Monday, April 28, 2008

The Gospel Plus Nothing

The sad, sad tale of Ravi Zacharias, Shirley Dobson, and the National Day of Prayer continues. You can read about it at Slice of Laodicea.

Christians, we do well to remember that the Gospel cannot be mixed or blended with any other religions -- including the modern American religion called "political correctness" or inclusivism:

“The idea that the Christian gospel can mix with or blend with any other religious system in any way is absolutely wrong. You cannot mix the gospel with Roman Catholic or orthodox sacramentalism. You cannot mix the gospel with liberalism. You can’t mix the gospel with Mormonism, or the religion of the Jehovah’s Witness, or Christian Science or any other religion. You cannot mix the gospel even with the religion of Judaism. The gospel is absolutely exclusive. It mingles with no other religion. It accommodates no other religion. In fact, it replaces all other religion. The gospel is absolutely exclusive. Now this needs to be emphatically understood in a time which exalts diversity of belief, tolerance of religion, pluralism, inclusivism and even universalism which essentially says we’re all headed the same direction. Now we know there is one God, there is one authoritative book, the Bible. There is one Redeemer of souls, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is one gospel, the gospel of grace and faith. And that singularity of the Christian gospel means that any intrusion that mixes or alters the singularity of the gospel renders it void, nullifies it. It stands alone".

—John MacArthur

HT: Defcon

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Et Tu, Ravi?

Under the heading, "Say it ain't so!" we have Dr. Ravi Zacharias, renowned Christian apologist who frequently appears with such defenders of the faith as Dr. R.C. Sproul and Dr. Al Mohler. Dr. Zacharias has posted the prayer he intends to pray on the National Day of Prayer. Believe it or not, his prayer carefully omits any reference to Jesus Christ.

Don't believe it? Check out Dr. Zacharias' prayer here.

According to John 14:6, the only way anyone can come to God the Father is through His only Son, Jesus Christ. How then can a Christian leader pray to God while ignoring Jesus Christ? Isn't it just a little bit misleading to pray that way in front of a huge audience of people, many of whom deny the truth of John 14:6? Doesn't it in effect say, "Well, all that stuff about Jesus being the only way to God, it doesn't really matter that much?"

And while we're on the subject, why does Dr. Zacharias choose to address God as "Holy Father?" Won't that tend to cause some confusion among our Roman Catholic friends, especially in light of the Pope's recent visit to our nation?

(HT: Slice of Laodicea)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Willow Creek and Brian McLaren: Serpent-Sensitive

Willow Creek Church pioneered the "seeker-sensitive" approach to what it calls Christianity. Brian McLaren (who is uncertain about almost every Christian doctrine except that "everything must change") was recently a featured speaker at Willow Creek. McLaren has accused believers who hold to the Second Coming of creating "violence and coercion."

But Willow Creek and McLaren are wrong.
Professor Russell Moore of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary reasons correctly that their denials of the Christian faith will actually lead to MORE violence, not less:

"Even though McLaren claims to want world peace, his own view is actually the one that leads to violence, Moore said.

"When a Christian understands that he does not fight for his own honor, but that justice will be done by God, either through union with Christ and His cross or at the judgment itself, the Christian is freed then to trust God, not his sword or his gun or his fists or his tongue," he said. "It is McLaren's vision of a life that consists only of the justice achieved in this era that leads to violence and Darwinian struggle to see that a pound of flesh is exacted...If
human beings do not expect a Messiah in the skies, they will expect to elect one or anoint one or biochemically engineer one. And, do not be deceived, such pseudo-Messiahs always eventually have a sword."

Professor Moore explains McLaren and Willow Creek are really "serpent-sensitive," not seeker-sensitive:

"When McLaren questions the existence of hell and the hope of the second coming, he is not a 'new kind of Christian.' Such things are neither new nor Christian.

"They are instead a repetition of the voice of a snake in a long-ago garden: 'Has God said?' and 'You shall not surely die.' It is tragic that one of the world's most renowned evangelical churches would highlight this kind of Serpent-sensitive worship."

Amen, and amen!
Thank you, Dr. Moore, for so incisively and courageously exposing this heresy.

(HT: Slice of Laodicea)

Heresy Alert: Christians Should "Close Their Churches" and Go Help the Poor Instead

Thanks to Ingrid at Slice of Laodicea for alerting the flock to a new depth in heresy. The drumbeat grows louder by the day for Christians to "just do good" -- "deeds, not creeds!"

"Christians in the US should close their churches and channel their energies into helping the poor.

This is the message from the campaign 'Faith in Action', a resource developed by Christian humanitarian organization, World Vision..."

Yes, you read that correctly. Christians should cease worshipping, and just go out and do good works.

This is heresy, friends, and it is creeping into a church near you.

The Bible teaches that unless and until we are born again,
all our righteousness -- including all our "good works" no matter how seemingly kind and loving -- are as filthy rags to God. Good works do not get anyone to heaven. Our works cannot and will never substitute for the righteousness of God given to sinners freely by grace through Jesus Christ. Doing good works is not the Gospel.

No one who teaches or even suggests that good works are all we need is preaching the Gospel. They are teaching something else.

A Bumper Sticker for John Armstrong and His Brethren of the "Chastened Epistemology"

I think my boss is a Jewish carpenter,

but I can’t know for certain.

There Are Only Two Religions In the World

Pastor John MacArthur reveals the truth about the "all roads lead to the same god" nonsense that is so widespread today:

(HT: Symphony of Scripture)

Friday, April 18, 2008

The New 95 Theses

The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is fighting the same battle our church is fighting, as well as so many others. For God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and his Church, I am pleased to post these new Ninety-Five Theses to address what Dr. Michael Horton calls the Christless Christianity that is coming into the church like a flood:

Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, the public bulletin board of his day. In like manner, we, Athanasius and Chrysostom, post these 95 theses on the door of the internet. Like the original theses, these are debatable, for we believe that it is through vigorous debate that the spirits are tested and truth is revealed.

In publishing these theses, we do not intend to foment division, but to expose those who are creating division within the body of Christ. We are not addressing any particular church body or person, but invite all who love the Gospel of Jesus Christ to engage in this debate. We do so in the spirit of the great Reformer, Martin Luther, as we implore the mercies of God upon His Church, for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Church and Bishop of our souls.

1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” He willed that the whole life of believers should be one of repentance.

2. To “repent” means to be contrite for one’s sins and to trust Jesus Christ and solely in His completed work for one’s forgiveness, life, and salvation.

3. Those who describe the Christian life as purpose-driven deny true repentance, confuse the Law and the Gospel, and obscure the merits of Christ.

4. Impious and wicked are the methods of those who substitute self-help and pop-psychology for the Gospel in the name of relevance.

5. This impious disregard for the Gospel wickedly transforms sacred Scripture into a guidebook for living, a pharisaic sourcebook of principles, and sows tares among the wheat.

6. Relevance, self-help and pop-psychology have no power to work true contrition over sins and faith in Jesus Christ.

7. Like clouds without rain, purpose-driven preachers withhold the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins won by Christ on the cross and enslave men’s consciences to the law which they cleverly disguise as so-called 'Biblical Principles'.

8. By teaching tips for attaining perfect health, debt-free wealth, and better sex in marriage, the purveyors of relevance undermine true fear, love and trust in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

9. They are enemies of Christ, who distort the Word of God by tearing verses from their original context in order to use them as proof texts for their self-help, pop-psychology agendas.

10. Injury is done the Word of God when it is used as a source book for practical, relevant “life applications.”

11. In the name of relevance, our Lord Jesus Christ is reduced to a life-coach whose “gospel” assists and motivates people to achieve the objectives of their self-centered delusions of grandeur.

12. Apart from the Holy Spirit, the seeker cannot understand the things of God for these are “spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14).

13. The natural man does not naturally seek the Gospel. “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me” (Is. 65:1)

14. The true Seeker of men’s souls is our Lord Jesus Christ who came to seek and to save the lost by His death on the cross (Luke 19:10).

15. The truly “seeker-sensitive” church proclaims God’s wrath against our sin and His mercy for Jesus’ sake.

16. The preaching of Christ crucified is a stumbling block to purpose-driven pragmatists and foolishness to church growth consultants.

17. The true gold of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.

18. But this treasure is a stench in the nostrils of fallen and sinful men because it exposes man’s complete lack of ability to save himself by his own religious efforts.

19. On the other hand, the fool’s gold of self-help is preferred by sinful men, for it creates the illusion of moral progress and a life that is pleasing to God apart from repentance.

20. The gold of the Gospel is the net by which Christ would make us fishers of men.

21. The fool’s gold of self-help is a snare by which purpose-driven purveyors of relevance attempt to capture the riches and approval of men.

22. The church is holy sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd.

23. How can sheep hear the voice of their Shepherd when false shepherds preach self-help and pop-psychology?

24. Purveyors of purpose-driven relevance are not shepherds of men’s souls but wolves in sheep’s clothing.

25. Purveyors of relevance claim that self-help, life-applications and biblical principles are the means to reach the unchurched because they meet people’s felt needs.

26. Yet a person’s greatest need is one he does not by nature feel, namely the need for the righteousness that comes from God through faith in Jesus Christ.

27. The true means by which fallen sinners are reached is the preaching of Christ and His sacraments. (Romans 10:17)

28. The true need that mankind is seeking but does not know is justification by grace through faith for Christ’s sake.

29. Since justification is through faith and not through works, natural man neither seeks it nor desires it.

30. Therefore, the teaching of justification by grace through faith is neither seeker-sensitive nor relevant to a world that naturally seeks self-justification.

31. To be in the church is to be union with Christ through faith.

32. Regardless of the number of people in attendance, the church does not grow unless men are granted repentance and faith by God through the action of His Word.

33. Scripture clearly teaches that the means by which God grants faith are the the hearing of the Word of Christ (the Gospel) and the water of Holy Baptism.

34.Therefore, even if a congregation, through their own marketing methods and business prowess were able to draw 100,000 people every Sunday, if the Gospel is not heard and the sacraments are not administered according to the Gospel there is no church and the true Church of Jesus Christ has not grown by a single soul.

35. If numerical growth is a measure of God’s approval, then we must conclude that God approves of Islam and the Mormons.

36. If financial success is a measure of God’s approval, then we must conclude that God approves of pornography and gambling.

37. Cancer and crabgrass both grow rapidly, as does the church that obscures the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

38. The purveying of purpose-driven relevance is the theology of glory; the preaching of Christ crucified for sinners is the theology of the cross.

39. The theologian of glory says that the kingdom of God is visible now in buildings, people, and dollars; the theologian of the cross says that the kingdom of God is an article of faith.

40. The theologian of glory asks “How much?” and “How many?”; the theologian of the cross preaches Christ regardless of how much or how many.

41. The theologian of glory prepares people to receive health, wealth, and happiness; the theologian of the cross prepares people to suffer and die in faith.

42. The theologian of glory preaches that God wants to grant you favors; the theologian of the cross preaches the favor of God for the sake of Christ crucified.

43. The theologian of glory proclaims 40 days of purpose; the theologian of the cross preaches daily dying and rising in Jesus.

44. God established the Church to be a “mouth house” of forgiveness not a madhouse of activity.

45. Christ wills that His voice be heard in His Church and not the voice of man when He says, “He who hears you, hears me.” (Luke 10:16)

46. Purveyors of purpose-driven relevance obscure the voice of Christ and so draw the sheep away from the Good Shepherd.

47. Christ saves from sin and death not through the motivation of the sinner to do good, but through baptismal death and resurrection.

48. The mission of the church is not to transform the world but to disciple the nations by baptizing and teaching (Matt 28:19-20).

49. Anyone who preaches a vision and demands allegiance to it sets up a new papacy among the churches.

50. A synod or church body is a human institution that exists by the will and consent of its member congregations and pastors.

51. A synod or church body is not merely an affiliation of churches that agree on a common purpose.

52. A synod or church body is not the Church, properly speaking, but a fellowship of churches sharing a common confession of faith and practice.

53. Synods are not of the church’s essence (esse) but for her well being (bene esse).

54. Synodical leaders are not lords over the churches, but servants of the churches and stewards of their common possessions.

55. Synodical leaders are not called to promulgate visions but to execute the collective will of the synod’s churches.

56. The old papacy arrogated the Church’s treasury of merits; the new papacy arrogates the Church’s treasury.

57. The old papacy said, “As the coin in the coffer clings, so the soul from purgatory springs.”

58. The new papacy says, “As the coin in the church coffer clings, so another program out of debt springs.”

59. The old papacy counted plenary indulgences; the new papacy counts money and people.

60. The old papacy suppressed the Gospel through canon law; the new papacy suppresses the Gospel through constitutions and by-laws.

61. The old papacy was a friend of Caesar; the new papacy is a friend of Mammon.

62. The old papacy bound a man’s conscience for the sake his wallet; the new papacy binds a man’s wallet for the sake of his conscience.

63. The old papacy promulgated infallible dogma; the new papacy promulgates undebatable visions.

64. The old papacy claims to sit on the seat of Peter; the new papacy claims to sit on the mandate of the majority.

65. The old papacy reserved the right to judge doctrine and practice; the new papacy judges doctrine and practice by commissions and committees.

66. The old papacy issued “bulls;” the new papacy issues task force reports.

67. The old papacy had a college of cardinals; the new papacy has high-priced consultants.

68. Just as popes and councils have erred in the past, so synodical leaders and synodical conventions err in the present.

69. A synod that is concerned for the true unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace does not excuse unionism and syncretism.

70. Unity in doctrine and practice means discernible interchangeability in teaching, preaching, and practice.

71. Unity in doctrine and practice does not consist in signing confessional statements, but in word and deed.

72. Worship is doctrine put into practice.

73. As one worships, so one believes.

74. As one believes, so one worships.

75. Christian worship consists in God’s service to us through His giving and our receiving in faith the gifts of Christ’s Word, Body, and Blood, and our service to God by our prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.

76. Worship that is focused principles for Christian living obscures the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His gifts and is detrimental to faith and salvation.

77. While Christian liberty allows that worship forms need not be altogether the same in every time and place, unity in faith and practice requires that worship forms must not be altogether different in every time and place.

78. Worship forms serve as identifying banners in the confessional field of battle.

79. Peculiar and novel worship forms obscure the unity of the churches and extol the creativity of the worship leaders.

80. In matters neither commanded nor forbidden in the Word of God (adiaphora), the churches of God are free to change ceremonies according to circumstances, as may be most beneficial and edifying to the churches of God. (Epitome, Art X.4)

81. Such changes must avoid all frivolity and offenses, particularly with regard to those who are weak in faith (Epitome, Art X.5).

82. Where the Gospel is at stake, concessions in ceremony must not be made so as to suggest unity with those who deny the Gospel (Epitome, Art X.6)

83. Therefore, it is contrary to the doctrine of adiaphora to hide the substance of Lutheran doctrine behind a non-Lutheran style of worship.

84. To create and sustain saving faith, God established the office of the holy ministry in the church to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments according to our Lord’s institution.

85. No one may publicly preach, teach, or administer the sacraments in the churches without his being called and ordained.

86. Those who introduce novelties into the church are the true agents of division.

87. The ordination of women is a novelty that has caused great division in the church.

88. The introduction of worship forms not held in common by the churches is a cause of division and a stumbling block.

89. The church belongs to no man but to Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, and Lord of the church.

90. Woe to the false prophets who cry, “Unity, unity” when there is no unity.

91. Again, woe to those who say, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.

92. Again, woe to those who say, “Gospel, gospel,” when there is no Gospel.

93. Blessed are those who say, “Cross, cross,” when there is no cross.

94. Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through all suffering, death, and hell;

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many trials and tribulations, rather than through the assurance of outward peace, unity, and happiness.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Are You Emergent?

You might be an emergent Christian: if you listen to U2, Moby, and Johnny Cash’s Hurt, take sermon illustrations from The Sopranos, drink lattes in the afternoon and Guinness in the evenings, and always use a Mac; if your reading list consists primarily of Stanley Hauerwas, Henri Nouwen, N. T. Wright, Stan Grenz, Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, Jim Wallis, Frederick Buechner, David Bosch, John Howard Yoder, Wendell Berry, Nancy Murphy, John Franke, Walter Winks and Lesslie Newbigin (not to mention McLaren, Pagitt, Bell, etc.) and your sparring partners include D. A. Carson, John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Wayne Grudem; if your idea of quintessential Christian discipleship is Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Desmond Tutu; if you don’t like George W. Bush or institutions or big business or capitalism or Left Behind Christianity; if your political concerns are poverty, AIDS, imperialism, war-mongering, CEO salaries, consumerism, global warming, racism, and oppression and not so much abortion and gay marriage; if you are into bohemian, goth, rave, or indie; if you talk about the myth of redemptive violence and the myth of certainty; if you lie awake at night having nightmares about all the ways modernism has ruined your life; if you love the Bible as a beautiful, inspiring collection of works that lead us into the mystery of God but is not inerrant; if you search for truth but aren’t sure it can be found; if you’ve ever been to a church with prayer labyrinths, candles, Play-Doh, chalk-drawings, couches, or beanbags (your youth group doesn’t count); if you loathe words like linear, propositional, rational, machine, and hierarchy and use words like ancient-future, jazz, mosaic, matrix, missional, vintage, and dance; if you grew up in a very conservative Christian home that in retrospect seems legalistic, naive, and rigid; if you support women in all levels of ministry, prioritize urban over suburban, and like your theology narrative instead of systematic; if you disbelieve in any sacred-secular divide; if you want to be the church and not just go to church; if you long for a community that is relational, tribal, and primal like a river or a garden; if you believe doctrine gets in the way of an interactive relationship with Jesus; if you believe who goes to hell is no one’s business and no one may be there anyway; if you believe salvation has a little to do with atoning for guilt and a lot to do with bringing the whole creation back into shalom with its Maker; if you believe following Jesus is not believing the right things but living the right way; if it really bugs you when people talk about going to heaven instead of heaven coming to us; if you disdain monological, didactic preaching; if you use the word “story” in all your propositions about postmodernism—if all or most of this tortuously long sentence describes you, then you might be an emergent Christian.

(HT: Tim Challies)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Easter Sunday Minus the Gospel

One year ago, I posted on this blog about the Easter Sunday sermon at my church. That post is here. I also sent a letter to one of the elders containing basically the same comments. The only response it got was that one of the other elders commented that they needed to do more to “protect” the younger members of the pastoral staff (the implication being, from letters like mine).

If anything, the sermon given one year later on this past Easter Sunday, by the same pastor incidentally, was even worse. It was a truncated, carefully sanitized re-packaging of the Gospel that deliberately omitted: (1) any reference to judgment; (2) any explanation of the fact that we are all sinners by nature and that we are therefore under the just wrath of an omnipotent God; (3) any reference to the Atonement or why it was necessary; (4) any valid Scriptural explanation for why Jesus had to die; and (5) any valid Scriptural explanation for why Jesus was raised from the dead. Jesus did not die to “change your tomb into a womb” or any such thing. Any connection between “change your tomb into a womb” and the text of Acts 2:24 (“God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death…”) is so grossly attenuated that it is almost laughable. This presentation (I hesitate to call it a sermon) was not even on speaking terms with the true Gospel.

But when these empty words are preached on Easter Sunday morning at one of the largest churches in Wheaton, Illinois, it is hardly a laughing matter. Instead it is cause for weeping and righteous indignation. To soft-pedal the offense of the Gospel in this manner is wrong. What is worse, the church leadership, by all its venerable history of faithful preaching and teaching, should know it is wrong. Apparently they either do not know or do not care.

This poor young man has evidently gotten no instruction or guidance from the seminary he attended, from the senior members of the pastoral staff or the elders. What is more, the elders apparently think they have nothing better to do than to harass a few members for writing a letter questioning one of their proposals that was ultimately voted down by the congregation, while this kind of liberalism goes out unchecked from the pulpit week after week.

What is this but straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel? What is this but hypocrisy on a massive scale?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

If You Don't Preach the Atonement, You Don't Preach the Gospel

. . .thus saith Pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

"The heart of the Gospel is redemption, and the essence of redemption is the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. They who preach this Truth preach the Gospel in whatever else they may be mistaken; but they who preach not the atonement, whatever else they declare, have missed the soul and substance of the Divine message."