The Anti-Reformation in Todays Evangelical Church

It was welcome back to Britain with a bang today…..lots of things to catch up on and then a most distressing and disturbing conversation on Facebook.  I share one part of it with you because to me it profoundly illustrates why the church in the UK (and probably the US) is in so much trouble…and I mean the evangelical church.

On the one hand we do have the legalists and moralists – and that is an ever-present danger – but in reaction to that we often end up with the opposite extreme – a form of evangelical liberalism which, whilst it retains all the right language about God and the Gospel, actually ends up with a different God and a different Gospel – which is, as Paul says, really no Gospel at all.

Background

A friend posted a comment about Transgender which declared his frustration and disappointment as a Christian at people who condemned people who are not cisgender.  The question of course is loaded – largely with pre-suppositions which reflect the culture – and needs to be deconstructed before it can be answered (much like the ‘when did you stop beating your wife?’ question).  From a biblical perspective no-one is condemned because they are not cisgender…we are condemned (all of us) because we are sinners against God.

But the question presupposes the values of Queer theory regarding gender fluidity which are directly opposed to both what the Bible says and what science tells us.  It bothers me profoundly that so many Christians just buy into the zeitgeist of the culture.   The responses were largely profoundly depressing….anyway who dared to question the pre-suppositions of the comment were accused of being unloving…and of course judgemental…and thus we get into the familiar cycle…if we dare to disagree with those who self-identify as ‘gracious and loving’ then of course we are ungracious and unloving.    Much of what was said seems to be coming from a position of evangelical universalism and antinomianism.  Because Jesus loves us we can live anyway we want and to ever question the way someone lives is to be unChristlike.

And then we come to the most depressing part.  When you challenge the pre-suppositions and ask people how they know what they assert you would expect Christians to refer to the Bible.  They often don’t.  They refer to how they feel Jesus would act – the Jesus who never judged anyone and just accepted people as they are.  When you point out that the Jesus who ‘never judged anyone\ spoke of the judgement to come, Hell, whitewashed tombs and told us not to cast our pearls before swine, then this is either dismissed, ignored or we are just simply told that the bible is wrong…and this from Christians!   The key question then is how can we know?

Is the Bible the Word of God?

I think some people have to realise that the bible was written a long time ago, not by God itself but by flawed human beings, it is tainted by the views of outdated cultures and the needs of certain cultures to survive in harsh times. Us christians need to focus on the spirit and not the word of man and look at the bible in a more critical way to decipher what God is truly asking of us rather than blindly following the ideals human beings have injected into it. The bible contradicts itself so much that to pretend that every bit of it is the word of God and is to be followed is madness, we have to look at what science, psychology and community has told us over the years and decide for ourselves if we truly believe that an all loving God would wish to condemn anyone simply for being born a man in a woman’s body or a woman in a man’s body. All evidence points to gender being a spectrum rather than two opposing ideals, and if that’s a fact of the world God created then who are we to judge non cisgender people or to suggest that God would?

The following conversation ensued: (my comments are in bold…)

I’m curious. In what sense can someone be a Christian (follower of Christ) if they reject the Bible as the Word of God? ( by the way all the evidence does NOT point to gender being a spectrum).

God doesn’t have a pen, it’s not about rejecting the bible it’s about understanding that there are perfectly understandable and explainable human flaws within it, I don’t believe it was ever meant to be taken 100% literally

No one claimed God had a pen. But he did send his Spirit, who inspired the various authors to give us his word, which according to Jesus, cannot be broken. And no one is claiming that the Bible was meant to be taken 100% literally (whatever that means). The claim however is that the Bible is the Word of God, not the word of man as you stated…..the question is whether we follow the Jesus of the Bible, or just the one we make up according to our own likes and preferences.

I like this  kid. I think you make some good points. David Andrew Robertson, I’m loathed to get into more debate on here. But I think it’s pretty reasonable to think that people who have different understandings of what the Bible is can still be Christians. B.  seems to be supporting a view of divine inspiration but rejecting inerrancy. I think that’s unfair to say someone cannot be a true Jesus follower if they hold that view.

It’s a little bit more than rejecting inerrancy. ‘The Bible was not inspired by God….it is tainted by outdated cultures…it is the word of man not the word of God…..it is not clear and we have to decipher it in the light of our (superior and more enlightened?) culture….the bible contradicts itself so much as to make it ludicrous to believe it is the Word of God…..to follow the Bible is madness….’  This is what B is arguing for! Its a lot more than having different understandings of what the Bible is…how about we have the same understanding that Christ had?

It’s basically the argument of every atheist fundamentalist I have ever met. Despite all the talk of the “Spirit’ and Jesus I just simply have to ask which one? The Jesus of the Bible…or the Jesus we just make up according to our own culture and likes….?

What you’ve done is take what I’ve said and spin it into the most extreme version of itself, I obviously was not suggesting that to follow the bible is madness but to take it at face value and completely literally is. You can’t have a book that contradicts itself and say that every word of it comes from an omniscient, all loving being because that being would have a plan and knows what it’s doing, God isn’t some indecisive human and doesn’t make mistakes, people make mistakes and will take opportunities to promote what they feel is right or what the society of the time wants or needs. There are different translations and versions of the bible that would tell you different things, you have to think about how Jesus’ teachings relate to the modern-day and live your life according to that and to me, Jesus was all about love and against any form of discrimination. Also, it’s not like the bible is full to the brim with quotes against transgender people, it’s like a couple of lines that could be interpreted in that way, I think it’s reasonable to suggest perhaps those lines are a product of their time or of a human opinion without discrediting the whole bible.

Sorry B – I quoted what you said exactly. which statement didn’t you say?  You have not said what you mean by completely literally….

I don’t agree that the bible contradicts itself. I have been studying the bible for over 40 years and have yet to come across a proven contradiction. Yet you say that there are so many and they are so obvious it negates the idea of the Bible as being the Word of God. Would you like to give some examples?

You are of course correct in saying that God does not make mistakes. Which is why when his word tells us something, and our culture contradicts it…I go with his word.

There are different translations but the original text in Hebrew and Greek is the same. It’s not too difficult to check.

“Jesus was all about love and against any form of discrimination”. Again how do you know that? Where do you get that information? From the bible? The bible that’s full of mistakes and contradictions? The bible that has Jesus warning us about judgement to come and tells us not to ‘cast your pearls before swine’….sounds quite discriminatory to me!

It’s always helpful if you don’t argue against what people are saying. No-one is saying that the bible is full of anti-transgender quotes. It does however teach clearly what humanity is.

As regards the latter comments you make, perhaps Augustine’s quote is apposite…” if you believe in the bible what you like, and leave out what you don’t like, it’s not the bible you believe, but yourself”

End of conversation.  Except it wasn’t…Another key issue came up…

The Question of Interpretation.

I was linked with the ‘bible experts’, the Pharisees (in of course a loving and non-judgemental way!).   It strikes me that some of our modern evangelical Christians would regard Christ as being unChristlike!  When I tried to explain that I was trying to teach what the Bible says it was met with the standard response – ‘its just your interpretation’.   Here we are faced with what happens when we deny the perspicuity of the Scriptures (that is the clarity) and replace it with the great Western heresies of individualism and feeling.  We all get to make the bible mean what we want it to mean…therefore your claims are just that – your claims.  The Bible is so unclear as to be meaningless.

It must take an awful lot of mental gymnastics to say you don’t have the monopoly on Biblical truth while also saying you teach what the Bible says! Suggesting no one else does, therefore you have the monopoly on Biblical truth

You see what trick is being played here (by the way I was also condemned for using the expression ‘you see’ – apparently it is enough to trigger not seeing!). If you say that you are teaching what the Bible teaches you are claiming a monopoly.  I of course did not suggest that no–one else taught bible truth…nor do I suggest that I alone know bible truth, nor that I know all the bible truth (I am constantly being rebuked and corrected by God’s Word).  In fact almost the opposite.  I know so little.  But I will stake my life on this.  Gods Word is truth and I will proclaim it as such till the day I die.  I won’t exchange its riches for the pottage of the current zeitgeist…

But what my accuser was saying here is more dangerous than the dishonest claims about myself and my statements.  It is the implication that even if the Bible is inspired it is unclear.  Individual interpretation is the best we can hope for – relying on ‘the Spirit’ (which usually means how I feel in the context of my culture).   Therein lies anarchy, spiritual anemia and the death of the Church.

The New Evangelical Anti-Reformation

I found this so, so depressing.  This was not Because I believe that in much of evangelical Christianity in the West today this is the standard position. ‘Did God really say?’ has always been the favourite trick of the devil.  In todays post-modern ‘truth is what you want it to be, love is all you need’ culture, his old trick is proving as effective as it has ever done since it was first used in the Garden.

17228401-Portrait-of-Martin-Luther-the-German-Reformer-holding-a-Bible-open-at-the-Epistle-to-the-Romans-Orig-Stock-Photo

In this year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation we are faced with a clear and present danger – an anti-Reformation movement from within the evangelical church.  Sola Scriptura is being turned on its head.  Rather than the Scriptures being inspired by the Holy Spirit – we are.   Rather then the Scriptures being clear they are confused and open to any individual interpretation.  Rather than Scripture being our master, we are its.   Rather than the Scriptures being the fullness of God’s revelation they are not sufficient.   We need something more, something extra.  Special teachers?  Special feelings?  New revelations?  The insights of modern culture which is so much more enlightened than the Bible?   This is where far too many of our Christian leaders, publishers and churches are going.

Thats why we must be determined to continue to face up to and challenge this ‘evangelical’  attack on the inspiration, perspicuity and sufficiency of the Scripture.  Even if we are accused of being unloving Pharisees.  To do anything else would be unloving and a betrayal of Christ.  As someone once said…”Here I stand, I can do no other…so help me God”.

18 thoughts on “The Anti-Reformation in Todays Evangelical Church

  1. I drop into your blog from time to time, and am always encouraged by your robustly contending for ‘the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints’. Your Bible knowledge and command of the issues puts most of us to shame! Thanks for standing so strongly for the truth; you are a gift to the church.

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  2. These conversations ARE draining, and I think you handled it well. One of the biggest challenges for a Christian is to continue to be different from the world, not for the sake of being different, but for the sake of being Christ-like (for clarity’s sake, I refer to the Jesus we read about in the Bible (which I also believe is inspired of God)). People like to make blanket accusations about the Bible being flawed, but the truth is, most of them haven’t actually read it for themselves.

    As you rightly point out, we are going to face ever-more derision if we cling to what God teaches through the Bible and it’s going to take a lot of sand to keep standing for truth. Hang in there, my friend. May the Lord strengthen you to continue to stand firm.

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  3. After reading the first half of your discussion , I thought to myself , David , why do you bother with such . I continued reading and was rebuked , in turning to the bible found 2 Tim 4 v 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.

    May your adversary not know peace until he finds the Christ of scripture .

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  4. The time has come to abandon the term “evangelical church”, it is almost meaningless without definition. In no way can your correspondent be described as evangelical, demonstrating not one iota of understanding of what the evangel is nor based upon. As you say this is worship of,and belief in a different God. It must be hurtful, if B is a friend, who may believe in God, but doesn’t believe Him. There are canons of construction for interpretation, but this is so basic.
    See John Piper :
    https://www.desiringgod.org/the-golden-rule-in-bible-reading
    It’s worth a few minutes of time to watch.

    As for sexuality/gender here is a lengthy Gospel coalition article, posted yesterday. You know you are not “Jonny – the only one walking in step”, but it helps to be reminded and encouraged and rather than shouldering the weight of this yourself, referrence to stuff written by others, can take some exasperation and personal friction out of it.
    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/responding-to-the-transgender-revolution

    Alastair Roberts has written at some length on abandoning the term evangelicalism here:
    https://alastairadversaria.com/2016/10/08/has-the-time-come-to-abandon-evangelicalism/

    Hope this is of some support and encouragement.
    There’s also something recently by Carl Trueman on First Things, commenting on a female Cambridge Uni College now taking in males who now self identify as trans.
    You are likely to be aware of all this.

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  5. May the Lord bless you for your faithfulness David.

    Your article reminded me of a passage from R C Ryle I recently read. I hope it gives encouragement:

    “…a Scriptural view of sin is one of the best antidotes to the extravagantly broad and liberal theology which is so much in vogue at the present time. The tendency of modern thought is to reject dogmas, creeds, and every kind of bounds in religion. It is thought grand and wise to condemn no opinion whatsoever, and to pronounce all earnest and clever teachers to be trustworthy, however heterogeneous and mutually destructive their opinions may be. – Everything forsooth is true, and nothing is false! Everybody is right, and nobody is wrong! Everybody is likely to be saved, and nobody is to be lost! – The Atonement and Substitution of Christ, the personality of the devil, the miraculous element in Scripture, the reality and eternity of future punishment, all these mighty foundation
    – stones are coolly tossed overboard, like lumber, in order to lighten the ship of Christianity, and enable it to keep pace with modern science.”

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  6. I’d like to know what they think of 2 Cor 10:5

    Casting down the imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,

    Instead of taking our thoughts, reasoning and imagination into line with the scriptures, they propose the opposite. Scripture is to be brought into captivity of the imagination.

    Spiritual warfare indeed.

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  7. The bible does not need protecting. God’s Word is not the same as ‘words-in-print’ or indeed ‘words-of-mouth’. The Living Word is entirely an un-thought Knowledge. Just because I think myself to be a man does not make me one!! However, whatever I am is undeniable, without the need for any thought (or costume!). And it will be found but only if contemplated that I am not any word nor any thought that may pass over this mind. I cannot even say ‘I’ without this too being another secondary idea…..yet none of this denies the undeniable Knowledge of existence.
    So I would suggest to all those who wrestle with whether they are male or female or wish to become the opposite of what they feel to listen very attentively and find out who they really are. It will be revealed that they never were the thing they wish to change in the first place!! It is pure ignorance and will lead to ever deeper ignorance. No need to worry about ‘rights’ or whatever political nonsense is in vogue. Nor arrogantly claim or declaim what God is to judge or not judge. Christ is not some doe-eyed nitwit staring beatifically into the sky. He sliced the world of man and all his absurd wants, desires and opinions to shreds. He came to bring a sword to the mind of men that ever conceived themselves to be separate from God His Father!!!! This beaten weak Church of the modern day should remember this and proclaim it without fear or favour and maybe then it will get some ‘balls’ and grow up.

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  8. Augustine’s quote is apposite…” if you believe in the bible what you like, and leave out what you don’t like, it’s not the bible you believe, but yourself”. Except, of course, as I’ve pointed out here before, what St Augustine actually said was:
    ” if you believe in the Gospel what you like, and leave out what you don’t like, it’s not the Gospel you believe, but yourself”.
    As for B, in what sense can B be called an ‘evangelical’? B seems to put across the standard ideas you would expect to hear from a liberal Protestant. I thought that one of the key features of an evangelical is belief in the infallibility of the Bible. B doesn’t seem to share that view.
    Incidentally, I think that it is now generally considered that Luther never actually said those words ‘quoted’ at the end of the article. As the pro-Luther website http://www.LUTHER.de states: “It is legend that Luther said the words “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me, Amen!” These words were probably only added to make the story more interesting; to make it a ‘press sensation’.”

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  9. A friend of mine was at a leaders conference recently about youth work.

    One speaker stated, (and I paraphrase) that we should not be worried about our young people and young adults being influenced by “post-modernism” because it is too late. They already are completely steeped in this way of thinking and its associated attitudes. And without doubt this will come out in their attitude to scripture.

    Add to this the fact that many Christians today are biblically illiterate (Dawkins is right on this) then the church is in a perilous position.

    I go to church on Sunday (Evangelical) and when I look around I see the older generation have their bibles, while the younger generations have their phones (perhaps with a bible app, who knows!)

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  10. What is happening is to be expected Christianity like everything else changes with the times. How can you expect the modern man or woman in a pricelessly rich western democracy with all the advances of modern science and all its benefits to think like peasants with little education and living in relative poverty. In a world of 7.5 billion inhabitants the top 1% number 75 million and most of them live in western democracies.
    I’m an old aged pensioner in England below the poverty line yet I’m in the top global 2% ! A trained nurse in our NHS is in the top 1% of global incomes. We now have big bang Christians , single sex marriage and women priests , even the Pope believes in the big bang.
    The new world can never be Christian , Jewish or Muslim in the old sense of the word too much has happened.

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