Monday, April 30, 2007

Will the Evangelicals Please Stand?

I find it frustrating when progressives insist that they are “evangelical.” I have had such people complain that people like me have robbed them of the word. "After all," they say, "we are all evangelical." But progressives use the term in an overly literal, limited sense. When evangelicals such as I use the term, we not only mean we have "good news," we mean some very specific things:
  • Salvation through Jesus alone is our primary message: the Good News begins with Him.
  • The Bible is the only accurate, reliable revelation of God to humanity.
  • We are called to the Great Commission: tell the world about Jesus.
There are all kinds of news items but only some are good. According to Scripture, there is only one perfect good and that is the revelation of God in Jesus. The Good News that came from him, through the apostles, and to us is very specific: the Good News is only through the person of Jesus Christ.

Progressives have altered this term by pointing most often to the prophets of pre-Christian times. Their premise is that orthopraxis (right action) trumps orthodoxy (right belief). There is no question that Jesus used the words of the prophets when He made his pronouncement at the synagogue in Nazareth, but He had a new end in mind.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18, 19)
Jesus was announcing a Good News that begins and endures in Him alone. Progressives, on the other hand, tend to be loathe to share that Jesus Himself is the Good News, preaching that good actions are the Good News. The rulers of the faith in Nazareth tried to execute Jesus because of His statement. They weren’t opposed to good deeds—they were opposed to His claim to be the source of the Good News.

This is the progressives’ most egregious departure from orthodox Christian faith: they have, I believe, substituted right-thinking and good deeds for the power that comes from a life personally transformed by Jesus. Having found a religious replacement for the “evangelical” Jesus, they are freed to reinterpret the Scriptural moral code and, even, reject the uniqueness of salvation in Jesus Christ.
"We don't know God; we experience progressives we are always progressing, never letting it [our theology] get tied down in a simple orthodox answer....Our theology must be based on more than our own [Christian] scriptures…. We are too parochial, I think."
So—back to my frustration over the assertion that we’re all “evangelicals.” If the Good News is not first about the person of Jesus the “evangelism” is no more than a theology of works. Jesus calls us first to faith in Him, and in Him alone.

As an aside, I’ve challenged some progressives who claim to be “evangelical” to do something for me: put that description (i.e. “I am an evangelical Christian; this is an evangelical church) in their bulletins, their church publications, and on their business cards. So far there haven’t been any takers.

Keep praying—keep the faith,

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Who Is Lord Revisited

The philosophies of progressive feminism have had a strong impact on mainline denominations.

The Rev. Susan Anderson-Smith, associate rector at St. Philips in the Hills Episcopal Church in Tucson, Arizona, has restricted the use of the work “Lord” in her church.
"'Lord' has become a loaded word conveying hierarchical power over things, which in what we have recorded in our sacred texts, is not who Jesus understood himself to be."
The word “lord” has always conveyed hierarchical power. It has only become “loaded” because of the feminist denigration of all things implying hierarchy. While I would never want to go back to the days when women were pressured by society to fit one role—that of homemaker—I am loathe to reinvent God to fit our cultural sensitivities.

The Bible is clear that God is Lord; it is clear that Jesus is, too. The Early Church consistently called Jesus “Lord” in the same way they did God the Father. If you believe the Bible is not the Word of God, but just a cultural artifact, you can make all the changes you want, I guess.

Jesus’ own words when answering Pilate tell the whole story for me:
"Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.” (Mark 15)
Although Jesus stated that His kingdom was not of this world, He did not deny His status.
The Early Church fervently emphasized Jesus' Lordship, as in Revelation 19.
On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
A church that de-emphasizes the Lordship of Jesus is elevating humanity and cultural agendas over cosmic Truth.. Go online to mainline websites and you’ll see that they are more than willing to take stands on all kinds of issues. But don’t look for any mainline denomination to take a stand against such changes as those in Tucson because these changes match the direction in which the denomination wants to go.

You may think that this hasn't reached your church yet. I hope it has not, but there are key phrases that identify its arrival. If, instead of the "Kingdom of God" you hear "the Realm of God," it has arrived in your home church. If you hear the attributes of God regularly alternated between male and female terms, it has arrived in your home church. If the church leaders are so afraid to traditional, Scriptural language that they drop gender pronouns and replace them with newspeak terms like "Godself," it has arrived in your home church.

Expect that there will be further changes in mainline churches from feminist camps. More than half of the students in the mainline seminaries are women, and few of them are conservative, orthodox Christians.

Keep praying--keep the faith,

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Our High Holy Day

Easter is the High Holy Day of Christianity. The Biblical record clearly shows that Christian faith began not with Jesus’ birth or through his teaching. Christian faith began with his resurrection.

The disciples were not prepared to believe in the resurrection, even though Jesus had predicted it. When he died, they went into sorrowful and fearful hiding. When he rose there was hope, yet not a sense of faithful confidence. It was when the disciples met the risen Jesus that faith sprang into eternal existence.

I sorrow for those who proclaim Christ but doubt or disbelieve the resurrection. Theirs is a “faith” of philosophy served by a hermeneutic of skepticism, philosophical syllogisms, and clever turns on words. They often separate Jesus from Christ, taking one to be historical, the other metaphorical. They are, sadly, like those to whom Paul preached in Athens:
When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered…(Acts 17:32a)
While modern-day Athenians in the Church do not all overtly sneer, their rejection of the clear reality of the Resurrection must certainly be an affront to God. Thankfully, on that day in Athens, not all mocked the resurrection:
…others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” …(Acts 17:32b)
This particular Easter was a reminder to us at the Kirk of the power of Christ through difficult times. While we’ve struggled with denominations, we’ve not struggled with who is Lord. Once again, in worship, we met the risen Jesus. Three thousand strong came to worship at the Kirk last Sunday, the highest attendance we’ve ever had on one Sunday. It reminds me that human arguments may seem powerful, but it is faith that has true strength.

Keep praying—keep the faith,

PS My son-in-law remarked on the Kirk's vibrant Easter saying, “Not bad for a church 'in schism' and 'internal division.'"

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Who is Lord?

I frequently wonder how the GLBT agenda has gotten such a hold on mainline denominations. Recent scientific studies reveal that the “GL” portion of this group represents, at most, only 1.4% of the population. I would guess that the proportion is somewhat smaller in the church population, if only because traditional religion has proclaimed such lifestyles as wrong.

There is no way of proving this, but my best guess is that the GLBT forces in the church are more about obtaining official moral approbation than practicing deeply committed faith. It is quite a coup for GLBT forces to have convinced the progressive leadership of such denominations to turn traditional religious teaching on its head in the span of one generation.

Gay organizations have been very successful in redirecting the culture regarding their lifestyle. Using the progressive definition of "tolerance" they have effectively silenced disagreement by labeling any opposition as bigoted. Mainline churches once were good stewards of Biblical morality. Now, in the name of tolerance, the tables have turned with mainline denominations serving as important support in favor of sinful lifestyles.

One example of this cynical agenda was revealed in the comment of San Francisco Theological Seminary (PCUSA) student Doug Hagler. Hagler is opposed to the carefully thought out, Scriptural arguments that professor Robert Gagnon (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) has made for traditional teaching.
"[N]o matter how good [theologian Dr. Robert Gagnon's] arguments are, the conclusions he comes to are patently bigoted, so I reject them regardless of what apparent veracity they may have. Frankly, if Jesus Christ pried open the skies and leaned down into my living room right now and said 'Doug, it is a sin to be homosexual,' I'd say 'Okay Jesus, that makes things simple—I'm not Christian anymore. Now go away.'"
Hagler puts Scripture third in terms of authority, right after reason and experience. The problem here--notwithstanding its departure from Reformed belief--is that human reason and experience are utterly subjective. If God is not objectively revealed then God becomes an imaginary construct with a strange resemblance to the thinking of the one making up the construct.

The truth doesn't matter, if you feel that a particular sin is right, then it is fine to lead a Christian denomination to destruction. PCUSA seminaries are preparing people whose ordination has been made possible through the passage of the PUP recommendations last June. Your own presbytery may not endorse or ordain them, but if just one presbytery does, such a view has been officially welcomed into the denomination.

Such an ordination will be a de facto denial of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The sovereignty of sinful human beings is worshiped above all else. It is no wonder that the PCUSA and its sister mainline denominations are so unhealthy and so confused.

Keep praying--keep the faith,

Monday, April 02, 2007

Mea Culpa--a Correction is Due

Stephen Bates, a religion editor for the Guardian, wrote to my blog pointing out two errors, one of which was egregious on my part.

The first error has to do with the name of the newspaper. I referred to it as the Manchester Guardian. That name was changed decades ago to simply, the Guardian. Somehow, the old name for the paper stuck in my mind. I’ve been known to become personally irritated when my name is spelled “grey” instead of “gray.” My apologies to the newspaper for that error is due.

The second error was inexcusable on my part. I correctly described the paper as a bastion of liberal thought but I said that they uncritically supported Stalin in the 1930s. The opposite is true. My mistake was to repeat something I’d read elsewhere without doing my own homework.

Malcolm Muggeridge was the (then) Manchester Guardian’s reporter in Russia. He saw first hand the show trials Stalin put on and the forced starvation of Soviet people, particularly in the Ukraine. While other reporters and newspapers decided not to report the truth, he stood out, as did his paper, reporting with integrity exactly what was going on.

I also want to repeat that the problem I had with the posting on the Guardian blog was not with Mr. Bates, but was strictly with those who responded to him. I was not accusing him or his paper of hypocrisy. I am careful not to post comments on my blog that are ad hominem, racist, or crude. I feel that the published comments in the Guardian failed such a test. If the Guardian doesn’t have such a filter, they need one.

My apologies again to Mr. Bates and the Guardian.
Tom Gray