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Archive for October, 2012

(revised 01/04/14)

Since their inception in the early to mid-1990s,  the Emerging/Emergent/ Emergence church movements have been growing virtually undetected. However, in recent years, church attenders are becoming increasingly aware of these movements, due in large part to various Online Discernment Ministries (ODMs).

I am reposting an article by Dave Fiorazo revealing the heretical anti-Christian teachings of several leading Emergents. Click here for the original source of this article. I have emphasized certain points by bolding in orange , and inserted comments in [brackets].

Where Did the Emergent Church ‘Emerge’ From?
By: Dave Fiorazo

WARNING: The author of this article has determined that ignoring the following information may be hazardous to your spiritual health, and that choosing to do nothing with this knowledge may grieve the Holy Spirit and cause regret; but taking action may strengthen your faith. “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” (Jude 1:3-4)

The emerging church is a movement of the late 20th and early 21st century that crosses a number of theological boundaries: participants can be described as evangelical, post-evangelical, liberal or post-liberal, reformed, neo-charismatic, and post-charismatic. [And many additional labels as well.] They seek to live their faith in what they believe to be a “Postmodern” society. It is a rapidly growing network of individual believers and churches who would prefer to be understood as a conversation or a friendship rather than an organization. What those involved mostly agree on is their disdain and disillusionment with the organized and institutional church. The emergent church favors the use of simple story and narrative. Members of the movement often place a high value on good works or social activism. The hallmark of the emergent church is the new age aspect including the practice of contemplative monastic meditation and prayers. While some emphasize eternal salvation, many in the emerging church emphasize the here and now. Much of its doctrine  rejects systematic Christian theology, the integrity of Scripture, and gospel exclusivity. [Interestingly, many Emergents refuse to produce doctrinal statements summarizing their positions. Ironically, church history shows that doctrinal statements were developed to address false teachings within Christendom.] They don’t believe Christianity is the true religion and they promote homosexuality. They call for diversity, tolerance and camaraderie among all religions, and they modify and expand their teachings. It is a war against the Truth.

At an emergent church workshop in San Diego, Tony Jones said, “This is about our belief that theology changes. The message of the gospel changes. It’s not just the method that changes.” What? I submit to you that Jesus never changed his message to fit the times. Books, sermons and articles have been and will be written about the emergent church, and I’ve come to realize that too many believers are at times uninterested, uninformed, or just plain apathetic about the Bible and understanding the times we live in. There’s plenty of information out there if you’re interested in doing the research. You may even know their names. They are best-selling authors in Christian stores, speakers at our music festivals, and well-known leaders in Christian circles. Please read the following quotes from emergent church leaders, keeping the following verses in mind:

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” 1 Timothy 4:1

“Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 20:30

Tony Campolo“Going to heaven is like going to Philadelphia… There are many ways…It doesn’t make any difference how we go there. We all end up in the same place.” 1a

“On the other hand, we are hard-pressed to find any biblical basis for condemning deep love commitments between homosexual Christians as long as those commitments are not expressed in sexual intercourse.” 1b

“But the overwhelming population of the gay community that love Jesus, that go to church, that are deeply committed in spiritual things, try to change and can’t change…” 1c

“…we want to see God at work converting society, converting the systems, so that there aren’t the racist overtones, the economic injustices, the polluting of the atmosphere.” 1d

“I learn about Jesus from other religions. They speak to me about Christ, as well.”1e

“I’m not convinced that Jesus only lives in Christians.” 1f

(Tony Campolo is an author, professor of Sociology at Eastern College, former spiritual counselor to President Bill Clinton, and a leader of the movement called “Red Letter Christians”.)

***

Brian McLaren“I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish contexts…” 2a

“Yes, I find a character named God who sends a flood that destroys all humanity except Noah’s family, but that’s almost trivial compared to a deity who tortures the greater part of humanity forever in infinite eternal conscious torment, three words that need to be read slowly and thoughtfully to feel their full import.” 2b

“For many Christians, their faith is primarily about what happens to people after they die. That distracts them from seeking justice and living in a compassionate way while we’re still alive in this life. We need to go back and take another look at Jesus’ teachings about hell. For so many people, the conventional teaching about hell makes God seem vicious. That’s not something we should let stand.” 2c

“In this light, a god who mandates an intentional supernatural disaster leading to unparalleled genocide is hardly worthy of belief, much less worship. How can you ask your children…to honor a deity so uncreative, over reactive, and utterly capricious regarding life?” 2d

(Brian McLaren is the founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, MD, he serves as a board chair for Sojourners, an emergent church leader and a founding member of Red Letter Christians.)

***

Jim Wallis“I don’t think that abortion is the moral equivalent issue to slavery…I think poverty is the new slavery. Poverty and global inequality are the fundamental moral issues of our time. That’s my judgment.” 3a

“Christianity will be impotent to lead a conversation on sexuality and gender if we do not bodily integrate our current understandings of humanity with our theology. This will require us to not only draw new conclusions about sexuality but will force us to consider new ways of being sexual.” 3b

“As more Christians become influenced by liberation theology, finding themselves increasingly rejecting the values of institutions of capitalism, they will also be drawn to the Marxist analysis and praxis that is so central to the social justice movement.” 3c

(Jim Wallis is a writer and political activist, best known as the founder and editor of Sojourners’ Magazine, for which he admitted to accepting money from George Soros, who has financed groups supporting abortion and atheism; Wallis has been arrested 22 times for acts of civil disobedience, and he serves as a spiritual adviser to President Obama.)

***

Rob Bell“What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births? …Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live?” 4a
*This writer is concerned that Rob had his bell rung one too many times.

(Rob Bell is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI, and a popular icon in the emergent church movement.)

Related information from GFM:
Rob Bell: Populating Hell (Article)
Rob Bell: Welcome to Hell (Audio Resource)

***

Tony Jones“In any case, I now believe that GLBTQ [Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Queer] can live lives in accord with Biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state.” 5a

I think the Bible is a [expletive] scary book (pardon my French, but that’s the only way I know how to convey how strongly I feel about this).” 5b

“Some people today may find it compelling that some Great Cosmic Transaction took place on that day 1,980 years ago, that God’s wrath burned against his son instead of me. I find that version of atonement theory neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative.” 5c

(Tony Jones is an author and a leader in the emergent church movement, blogger, and social commentator)

***

Shane Claiborne“There are extremists, both Muslim and Christian, who kill in the name of their gods.” 6a

“So for those of us who have nearly given up the church, may we take comfort in the words of St. Augustine: ‘The Church is a whore, but she’s my mother.’ She is a mess and has many illegitimate children. But she is also our momma…” 6b

(Shane Claiborne is an author, the co-founder of The Potter Street Community – formerly The Simple Way, a graduate of Eastern University and is a part of The Alternative Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. Claiborne is featured in the documentary “The Ordinary Radicals” and wrote the foreword to Ben Lowe’s “Green Revolution: Coming Together to Care for Creation.”)

How did we get to the point where some, if not all, of these teachings have blended in with truth and sound doctrine, and are accepted by many churches and ministries? Make no mistake. I’d need to write an entire book to completely answer that question. False teachers have been around since the early church days. The major issue with the emergent church is that it rejects the authority of the word of God. These teachings were not accepted by evangelical Christians overnight. This is 2010. We can trace the advancement of the emergent church to the late 80’s and 90’s, when people began talking about how to modernize and re-create church to be more attractive to the unchurched. But going back to the hippy flower-power days of the 1960’s, the new fad was all about peace, love, free sex, and rebelling against authority. Absolute truth and Biblical standards were questioned and labeled as too rigid, leading some to moral relativism. Moral Relativism is an ethical judgment. It is the claim that no ethical system is better than another, and rests on the belief that values are subjective.

Some churches responded to the 60’s rebellion by trying to convert as many as possible and accepted them as they were. ‘Come as you are’ was the new slogan. Jesus does meet people right where they are, but there’s an important distinction: He loves people too much to leave them that way, and unlike the emergent church, His message never changes! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb. 13:8) Many churches began watering down the true gospel in an effort to lure potential new members and not offend unbelievers. Some Pastors and church leaders simply wanted to increase their market share, so to speak. The seeker-friendly or seeker-sensitive movement began to grow and a skim milk diet replaced the meat of God’s word. More young people began attending church but there was little follow-up or discipleship training, and lots of baby Christians went back out into the world with little conviction to change.

Mega ChurchThe 1970’s brought us the development of the Christian music industry. Most of the industry pioneers were authentic, God-fearing, and ministry-minded, but I wonder if they would approve of Christian music as a whole today? In some cases, bands are more into the entertainment aspect than building up the body of Christ. Biblical truth was becoming irrelevant to young Christians and grace was way over-emphasized. One might argue that we shouldn’t judge others because it is divisive. In Luke 12:51, Jesus said that he did not come to bring peace but division. He never backed down when it came to facing hypocritical religious leaders. If you’re a mature Christian, you too need to be careful. The Apostle Paul writes, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” (Gal. 5:7-9) Many churches in America now have beautiful buildings, coffee shops, bookstores, great music and sound systems, state of the art lighting, and good drama or video presentations, but they seem to put more of an emphasis on entertaining the flock than on feeding them God’s word. Well, at least the young people are happy.

The 80’s rolled around and a few years after I gave my life to Christ, I heard Tony Campolo speak in California. I remember laughing a lot because he’s a great entertainer. He knows how to reach both young and old. His presentation has never been a concern; his theology definitely is. To fully understand the background and motives of some of the emergent church gurus, you’d need to know more about Liberation theology, Marxism, Saul Alinsky, Sojourners Magazine, George Soros, Red Letter Christians, Collective Salvation, and the Students for a Democratic Society. Most young people like to take action for a cause, and some of these works-based teachings call for organizing, social or environmental action. This is a clever way to lure those who are not as mature in the faith.

In 1995 Jim Wallis founded ‘Call to Renewal’ for the purposes of advocating for leftist economic agendas such as tax hikes and wealth redistribution to promote social justice. He himself stated, “That’s what the gospel is all about.” In 2005, Democratic Senators (including Harry Reid) met with Wallis to devise clever ways to use religious language to pull evangelical voters away from Republicans. According to TraditionalValues.org, Wallis was hired to fool Americans into believing secular liberals had found “religion” in part by sprinkling references to God and faith into their speeches. Just this year, Wallis has criticized America’s heritage, capitalism, conservative Christians, and jumped on the race card express saying, “would there even be a Tea Party if the president of the United States weren’t the first black man to occupy that office?”

God Versus SocialismThe “social gospel” and the social justice message is an apostasy. Apostasy means a departure from the faith or one who denies the fundamental doctrines concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ. Social justice teachings have branched off from the emergent church. We can no longer deny the fact that humanism, liberalism and the secular-progressive movement are alive and well in the Church, just as it has been for years in government, education, media, and the entertainment industry. Last month, Jim Wallis brought his social justice message to a Christian festival in Wisconsin called Lifest. (Wallis’ Sojourners puts more emphasis on the environment and poverty than on salvation and sin.) Because there were many great bands and speakers there, I’ve heard a few people try to make an argument in favor of Wallis, with the over-used analogy, “don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.” So, if only a few people hear a false gospel, that’s ok? “Let’s just agree to disagree.” Sorry, that method may be fine when dealing with petty arguments between friends or family. But when it comes to false doctrines, we can’t simply just look the other way. I heard the story of a woman who told her daughters that they no longer could attend Lifest because of Wallis. Weeks before, she and her husband wanted their young daughters to remember the dangers of false teachers, so they made brownies together. After all of the ingredients were added, she told them there was one more ingredient to add. The girls were shocked when their Mom added a small piece of dog poop to the batter! She told them not to worry and that they might not even taste it. Admittedly, this was a disgustingly effective lesson I bet they’ll never forget! Jesus warned His disciples to avoid the teachings (yeast) of the Pharisees, but He didn’t have a brownie recipe handy for visual effects.

According to Time Magazine (so take this with a grain of salt), Brian McLaren is one of the 25 most influential people in the evangelical church. This makes me believe our culture is confused about what ‘evangelical’ means. It is a serious issue because his teachings seem to reject the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the work on the cross, and dilutes what the Bible says about Heaven and eternal life. McLaren is changing Biblical doctrine to fit his own ‘We Are the World’ type of theology, which stomps out the reality of Hell and the fact that Jesus became our substitute on the cross in order to redeem us. He doubts the reliability of the Bible and I’m confused as to why he is not more of a red flag to Christians. Please read for yourself what the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 1:8 about those who preach another Gospel.

Many of today’s youth have been raised in a culture (and sadly in some churches) where feelings and sensitivity matter but sound doctrine and the truth of God’s word aren’t a priority. This invites the justification of sinful behaviors and tolerance for sin. Our culture has redefined the word ‘tolerance’ to mean love, unconditional grace, warm fuzzies, and the acceptance of not only the sinner but the sin as well. When the Holy Spirit isn’t invited, by the preaching of Scripture, to come in and work in our hearts, there can be no conviction. Without revelation of sin and conviction, there can be no repentance leading to forgiveness. We shouldn’t be surprised that many young Christians have their spiritual foundations built on the sand. The Lord Jesus Christ said something very serious about those who cause little ones to stumble. He said in Luke 17:2 that it would be better that a millstone would be tied around the neck of the one who caused them to sin. These guys have no business teaching Christian theology and it’s amazing that so many ‘believing’ consumers buy into their feel-good, motivational doctrine. Part of their gospel is one of a social worker putting their faith in man (humanism) and government.

Dr. Walter MartinDr. Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute, sternly warned about liberal theology and the emergent church saying, “It is a cult because it follows every outlined structure of cultism; its own revelations; its own gurus, and its denial—systematically—of all sound systematic Christian theology. It is a cult because it passes its leadership on to the next group that takes over—either modifying, expanding or contracting—the same heresies; dressing them up in different language, and passing them on…it denies the authority of Scripture, it ruins its own theology. And it ends in immorality; because the only way you could have gotten to this homosexual, morally relativistic, garbage—which is today in our denominational structures—is if the leadership of those denominations denied the authority of the Scriptures and Jesus Christ as Lord…Test all things; make sure of what is true (see 1 Thessalonians 5:21). I’m not being harsh; I’m not being judgmental. I am being thoroughly, consistently, Christian; in the light of historic theology, and the holy Bible.”

So what should we do? Since not enough Christians know the dangers and the extent of the emergent church movement and their radical teachings, we need to promote awareness of these deceptions. We need to dig deeper in to the Word of God than ever before and know it so well that if we hear a counterfeit message, we’ll recognize it immediately! We need to talk to our Pastors and Christian friends. You have a choice to make and I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and take a stand for Christ. The spiritual battle rages all around us and the enemy is on our doorstep. Satan has been at work at a church near you spreading his deceptions. The good news is that we are on to his schemes. Mature believers know that the emergent church teachings are contrary to the gospel of Christ. So suit up in the full armor of God and pray for discernment. Revelation 3:11 says, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” Light dispels the darkness, so share the truth, stand your ground, and shine your light!

Dave Fiorazo is an evangelical Christian, actor, blogger and on-air radio personality at Q90 90.1FM WORQ in De Pere, WI.

References:
1a CarpeDiem: Seize the Day, 1994 page 85;
1b “20 Hot Potatoes Christians Are Afraid To Touch” page 117;
1c Beliefnet.com/faith/Christianity 08/2004;
1d MSNBC 2008 interview;
1e MSNBC 2008 interview;
1f Charlie Rose show 1/24/97

2a A Generous Orthodoxy, page 260;
2b A New Kind of Christianity, 98;
2c Site no longer available;
2d A New Kind of Christianity,109;

3a ChristianityToday.com 5/9/2008;
3b ChristianityToday.com 5/9/2008;
3c Worldview Weekend.com 8/3/2010 #1597;

4a Velvet Elvis pp. 26-27;

5a Beliefnet.com 11/19/08 blog;
5b The church and postmodern culture: conversation 3-26-07;
5c Beliefnet.com ‘Why Jesus Died’ 4/09;

6a From the book “Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne
6b From the book “Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne
6c From the book “Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne

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I came across an excellent discernment video and transcript by Sandy Simpson, entitled  “Satan, The First Postmodernist”, which I have reposted below. Although Sandy uses the term “Postmodernist”, I would consider all these groups as falling under the umbrella of  Postmodern (I’m sure there are additional groups as well):

Ecumenical
Emergence
Emergent
Emerging (many would equate “Emerging” with “New Evangelical” – but to me the lines between Emerging and Emergent are becoming increasingly blurred; in other words, Emerging teachings are moving further and further away from New Evangelicalism)
Liberal
Mainline
Modernist (opposing Fundamentalism of the early 1900s and The Fundamentals of 1910-1915)
Post-evangelical
Progressive evangelical
Third Wave Pentecostal (New Apostolic Reformation)

Following is the video of this message by Sandy Simpson:

And click here for the original source of the transcript, which I have reposted below. I have emphasized certain points by bolding in orange, and inserted comments in [brackets].

Satan, The First Postmodernist
by Sandy Simpson, 12/1/05


This is an article written after giving further thought to the definition of “postmodernism” given by the likes of postmodernist Leonard Sweet and other Emerging Church promoters.  My article refuting Sweet’s attempt at defining and legitimizing postmodernism can be found here:

Ding Dong, Ding Dong, Wake Up Leonard Sweet! by Sandy Simpson, 11/27/05

It dawned on me that the enemy is certainly behind the postmodern paradigm, and especially behind those who want to buy into this ridiculous world view instead of roundly refuting it.  Contrary to the egotistical claims of postmoderns that they are on the cutting “edge” because of their subjectivist, relivitist, existential view of reality, this concept was foisted upon the universe and world by Satan himself before the world was created Let’s go through what we know of Lucifer from the Biblical records.  I think you will see clearly that Satan was the first postmodernist.  He was WAY ahead of his time.

Lucifer In Heaven

Isaiah 14:12-15  How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit. (NIV)Isaiah 14:12  How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! (KJV)

Ezekiel 28:14-16 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones.

Rev. 12:4-9  His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down— that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Revelation 20:2  He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.

Satan was created a blameless angel but with freewill like the other angels.  He was the anointed guardian cherub in heaven.  He walked on the holy mount of God among the fiery stones.  He was called the “morning star, son of dawn”.  Yet Lucifer was not satisfied.  He did not like the fact that God was being worshipped and he was not.  This was just not fair.  In Lucifer’s view there was intolerance in heaven.  After all, he was the most beautiful, most powerful angel there.  If God was worshipped as God, then Lucifer must be a “god” also.  So Lucifer said to himself, “I will ascend … I will make myself like the Most High”.  Lucifer became the first New Ager by saying “I am God.”  He became the first postmodernist by failing to grasp objective reality, and instead embarking on an interpretation of the facts that suited his purposes.  We can look back on these events and wonder how Satan could have possibly thought, for even a moment, that he could be God. But then we have millions of people on EARTH today who also claim to be God.  Foolishness is not the domain of Satan alone.  But he is the father of it, and the father of anyone who says they are a “god” in lieu of the facts of the objective truth that there is only ONE GOD, YHWH eternally exisiting in Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 8:6, Eph. 4:6, Matt. 28:19, Gal. 4:6)!  The moment the thought of “godhood” and rebellion blossomed in Lucifer’s mind, he was sentenced to death.  So too are all who sin against God without repentance.  The issue is not one of fairness, it is one of recognizing objective truth.  For the postmodernist truth is relative, subjective, a thing to be manipulated, a thing that moves and flows with time and space.  To God, and to any true follower of Jesus Christ, this is foolishness.  God set the rules, they are objective truth, and they must be followed.  This is His universe, not that of Satan or anyone else.  Yet the very first man and woman committed the same postmodernist sin as Lucifer did.

The Serpent In The Garden

Genesis 3:1-7 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Unable to sway God with his arguments and attitude, Satan was cast down to earth taking one third of the angels of heaven with him in rebellion.  Not satisfied to corrupt many angels, Satan now saw the opportunity to pawn off his New Age mysticism on Adam and Eve.  He used the Hegelian dialectic and praxis, and started the dialog with a question.  Posing questions that lead to a predetermined conclusion is a typical device used by postmodernists.  Satan questioned whether God really said what He said.  Maybe they had just heard it wrong.  But the real postmodern question lurks beneath: “How could God make a demand like that on you?  Is it really fair?  Has God really given you freewill?  I thought you had all your options open?”  Eve should have told the Serpent to take a hike at this point, but the diaprax had captured her imagination.  She gave the right answer, but failed to send the Serpent away for daring to challenge God.  Then Satan did his most famous dance around the truth.  He gave a heaping dose of truth with just enough hell in it to change the lives of human beings forever. if they would accept it.  Satan was also the first heretic, laying error alongside truth.  It was true that Adam and Eve would not die physically on the spot.  It was not true that they would not die because they would, both spiritually and eventually physically.  It was true that their eyes would be opened after eating the fruit.  What Satan failed to tell them was that their eyes would only be opened to evil.  They already knew Good.  What they did not know was Evil.  But the biggest lie, slipped into the middle of Satan’s diaprax, was that “you will be like God”.  Adam and Eve were made in the image of God.  They were already like God in sinless blamelessness.  Not only would they not become like God, they would be separated from God with no way to atonement except by repentance and the shedding of blood.  They would destroy the nature God had wanted for them by putting on a sin nature.  They would be estranged from God (Ps. 58:3) and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9) from that point on!  Satan is still selling this diaprax today.  The postmodern generation thinks they can get closer to God, have a relationship with God, through the “apple” of New Age practices.  They think they can reform God in their own image, in fact they believe they are little gods.  But they have been fooled by the first postmodernist, Satan.

The Devil And Cain

John 8:44  You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.Jude 1:11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

Genesis 4:1-16 Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Who inspired Cain to kill his brother, committing the first murder?  It was certainly Satan because the Bible states that he was a murderer from the beginning.  Satan tempted Cain, and Cain gave in to his sinful nature.  The temptation was one of postmodern sensibilities.  The devil whispered in Cain’s ear that God was being unfair.  So what that God had shown that sin can only be forgiven through the shedding of blood by killing the first animals to make clothing for Adam and Eve?  Surely Cain could chart his own path and worship God in his own way?  Then Cain killed his brother and lied to God when asked about his brother.  When confronted with the facts of their sins, postmodernists will, rather than confess and repent of them, often hide them under lies and justifications.  The devil is the one who inspires lies, murder, false justifications, false teaching, rebellion and unrepentance.

The Devil and Jesus Christ

Matthew 4:1-11 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Notice the diaprax of Satan in his three attempts to tempt Christ.  He tries to get Jesus to prove He has power by making Himself something to eat.  This appeals to the humanity of Christ on the levels of body and soul.  But for Christ to break His fast and use His Divine power after making Himself “nothing” (Phil. 2:7) in obedience to the will of the Father would have been the end of salvation for men.  Postmodernism appeals to the mind and to the flesh and seeks to satisfy the desires of them, but is ignorant of the things of the spirit.  In the second temptation Satan tries the same tactic, only this time he pulls Scripture from its context to do so.  This is another mark of postmodernist teachers.  They pull what they want out of context from Scripture to serve their own paradigm, their own agenda.  Many postmodernists are fooled by this ploy because they don’t bother to look up the biblical context to see if it is correct.  They don’t bother because critical thinking is not part of their daily existence.  Facts really don’t matter to them, it is how they feel about what they hear and how it fits into their sensibilities.  But Jesus rejects this false argument because He is the author of the Scriptures and knows their context.  He rejects this temptation with Scripture that is not taken out of context but used according to it.  The third temptation is Satan’s grandest attempt.  He knows that Jesus is on a mission to save men from sin who believe in Him and must die in order to achieve it.  Satan tempts Christ to take the dominion of the world from Satan who is called the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Eph. 2:2) the prince of this world (John 12:31).  Jesus knows that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19).  So this was a real offer.  Jesus could have the world now instead of going through pain and suffering if He will simply worship Satan.  But Satan failed to realize this offer was not what Jesus wanted.  He did not need the world, He wanted to save people.  The world would be His because He created it (Col. 1:16). But this world would be destoryed.(2 Pet. 3:10)  In the course of time the devil and his angels would be thrown into the lake of fire forever (Rev. 20:10).  Satan’s goal had been, from the time of his sin in heaven, that God would worship him.  Like postmodernists, the facts did not persuade Satan.  What mattered to him was that his personal agenda be fulfilled come hell or high water.  In this case, come hell.

Satan, False Apostles, False Prophets And False Teachers

2 Corinthians 11:13-15  For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.2 Peter 2:1-2 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them— bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.

1 John 4:1  Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Finally, we have to deal with the issue of false apostles, prophets and teachers.  False apostles pretend they are serving the Lord but actually they are serving their master Satan.  They may not even realize they are serving Satan, but you can only serve one master (Matt. 6:24).  Postmodernists do not realize that you cannot serve God if you are serving yourself and your own agenda your own way.  Like Satan before them, they serve their own desires instead of God.  Thus they end up serving the agenda of their master Satan.  This never occurs to them because they believe that life is all paradox and oxymoron, that it is full of gray areas of truth instead of black and white truth according to God’s Word.  To the postmodernist life is subjective.  God’s truth is objective.  To them truth is relative.  To God truth is absolute.  To postmodernists truth is existential.  Existentialism is defined by the dictionary this way:

A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one’s acts.

God views existence just the opposite from this.  What postmodernists fail to realize is that, behind half truths and heresy lies the work and kingdom of Satan. The postmodernist’s paradigm is then completely in the domain of the evil one.  It was begun by him and it is sustained and bolstered by his temptations.  It is propagated by postmodernist false apostles, prophets and teachers whom true believers are to test because of the spirit of antichrist that pervades their teachings and actions.  Postmodernists see no reason to test anything because they have been taught not to judge by false Satanic teachers.  But God says that we are not to suspend our critical thinking, our minds that He created in us, rather to submit them to God and use them to test the spirits.

For a postmodernist to be saved they must be reprogrammed by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to think correctly.  Their world view must be entirely changed.  This is why people like Leonard Sweet and other Emerging Church teachers are so dangerous.  They cater to an evil mindset instead of attempting to change it through education in the Word.  This is why we are living in the end times generation.  The postmodern paradigm will bring in the reign of the Antichrist, Satan himself.  We can only thank the Lord Jesus Christ that it will be short-lived and that the devil, the first postmodernist, will be put down forever.

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I have been increasingly concerned with this abomination: most evangelical pastors no longer regularly preach the “offensive” bloody salvation message of Christ’s Atonement on the Cross of Calvary. But we as church members are also to blame. Most church members have rarely if ever shared the gospel message of sin, judgment, Hell and salvation one on one with another individual.

I myself am guilty of seldom witnessing one on one “in the highways and byways.” At the very least, I could get into the habit of leaving tracts wherever I go – yet I  “just haven’t got around to it.” Lord, forgive me! I do praise the Lord that as a pastor and as a born again Christian, my father (God rest his soul) shared the gospel many times with individuals and prayed with them, as they repented of their sins and accepted Christ.

I was pleased to come across a pertinent blog by Chris Hohnholz, rebuking Christians for failing to be active witnesses. Click here for the original source of this blog. I have reposted the entire blog below; I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].

Burning Man Reminds Us to Preach the Gospel

This week marks the pagan festival held in northern Nevada known as “Burning Man.” For those who may not be familiar with this local event, literally thousands of people from all around the country will descend upon the Black Rock Desert a couple hours north of Reno. They will camp out in RV’s and tents, they will bring assorted foods, music and the like. But this is no ordinary camp out. It is a festival in which every individual’s personal belief system is put on full display. Literally, from the most basic camp out to full on pagan worship, a small society of ultra post-modernity sets itself up for a full week of personal celebration and worship of whatever you choose. The event culminates in the burning of a wooden statue where everybody congregates and celebrates this most sacred event.

However, it is not the debauched, pagan style celebratory worship that drives me to write this article, well, not entirely anyway. As I said, the Burning Man festival is literally the hallmark event of post modernism. Virtually every lifestyle choice and belief system is represented at this gathering. And were you to ask those attending how they felt about the competing beliefs being in all in the same place, they would tell you how wonderful it is to have such a non-judgmental environment where everyone could live as they chose without fear of being told they were wrong. In other words, Burning Man is the utopia of post-modernism. And post-modernism IS the religion of the United States. Those who promote this religion would be overjoyed to see the Burning Man mentality exist in every corner of our society.

My motivation here is not to bemoan the leftist, elitist mindset that drives post-modernism. Rather it is to challenge every single Christian with this thought: how did Burning Man become the Mecca of American “religion” while the Church is viewed as its “anti-christ?” The answer is, I believe, is this, we have faltered in Christ’s command to go forth and preach the gospel to every creature. Remember when we first understood that we were vile wretches that were at war with God through our wicked works. How we realized that in His just punishment, God would rightly send us to Hell. Yet God, in His mercy, pulled us from the fire and punished His Son Jesus Christ at the cross in our place! His shed blood covered our sins and His resurrection paved the path to Heaven for us. Through repentance and faith alone, both merciful gifts from our gracious Father, we received the amazing salvation that promises us eternity with Him! And then Christ commanded us to take the story of that salvation and to preach it to everyone we came in contact with. And what a blessing it would be to share it! To lead the lost, blind and dying to the very salvation they didn’t even know they needed!

Somewhere along the way, we stopped obeying that command. Where we once would not have thought twice about sharing this glorious message with anyone, we reigned back, we slowed down and we gave in. We stopped preaching the hard truth that the law brings condemnation, that it reveals we are not good people and that we deserve Hell. We started saying “God has a wonderful plan for your life,” or we decided we would just allow people to “see Jesus in us.” In doing so, we have exchanged the amazing gospel of Christ, a gospel that should cost us everything to follow, for cheap grace and easy believism! We have become content that evangelism is a spiritual gift for only some and not a command for all. As a result, the culture has plunged head long into the morass of sin and debauchery, into false “religiosity” and personal fulfillment. All the while, we have stood by with the very words of life that can rescue these perishing masses, yet failed to heed the call of our Captain into action.

It is altogether possible that, as you are reading this, you have dismissed my conclusion. If so, consider this, statistics tell us that merely 1% to 2% of professing Christians go out of their way to deliberately share the gospel with someone. That is a very telling number, even if one were to believe the polls which report the high percentages of “Christians” in the United States. In truth, it is likely many of those polled are more cultural Christians than truly bathed in the blood of Christ, born again of the Spirit believers. So that 1% to 2% gets even smaller, which means that a very scant number of truly born again Christian are out there carrying the weight of the command that the entire church is responsible to obey. With these small numbers acting as the evangelistic force for the church, is it that hard to imagine why the church holds so little influence in our culture today?

Yet, there are Christians who would insist that they are very evangelistic. They would point the numbers of people they have invited to church regularly to hear the preaching of the gospel by their pastor. While it is good to bring unsaved friends and loved ones to church, we must understand, this is not evangelism. It is the abdicating of one’s personal responsibility to seek out the lost and share the life giving elixir that is the gospel. Local churches are the place where the saved come together in corporate worship. They are led by the pastor in prayer and praise. They are edified and equipped under his teaching so that they may go out and do spiritual warfare in the world. To leave our responsibility to be proclaimers of the gospel solely to the pastor changes the very nature of the church gathering from corporate worship and edification to seeker friendlyism which sacrifices the content of the word for entertainment to keep the unsaved coming.

But one may point to something that is overtly evangelistic, such as their involvement in the large christian outreaches that gather untold thousands of lost and unregenerate people in one place to hear the gospel. While it is wonderful to see the efforts of so many people to brig the gospel to the world, in many cases, it is simply a repeat of bringing someone to church. Rather than going out into the world preaching the gospel, Christians invite the lost into one place where they will hear preaching by a few, or maybe even just one preacher. The energy and effort put into this gathering is all about getting the people there to hear someone else preach the message. I’m not discounting the genuine desire, and even countless hours of prayer, that Christians pour into this. But in the end, we abdicate the responsibility to someone else. And in truth, many of these events become big seeker friendly attractions where big bands, light shows and celebrity Christians attempt to woo the unsaved to making a “decision for Christ.” But when we look at the statistics, most of those people who make professions of faith never get plugged into a local church. They run around with a “Christian-buzz” for a while, but before long, they prove themselves to be rocky ground with no depth, or a plant choked out by the weeds. In other words, a false convert. One who left us, because he or she never really was of us.

Or maybe those in the church really do desire to get out on the streets to interact with people. So they set up food drives, or head out to feed and clothe the homeless. They hope to show those who are in desperate situations that they are loved by the Church. A noble effort to be sure, but more often than not, it is devoid of the preaching of the gospel. Those they help may be aware of a physical, temporal love in the here and now, but they are rarely, if ever, told that they more desperately need peace with God through Jesus Christ, because their sinful deeds are causing them to be at war with Him.

That’s how post modernism and events like Burning Man are the hallmark of excellence in our society, because Christians have faltered in preaching that amazing grace that saved us from the depths of Hell. I say this because if we remembered that beautiful gospel daily, how could we not go running into the streets to preach it to everyone? How could we ever claim evangelism is not our “gift” when it is a command from our Savior? How could abdicate our responsibility to preach the entirety of the gospel and give a wishy-washy “God has a wonderful plan for your life” message? I can say we have faltered because the fruit of it is as apparent as the false worshippers running to the desert grounds of northern Nevada to worship as they please with no fear of ever being told they are wrong!

I am not saying that the efforts I described above should never, ever happen. If even one soul is saved because they were invited to church or an evangelistic out reach, praise God. If one person comes to Christ because he or she understood that the love of Christ compelled a Christian to reach out and help them, His name is glorified! What I am saying is that by and large, most Christians are either not engaging in the command to evangelize, or are trusting in efforts solely like these to abdicate their responsibility to do so. And because of this, more and more souls are being lost to the culture’s tolerant, post-modern ideas.

Christians, we need to wake up and realize our Captain is commanding us to action! We need to repent of our sin of failing to preach the gospel and seek His forgiveness. We must equip ourselves with the word of God and bend our knees in prayer. We must go out into the highways and byways preaching the truth that salvation is in Christ alone, through repentance and faith alone! We must do so at all costs, even if it means losing relationships, positions at work, or even one day, our freedom. For lives are lost everyday to the pits of Hell! Let us be about our Father’s business, let us preach the truth and let us point people not to a “Burning Man” made of wood, but to the God Man who was and is and is to come! Let us call them to Christ alone!

Click here to view many excellent comments following the above blog which I have reposted.

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(revised 03/03/14)

I would label myself theologically as:

1) Saved – a converted, born again Christian (John chapter 3)
2) Sanctified – separated from worldly sins, totally committed to the Lord (Romans 12:1-2)
3) Spirit filled – I prefer this to the term Spirit baptized. I do not believe tongues is a necessary initial sign of being Spirit filled (the Second Blessing).
4) Soul winning – passionately witnessing to people, carrying out the Great Commission. This does not include the Great Commandment, which postmoderns have twisted into a social gospel combined with the Great Commission. Yes, we should love our neighbor, but compassion/social justice/being missional will not get people saved – they have to hear the gospel message of what I call “the Blood and the Cross”.
5) Separatist – practicing primary and secondary ecclesiastical separation from those who teach heresies/false teachings/serious errors
6) Textus Receptus only – holding to translations of the Textus Receptus New Testament and Masoretic Old Testament in various languages. I believe that in the English speaking world, the best such translation by far is the KJV.
7) Premillenial, leaning towards Post-Trib
8) Wesleyan Holiness – I most closely identify with the Conservative Holiness movement
7) Fundamentalist

Note – in point #7 above, I am using the term “fundamentalist” as an adherent of most of the articles in The Fundamentals of 1910-1915. Some writers of The Fundamentals fell short of being biblically sound (see Footnote #1).

There were many “born again separatist fundamentalist Wesleyan Holiness” churches prior to the formation of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in 1942. Unfortunately, in the years that followed, many Wesleyan Holiness churches abandoned the practices of primary separation and secondary separation.

I must admit, I love many of today’s Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches, particularly those recommended by Bro. David Cloud. I do not necessarily agree with all IFB doctrinal positions. But IFB churches historically hold to many of the same standards Wesleyan Holiness fundamentalists held prior to 1942 – including ecclesiastical separation and “militant fundamentalism”  i.e. speaking out strongly against modernism, etc. (Unfortunately, ecclesiastical separation and militant fundamentalism are two traits Dr. Reasoner opposes – see his comments at the end of the repost below.)

I do not necessarily agree with all the theological views of Dr. Reasoner. The following article by Dr. Reasoner does nonetheless represent most of my views. Another caveat – I do not agree with everything on the website which provided this article, but I found this specific article to be “right on” for the most part. Click on the article titles for the original sources of the articles (Parts I and II). I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].

WHAT IS A FUNDAMENTAL WESLEYAN? [Part I]
Dr. Vic Reasoner

Every generation must apply the timeless truths of Scripture to their contemporary questions. While it is enough under ordinary circumstances to profess faith in Jesus Christ, throughout the history of the Christian Church there have been major disagreements as to the proper explanation of our faith. We do not desire to be divisive, but we believe we are to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

1. We are earnest Christians

God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. We endeavor to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

We have no desire to break fellowship with any brother or sister whom God has accepted into the spiritual family. We seek to maintain the “Catholic Spirit” exemplified by John Wesley’s famous sermon by that title. The word “ecumenical” refers to worldwide Christian unity and cooperation. In the early days of the Christian Church there were four major ecumenical councils which reaffirmed the teachings of Scripture and kept the Church on track. These councils did not convene because the Scriptures were not sufficient, but in the face of contemporary questions the councils convened to state a scriptural response.

In more recent times, though, ecumenical gatherings have even included those who have denied the faith. In order to reach a consensus these councils have sought unity at the lowest common denominator. Unlike the early councils which promoted orthodoxy, the modern ecumenical movement has been too willing to compromise orthodoxy for the sake of union. truth is not determined by a denomination board and we dare not surrender our conscience to any ecclesiastical hierarchy.

2. We are Protestants

Although some evangelicals are now expressing a willingness to cooperate with Rome, the greatest unresolved issue is the issue of authority. We maintain, along with Luther, that the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. What Luther means by sola scriptura is essentially what Wesley meant by homo unius libri (a man of one book). When challenged that he misunderstood the scriptural teaching on the new birth, Wesley wrote in his Journal, that he turned to his Greek New Testament “resolving to abide by ‘the law and the testimony,’ and being confident that God would hereby show me ‘whether this doctrine was of God.'”

We reject the apocryphal books declared four hundred years ago to be Scripture by the Roman Church at the Council of Trent. In opposition to the Roman Catholic coupling of Scripture and church tradition as joint rules of faith we stand for the sufficiency of Scripture. There is no dual authority. John Wesley explained

The faith of the Protestants, in general, embraces only those truths, as necessary to salvation, which are clearly revealed in the oracles of God. Whatever is plainly declared in the Old and New Testament is the object of their faith. They believed neither more nor less than what is manifestly contained in, and provable by, the Holy Scriptures. The Word of God is a “lantern to their feet, and a light in all their paths.” They dare not, on any pretence, go from it, to the right hand or to the left. The written Word is the whole and sole rules of their faith, as well as practice. They believe whatsoever God has declared, and profess to do whatsoever He hath commanded. This is the proper faith of Protestants: by this they will abide and no other (“On Faith,” sermon #106).

In his statement on “The Character of a Methodist,” Wesley affirmed “the written word of God to be the only and sufficient rule both of Christian faith and practice; and herein we are fundamentally distinguished from those of the Romish Church.”

We watch with concern the developments surrounding the manifesto “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium.” The Roman Catholic Church pronounced at the Council of Trent over four hundred years ago that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is anathema.

John Wesley affirmed with Martin Luther that justification by faith alone was “the article by which the Church stands or falls” (see “The Lord Our Righteousness, sermon #20). We stand with Martin Luther and raise our voices in protest against all who deny that salvation is by grace through faith. Until this position is officially accepted by the Roman Catholic Church, we remain Protestants.

WHAT IS A FUNDAMENTAL WESLEYAN? [Part II]
Dr. Vic Reasoner

3. We are Wesleyan-Arminians

Although the name of James Arminius is still maligned, few have matched him in scholarship and sainthood. In contrast to the rigid dogmatism that so often accompanies those who contend for the faith, Wesley cautioned, “It is the duty of every Arminian preacher, first, never in public or in private, to use the word Calvinist as a term of reproach.”

When Arminianism loses the balance of the Holy Spirit it becomes humanistic, teaching we are saved by an act of our free will. Likewise, Calvinism tends toward fatalism. Wesley argued for a balance between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. He said Methodism came within a hair’s breadth of Calvinism by ascribing all good to the free grace of God, by denying all natural free will, and in excluding all human merit. Therefore, as fundamental Wesleyans we have as much in common with conservative Calvinism as with liberal Arminianism.

In agreement with Calvinism we affirm man’s natural inability to do good apart from divine grace. In contrast to Calvinism, we believe the Scriptures teach a conditional election, a universal atonement, prevenient grace, and conditional perseverance.

Wesley affirmed the position of Arminius while giving a new emphasis to the witness of the Spirit and sanctification. Wesley also observed, “Who has wrote more ably than Martin Luther on justification by faith alone? And who was more ignorant of the doctrine of sanctification, or more confused in his conceptions of it?”

As Wesleyans we believe in an infallible Book, the fall and sinfulness of mankind, a universal atonement, and prevenient grace. The work of the Holy Spirit in awakening, conviction, repentance, and faith produces all these gifts from God. We believe in justification by faith, regeneration through the baptism with the Spirit, and adoption into the family of God. We believe in the necessity of the new birth, which gives victory over outward sin and is always attested to by the direct witness of the Holy Spirit. We believe that the indwelling Spirit begins the process of sanctification and brings assurance witnessing with our own spirit. We believe the Spirit will lead us to Christian maturity as individuals and through the outpouring of the Spirit in revival, the kingdom of God will cover the earth.

4. We are fundamentalists

By the turn of the twentieth century historic Christianity was under attack. Fundamentalism at its best was a modern attempt to defend historic Christianity. With the validity of the Bible under attack, fundamentalism was originally a battle for the Bible.

Since the modern fundamentalist movement came a hundred years after Wesley we would not expect him to use their precise language. If you read secondary sources about Wesley by liberal authors, you will find he always seems to agree with them. However, if you read Wesley himself you find him saying, “My ground is the Bible. Yea, I am a Bible-bigot. I follow it in all things, both great and small.” “Believe nothing they say, unless it is clearly confirmed by plain passages of holy writ.” “If there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may as well be a thousand. If there is one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth.”

We recognize Adam Clarke as a pioneer in the comparison of biblical texts, known as lower or textual criticism. Yet Clarke concluded, “Men may err, but the Scriptures cannot; for it is theWord of God himself, who can neither mistake, deceive, nor be deceived” (Works, 12:132, see also Commentary, 5:11). However, we deny the value of and reject the conclusions of destructive higher criticism which starts with naturalistic presuppositions. Modern Wesleyan scholars have all too often capitulated to the higher critic in an attempt to gain acceptability for our message. But once our doctrinal source is impugned our message is stripped of its authority.

William Abraham wrote The Coming Great Revival in 1984, declaring that modern evangelicalism is at an impasse. The dilemma of evangelicalism is whether it will revert back to fundamentalism or blend in with liberalism? Abraham feels that the Wesleyan tradition has a solution to this impasse, but only if we purify ourselves of our fundamentalist corruption, repudiate the inerrancy of Scripture, and make a “bold and unqualified commitment to critical work in biblical studies.” But revival has come when the integrity of the Word of God was upheld and preached it with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. If we replace the living bread of God’s infallible Word with the barren stone of higher criticism, we have nothing to contribute to the impasse and we will move towards apostasy, not revival.

While Wesley argued for liberty concerning nonessentials, he also believed there are essential Christian doctrines which must be maintained in order to be Christian. In his preface to theNotes Upon the Old Testament, Wesley spoke of “those grand, fundamental doctrines, original sin, justification by faith, the new birth, inward and outward holiness.”

However, we must defend Christian doctrine with a Christlike spirit. Fundamentalism has too often been associated with harsh, bitter attitude, a separatist mentality, and a bizarre form of prophecy known as “dispensationalism.” [I would disagree with Dr. Reasoner regarding this  previous sentence – I believe we should have a “separatist mentality” i.e. practice ecclesiastical separation. And although I am not completely comfortable with dispensationalism, I am premillenial (unlike dispensationalists, I am leaning towards a post-Trib view). Dr. Reasoner, on the other hand, is not even in the same eschatological ballpark – he is a postmillenial preterist; see the latter part of this article.]

We are fundamentalists only so long as we define what constitutes the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. And unlike militant fundamentalism , we endeavor the practice the “catholic spirit” of love towards our Christian neighbor with whom we may disagree. Our use of the word fundamental primarily refers to the Scripture as our sole authority. [Here too I would differ with Dr. Reasoner; I admire the “militant fundamentalism” of Independent Fundamentalist Baptists today who speak out loudly against ecumenism, modernism, etc. And this militant fundamentalism was common among Wesleyan Holiness denominations before the National Association of Evangelicals was formed in 1942.]

As early as 1916 J. B. Chapman, editor of the Herald of Holiness, wrestled with this terminology. He stated that Nazarenes believed in the fundamentals and then proceeded to give his list of fundamental doctrines. However, if the question is raised whether Nazarenes are Fundamentalists, using the term as a proper noun, Chapman answered, “Yes, with reservations.” While Chapman had reservations about certain Calvinistic tendencies among Fundamentalists, there was no reservation, however, concerning the inerrancy of Scripture. We are in agreement with Chapman at this point.

Our commission is to preach the whole Book to the whole world. We are to preach a free gospel for all men and a full gospel from all sin. Anything short of this is neither apostolic nor Wesleyan.

FOOTNOTES

#1) See the quote from Bro. David Cloud, found here. I have emphasized certain points by bolding:

The authors of The Fundamentals represented the broader approach to fundamentalism. They held a wide variety of doctrine, some holding very serious doctrinal errors. For example, James Orr of Scotland denied the verbal inspiration of Scripture and allowed for theistic evolution.  J. Campbell Morgan denied the literal fire of hell and believed that men could be saved even if they do not hear of nor believe in Christ.

Some men who started out with the fundamentalist movement turned back and renounced their former position. For example, A.C. Dixon was the executive secretary of the committee that produced The Fundamentals. Historian George Dollar observes that though Dixon was a fundamentalist for many years, he “deserted because of the stigmas and battles of separatism.” Dixon helped found the Baptist Bible Union in opposition to the liberal Northern Baptist Convention, but “right in the middle of the fiercest battles against the liberals within the convention, Dixon abruptly and without warning turned in his resignation.” He went back into the very denomination that he had left and publicly called upon others to do the same. There were many sad cases like this that discouraged and confused the hearts of those who were in the battle for the truth.

FOR FURTHER READING

Harriet A. Harris, Fundamentalism and Evangelicals – many pages viewable online here. Although Ms. Harris takes a generally critical view of Fundamentalism, she nonetheless provides many helpful historical details.

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(revised 10/23/12)

I love Christian books, but in recent years it has become increasingly difficult to find born again, biblically sound titles in print.

Below I have reposted an insightful article on the 2012 heretical state of evangelical Christian publishing. Click here for the original source of this article.

THE STATE OF EVANGELICAL PUBLISHING
Editor

THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE. Issue 2. Fall 2011. Volume 29.
Date published to Extended January 2012

Four of the most important conservative Christian publishers all began as family businesses in Grand Rapids. Known as the “Netherlands Quartet,” because of their Dutch background, here is how they each began.

Kregel Publications began in 1909 when Louis Kregel started selling used theological books at his home. William B. Eerdmans began selling “ten-cent specials” to Dutch farmers in 1910 in order to pay his way through Calvin Theological Seminary. Pat and Bernie Zondervan, who were cousins, launched their own venture in 1931 by selling used Reformed books directly, then by mail. Herman Baker, a nephew of Louis Kregel, also established a book business in 1939.

But in recent years evangelical book publishers have been bought out. In the early 1980s Zondervan bought out Revell and Francis Asbury Press. Zondervan advanced a million dollars in a book deal with John Delorean in 1985. When the book bombed, they ultimately shut down their Francis Asbury imprint as well as Revell. In 1987 Zondervan became a wholly owned subsidiary of HarperCollins.

Thomas Nelson bought out Word Publishers in 1992. In November 2011 HarperCollins also bought out Thomas Nelson. But HarperCollins is owned by the News Corporation, with Rupert Murdoch as chairman. This is the world’s second largest media conglomerate.

The bottom line is that the News Corporate now controls 50% of the Christian book market. Thus, Zondervan and Thomas Nelson exist to generate a profit for New Corp. They are going to publish whatever they think there is a market for. But Rupert Murdoch is not committed to evangelicalism, biblical reform, or genuine revival.

The result is that the average Christian bookstore is stocked with superficial, and sometimes heretical, products. Christian publishing sells $4 billion annually. But take away the pop-psychology-self-help-feel-good books, the end-times fiction, the celebrity biography, and the opportunist author trying to capitalize on current events, and the average Christian book store would be left with little besides romance novels. We have become a generation of believers who are doctrinally illiterate and historically unaware of our roots. Yet the history of the Christian Church is dotted with classics from every time period. The best-seller list is dominated by a few celebrity authors.

Within the academic market, publishing is controlled by the guild. Those who seek to publish their research must submit it to peer review. The guild controls who can get published. It is a sport for these scholars to come up with some new twist and a rather narrow group of scholars all congratulate each other, but few have obtained the academic pedigree necessary to play this game.

Anyone who has a message or is contending for truth will probably have to resort to self publication. A small Calvinistic publisher declared that they publish because books are the carriers of the big ideas!

Most major Wesleyan publishers would not recognize Methodist theology if they were hit over the head with a hardbound volume of Wesley’s 52 Standard Sermons. The current spate of Wesley studies often equates John Wesley with process philosophy, feminism, liberal theology, and an errant Bible. Thus Fundamental Wesleyan Publishers was formed in 1991 to contend for historic Methodist doctrine. [Note the phrase “historic Methodist doctrine” – this is not the same as Wesleyan Holiness doctrine, which I favor – DM]

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(revised 11/29/13)

As a lover of books – particularly Christian books – I am always fascinated by the goings-on in the world of Christian publishers. Unfortunately, in recent years it seems many Christian publishers have become anything but truly born again Christian.

Below I have reposted a 2009 article by Jim Fletcher, exposing many Emerging/Emergent heresies of “Christian” publishers. Click here for the original source of this article. (I realize this article is outdated – I am looking for more recent articles on “Christian” publishers.)

Tales from the Christian dark side

Posted: 19 Sep, 2009 By: Jim Fletcher

Last week I opined that the Christian book industry should overlay its business model with the Spirit of God – an unusual topic for a column on publishing, but it is my conviction. The industry’s failure to do so is a prime reason it’s floundering.

When the Christian book world allows authors and publishers into the mix, even when they espouse heretical concepts, it is sowing the seeds for the Christian publishing industry’s collapse. In other words, if theological integrity is not maintained, failure is sure to follow.

For many years, the Christian Booksellers’ Association has allowed vendors who do not have a Christian worldview to display at conventions. Many dozens of books with heretical themes have now flooded into the stores around the country. Few in power seem to care, because if “The Shack” is being sold down the street at a big-box retailer, then, well, we have to sell it, too.

The resulting change at CBA events is astonishing.

For example, two weeks ago at the International Christian Retail Show in Denver, Zondervan had its usual, large presence. The Grand Rapids-based publisher produces a large number of mainstream titles each year and is perhaps best known for its Bibles. What many “average” Christians do not know is that for 20 years, Zondervan has been owned by the gigantic New York house, Harper Collins.

When a Christian publisher is bought out by a large secular company, it is not possible for the formerly Christian-owned entity to decide for itself just how Christian it will be. Profit and loss become the all-consuming drivers.

At Zondervan, for every Anne Graham Lotz, there are 10 others who practice a center-left Christianity. Gary Burge, the Wheaton professor who routinely criticizes Israel and champions the allegedly downtrodden Palestinians, has little in common with conservative readers.

The same issue is at stake with other Zondervan authors like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren, both of whom seek to redefine Christianity away from its biblically orthodox foundation.

At ICRS, I happened by the large Zondervan booth and noticed that HarperOne, an imprint of Harper Collins, was connected to the Zondervan space. HarperOne publishes a wide range of books on spirituality. They are as comfortable publishing the Dalai Lama as they are Billy Graham.

HarperOne has a richly pluralistic stable of authors, including the mystic Thomas Merton, John Dominic Crossan, John Shelby Spong and Omid Safi (“Memories of Muhammad”).

Let me show you an example of a connection between unorthodox Christians and the evangelical world:

Several years ago, Zondervan published the “NIV Men’s Study Bible.” In that book, editors had inserted some remarks of Merton’s as a “devotional.”

Merton, the Catholic-Buddhist who died in 1968, stated: “Sin is the refusal of spiritual life.”

No, it isn’t.

If sin is the refusal of spiritual life, then there have been billions of sinless people throughout history, an idea completely at odds with Christianity.

Another example of the business model directing Christian publishers is the runaway success of Rick Warren’s “Purpose-Driven Life.” When a book hits those kinds of numbers (what is it now, 30 million sold?), there is no possibility that author will never write another book. What actually happens is that editorial boards sit around and come up with new themes, new gimmicks. That’s why you see “journals” and “workbooks” that spin off hot sellers like “Your Best Life Now.”

The new ancillary products aren’t released necessarily because they are useful to consumers. They are merely product, something to be sold. The publishers latch onto a hot theme and then milk more profits from consumers.

Profit and revenue become the agenda. But do we worship God or mammon?

This syncretic approach is diluting biblical truth in America.

Unfortunately, another element in the pipeline, the bookstores, are just as guilty.

It fascinates me that Christian book stores are struggling mightily to stay open, yet they almost contemptuously sideline large markets. For example, a few days ago, I visited with the head of a large ministry focused on apologetics.

This person told me, “Our constituency doesn’t want books on marriage relationships, or how to raise kids – those things that fill the shelves of stores today. Instead, they want what we are offering.”

This ministry has 150,000 names on its database.

It is interesting to me, then, that many stores do not cater to these people. The question is, why? Why would stores marginalize a large affinity group out there? The answer must be that there is a general dislike of truly conservative biblical views among the mainstream in the Christian book industry.

For many stores, if a publisher makes an effort to promote conservative books and comes up with initiatives to really help the store push that product, the reply is more often than not a polite “drop dead.” Instead, the goal is to put another floor display of Rick Warren books in the store.

And speaking again of Warren, he is a prime example of where mainstream Christianity is heading: pluralism. Warren, who chatted cheerily with the Syrian killer Bashar Assad a few years ago and recently spoke at an Islamic conference, is part of the new breed of Christian leaders who freely fellowship with unbelievers.

Several years ago at a convention, I was talking with a salesman for a CBA publisher. He told me that a few weeks before, he had presented product to buyers at two separate Christian store chains.

One buyer told him she thought the Bible was nothing more than myth; the other openly challenged the idea that Adam and Eve were real people.

Needless to say, people are free to believe what they want to believe. But Christian buyers, one would think, should reflect traditional Christian views.

These are some of the reasons that Christian retail stands on the brink of real heartbreak, as stores close and publishers downsize.

Because CBA has no mechanism to research the motives of authors and publishers – and not only has no desire to do so, but is colluding with syncretic elements – it is losing its power.

As I’ve said before, as these outlets try to pay the light bill and prepare to shiver in the dark void, there are alternate book sources ready and eager to supply the millions of American Christians who revere the Word of God. WND and Lighthouse Trails, for example, are growing by leaps and bounds, as God-fearing Americans prepare to face profound changes in our culture.

FOR FURTHER READING

Joel, We Support Christian Publishing Houses but Whom do They Support? (10/02/09)

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(revised 01/17/14)

Many attend a postmodern (Emerging/Emergent) church because they like the praise and worship music, or they like the preaching style, or whatever. Many may not even be aware their pastors are teaching heresies straight from the books of Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, etc.

My point is, I’m wondering if we should be using a two-pronged approach in Counter-Emergent discernment ministries: 1) exposing and informing about Emerging/Emergent false teachers and 2) witnessing to “saved” and unsaved church attenders who are merely followers of “every wind and wave” of doctrine.

Of course there is a spectrum of Emerging/Emergent church attenders, from the elderly who have never heard of Foster, McLaren, Sweet, Campolo, etc. to young people admiring Emergents (they will fight us tooth and nail).

I have reposted a great article by Ron Rhodes, entitled “Witnessing to Liberals.” Although not specifically mentioning Emergents, it covers many of the same issues. Click here for the original site of this article. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].

Witnessing to Liberals
by Ron Rhodes

Liberal Christians [so-called “Christians”] typically seek to adapt religious ideas to modern science. Their goal is to make Christianity “relevant” to modern man. By elevating science to supreme authority, they assume the Bible is a fallible human document, approach Scripture with an antisupernatural bias, and dismiss miracles as the fantasies of ignorant people in biblical times who did not understand the laws of nature. They also view humanity as fundamentally good, with no real sin problem.

Jesus is not viewed as God incarnate as God incarnate or as a divine Savior. Rather, He was a man supremely full of God and was characterized by ethical and moral excellence. He is an example to – and moral teacher of – the human race. He didn’t die on the cross for our sins, but His death nevertheless has an uplifting “moral influence” on people (setting an example of sacrifice).

God’s primary attribute is said to be love. His holiness, judgment, and wrath are practically ignored. Thus, it is not surprising that liberal Christians hold out the hope of immortality for all people. The idea that any will spend eternity in hell is rejected.

Confronted with such a plethora of unbiblical ideas, conservative Christians might wonder how to begin in evangelizing their liberal counterparts. Following are some guidelines I have found helpful when dialoguing with liberal Christians.

Be loving. Liberal Christians sometimes view evangelicals as narrow-minded and unloving. For this reason it is all the more important that all of your personal encounters with liberals be marked by love. Be courteous, tactful, kind, and humble.

Debunk the caricatures liberal Christians often have regarding evangelicals. As a case in point, some liberal Christians think typical evangelicals believe in the dictation theory of inspiration (the view that God literally dictated the Bible word for word to the biblical writers). Emphasize that typical evangelicals reject this view.

At the same time, however, be ready to explain and defend the correct view of inspiration. Biblical inspiration may be defined as God’s superintending of the human authors so that, using (rather than bypassing) their own historical situations, personalities, and writing styles, they composed and recorded without error His revelation to humankind (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21). (Space forbids a detailed apologetic defense of inspiration, but good resources are available for this.)

A necessary consequence of this view of inspiration is that the authority of Scripture cannot be separated from the authority of God. Whatever the Bible affirms, God affirms. Since the written revelation from God has been recorded under the Spirit’s direct superintendence, that revelation is authoritative – just as authoritative as the One who gave it.

Now, besides dealing with inspiration, you should also address the liberal view that because the four gospel writers had theological motives (the intent to convince readers of Jesus’ deity, for example), their historical testimony is untrustworthy. This is clearly faulty reasoning. As scholar Craig Blomberg put it, “The fallacy…is to imagine that telling a story for a purpose, even in the service of a cause one believes in passionately, necessarily forces one to distort history. In our modern era, some of the most reliable reporters of the Nazi Holocaust were Jews passionately committed to seeing such genocide never repeated.”

Another caricature you may need to deal with is the liberal’s misperception that evangelicals interpret Scripture too literally. Point out that evangelicals do not hold to a “wooden literalism” – the kind that interprets biblical figures of speech literally. Explain that what is understood to be symbolic and what is taken literally should be based on the biblical context itself – such as when Jesus used obviously figurative parables to communicate spiritual truth.

Emphasize that a literal approach to Scripture recognizes that the Bible contains a variety of literary genres, each of which have certain peculiar characteristics that must be recognized in order to interpret the text properly. Biblical genres include the historical (e.g., Acts), the dramatic epic (e.g., Job), poetry (e.g., Psalms), wise sayings (e.g., Proverbs), and apocalyptic writings (e.g., Revelation). Point out that an incorrect genre judgment will lead one far astray in interpreting Scripture.

Even though the Bible contains a variety of literary genres and many figures of speech, the biblical authors most often employed literal statements to convey their ideas. And where they use a literal means to express their ideas, the Bible expositor must employ a corresponding means to explain these ideas – namely, a literal approach. Such an approach gives to each word in the text the same basic meaning it would have in normal, ordinary, customary usage – whether employed in writing, speaking, or thinking. Without such a method, communication between God and humankind is impossible.

A third caricature you may have to deal with is the notion that evangelicals are unaware of – or are not willing to deal with – so-called contradictions in the Bible. Challenge this charge. Put the burden on the liberal, and ask him or her to cite specific contradictions. Use resources like Gleason Archer’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties and Norman Geisler’s When Critics Ask to demonstrate that there are alternative explanations that make good sense.

Debunk the liberal’s charge that miracles are the fantasies of ignorant people in biblical times who did not understand the laws of nature. People in biblical times did know enough of the laws of nature to recognize bona fide miracles. As C. S. Lewis put it, “When St. Joseph discovered that his bride was pregnant, he was ‘minded to put her away.’ He knew enough biology for that. Otherwise, of course, he would not have regarded pregnancy as a proof of infidelity. When he accepted the Christian explanation, he regarded it as a miracle precisely because he knew enough of the laws of nature to know that this was a suspension of them.”

Moreover, Lewis observed, “when the disciples saw Christ walking on the water they were frightened: they would not have been frightened unless they had known the laws of nature and known that this was an exception. If a man had no conception of a regular order in nature, then of course he could not notice departures from that order.” Nothing can be viewed as “abnormal” until one has first grasped the “norm.”

Don’t let the liberal get away with saying that science “disproves” the biblical miracles. Science depends upon observation and replication. Miracles – such as the Incarnation and the Resurrection – are by their very nature unprecedented events. No one can replicate these events in a laboratory. Hence, science simply cannot be the judge and jury as to whether or not these events occurred. The scientific method is useful for studying nature but not super-nature.

Scientists are speaking outside of their proper field when they address theological issues like miracles. R. C. Sproul observes, “Today when somebody steps outside of his area of expertise, people tend to follow and believe him. That is the basis of much advertising. For example, a baseball star may appear on television and promote a particular brand of razors. If that star were to tell me how to hit a baseball, he would be speaking with authority. But when he tells me the best razor blade to buy is a certain brand, then he is speaking outside of his area of expertise.” Scientists do the same type of thing in regard to miracles.

The skepticism of liberal Christians notwithstanding, there is good reason to believe in the biblical miracles. One highly pertinent factor is the brief time that elapsed between Jesus’ miraculous public ministry and the publication of the gospels. It was insufficient for the development of miracle legends. Many eyewitnesses to Jesus’ miracles would have still been alive to refute any untrue miracle accounts (see 1 Cor. 15:6). One must also recognize the noble character of the men who witnessed these miracles (e.g., Peter, James, and John). Such men were not prone to misrepresentation, and were willing to give up their lives rather than deny their beliefs.

There were also hostile witnesses to the miracles of Christ. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, for example, none of the chief priests or Pharisees disputed the miracle (John 11:45-48). (If they could have disputed it, they would have.) Rather, their goal was simply to stop Jesus (vv. 47-48). Remind the liberal that because there were so many hostile witnesses who observed and scrutinized Christ, successful “fabrication” of miracle stories in His ministry would have been impossible.

Demonstrate that nature and Scripture, properly interpreted, do not conflict. God has communicated to humankind both by general revelation (nature, or the observable universe) and special revelation (the Bible). Since both of these revelations come from God – and since God does not contradict Himself – we must conclude these two revelations are in agreement with each other. While there may be conflicts between one’s interpretation of the observable universe and one’s interpretation of the Bible, there is no ultimate contradiction.

We might say that science is a fallible human interpretation of the observable universe while theology is a fallible human interpretation of the Scriptures. If the liberal challenges the idea that science can be fallible, remind him or her of what science historian Thomas Kuhn proved in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – that is, science is in a constant state of change. New discoveries have consistently caused old scientific paradigms to be discarded in favor of newer paradigms.

Here is the point: it is not nature and Scripture that contradict; rather, it is science (man’s fallible interpretation of nature) and theology (man’s fallible interpretation of Scripture) that sometimes fall into conflict. Hence the liberal cannot simply dismiss certain parts of the Bible because “science and the Bible contradict.”

Also keep in mind that the allegation that the Bible is not scientifically accurate is sometimes related to the Bible’s frequent use of phenomenological language. Ecclesiastes 1:5, for example, refers to the sun “rising and setting.” From a scientific perspective, the sun does not actually rise or set. But let’s be fair. This is the same kind of language weather forecasters use. “Rising” and “setting” are accepted ways of describing what the sun appears to be doing from an earthly perspective.

Demonstrate that Jesus was not a mere example or moral teacher. No mere “example” or “moral teacher” would ever claim that the destiny of the world lay in His hands, or that people would spend eternity in heaven or hell depending on whether they believed in Him (John 6:26-40). The only “example” this would provide would be one of lunacy. And for Jesus to convince people that He was God (John 8:58) and the Savior of the world (Luke 19:10) – when He really wasn’t – would be the ultimate immorality.

Certainly, if Jesus had intended to teach doctrines compatible with liberal Christianity, He was a dire failure as a teacher. Indeed, His words led all those who followed Him during His earthly ministry in the precise opposite direction than He supposedly intended. All His followers ended up believing in miracles, that man is a sinner, that Jesus died on the cross to save them, and so forth.

In proving that Christ is the divine Messiah He claimed to be, one good approach is to demonstrate Jesus’ fulfillment of messianic prophecies in the Old Testament – including ones He couldn’t have conspired to fulfill, such as His birthplace (Mic. 5:2), being born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14), and the identity of His forerunner (Mal. 3:1). (This is what first got my attention back in the 1970s when I was attending a liberal church.) Since liberals respect science, mention that the science of statistics shows there is something like a 1 in 1017 chance of one man fulfilling just eight of the hundreds of messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. Peter Stoner, author of Science Speaks, provides an illustration to help us understand the magnitude of such odds:

Suppose that we take 1017 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time, providing they wrote using their own wisdom.

Jesus fulfilled not just eight but hundreds of messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. Besides this, Jesus is referred to by the names of deity (e.g., “God,” Heb. 1:8; “Lord,” Matt. 22:43-45); has all the attributes of deity (e.g., omnipotence, Matt. 28:18; omniscience, John 1:48; omnipresence, Matt. 18:20); did the works of deity (e.g., creation, John 1:3; raised the dead, John 11:43-44); and was worshiped as deity (Matt. 14:33). You should thoroughly familiarize yourself with these and the many other biblical evidences for Jesus’ deity.

Don’t be surprised if the liberal suggests that Jesus is just “one of many ways to God.” If they propose this theory, you should contrast the doctrine of God (the most fundamental of all doctrines) in the various religions. Jesus, for example, taught that there is only one personal God who is triune in nature (Matt. 28:19). Muhammad taught that there is only one God, but that God cannot have a son. Confucius was polytheistic (he believed in many gods). Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (a Hindu scripture) believed in a combination of polytheism and pantheism (all is God). Zoroaster taught religious dualism (there is both a good and a bad god). Buddha taught that the concept of God was essentially irrelevant. Obviously, these religions are not pointing to the same God. If one is right, all the others are wrong.

Emphasize that Jesus claimed that what He said took precedence over all others. Jesus said He is humanity’s only means of coming into a relationship with God: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). One either accepts or rejects this claim, but no one can deny that it is exclusive.

Emphasize that Christianity is a religion of history. The apostle Paul warned the religious men of Athens of an impending objective event: the divine judgment of all humanity. And he based this warning on the objective, historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 17:31). It was this historical resurrection that instilled such boldness in the disciples. Initially, when Jesus was arrested, “all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matt. 26:56). But following Jesus’ resurrection, these fearful cowards became steel bulwarks of the faith. They remained unflinching in their commitment to Christ, even in the face of great personal danger and death.

There have been various attempts (especially by liberals) to explain away the resurrection of Christ. One of the most popular of these is that Jesus’ followers made up the resurrection story.

In response, point out how hard it is to believe that these followers – predominantly Jewish and therefore aware of God’s stern commandments against lying and bearing false witness – would make up such a lie, and then suffer and give up their own lives in defense of it. Moreover, if Jesus’ followers concocted events like the Resurrection, wouldn’t Jesus’ critics have then immediately come forward to debunk these lies and put an end to Christianity once and for all?

It is worth noting that the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 speaks of Christ’s resurrection as part of a confession that had been handed down for years. First Corinthians was written around A.D. 55, a mere 20 years after Christ’s resurrection. But many biblical scholars believe the confession in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 was formulated within a few years of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Paul noted that the resurrected Christ appeared to more than 500 people at a single time, “most of whom are still alive” (1 Cor. 15:6). If Paul had misrepresented the facts, wouldn’t one of these 500 have come forward to dispute his claims? From a historical perspective, it seems clear that the evidence for the Resurrection is as strong as (or stronger than) the evidence we have for any other accepted event of ancient times.

Emphasize that Christianity ultimately is a relationship, not a religion. Christianity is not just a set of doctrines or creeds – a “dead orthodoxy.” Rather it involves a personal relationship with the living Lord of the universe. This is the most important truth you will want to leave the liberal to ponder because this is the ingredient of true Christianity that the liberal “Christian” is most painfully lacking.
Jesus said His words lead to eternal life (John 6:63). But for us to receive eternal life through His words, they must be taken as He intended them to be taken. A liberal reinterpretation of Scripture that fails to recognize man’s sin (Luke 19:10) and yields another Jesus and another gospel (2 Cor. 11:3-4; Gal. 1:6-9) will yield only eternal death.

The paradox underlying the liberal attempt to make Christianity “relevant” is that for everyone to whom Christianity is “made relevant” (those who believe miracles are unscientific), there are likely thousands for whom it is made irrelevant. For, indeed, the liberal version of Christianity lacks an authentic spirituality to help people and give them hope in the midst of life’s problems. Former liberal Christian Alister McGrath said that, among other things, liberalism’s “pastoral weakness became especially evident to me.” He said “liberalism had little to offer in the midst of the harsh pastoral realities of unemployment, illness, and death.”

In addressing the spiritual bankruptcy of liberalism, you can use the liberal’s recognition of God’s love as a launch-pad to emphasize that God loved humankind so much that He sent Jesus into the world to die on the cross to rescue humankind from hell. Be sure to note that Jesus – love incarnate – spoke of God’s wrath and the reality of hell in a more forceful way than any of His disciples ever did (see, e.g., Matt. 25:46). Hence, God’s love is not incompatible with the reality of hell. Jesus affirmed that His mission of love was to provide atonement for human sin (for which there is plenty of empirical evidence in our world) by His sacrificial death on the cross (Mark 10:45; John 12:23-27).

Inform the liberal that if he or she really wants to experience the love of God, the place to begin is a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Then tell him or her about your relationship with Jesus. There’s no better way to close a discussion with a liberal Christian than by giving your testimony, focusing on how your personal relationship with Jesus has changed your life forever.

(This article was originally published as an “Effective Evangelism” article in the Christian Research Journal.)

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