Series Studies

The Mystical Theory of Atonement

This entry is part 6 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

(A continuation of the series, A Pastoral Soteriology.)

Continuing the historical foray into the waters of poorly constructed atonement theories leads us to what can only be understood as a truly heretical contribution known as the “Mystical Theory” of atonement.  This theory has been contributed to by many philosophers and pseudo-theologians over the years.  Central among them was Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), who utterly denied any aspect of a vicarious atoning work of Christ.

Before diving into the nuts and bolts (loose as they are) of this theory, the nature of mysticism should first be defined clearly.  By definition, that which is “mystic” is that which is “of the nature of or pertaining to mysteries known only to the initiated.”  (“mystic.” Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 06 Jul. 2009.)  Thus, if you are a participant in a mystic encounter can you “hear” from God.  Such mysteries transcend ordinary human knowledge, by direct communication with the divine. 

To be perfectly clear, a mystical element does indeed exist in the life of legitimate believers in Jesus Christ.  Strictly speaking, any direct impartation of information from God to man is mystical by definition.  If a man hears from God in his spirit, then he has participated in a legitimate mystical encounter.  The Holy Spirit utters truths which are only revealed to the initiated- those who belong to him- through his own impartation.

John 14:26 (NIV)
26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

It must be clearly pointed out, however, that this legitimately mystical aspect of our walk with the Lord is the result of atonement, not the source of it.  It must also be pointed out that such genuine mystical practices are taught in scripture to be subject to biblical testing, so that men are not misled.

With this understood, the mystical encounter defined by the Mystical Atonement Theory is not akin to the normal fellowship between the believer and the Holy Spirit.  Rather, this theory presupposes a mystical union which is more akin to the panentheistic and demonic doctrines of Zen Buddhism and other predominantly “eastern” originated mystic practices. 

The Mystical Theory shares one facet of its substance with the Moral Example Theory in that it presumes that the work of redemption stems from Christ’s influence rather than his substitutionary sacrifice.  In this belief system, Christ’s incarnation is of more importance than his death on the cross.  The idea is that Christ’s incarnation brought divinity to the human realm.  By Christ entering the human sphere at his advent, he elevated man to his own divine plane, making access to God achievable.  Salvation is attained through man’s entry into this open portal of access. 

Additionally, according to this theory, Christ – being human in nature – possessed all of the inherent corruption and sinful tendencies of man, yet without allowing such predisposition to lead him into actually engaging in sin.  He was in effect, one who successfully navigated the inborn sin nature, yet without succumbing to it.  At the moment of Christ’s death, then, he officially conquered and eradicated his original sin nature, thus completing his victory over sin.

As this theory has evolved into its modern form, a panentheistic (all is in God) element has been more clearly defined.   In essence, it is understood by many today that “God became man so that man could become God.”  The redeemed are elevated to the status of “God-men” through participation in the divine nature which Christ opened up to them.  Man is no longer subservient to God, but participants with him while sharing his attributes.  Those holding to this view today indicate that man’s real issue is not with his sin, but with his inability to connect to his “god-consciousness” and be thus freed from his human limitations.

(Please excuse me while I go throw up and take a shower.) 

There are simply too many issues with this theory to take them all to task in a singular post.  More is wrong with the theory than is right.  In fact, nothing at all is right with it. 

To begin with, Christ did not have a propensity to sin.  He was not born with a sin nature.  Rather, his nature was utterly contrary to sin from his advent by merit of his being the God who defines what sin is.  Perhaps oversimplified, one functional definition of sin is “disobedience to God.”  How can one be disobedient to his own nature?  Christ was God incarnate.  To that end, sin was not his propensity, but the exact antithesis of his will. 

Indeed, scripture does note that Christ was tempted:

Hebrews 4:15 (NIV)
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.

However, to be tempted does not equate with one having a sinful propensity.  Jesus himself stated,

John 14:30-31 (NIV)
30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

And, the very same author of Hebrews notes,

Hebrews 7:26 (NIV)
26 Such a high priest meets our need–one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.

While being tempted on this earth, perhaps for the benefit of man’s recognition of his righteousness, scripture teaches entirely contrary to the idea that Christ had an inclination toward sin.

Secondly, the Bible unwaveringly attests to the work of redemption as having been carried out on the cross rather than through Jesus’ completion of a sinless human life.  While the sinless attribute of Christ’s life was essential, redemption came not from the fact that the Son of God never sinned.  Redemption came from the fact that He who never sinned offered himself on a cross as payment for those who had sinned.  As Paul notes,

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

And Isaiah prophesied,

Isaiah 53:6 (NIV)
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Certainly Jesus’ sinless life was a requirement of his ability to atone for the sins of man, but it was not the functional substance of that work.  The actual application of his righteousness to sinner’s account came from his death on the cross.  Paul notes,

Colossians 1:19-20 (NIV)
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Make no mistake, redemption was attained through Jesus’ death on the cross.  Had he only lived a righteous life- and had not died for man’s sins- there would be no salvation for man.  God’s wrath against sin would remain.

This ultimately leads to the next major failure of this heritical theory, which is the annoying tendency of humanistic philosophies to attempt to relegate the atonement to something which enables man to overcome his sin through properly guided human efforts.  According to this theory, sin is not atoned for by Christ at all.  Rather, Christ grants man an opportunity to somehow “rise above” his sin by his mystical union with the deity.  (How can one purport to define an “atonement theory” for which there is no atonement??)  If Christ’s death were not vicarious – in man’s place – how then is man to pay for the sins committed before his magical elevation?  Does not the scripture say,

 Romans 3:25 (NIV)
25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–

Even if man were enabled (through mystical union with Christ) to utterly conquer his sinful nature from the moment of conversion throughout the remainder of his life, who pays for the sins he committed prior to that magical encounter?  If one becomes righteous through a mystical communion with God after a life of sin, does his previous sin no longer count against him?  This theory makes no provision for such payment.  Yet, even proponents of this seriously flawed theory recognize and admit that man is infected with a sinful nature from birth.  How does a mystical elevation eliminate the sins of one’s previous existence if Christ’s death was not substitutionary in nature?

These issues alone identify the Mystical Theory as an utterly unbiblical – and ineffective- remedy for man’s problem of sin.  Yet, one cannot possibly give this theory a serious theological once-over without also pointing out the gross error of its message of mystical elevation.  The underlying postulate of such will ultimately lead back to a panentheistic view of God.  If taken to its logical conclusion, all who are redeemed – according to this theory – become participants in the overarching fellowship that is God.  Such false elevation promises in this theory relegate man back to his most base sinful tendency: the desire to be (his own) God.

There was, and will only ever be ONE God-man.  He was and is the person of Jesus Christ.  The atonement is not a means to elevate man to God’s level of consciousness, insight or authority.  it certainly was not the means by which God would share his glory with His creation.  Such aspirations, in no uncertain terms, are a demonic pursuit.

Isaiah 14:12-14 (NIV)
12 How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! 13 You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. 14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

Most faithful readers of would quickly have relegated this flawed theory to the heresy that it is.  One may even wonder why time was taken to write against such an obviously erroneous postulate.  Sadly, the answer to that question is that it is very necessary in the body of Christ to reveal the error of this particular theory; for it is being reconstituted, rebranded and diligently served before our very eyes as daily table fare of several modern neo-Christian movements.

The Word of Faith movement is seriously committed to the idea that man becomes a “little God” through the atonement.  They do not subscribe to the Mystical Theory, per ‘se, but the god-man element of this theory fits perfectly into the theology of Hinn, Hagin, Copeland, Crouch and the rest of the high-roller preachers club.  The mystical elevation of man according to their (false) gospel includes man’s full power over the very elements of nature through his properly utilized “word of faith.” 

More frightening is the Emergent movement, perhaps the fastest growing subculture in the church today, which seems to have a literal disdain for valid atonement theory.  From the outside, Emergent congregations seem merely a post-modern “trendy-church” model by which the next generation may be reached.  From the inside, their mentors and un-official leaders are teaching doctrines which are actually defining the cutting edge of Mystical Atonement Theory.  They teach that atonement is not substitutional in nature.  They whole-heartedly affirm and teach a mysticism which is consistent with the views of the Mystical Theory.  As panentheism will tend to lead to, they have furthermore attempted to erase the lines between Christianity and other world religions, claiming that Christ is anything but exclusive in his work of atonement. 

The Mystical Theory of Atonement is one which will unconditionally lead to an apostasy which misrepresents God’s character, purpose and glory.  As obviously flawed as it is, this theory is being adopted at alarming rates – right from within the church itself. 

May the reader be inspired to contend for the faith that was once and for all entrusted to the saints.  We have been warned in scripture that apostasy will come.  We have been challenged to accurately handle the Word of truth. 

2 Timothy 4:3 (NIV)
3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

More False Atonement Doctrine: The Moral-Example Theory

This entry is part 5 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

(A continuation of the series, A Pastoral Soteriology.)

Jesus noted, “wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it (Mat 7:13).  To that end, it should be no surprise that there are so many erroneous theological theories in relation to each properly determined and biblical one.  Continuing the pursuit of a good and valid atonement theory, today’s post once again yields only a failed attempt which resembles nothing more than man recasting God in his own image.

The Moral-Example Theory

The moral example theory was proposed by Pelagius (354-420 AD), himself an opponent of the concept of original sin, believing that sin was a matter of choice rather than an ingrained and universal affliction.  Pelagius further believed that it was possible for man to live a sinless life within himself.  His atonement “theory” certainly did not fall far from the tree. Continue reading

Unsound Theories of Atonement

This entry is part 4 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

(A continuation of the series, A Pastoral Soteriology.)

Understanding that sin carries the penalty of death, separation and God’s extended wrath toward the sinner brings one to the natural yearning to understand the nature of the provision God has made for the restoration of man from this condition.  Obviously, this series is concerned with such illumination; God has made atonement available.  The details concerning God’s provision of atonement is both something so simple that a child can grasp it, yet so complicated than a man can spend his entire life attempting to systematize it fully.  The child can understand that “Jesus died for my sins,” yet the theologian may spend years trying to fully understand how exactly the provision of Christ was applied to the account of the sinner. Continue reading

The Wrath of God

This entry is part 3 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

The Wrath of God

It is very popular among certain soft-spoken pseudo-theologians today to downplay and “preach away” the existence of God’s wrath toward man’s sin.  Placating today’s whiny “I’m okay, you’re okay” cultural sentiments, they express anti-biblical platitudes which decry that “a loving God” would simply not reveal his anger toward mankind whom he loves.  Indeed, many are perfectly contented with the idea that God is incapable of genuine wrath; claiming that it is outside of his perfect nature to be prone to jealousy and anger.  “Rock star” preachers, such as Rob Bell, gain standing ovations from such gross misrepresentations of biblical theology, such as Bell’s “The God’s Are Not Angry” sermonette tour.  Ending with the phrase “God is not angry because God is love” is a certain crowd pleaser at such gigs. 

Others, such as popular emergent author, Alan Jones, declare that penal substitution is a “vile doctrine” (Reimagining Christianity, p. 168) and that anger is inconsistent with love as a characteristic of God.  The position of this warped understanding of the gospel is based upon the sentimental and philosophical perception that love and anger are somehow mutually exclusive qualities.  Noting that “God is love” and that everything God does is “inspired by love,” they contend that God is incapable of exhibiting wrath because wrath is not motivated by love.  These men must not have children.  Continue reading

The Basis for Salvation: Man is Sinful

This entry is part 2 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

One of the most difficult aspects of evangelism in today’s culture is the communication of the need for such a thing as “salvation.”   Indeed, it seems a world view of self adulation has engulfed many in post-modern culture, where ideas of right and wrong are frequently re-cast as personal life choices rather than offenses to a divine creator.  To that end, “sin” is in many cases categorically denied as a stringent reality in favor of the idea that right and wrong are relative to one’s own experience.

Added to that confusion are a mass of false preachers and teachers who are more than willing to elevate man’s “lost” status before God to something more akin to a child who has misplaced his father in the mall rather than one who has willfully and combatively lashed out against the authority of almighty God.  Trends in neo-Christianity present salvation as something inherently man-inspired; frequently admonishing only that man properly involve himself in God’s work and lift himself up by his bootstraps to meet God’s expectations. Continue reading

A Pastoral Soteriology: Introduction

This entry is part 1 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

Soteriology is the technical term for the study of the doctrine of salvation.  From the Greek soterios, meaning “salvation,” this field of study biblically defines the basis of what is necessary for man to be made right with God and have fellowship with him.

In short order, salvation is that which satisfies the judgment placed by God upon man’s sinful condition.  Thus, if man were not a sinner there would be no need for salvation.  As such, Soteriology and Harmartiology (the study of the doctrine of sin) are inextricably connected.  It is because of man’s sin that he is separated from God and it is because of salvation that man is able to be restored to God.  Unconditionally, a valid and biblical presentation of the (true) gospel must emphasize man’s sin, which is the core condition requiring God’s intervention on his behalf.  Sin is universal and incurable by man’s own actions.  Furthermore, it holds the most serious consequence of any action of eternity past or future; an eternal separation from God in unquenchable punishment.  Continue reading

A Coming One-World Religious System

This entry is part 22 of 23 in the series Wolves in Wool

The Coming One-World Religious System

(NOTE:  This is a continuation of the Wolves in Wool Series.  This post assumes the prerequisite reading of earlier posts)

Skipping ahead from the slow-burn apostasy which permeates Christendom today, scripture also clarifies the finality of this degradation of worship and truth.  While scripture specifically notes that apostasy is a characteristic of the latter days, it further demonstrates the fruition of such apostasy; being characterized as a great harlot of world-wide influence.


In Jewish thought, there existed two ages.  “This” age referred to the age before the advent of Messiah’s reign, and “the age to come” referred to the age of Messiah’s reign.  Such thinking is what prompted the disciples to ask Jesus in Matthew 24,

Matthew 24:3 (NIV)
3 … “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Continue reading

A Custom-Built Gospel

This entry is part 21 of 23 in the series Wolves in Wool

A Custom Built Gospel

(NOTE:  This is a continuation of the Wolves in Wool Series.  This post assumes the prerequisite reading of earlier posts)

The last observation concerning this

great falling away is that it is a process which is consumed with the task of changing the gospel message.  After all, what better means could our enemy employ other than to deceive an entire generation into believing a false gospel?  If a false gospel is introduced into the church which can be largely accepted, it serves several important demands of Satan’s own kingdom program.

A false gospel will largely hinder the true gospel’s advance.  Obviously, every church which teaches a corrupt gospel cannot lead its membership to salvation by grace through faith in Christ.  It necessarily will then become a disarmed outpost in this spiritual war.  People will attend services, receive a fast-food “feeding” and feel somewhat enlightened and encouraged, so they may resume their life of sin with a false sense of security. Continue reading

Today’s Apostasy: Inventing Doctrine

This entry is part 20 of 23 in the series Wolves in Wool

(NOTE:  This is a continuation of the Wolves in Wool Series.  This post assumes the prerequisite reading of earlier posts)

Concerning today’s massive population of false teachers, scripture also offers several texts which warn us of the propensity of these teachers to teach outside of the Word of God.  While these texts do not speak specifically about a latter day apostasy, they do speak volumes concerning the very nature of false teachers; namely, where their doctrines come from and why they are to be avoided. Continue reading

The Consumerization of the Gospel

This entry is part 19 of 23 in the series Wolves in Wool

(NOTE:  This is a continuation of the Wolves in Wool Series.  This post assumes the prerequisite reading of earlier posts)

The great falling away is further demonstrated in scripture by what can best be understood as a “consumerization” of the gospel.  A further indication of a future apostasy is noted in 2 Timothy.  In this text, Paul does not specify an apostasy which will immediately precede the tribulation, but he does note a later time in which men will refuse sound doctrine.  And, as will be demonstrated, his teaching clearly articulates the very same elements of apostasia as were noted earlier.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NIV)
3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Concerning the mentality during this coming age, Paul makes several assertions.  First, he notes the consumerism of the Word of God.  He states that “men will not put up with sound doctrines,” but will instead choose those which “suit their own desires.”  As if doctrines can be “shopped” for discriminately, these men hear the legitimate truth and simply make a decision not to accept it in light of the error which they prefer.  Such is the nature of consumerism.  If I want a blue car, I do not have to purchase a red one, for blue ones are readily available.  If, likewise, I want to serve a God who lives to please me, I can make such a choice as well, for men are available readily who will preach such a gospel to my ears.  Paul notes, “to suit their own desires” they will accumulate such teachers.  Thus, it is the desires of man himself which will orient doctrines in this coming age.  What man desires to hear as “truth” will be given to him as such.  Welcome to custom-built theology 101.

Noted in the text is that there are “a great number” of teachers who will provide such self-tailored theological services.  As such, it is clear that a great quantity of people will desire to hear such doctrines, and will give validation to the false teachers which propagate them.  It is at this point the reader should take great caution concerning the nature of how religious truth is noted to be validated in our culture.  Simply because the masses affirm it to be true does not make something true.  Clearly the times will come when the masses will align themselves with false teachings over legitimate doctrine.  However, unlike a made-to-order hamburger, which is built for man’s personal demands of consumption, doctrine is by definition something which belongs to its creator. 

We live, however, in a culture of consumerism.  Even our very governmental system is so designed that men get what the ultimately want (at least ideally) by voting for candidates which represent their desires.  This culture has proven to be a fertile ground for the propagation of such false doctrines by the itchy ears of the crowd.  Both the Word of Faith Movement and the Emerging Church movement are beacons of opportunity for those seeking a consumerized gospel.

The Word of Faith has made itself exceptionally proficient at promising the desires of men’s hearts.  Their doctrinal position is precisely crafted to scratch the ears of their willing constituency.  They teach that man can have anything he wants if he learns how to properly utilize the “word of faith.”  How ingenious!  Without the necessities of a litmus test or focus group studies, these men literally promise that men can have their own desires regardless of what they happen to be.  Do you want healing? 

“You may have sickness in your body; you need to call in health.”
“Your circumstances will line up with your words.”
“Joel that sounds like wishful thinking. No, that’s using your words to create what you need.”
“You can change your world by simply changing your words.”
Joel Osteen (“Speaking Faith Filled Words”, Tape # 223, May 2, 2004)

Do you want money? 

“What do you need? Start creating it. Start speaking about it. Start speaking it into being. Speak to your billfold. Say, “You big, thick billfold full of money.” Speak to your checkbook. Say, “You, checkbook, you. You’ve never been so prosperous since I owned you. You’re just jammed full of money.”
Marilyn Hickey (Claim Your Miracles audiotape #186, side 2)

Indeed, whatever man wants to acquire for his own glory, there is a Word of Faith teacher prepared to instruct him (for the price of admission) on how to use “faith words” to receive it.  Rest assured, “Think Your Body Thin” and “Command Yourself to Beauty” are soon to follow, as these men are masters at scratching ears which itch.

In the end, their bogus systematic theology puts man literally in the driver’s seat, being equal with God himself.  After all, if man can “speak” whatever his heart desires into existence, what power or purpose remains for God himself?  Fred Price rightly defines their position as ne notes,

“Yes! You are in control! So, if man has control, who no longer has it? God.”
Fredrick K.C. Price (“Prayer: Do You Know What Prayer Is … and How to Pray?” The Word Study Bible, 1990 p. 1178)

Returning to the original sin of Satan himself, WOFers have indeed recognized and responded to the greatest itch man has ever had; his desire to be his own god.  Their demonic dogma aligns loyal followers with Satan himself as they ascribe to “be like the Most High.”  According to Paul Crouch,

“He [God] doesn’t even draw a distinction between Himself and us. . . . You know what else that’s settled, then, tonight? This hue and cry and controversy that has been spawned by the Devil to try and bring dissension within the body of Christ that we are gods. I am a little god! . . . I have His name. I’m one with Him. I’m in covenant relation. I am a little god! Critics, be gone!”
Paul Crouch (Praise the Lord, TBN? July 7, 1986)  [with Ken Copeland nodding in agreement]

Itch, be scratched.

The nodding Copeland fully affirms this teaching as he notes,

“You don’t have a god in you, you are one”
Kenneth Copeland (The Force of Love, 1987, audiotape #02-0028, side 1)

When I first began investigating the incredulous doctrines of this group, I must admit that I didn’t really get what they were all about.  I just thought Word of Faith preachers were run-of-the-mill tares in the wheat; simple misguided and half-baked theologians who got way too much attention.  I’ve learned that they are much more than that.  They are master deceivers who know what men want to hear.  They are opportunists who gladly will contort God’s eternal Word to suit the greed of their followers, which in turn feeds their own greed through donations and fiction book sales.  They are the systematic fulfillment of scripture; those who men gather around themselves to “say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”  

Not to be overshadowed, the liberal end of the Emergent pool has perhaps outdone even the creepy doctrines of the WOF.  While the WOF attempts to corrupt God’s word for their own purposes, the Emergent left have devised a system where such creative theological twisting need not even be agreed upon during limousine rides between preaching gigs. Indeed, the “lesson” at the next venue may be completely different, depending upon the local opinions.

By shrugging off systematic theology and embracing a purely narrative approach to scripture, God’s Word is now read as poetry by the Emergent ear scratcher.  It says to you what you want it to say, like your copy of Kubla Khan.  The more radical Emergents have systematically deconstructed scripture, resulting in each individual congregation holding the interpretational “rights” to it through community acquiescence.  They claim that one cannot understand scripture fully, but only through the collective imaginative opinions of the group can its meaning be put into proper practice.  As Rob Bell so eloquently doubts,

This [that the biblical canon was not settled until the 4th century] is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that “Scripture alone” is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true. In reaction to abuses by the church, a group of believers during a time called the Reformation claimed that we only need the authority of the Bible. But the problem is that we got the Bible from the church voting on what the Bible even is.
Rob Bell (Velvet Elvis, – Rethinking the Christian Faith, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2005, pp. 67-68)

Thus, the church trumps the Bible in its own authority.  Because the Bible was penned and affirmed by men, it can only be rightly interpreted by community pool.  One community reads their Bible and concludes (by general consent) that homosexuality is good and right.  Another reads the same Bible and concludes that homosexuality is wrong.

Frankly, many of us don’t know what we should think about homosexuality. We’ve heard all sides but no position has yet won our confidence so that we can say ‘it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us.’ That alienates us from both the liberals and conservatives whom seem to know exactly what we should think. Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements. In the meantime, we’ll practice prayerful Christian dialogue, listening respectfully, disagreeing agreeably. When decisions need to be made, they’ll be admittedly provisional. We’ll keep our ears attuned to scholars in biblical studies, theology, ethics, psychology, genetics, sociology, and related fields. Then in five years, if we have clarity, we’ll speak; if not, we’ll set another five years for ongoing reflection.
Brian McLaren (online source:

With the validity of theology relegated to “what we should think,” men need only find a church which “thinks” their own doctrinal position to be validated by the whole of the Emergent position.  Relativity is not seen as incompatible with scripture.  Truth for me may or may not be truth for you, though it flows from the same fountain.

Scritch, scritch, scritch.

Paul’s wisdom, inspired by the Holy Spirit, should cause all who fear God and respect his word to reconsider the validity of all such foolishness.  He could no more clearly have stated what is obviously at large in today’s open-minded theological soup of the WOF and Emergent movements.  “The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.” 

The term translated for “sound” (doctrine) is the Gk. hygiaino, which literally means “healthy” or figuratively means “uncorrupted.” 

How interesting. 

Being “uncorrupted” is precisely the antithesis of apostasia, as was observed in the last section.  That which is apostate is that which was at one point healthy and uncorrupted, but has now been rendered unhealthy and corrupted.  Furthermore, it is clear that it is indeed such apostasy that he speaks of here in 2 Timothy 4, as he notes in verse 4, “4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”  The ears of those who formerly heard the truth are turned aside.  They know and have heard good theology in the past, but choose to no longer put up with it. 

Thus, what Paul reveals concerning “sound” theology bears the identical definition of what he noted (in the last section) in 2 Thessalonians concerning the coming apostasy of the last days:

2 Thessalonians 2:3 (NIV)
3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion [apostasia] occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.

Those who will not put up with sound doctrine, but instead choose that which scratches their ears are of the very same essence as the apostasia.  In both cases, men who have heard, known and understood valid theology will turn it aside in lieu of what is deemed more desirable for their own consumption.  Paul’s warnings continue to point to an increasing rebellion from the very body of Christ as time progresses.  Particularly, the last days are noted to be a time of such manifestations of false doctrines.  I am not comfortable making presumptions concerning our current state of apostasy in the church.  I’m not going to announce half-cocked that the last days are upon us.  Yet, I can- and must- acknowledge that the modern church is uniquely poised as a candidate for those days prior to the end.  The fat lady may very well be warming up in the greenroom.

Matthew 24:12-14 (NIV)
12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

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