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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

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 27, 2014 9:55 am

    Dale, what a project, here! I have just now cleared the schedule to catch up on your posts. Thanks for all of this work and dedication…

    Regarding “historical critical methodology” that is a hallmark of “liberal theology,” let me share the following to hopefully help some readers who might be caught up in it (without understanding the historical and literary underpinnings). Here is a little story from my own experience.

    I became a Christian in 1973, after having been strictly reared in Roman Catholicism (12 years of RC school, and so on). The only “religious orientation” I knew at the time was the Catholic church. Because I was getting more and more hungry to know and to understand the Word of God, I searched out any kind of Bible study–in the only church I knew. I did not become a Christian in the context of any church, by the way, so there was no group to immediately associate with other than that one.

    The only one in operation at the time down at the local Holy Namesake was, you guessed it, based on liberal theology It was run by a minor contributing scholar to that theological genre (Fr. Nicholas Schoofs).

    The people in this small group were wonderful, kind. Knowing no better, I jumped right in, bought my Jerusalem Bible, and started attending the meetings. However, after perhaps a year or so into this, I became more and more restless. In my spirit (I now understand what was happening to me), I KNEW something was missing, but didn’t know what!

    Oh, yes, it was all very intellectually satisfying, and there was a sense of “specialness” to be part of a “new” movement, and so on. Nevertheless, something was not quite right.

    AS I LOOK BACK ON IT, THIS RESTLESSNESS IN MY SPIRIT WAS THE HOLY SPIRIT PROMPTING ME…

    Because I SO wanted to get closer to God, learn more of His Word, and grow into my new faith in Jesus Christ, I finally took this problem to the Lord in prayer. It went like this:

    “Lord, something is missing, here, or I am not understanding what’s going on. What’s the deal?” (or words more or less like that.)

    THIS is what immediately came to my mind:

    “You are going to words to understand Me; come to Me and I will reveal the Word to you.”

    Instantly, I understood I had put the cart before the horse, so to speak.

    From then on, my focus shifted to God, first. And now I understand how CRITICAL this is, i.e., FIRST: pray about any “program” or “new genre of interpretation” BEFORE attempting, then, if ANY “red flags” of feeling, or prior education and knowledge of God’s Word and proper exegesis surface, run, do not walk, to the nearest exit!

    As well-intentioned and kind as the people involved might be.

    They may likely be in their own process of discovery, and as naive as I was back then, indeed, as naive as we ALL are, especially at first–intellectual ability and/or educational pedigree notwithstanding! (As I said, our study leader was a pretty impressive man, priest, with a hefty scholarly background to boot.)

    As you imagine, I stepped back from those lovely people and their good intentions and intellectual forays and stepped closer to God.

    It has not changed since.

    Later on I came to be a college level literature instructor. I came to understood the differing schools of literary thought and how they influence thinking about religious works as well and the usual literary cannon of words, especially if the “thinkers,” and “designers” of the smorgasbord of lit crit do not have the Holy Spirit to guide them, only human guidance.

    HOWEVER, and this is important, I WAS NOT SO EDUCATED AT THAT TIME! I was just hungry for all things God…and He quickly and precisely directed me “BACK TO HIM” because of a simple, heartfelt prayer!

    And that is all I needed. Still is.

    And so I encourage readers who might be impressed with the heady schools of Bible interpretation (now legion, it seems!) that abound “out there” and more and more so “in the church,” to begin with prayer for God’s guidance. He will not lead you astray.

    My sister, who is a perennial student of Hebrew, told me recently, that the Scriptural greeting roughly equivalent to “How are you”” is really, “How is your peace?” This was revelatory to me, and reminded me of that experience of long ago.

    The “peace piece” was missing in all that Bible study and conversation…

    If the reader is involved in some hip, slick, and cool new brand of theology or teaching, or program in some church and SENSES SOMETHING NOT QUITE RIGHT, I strongly urge him/her to lay out the concerns before God. He, through His son, Jesus Christ, via the Holy Spirit sent to “lead and guide us,” as Scripture notes, will answer.

    There are myriad ways God can and does answer such prayers. Wait on Him.

    Perhaps even “happening on this series,” for example, is a start…

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