Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Some Insight From the Prince of Preachers

The Noble C.H. SpurgeonAs always I look forward to Phil Johnson's weekly quotes from Spurgeon on the Pyromaniacs blog page. As Spurgeon fought with the "Down Grade" in the Baptist churches near the end of his life, he was able to write very clearly on the common trends that besiege the Church in decline from Orthodoxy, particularly with Liberalism. Here's what Spurgeon had to say in his day:

"What marvel if, under some men's shifty talk, people grow into love of both truth and falsehood! People will say, "We like this form of doctrine, and we like the other also." The fact is, they would like anything if only a clever deceiver would put it plausibly before them. They admire Moses and Aaron, but they would not say a word against Jannes and Jambres. We shall not join in the confederacy which seems to aim at such a comprehension.

We must preach the gospel so distinctly that our people know what we are preaching. "If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle?" Don't puzzle your people with doubtful speeches."Well", said one, "I had a new idea the other day. I did not enlarge upon it; but I just threw it out."That is a very good thing to do with most of your new ideas. Throw them out, by all means; but mind where you are when you do it; for if you throw them out from the pulpit they may strike somebody, and inflict a wound upon faith.

Throw out your fancies, but first go alone in a boat a mile out to sea. When you have once thrown out your unconsidered trifles, leave them to the fishes.We have nowadays around us a class of men who preach Christ, and even preach the gospel; but then they preach a great deal else which is not true, and thus they destroy the good of all that they deliver, and lure men to error. They would be styled "evangelical" and yet be of the school which is really anti-evangelical."
(End Spurgeon Excerpt)

This is good meat for modern Christians (or rather, post-modern)! In our time there are all sorts of "fancies" or calls to "rethink" doctrines. Now I in a Berean spirit am all for analyzing doctrines holding them up to the truth of God's word to see whether they are true or no. Yet there is a type of whimsical questioning (or fancy) which really is anti-evangelical. These are the fancies which must be thrown aside. I have in mind notions of "rethinking" (which is a soft way of saying rejecting) cardinal doctrines of Christian faith, such as biblical inerrancy, salvation by faith in Christ alone etc. These doctrines in the name of "rethinking" are being challenged by many who think they do evangelicalism a favor in our "post-modern age" in which we need to adapt to.

For example, the other day I heard of Brian McLaren calling for a 5 year evangelical summit to "rethink" the issue of homosexuality. This I think will only end in an acceptance of homosexuality in the mind of McLaren. The connection to Spurgeon's words is that in his day men were calling for similar notions of "rethinking" doctrines (which resulted in their denial) we now look back at the rise of theological liberalism and can see strong parallels between that movement and modern immitations. Just like Theological Liberalism, its postmodern counterpart is making pleas to be culturally relevant, and adapt to the culture. This usually includes dark ominous prophetic utterances saying that "Unless the Church adapts it will fade into oblivion!"

In short, we are not to adapt the gospel to the spirit of the age and fancies of men and conform to the world, rather, it is the culture (which is made up of sinners) which need to conform to the truth of Christ's word. We are so prone to have it backwards, Christianity (I speak in the scope of doctrinal matter) is not to be shaped by fallen man's likes and dislikes as though there were some defect in the Christian message. Rather, it is fallen man's likes and dislikes which must be brought into subjection to Him who is Lord of all, Christ.

10 comments:

natamllc said...

bobby

are you the same bobby in the trees in Leggett?

Me thinks you are becoming sharp!

Next they will "rethink" adulterers and liars and thiefs and fornicators and and and are accepted too? And what's wrong with gossip?

michael

Richard Dawkins said...

"Unless the church adapts, it will fade into oblivion."

I feel you regard this concept, as does Dani, of "adaptation" as being inevitably a precursor to the gradual negation of the basis of your religion. A domino-effect which begins, rather as political concessions are made (clearly no useful comparison can be made between an ideology and a religious belief), involving the piecemeal relinquishment of the very values which underpin the authentic (open to intepretation) way of life.

Theologians, encompassing all positions within the Christian (and all other religious communities) Church are obliged, and have always, through the centuries contemplated, agonised over, re-thought, re-intepreted, and adapted their approach to fundamental questions of human existence, and the progress of mankind's knowledge. This has been the case since the earliest manifestations, and projections of God were scribed into an intelligible format. Conservativism, or the belief in a return to the fundamentals of religious thought, is a pointless endeavour for any religious follower, as the rapidity of changes in contemporary times would consign religion to an unrepresentative and obsolete subsect.

Bob said...

Michael-
Thanks, yeah I don't know about this "rethinking" business I think its just a very tolerant sounding way of saying denying.

Richard Dawkins,
It is always nice to hear from you (truly), what you said IS the case in a nutshell for the church to "adapt". and I am all for adaptation to culture in particular spheres such as language (the gospel must be spoken in the language of the people) however when we start to rethink things that ARE the essence of historic Christianity (such as the bodily resurrection of Christ) then at what point are we no longer Christian and just an echo of culture?

This is more of an issue for Christians to hash out, but your comments are welcome.

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tim said...

Bob, you said: Just like Theological Liberalism, its postmodern counterpart is making pleas to be culturally relevant, and adapt to the culture.

I can't speak for the emergent, but those who are looking at postmodernism in relation to the church would disagree with this statement. Since I am looking into this stuff, I will include myself in that. See "Who's Afraid of Postmodernism" by James K.A. Smith; there's a link from my blog. He actually has some critiques of the Emergent movement still being stuck in modernity. And churches stuck in modernity are really the drivers of the "culturally-relevant" gospel.

Smith actually argues that the church must go back to the ancient that encompasses the entire body of Christ, not the broken up pieces we have because of the enlightenment, individualism, and consumerism of modernity.

Even Donald Miller states in "Searching for God Knows What" that making a church postmodern or re-translating the Bible for the postmodern will never more be relevant to the culture than a relationship with Jesus Christ himself. What more can the culture need than Jesus? he says. The narratives, the poetry, the stories of God's relationship with His people are all the relevancy anyone needs.

Personally, I think church leaders are stuck and completely unaware of how much culture (like the worship of science) has infiltrated the church, and even more so are completely misunderstanding the main points of postmodernity. If a honest and deep investigation of the critiques of modernity by postmodernism is done, it can reveal just how much the church is in bed with the modern culture without even knowing it. So the call of Christians truly aware and influenced by postmodernity isn't to change the church from modern to postmodern, but rather for the Church to shed itself of modernity and return to its roots of Jesus without the weedy vines of the culture.

As for the "rethinking" of homosexuality, can you be specific about what you read/heard McLaren say he wanted to be examined? Was it how the church is to love homosexuals as people, was it how the church should consider the sinfulness of homosexuality, or was it to just a general statement? The isolation of homosexuals by the church isn't a very good representation of the gospel. It is indeed the same action of pushing them out to the edges of society like tax collectors and sinners in the days of Jesus. If the rethinking is meant to remove the hierarchy of sins, that is good. A homosexual is no more, no less a sinner than you and I, correct? A person who is following Jesus and struggling with sin, whether it be lying, lusting, cheating, stealing, etc is no different than any other in that category. And Jesus is so, so important to someone who is struggling with their identity, especially within a culture that puts so much emphasis on sex.

In that same light, an unrepentant homosexual is the same as the unrepentant liar, cheater, luster, thief, murderer, etc.

I wonder (and I'm purely speculating) that McLaren thinks that homosexuals in both groups, the repentant and unrepentant, get lumped together, yet the other sinners are seen differently based on their act of repentence.

Just a thought... I honestly haven't given it much more thought than that.

natamllc said...

Tim

you said this:::>The isolation of homosexuals by the church isn't a very good representation of the gospel.

I would strongly differ with you on that point!

I almost thought you recovered at the end when you said this:::>A person who is following Jesus and struggling with sin, whether it be lying, lusting, cheating, stealing, etc is no different than any other in that category. And Jesus is so, so important to someone who is struggling with their identity, especially within a culture that puts so much emphasis on sex.

You are just dead wrong on both counts.

hmmmmm

I will explain after you respond.

michael

Tim said...

Michael,

I'll try to respond in the next day or so... not much time now. Don't fear, though... I'm not trying to go liberal here. It's not just as black and white as Falwell and Robertson make it out to be, either. More to come...

Tim

natamllc said...

Timmy

Father Tim then,

do you suppose I am afraid?

Well, maybe.

michael

Tim said...

I'll have to be as brief as I can given that I have a baby on my lap who is trying to fall asleep. :)

I've been mulling over how to best clarify what I said, and as I re-read my original comment, I don't want to focus too much on the homosexual part because it was really a question to Bob about what he's read from McLaren and I wasn't tryign to make a huge statement.

But what I do know, and this has been taught from the pulpits of all of the denominations I've attended, is that regardless of the sin, it's still sin. In God's view, there is no hierarchy of sin like we place in our justice system, for example.

And just as it is stated so eloquently that just as one man brought sin into the world that all are sinners, one man has died to save us so that all may be called the children of God. So the essence of my comment was wondering out loud if McLaren was hoping the re-thinking would produce a gospel approach to this issue. If it is effort to accept homosexuality as a lifestyle which is no considered sin, then I would object to that, too.

But the bigger problem with this discussion is that rarely are people discussing this with the same beliefs on the subject, whether the political or spiritual realm. Some of the beliefs are:

a.) that homosexuals are born that way, proven by science, and therefore have no choice in the matter of their sexuality

This obviously is the biggest argument on the side of the political discussion for pro-gay marriage. But I would wonder out loud how proven that is by science. It's thrown out there often, but rarely backed up.

b.) there are people are pre-disposed to be homosexual and others whose environment has pushed them in that direction, but both are able to move away and change from the homosexual tendencies to heterosexuality.

This is the middle road, and while not verbatim, I think it's the position of James Dobson, though he has a more techical and knowledgeable wording. This doesn't completely depend on science, but more into the psychology of the issue, too.

d.) Homosexuals and their acceptance as people are the root of all evil, which lead to the destruction of America and everything else.

This is the belief of the Christian right-wing, namely Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who both made fools of themselves by making this general statement right after 9-11.

All of these above are my interpretations, not research. They are opinion, and I'm happy to be wrong if I am. But my point in making these definitions is to show that even in this discussion there is a hierarchy. We've seen when people from group A "discuss" with group C. They don't agree on anything because they are each talking using a different belief than the other. There will never be true "discussion" between these two groups. Group C has significantly isolated all homosexuals and group A would dismiss group C has depending solely on religion and not at all on science.

But in the middle of all this are people - real people - some who are longing to understand why they were created, some who are longing to be loved and know what love really is, some who feel like they've been kicked to the curb of society, some who really want to believe there is something more out there than just this "identity" label slapped onto them. All of these people need to know and experience Jesus. Each of the descriptions above are exactly the same as those in the gospel to whom Jesus personally reached out to. Why can it not be the same today?

How can the church say to the homosexual, "You can't come to our church. We have nothing to offer you because you don't believe the same thing we do"??? But I wonder aloud again - does any other sinner believe the same thing the church does? Of course not.

Maybe this did or did not clarify things. Regardless, the typing seems to have soothed Amelia to some point, but now she is really hungry, so I must go.

natamllc said...

Tim

thanks for the clarity but it's not my position.

You wrote, at the end of the clarification:::>

[[ How can the church say to the homosexual, "You can't come to our church. We have nothing to offer you because you don't believe the same thing we do"??? But I wonder aloud again - does any other sinner believe the same thing the church does? Of course not.
]]

This is irrelevant to the LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST OR HIS CHURCH.

Here is the CHURCH'S official position on everyone and everything sinful in this life now:::>

Col 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Col 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
Col 3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
Col 3:4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
Col 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
Col 3:6 For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
Col 3:7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
Col 3:8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
Col 3:9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
Col 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Col 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
Col 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Col 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
Col 3:14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
Col 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Col 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.


I would hope other church bloggers would offer their own portion of this MYSTERY here.

I do agree that Jesus was and still remains a FRIEND OF PUBLICANS AND SINNERS.

Without much glory, I count myself as one of the REALLY REALLY BAD SINNERS! aaah, was that vainglory?

michael