Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Threat from Within

It seems that many in Evangelicalism perceive that the threats to the church are coming from outside the church, but the real impending danger is coming from within. When you think about it, history shows that threats from outside the church seldom destroy it. The church at Smyrna in the book of Revelation (Rev. 2:8-11) suffered from persecution, but the Lord has no words of condemnation for this church. The heavy persecution did not destroy it, but rather purified and strengthened it. Compare this with Laodicea. (Rev. 3:14-22) That church was rich and thought they needed nothing, existing in their comfort zone. They were lukewarm and the Lord has no words of commendation for them. Churches in countries where they are heavily persecuted are generally strengthened spiritually. Also consider the strong condemnation given to Pergamos and Thyatira due to their spiritual compromise, tolerating false teachers. Thyatira was dominated by plenty of love and works, but those things will never make up for religious apostasy.

Paul warned the Ephesian elders that false teachers would arise from within their ranks who would lead people astray. This is exactly what is happening today. There are numerous influential teachers that are bringing false teaching into the church.

“28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:28-31, NKJV™)

The most effective strategy that Satan can use to attack the church, is to recruit men from within. This is the greatest danger because these men generally posses certain “credentials” in the form of seminary degrees or they have become popular in the Christian community. Many of these men have become leaders in fast growing churches and as a result, many people are impressed by their results. Most disturbing is the charisma these men possess. People are easily taken in by their winsome personalities.

Take for instance, Brian McLaren, who is now one of the official leaders in the “emerging church” movement. His teaching is riddled with error. He appears to maintain a doctrinal position where he tries to be as ambiguous as possible, seemingly avoiding taking sides in any theological “camp”. Despite his attempts to be as vague as possible, when you examine what he says, his teaching is nothing but heretical. He often tries to claim that he embraces historic biblical Christianity, while in practice he ends up denying the fundamentals of the faith. His teaching creates confusion by introducing more questions than answers. In the process of “borrowing” from many different traditions, as he proposes in his book “A Generous Orthodoxy”, the true message of the gospel becomes muddled and the fundamental doctrinal teaching of Scripture becomes obscured.

McLaren has authored several books including "A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey". I wrote a post some time ago explaining the dangers of the philosophy that McLaren promotes through the book. I also have a link to an article in the Christian Research Journal in that post to a review of the book by Doug Groothuis. One of his more recent works, A Generous Orthodoxy is essentially an attempt to get the reader to borrow from any theological “tradition” regardless of the doctrinal position of that group.

If you want to get an idea of what Brian McLaren’s philosophy is, watch the video of the PBS special "The Emerging Church" and read the transcript. Also, read the transcript of the PBS interview with McLaren. Pay close attention to the way that he handles such things as homosexuality and the concept of hell.

What McLaren promotes is all too often par for the course in the postmodern “emerging” church movement. I have covered this topic in several posts on my blog, The Postmodern Journey to Apostasy.

Much of what is taught by these teachers is truth intermingled with the error so much so that it tends to mask the error. Little by little, error is slowly introduced into the church. A relatively minor error is introduced into the church and a few people are somewhat shaken, but that soon passes. Then something a little more erroneous is introduced and again, some people are a little concerned, but things eventually settle down. It seems that people eventually adapt to the change. This happens repeatedly, slowly eroding away truth. Usually, the slide to apostasy is not sudden, but is a gradual process as churches begin letting down their guard. Churches just don’t suddenly wake up one day and decide that they are going to set aside the Bible and deny biblical teaching. It usually results from a gradual drift as a result of spiritual apathy and laziness.

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