Posts Tagged ‘doctrine’

Letter to the Editor: How To Deal With Those Who Teach False Doctrine in a Scriptural Manner

To Lighthouse Trails:

In these days of conflict, confrontations and controversy, one thought has come to the surface that seems to be needed in writing by those on the front lines of evangelicalism.  It is perceived that such organizations as Lighthouse Trails and many others in the creation movement are unloving and harsh in their attitudes toward those who hold to unbiblical and controversial views.  They are deemed as not exhibiting “sweet reasonableness” in their writings.  While I do not agree with this assessment, it appears time for a substantive essay on how to balance a declaration of all the counsel of God with grace and calm reason, while at the same time describing the consequences of false teaching and living as revealed from God’s own evaluation in His Word.  It would be helpful to have this in booklet form to pass on to those who are presently on the “fence” in need of a change of outlook and commitment to the Lord’s total revelation in Scripture. 

Would you consider this as a possible project in upcoming issues of your publication?  Thanks.

Lighthouse Trails Response:

At Lighthouse Trails, we have made great and consistent efforts to always speak the truth in love. We attempt to never be vitriolic or judge one’s motives, not even the “worst” of them. We leave that part up to God. We also attempt to make sure any article we link to by a fellow researcher is of the same caliber. While we do occasionally link to an article that might not fall perfectly into that criteria, our regular authors and writers are of the same mindset as us. Aside from all that, you are right, something of this nature would make a great article/booklet – on how to rightfully and in a godly manner (following the example of Jesus, Paul,  and the disciples) deal with those who are bringing false teachings into the church.

In thinking about following the example of Jesus, the disciples, and Paul, below are some Scripture verses that might help us outline our thoughts, for while we can show verses that talk about showing love and respect to others, we can also show many verses that talk about how to deal properly with those bringing heretical doctrines into the church.

While we don’t believe the New Testament condones cruel or hateful behavior to anyone, we do see a consistent pattern in Scripture that does not look lightly upon those who are teaching heretical doctrines or practices.  Let us heed the whole counsel of God, which we believe tells us to remain humble and in an attitude of grace (knowing that we are no better than anyone else in that it is only by the grace of God that we can see these spiritual things), but also tells us to speak courageously, with confidence, honesty, and strength.

We are in a battle for the continuance of the Gospel message – souls are perishing – and words must be said. While we do care for the souls of the men and women who are bringing in dangerous  false doctrine and practices, we cannot, in good conscience, take it lightly or have congenial “conversations” and futile  private discussions.  “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Romans 13:12). The Bible says that the message of the Cross is the power of God unto salvation (i.e., the doctrine of Christ -2 John 1:9-11) . That is because it is the only way of salvation. When teachings such as contemplative spirituality, Spiritual Formation, and emerging ideology (which all  have roots in panentheism, occultism, and interspirituality), threaten to diminish the “doctrine of Christ,”  it creates a very serious situation that cannot be handled “sitting down.”

Scriptures on how the Christian contender of the faith should speak and behave:

1 Timothy 4:12 [B]e thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

Ephesians 4:14-15 . . .  that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.

Ephesians 4:24-27 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor . . .  Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Ephesians 4:1-3 I . . .  beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.

Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Jude 1:17-23 But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ;  how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,  keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference:  and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

Titus 3:10-11 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

 2 Peter 2:1-2 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.  And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of . . .

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,  idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,  envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

2 John 1: 9-11 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:  for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

 Jude 1:3-5 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.  I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not . . .

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Galatians 1:6-10 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.  For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

Revelation 2: 2-3 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.

Galatians 2: 4-5 . . . and that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:  to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

Luke 10:3-12 (Instructions to the disciples from Jesus before his death and resurrection) Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.  And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: and heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say,  Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.  But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.

Acts 20: 28-31 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.  Therefore watch, and remember.

Related Material:

Frequently Asked Questions About Lighthouse Trails

Matthew 18 – And Heretics and Hypocrites by Paul Proctor

“Matthew Eighteen”: A Viable Contention Where Principles of the Gospel are Concerned?

 

Is AOG Superintendent George Wood Responding With Video Regarding Ruth Haley Barton Issue?

Three weeks ago, just a little more than a week after Lighthouse Trails posted its first article on April 15th regarding the situation with Assemblies of God inviting contemplative activist Ruth Haley Barton to speak at their 2013 General Council conference, AOG General Superintendent George Wood made a video while in Israel. This video clearly appears to be a response to the issue (he was in Israel from April 11-23) and is being brushed aside by the leader of the Assemblies of God as “criticism” of minor doctrinal issues from people on the Internet. We will let the video speak for itself. You may see our coverage links below the video. Since creating this video, we hope that Dr. Wood has had a chance to read our May 13th article showing the evidence that the contemplative issue is no minor doctrinal issue. If you cannot see the video below, click here: http://player.vimeo.com/video/64909891.

Our Coverage:

April 15th: SPECIAL REPORT: Assemblies of God “Believe” Conference Makes Bold Move – Brings in Contemplative Key Player Ruth Haley Barton

May 1st (after Israel trip): Assemblies of God General Superintendent Letter Responds to Lighthouse Trails Article – Defends Contemplative Spirituality

May 3rd: Former AOG Pastor Responds to Statement About Ruth Haley Barton

May 13th: SPECIAL FOLLOW-UP REPORT: Lighthouse Trails Statement to Assemblies of God Response Regarding Invitation of Ruth Haley Barton

 

Rob Bell to Teach Teens That Christian Beliefs About Hell are ‘Misguided and Toxic’

LTRP Note: Please also read the Lighthouse Trails article below the Christian News Network article to understand more about Rob Bell’s beliefs and teachings.

By Christian News Network

Author and speaker Rob Bell is set to release a teen version of his book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived nationwide next month.

In a promotional video created for Love Wins: For Teens, Bell explains that the book is designed to teach youth that God is the life of the party, rather than the one that spoils everyone’s fun.

“What do you believe about God?” he begins. “Is God somewhere on a cloud with a long beard, making a list of no’s?”

“For a lot of people, when you mention God, the first thing they think of is, ‘Oh yeah, God shuts the party down,’” Bell continues. “But when Jesus talked about faith, when Jesus talked about God, one of the dominant images He uses again and again is that of a party.” Click here to continue reading.

Related Lighthouse Trails Article from March 2011:

“Rob Bell Unable to Defend His Own Beliefs in MSNBC Interview – Squirms, But Gives No Answers”

Emerging church/mysticism promoter Rob Bell is making the circuit in American media to promote his newest book, Love Wins. The book is receiving a lot of publicity, largely because of a pre-release video (see bottom of this post) by Bell where he  suggests that in the end everyone will go to Heaven, regardless of beliefs. In our February 28th posting titled Rob Bell Puts God on Trial – “Hath God Really Said?” researcher Steve Blackwell states:

In the sixties we were bombarded with “love,” and we have seen what that experiment has produced; a whole generation of babies murdered in the womb. Today, love is in the air once again, and Rob Bell has captured the essence of this love fest by making scandalous claims against God. He has put words into the mouth of God that are pure and simple lies; Rob has made God a liar.

Lighthouse Trails has been tracking the spirituality of Rob Bell for several years now, shocked to see that many Christian junior high, high schools, colleges, and seminaries have  students watch Bell’s hip Nooma films and read his book, Velvet Elvis.  And even though much of Bell’s anti-biblical beliefs have been exposed, he is still being invited to speak to evangelical college student bodies (an example that we documented in February was a speaking engagement at Point Loma Nazarene University.1) Typically, schools that are big into contemplative spirituality embrace figures such as Rob Bell because the universalistic nature of contemplative fits well with Bell’s “theology.”

Lighthouse Trails receives countless reports about kids from Christian homes who enter Christian colleges, and within a term of being exposed to contemplative, their Christian faith is turned upside down, and often they come out four years later as deluded, unbelieving, and confused about what the Christian faith even is. Just a couple weeks ago, we were told a story about a pastor’s son who sat for four years under Dallas Willard and graduated as an atheist! Parents, you better find out what is happening at your child’s school before it is too late. Try this test – find out if the school has ever shown a Nooma film. If the answer is yes, then at best the people running that school have no discernment; at worst, they know what they are doing, and it is called deception. Unfortunately, your children are the victims.

Regarding Rob Bell’s spirituality proclivities, one example that should convince any discerning believer can be found in Velvet Elvis, where Rob Bell tells young readers to study New Ager/tantric sex advocate Ken Wilber for three months for a “mind-blowing” experience. Take a brief look at Wilber’s site. This is all the evidence you should need. http://www.kenwilber.com/personal/ILP/MyILP.html.

Bell’s new book, Love Wins, is not a big surprise to Lighthouse Trails. The “natural” course for those involved in mysticism is to ultimately become panentheistic (God is in all), universalistic (all are saved), and interspiritual (all paths lead to God); these are  all characteristics that negate biblical Christianity and the atoning sacrifice by Jesus Christ for our sins through His shed blood on the Cross.  Emerging leaders says that a loving God would never cause His Son to die on the Cross as a substitute for the sins of others. They say they believe that Jesus died on the Cross but explain that He died to be an example of true “servant-leadership,” NOT as a payment to God for sin. Some of the things they have said about the Cross are: it is a vile doctrine (Alan Jones); it is false advertising for God (Brian McLaren); and, such a God does not exist (Brennan Manning).

If Bell, McLaren, Manning, and Jones are correct, then God made a terrible horrific mistake in sending His son to die – it wouldn’t have been necessary. What a mockery to God such a belief is!  In a book review on Bell’s book Drops Like Stars, it states:

[Bell's] view of the cross brings God to our level. While Jesus Christ became a man and bore our sins upon Himself, it wasn’t simply to feel what we feel, but to break the power of sin and death in order that we might have eternal life in Him. It is through his suffering, death AND resurrection that we are now united in Christ. Tragically, Bell has not given his readers the whole truth. . . .

In a recent interview Bell said: “The most powerful thing is when somebody joins us in our suffering … In some ways the gospel, or the story of Jesus, is like a cosmic act of solidarity.”–http://www.christianweek.org/stories.php?id=597

Did God send His Son so that we could stand together in the solidarity of our sufferings? No. Not our sufferings … Those in Christ Jesus find fellowship in and around HIS sufferings: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10).

Jesus Christ conquered the power of sin and death, but has yet to return and put an end to suffering. There are only two choices for all of humanity–eternal life in Christ in heaven, or eternity without Him in Hell. Of these two realities, Bell gives no warning or makes no distinction.

That book review was written in 2009. In 2011, it appears that Rob Bell is now making his distinctions clear; and he has fallen on the side of apostasy; tragically, many will believe him.

 

 

A Plea to Youth Pastors from a Youth Pastor – Do Not Turn to the “Emerging” Way – Do Not Forsake God’s Word

by Dr. Matthew Slippy
Associate Pastor of Youth Ministries
Calvary Baptist Church (IA)


In November 2008, the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics published the results of their 2008 national survey of American teenagers with nearly 30,000 U.S. high school students surveyed.[1]  Thirty percent admitted to stealing from a store in the past year.  Twenty-three percent admitted to stealing from a parent.  Twenty percent admitted to stealing from a friend.  Forty-two percent admitted they had lied to save money.  Eighty-three percent admitted they had lied to a parent about something significant.  Twenty-six percent admitted that they had lied on at least one question on the survey.

The results did not get better on the subject of cheating.  Sixty-four percent admitted they had cheated on a test in the past year and thirty-eight percent cheated two or more times.  Over a third of the students surveyed admitted they had used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment. 

With such a high level of dishonesty, one would think the students surveyed would see how dishonest they are in their choices and actions.  Yet, ninety-three percent were satisfied with their personal ethics and character.  The students surveyed had such a high self-image that seventy-seven percent believed when it came to doing right, they were better than most people they know. 

The Josephson Institute study highlights the moral confusion that exists in the minds of today’s young people.  If young people believe they can think and do whatever they want by redefining morality to fit their situation, then personal sin becomes a non-issue.  If there is no personal sin, there is no need for a personal Savior to rescue them from the power and penalty of sin.  Therefore there is no perceived need for the Gospel.

Youth ministry “experts” have sought to provide answers to help youth pastors navigate today’s turbulent postmodern youth culture.  Unfortunately, youth ministry resources continue to be published that downplay the need for biblical doctrine by redefining the Gospel. 

Mark Yaconelli suggests ministry to young people should focus on the youth worker being present with young people in order to help them feel valued, feel respected, feel loved, and feel cared for.  This, he says, “is the good news Jesus calls us to share.”[2]  Is this the Gospel Jesus calls youth pastors to proclaim?  When the expectations and pressures in youth ministry cause the Gospel to be reduced to ‘helping teens feel loved,’ those who promote and practice this “gospel” are guilty of malpractice.  This straying from the biblical Gospel is not simply a matter of moving from one option to another, but moving away from what the apostle Paul called a matter “of first importance.” (1 Cor 15:3)  The Gospel should not be optional but central to everything a youth pastor does.

Consider the following excerpt from a recent new resource that some youth ministry “experts” herald as “the single most important youth ministry book in a generation.”[3]

But maybe a more honest theological understanding of the incarnation is to assert that God entered our foreign world not to convince or save it but to love it even to the point of death – and therefore this is what it means to be saved: To be taken up into relational love of God.  God so loved the world and those in it that God chose to bear its deepest, darkest suffering so that God might be fully with and for us.  In this perspective salvation is not being convinced of a certain perspective but coming to recognize that we have been deeply loved and so are given the power to live as children of God, children of love.  This is salvation![4]

This emphasis on living a life of love is good and necessary.  However, without the doctrinal truths of God’s holiness, man’s depravity, and the substitutionary death of Jesus, this emphasis on love alone waters down the Gospel and with it the doctrinal truths that make the Gospel the Good News.  Without sound doctrinal truth, a watered down Gospel leads to heretical beliefs and unholy living.  The Apostle Paul commanded Timothy to watch and persevere in both his lifestyle and his doctrine (1 Tim 4:16).  To have a loving lifestyle or the right doctrine without the other negates them both.  The relative view of truth that has influenced American culture and the church says a person can have a loving lifestyle while denying the necessity of sound doctrine.

This incorrect view of the Gospel is nothing new to the church.  This was the observation of J.C. Ryle in 19th century England:

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…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.  Stand up for these great verities, and you are called narrow, illiberal, old-fashioned and a theological fossil![5]

The faithful youth pastor is one who understands the biblical Gospel and seeks to see the Gospel embraced and lived out in the lives of those entrusted to their care.  The Apostle Paul summed up his desire as a shepherd when he said, “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy which so powerfully works in me.” (Col 1:28-29)  Youth pastors have been given the task of proclaiming and living the Gospel as they seek to minister to young people.

Youth pastors are being told they must “stop looking for some objective Truth that is available when we delve into the text of the Bible … we probably need to widen our parentheses of scriptural orthodoxy.”[6]  Doctrine seems to be a secondary issue and anyone who seeks to promote sound doctrine is considered narrow, critical, and judgmental.  This loss and rejection of sound doctrine comes with consequences. 

With the loss of sound doctrine, the church and youth pastors are at risk of losing their ability to discern between truth and error.  Why cultivate discernment when doctrine changes with each new setting and generation or is decided by each person or group?  Discernment becomes discerning the subjective voice of the Holy Spirit instead of discerning between right and wrong doctrine as revealed in the Bible.[7]  Youth pastors are being told to “move away from anxious concern with … doctrinally sound instruction and toward a peaceful and prayerful attention to God’s presence in the lives of young persons.”[8]  When discernment dwindles, the church begins to tolerate false teachers, false youth pastors.  Once false teachers are tolerated, the church will gather teachers who will preach what their itching ears want to hear (2 Tim 4:3).

With the loss of sound doctrine, the lines between sin and righteousness become blurred.  The standard for morality becomes arbitrary.  People become the focus instead of Jesus.  Sin no longer becomes an offence against God, but an offence against self.  Youth pastors are being taught that “The Christian tradition has long referred to our fallen condition in terms of “sin,” pointing to the ways we separate ourselves from God and our brothers and sisters.  Perhaps the greatest sin, however, is the sin of self-rejection.”[9] 

With the loss of sound doctrine, the focus of the church and youth pastors turns to what is practiced, disregarding what is believed.  Orthodoxy gets redefined where orthodoxy “is no longer (mis)understood as the opposite of heresy but rather is understood as a term that signals a way of being in the world rather than a means of believing things about the world.”[10]  This says it does not matter what you believe;  what matters is how you live.  Sound biblical theology is replaced with religious works and experiences. 

With the loss of sound doctrine, Jesus becomes a nice addition to faith.  Jesus is viewed as a therapeutic pacifier who is supportive, who gives the blessing to a young person’s life.  Jesus is stripped of His power and authority and is no longer worshiped as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Jesus becomes a moral example to follow, not an atoning Savior to be worshiped and obeyed. 

With the loss of sound doctrine, the Gospel simply becomes news instead of the Good News.  This postmodern generation has rejected absolute truth in favor of a relative view of truth where truth changes with each person and situation.  In a culture that says truth is not absolute, the Gospel becomes relative to what each person wishes it to be.  When the church and youth pastors adopt this doctrinal truth-is-relative view of the Gospel, they put themselves and young people at risk of being kidnapped by the culture’s man-centered philosophies.

The faithful youth pastor must be aware of anything that is contrary to sound doctrine (1 Tim 1:10).  He must command men not to teach false doctrines (1 Tim 1:3).  He must watch his life and doctrine closely (1 Tim 4:16).  The godly youth pastor must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).  Paul said that anyone who teaches false doctrines and does not hold on to sound teaching engages in sin and has been robbed of the truth (1 Tim 6:3-5). 

The concept of sound doctrine has always been foundational to the Gospel, foundational to living the Christian life, and foundational to ministry.  Understanding what the Bible teaches concerning sound doctrine is essential to being a faithful youth pastor.  Sound doctrine must be taught and defended.  Youth pastors must admit the vital importance of sound doctrine, and gain a renewed passion for properly handling the Word of God. 

NOTES:

[1] The results were released on November 30, 2008.  They can be found at: http://charactercounts.org/programs/reportcard/index.html

[2] Mark Yaconelli, Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 121.

[3] Quoted from endorsements on cover of Relationships Unfiltered by Andrew Root.

[4] Andrew Root, Relationships Unfiltered (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 41.

[5] J.C. Ryle, Holiness (Hertfordshire, England: Evangelical Press, 1985), 10.

[6] Tony Jones, Postmodern Youth Ministry (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 201.

[7] Mark Yaconelli, Growing Souls: Experiments in Contemplative Youth Ministry (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 79.

[8] Ibid., 78.

[9] Yaconelli, Growing Souls, 69.

[10] Peter Rollins, How (Not) To Speak of God (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2006), 3.

Book Review: Michael B. Brown’s Bottom Line Beliefs – A Mangled Christianity

Bottom Line Beliefs by Michael Brownby Mary Ann Collins

This book claims to describe twelve “bottom line” beliefs that all Christians hold in common. However, its description of those beliefs is confusing, and at times clearly contrary to Scripture. For example, in discussing what happens after we die (chapter 12), it includes reincarnation as a belief that is held by some Christians (p. 94). However, reincarnation is contrary to Jesus’ parable about the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). And it is clearly refuted in the book of Hebrews, which says, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27, emphasis added).

I have discussed two chapters dealing with beliefs that are absolutely foundational to Christianity. Following that are some general comments about the book.

Chapter 2 — The Centrality of Jesus

This chapter makes the following main points about Jesus:

(1) “Jesus is a man who transformed human culture.” That statement is followed by discussing how, over the centuries, Christians have founded hospitals, nursed the sick, provided education, helped the poor, and engaged in “social services.” (p. 15)

This approach could be used by humanists or atheists who care about the poor.

(2) “Some see Jesus as a ‘rabbi’ who taught the ultimate ethical system for life within community.” The Sermon on the Mount is given as an illustration of teachings about ethics. (p. 15)

This approach could also be used by humanists or atheists.

(3) “Some see Jesus as a personal presence. He challenges us in our daily decision-making. He comforts us in times of crisis. He confronts us at work or school or home, asking us, as he did Matthew, to ‘Rise up, and follow’ (Matt 9:9). He is intensely personal and involved in our human lives.” (p. 17)

This third approach is alright as far as it goes, but there is much more to Jesus Christ than that. The apostle Paul said,

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Nowhere in the entire chapter is there a word about Jesus being our Savior, that He loves us so much that He died to save us from our sins. Nothing is said about Jesus Christ being Lord. And nothing is said about Jesus being God incarnate, both God and man.

The silence is deafening.

Chapter 3 — Jesus’ Resurrection

The first paragraph says that “A bottom line belief for all Christians is a belief in the resurrection.” However, that statement is immediately qualified by saying that what Christians believe about the resurrection varies widely. The chapter gives four different approaches to the resurrection. They are discussed below, in the order that they are given in the book.

(1) “Some interpret the resurrection as more of a spiritual than a physical phenomenon, almost as if Jesus were an apparition. Such an understanding is neo-Docetic, and despite the fact that Docetism was deemed heretical centuries ago, its influence and broad level of acceptance remains undeniable even today.” This statement is followed by accounts of ghost stories. (p. 22)

According to the online edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, docetism did more than deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. It also denied that he had a real body during his life on earth. It spiritualized Jesus to the point of claiming that He only had an “apparent or phantom” body. This was one of the earliest heresies, and in the second century it became a teaching of Gnosticism. This heresy denies the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. As a result, it also denies salvation. By trying to spiritualize Jesus to the point of denying His humanity, it makes a mockery of the Gospels and of Christianity.1

Docetism is clearly refuted in the Bible. It wasn’t just “deemed heretical “centuries ago” — it has always been considered to be a heresy, ever since the early church. It spiritualizes Jesus, denying that He is God come in the flesh, it denies both the Incarnation and the Resurrection, and it thereby nullifies salvation. The apostle John warned Christians not to be deceived by such false teachings. He said,

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. (1 John 4:1-3)

The Bible makes it absolutely clear that Jesus had a physical, bodily resurrection. And it specifically refutes the idea that what the disciples encountered was a spirit or a ghost. Consider the following account of the apostle Luke:

Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence. (Luke 24:36-43)

They personally handled the physical body of Jesus. They touched Him and felt Him. When they gave Him food, He physically ate real food in their presence. Jesus made it absolutely clear that He was physically present. By handling Jesus’ body, the disciples personally experienced the concrete, physical nature of Jesus’ resurrected body.

(2) “Another way of interpreting the resurrection is that Christ’s followers in the days after the crucifixion merely felt his nearness with them.” This statement is followed by accounts of grieving people who “feel” the presence of loved ones who have died.

In addition to denying that Jesus was resurrected as described in Luke’s gospel, this approach makes Jesus Christ seem to be no different than anybody else.

(3) “Jesus’ teachings, his principles, and the lives of discipleship exhibited by his followers all survived in spite of the cross. There are those who say that Jesus lives on through the people who started the Christian movement and keep it going.” (p. 23)

Again, this approach denies the resurrection as described in Luke’s gospel. And again, it makes Jesus Christ seem to be no different than other people. One could say that Karl Marx lives on through the people who keep his movement going. One could say the same thing about other people who have impacted society in smaller ways.

(4) “Finally, there are many traditionalists among us who accept the idea of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.” (p. 25)

After giving three approaches that deny the Biblical accounts of the Resurrection, the author finally mentions that there are Christians who believe that Jesus was resurrected bodily. And he calls such people “traditionalists.” But belief that Jesus was physically resurrected as described in the Bible is not based on tradition — it is based on Scripture. By talking in terms of tradition, the author makes the belief seem as if it rests on the traditions of men rather than being based on the clear, obvious, unmistakable meaning of the accounts of the Resurrection given in the Gospels, the Book of Acts, and in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.

General Comments

The literal bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ is absolutely central to Christianity. Our salvation depends on it. The resurrection of the dead depends on it. Without a literal, physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, our faith is worthless. The apostle Paul said,

Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

Bottom Line Beliefs does not build up faith. It brings fog instead of light. It gives a distorted, watered-down, confusing picture of Jesus Christ and of Christianity. If readers are not Scripturally knowledgeable and well grounded in foundational Christian doctrines, then this book is likely to cause confusion and undermine their faith.

For centuries, courageous missionaries have faced dangers, hardships, and death in order to share their faith with people in other countries. And they are still doing it today, in nations where Christians are severely persecuted.

The early Christians faced death by torture rather than deny their faith. And throughout history since then, Christians have been suffering and dying for their faith. It is still going on today, in countries such as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. These faithful Christians endure hardship and death because of their love for, and trust in, the Lord Jesus Christ — a risen Savior, a glorious Lord who conquered death and hell. Not for a ghost or an ethics teacher.

NOTE

1. “Docetism,” The Encyclopedia Britannica (online edition)

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/167323/Docetism


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