Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Demise of Evangelicalism

The coming apostasy of Evangelicalism looms larger with every passing year. With the advent of the Pentecostal movement greater attacks on the doctrine of sola scriptura have weakened the church and placed reason and experience above holy scripture as the final authority in matters of faith and practice. A recent article in Christianity Today upholding the attack by J.P. Moreland at a meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society is more evidence of this.

Pentecostal and charismatic theology has always taken the position that mystical and ecstatic experiences with the Holy Spirit take precedence in the exegesis of Holy Scripture. Thus, their exegesis becomes a form of eisogesis where instead of drawing meaning and interpretation out of the text itself, Pentecostals read their own experiences back into the text to find support for their experiences.

However, the obvious danger of this approach is that theological liberalism and feminism has done this very thing in their apostasy from the Christian faith as it was handed down to us from the apostles through the canon of Scripture. Thus, homosexuals reason that since they experienced same sex orientation and attraction, God must have created them that way. Taking that as their presupposition they then find ways of reading the Old Testament and New Testament prohibitions within a closed cultural setting that then justifies rejecting the prohibition as universally valid across all times and cultures down to the present day.

Evangelicals likewise have found ways to justify their own experiences with divorce and remarriage and other compromises with the social mores of our own larger society. Materialism takes precedence over sacrifice and commitment to God. Easy divorce and remarriage is accepted by society and therefore the passages in Scripture forbidding such practices are re-interpreted in light of the experience of the society at large.

Thus, instead of speaking prophetically to a society and a world that is in rebellion against God, the church winds up accommodating more and more to the world rather than challenging the world with God's moral law and calling for repentance. Moral relativism and pragmatic ethics have taken the upper hand over apodeitic law and dogmatic theology.

In my estimation, it is only a matter of time before Evangelicalism at large becomes as liberal as the liberals they are protesting against. Before long homosexuality and premarital sex will be as accepted by Evangelicals as it is by theological liberals. Evangelicals would rather be popular and accepted than to hold fast to the doctrines of the Bible. A slow eating away at the biblical foundations of the Christian faith is under way. I wonder how long true Christianity can last when justification by faith alone and the authority of scripture are attacked as never before?

The Episcopal Church U.S.A. and other mainline churches are leading the way into apostasy and Evangelicals and Pentecostals are following them along like lambs for the slaughter. Wolves in sheeps' clothing and hirelings seem to dominate our church and none of the pastors want to rock the boat or say what seems obvious to those of us who are not afraid to critique the powers that be.

Compromise seems to be the order of the day. When pastors start compromising the truth to please their peers in the ministry and the folks in the pews, it is only a matter of time before outright apostasy sets in. Who will stand in the gap? Who will remain part of the remnant which is unfraid to suffer for the cause of Christ and the truth of the Gospel?

May God have mercy on us all!!!


mark.gingerich said...

I too share your concerns with the acquiescence to technocratic, corporatist secular culture. But two questions spring to mind and I would be interested to hear your take on them:

1. to what degree is interpretation of scripture culturally conditioned (ie, how does one know that they are indeed the ones upholding sola scriptura?)

2. to what degree does cultural evolution play a part in ethics; meaning, slavery (in much of the Christian west), the subjugation of women were widely practiced and accepted in centuries past, as people at that time felt it was in line with scripture.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Your questions are loaded ones, obviously. However, I will answer them in brief.

The answer to question one is that the doctrine of sola scriptura was formulated by the Protestant Reformers of the 16th century. To understand how they understood the world you would have to know their "worldview" and their own cultural conditioning and how that in turn relates to the worldview of the original hearers/readers of the biblical accounts.

I would not at all deny that cultural conditioning exists. In fact, this is one of the problems encountered by modern missionaries in attempting to cross culturally communicate the Gospel with any degree of accuracy. It's also an issue for those translating the Bible into other languages and across other cultures.

The bottom line is that we know we are upholding sola scriptura because we have the writings and the theology of the Protestant Reformers who wrote extensively on the issues and we have the statements of faith or confessions of faith to see how they understood the Bible and how it was to be interpreted.

One should note that the Reformers were directly influenced by the Renaissance and by the humanist philosophies proceeding out of the Renaissance. I might also mention that the medieval scholasticism of the Roman Catholic educational system had a direct impact on their interpretation of Scripture as well.

Provided that we don't buy into the modernist presuppositions of the post-Enlightenment and post-modern eras, I do not think we have reason to be uncertain of our understanding of the Bible or of our doctrine of sola scriptura.

To answer your second question, you do have a point that cultures have evolved significantly since times in the ancient near east of the Old Testament and times in Israel under domination of the Greeks and Romans of the New Testament era.

Your question is really one of hermeneutics or interpretation. What is to be understood as applicable only to the biblical times and what is to be understood as universally applicable to all times and cultures down to the present era?

I would argue that the Protestant Reformers have already answered that question in their confessional statements. The civil laws of the ancient nation of Israel passed away with the passing away of that nation and the loss of its sovereignty.

It might also help if we understand that the laws of Moses were an improvement upon earlier laws that dominated the ancient near east. For example, the law that said "an eye for any eye," which by the way is also part of the Babylonian code of Hammurabi, was intended to make the punishment fit the crime. At one time one could have suffered the death penalty or even the death of one's entire clan/family for an accidental or intentional putting out of someone else's eye, depending on the social status of the person who lost the eye. An eye for an eye is not intended to be an excuse for vengeance but the opposite. It was intended to stop vengeance and replace it with justice and equity in rendering a due punishment.

As for the treatment of women, slavery, etc., in the ancient near east, the worship of Yahweh and the laws of Moses were a definite improvement over the conditions of slaves prior to those laws. Slaves could buy their freedom and they could receive more justice in the event of crimes committed against them. The Bible never openly advises slavery. However, it does accept that slavery did exist in those times and cultures and the civil laws of Moses and Israel were intended to render a more fair and equitable handling of the institution as it existed at that time.

One might also consider that today's work situation is often equivalent to slavery since work isn't an option. We must work for money to feed our families and abusive practices at work place that in jeopardy. I don't see a hard line between biblical slavery/indentured servitude in the biblical and later medieval times as opposed to today. I see slavery as continuing in a different format. I might also add that slavery in the ancient near east and in ancient Greece and Rome were much more merciful and just than slavery in the deep south during pre-civil war times here in the United States. The two just don't even compare. In fact, it was William Wilberforce and other Evangelical Christians of the 19th century who helped abolish the slave trade in England because they understood how inhumane their version of slavery actually was.

And as for your question about women, I personally think the domestic violence laws of today have gone too far the other way. Men today have little rights when accused unjustly of domestic violence. In fact, family law is still evolving and is unclear at many points.

That being said, the law of Moses provided that a man should care for his wife and not abuse her. And even the New Testament treats women as equals, though they are not to be appointed over men in the church. Mary and Martha and other disciples of Jesus were allowed to study with the master whereas the Jews did not allow women to be educated or to learn to read and write the Torah or any other languages. Christian women were often wealthy Greeks or Romans who ran households or owned signicant property. I might mention Chloe, Priscilla, Lydia, etc. (See Mark 15:41; Luke 24:10; Acts 16:14).

The New Testament also acknowledges that women in Roman times had the right to divorce a man, as opposed to the Jewish practice where only the man could obtain a divorce (see Mark 10:12).

In short, critics of the so-called "oppression of women" in biblical times ignore the very evolution of women's rights recorded directly in the Scriptures. While Scripture does not tell us everything regarding science, sociology, psychology, modern ethics, and other forms of natural revelvation or general revelation, it does give us the moral law and general guidelines such as the ten commandments. Where the Bible specifically speaks to a moral or ethical issue like divorce, abortion, extramarital sex, homosexuality, etc., we are bound to obey. Evangelicals and even Roman Catholics, despite their theological disputes over justification by faith alone and sola scriptura, are in amazing agreement and consensus on the treatment of women and on most moral issues, excepting maybe birth control.

These are complicated matters no doubt. But there is simply no excuse for painting Christianity with a broad brush and overgeneralizing. Hope this helps.

Christ have mercy!

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