Failed Resuscitations

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Excerpt In recent days, my mind has been preoccupied with the plight of Western society, and specifically, the state of the Church at large in America. Several events have initiated this preoccupation and now converge to instigate this writing of this article. Within a period of just ten days, I had the following four experiences: Continue reading

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 “Men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” 1 Chronicles 12:32 (NIV) 


1. An extensive phone conversation with a close and eminently frustrated Christian brother leaves me with a sense of unrest and profound concern. "I expect the world to not understand why I want to live a holy life," this friend summarizes, "but when I speak in this manner to many people in the church, they look at me like I'm nuts. Worse than that, members of the church can live in open rebellion against God's laws with no consequences." The puzzled response which this friend often receives in conversation is not followed by some form of disagreement which rises to the surface and initiates a debate. Rather, it is often followed by an empty-headed silence that strongly communicates that the church-going recipient does not even understand what my friend is talking about.


2. Another long-time Christian brother, who stands in a place of leadership, recently echoed much of the same sentiment, summarized thus: "Many people around me in my church just don't seem to get it. They don't want to make any discerning judgments, they don't want to confront problems, and they mutter superficial, spiritual platitudes at the first sign of conflict. When I speak up and present even a mild challenge, the response is usually empty and silent. I am so frustrated with my church."

 

3. An intimate pastor friend gathers together a group of teenagers for a Bible study. The topic is dinosaurs and the Bible. The pastor shows them basic evidence that is consistent with the creation account in Genesis, demonstrating there is a problem with the evolutionary, long age framework that has been drummed into their heads since kindergarten. It is not an in-depth presentation by any means. The kids are almost completely unresponsive. Their reaction is characterized by a seeming inability to even grasp what the pastor is taking about. In the middle of the presentation, my friend has to scuttle his teaching agenda, subsequently dumbing it down to an almost embarrassing level of simplicity, far below that which teenagers should be able to cognitively process. "I perceive their minds are simply mush," he soberly states, "the boys' brains are saturated with video game stimuli and the girls are worried about texting their friends and talking about the next social activity. This is frightening."

 

4. An elder sister in the Lord, a treasured friend and a lifetime Christian, laments: "I have been a member of my church for decades. Never has the influence of liberal secularism been stronger. No one is interested in studying doctrine, nor do they want to be challenged to think differently about the world, to have their minds conformed to the teachings of Scripture. When I make challenging statements in Bible study, I am met with either sarcasm or silence. A woman recently told me of an intense three year Bible study she went through. She claimed it was great. When I asked her how it changed her life, she stated with a puzzled look: 'It didn't.' I was stunned. I sat down with the interim pastor and got 2-3 hours of wishy-washy theology, superficial clichés and evasive answers about the state of the Church. I simply don't know what to do."

 

I daresay there are thousands of similar stories all across the landscape of American Christendom. These recent experiences are symptomatic of a widespread and virulent crisis in the Church. Perhaps you have had similar experiences in your own congregation. Testimonials and polling data indicate that there is a systemic crisis in the American Church, leading us to inquire: How on earth did we arrive at this moment?

 

The Intellectual Apocalypse

 

Just prior to these four experiences, I attended a motivating lecture at Westminster Theological Seminary given by Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The talk was entitled, On the Other Side of Complexity: Christian Conviction in the Late Modern Age.1 It was a profoundly important and providential precursor to these recent interactions with my fellow brethren. What follows are my own thoughts, not Dr. Mohler's. But he provided me with an excellent springboard and framework from and within which to write this article.

 

Dr. Mohler articulately outlined the intellectual upheaval that has taken place in Western civilization during the last three centuries. Naturally, Dr. Mohler points to the provocateurs par excellence of this upheaval: Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche and Freud. These men, in the words of David Breese, "rule the world from the grave." To this cavalry, additional apocalyptic horsemen were added. Western civilization, having already been trampled under the hooves of the so-called Enlightenment, also has had to grapple with the skepticism of David Hume, the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, the existentialism of Soren Kierkegaard, the higher criticism of Julius Wellhausen, et al. The list goes on and on.

 

During this period of upheaval, Western academia moved in 3 basic stages, from (1), believing in God's existence as a basic presupposition, to (2), believing that it was possible that God did not exist, to (3), God was no longer an intellectual possibility. Western academics stand largely at stage 3, with Western European society fundamentally joining their ranks. God is not a consideration in the basic thought of most citizens of Western Europe.

 

In America, the academics have been at stage 3 for quite some time as well, having committed their heart, soul and mind to the secular priesthood long ago. The American populace appears to be between stages 1 and 2 in its public affirmations, with polls showing that most American citizens claim to believe in God or claim to be Christians. Detailed analysis betrays the sobering truth, however.

 

While many people claim to believe in God and attend church on a regular basis, their cognitive orientation is predominantly secular. That is, though they often profess to be at stage 1, most churchgoers largely accept many of the premises of stage 3 academic unbelief. Though they profess to believe in God, they think, and often live, like those who don't. This is an enormous problem for American Christendom, and the problem can be attributed to the secularization of the culture at large by the intellectual worldview claims of academia.

 

Accommodation and Withdrawal

 

With this enormous intellectual flood came the relatively tepid response of the organized Church, Dr. Mohler accurately notes. The pressure to accommodate this "modernity" (and post-modernity) has been a staggering challenge, one which the organized Church has largely failed to properly deal with. Dr. Mohler succinctly pointed out that the Church, by and large, has futilely attempted to accommodate these intellectual movements, effectively trying to "save" Christianity from itself. Instead of doing the heavy lifting involved with navigating through the complexities of modern thought,2 our seminary and church leaders have most often chosen a generally naïve simplicity that either ignores modernity or accommodates it. His survey of these momentous failures is rather sobering.

 

The most prominent example is the emergence of 19th century Protestant liberalism, rooted in the destructive exertions of the German theologians of that era. Convinced that Christianity had to update itself in the face of modernism and its intellectual claims, men like Friedrich Schleiermacher, Adolf von Harnack, and Harry Emerson Fosdick vigorously pleaded with the Church to revise its historical stance on orthodoxy in response to modern sensibilities. Jettison the cognitive claims of orthodoxy, they taught, and you can rescue Christianity from the "facts" of modern science and regain intellectual and cultural respectability.

 

We now know, and could have easily predicted, that this resuscitation of Christianity by Protestant liberalism was a dismal failure. The pews have been emptied. In his book, Christianity and Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen challenged the liberals in the 1920's that their religion was no longer Christianity. He was dead on. Protestant liberalism today has careened to the far left, characterized by economic Marxism, open ordination of homosexuals and even formally inviting Islam and other religions into their fold. If it was not so tragic, it would be laughable.

 

As a result of this liberalism, many folks who wanted to remain true to some semblance of orthodoxy, fled. Today, many of their grandchildren sit in the pews of the now pervasive non-denominational churches, what we might broadly call evangelicalism. Here, we find a core, orthodox Christianity. Typically, evangelicals will affirm the basics: Scripture, God, and the deity of Christ, faith in Christ, the resurrection, and the return of Jesus. These basic affirmations sometimes lead to genuine conversion and a general desire to be engaged in church life. However, these churches will often consider anything beyond the basics to be "non-essential," unwilling to make strong assertions beyond this small core of beliefs. Disagreement amongst pastors concerning the so-called "non-essentials" often results in a retreat into a desire for "unity" instead of wrestling through the theological discussion, admitting and correcting error, and affirming the interconnection of all doctrine. And this is where the problem begins.

 

First, the relative simplicity of affirming only the basics avoids grappling with the totality of interdependence in biblical doctrine. Core assertion in evangelicalism does not come close to mirroring biblical assertion. In fact, it falls far short. Christianity is not just a "personal relationship" with God given through Christ and a mandate to live a morally upright life. It is something far greater than that and it makes far greater claims. It is a total and complete worldview about every aspect of reality in which God has redeemed all creation in the death and resurrection of his Son. It asserts that judgment is coming and men must repent because God is just and holy. It asserts that Christ is the only answer to the plight of the world. It requires that the triune God of biblical revelation be glorified in every endeavor and in every sphere of reality.

 

The Bible makes authoritative claims of God's lordship over all things: theology, philosophy, ethics, morality, biology, anthropology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, psychology, military, sociology, law, politics, economics, and history: EVERYTHING. No separation from any sphere, no core doctrinal assertion leaving everything else open, no emendation to the plain teachings of the biblical text.

 

Second, the apocalyptic horsemen of militant unbelief have made sweeping, dogmatic claims about ultimate reality: claims completely antithetical to what God has declared in His infallible Word. The Bible's teachings demonstrate that Marx, Freud, Kant, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Hume, and Darwin were all wrong. Dreadfully, woefully, utterly wrong. Instead, evangelicalism has responded only with the core basics, leaving churchgoers completely ill-equipped to refute these intellectual claims. Polls clearly show that the minds of many who sit in the pews are filled with intellectual confusion. The data indicates that most folks sitting in the pews are not only confused about what it really means to be a serious disciple of Christ, but that they think like secularists and accept many of secularism's erroneous premises and assertions about the world.

 

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis has characterized this problem well, paraphrased thus: "The unbelieving evolutionists make ultimate truth claims about the history of the universe, life, death, and all of reality, while our evangelical churches respond by meekly and wimpily saying: 'Believe in Jesus.'" This tepid response reveals a naïve simplicity that fails to engage in the complexities of the modern age, refute the incoherence of unbelieving worldviews, and assert the ubiquitous claims of biblical revelation.

 

The evangelical movement has failed to realize that the essentials do not constitute a Christian worldview. The culture is making worldview claims everywhere we turn while our churches are retreating behind the castle walls of core doctrine. This is woefully insufficient. Evangelical churches can no longer afford to stand on only the basics. Core doctrinal assertion may have worked in generations past, when the West was relatively Christianized, but it will not suffice in today's post-modern climate. Evangelicalism's claims must be expanded, akin to the great confessions of ages past. Our churches must begin teaching and preaching the whole counsel of God, and assertively standing on the totality of the doctrines therein. Evangelicals must know what their Bibles proclaim before they can effectively engage the complexities of the unbelieving world. And that means the leaders of the Church must inculcate their flock with a full orbed Christian worldview. To be effective in this modern morass of moral nihilism and intellectual chaos, the stance must broaden.

 

Even though evangelical churches formally hold to core doctrines, those doctrines do not find their way into public preaching often enough. As a result, many false converts sit far too comfortably in the pews. In my view, the overall situation is rather grim. In many churches, music is completely overemphasized. I have seen actual footage of worship services where the musicians play secular music on Sunday morning. Doctrinal teaching and serious discipleship are often not emphasized at all. Apologetics is a mysterious term. Communion is an occasional aberration. Sin and wrath are nary heard. Elders and formal church discipline are considered passé. Excommunication for living in open rebellion is often considered abhorrent. God is often portrayed as a "friend" to unbelievers. Untrained individuals often fill prominent leadership roles, sometimes even becoming pastors. Expository preaching has become a thing of the past. Topical sermons often stretch the contextual meaning of the texts beyond limits, sometimes distorting the meaning completely. Entertainment is often the order of the day.

 

Our young people are suffering dreadfully. In effect, their worldview is not Christian, rather it is a "moralistic therapeutic deism" (MTD), a phrase coined by Christian Smith and Melinda Denton.3 Their in-depth research indicates the worldview of teenagers generally consists of the following precepts: (1), A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth. (2), God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. (3), The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. (4), God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem. He is effectively a divine butler and cosmic therapist. (5), Good people go to heaven when they die.

 

Where did our young people get this worldview? Obviously, from the cultural messages of the age. I would also suggest that teenagers who attend our churches have come to believe in MTD because of the confusing and wishy-washy messages that emanate from the pulpits and programs pervasively found in evangelicalism.

 

Christian television and YouTube4 quintessentially exemplify the worst features of evangelicalism. In effect, they are dismal embarrassments, having become a suspect parachurch movement that generally lacks doctrinal accountability and often wanders off into theological silliness. Theological eccentricities such as prosperity preaching, faith healers, "anointed" English, incessant ear-tickling sermons, and "treasure map" eschatology make it very difficult to take seriously. Suffice it to say, in dealing with the modern mind, it is almost completely useless. Most of it is, frankly, a foolish waste of time and resources.5 While God is able to work and convert souls through all sorts of human error and frailty in our churches and on Christian television, this type of Christianity hardly provides the answers to the complexities of the post-modern age and is scarcely what we should be striving for.

 

Evangelicalism's intellectual retreat into bare core beliefs and superficial engagement is only slightly better than complete separation from the modern world. Dr. Mohler points out that the fundamentalists of the 1920's shook their fists at modernity and continued to preach from the Scriptures. They refused to engage with the grievous errors of Protestant liberalism and the doctrines of modern thought. Perhaps if we just ignore the Documentary Hypothesis and Darwinism, they thought, these bad ideas will just eventually go away. They did not. Their courage and loyalty to sound doctrine can be admired, but their approach was impotent. Their separatist tendencies did very little to transform the thinking of the modern world. We can learn from the fundamentalists that we must not resort to simplistic separatism or superficial engagement. Rather, we must engage with the universal claims of the sovereign and eternal Christ of redemption and judgment.

 

Other Compromises

 

Today, Protestant liberalism has been reincarnated in the Emerging Church movement. Rob Bell, Brian McLaren and others feel the need to once again rescue the Faith in the face of post-modern sensibilities. Betraying a breathtaking arrogance couched in false humility, they assert that the Church historic, for twenty centuries, has gotten it all wrong. They peddle a nebulous narrative, clearly believing that cognitive claims are offensive, apparently unaware that their opaque dialogue is itself a cognitive claim. This post-modern agnosticism is self-contradictory and antithetical to teachings of Scripture.6

 

For the heretical Rob Bell, the doctrine of hell is particularly offensive to the modern mind, and so it must be amended to make God more amenable to present sensibilities. The "love" of God is reduced to shallow human sentimentality, divorced from His justice and holiness. As usual, Jesus is divorced from Paul whenever it is convenient.7 The Emerging Church narrative is slick, hip and cool - ancient Greek sophistry dressed in a new tuxedo. Their ear-tickling doctrines are the same old recycled heresy. Like the seeker-sensitivity movement, it empties the Gospel of its power and conveys the message to sinners that God does not have a problem with their behavior.

 

Other heroes include the theistic evolutionists, and more specifically, the BioLogos Foundation. N.T. Wright, Peter Enns8 and others repeatedly lecture us that traditional notions of inerrancy are passé. "Science" has proven that the traditional interpretations of early Genesis and its teachings on the origins of the cosmos and man are no longer viable. They argue that God allowed erroneous concepts of cosmology and inaccurate world history into the Bible. We need to accept that there are errors in the text in order for the Church to keep its intellectual respectability. The creation, fall, and flood narratives clearly need revision and reinterpretation, and so does Paul's historical characterization of Adam in Romans 5. So let's amend them and get on with things so the world will accept Jesus. The theistic evolutionists go to great lengths to impugn and distort the Bible, but strangely never seem to impugn the erroneous science, the philosophical naturalism that tyrannizes all modern scientific interpretation, or the Kantian epistemology. In effect, it is the same message of Protestant liberalism: get with the times or the faith will fail. Men must rescue the Church from itself.

 

This litany of rescue attempts could go on, ad nauseum. I am hopeful that the reader has understood the point. Emendation, partial retreat and separation have characterized the Christian response to modernity, and have been dismal failures.

 

Serious Solutions

 

I believe, with Dr. Mohler, that confessional Protestantism can be an enormously helpful guide in articulating a comprehensive Christian worldview. The Westminster and Baptist Confessions, while having some minor differences, make sweeping doctrinal and intellectual claims about the nature of reality. Their purpose is to attempt to reflect, with as much accuracy as possible, what the Scriptures teach about every area of life and reality. Evangelical churches can use these great documents as a guide through the Scriptures, helping them to develop their own confessional statement that encompasses much more than the basics. One does not have to be a Presbyterian or a Baptist to find great agreement and usefulness in these confessions. In addition, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy can provide an excellent framework as well. These documents can serve as a useful guide for any church leader with orthodox convictions.

 

While some of the particulars, the true "non-essentials" (such as particular eschatological schema), can be left open for debate, the large measure of a church's confession needs to include vast biblically-based claims about all spheres of reality. No more wishy-washiness on the creation account, or the flood, or the history of Adam and Eve, or inerrancy or the total depravity of man or even the doctrine of hell. Confess and make these cognitive worldview claims, then stand on them. Put them in the fires of doctrinal accountability and then correct any doctrinal errors when God exposes them through the Word and other theologians. Teach them, train people in them and defend the Faith based on them.

 

Once the Church develops a broad, worldview-encompassing confessional statement, stick with it. Stop following the latest fads within evangelicalism, like the dismally appalling seeker-sensitive model or most of the nonsense on Christian TV and YouTube. All teaching and preaching should be made consistent with that confessional declaration. The doctrines must be preached, taught and proclaimed in all the activities of the Church. Many evangelical churches have a statement of faith, but it is buried somewhere on their website and is rarely heard from the pulpit and in teaching activities. A teaching curriculum must be developed in that context, which includes apologetics, doctrinal teaching, and understanding non-Christian worldviews.

 

Engage in the controversies of the day. Stop avoiding abortion, war, politics, homosexuality and the like. If certain people in your congregation support abortion policy, offend them biblically. They need to be offended so they might repent of supporting such evil. Give a biblical and theological exposition about the earthquakes in Japan and Haiti instead of just sending money and people there. Teach your flock how to talk about the problem of evil and God's sovereign goodness. Explain to your congregation why catastrophes like these happen instead of dancing around the subject. Knock off the moralistic therapeutic deism. Discipline open rebellion and divisions. Teach the incoherence of unbelief. Preach expositionally. Stop trying to entertain people. "Earnestly contend for the faith" (Jude 3). Don't just send missionaries overseas - train missionaries for America. America is dying.

 

Conclusion

 

The Church is in a major state of crisis. Its people are being swept away in a morass of intellectual and moral confusion. Those of us who have been called into leadership must lead. We can no longer stand back and watch our brethren live and think and perish like the world. We must dramatically change what we are doing in the American Church at large.

 

Brian McLaren of the Emerging Church movement wrote a book a number of years ago called Everything Must Change. The contents of the book are filled with false doctrine and deceptive narrative. But the title is correct. Everything must change, but not the way Brian McLaren thinks. We must call our churches back to the whole counsel of God: the infallible, inerrant and absolutely authoritative Word of God. The solution to our momentous crisis can only be found in God's revelation, and then obeying its teachings as disciples of Christ in thought, word and deed.

 

Martin Luther famously said: "Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen." Let us do the same together.


Footnotes:


1. Dr. Mohler's excellent lecture can be heard on the Westminster website

 

2. Unbelieving philosophies of the modern age are insidiously deceptive. For an example of the work required to dismantle their arguments and premises, see: An Army of Straw Men: Responding to Ronald Hendel


3. For more, see:  On “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” as U.S. Teenagers’ Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith

 

4. The nonsense found on Christian TV and YouTube is regularly discussed and biblical critiqued in an entertaining way by Todd Friel and his team at Wretched.

 

5. Please, enough of the "treasure map" eschatology already! We know Jesus will return in all His Glory, let's get about the business of discipleship and training our brethren to think like Christians so they can defend the Faith, properly share the Gospel, train their children in righteousness and confidently engage with the intellectual chaos of this age. People are perishing and our brethren are being brainwashed with secularism while Christian "eschatologists" are connecting passages in Revelation to Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein.

 

6. Cornelius Van Til pointed out all claims of ignorance are antithetical to what God has revealed in creation and in the Scriptures: "Agnosticism is epistemologically self-contradictory on its own assumptions because its claim to make no assertion about ultimate reality rests upon a most comprehensive assertion about ultimate reality." 

 

7. For a review of Rob Bell's latest heresy, see: Albert Mohler, We Have Seen All This Before: Rob Bell and the (Re)Emergence of Liberal Theology


8. Enns was rightly dismissed from Westminster Theological Seminary in 2008 for his unorthodox assertions about the doctrine of Scripture. Sadly, Enns had become a fellow at BioLogos, where much of biblical doctrine is being compromised in favor of modern science. Enns recently spoke at Westmont College, and is now, not surprisingly, relegating Paul's characterization of Adam in Romans 5 to the scrapheap of symbolism and allegory. A cursory reading of Enns' blog clearly reveals that science has primacy over God's Word, with comments from Enns such as: "humans share ancestry with other forms of life."

 

Henry B. Smith Jr. is the Director of Development for the ABR, serving in that capacity since October 2004. Born and raised in northwestern New Jersey, he graduated with a BA in Economics from Rutgers University in 1992. With a 13 year sales and management background, he earned an MA in Theology with an emphasis on Apologetics from Trinity Seminary in Indiana, graduating with high honors in 2005. Since 2006, Henry has been enrolled in the MAR program at Westminster Theological Seminary, emphasizing apologetics and biblical languages.

 

Added 5/14/2012: An interview with Dr. Albert Mohler on Creation.com

Added 4/1/11: I just came across this video and it might be helpful in explaining some of the problems in broader evangelicalism.

Comments Comment RSS

3/21/2011 9:45 PM #

Excellent...I must forward this to many of my friends...too important to not forward. Thanks.

Greg Gulbrandsen - 3/21/2011 9:45:19 PM

3/22/2011 4:52 PM #

Henry,

Well articulated and certainly true.  I've been uneasy myself as a Christian teacher for several years, sensing something was missing, seeing the distinct need to teach not just Bible accounts and doctrine, but confronting kids to articulate what they believe in and how to defend what they believe in to others (apologetics is sadly lacking in today's Sunday school curricula).  Today's young people that are in church, while generally well-behaved and fairly consistent in attendance, can't express their faith, nor do they have the passion or desire to communicate it to their friends, family or neighbors.

My uneasiness and vague disquiet gelled when I read Ken Ham's book "Already Gone" a couple of years ago.  I haven't been able to feel settled since.

Thank you for further elucidating this huge problem in the church.  We need to get to work so the future generation doesn't disappear without a trace of salt or light being cast in this ever-increasingly dark world.

Bee Hamlin

Bee Hamlin - 3/22/2011 4:52:35 PM

3/22/2011 5:12 PM #

Keep up the good work Henry.  God bless you and ABR in a wonderful way.  See you on April 28.
George

George Taylor - 3/22/2011 5:12:14 PM

3/23/2011 1:02 AM #

Well put! I have also frequently encountered the problem of people within the church’s sphere of influence of a seeming inability to listen and learn. In appears that Marx was correct in his scorn:  religion (the sermon) is an opiate for the masses. Today we would say: it’s about getting the latest buzz. And it is not just in the West that this is a problem. Here in China there is now freedom to preach Scripture, but public preaching only addresses basics. However, the creed is recited each Sunday and follow up small group teaching does address some of the issued raised in the article. The authenticity and value of a Christian worldwiew is vital to persuading those otherwise indoctrinated from birth. Yet committed Believers have no sense of wrongdoing in telling lies, cohabiting or having abortions.  Situation ethics prevails.

Joel Gough - 3/23/2011 1:02:07 AM

3/23/2011 5:49 AM #

I was told by my church leader that Bible Doctrine,such as election, is not necessary to be preached. My heart sunk that day. I knew that I could no longer take my family to that Bible study again. Good preaching and teaching is out there. Some times hard to find.

Joe Zahradnik - 3/23/2011 5:49:03 AM

3/23/2011 8:25 AM #

Is it becasue we living in democratic societies we struggle with the concept of Lordship? Do our comforts and personal bill of rights blind us with a false sense of entitlement? Do we feel life is about earning a living and getting along, oh, and God on Sunday?

Interestingly, those churches that have bucked the trend, in my expereince, were churches that stopped focusing on saving people and started to make disciples. They did not need to attrack, because by living like Christ they became attractive - even now missionaries in Japan are commenting on opportuites to share with long disinterested neighbours as they see their spontaneous giving.

bless you and thanks for those thoughts

Ted Bjorem - 3/23/2011 8:25:02 AM

3/23/2011 8:43 AM #

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. Smith! I am glad I am not the only one who has noticed the decline in the church. I posted this article on my Facebook because I believe it needs to be read by others. I am a teacher and I believe that creation should be taught along side evolution. Our church no longer teaches Biblical doctrines for fear of offending others. Are we not offended by what we are taught from other religions, cults and movements? It is time we should be.

Wendy - 3/23/2011 8:43:55 AM

3/23/2011 10:12 AM #

Dear George,

I sure hope to see you at the banquet. I miss our conversations about the Lord and the Red Sox beating the Yankees! Wink

Henry

Henry Smith - 3/23/2011 10:12:28 AM

3/23/2011 10:18 AM #

Dear Joel G.,

Thanks for your kind comments. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to proclaim the faith in China, especially in light of its communist heritage over the past 70 or so years. It sounds like an enormous challenge, and so we are glad you are there to contend for the faith! I suppose my arguments also apply in principle in China, though I am sure the tactics one uses would be quite different than in the cultural environment here in America. Nevertheless, the power of the Christian message remains the same, anywhere, and anytime in history.

Blessings in your endeavors for the Kingdom,

Henry

Henry Smith - 3/23/2011 10:18:24 AM

3/23/2011 10:27 AM #

Dear Ted Bjorem,

Thanks for your comments. I think this is good question. Naturally, a representative republic is far more desirable than most of the tyrannies we have seen in world history. From the perspective of our US Constitution, the fundamental assumption behind our rights was that God was the author of such rights and we were morally accountable to Him for our behavior. Once that presupposition is no longer basic, "rights" are abused and get out of hand. Think of how many people today are running around, yelling about their "rights". So, without God as the giver of such rights, rights become another gift that men abuse with their sinful depravity.

I completely agree about conversion. Conversion only is NOT the Gospel. Discipleship is the call of the Gospel, which begins with and includes conversion. Well grounded and mature disciples will do much more in their interactions in our fallen world than perpetual babes who only get milk on Sunday morning.

Thanks for your thoughts and for reading,

Henry Smith

Henry Smith - 3/23/2011 10:27:35 AM

3/23/2011 10:32 AM #

Dear Wendy,

Thanks for your encouraging cheer! Wink

We are grateful that you are passing it on in FB. That is very much appreciated. At the very least, the schools should be teaching the immense problems with evolution, and its philosophical underpinnings. Our schools essentially are a bi-product of stage three academia, inculcating millions of unwitting children with the erroneous tenets of secular humanism.

Keep working to be salt and light, one student at a time!

Thanks again for your words,

Henry Smith

Henry Smith - 3/23/2011 10:32:27 AM

3/23/2011 10:46 AM #

Dear Bee,

Thanks for your great comments. I think the young people you are describing are probably feeling confusion at some level. The power of the messages we receive today are so strong, I think they feel a sense of conflict inside but don't quite know what to do about it. Once they head off to college, the secularists just take over, and they lose much of what they thought they believed. (As Ham outlines in his great book).

I suppose the immense challenge is in drawing out that confusion. That is, helping them become more consciously aware of it so that it can then be addressed and truth shined upon it. Apologetics should include not only Christian doctrines, but also discussing non-Christian worldviews. I believe this is critical.

Paul is our great example in Acts 17 in Athens. He understood the philosophers quite well and used their own poets against them, showing their philosophies were a quagmire of contradiction.

Keep up the good work. There is much to do...

Blessings,

Henry

Henry Smith - 3/23/2011 10:46:46 AM

3/23/2011 2:37 PM #

Dear Readers,

Here are two online articles that show some of the alarming statistics concerning the state of the church:

"Texas Pastor: Biblical Illiteracy is Church's Dirty Little Secret"

www.christianpost.com/.../

Barna Survey Examines Changes in Worldview Among Christians over the Past 13 Years

www.barna.org/.../252-barna-survey-examines-changes-in-worldview-among-christians-over-the-past-13-years

Blessings,

Henry Smith

Henry Smith - 3/23/2011 2:37:36 PM

3/23/2011 7:33 PM #

Henry, you rock!  =]  
I am so tired of society at large calling itself "Christian" without the slightest idea that this does not compute with their living however they like.  I call such "churchians" instead, because they attend services somewhere without ever seeking or hearing the truth.  (and should they accidentally cross paths with it, they get offended at being "judged"...) Since the Biblical has been sanitized out of our culture, it becomes harder and harder to explain one's position--because you need to first ascertain how unlearned your audience is before you can proceed!  And one cannot assume an underlying morality to our culture anymore, even as all around claim that "people are basically good."  I find myself wishing I had grown up in the 1940s, when society was still capable of being shocked by debauchery, infidelity, etc.,--they were still pervasive back then, but not seen as the norm!  <sigh>
One dissension--secular music CAN be used to draw attention to Kingdom themes, when used properly...my sister and I regularly find "accidentally spiritual" songs to be of use in connecting to those around us...for example, a recent song by Linkin Park seeks to understand sin and forgiveness, and ALMOST gets it right--probably as right as a secular person can...a good jumping-off point for discussion!
Thanks for putting this out there, and I'll be sharing it extensively!  (we'll see who "gets it")
--Jenn

Jenn the Superchick - 3/23/2011 7:33:03 PM

3/23/2011 7:41 PM #

Dear Jenn,

Wow! Thanks so much for your kind words. I agree with your assessment.

One clarification: I agree about your characterization of secular music and it being a jumping off point. Much of it actually speaks of the desperation of the human heart. My pastor once played a song by U2 to show how the lyrics speak of how desperate the human condition is.

My criticism was specifically about singing secular songs during Sunday morning worship services, which must be wholly reserved for worshiping God.

Thanks again for your kind words and encouragement!

Henry Smith

Henry Smith - 3/23/2011 7:41:08 PM

3/24/2011 9:22 AM #

I consider myself a Judeo-Christian, and I find it difficult to find a church that indeed teaches and preaches true biblical doctrine. The closest church that does that is 45 minutes from where I live. I live in a very rural area with no public transportation, and no transportation myself. There are numerous churches that I can get to locally, but, they do not teach the true doctrine. I myself try to obey God's laws as set down by Moses. I notice that the one thing the Bible hits on all the time is the violation of the 4th Commandment, honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy. I don't care what anyone else believes, but Friday sunset to Saturday sunset IS the Sabbath. It was never changed and no one has the authority to change it. So, if out churches can't honor the correct Sabbath, then how can they preach and teach true biblical doctrine? Thanks for being a sounding board.

MaryAnn Bower - 3/24/2011 9:22:14 AM

3/24/2011 12:51 PM #

Dear Mary Ann,

Thanks for your comments.

I have not personally studied this subject in depth, so my comments are based on only some general reading I have done.

Most Christian theologians note that the NT church changed their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, and this is taking place in the context of the NT revelation itself. In my own view thus far, I have come to conclude that the Sabbath is still a binding principle, rooted not only in the Ten Commandments, but the Creation account itself. God rested after six days of work, and so should we.

I am not sure that the additional NT revelation demands we practice the Sabbath on Fri-Sat. I am sure some would disagree.

For more, see: Jochem Douma, The Ten Commandments: Manual for the Christian Life, P&R Publishing, 1996, p. 109-160.

Also, I think John Murray's commentary on the Ordinance of Labor is helpful, see: John Murray, Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics, Eerdman's, 1957, p. 82-106.

Thanks again for your thoughts!

Blessings,

Henry Smith

Henry Smith - 3/24/2011 12:51:30 PM

3/28/2011 9:38 AM #

Henry, The church at large in the world is in trouble because it ignores paul's teaching, in II Timothy 2:15, to rightly divide the word of truth. He shows us in his letter to the Ephesians how to separate "ages to come" from "time past" and "But now". Concerning the "But now", Paul says in Galatians 2:21, "I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." Is it so hard to understand Galatians 3:24 and 25? "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come we are no longer under a schoolmaster."
Regarding the earthquakes in Japan and Haiti, we should recognize that these disasters are not punishment (time past) but are a sign (but now) that we are nearing the end of this age and that Christ is coming soon. Matthew 24:3, "...and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" The answer is given in verse 7, "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places." This is actually good news to believers who look for his coming. I Thessalonians 4:16 and 17, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (ages to come). "

abchrysler - 3/28/2011 9:38:51 AM

3/28/2011 4:41 PM #

Henry,
You verbalized my observations to the "T."  For a long time I have said that we Americans are living in a dying culture.  Your article is excellent as we are really in a moral and spiritual mess.  Unfortunately, no one wants to hear about it.  However, God will not remain silent.  Sooner or later He will respond -- either with a revival or judgment.  Let's pray for the former.  

Dr. Bill Heinrich - 3/28/2011 4:41:39 PM

3/28/2011 4:58 PM #

Dear Bill,

Thank you very much! Keep working and praying. God is merciful.

Blessings,

HENRY

Henry Smith - 3/28/2011 4:58:22 PM

4/11/2011 2:29 AM #

Henry,

You stated the problem well. It is very frustrating to see the decline of the church and all the distortions of the Word. But, Jesus predicted this would happen. I was particularly appalled by a website that claimed to be supporting Christian Porn - talk about an oxymoron. Yet few Christians would have a clue that the word porn in the Greek is the root for the words fornication, harlotry and even idolatry. Even a minimum understanding of the languages would expose this simple lie, yet I find most so-called Christians are extremely ignorant of Scripture, languages, history, and Biblical Theology. There seems to be no difference between Christians and the world. Discipleship and in-depth Bible Study is the only solution, yet no one seems to have the time or interest for that. To use my own trite financial analogy. The church is the Federal Reserve, and we have been printing Christian dollar bills at record speed, un-backed by the precious Gold of the Word, these fiat dollars will soon be worthless as the evil inflation rears its ugly head. Will the church collapse as economies do? Only the Lord knows. Meanwhile, keep preaching the Truth, its our only hope. Those who wake up will be saved as this world winds toward the end. It was Noah who preached 120 years without a single convert right up till
the flood came and wiped them all away. The Tsunami in Japan was only a preview of things to come !!

Blessings Brother

Charles Michael Lassiter - 4/11/2011 2:29:59 AM

4/17/2011 2:39 PM #

Amen!

Linda Morby - 4/17/2011 2:39:05 PM

4/17/2011 11:17 PM #

Well said brother -- you tie many important and timely ideas together.  I am encouraged by your boldness!  May the Lord rouse His church!  db

David Bissett - 4/17/2011 11:17:21 PM

2/29/2012 12:06 AM #

Bro. Smith,

I very much appreciate your article.

As a layman with only a high school diploma and no formal CHRISTian training, I think that one of the major problems in our western society is that the "educational system" (that includes nearly every educational institution in the USA) does not teach their students to think.

My dad was an attorney-at-law and told me many years ago about the way he was taught and practiced law in my grandads law office back in the 1920's & '30's. That was - when you pick up a book of law - you place your ideas, pre-conceived notions, likes and dislikes to the side - then you read and apply "WHAT THE WORDS SAY"! If we as CHRISTians read our Holy Bible that way, there would be no question about GOD Creating the heavens and the earth and all that in them is vs 'evolution', the truth of the worldwide flood, or most importantly why Jesus Christ had to die on the cross for all of us lost sinners!!!

Why do so many Pastors, teachers, and writers 'interpret' GOD's Holy Word. The "Fear of the LORD" means just exactly what GOD told the writers of Scripture to write.

I was a military pilot for many years, and the two most important chapters in the Operator's Manual for each aircraft are "Limitations" and "Emergency Procedures". The information in them is not subject to interpretation! (I do fully realize this is a flawed illustration, as the manuals were written by men without Divine Guidance, and are subject to change - while GOD's Holy Word is without flaw, and is timeless.)

I am disturbed when Pastor's or teachers - no matter how well they are known - when they say about a passage in Scripture - 'in other words what GOD meant is....' or 'what GOD really means is ...'.

Another area of terrible weakness in the few people that I've run across that do read the Holy Bible - is that there is very little application of what GOD says to everyday circumstances and life.

Should our Pastors and teachers be more thourough and sound in their doctrine - yes! My understanding that the responsibility is ours individually, in that we are to apply all of the understanding that the Holy Spirit gives us. and to really do as our 'Bereans' brothers did in Acts 17:11 "These were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so."

Prayer - why don't we sincerely pray for GOD's Will to be done? Whose servants are we really? My understanding is that GOD is probably answering many prayers permissively now, as he did for King Hezekiah. When Isaiah told the King was told that he was going to die, he pleaded with GOD not to die, and he was given 15 more years of life. He was never as close to the LORD during those years, and his wicked son Manasseh was born. (II Ki 20:1-21)

Finally - in these last days in which we are living, please think of the following words: "So many words - So little Truth".

Bro. Nick - 2/29/2012 12:06:42 AM

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