December 28, 2010

Fallacies, Shattered Misconceptions & The Social Gospel

...this notion that it is the business of the Church to make people happy, or to integrate their lives, or to relieve their circumstances and improve their conditions....I am not saying that it is a bad thing to palliate [make less without removing the cause] symptoms; it is not, and it is obviously right and good to do so. But I am constrained to say this, that though to palliate symptoms, or to relieve them, is not bad in and of itself, it can be bad, it can have a bad influence, and a bad effect, from the standpoint of biblical understanding of man and his needs. It can become harmful in this way, that by palliating the symptoms you can conceal the real disease. Here is something that we have to bear in mind at the present because, unless I am greatly mistaken, this is a vital part of the problem today.

Let us us a medical illustration. Take a man who is lying on a bed and writhing in agony with abdominal pain. Now a doctor may come along who happens to be a very nice and very sympathetic man. He does not like to see people suffering, he does not like to see people in pain; so he feels that the only one thing to do is to relieve this man of his pain. He is able to do so. He can give him an injection of morphia or various other drugs which would give the man almost immediate relief. "Well," you say, "surely there is nothing wrong with doing that; it is a kind action, it is also a good action, the patient is made more comfortable, he is made happier and is no longer suffering." The answer to that is well-nigh a criminal act on the part of this doctor. It is criminal because to merely remove a symptom without discovering the cause of the symptom is to do a dis-service to the patient. A symptom after all is a manifestation of a disease..."
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones-Preaching and Preachers (1971) p. 29

This book's original publishing date was 1971, forty years ago. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is talking in reference to the fact that it is indeed the Church's responsibility to educate the body and part of this education is to teach them that the Christian walk isn't going to be some venture down the primrose path to paradise. Paradise at the end, yes....but perhaps hell here on the way there. God promised a pleasant and perfect destination not a pleasant and perfect journey. If anything we need to expect the unexpected and prepare for it if need be.

This is a tough one for even the members of the body to fully grab on to.

The Church's primary purpose is not even to educate them on the things of life themselves unless they build their relationship with God first. Why? A highly educated life is only a highly educated life devoid of righteousness. We have enough of them in our humanistic universities and bias media. The church's main job is to educate a believer to have and recognize a proper relationship with the Holy One. Not necessarily teach them how to manage their finances, how to remain faithful to their spouses or what is the proper behavior of a leader. Does the Bible teach us these things? Of course it does, but all these things are secondary to our primary relationship with Jesus Christ. Putting window dressing on a broken window only gentrifies a broken window but does nothing to stop the cold winds of apathy and sin from blowing through and blasting you in the face. Read the Bible properly and we see what is of primary importance. Folks in the hermeneutics and interpretation fields call it the 10-2-1. The 10 Commandments can, in their nature be distilled down and are reflected in the 2 greatest commandments stated by Jesus and He was reaffirming what is in the Old Testament:

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

Leviticus 19:18 “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

In Matthew 25:40 we see Jesus say, As you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”

...and the implication from this is the 1 or the 10-2-1 or the Law of the Prophets...Matthew 7:12, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

All these commandments and precepts revolve around a primary relationship with God first and then humankind in a godly relationship. Get this right and the other pieces should begin to fit themselves together. Get this wrong and you have modern society in its complete reprobate mindset and disarray. This is why people need to be especially leery near health and wealth prosperity gospel preachers. You aren't taking any of it (your junk) with you anyway unless it will survive the fires of judgement. Anyone that focuses on this as the primary call of their ministry is misguided. Why would God care about what fiscally prospers you here if it will be of no use to your eternal well-being? Most if not all of our earthly assets will be destroyed and left behind unless it is of some heavenly worth. Most all will be burned up like straw. Who really cares how you temporarily fare here when your eternal well-being is at stake?

This is also why it is dangerous to water down and dumb down doctrine when preaching to people. This is why seeker-friendly churches are quick to draw people in but quickly loose them when the new attendees realize it was all a good talk but without substance there is no fellowship or a relationship with either other human members or God because the doctrine was so shallow they never really got to know God anyway. They are churches with big inviting front doors to usher people in and small hidden back doors for shuffling people out that have become disenchanted. People who are truly spiritually discerning and attuned to God are not stupid and will not be led astray easily. These people do not expect God to snap His fingers and everything will be fine. Seeker Sensitives are like candy bars. Sugar highs and then a drastic let down. All you have to show for it is a small initial burst of energy and then a hunger pain worse than before.

Conversely, others that do expect their problems to be fixed because of dedicated attendance on Sundays and "work" they do for the church out of the "kindness of their hearts". When it doesn't pan out they are usually either (1) totally disenchanted or (2) quick to exit looking for another quick-fix of another church that will be "tolerant" and "open minded" and overlook their particular sin because, because as we all know, their sin isn't really that big of a deal. It is only a little sin and people outside the church in normal society are accepting of it couldn't possibly be that bad.

What Martyn Lloyd-Jones spoke of forty years ago has come to fruition in many of our churches. The social accommodations of many modern churches has watered down the Gospel to near worthlessness. They took Christ out of Christianity, they took the miracles out of Christ's ministry which was the original goal of Liberal Christianity at the turn of the 20th century. The Social Gospel which was driven to the forefront of the church in the late part of the 19th and early part of the 20th century was to be the ultimate promise of the future. The harmonization of the Church and a Social Gospel. The blending of God and Socialism...and it failed...and it is again resurfacing...and it will fail again. We are seeing humanitarian efforts for the sake of human effort and social efforts more for the sake of self than the socially redeeming value...not to glorify God but to glorify "self" many times. If you are doing it to "give" and to "help" is one thing but to do it because it is trendy or hip is obnoxious. "Look what I did, I'm such as good person" ...ugh.

The failure stems from one of the very statements in the Social Gospel's core belief: Humankind needs to rid itself of social evils by human effort before Christ can return in the second-coming. This statement assumed/assumes man knew/knows the depth of his depravity and knew what to do to fix it. I posit that man, who is totally depraved in his nature is incapabale of doing what is proper in God's eye's. The fact that anyone in this branch of theology would actually assume to know what is "acceptable" to God shows just how sinful they are. It is beyond foolhardy, it is plainly obvious that this assumption is sin manifesting in human arrogance. To further say that God is incapable of something (Jesus returning) until man through his effort does something to allow laughable to the point of absurdity and totally defys Scripture (and logic).

We see in many churches the donation of a load of money but absolutely none of our time. There is a disconnect here. Jesus did not say, "go out and pay people off and that'll be your good deed for the month" He said, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Investment of our money requires nothing of our heart or our emotions other than a willingness to part with our money. We are seeing social movements through corporate and political institutions again at the forefront. We see doctrine and dogma through political machinations driving social agendas...on both sides of the aisle. We should be seeing conviction of the Holy Spirit driving revival not guilt driving willingness to part with dollars for "down payments" on what the church can do for us. God affected his change primarily through the Word and the spreading of the Gospel. God brought the Kingdom to earth through Jesus not through Caesars, Franklins, Grants and Jacksons.

So now we have what we have---a generation of poorly theologically educated people with humanistic agenda driven ideologies, not God driven theologies. A group of well meaning and zealous people with little or no knowledge of what they believe but rather a healthy helping of what they “feel” because they were told it was the right way to feel and it is culturally acceptable. If we don't feel right we are either not in God's good grace or we are doing something wrong. Personally, I do not want to fit in with society if this is the mitigating and motivating factor. I want to obey the will of the One who created me and foreknew me since before the foundations of the world. I will walk through Hell or high water to stay the course and remain obedient to God. I do not expect a church to fix my problems, nor should any of us and this is why are to call on God directly in out supplications.

What I would like to see in and from the church is love, sound teaching and fellowship. When we do fellowship it should be in unity in the Spirit and being together in one mind. It shouldn’t be about what the church can do for "me" but what "we" can do for the church body. We should not necessarily want to take from the church but give to it. I do not want to know what I can "get" from my church, I want to know what I can give to help it. I personally have spiritually leeched off of others for too long. I will try to be the lift in the balloon not the ballast pulling from below.

We cannot be of much help to others in the Body teaching and educating them in the Faith and to be strong in the Faith if we are always in a state of "poor faith" or "no faith" ourselves. To be perpetually in this state in and of itself is a state of unhealthy dependency. We should know Jesus in our own personal relationship. Our dependency is in Christ not what "church attendance" can do to fix our lives. A Church that allows a state of total dependency like this to continue without offering believers in these situations the tools they need to stand their ground is doing nothing more than enabling dependency to other men. We are not to be in a total state of dependency except to God. To do this we need to have faith. To always rely on the church for the the faith that we need for a personal relationship short-circuits the process with God directly. We are to grow and mature in the faith and then pass it on. We are to disciple. To be able to disciple and then ween off that disciple so they can then disciple yet another requires that you yourself are weened. Children do not ween children, adults ween children.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones later goes on to say: "The Church [much of it] has been trying to preach morality and ethics without the Gospel as a basis; it has been preaching morality without godliness; and it simply does not work...and the result is that the Church, having abandoned her real task, has left humanity more or less to its own devices.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones-Preaching and Preachers (1971) p. 35

And every human institution or government that has tried to make its way without God down through history has failed. Usually the farther from God the institution is the quicker its demise or the more energy it needs to keep itself propped up. This is quite regrettable as we are again seeing the Church flagging in the wind and being blown in every direction by the constantly changing winds of the culture...a profoundly godless culture.
The poor and starving? They are best taken care of when the system itself is fixed. We are a morally bankrupt society. Man thinking they can fixing social problems through their own devices usually ends up laughable not laudable. Many times the godless institutions cannot even figure out morally who is the most deserving of the need. Benevolence bleeds to bureaucracy and moral bankrupcy. Social conditions are most often addressed better through improvement of spiritual conditions not political conditions. There is little sense trying to improve the physical conditions of an entity when the mental condition is so flawed or broken that the entity is incapable of taking care of itself. If we need a biblical example of what I am saying we need only look at Peter in Acts.

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”  ~Acts 6:1-4

What are the Twelve saying here? They are confronted with a social evil and/or moral situation that needs to be addressed. Do they storm city hall and protest the treatment of the widow(s)? Do they even wait on the widows? No. Neither. What is the Church to do? This is a social problem and maybe even a political one but the Apostles under the compelling of the Holy Spirit realize the danger in trying to affect a change without fixing the root cause of the problem: The moral condition of society. So should we. Yes, we can still help people immediately but our primary move should be to bring the Kingdom and its moral rectitude now as our primary concern. To do any less is to fail in our commission mandated by Jesus Christ Himself (Matthew 28:19-20)

They are saying that this condition is not the reason that they should leave the Word or stop preaching the Word. They know that they will affect more of a change for all by spreading the Word to the people bringing the Kingdom (the true one) to them, rather than work through a morally bankrupt man-made institution doomed to failure as all are. Empires rise and fall but God and His Kingdom are forever.

When the Church performs her primary task these other things invariably result from it. Yes, giving pain killer to stop the pain is the humane thing to do but excising the cancer from the body which is the root cause is the primary concern...everything else is just window dressing on a broken window.

Man + Man's Institutions + Man's Devices = Debacle
Man + God's Institutions + God's Devices = Deliverence
Man + Man Centeredness / Self-Centered = Reprobate
Man + God Centeredness / Other-Centered = Righteousness

"you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom"

As it is often the case, those that are not full of the Spirit (Acts 6:3) are generally too full of themselves.

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