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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

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Evangelical Christianity: Selling the Gospel for Personal Profit



Evangelical Christianity: Selling the Gospel for Personal Profit

In the 16th century the Protestant Reformation was sparked by the controversial issue of the selling of indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church. The fund raising tactic was designed for the purpose of underwriting the cost of building Saint Peter's Basilica, which by today's monetary values would be a multimillion dollar project. Additionally, pilgrimages to Jerusalem, relics of the saints and the cross, were sources of income for the Roman Catholic Church and for Saxon princes who owned such relics. Most of the relics were of course spurious but that did not deter the big business aspect of the selling of such relics for a sizable profit. The Shroud of Turin is most likely another of these pricey spurious relics meant to generate monetary income for its owner, the Roman Catholic Church.

During the 1980's when the American economy boomed the Evangelical churches in general benefited from the generosity of a prospering laity and a growth in new membership. In particular the Pentecostal/Charismatic churches were beneficiaries of this economic boom and time of prosperity. The church growth movement was born out of the application of Charles Finney's pelagian theology of psychological manipulation and pragmatics above the Reformation principle of doctrinal purity and faithfulness to Scripture. In fact, the church growth movement was initiated by Pentecostal/Charismatic leaders Donald McGraven and Peter Wagoner. Rick Warren, a Southern Baptist pastor, applied these same techniques to become wealthy and personally prosperous. His book, The Purpose Driven Life, is simply a sociological reapplication of Finney's theology of pragmatism and the church growth theology of McGraven and Wagoner. (See Purpose Driven Church).

Basically, Evangelical Christianity, including the majority of “reformed” churches, has become less concerned with catechesis, confessions of faith, or Scriptural teaching. The new emphasis is on pragmatic results and gaining new members so that the church--especially the pastors on staff--can prosper. In short, bigger churches means bigger salaries for church staff and greater personal wealth for the pastors of those churches. The same can be said for para church organizations such as The White Horse Inn. The irony here is that The White Horse Inn began as a prophetic critique of the church growth movement and the wider Evangelical emphasis on pragmatism and a practical pelagianism. Now even Mike Horton and The White Horse Inn is marketing the message of Modern Reformation with e-mail and advertising. I was especially shocked to see that Horton will be sponsoring a Modern Reformation Cruise where participants will come up with their own 95 new theses for a modern reformation. It seems that the critics have become what they have criticized. The temptation for personal profit is too much for even Mike Horton.

Equally disappointing is the mass marketing of Christian education at Christian colleges and seminaries. Christian institutions have taken advantage of government subsidized student loans so that these colleges and seminaries could increase enrollment and thereby profit the staff and teaching professors of those institutions with extravagant salaries on par with those of the pastors and staff of mega churches. In fact, the banks and Sallie Mae have no fear of losing their loans since the federal government guarantees the loans. But these so-called helps to the poor to better themselves through higher education are actually taking advantage of the poor. Those who are unable to find good jobs after they receive their degrees are unable to file bankruptcy in order to clear the unpayable debt. In the end Christian institutions, the banks, and the Federal government all participate together in a huge loan sharking scheme which benefits few of the recipients of student loans with better employment and opportunity.

Higher education is now big business. Marketing information is bought and sold through websites which claim to offer jobs and employment but whose real purpose is to recruit students for state and independent universities and colleges. Why? Because the staff and professors of these institutions have federally guaranteed student loans as a solid foundation for their extravagant salaries. Ironically, Evangelical colleges and seminaries have sold out to monetary gain at the expense of their students. There is little concern for the fact that Evangelical colleges and seminaries produce a huge oversupply of trained pastors for a relatively small opportunity base for employment in local churches. The trend toward mega churches and a de-emphasis on a multiplicity of smaller mid-sized congregations with highly trained clergy is in effect leaving many graduates disillusioned with Evangelical Christianity.

Many of these highly educated Evangelicals have been forced back into blue collar jobs which actually pay more. Most are unable to find even bi-vocational positions at smaller churches due to this same over supply of educated clergy. In Pentecostal/Charismatic churches this is even more problematic since most of the more successful mega church pastors have little to no theological education, a fact that perpetuates the dumbing down of the theology of Scripture and the Gospel.

The fact is most Evangelical churches have little to no concern for outreach to the lower classes and instead follow the church growth paradigm of reaching out to the “target audience”. Ironically, this “target audience” is almost always a more affluent middle to upper middle class, which of course produces more financial income for the church and for missions and outreach. Unfortunately, mission and outreach almost always means more middle class congregations which in turn produce more income for the pastors and staff so they can live a middle class or upper middle class lifestyle and pay off their own educational loans.

The system is inherently built on covetousness and greed. The epistle of James is a scathing critique of modern Evangelicalism. However, you will not see even many Reformed pastors properly exegete James 2 on this issue. Usually the emphasis is sidelined into the faith and works controversy of the Protestant Reformation while ignoring the plain meaning of the text which is clearly the issue of favoring the rich over the poor and taking advantage of the poor for personal profit:

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "You sit here in a good place," while you say to the poor man, "You stand over there," or, "Sit down at my feet," 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? 8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. (James 2:1-10 ESV)

Unfortunately it does not appear that the new Calvinists are any different from Evangelicalism at large. Covetousness and greed seem to have prevailed over the emphasis on preaching the Gospel to all without showing favoritism. I was recently excommunicated from a local Presbyterian Church in America for daring to criticize the pastor's “Evangelical” ecumenicalism, which was in effect simply a form of theological liberalism embracing Roman Catholicism and any other generic Christian church which adhered to the three ecumenical creeds. The reason for this ecumenicalism is obviously to appeal to a wider audience in hopes of making the church grow numerically. Ironically, this emphasis reduces the appeal of the church since it makes it simply another broad evangelical church rather than a uniquely Reformed church which is faithful to Scripture, the Protestant Reformation, and the Reformed Standards.

Evangelical and Reformed churches these days are more concerned for the personal profit of their leaders than for a genuine preaching of the Gospel promiscuously to every social class, gender, culture, nation and tribe. The mission field is wide open here in the United States. We have more Mexican and Hispanic immigrants than ever before but few Evangelical churches are reaching out to these lower class immigrants yet these same churches raise significant funds to send a handful of missionaries to third world countries.

Moreover, most Evangelical churches are more concerned with tithing than with doctrinal purity or the Gospel of free grace. This emphasis on meritorious rewards for faithfulness and good works is in effect a new pelagianism. Unfortunately it appears that even Mike Horton and The White Horse Inn has been seduced by the opportunity for personal profit. Even Reformed seminaries are more concerned for raising their enrollments than with doctrinal purity or real mission outreach to all people without favoritism.

May the peace of God be with you,

Charlie
--
Reasonable Christian Blog Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost; Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen. 1662 Book of Common Prayer

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