Many Christians today are greatly concerned about the rising influences of communism, humanism, secularism, and social injustice. Yet those evils, great as they are, do not together pose the threat to Christianity that false shepherds and pastors do. Throughout the history of redemption, the greatest threat to God’s truth and God’s work has been false prophets and teachers, because they propose to speak in His name. That is why the Lord’s most scathing denunciations were reserved for the false teachers of Israel, who claimed to speak and act for God but were liars. Yet for some reason, evangelical Christianity is often hesitant to confront false teachers with the seriousness and severity that Jesus and the apostles did, and that the godly prophets before them had done. Today, more than at any time in modern history and perhaps more than at any time in the history of the church, pagan religions and cults are seriously encroaching on societies that for centuries
John MacArthur writes: The market-driven philosophy of user-friendly churches does not easily permit them to take firm enough doctrinal positions to oppose false teaching. Their outlook on leadership drives them to hire marketers who can sell rather than biblically qualified pastors who can teach. Their approach to ministry is so undoctrinal that they cannot educate their people against subtle errors. Their avoidance of controversy puts them in a position where they cannot oppose false teaching that masquerades as evangelicalism. In fact, the new trends in theology seem ideally suited to the user-friendly philosophy. Why would the user-friendly church oppose such doctrines? But oppose them we must, if we are to remain true to God’s Word and maintain a gospel witness. Pragmatic approaches to ministry do not hold answers to the dangers confronting biblical Christianity today. Pragmatism promises bigger churches, more people, and a living church, but it is really carnal wisdom–spiritually bankrupt and contrary to the Word of God. Marketing
Some wise words from Eric Landry: We must be very careful about how we respond. Will we join our friends at the “Rapture Parties” that are planned for pubs and living rooms around the nation? Will we laugh at those who have spent the last several months of their lives dedicated to a true but untimely belief? What will we say on Saturday night or Sunday morning? History teaches us that previous generations caught up in eschatological fervor often fell away from Christ when their deeply held beliefs about the end of the world didn’t pan out. While Camping must answer for his false teaching at the end of the age, Reformational Christians are facing a pastoral problem come Sunday morning: how can we apply the salve of the Gospel to the wounded sheep who will be wandering aimlessly, having discovered that what they thought was true (so true they were willing to upend their lives over it) was not? If
My thanks to Matthew Lee Anderson for this: Trevin Wax has solidified his role as one of the Christian blogging community’s most insightful writers and one of the leaders of a new crop of young writers who are working to clearly and confidently articulate the shape of the gospel over and against the challenges of contemporary substitutes. Trevin’s new book, Counterfeit Gospels, is a helpful contribution that does precisely that. Trevin has a great ability as a writer to make complex ideas accessible in an easygoing way. It is thoughtful, careful engagement with alternatives that is pastorally and spiritually helpful without watering down any of the substance. Trevin takes on the lack of judgment, moralism, a therapeutic gospel–and, in a section which I particularly appreciated–takes on quietist notions of the gospel that strip away any of the social or political ramifications of it (yes, even those). But I’ll let him tell you that: Here’s my formal endorsement: “Trevin Wax has done
From Trevin Wax: Mike Wittmer has done evangelicals a great service. He has penned an easy-to-read, thoughtful, and charitable response to Rob Bell’s controversial book, Love Wins. Wittmer is a professor at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and has written books like Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus Is Not Enough and Heaven Is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God. This new book, Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins, is a tour-de-force, brilliant in its critique and gracious in its tone. I’ve always admired Mike Wittmer’s willingness to genuinely listen to the questions and concerns coming from people of differing theological persuasions. When the Emerging Church discussion was taking place, Wittmer readily admitted weaknesses and errors within evangelical theology that need to be corrected. But he never veered from his reliance on the authoritativeness of Scripture and the centrality of the gospel. So now, Wittmer enters into the fierce debate over Love Wins in order to express
By Richard Lints: With all of the furor surrounding Rob Bell’s recent book, Love Wins (HaperOne 2011) it may seem counterintuitive to say that interest in the book (as evidenced by the Time Magazine cover article on it) owes more to the enduring interest in Christian doctrine rather than to the ambiguity of belief so characteristic of Bell’s thesis. The fact that people still care about the doctrinal outlines of the Christian belief in heaven and hell is testimony that at the end of the day, doctrine wins. It does matter what one believes. It matters because doctrine shapes life and deep down most of us know this. David Brooks, the New York Times OpEd columinist recently wrote, “Many Americans have always admired the style of belief that is spiritual but not doctrinal, pluralistic and not exclusive, which offers tools for serving the greater good but is not marred by intolerant theological judgments. The only problem is that [this view]
By Al Mohler (July 27th 2004): The 20th century witnessed an increasingly energetic revolt against doctrine. A denial of specific formulations of classical Christian doctrine has been evident in some quarters, while others have rejected the very notion of doctrine itself. Doctrine has even fallen on hard times even among those who call themselves evangelicals. Some evangelical historians now argue that the defining principles of evangelical identity are not specifically theological–at least beyond the most general affirmations. If true, that judgment would be a disgrace to any people of God. As it is, however, evangelicals have a proud doctrinal heritage and have historically given careful attention to confessions of faith and doctrinal issues. Doctrine is, quite literally, the teaching of the church–what the church understands to be the substance of its faith. It is no substitute for personal experience. Evangelical Christians have given clear witness to the necessity of personal faith in Jesus Christ, but that personal faith is based
My thanks to Justin Taylor for this: Some notes below from Alfred Poirier’s excellent article “The Cross and Criticism,” first published in The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Spring 1999). Definition: I’m using criticism in a broad sense as referring to any judgment made about you by another, which declares that you fall short of a particular standard. The standard may be God’s or man’s. The judgment may be true or false. It may be given gently with a view to correction, or harshly and in a condemnatory fashion. It may be given by a friend or by an enemy. But whatever the case, it is a judgment or criticism about you, that you have fallen short of a standard. Key Point: A believer is one who identifies with all that God affirms and condemns in Christ’s crucifixion. In other words, in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s judgment of me; and in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s justification of me. Both have a
(HT: Ben Davis)
C.H. Spurgeon: “Find if you can, beloved, one occasion in which Jesus inculcated doubt or bade men dwell in uncertainty. The apostles of unbelief are everywhere today, and they imagine that they are doing God service by spreading what they call “honest doubt.” This is death to all joy! Poison to all peace!… “I have not much patience with a certain class of Christians nowadays who will hear anybody preach so long as they can say, “He is very clever, a fine preacher, a man of genius, a born orator.” Is cleverness to make false doctrine palatable? Why, sirs, to me the ability of a man who preaches error is my sorrow rather than my admiration. “I cannot endure false doctrine, however neatly it may be put before me. Would you have me eat poisoned meat because the dish is of the choicest ware? It makes me indignant when I hear another gospel put before the people with enticing words,
From Jarred Wilson: I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! — Galatians 5:12 How can Paul justify such language? And does this kind of language teach us anything about how to respond to false teaching? Or is it completely an apostolic privilege, off limits to us mere Christians? Let’s step back and see what Paul is doing. Anyone familiar with Paul’s letter to the Galatians knows it is punctuated with this kind of exclamatory language. The shepherd is perplexed and heartbroken over the Galatians’ apparent departure from the gospel once established, and he is livid, indignant toward the Judaizers who are leading them astray. If this were written today, we would be very tempted to chastize Paul for his tone — and indeed, some do reject Paul’s teachings today for this reason, among others (like alleged misogyny, etc.) Galatians 5:12 shows us that Paul is being both rational and angry. It is possible to be both. Paul has not lost his
My thanks to Tim Challies for this: I don’t want to keep talking about Rob Bell. Honest. And in this post I am only going to touch on him on the way to something else. I think the uproar about his view on hell has helpfully illustrated what passes as virtue in the evangelical world today. As I have read some of the controversy, reading particularly from those who have taken his side, I have seen evidence of three characteristics that seem to pass as virtues today. In some parts of the Christian world, these are now embraced as Christian virtue: doubt, opaqueness, and an emphasis on asking rather than answering questions. Doubt Doubt has become a virtue while boldness and assuredness have become marks of arrogance. The only thing we should be sure of is that we cannot be sure of much of anything. Doubt has become synonymous with humility. And so it was with the people who used to
Geerhardus Vos, writing in 1902: Whatever may be charged against the intellectualism of the period when orthodoxy reigned supreme, it can claim credit at least for having been broad minded and well balanced in its appreciation of the infinite complexity and richness of the life of God. The music of that theology may not always please modern ears, because it seems lacking in sweetness; but it ranged over a wider scale and made better harmonies than the popular strains of today. On the other hand, it is plain that where the religious interest is exclusively concentrated upon the will and entirely exhausts itself in attempts at solving the concrete, practical problems of life, no strong incentive will exist for reflecting upon any other aspect of the nature of God than His love, because all that is required of God is that He shall serve as the norm and warrant for Christian philanthropic effort. It is a well-known fact that all
“The Emerging Church is not an evangelistic strategy. It is the last rung for evangelicals falling off the ladder into liberalism or unbelief.” Kevin DeYoung This quote is taken from Kevin DeYoung’s excellent review of Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. You can read the review here. Note: This post is long. You can go here for a PDF version of the 20-page review.
J. C. Ryle Quotes is a nice repository of ever-relevant quotes from the 19th century pastor. Here is the latest: Many things combine to make the present inroad of false doctrine peculiarly dangerous. 1. There is an undeniable zeal in some of the teachers of error: their “earnestness” makes many think they must be right. 2. There is a great appearance of learning and theological knowledge: many fancy that such clever and intellectual men must surely be safe guides. 3. There is a general tendency to free thought and free inquiry in these latter days: many like to prove their independence of judgment, by believing novelties. 4. There is a wide-spread desire to appear charitable and liberal-minded: many seem half ashamed of saying that anybody can be in the wrong. 5. There is a quantity of half-truth taught by the modern false teachers: they are incessantly using Scriptural terms and phrases in an unscriptural sense. 6. There is a morbid craving in the public mind for
When what is implied (lurking beneath the surface) becomes explicit (brought into the light) we can rejoice! Check out these links provided by Todd Pruitt: Denny Burk Justin Taylor Kevin Deyoung Joshua Harris Trevin Wax
A couple of important quotes (via Todd Pruitt) from Carl Truman’s forth coming book: The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind: A movement that cannot or will not draw boundaries, or that allows the modern cultural fear of exclusion to set its theological agenda, is doomed to lose its doctrinal identity. [When] conversation rather than content becomes what is truly important, something critical is lost. Thus, as theology becomes a “conversation,” traditional notions of truth face the danger of assuming less importance than mere aesthetics or modes of discourse. Indeed, doctrinal indifferentism can creep forward in a way that ends only with the sidelining or even repudiation of orthodoxy in any meaningful sense.
From Brian Croft at The Gospel Coalition Blog: Sometime back, a pastor wrote me and asked that I address the issue of how to evaluate a church member I suspect is unconverted. Even though I have sadly dealt with this on more than one occasion, I tremble to communicate in any way that I have all the answers on this matter. Nevertheless, it is a reality, and it is especially so for anyone who goes to pastor an established church whose previous patterns of taking in members were less than healthy and biblical. So, here are a few suggestions as you wrestle with this all important and very difficult issue in your church. Recognize you are not God. Make sure you start here. It is common to jump quickly to conclusions about a church member’s spiritual state based on his disapproval of you and your vision for the church. It is often not that simple. We are not all-wise and omniscient
Check your heart! I’m checking mine. From Desiring God.