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, May 25, 2008

The Transgender Myth Revisited

I find it amusing that advocates of the transgender position claim to have scientific evidence that there is some sort of hormonal imbalance that occurs in the brain of a baby during the third trimester of a pregnancy. This is supposed to result in the mental changes where a boy thinks he is a girl and vice versa. However, this is mere speculation at best and to date there is absolutely no scientific research that establishes any genetic or hormonal link to the transgender disorder, much less any correlation to the disorder.

Finding "analogies" in nature to support human behavior like homosexuality is stretching it and I have yet to see even one animal in nature tell us that it thinks it is the opposite sex. Again, the lengths some folks will go to justify their aberrant behavioral choices is beyond ridiculous. If there is nothing morally wrong with such behavior, why don't they just say the truth: they WANT to do the things they do. Why do they need some sort of pseudo-scientific explanation to justify their socially unacceptable behaviors?

I might also mention that so-called "hermaphrodites" or "intersexed" children have real, observable physical and biological abnormalities. That is simply not the case with "transgendered" individuals who have no biological, genetic, or hormonal evidence for the source of their confusion. What we have instead is anecdotal or "testimonial" evidence. Sorry, but for most empirical scientists that does not constitute "scientific" or "empirical" evidence showing what the root cause of the condition is. Moreover, Evangelical organizations have called the bluff and asked for conclusive research to support the extraordinary claims of those involved in the transsexual medical industry:

Are transsexuals born that way?

Over 99.98% of the individuals are, obvious at birth, either male or female sex (Sax, 2002) if defined by physical characteristics (the presence of a vagina or a penis). In a very small number, sex may be unclear due to ambiguous genitalia as a result of medication conditions, e.g. adrenal virilization syndrome (in which girls are born with a masculinized clitoris) or hermaphroditism .

Different explanations on transsexuality have been offered, with the debate centering on nature vs. nurture.' Recently, Dr Mohd Ismail Mohd Tambi, a consultant clinical andrologist, disclosed to the media that one of the reasons for transsexuality was biological (The Star, 2005-11-28). Yet studies on biological causes remain inconclusive, for differences in brain structure could have been caused by hormonal medications. In other words, the strength of studies on brain structure is still very limited. Research has also not been able to confirm the suggestion of differences in hormone levels nor demonstrate genetic cause. There is still a general lack of good replicated research. The debate continues.

According to a report by the Evangelical Alliance Policy Commission (EAPC) in Britain , the body of evidence for transsexuals having psychological causes is greater and more long-standing compared to evidence for biological causes. "Published academic literature that indicates transsexual people as children have experienced much greater psychological harm than non-transsexuals remains largely undisputed."

Some examples of psychological factors are: parental rejection, absence of father during childhood, having emotionally-distant father, peer pressure, perfectionism, media images, self-rejection and poor self-esteem which may be reinforced by hostile reception from society.

In some cases, transsexual behavior ceased when a concurrent psychiatric condition was treated with medication (e.g. a 1997 case report: Four year remission of transsexualism after comorbid obsessive-compulsive disorder improved with self-exposure therapy'). In other words, transsexual can and do change their gender identity and preference.

In sum, the precise etiology (study of causes) of transsexuality is still an open question.

Even if the source of my quote is an Evangelical organization, we still have pro-transsexual psychologists admitting that there is little to no evidence for a genetic source for the condition:

Scientists say they may have found genes that help explain why a tiny percentage of men see themselves as women, cruelly trapped in the wrong body.

The researchers say the findings are very preliminary and should be “interpreted with the utmost caution,” due to the small sample size used in their study...


It is unknown exactly how this change in the ER-beta gene might contribute to transsexualism, the researchers said. The gene may produce different variants of the molecular gateway, which transmit estrogen more or less easily; but it’s unknown whether one of these might be the reason for the effect, or whether the reason is something else.

Moreover, the researchers found that the two other genes that they studied also seem to influence the risk of becoming a transsexual. But neither of these genes on its own predicted that risk, they found. Rather, specific combinations of all three variants seemed to be more common among transsexuals.


Moreover, the best researchers have seem to have done is note genetic abnormalities which "appear" to be common to transsexuals. The article I cite above is from World Science magazine and is not a peer research journal published among scientists. Reading the article carefully we find the two admissions I quoted. It would be "premature" to conclude there is a "genetic" cause for transsexual conditions and the genetic variations mentioned were not always present in transsexuals. "Neither of these genes on its own predicted" the "risk" for transsexual conditions. (ibid.) I might also mention that the researchers conceded that they used a "small sample size" in their study. How small? Three transsexuals? Four?

At any rate, the idea that there is solid research showing the link between transsexualism and genetic or hormonal preconditions is shaky and preliminary at best. I am willing to be corrected by any conclusive research out there. I have noted many "theories" being put forward by researchers but not one of them has been confirmed by independent experiments under controlled laboratory conditions. The bottom line is that the burden of proof lies with those who formulate the theories. Prove it under scientific conditions or else your theory remains just a theory.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

J. C. Ryle's Comments Against Anglo-Catholicism


A plain warning against false doctrine is especially needed in the present day. The school of the Pharisees, and the school of the Sadducees, those ancient mothers of all mischief, were never more active than they are now.

--Between men adding to the truth on one side, and men taking away from it on the other.

--Between those who bury truth under additions, and those who mutilate it by subtractions.

--Between superstition and infidelity.

--Between Roman Catholicism and neology [New Theology].

--Between Ritualism and Rationalism.

Between these upper and lower millstones the Gospel is near being crushed to death! Strange views are continually propounded by pastors about subjects of the deepest importance. About the atonement, the divinity of Christ, the inspiration of the Bible, the reality of miracles, the eternity of future punishment, about the Church, the ministerial office, the Lord's Supper, Baptism, the confessional, the honor due to the Virgin, prayers for the dead. About all these things there is nothing too outrageous to be taught by some ministers in these latter days. By the pen and by the tongue, by the press and by the pulpit, the country is incessantly deluged with a flood of erroneous opinions. To ignore the fact is mere blindness. Others see it, even if we pretend to be ignorant of it. The danger is real, great, and unmistakable. Never was it so needful to say, "Do not be carried away."

Many things combine to make the present inroad of false doctrine peculiarly dangerous. There is an undeniable zeal in some of the teachers of error: their "earnestness" makes many think they must be right. There is a great appearance of learning and theological knowledge: many fancy that such clever and intellectual men must surely be safe guides. There is a general tendency to free thought and free inquiry in these latter days: many like to prove their independence of judgment, by believing novelties. There is a wide-spread desire to appear charitable and liberal-minded: many seem half ashamed of saying that anybody can be in the wrong. There is a quantity of half-truth taught by the modern false teachers: they are incessantly using Scriptural terms and phrases in an unscriptural sense. There is a morbid craving in the public mind for a more sensuous, ceremonial, sensational, showy worship: men are impatient of inward, invisible heart-work. There is a silly readiness in every direction to believe everybody who talks cleverly, lovingly, and earnestly, and a determination to forget that Satan often masquerades himself "as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). There is a wide-spread "gullibility" among professing Christians: every heretic who tells his story plausibly is sure to be believed, and everybody who doubts him is called a persecutor and a narrow-minded man. All these things are peculiar symptoms of our times. I defy any observing person to deny them. They tend to make the assaults of false doctrine in our day peculiarly dangerous. They make it more than ever needful to cry aloud, "Do not be carried away!"

If any one should ask me, What is the best safeguard against false doctrine?--I answer in one word, "The Bible: the Bible regularly read, regularly prayed over, regularly studied." We must go back to the old prescription of our Master: "Diligently study the Scriptures" (John 5:39). If we want a weapon to wield against the plans of Satan, there is nothing like "the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God." But to wield it successfully, we must read it habitually, diligently, intelligently, and prayerfully. This is a point on which, I fear, many fail. In an age of hurry and activity, few read their Bibles as much as they should. More books perhaps are read than ever, but less of the one Book which makes man wise to salvation. The Roman Catholic Church and new theology could never have made such havoc in the Church in the last fifty years, if there had not been a most superficial knowledge of the Scriptures throughout the land. A Bible-reading congregation is the strength of a Church.

"Diligently study the Scriptures." Mark how the Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles continually refer to the Old Testament, as a document just as authoritative as the New. Mark how they quote texts from the Old Testament, as the voice of God, as if every word was given by inspiration. Mark how the greatest miracles in the Old Testament are all referred to in the New, as unquestioned and unquestionable facts. Mark how all the leading events in the Pentateuch are incessantly named as historical events, whose reality admits of no dispute. Mark how the atonement, and substitution, and sacrifice, run through the whole Bible from first to last, as essential doctrines of revelation. Mark how the resurrection of Christ, the greatest of all miracles, is proved by such an overwhelming mass of evidence, that he who disbelieves it may as well say he will believe no evidence at all. Mark all these things, and you will find it very hard to be a Rationalist! Great are the difficulties of unbelief: it requires more faith to be an unbeliever than a Christian. But greater still are the difficulties of Rationalism. Free handling of Scripture--results of modern criticism--broad and liberal theology--all these are fine, swelling, high-sounding phrases, which please some minds, and look very grand at a distance. But the man who looks below the surface of things will soon find that there is no sure standing-ground between ultra-Rationalism and Atheism.

"Diligently study the Scriptures." Mark what a conspicuous absence there is in the New Testament of what may be called the Sacramental system, and the whole circle of Ritualistic theology. Mark how extremely little there is said about the effects of Baptism. Mark how very seldom the Lord's Supper is mentioned in the Epistles. Find, if you can, a single text in which New Testament ministers are called sacrificing priests, or the Lord's Supper is called a sacrifice, or private confession to ministers is recommended and practiced. Turn, if you can, to one single verse in which sacrificial vestments are named as desirable, or in which lighted candles, and pots of flowers on the Lord's Table, or processions, and incense, and flags, and banners, and turning to the east, and bowing down to the bread and wine, or prayer to the Virgin Mary and the angels, are sanctioned. Mark these things well, and you will find it very hard to be a Ritualist! You may find your authority for Ritualism in garbled quotations from the Fathers, in long extracts from monkish, mystical, or from Popes; but you certainly will not find it in the Bible. Between the plain Bible, honestly and fairly interpreted, and extreme Ritualism there is gulf which cannot be passed.

"If we would not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings," we must remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Diligently study the Scriptures." Ignorance of the Bible is the root of all error. Knowledge of the Bible is the best antidote against modern heresies.

Anglo-Catholicism: Why The Reformed Episcopal Church, The Anglican Communion Network, and the American Anglican Council Are Wrong

Recently someone sent me the link to an article at Dan Sullivan's blog on the issue of Anglo-Catholicism. I found Sullivan's comments to be worthy of consideration, even though he is inconsistent in other ways; i.e. he is an Arminian and a member of an "Evangelical" denomination which implicitly and often overtly compromises with Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy in the interest of co-belligerency against abortion and homosexuality.

Anyway, I particularly liked his comments about the 39 Articles of Religion. I will quote the relevant passage here:

"While many churches might not practice Eucharistic adoration, prayers to the saints, prayers for the dead, say the rosary, venerate icons or relics or think of the Eucharist as a propitiary [sic] sacrifice, I am finding many otherwise Evangelical and Biblical Christians see no need to stand against those things - they are graciously allowed as part of the broad tent of Anglicanism, owing to apparent practices from the early church and to the Great Tradition. So to speak against these things can be seen as narrow, divisive and, well, un-anglican. I'm new in these parts, I guess I didn't pick up on the local customs.

As much as I long for an end to divisive doctrinal wrangling, I am finding myself in a position of needing do [sic] draw a line - to state that I cannot go beyond a particular point. "Where is it written?" remains an essential factor in defining doctrine for me. It must remain so. If scripture cannot correct the Great Tradition, then scripture is not the final authority and that is a commitment I cannot relinquish. If the Great Tradition can force interpretations upon scripture that the context and grammar do not warrant, or add rituals, beliefs, doctrines to the faith that seem to have no basis in the text, then scripture is not the final authority in matters of faith. At that point, the only reasonable choice would be to become Roman-Catholic, not Anglo-Catholic, and it seems in some circles the line between the two is nearly imperceptible.

And I have to wonder. If Anglo-Catholics can find a way to "reinterpret" the articles of Religion, to sever them from their historical setting, to impose an interpretation on them that was fueled by 19th century concerns and Catholic theological interests, on what basis does an Anglo-Catholic honestly resist liberal reinterpretation of the same articles of Religion from the perspective of postmodern multicultural relativism? On what basis can revision and reinterpretation of the Biblical texts be repudiated?"

I realize I'm jumping to the end of the conversation but if you wish to read the entire article, you can go to http://back2center.blogspot.com/2008/03/three-faces-of-anglicanism-anglo.html. Moreover, the issue of where the center of authority for the Christian church lies is one that we must consider. If the priesthood of believers is true and biblical, then placing the authority of the church and of the clerical leadership above Holy Scripture and the people, who are also priests, is forbidden and incompatible the one with the other. How can one mix oil and water when the two will not mix. Any theology which places the Tradition of the church above Scripture is essentially placing man's authority above God's authority, which eventually leads to liberalism, as our friend above points out.

Being a radical, confessing Evangelical and hostile to liberalism and neo-orthodoxy, I have found myself often unwilling to read much liberal or neo-orthodox theology because I don't find it edifying. However, I'm finding that often neo-orthodoxy has legitimate and solid criticism of theological liberalism. I have been re-reading Emil Brunner's classic work on Christian ethics, The Divine Imperative. (Emil Brunner, The Divine Imperative. 1937, Lutterworth Press. Reprint. Philadelphia: Westminster, no date). I found it odd that, while modern "Evangelicals" seem to have bought into the lie that Roman Catholicism and Evangelicalism are somehow compatible, a neo-orthodox theologian has no objections to offending those who hold Anglo-Catholic or even Roman Catholic sentiments. I found Brunner's following remarks particularly enlightening:

"The fact that a false and a true ecclesiasticism exists, is due to two aspects of the nature of the Church, namely, that the Church is both human and divine. False ecclesiasticism, ecclesiastical 'Monophysitism,' clericalism, is based on the fact that the divine element has been confused with the human, and thus that it predicates of both elements that which really only applies to one. Anti-clericalism, on the other hand, is based upon the fact that the necessary union of the divine and human elements in the Church is denied, and both are separated. True ecclesiasticism, however, consists in the fact that the divine and the human are not separated, but also that they are not regarded as identical with one another. The more serious danger of these two is the first, because it exists within the Church. False ecclesiasticism is the peculiar curse of the Roman Catholic Church." The Divine Imperative, page 562.

Brunner's remarks are cutting by today's sensibilities and he was writing in a period just prior to World War II. It is indeed strange when a neo-orthodox theologian of just a few decades ago sounds more conservative than today's so-called "Evangelicals"!! Anglo-Catholicism claims to be a middle way between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism but it winds up being neither. Roman Catholics legitimately question the validity of any communion which claims to be both Protestant and "Catholic" in the sense that Roman Catholics understand that term. The problem with the common cause conservatives like the Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council is that they try to mix Reformed Protestant Evangelicalism with conservative Anglo-Catholicism. However, the two do not mix as history has repeatedly shown. The most famous minister to note this was the Reformed Episcopal bishop, Charles Cheney.

However, even former Evangelicals who have converted to Roman Catholicism have noted the false pretenses of Anglo-Catholics. In his article, "The Trouble with Anglo-Catholicism," the Roman Catholic, Robert Ian Williams comments:

"Many Catholics and Protestants are confused when they encounter Anglicanism. Indeed, many Evangelicals troubled by the lack of historical continuity within their own faith communities have ended up in the Anglican church. Why suffer the stigma of becoming a Catholic when you can have bishops, a sense of continuity, and beautiful liturgy apart from Rome? After all, Anglicanism turns a blind eye to contraception, allows easy divorce, and has incorporated other "progressive" ideas.

Anglicanism presents its self [sic] as a reformed Catholicism striking a balance between the extremes of Rome and Geneva. However, the roots of Anglicanism are solidly Protestant, and the claim that Anglo-Catholicism is the genuine Anglican tradition does not stand up in the light of history.

Though the Church of England after the schism with Rome over Henry’s divorce still kept the Catholic sacramental system, radical Protestantism was introduced during the reign of Edward VI. Thomas Cranmer and Edward Seymour, appointed by Henry VIII to positions of power, upon Henry’s death worked openly to introduce the beliefs of the German Reformers. The holy sacrifice of the Mass was replaced by a vernacular communion service that denied transubstantiation and the eucharistic sacrifice. Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer was written in beautiful English but contained subtle heresy behind its lovely facade.

The renowned Anglican liturgist Dom Gregory Dix (1901–1953) commented on the Cranmeriam [sic] rite: "As a piece of liturgical craftsmanship it is in the first rank. . . . It is not a disordered attempt at a Catholic rite but the only effective attempt ever made to give liturgical expression to the doctrine of justification by faith alone" (The Shape of the Liturgy [1946], 11).

So here we have a broad Evangelical who is a former Roman Catholic, Dan Sullivan, saying that Anglo-Catholicism and Evangelicalism are incompatible and then we have a former Evangelical but now Roman Catholic, Robert Ian Williams, saying the same thing from the opposite side of the fence. And to top it all off, we have a neo-orthodox theologian saying practically the same thing from another perspective, albeit one we should not be too eager to adopt.

What is it that drives sinful human beings in one direction or another, never being satisfied? Historically, Anglo-Catholics tried to reintroduce Roman Catholicism as a way to return to historical roots with the Roman Catholic past of the Anglican Church. However, they did this by dishonestly reinterpreting the 39 Articles of Religion to fit their Roman Catholic presuppositions.

Unfortunately, when the emphasis becomes the church, then human presumption takes charge over divine revelation and eventually the end result is theological liberalism. Williams goes on to point out in his article that Anglo-Catholics from the 19th century went on to ordain women, homosexuals and consecrate homosexual bishops. Furthermore, he remarks that such innovations appeal greatly to the liberals who leave the Roman Catholic Church, like Matthew Fox and others:

The nineteenth-century ritualists had attempted to change the face of Anglicanism. But the veneer was superficial, and the innate Protestantism of Anglicanism has emerged in its assimilation of rationalism, the women priesthood, and the blessing of homosexual unions. With the acceptance of women priests there is now a desire for lay people to be allowed to celebrate the eucharist in the more evangelical churches of the communion.

Indeed, many Anglo-Catholics have adopted this new, liberal theology and have grouped themselves in an organization called Affirming Catholicism. In the United States there are at least five hundred former Catholic priests serving in the Episcopal church (including the ex-Dominican Matthew Fox). Some Catholic nuns have joined so they can be "ordained." The Episcopalians have a well-financed outreach to Hispanics, and into its fold every year the Episcopal church receives thousands of former Catholics who refuse to accept the moral teaching of the Catholic Church." http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2001/0109fea5.asp

One must confess that even Protestant and Evangelical churches and denominations go liberal. But this problem is not limited to Anglo-Catholicism or Protestantism. It is a also a problem within Roman Catholicism as Robert Ian Williams explicitly admits. One would also suspect the same problem exists within the other communion of the East, Eastern Orthodoxy, though it too claims to be the only pure church. Williams seems to think that Protestantism leads inevitably to liberalism but that is not always the case and the link is a red herring at best. In fact, by his own admission Anglo-Catholicism and even Roman Catholicism struggle with the same issue. My own contention is that any time that reason or human views take precedence over the divine you wind up with liberalism. However, when the divine and the human are confused into a monophysite view, as Emil Brunner points out, you wind up with the same thing: a completely human usurpation of the divine.

According to Brunner, Protestants have been plagued by the attempt to duplicate the grandeur and success of the Roman Catholic Church as an institution on earth. And the vacillation between the Roman Catholic view and the Protestant view has led to confusion:

The Reformation made a fundamental breach with this kind of ecclesiasticism; in principle the Reformation was a return to the original Christian conception of the Church. But the relics of that theory of the Church which identified the human element with the Divine, which still lingered on in the minds of the Reformers, produced a fresh growth of this malignant error within the Protestant Churches; But since it was also impossible to forget the objections to this theory Protestantism has wavered uncertainly ever since between a false churchmanship and a lack of churchmanship, and this is still its character at the present day. The thought--or more accurately the feeling--of the average 'Protestant' oscillates between a secret or at least half-concealed longing for the imposing splendor of the Roman Catholic Church, and an indifference to all that bears the name of "Church" (The Divine Imperative, page 563).

Brunner's insights from the neo-orthodox perspective are illuminating but do not necessarily stop the problem of confusing the divine with the human. Brunner denies Verbal Plenary Inspiration of the Bible and says that both liberalism and fundamentalism are wrong. However, the neo-orthodox critique that the creeds and the doctrines of Scripture are not to be identified with the living Word of God leaves us questioning where the objective and the subjective begin and end. Either way, existentialism and subjectivism wind up back in the liberalism that neo-orthodoxy was supposed to correct. Anglo-Catholicism seeks to counter subjectivism by appealing to the authority of the church to interpret Scripture, which Brunner rightly perceives as a confusion of the human and the Divine. However, Protestantism, wavers between no church discipline and too much church discipline. On the one hand, Protestantism wants to dispense with authority and the church degenerates into theological liberalism, exalting reason above revelation. On the other hand, the Catholics want to replace reason with Tradition and to stop dissent by heavy handed authority. But this too leads to human reason usurping God's Word.

Neo-orthodoxy rightly critiques both liberalism and fundamentalism but offers nothing different to replace either. It, like Anglo-Catholicism, claims to offer a middle way between the Enlightenment and a pre-critical fundamentalism but winds up with a stalemate that solves nothing. The problem with Anglo-Catholicism, even the so-called conservative Anglo-Catholics, is that eventually placing humans in control over the Word of God leads to corruption like that we see in the Episcopal Church today. Anglo-Catholicism winds up being something like a state church in which

the "tares" are mingled with the "wheat" to such an extent that the distinctive character of the Church is almost obliterated. Once a church has reached the point at which it is possible for her functions to be administered by open atheists and scoffers at religion, when perhaps the majority of her members are merely nominal, and do not care a jot for the Church, when the impression is widespread that it is as natural to belong to the Church as it is to be born, and that membership means nothing--then certainly the point has been reached where we may ask: Has not the Church become like salt "which has lost its savour" and is henceforth good for nothing? (The Divine Imperative, page 551).

The common cause movement will eventually lead down a slippery slope toward the same liberalism it is protesting against precisely because it is built on the sand of human tradition and human usurpation of the divine. Only the Protestant churches, as imperfect as they are, have a chance because the emphasis is on a constant reformation of the local and national church to conform to the Holy Scriptures. Brunner says the error of Roman Catholicism and by implication, Anglo-Catholicism is that

...there is only one thing which allows us still to believe in the high advantage even of the Protestant Churches of the present day; in principle they are capable of regeneration, whereas the Catholic Church has elevated error to the rank of a principle, and in this very fact regards itself as infallible. (The Divine Imperative, page 544).

Anglo-Catholicism is neither Protestant nor Roman Catholic but a heresy to both views. Inevitably, Anglo-Catholicism is a compromise which leads down the slippery slope to theological and moral liberalism and relativism. This is precisely why the Reformed Episcopal Church is wrong for merging with the Anglican Province of America and being a party to the common cause factions of the Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council. Anglo-Catholicism is bankrupt and leads to apostasy as history will prove out. As Emil Brunner says, only a confessing and solidly committed Protestant Church can hope to endure the test of time and that is precisely because God is constantly and providentially superintending the true Church by His sovereign will. Those who trust in man wind up building replicas of the tower of Babel only to find it reaches nowhere and eventually brings more chaos and confusion than unity. Anglo-Catholicism is wrong precisely because it is simply another tower of Babel. It attempts to be a middle way between the Gospel and institutionalized error. Such a middle way is merely another way to an insured and guaranteed failure.

May God have mercy!!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Evangelical Pragmatism: Selling Out the Truth

Almost without exception when I ask an unbeliever why they do not believe in Jesus Christ or attend a local Christian church, the answer is unequivocably the issue of money. Most of the comments have to do with the fact that the local churches use high pressure tactics to get people to give a significant amount of their incomes to the ministry. Some even go so far as to say that tithing to a local church is giving to God. While this is somewhat true, it is not the whole truth.

First off, God does not need our money to further the Gospel or His kingdom here on earth. God is completely sovereign and he is perfectly capable of electing, regenerating, and calling those whom He has foreordained to be justified by the gift of faith. He gave us His one and only Son so that we might freely receive salvation through the faith once delivered to the saints and through the gift of faith which enables us to believe in the first place (Ephesians 2:8-9).

With the advent of revivalism in the Second Great Awakening and the pragmatic approach of the pelagian theology of Charles Finney, Evangelicalism was influenced away from Reformational theology and the objective truth of the cross and the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. Finney and John Wesley's doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit eventually gave rise to the Pentecostal revival at Azusa Street, Los Angeles, California around the turn of the century.

Thus, the marriage between Finney's pelagian/pragmatism with Pentecostalism and the subsequent Charismatic movement in the mainline churches gave rise to the church growth movement. The Pentecostal emphasis on the book Acts as the modus operandi for fulfilling the Great Comission of Mark 16:16-18 and Matthew 28:18-20 combined with Finney's emphasis on extended altar calls and other psychologically manipulative techniques led to the formation of the church growth movement. The father of this movement, Donald McGavran, was a missionary to India and also a Pentecostal.

Evangelicals need to recommit themselves to Scripture as the final authority instead of a pragmatism that places success and what works ahead of what is true. When we sell out to pragtism, we have compromised the Gospel and instead made our own happiness and success an idol. We need to remember Jesus' command to the rich young ruler to go and sell all that we have and give to the poor. We also need to remember that we should have no other gods before the one and only true God.


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