We Shall Overcome – The Compromising Church – (Revelation 2:12-17)

My latest column in the Revelation series on Christian Today has already caused a furore and a storm of abuse and outrage from ‘Christians’ who accuse me of not loving or bringing the teaching of Jesus.  Ironically in so doing they prove the point of the article, that much of the Christian church has become hopelessly compromised and confused.  You can read the original column Here

The following is an expanded version:

We Shall Overcome

We shall overcome is the well known protest anthem associated with Pete Seeger and the Civil Rights movement. What most people don’t know is that it was originally a hymn by the Rev Charles Albert Tindley, a minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. It is a great oneline summary of the message of Revelation, and a timely word for the Church in the West today.

 

Because we are in deep trouble. Just as he did with the church in Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) Jesus does ‘have a few things against us’.   With the State replacing God as the source of our morality in our society, and with the materialistic and power idols of our culture being combined with an increasing sexual confusion and immorality, there is an enormous temptation for us to compromise on what the word of God says. The governing elites of our culture tell us what the new morality is and the church so often just meekly follows along – ‘discovering’ that the bible didn’t really mean what it said, that there are a variety of interpretations and that we show ‘the love of Christ’ by going along with the new morality of the culture.

Compromising on Sexuality 

This is especially seen in the current troubles besetting the church about the issue of sexuality. Our society is now telling us that sexuality and gender are ‘fluid’. Marriage is being ‘redefined’ and anyone who does not go along with this is regressive, ‘on the wrong side of history’, and cruel. Those in the church who buy into the new morality are warmly applauded. The Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, is the latest example of a clergyman http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/14/archbishop-nothing-improper-about-gay-sex/ who comes out with the teaching that the Bible is unclear, there are numerous interpretations, although his liberal one (which nicely coincides with the culture) is of course the correct one.

Those who don’t buy into this are mocked, derided and abused. And even reported to the police. When ‘Cranmer’ wrote a blog which critiqued an article by Vicky Beeching in The Guardian, but did not personally attack her, another ‘evangelical’ Jayne Ozanne reported him to the police for ‘hate speech’! http://www.christiantoday.com/article/vicky.beeching.jayne.ozanne.and.archbishop.cranmer.what.happens.when.argument.turns.toxic/95217.htm

Recently in a Scottish border town the South African charismatic preacher, Angus Buchan was invited to speak at an evangelical charismatic church. I don’t think that Mr. Buchan is my sort of preacher and I disagree strongly with some of his views, but surely the mark of a mature democracy is that you allow the expression of views that you find distasteful? If freedom of expression only means that those who agree with you (or the current zeitgeist) are able to express their views then that hardly constitutes ‘freedom of expression’!  Once the social media mob got hold of this the media outrage followed, the militant secularists called for blood and local politicians sought to ban this ‘outrageous’ preacher? Not only did the local council give in, sadly so did the church, apologizing for any ‘hurt’ they caused and seeking to ‘engage in dialogue’ with the local LGBT ‘community’. And suddenly the pastor was being described as ‘a very nice man’ by the militant secularists. (My rule of thumb? – if militant fundamentalist secularists are calling you very nice, it’s a fair indication you’ve got something wrong!).

This is how intimidation works in today’s culture. If a Christian teacher refuses to teach what is contrary to their faith, they are portrayed as a narrow minded bigot and the dogs of war are unleashed. They would do well to keep their job.  On the other hand a Christian head teacher is lauded for handing out books about lesbianism to primary school children and feels good about ‘showing the love of Christ’.   A Stonewall diversity award will doubtless soon be winging its way.   Christian leaders, especially those who are ‘evangelical’ are kept out of the media if they hold to the same view of marriage Jesus did, but let them announce they have changed their minds and suddenly all manner of media doors are open for them.   Those who were formerly ‘narrow’ and ‘bigoted’ have morphed into ‘courageous’ and ‘brave’ leaders.  They are the acceptable face of Christianity for the modern world.

This is nothing new.

It was tough being a Christian in Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17).   It was a major city which claimed to be the first city of Asia, vying with Ephesus and Smyrna in much the same way as Manchester, Liverpool and York might vie to be the premier Northern English city. It had a massive library of 200,000 volumes and was the centre of the religious life of the province. There was a huge hill that rose to 1000 feet above sea level and had many temples. It had the temple of Asclepios the God of healing closely associated with the snake; a temple of Zeus and most importantly the first temple in the area dedicated to Augustus and Rome. This latter made it the centre for emperor worship in the province. The Romans were smart that way. They didn’t need people to give up their local ‘gods’ (who didn’t exist and therefore could not be a threat), all they needed to do was ensure that they included the Emperor (who did exist and was an ever present threat) as a ‘god’.  The titles of Lord, saviour and God were constantly applied to the Emperor. No Christian would ever give those titles to anyone other than Christ.

Satan’s Throne

It is little wonder that Jesus describes Pergamum as the place where Satan has his throne – an especially bold statement given the identification of the throne with the Roman emperor and (for the Greeks) with the throne of Zeus. Just being a Christian meant that the political, religious and cultural authorities were being challenged.
And that challenge was met with a vicious response. The Christian Antipas was killed. . This is the first occasion of the Greek word for witness being used of one who laid down his life on account of witness to Christ.

So you would imagine the story would be…”well done you faithful Christians. You have endured even unto death.” But the realism of the Bible again shines through. Even in the most faithful churches there can be real problems.   Jesus had a few things against them….and just as he spoke to Pergamum so he speaks to his church in the West today.

The Church was able to resist the 14-year-old Emperor cult, but they seem to have given in to the attacks from within. Satan not only persecutes, he seduces.   The church had some people who held to the teaching of the Nicolatians. They were followers of Nicolaus (no –not St Nicolaus, otherwise known as Santa!) who taught, like Balaam in the Old Testament, that idolatry and sexual immorality were ok.  These were the characteristic features of the Greco/Roman pagan society. Features which the Nicolatians went along with doubtless thinking that they were showing ‘the love of Christ’. But this was not showing the love of Christ, it was affirming the hatred of the world for God. It was a denial of Christ and complicity with the evil that destroys the world.

As Bauckham points out: “Clearly a church which listens to the Nicolatians or imitates Babylon cannot bear faithful witness to the truth and righteousness of God.   The churches must be exposed to the divine truth in the Spirit’s words of prophecy, if they are to be lampstands from which the seven Spirits can shine the light of truth into the world”

Today Christians who are compromising on the teaching of Christ, at just the point where the world is attacking it, are following the way of Balaam and the Nicolatians.   Meanwhile those who don’t compromise and don’t give in to the pressure can feel increasingly under siege.   It is vital that such don’t develop a siege mentality. We do this by remembering who it is we follow and who is ultimately the victor. The whole book of Revelation is focused on the conquering Christ. Ironically Nicolaus means ‘conquer the world’. The devil was seeking to conquer the world not so much by persecution but by seducing the Church.
Jesus’s word is not confused. It does not depend on senior clerics letting us know how it ought to be revised in order to fit into their worldview. If Christ has anything against the Church in the West today it must be the way that so much of it has usurped the role of the Holy Spirit and created a new religion, complete with their own personal, comfortable, harmless Jesus, and our own confused, inane ‘word’. He calls us, His Church to repent of tolerating such confused and poisonous teaching. To turn back. Not to follow their way. He says, stick to my way and I will give you the hidden manna and the white stone. What are these? William Still suggests “the hidden manna is undoubtedly the secret bread of the word of God which sustains afflicted servants of God in their day of trouble until their enemies marvel at their steadfastness and strength.” The confused mess of modern ‘liberal scholarship’ is a dish that poisons and destroys, not the manna that builds up.

The white stone was a ticket and a symbol of admission to the heavenly banquet. It’s our party ticket!  It’s a new name, indicating a new identity and the name of Christ. It’s on stone which means it’s durable and lasts forever.

Christ is telling us that those who go along with the Zeitgeist, those who compromise his word in a culture which hates it, will have their 15 minutes of fame but, in the words of Newton’s hymn, ‘solid joys and lasting treasure, none but Zion’s children know’.  Maybe its time for the Church to wake up, strengthen what remains and is about to die. Whoever has ears; let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

The Victorious Persecuted Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19 thoughts on “We Shall Overcome – The Compromising Church – (Revelation 2:12-17)

  1. As always, challenging words.

    I am as convinced for the need to “wake up, strengthen what remains” that you advocate David as I am for the need for a sense of humour for the reasons I have expressed previously.

    Or as the wither of Hebrews put it “strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees” (Heb 12:12) and join in with the fun “you laugh at them, Lord” Ps 59:8

    Remebering of course that blessed are you when all men hate you because of Christ for great is your reward in heaven and not forgetting what the apstle Paul said about “light and momentary troubles”.

    I think Paul was having a laugh with that one haha.

    So – nothing new under the sun?

  2. Excellent again. But you are preaching to the converted aren’t you?

    Of course liberals (and perhaps not limited to them) don’t accept Satan is real, so there’d be no such thing as “doctrine of demons.”

    Though the liberals contend that they are following the spirit. And they are – the spirit of the age, not the Spirit of Holiness of the Triune God whose only known love is “Holy-Love.”

    He is so Holy, and we are so bad, Christ HAD to die for us, and is so loving Christ was Glad to die for us, as substitute.

    Someone said that if God removed Holy Spirit from the church 90/95% would know no different. I think it my misquotation of Dorathy L Sayers
    .
    Ichabod. But the Glory of Christ is infinite.

    Christ is indeed everlastingly victorious, but is “Christus Victor”? My simple view is that one doesn’t exclude the other.

    1. Sadly no. I knew that this article would cause a great deal of outrage amongst Christians…I wasn’t even sure it would be published….and if it was worth the hassle…but the text compelled me!

      1. I kind of get what Geoff is saying about preaching to the converted a little David.

        Anyone who see things the same way will already be onside without the need for any convincing of the need to armour up that you are advocating. And to those who do things in the name of Christianity but are not “in Christ” but opposed then can’t it be a kind of a wasted time arguing at times?

        I get that we hold every thought captive and there is an imperative to demolish arguments and pretences that set themselves up against the knowledge of God but there’s also that part about not engaging in arguments that only end up in quarrels.

        Pearls with pigs, the sacred with dogs.

        I find it a judgement call with how I choose to go about things. Do I like to create a splash, to virtue signal and a have a name for myself to be upheld in honour. Or by what I say is it drawing attention away from myself and to Christ for his names sake? If I am going through hard time, is it because of the good I do or is it because I have a lesson to learn about pride?

        “Blessed are you when people hate you… because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven… Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” (Lk 6: 22-23, 26)

  3. Excellent article, getting to the nub of the process by which Christians are being forced to ‘cave in’ to the ungodly culture of this age. The sad fact is that there are many quasi-evangelicals who have limited understanding of the scriptures, and who have never been taught how to contend for the faith who are now susceptible to caving in to pressure from those seeking to undermine Bible based faith. The antidote is solid Biblical teaching, prayer and leaders who are courageously prepared to contend for the faith in the public square. So who’s willing to stand for Christ?

  4. Isn’t that the problem, WF, or rather is their problem, to which only Jesus Messiah, God the Son, resolves? May He be your refuge, hiding place.

  5. I often wake up early and listen to Radio4. At about 5.40 am there is a slot entitled “prayer for today” (not the Thought for Today at about 7.50 am).

    Because it is the BBC the PfT is multifaith (obviously) so I rarely bother to listen.

    However a couple of weeks ago it was announced that the prayers were to be led by a senior SoS minister at an Edinburgh church. So I pricked up my ears.

    It was a strange mixture of Buddism, Gaia and semantic mysticism. I could not believe what I was hearing – that an ordained minister of the Kirk could come out with such mystical gibberish!

    But then I remembered the debate between DAR and Rev. Scott McKenna last year, so all became clear.

    “The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire”. Matt. 3,10

    Lord have mercy!

  6. I agree with you that the world is trying to change the definition – not just of marriage but also what it means to be a Christian. My issue is with your reference to, “We Shall Overcome”.

    You might find it helpful in the future to know that, “We Shall Overcome” was in fact NOT derived from Rev. Charles Albert Tindley’s, “I’ll Overcome Someday”. It was derived from a hymn, entitled, “If My Jesus Wills” – most commonly referred to as, “I’ll Overcome”. This hymn was composed by a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther king Jr., Louise Shropshire. IMJW was adapted by the Black church to become, “We Will Overcome”, which was brought to Pete Seeger’s attention in 1948 by Zilphia Horton.

    The Tindley story has been widely spread by Pete Seeger and his publishers who have claimed copyright ownership of WSO since 1960. As TIndley’s 1900 hymn was in the public domain in 1960, Seeger’s publishers could claim their derivative work was in fact registered lawfully, which is not the case.

    Not surprisingly, most people who still write about Tindley’s hymn as the source of “We Shall Overcome”, have never actually heard Tindley’s hymn. You might also be interested in knowing that Pete Seeger’s publisher, The Richmond Organization, are now the subject of a major class action suit, which seeks judicial affirmation proving that Seeger and his associates’ story is and has always been bogus, and in doing so, place We Shall Overcome in the public domain.

    Keep up the good work!

  7. Here is an explanation, which has been pointed out to me is a fault of mine.

    Initially, I was only going to leave the first comment to refer to me as being converted (and that is why I described the article as excellent) rather than ask a question in the way I did and thereby got sucked into internet non communication.

    Are there any who are converted to Christ who wouldn’t agree with the substance of David’s article would have been a better question? (*)

    As Adam says, “Anyone who see things the same way will already be onside without the need for any convincing …”

    But the unasked questions are:

    1) do only those who have been truly converted see things that way?

    2) can you be truly converted and disagree with the substance? Is the substance of first, primary irreducible importance or secondary?

    The responses to David’s article in Christiantoday which he describes as being from Christians might reinforce to pose, not answer, those questions.

    But the above question (*) would open up the dilemma or charge Adam so perceptively and clearly identified, of wanting to “have a name for myself to be upheld in honour. Or by what I say is it drawing attention away from myself and to Christ for his names sake?” I’d hope the latter as that is what the whole of David’s article is about, Christ name sake, Christ’s glory.

  8. To what extent does today’s Church represent what was considered the ‘liberal church’ of 50 years ago? I found out towards the end of my time at my childhood church that my vicar (evangelical Church of England) did not approve of the mixing of races within churches. He never said anything racist nor necessarily believe that one race was better than the other, but believed that the Bible stated that the races shouldn’t mix, in the church, in marriage, etc. My grandmother, as a ‘Biblically-based’ evangelical Baptist, was not allowed to go to the cinema, play cards or be friends with Catholics growing up.

    It does seem like, at least since the reformation, there have always been so-called vices that were ‘liberal’, ‘watered-down’, etc. but were eventually adopted by the church. I’ve worked with enough evangelical young people to know that a lot of them no longer see being L, G, B or T as being disordered, broken or sinful. My question is, do you think that those who stand against gay marriage now will, in 50 years, be seen in a similar way to the way we view people who still absurdly believe that interracial marriage (or dancing, or playing cards, or going to the cinema, or music in church, or novels, or wearing coloured clothing) is ‘Biblically wrong’?

    1. Jack – no – this is much more foundational….the other things were cultural quirks…in 50 years time if we are still here we will see the absolute chaos the disintegration of gender and sexuality will cause!

      1. I love and have studied history and in doing so have read a lot of old Christian books where these things were considered “foundational”. I mean, the segregation of races is the goto example, but there is also divorce which the vast majority of evangelical churches at least nominally accept and contraception within the confines of marriage (which Protestants used to be against as well). I mean, the use of condoms within marriage reflects quite a significant change in how we view human sexuality. I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but I have a lot of gay friends, and how do I know I’m what is just a ‘quirk of history’ and what is ‘foundational’?

        My second question is, do organisations like Solas and Christian Concern water down Christianity by making our faith purely about sexual ethics and euthanasia. I understand these are important issues, but a glance at the Christian Concern and Solas Facebook things and there is very little, if anything, about the degradation of the poor, migrants, etc by our present government. Have we as evangelical Christians watered down the political nature of the Gospel to only applying to people’s bedrooms while remaining ‘lukewarm’ on the things Jesus was passionate about?

      2. FYI Solas does not make our faith purely about sexual ethics and euthanasia – the vast majoroty o four work and posts is not about these. We have often written about many other subjects. You are hitting at the wrong target…

  9. In response to Jack’s question above, I do not believe the Christian Church can ever compromise on the sanctity of sex as God’s gift to us in fulfilling his command “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen.1:28). This teaching is as challenging for “straights” as for “LGBTs” – we are all fallen. What I do hope will change, however, is that young people growing up in a Christian environment and finding themselves “same-sex attracted”, and struggling with their sexuality, will find the church to be a place where there are people who will be understanding and whom they can trust and talk to in confidence. I think it was at a Keswick lecture this year, someone drew attention to the following website – it acknowledges the problem and seeks to remain faithful to Scripture: http://www.livingout.org/

    1. We had a phrase growing up – “Be like the Bereans” – and we were taught to question everything. You brought up the verse “Be fruitful and multiply” and I’m guessing you’re Protestant. Do you use contraception in your marriage? If you’re not married, do you support married people using contraception? It could be argued that contraception fundamentally changed the way we as Protestants view sex and sexuality, particularly with respect to that verse.

      I would never feel comfortable directing an LGBT friend to Living Out and I have read nearly the entire website.

  10. In further response to Jack and to reinforce Iain’s point, could I recommend Sam Allbery’s book “Is God Anti – Gay?”. Allberry is/was a minister in the Anglican church and is a Christian apologist, attracted to the same sex. Also a book by Kevin DeYong specifically addresses some of the points Jack raises: “What does the bible really teach about homosexuality?”

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