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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 Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The State of the Evangelical Churches Today

Considering the condition or state of today's Evangelical movement and its constituent denominations and churches is a difficult task. However, judging from the quality of the publications coming from the various publishing organs and the quality of the sermons being delivered, we are in a dismal mess.

Additionally, the quality of education at most Evangelical colleges and seminaries in theological matters is growing worse instead of better. Most programs are focusing on business administration and church growth principles instead of giving students the ammunition to confront neo-orthodoxy, modernism, and postmodernism head on. Instead of presenting an intellectual apologetic or helping students to develop such an apologetic, most seminaries simply report the current and past views and positions with little or no critical evaluation of said positions. Basically, taking that approach leads to a practical education of students in liberal theology and neo-orthodoxy. While I'm not suggesting that seminaries neglect educating students about these issues, I am critical of seminaries which do not critically engage the material or show possible alternatives to these extremely liberal positions.

An additional problem is the so-called church growth movement, which is simply a form of liberalism that has infiltrated Evangelicalism at its weakest point: pragmatism. Most Evangelicals have a great concern for evangelism and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ all over the world. This genuine passion for souls has led to a form of pragmatism that is in effect producing the exact reverse of the alleged intent.

In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus tells us to go into all the world and to "make disciples" of people from every nation and tribe. However, making disciples implies that we ought to be teaching them something. Jesus himself was known as a teacher of theology who utilized parables in his sermons and practical applications of these sermons that could be readily understood.

However, what we see in the church growth model are mega churches which give sermons that address felt needs rather than the prophetic message of Jesus Christ and his apostles and prophets. Instead of teaching the plain meaning of the Scriptures and giving doctrinal instruction, Evangelicalism has sold out to existentialist concerns of the immediate moment by addressing the immediate concerns of people. While this will certainly produce results and draw a crowd, it does not address the concerns emphasized by the Bible itself. Essentially, the church growth movement focuses on the here and now rather than on the eternal truths of divine revelation emphasized by Jesus Himself and by Paul. To ignore revelation in favor of existentialism is to invite heresy and apostasy on a grand scale.

While there is definitely a concern for the difficulties of this life addressed in the Scriptures, there is also a concern for the hereafter. This life is temporal and temporary, fleeting, passing. Eternity shall last forever and ever and on and on. We should indeed live a life that addresses our personal and family needs, but that does not deal with the ultimate question. Where will we spend eternity? Do Evangelicals really believe in the immortality of the soul anymore? Judging from the pragmatic effects of their ministries at this time, I can only conclude that they don't.

A great many Evangelicals no longer accept the doctrine of infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture, creation ex nihilo, or the sovereignty of God in providence. Evangelicalism has basically become humanistic and anthropocentric rather than christocentric and theocentric in its theology and its praxis. The greatest weakness of Evangelicalism has turned out to be an accommodation to the current culture, which, instead of changing the society and the culture to a more Christian worldview, has changed and tweaked Christianity in its Evangelical form into something quite different. In essence, Evangelicalism, while being critical of liberalism and modernism on the surface of things, has become just another form of liberalism and modernism in the facade of a conservative Christian worldview. I say facade because it is merely a front. On a closer critical evaluation, Evangelicalism holds some of the very views it claims to prophetically challenge.

What is the solution to this dilemma? My first suggestion is that Evangelical colleges and seminaries need to be willing to critically evaluate the church growth movement and pragmatism. There needs to be a greater balance between what works and what is prophetically true. Success is not the only measure of truth, though we must certainly acknowledge that without some measure of success Christianity as a religion would not exist at all. The real measure of success isn't practical results but theological fidelity to the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is revealed in Holy Scripture. It is in making disciples who understand the Scriptures both systematically and contextually.

Secondly, despite modernism's revulsion, rote memorization of Scriptures, creeds, and catechisms are a must. Churches need to do a much better job of discipling both new converts and long standing members in Scripture and creed. Most people today cannot even recite the ten commandments or the apostles' creed. The gross ignorance of most church members is just one indicator of the poor quality of most Christian discipleship programs within Evangelicalism. While rote memorization is not the only solution, it is part of a integrated Christian education program that doesn't ignore instruction in favor of mere moralism and pietism. Knowledge includes rote memorization as well as being able to articulate what it is that we know. If have memorized the multiplication tables or mathematical formulas, why is that we cannot memorize key Scripture verses, catechisms, and creeds?

If the current condition of Evangelical denominations is any indicator, if the losing of the culture and theological wars within mainline Protestant denominations are any indication, Christianity is headed for a great apostasy like we have never seen before. The Episcopal Church USA even ordains openly homosexual priests and consecrates openly homosexual bishops. If the situation gets any worse I will have to wonder if the Holy Spirit has withdrawn Himself in preparation for the final judgment?

Those of us who are trying to remain faithful to the Holy Scriptures must pray for God to intervene and to bring a revival of truth to Evangelicalism and to the Christian church as a catholic or universal entity.

May God have all the glory!

2 comments:

Mr_Jargon said...

I can definitely agree with most of this.

Shola said...

Wow! I thought I was the only one who had strong opinions on the state of our churches today! I'm glad to see I'm not alone. My partner and I have discussed the issues you've raised in the posting many times, I've been to many churches and not one of them have gripped on the true meaning of their existence. I'm at a crossroads of which church to attend as I still like to go to church, but with what I've seen, my heart just won't let me settle in some of these misguided churches. May God show us the way and the light, this is probably why the bible says 'many are called, but few are chosen' a lot of people are blind and are walking in darkness literally...

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