If Rob Bell is the Anakin Skywalker of the "emergent conversation" then Brian McLaren would have to be the Yoda (isn't the resemblance uncanny? Hey, I've never seen them in a room together. One is a fictional character and the other is a fictional Christian). As the leader of the leaderless emergent movement, McLaren continually speaks in philosophical psychobabble that somehow manages to impress "Christians" looking for a "new kind of gospel". One of his favorite cards to play is the "I'm orthodox but" card. He uses this card to great effect by appeasing suspicious church goers with affirmations of historic Christian confessions out of one side of his mouth all the while redefining the terms and conditions out of the other side. Welcome to the fog that is postmodernism!
So where is Brian McLaren on the evangelical spectrum? Well, in his own words he is a "Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN" (from the cover of "A Generous Orthodoxy"). We now know why God is not the author of confusion - it's McLaren's job!
And you can forget about non-negotiable basic Christian doctrine because Brian McLaren simply finds that sort of certainty redundant. In his own words:
If I seem to show too little respect for your opinions or thought, be assured I have equal doubts about my own, and I don't mind if you think I'm wrong. I'm sure I am wrong about many things, although I'm not sure exactly which things I'm wrong about. I'm even sure I'm wrong about what I think I'm right about in at least some cases. So wherever you think I'm wrong, you could be right. If, in the process of determining that I'm wrong, you are stimulated to think more deeply and broadly, I hope that I will have somehow served you anyway. (A Generous Orthodoxy p19-20)
But amidst all this uncertainty McLaren seems to be very certain about one thing - all those biblical fundamentalist conservative Christians are wrong. Sometimes his postmodern fog clears for a brief moment and he tells us what he really thinks about the epicentre of the historic orthodox Christian faith - penal substitutionary atonement . . .
Most of us know what Jesus said happens when the blind lead the blind. It's why I think "emergent churches" should be called ditches. Hmmm, I guess if we extend that thought then emergent congregations of more than 1000 could be called "mega-ditches". If you attend one of these churches where this kind of teaching prevails - run for the exit. If you're reading one of McLaren's books - burn it (it's about as helpful as an ashtray on a motorbike). Am I being perfecly clear in an unpostmodern way? I hope so - I don't want the reader in any doubt as to where I stand on these issues.
Anyway, that's enough of trying to nail honey to a wall for today! I'll dig a little deeper into Brian McLaren's world of confusion and heresy on Monday.
Grace Gems is a vast treasury of writings and excerpts from Reformers,Puritans, and other great godly men from history. My wife and I are both on the mailing list and we receive precious spiritual food every from them every day. Here is todays tasty morsel (and remedy for the abundance of self-esteem focussed psychobabble) from a man who is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers - AW Pink.
The loss of all confidence in ones self, is the first essential in the believer's growth in grace! The Christian, conscious of his own frailty, will turn unto the Lord for strength. "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak--then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10
There must be consciousness of our weakness, before we shall turn to the Lord for help. While the Christian imagines that he is sufficient in himself; while he imagines that by the mere force of his will, that he shall resist temptation; while he has any confidence in the flesh--then, like 'boasting Peter'--so we shall certainly fail and fall. The plain fact is--that of ourselves we are utterly unable to practice a single precept, or obey a single command that is set before us in the Scriptures! Apart from Christ--we can do nothing! (John 15:5). The promise of God is, "He gives power to the faint; and strengthens the powerless!" Isaiah 40:29
The secret of development of Christian character, is the realization of our own powerlessness, and the consequent turning unto the Lord for help. A consciousness of our powerlessness, should cast us upon Him who has all power.
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble!" Psalm 46:1
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What will you find in church today? A message based on self esteem, success, and sensuality? Or the timeless pure Gospel centred on Christ's atoning work? Here is another message with Paul Washer from our meetings in Denmark where he defines the Gospel and how to proclaim it.
It may sound too elementary, but if that's what you're thinking - then think again! Not only has the Gospel's purity been eroded by either a man centred gospel or relegation based on the assumption that everyone sitting in a church pew knows "Christianity 101". But woe unto us if we trade going deeper for going "further". This is a subject that offends pagans, infuriates false converts, and enthralls true believers - yes it's suitable for any audience . . .
With the subject of Calvinism rearing it's head on Wednesday's post I thought it appropriate to post another of the videos from our camp in Denmark with Paul Washer and Charles Leiter. Paul and Charles were both jet lagged to the max when this filming was done but they continued to pour themselves out as true servants of the Most High God.
For me this video is worth watching for Charles Leiter's response to the question of Limted Atonement (a major sticking point between Calvinists and Armenianists). Charles rightly points out that many of the pillars of Calvinism in their stated form and label don't paint the entire picture. And this has much to do with the TULIP statement (which I'll discuss in another post) being a response to charges against Calvinism rather than a thorough statement of Calvin's doctrine.
Anyway Charles will explain better than I ever could and all the other stuff is great as well. The cut and thrust of Q&A is something I find intriguing and enjoyable . . .
This blog has rarely touched on the Calvinism v Arminianism debate that has raged for centuries with no clear cut resolution in sight. I'm just not delusional enough to think that I can weigh into it with any new insight. Truth be known my background is Arminian but I now lean very much in favor of Calvinism with a few remaining question marks and I also think that the epidemic of decisionism that we now see has strong connections to the "ugly side" of Arminianism. To be sure there are some intelligent and articulate arguments from Scripture on both sides and I don't doubt for one minute that there are many genuinely born again people on each side of the fence.
But what does warrant a response is the many ridiculous ill-informed strawman attacks that have been launched against Calvinism in recent times. They are attacks that misrepresent and do great harm to many true servants of God. Monica Dennington who has a fairly prominent youtube channel (with some decent content as far as I can see) is a good example. She recently posted a video calling all Calvinists to repentance. Her critique is so laughable and absurd that there was even a non-calvinist radio station that took her to task. Her argument shows a complete and total ignorance of the issues that are up for debate. Lane Chaplin posted this video courtesy of Chris Rosebrough as a necessary response. It is long but a helpful voice of clarity amidst the confused and damaging rhetoric of many of the ill-founded attacks floating around right now - whichever side you find yourself on . . .
Saturday's post looked at the issue of why the prevalence of postmodernism on the "church landscape" demands that preachers be explicit and clear in what they are saying, expose evil as well as proclaiming the truth, and speak sharply about darkness so as to leave the hearer in no confusion as to what to stay away from. This "eat the fish and spit out the bones" approach is causing damage because undiscerning church goers are vulnerable to subtle heresies that lurk around in many books on the bookshelf of your "modern Christian bookstore". We don't teach children how to handle snakes, we tell them to stay right away from them. Likewise shepherds should be telling their sheep to run away at first sight of a false teaching wolf. Carter Conlon doesn't seem to have this problem . . .
There is little room for confusion with preaching like this. Don't get too comfortable in that warm and fuzzy pew. Well may we love the people where we fellowship, and so we should, but woe unto us if that impinges on our love for the precious Savior Whose Name should never be allowed to be dragged through the mud by another gospel or false teaching that's so coated in truth that we're able to swallow it . . . even a broken clock gets it right twice a day!
The scary thing about living in Denmark and becoming well acquainted with a typical "danish evangelical" is that we must be close to the bottom feeders in the false teaching food chain. The foul emergent postmodernism and church growth philosophy that filters out from mega church suburbia seems to be manifold worse by the time it reaches our shores.
It is scary to listen to Paul Washer's caricature of the state of modern evangelicalism in America as he lays out in his "Shocking Youth Message". What is even more scary is that Paul Washer's caricature would be a vast improvement on the state of the supposed gospel preaching that goes on over here.
Places like Willow Creek (Bill Hybels) and Saddleback (Rick Warren) have created a monster of sorts with no seeming way of domesticating it. Here is the lay of the land as I see it and I welcome your feedback as to whether you think I'm onto something or not.
With people like Robert Schuller pioneering the consumer driven church (where we survey pagans to see what they want in the church) we saw the trend of dumbing down of biblical teaching. A culture of biblically illiterate consumer minded church goers emerged. Smaller churches with little entertainment became the catchment areas for seeker sensitive mega churches. The continual influx of these people concealed the high number of people going out the back door who were bored with the same shallow entertainment week in week out. Making the narrow gate into a wide gate by focussing more on self esteem, success, and sensuality, and less on sin, self denial, and sanctification was certainly one way to draw large crowds.
These large crowds drew attention from leaders in places like Denmark where they sat in the ruins of the reformation pondering how to "revive" their non-existant congregations. Biblical theology had been abandoned on both sides of the Atlantic leading to liberal heresies in Europe and pragmatic methodology in the US. Enamored with the perceived success of the seeker sensitive gurus in the America, people outside the USA have gravitated towards this methodology at the expense of sound theology.
Biblical discernment has become unbelievably low paving the way for people like Brian McLaren and Rob Bell to step out of the church growth trojan horse and say "hey, we've got some new ideas about what the Gospel really means but don't worry, trust us we're orthodox!" William P Young can write a blasphemous book about the Trinity (The Shack) and get rave reviews.
There are still many good and faithful preachers in the USA who are continually proclaiming the truth and turning on the light. But I want to put forward my contention amidst the woeful biblical discernment I'm experiencing here in Europe. I beleive it may be time to preach with greater and greater focus on exposing darkness. The civility Rick Warren longs for is actually becoming the problem over here. Civility coupled with a complete lack of biblical discernment is producing a sub culture of people who say amen to John Macarthur and Joel Osteen. Who download Paul Washer and read the Shack. Who can't tell the difference between the teaching of Rob Bell and Ray Comfort.
I come from Australia, and when I take my five year old daughter there I don't spend time discussing with her the best way to handle snakes - I tell her to stay a million miles away. When we talk about Hitler we don't try and balance the death of 6 million Jews with all those great roads that he built. We call evil what it is. If someone is preaching a false gospel, don't spend time trying to write an even handed review pointing out the virtues as well as the short comings - even a broken clock gets it right twice a day! The Apostle Paul said:
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9).
If a shepherd loves the sheep he will protect them from wolves. A key responsibility for pastors in a time of severe biblical illiteracy is to provide clear lines of demarkation between truth and error, as well as remove the fog of seeming semi-approval that rests between each end of the spectrum. How dare any other gospel come along and try to replace the precious blood of our wonderful Savior. Be like Paul and totally slam any other gospel that tries to pass itself off as the real one; all the while persevering in the true biblical Gospel that God is good, man is evil, God must judge, heaven and hell, Christ the penal substitutionary atonement, and the need for all men everywhere to repent from sin and trust in Jesus!
Charles Leiter (author of the book Justification and Regeneration - the top seller on the Monergism website) also visited Denmark recently with Paul Washer and had plenty of godly wisdom to impart. The subject of church discipline is HUGE. Many churches either don't do it or don't do it biblically. Tolerating sin in the camp is both a reproach on Christ and an unloving way to treat an unrepentant church member. This video is worth hearing for the wonderful illustrations Charles gives - including the story of when he had to subject his own daughter to biblical church discipline.
What a blessing it was to have Paul Washer and Charles Leiter minister to us in Denmark which is a land of seemingly unendless apostacy. Against that dark background shines great and faithful preaching about the One True God. Without a doubt feminist ideology has ravaged the Western European culture to the extent that it is hard to find men who are willing to beat their fists at the table of contention and stand for clear objective truth. It is one thing to have our eyes opened to the truth of the biblical worldview, it is another thing altogether to man up and act upon it. This is a call to men to rise up!
I am currently reading the book "In My Place Condemned He Stood" by JI Packer and Mark Dever and it is just loaded with powerful truths about the Cross and what it is really all about. On this Sunday, the Lord's day, what better thing to do than to meditate on the Cross of Christ and what it means, namely Penal Substitutionary Atonement (a doctrine currently under deceptive attack by emergents, liberals, and some "church growth" exponents). You are about to be blessed with some precious insight from the pen of JI Packer:
How then did the cross actually redeem us, through Jesus' death? By reconciling us to God, ending the alienation and estrangement that were previously there, linking God and us together in new harmony, replacing enmity between us with friendship and peace, by means of the putting away of our sins (Rom 5:11, Col 1:19-22).
So how did the cross actually reconcile us to God, and God to us? By being a propitiation, ending God's judicial wrath against us (Rom 3:24).
And how did the cross actually propitiate God? By being an event of substitution, whereby at the Father's will the sinless Son bore the retribution due to us guilty ones (2Cor 5:21, Gal 3:13, Col 2:14).
For Paul, this substitution, Christ bearing our penalty in our place, is the essence of the atonement. Certainly, he celebrates the cross as a victory over the forces of evil on our behalf (Col 2:15) and as a motivating revelation of the love of God toward us (2Cor 5:14-15), but if it had not been an event of penal substitution, it would not for him have been either of these. As Galatians 2:20 declares, his life of responsive faith was wholly formed and driven by the knowledge that his Savior had revealed divine love to him by giving Himself to die on the cross in order to save him.
Accordingly, this text starts to show us how faith in Christ, our penal substitute, should be shaping our own lives today. Here is my analysis of insights basic to personal religion that faith in Christ as one's penal substitute yields.
1. God, in Denney's phrase, "condones nothing", but judges all sin as it deserves: which Scripture affirms, and my conscience confirms, to be right. 2. My sins merit ultimate penal suffering and rejection from God's presence (conscience also confirms this), and nothing I do can blot them out. 3. The penalty due to me for my sins, whatever it was, was paid for me by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in His death on the cross. 4. Because this is so, I thorugh faith in Him am made "the righteousness of God in Him", ie, I am justified; pardon, acceptance, and sonship to God, become mine. 5. Christ's death for me is my sole ground of hope before God. "If He fulfilled not justice, I must; if He underwent not wrath, I must to eternity" (John Owen). 6. My faith in Christ is god's own gift to me, given in virture of Christ's death for me. 7. Christ's death for me guarantees my preservation to glory. 8. Christ's death for me is the measure and pledge of the love of the Father and the Son to me. 9. Christ's death for me calls and constrains me to trust, to worship, to love and to serve.
Only when these nine truths have taken root and grow in the heart will anyone be fully alive to God.
A lawyer, having completed his argument, may declare that here he rests his case. I, having surveyed the penal substitutionary sacrifice of Christ afresh, now reaffirm that here I rest my hope. So, I believe, will all truly faithful believers.
In recent years great strides in biblical theology and contemporary canonical exegesis have brought new precision to our grasp of the Bible's overall story of how God's plan to bless Israel, and through Israel the world, came to it's climax in and through Christ. But I do not see how it can be denied that each New Testamant book, whatever other job it may be doing, has in view, one way or another, Luther's primary question: how may a weak, perverse, and guilty sinner find a gracious God? Nor can it be denied that real Christianity only really starts when that discovery is made. And to the extent that modern developments, by filling our horizon with the great metanarrative, distract us from pursuing Luther's question in personal terms, they hinder as well as help in our appreciation of the gospel.
The church is and will always be at its healthiest when every Christian can line up with every other Christian to sing PP Bliss's simple words:
Bearing shame and scoffing rude In my place condemned He stood, Sealed my pardon with His blood - Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
The great dilemna of hearing from Paul Washer. I'm left shattered, devastated, convicted, and panting for more! I just had to post some more after my previous post. We just had the wonderful priveledge of hosting brother Paul in Denmark and we all love him dearly. No doubt he is a thunderous preacher, but he is also a man who is deeply gracious and compassionate, one who weeps for the lost and thirsts for God's glory. He is just a man, a broken man, and it is wonderful to see the glory God can gain through crushed human flesh.
Some preachers think that salvation is the launch pad that allows Christians to leave it behind as they soar off into far greater things. This is a preacher who understands that it's not about going further but it is about going deeper. What subject could possibly transcend the the glorious unsearchable riches purchased on the hill of Calvary . . .
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" (Romans 10:14-15)
We have been so priveledged in Denmark with the recent visit of Paul Washer and Charles Leiter (the author of Justification and Regeneration). To be able to sit under such wonderful godly teaching in such an apostate land was like a dehydrated man taking a drink from a fire hydrant. The videos from all their sessions can now be viewed on Sermon Audio and are so very much worth the view. Much of the teaching focussed on the fundamentals of a biblical church and getting the Gospel right.
This sermon is a wonderful contrast to Rob Bell's pathetic and disgraceful attempt at preaching/distorting the gospel as shown two days ago. It also features a Danish translator which stretches out the time but gives the listener the opportunity to digest the sheer weight of Paul Washer's message. So take the time to listen to a man who loves to glorify God and earnestly desires to see sinful men come to saving faith. So much so that he does not shy away from proclaiming the "hard truths" of the once for all delivered faith.
Rob Bell really makes me so mad! How can he merchandise so much heresy and humanism and package it as Christianity? There are people who may say "you shouldn't criticize a brother". To which I say - if he preaches another gospel he is not my brother (Galatians 1:8-9). There are "shepherds" who say "don't be critical, just focus on preaching the truth yourself". To which I respond that Shepherds have two primary jobs - 1. to feed the sheep and 2. to protect them from wolves. The prominence of Rob Bell's teaching in "Christian circles" is a good barometer of how many church leaders are failing on both counts.
False teaching continues to thrive amidst the deafening silence of the modern seeker sensitive pastors. But their failure to warn against wolves is only part of the story. If their flocks were well fed on the truth of God's Word then they could spot a false gospel against the plumline of biblical truth. Heretics like Rob Bell thrive in a climate of severe biblical illiteracy and sissy boy seeker sensitive pastors who can't even say boo to a big bad wolf (or in this case a wolf with trendy glasses).
Watch this video for yourself and see how Bell redefines the gospel. Pay close attention to how much Rob Bell focuses on the character and nature of God, man's depravity, judgment, eternal life, eternal punishment, Christ's atoning work on the cross, and our need to repent and trust in Christ . . .
So Rob, eleven minutes of trying to sprout Yoda like wisdom without any mention of God's Holiness, man's depravity, judgment, eternity, hell, the atonement, or our need to repent from sin and trust the wonderful Savior. And then to top it all off you say that "you are the gospel".
Rob Bell, you are an enemy of the True Gospel. The beautiful Gospel about wretched hell deserving sinners being reconciled to a Holy and Just God Who demonstrated His immense love in dying in the place of sinners. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (II Corinthians 5:21). How dare you trample over these beautiful Scriptural truths and change the wonderful message about forgiveness of sin, salvation from wrath, imputed righteousness, and eternal life into belittling the exclusivity of Christ and massaging people's self esteem.
Preacher, if you love Christ then be zealous for His Gospel and warn the sheep to stay away from wolves by branding heretics like Rob Bell. Brothers and sisters, warn others with vigilance, preach the true Gospel, and plead with your local Christian bookstores to remove this post-modern poison off their bookshelves. Here is a presentation I did in my old home church exposing Rob Bell (for those of you who haven't already seen it!) . . .
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive (Romans 16:17-18).
Coming Monday - Paul Washer preaches the true Gospel in Denmark!