The following is an excerpt from the author’s upcoming book, Apostasy! This book will be based largely on the resarch work in the Wolves in Wool series on this blog.
How We Got Here
The gospel message is – and always has been – by Christ, from Christ and for Christ. At any point this understanding is corrupted, apostasy is sure to follow. If salvation is not by Christ, then it is by some other means which will ultimately take Christ’s place as the author and sustainer of salvation. The most obvious example of this is the Roman Catholic Church, which after corrupting its gospel to a sacramental and sacerdotal system of works, became more important than Christ’s own work in the church’s now-corrupt doctrine of salvation. Continue reading
The following is a public preview of the introductory chapter to the author’s upcoming book, Apostasy! This book will be based largely on the resarch work in the Wolves in Wool series on this blog.
A cancer is spreading at an alarming rate in the modern church. It expresses a heretical doctrine which exchanges the glory of the gospel of Christ for temporal gains that were once known as the very temptations of man. Heresy has become mainstream in an enormous population of Christendom. Sadly, much of the church today is too biblical illiterate to notice. The concept of orthodoxy has been given over to a competitive attitude by which doctrine is relegated to a local flavor. While heresy has always existed in the church, never has there been a time when “exotic and unfamiliar” were considered the creative virtues of preaching that they are today. The past few hundred years have been celebrated as times when enigmatic and incomprehensible creeds have been taken to task by a doctrinally savvy congregation and errors reproved by the biblical preaching of proven men of God. The tables seem to have turned entirely. In today’s religious circles it is old-school holdouts with the audacity to cling to the scriptures who are in the minority. It is a truly remnant church today which continues to preserve sound biblical fundamentals at the persistent ridicule of a new majority of doctrinal thrill-seekers.
They scream dissent from untold thousands of books, television networks and millions of websites. Entire supposedly “Christian” publishing houses have abandoned their former scriptural faith principles in favor of new proposals which, frankly, move more books off of store shelves. Christian bookstores, devoted more to their bottom line than the Lord’s, have likewise lifted not one finger in any measurable way to dissuade them. Countless modern congregations have jumped an entire generational cog; with an old-guard too tired or unwilling to fight for doctrinal purity and a new, younger work force that will only bother to show up if things are considered hip, novel, and decidedly not-too-biblical. Bereans are sparse; having been rapidly replaced by giddy, temperamental consumer-types who crave the latest “star” pastor’s deposition over the eyewitness testimonies of the apostles. The recipe for the modern pulpiteer calls for less scriptural content and more bizarre showmanship, to the extent of being positively juvenile.
Evangelicalism is in sincere trouble. Authentic Christians are relegated to a tireless search to find a church that preaches the Bible at all, as today’s pulpits more commonly stream self-help infomercials which refuse to mention, let alone offer remedy for man’s greatest issue: sin and man’s need for redemption. Churches have redefined ministry and missions in the image of public service fraternities. The gospel being proclaimed in so many supposedly “thriving” congregations is shallow enough to disappoint a Unitarian. Reminiscent are Jesus’ words to the church in Sardis, “You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”
Fueling these trends are a growing number of pastors who have committed themselves to unadulterated apostasy on the grounds that it produces the desired results. This new breed of pseudo-theologian teaches, through contrived and corrupt exegetical processes, things which in some cases completely reverse the truths of scripture. Man is instructed not on his depravity and need for salvation, but on his alleged posture of value before God’s grateful eye. Christ is presented not as the crucified lamb but the exemplary enabler of human potential. Scripture is not promoted as the inspired testimony of God by which men are convicted, redeemed and trained for His eternal service, but the means by which they can learn the secrets of acquiring their best life now.
While such a dire state of the church is heart breaking to those who love her, it is not something which has taken the student of God’s word by surprise. This emerging apostasy has been articulately forewarned in scripture; a word of caution to each generation that the roots of their faith will be challenged from within at a future juncture.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 (ESV)
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Surely such times are now at hand. Paul could not have more articulately portrayed the state of the modern church. The tested and proven methodology of starting new churches today is to send a group of surveyors into a neighborhood to determine the type of church that neighborhood would want to support. We are, in effect, asking the lost to dictate the function of the church. We may as well be determining which fast food franchise to inject into a business center. With the platform for church growth being the edification of everything people want to hear, the church has become nothing more than another consumer-oriented business. To the upwardly mobile, churches promise a leadership role in the renovation of culture. They are assured to be doing the work of Christ simply because they engage themselves in the types of things that Jesus did. To the poor and lowly is a promise of redemption; not from sin, but from the poverty which has stricken them due to their lack of “proper application” of God’s Word. To the ill is the promise of God’s full earthly reversal of their sicknesses, if only they will learn how to properly ask him. The church has become utterly user-friendly, offering carefully researched theological products which are in demand by the intended congregational target.
Numerous are the magical prayer books which give the correct formulas for invoking God’s response to one’s request, as if He were a cosmic genie who must only be suitably addressed for his magic to work. At the end of this process, man has taken the role of deity, dictating his will to an obedient subordinate; and God himself is that humble servant. With cleverly orchestrated theological arguments which attempt to make this doctrine seem biblical, these false teachers have relegated man to a place of power, success and great personal glory, while almighty God becomes nothing more than a grand enabler of man’s creative capacity. Shortly, even Shirley McClain will be pleased to join one of our mainstream mega-church congregations.
In the charismatic world, the “Word of Faith” movement represents the largest organized purveyor of these types of consumer-oriented doctrines. This work will focus specific attention to this movement in the hopes of illuminating the truths of scripture as a warning to the millions who are being systematically indoctrinated by this group. Through religious television networks and an increasing number of local congregations buying into the sheer hype, the Word of Faith movement has generated non-stop sensationalistic and un-verifiable claims that challenge everything the world has ever identified as orthodox faith. This work is not an attempt to engage heresy in debate, but to reveal it to individual readers for what it is. The true church must understand the nature of what she will battle in the coming days and years. These groups are steadily permeating the wheat field with tares while a lost and dying world is being cross-evangelized by false apostles utterly incapable of presenting the true gospel; for they do not know it themselves.
The end result of this counterfeit ministry will be an ever increasing wake of souls who are either happily deceived and relegated to an eternity of death, or are so damaged from their failed foray into “religion” that they write off Christ entirely as a charlatan who must be of the same essence as his phony ministers. Too often the deceived think they have experienced the fullness of Christ’s grace and find it lacking. Sadly, many walk away from anything with the Name of Christ attached to it from that point forward.
To that end, the responsibility of identifying and preaching against false doctrines is of major importance to those who live to affirm and defend the teachings of scripture. While scripture clearly indicates that an apostasy waits the latter days, it nevertheless demands the faithful of Christ to contend earnestly for the truth which transcends all times and cultures.
As Jude warns,
Jude 1:3-4 (ESV)
3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
A new variety of church-growth movement is squarely upon us. It decisively attempts to illegitimize any attempt at “doctrinal wall-building” for fear of excluding those frankly, who are unwilling to believe. This sentiment has found itself at home in an increasing number of churches in recent years; being a boon to church growth (numerically) by removing those pesky doctrinal encumbrances which often cause people to seek membership elsewhere.
“Our very survival is at stake,” we are told. The church, it is suggested, is to be about “tearing down walls” rather than building them; having entered into a “new” church-age whereby we focus attention copiously on harmony with others rather than differences. Commonalities draw us together. Differences divide us. The church is to be a place of unity, fellowship and cohesion. Anything that combats such a state of unanimity is quickly expelled as discordant, contentious and sinful. (Sadly, about the only “sin” that can be agreed upon in our modern user-friendly church culture is that of being disruptive to the alliance of “group sentiment.”) Such division, of course, is seen as a direct path to the most horrific sin of all: exclusivism. Continue reading
A popular message today attempts to discredit the notion that God has wrath toward sin. The proponents of this message claim that because God is love, and everything God does is motivated by love, that God cannot have wrath.
Today’s post in the Vlog series “Gospel Truth” will examine a host of scriptures which clearly and articulately demonstrate that God’s wrath not only exists toward sin, but that such wrath is the epitome of God’s justice and love.
I recently had the opportunity to view Rob Bell’s “Nooma 019 Open” video. As I’ve taken several opportunities to write about Bell and his Emergent movement, it will come as no surprise that there is no love lost between myself and Bell’s movement (or Zondervan Publishers, for that matter, in so eagerly supporting it.) Yet, I have determined to do my level-best at giving a fair and biblical review of this product which will reveal the very best and worst which this evolving “conversation” has to offer via Bell’s contribution of Nooma 019.
The first and most obvious impression of Nooma 019, as with all of Bell’s Nooma videos, is the exceptional production quality with which it was prepared. The use of music, mood and the seemingly extemporaneous narration delivery are truly artful and impressive. Of all possible issues which one may take with Bell’s Nooma productions, quality of craftsmanship is certainly not one of them. In fact, the overall sensitivity of expression is so compelling that it is quite possible for one to be enraptured by the sentiments and completely miss the subtle theological nuances which underlie the premise.
Almost as impressive is Bell’s apparent understanding of the underlying human uncertainty which permeates our post-modern culture. As he frequently does so well, Bell addresses very real and valid issues which tear at the heart of human confidence in God’s sovereignty. He opens the video by introducing a true story of a friend who had lost a baby in the neonatal unit of a local hospital, despite extensive and passionate appeals in prayer. In his buildup of the issue at hand, he very compassionately poses questions we all have asked at one time or another. Essentially, he appeals to know why God seems not to answer our prayers at times. Why does a bona-fide miracle follow prayer on one occasion while utter silence seems to be God’s response at others? He asks,
“What do you do with that? I mean, does God answer prayers some, but not all? Sometimes but not all of the time? Or does God always answer prayers – it’s just that sometimes God says ‘no’”
These are great questions that appeal to the heart and soul of everyone who has ever experienced personal loss in the midst of intensive prayer. Bell sincerely gets an “A” for asking solid questions which saturate the conscience. He obviously has his finger of the pulse of our culture. He clearly understands the dynamic of suffering and asks good questions about such in light of God’s permissive will.
At this point, Bell had the bases loaded with a high and outside slow pitch just waiting for a competent swing. I personally envy Bell’s ability to prepare a difficult subject for its suitable teachable moment. Invariably, however, his perfectly grand-slammable pitch produces a dinked foul over the left field line. (He runs the bases anyway.)
After an exceptional introduction, he manages to equally impressively misrepresent the nature of prayer and suffering respectively as he attaches a culturally-discernable relevance and man-centric intention to them both. Bell, it seems, has a knack for high quality production of poorly constructed theology.
He begins the discovery phase of his “answer” with a great scenario; the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Who better to illuminate the nature of suffering than the Lord himself? Who better to explain how prayers are heard and answered than Christ, who prayed,
Matthew 26:39 (NIV)
39 … “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Before getting to Bell’s weird expose’ on this text, let it first be noted what Jesus prayed. First, he prayed that if it be possible, may this cup be taken from me. This is the logical prayer of a subordinate to his master, for Jesus had subordinated himself to God (Phil 2) that he may be “obedient unto death.” “If it be possible” was the preparatory attitude of Jesus’ request. He desired not to die, yet only if such “be possible” under God’s plan; thus, his second request, “yet not as I will, but as you will.” In Jesus’ prayer, he expressed his own desire while yielding to God’s wishes with no self-interest at all. While he desired not to endure the horrific experience of substitutionary atonement on a cross, he desired more to be obedient unto death. In short, it was God’s plan, God’s will and God’s glory that he sought in his prayer, all-the-while knowing that he would suffer and die on that cross.
Bell gets some of this right, noting that Jesus did not desire to endure the pain of the cross if it were not essential. Surely Jesus shared everyone else’s aversion to nail punctures and a slow, painful death. He even got it right that Jesus put God’s will ahead of his own. Yet, Bell fails utterly when he attempts to answer the “why” of Jesus’ prayer. Bell notes,
“Now to understand why Jesus prays like this we have to understand that Jesus took very seriously the creation poem of Genesis; that the Bible begins with. And in this creation poem God creates – God creates things that are capable of creating more.”
Here we go.
First of all, how do you even say, “Jesus took very seriously the creation poem” with a straight face? In Bell’s non-literal view of Genesis, the creation is always relegated to the status of “poetry,” which of course, expresses an idea rather than a historical account. What an incongruity to note Jesus as one who takes seriously the creation account when you deny it’s literality yourself. Yes, Jesus did take the creation account seriously. Jesus stated in Mark 10:6 (NIV), 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ (God made man at the beginning of creation, not a billion years afterward as Bell professes) Jesus also took literally the account of Noah, stating, Luke 17:26 (NIV), 26 “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. (Bell claims the flood is another part of a strange “poetic discussion” on “the humanity project” – but not a literal event) And, most eerily, Jesus claimed judgment on those who did not take seriously such accounts, stating, John 5:46-47 (NIV), 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”
But, I digress. Bell was, after all, correct (on this part): Jesus did take very seriously the creation poem narrative. And, it is in this creation poem narrative that Bell presumes to find the reason why Jesus prayed the way he did.
Prepare yourselves. Weirdness approaching…
Bell claims that the creation account was about a continuing process of creation (in spite of Genesis 2:2 noting that “God had finished” his work). Going off of his quote (above) that “God creates things that are capable of creating more,” God, in Bell’s words, “leaves the world unfinished and invites people to take part in the ongoing creation of the world.” He notes that this creative process is endless, “bringing design, order and beauty” to God’s unfinished creation.
As difficult as this train of thought is to follow, Bell immediately explains his “creation poem” rabbit chase with these words: “And so, when Jesus prayed, he’s tapping into this divine creative energy that made everything.” “Tapping into?” “The divine creative energy?” Bell’s Emergent mind must be what it would be like for Shirley McClain to cross with Benny Hinn! It’s clear that Bell at least considers this “creative energy” to be one and the same as God himself. He notes that, “Jesus’ assumption is that there is some role for him to play in this creative, ongoing work of God in the world.” So, the question must be raised, “what is Bell teaching about who God is?”
Is God a “creative energy” that formed the world (and left it unfinished), or is he an infinitely powerful being with personality, purpose and sovereignty? Does God not have intellect, emotion and will? Bell seems to attempt to marry the two ideas of “personhood” and “energy” in his language. On one hand, God is the worker of this unfinished creation; an “energy” by which creation was made and on the other, he obviously has a will, as he notes the “ongoing work of God” in the world.
A second, and equally alarming question is, “what is Bell’s understanding of the nature of Jesus?” He claims that Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane was about Jesus’ finding his role in God’s ongoing creative process? This is utter nonsense. Jesus knew his role well in advance. He knew the prophecies of Isaiah 53. He stated on numerous occasions to his disciples,
Luke 9:22 (NIV)
22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
Jesus already knew what his role was in God’s plan. He was not confused by it. His prayer in no wise illustrated some existential search for his place in the world [Michael W. Smith playing quietly in the background]. Rather, his prayer was an intentional assent for God’s will to be done, all the while acknowledging his own desire that another way were to be possible. Jesus’ expression was one of intimacy and trust in God, who had called him to the darkest and most difficult hour of his life. It was not a quest for his own enlightenment of the future, but a submission to God’s will concerning the certain future he already knew.
So, while Bell introduces his video with exceptionally good leading questions, in the quest for answers he creates additional uncertainty; primarily, “what on earth does this guy believe, anyway?”
Such is the nature of the Emergent movement which Bell represents. In this movement, questions without answers are common. In fact, they are embraced. It is preferable to have an unanswered question rather than an answered one for fear of sounding too “modern” in one’s certainty. Knowledge is the root of all evil in this system where all claim to be engaging in a cosmic conversation, yet none will commit to a discernable postulate. Instead, Bell adds a new dimension to prayer altogether, complete with a new purpose for praying which has nothing at all to do with either calling on God’s response nor receiving his instructions. Instead, his deduction is,
“So prayer is being still, it’s meditating, it’s reflecting, it’s listening, it’s waking up and it’s when you never stop asking the question, ‘what is God up to right here, right now, and how can I be a part of it.’”
Ironically, what begins as one of the greatest preludes to an unanswered question ends with no answer at all. Instead of answering his introductory questions, he concludes that prayer itself is an unending quest of one to “never stop asking the question, ‘what is God up right here, right now, and how can I be a part of it.’” Admittedly, it is a good question to ask “what is God up to” and “how can I be a part of it.” But, is this the end of the matter? What happened to the thesis question of why God answers “yes,” or “no” or if he even hears us at all? Was this not the rhetorical introductory thesis of his work? Is there no answer in scripture as to why God says “no” at times? Is there no revelation in scripture as to why God at times does not answer? Of course there is. But, you will not find the answers to Rob Bell’s questions about prayer in Rob Bell’s video on prayer. Instead, you find a completely different frame of reference from the thesis – according to Bell – as to what prayer is all about.
“God’s desire is that the divine energy that made the world would flow between us, and in the process draw us closer together. Prayer is tapping into the same energy that formed the universe. That’s why people say that they can feel prayer; it’s because we can. Praying connects us to the people and things we are praying for.”
God’s desire is that the divine energy that made the world would flow between us? Can we have a chapter and verse on that, Rob? And the purpose of prayer is found in that while this “divine energy” does its thing it will “in the process draw us closer together?” Does prayer draw us closer to each other or closer to God? What book of the Bible teaches this nonsense? And, once again we’re “tapping into the energy that formed the universe?” The universe was formed at God’s command. It was not some random “energy” but the power of the Word of almighty God. One does not “tap into” God’s power as he might chug back a Red Bull for that extra burst of energy when needed. Prayer is calling on the personal GOD who owns Bell’s cosmic “energy”- that HE may make HIS WILL known to HIS SUBJECTS!
Bell, who so eloquently asks good questions concerning God’s answers to prayer, ends his diatribe of inconsistency and uncertainty exactly the way you would expect – if you knew Rob Bell at all – with a big fat, “I don’t know.”
“So when people ask all sorts of questions: ‘why didn’t God do this,’ ‘why did God do this,’ ‘why did God show up then,’ ‘why’d God make a miracle happen there,’ ‘why’s God say “yes” to this prayer and “no” to that prayer,’ I DON’T KNOW.”
Now THAT is an answer I trust. Ironically, THAT is also the answer to the very question Bell indicated in his thesis that he would be pursuing in this video. Once again, one of the chief leaders of this leader-less movement had deduced that “not knowing” is better than knowing. The mysteries of God are somehow more comforting than His clearly declared truths.
In conclusion, the apple does not far fall from the tree. Rob Bell produced another Nooma video which accurately represents the touchy-feely, perplexed and incapable-of-a-straight-answer perspective of the Emergent movement.
- It asks great questions but refuses to answer them.
- It presents speculative theology solutions based on Rob’s uniquely metaphorical understanding of those great “poems” of scripture.
- It casts Jesus in a light of confusion; even concerning the certainty of his own self-prophesied crucifixion.
- It reduces Jesus’ atoning work on the cross to “some role for him to play in this creative, ongoing work of God in the world.”
- It reduces prayer to “the divine energy that made the world (flowing) between us, and in the process draw(ing) us closer together.” He must be doing that “centering prayer” thing again. (His version – based in TM)
Not only do I fail to see any merit of this video for any forum, I seriously doubt the salvation of its creator. Overall (beyond this single work), I have yet to hear Bell present an articulate (and scripturally accurate) sentence dealing with the purpose Christ played in history as it relates to his own salvation. Instead, Bell continually teaches contrary to the substitutionary atonement of Christ. I have heard him decry that “God is not angry” for man’s sin. I have read his works which come exceptionally close to preaching universalism and clearly denying the existence of a literal Hell.
I should have expected no less confusion in his poetic exegesis concerning man’s relationship to God through prayer.
(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.” Dictionary.com 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 ReturningKing.com 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.
(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
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
From Christ to Antichrist
(NOTE: This is a continuation of the Wolves in Wool Series. This post assumes the prerequisite reading of earlier posts)
As it has been demonstrated that an apostasy must precede the tribulation, and an utter “anti-gospel” is to be the characteristic of a singular religious system during the great tribulation, it only stands to reason that one may trace the roots of the former apostasy to the latter full-fledged abomination which is spawned from it. As noted, I cannot positively contend that our current growing apostasy in Christendom is indeed the apostasy which scripture warns will precede the day of the Lord. Yet, I am compelled to examine such possibilities.
If a man, for example, sincerely believes his life to be in danger by one of his associates, he would surely watch for signs of such growing antagonism toward himself. He may become quite paranoid, in fact, and pre-occupied with an investigation concerning the possible playing out of his fears. I do not desire to become paranoid nor to anxiously accuse every false theological principle as a precursor to the coming worship of Antichrist. Yet, I do wish to heed Jesus’ own warnings concerning our need to be watching for the proper signs of such coming events. Continue reading
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