Gospel. Culture. Technology. Music.

Month: December 2007

Ordo Salutis (Order of Salvation): Why is This Important to Know as a Believer?

Presuppositions for all believers in Christ:

1) Our aim is to glorify God in every word, deed, thought, and action. In every realm of life, we are to seek to bring glory to God, in public, in private, in abundant times and times of want, in blessing and trial.

2) No believer in Christ wants to take credit for their salvation, their growth in Christ, or any other thing in the Christian life as grounds for boasting before God, at any point at all.

Can I get an amen from everyone who loves Christ from every front at this point? Amen, to the glory of God!

Question: Which theological understanding of the order of the salvation process, from beginning to end, brings all glory to God at every point in the process? A system where God does 99% of the work, and you add your 1% of faith, coming from your unregenerate human nature, in bondage to sin? Or a system in which God does all the work in bringing you from death to life, gives you the faith Himself (taking out your heart of stone, putting in a heart of flesh, Ezekiel 36:24-27), and thus you have Him and Him only to thank for why you are saved? Which system galvanizes you from the inside-out, in tearful gratitude toward God as to why you are saved and another is not and left to pursue their sin in hardened unbelief, the very thing that should have happened to you? I would argue the latter of the two systems, because the former gives you grounds to boast for why you are saved and another is not: namely your faith that you produced. But there will be no boasting before the throne of God when we stand before His judgment seat on the last day. So which theological understanding exalts the work of God to save us and puts man in his proper place as a begging sinner before the throne of God, unable to give anything to God from himself that is of value (including self-wrought/(righteous) faith)?

Here is the (modern day) Arminian Ordo Salutis (the predominant understanding of the salvation process in Western Evangelical Christianity today, which is the cause of so much stagnation and lack of passion in the church in my estimation):

1) outward call (gospel preaching and witnessing) 2) faith (which is the basis for) election, 3) repentance, 4) regeneration, 5) justification, 6) perseverance, 7) glorification.

So starting with evangelism, the sinner that will be saved hears the Gospel (evangelism, witnessing, preaching), to which his response is faith (something done within himself without the help of God, i.e. free will – politically correct code word for self-determination in my estimation), faith is the basis for God’s eternal election (conditional election, i.e. I’ll choose you IF you do this??), to which there is then a response of repentance from sin, which in turn produces the new birth (or regeneration), then through faith he is justified, then throughout the life of the believer they persevere in that faith, and then upon death, are glorified (i.e. made completely perfect in the presence of Christ).

This ordo salutis assumes some things about the nature of man that are not taught in the Scriptures, while in fact, the opposite is taught. It assumes there is a small island of righteousness and goodness (in God’s eyes) within the naturally dead, sinful man, whereby he is able to make himself spiritually see the eternal value of Christ, make himself inwardly hear the calls of Christ to salvation, make himself no longer see the cross as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18), awaken his dead soul to life from death (the opposite of how Lazarus was raised from the dead by Christ, excellent analogy of salvation), break the chains of sin and the devil that have kept his mind, will, and heart in bondage, and then cast all his cares and trust upon the risen Lord for salvation. 2) It assumes man has the natural capacity in himself, outside of a work of God by the Holy Spirit, to produce the necessary faith. 3) It assumes man’s will is in no way governed by God’s sovereign hand.

I cannot for the life of me see how God gets all the credit for really any step of a persons’ salvation in this scheme. To be fair, indeed, most of the credit is given to Christ, but certainly not all. The sinners got themselves in the door, which is Christ. What did God do to get them in for sure? Nothing, other than provide a potential sacrifice that they themselves have to get the benefits of by bringing themselves up from the spiritual grave. They make their spiritually deaf ears hear the Gospel and spiritually awaken their minds to understand it, they make their blind eyes see, they create life in themselves apart from God and His work. Sounds like self-determination to me. “God voted for me, Satan voted against me, I cast the deciding vote.” In other words, “I’m in control of my own destiny.” Who gets the glory, ultimately for why I am saved in this? I do. What is the ultimate reason a person is saved in this understanding? The person choosing Christ, not God freeing them from utter spiritual death and rebellion in their heart of hearts, making them alive together with Christ from the inside out in order that they cannot help but choose Christ. “While we were yet sinners,” rebellious, obstinate, wretched, spiritually dead corpses, under the sentence of condemnation (i.e. Romans 3:10-18, John 3:36), “Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) and “made us alive together with Him” (Colossians 2:13-14).

Now here is the Reformed Ordo Salutis:

1) election, 2) predestination, 3) gospel call (evangelism), 4) inward call (Holy Spirit calling), 5) regeneration (the New birth), which gives rise to 6) conversion (faith & repentance), 7) justification, 8) sanctification, and 9) glorification. We get this from Romans 8:29-30, or the Golden Chain of Salvation. Paul doesn’t give every step as articulated above in these verses, but based on other passages he writes in the same letter, it is clear these fit where they do in his thinking.

Let’s look at Romans 8:29-30:

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

So, here goes the Reformed understanding of this verse and thus the Reformed ordo salutis (which I believe with deep conviction is the Biblical view). Salvation begins with 1) the foreknowledge of God (not of facts about people-namely faith or no faith-but people themselves (“Those whom He foreknew“; the Biblical word “know” is a word of intimacy unlike our petty, modern day word “know”) or in other words God’s forelove of particular persons’ is the foundation of all the blessings of salvation (election); next, He predestines those persons whom He foreloved from all eternity (intimately chose) to salvation that He will accomplish on their behalf through the cross of His Son; then in due time, through the outward calling of the preacher or evangelist, preaching the Gospel from the Word (Romans 10:14-17), He sends forth the Holy Spirit to inwardly call (regenerate, convert) those whom He has chosen from all eternity (Acts 13:48, Acts 16:14); then He justifies them through their faith (Romans 5:1-2) that only arose out of their regeneration/conversion (their faith was a gift from God, by grace, Ephesians 2:8-9); over the course of their lives, though they fall into sin and stumble, God, by the power of the cross, applied by the Holy Spirit, sanctifies them and increasingly conforms them to the image of His Son; then finally, He glorifies them in Christ at death instantly, making them perfect in His sight.

This ordo salutis assumes some things about the nature of man as well as the former. However, these can be found in the Scriptures whereas the former ordo salutis presuppositions cannot (and quoting “whosoever will” verses does not solve the problem; of course “whosoever will” will be saved, but the question is why did they will what they willed?). First, man is naturally a slave of sin (Romans 6:17), doing the will of the devil (Ephesians 2:1-3), unable to submit (i.e. will, obey) to anything good because of his natural corruption (Romans 8:7-8); he is a servant of his sinful nature, opposed to God, and under the sentence of wrath (John 3:36). The cross is regarded as foolishness or a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:22-24) to the natural man, apart from the regenerating work of God to supernaturally give eyes to see, ears to hear, being brought from death to life and come to Christ. There is no one who seeks for the true God (Romans 3:11). The only god that can be successfully sought by the carnal, natural man is an idol made in his own image (thus all the many many false religions), (Romans 1:18-25). In God’s eyes (not man’s), the only intentions of the natural man’s heart is only evil continually (Genesis 6:5).

I want to sum up with this last verse. “But THANKS BE TO GOD, that you who were once slaves of sin HAVE BECOME OBEDIENT FROM THE HEART to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.” (Romans 6:17, Emphasis mine) Thanks be to God for what? That we have become obedient from the heart! Where did that obedience come from and why are you thanking God for it? Because He did that in you, it was He that worked that into you by the work of the cross! He made you obedient from the heart to the Gospel! God gets all the glory for every step of salvation. And the Reformed ordo salutis Scripturally and logically shows this to be the case. Thank God, not yourself, that you became obedient from the heart to the Gospel, because if He had left you in your naturally sinful, hell-bound state, you would have stayed there for sure, just as I and all believers would have, had God not intervened.

So why is the ordo salutis important to the believer? Because, practically speaking, once you see yourself as not just having hooked your arm around a life-preserver while your were drowning, but rather that He came in great supernatural power and brought you up to life from rotting death at the bottom of the sea, you cannot help but be overwhelmed with joy at what lengths Christ went to on the cross in order to rescue you from certain eternal torment. The cross not only made salvation possible, but even effected faith in those who believe. It comes down to these fundamental beliefs in the ordo salutis about how the Gospel saves you that drives the way you act, think, behave, all to the glory of God (or not, which is sin). If in the slightest way you think that you do anything to merit God’s favor, you will become self-righteous in one form or another or self-loathing for not measuring up to the perfect standard. This is why Martin Luther considered his most important work to be on the Bondage of the Will. But if the whole work depends on God’s doing something in you to produce things that are pleasing to Him, then all you can do is just shut your mouth (or weep for joy in praise) in reverential awe at why He chose to save you and work in you His holy, perfect and pleasing will. No one wants to take credit for their salvation. Reformed Theology merely backs this up with clear thinking from the Scriptures that plants us firmly in a sovereign Savior who does not just take a back seat to see what our sinful, wavering wills would do, wringing His hands in anticipation, but who makes salvation actual in His people.

All of this is not in any way to say we think we, as Reformed people, have it all figured out, because we all see through a mirror dimly. Mystery abounds! We are not attempting to solve the mysteries, merely pointing them out. But I believe this is the clearest articulation of the process of salvation from Scripture, so as to give God all the glory at every point of salvation.

These quotes really bring this home:

“Whilst a man is persuaded that he has it in his power to contribute anything, be it ever so little, to his salvation, he remains in carnal self-confidence; he is not a self-despairer, and therefore is not duly humbled before God, he believes he may lend a helping hand in his salvation, but on the contrary, whoever is truly convinced that the whole work depends singly on the will of God, such a person renounces his own will and strength; he waits and prays for the operation of God, nor waits and prays in vain.” – Martin Luther

“I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith.” – Martin Luther

“The thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, ‘I ascribe my change wholly to God.'” – C.H. Spurgeon

Here are some other links to things pertaining to this:

http://www.monergism.com/directory/link … o-Salutis/
http://strangebaptistfire.com/2007/03/2 … edemption/

The Delayed Attack of Huckabee

Original: http://www.drudgereport.com/flashhu.htm
Archived: http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/poli … 0a%20Time/

Seems the Dems are becoming rather crafty in their strategy of attacking Huckabee. Recently, a slew of news came out concerning the Republican candidate and it seems the Dems are delaying their attacks for when he (possibly) becomes the Republican front-runner for the ’08 race to be President. By now, they would have thrown out article after article, attempting to discredit anything good within the man, ultimately so that he loses the election. However, this time, they are taking a different route to attack him.

Ned Flanders and Me – Matt Chandler

http://theresurgence.com/mc_blog_2006-1 … ers_and_me

This really spoke to me, because I have a tendency to be uber-critical of those [American, Christian-culture, Mega-Church, Easy-believist, culturally traditional] types that I, in my 28 years of wisdom (being facetious), deem inauthentic at times, when really, I do the very same things they do in different ways, its just I’m arrogant and think I have the upper-hand of “authenticity”. For instance, instead of placing a icthus (Christian fish) on my car and thus proclaiming “I’m a Christian” to the world, I don’t (because I personally think it’s cheesy) and therefore I think I’m better than those who do. At the heart of this thinking though is a way in which I have not “gotten the Gospel”, and it amounts to works-righteousness and unbelief in the Gospel that would instead humble me in this area. May God show me mercy for my sin (as He does in Christ; there would be no hope for me without His forgiveness) … All I can say is I’m a sinner, prone to exalt myself and what I think is right above others. This is evil and amounts to idolatry and evil desire on my part. “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Christ!” Praise Him He would show me (and maybe some of you) areas in which I’m (we’re) faulty and guilty of self-righteousness that I (we) may find healing and authentic humility worked into me (us) by the work of Christ alone.

Canceling the Record of Debt that Stood Against Us with its Legal Demands By the Cross

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” – Colossians 2:13-14

It seems to me based on this passage that Paul has in mind some form of divine legal transaction that occurs between believers and God. God is just and holy, we are sinners deserving of wrath based upon a divine law we’ve all broken. For those in Christ, the record of [infinite] debt that stood against us with its legal demands (i.e. the law) was nailed to the cross of Christ. Am I off base? The New Perspective on Paul would have us think of phrases like “works of the law” (as in Galatians) only as a badge of honor and pride within a first century Jewish culture. In addition, it would have us think in much more temporal terms when Paul goes into his legal analogies of the work of the cross on behalf of sinners. But I cannot reconcile that thinking with what Paul says: “[Christ canceled] the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands … [by] nailing it to the cross.” This is not temporal but eternal. By the cross, Christ, in His perfect work on behalf of His people, set aside that infinite record of debt demanded by the divine law of God. Paul seems to think of the cross in legal terms, and therefore, in Galatians (and elsewhere), I cannot see how Paul is merely addressing cultural pride and exclusion within a cultural community. I mean, of course its that, and yet so much more. Is not legalism a form of heresy? And is that heresy not something Paul addresses in that book, by saying to the Galatians:

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain. – Galatians 4:8-11

I’m afraid I may have labored over you in vain? That’s pretty harsh if he’s just addressing a cultural pride and badge of honor. Seems to me so much more was at stake, namely, they were in danger of having trusted in their own “works of the law” to save them versus Christ’s divine legal transaction on the cross, as Paul articulates in Colossians 2:13-14.

D.A. Carson on the Seeker-Sensitive/Purpose-Driven/Mega-Church Model

“What is at stake is authenticity…Sooner or later Christians tire of public meetings that are profoundly inauthentic, regardless of how well (or poorly) arranged, directed, performed. We long to meet, corporately, with the living and majestic God and to offer him the praise that is his due.” – D.A. Carson

In No Sense is Mormonism Christian

“I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind.” – Mitt Romney (Today in College Station)

While I stand politically next to Romney on pretty much every issue (as well as Glenn Beck who is also a Mormon) and would vote for him as President of the nation, more importantly than mere politics, I depart from him when it comes to Christianity. In no sense is Mormonism “Christian” really by any true, historical, theological definition, other than the fact that they borrow phrases, terminology and figures from Biblical history as mere “examples”. In addition, they totally redefined who these figures were and what they said. In the same way Unitarian/Universalists really aren’t Christians in their beliefs (denial of the Trinity and the just punishment of God against sinners in Revelation), so also Mormonism stands at odds with the historical, Biblical faith. This is where, once again, doctrine is vastly important to believers! That cannot be overstated. Look at what Romney said above. How many based on that definition would say he was a Christian who has been born of the Spirit of God? I would say the majority of modern evangelicals would probably say he’s a believer indeed. (And I can hear it now, “Who are we to judge?”) And yet, there is a lot implied in this statement of his, as well as a whole lot that is not said. And this is the case for when you have a Mormon come into your home, evangelizing you to enter their church. They are slippery and evasive. They will affirm historic Christian doctrines and then in the same breath deny them by qualifying all they say.

So how is this religion not Christian in any sense?

1) Well for starters, amongst the many absurd theological inventions introduced by Joseph Smith in the 1800’s (i.e. 1700 years after the last book was written within the Christian canon of Scripture), not only did they add a book to the canon of Scripture (the Book of Mormon), but they also re-translated the Bible itself (and interpreted into the translation-it is an “eisegetical translation”). For instance, in John 1:1 we read (in most common, accurate translations from the Greek and Hebrew that is), “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” However, Mormonism’s Bible translation reads, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was a God.”

2) Notice that right at the end there? “A God”. Amongst how many? As many as work really hard according to Mormonism’s principles, and thus earn the right to become gods themselves and inherit their own planet of sorts. So yes, Mormons are polytheists. So Jesus was the son of God (just like we can be if we work for our salvation under the Mormonistic principles of faith, but Jesus was not the One, the Only, Son of God who made an effectual payment for sinners on the cross. He was merely an example of how we should work for our salvation, just as he did, and that according to Mormonism. He was someone like us, in the sense that we too are sons of God and should follow his example. So from the outset, Mormonism is at odds with Christianity in the monotheistic versus polytheistic sense. They believe in multiple gods, true Christians believe in one God (“The Lord our God, He is one”?). Mormonism has the rather large underlying presupposition that there are multiple gods. So you have to read Romney’s statement through that filter to get what he is saying.

3) In addition to the polytheistic nature of their religion, Jesus was not eternally begotten of the Father, but begotten of the Father in the flesh, meaning the Father, Elohim, physically had sex with Mary and thus conceived Jesus. There are many modern day LDS’ who deny this is their doctrine, but as James White clearly documents in the articles below, this is indeed the case. So their religion is in error Christologically, or in their understanding of who Jesus is from the Scriptures. They deviate, just as the Arians and Gnostics did, on the point of Christ (denying His preexistence as God, denying His being The God from all eternity (not just a god), denying His oneness with the Father), and thus are preaching an absolutely different gospel because their Jesus differs from that of the Scriptures.

4) Something else that I just learned of today, actually on CNN, is that they believe Jesus ministered in the America’s, something that in no sense can be historically shown to be accurate, both from the original text of Scripture itself as well as extra-scriptural texts.

I mean the absurdities don’t stop. I won’t go through all of them, but just wanted to give you a flavor of what they believe, because it is uniquely non-Christian, and with the exception of phrases and terminology, we as believers in Christ as the only way to God share nothing in common with Mormons. We do not worship the same God together with them. They worship a god created in their own image (or rather that of Joseph Smith).

Here are a series of theological articles on Mormonism entitled Mormonism’s Embarassing Theology by Dr. James White over at www.aomin.org if you want to go deeper:

The Only Begotten of the Father in the Flesh: Mormonism’s Embarrassing Theology #1
The Only Begotten of the Father in the Flesh: Mormonism’s Embarrassing Theology #2
The Only Begotten of the Father in the Flesh: Mormonism’s Embarrassing Theology #3
The Only Begotten of the Father in the Flesh: Mormonism’s Embarrassing Theology #4
The Only Begotten of the Father in the Flesh: Mormonism’s Embarrassing Theology #5
The Only Begotten of the Father in the Flesh: Mormonism’s Embarrassing Theology #6

Something Better than LCD TV On the Horizon?

Currently Hearing Version 2.0


Man, this is cool: live web updating of what I’m currently listening to on my media player. I’ve looked for something like this for a while, but until now have come across nothing. This handy little plugin for Winamp makes it possible to broadcast your XML song info content from your Winamp player to your website. I set it up above and it worked seamlessly, pretty incredible. For whatever reason, the blog entry where I found this thing (posted above) says this is version 1.5 and that there is no Winamp support. Then in the instructions, it gives instructions for what to do in Winamp. Don’t really get all that, but anyway, ignore what it says, and continue on with the instructions, because I have it working (look above). For this to work on your website, you will need to be running PHP, ASP (VBScript), or PERL. In addition you will need FTP access to the web folder where your site resides. If you do not have this access, it will not work. Here are the instructions for getting it to work. I’ve taken their instructions and modified them a bit to make it easier to understand (took me a bit to figure out what to do), using brackets to indicate all I’ve added or modified:

1. [After opening EXE file, unzip the contents into a folder.]
2. [Run the EXE within the unzipped folder.] YOU MUST INSTALL THIS INTO YOUR WINAMP/PLUGINS FOLDER (ie: C:Program FilesWinampPlugins)
3. Start Winamp.
4. Go to Winamp’s Preferences (Options | Preferences from the main menu).
5. Select the General Purpose branch under Plug-ins [on the left], in the Preferences window.
6. Select Currently Hearing 2.0 and click Configure (or just double click Currently Hearing 2.0).
7. Enter all your [FTP host (i.e. something.westerfunk.net, or and login] information and check the “Enable Plugin” box.
8. Click “Set Configuration”

Now you should be set. However, on the code side, I had to modify the PHP file to make it look like it did above. If you want help with that, just email me or comment here and I would be glad to help.

Why is Doctrine So Important?

“And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” – 2 Corinthians 11:12-15

“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 3-4

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” – Ephesians 5:6

One of the primary ways Satan works to destroy the church is not through the persecutions from outsiders like secular relativists in the public square (like here in the West), or oppressive governments (like in Indonesia), although Satan does that of course too. But the primary way Satan works to destroy the church is from the inside out. He shows himself as an angel of light to believers, working in the “sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6) to introduce a message that is similar to (sometimes blatantly opposed), but not quite the Gospel. How does he do this? He does it the same way he did it in the Garden of Eden with Eve. Let’s review:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” – Genesis 3:1-5

Pay close attention to what Satan is doing here. Does he outright attack Eve physically and persecute her, or does he start bashing God in her presence? No, he is much more crafty than that. Rather, he just changes words around that God spoke concerning the tree they were not to eat of. He changes the nature of God’s statements (the doctrine God spoke beforehand concerning the tree) just enough to derail her from staying the course and not eating of the fruit. And then Satan adds in an appeal that she will become like God and her eyes will be opened. Who wouldn’t want that? And Eve succumbed to the temptation.

In the same way as in the garden, Satan works in the “sons of disobedience” to go into churches as false teachers, false pastors, speaking something that sounds like the truth, using the same Christian phrases, tickling the hearers ears, giving them a warm fuzzy and affirmation they are on the right path when they are being derailed from the Gospel altogether. Most of the warnings given to the readers of various letters in the New Testament are to watch out and be on guard against those who speak false truths. 1 John is riddled with these warnings. The book of Jude is a warning in itself against those creeping into the church posing as true teachers of the Gospel. So this very thing has been going on from the beginning of the church.

You could think of this activity of Satan like a Trojan horse, sent into a city as a gift, and then those pernicious warriors inside the horse burst out, bringing the whole city down from within. So it is with the church. Satan actively works to bring down the church from within by sending “messengers of light” who speak a half-truth which, as shown from history, is an utter and total lie. Legalism, Gnosticism, Arianism, Pelagianism, Socinianism, Sabellianism, amongst others, are all heresies from church history proving this to be the case, where people from within the church bring in false teachings and errors, straying from the truth of the Scriptures, and so bring condemnation on themselves and those who adhere to their message; and this because they have believed a lie from Satan. And these errors were the very reason the church, in all ages for 2000 years, have defined (in confessions and declarations) the things they authoritatively believed to be what the Scriptures taught against these errors. Jude goes on to poetically describe these people’s fate, and it is just awful:

But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. – Jude 10-13

Satan’s primary way of destroying the church and dividing it is by bringing in false doctrine that appears to be of the truth, even using scripture to attempt to back up their theology (albeit out of context usually), and is yet totally a different gospel. And Satan does this both slow at times and fast at others. The slow moving false truths start out as changing something that seems minute, may not be a big issue of controversy at the time. There are usually a small minority of people who warn and argue against this small error, seeing the potential for decay down the road. Most ignore them though and tell them they are just too critical. Then those adhering to this “small” truth, take it a step further, and a step further, and on and on it goes over time, until there is blatant heresy in the church itself, hindering people from the truth of the Gospel, so as people might be saved. Other times though, the error slips in at an extremely fast rate, and people wholeheartedly take it in, without a second thought. Fortunately though, this type of error doesn’t last a long time and fizzles out pretty fast because of the quickness of which people bought into it. Somehow though it seems to reemerge at some point later on, in a different form.

It is sad, but the American church is flooded with these very pastors and teachers, presuming to be proclaimers of the Word of God, the Gospel, who speak a ton of half-truths, which amount to declarations that undermine the progress of the Gospel.

One blatant form of this teaching is the prosperity gospel, or health and wealth gospel. It’s leaders make the aim of the Christian faith your abundance, happiness, and prosperity in this life, using God as a means to your own materialistic, idolatrous end. God is turned into a fortune cookie of sorts. And this message is being spread (under the guise of the Gospel) in Africa at an alarming rate. Man this breaks my heart!

Another false gospel is that of liberal mainline churches. Their gospel is that Jesus lived and died on the cross merely as an example. While evangelicals hold it as certainly an example of Christ’s love and how we should imitate Him in that, oh how much infinitely more than this was the work of Christ! This is the half-truth thing I was talking about. Though the nature of their message has changed from modernist times, where people totally discounted the supernatural based on science, their message amounts to the idea that Jesus was just basically an amazing teacher, someone worth following as an example. And so they omit the idea that Jesus is also God. They omit the nature of the atonement as being an effectual substitutionary sacrifice. They omit the idea of the resurrection … on and on it goes of things they omit as essential to the faith. This guts the Gospel of any supernatural power needed in order that people would be born again as a result of the Holy Spirit working in a Biblical message.

Now the next movement or collective thinking that is good in some ways and bad in others is the Emerging Church. The good that the movement (or conversation, whatever you want to call it) has brought to the church is addressing the issues within the mega-church circles. I am in agreement with their assessments concerning these things. However, just like their parent liberal theology in attempting to accommodate the culture in the church, so also many within the Emerging movement are accommodating postmodern thinking as the means to reach the culture. It looks like a great idea, and yet this is the very thing Jude, John and Paul all warned their readers (and us) of; people slipping in unnoticed, bringing in destructive heresies that hinder the Gospel, instead of progressing it. We must not compromise the truth of the Scriptures and its message, the Gospel.

These quotes really hit the nail on the head concerning the church using discerning judgment as well as what the purpose has been throughout the history of the church in writing up creeds and doctrinal statements:

A shepherd protects his sheep from their enemies. Wolves enter in among the sheep. The wolves which harass the church of God are emissaries of false doctrine and of evil practice. Satan is never out of his diocese and his specialty is to destroy the pure witness and the fellowship of the church of God. Perhaps there is no more ominous feature of members of the church than the lack of discernment; they can listen to what is good and true, and to what is bad and false, without discrimination. If we are to live in a world where the enemy is active and error is rampant, we must be imbued with a good measure of critical faculty, and here the elders in tending the flock must cultivate for themselves, and inculcate in the members of the church, that sensitivity to truth and right, so that they and the people will be able to detect the voice of the enemy.

Jesus said of His sheep, “a stranger will they not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:5). But this discernment does not operate in a vacuum, and it does not act mechanically; it acts in the context of intelligent apprehension and understanding of the truth.”

– John Murray

A Creed, or Rule of Faith, or Symbol, is a confession of faith for public use, or a form of words setting forth with authority certain articles of belief, which are regarded by the framers as necessary for salvation, or at least for the well-being of the Christian Church.

A creed may cover the whole ground of Christian doctrine and practice, or contain only such points as are deemed fundamental and sufficient, or as have been disputed. It may be declarative, or interrogative in form. It may be brief and popular (as the Apostles’ and the Nicene Creeds), for general use in catechetical instruction and at baptism; or more elaborate and theological, for ministers and teachers, as a standard of public doctrine (the symbolical books of the Reformation period). In the latter case a confession of faith is always the result of dogmatic controversy, and more or less directly or indirectly polemical against opposing error. Each symbol bears the impress of its age, and the historical situation out of which it arose.

There is a development in the history of symbols. They assume a more definite shape with the progress of biblical and theological knowledge. They are mile-stones and finger-boards in the history of Christian doctrine. They embody the faith of generations, and the most valuable results of religious controversies. They still shape and regulate the theological thinking and public teaching of the churches of Christendom. They keep alive sectarian strifes and antagonisms, but they reveal also the underlying agreement, and foreshadow the possibility of future harmony.

– Philip Schaff

Two modern day declarations and confessions for our time are the Together for the Gospel statement of 2006 as well as the Cambridge Declaration of 1996. Both of these address modern day errors that have crept in and we would all do well to read and understand what is said in these statements. As Jude says, “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints,” and may we hold to our doctrine even though it is not popular in order that the Biblical Gospel may be proclaimed in our land of compromise.

Related links:

A Survey of Heresies – Phil Johnson
Bad Theology Section on Monergism.com
Satan Corrupts the Mind with Doctrinal Error – William Gurnall
Theology section of Westerfunk.net – Look for the section entitled, “Canons, Creeds, Confessions, and Declarations From Church History” and read through some of those declarations. So incredible for the strengthening of our faith!

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