OK, time for more dialogue today from my online discussion with Joel A'Bell who is the executive pastor at Hillsong Church in Sydney. But before I do I should tie up one lose end left over from an earlier post in this series. In Part 4 of this series I asked a question that I failed to answer in Part 5. I apologize for this oversight although I think the answer was pretty obvious from just a casual glance at the text from John 4. It would seem that playing fast and loose with the Word of God is becoming a very disturbing trend and theme in the Hillsong culture. The video excerpt used as a companion to Joel A'Bell's message is taken from a Jesus film which recounts Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well as found in John chapter 4. If you watch the video it is pretty much a word for word re-enactment of the Biblical text . . . except that they spliced out a part! Which part? You guessed it - the part where Jesus exposes the woman's adulterous practices. I will not point the finger directly at Joel A'Bell in this instance as he may well be unaware of the final video product (as it was done at a church that he was visiting). But this disturbing trend serves as a timely reminder that we are called to submit to the Scripture. The Scripture is never to be subservient to the agenda of the guy in the sheep-suit.
Anyway, let's pick up my conversation from where Joel responded to my comments regarding his request for a salvation prayer formula (read here if you want your memory refreshed). Before I post Joel's comments I would also like to give Pastor Joel A'Bell the credit for his willingness to respond to me - thank you very much Pastor Joel for extending me this courtesy. This is what Joel had to say:
Cameron, I agree with your list so I don't understand what the problem is. It should be noted that you couldn't merely say it was the next verse in Gal 1 which was my whole point. You had to study many Scripture to come up with your summary. I proclaim the same gospel you speak of but you say I don't. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all it's truth. Sometimes you have an hour to explain the gospel, other times, only minutes. What matters most is not specific words but people being saved by God's amazing grace.
If there is one thing that drives me nuts it is postmodernism. When you express something that is the polar opposite of what you are trying to refute and the postmodernist seems to think that the two opposing factions are saying the same thing "in different ways". The difficulty here is that instead of contending for his view Joel seems to be trying to blur the lines of distinction by assering that he agrees with me and preaches the same message. I wrote again:
Joel, if you agree with me on the Gospel then please bring me an audio file of a faithful Gospel presentation coming out of Hillsong. I have heard many sermons by Brian Houston and Hillsong conference guests over the years and I am yet to hear a Gospel presentation that is faithful to what I outlined (which you say you agree with). So send me the link or audio file and I will gladly stand corrected. But even if someone gets it right sometimes, that still does not excuse perverting the gospel on other occasions. For example, a failure to talk about sin and repentance is perverting the Gospel.
Joseph De Araujo (who appeared earlier in this series) chimed back into the conversation and said:
Cameron, I'm not sure what your expectation of the 'text book' altar call is. My view is that if someone is convicted by the spirit, comes forward and 'chooses Jesus' then he/she is then closer to salvation and is then also open to all education about the gospel in full. They can accept Jesus and assure their salvation and then choose to be baptised in water. I don't see how it's preaching a different gospel. Printing & publishing the gospel is one thing, that must be correct in full, but giving an altar call for people who want to have a relationship with Christ without giving the full salvation message?
Back to the altar call/salvation prayer formula again. It would seem that is the key they see in regenerating a lost individual who is "dead in sin" (Ephesians 2:1). Joel then got back into the ring to further defend himself:
I agree with gospel points (even though it was missing some) above and yet you continue to accuse. Just listen to any appeal for salvation that I give, which is most weekends. The gospel is preached in Hillsong Church and the thousands of new and longstanding Christians are testimony to that. If you are daring to question the validity of the salvation of thousands of people who came to Christ through the ministry of Hillsong then it is very clear what your intensions are.
Could someone please explain to me why it is that so many Hillsong defenders (as well as Rick Warren defenders and Rob Bell defenders etc. etc.) seem to think that they can prove that they preach the Gospel rightly by saying that they do. I thought we substantiate claims in the real world. I wrote again to Joel:
Joel, all I asked you for last time was to bring forward one audio file of a sound biblical presentation of the gospel that has been preached at Hillsong. It is a sincere question and I will be sincerely happy if you can show one to me. It shouldn't be difficult considering the many thousands of souls that get saved at Hillsong church.
More to come . . .
Go On To Part 7
Go Back To Part 5
Go Back To Part 1