Plastinated, Profane, and Popular
The face of evangelicalism has been altered so dramatically that it looks "doctrinally disfigured" suffering from one too many "botox injections" of pragmaticism and ecumenism; with severe "soteriological 'nips and tucks'" that gifted "plastic surgeons" skilled with the scalpel of New Perspectivism, Inclusivism, Open Theism and Postmodernism have cut away so much of authentic gospel "tissue" that what's left is just a synthetic, artificial "message-manikin." The "religious legislative laser technicians" have almost burned away the aged wrinkles of faithfulness to God's Word trying to give a "new face of influence" through political co-belligerence--turning the body of Christ into just another lobbyist group, PAC or "Christocrat." Seminaries are having "theological lypo-suction" done at such alarming rates that even the doctrinal positions of TBN, by comparison, are looking deceptively... "orthodox." And "full body makeovers" of local churches are being done so effectively so as to not have to look like church, sound like church, act like church, be called a church, or function as a church that they could be featured on a special ecclesiatical episode of "The Swan."
All sardonic metaphor aside, here's the plain truth: the rule of faith is no longer considered the Scriptures, but experience; the goal of faith is no longer considered holiness, but personal happiness; the purpose of faith is no longer considered the glory of God, but being 'in conversation' with the culture; and the object of faith is no longer considered Christ, but self. In other words, 'Evangelical Christianity' is becoming completely unrecognizable.
All Men Are Like Grass...
This should only remind us that even the best of men, the most honorable of Christians, the most learned of theologians, the most faithful of pastors, the most sincere of artists, the most winsome of authors, the most insightful of scholars, and the most dedicated in their calling can stumble into grievous error and sin if constant care is not given to life and doctrine (1 Tim. 4:12-16).
We are all vulnerable. We are all susceptible. We are all capable of doubting the Lord—like Thomas; denying the Lord—like Peter; disobeying the Lord—like David; and even deserting the Lord like Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Tim. 2:16-20) propagating gangrenous unsound doctrine and skewed beliefs if we fail to keep our lives accountable to and in line with the standard of God’s Word. Apart from the Lord’s restraining grace (Titus 2:12) we could all succumb to the most grievous of sins for our hearts our “desperately wicked and full of deceit” (Jer. 17:9). Even the Apostle Peter faltered for a season (Galatians 2:10-15) by preaching a false gospel because of his fear of the Circumcision (the Judaizers) which led him to preach a gospel of works righteousness—the very thing he was saved from; instead of a gospel of grace—the very thing he was saved by. In dealing with this concern, Dr. John MacArthur displays godly wisdom in saying, “bad theology will always lead to dirty living.” He is absolutely correct. When we fail to “tremble at God’s Word” (Isaiah 66:2); “hide it in our hearts” (Psalm 119:9-10); make it more “necessary than our daily food” (Job 23:10); and take it “as our song” for our pilgrim journey through this world (Psalm 119:54); then we open our minds to unsound doctrine and our lives to unsound living.
The Enemy Within
In the past few years evangelicalism has suffered greatly from this very neglect. It has been bombarded and inundated with an onslaught of aberrant and heretical teachings. They have subtley entered the church under the radar of personality, notoriety, celebrity, and seminary. Surprisingly, these threatenings are not coming from outside the church by secular theorists or philosophical sophists that despise Christianity and long to see its demise. Sadly, the leading voices undermining the very fabric and foundation of biblical Christianity today are other evangelicals—-many of whom we would consider our dear brothers in the Lord and mentors in our daily walk in Christ.
What is our response to such plight facing us? The Scriptures are lucid on this: we are all to be faithful Bereans (Acts 17:10-12) examining what anyone would say, teach or sing about the Christian faith, the character of God, the person of Christ, or His gospel by the truth of God's Word. Some in the church deem this as unloving, unkind and divisive--and I have always wondered why. Why is it unkind to hold the pastor to what he teaches? Why is it unloving to examine the latest book by a popular radio or TV Bible teacher and hold them accountable? Why is it divisive to measure the elders, the deacons, the Sunday School teachers, the missionaries, the Christian singers and authors according to the Divine standard of the Scriptures? Because in reality, there is nothing more loving, more kind, more unifying then holding its respective teachers to the authority of the Word of God--for they hold no authority outside of its truth--none.
The World Acts "Berean" - Why Won't the Church?
Let me illustrate. Political pundits such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Peggy Noonan, Monica Crowley, Ann Coulter, Chris Matthews, etc. are faithful to examine and hold accountable Presidential candidates, government officials, congressional leaders even other journalists and reporters as to the claims they make, affirm and represent in all matters of law, policy, and decision making that affect the citizenry of our nation. The Better Business Bureau, and agencies of the sort, are constantly monitoring, examining and possibly investigating standards and practices of various vendors to insure consumer confidence in the goods they purchase and in who manufactures them. There are numerous “watch dog” groups in the fields of technology, travel industry, sports, etc. that are there to be “Bereans” to the betterment of our society and insure “fair play.” Even in the current "Basketbrawl" incident, we see the Commissioner and the NBA acting in responsible and lawful ways to avoid anymore felonius actions by either fans or players. In the medical community there are those same advocates holding high the standard of competency to bring peace of mind and shore up confidence as a patient/doctor relationships. Putting ones life in the hands of any doctor should require the highest testing to the most rigorous of standards the proper agencies have established before any surgery or even non-evasive treatment is given to any patient. That's just smart, safe and honorable to do so. Any any doctor not willing to submit to such standards should at the very least be suspended from any kind of medical practice until such adherence to and compliance with those standards can be shown.
The Evangelical Two-Step...
When it comes to matters of faith--matters of eternity, how much more as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ should we examine, investigate, research, and study the claims of anyone who sets themselves up as a teacher of God's Word by word or song (including yours truly too) when they say they speak for God and represent His truth and gospel? This has always been a perplexing thing to me when it comes to our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that some believers get so easily upset when well-intentioned, well-informed, well-meaning pastors, lay people, apologists, theologians and the like in the body of Christ seek to hold fast the faith of God’s Word by lovingly and truthfully holding accountable to its standard others that claim to speak for God? Why do some believers deem it “not nice” and a divisive thing to do so? It seems today in our postmodern capricious touchy-feely culture that more Christians would be committed to truth rather than “just being liked” or to a “surface superficial peace.” Listen, to fail to “guard the trust” (1 Tim. 6:20), “instruct in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9), and to “contend for the once for all delivered to the saints faith” (Jude 3) even if it means challenging other evangelical leaders, pastors, radio personalities, TV preachers, artists, etc. that we admire and hold in high esteem, because some don’t like to confront or would rather simply be nice and peaceful rather than truthful, is to be unfaithful to the Lord, unloving to our fellow believers, and unkind to a lost world. It is with brokenness of heart and sorrow of mind that this kind of article even needs to be written.
The ministry of the gospel has eternal importance—greater than any goods or services that consume our day ever could. We are to be “skilled workman, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), handling God’s Word as a trained surgeon for the health, growth, and purity of the body of Christ. The cutting away of diseased tissue may sting for awhile, but what joy comes when there is restoration of health. Though the Word of God brings conviction to our sinful souls, what joy there is when repentance of sin comes and reconciliation occurs. We are to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15a); be “gentle towards all men” (2 Tim. 2:24); and “give no offense in anything so that the ministry would not be hindered” (2 Cor. 6:3). But at the same time, we must be more committed to truth than we are to simply “being nice”—what I call, “the tolerant disposition of post-modernism.” We must in the words of the prophet Joel, “sound the alarm.”
The Craftiness of Satan
This has always been the objective of Satan--distorting the Word of God. Ever since he deceived our first parents in the garden with the subtle words, "hath not God said?", his tactics remain unchanged. He doesn't want to fight the church--he wants to join it! He wants to infiltrate the church with error that attacks the very character of Christ, the nature of God, the veracity and sufficiency of the Word of God, and the gospel of soa fide. All of these men stated below need to do one thing: they need to repent of their error and deluding influence they have had on the church and return back to historical biblical Christianity once again.
Who Spiked the Living Water?
I won’t spend much time on these skewed teachings, but I do think it would be helpful for you to be aware of them so you may more effectively “guard the trust” in your church and personal lives. I have listed parenthetically next to the various titles of these teachings the leading voice in evangelicalism representing each of these ideologies and a brief definition of what those beliefs affirm. I realize that some of these names might shock you in the mentioning, while others will be obviously tragic.
The Great Need for Discernment
Read with a careful and discerning eye. In no particular order of importance, these hazardous influences are as follows:
1. Open Theism (Gregory Boyd) – this attacks the very character of God. Def.: That God is stunted in His omniscience. He doesn’t know the future; He is learning along with His creatures every day.I realize it is difficult and hard to read of some of these men above who many in the church today hold in high esteem. These are, though, disturbing times we live in beloved. We must come to firm resolve in our hearts and minds that biblical truth matters, the gospel matters, the nature and character of God matters, sound doctrine and theology matters, the church matters, biblical pastoral leadership matters, and ministering to lost people matter.
2. Inclusivism (Peter Kreeft) – this attacks the exclusivity of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in evangelism. Def.: This belief says the Lord grants special grace to those who have never heard and are ignorant of the gospel for salvation. Adherents to this belief say, if one is condemned solely because of their unbelief in Christ, then how could they be held responsible for that which they have never heard and had the opportunity to reject? Salvation would be granted to them by God because of ignorance. Under this injudicious logic, sending missionaries to them is counter poductive; it would be better if they died in their ignorance so as to be “saved”, then be brought God's law and the light of the gospel, reject it, and be “condemned.”
3. New Perspectivism (N.T. Wright) – this attacks and redefines the very heart of the gospel of sola fide. Def.: It denies the active and/or passive obedience of Christ in His substitutionary atonement on the cross. It also denies the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to every believer for salvation. It seeks to redefine the biblical view of justification by faith alone through historical revisionism in first century Judaism.
4. Political Activism (Rick Warren) – this attacks the very purpose and work of God for the church in the world. Def.: Trying to correct moral malady by political remedy; it also affirms a social ecumencial gospel where the cause or crisis becomes the new unity and mission for the church. It is treating the body of Christ as a political action committee or religious lobbyist. The great emphasis in their mantra is placed on political legislation and social reform, rather than regeneration. Theonomistic in nature, this belief fosters ecumenism; biblical truth, the gospel or sound doctrine aren't central or foundational in fighting the cultural wars. Patriotism is being equated with biblical Christianity.
5. Pragmaticism (Bill Hybels) – this attacks the very will of God in ministry.
Def.: Methodology over message; style over substance. It is the "anything that works" —"the ends justify the means" ideology. In this paradigm, "the audience, not the message, is sovereign."
6. Postmodernism and The Emergent Church (Brian McLaren) – this attacks the essentials of the faith. Def.: Objective, absolute truth is disregarded as too imposing, outdated, insensitive and too limiting. It seeks to redefine not only biblical terms, but the biblical truth those terms represent. Christianity in general, the church, and the Christian must be given a “spiritual make over” into something “new” to appeal to the complexities, concerns and ethics of our postmodern culture. The Emergent Church seeks a faith that is ever evolving. fluid, nondogmatic, liquid in message and methods; one that is mystical rather than wholly biblical. Here is the critical quesiton (according to D.A. Carson with whom I agree): Is this emerging church largely seeking to be reformed by the Word of God; or is it submerging into the very culture it longs to transcend? “Exegete the times" rather than the truth is preeminent here.
7. Sabellianism (T.D. Jakes) - this attacks the very nature of God.
Def.: An old but newly energized heresy resurfacing with a vengeance. This is the belief that there is no God-Head; it denies the existance of the Trinity - One Triune God: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit as co-equal, co-eternal, co-existing from all eternity in three persons. It is also called Modalism: the belief that God manifests Himself in three different ways at different times as father, son ,and spirit. It denies the Eternal Sonship of Christ and represents a different gospel to believe, and a different god to be worshipped than the God of the Bible.
These essential things of the faith are under attack today; and what is unique to our day, is that the attack is not from without, but from within mainline evangelicalism. We need to stand firm, sound the alarm, take captive every thought in obedience to Christ (2 Cor. 10:1-5), and do this without partiality. Loyalty to no man save Christ Jesus the Lord.
Acts 20:24 - "But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."