust His death as sufficient to provide eternal salvation. Paul's exhortation to the believers in Rome that they present themselves as "living sacrifice(s)... not conformed to this world... but transformed by the renewing of (their) mind" (Rom 12:1-2) clearly indicates that these brethren had not yet fully submitted to the Lordship of Christ. Salvation is not a situation where we offer "all that we are for all that Christ is" or where we fully surrender our will to the will of Christ. Salvation is a free gift that is accepted by faith. We have nothing to offer God. God is not somehow completed by our surrender. God calls believers to submit to Him and to live a life that is pleasing to Him, but this is not a condition for salvation, it is a condition for discipleship and reasonable service.
Repentance, as a condition for salvation, is not a turning from sin or a grief and sorrow over sin. These elements are present in passages that speak of a believer repenting, but never present in passages which speak of an unbeliever repenting and trusting Christ. The word that is always used in passages relating to saving faith means to change the mind. Unbelievers must change their mind and recognize that they are sinners and totally without the capacity to do anything to save themselves. They must turn from reliance on self-effort and fully trust in the sufficiency of the death of Jesus on the cross. They could not turn from sin, it is both within and without. Some people are joyful at learning of God's grace in providing salvation. If repentance for salvation required an overwhelming sorrow over sin, one would have to say that a person who was focused on the grace and mercy of God at the moment of salvation was therefore not saved. Some may experience a deep conviction of sin, but this is not what saves them. Salvation comes as a result of their faith in the total sufficiency of Christ's death on the cross.
Under the Mosiac Law, the Israelites were commanded to pay tithes at various times throughout the year. The various tithes together add up to about 30 percent, not 10 percent. The tithes of Israel supported the ministry of the priesthood, the government of the day. The tithes commanded to Israel were in reality a form of taxation. The church is nowhere instructed to pay tithes, as such. Paul tells the Corinthian assembly to give regularly, proportionally, and sacrificially (1Cor 16:1-2; 2Cor 8:1-5). This giving is to flow from their personal commitment to the Lord and is to be motivated by their love for the Lord Jesus and desire to promote the spread of the gospel. Giving under grace should not be motivated by a fear that "if I don't give it willingly, God will take it anyway". Nor should we give to the Lord with expectation of getting more back than we give. This "seed faith" tithing is popular in some groups, but does not find support in the Word of God. All giving should be done with full understanding that everything we have is from the Lord and it is He who has given us the ability to work and acquire wealth. While recognizing that the tithe was a command to Israel and not the church, believers should be very cautious in using their liberty as an excuse to give less than the Old Testament saints. To who much is given, much shall be required (Luke 12:48). Giving under grace is a recognition that God owns it all — we give back a portion of that with which He has entrusted us out of gratitude and love.
Predestination, Election, and Sovereignty
The Word of God is clear in its teaching that all men are dead in trespasses and sin. Fallen men are incapable of responding to God apart from His drawing them to Himself. Scripture teaches that God has chosen believers to Himself on the basis of His grace and mercy. The saved were chosen in eternity past not on the basis of what God knew would happen, but according to His eternal plan and purpose in the ages. God would have been just and righteous if He allowed all men to receive the wages of their sin for all eternity. The Bible doctrine of election never suggests that God ordains some men to heaven and some to hell. All of mankind already deserves to spend eternity in the lake of fire — election does not send any to hell, but it does guarantee that some will go to heaven on the basis of God's grace and sovereignty. Lost sinners are dead in their sins and incapable of coming to God apart from the life that He gives to their dead souls (Eph 2:1-5).
Evolution and Creation
The word of God plainly declares that God created the heavens and the earth. The details of each creation day clearly set forth that both plant and animal were created and perpetuated after their own kind. There is no room in the Biblical record for what has been termed "Theistic Evolution" — that God used the process of evolution over a period of millions of years to bring about His creation. The Word of God clearly defines a day as one morning and evening period of light and dark. Days that are in reality ages of millions of years are not consistent with the literal descriptive account given in Genesis 1-3. Nor is this suggestion consistent with the words of Jesus who declared that God made male and female "at the beginning" (Matt 19:4). A literal contextual grammatical historical interpretation of the Word of God demands a literal six day creation account and thereby excludes any theory of evolution across basic plant and animal types. There may be many varieties of roses and some plants may be grafted together, but a rose bush will never and has never become an oak tree. Likewise, both fish and ducks my have blood and swim, but a fish will never and has never become a duck. Anything that can neither be observed or reproduced in a laboratory environment is philosophy, not science. Evolution fails the most basic tests of the scientific method and therefore fails to be science. Evolution is a philosophy that is directly in conflict with both the clear statements of Scripture and true science.
The King James Version Debate
The King James Version is a wonderful translation of the Scriptures. God gave the Old Testament in Hebrew with a few sections in Aramaic. The New Testament was written in koine (common everyday) Greek. To suggest that the lofty wording of the KJV is somehow more spiritual than the more common speech of modern versions is to fail to understand that God gave the New Testament in the common language of the day. When it was first published, the KJV was labeled as corrupt and untrustworthy by those who had long used the Geneva Bible. The KJV was seen by many as a compromising modern perversion of the Bible. The KJV is a beautiful translation and the primary version that we use at Berea. But, it is a translation of manuscripts in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Some modern versions translate more clearly in some places and less clearly in others. While the New World Translation deliberately alters the text to better conform to the theological bias of the Jehovah's Witnesses, most modern versions take great pains to avoid "cultural accommodation". The Todays NIV takes great liberty with the language in order to produce a translation that is "gender neutral". The result is that the TNIV translation is NOT faithful to the manuscripts in the original languages. of the more common modern versions, generally, the NAS and the earlier NIV are good translations. The Word of God is not "perfectly preserved" in any English translation.
Wine and Beverage Alcohol
The Word of God never views drunkenness as an acceptable behavior — drunkenness is always portrayed as sin. Yet the Bible does seem to allow some use of beverage alcohol in moderation. In Bible times, the wine was frequently added to water as a purifying agent and not generally consumed full strength. The dangers of alcohol are clearly spelled out in Scripture and there are many good reasons to abstain completely from the use of beverage alcohol. Yet it must at the same time be acknowledged that Jesus did turn the water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. While some have argued for a "non-alcoholic" wine, the use of the word "drunk" in John 2:10 clearly indicates that the wine Jesus produced was capable of producing intoxication. It is inconsistent to accept the wine of Eph 5:18 as intoxicating while arguing that the wine of John 2 was not. Perhaps the best solution for modern Christians is to adopt the apostle Paul's position — "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak" (Rom 14:21). (NOTE: It is interesting to observe that among the "fundamentalist" brethren who sometimes rail against the evils of beverage alcohol, one seldom hears a similar sermon on the evils of eating meat, and meat is mentioned first.)