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

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Is Evangelicalism On the Decline?

From all appearances, Evangelicalism as a renewal movement among Protestants may be on the decline. Several factors contributing to this situation include the church growth emphasis on downplaying doctrine and focusing on pragmatic needs of people, the decline of Evangelical seminaries toward more liberal views on theological and moral issues, and a lessened commitment to Holy Scripture as the apex of authority.

I could point out some particular cases in point that are indicators of this decline in Evangelical commitment to divine revelation and propositional truth. Billy Graham and George Barna seem to think the Protestant Reformation never happened since both include Roman Catholics among Evangelicals. John Stott, the famous Anglican Evangelical, has sided with liberal Anglicanism in declaring that eternal punishment in hell does not exist.

It remains to be seen if the new Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers, has truly been converted to Christ or if she is merely one of those having a form of godliness but who lacks the power and the truth thereof. When we find out her position on the murder of unborn children and of the elderly and the infirm, then we will know how effectively independent Evangelical churches are doing their job in discipling and catechizing new converts. I might point out that President George W. Bush may need further discipling and catechizing in the Christian faith himself. We can only hope and pray that he knows what's he is doing by nominating Miss Harriet Miers.

Neo-Evangelicals on the far left present another problem. Fuller Theological Seminary, for example, no longer holds to the verbal plenary view of the inspiration of Holy Scripture. Certain professors at Fuller, including Marguerite Shuster and the deceased Paul K. Jewett, are or were advocating homosexuality as a valid lifestyle for Christians and are or were in favor of the ordination of homosexuals. Some professors at Asbury Theological Seminary, such as Old Testament professor Lawson Stone, deny that Genesis 1-11 constitutes biblical history.

Within the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement there is no longer a solid commitment to propositional truth or Holy Scripture as the final authority in matters of faith and practice, thus experience takes over as the authority. Such heterodox ideas have sometimes led to outright heresies such as the denial of the trinity by Oneness Pentecostals. Amazingly, Oneness Pentecostals are now considered "Christian" and a legitimate church by the majority of Pentecostal/Charismatic scholars who are members of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, including Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. However, Evangelicals, like the Reformers who preceded them, have always held that Holy Scripture teaches the doctrine of the trinity and that such doctrine is non-negotiable and essential to the Christian faith. The Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed all summarize the doctrine of the trinity because the church believed and should still believe that Holy Scripture itself teaches the doctrine of the trinity.

Evangelicalism has also weakened on the issue of justification by faith alone. While Billy Graham teaches and preaches this doctrine, he has included Roman Catholics as believers despite the fact that the Roman Catholic Church still officially condemns the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Anyone who can read the canons of the Council of Trent can see this for themselves.

It has been said that the church which will stand for nothing will fall for anything. It is true that sound and orthodox doctrine alone does not make an individual a Christian. The demons know sound doctrine well, for example. However, the opposite is also true. Not knowing sound doctrine is a sign of ignorance of the most basic tenets of the Christian faith. A church which does not understand the essentials of the Christian faith is a synagogue of Satan and no church at all.

The trouble with Evangelicalism as a whole is that it has become too pragmatic. Simply living a good moral life will not make someone a Christian. A church which has reduced doctrine to moral living and getting along with one another has forgotten its reason for being. Essential to the Christian message, the Gospel, is both right living and right doctrine. The two are inseparably connected. The Evangelical church can no longer afford to pretend that doctrine is not that important.

It is also true that Christianity is a relationship with the living God. But in stating this we ought to acknowledge that this implies a mystical experience with God. Such experiences are useless without the propositional truth related to us in objective form in God's written Word. Jesus said, "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7). Evangelicalism finds itself in a quandary here. While reason and tradition are part of the way the church understands its place in history and in the contemporary culture, Holy Scripture must be the final authority. The paradox, however, is that Holy Scripture must be interpreted. Despite the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture, there are still major and minor doctrinal disputes within Evangelicalism.

If conservative Christianity is to survive, Evangelicals are going to have to find a way to stop the erosion of Biblical truth and Biblical morality within its own ranks. Capitulating to liberalism in hopes of gaining intellectual and academic credibility has been a major failure. Instead Evangelicals need to be better than the liberals at everything they do.

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