25 Years Under Grace... What Plagues the Body of Christ
October 5, 2016, marked the 25th anniversary of the night I surrendered my life to the gospel of the free grace of God in Christ Jesus... I’d like to share, in my humble opinion, some of the movements and doctrines within Evangelical Christianity which, I believe, have been anywhere from dingy to detrimental to dangerous.
I am imperfect and perfectly capable of error. Since I laid the foundation of Christ alone (for there is no foundation which can be laid - 1 Cor 3:11), I have dabbled in and examined these movements and doctrines. Some I held in whole, some in part, some I just studied as to their veracity. So I don’t write this as a purist, incapable or error. I write as someone who continues to examine his own failings and studies to show himself approved unto God (2 Tim 2:15).
Coming out of a system which declared itself infallible apart and beyond scripture, and having come to the gospel of the free grace of God kicking against the goads, I stepped lightly into no doctrine. I took Luther’s words at Worms to heart, "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason... my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen." So it is with an understanding that I claim no infallibility, only that I hold no doctrine for which I have not the harshest judge. I hold to a Theology of One for I am responsible for and will answer for only my own conclusions.
I often credit my Philosophy class at UNCG as being an integral part of my conversion to Christianity and as one of the foundations of my approach to Bible study. Surely not because the professor intended that end, but because it required I study logical thought and argument. I learned not only about the process of logic, but about logical fallacies too. Bible study must be intensely individual, and with that in mind, I force myself to hold no position about which I have not, to one degree or another, reasoned as best as my flawed mind can.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow...
This list will not be exhaustive. I will try to focus on the more ubiquitous examples.
- SELF ESTEEM MOVEMENT - As one who had to overcome 25 years of ritualistic and self-righteous pursuits to find myself a lost sinner deserving of judgment, this movement baffles me beyond comprehension. If there any plague that corrupts this planet, inside and outside the Body, it is selfishness. How the answer any Christian can offer anyone being “self-love” is troubling. “You are loved” is our message, not “love yourself.”
- DOG BARKING CHARISMANIA - I came to the gospel on my own. When I finally sought fellowship, I was directed to a charismatic church. This was a precious time in my early Christian life and the people at that church will always hold a special place in my heart... but I didn’t just adopt their doctrines simply because that’s where I fellowshipped. In the end, I could not find the mania I started to see there (and its many manifestations) in scripture. This is not an indictment of all charismatic churches (I respect those who embrace all the gifts above the partial cessationists, even as I disagree with both). A number of teachers I still follow are charismatic. The founder of the charismatic Calvary movement (and a teacher I greatly admire), the late Chuck Smith, penned “Charisma Versus Charismania.” It’s an indictment of the mania of which I refer by a key Charismatic teacher.
- ONENESS PENTECOSTALISM - Holding to a doctrine so easily refuted by scripture makes this a movement that I only briefly examined. I never had any inclination to embrace it in any way.
- PRETERISM, REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY, ETC. - There are a number of Reformed teachers from whose teaching I have profited. There may be many valuable things found in some of their teachings. But as a group which purports to be the antithesis to my former religion, they have adopted quite a lot of its theology. I came into Christ with Replacement Theology (that is, believing the “church” has replaced Israel) and it was a doctrine examined quite a bit before disposing of it with prejudice. Israel’s place in this age is a subject of debate, but surely national Israel has a future, a blessed future.
- AMILLENNIALISM, KINGDOM NOW - sister doctrines to Preterism.
- CALVINISM, SOVEREIGNTY, ETC. - Three, four, five points. At one point or another I dabbled in or embraced some grouping of the five points of Calvinism. The more I study the more I am convinced that I am a zero-point Calvinist. For folks who usually deem themselves the intellectuals of Christendom, they hold to some blatantly illogical positions... which often leads to claims that one must go to seminary to study why the insane is really sane. Harsh words, perhaps, unfair too... but I’ve never gotten anywhere discussing these issues with them, and without a seminary degree, they are often unwilling to consider my thoughts seriously.
- ECUMENISM - This one needs little comment. I’ve probably written on the philosophical and logical madness in this movement. I didn’t just buy a new hat. I had to reject the religion to which I gave 25 years’ service, risking damnation (according to her), in embracing the gospel of grace. It’s even more maddening when the movement embraces groups which do not even claim to be Christian. “Interfaith” is a the first clue that some movement is political and not spiritual.
- THEISTIC EVOLUTION - When I was 14, I was glued to the Cosmos series on PBS. I was taught evolution in my science classes in my religious school and my church-approved bible notes spelled out the doctrine of Theistic Evolution. Later, as a Religious Education Teacher, the textbook I used spelled it out even more clearly as did my church-approved “Bible Handbook.” But of all the doctrines I once held, this is the most insipid. It takes a weak, middle position which not only strikes at the base of the salvific work of Christ, it doesn’t really understand what naturalistic evolution is built on. So, when I finally studied the issue in greater detail (as I had been doing with all other assumptions), I discarded the illogical and contradictory teachings on evolution as I discarded with even greater prejudice the nonsensical doctrine of Theistic Evolution.
The following are some common topics within Evangelicalism (and beyond) which, I believe are misunderstood to one degree or another. The failure to rightly understand them and associated doctrines stunts growth, leads to confusion, hinders evangelism and clouds the great Work of Christ (some to a greater degree than others).
- Death / The Curse
- A Soul / Immortality
- The Afterlife
- “Hell”/Lake of Fire, etc.
- “The Church”
- The Bride (Israel)
- Bible Promises
- The Lord’s Earthly Ministry
- The New Covenant
- The Christian Life (This Present Age)
- Israel’s Place in the Plan of God
- Pentecost and The Acts Age
- The Last Days
- The Revelation
- Marriage/Sexual Deviancy
- The Gifts
- The Prize
- The Parables
- Post-Adamic, Pre-Flood Truth
- The Nature of The Millenium
- Bible Translations
- The Sabbath-Keepers
The linked notes are in the form of very short introductions to certain topics and often cross doctrinal areas. In the coming months, I hope to have a little something on all these topics and I hope to finally finish compiling and publishing my book, A Theology of One.
All Bible study must in the end be individual... Each one must look out the reference for himself. He must trace the words through all their occurrences where these are given; he must consider their usages; he must read the contexts; he must make his lists and tables, and do his countings for himself: for so only can he feed upon the Word and the words, and be nourished, and be strengthened himself, and grow thereby: so only will he be able to say with Jeremiah: "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; And thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart."
-Dr. E.W. Bullinger (How To Enjoy The Bible)