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The Sixth Day of Apostasy: Secret Societies

February 16, 2015

The Sixth Day of Apostasy

I submit that the book of James is critically important for those who wish to discern the errors of our time. James focuses our attention to the various causes and symptoms of “false faith.” He asks “Can that faith save you?” This is the sixth in a series of twelve apostasies. Click here for Day 1 (Liberal Theology), here for Day 2 (Prosperity Gospel), here for Day 3 (Liberation Theology), here for Day 4 (Free Grace Salvation), and here for Day 5 (Subjective Charismania).

[Please note that I am NOT making any claim that particular Christians who are part of these movements are unsaved! Further, many truths may be taught and practiced by those who hold to these teachings. What I am suggesting is that the abuses found in the movements promote apostasy]. The links to the opinions of others may differ from those of my own.

 

Strike up the music:

 

On the sixth day of apostasy, James is warning me… of SECRET SOCIETIES… Subjective Charismania! … Free Grace Salvation, Liberation Theology, Prosperity Gospel, and of Lib-er-al Theolo-gy.

Apostasy #6 – Secret Societies & Fraternal Orders

Keyword(s) from James: Do not swear (James 5:12)

Teaching: The “Belonging” Gospel

Beginnings: Pagan mystery religions

Motto: “Cross my heart and hope to die”

Influencers: The Jesuits, Albert Mackey, Prince Hall

Effects: Pagan worship/occultism; unequal yoking; favoritism

Cultural icon: National Treasure

Adherents: Freemasons, Knights of Malta (link), Greek Letter Organizations

Interesting reading: PCA Report on Freemasonry (link)

Click here for: A message for blood brothers

I. Warning against ungodly oaths. But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be your yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment. James 5:12.

Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, “Yes, yes” or “No, no”; anything beyond these is of evil. Mt. 5:36.

Secret societies typically have an initiation ceremony that requires that the pledge take a vow or blood oath. James and Jesus provide strong warnings against such vows. Freemasonry and the Knights of Malta will be investigated.

II. We humans are wired to be social. We long to belong. We want to be accepted as part of the “in crowd.” We love the influence and the camaraderie. We want to feel special. The Church is the place that God has designed for Christian fellowship. We formally enter the church through the ceremony of baptism. We are part of the blood covenant of Jesus Christ. We vow loyalty to Him.

But Satan has his counterfeits that are designed to supersede or override God’s plan. Secret societies and elite organizations can offer the satisfaction of belonging. They make us feel special by designing secret ceremonies, oaths, and pledges. We formally enter the societies through an oath-taking. We vow loyalty to the organization.

III. One of the appealing factors of these organizations is their mystery. The origins of secret societies can likely be traced to pagan mystery religions. Some of the ceremonies of modern-day fraternal organizations have ties to Egyptian, Greek and Roman mythology. God’s chosen people often succumbed to the appealing nature of the religion of their neighbors. They worshiped other gods.

IV. The secret oaths and secret rituals are their hidden “motto.” The Freemasons have their secret handshakes and greetings. College fraternities do as well. The Freemason apprentice calls down threats of bodily harm upon himself to dissuade him from ever divulging the secrets of the organization.

V. Why is there such a severe prohibition against oath-taking in the Bible? The swearing of unbiblical oaths represents a willful rebellion against the God of providence.

The Westminster Confession of Faith states:

No one may vow to do anything forbidden in the word of God, anything hindering a duty commanded in the word, or anything not in his power, which he has neither the ability nor warrant from God to perform. In this respect, monastic vows of perpetual celibacy, professed poverty, and consistent obedience do not perfect us but are actually superstitious, sinful traps, in which no Christian should entangle himself.

The Jesuits take vows of poverty, chastity and unquestioning obedience to the pope. During the Counter-reformation they were the pope’s secret spy network that infiltrated foreign governments, using whatever means necessary to counteract the Reformation.

Albert Mackey was an influential Freemason writer. Prince Hall started the black lodges. Freemasonry is not just a fraternal organization. It is false religion. Many Christians who get involved in Freemasonry do not realized that they are participating in pagan idolatry. A report by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in 2000 found that over 1,000 SBC pastors were Freemasons and that 37% of the members of Freemasonry are Southern Baptist.

A study by the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) found that:

  •  Freemasonry is a universalistic religion

“Masons meet in “temples” where “prayers” to a “deity” are made. They kneel at their “sacred altar” to make their “sacred oaths.” They are to be in subjection to the leader of the lodge who is called a “Worshipful Master” who has hanging over his head a large letter “G” which symbolizes the Masonic concept of deity. On the “sacred altar” is placed a “Bible,” a “Koran,” or other sacred book depending on the particular religious faith of the candidate. One cannot join the lodge without swearing belief in “a Supreme Being.” Moreover, the candidate in the rituals is “taught” the immortality of his soul.”

  • Freemasonry has a degrading concept of God

“Freemasonry affirms the existence of one God, but Masonry’s concept of the unity of God is not Christian. Masonry’s one God is a syncretizing of the names of deities of several monotheistic religions in the world.”

  • Freemasonry denies the sufficiency of Scripture

“Freemasonry does not see the Bible as the sole written revelation of God to man. The Bible contains only parts of the Truth. In the lodge the Bible is one of three great lights on the altar. The other two being the square and the compass. The Bible is only seen as a symbol of God’s will to man.”

  • The Freemason concept of Jesus is blasphemous

“Masonic authority Albert Pike has said, “It (Masonry) reverences all the great reformers. It sees in Moses, the lawgiver of the Jews, in Confucius and Zoroaster, in Jesus of Nazareth and in the Arabian Iconoclast, Great Teachers of Morality, and Eminent Reformers, if no more, and allows every brother of the order to assign to each such higher and even Divine Character as his Creed and truth require.”

  • Freemasonry teaches a works based salvation

“The purpose of Masonry is to enable man to rid his nature of sin’s pollution . . . but without Jesus Christ! We are told by Masons that Masonry’s purpose is to enable “good men to be better.” Masonry, in the meaning of its symbols and in the performance of its ceremonies, denies the Bible’s concept of original sin. Masonry emphatically declares that men can, by their own good works, achieve eternal salvation.”

  • Secrecy is not legitimate when dealing with truth about God

“Freemasonry, while claiming that its secrets contain truth good for all men, are to be in secret so that the profane not be privileged to it. The stationing of the Tyler outside the door of the lodge symbolizes the restriction of Masonry’s mysteries to its initiates only. Pike has declared: ‘Secrecy is indispensable in a Mason of whatever Degree. It is the first and almost the only lesson taught to the Entered Apprentice.'”

  • Freemasonry requires ungodly oaths

“All Masons are required to take sacred oaths never to reveal Masonic secrets, and they bind themselves under blood curdling penalties if they dishonor this oath… Furthermore, the Masonic oath is taken before one even receives the secrets that he is swearing never to reveal. We must be fully aware what we are swearing to, lest we be guilty of rashness… Finally, one cannot separate the oath from implicit involvement in the religious teaching of the lodge. If an oath means anything it is full identification of a person with the group to which the oath has bound him. Masonic authorities and the ritual do not take oaths lightly; the Bible doesn’t either.”

There are several excellent ministries that reach out to those in bondage to secret societies. You may want to check out Ephesians 5:11, Ex-Masons for Jesus, and Denounce Greek (links).

VI. Members of Freemasonry and Greek Letter Organizations perform rituals and recite prayers to gods who are not the God of the Bible. This is a dangerous practice that amounts in many cases to occultism. Christians who become blood brothers with non-Christians are unequally yoked and participate in the sin of the non-Christian. Participation in secret societies encourages favoritism. Participation in these secret societies becomes a way to receive special treatment from well-to-do “brothers.”

VII. Natural Treasure was a movie starring Nicolas Cage. The movie makes many references to Freemasonry, and promotes the idea that the United States was founded by Freemasons.

VIII. Another elite secret society is the Knights of Malta, which has separate Catholic and Protestant branches. Its members come from the upper echelons of society. The Catholic Knights of Malta (link) is headquartered in Rome, is a member of the United Nations, and has diplomatic relations with over 100 nations. Rick Joyner, founder of Morningstar Ministries, explains why he joined the Protestant order of the Knights of Malta:

“In 1987 I met a man from one of the old noble families of Eastern Europe. His family had owned a large and prosperous industry before the communist takeover in their country. In a conversation with him, I was told about an extraordinary order of knights who were keeping alive the vision of chivalry and the defense of Christianity, and were waging a brave fight to reclaim what had been lost to the enemies of the cross. He explained that you could not join this order, but had to be recommended and proven to be true of the most stringent biblical standards of morality and integrity, and have risked your life for the sake of the gospel. I was very intrigued, and decided to research this order called “The Knights of Malta.”…Over the next couple of years, I often traveled through Europe, and was surprised to find many who still revered the famous Knights of Malta. I became convinced that, even though the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but spiritual, there was a desperate need for such courageous souls to again band together and vow to retreat no further before the enemies of the cross. I saw many parallels in the history of the Knights of Malta, who are also called the Order of St. John (OSJ), with what I had been shown prophetically in the vision I was given about the coming harvest and the struggle that much of the world was about to face.”

Just what Christianity needs: rich and powerful secret soldiers to defend the honor of Jesus Christ against the anti-Christian hordes! Wouldn’t it be a great idea (link) to form a religious worldwide organization to resolve the worlds knotty problems and to promote religious understanding?

The Fifth Day of Apostasy: Subjective Charismania!

February 2, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

The Fifth Day of Apostasy 

The book of James is critically important for those who wish to discern the errors of our time. James focuses our attention to the various causes and symptoms of “false faith.” He asks “Can that faith save you?” This is the fifth in a series of twelve apostasies. Click here for Day 1 (Liberal Theology). Click here for Day 2 (Prosperity Gospel). Click here for Day 3 (Liberation Theology). Click here for Day 4 (Free Grace Salvation).

[Please note that I am NOT making any claim that particular Christians who are part of these movements are unsaved! Further, many truths may be taught and practiced by those who hold to these teachings. What I am suggesting is that the abuses found in the movements promote apostasy]. The links to the opinions of others may differ from those of my own.

 

Strike up the music:

 

On the fifth day of apostasy, James is warning me… of SUBJECTIVE CHARISMANIA! … Free Grace Salvation, Liberation Theology, Prosperity Gospel, and of Lib-er-al Theolo-gy.

Apostasy #5 – Subjective Charismania!

Keyword(s) from James: Deceived by gifts (James 1:16-18)

Teaching: The Second Blessing Gospel

Beginnings: Asuza Street Revival,  A.G. Garr (link)

Motto: “Be filled with the Spirit”

Influencers: Dennis Bennett, Kevin Ranaghan, Sovereign Grace

Mouthpiece: Charisma Magazine

Effects: False prophecy; Satanic deception; false unity

Cultural icon: Trojan horse

Adherents: Pentecostals, Third Wave, Charismatic Renewal

Interesting reading: Charlotte connection: Garr Church (link)

 

Click here for: A message to Charismatics

 

I. Deceived by false gifts. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. James 1:16-18.

For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance. Mk. 13:22-23

Satan is more than happy to provide people with “gifts from below.” As James warns, we must be alert for his deception. It is critical to understand that the Bible is our sufficient instruction in what pleases God and what He expects of us. It also speaks prophetically to us, and brings us forth into His truth. There is temptation for Christians to receive demonic presents from Satan, re-gifted via his false prophets.

 
II. Charismatics believe that extraordinary spiritual gifts (as displayed in Acts and described by Paul in 1 Corinthians) are still being manifested in our day. Most charismatics teach that the gifts are received as a “second blessing” (after initial conversion) and are accompanied by the gift of tongues. This blessing is known as “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” Another sign of the filling is to be “slain in the Spirit,” where a person falls down to the ground by the Spirit’s influence. A criticism of the movement is that chaotic actions may be displayed by those “under the influence” of the Spirit. Examples include “Holy Laughter” and the Toronto Blessing (links), where people laugh hysterically, make animal noises, and preach while drunk. [A local connection: the “drunk” preacher in the video is John Scotland, a missionary and spiritual advisor for Correll Missionary Ministries, part of Morningstar Ministries of Charlotte. We will meet the head of Morningstar, Rick Joyner, in our sixth day of apostasy].

Cessationists do not think that the extraordinary gifts continued after the age of the apostles. They emphasize that the purpose of signs and wonders was to validate the apostolic teaching (Heb. 2:4). [Personally, I am not completely convinced by the cessationist arguments. However, the abuses of the charismatic movement are self-evident. I will discuss these abuses and related issues.]

 
III. The modern Pentecostal movement began in 1906 with the Asuza Street Revival, led by African-American preacher William Seymour. Meetings were held around the clock at a run-down building in downtown L.A. that had recently been used as a horse stable. During the meetings, people would speak ecstatic utterances, sing and speak in tongues, make loud noises, and have involuntary convulsive fits. Over the next ten years, thousands of people visited the site of the revival. Healings were reported, and missionaries were sent out from the movement. One of these missionaries has a connection to my hometown – A. G. Garr, who went to Calcutta and then returned to found a church in Charlotte. My children attended preschool at Garr Memorial.

 
IV. The Bible records many instances of people being “filled with the Spirit.” Examples include Elizabeth, Zacharias, the 120 in the upper room at Pentecost, Peter in front of the Sanhedrin, Stephen, and Paul. Several times in the book of Acts the Holy Spirit filled those who believed the gospel, most notably Cornelius and his friends. The Holy Spirit is promised by Jesus to all who receive the good news of the Kingdom. He is the Helper who illumines the mind, convicts the world of sin and righteousness, brings comfort and guidance, and enables believers to persevere in the faith.
But Charismatics typically look beyond these workings of the Spirit. They seek extraordinary signs and wonders — such as healings, tongues and interpretations, words of knowledge, and prophecies. One of the questions to be answered is “how are these prophetic utterances, signs and wonders validated?” If there are valid miracles, can we be certain of their source?

 
V. The movement expanded beyond Pentecostalism and into many denominations in the 1960’s. The Charismatic Renewal began among Anglicans, with Dennis Bennett receiving “the blessing.” Theologian Larry Christensen became a leading voice in Lutheranism. The Renewal reached Roman Catholicism in 1967 when a group of Catholic students and professors from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh received the gift of tongues. The Charismatic Renewal grew quickly in Catholicism. Deacon Kevin Ranaghan wrote an influential book Catholic Pentecostals. The movement also reached the Reformed churches. Former Catholics Larry Tomczak and C.J. Mahaney were instrumental in forming a group that morphed into Sovereign Grace Ministries, a group of like-minded churches that espouse some of the charismatic teachings. The interdenominational aspect of the Charismatic movement has been an encouragement to some that this is the work of the Spirit to bring unity to the Body of Christ.

VI. Charisma Magazine was founded by Stephen Stang in 1975. In 2005, Stang was listed among the 25 most influential evangelicals in America by Time Magazine.

 

VII. It is a fact that in the last days there will be a multitude of false prophets. We should ask, “Is God still speaking authoritatively to His Church outside of the Bible?” The Papacy answers that question with a resounding, “Yes!” Rome teaches that God’s Word is made up of both Scripture and ongoing Tradition. Prophetic messages and visions (link) occur worldwide by a spirit claiming to be Mary. Many charismatics believe that new revelation is being spoken by God daily. But how should we treat prophets who make prophecies that do not come to pass? Are they false teachers?

The Word-Faith movement and the Prosperity Gospel are linked to Pentecostalism. There are many false teachers who bring Satanic deception and teach the doctrine of demons. Offers made by Satan that Jesus rejected have all too easily been accepted by followers of these “charismatic” teachers.

Perhaps the most disturbing consequence of the movement that spans the theological spectrum is the resultant false unity that is promoted. The Pope’s video (link) to the Kenneth Copeland conference is evidence of this growing apostasy.

VIII. I choose as the cultural icon the Trojan Horse. “I fear Greeks, even those bearing gifts” wrote Virgil. Satan is known as the deceiver. One means that he uses to deceive is to counterfeit the gifts that God gives to His Church. God’s gifts are good, true and perfect. Satan gives false prophecies, false words, false wonders, false signs, false miracles, false revivals, false charismatic leaders, and false religions. All these are Satan’s “gifts” to mankind. James describes these gifts as “earthly, natural, demonic.” James 3:15. We don’t really need Satan’s help to drum up false spirituality – our natural emotions can drum up experiences that we attribute to the Holy Spirit.

IX. Pew Research estimates that Pentecostals and Charismatics make up 25% of all Christians. In sub-Sahara Africa the percentage is estimated to be 44%. A movement known as the Third Wave (link) began in the 1980’s. John Wimber (Vineyard churches) and C. Peter Wagner created a course at Fuller Theological Seminary to promote a new kind of Pentecostalism, one that utilized church growth strategies with a Charismatic viewpoint. Theologian Wayne Grudem holds to a continuationist view of the spiritual gifts, but believes that conversion and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are simultaneous. This doctrine is usually held by “Third Wave” churches.

The Fourth Day of Apostasy: Free Grace Salvation

January 22, 2015

The Fourth Day of Apostasy

I submit that the book of James is critically important for those who wish to discern the errors of our time. James focuses our attention to the various causes and symptoms of “false faith.” He asks “Can that faith save you?” Click here for Day 1 (Liberal Theology), here for Day 2 (Prosperity Gospel) and here for Day 3 (Liberation Theology).

[Please note that I am NOT making any claim that particular Christians who are part of these movements are unsaved! Further, many truths may be taught and practiced by those who hold to these teachings. What I am suggesting is that the abuses found in the movements promote apostasy]. The links to the opinions of others may differ from those of my own.
Strike up the music:
On the fourth day of apostasy, James is warning me… of FREE GRACE SALVATION, Liberation Theology, Prosperity Gospel, and of Lib-er-al Theolo-gy.

 

Apostasy #4 – Free Grace Salvation

Keyword(s) from James: Faith without works (James 2:14)

Teaching: The Carnal Christian Gospel

Beginnings: Antinomian Controversy, John Cotton, Anne Hutchinson

Motto: “Lordship may come later, but it is not necessary”

Influencers: Charles Ryrie, Zane Hodges

Mouthpiece: Grace Evangelical Society

Effects: False assurance; sowing of tares in the church

Cultural icon: Elmer Gantry

Adherents: Dallas Theological Seminary, many evangelicals

Interesting reading: MacArthur on Lordship Salvation (link)

 

Click here for: A Message for Free Grace Teachers

 

I. No evidence. What use is it, brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? Show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:14,18. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil. 1 John 3:7-8.

 

II. One can receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and exhibit no obedience or holiness of living. They can live a carnal lifestyle, bearing little or no fruit (showing no evidence of the new birth), and still be saved from hell. Even those who go on to repudiate the faith are saved, since they met the requirement for salvation when they previously believed in Jesus as their Savior. Free Grace theologians see James’ admonition (can that faith save you?) as being rescued from the temporal consequences of sin. So, a fruitless faith may lead to illness and death, but will not result in eternal damnation in hell.

This theology is totally contrary to Scripture. Faith is always tied to repentance in the Bible. Only one kind of faith saves: a repentant faith. Sorrow for sin, ongoing repentance, and the “fruits of repentance” are marks of true Christians. For an excellent rebuttal of Free Grace Theology (a/k/a “No-Lordship Salvation”), click here. PLEASE READ THIS ARTICLE!

 

III. Confusion as to the interaction of faith and works as regards to salvation is not new. It has been the center of controversy from time immemorial. In America, the battle began in 1636 with the so-called Antinomian Controversy. The Puritans who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony were Christians, many of whom fled England due to religious persecution. The founders of the colony were also the founders of the church in the New World. Certain preachers began teaching that true Christians were united with the Holy Spirit when they first believed, and that assurance of salvation came only through union with the Spirit. Assurance was never to be sought by inspecting the fruit of the Christian’s life. Those who taught the doctrine of sanctification as necessary fruit of the Christian were condemned by these teachers as holding “a covenant of works” rather than the “covenant of grace.” John Cotton and Anne Hutchinson were involved in spreading the “antinomian” teaching. The churches in Boston favored the new theology. Those of the surrounding towns were solidly opposed. Eventually the leading “antinomians” were charged with sedition.

 

IV. Christ as Savior, but not Lord. Free Grace theologian Bob Wilkin writes:

“the sole condition of eternal life is trusting in Christ as one’s Savior. None of the following are conditions of eternal life: turning from sins, being willing to turn from sins, committing one’s life to Christ, baptism, doing good works, or persevering in the faith.”

What does it mean to “trust in Christ?” Those who oppose Free Grace (holding to so-called “Lordship salvation”) see repentance as an integral part of true faith. Jesus preached, “Repent and believe the good news.” Repentance itself is a gift of God — a gift that results in Godly sorrow and “fruit in keeping with repentance.”

 

V. Charles Ryrie (1925- ) and Zane Hodges (1932-2008) were two Dallas Theological Seminary professors who are/were defenders of Free Grace theology.

Hodges wrote Absolutely Free: A Biblical Response to Lordship Salvation. The book is a response to a critique of No-Lordship salvation by John MacArthur. He argues that if one believes the bare facts about Jesus, then he has true saving faith. He holds that repentance is not necessary, since the word “repentance” is not used in the Gospel of John. He teaches that God’s grace does not necessarily result in a changed life.

Ryrie wrote So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ. In the book, he claims that repentance is only a change of mind about Jesus Christ. Repentance does not include a repulsion for or turning away from one’s sin. He claims that one can be a saved Christian but not be a disciple of Christ. “Confessing Jesus as Lord” (Rom. 10:9) is defined only as believing in His deity.

 

VI. The Grace Evangelical Society (GES) (www.faithalone.org), founded in 1986 by Bob Wilkin, promotes Free Grace salvation. It publishes a semi-annual journal, and has an annual conference. One of the five solas of the Reformation is sola gratia – grace alone. The Reformers held that all of salvation – including regeneration, effectual calling, repentance and faith, justification, sanctification, and glorification – are by God’s grace alone. GES effectively denies the fullness of God’s grace.
VII. Free Grace Salvation critically distorts the doctrine of justification by faith alone. In attempting to protect sola fide, these theologians make a mistake similar to Roman Catholicism. They confuse cause with effect. Martin Luther wrote, “”Works are necessary for salvation but they do not cause salvation; for faith alone gives life.” When people are taught that works are not a necessary fruit of salvation, they receive a diluted gospel that gives them false assurance of salvation. Jesus said that the way of salvation is narrow, and that few find it. Can one live like the devil (who also “believes” in Christ) and still be a Christian? Their doctrine brings shame to the cause of Christ and results in false professors becoming influential in the Church.

 

VIII. Elmer Gantry (1927) is a best-selling book by Sinclair Lewis, and also a movie starring Burt Lancaster in 1960. It is a satire on evangelical life in America. It is all about hypocrisy. Mr. Gantry is an unethical womanizer who is ordained as a Baptist minister. I choose this as the cultural icon because it relates to the common reaction many unbelievers have to Christianity: we are a bunch of hypocrites. When churches are dominated by false professors, “lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved….” (Mt. 24:12)

 

IX. The influence of Dallas Theological Seminary is seen in regards to dispensationalism as it relates to Free Grace salvation. Dispensationalists hold to a future literal 1,000 year earthly reign of Christ. Applying the teaching of Free Grace to the millennium, some teach that those who do not “accept Christ as Lord” and who evidence no fruit of salvation are cast outside the city, where they will weep and mourn. Thus, a kind of purgatory is created for those who “believed” in Jesus but did not accept Him as Lord. Only those who receive Him as Lord are allowed to reign with Him for a thousand years. This is similar to the Mormon teaching of the celestial versus terrestrial heavens, and to the Jehovah’s Witness teaching on the anointed 144,000 who get to live in heaven while the rest inhabit the earth.

Apostasy #3: Liberation Theology

January 12, 2015

 

The Third Day of Apostasy

 

The book of James is critically important for those who wish to discern the errors of our time. James focuses our attention to the various causes and symptoms of “false faith.” He asks “Can that faith save you?” This is the third of a series of twelve apostasies.

[Please note that I am NOT making any claim that particular Christians who are part of these movements are unsaved! Further, many truths may be taught and practiced by those who hold to these teachings. What I am suggesting is that the abuses found in the movements promote apostasy]. The links to the opinions of others may differ from those of my own.

 

Strike up the music:

 

On the third day of apostasy, James is warning me… of LIBERATION THEOLOGY, Prosperity Gospel, and of Lib-er-al Theolo-gy.

 

Keyword(s) from James: Anger does not achieve righteousness(James 1:20)

Teaching: The Gospel of the Oppressed

Beginnings: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Gustavo Gutierrez

Motto: “Preferential option for the poor”

Influencers: James Cone, Marxism

Mouthpiece: Trinity United Church of Christ

Effects: Politicizing of theology to transform society; violence may be necessary to overthrow oppressive structures

Cultural Icons: The Raised Fist; Occupy Wall Street

Adherents: Some Black Churches, Latin Base Communities

Interesting reading: Ron Rhodes: Liberation Theology; Black Theology (links)

 

Click here for: A Message to Rich and Poor

 

I. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. James 1:20.

One of the difficult ideals of Christianity is the theology of persecution. We are told to “turn the other cheek” and to pray for our enemies. We are to be longsuffering when wronged. In this way, we are salt and light to the world. Retaliation for past offenses may not be an appropriate Christian response. What should one do to “achieve the righteousness of God”? James answers: “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” James 1:21.

 

II. There is much to be approved in teaching that has concern for the poor, the oppressed, and those who suffer injustice. It is a mark of true Christianity to be generous and to provide for the needs of the widow, the orphan, the alien and the poor. But the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is threatened when concern for the oppressed becomes the gospel. Was it the purpose of Jesus to come and die to save the poor from political oppression? Was this not the incorrect assumption of the disciples? They asked “When would Jesus make Israel free from her Roman oppressors?”

The political zealots of Israel were waiting for a political messiah.  It turns out that Messiah came to save us from the deadly oppression of sin. That is the gospel message.
III. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor who was executed by the Nazis taught that it is unacceptable to see a distinction between the earthly and heavenly kingdoms. He promoted situational ethics. In his Letters and Papers from Prison he wrote:

“God is teaching us that we must live as men who can get along very well without Him. The God who is with us is the God who forsakes us.”

He also wrote that “the Christian is identified not by his beliefs, but by actions, by his participation in the suffering of God in the life of the world.” He denied the deity of Christ, believing instead that he is not a real person but rather a “corporate presence.”

Gustavo Gutierrez is a Catholic theologian who coined the phrase “Liberation Theology” in his 1971 influential work A Theology of Liberation. While much of Gutierrez’s teachings align with Catholic Social Teaching (link), the Catholic Church until recently has suppressed the Liberation theologians due to a concern about its tendency toward Marxism and to violence that it has spawned in several Catholic-dominated countries (e.g. Nicaragua). Gutierrez calls for the radical transformation of capitalist societies that misappropriate wealth to the disadvantage of the poor.

 

IV. One motto of Liberation Theology is “Preferential Option for the Poor.” The focus of this theology is the injustice done to the poor by the wealthy. Since God is concerned with the poor, and since we see so much poverty in the world, Liberation theologians call for changes to political systems to favor the poor.

 

V. The Theology of Liberation has been especially influential in black churches. One of the original advocates for black Liberation Theology was theologian James Cone. Cone teaches that “white Christianity” has corrupted the truth of Jesus Christ – the Savior of the oppressed. Theology is not seen as universal, but must rather be interpreted according to its social context. Cone writes:

“Either God is identified with the oppressed to the point that their experience becomes God’s experience, or God is a God of racism…. The blackness of God means that God has made the oppressed condition God’s own condition. This is the essence of the Biblical revelation. By electing Israelite slaves as the people of God and by becoming the Oppressed One in Jesus Christ, the human race is made to understand that God is known where human beings experience humiliation and suffering….Liberation is not an afterthought, but the very essence of divine activity.” A Black Theology of Liberation pp. 63-64.

Marxism is a philosophy that encourages public ownership of the means of distribution of goods and services, in contrast to Capitalism in which private ownership controls much of the means of distribution and is characterized by free competitive markets.

 

VI. Perhaps the most recognized church that promotes Black Liberation theology is Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. The church came into the headlines during the 2008 presidential election and the controversy over inflammatory statements made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. President Obama, a long time church member, addressed the controversy in his speech A More Perfect Union (link). The President also denounced (link) the divisive statements of Wright during his campaign.

 

VII. There are valid arguments for Christians to engage in politics to bring about change consistent with biblical principles. Unfortunately, Liberation Theology focuses so extremely on the reaction to injustice that it effectively replaces the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is great danger to society when the focus is entirely on the temporal well-being of humanity at the expense of eternal realities. The gospel transcends political affiliations.

Where the gospel is neglected, violence often becomes the mode for attempting change. This year is the 50th anniversary of the riots in Rochester, NY. My mother’s family lived within a mile of the burning businesses. Ten years later I would take the bus from my college campus to visit my relatives. The bus route passed by the area of the riots, and was an urban wasteland. Now fifty years later there is Ferguson. Violence begets hatred, mistrust and sometimes increased oppression.

 

VIII. There was a game show several years ago called 1 vs. 100. After the global financial crisis and the bailouts of financial institutions in 2008, the one vs. the ninety-nine came into vogue. Disgust for perceived injustice that favors “the one-percenters” led to protests such as the occupation of Wall Street. Click here to see how much you must earn to be among the 1% of the world’s highest earners. I think you will be surprised.

The raised fist (link) is the symbol of resistance against oppression. Another symbol is the “tea party.” One man’s oppressor is another man’s oppressed. I am a CPA, and know many wealthy people. I have clients who work 80 hours in a typical week and make six figure incomes. They go home from work, take their children to multiple activities, and then collapse in front of the TV for a few hours before starting the routine all over the next day. They feel oppressed by a government that takes up to 50% of their earnings while they struggle to afford the $50,000 per year that they pay to send their children to college, as well as pay for their creature comforts. Idolatry knows no class distinctions. Neither does anger, as you can see by watching MSNBC and Fox News.

 

IX. The history of slavery and oppression of blacks in the U.S. is appalling. Blacks in America were brutalized and marginalized by White authorities. Historically, the Christian churches were part of the problem rather than the solution. The history of discrimination against people of color is a large part of the ongoing problems experienced in black communities. But the effect of a deformed gospel on the black community is another cause, especially of the disintegration of black families. Please take the time to read the article by Ron Rhodes on Black Theology.

It is sad that Christ’s church is perhaps the most segregated institution in America. Whites and blacks must come to understand that racism (going both ways) is not a “Black and White Issue.” This is true with regards to Black Theology and its emphasis on liberation for this life only, and that with the focus only on the oppressors. Liberation Theology fails to look inward (at personal sin and its consequences). It also fails to look outward – in a way that promotes biblical reconciliation.

 

The Second Day of Apostasy: Prosperity Gospel

January 3, 2015

The book of James is critically important for those who wish to discern the errors of our time. James focuses our attention to the various causes and symptoms of “false faith.” He asks “Can that faith save you?” This is the second of a series of twelve apostasies. Click here for Day 1 (Liberal Theology).

[Please note that I am NOT making any claim that particular Christians who are part of these movements are unsaved! Further, many truths may be taught and practiced by those who hold to these teachings. What I am suggesting is that the abuses found in the movements promote apostasy]. The links to the opinions of others may differ from those of my own.

 

Strike up the music:

  

On the second day of apostasy, James is warning me… of the PROSPERITY GOSPEL, and of Lib-er-al Theology.

Apostasy #2 – Prosperity Gospel

 Keyword(s) from James: Ask wrongly (James 4:3)

Teaching: The Prosperity Gospel

Beginnings: New Thought Movement

Motto: “Name it and claim it”

Influencers: Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts

Mouthpiece: Televangelism, Trinity Broadcasting Network

Effects: Fleecing the sheep; disillusionment

Cultural Icon: Tammy Faye Bakker

Adherents: Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, one in eight African Christians

Interesting reading: The Power of Positive Thinking (link)

Click here for: A Message to the Positive Thinkers

I. Wrong motives. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. James 4:3. When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. Gen. 3:6.

We are naturally self-centered and seek our own comfort and happiness. The prosperity gospel feeds these self-centered tendencies.

II. Because God is loving, he will graciously pour out financial and material blessings on those who demonstrate their faith. Positive speech and positive thinking, combined with donations to Christian ministries, will bring an increase in wealth, success and happiness. Some hold that Jesus and the disciples were men of means.

III. The New Thought Movement. Beginning in the 1830’s, the New Thought Movement taught that the mind had great power to heal. Philosopher William James labeled the movement “the religion of healthy-mindedness.” Obviously, there is great appeal to the belief that we can control our circumstances – that we can be like God. Here is a representative list of the best selling books of all time:

  • Think and Grow Rich (1937 – 70 million)

  • The Alchemist (1988 – 65 million)

  • You Can Heal Your Life (1984 – 35 million)

  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970 – 40 million)

  • The Power of Positive Thinking (1952 – 20 million)

  • The Purpose Driven Life (2002 – 30 million)

  • The Secret (2006 – 20 million)

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936 – 15 million)

  • Your Erroneous Zones (1976 – 35 million)

  • The Hite Report (1976 – 50 million)

As you can see, we are desperately seeking the quick fix that will guarantee our comfort and well being.

IV. Motto: Name it and claim it. I use this motto that describes the teaching of the “Word-Faith Movement.” Second place rhyme: health and wealth. This describes the teachings of those who treat God as a vending machine of their success and comfort.

 

V. Oral Roberts (1918-2009) “discovered” the prosperity gospel when he randomly opened his Bible one morning to 3 John 2. The verse: Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. He shared the verse excitedly with his wife, and thus was born a worldwide ministry. Roberts taught the seed-faith message: that contributions to his ministry would be like seeds that would grow to material blessings to the donor. Kenneth Hagin (1917-2003) was convinced that comfort and blessing were promised by Jesus to those who have faith: Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. Mk. 11:24. Hagin stresses the importance of your words – that you can speak your reality into existence. He claimed to have visited heaven and hell, and that Jesus had come to him in visions.

VI. The heyday of televangelism began in earnest in the 1970’s with the founding of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) by Paul and Jan Crouch and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. In 2011, the “nonprofit ministry” received $95 million in contributions, $62 million in program revenues, and $17 million in investment income. Its assets totaled $845 million versus liabilities of $18 million. The ministry is described as a “church whose primary purpose is to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world through its television based ministry.” Popular televangelists that have aired on the network include Creflo Dollar, Bishop Eddie Long, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, and John Hagee. In 2012, TBN was accused (link) by their whistle-blowing former CFO, Crouch’s granddaughter Brittany Koper, of financial misappropriation, including the purchase of side-by-side mansions, private jets, and a $100,000 mobile home for their dogs.

VII. The people getting rich from their “faith” are the prosperity teachers. They do so at the expense of their students. The cause of Christ is polluted by the lavish lifestyles (link) of many of these false shepherds.

VIII. Tammy Faye Bakker and PTL. The co-host of the PTL Club with her husband, Jim Bakker. Here is a vintage video of the program. I visited PTL’s water park at Heritage USA (Fort Mill, SC) back in 1987 with my family. I didn’t have the nerve to attempt the waterslide (link). Dr. Jerry Falwell took the plunge, though (in return for $22 million in donations to resurrect the PTL complex). Is that what is meant by “backsliding?”

IX. Some prosperity teachers. Click for links to videos (one for first name, one for last). Benny Hinn. Kenneth CopelandCreflo Dollar. Be blessed?

Coming next:

The third day of apostasy.

In Christ,

Dale

The Twelve Days of Apostasy, Day One: Liberal Theology

December 23, 2014

The Twelve Days of Apostasy

Martin Luther, in his battles with Rome over the doctrine of justification by faith alone, questioned the canonicity of the Book of James. In his preface to James, he famously called it an “epistle of straw.” [Later Luther regretted his comment, and removed it from future editions of his preface to the book]. 

I submit that the book of James is critically important for those who wish to discern the errors of our time. James focuses our attention to the various causes and symptoms of “false faith.” He asks “Can that faith save you?” Investigation of the current ecumenical mindset has led me to see a strong connection between the warnings by James and the many varieties of “fallings away from the faith.” 

In the spirit of the season I have decided to document twelve movements that exhibit “falling away” tendencies, one for each of the “twelve days of Christmas.” Click on “The Message” link for a prescription for the apostasy. 

[Please note that I am NOT making any claim that particular Christians who are part of these movements are unsaved! Further, many truths may be taught and practiced by those who hold to these teachings. What I am suggesting is that the abuses found in the movements promote apostasy]. The links to the opinions of others may differ from those of my own.

The purpose of this series is to warn the wayward and to encourage evangelism. James concludes his letter: Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19. 

Strike up the music:

 On the first day of apostasy, James is warning me… of LIB-ER-AL THEOLO-GY.

 

Apostasy #1 – Liberal Theology 

Keyword(s) from James: Doubting (James 1:6)

Teaching: The Social Gospel

Beginnings: Enlightenment, Modernity

Motto:Homo Mensura (Man the Measure)”

Early Influencers: Schleiermacher, von Harnack

Mouthpiece: World Council of Churches

Effects: Social Engineering

Cultural Icon: Scopes Monkey Trial

Adherents: U.S. Mainline Churches, Western European State Churches

Interesting reading: A Humanist Manifesto (link) 

 

Click Here for A Message to “Liberals”

 

 I. Doubting. For he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed about by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord for he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:6b-8. Without faith it is impossible to please God… Heb. 11:6. Many liberal theologians doubt: 

  • the Bible is the word of God (it is only a witness)
  • the deity of Christ
  • the historicity of Adam and Eve
  • original sin
  • fulfilled prophecy
  • miracles
  • the resurrection of Jesus
  • the virgin birth
  • the existence of Satan and demons

II. Liberal theologians employ a method of interpreting the Bible known as higher criticism. In liberal theology, higher criticism begins with an attitude of doubt rather than a loving appreciation of the Scriptures. Since it starts from doubt, it creates theories that deny that books of the Bible are what they seem to be. The Pentateuch was not written by Moses, but rather is a compilation of four different sources (J, E, P, D). The book of Daniel is given a second century B.C. date to deny its prophetic nature. The words attributed to Jesus in the book of John were not taught by Him, but were attributable to disciples who never knew Jesus. The Christian religion evolved into something that was contrary to the historical Jesus. (link to the Jesus Seminar). 

Jesus is deemed to be a wise teacher, an ethical example to follow. Liberal theologians stress the social teachings of the gospels. The penal substitution of the cross as a propitiatory sacrifice is denied. 

III. Beginnings. The Age of Enlightenment refers to the period beginning in the 18th century when advances in science and technology led many to develop a philosophy of rationalism. All problems could be solved solely through the use of human reason. Society only needed more education to bring about a utopian state. Human aspirations should not be focused on the next life, but solely on the improvement of this one. 

IV. Motto: Man is the Measure of All Things: of the things that are, that they are; of the things that are not, that they are not. This is a statement from the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Protagoras. I use this as the motto of liberal theology because of its man-centered reliance on human wisdom. Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Cor. 1:20). The cross is foolishness to the worldly mind. 

V. German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) is known as the father of liberal theology. He taught that the Bible was not the revelation of God, but rather a record of human religious experiences. Doctrine and dogma were downplayed and the experience of “god-consciousness” was stressed. Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930) was a Lutheran theologian who wrote the influential book Essays on the Social Gospel. He denied the historicity of the Gospel of John and the miracles of the Bible. He rejected the resurrection and the virgin birth. 

VI. World Council of Churches. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, this organization of inclusivism was formed in 1948 to promote “Christian” unity. It is a conglomeration of 349 global, national, regional and local church assemblies. It promotes a false movement of peace and unity through social activism. 

VII. Social Engineering. The human problems of our planet need to be solved using scientific methods on a worldwide scale. The programs are promoted primarily through centralized governments. 

VIII. Scopes Monkey Trial. A 1925 legal case concerning the illegal teaching of evolution in Tennessee. Williams Jennings Bryant argued for the prosecution; Clarence Darrow represented Scopes. The teacher was found guilty and fined $100. The case was appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which upheld the ruling. The case was a watershed moment in the differing worldviews of biblical Christianity and secular humanism. 

IX. Mainline Protestant Churches were once the majority of Christians in the U.S. Over the last fifty years these churches have lost considerable membership. The mainline churches include the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church, the American Baptist Churches, the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ. In 1999, the Lutheran World Federation entered into a theological agreement with the Roman Catholic Church on the doctrine of justification.

 

Coming tomorrow:  

The second day of apostasy.

 

In Christ,

 

Dale

Holy Day of Obligation: The Assumption of Mary

August 12, 2014

Is Attendance Mandatory? What are the rules?

Friday, August 15 2014 is a Holy Day of Obligation for certain Catholics. Here are the rules:

1) The first precept of the Church states that attendance at mass is mandatory on all Holy Days of Obligation.

2) Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin. (Catechism section 2180)

3) The faithful are bound …to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede worship (Catechism section 2193 and the fourth precept of the Church)

4) In the following countries the Feast of the Assumption is NOT a holy day of obligation:

Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, The Netherlands.

5) The State of Hawaii has received an indult that voids the required obligation.  For the other 49 United States, the day is a required Holy Day.

6) The following rules apply if you are traveling:

If you are traveling FROM your home country that has a required Holy Day TO a country that does not, no attendance is required, and

If you are traveling TO a country that has a required Holy Day FROM your home country that does not, no attendance is required. (Can. 13.2)

Background on the Feast of the Assumption:

The Feast of the Assumption was first celebrated in the 6th century.  The Assumption of Mary is the only ex cathedra infallible pronouncement of a pope. Pope Pius XII declared it an infallible truth on 11/1/1950. It is a cardinal dogma that Mary was taken body and spirit into heaven, where she reigns as Queen.

The feast day may originally have been based on a 4th century document “The Account of St. John the Theologian of the Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God.” It is assumed (sorry) that Mary died during the reign of Tiberius Caesar, around the year 35 AD. According to the writing, all the apostles were miraculously transported to Bethlehem to witness the Assumption: Peter from Rome, Paul from Tiberia, James from Jerusalem. Paul stated he was snatched away while preaching “no great distance from Rome, in the country of Tiberia.” This is problematical, since Paul did not visit Rome until his imprisonment there in 61 AD. In fact, his conversion on the road to Damascus likely occurred in 37 AD. You can read the account of the Assumption here.

 

 

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