Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS)?

A friend of mine wrote a rather long post on Facebook all about OSAS doctrine. A particular paragraph in his post really grabbed my attention. This post contains the text of his post and my response, for what it’s worth. Although the Bible contains much (to say the least) that teaches the eternal security of the true believer, my response revolves around a small portion of my friend’s post and the text of John 10:28 – 29, which I believe is more than adequate to refute my friends position on the matter. I also included a couple of good commentaries. I was not trying to win an argument, but I did want to encourage searching scripture, which he also recommended.

Without any further banter on my part, here is the text of my friend’s FB post and my response. Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

My friend’s FB post:

The passages below all deal with the doctrine of once saved always saved. Every teacher needs to be questioned and checked. If we just accept what we are told by someone then we are doing that person and our brothers and sisters a huge disservice. Please pray over and go through the word with anything that is fed to you. If it is from God then the Spirit will make that clear and will bring you to an even deeper understanding of the teaching. If it is not from God then the Spirit will make that clear as well and you will learn still more about God. Checking what a teacher feeds us can only bring us closer to Jesus. That said………

It is a deliberate choice for us to repent and follow Jesus. Salvation is not something that we stumble into one day by doing good, being good enough, or somehow balancing the scales between good and evil toward good.

Neither does one lose or reject the salvation given to us by Jesus by stumbling out of our walk with Him. It is a deliberate choice. It is not the result of simply sinning, committing a certain amount of sin, or somehow balancing the scales between good and evil toward evil.

Jesus died once for our sin. He did not die twice or more. Those who choose to repent and follow Jesus die with Him. Those who choose to deny Him will be denied by Him. There is no separation shown between Christians and Non-Christians in this. At no point is the ability to choose or the will of a Christian removed. Having the desire taken from us is not the same as having the choice taken from us. Being a new creation does not mean that the creation cannot be warped or contaminated. Adam was a new creation that walked physically with God and he turned from God.

Romans chapter six dwells specifically on choice. Telling us that our master is the one we choose (current action) to serve. It does not say that our master is the one that we chose (past action) to serve.

Over and over throughout Scripture we are told to endure (current action) and when Jesus told us that anyone who takes their hand off of the plow is not worthy, He did not limit or specify a point in the work at which that applied.

In the parable of the seeds/soils we are given a powerful message. In all four cases it was the same seed that was sown. In three of the four examples the seeds grew and had life. Apple seeds do not grow into pecan trees. The same type of seed grows the same plant. Only the soil is different.

In the case of scripture saying that we cannot be taken, separated, or snatched from the hand of God it is often stated that this would apply to us as well. In the passages where such terminology is used it refers to something outside of the person that would be taking them from God and not the person themselves. Nowhere does it say that we cannot walk away.

At the end of the Revelation there is a penalty listed for taking away from the prophecy. Suffice it to say that one cannot lose something they do not have. We are told in Hebrews that those who were partakers of the Holy Spirit and turn away from Christ cannot repent again. It is in effect crucifying (a cursed death) Jesus a second time and it is cursing the Holy Spirit (which Jesus said is unforgivable).

Scripture tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. He loved us so much that Jesus suffered a cursed and painful death to shed His blood for our sin. That sacrifice was for the entire world. That love is so great that Jesus gave Himself up even for those that He knew would deny Him. His love is not limited to Christians.

Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23

Matthew 18: 21-35

John 5:24-25, 10:28-29

Romans 6

Hebrews 6:4-6, 9:20-28

2 Timothy 2:11-13

Revelation 22:19

My response:

You said:

“In the case of scripture saying that we cannot be taken, separated, or snatched from the hand of God it is often stated that this would apply to us as well. In the passages where such terminology is used it refers to something outside of the person that would be taking them from God and not the person themselves. Nowhere does it say that we cannot walk away.”

There was a time when I agree with you concerning being able to snatch oneself out of the double fisted hand of God, however I had to change my opinion after careful study. Here are the relevant passages.

Joh 10:28 “and I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

Joh 10:29 “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

The key words are “no one-(NASB), or “no man” (KJV)

“no on/no man” in the Greek (Strong’s):

From G3761 and G1520; not even one (man, woman or thing), that is, none, nobody, nothing: – any (man), aught, man, neither any (thing), never (man), no (man), none (+ of these things), not (any, at all, -thing), nought.

Total KJV occurrences: 233

“No man” means exactly what it says – no man, woman, or thing (NOTHING)

One has to read into the passages (eisegesis) the notion that “no one” refers to that which is outside of the believer.

COMMENTARIES

ALBERT BARNES

None is able – None has power to do it. In these two verses we are taught the following important truths:

1. That Christians are given by God the Father to Christ.

2. That Jesus gives to them eternal life, or procures by his death and intercession, and imparts to them by his Spirit, that religion which shall result in eternal life.

3. That both the Father and the Son are pledged to keep them so that they shall never fall away and perish. It would be impossible for any language to teach more explicitly that the saints will persevere.

4. That there is no power in man or devils to defeat the purpose of the Redeemer to save his people. We also see our safety, if we truly, humbly, cordially, and daily commit ourselves to God the Saviour. In no other way can we have evidence that we are his people than by such a persevering resignation of ourselves to him, to obey his law, and to follow him through evil report or good report. If we do that we are safe. If we do not that we have no evidence of piety, and are not, cannot be safe.

BIBLE KNOWLEDGE COMMENTARY

My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. That is, no one is strong enough to snatch any of Jesus’ flock from the Father’s hand (or from Jesus’ hand, Joh_10:28). As the NIV margin states, Joh_10:29 in many early Greek manuscripts reads, “What My Father has given Me is greater than all.” The thought of the verse in either case is that the Father who is omnipotent secures the flock by His power and protection. God’s plan of salvation for Jesus’ flock cannot be aborted.

Also, I must ask, what does “never perish” mean in verse 28? If it means wake up in hell (and it does), I then have to ask another question. “If you walk away from / ‘take yourself away from God’ (your expression), would you eventually wake up in Hell?

There is much more to say from scripture concerning the eternal security of the believer that makes it abundantly clear that He who began a good work will bring it to completion. I sometimes use the phrase “Those whom God saves, God keeps.”

I’ll leave it right there.

What Do We Make of Radical Islamicism?

October 1, 2012, Summit Ministries

This is a good article from Summit Ministries. I found it informative and accurate.

What Do We Make of Radical Islamicism?

Each year, September 11 brings up visceral memories for millions of Americans. Feelings of fear and uncertainty. Mental images of dust settling around Manhattan, buildings collapsing, and first responders working endlessly. And so many questions. How could this happen? Who would commit such a violent act?

And now, the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya have brought up many of the same questions. Though many legitimate questions about the attack remain, the perpetrators are, in fact, known: Islamic terrorists with ties to al Qaeda. Once again, Americans are drawn to the turmoil in the Middle East and the tension of two different narratives: one of violent, jihad-driven Islamists and one of Muslim neighbors simply trying to make a good life for themselves. So how do we make sense of the images we see on network news each night and the snapshots many of us observe in our neighborhoods, towns, and communities? What are the worldwide implications of these competing narratives, and how do we engage Muslims in light of that?

A Story of Two Islams: Traditional and Reformed

Although similarities do exist between Christianity and Islam, there are myriad differences. One similarity is that there are “denominational differences” in Islam just as there are in Christianity. Varying interpretations of the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sunnah — the three authoritative texts of Islam — have produced different forms of Islam, according to Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, a Summit lecturer and former Muslim. Broadly speaking, some Muslims adhere to a traditionalist Islam, which takes all the material in the three sources literally. Others, meanwhile, adhere to a reformed Islam, which dismisses the abusive aspects of Islam by claiming they are no longer culturally relevant, especially when they are violent and mistreat women. Qureshi’s theory is that the worldwide rise in violence among Muslims in recent years is due to the spread of information. More Muslims are now able to see the original texts for themselves, including calls to violence. This rising awareness, though, has also fueled the growth of reformed Islam. “All [of reformed Islam’s] teachings don’t jive with original sources,” Qureshi said. As far as Islam’s ability to assimilate into other cultures, Muslim rejection of Islam’s violent teachings is a good thing.

Abdu Murray, also a former Muslim and another Summit lecturer, agreed that many Muslims — particularly those in the West — simply don’t adhere to many of the commands of Islamic scripture. “I can’t tell you how many Muslims are nominal at best,” he said. “They are [only] cultural Muslims. If it were a crime to be an orthodox Muslim, they couldn’t be convicted of it.” That’s why he says it’s important for non-Muslims to note well the difference between Islam — the actual religion left by Muhammad, which calls for violence toward nonbelievers and a full political ideology — and Muslims — those who say they follow Islam. “We have to understand there’s a spectrum of Muslims,” he said. “They hold their worldview with a varying degree of tightness.”

Even the Islamic scriptures themselves are conflicting. At various places within the Qur’an (the Islamic holy book, written by Muhammad), the Hadith (sayings of Muhammad), and the Sunnah (doctrines of practice lived out or advocated by Muhammad) violence is in fact a flagstone (see surah 9 of the Qur’an, for example). Other passages advocate for peace. Alan Shlemon, another Summit lecturer, said the explanation for the texts’ discrepancies is pretty simple. Muhammad wrote different parts of the Qur’an during two different times of his life: his time in Mecca and the last half of his life after fleeing to Medina. Muhammad’s time in Mecca was peaceful, while his time in Medina, as his popularity grew, was much more violent. Thus, the discrepancies in the Qur’an, his sayings, and the practices he advocated.

Islam Plays a Strong Part on the World Stage

As David Noebel and Jeff Myers outlined in Understanding the Times, all worldviews speak into ten specific disciplines, one of them being politics, and Islam is no different. Islamic governments, like Muslims themselves, vary in scope in their adherence to Islamic scriptures. Many enforce Islamic law — sharia — on their citizens. According to Abdu Murray, an example of that end of the spectrum is what we’re seeing in Egypt as the Muslim Brotherhood, adherents of traditional Islam, wrest control from what had been a mostly secular Islamic regime.

One implication of the growth of traditional Islam is that non-Muslims in countries like Egypt may be treated as second-class citizens. According to the Qur’an, Islamic countries have a right to charge non-Muslims a special tax (called jivya) in order to live under the protection of the state. In other Islamic nations, such as Iran, sharia law is heavily enforced. The violence that we see in the Middle East can be used to point toward Christ, though. Murray says that as with all conflict, violence in and around Islamic countries is usually followed by three reactions:

  1. Sorrow of loss
  2. Demand for justice
  3. Cry for love

The Christian worldview addresses all three of these needs in unique ways, says Murray. “A Gospel-centered answer to these questions is there, as opposed to a political solution,” he said. So even amongst the conflicts we see in headlines, opportunities abound to point out to Muslims the power of the Gospel. “There’s a way to use the conflict,” Murray exhorted.

One of the dangers of the current political landscape is that many Western leaders are so influenced by secularism, they fail to see the far-reaching implications Islam has in the political sphere, potentially putting more people at risk. Secularism posits that all things religious are relegated to private life and shouldn’t affect the public square. “As a matter of definition, secularists will never understand Muslims and never understand the Middle East,” Murray said. “That’s the complete opposite of Islam.” Such misunderstandings can lead to an underestimation of the willingness of Islamists to use state power to coerce others or carry out jihad. It’s a mistake that, as we saw in Benghazi, can end tragically.

How Do We Engage Islam in the Public Square at Home?

Ironically, secularism can also be an unwitting friend to Islamists in non-Islamic countries. The secular belief that religion is innocuous if kept private, combined with an obsession for a political correctness that disallows the critiquing of any religion other than Christianity — can actually give way to a minority religion like Islam having more sway in the public sphere. “Secularism is, in fact, a pushover,” Murray said. “It almost sounds like we’re being thoughtful [to not criticize others’ religion]. And it sounds very nice. But I think, frankly, it’s not truly thoughtful. If America were a more Christian culture, you’d find a more informed, thoughtful response to the things that speak to the Muslim mind.”

After seeing examples of sharia law take hold in pockets of Western Europe, some in the U.S. worry the same thing will happen here. Nabeel Qureshi was actually arrested and jailed in Dearborn, Michigan, just for engaging in Christian evangelism with Muslims at an Islamic festival. Even so, he says we cannot afford to take a merely defensive posture. “We’re far too reactionary,” he said. “We tend to react to things that happen and pull away from the culture.” Damage control in this sense is sometimes necessary, but it is often too little, too late. “Culture is what controls the mindset of the next generation,” he continued. “ We need to [proactively] engage culture from a Christian mindset.”

If there are places where the Muslim/secularist worldview — or other worldviews, for that matter — begin to coerce non-Muslims, fighting to maintain freedom of expression is paramount, Qureshi said. “We definitely need to stand up for our ability to speak freely. But it’s still not enough; it’s like putting a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage.”

Advice for Day-to-Day Interactions with Muslims

Even in spite of political, cultural, and legal differences, Shlemon encouraged Christians not to fear monger. Most Muslims we encounter day-to-day in the West seek merely to live peacefully and support themselves and their families; they’re not violent jihadists. “Even if they were, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not like God’s called us to be ambassadors to only peaceful people.” Qureshi, Murray, and Shlemon all had practical advice for Christians engaging more intentionally with Muslims:

  1. Ask honest questions. Because of the diversity of thought within Islam, Qureshi encourages Christians to ask questions in order to get to know their Muslim friends and their beliefs. Don’t assume you know all the particulars of their beliefs.
  2. Ask about Jesus. Muslims love talking about their faith. “It’s not like secularism, where politics and religion are taboo,” Murray said.
  3. Be sensitive to Muslim sensitivities. Shlemon advises Christians to avoid things that are automatically off-putting to Muslims. Don’t approach a Muslim of the opposite sex alone; don’t bring up controversial claims about Muhammad being a pedophile, for example, while still building a relationship.

If the tide of culture is to be turned, Christians ought to interact with and love Muslims of all stripes. “God is making his appeal through us,” Shlemon said. “Our mandate is to go out and speak to people about Jesus so that they can be reconciled to God. It doesn’t matter whether nominal, reformed, or radical.”

Online Source

People Are Basically Good by Cameron Buettel

Wednesday, September 1, 2021, GTY Blog Post

image

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.” [1] Those are heartbreaking words for a couple of reasons.

They were penned by Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl, while she spent two years hiding in Nazi-occupied Holland. She died tragically in a concentration camp soon after, but her writings would go on posthumously to become a widely celebrated bestseller: The Diary of a Young Girl.

It’s staggering to think that in spite of the unimaginable atrocities she must have witnessed and experienced, she still clung to the belief that people are basically good. She even admitted her beliefs were “in spite of” the evidence, not because of it. For her, the alternative was simply too unthinkable. It would seem her beliefs hinged more on hope than conviction.

The other reason Anne Frank’s words are so heartbreaking is because she believed a widespread and popular lie.

Pelagian Origins

The belief that people are basically good is an ancient falsehood going back to the fourth-century AD. It was first propagated, at least in a theological sense, by a British monk called Pelagius. He fervently and persuasively argued against the biblical doctrine of original sin—the belief that all of mankind has been morally corrupted through Adam’s fall.

The Pelagian heresy was defeated at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. But Pelagius’s beliefs have been readily imbibed by most secular cultures and are alive and well in the present day. Atheism and Darwinism may have toned it down by embracing an anthropology of moral neutrality rather than goodness. But their worldview remains essentially Pelagian because they still deny the inherent sinfulness of man.

In that sense, Pelagius still stalks the hallways of government, higher education, and the mainstream media. Most foreign policy disasters are connected to the naïve assumption that people are basically good. Welfare programs flounder because of beneficiaries who prefer to extort the system rather than behave ethically. Psychologists continue to exclude the possibility of a sinful nature from their study of the human experience. Behavioral experts relentlessly try to solve bad behavior with better education. And society at large is now burdened with a younger generation that identifies as victims rather than perpetrators, refusing to be held accountable for its actions.

The realm of parenting has also been poisoned by the belief that people are basically good. Our children should be the greatest empirical proof of original sin. After all, we don’t have to teach them to lie, throw tantrums, or be selfish—they are all born with ready-made expertise in sinning. But like Anne Frank, many parents prefer to believe in the inherent goodness of their kids despite the massive weight of evidence to the contrary. Consequently, appeasement and medication have usurped the role of discipline in far too many families.   

We get an even harsher dose of reality when we honestly assess our own lives. God has written His morality upon our hearts and consciences (Romans 2:14–15)—we instinctively know right from wrong. But we live with the natural desire to rebel against what we know is right. Those who choose to deny this truth end up affirming it through their denial anyway.

Clearly then, the Pelagian lie is incredibly pervasive in the world. Churches thus carry an enormous responsibility to repudiate it. Unfortunately, that isn’t happening. The belief that people are basically good is now a thriving heresy in some of the most popular churches in America.  

Pelagian Churches

Bethel Church in Redding, California, is a prime example. Pastored by Bill Johnson, Bethel is perhaps the most influential charismatic church in the country. They are most widely known for their Jesus Culture music, testimonies of trips to heaven, gold dust “miracles” pouring out of their ventilation system, and many other bizarre claims and antics. But undergirding these strange recent phenomena is well-worn ancient heresy.

Eric Johnson (the son of Bill Johnson) is one of the pastors on staff at Bethel. In his sermon “The Joy of Consecration,” [2] he argues:

You’re not born evil. It’s amazing how many teachings and theologies start with that thought. Anytime you start with that you will create a controlling, manipulative environment.

Every government, every structure . . . every system fundamentally and theologically must start with the concept and the idea that people are good and they mean to do good. Even if they are not saved, we have to start from that premise.

Like a pope speaking ex cathedra, Eric Johnson usurps the clear teaching of Scripture and insists on redefining it according to his own theological preferences. And just to make himself clear, Johnson explicitly restates his Pelagian worldview later in the sermon:

We have to adjust our theology. We have to adjust our fundamental stance when we look at people. . . . We have to adjust our perspective of people. We have to realize that people are good and they mean to do good.

Johnson’s error is nothing short of catastrophic. In one fell swoop he has made repentance redundant in the lives of his massive audience and completely obliterated the reason for the gospel. His false gospel will damn those who embrace it.

Man Is Totally Depraved

The undeniable truth is that man is totally depraved. That doesn’t mean unregenerate sinners are incapable of doing anything good or noble. But it does mean that sin has permeated every part of their nature, and even the seemingly good things they do are ultimately done with sinful motives.

Keeping one’s head in the proverbial sand is the only way to ignore the doctrine of total depravity. It is the reason we have arguments, assaults, and wars. It’s the reason we need governments, police, and the military. It’s the reason for locks on our doors, walls around our prisons, and armed guards at our borders.

And the wrong things people do aren’t because of ignorance or a lack of education. Sinners deliberately rebel against what they know to be true about God and His righteousness. As the Lord Jesus Himself said,

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19–20)

As far back as Genesis 6—prior to God’s judgment in the Flood—the depravity of man’s sinful heart was obvious. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

The apostle Paul delivered a powerful reminder to all believers that the primary struggle for unbelievers is never the lack of evidence for God, but their love for every form of defiance against Him.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18–20)

Atheism, Darwinism, hedonism, and victimhood are all excuses for the fact that people love sin, hate God, and refuse to be held accountable for their guilt. And that’s because all people are sinners by nature—a nature passed on to every descendant of Adam after the Fall (Genesis 3). “Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). “Through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19).

In his book The Gospel According to Paul, John MacArthur explains the imputation of Adam’s sin to all of his descendants:

All humanity was plunged into this guilty condition because of Adam’s sin. “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). This is the doctrine of original sin, a truth that is expounded by Paul in Romans 5:12–19. . . . We prove our willing complicity in Adam’s rebellion every time we sin. And since no one other than Jesus has ever lived a sinless life, no one is really in a position to doubt the doctrine of original sin, much less deem it unjust. [3]

We need to abandon the lie that people are basically good, and instead embrace the truth that man is totally depraved. Understandably, it is an unsavory subject for most people. And without the gospel, it is only bad news.

But without the bad news, the gospel becomes strange and nonsensical. The cross becomes confusing. And there is no good reason for Christ to die as a sin-bearing substitute. If mankind is basically good, the gospel is an unnecessary farce, and the death of Christ a tragic waste. Choosing to deny the imputation of Adam’s sin demands that you also reject the imputation of our sin to Christ, and the imputation of His righteousness to our account. It cuts you off from the Savior, and any hope of salvation.

Ultimately, the difference between believing the soothing lie of Pelagius or the harsh truth of depravity is the doctrinal divide that separates heaven from hell.

Excellent Book Review Courtesy of The Cripplegate

Injustice to the text: A review of “Reading While Black”

by Dan Crabtree

Last week I wrote a post laying out ground rules for biblical engagement of the racial justice debate. In light of that post, today I want to apply those principles and engage with Esau McCaulley’s Reading While Black, and I want to focus specifically on how his book interacts with Scripture. This is a critical review, but I hope it is done with charity and clarity.

McCaulley, a Wheaton professor and Anglican theologian, has recently risen to ecumenical prominence for his work on race and justice in a variety of formats. McCaulley’s widely read, award-winning book, Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope, deals at length with the text of Scripture, and so provides a valuable opportunity to engage directly with textual arguments about race and justice. Instead of more talking about talking about justice, we can get into the brass Bible tacks of definitions and exegetical conclusions. The goal of this review is to both understand and respond to McCaulley’s interpretation of Bible texts about ethnicity and justice.

But, as a pastor, I have another objective with this review: I want to clarify for the flock of God why the main arguments in Reading While Black are, in fact, unhelpful distortions of the biblical teaching on hermeneutics, ethnicity, and justice. I intend for this review to be read as a warning. Reading While Black is not a useful resource that can help Christians understand God’s Word better. On the contrary, McCaulley frequently plays fast and loose with the intent of the biblical authors and promotes arguments not found in the pages of Holy Scripture. McCaulley teaches a skewed hermeneutic to justify misreading the text in favor of his stated agenda. I say all of this not to be unkind, of course, but to be forthright and clear. As much respect as I have for Esau as a fellow image bearer and a fellow believer, and I truly do, I don’t want others to embrace his unbiblical approach to the Bible. And that approach is where the review needs to start.

Interpreting by Demand

McCaulley names his approach “Black ecclesial interpretation” (5). This hermeneutic, in many ways, is the central argument of the book. To develop his understanding of “Black ecclesial interpretation,” McCaulley takes readers on his journey toward this interpretive method and explains the need for it today. And he starts in Chapter 1 by outlining what this interpretive grid entails.

First, we need to hear how McCaulley himself defines “Black ecclesial interpretation.” McCaulley says that this interpretive paradigm is not his invention, but an old form of “dialogue, rooted in core theological principles, between the Black experience and the Bible…” (20). It depends on McCaulley’s definition of the “Black experience” to generate unique questions to ask of the text, questions like “What about the exploitation of my people?” and “What about our suffering, our struggle?” (12). Then, he asserts, “the Scriptures also pose unique questions to us” (20). Essentially, it’s a way of reading the Bible that intentionally focuses on the cultural and social concerns of African Americans according to Esau, and certainly many others as well.

McCaulley anticipates the obvious objections. He states that “everybody has been reading the Bible from their locations, but we [black people] are honest about it” (20). This approach, he says, is just a transparent accounting for the way “social location” and in particular the “Black experience” necessarily shapes Bible interpretation. McCaulley advocates, then, “asking questions of the text that grow out of the reality of being Black in America” (20). Hence the subtitle “African American Biblical Interpretation.”

The rest of the book shows how McCaulley applies “Black ecclesial interpretation” as a framework to understand specific Bible passages. Chapter 2 looks at Romans 13:1-7 from the perspective of policing. Chapter 3 looks at Jesus’ statement in Luke 13:32 as a justification for political resistance. Chapter 4 sees Luke as “the Gospel writer for Black Christians” because of his concern about hope amidst oppression. And so on. McCaulley asks questions of the Bible that have been asked throughout African American history and arrives at his exegetical conclusions based on those questions, the historical background, and the text.

So far, I’ve attempted to summarize McCaulley’s “Black ecclesial interpretation” in such a way that he himself would agree with the representation. Now, I want to point out the deadly errors of this hermeneutic.

The biggest problem with McCaulley’s interpretive approach is that it’s not, biblically speaking, interpretation. In Luke 24:27, Jesus “interpreted to [the two on the Emmaus Road] in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” The word “interpreted” means either to translate (not the case in Luke 24) or to explain, to make understandable (BDAG, 244). To interpret a written work, then, means to accurately discover and articulate the author’s intent. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia says it this way,

“A person has interpreted the thoughts of another when he has in his own mind a correct reproduction or photograph of the thought as it was conceived in the mind of the original writer or speaker. It is accordingly a purely reproductive process, involving no originality of thought on the part of the interpreter. If the latter adds anything of his own it is eisegesis and not exegesis.”

ISBE, 1489

So, what’s wrong with McCaulley’s “Black ecclesial interpretation?” The problem is that he’s asking the wrong questions. In fact, there’s only one right question in biblical interpretation: What did the author intend? That’s not a 21st century question, that’s a 1st century question. In interpretation, I don’t need the text to enter my world; I need to enter the world of the text. It’s not that we shouldn’t bring our circumstantial concerns to God and His Word. Of course we should! But that’s not part of interpretation. Maybe our honest questions are part of forming our systematic theology, certainly a part of application, or even developing a worldview. But if we let our personally pressing demands leak into the process of interpretation, then they will inevitably contaminate our exegetical conclusions. Put another way, when we come to the Bible requiring it to answer our “socially situated” concerns, we’re not looking for what God has said but what we want God to say.

Now, having heard Esau respond to these concerns in an interview, I’m aware of what he would say to my objection. McCaulley says, “That’s the reason why I talk about truth emerging in community. We need one another to balance out our inadequacies so that together we might discern the mind of Christ.” In the context of that conversation, those “inadequacies” arise from our “social situation.” So, to use McCaulley’s example, slave masters misread the Bible because they were going to it looking for a justification for slavery. Therefore, according to McCaulley, what they needed, as do we, are people who don’t have the same blind spots as us. Or, as McCaulley says it in the book, “I need Ugandan biblical interpretation, because the experiences of Ugandans mean they are able to bring their unique insights to the conversation” (22).

Here we can see the second huge problem with McCaulley’s interpretive approach: it functionally denies the clarity of Scripture. If Scripture is clear, able to be understood on its own merits, then it doesn’t require diverse ethnic perspectives to understand correctly. Biblical interpretation requires that we understand the original language and the original context, that’s it. Note that McCaulley equates “Ugandan biblical interpretation” with the enabling of “experiences” to bring “insights to a conversation.” In so doing, he has added a requirement to biblical interpretation that the Bible never does.

To use a farfetched example, where in the Bible do you see Paul relying on Ephesian questions to better understand Genesis 9 so he can rightly relate to the Roman government? Or for that matter, how could Christians be expected to rightly interpret Scripture for the first 1600 years, long before there were American colonies, European Americans, or African Americans? The Bible never presents interpretation as necessarily a group project because the Bible presents itself as fundamentally clear to every person. Here’s how Moses says it:

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” (Deut 30:11-14)

If the Bible is clear, then we don’t need an international forum to understand it. You can read the Bible for yourself and interpret it rightly. Of course, we want to be humble and teachable, which means that we’ll seek out help from past illumination to arrive at the right exegetical conclusions. But what we’re looking for to aid our study of Scripture is not a cultural perspective but attention to textual details. Differing cultures don’t explain the text better to us, but faithful exegetes from any culture can. And ironically, the slave master eisegesis error that McCaulley cites is McCaulley’s own error: bringing a question from a cultural agenda to the biblical text rather than asking what the biblical authors intended. In interpretation, we don’t need more perspectives but more insights from whatever perspective.

If all this talk about hermeneutics sounds too confusing, let me simplify. The problem with McCaulley’s “Black ecclesial interpretation” is that it leads him to ask questions like this: “Put simply, is the Bible a friend or foe in the Black quest for justice?” Do you see the issue? The question is totally reversed from what is should be. We don’t assert ourselves over the Bible or even put ourselves beside the Bible. The question should be, “Is our quest for justice a friend or foe of the Bible?” Interpretation is not, as McCaulley asserts, a “dialogue” but a monologue. God is the only one speaking, and he’s the only one we want to hear.

Stretching the Text Until It Breaks

My second concern is the way that McCaulley uses his hermeneutical principles as a cover for unwarranted exegesis. Throughout the book, he undermines the meaning of multiple texts by drawing specious connections, by mistranslating words, and by asserting his conclusions without proof. These are the fruits of an arbitrary interpretive root.

Here’s a survey of just a few of the exegetical stretches in Reading While Black:

  • In chapter 2, McCaulley acknowledges that Paul doesn’t address evil rulers in Romans 13:1-7, so he says, “that in the absence of that explanation of Romans 13:1-7, we are free to use Paul’s reference to Egypt and the wider biblical account to fill in the gap.” What does he mean by “fill in the gap?” According to McCaulley, “Paul’s focus on structure” implies that “the Christian’s first responsibility is to make sure that those who direct the sword in our culture direct that sword in ways in keeping with our values” (30-41). That is, the passage that reads, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (Rom 13:1) is about demanding that governing authorities apply Christian ethics. Of course it’s true that Romans 13 tells us what governments are there for, but the application of the text is clearly submission to that government. To redefine submission as protest is to undermine Paul’s exhortation in this text.
  • In chapter 3, McCaulley contends that the church must have a robust “political witness” and cites the Beatitudes as support. He quotes the introduction to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with the following: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled” (Mt 5:4, 6, my translation; p.65). Apparently, McCaulley doesn’t find the usual translation of “righteousness” adequate, so he supplies his own translation, “justice.” You can imagine where this is going. “Hungering and thirsting for justice… is a vision of the just society established by God that does not waver in the face of evidence to the contrary” (66). He follows this up by redefining “Blessed are the peacemakers” to “calling injustice by its name,” including “an honest accounting of what this country has done and continues to do to Black and Brown people” (68). These are simply incorrect definitions for these Greek words, which reference not the desire for political reform in America but the desire for personal righteousness and peace like that of the preacher, Jesus.
  • In chapter 4, McCaulley sees in Mary’s “Magnificat” (Luke 1:46-55) a call to participate in political change. Specifically, he contends that Mary’s phrase “strength with his arm” is a reference to Isaiah 51:9-10, which is about the second exodus (a common theme in Reading While Black). Then connects the second exodus to the end of slavery, which “touches on that historic link between African Americans and the God of the Bible.” He concludes, “The testimony of Mary is that even in the shadow of the empire there is a space for hope and that sometimes in that space, God calls us from the shadows to join him in his great work of salvation and liberation” (88-89). That is a stunning leap in exegetical logic. He assumes that the virgin birth is intended as a paradigm for future salvation, but also assumes that Mary’s part in bringing the Christ to earth is a kind of “joining” in the purposes of God that meaningfully parallels political protests. The Magnificat is not about Mary’s participation but about God’s sovereign salvation.

The list of exegetical gymnastics could go on. These are not responsible hermeneutics, but warped principles of interpretation that undo the intelligibility of the Bible. We simply can’t reshape the text to fit our questions and agendas in this way. Instead, our goal in Bible interpretation must first and always be to know what the author meant by what he said. Any secondary objective smuggled into the interpretive process will eviscerate the text of meaning and make it a canvas for our purposes, not God’s.

_____

So, what are you supposed to do with this book review? Well, first, be warned that McCaulley’s Reading While Black distorts Scripture at the most fundamental level – the clarity and intelligibility of the Bible. While McCaulley tows the line of theological orthodoxy at points, his hermeneutical approach does serious violence to sound biblical interpretation. If you’re hoping to find help in thinking through interpretative issues, this isn’t your book.

Second, know that Reading While Black does not speak for all African American Christians. McCaulley paints with a broad, monolithic brush about the concerns and perspectives of African Americans and does so without a consensus. For other African American Christian perspectives on hermeneutics, justice, and ethnicity, see here, here, here, and here.

Third, be prepared to defend a biblical hermeneutic. Reading While Black has received almost unanimous acclaim in the evangelical world, and McCaulley is not the only evangelical espousing these views. If you haven’t come across a similar challenge to biblical hermeneutics, my guess is that you soon will. So, be prepared to stand on the clear, authoritative, sufficient Word of God to explain how to rightly read the Word of God.

Finally, a note: My point in this review is not to be unkind towards McCaulley or anyone who agrees with him, but rather to point out the error in interpreting God’s Word according to our demands. This kind of Scripture-twisting does not honor God, it does not unite the church, and it does not give the kind of hope that McCaulley says it gives. Instead, it teaches Christians to use the Bible to confirm their biases and assumptions, rather than to be instructed and corrected by God’s Word. My prayer is that whatever your ethnic and cultural background, your aim would be to honor God by rightly interpreting to his Word and proclaiming his gospel for the sake of his eternal purpose, to glorify his Son, Jesus Christ. That would do justice to the text.

_________

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Would Jesus require vaccine passports?

“No, Jesus would not require vaccine passports.”

by Jordan Standridge, The Cripplegate

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Samuel Sey tweeted something recently that came as a shock for many christians. A church in Canada is going to reopen next month (after being closed since covid began) but with a twist, they will be requiring a vaccine passport for people to come in the doors.

The writer of the article, who is the pastor of the church, said that if Jesus been alive today, he would have done the same. 

After appealing to science for his decision, the pastor made a shift into theology. He said Jesus would agree with him.

Theologically, the argument is stronger. To be a Christian is to model one’s life after Christ. Jesus always put others first. He gave up his individual rights for the common good and sacrificed for the sake of the weak. He loved others as he loved himself and would have surely done anything to best protect the unvaccinated children in his neighbourhood. A Christian ethic always puts the vulnerable first.

Not only is this argument not strong it is actually quite foolish.

Jesus consistently exposed himself to sick people. People with Leprosy (Matt. 8:2), fevers (Luke 8:38-40), blood discharges (Luke 8:43), demons (Matt. 5:1), and even dead people (Mark 5:21, Luke 8:40) were constantly approached by Jesus without regard for his own safety.

He could have healed everyone he came in contact with yet he didn’t. There were times where he chose not to heal people who needed it. (Mark 6:5) In fact, Jesus could remove not only Covid from this world in a split second, but all pain and suffering whenever he wants. But doesn’t.

Jesus’s mission was not to eradicate suffering in this world, but it was to suffer himself for the sake of the elect. (Heb. 2:9-10) He was willing to die for the sake of the lost! And He expected his disciples to follow suit! (John 15:20)

The only reason you might require proof of vaccines for entrance to a church service is because you have lost sight of the cost of discipleship and are controlled by the fear of death.

You should be willing to die for people to hear the gospel.

Jesus said very clearly that we should be willing to suffer and even die for His sake. (Matt. 10:38, Matt. 24:9)

Paul said that for the sake of his people, Israel, he would be willing to be accursed in their place, if it meant that they would get to go to Heaven. (Rom. 9:3) And Paul believed in a literal eternal hell.

Every follower of Christ should be willing to suffer and die for the sake of expending our energy and our whole entire lives for the lost. 

It is for this reason that it is shocking that there are churches that are forbidding people from coming to church. I know that this is a hot topic and that many people are sensitive about this. I am not against being careful and using wisdom, after all unlike Jesus, we don’t have the ability to heal people. But under no circumstance are we allowed to turn away people from hearing the Gospel and gathering with the saints.

We should be begging people to come, not banning them!

We truly need to pray for pastors around the world. These situations are not easy to navigate. We need to pray for churches to not be afraid. 

We need to pray that elders who are afraid of dying, would remember their high calling and either repent or resign. 

Sadly too many shepherds right now, instead of fighting away the enemy of their sheep, are dropping their staffs and running away, afraid to die.

If you should be willing to be speared in the chest to bring the Gospel to a tribe in Equador, you should be willing to be exposed to a respiratory disease that you have more than a 99% chance to survive.

This is not to minimize the fact that this virus does harm some people in a significant way, but it is to say that if the fear of death is driving you to make your decisions then you are not being a faithful shepherd.

We need to pray for much wisdom from the Lord. Obviously we don’t want to have a martyr complex where we expose ourselves and those around us to unnecessary risks, but we must, if we desire to follow our Lord’s example, be willing to expend ourselves for the Lord. 

I can’t help but think of Peter who was told by Christ that he would die on a cross, (John 21:19) yet boldly declared Gospel, each and every time he had the opportunity, without compromise or concern for his own body.

By all means get vaccinated if you want, protect yourself as best you can, but never forbid people from hearing the good news. Elders, (and really every member of the church) go and preach boldly the word of God, leaving your life in God’s hands.

The Afghan disaster and the warning of Jesus by Charles Bower

Which of you, wishing to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has the resources to complete it? Otherwise, if he lays the foundation and is unable to finish the work, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This man could not finish what he started to build.’ Or what king on his way to war with another king will not first sit down and consider whether he can engage with ten thousand men the one coming against him with twenty thousand? And if he is unable, he will send a delegation while the other king is still far off, to ask for terms of peace.”  Luke 14:28-35

As Christ taught us, let’s count the cost of our lost war.

  • Dollars spent on the war in Afghanistan: $2.26 trillion
  • GDP of Afghanistan: $19.29 billion
  • American soldiers killed in Afghanistan: 3,200
  • Terrorist attacks in Afghanistan in 2019: 1,422
  • Afghanistan’s share of global deaths by terrorism: 41%
  • Years America occupied Afghanistan: 20
    • Days it took the Taliban to capture Kabul: 9
    • Afghanistan’s ranking on the global terrorism index: 1

    You can see in the infographic below, courtesy of Statista, how some of these stats have changed – in fact, gotten worse – over these past years.

    How Afghanistan Deteriorated

This is the legacy of the War in Afghanistan: more terrorism, more instability, and more violence. Despite the UN, despite the World Bank, despite the IMF, despite the American, British, Canadian, French, German, and Italian military, Afghanistan in many ways is in a worse position today than it was even 20 years ago.

The excellent Orthodox conservative writer Rod Dreher recently pointed out that the War on Terror was bookended by men jumping out of American buildings to certain death on September 11th, and men falling off American planes to certain death twenty years later. This outcome was surely unimaginable to President Bush in 2001 when he ordered the invasion, or to President Obama in 2009 when he ordered a surge of US troops; that’s because they didn’t count the cost. Let’s go back, as we always should, to Him whose warnings our ruling class did not heed.

During Christ’s infancy, shortly after the death of Herod “the Great,” a rebel by the name of Judas attacked the Galilean city of Sepphoris and organized an armed revolt against the Herodian dynasty. Unlike that of his forebearer, Judas Maccabeus, this Judas’ revolt failed. According to the historian Josephus, Rome’s Syrian governor burned the city down and sold its inhabitants into slavery.

Sometime during Jesus’ teenage years, Sepphoris was rebuilt by Herod Antipas. Given their profession, and that they lived in nearby Nazareth, it’s likely that Christ joined with His stepfather in rebuilding the city. The young Jesus would have spent days toiling away in the shadow of decrepit former homes and businesses, as He built a new city in the rubble of a former rebel stronghold. (Sound familiar?)

Christ may well have been thinking of the failed revolt in Sepphoris when He spoke about war in Luke 14, just as Vietnam serves as the base-case for invasion and occupation for Baby Boomers, and as Iraq and Afghanistan for Millennials and Zoomers constitute the intellectual and emotional lens through which any possible war is filtered.

The Biblical perspective on war is, as one might expect, nuanced. Some conflicts – such as the Maccabean Revolt and the wars against the Amalekites, Midianites, and Philistines – carry divine endorsement. Some conflicts – such as the First Jewish-Roman War and the Bar Kokhba Revolt – carry divine punishment. Besides the obvious, two things separate the just and unjust war in Christian thought: the primacy of national sovereignty, and a reasonable expectation of victory.

First, God is not an imperialist. In 1 Peter 2:17 (“Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king,”) the Greek word basileus is used, which generally means not emperor, but king. A king is sovereign over one nation; an emperor is sovereign over many. Godcreated the nations and divided them:

When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He divided the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.” Deuteronomy 32:8

Lest we think this is some temporary division of the Old Testament era, Saint Paul repeats this doctrine in speaking to (formerly imperial) Greek pagans:

From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands.”

Acts 17:26

He, not us, made the nations. They are not man’s to play with; they are the creation of God, who went so far as to assign them spiritual principalities (see Daniel 10:13, Job 1:6, and, debatably, the aforementioned Deuteronomy 32:8.) Indeed, the very concept that there are laws of war – and therefore that some wars are unjust – comes from Christian thought, seen explicitly in the writing of the Arminian scholar Hugo Grotius. It was that same philosophy that resolved the Eighty Years’ War and Thirty Years’ War in the Peace of Westphalia, which legally instantiated the sovereignty of nations.

Were we honoring this principle in Afghanistan, where our presidents became de facto sovereigns of a foreign nation? Has our war of these past 20 years about redressing the crimes committed against us and protecting our rights and interests? Or was it about exporting our Western, liberal, democratic form of government to nations that have never known it and do not want it?

Even if we leave that aside, the issue of cost is glaringly obvious. What is required for a war to be just is that it be proportional to the crime and worth what we pay, whether financially, or in prestige, or in lives. If the mere presence of an evil foe was sufficient justification for war, Christ would have been encouraging a revolt against the Romans, not repeatedly warning against it. Taking up arms when one has no reasonable chance of victory is what Saint Peter did at Jesus’ arrest – prompting Him to tell Peter to sheathe his sword, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” War must carry a realistic possibility of victory, and it must not be more destructive than the peace.

This does not describe the war in Afghanistan. The invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 was justifiable – we were attacked, and the Taliban was aiding and shielding those who attacked us. What it became was something very different: a war for democracy; a war to enforce a very particular, modern, Western view of politics; a war to build a nation; a war that we did not count the costs of. We spent several times the GDP of Afghanistan to make it a liberal democracy, and we still failed, because the enterprise was absurd from the start.

Now, in the shadow of American humiliation and Afghan ruin, our foes are eager to pick up the pieces we broke. Expect China, Pakistan, Russia, and even India to reconsider their political and economic position in South and Central Asia, and not to America’s benefit – nor Afghanistan’s.

This is, of course, to say nothing of the thousands of men Western powers sent to die in a foreign country, not for national security – that stopped being the goal years ago – but for secular neocolonialism.Our now-abandoned Afghan colony was the fever dream of a political class unmoored from the Bible, unmoored from the Christian view of nations, unmoored from the spirit of Grotius and Westphalia, unmoored from world history, unmoored from a sense of proportion and scale, unmoored from who we are and what our purpose is; a political class which had somehow convinced themselves that they should – and could! – build a little America out of an ancient mountain range in South Asia.

Over $2 trillion spent to remake a country with a GDP of under $20 billion in our image. Over $2 trillion, over 3,000 lives, and a country that is less safe than it was when we started. Christ told us to count the cost of war before it begins; we ignored Him. Now America joins the ranks of the British, the Soviets, the Mongols, the Greeks, and the Persians in the graveyard of empires.

________________

Charles is a risk analyst and columnist at TownhallFinance. He has written for National Review Online, AsiaTimes, RealClearMarkets, and the Theopolis Institute. @charlesgbowyer

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A DEFENSE OF SINGING SONGS FROM BETHEL AND HILLSONG

The following is a very recent article with the same title as this blog post, as well as the comments made to the article as of early this morning. It’s a very interesting article on several levels, and the comments contain links to other material relevant to the issue of using Hillsong and Bethel Music for worship in our churches. Without further ado I leave it all with any who read it; to form your own opinions on the matter.

A DEFENSE OF SINGING SONGS FROM BETHEL AND HILLSONG

August 6, 2021 | By: Sam Storms

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Perhaps you saw an article that appeared online recently in which Mackenzie Morgan, a worship leader at Refine Church in Lascassas, Tennessee, announced that she and her church would no longer sing songs that come from Bethel Church in California or Hillsong Church in Australia. After examining some of the teaching from both Bethel and Hillsong, she concluded that to sing any song that originated with or was composed by someone from either of these local churches was dangerous.

Morgan insists that when it comes to corporate singing in church, “theology matters.” “It matters,” she says, “if a song is weak in theology and is not accurately displaying the Holiness of our God.” I couldn’t agree more.

Here at my church, Bridgeway, we are intensely careful never to sing error. If a song is in any way inconsistent with Scripture, we don’t sing it, no matter who wrote it or how much we might like the melody.

Morgan is also bothered by the fact that in singing the songs of Bethel and Hillsong “royalties” are being paid to them, and in this we are tacitly subsidizing and spreading “their false gospel message.” She continues:

“What if the majority of the church is leading its people astray singing music that is less than worthy of a Sovereign and Holy God? Would God be pleased with the lights? With the smoke machines? With the obsession of hands in the air and ‘response’ from the crowd? With loud worship nights singing songs He doesn’t approve of?”

So let me go on the record in this regard. I don’t like the strobe lights that so often are used in church worship sets. I refuse to make use of smoke machines. But I’m puzzled by the reference to the raising of hands. Has she not read Scripture’s many references to this practice? Has she not considered the deeply symbolic and spiritual nature of not only this but of other physical postures in worship? I’m curious: Does a person’s stiff, statuesque posture, with hands firmly at one’s side or stuffed into one’s pockets honor God more than those that are lifted in praise?

And should we not expect a “response” from the crowd? I read in Scripture of shouts of joy and declarations of “Holy, holy, holy”, and affirmations of thanksgiving, among others. And what is the alternative to “loud worship nights”? Quiet or soft worship days? And as I said, no one is endorsing songs of which God wouldn’t “approve.”

Be assured of this. In no way do I endorse or turn a blind eye to the scandals that have rocked Hillsong in recent days. In no way do I endorse certain ministry methods that are employed at a variety of churches that artificially stir up emotions as an end in themselves or manipulate people into behaviors or experiences that lack biblical sanction. Every church, be it Bethel, Hillsong, or Bridgeway as well (including Refine Church in Tennessee), needs to labor more vigorously to tether our teachings and practices to the inspired Word of God.

But let’s go straight to the point. Because this lady believes that some of what Bethel and Hillsong teach is unbiblical, no other church should make use of the music composed or sung there. She also insists that we should “read their church’s doctrine and see what they preach, teach, and believe. But don’t stop there. Don’t compare it to your traditions or what you think is right. Compare it with Scripture. Scripture is the ultimate authority. Not me, not your pastor, not the world, only God. There are no gray areas in God’s Word.”

So, I did just that. Bethel’s statement of faith is profoundly evangelical and orthodox and consistent with the historic creeds of Christianity. They affirm the Trinity, the inspiration and authority of the Bible, the incarnation and virgin birth of Jesus Christ, his substitutionary death on the cross, bodily resurrection, and ascension into heaven. They explicitly declare that Jesus is “true God” and “true man.”

They further affirm that we are saved by grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus. Bethel was at one time affiliated with the Assemblies of God, and yet their statement on the issue of Spirit baptism differs from that denomination’s viewpoint. Here is what they say:

“The baptism of the Holy Spirit, according to Acts 1:4-8 and 2:4, is poured out on believers that they might have God’s power to be His witnesses.”

Nothing is said about speaking in tongues being the initial, physical evidence of Spirit baptism. They do appear to believe that this experience is separate from and subsequent to conversion, but even then the language is a bit ambiguous. And let us not forget that although I and many evangelical charismatics believe baptism in the Spirit occurs simultaneous with conversion, the doctrine of “separate and subsequent” has been and still is embraced by numerous Christian denominations within the Pentecostal world, and is ably (even if not persuasively) defended by countless biblical scholars who minister in that tradition. We may disagree with their view on this point, but it is very much a secondary, perhaps even tertiary, doctrine. It is hardly a hill to die on.

They also believe in the Second Coming of Christ and the eternality of both heaven and hell.

One statement that clearly needs greater clarification is this:

“We believe the victorious, redemptive work of Christ on the cross provides freedom from the power of the enemy – sin, lies, sickness, and torment.”

I also believe this, but the question of when complete freedom from “sickness” is to be expected needs to be clearly stated. But note well: there is nothing in the statement that affirms the “Word of Faith” movement and its beliefs or the so-called “Health and Wealth Gospel.” If anyone at Bethel teaches these notions, it is not because they are acting in conformity with the church’s official statement of faith.

And there is a lengthy, thoroughly biblical defense in their statement concerning the historic and traditional biblical sex ethic, in which marriage is designed solely for one woman and one man. As for homosexuality and transgenderism, I can’t recall ever reading a more clearly defined and thoroughly biblical perspective on those issues.

I’m baffled by how or on what basis Morgan accuses them of preaching a “false gospel.” They preach salvation by grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone. They tether their hope of eternal life on trust in the sinless life, sacrificial, atoning death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus.

If some in Bethel or Hillsong believe in the so-called “prosperity” gospel, they are, of course, in error. But as grievous as that error may be (and is), it is not damning. Those who embrace that view are not, for that reason, consigned to eternal condemnation.

Now, are there certain other ministry practices embraced by Bethel that I find questionable and without explicit biblical support? Yes. But those do not make them heretical or deserving of cynical disdain. If more time were spent by Bethel’s critics praying for them than is given to writing hyper-critical reviews, perhaps such practices would diminish over time. Let me at the same time say that we should pray just as fervently for Morgan and those who agree with her article. I’m reminded of Paul’s exhortation to the church in Rome. We would all do well to heed his counsel:

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:5-6).

I also followed Morgan’s advice and read Hillsong’s Statement of Beliefs (I wonder, did she?). Aside from one or two minor, secondary, doctrinal differences (Hillsong is affiliated with Australian Christian Churches, a traditionally Pentecostal denomination), it is thoroughly evangelical and orthodox. Do I agree with all that is done in the context of their worship services? No. It may not be my “style” nor that of Morgan’s, but that doesn’t make them heretical. It just means they are different, and perhaps unwise. But in numerous other ways, aren’t we all?

Morgan says that she will not sing songs that are not “worthy of a sovereign and Holy God.” Good for her. I agree. And I hope you wouldn’t ever sing such songs either. And if songs are composed by someone from Bethel or Hillsong that are beneath the dignity of our great Triune God, don’t sing them. But I challenge anyone to closely examine the lyrics of these songs, all of which were composed by someone in Bethel or Hillsong or related to them in close friendship or some other ministry alliance (such as Jesus Culture), and tell me they are dangerous, unbiblical, or not worthy of who God is and what he has done. Here is a small sampling:

“God, I look to you”
“Goodness of God”
“King of Kings”
“O Praise the Name!”
“Raise a Hallelujah!”
“No Longer Slaves”
“Living Hope”
“Jesus, We Love You”
“Ever Be”
“New Wine”
“This is Amazing Grace”
“Worthy is the Lamb”
“Cornerstone”
“Seas of Crimson”
“Outrageous Love”
“Abba”
“One Thing Remains”
“For the Cross”
“Man of Sorrows”
“Holy Spirit (You are Welcome Here)”
“Lead me to the Cross”
“Lion and the Lamb”
“Fall Afresh”
“Shout to the Lord”
“All Hail, King Jesus”

I will go on record and say that God is profoundly honored and exalted by each of these songs.

“Oh, but Sam. We disagree with some of their secondary doctrines. Won’t our singing of these songs communicate to people that we endorse what some in their churches believe? And we have to pay royalties to sing those songs. Aren’t we contributing to the spread of their errors?”

No. Folks, I plead with you: Don’t let cancel culture come to church! You may differ with Bethel and Hillsong in some (perhaps many) of their ministry practices. So do I. But we will sing with these people around the throne of the Lamb for eternity. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Surely, you are not prepared to denounce them as unregenerate, unbelievers because they don’t toe the line on every doctrine that you embrace.

What about Morgan’s concern that by singing the songs of Bethel and Hillsong we are paying royalties to these churches? Well, let me ask Morgan and others a question or two.

Where will you draw the line on where and to whom you will allow your money to go? I dare say that you will find it difficult to survive in our world if you refuse to participate in or make use of something, be it a song, a book, or a product, simply because you fear that by doing so you are promoting and indirectly subsidizing what you regard as unbiblical.

Should I throw away all the books in my library that were written by Jewish scholars because they reject Jesus as the Messiah? I’m talking about books with profound and instructive insights into the OT and other historical and textual issues. Have you ever purchased such books? Should you?

What about the numerous scholarly resources that are of tremendous help in our understanding of the biblical languages, backgrounds, and cultural contexts? Must I dispense with the multi-volume Anchor Bible Dictionary because a few of its contributors are likely not born again?

Have you refused to do your shopping at Kroger and Target because they are decidedly pro LGBTQ? Does not your purchase of their products indirectly support that movement?

Have you refused to take your kids to Disney World because of their widely public and visible stance on same-sex marriage?

Do you carefully avoid purchasing gas for your car from those stations who obtain their products from oil companies that fund Planned Parenthood?

Do you continue to read novels and other books written by decidedly non-Christian authors, lest by purchasing their works you contribute to their unbiblical lifestyle?

Have you stopped singing “A Mighty Fortress is our God” because its author, Martin Luther, made horrific anti-Semitic statements in his later years?

Do you make use of Facebook and Twitter, two companies owned and operated by unbelievers who support both LGBTQ and abortion causes?

And do you refuse to make use of songs written by Matt Maher or John Michael Talbot insofar as they are Roman Catholic?

Should we refuse to sing “It is Well with My Soul” because the author of its lyrics, Horatio Spafford, eventually denied the existence of hell, affirmed universalism and purgatory, and was guilty of multiple instances of fraudulent financial dealings?

Shall we never again read books by Jonathan Edwards or sermons by George Whitefield because both of them at one time owned slaves?

If someone within the Churches of Christ wrote an otherwise biblically based worship song, would you refuse to sing it in your church because they affirm water baptism as necessary for the forgiveness of sins?

In no way do I even remotely endorse the errors of these I’ve just mentioned, but to refuse to sing thoroughly biblical worship songs they wrote lest we be somehow tainted or defiled in doing so is both impractical and absurd and will only lead to a legalistic and Pharisaical local church culture.

It is virtually impossible in our day to travel, shop, participate, or in some manner support groups or companies or individuals that don’t violate our biblical standards of truth and morality. If you choose to “cancel” everyone who differs with you on some matter of doctrine or ministry practice, out of concern that your money will subsidize their errors, you will end up encased in your own echo chamber, isolated and alone, pridefully patting yourself on the back for being among the remnant who “get it right”.

I, for one, will instead continue to remain rigorously biblical in what I preach and how I sing, but do so without castigating and/or cancelling other Christians who happen to differ with me on some secondary issue or ministry style.

30 COMMENTS

RACHEL | AUG 10, 2021 AT 2:02 AM

You’ve nailed it, I teared up reading “We will sing with these people around the throne of the Lamb for eternity. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Surely, you are not prepared to denounce them as unregenerate, unbelievers because they don’t toe the line on every doctrine that you embrace”.

DAVID | AUG 9, 2021 AT 5:16 PM

I really enjoy your books and believe you and John Wimber are awesome. My fiancee was asked to leave Bethel because she simply asked about their teaching about Jesus emptying himself of His deity. I have the email that asked her to leave. We have not gone public about that and other things that go on there. Sad to see that someone I admire didn’t use discernment nor examine the plethora of information on Mike Wingers channel about Bethel. I believe in unity but the Lord never affirms heresy.

BART | AUG 9, 2021 AT 9:24 AM

Sam, you really really should consider doing more research on Bethel Church. Please watch/listen to this video. It’s Bill Johnson saying that if you believe that God causes or allows sickness, then you believe a different Gospel. It’s also where he says Jesus was born again. Although he has since tried to explain what he meant, it was too little, too late. https://youtu.be/UzAwFYKe3h0
Second video is of Bill Johnson and other self proclaimed “Apostles” slam a wooden staff similar to Gandalfs from Lord of the Rings on a stage saying they are declaring an end to racism. Sam, these are full grown men and women doing this. How can you possibly defend them? This is just the tip of the iceberg, there’s so much more bad theology and practices coming from Bethel alone that would take months to read and watch! I don’t care if you’re a continuationist but your endorsement of them is a tragedy and shows that you really should have done more research on them than just reading their sof.

LAWRENCE CHEE | AUG 9, 2021 AT 8:02 AM

Good defence … amazing bigotry from original author … the original wealth of USA was founded on slavery, significant economic gain by polluting the earth. Nevertheless she is concerned about paying royalties … how about cleaning the mess made from previous generations rather than waiting on Jesus to do it later. Is there such a thing as a perfect church? Go Bethel .. Hillsong .. we are grateful for the 1000s that have come to Jesus through your ministries.

PAUL MARK LACERNA | AUG 8, 2021 AT 10:33 PM

Brother Storms, looks like most of the Comments are giving us another reason to consider their evidences they made against Bethel and Hillsong especially the New Apostolic Reformation. I agree with Ms.Brianna.
Another one is: While I agree that we should cancel any song that would dishonor God and his Word, but we need to be careful lest we find ourselves damning their own brethren. We need to qualify that. Sadly, Cancel Culture is the norm of today’s Church. That’s alarming.
If you don’t like Bethel or Hillsong, why not Compose your own Songs that are in accordance to the Biblical Doctrines of the Evangelical Faith expressed in 5 SOLAS and the Creeds. I love the way Sovereign Grace Music compose their songs.

BRIANNA MONIQUE WILLIAMS | AUG 8, 2021 AT 1:58 PM

Hello Sam,
We don’t know each other. I think this article proves a lack of thorough research and is really opinion based.
The only research that was done to was to check Bethel’s website and to test them according to one Worship Leader’s opinion to test scripture.
Did you interview anyone who left the New Apostolic Reformation? Did you research some of the books and products that the church leaders of Bethel and Hillsong produce? And have you looked at the lyrics to their songs line by line and really test it against scripture?
For example in “Raise a Hallelujah” they sing “Your melody comes to fight for me” as if it is a weapon? How deaf people experience God fight for them? And we could say it is symbolic but take it from someone who was friends with one of the BSSM students… and who was associated with people who took it literal. When they would face what they considered a battle, they would go into a room and shut the door, blast the worship music and sing God’s praises believing their worship was activating God’s angels to fight for them and remove the obstacle before them.
Or their song, “Holy Spirit (You’re Welcome Here)”… why are we inviting the Holy Spirit to come dwell with us when He already dwells inside believers?
Also, Bethel teaches Sozo Prayer— unbiblical. They have teaching in the Enneagram— demonic. They have a book their Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry must read “The Physics of Heaven”— which literally discusses exploring New Age practices and taking them back to use them in Jesus’s name. That’s blasphemous.
And I have an ex-friend that got sucked into heresy because of the worship music, where the worship leader would sometimes be guest speakers and their speeches led to watching Bill Johnson who can’t preach God’s word to save his soul.
And Steven Furtick, wants his music and worship experience to be catchy so people will hear his preaching, he has said on the record.
So it’s just selfish to say the music is okay and to act like we’re not endorsing a false gospel when we sing those songs.
Like, I can only imagine people blessed by the songs who are in sound doctrine churches, amen that God doesn’t let a little heresy keep Him from His children who are truly seeking Him.
Feel free to check out my interview with Doreen Virtue on Steven Furtick and Word of Faith and why I left… I also have a series on my blog, category: “Confessions of Valor Alumna” that discusses why we should never support heresy by any means.
And lastly, the church definitely supports canceling what doesn’t honor God. We are to be set apart from the World. We should have the desire to honor God, not ourselves, and Bethel and Hillsong are only seeker-sensitive driven.

GLADYS | AUG 8, 2021 AT 9:27 AM

There is something “brewing” in Oklahoma! From your mayor to your churches, the Spirit is stirring!!

AMY | AUG 8, 2021 AT 8:13 AM

Excellent article, Sam! Mackenzie Morgan, the author of the original article, seems to have no trouble singing songs by Ariana Grande and Michael Jackson. Neither of which seem to have released very God honoring music. I would encourage her to take a long thorough look at her heart and at how hypocritically she’s coming across.

SH | AUG 8, 2021 AT 4:12 AM

Thank you! What an incredibly well thought out, well written and balanced article. If only all of us could show the same level of understanding and honouring of differences, within the framework of the fundamentals of our faith in Jesus. I look on at times with real Godly sorrow at both cancel culture and division within the church, especially in the US. It is very sad when I see Christians doing the work of Satan in throwing fiery darts around, sometimes to justify their own beliefs or the beliefs of their denomination (even above the Bible), occasionally to look virtuous – but mostly with a genuine (but I humbly suggest mistaken) purpose of being ‘correct’ over the unity that Jesus called us to. Our heart really matters to God. Accusing others is what Satan does, not what the church should be doing against itself in public. I honestly don’t think Jesus will congratulate us for pointing out the mistakes of others publicly, of dividing rather than building and of disunity above unity – one main thing that Jesus specifically prayed for so that non-believers would know Jesus. Love covers a multitude of sin and sometimes (as Derek Prince used to say) we can be so ‘right’ that we are ‘wrong’. And we are not ‘Holy Spirit junior’ trying to convict others. It doesn’t mean we accept everything but judging others rightly and within a Biblical framework is very important, not a public show of self righteousness. There are too many sites, blogs and social media posts about hammering others who dare to believe what ‘we’ see as being incorrect. But we should all reflect that we only see and know in part, that we are all on a journey towards Jesus, being changed into his likeness daily and we need each other. The essentials are the faith are essential but after that there is room for respectful disagreement as written above. This article is so helpful in moving us forward, so thank you! I’d almost say this article (certainly the heart behind it) should be vital reading in churches and Bible colleges.

JEDIDIAH W | AUG 8, 2021 AT 1:48 AM

This article was very frustrating to read. Even without the lens of theology, it was full of logical fallacies.
First, the conclusion doesn’t even follow from the premises presented in the body. Sam makes the conclusion that we should sing songs from Hillsong and Bethel because we give to companies like Disney that supports LGBT positions anyway. Further, the amount of time spent on reviewing doctrinal statements and concluding that they are sound, and therefore the songs are sound, is “beating the strawman”.  Statements can check out on paper but if there is a consistent heterodox teaching by lead pastors as commenters have provided examples of (and which Sam seems to be ignorant of), then statements are irrelevant. These are issues with theology and versions of the true gospel, not “secondary issues” or “ministry styles”.
Second, Sam’s opinion that prosperity gospel does not lead to eternal condemnation is disturbing. If we don’t believe in the right gospel (Col 1:25, Jude 1:3, 1 Cor 15:3) then what are we putting our hope in? As much as Sam hopes to, songs cannot be separated from the social contexts they are produced and performed in. This is why its easy to observe a pattern of certain churches singing these songs and having similar aesthetics (smoke machines, strobes). It’s simply the case that when we buy into a brand, we are less likely to think critically of it. If you ask many people who enjoy these songs, they’ll tell you they enjoy the preaching too. This is why it’s just easier to not promote these brand churches at all by avoiding these songs.
Finally, as a Gen Z it’s frustrating to see how Millenials and Boomers try to understand cancel culture. Dropping words like “cancel” and “Pharisaical” to build rapport among those of a similar generation betrays a misunderstanding of the social phenomenon that is cancel culture. Thinking critically and critical theory was around long before cancel culture became a thing, and even practiced in the church. You could say Jesus was “cancelling” the Pharasees and merchants in the temple. Surely thinking critically and erring on the side of caution when it comes to matters of teaching the faith (which singing does) through careful song selection is important and should not be dismissed as “cancelling”. One should be careful to notice whenever the term “cancelling” is dropped as a convenient way of dissuading vigorous debate.
There are a wealth of rich, theologically less controversial songs out there today. There are few reasons to choose contentious songs from contentious churches, other than superficial ones like “they sound good”. So other than creating fuel for people who love these songs, churches and inevitably heterodox theology, who will share this article on social media to defend their entrenched beliefs that worship songs should be cool, I’m not sure what the point of this article was.

JENNI | AUG 8, 2021 AT 12:23 AM

Amazingly written and thank you for your sound knowledge and wisdom and the way you carry yourself with those who are so adament about bringing division to the church and refuses to see beyond what they already know to be true and that there should be unity in diversity and not in total agreement. Thank you ❤️

DINA | AUG 8, 2021 AT 12:10 AM

Thank you Sam for taking the time to thoroughly examine and respond to all of this. I personally have never seen a man more like Jesus, as far as abundant love, grace, turning the other cheek, encouraging , completely humble, and the list goes on, in regards to Bill Johnson of Bethel Church. Satan creates division, that is biblical. He who is without sin casts the first stone is biblical,. I read division and judgement when I read her “theory”. She obviously has not seen or encountered the heart of this great Father/Papa – Bill Johnson. We need to be unified, now, division is coming from every angle, and her words are about division, in my opinion, because she is filled with Judgement. I love Bethel’s and Hillsong’s music, I feel Holy Spirit in them, she cannot tell me God is not pleased. I say we lift her up in prayer and ask that she shifts her energy towards the division of our nation snd pray for unity, which must begin in the church!

MACKENZIE MORGAN | AUG 7, 2021 AT 7:26 PM

Hey, Sam! Mackenzie here. I read your article, and I’d love to continue a conversation on the matter as much of what you wrote was a misrepresentation of what I was saying in my original post and sadly, I’m afraid you missed the whole point of my post. If you’d be interested in communicating, feel free to reach out to me.
God bless,
Mackenzie

ASHLEY | AUG 7, 2021 AT 6:06 PM

Well said! Your article is beautiful and I feel represents the heart of God well. Thank you for sharing.
#inwardwitness

WAYNE POWELL | AUG 7, 2021 AT 4:52 PM

If you don’t want to listen to a young music leader who may or may not be wise enough to speak on this issue then perhaps you will listen to an experienced pastor:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rF96C8vg3PU&list=PLwZ6vhBCodsdzj3jdJT6M5wgbcV-UXIGN&index=9

HEATHER | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:52 PM

Wonderfully written! I know the Lord is honored by the respectful, loving, and thoughtful way you have approached a sticky subject. Thank you for your dedication to thoroughly look into the accusations and your courage in writing this response!

JEZA GRAY | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:40 PM

Yes and Amen to what you said. Please Lord bring unity within your church.. Bring us together and may we keep the major things major and the minor things minor. Let us not give ron to the devils trap of offense and disunity over unimportant issues. Let us have truth and love. 1 Corinthians 13

SAM STORMS | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:21 PM

Wayne, I don’t want to engage in an online debate with you, but a brief response is called for.
First, I also believe Jesus lived, ministered, taught, and performed his miracles as a man depending on the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. This doesn’t mean he wasn’t simultaneously God. He most assuredly was. But he temporarily suspended the independent exercise of his divine power in order to demonstrate the kind of life that God desires of us, one in which we live in constant dependence on the Holy Spirit. You can read my defense of this in my book, Tough Topics 2, titled, “How did Jesus perform his miracles?”
Second, I don’t know what you mean in saying Johnson says that Jesus was “reborn.” I’ve never seen or heard this from him.
Third, yes, Christ’s death was designed to secure physical healing for us. Whether that happens now in part or in fullness at the consummation, where else would our healing come from if not from the cross of Christ? Check out Matthew 8 where his healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is in fulfillment of Isaiah 53.
Fourth, miracles, healing, and prophecy do not add to the gospel. They are the fruit of it. If you are opposed to such works of the Spirit, what will you do with 1 Corinthians 12-14 and other texts that speak of these gifts?
Fifth, if a person does not preach the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in bringing freedom and healing to us, what else would one call this but a message of “weakness”?
Sixth, I also believe the Spirit can work through the sacrament of the bread and wine. His presence in awakening us to the blessings of the cross of Christ, via the elements of the Lord’s Supper, is a wonderful work of God for undeserving sinners. You say they say it is “why we should partake.” But where do they say it is the only reason we should partake? It may be one justifiable reason, but that is not to say that it is the only reason.
Seventh, and finally, I don’t care for the Passion “translation.” It is more an expanded paraphrase and the principles that guide its production are bothersome to me.
But for you to say there is no difference between what Bethel believes and what Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Roman Catholics believe is surely a slanderous misrepresentation and one of which you should immediately repent.

JENNIFER L. WEIR | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:05 PM

Thank you Sam Storms. We loved your book Practicing the Power. I teared up reading it. What a beautiful book.

WAYNE POWELL | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:04 PM

To support Bethel and Hillsong is to support a different Christ who performed all his miracles as a man, was reborn, and whose death was for physical healing. They also change the gospel by adding miracles, healing, and prophesy to it. Bill Johnson calls it the gospel of power and declares the traditionally accepted orthodox gospel to be a gospel of weakness. They teach different Christ and different gospel, along with a slew of different practices and traditions. I’ll mention one that bugs me, they redefine the sacrament of communion as something which bestows power on the believer and that is why we should partake. They work closely with Brian Simmons who is rewriting the Bible in support of Bethel/Hillsong’s theology. With their own Bible, Christ, gospel, what makes them any different than a cult such as JW, Mormons, or the Pope? but hey, sing their songs and send money their way because what does doctrine matter anyway.

SHEILA ALOFAITULI | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:00 PM

Thank you so much. Truly you’ve invested much time and thought into this write up. I too am indebted to the ministry of Bethel. I’m not a member of their church, but God has used their music, books and teachings by leadership to grow in my relationship with God The Father, The Son & The Holy Spirit.

DALE JIMMO | AUG 7, 2021 AT 2:38 PM

BRAVO!!

NICK ROBINSON | AUG 7, 2021 AT 1:50 PM

Thank you Sam for this wonderful article filled with solid truth. Thank you for defending our Brothers and Sisters and leaders of these churches and thoughtfully, prayerfully, and meticulously breaking down and pointing out truth which often times can be clouded by people’s emotions. Bethel Church’s love for Jesus and the word of God literally saved my life (physically) at a very dark time when Drug Addiction almost took it. Their love for God and reckless abandon for the Lord pointed me to the arms of Christ and released a hunger and godly conviction in my heart. I’ll forever be thankful for them. I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts about these said issues you have mentioned. Thanks again!

DAVID P | AUG 7, 2021 AT 1:50 PM

Very well written! I believe it goes to “let me help you with your speck while forgetting I have a log in my own eye. ” I believe there will be long lines in Heaven while we ask our brothers and sisters for forgiveness for what we said about them. Matthew 12:22-37.

MIKE MCMACKEN | AUG 7, 2021 AT 1:36 PM

Sorry if I sent this twice it popped up again.
Sam thankyou for being a bridge of truth and love. Unity and healing comes through men like you
I have such wonderful memories of you and Ann in the days of Grace training center.
I still Ann’s words something is happening in Toronto, just after she got of the phone with the airport vineyard fellowship. I remember when you stopped the whole conference in Kansas City and asked all to pray for me as I had a brain tumor. Thank you my friend coming into my life and bringing and depositing more of the revelation of Jesus into me. I run this race harder because of you.

MIKE MCMACKEN | AUG 7, 2021 AT 1:28 PM

Sam, thankyou for supporting truth and Love. I have such wonderful memories of you and Ann back in Grace training days.

ALMA | AUG 7, 2021 AT 1:05 PM

Great article and so true! Thank you for addressing such an issue! Let us love one another because from this the euros will know that we are the children of God!

DELANA BRADBIRY | AUG 7, 2021 AT 12:48 PM

Thank you, Sam, for taking the time to research and write. I read her article, and thought there has to be a way to lovingly present another view. Thank you!!!

HARV | AUG 6, 2021 AT 6:27 PM

Thank you Sam for publishing this terrific article. As you said: Don’t let cancel culture come to church! Amen and amen.

STEPHANIE GRADY | AUG 6, 2021 AT 2:25 PM

Thank you for taking the time to so clearly share your opinion about Bethel and Hillsong. I so appreciate the resources you have provided here and the well thought out nature of your post. We in the Body of Christ need to be aware of what the ‘cancel culture’ attitude can look like in the church and be ready to address it when it appears. My prayer is that we as followers of Jesus will impact the culture around us in powerful ways and not the other way around.

Historic Biblical Christianity & Contemporary Progressive Christianity

While Progressive Christianity is not promoting the Liberal Theology of the 20th Century, it is and will produce an equally destructive Progressive Theology in the 21st Century

– Written by Harry Reeder | Monday, July 19, 2021

“Liberal Christianity in its Motivation for cultural relevance in order to achieve its Mission of cultural transformation not only had to embrace cultural accommodation resulting in the apostasy of its Message/Confession, but also its Ministries had to be culturally approved and applauded.   Rapidly, the historic Biblical ministries of God-centered worship, personal evangelism and intentional discipleship disappeared to be replaced by ritualism, social action, philanthropic initiatives, and psychologically defined therapy.”

PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY AND LIBERAL CHRISTIANITY – PART 1

Recently in light of the increasing challenges by the persistent and penetrating movement of Progressive Christianity within the Evangelical Church in general and my own denomination—the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)—in particular, I made a book recommendation to the 20+ young men in my Pastoral Mentoring Group as well as to the Briarwood Session and Diaconate with whom I am honored to serve as Senior Pastor. The book recommendation was the recently published “Legacy Edition” of “Christianity and Liberalism” by the noted professor, educator, preacher, scholar and churchman J. Gresham Machen.

Full disclosure. J. Gresham Machen is the founder of Westminster Theological Seminary, my alma mater.  He was accompanied by an extraordinary faculty which followed him from Princeton Seminary in the days of the Princeton Seminary Downgrade which corresponded to the predictable apostasy of Theological Liberalism within the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PCUSA) after its embrace of Liberal Christianity. The original publication of “Christianity and Liberalism” was designed to counter the burgeoning movement of Christian Liberalism in the 19th and 20th Century within the Protestant Church in general, yet the focus was the consequential theological apostasy within the PCUSA in particular. Furthermore, this volume was influential in the founding of the International Board of Missions, Westminster Theological Seminary and ultimately the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). The re-publication of this book in the “Legacy Edition” by Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) includes chapters by the present stellar WTS faculty aligned with the chapters originally written by Machen.

Not surprisingly my recommendation was not only questioned by some outside the Briarwood fellowship when it was broadly shared but was actually challenged passionately by Progressive Teaching and Ruling Elders within my own denomination—the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). The challenge was repetitive and unambiguous—“Machen wrote to confront Theological Liberalism produced by the Liberal Christianity movement initiated in the 19th Century. The Theological Liberalism produced by Liberal Christianity challenged the reliability of the Divinely revealed ‘fundamental and supernatural truths’ of Biblical Christianity.”

The rejoinder continued, “Pastor Reeder, no one in the PCA is challenging these ‘fundamental and supernatural doctrines’ affirmed within our Confession as they did in the days of PCUSA (Northern Presbyterian Church) Theological Liberalism; and then, fifty years later in the PCUS (Southern Presbyterian Church). Machen confronted Theological Liberalism and its resulting adulteration of the Confession leading eventually to theological apostasy. Progressive Christianity is not mounting an assault upon the ‘fundamentals of the faith:’ nor has it proposed theological aberrations to the Westminster Confession.”

In a word, while Progressive Christianity is not promoting the Liberal Theology of the 20th Century, it is and will produce an equally destructive Progressive Theology in the 21st Century which is why I not only maintain the relevance of Machen’s book but also its importance.

The simple reason the Progressive Christianity of the 20th and 21st Century will produce a theological downgrade as did the Liberal Christianity of the 19th and 20th Century is because they both originate from the same Motivation and are committed to the same Mission.

THE SIMPLE REASON

Progressive Christianity and Liberal Christianity are “both cut from the same bolt of cloth.”

The fabric of this bolt of cloth which is found in both Liberal and Progressive Christianity was identified by Machen as early as his 1912 presentation on “Christianity and Culture.” There as he addressed the Biblical Mission and Ministry of the Church within the culture, he also identified Liberal Christianity’s Motivation and Mission which of necessity led to the adulteration of the Christian Message/Confession and then ultimately theological apostasy. In that lecture, and even more precisely in “Christianity and Liberalism,” which he published almost two decades later, he exposed the fabric of Liberal Christianity that inevitably results in Theological Liberalism. Therefore, since Progressive Christianity is cut from the same bolt of cloth, meaning that it is made of the same fabric as Liberal Christianity, it will likewise inevitably produce, first, its own brand of Theological adulteration and then ultimately Theological apostasy. In other words, Liberal Christianity because of its originating Motivation and its newly adopted Mission of necessity produced an apostate Message—Liberal Theology.

Therefore, since Progressive Christianity originates from the identical Motivation and adopts the identical Mission of Liberal Christianity it will likewise, of necessity produce, first, an adulterated Message, and then, an apostate Message—Progressive Theology.

THE “FABRIC” OF LIBERAL AND PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY EXAMINED

In my “deep dive” I was amazed at how obvious the Motivation and the Mission of Progressive Christianity aligned with the fabric of Liberal Christianity. Although they are separated by 100 years, Progressive Christianity in a real sense is Regressive Christianity as it reveals itself as Liberal Christianity 2.0. Why? Because it originates from Liberal Christianity’s same failed Motivation, and is committed to its same failed Mission, which insures an inevitable Progressive Christianity Theological downgrade of its Message—though not necessarily adulterating the same doctrines as did Liberal Theology.

For the purpose of accuracy, it needs to be stated clearly that the theological apostasy of Progressive Christianity while inevitable will not necessarily be doctrinally identical to the theological apostasy of Liberal Christianity but it will be equally destructive. So, let’s take a closer look at the three elements that comprise the fabric of Liberal and Progressive Christianity—Motivation – Mission – Ministries.

THE MOTIVATION

By documentation Liberal and Progressive Christianity are movements which arise from an identical Motivation. The self-confessed Motivation of 19th and 20th Century Liberal Christianity was not to destroy Christianity but to save the Mainline Protestant Church from the burgeoning movement of “modernity” and the intimidating boasted sophistication of the “modern mind.”  The Motivation talking points of Liberal Christianity were: “in light of modernity the church must be saved from cultural irrelevance” and “Christianity must be saved from the intellectual dustbin of history” and “if Christianity doesn’t change we will lose the next generation”—sound familiar?

Likewise, the Progressive Christianity of the 20th and 21st Century does not originate from a desire to destroy Christianity but to save not the Protestant Mainline Church but this time, the Evangelical Church from “cultural irrelevance,” “the dustbin of history” and “the loss of the next generation.” There is no doubt in my mind that few Progressives are “wolves in sheep’s clothing” such as those Paul warned the Elders of the Church at Ephesus to alertly guard against in shepherding “the flock of God which He bought with His own blood.” In fact, I believe the vast majority are “sheep in wolves clothing.” But make no mistake as affirmed by its celebrated apologists and preachers, Progressive Christianity is “wolves clothing” in that it has the identical and dare I say in reality arrogant Motivation as Liberal Christianity—to save Christianity and the Church from cultural irrelevance.  Also, interestingly, they have the same talking points and marketing slogans. But, do they have the same Mission?

THE MISSION

In Liberal Christianity the church is saved from “cultural irrelevance” to a new culturally approved Mission of “Cultural Transformation—human flourishing.”   Mainline Protestant 20th Century Christianity was aspirationally committed to making the 20th Century The Christian Century.  They even initiated new publications such as “The Christian Century.” Mainline Protestant Churches were now poised to unleash an updated and “culturally relevant” Christianity which would usher in a newly defined Post-Millennial Utopia. This optimistic hope was broadly proclaimed from the pulpits of Mainline Protestant Churches.  Liberal Christianity promised to be the venue to bring “human flourishing” to a waiting world—“Cultural Transformation” was within our reach…sound familiar?

Fast forward 100 years to the concluding 20th and newly inaugurated 21st Century.  Interestingly and informatively, the Mainline Churches which embraced Liberal Christianity are actually in the “dustbin of history” and on a trajectory into oblivion having been eviscerated by Theological Liberalism.  Yet, amazingly, previously self-identified “Evangelical churches” are now proclaiming their new—actually not so new—Mission of the “culturally relevant Evangelical church” committed to “cultural transformation.” The Evangelical Church now promises to secure “human flourishing” through “social justice” and a newly defined accommodating sexual ethic guided by a culturally sensitive informed initiative—to seek the welfare of the city. Yes, a Biblical quote, but a quote for cultural reasons taken out of Biblical context and therefore bereft of Biblical content.

THE MESSAGE

Liberal Christianity, Motivated to “save the church from cultural irrelevance” and position the church to be a primary player to achieve its newly discovered Mission of “cultural transformation” then had to edit the unacceptable Theology from its Message/Confession in order to be culturally acceptable in the age of “modernity.” The necessary casualty was the removal of any and all doctrines that offended the “sensibilities of the modern mind.” Why? Because the doctrines that affirmed the supernatural power of God, the Holiness of God and the sinfulness of man were no longer culturally acceptable. In other words, any and all of the “foundational, fundamental and supernatural doctrines of Christianity” (i.e. the Virgin Birth, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the necessity of Christ’s atoning death, the inerrancy of God’s Word, the recorded miracles etc.) were removed. Even more specifically, Liberal Christianity, to be “culturally relevant” and to obtain a seat at the table of the “culture shapers,” out of necessity, jettisoned the Reformation secured Doctrine of “Biblical magisterium”—Sola Scriptura. In its place Liberal Christianity embraced “Cultural magisterium” resulting in the formulation of a theological Message marked by “Cultural accommodation.”  This cleared the way for proposed theological changes to the Confessions of the Protestant Churches introducing first theological adulteration and then demonic theological apostasy.  Sound Familiar?

Progressive Christianity (like Liberal Christianity) uses the glossary of theological terms from historic Biblical Christianity but does not use the same Dictionary to define those terms. Progressive Christianity, (like Liberal Christianity) in the pursuit of “cultural relevance” to achieve its new Mission of “cultural transformation,” willingly abdicates selected theological fidelity by also abandoning Biblical magisterium—Sola Scriptura—for Cultural magisterium (cultural accommodation).

In summary, to redefine the Motivation and Mission of the Evangelical Church, “cultural magisterium” is introduced as the new rule of faith and practice under the guise of “contextualization” in order to fulfill its Motivation and to further its new Mission.  Since Sola Scriptura is no longer the functional authoritative “rule of faith and practice,” the Evangelical Church is free to functionally canonize literature originating from anti-God, anti-Gospel and anti-Christian political and sociological philosophies. Thus, Social justice, replaces Biblical justice; penance replaces repentance; oppressors become the oppressed; racism replaced by a new racism with no redemption promise, no reconciliation offered but continued polarization and division assured.

Further casualties, men and women in sins of addiction and specifically sexually unnatural besetting sins, now hear “another Gospel”—which is not “The Gospel.”  This non-Gospel deceitfully offers the positional blessings of Justification and Adoption but effectively denies the transforming blessings of Regeneration and Sanctification.  Regeneration and Sanctification are now replaced with culturally approved sociological and psychological categories and terms baptized with a redefined theology.  The church’s new Message is no longer one of sinner transformation with a cultural impact but now it is a deceptive Message falsely promising cultural transformation through providing cosmetic behavior modification delivered through categories of sociological manipulation.

THE MINISTRIES

Liberal Christianity in its Motivation for cultural relevance in order to achieve its Mission of cultural transformation not only had to embrace cultural accommodation resulting in the apostasy of its Message/Confession, but also its Ministries had to be culturally approved and applauded.   Rapidly, the historic Biblical ministries of God-centered worship, personal evangelism and intentional discipleship disappeared to be replaced by ritualism, social action, philanthropic initiatives, and psychologically defined therapy. Sound familiar?

In Progressive Christianity, not only has personal evangelism with a Gospel Message that delivers men and women from both the penalty and power of sin been abandoned but also Gospel discipleship ministries that address the practice and effects of sin in the lives and relationships of men and women.  The transforming power of the Gospel has now given way to psychologically defined categories, behavioral therapies, and verbal cosmetic solutions. Sins including addictive and deeply embedded sexual sins of thought, word and deed are now syndromes to be managed instead of sins to be mortified.  The Gospel hope of victories over sin in thought, word and deed, by Regeneration—which breaks the power of sin; and Sanctification which progressively eradicates the practice of sins through discipleship are now dismissed statistically as unattainable and unreasonable.  Yet, the Gospel blessings of Justification and Adoption are still assured.

Destructively, Biblical justice is now replaced by social justice defined through extra Biblical literature produced from anti-God, anti-Gospel, anti-Christian social and political philosophies which deny not only the Supremacy and Inerrancy of Scripture but also the Sufficiency of Scripture. Furthermore, and astonishingly, the once sacred calling of a “Gospel Minister” is now suspended and superseded by the politically correct cultural calling of a “Community Organizer.”

THREE TAKEAWAYS

  1. Motivation and Mission inevitably control and define the Message and Ministries of a Church.  An unbiblical Motivation and Mission no matter how well-meaning will infallibly insure an apostate Message/Confession of the Church and will also destroy the Ministries the Church.
  2. Contextualization– When a church embraces an unbiblical Motivation (cultural relevance) and an unbiblical Mission (cultural transformation) it will produce an unbiblical Message (cultural accommodation) by redefining the Biblical doctrine of “contextualization”—to be in the world, but not of the world.  Biblical contextualization actually is the call to speak in the culture to its people in terms they can understand.  Unbiblical contextualization speaks in the culture to the people on the terms they demand.  This inevitably produces the devastating consequences of “first order apostasy.” In Liberal Christianity it produced Liberal Theology. In Progressive Christianity it produces Progressive Theology, such as the loss of Biblical justice to now pursue politically defined social justice. The loss of the Biblical doctrine of one race (human) and multiple ethnicities for the Darwinian fabrication of multiple races with the unending chaos of attempting to remove sins such as racism with racist philosophies and tools—i.e. critical theory; critical race theory; critical law theory and the scorecard of intersectionality, all of which exchange repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation for unending penance, polarization and reverse oppression.  The Gospel of Redemption that delivers us from sin’s power (regeneration); sin’s penalty (justification); sin’s position (adoption); increasingly from sin’s practice (sanctification); and ultimately from sin’s presence (glorification); is now abandoned for “another gospel” offering empty promises of self-forgiveness, self-esteem and psychologically defined terms and therapies to “manage sin as a syndrome instead of mortifying sin as an enemy.”  Furthermore, our identity in “union with Christ” is now abdicated to hyphenated identities exalting our besetting sins which according to the Scripture are “not to be named among us,” but in Progressive Christianity are now being used to name, identify and define us.
  3. Sola Scriptura– Liberal Christianity’s theological apostasy began with the abandonment of “Biblical magisterium” for “Cultural magisterium.”  Sola Scriptura which declares the Supremacy of the Scripture was dismissed along with all of its culturally unacceptable doctrines including Biblical inerrancy in its cultural accommodating surrender. In Progressive Christianity, the theological downgrade also begins with the abandonment of Biblical magisterium—Sola Scriptura—the Supremacy of Scripture by abdicating the Sufficiency of Scripture, the Sufficiency of Christ and the Sufficiency of the Gospel to save men and women from sin’s penalty and power by the grace of God to the Glory of God.

FINAL THOUGHT

But the fact is, the Church must remain “the bulwark and the pillar of truth.”  There is no “unity by love” if there is no “unity of truth.”  There will be no ability to love the lost nor one another if we lose the truth out of a desire to gain the affirmation and the applause of the world instead of the affirmation and applause of God. We are stewards of the truth—Stewards must be found faithful.

Since Progressive Christianity is Liberal Christianity 2.0 because it is cut from the same bolt of cloth—with the identical fabric of a wrong Motivation, wrong Mission, leading to the wrong Message, and the wrong Ministries—then, what is the right Motivation, right Mission, right Message, and right Ministries of Biblical Christianity displayed and deployed in Christ’s Church—so I invite you…

Dr. Harry Reeder is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Senior Pastor of Briarwood PCA in Birmingham, Ala. This article is used with permission.

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Online Source: The Aquila Report

Forty Good Soldiers for Christ!

clip_image002This article was first published in the April 2007 Christian Report. It describes a tale of 40 Christian martyrs from the 4th Century, as well as a group of more modern warriors for Christ.

Sebaste, Cappadocia (now Sivas in Turkey) – March, 320 A.D.

Roman Emperor Valerius Licinius had already ordered that all Christians in Cappadocia abandon their faith and worship pagan gods, including every member of the famous “Thundering” 12th Legion, whose record in combat was unparalleled in the annals of the Imperial Army! Forty soldiers of the Legion however, refused to recant their faith, declaring before a military tribunal (court-martial) that they would devote their love to God and only God!

Agricolas, Captain of the Legion ad the local pagan governor, would not humor this obstinacy. When imprisonment of the whole stubborn company could not break them, he decided on a novel sort of pressure.

It was a bitterly cold March and the pond outside the city was frozen over. The governor, therefore, ordered that the 40 be herded out to the center of the lake stark naked and allowed to rethink their decision. Meanwhile, he set up on the shore statues of the gods to be worshipped, a nice fire, and a pleasant warm bath. He hoped that the offer of warmth might change the minds of the freezing men and induce them to apostatize. But the prisoners retained their solidarity. Together they prayed, “Lord, we are 40 who are engaged in this conflict; grant that we may not fall short of that sacred number.”

During the three days of their lethal exposure, only one of the group gave up, stumbled towards the shore and sought the comfort of one of the hot baths provided for any who would recant their faith. The same hot bath that rewarded his apostasy also brought about his death. Ironically, the sudden heat was too much after the long chill, and he died of shock.

Although the soldier-victims were saddened by this defection, their prayer was heard. Aglaios, a jailer watching the horrifying spectacle of the freezing soldiers had heard their shouts of “40 soldiers for Christ!” when they first headed out across the frozen lake, and now heard a fainter shout, ‘Thirty-nine soldiers for Christ!”

What happened in the heart of the jailer Aglaios at that moment, only he and God will ever know. He wrenched off his own armor and girdle, and dashed to the edge of the lake. There, after lifting his right hand and crying, “Forty good soldiers for Christ!” he disappeared over the ice and into the darkness.

Fast forward to the 21st Century. . . .

Colorado Springs, CO – 1 March 2007

A small group of soldiers from the 10th Special Forces Group gathered at Red Rock Canyon in Colorado Springs for a ‘spiritual fitness’ run and induction of Christian warriors into ‘The Order of the Cappadocian Martyrs,’ led by 10th Group Chaplains Darren Chester and Terry McBride.

It was a cold, windy, and icy morning after a late snowfall from the previous afternoon and evening left a few inches of new snow on the ground and a lot of dangerous ice on streets and roadways. While such conditions sometimes cause outdoor physical fitness training to be cancelled, there would be no change of plans on this morning! The announcement of, and invitation to the event had stated, in part:

“Note: Weather will not affect this run. If you can get there, we will run. Yes, it will be cold. That is the point. The martyrs for whom this order is named froze to death naked on a pond in the course of 3 days. If they can do that for Jesus, surely we can stand an hour or so in the cold.”

The event was scheduled to begin at 0630 sharp. The rendezvous point was a snow-covered public parking lot just off of highway 24, heading west out of the city proper. As soldiers arrived, they remained in their vehicles rather than stand in the biting wind any earlier than necessary. At the appointed time, they gathered around the map of the canyon at the edge of the parking lot for the route briefing given by Chaplain Chester. After the briefing, they headed into the small canyon, along a trail that gradually climbed in altitude for nearly a mile. After winding their way through the canyon for 2-1/2 miles, they gathered at the end of the run at another spot in the canyon, a flat open area near a small frozen pond.

Chaplain Chester spoke to the group, relating the story of the 40 martyrs from Sebaste who died on a frozen lake so long ago, not only refusing to recant their faith, but proclaiming their faith to the cold bitter end! The men were encouraged to stand firm no matter what they faced in this life, especially the persecution that all believers face at times when they live righteously before God and in an unbelieving world.

Each member of the group was given a patch symbolizing the martyrs of the “Thundering” XII Legion, Special Forces warriors of today, and emblazoned with a golden Cross of Christ against the canopy of a deployed parachute, a Green Beret, and the crossed arrows. Each man also received a small card on which was printed the following oath of allegiance:

“I am a Soldier for the Lord Jesus Christ. I am prepared to speak any word, do any deed, and go anywhere As He leads Me. His will is my mission. When the enemy attacks I will Stand firm. When tempted I will persevere. When persecuted I will not forsake my Lord. I will do good to those who hate me, I will bless those who curse me, I will pray for those who mistreat me. Though pressured I am not crushed. Though perplexed I am not in despair. Though persecuted I am not abandoned.. Though struck down I am not destroyed. I will always carry the death of Jesus in my body, that the life of Jesus may be revealed in my body.”

One can only imagine what the response of the mighty host of heaven was when the sound of earthly warriors’ voices joined as one in allegiance to the Lord of Hosts and filled the air of a small canyon on a cold windy morning!

The short ceremony concluded with the men in a circle, arms around each other’s shoulders and heads bowed as Chaplain McBride closed in prayer. Certainly this was an event to be followed by more similar occasions, as more warriors of the 10th Special Forces Group step forward in faith and join this ‘Band of Brothers!’

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This article first appeared in the Christian Military Fellowship June 2021 Christian Report. which can be located and downloaded here.  The Christian Report is one of the many resources available from Christian Military Fellowship, a ministry dedicated to  helping Christians serving in the Armed Forces  grow in their faith and become “Gospel Ambassadors” in uniform.

Are WE Tilting at Windmills?

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If you don’t know, the phrase ‘tilting at windmills’ comes from a 17th century novel by Miguel de Cervantes titled “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha”, or just “Don Quixote”. Don Quixote was a middle-aged Spanish nobleman, who imagined himself a Knight of the Spanish realm who embarked on a number of adventurous crusades against windmills that dotted the landscape of southern Spain that he sincerely believed were enemy giants with huge arms! The “tilting” refers to what we would more commonly call “jousting”. Armed with his lance, clad in an old suit of armor, and accompanied by a neighboring farmer (turned squire) named Sancho, the Man of La Mancha set off in defense of the realm.

During one of their exploits, they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills in their path. No sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”

Even though Sancho tried to explain that they were just windmills and the huge “arms” were only sails in the wind, the Don lowered his lance and attacked, with disastrous results when the tip of his lance was caught up by a windmill blade!

To this day, the phrase “tilting at windmills” has been used to describe “confrontations where adversaries are incorrectly perceived, or courses of action that are based on misinterpreted or misapplied heroic, romantic, or idealistic justifications.” (American Heritage Dictionary) Another phrase, “chasing windmills” has the same roots and mean pursuing something with an “open heart”, which was certainly true about Don Quixote. He really believed he was engaged in a noble crusade!

So what does all of that have to do with the question “Are WE tilting at windmills?”

Thanks for asking!

Well, a few days ago a simple question popped up on Facebook:

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Hence, thoughts of Don Quixote for us old folks, as well as no small amount of serious consideration. Can a seriously fractured America be restored apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I think not, and let me tell you why. If we who profess Christ honestly ask ourselves WHY our nation is so fractured right now, and if we know our Bibles, the answer is simple. SIN is the root cause of all that ails America, as well as every other nation on Earth. What began in Eden with a single act of disobedience has endured until now and will continue until Jesus returns to pass judgment. Consequently, if SIN is the root cause, a solution to the sin problem will bring healing. Throughout the history of mankind, men have tried to deal with all sorts of evil perpetrated by the human beings that inhabit our planet. Good and moral governments have passed legislation to punish evil and wrongdoing for the betterment of civil society. Programs of all kinds have been instituted to reform all sorts of harmful behavior patterns. I’m sure you get the picture. I’m also sure you recognize that nearly all of the human solutions to human problems are external at best. We can only hope that they will take root in our hearts and result in lasting change for our good and the good of our society. And therein lies the problem.

The root cause of society’s ills is SIN, and sin is a problem internal to every human born after the Fall of Adam. Therefore, any lasting solution must also be an internal one. It means we need new hearts, new motives, new natures. As scripture tells us, we need to be reborn (See John, Chapter 3 and Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus).

Do you see where this is going? Internal problems need internal solutions? The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers that internal solution? The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the ONLY solution? Exactly.

So about those windmills. . .

Every single day we are told what we need to “do” to fight this or that (name the topic) societal ill by getting involved. We need to write our representatives in Congress, sign petitions, donate money, support podcasts, or to just ‘stand up and fight’ those who are wreaking havoc across the land. Let me be clear – I am not saying we should not be engaged with, or support external efforts to right wrongs. God ordained governmental systems to fight and control evil. By all means get involved in supporting external efforts to right the wrongs in our society and in our nation. Pray for leaders at all levels of civil government. Pray that God would change the hearts of kings (Proverbs 21:1)! However, if we want to see lasting change in our society and culture, the only real solution is the Gospel of Jesus Christ invading the hearts of men.

It’s also quite possible that many of the conservatives who are unafraid to do battle against evil in our culture and society know that the core issue is an internal one, but for whatever reason, many of them just stick to much needed external solutions. I am not criticizing them for doing so. It’s just the way it is. To be fair I admit that there are a few who mention the need for God, while stopping short of talking about Christ’s death for our sins. One popular young conservative has even told his college age audiences that the first thing they need to do is “give their hearts to Jesus”! While that sounds great and noble, when we search scripture for that admonition will we find it? (Just a question, not an indictment.)

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In the novel, Don Quixote’s neighbor turned squire, Sancho Panza, tried to explain to our hero that the giants with huge arms were really just windmills and sails and not real enemies, but to no avail. In like manner, trying to correct the ‘windmill chasers’ in our midst might meet with failure.

That’s where we who confess Christ, who know the gospel message, and are willing to be used of God to share the good news with a lost world, enter “stage right”. We can be the standard bearers and ambassadors who can offer the internal remedy to the internal problem that plagues every one of us; our sinful nature. We can be the Paul Harveys who share “the rest of the story”, (Some of you will get that.) And who knows, maybe that’s what God intended for us all along!

“How can they call on him unless they believe in him? How can they believe in him unless they hear about him? How can they hear about him unless someone preaches to them? 15 And how can anyone preach without being sent? It is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”” (Romans 10:14-15)

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This article first appeared in the Christian Military Fellowship June 2021 Christian Report. which can be located and downloaded hereThe Christian Report is one of the many resources available from Christian Military Fellowship, a ministry dedicated to  helping Christians serving in the Armed Forces  grow in their faith and become “Gospel Ambassadors” in uniform.