After the events that transpired in my previous post I eventually received some feedback from one of the camp leaders. I am posting some of this correspondence today because I believe it may be helpful in recognizing the winds of pragmatism, popular psychology, and self esteem philosophy that are blowing hard in opposition to straightforward biblical theology. This is a pervasive problem and the following correspondence is in no way meant to be a shot at the individual who wrote the mail. His approach is merely a product of these prevailing winds in modern evangelicalism, and perhaps even more so, within the emergent movement. The correspondence in question contains some personal discussion which is unnecessary in this forum and as such, I am posting small portions in italics followed by my responses in bold and my quotations in bold italics. There is also some additional commentary in CAPITALS.
I am a fan of Ray Comfort whom you also quote on your webpage, so in many ways I personally agree on your teaching but there are also something that I do not agree on. I do like that you are firm and direct in your preaching but when you are speaking such a strong message to young people then I would say that you have to talk a lot more grace as well.
I spoke more about God's grace than any other speaker I heard at the camp. Also remember that the first message (though it did focus on the cross) plowed the soil for the second message which was about the meaning of the cross (my favorite subject). What is grace? It is God's undeserved favor. Why don't we deserve it? Because we are people who have sinned wickedly against a good God and we deserve his fierce wrath. God doesn't love people for who they are, He loves them inspite of who they are. Anyone who claims to preach the grace of God without preaching the wrath of God is a liar or deceived. Grace has no meaning without the context of God's wrath. That is why Paul Washer and Ray Comfort are some of the strongest grace preachers I have ever heard.
Martin Luther said in his Galatian commentaries that:
Satan the god of all dissension stirs up daily new sects. And last of all which of all others I should never have foreseen or once suspected, he has raised up a sect such as teach that men should not be terrified by the law, but gently exhorted by the preaching of the grace of Christ.
The grace of God is one of the most precious subjects I love to talk about. The more sin hardened a culture is the more their hearts need to be plowed with the law of God before they can ever see His grace. Try asking someone if they think that it would be fair and reasonable for a good God to damn them to hell? Try asking most church-goers. Few in Denmark say yes to this and that is exactly the problem. If you can't see the problem how can you ever see the solution of God's grace. Furthermore how will it ever become meaningful? The grace of God is clearly seen in the Christ's substitutionary death on the cross in which he bore the sin of the sinner so that the sinner can bare the righteousness of Christ. How can that ever have any value to a person who cannot see their own unrighteousness.
One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner." And Jesus answering said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he answered, "Say it, Teacher."
"A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly." Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little." (Luke 7:37-47)
Many of our teenagers are not brought up in Christian families and do not automatically know what the Love of God means or Gods grace just by a preacher saying Jesus died for you, because he loves you. When that sentence is comming right after 40 min. of hell fire brimstone then it is difficult to be encouraged to come to the cross with your sins.
I would also contend that it was not 40 minutes of hellfire preaching. Hell was one of many subjects I discussed. The reason many notice it is because they almost never hear about it.
I want them to acknowledge that sin is wrong and is having the consequence of seperating us from God
Hell is not separation from God. Those in hell are tormented in the presence of Christ:
And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name." (Revelation 14:9-11)
I also want to preach a thousand times that Jesus is the friend of sinners and that His Love is never failing and is never ending. It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. That is what the Bible teaches and that is what I experience.
The kindness of God that leads to repentance is actually a part of a verse in Romans 2. The context is that God's kindness is defined in His patience and forbearance - that He delays His wrath giving us time to repent. That is exactly what I was preaching. Furthermore, Paul goes onto tell the Corinthians that godly sorrow (sorry because I sinned against God) leads to repentance but worldly sorrow (sorry because of the consequences) leads to death. If we want to see true repentance we need to cultivate godly sorrow and that is done by starting with preaching the Holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, and the coming judgment which is the sequence Paul follows in his letter to the Romans.
Luther himself said that:
The first duty of the Gospel preacher is to declare God's moral law and to show the nature of sin.
Paul Washer had this to say (click here) on the subject.
Actually I think that you could have an even stronger message by diving into the individual sins and how they are changing our chraracter and in that way isolating us from both God and people. Really specify the nature of sin and then use a lot of time on how we as the body of Christ can help each other instead with discipleship to walk to the cross, confess our sin and turn away from it.
Thank you for this critique. It is difficult with the limited time to delve into some of these issues. But I made a conscious decision to address our personal responsibility to cry out to God in brokenness and desperate need. We can certainly help other believers in their war against sin. But those who have not been regenerated by the Holy Spirit need that before any human being can provide any Spiritual help. Until we are regenerated the Scripture pronounces us dead in trespasses and sin and in need of a resurrection. And there were clearly people there in the meeting who were not Christians.
As I mentioned, I am encouraged that you have planted your own church, but there is also a part of me that is concerned when a Christian brother like you won't attend and strengthen existing churches.
You don't know the full story here so I will inform you about what has taken place and why we planted a church. Since moving to Denmark my family and I have attended and visited a lot of different "churches". The local Pentecostal pastor did not want me talking to anyone about sin and refused to even discuss it over the Scriptures. The local Baptist church did not even believe that the Bible is God's inspired Word. The Methodist pastor turned out to be a universalist (everyone goes to heaven). The Inner Mission Lutherans taught my daughter that it was baptism that would save her. And the Lutheran priest supported homosexual marriage. I am a reasonable man but these are not small issues. I can work with people, I can submit to authority, I can lay down my agenda for the sake of unity. But truth must never be sacrificed at the altar of unity.
Ultimately, this is about the Gospel. In all my travels to many different churches for over 3 years in Denmark I have only ever heard three faithful Gospel proclamations - two were by visiting preachers and the third guy was never allowed to preach again. I don't say this lightly - this is a disaster! There is no more pressing matter in Denmark right now that Gospel purity and Gospel proclamation. According to Luther and the reformers, any church that does not preach the Gospel and faithfully teach the Bible is not a church. For the sake of being a godly husband and father, for the sake of obeying God's command to integrate into a community of believers - it was necessary to plant a church. I would love for you to prove me wrong and send me audios of faithful gospel preaching around Denmark. If you do this I will gladly promote these churches and do everything I can to work together with them. (AS USUAL THIS CHALLENGE WAS NEVER TAKEN UP)
I know that Christians will never agree 100% on doctrine and teaching but we are still called to unity with one another. We also need unity to get a revival to our nation.
I attend a Reformed Baptist church but I never used a moment during the camp to argue my position on baptism with Lutherans. Why - for the sake of unity. But when it comes to the Gospel there can be no compromise. Not preaching the Gospel, or changing it, is a sure way to avoid revival. I long for revival which is why I poured my heart out at the camp.
(AT THIS POINT THE WRITER CHOOSES NOT TO BIBLICALLY CRITIQUE BUT RATHER, TO CRITIQUE ONE OF MY FRIENDS CALLED RENE. A FRIEND WHOM I HAD NEVER MENTIONED AND COULD ONLY HAVE BEEN KNOWN THROUGH HIS OWN INVESTIGATION)
I have often read articles from Rene and felt very sad and frustrated afterwards. There are roughly no righteous christians on the planet besides him. Where is the UNITY in Christ ?????
I don't mind you criticizing my friend Rene but you should not do this unless you are willing to back up what you are saying about him. You need to give me some examples of what Rene has said that was wrong or untrue. I promise you, if you can show me something Rene said that was false or unbiblical then I will speak with him and get him to remove it from his blog and get him to make a public apology (I have already spoken with Rene and he has agreed to this challenge). And also, please show me where Rene has proclaimed himself as someone more righteous than anyone else.
(OBVIOUSLY, TAKING A SHOT AT RENE WAS EASIER THAN BACKING IT UP - AGAIN HE REFUSED TO RESPOND AND GIVE EVEN ONE EXAMPLE ON WHICH TO BASE HIS ACCUSATION)
You also asked "Where is the UNITY in Christ". To that I would have to say that my experience of Rene is that he is someone who fights for unity in the way Paul commanded in Romans 16:17:
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
Paul here is saying that we should "mark" or point out false teachers because it is they who cause division (ie destroy Christian unity) by teaching doctrine contrary to Scripture. Take Brian McLaren for example who was being heavily promoted at your camp. Rene is pointing him out as a false teacher because he denies the atonement, denies that Jesus is the only way, denies a literal Hell, and denies the authority of Scripture. These are teachings that cause division among true Christians and are particularly harmful to our impressionable youth. I would ask your fellow leaders about their concern for Christian unity when they promote books by authors who preach a different gospel to the true Gospel found in Scripture. When Rene is one of the few people willing to point out heretics like McLaren (all the while comparing it to the true Gospel), he becomes one of the few people fighting for true Christian unity.
Furthermore, I even heard some leaders at the camp have an open discussion with the youth where they answered questions. Where Scripture had a clear cut answer I heard one of them give his own opinion instead which was directly translated "there are no right or wrong answers to this question". This sort of talk does not promote unity - it is postmodern anarchy.
We do what is possible and God what is impossible
Actually, Jesus said "without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
Go On To Part 19
Go Back To Part 17
Go Back To Part 1
Transcript: The Briefing 12-19-14
54 minutes ago