October 6, 2011

Twice the Son of Hell - Part I: The Biblical Measure

As usual, I am irking people with my frank and straightforward statements and positions. I will be typing a two part post on how many Christians and churches are willing to discard orthodoxy and doctrine in a vain attempt to mesh with a godless culture. The Bible makes a very clear statement about this in 2 Timothy:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. ~2 Timothy 4:3-5

“They will turn aside to myths”. Myths meaning fictions and fictions are any narrative or informative work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary. Myths and fictions are made-up and fanciful things. I see this in society, I see it in churches, I see it in a lot of people that are Christians. Many of them do not even realize they do it (turn aside to myths). Their doctrine and theology is not deep enough or thorough enough to recognize when it happens. It appears we live in a postmodern society that does not like truth statements or people making claims with conviction. Truth statements based in Scripture that has been exegeted properly. Especially when it is a claim or statement that is in reference to things they hold dear or cling too tightly to. Things that are not necessarily too healthy to be clinging to.

I stand firm in my beliefs but as my audience has begun to broaden I have picked up larger cross-sections of society worldwide and thereby larger and more diverse demographics. With this wide cross-section comes a wider swath of confusion because of truth/ half-truths, errors , erroneous thinking, reasoning or logic. Because my name has not earned the time-tested credibility of people like John MacArthur, Gordon Fee, Billy Graham and their kind I need to constantly restate where I stand to build said credibility and it seems no matter how often I do…many still don’t get me. They assume becuase I make absolute truth statements with conviction that I am arrogant and harsh. As such I need to pick and choose how I deal with errors and faulty thinking otherwise I always appear like I am causing divisions, trying to cause conflict or being "negative". The true problem often lies underneath in the flawed theology, failure to think things through to logical conclusions (people rely on unreliable sources), or just plain old inability to spiritually discern when people themselves are being led astray.

As I continue to confront issues I now try to confront the most potentially damaging ones first since they have the ability to wreak the most havoc or destroy the Body of Christ the fastest. Once the errors creep into the church people will quickly form a worldview around them or absorb them directly into their thought processes making them nearly impossible to extract from people’s thinking and the church at large. Once opinions and worldviews are entrenched in people’s thinking due to incorrect information people then see the world through a distorted inaccurate lens. Once distorted the distortion continues to become worse until folks go spiritually blind or at least cross-eyed.

The first rule we need to follow as Christians is this. When we learn something new no matter what it is, it needs to be measured next to the Bible. Most often, even those of us in the church make snap decisions based on the flawed reasoning or logic like the aforementioned. So what we have is newly processed information not processed against a proper interpretation of the Bible but rather against flawed culture-driven or culture-bound mores. The result is a new set of ideas we archive in our brains that are even more distorted because (1) we have not gauged them and filtered them through the Word of God and (2) we measure them up against already flawed thought processes-the world's. This makes them twice the error. What is worse is when it is flawed information coming from leaders or teachers in the church. Unbiblical unmeasured ideas matched up against human culture can only end in a bad place usually further distancing that person from God. When you have an entire congregation or segment of society in this situation, entire areas or nations apostatize and fall away from Truth. We saw this with stiffed-necked Israelites of the Old Testament and with the Pharisees and their traditions of the fathers or the law or wall they made that they put around the Law of God. Jesus clearly condemned this thinking in a blunt and coarse statement not through pleasent converstaion.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” ~Matthew 23:15

The Bible is clear to all those that have taken to time to read it and internalize it. It will lead us in correct paths of knowledge both spiritual and otherwise. Those who are spiritual can spiritually discern.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Unfortunately, many self-proclaimed Christians (including folks I know personally) have inadvertently or unwittingly allowed themselves to slowly and inexorably be pulled away from the Truth of the Word and thereby God Himself. Nature abhors a vacuum so the hole created by kicking out God is replaced by other gods. In the case of many…it is the culture they live within and sadly, other human mores or human philosophy. These philosophies are not the path to true knowledge…they are a path to spiritual death and separation from the One True God.

"For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:19-25

Like Paul my message is not always “friendly” in the way that people want it delivered to people or delivered in the way people prefer. I am often told I do not deliver things “in love”. The truth of what I say should be made plain for those that listen to what I have to say as it comes from the Bible. Spiritual people should easily be able to understand me.

“…When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified…my message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2, 4-5

I am truly trying to address statements and modes of thought from many so-called “experts” of the faith that are popular culturally, have huge media platforms or the power of publishing houses behind them that are clearly either making erroneous statements or they are clouding the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture. Real teachers do not do this because the Truth has been made plain to all those that will read the Bible and understand it. If some of these false teachers use dramatic and obviously erroneous statements or teachings they are usually quickly dismissed as quacks or nut jobs by rational and reasoning people. But those that use subtleties that influence though what I call "idolatrous creep" and slide in under radar and are missed. We are often not even looking for them. Once in, they accumulate. Subtle doctrinal and orthodoxy errors tick off in small increments and small shifts until our faith becomes indistinguishable from the world. The Church becomes the culture or even worse, trumps the culture in bad behavior like those in the Corinthian church…and many  churches today.

It is the proverbial frog in hot water. If you turn up the heat too quickly in a pot or throw a frog in boiling water it will jump right back out. If you slowly turn the heat up one degree at a time, the frog will fall asleep from the heat of the water long before it cooks to death because it could not sense the change from comfortable to deadly. Just like orthodoxy creeping into heresy, we need to be aware of the shifting. The trick is not to see how close we can get to sin, it is to run from it at every sighting and head for a holy God. In the same way we see convoluted ideas creep in, so too wordage or word meanings are introduced into the church body from the culture that are double-edged swords cutting both ways. We also see it in slight misinterpretations of texts in the Bible through people reading meanings into the text (eisegesis), not reading the meaning from the text (exegesis)....for those that even bother to read the Bible at all. The more we allow too much of the culture into the thought processes of the Church, the more we dull the effects of the Holy Spirit in the believer. Often what the culture offers is opposed to the workings of the Holy Spirit so He is suppressed and driven down to make room for the ill effects of the world.

In these ways errors invisibly creep into the Church through even the well-meaning of a given congregation. Well-intentioned people who only want to adapt the Church to the culture and make it more popular to help spread the Word and in so doing they open a door that is a two-way street. The truth is it should've been one way: Christians and Christianity out into the world, not the world and culture into the Church. As we go out to the world, the world comes in. How many times have you heard this statement, “If we do not adapt to the culture and become more relevant, Christianity will die out and be extinguished!” I have news for you, the only reason the church even survived the constant maddening and senseless change of the culture is because of the dogma, orthodoxy and doctrine that our forefathers of the faith refused to bend on and died defending. Go read the books about the martyrs and early Christians. Had these faithful adapted to the surrounding culture at every beckon and call…there would be no Christianity. That is just the opposite of what we have been told by those that think the church needs to change an adapt to every whim of the society that surrounds us. 

Heresies and error creeps into the Body of Christ individual people's thinking wrapped in acceptance of the “new thing” or desire to win the culture by becoming the culture. It comes in through the latest hip controversial book or the newest 3D quasi-Christian movie that makes people “feel good about themselves” yet the message of the Gospel is completely absent from the plot or script. I have news for people. A Gospel-less Bible/book…isn’t even Christianity/Christian, it is a New Age Self-help book or movie. Being good doesn’t get a person to heaven. Belief in Jesus Christ and the message of the Cross does.

[Continued in: Twice the Son of Hell - Part II ]

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