Frequently you'll hear people talking about the authority of the Bible - but what do they mean? In the quotations below you'll find a number of good answers.
Though I run the risk of appearing naive I nevertheless have to admit it... when I first stumbled upon the article I was flabbergasted. The title alone was enough to make steam pour out of my ears.:
"Prayers To Allah-Offered At PCUSA’s
General Assembly Plenary Session."
Could this be a mistake.... or a bad joke... or maybe a regrettable misprint, I wondered to myself. But, alas no. It was the shocking truth.
Accompanying the article was a video of the event and with my own eyes (at the 14:04 mark to be precise) I witnessed a Muslim man leading the allegedly Christian assembly in reverential prayers to the Muslim diety, with petitions such as: "Allah bless us and bless our families and bless our lord. Lead us on the straight path - the path of all the prophets... blah, blah, blah."
My response to all of this was an odd collage of conflicting emotions that rose up as if powered by rocket-fuel, until they found their way out of my mouth in the form of a very strange guttural noise. The best way I can describe the sound is by saying that it is similar to the kind of rasping growl one would expect to hear from a bulldog who has just been refused cake.
Pausing, I began to try and evaluate the multifaceted reaction that was boiling and bubbling within me as I read of the PCUSA's interfaith-free-for-all... and as I did a few things became clear.
The first thing I noticed was that I felt sad and sick and ashamed all at the same time. All of this had invoked an internal conversation in which I was arguing to myself that while Christians should certainly love and serve their Muslim neighbors in Christ's name, Christians must never affirm the errant beliefs of Islam - let alone partner with Muslims in the worship of God. To do so would be to throw truth itself out the window. It's only logical isn't it - I asked myself. The claims of Christianity and the claims of Islam are conflicting. They can't both be correct. For example, if the Holy Trinity is the One true God, Allah is not the true God.. Or take another example, if "in these last days God has spoken to us by His Son" then Jesus Christ is God's final word to mankind and the teachings of Mohammad are not.... Now all of this and more went through my mind before finally winding its way to a conclusion... I concluded that the Christian's involvement with his/her Muslim neighbors should always be governed by a loving, evangelistically-minded, Christ-glorifying, zeal for the truth of God's Word. This is precisely what the PCUSA failed to do in its public prayers to Allah. At the expense of truth they embraced the pretended and pretentious "virtue" of religious syncretism. Though profitable for self-aggrandizement and worldly accolades this kind of syncretistic interfaith sideshow is useless for anything of eternal value.
After concluding these things I sought to evaluate my feeling further. I realized I was also feeling indignant. Again the internal conversation began... The whole thing, I heard myself arguing, was not merely a failure to uphold the truth of Christianity but it was also an Insult to the Lord Jesus. To profess to be servants of Christ and to then offer public prayers to a false god - this is nothing short of contempt! And for these prayers to arise from the lips of a man who adheres to a religious system that openly denies the divinity of Christ and rejects His redemptive achievements - this is yet further contempt! One wonders what it was exactly that led the PCUSA to the following conclusion: when dealing with those who reject the person and work of Christ our best means of response is to invite them to lead us in prayer... Seriously! Of all the things you might conclude how on earth could you come up with that?
Seeking to evaluate my mixed emotions further I realized that I was also feeling very curious. What had once been a silent internal conversation suddenly became verbal and surprisingly loud. Sitting in my empty study I asked no one in particular: "If the PCUSA is going to do this kind of stupid stuff why bother with the pretense of Christianity? Wouldn't it be a lot more honest (not to mention a lot more sane) to just freely acknowledge that there is not now nor has there ever been anything distinctly Christian about offering prayers to Allah? And in light of this latest display of non-Christian worship shouldn't the PCUSA finally just admit what everyone already knows - i.e., sometime ago (and against the wishes of many of the Presbyterian faithful) the church hierarchy willfully set sail out of the harbor of Christianity. Having now lost sight of that harbor sometime ago a new generation of theologically-backrupt influence-peddlars, filled with a misplaced joy that only madmen can appreciate, have determined to set their denominational ship totally adrift on a sea of religious pluralism.... With these things in mind and with a burning sense of curiosity I asked myself a question which I could not and cannot provide a rational answer for - "Why doesn't the PCUSA just admit that there is longer anything distinctly Christian about them?"
The final thing I noticed as I evaluated my feelings was a sudden urge to correspond with someone sane. Quickly I fired off an email to a trusted and godly colleague who himself had exited the PCUSA not long ago at least in part because of the kinds of ridiculous garbage outlined above. "What's your take on all of this?" I asked him. His response (which he has been good enough to allow me to reprint below) was wise and Christ-centered. Reading it I saw that it contained not merely the insights of a former PCUSA insider but it also expressed a deep love for the purity of Christ's church and a pastoral concern for it's people.
I hope you'll read his response and benefit from it as I have.
And also.... on a personal note.... Thanks for what you wrote in response to me that night, John... I'm blessed to count you as my brother, as a wise friend, and as my partner in the gospel.
Some additional thoughts about liberal theology...
H. Richard Niebuhr powerfully encapsulated the teachings of Protestant Liberalism in a single sentence. He said liberalism teaches that "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross."
Perhaps J. Gresham Machen summed it up even more powerfully by describing liberalism as a religion different altogether from the Christian faith. According to Machen, "The chief modern rival of Christianity is 'liberalism' ...at every point, the two movements are in direct opposition."
I would suggest that time has proven the accuracy of these men's statements even as it has revealed the devastating impact that liberalism has had upon the church since the modernist controversy.
In light of its disastrous wake let us cling to the truth of God's Word all the more even as we affirm, with sobering conviction, the fact that liberal theology destroys souls and closes churches.
"...liberal theology destroys souls and closes churches..."
A timely article about truth, tolerance, and Jezebel
by Pastor Kevin DeYoung
Of the seven cities in Revelation, Thyatira is the least well known, the least impressive, and the least important. And yet, the letter is the longest of the seven. There was a lot going on at this church–some bad, some good.
Let’s start with the good. Verse 19, “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance.” Ephesus was praised for its good deeds and strong work ethic. Thyatira is even better. Is has the deeds that Ephesus had and the love that Ephesus lacked. The church at Thyatira was not without genuine virtue. It was a tight-knit bunch who loved, served, believed, and endured.
Maybe Thyatira was the kind of church you walked into and immediately felt like you belonged: “Great to meet you. Come, let me introduce you to my friends. Here, I’ll show you how you can get plugged in, use your gifts, do ministry. We’re so glad you’re here.” It was a caring church, a sacrificial church, a loving church.
That was the good part. And the bad part? Its love could be undiscerning and blindly affirming. The big problem at Thyatira was tolerance. The folks at Thyatira tolerated false teaching and immoral behavior, two things God is fiercely intolerant of. Jesus says, “You’re loving in many ways, but your tolerance is not love. It’s unfaithfulness.”
The specific sin in Thyatira was the tolerance of Jezebel. That wasn’t the woman’s real name. But this false prophetess was acting like a Jezebel-leading people into adultery and idolatry. We don’t know if her influence was formal–she got up in front of people and told them these deceptive things–or if it was informal–taking place in conversations and by word of mouth. However it was happening, this woman in Thyatira was a spiritual danger, like her Old Testament namesake.
Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians. She worshiped Baal and Asherah and led her husband, Ahab, in the same. Jezebel is the one who plotted to kill innocent Naboth for his vineyard. She was called “that cursed woman” (2 Kings 9:34). As a punishment for her wickedness, she was eventually pushed out a window, trampled by horses, and eaten up by dogs. She was a bad lady. And she lead many Israelites down a bad path.
Jesus says to Thyatira, “You are allowing a woman like that to have sway over your people. Why do you tolerate her? Don’t affirm her. Don’t dialogue with her. Don’t wait and see what happens. Get rid of her. . . .or I will.” Apparently, by some means, the Lord had already warned her to repent, but she refused. And so now the Lord Jesus promises to throw her onto the sick bed and make her followers suffer as well, unless they repent. “I will strike your spiritual children dead,” says the Lord. Jesus isn’t messing around here. This isn’t a secondary issue. This is a serious sin worthy of death.
It was also an entrenched sin. There were a number of trade guilds in Thyatira. Suppose you belonged to the local BAT, the Bricklayers Association of Thyatira, and one night the guild got together for a feast. You’d be sitting around the table, ready to partake of this great celebration with your friends and colleagues, and the host would say something like, “We’re glad you could make it. What a happy occasion for the BAT. We have quite a feast prepared for you. But before we partake, we want to recognize the great god Zeus who watches over the bricklayers and has made this dinner possible. Zeus, you see his statue in the corner, we eat to you, in your honor, for your worship. Let’s dig in.”
What would you do in that situation? Stay or go? What would your participation signify before your fellow Christians, before the watching world, before God? Christians in the ancient world didn’t have to go searching for idolatry. It was woven into the fabric of their whole culture. To not participate in these pagan rituals was to stick out like a Yankees fan at Fenway Park. These feasts, with their idolatry and the sexual revelry which would often follow, were a normal part of life in the Greco-Roman world. To remove yourself from them could be socially and economically disastrous.
Which is why false teachers like this Jezebel in Thyatira or the Nicolaitans in Pergamum gained such a hearing. They made being a Christian a lot easier, much less costly, must less counter-cultural. But it was a compromised Christianity, and Jesus could not tolerate it. He was going to make an example of Thyatira to show all the churches that Jesus has eyes like fire, too pure to look on evil, and feet like burnished bronze, too holy to walk among wickedness. He wanted all the churches to know that he was the searcher of hearts and minds and he would repay evil for unrepentant evil.
The error of Jezebel was a serious sin, an entrenched sin, and a subtle sin. The people had probably been told that the “deep secrets” wouldn’t harm them. We don’t know exactly what it meant for the church to learn Satan’s so-called deep secrets. We don’t know if that’s what the false teachers called them or if that’s what Jesus is calling them. But what was going on was probably some kind of false teaching that devalued the material world. This Jezebel may have been saying, “The physical world doesn’t matter. It’s the spiritual realm that counts. So go ahead and participate in idol feasts and do whatever you want sexually. Those are material things. God doesn’t care about that.” Or she may have been saying, “Look, if you are truly spiritual, then your relationship with God will be strong enough to withstand the deep things of Satan. So go ahead. Participate in evil practices. You can handle it and you’ll probably even learn more about the enemy in the process.” Whatever it was that she was saying, it was a lie and it was leading people into sin. The church was more tolerant than Jesus, which is never a good idea.
To read this article as it originally appeared please visit Kevin DeYoung's blog.
"Same-sex marriage is in the news a lot lately. Where do you stand on this issue?"
"I am very much against the issue of same-sex marriage. Here are two basic reasons why I am against it:
1) We didn't create it, we can't redefine it.
2) God created it, God sets the rules for it.
In the meantime, if you are a Christian troubled by todays ruling and concerned about its implications for religious liberty and free-speech, please take comfort in the following facts:
1) Homosexuals are not our enemies - they are people who are lost and need the transformative gospel of Jesus Christ.
2) Regardless of the dictates of the governments of man, Christ is still on the throne and the good news is still true.
3) Agreeing with God's is always the right thing to do - especially when it is difficult to do so.
4) Always remember that Jesus wins (see Psalm 2). At the end of the game all of the pieces will put back in the box and only Christ and His people will stand victorious.
allow me to explain the answers I gave above:
1) We didn't create it, we can't redefine it.
Why is this?
This is because real marriage (unlike same-sex marriage) is most assuredly NOT a manmade institution or a societal construct, it is an institution very obviously imposed upon mankind from an outside source. Proof of this is that marriage is hemmed in with very obvious biological, anatomical, and psychological (not to mention theological) parameters.
A pastor would argue that these marital-parameters were given by God. An evolutionary biologist might argue that these parameters were given by nature. Either way though we are both agreed that the parameters are there. They exist. They are facts. They are beyond our control. They are unaffected by our feelings, preferences, desires, wishes, wants, and yearnings. They are unalterably bound-up in the concept of marriage. Since same-sex marriage has no such parameter and is little more than a societal construct it does not qualify as “marriage” in any way shape or form.
Politicians might pass legislation that will change how our society is permitted to use the word “marriage.” Justices might pronounce judgments changing the legal definition of the word “marriage.” But these are merely linguistic games that cannot change the institution of marriage any more than they can change the biological, anatomical, psychological and theological parameters that surround it.
2) God created it, God sets the rules for it.
Here are some scripture references that might help you understand why I, along with any Christian who takes the Bible seriously, cannot affirm the practice of homosexuality let alone support the concept of same-sex “marriage”
1.) Marriage has been given by God as a picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride the church (Ephesians 5:32). This is yet one more proof that God has set the institution up in a very particular way and for a very particular purpose and therefore we have no real authority to redefine or recreate it.
2.) Homosexual behavior is strictly prohibited in both the Old and New Testaments (Lev. 18:22-24, Lev. 20:13, I Cor. 6:9-20, I Tim 1:10) as being contrary to God’s design in creation.
3.) Homosexuality along with all other forms of sexual immorality is always represented as intrinsically sinful behavior that provokes the wrath of God (Rom.1:26-28) and dehumanizes its participants.
4.) Scripture clearly shows that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. (Gen.2:22-24, Matt. 19:5-6).
5.) Homosexuals (like all of the rest of us) though sinners are NOT beyond the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (I Cor 6:9-11 – please note the implications of the phrase “such were some of you” in v.11). Christians who, in the name of love or tolerance, support same-sex marriage are simply affirming homosexuals in their sin. Furthermore, they have embraced a very troubling philosophy – namely, that whoever the gospel is for, it certainly isn’t for the sexually immoral.
Rev. R Crabtree
"...a son, a husband, a father of 6, a friend, a Presbyterian
(not the liberal kind), an eccentric, and a minister of the gospel... I am also the Pastor of All Souls Church and a Professor of Religious Studies at OCBC."
All Souls Church
Attributes Of God
Irenaeus Of Lyons
Journey Of Faith
Means Of Grace
Order Of Salvation
Westminster Confession Of Faith