Thursday, December 20, 2007

Criticism, & Some Praise for "Unchristian"

Remember that book I mentioned a few weeks back called, "Unchristian"? It appears that my first blogpost about the book was tracked by one of the author's "Summize" websites.

They're watching me!

Well, since I didn't get into any trouble (yet) for quoting extensively from the book in that first post, perhaps it might be okay to quote more today.

I did promise to share some of the good things that I found within the book. However, one problem that I found is that there aren't many to report. If I were to do a book review, my evaluation would most likely be quite negative. Why? Several reasons.

First, in chapter 2 (entitled, "Discovering Unchristian Faith") the definitions given for "evangelical," "born-again," and just plain "Christianity" were left up to the young people being asked questions for the survey to define! Isn't that a bit odd? Even the authors admit that this led to a "great deal of confusion."

Duh!!!!

With this in mind, they asked "Outsiders" (the term they gave to non-Christians) how they perceive the Christians within these categories.

The chart is so skewed that I question it's validity. In fact, the validity of most of the charts are questionable! The following is just one example.







The percent of outsiders, ages 16-29 equaled a sample size of 440 people.

1. Know of/aware of

a. Christianity = NA (not applicable? Why??)
b. Evangelical Christians = 57%
c. Born-Again Christians = 86%

2. Have bad impression

a. Christianity = 38%
b. Evangelical Christians = 49%
c. Born-Again Christians = 35%

3. Have neutral impression

a. Christianity = 45%
b. Evangelical Christians = 48%
c. Born-Again Christians = 55%

4. Have good impression

a. Christianity = 16%
b. Evangelical Christians = 3%
c. Born-Again Christians = 10%


It is sad and sobering to realize that one-third of young outsiders said that Christianity represents, as the book informs, "a negative image with which they would not want to be associated."







Furthermore, one out of every six young outsiders (17 percent) indicates that he or she maintains "very bad" perceptions of the Christian faith. Though these hard-core critics represent a minority of young outsiders, this group is at least three times larger than it was just a decade ago.


I haven't finished reading the book yet, but from glancing through the final few chapters I doubt that I will find one mention that the mainstream media's negative output regarding the Christian "religion" in general. I also highly doubt that the authors considered that the harsh and negative representation of certain Christian leaders (usually designated by the negative label of "The Religious Right") in particular, could have had a severely negative influence towards the current perceptions that these young people hold!

Note the next paragraph in the chapter on this topic:







Outsiders direct their skepticism toward all things Christian: the faith itself, the people who profess it, the Bible, and Jesus Christ. Frankly, their feelings toward all of these are interwoven. Still, don't assume that each of these four elements is perceived on equal footing - young outsiders are most likely to be frustrated with present-day expressions of Christianity, followed by their aggravation with Christians.


My question to the authors would be what do you expect?? Jesus himself told us that this would happen!


Mat 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Luk 6:22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you [from their company], and shall reproach [you], and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.

Luk 6:27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

Jhn 7:7 The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.

Jhn 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before [it hated] you.

1Jo 3:13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
The next paragraph in chapter 2 tells us the more likely reason why the "outsiders" hate Christians. However, the authors don't seem to make the connection between what (and why) outsiders' "impressions" of Christians are negative. Could it have something to do with their uninformed impressions about the Bible and their ignorance regarding Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?


Their impressions of the Bible are mixed: most think it has good values, but only three out of ten believe that it is accurate in all the principles it teaches. And Jesus draws an interesting set of reactions. Jesus receives outsiders' most favorable feelings, but even the clarity of his image has eroded among young people. They are more likely than previous generations to believe he committed sins; they are also more likely to believe that people can live a meaningful life without him.


That phrase, "the clarity of his (Jesus') image has eroded among young people" is truly a sad state of affairs. However, unlike the two authors viewpoints and opinions on this issue (namely, blaming orthodox, biblically based Christian believers), I think it has more to do with the lack of biblical knowledge among these people! In addition, could such lack of clarity be the result of the fact that there is so much confusion among liberal left Christian circles because of their lack of biblical knowledge?

What's more, the authors own statistics reveal that I am correct about this.

In chapter 4 (entitled "Get Saved!), there is a chart that represents the



"Wide but Not Deep-Americans' Commitment to Christianity."

The chart shows that "Mosaics and Busters" [M & B] (labels given to ages 18 - 41):

1. Have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important = 65%

"Boomers and Elders" [B & E] (ages 42+)

1. Have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important = 73%

2. Absolutely committed to the Christian faith [M & B] = 29%

2. Absolutely committed to the Christian faith [B & E] = 48%

3. Possess a biblical worldview [M & B] = 3%

3. Possess a biblical worldview [B & E] = 9%


Why is there such a small percentage of those who hold a biblical worldview? We get our answer from Jesus himself when we read what Jesus said to the Father in his prayer:

Jhn 17:14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.


Jhn 17:15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.


Jhn 17:16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.


Jhn 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

I noticed that the authors talk about urging those who call themselves Christians towards "spiritual depth." I don't see them emphasizing the need for repentance and receiving the Holy Spirit of God indwelling the soul of the believer.

In this particular chapter (chapter 4 - "Get Saved"), the authors rail against not only the ways, means, and methods utilized by traditional Christians and churches who emphasize "getting saved," but it appears that they are against the concept of conversion altogether! This is truly astonishing to me! They seem more pleased with Christians who express an "emotional connection" to Jesus; and then, instead of recognizing all of our need for transformation (as the Scriptures so attest), they simply emphasize the need for us to express more than a "one-dimensional" understanding of him (Jesus).

What is confusing, though, is that in the next paragraph the authors suggest that making "a decision for Christ" is "lightweight" exposure to Christianity where the decision is portrayed as "simple and costless."

This makes me wonder whether or not the authors, themselves, know the difference between mainstream Christians and born-again, evangelical Christians!

Next, they claim that they want to see "young adults who make emotional commitments" to Christ to try and facilitate "significant growth in the 3 percent who have a biblical worldview." Yet, they reject the very means by which we need to promote the biblical worldview. What do I mean by this?

I recall reading that one of the authors thinks that there are no judgments in the Bible. Thus, we are not to utilize any judgment in our evangelism.

Huh???

Then, how, may I ask, do they explain Jesus' own words in the following verses?

Jhn 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Jhn 3:20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

Confused yet?

I am!

This leads to my second reason for doubting the validity of what is espoused in this book. It could be regarded as even more important than the first reason stated above. Why? Because it explains why there is so much confusion within the pages of this book! What is this element that exists and causes such confusion?

It is the plethora of relativism that can be found amongst its pages!

Greg Koukl, one of the best Christian Apologetics leaders and teachers of our time would have a field day reviewing and refuting much of the relativistic perpectives included throughout this book!

Found another blogger who had some concerns about the book, too:


The book seems to have quite a few folks from the emerging-church/religious-left/trendy-Christian perspective, like Dan Kimball, Brian McLaren, Andy Stanley, and Jim Wallis. Why are we not hearing from anyone like David Jeremiah, John MacArthur, John Piper, or Chuck Swindoll? Were any of them asked to participate (did they decline if they were?), or do Kinnaman and Lyons think they have nothing to say (or that what they say is irrelevant)?

Who is actually guilty of creating these stereotypes? Paul & Jan and other creeps on TBN, or the Lutheran pastor down the street? Who is to blame?

Do Kinnaman and Lyons see any "negative perceptions" as being irreversible? For example, Jesus sounded like He was making an exclusive claim by saying, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father, but by me." Do Kinnaman and Lyons think that Jesus was being exclusive, or, is following Jesus just one of many paths to God?

What do Kinnaman and Lyons think Jesus meant when He said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand?" What should we repent of?


I know. By now you are probably wondering when will I get around to sharing something good about this book. It's coming!

There were snippets of good thoughts in the first few chapters. However, it wasn't until the sixth chapter (ironically labeled "Sheltered") where I found an entire commentary that I could agree with.


The author of this commentary is John Stott - rector emeritus, All Souls Church, London.

A Call To Radical Discipleship

If we belong to Jesus Christ, we have a double calling in relation to the world. On the one hand, we are to live, serve, and witness in the world and not try to escape from it. On the other hand, we are to avoid being contaminated by the world.

So we have no liberty either to preserve our holiness by escaping from the world or to sacrifice our holiness by conforming to the world.

Escapism and conformism are both forbidden to us. This is one of the major themes of the whole Bible, namely that God is calling out a people for himself and is summoning us to be different from everybody else. "Be holy," he says to us, "because I am holy."

This foundational theme recurs in all four main sections of Scripture - the law, the prophets, the teaching of Jesus, and the teaching of the apostles. Let me give you an example from each. Take the law. God said to the people through Moses: "You must not do as they do in the land of Egypt where you used to live, nor as they do in the land of Canaan to which I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God" (Lev. 18:3-4). Similarly god complains through Ezekiel, "You have not followed my decrees, by have conformed to the standards of the nations around you" (Ezekiel 11:12).

It is similar in the New Testament. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of the hypocrites and the pagans and added: "Do not be like them" (Matt. 6:8). Finally, the apostle Paul could write to the Romans: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed" (Rom. 12:2).

Here then is God's call to a radical discipleship, to a radical nonconformism to the surrounding culture. It is a call to develop a Christian counterculture.

The followers of Jesus, for example, are not to give in to pluralism, which denies the uniqueness and lordship of Jesus, nor be sucked into materialism or become led astray into ethical relativism, which says there are no moral absolutes.

This is God's call to his people to be different. We are not to be like reeds shaken by the wind, as Jesus said, but to be like rocks in a mountain stream; not to be like fish floating with the stream, but to swim against the stream - even the cultural mainstream.

We are faced, in fact, with two cultures, two value systems, two standards, and two lifestyles. Which shall we choose? If we are not to be like chameleons, changing color to suit our surroundings, what are we to be like?

The answer is that we are to be like Christ. The eternal and ultimate purpose of God by his Spirit is to make us like Christ.

- John Stott



*******to be continued*******

Note: Check back for a second commentary quote (written by Emergent church leader, Brian McLaren) which puts forth views that are, unfortunately, quite the opposite of what John Stott has written here.

*******
Update:
I'm back.
The following is a commentary written by Brian McLaren that appeared in chapter 7 entitled "Too Political."

This chapter nearly sent me over the top! Quips like "Christians rely too heavily on political influence" is considered "unChristian," while "We are cautious not to place too much emphasis on politics" is considered "Christlike." What I would like to know is...says whom??

Then, the authors have the nerve to say the following:


Christians seem to fall on two sides of the path: too political or too apolitical. It is important to find an appropriate balance - neither ignorant and silent nor relying too heavily on political solutions to societal problems.


Obviously, these two authors have the "see no evil," "hear no evil," "speak no evil" mentality when it comes to the radical homosexual agenda being forced upon Christian believers.

Don't they know how important groups like The Alliance Defense Fund has become in the war against traditional marriage? Are they not aware of the gay indoctrination going on in public schools? Do they care? Apparently not. They devote an entire chapter (5) to describing how Christians show contempt for gays and lesbians. They even labeled it "Antihomosexual." But guess what? There is absolutely NO MENTION of those who have overcome homosexual behavior and identity through the saving grace and transformation that can be found through being born-again in Jesus Christ.

Why is that?

Probably because it doesn't fit in with their political agenda and views...that's why. To a liberal left Christian advocate, there is no such thing as a genuine, happy, saved by grace ex-homosexual.

Sorry. Didn't mean to go off on that tangent. It just strikes me as so disingenuous when Christians like these authors label themselves as "tolerant and loving," yet view those who have ministries that exist to help homosexuals overcome unwanted sexual behavior and attraction as "anti-homosexual."

Jesus said, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world (put in your idol or sinful endeavors) and lose his own soul?"

Ironically, the authors then state:


unChristian: Christians get enamored with politics.
Christlike: There is nothing gained by winning elections if we lose our soul in the process.

Involvement in politics is seductive.


So I must ask the authors, what ISN'T SEDUCTIVE ABOUT THE HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA AND INDOCTRINATION GOING ON IN THE MEDIA, SCHOOLS AND POLITICAL ARENA?? WHAT ABOUT THE GAY "CHRISTIAN" MOVEMENT THAT WANTS TO SILENCE THOSE WHO HOLD TO BIBLICAL DOCTRINE REGARDING HOMOSEXUAL BEHAVIOR IS SIN AND AN ABOMINATION TO GOD?

Oh...it gets better. You are gonna love the next one:


unChristian: Christians drown out and demonize the voices of others.

Christlike: Respect our enemies and be aware of our capacity for myopia.


Guys...you need to take that myopia concept to heart and apply it to yourselves!! Watch the news on any given night and you will see how much "drowning out" and "demonizing" is going on against the traditional Christians.

Want a current example? How about the fact that Mike Huckabee can't even deliver a commercial message that stresses the fact that we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas? Why is his wishing everyone a "Merry Christmas" considered "offensive?"

It's so ridiculous!

Sheesh!

The authors go on and discuss some gibberish about how Christians "do not respect leaders whose political viewpoint is different from their own" and that the "Christlike" way is "respect and listen to our leaders and pray for them."

Where have these guys been over the last 7 years? Have they not noticed the leftists constantly bashing President Bush...a Christian??

Okay. On to the original subject of this update.


Changing The Perceptions

Gaining The World, Losing The Soul by Brian McLaren

From a vantage point further in the future, I think that an honest diagnosis will tell the truth aboutr the pivotal role the Religious Right has played in these depressing statistics. In the aftermath of the Religious Right's ascendancy, it is not an accident that "antihomosexual" is the number one perception of Christians in America these days, followed closely by "judgmental" and "hypocritical" and "insensitive." Young people today could, if we had taken a wiser path for the last few decades, think "antipoverty" or "pro-environment" or "pro-fidelity" or "antiviolence" when they hear "Christian" or "evangelical." But because of the path influential people have taken over the last thirty or so, what young people think of the Religious Right is what they think about evangelicals and even Christians in general.

That's why some of us believe that leaders in the Religious Right have, in a classic case of gaining the world and losing the soul, successfully gained political clout but helped lose our next generation.

But even so, a diagnosis of the evaporation of Christian commitment in the West and a prescription about how to respoind must go deeper than complaining about the mistakes of the Religious Right. There are many factors, and they run deep. As for prescriptions, yes, we need more Bible - but we also need a better, more holistic and profound understanding of the Bible and what it says about justice, compassion, the future, power, poverty, money, war, sex, and the kingdom of God. Yes, we need more maturity - but we also need a better and more holistic maturity, a maturity willing to face the historic and social realities of our so-called Christian past: a past that includes anti-Semitism, racism, chauvinism, holocaust, colonialism, apartheid, slavery, attempted genocide of native peoples, and much else that is ugly and calls not for exuses and minimization but for forthright repentance. Yes, we need more discernment that goes beyond name-calling and making pronouncements on two or three issues.

The data presented here can help us greatly in this regard, prompting us to discern how deep and serious the problems are, so that our missional engagement in the coming years won't be more of the same.
- Brian McLaren
founding member, emergentvillage.com
Comments?

12 comments:

Rich Barrett said...

I don't understand your defensive tone.

I think the authors intent is not to focus blame, but rather to draw attention to the fact that Christians have a serious image problem these days. We can all agree that's a problem--because if we're to be like Christ we have to reckon with the fact that sinners felt grace and acceptance in his presence. Do they feel the same way around us?

Christinewjc said...

Hi Rich,

May I ask you this. When did sinners feel grace and acceptance in Christ's presence?

Here's a hint.

The first words that Jesus used when he started his three year ministry on earth were:

Mat 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

What did the first followers of Christ do?

Mar 6:12 And they went out, and preached that men should repent.

Mar 1:15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

Today's emergent church methods want to skip over the "bad news" of the gospel (the need to repent of sins) and only share the Good News of grace and love. Yet, Jesus himself told us the importance, and our need to repent.

Also, the point that I was trying to make in this blogpost is the fact that the authors may have gotten the reasons why, as you stated, "Christians have a serious image problem these days."

But, of course, you are entitled to your own opinion.

Matt W. said...

Hi Christine,
I didn't see anyplace where you took a defensive tone, but anyway, I wrote a fairly length comment earlier, but due to some sort of blogger glitch it wouldn't post and then *poof* it was gone. So I'll try again.

This comment will be differant since I'm going to start off replying to Rich. In answer to your question, no, the authors intent was not to draw attention to Christians image problem, in fact that is a differant topic entirely. The authors point was trying to make Christianity a feel good religion, instead of what it is, the very Truth of God.

"From a vantage point further in the future, I think that an honest diagnosis will tell the truth aboutr the pivotal role the Religious Right has played in these depressing statistics. In the aftermath of the Religious Right's ascendancy, it is not an accident that "antihomosexual" is the number one perception of Christians in America these days, followed closely by "judgmental" and "hypocritical" and "insensitive." Young people today could, if we had taken a wiser path for the last few decades, think "antipoverty" or "pro-environment" or "pro-fidelity" or "antiviolence" when they hear "Christian" or "evangelical." But because of the path influential people have taken over the last thirty or so, what young people think of the Religious Right is what they think about evangelicals and even Christians in general."

Just take a hard look at the portion quoted above and you will see that it's not really about an image problem, it's about turning The Church into "Church Lite." This author is hurting Christians by furthering the myth that Christians are, as a group, "anithomosexual" when the fact is that we are, as is God, Anithomosexuality, which is NOT the same thing. Have there been issues with hypocracy in the past, sure, are some Christians insensitive, unfortunately, yes. And are some judgemental? Not as many as this guy would have you believe. The fact is that if you take a stand for Christ, and are willing to call sin what it really is, you will be labled judgemental, it's a buzz word, and excuse to validate an "anything goes" culture, cause if you stand for anything, and especially against anything you are judmental. And as for this nonsense about being seen as "antipoverty" "pro-environment" and such, how about if we are "Pro Christ" and "Pro-Salvation" but I guess that would be judgemental, afterall, you only need Salvation if you are a sinner, and if I point out the fact that you are a sinner, I'm just being judgemental. And how about "Pro-fidelity"? Well that doesn't work either, because, in order to be "pro-fidelity" you must be anti-infidelity, and, of course, that would be judgemental.

Furthermore, "Yes, we need more maturity - but we also need a better and more holistic maturity, a maturity willing to face the historic and social realities of our so-called Christian past: a past that includes anti-Semitism, racism, chauvinism, holocaust, colonialism, apartheid, slavery, attempted genocide of native peoples, and much else that is ugly and calls not for exuses and minimization but for forthright repentance." I don't deny that some of this stuff has happened, and some who may even be real Christians are guilty of it, and some whose names happen to be associated with Christianity to some degree or another have commited unspeakable attrocities, sometimes even in God's name, but what does that have to do with me? Why exactly do I have to repent for something I never had any part in? Jesus took my sins away, he didn't add more to the list.

I would ask this of Brian McLaren, what benefit is it if the "emerging Church" gain the whole world, but lose all the Souls???

On to the point of being too political, how about Christians who allow themselves to get so caught up in being "relevant" that they forget the real purpose for being here, namely preaching Repentance and Salvation through Jesus Christ?

What we need to do is to get back to the basics. I'm reminded of a sermon preached many years ago by the Pastor of the Church I grew up in back in Harpursville, NY, he told the story of a football team who was in the midst of a losing streak, so the fired the head coach and brought in someone new. The new guy told the team they were going to get back to the basics, and he start of with, "This is a football." It may sound patronizing, but I think that many have lost sight of the real cause of Christ, to see Souls saved. Not to see people become emotional about Jesus, not to make people feel good when the leave Church, but to help people to see themselves as they truly are, sinners in need of Salvation, and then to show them how they can have that through Jesus Christ, and after that, to help them grow in their Christian walk.

The truth is that there are a lot of Christians who want to go out and beat people over the head with their Bibles and force them to stop sinning. These people are generally trying to do the right thing, but they are going about it all wrong. We can't fix them before we save them... in fact, we can't do either at all. Jesus Saves, not us, and after Jesus saves them, then God gets to work on fixing them. Our part is to be the willing tools for God to use, which is hard to do, can't deny that either, but it is our rightful duty.

For too long some have preached against sin without preaching about Salvation. Now we see too many preaching about love and acceptance, but still without preaching the truth of Salvation. both of these are wrong.

In his comment Rich said, "...because if we're to be like Christ we have to reckon with the fact that sinners felt grace and acceptance in his presence. Do they feel the same way around us?" But the fact is that Jesus was very bold when it came to calling sin by it's rightful designation, and it was REPENTANT sinners who found Grace and Acceptance in Christ, just like today.

So, yes, many of us do need to work on our attitude and remember that we are no better than any other person on our own, as Christians we have Salvation through Jesus Christ, and that is what sets us apart.

Thank you for exposing this book and this movement Christine. Keep up the good work.
God Bless,
Matt W.

Christinewjc said...

Well said Matt!

I have to run out and do tons of errands. Be back later to write more about your wonderful comment!

In Jesus,
Christine

Christinewjc said...

Hi again Matt,

This part in your comment is especially important:

Just take a hard look at the portion quoted above and you will see that it's not really about an image problem, it's about turning The Church into "Church Lite." This author is hurting Christians by furthering the myth that Christians are, as a group, "anithomosexual" when the fact is that we are, as is God, Anithomosexuality, which is NOT the same thing. Have there been issues with hypocracy in the past, sure, are some Christians insensitive, unfortunately, yes. And are some judgemental? Not as many as this guy would have you believe. The fact is that if you take a stand for Christ, and are willing to call sin what it really is, you will be labled judgemental, it's a buzz word, and excuse to validate an "anything goes" culture, cause if you stand for anything, and especially against anything you are judmental.

Yes. God, in His Word IS anti-homosexuality. Yet, in His mercy, He wants ALL to come to repentance from this sin, as well as any other.

God is anti-murder, anti-lust, anti-adultery, anti-theft, anti-lying, anti-rape, anti-any other sinful behavior you could think of. Yet, when it comes to the sin of homosexuality, people want to be given a "pass" in the repentance department.

Why is that?

It is because of pride. It is because of indoctrination. It is because of secular humanism. It is because they are saying, "MY WILL, not yours - God."

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane to have the Father "take this cup from me," he was asking...if it would be possible. God's answer was silence. Therefore, it wasn't possible. Jesus' death on the cross for our sins was the only way to reconciliation with God. He was the propitiation for OUR SINS! If there was any other way, God would have done it.

Nothing that we could possibly suffer on this earth could ever compare to what Christ endured for us. He gave his all, for our sakes. He shed his blood and gave up his body to redeem us from our sins and escape the eternal damnation that would have awaited all of us. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The atonement through Christ is the only way that we can be made acceptable to God the Father. He is our Mediator and Advocate to this reconciliation unto God. Although we are all guilty of sin, Jesus' sacrifice for sin, being "once for all" is the satisfaction that God required in His Justice, Holiness and Righteousness.

A Just God does not allow sin to go unpunished. Thus, the punishment we deserve (death) was taken upon Jesus...for our sakes. If Jesus called down legions of angels to "rescue" him from that cross, he would not have accomplished the justice required by Holy and Righteous God, and He (being sinless) would have re-entered heaven alone.

Instead, he had you in mind, Matt. He had me in mind. He had David Kinnamon in mind. He had Brian McLaren in mind. He had all of us in mind when he went to that cross for our salvation!

The Bible tells us that "all of our righteousnesses are as 'filthy rags.'"

Isa 64:6 But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Isn't that a sobering thing to realize? That Isaiah verse explains why Jesus became the propitiation for our sins. Our sin causes death. (...we all fade as a leaf). Our sins take us away from the presence of Holy and Righteous God (...our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away).

There is NOTHING that we can do within our own power to 'clean ourselves up.' Without Christ, we would all die in our sins...ALL OF US!

Knowing this, then, makes what the unChristian authors and Brian McLaren preach as necessary "Christian acts" far less meaningful and important...doesn't it? As you stated, Matt:

"I would ask this of Brian McLaren, what benefit is it if the "emerging Church" gain the whole world, but lose all the Souls???"

That is a great point! It shows that such a movement is bent towards creating a "utopia on earth" rather than point lost souls towards salvation and eternity in heaven. It's almost like they want to create a false reality that we can have "heaven on earth."

All that the emerging church would do, besides bringing lost souls to repentance, which results in God applying His mercy upon us and His grace for salvation, is but "filthy rags" compared to what Jesus told us was most important. The Great Commission is most important.

Utilizing physical comfort, extending help, and loving each other are ways to help achieve this end; and yes, we are called to help our brothers and sisters in need. However, doing those three things (and more of the physical efforts we give here on this earth) are not nearly as important as planting the seed of the Gospel in the hearts of every human being on this earth.

The harvest belongs to God, of course. He does the saving. But we are called to "go into all nations," to share the Gospel as Jesus told us:

Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:


Mat 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.

Christinewjc said...

GCMWatch has a great post up discussing the desperate need for Christian Polemics.

There is also a link to an excellent paper called THE CHURCH'S NEED FOR POLEMICS IN THE POSTMODERN WORLD

Excerpt:
Postmodernism has brought society from an age of reason to an age of relativism. The only thing postmodernists cannot tolerate is intolerance. The only absolute truth they believe is that there is no absolute truth. People create their own "truth" and all "truths" are equally valid. The result of all these equally valid "truths" is known as pluralism.

The influence of postmodernism can be seen in the church in various areas and to varying degrees. One area is theology. Theology has classically been made up of three major branches: dogmatics, ethics, and apologetics/polemics. The fact that the average Christian, and minister, does not know what these words mean illustrates the point all the more. Dogmatics is the study of Christian doctrine or theology. Dogma is that which is considered absolute truth. The postmodern attitude toward dogma is seen in the bumper sticker that reads, "My karma ran over my dogma." Dogmatics, or doctrine, is not popular because truth is not popular anymore. While 88 percent of those in evangelical churches say the Bible is the infallible Word of God, 53 percent also say there is no such thing as absolute truth!2 Ethics is the study of moral values and practices. It is the application of dogmatics. Apologetics is defending Christian truth before unbelievers. If Christians do not believe in absolute truth, then it is no wonder that they do not engage in apologetics. Polemics is defending Christian truth within the professing church.


I have to confess. Prior to reading DL's blogpost and the other paper, I didn't really know what the term "polemics" meant. I just lumped it in with "apologetics." But it is an important term for all Christians to understand.

GCMWATCH:

Polemics:

Polemics, according to The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, is a theological approach ”which is concerned with the history of controversies maintained within or by the Christian Church, and with the conducting of such controversies in defense of doctrines held to be essential to Christian truth or in support of distinctive denominational tenets. ”

While both are necessary, they do differ. Apologetics defends historic Christian faith from external attacks, while polemics defends the faith against internal attacks. Polemics is a proactive resistance to doctrinal error rather than a reactionary response to it. It has been noted that theoretically there is no distinct department of theological polemics; but practically there is a very real need of an independent branch of this nature.

Gandolf said...

There is a very big differnce between being saved by grace and being saved by having laws inforced .That has nothing to do with grace .
That is the differnce with the bad image that is being talked about , infact its more than a image problem its all about going against what the great comission was about and has become self depleting to the cause.
The words not to judge others means just that and to love ones enemys also, and its all about leading by example that matters ! something that is lost by the actions of many that are the cause of this bad image .And so i agree judgement is not meant to be used in evangelism other than with the judgement and conviction within yourself and leading by example so others would follow .Thats what saved by grace means !! .Something that Jesus was kind of great at being amongst all sorts of people that many would have nothing to do with many being quite dismayed that he did .Yet his own judgement of the road he would take was so rock solid he feared not , but led by example .
Thats the trouble christians have become so focused on outlawing everything they think is bad , which does nothing for the leading by example bit .
Meanwhile those they vote into power are killing and all sorts .

Its a confusing book and why else is there so much confusion other than for that reason .But there is a very basic message within in the example of Jesus , yet this simple message is to often overlooked and overidden by dogma and the very thing that is warned against .Judge not lest you be judged .
And when the time comes there will be many who have judged that will be judged .Lets hope they were perfect .
It would be much wiser i feel that people spent more time making sure that what they were doing was right and leading by example .If this were the case the good image would follow and many without laws and regulations would freely wish to follow suit .

Its very easy to suggest that the world hates christianity because it is meant to happen .But the judgement of the reasons for this needs to be well thought through , as it is very easy to blame everyone else .Lets face it history tell us christianity cannot claim to have a blameless record .Could it be claimed that it was prophesied that christians would be hated , with thinking of those who were burnt at the stake by so called christianity for instance .
I have no doubt some would have claimed this was the case , in judgement of others while forgetting themselves .

Christinewjc said...

Still reading through the essay I linked to in my previous comment.

When I read the following, I couldn't help but think of Jody who once told me that my beliefs "frighten him."

Postmodern thought has greatly influenced contemporary culture. The hallmark of postmodern thought is the death of truth. Don Matzat noted, "The only absolute truth that exists in the postmodern mentality is that there is no such thing as absolute truth, and as far as the postmodern scholar is concerned, that is absolutely true."8 The self-contradiction is obvious but the postmodernist is not concerned with logic or truth. Everyone has his or her own "truth" and the height of arrogance is to say that one's "truth" is actually the truth. Nothing frightens the postmodernists more than a "fundamentalist" claim to absolute truth which they view as nothing more than an attempt to oppress those who disagree. So with the rise of postmodernism came ideas such as political correctness, tolerance, moral relativism, multiculturalism, new age spirituality, religious syncretism, empowerment of minorities, denigration of white European males, and homosexual rights. Every area of society has been touched by postmodernism. Health care, literature, education, history, psychotherapy, law, science, and religion are all mutating under the influence of postmodernism.9

Christinewjc said...

This is certainly true!

Because of their claim to an exclusive metanarrative (worldview), conservative, Bible- believing Christians are alone in being exempt from society's tolerance. Christians are not only ignored by the popular culture, they are increasingly singled out for ridicule and outright bashing by the kinder, gentler postmodernists. The postmodernist's "tolerance" masks the reality of an underhanded power play. However, the Christian church has not escaped the influence of postmodernism.

Isn't it ironic that the "kinder, gentler postmodernists" are usually liberal and thus pro-abortion? According to Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, abortion has killed more than 51,450,903 babies (and counting...visit the site to see how many more have been killed since I posted this comment) in the womb since that horrible 1973 Roe v. Wade decision!

I'd love for someone to tell me exactly why such tragedy occurs day by day without a whimper of remorse from the so-called "educated" postmodernists??

Christinewjc said...

Hi Gandolf,

I am in the process of reading THE CHURCH'S NEED FOR POLEMICS IN THE POSTMODERN WORLD and just noticed your comment.

Forgive me for cutting and pasting rather than dialoguing with you about your comment, but my time at the computer right now is very limited.

This portion of the essay I am reading may help you understand a bit more why the "unChristian" authors got it wrong:

Where did the idea come from that Christians should just present the gospel without refuting error? It certainly did not come from the Scriptures or the leaders in church history. Horton explained it well:


The church was born in doctrinal debate. It fought its way to dominance through centuries of arguments over doctrinal detail. The Reformation was a controversy between two different gospels. The Great Awakening was in part the result of the controversial and polemical defense of the grace of God and human inability. John Newton not only gave us "Amazing Grace," but polemical attacks on Arminian legalism in his day. Luther and Calvin not only wrote heated polemics against the Church of Rome, but against the "enthusiasts" whom we would know today as Pentecostals. But let us go back further. Where would we be without the polemics of Athanasius? And yet he was accused by Arians--that is, those who denied Christ's divinity (and this was in some regions the majority view)--as a divisive person. Thank God that Irenaeus preferred truth to tolerance when he drove Gnosticism out of the church.
And what of the Scriptures themselves? God gave us St. Paul, who told legalists to castrate themselves, just as Jesus had told the religious leaders of his day that they were a den of robbers, a nest of snakes, white-washed tombs that appeared spotless on the surface but were full of hypocrisy and dead men's bones. He told them that they travel over land and sea to evangelize one single convert only to make that person more a child of hell than he was before. And the prophets? They were so polemical that they were often executed by the very people against whose judgment the prophets were trying to warn. It seems that the whole progress of biblical revelation and church history through the ages has been forged out of the fire of controversy and the often angry struggles over truth. It is these great debates that have preserved the church from error and when the church grows lazy and fat, unwilling to be corrected, the world loses its only hope of salvation. It is never easy to correct, nor is it pleasant, but we are to "preach the truth in love." However, neither are we to pretend that our laziness, ignorance and apathy in defending the truth are really attempts to preserve the bond of unity. With Luther, we must say, "Unity wherever possible, but truth at all costs."5

It seems that the church has forgotten that it is the "pillar and ground of the truth."6 The church, in large measure, has lost its will to discern between truth and error. John MacArthur stated, "Discernment demands that we should hold biblical convictions with the most fervent tenacity. Titus 1:9 says a basic requirement for every elder is that he be the kind of man who ‘[holds] fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.' It is thus mandated by God that we take issue with error. We must refute those who contradict, or we do not fulfill our divine calling."7 If one fails to love the truth, one fails to love God; or as Gordon Clark wrote, "Since God is truth, a contempt for truth is equally a contempt for God."8

Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote decades ago:


Disapproval of polemics in the Christian Church is a very serious matter. But that is the attitude of the age in which we live. The prevailing idea today in many circles is not to bother about these things. As long as we are all Christians, anyhow, somehow, all is well. Do not let us argue about doctrine, let us all be Christians together and talk about the love of God. That is really the whole basis of ecumenicity. Unfortunately, that same attitude is creeping into evangelical circles also and many say that we must not be too precise about these things. . . . If you hold that view you are criticizing the Apostle Paul, you are saying that he was wrong, and at the same time you are criticizing the Scriptures. The Scriptures argue and debate and dispute; they are full of polemics.9
People today want to cast everything into varying shades of gray. The truth is that far more things are black-and-white issues. Nowhere can this fact be more clearly seen than in the Scriptures. Jay Adams called this the principle of antithesis.


In the Bible, where antithesis is so important, discernment--the ability to distinguish God's thoughts and God's ways from all others--is essential. Indeed, God says that "the wise in heart will be called discerning" (Proverbs 16:21).
From the Garden of Eden with its two trees (one allowed, one forbidden) to the eternal destiny of the human being in heaven or in hell, the Bible sets forth two, and only two, ways: God's way, and all others. Accordingly, people are said to be saved or lost. They belong to God's people or the world. There was Gerizim, the mount of blessing, and Ebal, the mount of cursing. There is the narrow way and the wide way, leading either to eternal life or to destruction. There are those who against and those who are with us, those within and those without. There is life and death, truth and falsehood, good and bad, light and darkness, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, love and hatred, spiritual wisdom and the wisdom of the world. Christ is said to be the way, the truth, and the life, and no one may come to the Father but by Him. His is the only name under the sky by which one may be saved.10

Adams suggested that "people who study the Bible in depth develop antithetical mindsets: they think in terms of contrasts or opposites."11 How different this antithetical thinking is from the thinking of postmodernism which claims truth is a fuzzy gray with no center. Also, how different it is from the attitude of Evangelical Christians who want to only present biblical truth in positive terms but never point out error and especially never point out proponents of error. The name for this type of Christianity is called New Evangelicalism.

In the simplest of terms, "the heart of New Evangelicalism is this: It is a repudiation of the negative aspects of biblical Christianity."12 New Evangelicalism has its origins in leaders like Harold Ockenga and Billy Graham. Its main voice has been the magazine Christianity Today and its main organization has been the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Another way of identifying New Evangelicalism is its mood of neutralism. "New Evangelicalism is a philosophy, but it is also a mood. In his discerning book on Evangelicalism, subtitled New Neutralism, William Ashbrook notes: ‘[New Evangelicalism] might more properly be labeled The New Neutralism. It seeks neutral ground, being neither fish nor fowl, neither right nor left, neither for nor against--it stands between!' (p. 2). . . . New Evangelicalism can be identified by the following terms: Soft, cautious, hesitant, tolerant, pragmatic, accommodating, flexible, non-controversial, non-offensive, non-passionate, non-dogmatic."13 New Evangelicalism is the prevailing ideology among Evangelicals today. Its major premise is a repudiation of separatism in favor of infiltration.

In order to better understand the decline of polemics, an understanding of New Evangelicalism is needed.14 If polemics died with modernism, New Evangelicalism nailed the coffin and buried it. However, as has been shown, this is not the biblical position.


My work, and the work of many Christian bloggers against heresy (see sidebar on this blog) is to expose how the "New Evangelicalism" (examples: Emergent church, gay christian movement etc.) is not biblically based Christianity.

For more, please read the entire essay at the link above. It is certainly an eye-opener to these facts!

cyshift said...

Thanks for the “inside scoop” on unChristian. I’ve been trying to find some commentary on the book so I could avoid having to buy it. Just from the quotes that I’ve heard and the “smell” of the premise I could tell this was another “emerging madness” rant. Unfortunately, my Pastor has quoted from the book on Sunday morning and the church now plans to have a series of teachings based on it for our youth (sigh). I guess I’ll have to go out and buy it so I can try and at least slow down the headlong rush. I’ll write a review on my website www.cyshift.com. Good blog, by the way! Never give up the fight!

Christinewjc said...

Hi Cyshift,

Glad it was helpful to you.

At the "Summize" site link, my "review" was placed under the "wretched sentiments" section! Ha!

If you must read the book, you might be able to get a used copy somewhere.

Personally, I don't think that it is a book that a church should "study" with the teen and twenty-something crowd. It's way to negative! What's worse is the fact that the authors place too much blame on Christians instead of where it belongs...Hollywood, the media, T.V., MTV, newspapers/magazines, and secular humanistic relativism and misplaced "tolerance!"

It was educational, for me, to see what the leftist Christian adherents are thinking. It's all a part of the emergent/gay christian/tolerance above truth/reject portions of the Bible/love and mercy without repentance heresy that is invading the churches these days.

Glanced at your site and I was glad to see that you are on the right side of the Christian truth war! Hope that you will continue to visit and comment here!

God bless!

Christine