Warnings With Teeth

by Austin Duncan

 

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The church today is faced with the same threat that has plagued it in every age—the ever present danger of apostasy. Because this is the danger that confronted the pastor who preached the sermon recorded in the book of Hebrews, Hebrews is an instructive for pastors, as it models how we should alert our congregations of the danger or apostasy.

The cause of apostasy, according to Hebrews, is spiritual lethargy. It follows then that the best counter to apostasy to an unrelenting focus on the preeminence of Jesus. Instead of launching new programs, asserting initiatives, and attending to church growth trends, the preacher serves his congregation well when he invites his church to consider afresh the glories of Christ revealed in Scripture.

But effective warnings against apostasy are more particular than simply proclaiming the glories of Christ. I say “more particular” because the author takes the glories of Christ and uses them to warn the readers about the specific dangers of apostasy. He warns his readers, with real warnings, about the real dangers of the real threat of apostasy. In fact, his warnings are so dire that many contemporary preachers not only refuse to model them, but actually explain them away! In so doing they take the threats of the Bible designed to produce endurance and neuter them in an attempt to remove the danger. But this only increases the threat of apostasy.  

It is true that a regenerate believer cannot lose his salvation any more than he can undo the work of the Holy Spirit. But that truth should not keep pastors from preaching threats and warnings in the same tone that the preacher of Hebrews did. Thomas Schreiner explains:

Those who are elected, called and justified, will certainly be glorified. It’s also true that no genuine believer will apostatize. But these warning passages are clearly addressed to believers. Believers are described here and they are threatened with eternal destruction, not with the loss of reward, if they commit apostasy.

The danger of apostasy is not limited to this single congregation of Hebrews some 2,000 years ago. For one reason, similar warnings are found in Jude, 2 Peter, and Revelation. What should the pastor do with these passages? Well, the warnings that are given here are one of the means that God uses to preserve his peoples’ faith. It’s one of the means that God uses to solicit his people to obedience, or as Schreiner says, “The warnings in the scriptures are intended to arouse us from lethargy and propel us onward in the path of faith.”

Preachers need to hold onto these warning passages as a means to warn your people that if they abandon Christ, it would be proof positive that they never belonged to him. It’s not enough to simply step back and systematize and explain the “P” in the tulip to our people. Instead we should speak with similarly strong language used in Hebrews.

These warning passages are not the place to teach about predestination and election. Just because our Systematic Theology Book stifles these passages by placing them on an ultimate and cosmic level, that’s not what the authors of the Scripture do. Too often young preachers (and specifically young Calvinists) feel the need to deaden the effects of warnings by inserting something the author of Scripture didn’t. Don’t follow the warning passages by saying “Well, actually yes, but…not really.”

This is certainly one of the reasons that we see apostasy in our age. We teach perseverance of the saints. We believe that doctrine, and it is true. But we use that doctrine out of place when it becomes our practical excuse to avoid warning our congregations like the preacher of Hebrews does.

Employing the kind of strong language used in Hebrews shows our confidence in the Spirit of God’s inspiration of a text without, without feeling the need to explaining it from every other angles than the author did.

With every confidence you should be able to read Hebrews 6:4-8 and hear those warnings, and in the same breath do what he did in vs. 9 and say, “Though we speak thus, in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things that belong to salvation.” Do you see that beautiful balance he strikes? He can threaten and warn, and then with every confidence in his flock know that if they belong to God, they will forever belong to God. He has every confidence that his readers will not shipwreck their faith. That they will not commit the sin of apostasy. That they will not fall away from God. That they will indeed persevere.

Before seminary, I attended a Bible College where I encountered a professor who was a rank Arminian. He told us that he knew we could all lose our salvation because he once knew a very faithful Sunday school teacher who later in life become an atheist. He warned us not to emulate her.

While on the one hand, he at least tried to warn us against apostasy. But on the other hand, his warning was less than effective because he started with experience, then moved to application. While the Calvinist might start with theology and then explain away the power of a passage, the Arminian too often starts with experience, then uses that to amplify scripture.  We ought not make either error, but instead we should build a biblical case for perseverance that includes God’s warnings, not excludes them.

Let me put it this way—if your explanation of the warning passages results in the passages having no teeth—no bark, no bite, just empty words—then you are doing it wrong. Understand that the clear preaching of warnings—warnings with teeth!—is of the ways that God keeps his people from falling away, while simultaneously giving confidence in the security of salvation.

These passages are one of the ways that God keeps us from falling. He entices us with the glories of salvation and reward and he threatens us with terrible judgment and destruction.

Let me challenge pastors who read this—aim to speak about perseverance in a more biblical way; preach more like the preacher of Hebrews.

The ‘Prophets’ and ‘Apostles’ Leading the Quiet Revolution in American Religion

A Christian movement characterized by multi-level marketing, Pentecostal signs and wonders, and post-millennial optimism.

Interview by Bob Smietana| August 3, 2017, Christianity Today

A quiet revolution is taking place in America religion, say Brad Christerson and Richard Flory, authors of The Rise of Network Christianity: How Independent Leaders Are Changing the Religious Landscape.

Largely behind the scenes, a group of mostly self-proclaimed “apostles,” leading ministries from North Carolina to Southern California, has attracted millions of followers with promises of direct access to God through signs and wonders.

Their movement, which Christerson and Flory called “Independent Network Charismatic” or “INC” Christianity, has become one of the fastest-growing faith groups in the United States. Apostles like Bill Johnson, Mike Bickle, Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce, and Ché Ahn claim millions of followers. They’re also aided by an army of fellow ministers who fall under their “spiritual covering.”

Many of these apostles run megachurches, including Bethel Church in Redding California, HRock Church in Pasadena, and the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. But their real power lies in their innovative approach to selling faith. They’ve combined multi-level marketing, Pentecostal signs and wonders, and post-millennial optimism to connect directly with millions of spiritual customers. That allows them to reap millions in donations, conference fees, and book and DVD sales. And because these INC apostles claim to get direction straight from God, they operate with almost no oversight.

Nashville-based religion writer Bob Smietana spoke with Christerson (professor of sociology at Biola University) and Flory (senior director of research and evaluation at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California) about the appeal—and danger—of these burgeoning movements.

What’s the difference between INC Christians and the prosperity gospel movement or megachurch networks like the Association of Related Churches (ARC)?

Christerson: Probably the closest kinship would be prosperity gospel movement. But it’s a little different in that the INC movement has a network that cooperates more often. My sense of the prosperity gospel is that it consists of individual entrepreneurs, TV preachers, and megachurch leaders, but there’s not as much cooperation.

Also, the theology is different. The prosperity gospel would focus more on the individual’s health and wealth. This group is unique in that they really think God has put these apostles on earth to basically transform the world. It’s a sort of trickle-down Christianity, where these apostles are at the top of the mountain, exercising this power from the top down. That’s how the kingdom of God comes in.

Ironically, this group isn’t really focused on building up big congregations. Their ideas are spreading through other means, like high-profile conferences and the media products that they are selling.

Flory: These apostles are able to access a lot more money, because they are operating with a pay-for-service model, rather than relying on people’s donations and their goodwill. Congregations bend over backwards to keep people happy and keep the butts in the seats; people don’t have to pay unless they feel like it. But this is a completely different financial model, and it tends to generate much more money.

How do the people in this group identify themselves? Are they Pentecostals? Charismatics? INC Christians?

Christerson: They would use the word prophetic or apostolic—or they would align themselves with one of the apostles. They would say, “I am a follower of Bill Johnson,” or Mike Bickle, or Cindy Jacobs. People would tell us, “he’s my apostle” or “he’s my prophet.” The other term we hear a lot is “spiritual covering”: There’s this idea that you are under spiritual covering of your specific apostle or prophet. A related term is “impartation.” The apostles basically impart their power to you. If you are under them, the power that they have straight from God trickles down to you.

They consciously avoid any kind of formal organization or denomination. They see the strength of weak ties—it allows them room to experiment and to work with all kinds of different people. They can focus on putting together these big events—they don’t have to support a staff or donate to a seminary. They can just go straight to the marketing activities.

How do you become an apostle? What’s the process?

Christerson: It’s all sort of self-appointed. Leaders in the moment would say that people are recognized as apostles because of the influence that they have—not only over your own congregation but over other leaders. But there’s definitely a good deal of self-appointing going on. Peter Wagner, a leader in the New Apostolic Reformation movement, referred to himself as a “super apostle,” because he was influential with a bunch of other apostles.

Ironically, this group isn’t really focused on building up big congregations. Their ideas are spreading through other means, like high-profile conferences and the media products that they are selling.

It’s easy to see the advantages for leaders—it’s great to be the guy at the top of the pyramid since they get all the cash and no one tells them what to do. But it also seems like lay people really like this model. What do they get out of it?

Christerson: For the young people, they’re searching for meaning, and they’re also looking for adventure and excitement. These kinds of churches appeal to them in ways that traditional congregations just can’t. They are not merely trying to learn how to know God, live a godly life, or share their faith with other people. They really believe they are participating in this cosmic spiritual battle to transform the world. They are involved in this battle for whole cities and nations.

And then you have the appeal of direct access to God—getting direct downloads from God. God is going to talk to me and tell me what to do. Or my leader is getting direct downloads. For many people, that’s more exciting than a 45-minute sermon examining the Greek terms from Paul’s writings.

INC movements don’t have same “priesthood of all believers” theology as the Protestant Reformers, because power is still flowing down from particular apostles, and then others can access it. There is definitely a hierarchy. But since they are not building institutions, there is a lot of freedom for people to experiment with the tools they get from these apostles. So that opens up a lot of opportunities for people to lead, innovate, and create their own way of doing Christianity. That participatory aspect is a major part of the appeal.

Rather than traditional worship services, many megachurches say they have “experiences.” What kind of experiences are INC churches trying to create?

Christerson: The traditional megachurch uses music and exciting preaching from great communicators. But we found that wasn’t the case with these INC-lings. They are actually not very exciting preachers. That really surprised us. For them, it’s all about encountering these supernatural manifestations. That’s the exciting experience.

It’s very spontaneous. We went to a conference where a number of apostles were speaking and Bill Johnson was doing a Bible teaching. He had probably talked 20 or 30 minutes, and you could feel the restlessness in the room. He said, “I know you are just waiting for me to stop preaching because you want the power. But just hang with me here.” People weren’t there to listen to him. What they wanted was for him to lay hands on them.

After he finished, people came up to the stage, and they were being slain in the spirit. People were falling down and getting healed. That’s what they are there for. They don’t want to sit and watch other people. They want to access the power themselves to make a difference in the world.

Flory: The desire for this kind of experience is broader than just this group. It works out in interesting ways among these INC Christians, but we see it across different religious groups that we have studied at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture. Particularly among evangelicals, we’re seeing a more experiential, embodied way of understanding religion.

It’s remarkable how effectively INC personalities can get their message out without owning a television studio or buying airtime. How do they manage?

Flory: INC leaders have leveraged digital technology to get their message out—smartphones in particular, where you can get anything you want as long as you have some kind of digital connection. That just expands the world exponentially for these people.

Christerson: It’s also basically free to put your product out there. IHOP is particularly good at doing that. They say their website—in terms of viewed video content—is one of the top 50 websites in the world.

Between the internet and the conferences, they have figured out ways to leverage that big, exhilarating, hyped-up experience you get in a stadium venue. That’s where their networking comes into play. They can bring in four or five apostles, and then their followers flock to see them. People have these significant experiences that juice them up to contact the apostles over the internet. If they can go to a conference two or three times a year to get a new jolt, that becomes the new rhythm, as opposed the weekly rhythm of church life.

Let’s talk about the “7 mountains” theology, which is popular in these circles. On some levels, it sounds like theocracy. Christians are in charge of every part of life: the “mountains” of business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family, and religion. On the other hand, it sounds like there’s no actual plan—aside from putting these Christians in charge. So what’s going on?

Christerson: They really believe that God is behind it all, that he is appointing people into these high positions, and that they will know what to do when they get there. They will be listening to God, and he will use them to supernaturally make America or the world into the kingdom of God. Some of the people that they claim are in these high position—like Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, and Rick Perry—are part of the Trump administration. But they are not Pentecostals, and they have nothing to do with these groups. The movement just latches on to them and claims God is using Trump to bring in the kingdom.

Some INC people describe Trump as a King Cyrus figure—he’s not one of us, but God is using him to defeat our enemies and restore our nation. If Trump collapses or gets impeached, they will not look very good. Some of them have staked their reputation on Trump’s performance, but not all of them.

They don’t have policy goals, other than anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage sentiments. They don’t have an idea of what it takes to reduce poverty or curb international conflict. None of that is even on their radar.

It’s a very different approach than other religious groups take. If it’s the Catholic Church, the religious right, or the religious left, they actually have a strategy. They have think-tanks and organizations, and they’re involved at different levels with political parties. This is nothing like that.

Flory: In some ways, it’s a really romantic vision. For most of the 20th century, most Pentecostals and evangelicals were pre-millennial—they imagined that God’s reign would appear in full only after the second coming of Christ. But the INC movement is explicitly post-millennial. In their minds, God’s kingdom can come to earth before Christ returns—and, by the way, it will be in America. There is this interesting combination of America first, Americans as God’s chosen people, and a romantic vision of God working it out through the people he chooses.

Do INC leaders engage in any self-reflection about the dangers of holding major power without oversight?

Christerson: I haven’t seen a lot of self-awareness on their part. They think they are an instrument of God—and that’s all they need. There’s a suspicion of any kind of accountability structures, because these limit the power of God working through individuals. When you have a church board and an elder board that hires a pastor, then that pastor can’t do the things that God is telling him to do—because he has to go to the board to get everything approved. The real danger, they would say, is when institutions become more powerful than the individuals that God calls.

But they do seem different than the prosperity gospel preachers, in that wealth isn’t flaunted.

Christerson: Peter Wagner talked about the differences between the two groups. He said that the prosperity gospel thought that money was a blessing for the sake of blessing. For his own New Apostolic Reformed movement, the prosperity comes from God in order to transform the world for God.

Interestingly, INC leaders think that the business world is the key to all of this—because wealth is more powerful than all other forms of power. They anticipate this huge transfer of wealth to believers. But they see this wealth as an instrument for bringing about God’s kingdom on earth.

For prosperity preacher, it’s more that God is going to bless me individually to show me favor and to show that he is God. We didn’t get that from the INC leaders. They dress casually and don’t drive expansive cars or fly in their own planes.

Many INC apostles are very successful. So why have they stayed out of the spotlight, at least in the broader culture?

Christerson: One reason this movement hasn’t gotten a lot of press is that the leaders don’t seek it out. They have their own networks for disseminating information and getting attention. They are not sending our press releases. For example, they had this Asuza Now conference at the Los Angeles Coliseum, and it drew 50,000 people on a rainy day—if not for the bad weather, the crowd probably would have been even bigger. And it didn’t even make the Los Angeles Times. Fifty thousand people show up for an apostle’s conference at the LA Coliseum, and nobody covered it. That was mind-boggling to me.

They don’t seem to be on anybody’s radar, in part because they are not promoting themselves through normal institutional channels.

And yet they do seem like friendly people, at least in public. And they seem to lack the kind of ostentatiousness that turns people off from prosperity gospel preachers or televangelists.

Christerson: They are super down-to-earth. And there isn’t the angry edge we’ve seen from certain religious-right activists or the more traditional pre-millennial dispensationalists who want to fight evil. For these guys, God’s taking over the world, and they are just riding the wave.

Source CT Article

Other NAR related links:

The Six Hallmarks of a NAR Church

The New Apostolic Reformation (Many Articles and Links) by Sandy Simpson

Interview with Sandy Simpson (with outline and additional links) on Echo Zoe Radio

The New Apostolic Reformation (Multiple Articles) by 4 Truth Ministry

List of Direct Quotes from C. Peter Wagner by The Zedekiah List

The New Apostolic Reformation by Apologetics Index

The Roots and Fruits of the New Apostolic Reformation by Bob Dewaay

The Changing of the Apostolic Guard: 13 Names to Watch by Holly Pivec

The Apostles Who Don’t Do Anything by Grace to You

Interview With Caryl Matrisciana: New Apostolic Reformation by Amy Spreeman

Dominionism and The NAR by Berean Research

Apostles and Prophets are the Foundation of the Church by Bob Dewaay

The New Apostolic Church Movement by Let Us Reason

What Is The New Apostolic Reformation? by Got Questions

Do Miracles, Signs and Wonders Create Faith? by Robert Liichow

Christianity Today Should Correct Heidi Baker NAR Story by Talk To Action

Debunking the Seven Mountains Mandate and the NAR by Chris Rosebrough

What’s Wrong With the Passion (NAR)”Translation” Bible?

The New Apostolic End Times Scripture by Steven Kozar

C. Peter Wagner’s Apostolic Movement on Issues, Etc.

The Apostolic and Prophetic Movement by Keith Gibson

Why I Must Speak Out Against the NAR and Bethel Church by Tony Miano

The Latter Rain Movement on Issues, Etc.

The History of the Renewal Movement: Interview with Lyndon Unger on Echoe Zoe Radio (with links and notes)

The NAR: A Warning About Latter Day Apostles by Orrel Steinkamp

What Is Dominionism? by Apprising

I Refuse to Believe Bob Jones-I’m Staying Home by Steven Kozar

What Is The NAR? by Asleep No More

C. Peter Wagner Spins the NAR by Herescope

The NAR-You Will Know Them by Their Nuts by Church Watch Central

HAW and WOF NARpostles by Church Watch Central

The New Order of the Latter Rain by Spirit Watch

Quick Thoughts: What is the Seven Mountain Mandate? by Lyndon Unger

“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”

— Galatians 1:6-9

Lies We Believe About God (a review of the new book by The Shack author William Paul Young)

by Pastor Gabriel Hughes, First Southern Baptist Church, Junction City, Kansas

Hot on the release of the mediocre film The Shack (18% approval rating by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, 6.8 viewer rating on IMDb), the book’s author William Paul Young has released Lies We Believe About God. It came out March 7, less than a week after The Shack hit theaters.

If there was any question about Young’s theology, this book leaves no doubt. Personally, I had no questions about what Young believes about God — it’s all in The Shack. But this hasn’t stopped scores of people from defending the book/movie as “just a story.” For example, rapper Lecrae, featured on the film’s soundtrack, defended it as just fiction and not theology, as though fiction gets a pass when it comes to the scrutiny God commands we are to give everything (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Aside from the fact that any talk about God is theology, Young has outright said The Shack is theology. In the forward to C. Baxter Kruger’s book The Shack Revisited, Young wrote, “Please don’t misunderstand me; The Shack is theology. But it is theology wrapped in story, the word becoming flesh and living inside the blood and bones of common human experience.” (This is the quote given in the WWUTT video on The Shack vs The Bible.)

Kruger returned the favor by writing the forward to Young’s book Lies We Believe About God. And it’s a really weird forward. It’s almost as if Kruger is saying, “I know the stuff you’re going to read in this book is kind of wonky, but I can verify that William Paul Young is still a Christian!” In actuality, Young in his own words exposes himself as a heretic. Again, we shouldn’t be surprised. He already did this in The Shack.

All of Young’s chapters in the book are “lies we believe about God.” There are 28 of them, chock full of man-centered doctrine. It’s not kind-of man-centered. It’s all man-centered. Here are ten of the titles of these chapters and the theology they contain. Again, the titles are all “lies” Young says most people believe about God.

“God is good, I am not.”
And again, I must emphasize Young believes this is a lie. He goes as far as saying that there are pastors who are allowed to stand in their pulpits and preach this lie that people are not good. Young has a tenuous relationship with the Bible. Sometimes entire chapters of his don’t contain a single verse. So we don’t know how Young deals with passages like Romans 3:12 which says, “No one does good,” or verse 23 which says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Young repeats the liberal theological trope that everything God makes is good, and since I’m made in the image of God, I am good. But he misses the reality of original sin: since Adam, we have taken that image and desecrated it with our sin, exalting ourselves in the place of God, and for that we deserve His holy and divine wrath. Jesus, the only good man there ever was, satisfied the wrath of God with His sacrifice on the cross. All who believe in Jesus will live. That gospel message does not exist in Young’s theology.

“God is in control.”
Yes, Young actually believes that God is not in control. He says, “God has the creative audacity to build purpose out of the evil we generate, but that will never justify what is wrong. Nothing, not even the salvation of the entire cosmos, could ever justify a horrific torture device called a ‘cross.'” Does Young just not know that the Bible addresses this very thing? Peter preached at Pentecost, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). God foreordains, but this in no way absolves men from the guilt of his evil acts. What we mean for evil, God always means for good (Genesis 50:20). We are responsible to turn from sin and to Christ for forgiveness.

“God does not submit.”
Young comes back over and over to the fact that we are created in the image of God and proceeds to draw false conclusions: Since I’m made in God’s image, whatever I’m like, God must be like that. Since I have to submit, then God also has to submit. Young also believes the Father submits to the Son. He does not. Young goes as far as saying God even has to abide by the golden rule: He treats us the way He wants us to treat Him. But Jesus serving us (Matthew 20:28) is not the same thing as submission. To submit means to yield to authority. We have no authority over God. Absolutely zero. The only person Jesus submitted to was His Father in heaven. He submitted to God and served us as the ultimate example of what it means to love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. This fulfills the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17, 7:12).

“God is more he than she.”
Young tells a very remarkable story about how his mother saved an infant child who then grew up to become an Anglican priest who tells Young’s mother that Young was right to make God in The Shack into a large black woman named Papa. Ugh. He took a true, very heart-felt and inspirational story, and turned it into something self-centered and pretentious. Young says God possesses feminine qualities (nurse, mother, etc.); therefore, He can be a woman, too. Again, it’s all man-centered and feelings-based, not biblical. God created man to be the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. The husband is to be a picture of Christ laying His life down for the church, the wife is a picture of the church submitting to Christ, and the head of Christ is God our Father (1 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5:22-33). For all Young’s talk about “submission,” the one thing he doesn’t seem to want to submit to is the Bible.

“You need to get saved.”
Young says, “God does not wait for my choice and then ‘save me.’ God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind. Now our daily choice is to either grow and participate in that reality or continue to live in the blindness of our own independence. Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying!” He goes on: “Every person who has ever been conceived was included in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. When Jesus was lifted up, God ‘dragged’ all human beings to Himself.” He references John 12:32 which says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” It’s the favorite verse of all universalists, and it’s totally out of context. Previously in John 3:36, we read, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

“Hell is separation from God.”
Since Young has already revealed himself as a universalist, surely you know he doesn’t believe anyone goes to hell. In fact, he quotes Romans 8:38-39 which says nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God. Therefore, hell cannot be a place where we are separated from God. Rather, Young says, hell is God. It is “the continuous and confrontational presence of fiery Love and Goodness and Freedom that intends to destroy every vestige of evil and darkness that prevents us from being fully free and fully alive.” But Jesus said those who do not believe in Him and do the will of His Father in heaven will go away into eternal punishment at the final judgment (Matthew 25:46, Revelation 21:8). Hell is a real place that real people will be cast into unless they in this life repent of sin and follow Jesus Christ. The Bible could not be more clear.

“The Cross was God’s idea.”
Young says God didn’t come up with the cross — we did. Again, the Bible addresses this point. See above. The Bible foretold that Christ would be crucified centuries before crucifixion was even invented (Psalm 22:16). This is not because God looked down the tunnel of time and learned something about the future, as though God needed to learn anything. That is a pagan myth rooted in fortune-telling and soothsaying. God knows the future because He foreordained it.

“Not everyone is a child of God.”
This again is something presented in The Shack, that everyone is God’s child. Logically, if everyone is made in the image of God, and everyone is good, and everyone is going to go to heaven, then of course according to Young, everyone is a child of God. He takes out of context a passage from Ephesians 4 to back up his point. But he missed the one in Ephesians 2 that says before we come to Christ, we are children of the devil subject to the wrath of God (see also John 8:44). God adopts us into His family through Jesus Christ, and we become the adopted sons and daughters of God (Ephesians 1:4-5, Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:4-7, 1 John 3:1). Indeed, not everyone is a child of God. Only those who are followers of Jesus are children of God.

“Sin separates us from God.”
Again, we’re created in the image of God, and God doesn’t create anything bad. Sin, according to Young, “is anything that negates or diminishes or misrepresents the truth of who you are, no matter how pretty or ugly that is.” He then goes into a bunch of Osteenian affirmations of who the Bible says you are: “You are trustworthy! You have integrity! You are loving!” No, you’re not. The Bible says very specifically what sin is: “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). It is willful, open rebellion against the High King of the universe. Everyone has done it (Romans 3:23) and everyone deserves death for it (Romans 6:23). But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord for all who believe. Those who are in Christ will turn from a life of sin and pursue the righteousness of God.

EDIT: Someone asked me if in the book Young said Jesus was guilty of sin. Not exactly. Young postulates that Jesus made mistakes, like He misspelled a word or hammered a nail in the wrong place. His definition of sin is actually too soft for him to say that Jesus sinned. He basically says you are capable of living the human experience perfectly like Jesus did. Sin is when we think less of ourselves than we really are. It’s still heresy because it’s works-righteousness and if we say we don’t sin His word is not in us (1 John 1:10). But Young doesn’t commit the added error of accusing Jesus of sinning against God.

“God is One alone.”
Young says that the God who “needs to be appeased, and failure is met by wrath and judgment” is a false one. Unfortunately for Young, that’s the God of the Bible, only it’s not the whole picture. He is indeed a God of wrath and judgment, but He is also a God of love and mercy. Young says those two things cannot co-exist. God says that they do (Exodus 34:6-7). He displays the full spectrum of His glory by saving for Himself the objects of His mercy, and pouring out judgment on vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Romans 9:22-23). God is eternally gracious toward those whom He has saved and adopted as His children. He is eternally wrathful toward those who have rebelled against Him and rejected His Son. Repent of your sin and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, and be saved from the coming judgment.

Conclusion
Young closes his book by presenting a quote from the god of The Shack, and says that’s the god he believes in. Quite literally, he says the god he believes in is the god he invented in his own story. The Shack is a story, and it is a lie from the heart of a liar. With this new book, Young set out to “expose” lies we believe about God. Instead, he presented a lot of lies he believes about God.

Notorious False Teachers

A few years ago blogger, author and book reviewer Tim Challies wrote a series of articles spanning the history of the church—from its earliest days all the way to the present time—to examine some of Christianity’s most notorious false teachers. Having studied many of these teachers at length, I think it fair to say that these articles represent a good summary of each of these teachers along with their spurious teachings, and what the Bible has to say. This is one of those articles, taking a look at the life and legacy of a man who prepared the way for Robert Schuller, Joel Osteen, Oprah Winfrey, and so many others – Norman Vincent Peale. Links to other articles are included after the article. – Dan C.

Norman Vincent Peale

Online Source

Norman Vincent Peale was born on May 31, 1898, in Bowersville, Ohio, the first child of Charles and Anna Peale. Charles was a Methodist minister who served a variety of churches in Ohio, and before long Norman, too, began to consider ministry as his vocation. When he was a boy, one of his teachers accused him of being “a weak willy-nilly” and he soon realized the teacher’s assessment was correct. He saw that he would need to push himself past a deep-rooted inferiority complex and crippling self-doubt.

As a young man Peale attended Ohio Wesleyan University and Boston University School of Theology. During his first summer break he returned home and was asked to fill a nearby pulpit. He dutifully prepared a sermon and showed it to his father. His father read it and promptly advised burning it, telling his son, “the way to the human heart is through simplicity.” These are words the young man took to heart.

In 1922 he was ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was assigned a small congregation in Berkeley, Rhode Island. Two years later he moved to Brooklyn, New York where he established himself as a gifted communicator so that in only three years he grew a church from 40 to 900 members. He spent a few years at another Methodist congregation in Syracuse, New York, before changing his affiliation to the Reformed Church in America so he could pastor Marble Collegiate Church, one of the oldest Protestant congregations in America. When he arrived, this church had around 600 members; upon his departure 52 years later it had 5,000. It was here that he would gain worldwide acclaim and notoriety as a teacher of positive thinking.

clip_image002Peale developed a fascination with psychiatry as an answer, or partial answer, to his congregant’s problems. While he was at Marble, he teamed up with a Freud-trained psychiatrist, Dr. Smiley Blanton, to begin a religious-psychiatric clinic in the church basement. They wanted to respond to the psychological needs of their congregation and especially the deep-rooted effects of the Great Depression. In 1951 this clinic was organized into the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry, with Peale as president and Blanton as executive director.

Peale spread his teaching through a variety of media. While serving the church in Syracuse he founded a radio program called “The Art of Living,” and it would broadcast his sermons for 54 years. By 1952 he and his wife were also on the new medium of television, featured on the show “What’s Your Trouble?” In 1945, along with his wife Ruth, and Raymond Thornburg, a local businessman, he founded Guideposts. What was at first a weekly four-page leaflet evolved to a monthly inspirational magazine that would soon have 2 million subscribers.

During his lifetime, Peale authored 46 books, and the most successful by far was The Power of Positive Thinking. Published in 1952, it stayed on the New York Times list of bestsellers for 186 consecutive weeks and sold 5 million copies, making it one of the bestselling religious books of all-time. It began with these words:

This book is written to suggest techniques and to give examples which demonstrate that you do not need to be defeated by anything, that you can have peace of mind, improved health, and a never-ceasing flow of energy. In short, that your life can be fully of joy and satisfaction.

The book had chapters with titles such as “I Don’t Believe in Defeat,” “How to Have Faith in Healing,” and “Power to Solve Personal Problems.” Each chapter contained sections titled “energy-producing thoughts,” “spirit-lifters,” or “faith attitudes.” Much of his teaching was distilled to lists of eight practical formulas or seven simple steps. This book rocketed Peale to new levels of fame and acclaim, and elevated his message with him. He became one of the most influential Christian leaders in the world, gaining a voice into business and politics, even officiating at the wedding of David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon. On March 26, 1984 President Ronald Reagan awarded him the highest civilian honor in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for his contributions to theology.

Peale retired as senior pastor in 1984 and died of a stroke on December 24, 1993 in Pawling, New York. He was ninety-five years old. President Bill Clinton honored him with these words: “While the Clinton family and all Americans mourn his loss, there is some poetry in his passing on a day when the world celebrates the birth of Christ, an idea that was central to Dr. Peale’s message and Dr. Peale’s work. He will be missed.”

False Teaching

Readers were thrilled with this notion that if they believed it, they could have it, or be it, or do it.

Norman Vincent Peale popularized what came to be known as positive thinking. He took existing ideas from Christian Science and other inspirations, gave them a biblical veneer, integrated them with psychology, and packaged them for the masses, spreading his message through The Power of Positive Thinking and his other works. His foremost contribution to the world was this notion that thoughts are causative, that our thoughts can change our lives, our health, our destiny. Readers were thrilled with this notion that if they believed it, they could have it, or be it, or do it.

Peale believed we live in a world that is mental more than physical and this allows our thoughts to be determinative. If this is the case, all that stands between us and our desires is properly controlling our thoughts. In one of his books he taught the importance of a form of mental activity called imaging. It consists of vividly picturing, in your conscious mind, a desired goal or objective, and holding that image until it sinks into your unconscious mind, where it releases great, untapped energies. It works best when it is combined with a strong religious faith, backed by prayer, and the seemingly illogical technique of giving thanks for benefits before they are received. When the imaging concept is applied steadily and systematically, it solves problems, strengthens personalities, improves health, and greatly enhances the chances for success in any kind of endeavor. (Positive Imaging)

None of this would be remarkable, except that he taught it as a minister who claimed to be a Christian. Yet as a Christian minister he denied that God was a being, saying “Who is God? Some theological being? He is so much greater than theology. God is vitality. God is life. God is energy. As you breathe God in, as you visualize His energy, you will be reenergized!” (Plus: The Magazine of Positive Thinking). As a Christian minister he told Phil Donahue, “It’s not necessary to be born again. You have your way to God, I have mine. I found eternal peace in a Shinto shrine … I’ve been to Shinto shrines and God is everywhere. … Christ is one of the ways! God is everywhere.” He denied the very heart of the Christian faith and replaced it with his doctrine of positive thinking.

Many Christians critiqued Peale, including Episcopalian theologian John Krumm who saw that Peale had reduced God to a force and made Christianity self-centered rather than God-centered. “Very little is said about the sovereign mind and purpose of God; much is made of the things men can say to themselves and can do to bring about their ambitions and purposes.” Surprisingly, some Christians continued to embrace him. In 1966 Billy Graham said, “I don’t know of anyone who had done more for the kingdom of God than Norman and Ruth Peale or have meant any more in my life for the encouragement they have given me.”

Followers & Modern Adherents

The popularity of Peale’s teachings guaranteed his lasting influence. One of his most committed devotees, who patterned himself accordingly, was Robert Schuller, also a minister in the Reformed Church in America. Schuller restyled “positive thinking” into “possibility thinking,” but kept much of the core teaching intact. But Peale’s influence was much wider than that. His voice can be heard behind contemporary books like The Secret, which advocates the law of attraction, another way of speaking and believing reality into existence. His voice can be heard behind the Oprah Winfrey’s, Joel Osteen’s, T.D. Jakes’, and Tony Robbin’s of the world, along with a host of others who teach that the power of the mind, combined with some kind of faith, can change your life and change the world.

Mitch Howoritz points out, rightly I think, that this idea that thoughts are causative is one of the most important theological and psychological concepts of our time. Before Peale it was rare to hear phrases like “Nothing is impossible” or “Be all you can be.” But today we take such phrases for granted. It is not coincidental that the first chapter of Peale’s book is titled “Believe in Yourself.”

What the Bible Says

The Bible makes it clear that the troubles we experience in this life are not merely the result of negative thinking that can be overcome by tapping into our potential through positive thinking. They are the result of a deep-seated rebellion against God that involves not only the mind, but the will. We simply cannot overcome the evils of this world, or even the evil in our hearts, in our own strength. Apart from Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5). Apart from being born again, we are eternally dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).

Where Peale taught that our deepest problem is a lack of belief in ourselves and that our salvation comes with a simple shift in thinking, the Bible teaches that no man can save himself, regardless of how positive his thoughts may be. His salvation must come from outside himself. The glory of Jesus Christ is in the fact that he “has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death” sinners “who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (Colossians 1:21-22). Tragically, by his life and legacy, Peale showed that he rejected this Savior and chose to trust in his own strength.

Links to Tim Challies’ articles:

Arius (AD 250 or 256–336)

Pelagius (Circa 360 – 418)

Muhammad (Circa c. 570 – 632)

Joseph Smith (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844)

Ellen G. White (November 26, 1827 – July 16, 1915)

Harry Emerson Fosdick (May 24, 1878 – October 5, 1969)

Norman Vincent Peale (May 31, 1898 – December 24, 1993)

Marcus Borg (March 11, 1942 – January 21, 2015)

Creflo Dollar (January 28, 1962 – Present)

T. D. Jakes (June 9, 1957 – Present)

Benny Hinn (December 3, 1952 – Present

Brian McLaren (1956 – Present)

Marcus Borg (March 11, 1942 – January 21, 2015)

Harry Emerson Fosdick (May 24, 1878 – October 5, 1969)

Beware of False Fire

The ‘Toronto Blessing’ (now called ‘Catch the Fire Toronto’) began in January 1994 and its fallout has been continuously poisoning the church for a dozen years now, even having invaded once solid evangelical organizations. The Toronto Blessing had roots in the earlier Latter Rain movement and was denounced by the Assemblies of God in 1949. Nevertheless, it still gets very favorable press in Charismatic circles and publications, most notably Charisma Magazine.

At the same time, those with sound biblical discernment skills can easily see it for what it is – heretical poison. Recently, Chris Rosebrough devoted a Pirate Christian Radio segment to the movement, using a teaching by Alan Morrison from 1994. You can listen to it here, or you can watch the YouTube here. The presentation discusses the roots of the movement, it’s main personalities, and its purposes.

This post summaries  the purposes of Toronto Blessing, both Satan’s and God’s, as presented in Alan Morrison’s presentation:

Satan’s Purposes:

1. Destroy the authority of scripture.

· Making it subordinate to personal revelation(s).

· Making it subordinate to human personal/subjective experience(s).

· Twisting it (scripture) to justify unbiblical ideas. (Psalm 23-he makes me lie down) Decide what you want to believe and find a ‘proof’ text.

2. Stop Christians using their minds. Like the New Age movement.

  • Through the suppression of  discernment
  • By eradicating the centrality of doctrine in the Christian life. (Relationship with Jesus is more important than doctrine.)

3. Destroy the work of Biblical evangelism.

  • By stopping the mouths of preachers of God’s word.
  • By removing the heart from out of the gospel (Christ died for our sins).

4. Intimidate Christians into surrendering to Satan.

  • Death to those who resist the ‘new’ move of the Spirit. (Benny Hinn, William Branham, Paul Crouch)

5. Seduce Christians into believing there is some ‘higher’ form of salvation that they should seek. Faith is not enough – there’s MORE!.

6. Make believers confuse pietism (experience of divine presence, etc.) with true spirituality.

7. To bring an occult initiation into the heart of the church. Initiation into all the forces of the New Age.

8. Prepare Christians for the coming great deception (Benjamin Crème and The New Age)

God’s Purposes:

1. Drive his true people to run to him alone for comfort and salvation – to become serious students of the Word.

2. Sift the churches – separating the true church from false churches, denominations and movements.

I highly recommend watching the YouTube, which is rather long, to get a real appreciation for the seriousness of the poison that has invaded the church. Chris Rosebrough’s audio doesn’t really do the presentation justice.

I also pray that current Charismatics would either listen to or watch the presentation. It very well could be a giant wake up call for those deceived into thinking Toronto was a genuine move of the Holy Spirit when it was not.

Together 2016 – Reversing the Reformation?

If you haven’t already heard, an event called ‘Together 2016’will be held on July 16 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It’s advertised as a call for unity in the church – a stand against division.

Division is everywhere.

Race. Class. Politics. Social media. Religion. The millennial generation is the most cause-driven in history—but our causes put us at odds and we create enemies of each other. The Church is paying a price. Young people associate faith with arguing and politicking. The message that Jesus loves us and offers a reset is getting lost in the noise.

Jesus directly challenged a culture of division. He prayed we would be one—one family, one body. And He told us to love our enemies. Everyone loves their friends; it’s when we love those who aren’t like us that the world takes note. It’s time to come together around Jesus in a counter-cultural moment of unity and love for each other. 

The need for hope is too great to be pointing fingers at each other instead of pointing to Jesus together.

Source

Roman Catholic Pope Francis is even scheduled to make a video appearance. Main organizer, Nick Hall  had this to say about the Pope’s appearance:

“We are humbled and honored by his involvement and are eager to share his message with the crowd that gathers at Together 2016,” Hall said in a statement to The Christian Post, reacting to the announcement that the pope has added his name to the list of speakers. “That His Holiness would choose to speak into this historic day is a testament to the urgency and the need for followers of Jesus to unite in prayer for our nation and our world.”

I hate to say it, but Nick Hall & Company will probably be an inspiration to a huge flock of young people. You see, Nick Hall is the founder of PULSE, which is primarily a ministry to college age ‘next generation’ youth. He seems to be HUGE, if you believe the ads about him, but I wouldn’t know because I am not a follower of the various youth directed ‘movements’ that seem to be more like rock concerts than genuine spiritual revival. They are ‘spiritual’ all right, but what ‘spirit’? Just asking. . .

You see, by having the leader of a religion that preaches a false gospel of ‘faith plus works’ as a headliner at a ‘Christian’ event should concern genuine Bible believing Christians. I don’t necessarily blame the million or so young people that will be drawn to this event. Many, if not most of them have probably never read their own Bibles. Although there have been attempts in the past to bring Protestants and Catholics together, or make it seem that we are, the Council of Trent clearly states that it is faith in God plus works that save a man. You can read for yourself the specific Canons from Trent speaking to adding works to faith here.

The movement toward Catholic & Protestant reconciliation is nothing new.

“March 29, 1994 saw a development that some have touted as the most significant development in Protestant-Catholic relations since the dawn of the Reformation. A document titled “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium” was published with a list of more than thirty signatories—including well-known evangelicals Pat Robertson, J. I. Packer, Os Guinness, and Bill Bright. They were joined by leading Catholics such as John Cardinal O’Connor, Bishop Carlos A. Sevilla, and Catholic scholar Peter Kreeft.” Source

“The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) is a document created, and agreed to, by the Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999, as a result of extensive ecumenical dialogue. It states that the churches now share “a common understanding of our justification by God’s grace through faith in Christ.” To the parties involved, this essentially resolves the five hundred year old conflict over the nature of justification which was at the root of the Protestant Reformation.” Source

In 2017 Lutherans and Catholics will jointly celebration the 1517 Reformation. In a section of a detailed explanation of the 2017 initiatives we have these words:

“The first imperative: Catholics and Lutherans should always begin from the perspective of unity and not from the point of view of division in order to strengthen what is held in common even though the differences are more easily seen and experienced.” Source

I would add that the segment of Lutheranism represented in this ecumenical dialogue does not represent the conservative segments of Lutheran Church, such as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS).

Here’s the point in all this in the words of the Apostle Paul:

Ephesians 2:8-9English Standard Version (ESV)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph 2:8-9, ESV)

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:8, ESV)

Need I say more? I certainly hope not.

What we can do:

1. Educate our believing friends concerning the danger of mixing the genuine gospel with false gospel messages, and pray that evangelical churches sponsoring and planning to attend this abominable event will see the light and choose truth over false unity.

2. Pray that God will open the hearts of young people (the primary target audience for this abomination), and that He will send his messengers to speak to those open hearts.

May this Lord’s Day find you blessed and prospering in His Word!

Why do we want to look like the world?

The answer is really simple. We want to ‘attract’ people to Jesus, which is a concept found nowhere in scripture. In fact God wants his sona and daughters to be different from the world, not like the world. Yet pastors come out on platforms and stages where there is no pulpit, wearing their faded jeans, rumpled shirts hanging out of their trousers, only to preach stories about themselves (narcigesis) with a few scripture passages thrown in (soundbites for Jesus?), most likely taken out of context to ‘prove’ the heresy of the day, and itching ears lap it up because postmodern Christianity is all about our temporal happiness not God’s glory.

“The idea that you are going to win people tomthe Christian faith by showing them that after all you are remarkably like them is theologically and psychologically a profound blunder.” – Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 140