Monday, March 25, 2013

Why are mature men of the faith suddenly seeming to go off the narrow road of orthodoxy and saying or doing wacky things?

I've been watching the Christian field with perplexity and dismay lately. It seems that the organizations an individuals we rely on suddenly take a left turn and drive pell mell off the road. They had been doctrinally steady for years and decades, and then suddenly they are doing strange practices or recommending heretics.

It makes me scratch my head, for sure. Why do mature leaders of our faith suddenly go wacky in the doctrine department? How does this happen? That is what this blog entry will seek to discover.

It stands to reason that babes in Christ lack some discernment because discernment is a skill. It comes with testing, with age, with study, with prayer, and by the Holy Spirit. It is why there are pastors and elders who are given instruction on how to behave with and teach the younger ones. Not that younger Christians can't have discernment, but it is a skill that is refined with practice.

However the perplexity comes when the mature ones who should know better suddenly start displaying a lack of discernment. Let me offer a few recent examples:

--Focus on the Family has been a strongly mature and reliable biblical resource for families 35 years, but there are some with influence at the organization who have fallen hook, line, and sinker for Roma Downey and her Bible miniseries crowd. They have endorsed, even backed the series, and hosted a function to match up Downey and Burnett with gaming folks to create The Bible miniseries computer game, a game like "Where's Waldo".

--Answers in Genesis is an organization founded 35 years ago by Ken Ham. It is dedicated to bible apologetics with a particular focus on supporting young Earth creationism and a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis. They have been strongly biblical for decades. Yet at least one reviewer on staff deemed the bible miniseries fairly acceptable, mostly because it played to their bias and presented Noah and the flood as historical. They stated,
"Nevertheless, even as a stand-alone production, The Bible will likely lead many to Christ. Why? Because it presents the Bible’s history as real history—instead of eroding trust in God’s Word from the very first verse..."
I believe the series has shown itself undeniably to have eroded the word of God. As a matter of fact, it has eroded it so much that AIG says the following in the same review, prior to the above statement:
"It unfortunately lacks a clear presentation of the gospel message like that included at the end of the 1979 Jesus Film AIG also notes because the mini­series has about 4,100 years of history to cover in just 10 hours, many of the events are compressed and shuffled, resulting in “a few things out of order and even a few outright discrepancies with biblical history.”
“Obviously, if you or your children are troubled by the presence of some factual errors, then you should consider not watching the film,” AIG notes.
We don't come to faith because we believe the bible is historical fact. We don't say, 'hey it was pretty good, despite being unclear on that whole Gospel thing'. We don't say, "gee, despite getting some things flat out wrong, the bible miniseries was acceptable!" We don't say, "If you're overly sensitive to our inerrant bible having error polluted by pagans with an antichrist agenda, maybe it's not a good idea to watch it, but for the rest of us who don't mind our blood-bought word presented corruptedly, it'll be a comfy evening with the telly!" Except...they did say it.

--John Piper has been a pastor for 30 years and has authored 50 books. He is well regarded as a pastor, having just retired this month. Yet of late has participated in a Lectio Divina, a Catholic mystical practice involving prayer, endorsed it and offered resources on his website on how to perform it, and hobnobs with heretics, all at this late date in his career. (He retired this week).

If you don't know what Lectio Divina is or contemplative prayer (or centering prayer) know that it is a method of prayer that does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied but a is mystical exercise of substituting for study an intuitive experience of having emptied the mind to receive a special revelation from God directly. The following bloggers have explained why Contemplative prayer and lectio divina are bad.

Sola Sisters: Piper encouraging Lectio Divina
Do Not Be Surprised: Biblical silence vs. mystical silence.
Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry: Centering prayer
Wretched Radio explains contemplative prayer and discusses Piper's promotion of Lectio Divina at the Passion 2012 conference.

--Ravi Zacharias is a Canadian-American evangelical Christian apologist. Zacharias is the author of numerous Christian books, including Gold Medallion Book Award winner Can Man Live Without God? and bestsellers Light in the Shadow of Jihad and The Grand Weaver. He is the founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and host of the radio program Let My People Think. He is a high-end intellectual, brilliant and wise, gentle and profound. He has stood on the bible and its doctrines as the only truth for decades.

That is why I was stunned when he appeared on heretic Joyce Meyer's show and worse, said she was "a great bible teacher" and that "God was using her". I can understand if he wanted to appear on her program to reach her lost followers, John MacArthur was asked to speak at the Mormon temple and they still invited him after he stated he was going to present the Gospel and say what he had planned to say. But this wasn't that. It was Ravi endorsing Meyer as a bible teacher and announcing that God was using her. I went totally off my rocker when I saw that.

Youtube link here

If it is news to you that Joyce Meyer is a heretic, go to CARM to read why. Also in Justin Peters' updated bible teaching titled A Call For Discernment, he uses Meyer's material to show why and where it is false.

We are all scratching our heads, saying WHAAAAT is going on? It is a fact that these strange and unsettling things are happening. My question is, why?

The number one issue related to the church, pastors answer when asked, is that its people lack discernment. As John MacArthur says
"Today's church is like the religious leaders of Jesus' day, who could tell the difference between superficial things like pleasant and stormy weather, but not between truth and error (Matt. 16:1-3). So many churches have relinquished biblical ethics and doctrine, a deep reverence and worship of God, repentance over sin, humility toward God and fellow believers, and a profound understanding of God's character and work. All that has resulted in a low-level commitment to holy living."
However, the men I've quoted are individuals or are with credible organizations. It does not seem to me that Ravi Zacharias has made a low-level commitment to holy living. Nor John Piper. So what's the deal?

Tim Challies wrote a book on discernment. He says that lack of discernment leads to backsliding. That is a good thought. Personally, I think that backsliding, or unaddressed sin, also leads to a lack of discernment. I do know that the bible says we cannot be mature without discernment, but the perplexing lack of discernment we are seeing is from many mature, elder pastors and men of the faith who have demonstrated steadily mature discernment for decades. Could it be they have had a failure to repent of some unaddressed sin which is causing dullness of hearing? Perhaps. Hebrews 5:11-14 says--
Warning Against Apostasy--  About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
The writer of Hebrews here is talking of a regression. They should be more advanced than they were but the writer despaired of even going forward with what he originally wanted to say because they had become 'dull of hearing' and it would be pointless. What causes dullness of hearing? I think anyone can make a mistake, and anyone can have an unaddressed sin in their life. But if one does not repent of it, compounds the tendency to regress back to milk, and the refusal/inability to hear leads to more drifting. This is a deadly trajectory. Again we go to Hebrews, this time chapter 2.
"Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." (Hebrews 2:1-4)

At The Expository Files we read, "The first reason for this exhortation is that there is a real danger of "drifting." It is actually possible for us to "drift away" from our salvation. In 2:3 we learn that we can "neglect" our salvation. Later in 3:12-14 we are told that we can "depart" from God. In 6:4-6 we are told that we can so "fall away" that it becomes impossible to renew us again to repentance. And then in 10:26:27 we are told that we can reach a point where the sacrifice of Christ is no longer available for our sins. So the danger of "drifting" is very real!

(Go here to see how the Hebrews verse is NOT talking about a solid Christian losing their salvation)

The verse does not say we plunge. It doesn't say we plummet out of faith. It seems to happen slowly. We drift. It happens when we neglect, and we fail to pay attention.

In the novel "Watership Down" a fictional story of rabbits searching for a new field to create a warren in, they would entertain each other with tales and myths. They had sayings. One of them was about the weather, and the onset of bad news, "One cloud feels lonely." Let's change that to my own motto, "One sin feels lonely".

If there is a sin, and it's not addressed, it hardens us a little bit. It makes us a little bit sluggish in the spiritual department. We get wax in our ears. Jeremiah 7:11 says "But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear." You refuse to pay attention, and your ears get dull. More sins come. Just look at what happened in the Garden, and pretty quickly, too. Genesis 3. They disobeyed, they blamed, they hid. By the next generation, there was murder. It doesn't take long for sin to pile on!

Matthew 13:15 also speaks of the hard hear and dull ears. In all three cases, (Hebrews, Jeremiah, Matthew) it was the person's refusal to hear. They did it deliberately either through neglect or through rebellion.

This drifting, this regressing, is a process. It's spoken of in 2 Timothy 3:13 "while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." Once the trajectory is begun, they go from bad to worse.

It is really important for a mature person who deviates from the solid food of doctrine, if not caught early, will fall away and it will be impossible to restore them to repentance. Hebrews goes on in chapter 6 thus:
"For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:4-6)
So you see the danger. When we see mature elders suddenly veer off, it is either they were false all along and their true colors are coming out (something I hesitate to believe in the above cases) or they have some unrepented-of sin, have become dull, neglected some aspect of their faith walk, and are sliding and drifting away. In the latter case, perhaps when we see a perplexing behavior or doctrine come out of them that makes us scratch our heads, that is the first signal. The check engine light just came on, and it better get checked, because one sin feels lonely.

It always strikes us at the heart when a person is uncovered who suddenly seems to be lacking in the discernment department, and disheartening too. However, we have the privilege of praying for them and others that we may know who seem to suddenly be coming up with unorthodox behavior or doctrines. We can ask for discernment (wisdom). The glory is that Jesus promised to deliver it to us if we ask. (James 1:5).

20 comments:

  1. Please, not John MacArthur as well. If just one of these pastors can remain true to the end, it'll bolster my faith enough to carry on without finding myself in sheer despair.

    I've noticed the same thing, with regard to the wise men doing foolish things. I really do hope it's "just" a small falter and that they'll get things straightened out. It won't make any sense otherwise.

    Albert Mohler's very lightly-handled interview with Jimmy Carter on his radio program also brought me discouragement. It was a half a year since I listened, but if I recall, Mohler never once challenged Carter on his political positions, and asked him no theological questions at all but simply seemed to assume he was a brother and treated him as such. Not to call Carter unchristian, but consider this link ( http://www.adherents.com/people/pc/Jimmy_Carter.html ) I do recall them mentioning that Carter teaches sunday school at his church...but look at the fruit.

    I was pretty upset with the seeming lack of scrutiny exercised by Albert Mohler. :(

    So I'm sure I'll hear of some error of John MacArthur's...I just hope it will be a personal sin (since we all sin, after all), and not a gross theological blunder..

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    1. John MacArthur (and Don Green, Steve Lawson, Phil Johnson, Mike Riccardi) are as solid as rocks. Not a peep from them have I detected. Despair not! The Lord WILL eave us some elders of the faith to guide us.

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    2. The answer is not to put your hope in John MacArthur, or any one Christian. Fix your eyes on Jesus Christ (Hebrews 3:1 and 12:2)

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    3. Why, yes, Anonymous, that is entirely correct. But that is not the full answer.

      God raises up men to do His work. We are allowed to express disappointment when one of them is found to have had some leaven. It also gives us joy in being able to pray for them. Our hope is in Jesus but our earthly fellowship is through Him with other believers. And, we have to listen to preachers *sometime*. They are not our hope, but they are our brothers.

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  2. I see that the Billy Graham organization is even on the band wagon: http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?articleid=9279. And then I saw this on Luis Palau praising the new pope: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/march-web-only/luis-palau-pope-francis-drinks-mate-evangelicals-bergoglio.html
    It is sad indeed. :-(

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    1. Billy Graham has been drifting in obvious fashion at least since 1952. It's just that satan has blinded most people and they have not see it. Graham's false doctrines secretly brought in have come to light of ay in more force since 1977. The internet has helped spread the word about Graham's unorthodox beliefs. Personally I consider that Mr Graham is satan's most successful false wolf of our day.

      Palau's story is sad also.

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    2. On that note, what is your educated opinion of Franklin Graham? Does the apple not fall far from the tree, or is he a "chain-breaker," going in a different direction from that of his father?

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    3. Hakam, I have no opinion on Mr Franklin Jr. I have not read or heard anything he has produced and I have not studied him with respect to doctrine. We know his good works with Samaritan’s Purse does much to help underprivileged of the Third World nations, and my prayer is that the good work of his missions are accompanied by a salvation based on faith through grace plus nothing else, but I don’t know anything about him for sure. Sorry.

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    4. I can say one thing about Franklin Graham:
      The Billy Graham association and it’s overseer, Franklin removed Mormons from their list of cults. When challenged, Franklin said he was shocked to learn Mormons were on such a list. Graham states the LDS will not be put on such a list, and that it is nothing more than name-calling.
      So, when we expose cults for what they are, according to Franklin Graham it is just name-calling.

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  3. The author of Hebrews does not leave us hanging in mid air and thinking that salvation may be lost due to a "falling away" that is not spoken to Christians, rather to the lost [Heb. 10:39]. The entire second chapter of 2Peter gives great insight into the workings of such evil men. Gaining the confidence of the unsuspecting babes in Christ and then unleashing their poison on them in the name of Christ.

    The simple answer is found in 1John 2:19. They never were "of us." Never born again, just charlatans, liars and deceivers. I realize it may be difficult for some to come to grips with the fact that they have listened to and believed a false prophet/teacher/brother, but their unwillingness to face the ugly truth does not make the ugly go away.

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  4. Absolutely a most important post. Thanks be to God for this warning. I, too, have wondered at this. It makes me fervent to pray for my a pastor who has meant so much to me. I see when a minister becomes widely acclaimed and is broadcast and published, that is very dangerous for him. Pride can easily seep in. We must not forget how easily this can happen and stand guard and pray. Think of Dsvid taking the census 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24.
    And can you believe Solomon? It just amazes me that he, knowing so well the blesses God had bestowed upon him, fell to pride and idolatry.

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  5. I too have been watching this trend for a while Elizabeth. I have noticed that about 100 years ago the enemy started injecting small amounts of error into the universities that had begun as christian organizations. Sowing seeds of tares. We in part are seeing the finishing of the work of the Jesuits. Undoing the reformation. I had confronted the ministry and pastor where we attended about Tres Dias which had it's beginnings in the catholic "church", as I dug deeper the more unsettled I became they maintain secrecy as to what happens there all they really talk about is their "wonderful feel good experience". The freemasons were also involved in this and they all seemed to target influential members and leaders of churches. After praying about this and quizzing leadership about there involvement that seemed to blur the line between the catholic organization and the church, the pastor who was involved in that had actually lapsed in his performance that led to a public act of misleading the congregation. Once he was confronted he resigned. The leadership kept most of the facts under wraps as to not "embarrass" him or the church. I then confronted leadership who chose to not repent. The reason that these leaders are falling away is a failure to repent of their sin and their lack of discernment is what follows. The enemy has some hidden holds on the modern American church and my discoveries have led me to their tax "exempt" status. Unwittingly places them under the IRS and government control. Ironically, this was a practice that began in the RCC. You cannot serve two masters.
    Lord I pray that you would grant our pastors and leaders courage, understanding and awareness of their sin and grant them forgiveness and restoration.

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  6. Sometimes it may be that they have a blind spot - granted a big blind spot, but a blind spot nonetheless.

    Other times it may be that they are compromising because they cannot keep their current position or popularity or reputation if they don't. I cannot even imagine the pressure these days to compromise in one way or another. The pressure must be huge for those in positions of authority and visiblility.

    You know we think this is new but really it is not. Before them there were others who failed or compromised, and these followed in their footsteps. Speaking of Ravi Zacharias, personally I never enjoyed listening to him because he always seemed to get to the point in his teaching where he was really going to tell you something and then he would switch to telling a story. I never could follow him. But in any case, I was very sad to see him as part of the line up of speakers at the last Ligonier Conference with RC Sproul. The kicker is that the title this year was: No Compromise!

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  7. If anyone is interested in the "drifting" aspect, or the admonitions in Hebrews, like chapter 6 talks about, may I recommend salvationbygrace.org with Pastor Jim McClarty. His expostion of Hebrews is excellent. He clarifies the "does this mean I could lose my salvation?". The Book of Hebrews was written to Hebrews, new converts who were being bothered by Judaizers. Paul was telling them that "IF" it were posssible, meaning this is a hypothetical. How can we lose something that God is responsible for giving and securing?? It is all of GRACE. He saves us by grace, and even gives us the faith to believe.
    So, what are we to say about these men who are supposed to be solid in the faith? My guess is that we should search the Scriptures to see what God has to say about them.
    Buyer, beware!
    Pam

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    1. Thanks Pam! I love Pastor MccLarty and I'll eagerly watch the sermons myself this week on Spring Break. Thanks for the good tip.

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    2. He is my favorite, Elizabeth! I have learned so much going thru his sermons and QandA. Love his section on Romans Israelology.
      He has a blog now, as well. And he is great about answering emails, too.
      Happy Resurrection Sunday!!

      Pam

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    3. Pam I didn't know he had a blog. I just read it and I LOVED his review of the History Channel's The Bible. Not just because I feel the same way he does, lol, but his incisive writing has cu me tot he heart with truths stated in one sentence. The essay is loaded with gold nuggets like that. He is just as good and articulate a writer as he is a speaker, (makes sense!). So I bookmarked it.

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  8. The enemy never comes in with guns blazing but comes in with subtle quietness. A small compromise here, just a wee bit of tolerance there. What will it matter, it's such a small thing of little importance?

    Although seen as divisive, narrowminded, harsh, fault finders - watchmen are called to see, to hear and to sound the alarm.

    Be alert, for indeed the enemy does prowl about like a roaring lion seeking..... even the very elect.

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  9. My beautiful special needs son gave me a sideways cross necklace for Christmas. He loves his Lord with all his heart. He gave it to me because he knows I love the Lord and the Cross. Man tries to create rituals, ceremonies and call them things God wants us to follow. God wants us to show Christian love and love him and obey him. A sideways cross necklace does not make us evil or bad. Please look into your hearts and stop the harsh words.

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  10. I'm so glad you received a gift from your son that you love, and that it was given in love. And you're right, "a sideways cross necklace does not make us evil or bad." But it is important to be mindful of the emblems of Christianity we wear and the messages they promote.

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