Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category
Here is a link to an excellent, long series on Oneness Pentecostals by a British brother. I highly recommend it. I have listened to them while working and was greatly blessed. Not only does he quote directly from Oneness Pentecostal theologians but he dives into the Word of God for answers.
You can find these teachings here.
I was listening to a podcast and the brother quoted a Calvinist as saying that the most difficult question he has about Calvinism is why do Arminians exist? If Calvinism is true, if it is true that God must open our eyes to the truths of Calvinism and that the truths of Calvinism are something that comes by divine revelation and by the sovereign decree of God, why does God allow Arminians to exist? Why are there any non-Calvinists?
The answer for Calvinists is that God, for His glory, allows Arminians to exist and to preach false doctrines. This would also be true of cults, heretics, and all non-Calvinists. The only way to understand this is to appeal to mystery or to Deuteronomy 29:29.
The answer for Arminians and non-Calvinists is to point to the fallen world that we live in and to free will. God allows people to read the Bible and to use their minds to interpret His Word. The gospel is clear. Even Calvinists would acknowledge that many non-Calvinists are saved albeit by inconsistent theology. I have heard Dr. James White refer to this view many times. I believe that Calvinism exists because God has given the world a certain amount of freedom.
In the end, I would pray that non-Calvinists and Calvinists would love each other. This is the command of Jesus (John 13:34-35).
Having come face to face with my own sinfulness, my own lack of keeping the law of God, I have spent the last several months looking at the law and the gospel. While this is not new to Christianity, it is fairly new to me. I grew up in a church environment that was heavy on the law. You keep the law and God was happy. Break the law (which was often), God is now angry with you. The gospel was not the end but only a step to helping me keep myself clean. It was not Jesus period. It was Jesus who now enables me to keep the law and when I fail, back to the beginning.
We all sin. None of us are perfect. We read passages such as Romans 3:23 and acknowledge the universal sinfulness of mankind. But we miss the point that we are sinners ourselves. I am not arguing that we wake up each day thinking “what can I do today to violate the law of God” but we do sin. Whether we make sins into categories such as “sins of omission” and “sins of commission,” either way we do sin. Apart from grace, none of us can stand before a holy God. It is only through Christ that we can stand before a holy and totally pure God. The reason Christ died for my sins is not simply to enable me to be holy on my own power but He died because I am a sinner in need of forgiveness because I do sin (1 John 2:1-2).
Consider the command of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40:
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Stop and consider how you are doing with that one? I’m not even good at it. I would love to say that I love God perfectly as Jesus taught. I would love to tell you that my love for God flows into loving my neighbor as myself. But the reality is that I fall way short of these two commands and Jesus said that law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. Do these and you’ll be perfect! But I don’t!
And thus the gospel comes into play. The law condemns me as a sinner (Romans 3:19) and the law teaches me that I need a Savior (Galatians 3:24). The law condemns me. The gospel saves me. The law shows me that I am a sinner (Romans 7:7). There is nothing wrong with the law of God (Romans 7:12) but the problem is me. I can’t keep the law. No matter how hard I try, I fail.
The gospel preaches peace to me. The law tells me to love God perfectly and my neighbor perfectly (Matthew 5:48). The gospel tells me Christ died for my sins and the sins of not loving God perfectly nor my neighbor as myself. The law tells me to love my wife as Christ loves His Church (Ephesians 5:25). The gospel tells me that Christ died for the sin of not loving my wife as Christ loves His Church (I am far from a perfect husband). The law tells me to pray, to worship, to evangelize, to give my money to the poor and to helping the kingdom of God, to do good to my neighbor especially of those of the household of faith, etc. but the gospel tells me that Christ died for my sins even the sins of not keeping the law perfectly.
Martin Luther taught two (and I would add a third) uses of the law. Lutherans debate the third use of the law. The three uses of the law are:
- For society, to curb man’s sinfulness.
- To condemn us a sinners and show us our need for salvation.
- To help the Christian in sanctification.
These three uses of the law are seen not just in the Bible but in life. Antinomians accept the first two uses of the law but not the third. I believe in preaching all three. Christians need to hear the law so that the Holy Spirit can help us in the process of sanctification. So for example a believer hears that we should pray (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer itself doesn’t justify us before God. We are justified only through Christ Jesus alone by grace alone though faith alone. Yet none would say that prayer is bad. Yet prayer can become a law. It was that way for me. I once held that a person should pray for 2 hours a day or God was not pleased. Prayer became a law and gospel for me. But prayer is not the gospel. The gospel is the death of Jesus for our sins and His resurrection for our justification (Romans 4:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Thus Jesus died for my sin of prayerlessness. Does this mean that I should not pray since Jesus died for my sin of prayerlessness? By no means! The key is to see prayer as flowing from my forgiveness and not from the law. I pray because Christ shed His blood for me (Hebrews 4:14-16).
This holds true of any law. The law if holy and good (1 Timothy 1:8-11). The law shows me how far I am far from the perfection of God. But the gospel shouts to me that I am accepted in the Beloved. I am holy before God because of Christ (Hebrews 10:10, 14) and not by my works. The law tells me to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and this is good. The gospel tells me that I am accepted in Christ Jesus who bled and died for my sins (Romans 5:6).
This understanding of the law and the gospel has blessed me. It has brought some joy to my soul where joy has been lacking. For so long I have been full of pride, my own self-righteousness. I thought God was honored by my prayer life, my evangelism, my passion for God. Like Voddie Bauchman preaches, my works-righteousness muscle likes to flex. I would have, in the past, gladly acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and would have gladly told you that I was saved by His grace alone but in reality I was full of pride, thinking more highly of myself than I ought (Philippians 2:3). I would have preached Christ but my focus was not on pleasing Christ per se but on men seeing how much I “loved” Jesus. Oh how much pride was in my heart! Oh wretched sinner that I was!
But Christ died for me. Christ bled and suffered for my sins. Jesus gave His life for my sins and now I am forgiven not because I keep the law but because I can’t keep the law (Galatians 3:10). Christ suffered in my place, for my sins (Galatians 3:13-14). I am saved now not because I keep the law but because of faith in Jesus Christ who gave His life for my sins. What a blessing! What a Savior!
I have no problem with the law. The law is good. The law comes from our holy God. Yet too many Christians try to live the law. You will always be falling short. Always. You will never obtain holiness by the law. Even if you think (as I did) that I had obtained a level of holiness by my striving, inside (like me) you’ll know that you stand condemned because you can’t keep the whole law (James 2:10). I have no problem preaching the law and calling Christians to repent of not keeping the law. But the balance of this is the gospel. The answer to not keeping the law is not more law. The answer is the gospel. The law condemns us as sinners. The gospel comforts us by pointing to Christ who died for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
Perhaps I am wrong on this. I don’t think so. I believe it’s biblically based. I know that this teaching has pushed me closer to Christ and not away. I still hate sin. I really do hate sin. I acknowledge that I do sin but I hate my sins. I am so grateful to God for giving me His Son for my sins (John 1:29). I stand condemned but Christ preaches to me no condemnation (Romans 8:1). Satan accuses me of sin and he is right to do so. But I trust in Christ alone for my salvation (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus has promised not only to save me from my sins (Matthew 1:21; Romans 6:1-4) but He has promised to keep me (Jude 24-25). I trust in Christ alone and not my works-righteousness before a holy God.
I grew up in the Assemblies of God, a Trinitarian Pentecostal group. I was aware even as a child of the “other” Pentecostals out there who were called “Jesus Only” Pentecostals. My dad explained them to me once saying that they only believed in Jesus and not in the Father or the Holy Spirit. That was not entirely true but it was the best he understood. Over the years I have had very few encounters with Oneness folks. I visited a Oneness church only twice in my life and both for observation.
The Oneness movement is much older than Oneness Pentecostals like to believe. They like to believe that God restored the Oneness doctrine of God in 1913-14 with the split from Trinitarian Pentecostals. The Assemblies of God called the new teaching “the new issue” and rejected the Oneness teachings in 1916. Many AG pastors left the Assemblies of God over the issue. The largest Oneness Pentecostal group is the United Pentecostal Church International based out of Hazelwood, Missouri. The UPC is rejects the historic doctrine of the Trinity and holds to the Oneness doctrine.
The teaching is essentially the old heresy of Sabellianism from the 2nd century. The teaching is also called Modalism. Modalism teaches that there is only one God who reveals Himself in different “modes” such as the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. These three modes are not three persons but rather manifestations of the one true God. The Oneness Pentecostals teach that Jesus is the mighty God (Isaiah 9:6) and that Jesus is the Father and Jesus is the Son and Jesus is the Holy Ghost. Jesus is all three! Jesus only is God. There is no Father who is God nor a Son who is God nor the Spirit who is God but rather there is only one Person in the Godhead and His name is Jesus. Oneness Pentecostals go to Matthew 28:19 and they see baptize in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and they point out that the Name of God is revealed to us in Acts 2:38 when Peter used the keys given to him by Jesus to preach the truth of the Godhead, that the Name of God is Jesus. It is this Name (Acts 4:12) that saves us and only those who are baptized in the name of Jesus are truly saved (Romans 6:1-4).
In reality, the Oneness Pentecostals teach that the Father who is named Jesus is truly the eternal God. They would agree with the Arians, that the Son has a beginning in the incarnation (Luke 1:35) and the Son will have an ending (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). They love to use the word “begotten” in John 3:16 to prove that Jesus the Son was begotten by the Father. While this is a poor usage of the Greek term here (see the NIV for example here), Oneness Pentecostals have argued effectively to poorly taught Trinitarians about the nature the Son. They also love to point out that the words “Trinity” nor “God the Son” nor “the Eternal Son” are found in the New Testament and to them, this proves that Jesus as the Son was not eternally the Son of the Father but rather He had a beginning in Bethlehem.
So what do Oneness Pentecostals do with the Lord Jesus in the Gospels where He over and over again refers to “My Father” or “the Father?” Or what about where Jesus prays to the Father such has in John 17? Or what about Jesus’ baptism where all three persons (or manifestations in the Oneness mind) appear in Matthew 3:13-17? They believe that the key to understanding the life of Jesus is to understand that at times He was speaking as the Son and sometimes as God who is the Father. The Son, they teach, always refers to Jesus’ humanity and not to His divinity. When the Son is praying or eating or sleeping, He is doing so as the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). They believe that the Father (who is Jesus as the mighty God) wrapped Himself in flesh (John 1:14, 18) but the Son was not God only He was a man, the Son of God. So when Jesus was praying, He was praying from His human side to His divine side. And when Jesus was baptized, God, being God, chose to reveal all three manifestations at the same time which He can do if He wants. When we read of Jesus now in the presence of God at His right hand such as in Acts 2:34-36 or Hebrews 1:3, this is speaking of Jesus in His human manifestation before the eternal Father who is Jesus the divine side. To me it is very confusing and doesn’t allow the texts to read freely but nonetheless Oneness Pentecostals believe this is the key to reading and studying and understanding the Bible. It is their own unique hermeneutic if you will.
Oneness Pentecostals use three major texts to prove that Jesus is God the Father. First, they read Isaiah 9:6 and believe that the words “eternal Father” are referring to the Father. Secondly, they point to John 10:30 and point out that Jesus Himself here says that He and the Father are one. Third, they point to John 14:9 where Jesus answers Philip and says that if they had seen Him, they had seen the Father.
Time doesn’t permit me to answer the entire charges here and to be fair, Oneness Pentecostal have other texts they turn to prove their doctrine. In short, Isaiah 9:6 is not speaking of necessarily titles of the Lord Jesus. Nowhere in the New Testament are these titles worked out though they are true of Him. The concept of God as our Father is not fully developed in the Old Testament though spoken of a few times. Yet here the understanding could be “Father of eternity” in that the One to be born (Isaiah 7:14) is from ancient times (Micah 5:2). Jesus is eternal and thus He is the Father of eternity but this doesn’t mean that He is the Father. Secondly, the Greek text of John 10:30 is clear that Jesus is not speaking of unipersonal but essence when He says that He and the Father are one. The Greek says, “One we are.” There are very specific Greek words John could have used to show us that Jesus is the Father but instead He uses a Greek phrase that simply makes Jesus of the same kind as the Father. Third, even Oneness Pentecostals don’t believe that when Jesus the Man was saying to Philip that if he’d seen Him, he’d seen the Father that they were seeing at that very moment the Father. Oneness Pentecostals hold that the Father is a spirit and invisible to us (Colossians 1:15) but instead Jesus is saying that when the Apostles saw Jesus, they were seeing God the Father in that the Son is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. Not once in the New Testament does Jesus ever say that He is the Father though He refers to His Father or the Father or My Father hundreds of times.
Finally, a word about the Oneness view of salvation. This is the key for me. Oneness Pentecostals teach that a person must believe in Jesus, repent of their sins, be baptized in water by immersion “in the name of Jesus” for the forgiveness of sins, and then must receive the infilling of the Holy Ghost by the initial, physical evidence of speaking in tongues. A person is not justified by faith alone in the Oneness mind. A person must do all the above to be saved. Now sometimes in the Oneness church, a person will get the Holy Ghost and speak in tongues before being baptized in Jesus’ name but they point to Acts 10:43-48 as proof that this is okay.
Also it’s not enough to just believe in Jesus, be baptized in Jesus’ name and receive the Holy Ghost with evidence of tongues, one must also live a holy life till the end lest they “lose their salvation.” Holiness includes the holiness codes set up by many Oneness churches including women wearing dresses, not cutting their hair, no makeup or jewelry, and men must be clean-shaven, short hair, avoid alcohol and tobacco and live a holy life. It is amounts to works-righteousness though Oneness folks will argue that they do it with joy.
In closing, Oneness Pentecostals are nice folks but being nice is not the standard of truth. The Word of God is the final authority and they would agree. I have been meeting a Oneness pastor from time to time to talk theology and he is a bright, loving man. He wants me to accept him merely because he loves Jesus. That, he says, should unite us. But I disagree. I am not mean to him but the Jesus he says that he worships and loves is the not the Jesus of the Bible. I know that hurts but its true. The Jesus he says that he worships is not the same as the Jesus I worship. He believes that since Oneness Pentecostals speak in tongues the same as Trinitarian Pentecostals speak in tongues, this must prove that God accepts them both despite someone being wrong about the Godhead. He also believes that since Oneness Pentecostals teach and preach that Jesus is God, what is the big deal?
There are obviously many errors. For just one. Consider the atonement. In Oneness theology the saving work of Christ is not God dying in my place, standing condemned for my sins. Instead, we have the Father wrapped in flesh but not really a man. Instead Jesus only appears as a man but the true Jesus is still the eternal Father. In other words, the divine payment for our sins is not payed by the Lord God but instead by a mere man albeit a perfect one because the Father was inside of the man. The payment is not God redeeming us through the divine Son but instead it is the human Jesus paying the penalty for our sins to the Father Jesus. How weird. In Trinitarian theology, the second person of the holy Trinity, the Lord Jesus, bears our sins on the cross and redeems us from the holy wrath of God. God is truly in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) because the Son is offering His life for our sins to the glory of the Father who sent Him into the world (John 3:16).
Over even consider Jesus is our high priest who offers Himself before the Father to pray for us sinners (Hebrews 4:14-15). Hebrews 7:22-28 speaks of Jesus being our high priest before the Father. Jesus, as our faithful high priest, offered Himself to God (Hebrews 9:24-28) and He now sits at the Father’s right hand to ever live to pray for us. In Oneness theology, Jesus as the Father hears Jesus the flesh (the Son) when we pray to Him. In Trinitarian theology, the text is allowed to speak for itself: Jesus the Son prays for us sinner before the holy Father. Jesus is truly our high priest in every since of the word. A time will come when this will end at the consummation of the ages but this doesn’t mean that Jesus will cease to be the Son of God nor will He cease to reign as our Savior (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).
And I could write much more. I have gone too long. I close by simply pointing out that Oneness Pentecostals fall short of the truth of Scripture. While I admire them for their zeal and for holding to monotheism and to the authority of the Bible, I find much of their theology lacking. I pray that God will help us, as biblical Trinitarians, to know what we believe about God and why the Trinity is not an optional doctrine. The Trinity is vital.
I listen to a few seeker churches on my iPhone while I drive my truck (I drive an eighteen wheeler for a living). During long hauls I can listen to two or three sermons depending on the drive. My wife says that I’m mad for listening to the seeker churches because they often make me cranky and I start ranting (as I’m doing here) about them. My problems with the seeker churches are too many to post here in a blog post. I could never willingly be a part of a seeker church for many reasons. Doctrine is the first and foremost. The utter lack of doctrine in seeker churches is disturbing to say the least.
I have been listening to one of the seeker churches for the entire year. Each week their sermons come to my iPhone. You got to love technology! I had a friend who started attending this church about 6 years ago. He still goes there. He once had a fire for the Lord, was a man of prayer and holiness, and loved to share the gospel with the lost. Those days are gone. He is a shell of his former self now that he attends this church. I place the blame at the feet of my friend but also at this church as well. They have convinced my friend that evangelism is easy as inviting “the unchurched” to his church. The church does the rest. The entire “weekend” is designed to attract the “unchurched” and they are specific that they want the “unchurched” to come and not feel like they are at church. I have often said that seeker churches remind me of cults in that they get you in before springing the trap and letting you know what they are about. In this case, get the “unchurched” coming to church and then wait for a few weeks before telling them they must “receive Christ into their hearts” if they want to go deeper. It’s like an Amway seminar. Only worst.
The rant here today is not about the seeker church I’ve been listening to this year but a new one I picked up just this week. I use to be friends with a youth pastor (when I was a youth pastor) and he always seemed to lean this seeker way. I remember once taking to him about how I wanted to build a youth ministry that revolved around prayer and the Word and he laughed and said that I would never have a large ministry if that was my formula. I followed him via social media after he moved away and watched him head down this seeker trail. He bought into the seeker pragmatism hook, line, and sinker. He begin to tweet a lot of seeker posts and I noticed his preaching was more and more becoming like seeker pastors I knew of. He ultimately started a church in the Charlotte, NC area and followed the likes of seeker gurus Perry Noble and Steven Furtick. Despite obvious doctrinal disagreements, this seeker pastor ignored that because “they are growing” and that was the bottom line.
He started his church and now he rolls out “series” sermons like Noble and Furtick complete with the works. The stage is focused on the series. The series is pushed though social media and social media is used during the talk. I sent a few of his talks to Fighting For The Faith and hope they will review them.
Here is my rant. Theology. The seeker churches ignore theology. I have listened to all the sermons from the one church this year and a few from this newer podcast and theology is utterly lacking. The twisting of Scripture is bad. For example, one of the seeker pastors preached on “Shake It Off” based on the Taylor Swift song (yes you read that right) and preached from Acts 28 where Paul “shook of the snake” and he in turn turned the snake into problems and other things that we just need to shake off. What a poor use of Scripture!
Numbers is the focus. That is the bottom line. I well remember emailing a seeker pastor back in the early 2000’s and he responded back with “I run 700 people on Sunday morning. How many do you run? E-mail me back when you get to that number and I might listen.” I was emailing him over his poor doctrinal preaching. His response: pragmatism.
I remember another preacher going to hear modalist T.D. Jakes. When I questioned him about this he responded by saying that Jakes’ church was huge and he could just feel the anointing on Jakes when he preached. Never mind that Jakes is a modalist (the Trinity doesn’t matter much). Never mind that Jakes is a false prosperity preacher. Never mind that doctrine seems to not matter at all to Jakes. Jakes’ church is big and that is enough. Pragmatism.
A crowd does not equal the blessing of God.
I pass the Kingdom Hall’s all the time while working and I can tell you that they are packed. It seems they are growing and I have my suspicions as to why. The Jehovah’s Witness are no doubt a cult. They are doctrinally wrong. Nothing more than modern day Arians. Yet they are growing because of the seeker churches in my estimation. Week after week the seeker churches are packed but doctrine is not to be found. In fact, doctrine is avoided at all costs. It amazes me that seeker preachers often will have to point out where a book in the Bible is. For example, when the above seeker pastor preached from Acts 28, he felt he had to point out where Acts is. Further, his “background” to Paul and Acts 28 was horrible. He felt he had to use “cool” language and to be funny throughout his talk to get people focused. But at the end of the day, he taught nothing. Nothing. He didn’t teach false doctrines. He taught nothing. And this is true of every seeker sermon I have heard. Let me repeat that: I have never heard a seeker sermon yet that has taught me anything. They are masters at saying nothing.
And thus cults grow. People do want doctrine. Contrary to what the seeker churches believe. Doctrine does matter to folks. In Acts 2:42 the first thing Luke records that the new disciples of Jesus did was to devote themselves to the apostles’ doctrine. First thing listed was not “worship” or “small groups” but doctrine. Cults come and fill the void. The reason seeker people leave to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses or other cults is because doctrine.
After the seeker churches go off, I turn on John MacArthur and a breath of fresh air comes in. MacArthur is the opposite of these seeker churches. He preaches doctrine. He preaches holiness. He preaches the Bible and seeks to exegete the text faithfully. Sometimes, for fun, I will listen to a seeker church and then pull up MacArthur preaching from the same text and its night and day difference.
Over the years I have been out witnessing only to run into a group of people from seeker churches. Sometimes they will ridicule me for preaching on the streets. Sometimes they talk to me and I try to reason with them about their “conversion” as 100% of them believe that “saying the sinner’s prayer” is how you get saved. They are often completely ignorant of church history or theology. They will say “I just love Jesus” but when I try to find out which Jesus they love, they don’t know. I can often point out that the Jesus they say they love is the Jesus of their own imaginations and not the Bible. Paul the Apostle warned about this in 2 Corinthians 11:4 and Galatians 1:6-9.
Am I thankful for seeker churches? No I am not. I truly believe that persecution is soon coming to the Christians in the United States and this will probably end the seeker church as we know it. Most of the seeker churches will either close up or they will complete their compromising by abandoning true faith altogether in favor of the praises (and most important, the money) of men.
Sadly, many godly churches I know of feel the need to imitate these seeker churches. I remember when Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Church led to the demise of denominational named churches. Now we just have “Calvary Church” or “Christian Life Church” to avoid the obvious doctrinal distinctive that are there. Now we have the cool fad among seeker churches to get the coolest name you can find for your church. Either way, doctrine does not matter. They would say only Jesus matters but they don’t even know if the Jesus they preach is the Jesus of the Bible.
I highly recommend you to read John MacArthur’s book Ashamed of the Gospel for a truly biblical look at the seeker church. I pray that many saints of God will love the gospel and love the truths of the Bible (Romans 1:16; 1 Timothy 4:16; Titus 2:1).
One of the things that troubles me about many Arminians is their utter lack of discernment. This is true of course for all believers and not just Arminians but I want to speak to my camp here. An upcoming event called “Together 2016” features many different people including Roman Catholics. For the life of me, I cannot understand how Protestants can join hands with Roman Catholics in any real sense until the Catholics renounce their Catholic beliefs. The very gospel is at stake here. This is not just about personal differences or traditions. This is a gospel issue.
The Roman Catholic Church denies the gospel. They deny justification by faith. They deny the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. They teach a form of works righteousness. They deny even declared righteousness imputed to the believer by God. They deny sola scriptura. They deny sola fide. They deny sola gratia. Everything that our Protestant forefathers did for the sake of the gospel, the blood shed in defense of the Bible and in defense of the gospel cannot be lost.
When you read the list of speakers for the “Together 2016” one not included (because he will not there in person) is the Pope. Yes the Roman Catholic pontiff (whom Arminius called the antichrist) will address evangelicals. Alongside the Pope will be men such as Lecrae (whom I have lost respect for), Dr. Tony Evans (whom I lost respect for sometime ago), and Dr. George Wood (the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God). Before you think that only non-Calvinists are there, Calvinists such as Trip Lee and Francis Chan (who studied at the Master’s Seminary) will speak alongside the likes of Hillsong (who has wandered far away into something), Christine Cane, Lou Engle, and Mark Batterson.
What is disappointing about this is the lack of discernment. Can you imagine Arminius speaking where he knew the Catholic pontiff would be welcomed? Can you imagine the likes of a John Buynan or Charles Spurgeon preaching at this event? Would John Wesley join hands with known mystics to promote this “unity?” Would Leonard Ravenhill promote such an event?
I think the answer is clear.
Arminius wrote about the Roman Pontiff:
Since, therefore, the Roman Pontiff either attributes these most honourable titles of Christ to himself, or willingly suffers them to be ascribed to him; and since he evinces no horror at the blasphemy contained in these titles, and gives no tokens of his displeasure at this ascription of them; it follows, that he puts himself in the place of Christ, and is supremely opposed to Him. There is no excuse in the explanation which is given, that “the head and foundation is ministerial, and that he attributes all these things to himself under Christ, as having been elevated by the grace or favour of God and Christ to that dignity.” For the protestation is directly contrary to the fact; and he is so much the more the bitter enemy of God and Christ, as he the more confidently boasts of being defended by the authority of God and Christ. Such conduct is, in fact, under the semblance of friendship to exercise the deepest enmity, and, under the disguised pretext of a minister of light and of righteousness, to promote the interests of the kingdom of darkness and of unrighteousness. On this very account, therefore, we assert that the disparaging epithets which we laid down in our first Thesis, most justly belong to him; and this we now proceed to show by descending to particulars.
Arminius called the Pope the “pimp of the harlot Church.” He further wrote:
Although the Roman pontiff calls himself “the servant of the servants of God,” yet we further assert that he is by way of eminence, That Wicked And Perverse Servant, who, when he saw that his Lord delayed his coming, “began to smite his fellow-servants.” (Matt. 24:48.) For the Roman pontiff has usurped domination and tyranny, not only over his fellow- servants, the bishops of the church of God, but likewise over emperors and kings themselves, whose authority and dignity he had himself previously acknowledged. To acquire this domination for himself, and still further to augment and establish it, he has employed all kinds of satanic instruments — sophistical hypocrisy, lies, equivocations, perfidy, perjury, violence, poison, and armed forces — so that he may most justly be said to have succeeded that formidable beast which “was like unto a leopard, a bear and a lion,” and by which the Roman empire was prefigured — and to have “had power to give life unto the image of the beast, and to cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast, should be killed.”
I call on Arminians to follow in the footsteps of Arminius and denounce the Roman Catholic Church. I am not calling for hatred of Catholics themselves for they need the gospel. I am calling for a hatred of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. I am calling for biblical discernment (Jude 3-4).
We need to heed 1 Timothy 4:1-2. We need to heed 2 Timothy 4:3-4. We need to stand agains the Roman Catholic Church and preach against her false doctrines. We need to call Catholics to repent and believe the gospel.
I pray that men such as Dr. George Wood would not only decline speaking at the “Together 2016” event but denounce it. I pray that men and women of God would rise up and denounce the event altogether. In our troubled world we need the true gospel and not a mixing of errors. Now is not the time to lay down our swords in the midst of a sinful world. What is going to slay the evils we see of racism, sexual immorality, abortion, homosexuality, wicked killings, etc. is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17). We lose the gospel. We lose the war.
When I was a boy, I was raised in the Assemblies of God. My family attended an AG church that was miles from us and we would wake up on Sunday mornings and drive over an hour to church. We did it twice on Sunday and then again on Wednesday evening. Eventually they planted an AG church on our side of town and we ceased driving that far.
In those days, our AG churches were clearly AG. Every AG church had the name “Assembly of God” somewhere in their name. Whether it was Airport Assembly of God, Trinity Assembly of God, Calvary Assembly of God, Northeast Christian Assembly of God, etc., the name “Assembly of God” was incorporated into the church. I remember the first AG church to not use “AG” in their name (Christian Outreach Center) and it was controversial to say the least. I remember hearing people say that COC was compromising and they were moving away from being Pentecostal.
Fast forward to today. In my city there are about 10 AG churches. Only two have the AG name. COC is gone but after COC, other churches begin to drop the AG name. This moved started in the late 1990’s when Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Church was making its rounds among AG pastors. Soon they too were dropping the AG name in favor of “community church” names or just “Trinity Church.”
Now in fairness, I don’t think they all did this to be popular. Some would still gladly claim to be AG while not using AG in their names. Some were pragmatic and did see the “community church” movement and jumped in. I see it a different way and I’ll explain in this post.
First, in the late 1990’s there were two “moves” among the AG churches I was familiar with. There was the revival movement coming out from Brownsville Assembly in Pensacola, FL. Many thought Brownsville would drop the AG name or even leave the Assemblies of God altogether but they never did and still remain to this day in the AG with the name “Brownsville Assembly of God.” The Brownsville revival died out around 2002 and the other stream took over. This was the Rick Warren stream. Warren had even been invited to the General Council of the Assemblies of God, the first non-Pentecostal speaker ever to the Assemblies of God. Warren did not know it but he became the chief of church growth to many in the AG churches. I still remember pastors at AG ministers meetings I would attend in those days all boasting about reading and implementing Warren’s purpose driven styles. Some AG pastors I knew were even following Warren’s preaching style to the point of wearing Hawaiian shirts like Warren did. They dropped preaching out of the King James Version in favor of the New Living Translation because of Warren.
Secondly, this led to churches uniting around methodology and not theology. When I was a boy, the Assemblies of God were clearly Pentecostal churches. Our church was very Pentecostal in the worship and in the preaching. I remember talking to my father about the Baptist or Presbyterian churches and he would tell me they were indeed Christians but they didn’t know much about the Holy Ghost. Pentecostal theology was vital. I still remember hearing a Pentecostal pastor preach, “I fear the day when we will be Pentecostal in theology but not experience.” At every turn, Pentecostal theology was taught and emphasized. When a person got saved at our church, they were baptized in water and they told to seek God for the Holy Ghost. The wording might be wrong but they clearly knew their theology even if you don’t agree.
Fast forward to today. Most AG churches I am familiar with no longer emphasize doctrine at all. In fact, doctrine is often avoided at all costs. I personally have had an AG pastor tell me that theology does not matter. He felt doctrine was not livable and so he wanted to preach “life application sermons” rather than theology to his church. Where does this come from? Rick Warren!
I had another AG pastor friend who was going to plant an AG church. What did he do? In the old days, the AG’s would set up a tent and have the preacher hold tent meetings. This would usually draw small crowds at first and the preacher would preach on the need of the people to be saved and baptized in the Holy Ghost. Those who came and got saved or baptized in the Spirit were then included in the new church plant. The preacher would work until the church could support him (most stayed bi-vocational their entire lives). Now AG church planters usually get some money from the District and plant the church. They will attend numerous church growth conferences to learn the latest gimmicks to church growth. Gone are the days of fasting and prayer (though they say they still pray). In my friends case, he traveled to all sorts of churches many of them non-AG to learn their gimmicks. At one point I asked him (after he traveled to a large seeker church in the West) why he would want to learn from them since they are theological different than the AG’s? He replied, “Because they are growing and we can learn from them.” The bottom line is this: growth is desire and whoever is growing is who we look to. Theology is not the issue. Prayer and preaching is not the issue. Pragmatism is.
Now my point here is not to boaster the Assemblies of God. I have no dog in the fight. I am simply observing the church world from the bleachers. I understand the desire of pastors to be full-time. I was there. I am thankful I am not now. The pressure to grow your church (and yes its viewed as “your” church) is immense. Rather than learning how to preach, how to pray, how to fast, how to evangelize, etc. the emphasis is on the latest gimmicks to get people in the door. My friend above who planted an AG church uses every gimmick you can imagine from dropping Easter eggs from helicopters (thanks to Steven Furtick for that gimmick) to offering free movie tickets to attendees to giving away a new car. All gimmicks designed to get people in the door. Once they are there, he preaches goofy sermon series’ designed to “get them hooked to church.” Sin, repentance, holiness, even AG doctrines such as the baptism in the Spirit are not emphasized. Their “worship”service is am emotional rollercoaster full of sappy love songs to Jesus and make you feel like your a 14 year old at a junior high school dance rather than church. And my friend has one goal: numbers. It’s all about the growth. His mentors are all seeker sensitive pastors and he idolizes men such as Perry Noble and Andy Stanley.
Go back 50 years and not one AG pastor would have listened to a Perry Noble or Andy Stanley. Why? Because they were not Pentecostals! Pentecostals only listened to Pentecostals in those days. The attitude was that Pentecostals have the baptism in the Holy Ghost and Baptists do not.
Some see all of this “unity” as good. I don’t. Again, I’m not arguing for Pentecostal theology. In many ways, my theology is more Wesleyan now than Pentecostal. I still love Pentecostal people and while I do see theological errors among them (mainly among those who claim Pentecostal such as those in the Word-Faith camp), I would not classify myself as Pentecostal. What I see taking place is not unity around the gospel. I see unity around methods. John MacArthur warned that churches today are uniting around methodology and not theology. I agree. The lines are not blurred between the distinctives of the Pentecostal movement and those in the Baptist churches. Yet it is not theological unity that is taking place. It is emotional experiences that are unifying them.
There is no doubt that Jesus prayed for unity of His body in John 17:22-23. In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul the Apostle emphasized unity in theology. The people of God are unified who have been saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:14-21). Jesus is Head over His Church (Colossians 1:15-20). Jesus also knows those who are His own (John 10:27; 2 Timothy 2:19). Unity in the local church must be around theology. We must know what we believe and speak the same beliefs. Obviously, as sinful humans, we are not perfect in our understanding and we all need correction. This is why we need the church. The church helps us to know what we believe and maintain that belief through faithfulness and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25). The elders of the church help us to obtain this unity by teaching us the Word of God (Ephesians 4:11-16). Doctrine does matter (1 Timothy 4:16).
The balance of all this is to have both sound doctrine (Titus 2:1) and sound experiences. I don’t want to go to church to hear a theological lecture every time. We need a balance of sound doctrine with practical living. Notice this is how Paul taught in his epistles. He would teach theology and how to put it into practice. For example, Ephesians is six chapters. The first three chapters of Ephesians are theological in nature. The last three are application in nature. Our theology transforms our lives for better or for worst. This is why Paul would issue such a condemnation as in Galatians 1:6-9 over the issue of the gospel. Without sound doctrine, the gospel is lost. Salvation is gone. The Lordship of Jesus is robbed. Life is hopeless.
My friends, I urge you to pray for the Church of Jesus Christ. Pray for God to show us the need for sound doctrine. Pray for the Lord to us godly elders who are not leading for gain but for the love of Christ (1 Peter 5:1-5). Peter the Apostle wrote in 1 Peter 4:8, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” I want all this for myself and the church of God.
May the Lord be glorified in and among His Church!