A Charitable Discourse, Or Compromise?

[Updated Aug.31, 8:30 pm, added comments in red, contributed by John Henderson]

There is a pastor’s conference scheduled for September to be held at Trevecca Nazarene University.  Upon reading the agenda for the conference, and being familiar with some of the views of Dr. Dan Boone, I thought I might help some pastors who are considering attending.  I believe I can save them some money at the same time, and save time away from family and congregation. Instead of spending $150, plus travel and hotel and other expenses, I will provide the answers to the questions listed below, and I suggest a donation of $10 to Stand For Truth Ministries, which will go towards the production and distribution of resource DVDs to Christians who are standing against and exposing false teachings.  Below is a portion of the press release, followed by my answers to these questions:

Trevecca offers new conference for pastors

Trevecca Nazarene University offers pastors an opportunity to discuss with TNU President Dan Boone those “thorny” issues that can divide congregations at its September conference.

During “A Charitable Discourse: Forming Mature Congregations in a Contentious Culture” September 19-21 pastors can grapple with the issues that can divide congregations…

Boone will define what is at stake in these issues and will provide resources to help pastors guide their own charitable discourses with congregants and communities.

Below are some of the questions they will “grapple” with, and my answers which do not require a one hour discussion:

1.  How does a pastor preach the gospel to a congregation with deeply-held, diverse opinions?

Answer: Boldly, uncompromisingly, without regard for who will like him, or which side he should take, or how many he can retain in his congregation, or whose feelings he might hurt, or whether the world will be pleased with him.  The truth is all that matters, not diverse opinions.

Further Questions:  Define “deeply-held, diverse opinions.”  In terms of what:  biblical vs. non-biblical? biblical prayer vs. mysticism-based prayer? Scriptural inerrancy vs. “inerrant as it relates only to salvation”

2.  How are believers formed in a church of differing political persuasions?

Answer: Through the preaching of the gospel without any personal and extra-biblical views inserted, such as the liberal and social gospel views of the post-modern church of today.  Just “preach the gospel once delivered to the saints.”  That is sufficient.

Further questions:  What do political persuasions matter?  Do those who listen to Rush have different religious opinions than those who listen to Obama?  If so, what are they?  Also, what examples do you have that political opinions do or ever have impacted on Christians together in the same church?  Has there ever been a church split between Democrats and Republicans?  Have they not more likely been over what color of carpet to install?
3. How does a pastor survive the pressure of competing demands from opposite ends of the creation debate?

Answer: “Survival” is not the concern.  A pastor must boldly and clearly teach that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God, and therefore there is no need for debate as to whether God spoke the truth when He inspired Moses to write down the creation account.  The only pressure a pastor should feel is the pressure to be 100% faithful to God’s word, without concern for the pressures of man’s opinion.  Even so, it should not even be “pressure”; it ought to be a love for God’s truth that motivates him.

Further Questions:  What opposite ends of the creation debate?  The Church of the Nazarenes and other evangelical/fundamental churches have traditionally held to a literal creation as described in Genesis and restated throughout the entire Bible.  The only “debate” has been whether the six days were literally 24-hours each or some other longer period, but never about whether it was literal.  Evolutionism never had a chance in that discussion.

4. How will the church respond to homosexuality?

Answer: Like any other sin.  Homosexuality is disobedience to God, and the scriptures teach that those who deliberately rebel against God, regardless of the sin, are choosing a path of destruction.  The church should not condone any sin including homosexuality, and should not water down sin, by differentiating between “orientation” and the actual practice of homosexuality.  If a man has desires for another woman, yet does not sleep with her, is that okay?  Why then treat homosexuality any different or more special than any other sin, whether of thought, or of deed?  There is no “conversation” needed here, the question is settled.

Further Questions:  What do the Scriptures say about homosexuality every time it is mentioned or referenced?  Should that not be as far as you go with it?  If the official statement of a denomination contradicts the Scriptures, which is to be believed?

Those of us who are determined to stay the course and advance uncompromising biblical truth believe that what is at stake in these issues (as Dr. Boone plans to define at the conference) is simply the following:

The true gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is at stake, and souls are at stake.

It would also seem that Dr. Boone believes the following:

A. That those who disagree with him are religious jihadists.

B. That unless you support a strictly liberal progressive ticket (which he did publically despite declaring he voted otherwise), you are on the wrong side of the issues.

C. That the “scientific” data on the side of evolution is more accurate than the fable of creation in Genesis.

D. That we should apologize to homosexuals for the hard time they have had getting accepted as homosexuals and that as long as they think it (orientation) and don’t do it (you can imagine that for yourself), they are without guilt or sin.  Never mind those pesky Bible passages that say things like, “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).

I realize Dr. Boone and many others in Nazarene higher education have more educational and religious credentials than I and others have.  Does that make them automatically more qualified to discern truth and error than us?  Of course not!  Do their credentials allow them to promote open theism, process theology, limited scriptural inerrancy, and evolution without being challenged?  No, since other men of equal credentials have already challenged them on these and other positions.  I wonder, does he consider them extreme fundamentalists?

Dr. Boone has a very popular following in the Nazarene schools today, but he is being challenged by some on his positions regarding many biblical issues today.  He has urged others to “stun them with our silence”, yet he continues on in his book “Charitable Discourse”, (which it is not) to be amazingly uncharitable towards those that he considers are “fundamental Christian Nazarenes.”

I am one of those who are challenging him and many other leaders today, as evidenced by our back and forth on several issues a couple of years ago.  I don’t believe Dr. Boone is qualified to lead this conference, based on statements he has made that are very suspect at best, and his beliefs.

Dr. Boone believes, for instance, that the Psalms were just different renderings of Babylonian myths, and that parts of the Bible were just the Israelites copying what they heard the pagans say.  If that is the case, then Dr. Boone clearly does not believe that the scriptures are wholly inspired by God, but that some parts come from pagan traditions!  Here is the quote I refer to, which he sent in an email to a concerned Nazarene:

“The Hebrew creation account is a re-telling of the Babylonian tale. Their Hebrew feast days are re-interpretations of the Canaanite days. The Royal Psalms in the collection of Psalms were once Canaanite songs.”

Dr. Boone has also referred to both Thomas Merton and Ignatius of Loyola as spiritual giants, so it is erroneous logic for him to state: “To leap from renting a retreat facility to embracing the Catholic theology or the works of Thomas Merton is like saying that someone who stays in a Marriott Hotel is being Mormonized.” (This was in response to my critique of sending students to the Abby of Gethsemani every year for retreats.  Included in the activities was participation in “practicing the silence”, and ecumenical activities with the monks.)

We find that statement to be absurd–you don’t get Gethsemani without getting Merton. It isn’t benign like staying in a hotel; keep in mind as well that he has referred to Thomas Merton as a spiritual giant.  Yet, Thomas Merton was a blatant universalist who mixed Eastern religions with Christianity!  But Dr. Boone calls him a spiritual giant?

I obtained a copy of a letter (from 2009)  to pastors warning them about certain concerned Nazarenes.  In it, Dr. Boone erroneously claimed that the Roman Catholic church was the only church for 1500 years after Christ.  That is clearly not the fact, although he continued to insist that it is accurate.  In the same letter, he states that “While Nazarenes are different from Catholics in very significant ways, we believe that we will share eternity with them in the presence of the Christ who prayed that we might be one.”   I wonder if Dr. Boone feels the same way about Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who also claim to know Christ.  And does he not know that officially, the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize Nazarenes and other denominations as true Christians?  This is compromise with anyone who claims the name of Jesus, but that is not the kind of unity Jesus prayed for.

Dr. Boone has also allowed the practice of the prayer labyrinth at Trevecca, and when this was exposed, changed the name to prayer walk.  It’s still the same pagan practice, yet he believes apparently that we can take pagan practices and use them in a Christianized way to worship God.  And he shows his support for the contemplative mysticism he denies, by favorably quoting and reading such authors as Richard Foster, who is the leading contemporary promoter of contemplative mysticism.

He also has a very erroneous understanding of Psalm 46, which many use as an excuse to justify “practicing the silence”, which is nothing more than contemplative prayer, one of the Christianized versions of transcendental meditation.  Read Psalm 46, and you wonder how he and so many others get this passage wrong!  Dr. Boone is in denial that mystical practices are being encouraged at his school, while at the same time proving it with his approval of mystics such as Merton and Foster!

Dr. Boone also discusses jihad in the church, and apparently that is a reference to folks like us who dare to challenge his views that we believe are damaging the church.  Not very charitable, is that?  I quote him:

“Religious fundamentalism is one of the hot topics in the world today and this website has given me the best model, other than Islamic fundamentalism, to demonstrate to students how religious fundamentalism works.”

He goes on to qualify that, but that is a typical thing that is done: attack, then soften the statement, but the accusation sticks anyway.  Finally, he says also:

“Now, I must confess a sin. I did not listen to some friends who told me that I would not find a rational conversation here. I am most likely viewing these websites for the last time and would urge all thinking Christians to join me in the exit. Maybe we can stun them with our silence.”

Again, not very charitable.  Dr. Boone does not seem to practice what he preaches.

Dr. Boone is not an exception.  Our Nazarene schools have many leaders who are now allowing the promotion of just about anything without question, and that should not be so.  I have pointed them out many times, and will continue to do so.  Dr. Boone and others can call us jihadists or extreme fundamentalists all they want, but we will continue exposing their dangerous ideologies to Christians who do not believe that ANY man should go unquestioned, just because they have a bunch of degrees and honors.  I challenge Dr. Boone and all others to accept the word of God as what it is: inerrant and infallible, and the only authority for our faith and practice.

Some would say I am not being charitable in my words.  But we are to call out those who are in error, are we not?  Dr. Boone is no exception.  He is just one of many of our leaders who have been in error for a long time.  Popularity notwithstanding, I will continue to call them out.  I’ll conclude with quotes from his book.  You can make up your own mind:

From chapter 5:

“Hinduism. I even reminded the writer that God’s people have often taken elements of other religions and sanctified them for Christian use—Canaanite songs became Jewish psalms, pagan feasts became Christian meals, and so on.”

 

From chapter 6:

“My concern is that we have diminished God by elevating the Bible.”  (???)

“I believe that God is pained over the tenor of the discussion between the literalists of seven-day creation theories and the evolutionists of the slow creative-process theories. To prove either one correct is not a saving act. God is not wringing his hands hoping we defend the literal interpretation of Gen. 1.”

“What I find more exciting and authoritative is the thought that the people of God were exiled in the pagan land of Babylon, listening to pagan stories about the origin of the universe, and the breath of God spoke through a prophet giving them a different understanding. They hijacked the Babylonian tale of creation and declared God to be the one who, in the beginning, created creation and came to take up residence with us in the cosmic temple. Now that’s authority”

Links:

A Charitable (To People Who Think Like Me) Discourse:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/concernednazarenes/doc/10150247210044588/

 

Dan Boone’s Comments on Trevecca:

http://reformednazarene.wordpress.com/emergent-church-what-is-it/dr-boones-comments-on-trevecca/

Thomas Merton: http://www.facebook.com/groups/concernednazarenes/doc/10150260163134

 

Message About a Nazarene Heresy

The following was written by guest writer John Henderson.  I agree fully with his comments.

Message About a Nazarene Heresy
Regarding:  http://www.trinityfamilyonline.com/
(See also below)

I make no apologies for what I say here about the above site. I only regret that my email list is not in the thousands—but I will post this on Facebook as well.

This is a Nazarene site in the Kansas City, MO area. That is where the Nazarene international headquarters are located. This bunch is listed on the Kansas City District. This is open heterodoxy by any definition. Sadly, it is not an isolated thing. It has reached epidemic proportions in our denomination. I could ask all sorts of questions that I, as a Nazarene elder, have every right to ask. I suspect, however, they would be ignored, disregarded, unheeded, discounted, snubbed, scorned, spurned, or flouted. I will speak up anyhow even if I am a doddering old foggy.

The leaders at this “church” are as slick as slime. They know the terminology we like and it will blindside the unsuspecting. They say everything so nicely but never speak of redemption, repentance, living holy lives, being separate from the world-order, etc. They stop just before going there with their multicultural and ecumenical nonsense. They are more willing to make homosexuals feel all warm and cozy as homosexuals than to really love their souls and tell them how Jesus can save them from their sinful “orientation” as well as their sinful behaviors. Dan Boone’s published sermon wherein he said that homosexual orientation was not sinful while homosexual behavior was sinful may have given them the idea.

Folks, that Baptist evangelist made me squirm in 1952 under the acute awareness of the coming judgment of God on my sins until my knees nearly buckled under me. But that squirming drove me to my knees in tearful prayer until the burden of sin was completely lifted and I became a new creature in Christ. Jesus didn’t coddle and reform the old man in me so I could be religiously tainted. He created a completely new one so that I became a new creature in Christ. Old things passed away (died) and all things became new (life) in Jesus Christ. I have regretted many things about my life over the years but never once have I been ashamed of having turned my life over to Jesus or of telling someone else that He saves from the gutter-most to the uttermost.

This is so serious that I will no longer regard anonymity as automatic. Anyone who writes or speaks anything either way on this matter has no right to personal confidentiality concerning it. That includes me. We should all be identified with whatever we say about it. It is the right of those who are impacted by it to know who is impacting them. I will never knowingly quote anyone out of context nor will I quote what I do not have on record, but neither will I let this nonsense just slide on by unchallenged and be respectably hidden in anonymity anymore. We shall be judged by our words and it is best that we deal with them now so we might correct them if we are wrong.

I am a Nazarene elder and gave my word at my ordination that I would uphold the church and her doctrines. I cannot—I shall not—hunker down while wolves disguised as Christians slink among the sheep of God slaughtering at will. I am limited, but God is not. I am expendable but His Word endures forever. I have no power but God is omnipotent even if some “Nazarenes” think He is limited. I cannot see the future, but He holds the future. My time is short but He is from everlasting to everlasting.

I do not have time, energy, or inclination to go about fighting wimpy Nazarene leaders over this. If they are unwilling to do anything to correct it, or are complicit in this, there isn’t much I can do to make them line up without being involved in depriving them of their money and power, maybe getting them replaced. If they want to be that spineless about it, they are not worth the effort. I will bypass them and go directly to the many Nazarenes who are not caught up in this heresy and warn them, perhaps rescuing some who are taken in by it. I am convinced that a Nazarene “tea party” is very likely in the making. That is the sort of thing that happens when leadership fails, as we all know so well from the political scene. When the trunk starts to decay, the roots will sprout another trunk.

The bottom line is this: If we do not have a genuine old-fashioned revival really soon—the sort that old-fashioned Nazarenes know so well—this denomination will be more of a way into Hell than it will be a beacon for Christ. If we neglect to have a sweeping revival (for God is not the one holding back) there are enough Nazarenes who are fed up with this madness that we will see an unprecedented split where the differences between sacrilege and truth will be obvious and the profane side will be the big losers. I do not want that to have to happen but I would not be able to stop it—and am sure if I would not even try. They can walk their labyrinths, do the spiritual formation and “centering prayer” nonsense, have “conversations” with non-Christians, apologize for telling people of their sins, and Kumbaya all the way into the Inferno if that what they prefer. Meanwhile, the rest of us are keeping oil in our lamps, winning the lost, and looking for the return of Christ. The old-fashioned way still works best.

We don’t need to “understand” our differences with the pagans. The Bible tells us plainly what they are. We need to preach the Word of God, to be instant in season and out of season with the clear message of the only two choices anyone has—to turn to Christ and live or to persist in sin and die in them with no hope beyond the grave.

I am old enough that I can survive one way or the other. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ Blood and righteousness.” Those coming after me are the ones that break my heart. They are so unsuspecting and they are being fed the devil’s poison in things like this. I have already objected to having “Love Wins” presented at our church but lost that debate very handily—unless I had been willing to cause a stir. Maybe I should have. Maybe that is what I am doing now, because I will no longer hold back when the emergent heresy (by any definition, or under any excuse, or by anyone of any status) ever shows its ugly face where my family and I are attending church.

I am fed up with the whitewash. I am fed up with the lies. I am fed up with the duplicity. I want the untarnished gospel of Jesus Christ and nothing else. I want the Bible held up and honored, not nit-picked apart and us lied to that it is not completely inspired. I want to know that my family will not be exposed to postmodern-new age-emergent cult counterfeits and deceptions. I am tired of the Rob Bells, Richard Fosters, Bill Hybels, Mike Kings, Tony Campolos, Rick Warrens, Leonard Sweets, Doug Pagitts, C. S. Cowles’s, Brian McLarens, and every other emergent teacher like them or even resembling them. I am weary of these people being on Nazarene campuses and being allowed to spew their lies into the faces of naïve Nazarene students while our Nazarene educators smirk approvingly. I am weary that they even stand in some our pulpits, where they have no right to be. I am disgusted with Thomas Jay Oord being allowed to keep his job in a Nazarene university after unabashedly advocating postmodernism and open theism in the name of Wesleyan theology. I am disturbed to hear of a sensitive Nazarene church member being told by a prospective pastor that she must have been abused when younger because she believes the Scriptures are inerrant in all things and having his DS back him up on the nonsense.

Even Scott Daniels’ making excuses for Emergent Nazarenes is unacceptable, although he did not keep it up. Jon Middendorf may tell his members that we should not throw out the baby with the bathwater in defense of the emergent heresy but he should realize that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. We are dealing with the bread of life, not bathwater. Those who promote that stuff are enemies of the Cross and are willing agents of destructive error. They are a plaque to holiness—not anywhere close to being like or complimentary to holiness or, as Scott Langford of our congregation wrote me about Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” book—that at the end of the day it “highlights the beauty and power of Wesleyan theology.” That is pure gobbledygook! Not so, unless by stark contrast. Darkness does not enhance light. It gives way to it. Who wants to eat meat full of maggots? Only buzzards do that.

The gospel is not about building nonjudgmental relationships and apologizing to those steeped in sin because they get their feelings hurt. We are not to befriend the world (friendship with the world is enmity with God). The gospel is about winning them to Jesus so He can save them and take away their sins and make them new creatures in Christ. If someone is drowning, we don’t make friends with them. We throw them a lifeline. Then we make friends with them. That is what it should mean to be a Nazarene. Or, am I seeing what an astute Nazarene pastor told me in early 2009, that, after the upcoming General Assembly, I would not recognize the Church of the Nazarene. How little I understood that then! I shudder that the emergents almost got away with it and am not really sure that they did not.
Well, I still know who Jesus is and He is not the counterfeit Jesus they come up with out of unproductive imagining. I still see that His Bible has not changed in spite of what C. S. Cowles and others may haughtily claim of its supposed errors. The Great Commission has not modified to accommodate postmodernists, new agers, and Emergent Nazarenes in their inane pursuits of contemplative prayer and group hugs.

They may want to huddle under a bunch of burning candles and sniff incense, but I prefer the open air where Jesus is still the Light that has come into the world and the darkness cannot overcome it. I prefer old-time Christianity where feeding and clothing the needy, caring for the widows and orphans, and visiting the imprisoned has the clear message of salvation in it and is nothing like the phony “social justice” of Marxism turned religious.

When I come to face Christ at the Judgment, I want a clear conscience. Anyone who persists in following after this stuff will be without excuse, but then, they may become so entangled in it that they will be caught by surprise on that Day. How tragic that will be for them! I hope not for their sakes, but they must make up their own minds about it while they have time on their side. In spite of what Rob Bell says in his books and television interviews, there are no postmortem conversions. The man lied to us about it in his books and in person. He was charming, but he still lied. The appointment has not been cancelled. It is still appointed unto men once to die and after this the judgment.

John Henderson

Judge Not?

This seems to be the right time for me to re-post this.  It was originally a permanent page on my blog.  It seems the question of whether we as Christians ought to judge has come up again several times for me.  I’ve had some friends tell me we are never to judge, and just leave it up to God.  Really?  But is this  really biblical?  Yomi Adegboye provides us with a scriptural lesson hear.  To my “non-judging” friends, please read this prayerfully.

 

By Yomi Adegboye

Many times, Christians throw the phrase, “Judge not!” at those who in obedience to Scriptures exercise discernment in refuting error and exposing falsehood in the Church. Here I present a detailed study of what the Bible says about judging or not judging.

Introduction: A key to rightly interpreting Scriptures is to see the meaning of a statement within the immediate context in which it is used. This helps us to see clearly what is being said in order to avoid arriving at wrong conclusions. The word often translated “judge” are the verbs krino, anakrino, and diakrino. They primarily denote “to determine, pronounce judgment, examine, investigate, question, to exercise discernment, to contend, consider”.

Do Not Judge Hypocritically:

  • Matthew 7:1-5 1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Looking at the context of what Jesus said above, He was not commanding us not to judge. He was commanding us not to judge if we are guilty of the same thing we are seeking to correct. In other words, don’t be a hypocrite.

In verse 6, Jesus said: “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces”. But there is no way we can tell who is a “dog” and who is “swine”, except we judge. But we must not judge as hypocrites.

A few verses later Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets…You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15,16,20). Again Jesus demands spiritual discernment. In Jesus’ view it is not “judging” to conclude that someone is a false prophet.

Judge Not In Non-essentials:

  • Romans 14:1-6 1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.

If you look at this passage, it is with reference to judging others about “doubtful things” (see verse 1). These are issues the Bible gives no commandments about e.g. what to eat, which day to fellowship etc. We are not to judge anyone on such issues.

Other references: 1 Corinthians 10:23-33; Colossians 2:16-17

Handling Personal Issues: In handling personal disputes, the Bible tells us not to take our brother to a court of law, but that a believer among us is to do the judging.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:1-5 1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? 4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? 5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? 12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?

As we can see from the context, Christians are to be able to judge or mediate in inter-personal affairs, and this should be done privately. This is about a brother wronging another, not about public false teaching. It also makes it clear that we are not to expect unbelievers to live by Bible standards, since they do not know God anyway.

We Are To Judge Righteously:

  • John 7:23-24 23 “If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? 24 “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

We are not to judge using appearances such as our opinion, society, human wisdom, or culture as standards. The right standard to use in making a judgment is God’s Word.

If One Is Spiritual, One Should Judge All Things:

  • 1 Corinthians 2:13-15 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.

We Are To Judge What Ministers Teach and Say:

Acts 17:10-12 (Anakrino = Searched, Scrutinize, Investigate, Interrogate, Determine, Question, Ask, Discern, Examine, Judge)

  • 10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

They “judged” Paul’s teachings. Even Paul made it clear that he required people to judge the things he told them:

  • 1 Corinthians 10:15 15 I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.

Prophecies and supernatural manifestations are to be judged:

1 Corinthians 14:29 (Diakrino = Separate Thoroughly, Discern, Judge, Contend, Discriminate)

  • 29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

Unless You “Judge”, Then You Cannot Obey Many Scriptures: The Bible gives many instructions that require exercising judgment. Without judging, obedience to those commandments is not possible. If you do not judge or exercise judgment, you cannot obey:

  • 1 Corinthians 5:11 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

Or this:

  • 2 Timothy 3:5 (Apotrepo = Turn Away, Deflect, Avoid) 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Or this:

  • 1 Timothy 6:3-5 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.

Or this:

  • Romans 16:17 17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.

Or this:

  • 2 Thessalonians 3:6 6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

Or this:

  • Titus 1:10-14 10 For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth.

For example, those who say “Judge not!” in response to a Christian exercising discernment in matters of doctrine and behavior immediately make themselves hypocrites. For in saying “Judge not”, they themselves have judged. Judging is an integral part of the Christian life. We only need to see clearly where we are commanded to or not to judge and act accordingly.

The Unity of the Body

The teachings of Jesus and the apostles make it clear that we are to discern (judge) false teachings and false teachers, and to stay away from such people. See Romans 16:17; 1 Timothy 6:3-5. Romans 16:17 in particular tells us that it is those who teach things contrary to what Jesus and the apostles taught that are dividing the Body of Christ. That is why we are told to stay away from them. Those correcting and judging are the ones mending the division.

Jesus Judged

  • Matthew 3:7 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

And in the following passage, the most Spirit-filled man that ever lived, used some amazing language in judgiing and rebuking certain men:

  • Matthew 23:29-33 29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 “and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ 31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 “Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?

Paul Judged

Paul judged Elymas in Acts 13: 9

Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said,

  • ‘“O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?

Paul judged the fornicator among the Corinthians and encouraged them to do so too:

  • 1 Corinthians 5:3 3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed.

Paul judged Peter’s actions:

  • Galatians 2:11 11 “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed.”

Paul judged Hymenaeus and Philetus:

  • 2 Timothy 2:15-18 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.

Peter Judged

Peter judged in the case of Ananias and Saphirra (Acts 5:1-10). The two of them ended up dead.

Peter Judged Simon in Acts 8:20-23: 20

  • But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 “You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 “Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 “For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”

Jesus Commended Believers Who Judged Ministers

Jesus commended the Ephesians for testing and exposing certain men who claimed to be God’s ministers as liars:

  • Revelations 2:22 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; Jesus didn’t strike the Ephesians with sickness or pestilence for “touching the Lord’s anointed”.Rather, He commended them for a job well done. In the passage below, we also see that He rebuked those who tolerated false teachings and refused to judge the teachers behind the falsehood:
  • Revelations 2:20 20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a “prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

If we do not do a balanced study of the Bible on any subject, we will arrive at wrong conclusions, and be found guilty by God. The Bible tells believers not to judge in certain ways and on certain issues, but also commands us to judge in others.

Where are the Preachers who will Obey Scriptures?

Those who are ministers especially have a strong role to play here. Instructions to Timothy and Titus (ministers) specifically require them to judge and rebuke sharply (2 Timothy 4:2-4; Titus 1:13). We see that Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul and Peter did this. They rebuked false teachings and teachers and wrong practices sharply. As strong as their words were, it was all in love, and perfectly Scriptural.

We also see that their “judging” and rebukes, often done publicly, did not divide the Body. It is God’s way of righting wrongs and keeping the leaven of errors from spreading. Yes; those exposed and rebuked did not always repent, but that is between them and God.

Biblical judgment, discernment and rebuke is required if the purposes of God are to be fulfilled. As it is written, indeed, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Proverbs 27:6).

Judging False Teachers Not fruit of the Spirit? A number of people have gone over the top about the fact that I personalize points when I refute error, and especially that I dare to agree with what Scriptures say about a category of men.

In the words of one of them, “All he does is ridicule Christian Ministries all over the world with his arrogant, haughty, self righteous, wicked, insulting, holier than thou tone! (I don’t see the fruit of the spirit in any of those characteristics)”

But if judging with sharp words is not the fruit of the Spirit, how do we explain the often harsh, judgmental and intolerant language of God’s most faithful in the Bible? All through the Old and New Testaments, those who loved God the most used the very harshest of words on false teachers and prophets. Were they not Spirit-filled? Were they not walking in love?

Here are a few examples from Scriptures.

Hear Jesus

  • Matthew 23:27 27 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”

I am also wondering how much of the fruit of the Spirit modern Christians would have seen in Jesus when He drove people out of the temple in Jerusalem the way He did? Does this Man overturning tables and throwing things around sound like the sweet Jesus that deceived men have taught us? Our generation does not seem to know the real Jesus. They’ve been told about another person who is so tolerant that he smiles at everyone and pronounces blessings on evil-doers.

Thank God the real Jesus was – and is – nothing like that. And He is not the only one who walked this intolerant road.

Hear Stephen

Stephen is a man the Bible refers to as full of the Spirit and wisdom. See his presentation of the good news:

  • Acts 7:51-54 51 “You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52 “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53 “who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.” 54 When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.

Certainly doesn’t sound like good news. At least to the postmodern, liberal believer. Certainly very holier-than-thou, it sounds. Certainly not a ‘humble’ way to present the Gospel to people. The rebuke was so stinging that the hearers were cut to their heart and gnashed their teeth.

Hear Paul

Apostle Paul was ‘bad’. Hear him:

  • Galatians 1:8, 9 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

I haven’t even started with woes and curses yet, and I have been branded ‘the accuser of the brethren’.

Hear Peter

Simon, the ex-sorcerer, had just gotten saved. Then he offered the apostles money, believing to share in their anointing. That’s much like what we see going on today. A young minister takes a ’seed’ to an ‘anointed man of God’ because he wants to tap into the man’s ‘anointing’. What’s so bad with that? But hear Peter:

  • Acts 8:21-23 “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 “You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 “Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 “For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”

That sounds very judgmental. For one, the guy is a ‘baby’ Christian; why not give him the benefit of doubt? He probably made a mistake. Peter didn’t think so. Peter’s words were as bad as it can be.

Rebuking in Love

Blind, deceived people may holler all they like about us not walking in love when we rebuke false teaching and their teachers. They know not the Scriptures, nor the power of God. Jesus was walking in love when He rebuked those religious leaders of His day who were twisting God’s Word for their own ends. Stephen was walking in love and full of the Spirit when he rebuked those who eventually killed him. Peter was walking in love when he hit Simon hard. Paul was walking in love when he ‘cursed’ (or whatever we choose to call what he did) those teaching error to the Galatians.

Note that these rebukes were often to ‘insiders’; yet they were sharp and may sound very judgmental. But they were in love all the same.

Let me say it up front: I do not care a chicken leg what I am called. Like the early apostles, I consider it a privilege to suffer so for the sake of the Kingdom. I have presented clear Biblical arguments to show that exposing false teachers and prophets is Scriptural. Those of us who God has brought out of the grand deception of postmodern Christianity in all its shades and hues will continue to refute, correct, exhort, and – yes – rebuke with all authority.

Those who are cut to the heart by our rebuke and who are gnashing their teeth are the very ones the rebukes are for. The fact that they are raving stark mad about it is firm proof that their hearts are not right. The ball is in their court.

What Should Be Our Attitude to False Teaching and Teachers?

I am a crusader for Biblical truth. I do not mean some personal revelation someone claims to have on a topic, because to all intents and purposes, that leads to error. The Bible is the revealed Word of God to us. We do not need any extra revelation to understand God, His plans and His ways. Unfortunately today, we have placed “rhema”, “new revelation” and the like above a logical, systematic understanding of the Bible. And that has created more problems for the Church.

Generally, I am uncomfortable that a number of those teaching and practicing error are regarded as leaders of the church. I find it embarrassing that they represent the faith to millions. Any sincere person cannot look at the state of the church today and not see how much nonsense is being peddled in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Every now and then, someone asks me why I seem to take this personal. Christianity is not just a life. It is also doctrine. Truth. Without truth, we erode the foundations of our faith. That is why I cannot shut up about the errors being peddled all over the place. And here are a few things the Bible has to say about what our attitude should be on the issue:

  • Titus 1:10,11 10 For there are men who are not ruled by law; foolish talkers, false teachers, specially those of the circumcision, 11 By whom some families have been completely overturned; who take money for teaching things which are not right; these will have to be stopped.

Have you noticed that most of the ministers and ministries involved in these errors have one common denominator? They are all money-centered: they call for your money via tithes, seed-faith, and all what-nots. The Bible says they must be resisted.

That is why I won’t keep quiet.

  • Romans 16:17,18 17 Now, it is my desire, brothers, that you will take note of those who are causing division and trouble among you, quite against the teaching which was given to you: and keep away from them. 18 For such people are not servants of the Lord Christ, but of their stomachs; and by their smooth and well-said words the hearts of those who have no knowledge of evil are tricked.

Take note. Paul said to keep away from them. They are NOT servants of the Lord but are out for their stomachs, wallets and bank accounts. Take note that verse 18 mentions “well-said” words. The KJV version calls it “good words and fair speeches”. Sounds familiar? I’m thinking of the numerous smooth-talking pastors we see on television daily.

Using Sharp Words

  • 2 Timothy 4:2-4 2 Be preaching the word at all times, in every place; make protests, say sharp words, give comfort, with long waiting and teaching; 3 For the time will come when they will not take the true teaching; but, moved by their desires, they will get for themselves a great number of teachers for the pleasure of hearing them; 4 And shutting their ears to what is true, will be turned away to belief in foolish stories.

Yes; there are times we have to use sharp words. To the simple and undiscerning, it may look like we are not walking in love using such words, but there it is in black and white. People sometimes need to be jolted out of their hardness of heart.

Some like to stay on the fence preaching “love” and “unity”. But we see from the Bible what God’s stand on the issue is. In our day there seems to be more concern about “not touching the anointed of God”, and “not judging”; both teachings arrived at by the same twisting of Scriptures that produces all errors.

Taking a Stand

Someone has asked: Why won’t the church take a stand? I have asked myself that question over and over. Are we afraid to attack evil in the supposed name of unity? Is it that we are so far gone that we figure that it does not matter what you believe as long as you “love Jesus”?

If so, let’s quit calling other religions false and accept the cults into our fold. Let’s bring in the Jehovah’s Witnesses who love their Jesus (even though to them he is the archangel Michael, the first and greatest created being). Let’s bring in the Mormons, and the Unitarians, etc. Let’s say good-bye to the creeds and sound doctrine. Let’s forget the stern warnings of the Apostle Paul to beware of false teachers and false doctrine which spreads like gangrene. Let’s all just “love Jesus” (whoever that Jesus might be to us)?

NO! We cannot forget the creeds, we will not abandon truth. We must obey our Lord when He tells us to “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Mat. 7:15-16). The fruit of the Word-Faith teachers is none other than the fruit that the devil deceived our ancient mother Eve with. It is still as deadly and still as putrid in God’s sight as it was then. The Word-Faith teachers and their movement must be actively opposed and rejected as non-Christian! Who will stand for Christ?

People don’t take a stand for the simple reason that they love the praise of man more than the God they profess to serve.

If we won’t take a stand, we might as well throw in the New Age movement. Oh, don’t forget people like Dan Brown of the DaVinci Code fame. After all, it does not matter what we teach, believe and practice, so long as Jesus is in the picture; right?

What should be your attitude to false teaching and teachers? Keep away from them. Reprove their teachings, mention names where necessary so people know who to be on guard against. We see all that in Scriptures. Jesus did that. Paul did. Others like them did too. Take a stand, brothers and sisters!

Say NO to false teachers and ministries. Don’t stay in their churches, stop throwing your money their way, don’t buy their books or attend their meetings. Talk about their lies. Expose their deception everywhere you go. Even if those deceivers and their deceived followers do not turn to the knowledge of the truth, your taking a stand strengthens the truth you and others have been taught, and will also help some who are not yet caught in their traps.

Here is a direct instruction to us from the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ:

  • Finally, Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle (2 Timothy 2:15 ).

If you truly are a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, your obedience will speak of your allegiance to Him as you obey Him in judging the fruits and works of false teachers in our day and age. Praise and glory be to His Name for ever.

The Hour Is Getting Late

These are apostate times.  False teachers are everywhere you turn.  Your own pastor could be one.  The consequences of apostasy in the Christian church have taken a heavy toll on church and family, causing relationships to end, and splitting families.  Odd, isn’t it, that often a few in one family will recognize apostasy in their church, while others don’t and they stay loyal no matter what.  And yet, should we really be surprised?  Scripture says that we do not fight “flesh and blood”, but “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  (Eph. 6:12).  These spiritual forces, headed by Satan,  have their puppets in place in the pulpits and in church leadership.  We are watching the escalation of an ages old battle between good and evil; between the truth and the lies; between God and Satan.

Many say that in the latter days, there will be great revivals that none has ever seen before.  This is a terrible misunderstanding at best, because the Bible says that things will get worse, not better, in the last days.  Many will turn away from the faith, and the love of most will “grow cold” (Mat. 24:12).  Most, not some.   False prophets will appear, deceiving many people, proclaiming a “different Jesus”, a “cool Jesus”, a “non-judgmental” Jesus.  “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted– you may well put up with it.2 Cor. 11:3-4

Do not expect anything else but widespread deception.  Do not think that your discernment will not be tested.  It could be that some will recognize apostasy “here”, but fail to see it “there.”  “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible” Mat. 24:24.   We are told “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient”. Eph. 5:6.  This is not an easy task for a Christian, unless he puts on the full armor of God and understands the scriptures.  Yet the Bible says many will be deceived, and a great falling away will come before the end. (2 Thess. 2:3).  The same chapter warns that God will send a “strong delusion” upon many and they will believe a lie.

We are also told in verses 8-10: “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”  Yet, even many “mature” and knowledgeable Christians will be deceived.  It is a frightening thought.

The greatest danger we face is not from unbelievers, but from within, from professing believers.  The greatest threat to the Christian church is the multi-pronged attack from false movements and teachers claiming to be preaching the true gospel.  But they are not preaching the true gospel, and they instead preach “another Jesus.”  The only reliable defense for every Bible believing Christian is to have the truth of God’s word, which is “sharper than a two-edged sword.” (Heb. 4:12)  A counterfeit can only be spotted when we know the genuine article!  We are to “study” to show ourselves “approved”, so we can “rightly divide the word of truth.”  (2 Tim. 2:15)  But God’s word is under attack, and I believe that this strategy to undermine the Bible is at the heart of every false movement today.  If you can create doubt in Gods infallible word, and challenge its complete authority, you can have someone believe anything.

This rejection of Gods word is the underlying foundation of the emergent church movement, and the Word-Faith movement, and the New Apostolic Reformation, and the contemplative mystics, and the Gnostic intellectuals of higher education.  It is the foundation of those who promote the social justice movement, and the environmental movement, and those who reject the account of creation for a godless evolutionary theory.  It is the foundation of the Neo-Evangelicals and the ecumenists, who reject the doctrine of separation, choosing to hold hands with the world.  It is the foundation of the Signs and Wonders crowd, who claim to have a special revelation from God and a higher anointing than the rest of us.  It is the subtle denial of God’s power by many contemporary music artists, who with some songs turn worship of God into the worship of self and pursuit of good feelings.  It is the foundation of the open theists, who claim that God cannot know the future, and the process theologians, who teach that God makes mistakes and learns from them.  It is the foundation of the Rob Bells of the world who reject the hell of the Bible, and who reject a loving God who will bring all in front of His throne someday in judgment.  And it has bewitched our very leaders who were entrusted to give us spiritual guidance. “Our shepherds have caused us to go astray”   Jer 50:6

So this denial of the truthfulness, the authority, and complete inspiration of God’s word, is what drives the false teachers.  But the other problem is that many Christians are being led away from a reliance on God’s word, and are accepting anything that comes from the pulpit without question.  They are no longer Bereans who test the teachings of their pastors.  They have been conned by pastors who preach love and acceptance and tolerance, but not the wrath and justice of a holy God. They have traded a hunger for truth for the comfort of sitting in the pews and getting along with everyone.  They idolize those in the pulpit who tickle their ears, not caring to question anything that is taught to them.  They are fast asleep while their children are fed a bunch of lies by teachers who do not know the Bible.  They are not willing to give up the fellowship, the friendships, the positions of power that they may lose if they stand for the truth.  And they have made serving the neighborhood with food more important than feeding them with the word of God.  Such is the state of so many of our churches today.

This is the reason I continue to write these things.  That is why so many of my new friends are putting up with the “inconvenience” of writing, warning, witnessing to others, knowing that most of the time, they will be at best ignored; at worst, called hateful.  Yet we are still compelled to warn our friends, and even our enemies.   We are compelled to say things that folks would rather not hear, because they don’t want bad news.  They only want good news, and they want to be able to feel good all the time.  Hey, I want good news all the time.  But if your neighbor’s house was on fire, would you say nothing and just believe everything will be fine?  Of course not.  But the Bible warns us in Matthew 10:29,  “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  And Ezekiel 37 speaks of that sword which will come down on the watchman who fails to warn the people.

You know that Christ warned about the wolves in sheep’s clothing that want to destroy you.  We are charged to “test the spirits”, because “sound doctrine will not be endured”, and many after their own lusts will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears”  (2 Tim 4:1-5).   Paul says that even an angel from heaven that preaches a false gospel ought to be “eternally condemned.”  (Gal 1:6-9).  Some will abandon the faith and follow things taught by demons (1 Tim 4:1).  We are warned not to be “taken captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy” (Eph. 5:6) , but that is exactly what is happening!

All this will happen from within the church, from those who are professing Christians and are even our leaders.  Are you willing to set aside God’s words and place your trust in any man?  I pray not.  What will be your testimony at the Judgment Seat of Christ?

 I have to admit, I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall, for I have directed this message at some who have been close to me for a long time, and yet, it seems they don’t care to hear it.

Is your love growing cold?  The hour is getting late, my friend.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sIqAaLM2bA

Salvation And End-Times Apostasy

(August 3, 2011- from David Cloud at Way of Life (www.wayoflife.org)

A fundamental reason why so many professing Christians are embracing the false god of end-times apostasy (e.g., the non-judgmental, no-obligations god of The Shack) is the absence of biblical salvation.

A genuine experience of salvation is foundational to spiritual protection, because it is impossible to understand the truth properly apart from the new birth.

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Further, those who are not saved are still under the power of the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:1-2). It is only the truly regenerate individual who can claim the precious promise of 1 John 4:4, “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

Yet confusion about salvation is rampant.

I began to understand this many decades ago when I sat in the office of the head of the Bible Society in Calcutta, India, and talked with him about salvation. I told him how I was converted at age 23, and then I asked, “How were you saved?” He sort of chuckled and said, “I’m a third generation Christian.”

According to Scripture, there is no such thing. Jesus said that each individual must be born again. I can’t go to heaven on the coattails of the faith of my parents or grandparents.

On that same trip to India I sat in the office of the head of the theological seminary at Serampore University. When I asked him how a person becomes a Christian he replied: “There are a number of ways. You can be born into a Christian home; you can be baptized; you can be catechized; you can have a conversion experience.”

A few years ago I attended Rick Warren’s church in California and as I was waiting for the service to begin I talked to the man sitting next to me. I asked if he was a member of the church, and he said yes. I then asked when he was born again, and he replied that he had always been a Christian.

Again, that is not possible.

Consider the Charismatic Movement

Consider the charismatic movement with its radical ecumenism. While there are saved people in the movement, there are countless people who are not saved. They have had an emotional mystical experience of some sort; they have prayed a prayer and been “baptized by the Spirit”; they have fallen down, spoken in tongues, danced, been captivated by powerful music. But they haven’t repented of their sin and put their complete trust in the once for all atonement of Jesus Christ. At the massive New Orleans ’87 conference, which had roughly 35,000 attendees, half of the people raised their hands one evening to indicate that they didn’t know for sure if they were saved, and this was after these same people had spent two or three days in enthusiastic charismatic worship.

At a press conference the next day, Dennis Costella of Foundation magazine asked why the conference didn’t address the matter of salvation plainly and publicly in order to clear up the obvious confusion. A Pentecostal leader replied, “We don’t have time for that.” The more honest answer would have been as follows:

“We are a mixed multitude and there is widespread confusion about salvation in our midst. This conference represents 40 different denominations, and we have different ideas about the gospel itself. Our Catholic brethren have one idea and our Lutheran brethren another and there are differences of opinion even among us Pentecostals. In the context of the ecumenical aspect of the charismatic movement, some believe baptism is necessary for salvation; some believe you can’t be saved without tongues; some believe baptism regenerates; some believe cooing infants can be saved; some believe salvation must be nurtured through sacraments; some believe you can lose your salvation; some believe salvation is a mere sinner’s prayer; some believe in ‘Four Spiritual Laws,’ etc. So it is impossible to be doctrinally precise on that or practically any other issue and still keep our unity. As you know, doctrine divides; love unites, and love is what really matters. We can’t judge someone else, you know.”

That is the situation that exists within the broad worldwide charismatic movement.

Consider the Emerging Church

There is the same problem in the emerging church. In my research into the emerging church I have been amazed at the widespread confusion about the issue of salvation itself.

In fact, Brian McLaren, one of the most prominent names in the movement, says:

“I don’t think we’ve got the gospel right yet. What does it mean to be ‘saved’? When I read the Bible, I don’t see it meaning, ‘I’m going to heaven after I die.’ Before modern evangelicalism nobody accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, or walked down an aisle, or said the sinner’s prayer. I don’t think the liberals have it right. But I don’t think we have it right either. None of us has arrived at orthodoxy” (“The Emergent Mystique,” Christianity Today, Nov. 2004, p. 40).

In fact, it is rare to find a clear biblical testimony of salvation in the writings of emerging church leaders.

Scot McKnight says that “conversion” can be through liturgy (referring to sacraments such as baptism), or through socialization (growing up in a Christian home), or through personal decisional faith in Christ (Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels).

This statement reflects a deep confusion about salvation.

Robert Webber, who grew up in a Baptist pastor’s home, argued that salvation does not have to be a dramatic conversion experience and admitted that he didn’t have such an experience. He said that repentance “can have a dramatic beginning or can come as a result of a process over time” (The Divine Embrace, p. 149). He saw salvation as a sacramental process that begins at baptism, and this is one reason why he left the Baptists and joined the Episcopalians and was also perfectly comfortable with Roman Catholicism.

Tony Campolo has a similar testimony. In Letters to a Young Evangelical Campolo described his own experience in the following words:

When I was a boy growing up in a lower-middle-class neighborhood in West Philadelphia, MY MOTHER, a convert to Evangelical Christianity from a Catholic Italian immigrant family, HOPED I WOULD HAVE ONE OF THOSE DRAMATIC ‘BORN-AGAIN’ EXPERIENCES. That was the way she had come into a personal relationship with Christ. She took me to hear one evangelist after another, praying that I would go to the altar and come away ‘converted.’ BUT IT NEVER WORKED FOR ME. I would go down the aisle as the people around me sang ‘the invitation hymn,’ but I just didn’t feel as if anything happened to me. For a while I despaired, wondering if I would ever get ‘saved.’ It took me quite some time to realize that entering into a personal relationship with Christ DOES NOT ALWAYS HAPPEN THAT WAY. …

In my case INTIMACY WITH CHRIST WAS DEVELOPED GRADUALLY OVER THE YEARS, primarily through what Catholic mystics call ‘centering prayer.’ Each morning, as soon as I wake up, I take time–sometimes as much as a half hour–to center myself on Jesus. I say his name over and over again to drive back the 101 things that begin to clutter up my mind the minute I open my eyes. Jesus is my mantra, as some would say. …

I LEARNED ABOUT THIS WAY OF HAVING A BORN-AGAIN EXPERIENCE FROM READING THE CATHOLIC MYSTICS, especially The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola (Letters to a Young Evangelical, 2006, pp. 25, 26, 30).

This is very frightful testimony. Campolo does not have a biblical testimony of salvation. He plainly admits that he is not “born again” in the way that his mother was, through a biblical-style conversion. Instead, he describes his “intimacy with Christ” as something that has developed gradually through the practice of Catholic mysticism.

For one thing, this is to confuse the issue of salvation with that of spiritual growth. All of the conversions that are recorded in the New Testament are of the instantaneous, dramatic variety. We think of the woman at the well (John 4), Zacchaeus (Luke 19), the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8), Paul (Acts 9), Cornelius (Acts 10), Lydia (Acts 16), and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16), to name a few. The Lord Jesus Christ said that salvation is a birth (John 3:3). That is not a gradual thing that happens throughout one’s life; it is an event!

Further, Catholic mysticism itself is deeply unscriptural. Jesus forbad repetitious prayers (Mat. 6:7). He taught us to pray in a verbal, conscious manner, talking with God as with a Father, addressing God the Father external to us, not searching for a mystical oneness with God in the center of our being through meditation (Mat. 6:9-13). The Catholic mystics did not have a biblical testimony of salvation. They trusted in Christ PLUS baptism and the other Catholic sacraments, which is a false gospel.

Jim Wallis, one of the most influential of emergents, defines “born again” as follows:

“Being born again was not meant to be a private religious experience that is hard to communicate … but rather the prerequisite for joining a new and very public movement – the Jesus and kingdom of God movement” (The Great Awakening, p. 60).

Wallis claims that salvation isn’t a personal religious experience, but that is exactly what it was in the case of the salvations recorded in the New Testament.

The book Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger contains the testimonies of about 50 emerging church leaders in Appendix A, and only a couple of them even come close to a biblical testimony. Some of them don’t mention a personal salvation testimony, merely saying that they grew up in some type of church.

And remember that these are emerging church LEADERS.

Ben Edson of Sanctus1 in Manchester, England, says:

“After a painful breakup with my girlfriend, I gave God another chance. I cried out to God at my point of need, and God met me in a profound and life-changing way” (p. 266).

Is salvation a matter of giving God a chance, of God meeting my needs and having a “profound” experience of some sort? Many people have life-changing experiences through psychology, 12-Step programs, New Age mysticism, and goddess worship.

Kester Brewin of Vaux in London, England, said:

“I can point to a Billy Graham rally in 1984 as a conversion, but that was really more of a moment of STRENGTHENING A FAITH THAT HAD ALWAYS been there” (Emerging Churches, 2005, p. 248).

Ephesians 2:1-2 says there is a time before salvation and a time after salvation. Before salvation we are dead in trespasses and sins and controlled by the devil. After salvation we have new life in Christ and belong to God. It is sometimes the case with a child who grows up in church that he does not remember the exact time that he put his faith in Christ, but true salvation is always a life-changing event and one should never say that he has always had faith.

David Cloud
(for the complete article, got to:  www.wayoflife.org    (http://www.wayoflife.org/files/082552246a2247df89f143e5e672338a-843.html)

 

SFT Notes: Details coming soon for the Defending Biblical Inerrancy In A Post-Modern World conference, Oct. 14-15 in Ashford, CT.  This conference will address the attempts being made today to erode complete trust in the word of God.  Our keynote speaker will be Eric Barger.  Our other speakers will be Ken Silva (no relation), Tim Wirth, and Jason Bjerke.  The website of the New England Apologetic & Theology Council is online if you wish to see our preliminary details and register.  Our schedule of topics will be finalized soon and you will get a complete conference flyer soon.  Lodging will be available for those who want to stay overnight.  For those who support our ministry, please consider a donation if you cannot attend the conference.