IS CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM REALLY THE GREATEST DANGER?

In the movie The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya calls out Vinzini’s use of the word “inconceivable” when he says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”  When it comes to the word nationalist, I think I agree with Inigo Montoya’s assessment.

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, a “Nationalist” is an “advocate of or believer in nationalism.”  

“Nationalism” as defined by the same dictionary, is “loyalty and devotion to a nation.”  Yet somehow in our culture, much like many other terms, the definition has seemed to be changed in order to fit a particular narrative.  You know, nationalism, like Nazi Germany; and nationalists, like followers of Hitler.  Sound familiar?

It seems all to common in the aftermath of the political storm we have come through and are still sifting through, to hear in the 24/7 news cycles as well as podcasts, blogs, and even religious websites banter about “Christian nationalism” and its dangerous affect on culture, the Church, and the saints of God.  

As a matter of fact, I’ve read several articles, and listened to as many podcasts, of those who have seemingly been quick to criticize individuals and groups, who with much fervor and conviction, have vocally and visibly supported President Donald Trump and the policies he champions.  

One contributing writer to a well-known Christian website even coined the phrase, “the cult of Trumpism,” giving a more specific picture of what Christian nationalism looks like.  I am sincerely curious, though, as to how Christians are supposed to respond toward any political candidate or leader with whom they agree.  Is supporting the platform and policies of a political party or group, or one who leads such a platform and implements such policies, sinful?  Well, if it’s idolatry then yes.  But again I’m perplexed as to how this specific pastor and contributing writer can accurately judge the hearts of those whom he does not know.  Perhaps his assessment is more general than qualified, which can be very dangerous in this “guilty-til-proven-innocent” culture we live.  I wonder, as well, if another article might be written soon about the cult of Bidenism, you know, professing believers who overlook the murdering of pre-born children by trying to justify a modified version of pro-life, the normalization of gender neutrality, the censoring of biblical truth because it is deemed to be hate speech and inciteful, and other issues that are excused for the sake of tolerance and “unity.”  For true followers of Jesus who have embraced such things that Scripture expressly addresses wrong, seems more cultish in my view.          

Beth Moore, who is a popular evangelical teacher, seemed to join the chorus when she claimed that the greatest threat to the Church, or the saints of God, is Christian nationalism.  Her exact words were, “I do not believe these are days for mincing words. I’m 63 1/2 years old & I have never seen anything in these United States of America I found more astonishingly seductive & dangerous to the saints of God than Trumpism. This Christian nationalism is not of God. Move back from it.”  

It could be possible, I suppose, that these views are nothing more than a caution, and admonition, out of sincere concern for those who have been labeled the religious right or christian nationalists.  However, it seems to be more of a strong rebuke than a caution.  Perhaps, if more conversations were had with individuals as opposed to a general labeling, some might come to realize that 1) there are those who are Donald Trump supporters who are not followers of Christ, and 2) those who are followers of Christ and who realize that their King is Jesus, not Trump (or any other political, social, or cultural icon) may have supported President Trump because they do love this country and believe that the policies and platform he implemented were for the good of this nation, not the demise.    

And it could be that there are those who believe that the founding of this nation was actually based on a Judeo-Christian ethic, unlike any other nation with the exception of Israel.  Our nation, like every other nation, has had its flaws; it still does.  But below the surface of our country’s founding, there is undoubtedly the strong and vast roots of Christian principles.  I’ll speak to that in just a few moments.  

Call me crazy, and some will, but haven’t we seen similar support for past Presidents?  I remember, even as teenager, a growing wave of patriotism and love for country when President Ronald Reagan became our 40th president.  Our country had just endured the dismal days of President Carter’s administration, and with a sense of renewed national fervor that seemed to be ignited by an unknown group of amateur hockey players on the U.S. Olympic team who upset the seemingly unbeatable Russians that became known as the Miracle on Ice, a wave of patriotic spirit became almost tsunami like.  And it was a good thing.  People were proud to be Americans.  Even Bruce Springsteen got in the mood. 

Many people who voted for Reagan were Christians, and there were many who weren’t.  For some reason, I don’t recall hearing the phrase “Christian nationalism,” or “The cult of Reaganism.”  I wonder why? 

When 9/11 happened, President George W. Bush’s approval rating skyrocketed.  There was a sense of being united as a nation during a time of national crisis.  People filled churches.  There seemed to be a renewed sense of love for country; love for God.  Although it was short lived, I don’t recall hearing the phrase of “nationalism,” or “Christian nationalism.”  I wonder why?

In 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected as the first African-American president, it was a great day in the history of our nation in the sense that it revealed how far our nation had come, although we still have further to go.  President Obama was elected by a cross-section of demographics.  There was a fervor expressed by those who visibly and vocally supported him as well.  President Obama had a large following, and in many ways was untouchable when it came to honest critique.   

However, unlike other past administrations, the tone, course, and discourse of our nation seemed to go a different direction.  Instead of American exceptionalism, the belief that our nation is unlike any other, the rhetoric became American deconstructionism; the belief that America as it was needed to be deconstructed systemically.

For some, I know that what I’ve just said will not rest well; sometimes the truth doesn’t.  But the facts bear witness of this shift.  According to the Pew Research Center, “Barack Obama campaigned for the U.S. presidency on a platform of change. As he prepares to leave office, the country he led for eight years is undeniably different. Profound social, demographic and technological changes have swept across the United States during Obama’s tenure, as have important shifts in government policy and public opinion.”  For more research, you can find the Pew Research Center’s study here:

For eight years, when religious liberty had not only been threatened, but in many cases deemed discriminatory; when apology tours to countries led by dictators were becoming common; when the biblical and traditional view of marriage was not only challenged but demonized; when abortion was championed and cheered; when the two primary political parties became even more divided and divisive; and, in my opinion, when our country lost its sense of national identity, many Americans were desperate for something different.  There was a desire for a change of direction.      

Enter a new President who broke the succession of political insiders.  Donald Trump, who was laughed off by the media pundits who would become, and still are, his most ardent antagonizers, shocked the world with his election as the 45th President of the United States.  Clearly his character was not much different than many of his predecessors, and his rhetoric was less than diplomatic.  But if there is anything that 75-80 million votes during this past election reveals, it is that over the past four years many of President Trump’s policies worked and were undoubtedly reflective of many of the values and ideals that America had been founded upon, and that a vast majority of Americans still embrace.  

Personally, I haven’t necessarily been a fan of his personality or his verbal attacks, but I have been supportive of a good number of his policies.  As with other Presidents, there have been decisions made, and a great number of comments made, that I disagree with wholeheartedly.  If there is anything, though, that history teaches us it is that personality doesn’t shape a free republic, policy does.  And if you don’t think that is true, just wait and see what takes shape over the next four years.  

No, in my opinion, I don’t think the greatest danger is the cult of Trumpism, or Christian nationalism.  I believe the greatest dangers as a nation may be willful ignorance and indifference:  ignorance regarding our history as a nation that has been founded upon Judeo-Christian principles, and indifference toward how we are to steward well what we have been entrusted.   

Sadly, many professed Christians seem to have a “hands off” approach when it comes to difficult topics that on the surface seem hard to reconcile, such as politics and religion; just let life happen and trust God.  And to that I say, yes, trust God but again don’t forsake what God has entrusted to us like freedom and a responsibility to steward well, not just this planet, but also everything else He has given us.          

Dr. Mark David Hall, who is the Herbert Hoover Distinguished Professor of Politics at George Fox University, in his article “Did America Have a Christian Founding?” writes,

“History is complicated, and we should always be suspicious of simple answers to difficult questions. As we have seen, there is precious little evidence that the Founders were deists, wanted religion excluded from the public square, or desired the strict separation of church and state. On the other hand, they identified themselves as Christians, were influenced in important ways by Christian ideas, and generally thought it appropriate for civic authorities to encourage Christianity.  

What do these facts mean for Americans who embrace non-Christian faiths or no faith at all? Although the Founders were profoundly influenced by Christianity, they did not design a constitutional order only for fellow believers. They explicitly prohibited religious tests for federal offices, and they were committed to the proposition that all men and women should be free to worship God (or not) as their consciences dictate. 

Yet it does not follow from this openness that Americans should simply forget about their country’s Christian roots. Anyone interested in an accurate account of the nation’s past cannot afford to ignore the important influence of faith on many Americans, from the Puritans to the present day.

Christian ideas underlie some key tenets of America’s constitutional order. For instance, the Founders believed that humans are created in the image of God, which led them to design institutions and laws meant to protect and promote human dignity. Because they were convinced that humans are sinful, they attempted to avoid the concentration of power by framing a national government with carefully enumerated powers. As well, the Founders were committed to liberty, but they never imagined that provisions of the Bill of Rights would be used to protect licentiousness. And they clearly thought moral considerations should inform legislation.

America has drifted from these first principles. We would do well to reconsider the wisdom of these changes.” 

NATIONS, KINGDOMS, AND KINGS

Look throughout Scripture and you’ll see that God has established nations, kingdoms, and kings.  That must mean something significant.  As a matter of fact, listen to God’s word: 

“He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;”  Daniel 2:21

Daniel, charged by God to reveal the dream to Nebuchadnezzar, said, “You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.” Daniel 2:37-38

I could go on and speak of the multitude of verses in Scripture that speak to how God has ordained nations, kingdoms, and kings for His work and for His glory.  The point is that these matter, and our nation matters.  As I mentioned earlier, we are to be stewards of what God has entrusted to us.  That’s not nationalism, that’s obedience.

I can hear it now, those who like to quote the verse when Jesus put the Pharisees and Herodians in place by saying, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  Mark 12:17  In that verse, however, are two implications:  1) we have a responsibility to our governing authorities, which means we must steward well and rightly that for which we are responsible, and 2) God rules over all, even our governing authorities.  (Romans 13; 1 Peter 2). With that being said, it seems as though it matters to God.  

Without exception, there is only one King.  And Beth Moore is right, it’s not Cyrus. But I would add it’s not Obama, or Trump, or Biden; it’s King Jesus.  Any king we exalt above King Jesus is an idol, and is sin.  Any nation we set above allegiance to King Jesus is an idol, and is sin.  But devotion to a nation, or a leader isn’t necessarily idolatry.

Based on how some have defined Christian nationalism, I would have to think that David’s mighty men would have been accused and considered Israeli nationalists.  They supported King David and were with him to the death.  As a matter of fact, they were, and are, God’s chosen people.  There’s much more that could be said about that and unpacked, but not in this podcast.  Being God’s chosen people, I would guess, could carry with it the perception that Israel, the Jewish people, considered themselves as superior to other nations.  I’m sure there were those who did.  But God, in His sovereignty, chose Israel as His people to be a light to the nations.  There was a bigger cause than nationalism.  And in the same way, although certainly not taking the place of Israel, I believe that God has sovereignly ordained America to be a light to the nations.  As I mentioned earlier, no other nation has been founded upon such principles and ideals as was this country.  There is a purpose for why we are the most advanced nation in the world and considered the leader of the free world, and it most definitely wasn’t because of any person, leader, or political party.  

No, I don’t believe the greatest danger to the saints of God, the Church, is Christian nationalism.  I believe the greatest danger is Christian secularism; or Christian materialism; or Christian narcissism; or Christian woke-ism; or to put it more succinctly, Christian progressivism.

Not once have I read where Jesus warned the Jewish people against Jewish nationalism.  When I look at Scripture, and Jesus’s warnings, I do, however, read much about His warning against false prophets and teachers, the Pharisees and other religious elites, greed, pride, and deception.  

What this comes down to is not political affiliation, but rather worldview.  How do you view the world in which you live, and what are the lenses through which you will look that shape your perspective?  The Scriptures aren’t meant to be an additional lens, or attachment, but rather the one lens which is to be superimposed over all others.  It is the corrective lens for an astigmatic soul.

It would be much easier if life could be compartmentalized into categories (religious, social, political/governmental, economical, biological, vocational) that we could choose to engage in or not.  But having a biblical worldview, which I believe is the correct worldview, means that we look at these through the lens of Scripture, not culture alone.  God’s word doesn’t just shed some light on these, but it gives us clear vision as to how we are to live and respond in each of these overlapping realities.  I don’t believe this only speaks to America, but to the world.  Scripture is true at all times, for all people, in all places.  And Scripture should inform every area of our life, not all except politics.  

To my brothers and sisters who are in Christ who may think that politics and religion should never meet, that’s like saying to God, “You can have every area of my life except my view of politics.”  That’s not what a life surrendered to God looks like. 

All of Scripture should inform all of life, especially in the life of a Christian.  If you disagree with that, and can qualify your belief based on the word of God, I would genuinely love to have an honest conversation.     

But truthfully, I believe that is where the disconnect is.  It is not a secret that the Church, generally speaking, has become woefully illiterate when it comes to the Scriptures, both in knowledge and application.  The truth is that it is impossible to be literate in anything without knowledge or careful study.  

Because of the lack of knowledge of God’s truth, it is no wonder why many professed Christians are accepting the deceptive teachings of progressive Christianity.  In the book of Hosea, the prophet who spoke on God’s behalf to the people of Israel said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge . . .” Hosea 4:6  God wasn’t referring to general knowledge, but rather a knowledge of Him and His ways.  When there is a void of God’s truth in your life, Satan is quick to fill it up with lies.    

When the foundational truths of the dignity and sanctity of life; the sacred institution of marriage between a man and a woman; the fall of mankind and that all have sinned against God; the wrath of God poured out on sin; and the grace of God provided in His great salvation, that we find in just the first eleven chapters of Genesis, when these are abandoned and replaced with progressive theology, the result is false teaching that leads to a distorted worldview and spiritual destruction.  

What is most dangerous to the saints of God, His Church, is abandoning the truth of God’s Word and justifying as good what God has called evil.  Although it may seem good and noble, and even Christ-like to speak love, and peace, and grace, and unity, it is never to be at the expense of the truth of His word and His righteousness.  It is because of Christ’s righteousness that we can know and display true love.  It is because of His righteousness that we can know and have peace.  It is because of God’s righteousness that we can experience grace that leads us in hot pursuit of His holiness.  It is because of His righteousness that we can know and experience true unity.  

I do believe that the vast majority of people, followers of Jesus and those who are not, desire unity and peace.  As for me, I certainly do.  I will continue to pray for our national, state, and local leaders that they might lead rightly.  In the book of Proverbs, God’s word reads, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.”  Proverbs 29:2  The word used for “rule” in this text speaks to those who rule in a position of authority as over nations or any other entity.  We should pray that righteousness would increase, and that God would expose the evil that grieves the heart of God and causes all humanity to groan.    

I pray Joe Biden will come to understand his need to repent of that which is sinful, and turn to Christ for the forgiveness of his sins.  I pray that he will acknowledge that every person is created in the image of God, by the One true Creator God, and will do what is right in honoring the sanctity and dignity of all human life, from womb to tomb; that he will affirm the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman; and that he will protect and affirm religious liberty for all people.  Just as I have prayed, and do pray, for Mr. Trump, I pray for Mr. Biden. 

As the true follower of Christ, I would ask you, what is the reason you are here in this nation, in this world, and at this time?  It’s no different a reason than those who came before us had:  we are to live in such a way so as to make much of Christ by living lives set apart for His glory, and in doing so point others to the hope and life that is found only in Him.  We weren’t created to establish a utopia here, which in reality is futile, because God has promised something far greater.  While we are here, however, the footprints of our lives should lead to Christ, and as we sojourn in this life it should be our aim to leave it better than we found it.  That is why I seek to make much of Christ and hold fast to His word.  It is also why I seek to speak up for that which is right and good, and noble when it comes to every area of life, be it religious, political, or any other sphere of influence that we are called to steward well.  

As Jesus told His disciples, which includes every follower of Christ, “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16

We are the light of the world because Jesus is the true light who dwells in every true believer.  And because we are called to be in this world, but not of it, every sphere of influence needs the light of Christ lived out through the light bearers we are called to be, including government and politics.  That’s not Christian nationalism, that is the  Kingdom mentality.  

THE FAKE NEWS OF PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY: ANOTHER GOSPEL?

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the believers in Galatia, was troubled and concerned that they were “so quickly deserting” the gospel of the true grace of Christ and turning to a “different gospel.”  It was a false gospel.  Here’s what Paul wrote, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again:  If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9

Those are strong words, and rightly so.  His concern was that they were abandoning the truth for a lie, one that was (as with all false teachings) culturally acceptable and approved.  John Piper said this concerning the false gospel that had infiltrated the Christian community within Galatia:  “And what makes that underlying truth in the text so powerful is that the “different gospel” in the churches of Galatia was not a religion from a foreign land. It was a close counterfeit to the real thing. The people in verse 7 who were perverting the gospel were professing Christians. They probably belonged to the church in Jerusalem and knew its leaders (Galatians 2:12). This “different gospel” was not on the order of Buddhism or Hinduism or Islam. It was an in-house distortion. It was promoted by men who called themselves Christian “brothers” (Galatians 2:4).”

With progressive Christianity, it has become, as Piper says, an “in-house distortion.”  This issue was of such grave importance that Paul repeated what he said about those who preached a different gospel, be it men or even an angel from heaven, and he used strong language to indicate the destructiveness of such a false gospel.  Paul used the Greek word “anathema,” which means that they are cut off from Christ.  That’s harsh, but if nothing else it reveals not only the worth of the gospel, but also the great cost of the gospel through the substitutionary atonement death of Christ. 

Richard Rohr, who is a Franciscan priest and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, as well as the author of several books, has gained an audience with those who have become disenfranchised with and disillusioned by the evangelical Church, many of whom are Millennials.  His influence has marked the lives and teachings of notable “Christian” leaders such as Rob Bell, Jen Hatmaker, Rachel Held Evans, Brian McLaren, William Paul Young (author of The Shack) to name a few.  

In a blog post entitled, “Jesus and the Cross,” Rohr said of the crucifixion of Jesus, “Salvation became a one-time transactional affair between Jesus and his Father, instead of an ongoing transformational lesson for the human soul and for all of history. I believe that Jesus’ death on the cross is a revelation of the infinite and participatory love of God, not some bloody payment required by God’s offended justice to rectify the problem of sin. Such a story line is way too small and problem-oriented.”  In other words, Rohr denies what Jesus validated in the Scriptures.  It doesn’t take long to see, as you read through Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 53, and the gospel accounts as well as, that the prophets and Jesus spoke of His death as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. 

Author and social critic, Os Guinness quoted theologian Reinhold Niebuhr to describe Rohr’s version of the gospel when he said, “Rohr’s cross is the very different cross of modern liberalism that Reinhold Niebuhr described so perfectly as ‘a God without wrath bringing men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.’”

In essence, Niebuhr concisely summarized the core belief of progressive Christianity:  a God without wrath toward sin, a Kingdom without walls, and a cross-less gospel.  That, my friends, is not the gospel of the Bible.   

In addition to denying the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ, another aspect of the salvation theology of those who consider themselves to be progressive Christians is universalism, which basically says that all people will, in the end, be saved.  

In his writings, Rohr says, “salvation is not a question of if but when,” and “We are all saved in spite of our mistakes and in spite of ourselves.”  Rob Bell in his book, Love Wins, writes: “A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided, toxic, and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.” (Love Wins, viii.)

Jen Hatmaker, who is a talented writer and seems genuinely nice from what I can tell, is  admittedly greatly influenced by the teachings of Richard Rohr, which I believe is greatly problematic for the reasons I’ve stated.  I do not disagree with having conversations with or interviewing those who hold different beliefs than what is biblically true.  As a matter of fact, I believe those conversations are crucial in order to gain understanding, as well as an opportunity to present the truth of Scripture.  

It is altogether different, however, when a person’s errant view or theology is accepted and even celebrated under the false pretense of seeking “unity.”  Light and darkness cannot be unified.  As Paul asks, “ . . . what fellowship has light with darkness?”  2 Corinthians 6:14  

This is some of the introduction to her podcast interview with Richard Rohr:  

“Speaking of heroes, if you know my guest today, you are probably freaking out because I am too. When I say he’s one of the greats, I mean, that in the most sincere possible way.  If I sound a little verklempt right now, it’s because I just finished the interview. I am now recording the intro, and I finished this interview by crying my eyes out, trying to tell him how special and important he is to all of us. I’m not over it yet because today we have on Fr. Richard Rohr.  He is a Franciscan priest. He’s the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. He’s known around the world, I mean, around the world for the way he teaches about contemplation, and radical compassion, and social equality. He’s been on the front lines of social justice thought for decades, and he is literally one of our best teachers.  His newest book is called The Universal Christ, which just came out, and we’re going to talk a bit about it and hear his thoughts on it . . .It’s not an exaggeration to tell you that Richard Rohr’s work has been so deeply meaningful to me and has shown me truly things like I didn’t even have the imagination for, frankly.” (Series 16, Episode 6)

There are other aspects of her beliefs (on sexuality/gender, authority of Scripture, etc.), as with those who hold to a progressive theology, that simply don’t align with the whole counsel of God’s word.  For one who professes to be a follower of Christ yet not accept by faith that all Scripture is God-breathed, as the apostle Paul affirms in 2 Timothy 3:16, is to dismiss Christ’s high regard of the Scriptures (the Law, the Prophets, and Wisdom writings of the Old Testament).     

I could give more examples of this, but I hope you are seeing the dangers of the heretical views of progressive Christianity.  Again, don’t take my word for it, rather measure what you read, hear, and see over and against the whole of Scripture, and not just a few select verses that are carefully cherry-picked to justify a comfortable theology.   

Those who proclaim these heretical teachings are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing, cloaked as shepherds along a road that leads to a false salvation, which is not salvation at all.  It’s just the opposite.  These are the ones who the apostle Paul referred to when he asked the professing believers in Galatia, “You were running well.  Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”  It’s as though Paul is saying and asking, “You were running this race so well, embracing and obeying the true gospel.  Who put stumbling blocks in your way that caused you to abandon the truth and choose a path that leads to destruction?”  

When I think of what Paul is saying, it reminds me of a cartoon I used to watch when I was a kid.  It was the Bugs Bunny Roadrunner Show, and specifically the episodes of Wyle E. Coyote and Roadrunner.  Every cartoon was the same theme:  Wyle E. Coyote was always scheming to try and trick and capture the Roadrunner.  And every episode ended the same way:  Roadrunner always outsmarted Wyle E. Coyote.  In one particular episode, the coyote painted a detour sign that was meant to lead the Roadrunner over a cliff.  The sign worked, but the desired result failed.  

In the same way, those who are seeking to persuade you with a false gospel are holding up “detour” signs that seem helpful, not harmful, but in reality are leading you over a theological and spiritual cliff.  To be clear, though, unlike Wyle E. Coyote, I don’t think they are seeking to be diabolical.  They, more than likely, are nice people; the kind with whom you could sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee.  But nonetheless, the different gospel they preach is from one who is diabolical and seeks nothing more than to trip you up and convince you that the detour sign he’s holding is legit.  Trust me, it’s not.  

Paul wrote this to the Galatians, and it is just as applicable to us today:  “This persuasion is not from Him who calls you.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”  Galatians 5:8

This persuasion is from the enemy, Satan.  And he loves to take the gospel and try to reinvent it as a cheap knock-off.  It only takes a slight change to make what is genuine, counterfeit.  The only way you can often tell what is fake from what is genuine, or what is a lie from what is true, is by careful examination and knowledge of what is true and genuine. 

Tim Challies, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Canada, after visiting the Bank of Canada to see, if in fact, the illustration often used regarding the best way to detect counterfeit money is by knowing what authentic money looks like, said, “Training in identifying counterfeit currency begins with studying genuine money. There are certain identifying characteristics that are added to each bill printed by the Bank of Canada. These characteristics are necessarily difficult to reproduce. Some are intended to stump the casual counterfeiter, armed with no more than a scanner and color laser printer, and some will stump the more serious counterfeiter, even if armed with expensive, high-tech equipment. The currency expert at the Bank of Canada summarized the approach to distinguishing a genuine bill with the phrase, ‘touch, tilt, look at, look through.’”

Talk about a great grid through which to look at any teaching over against Scripture so as to know the truth.  What if we took time, consistently (which is more than just a Sunday morning) and touched, tilted, looked at, and looked through the word of God?  Without a doubt we would grow in our understanding of God, grow in our knowledge of the truth, and thus be more discerning as to what is counterfeit.  In addition to that, we would be transformed by His word, conformed to the image of Christ, and more effective in our witness to the world because the Word examined, studied, meditated, and obeyed always produces Christ-like character and Christ-exalting awe.

Every follower of Christ should examine and test what they see, hear, and read to see if it aligns with all of Scripture, not just verses taken out of context.  As well, cleverly said statements and creatively written words need to be parsed and evaluated rather than quickly embraced.  The mystical and mysterious has a way of drawing us in and intriguing us, but not all that is mystical and mysterious is of God.  As a matter of fact, God has not made it hard for us to know Him and the gospel hope He has revealed to us in Christ and His redemptive work.  

There are many ways in which the enemy seeks to deceive us, one of which is theology that seems unifying and utopic, but in truth is divisive and destructive.  Deconstructed truth is always easier to embrace and swallow.  But in reality what you embrace is the bondage of deception’s chains, and what you swallow are the toxic lies of an evil foe.

So, dear friends, contend for the faith by knowing the truth.  Hold fast to what is biblically true, and quickly let go of what is not.  Please know that I’m not attacking the persons of Richard Rohr, Rob Bell, Jen Hatmaker, or any other who holds to a progressive theology, but I most certainly will attack the false teaching they proclaim.  I pray that the Spirit of God will draw them deeper into the Word, and that as He illuminates the whole counsel of the Scriptures their eyes may be open to the truth.  I pray that will be true of each of us as we seek God in His word. 

THE FAKE NEWS OF PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY (PART 2)

There are many ways in which the enemy seeks to deceive us, one of which is theology that seems unifying and utopic, but in truth is divisive and destructive. Deconstructed truth is always easier to embrace and swallow. But in reality what you embrace is the bondage of deception’s chains, and what you swallow are the toxic lies of an evil foe.

On this episode of Crossroads & Culture, we continue the discussion on the false teaching of progressive Christianity.  

THE FAKE NEWS OF PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.  For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”   Jude 3

There is nothing gentle about contending for the faith.  It is an all out battle.  Lest anyone think contending for the faith is one person versus another, it is not.  It is much bigger than that, and much more is at stake than one person winning a debate or not.  This is spiritual.  It is the light of truth versus the false light of darkness.  And yes, there is such a thing as false light.  Listen to what the apostle Paul writes, “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”  2 Corinthians 11:14. 

Satan is a master at appealing to our human preferences and biases, and twisting the truth of Scripture to fit into the context of the narrative of our lived experiences and feelings.  As a matter of fact, those few words, “narrative,” and “lived experiences and feelings” are all too common language today when it comes to acceptable theology.  If a certain biblical truth doesn’t fit the “narrative” we want, we create a new one; one that is much more comfortable and soothing.  Or, if a certain command of Scripture doesn’t align with our “lived experiences and feelings,” because it seems unloving and too harsh, then the biblical text is thrown out as being irrelevant, or not culturally appropriate for our day and time.  To acquiesce to this equates to nothing more than false teachings, heresies, which may have the appearance of being loving, gracious, kind, and true, but are nothing more than lies with soft edges.  Just ask Adam and Eve.

These heretical teachings are nothing new, though.  They have circulated since the days of the early Church, and not only do they exist within the Church today, it seems as though false teaching has become prevalent and embraced.  The apostle Paul warned Timothy of this when he wrote, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wandering off into myths.”  2 Timothy 4:3-4

As a result it has left churches weak and capitulating to more of what is trending in culture rather than submitting to the authority of all of Scripture.  This is why Jude encourages true believers to contend for the faith:  “For certain people have crept in unnoticed . . . ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude 3

That statement, “Certain people have crept in unnoticed” is troubling to me.  And it should be because it is true.  What initially crept in secretly now seems to walk through the front door arrogantly and unexamined.  We (and by “we” I’m referring to the Church) have too quickly brought to the intimate table of fellowship those who have all the credentials and appealing characteristics often deemed as useful for the church and its “mission” (i.e., the well-known that bring notoriety; the community leaders that bring visibility; the wealthy that give monetarily), rather than meeting with them in the living room to get to know who they are and the condition of their soul.  How many conversations have had to be had with those who were thrust into positions of leadership, untested and unexamined, who have not handled accurately the Word of truth, and the biblical doctrines expressly revealed in the scriptures?  Even worse, how many conversations have still yet to be had with those who teach a different gospel? Jude referred to these within the church as “hidden reefs . . .shepherds feeding themselves . . .waterless clouds . . . fruitless trees . . . wild waves of the sea . . . wandering stars.”  In other words, these aren’t true followers of Jesus or true shepherds, these are charlatans. 

The fallout has resulted in a “progressive Christianity” that is certainly progressive, but most certainly not Christian.

THE FALSE LIGHT OF PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY 

Maybe you’ve heard the term “progressive Christianity;” maybe not.  First, let me say that Christianity is not progressive.  To make such a claim is to, in essence, say that the Christian faith evolves.  That is dangerous ground considering that Christ, who is the hope, subject, and good news of the gospel, is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is unchanging.  It would stand to reason, then, that the Christian faith does not evolve because Christ does not evolve.  

So what is “progressive Christianity,” and why should it raise concern?  

It’s hard to give a succinct definition of progressive Christianity because there is not a specific confession or creed that “progressive Christians” rally around.  In some ways it’s like nailing Jell-O to the wall.  Although their language can be similar to scriptural and doctrinal language (i.e., salvation, communion, baptism, etc.,), the way in which they frame and assign meaning to biblical language and truth are much different than what the whole of Scripture teaches.  In essence, it is a cut-and-paste theology, mostly cutting out biblical truth and pasting feel-good and culturally appropriate me-ology.        

But, in order to be able to recognize some of the areas where progressive Christianity has “progressed” into outright heresy, I’ll list a few, over and against what Scripture, within the context of all of God’s Word, says.  As well, I’ll identify those who have become popular proclaimers of “progressive Christianity,” (Richard Rohr, Rob Bell, Jen Hatmaker, Brian Zahnd, Brian McLaren, Rachel Held Evans, Tony Jones, Sarah Bessey, Adam Hamilton . . . just to name a few), in order for you to research and examine for yourself.  

SALVATION  

As I mentioned earlier, trying to define progressive Christianity is challenging, not because it isn’t easy to see, because it is; especially when you look through the lens of Scripture according to Scripture.  It’s hard to define because there are a variety of distortions when it comes to doctrinal issues such as salvation.  For example, they deny the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ; they believe that everyone will be saved in the end (Universalism); they hold to a view of salvation that is more about social justice, activism, and identifying with the socially oppressed; or enlightening those who have been oppressed by traditional Christianity; and, that salvation is being morally good by following the way of Jesus.    

Penal Substitutionary Atonement

When it comes to the doctrine of salvation, progressive Christianity attacks God as being a vicious and angry God who killed Jesus in an act of cosmic child abuse.  If you think that sounds extreme it should, because it is.  Such a statement is blatantly heretical.  British author, Steve Chalke, in his book The Lost Message of Jesus, rejects the idea that Jesus died for the sins of humanity and went further by referring to such an act as “cosmic child abuse.” Although this phrase is unique to Steve Chalke, the errant theological thread that runs through the fabric of progressive Christianity is not.  Brian Zahnd, the founder and lead pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri, has said, “The God who is mollified by throwing the virgin in the volcano, or the God who is mollified by His Son being nailed to a tree is not the Abba of Jesus.”  He went on to say, “But particularly abhorrent is the penal substitutionary atonement theory that turns the Father of Jesus into a pagan deity who can only be placated by the barbarism of child sacrifice, and this will not do . . . it makes God a vindictive monster.  Does God really love me, or has He simply been paid off?”  Musician and host of The Liturgists podcast, Michael Gungor, tweeted: “I would love to hear more artists who sing to God and fewer who include a Father murdering a son in that endeavor.”  He also wrote, “. . . that God needed to be appeased with blood is not beautiful. It’s horrific.”  

Yet the Scriptures speak something very different.  The writer of Hebrews says, “ . . . without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”  Hebrews 9:22b 

What makes the gospel so beautiful is that Jesus Christ willingly laid down His life for the sin of humanity.  Jesus wasn’t forced to die on the cross.  There was no coercion.  Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep . . . For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.  This charge I have received from My Father.”  John 10:14, 17-18

What makes the gospel so beautiful is that holy God would take on flesh in the person of Jesus, and willingly substitute His life for the lives of all of sinful humanity (past, present, and future) who deserve the just penalty of death, so that by the shedding of His blood forgiveness might be granted to those who, by faith, turn from their sin and turn to Jesus Christ.  God, in Christ, absorbed our sin and endured His just wrath poured out on sin so that we might experience His righteousness.  That’s beautiful. 

What is horrific, however, is to twist the Scriptures in such a way that makes sin look petty, and Jesus’s sacrifice seem irrelevant. It’s a different gospel, as the apostle Paul spoke of in Galatians when he said, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-10

This is exactly what progressive Christian theology is reduced to at it’s false-gospel core. It’s not good news they offer, it’s fake news.

     

HOPE FOR A BROKEN PEOPLE (THE TRUE CHRISTMAS STORY)

The gospel of Matthew is a story starts very differently than Luke’s. It’s the same story, but it’s almost as if Matthew wants to give the background; paint the big picture.  He begins the story of Christ’s birth with genealogy, a family tree.  And in the genealogy, Matthew includes some pretty interesting people; people with a past; those who had a less than stellar reputation.

So as Matthew begins to unfold the story, it seems he wanted people to understand the nature of this gospel he was writing; because even he, like many in the family tree of Jesus, had a past and Matthew wants his audience, including you, to understand the hopeful message of the gospel is the reason why Jesus came.

THE GREAT RESET

It doesn’t take much social awareness to see that as a nation we are on the verge of experiencing fundamental change, known as the Great Reset, that would be a drastic “left turn,” into an abyss of globalist socialism which would eradicate individual freedoms and liberty, and institute a demonic system that, without a doubt, will be the foundation upon which the final beast empire will govern.  This is not conjecture, it’s biblical; and it’s unfolding before our eyes.