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.
While understanding the nature of the church age (as observed in last week’s session) is important to the interpretation of the letters to the seven churches, another very important interpretive principle is that of “context.” This week’s video will examine the context of the book of Revelation, that the proper interpretation of the letters to the churches may be achieved, and the message of the letters may reach its intended mark: the church age at large.
Today begins a new study series on the Video Blog area of Returningking.com. This series, currently being preached at First Baptist Church in Needville, TX, is an examination of the Seven Churches which the book of Revelation is written to in Asia Minor.
The title of the series, however, is not “The Seven Churches of Asia Minor,” but rather “The Seven Churches,” because once one begins interpretational work on the book of Revelation it becomes clear that the seven churches do not only represent the seven historical churches whose names are written on the letter. Rather, these seven churches are seen throughout history, which is the context of the book of Revelation:
Revelation 1:19 (ESV)
19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.
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