“I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church.” Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
Where is the church heading - in which direction?
(see also Be not conformed )
This started as a challenging collection of pictures to pose the question - Where is the church going?
Do these images suggest a slide away from advancing the Gospel message that we are all sinners in need of salvation, leftwards towards social and political activism?
Being at the New Wine event in Somerset as an outsider (assisting family trading at the event) I was able to observe the stands and displays. The emphasis of many was disturbing.
I do not post these pictures in order to judge and I deliberately did not get into arguments with any of these exhibitors. Therefore I am not inhibited by knowing how excellent their work might actually be.
Please excuse me if you feel your favourite cause is being slighted but see what impression these pictures form for you.
Tear Fund stickers were stuck on the hand dryers in the toilet blocks and all over the site
I did have a brief conversation with the lady on the Tear Fund stand. When approached, I asked why Tear Fund was emphasising political action. She was surprised by my question since they would have been pressuring whichever leader was elected Prime Minister. I remarked that I understood Tear Fund to have been set up to spread the Gospel by showing Christian compassion rather than as a pressure group but was informed that this is appropriate since much of their funding comes from government. ( ? )
The Bible Society was showing off its new POVERTY AND JUSTICE BIBLE.
It is highlighted all through wherever Poverty or Justice is mentioned, and there are extra pages on the subject.
I shall refrain from any further comment.
Where is Jesus in all this?
It just so happens that I was reading THE MARKETING OF EVIL at the time and that may have made me extra sensitive to these impressions of where the church is going, and how it is going after the world.
Of course, there are still organisations like the Mercy Ships that are working to show the love of Christ to "the forgotten poor" and thus share the good news of salvation through Jesus.
Their stand was altogether less in your face and was only asking for support in their work.
There was no guilt trip that Christians should be campaigning to governments.
I was delighted that a young friend responded to my Facebook posting of this page with a well written defence of social concern and action as part of the Christian life. Both Jesus and the prophets had plenty to say about justice and the poor.
This helped me bring into focus what troubled me about what I saw and photographed.
Clearly it would be ridiculous of me to say that poverty and justice do not matter to the Christian; just think of the life of Shaftsbury for instance. I think we need to examine method and motivation set against what Jesus said.
Jesus made several challenging statements about wealth and giving but he was primarily concerned with motivation. When he said, "The poor you always have with you" he was pointing towards what was, on that occasion, a higher priority while not in any way denigrating care for the poor.
Jesus has called many people, like Shaftsbury, to do something that made a dramatic difference. He did not call us to tell other people how to run their lives.
Jesus' "Great Commission" was to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in (into) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matthew 28 v19)
Jesus always addressed the individual, calling for personal repentance, righteousness and justice. He did not call us to form pressure groups to berate governments. He said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." These matters demand thought.
Jesus clashed with the hypocritical people (often they were Pharisees) who spent their time looking down on others and telling them what they should do and how they should live. Their problem was that they were self righteous.
Jesus also argued with the legalists - those who lived their lives by rules of what they should not do. Legalism was and is a path to self righteousness. This is detestable to God. (Isaiah 64 v6)
These thoughts are the heart of my concern that there is a trend being encouraged, especially among young Christians, to adopt a worldly approach towards social and/or political issues.
Causes like Fairtrade start from an obviously good premise, that farmers should receive a fair reward for their work and that all the money from the consumer does not all go to shadowy middlemen. But how is it working out in practice?
Fairtrade was set up by Christian Aid, among other charities and was said to take a cut from Fairtrade sales. Further research only reveals that Christian Aid is a shareholder and receives dividends from Divine Chocolate and Cafe Direct (Fairtrade products) How does this fit the principle of cutting out the middle man's profits?
More importantly there are young Christians who are convinced they are being righteous by buying a Fairtrade chocolate bar and lecturing their parents and friends for any non Fairtrade purchases. They have been made into legalists and self righteous hypocrites!
Traders at New Wine and Soul Survivor were repeatedly confronted by smug and self righteous people asking if their products were Fairtrade. When challenged these folks had clearly not thought through the issue but were being smart. As my daughter observed of her business (silver jewellery) Fairtrade branding only proves that the person putting the product together was paid a fair wage. She is hardly making a living wage from her business, but she has researched her sources; where the silver and stones came from and the social and environmental impacts of their production. But she is not "Fairtrade" branded and is looked down upon by folks who have not thought out the issue in depth but have been borne along by hype and slogans.
If you wish to look deeper into the effectiveness of fairtrade, see the report from the Adam Smith Institute. www.adamsmith.org
The saddest manifestation of totally inappropriate sloganising without engaging with the issues was the youngsters who, on more than one occasion, went past the stand of Big House (Youth section of CMJ (Church's Mission to Jewish people)) and shouted "FREE PALESTINE."
This brings us back to the whole issue of whether Christians have a Biblical understanding of their roots as wild olive shoots (Romans 11) or adopt the prevailing humanist / socialist / anti-Semitic / non Christian worldview.
History records the selfless actions of many like Corrie Ten Boom who acted to save Jews from the Nazi Holocaust (some paying with their lives) but there is no record of Jews being saved by pressure groups.
Bias - generally to the left - is all around us - See www.discoverthenetworks.org
(primarily in terms of the USA, but applicable less specifically elsewhere)
An important perspective in a quote from the book, “Revolution in World Missions” by K P Yohannan, being offered by Gospel for Asia ministry www.gfa.org at New Wine. (not photographed above.) Gospel for Asia Ministry aims to sponsor local evangelists to preach the Gospel in Asia.
The battle against hunger and poverty is really a spiritual battle, not a physical or social one as secularists would have us believe. The only weapon that will ever effectively win the war against disease, hunger, injustice and poverty in Asia is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To look into the sad eyes of a hungry child or see the wasted life of a drug addict is to see only the evidence of Satan's hold on this world. All bad things whether in Asia or America are his handiwork. He is the ultimate enemy of mankind and he will do everything within his considerable power to kill and destroy human beings. Fighting this powerful enemy with physical weapons is like fighting an armoured tank with stones.
I have to confess that I do not subscribe to the Baptist Times, but every so often a copy falls into my hands and I am reminded why I do not subscribe. The Friday 5th August 2011 edition was one such. The Editorial and letters page carried the following.
Roots Of Evil
One of the most irritating accusations against Christianity, or faith in general, is that it causes conflict, and sets one person against another. It would be wrong to deny that this has sometimes been the case; there is enough melancholy material in the history books to prove it, though not, in fact, nearly as much as the typical New Atheist believes.
But an interesting piece of research has shown that far from fostering bigotry, Christian faith can actually increase tolerance and respect for people of other religions.
The survey by Warwick University researchers has shown that churchgoing young Christians give much more support to their Muslim peers, in comparison-with. young people who have no religious faith. They are far more likely to support their right to wear a burka or have their heads covered, for instance.
So far, so good. But these are young people, and they are not the movers and shakers in their churches. One day they ' will be, of course, and it is to be hoped that they retain their openness and their sense of justice - because that is what it is.
What about their elders? The events of a fortnight ago in Norway have thrown a harsh light on a particular mindset which is profoundly attached to a national and cultural identity defined as white and - however loosely - Christian. We may reject in horror the actions to which this gave rise in Anders Breivik's case. But versions of his philosophy are around in our churches and para-church organisations. There is loose talk in the evangelical world about the threat from Islam, Muslim takeovers and Sharia law, which feeds a sense of isolation and allows Christians the sense of being under siege.
Well: we have seen where that leads. It is not the case that everyone concerned about questions of social cohesion and national identity is a closet Breivik sympathiser. There are legitimate questions which should not be stifled because of the actions of a wicked man.
But there is still work to be done in establishing the context of such a debate. It begins with an absolute rejection of the oppositional language which is so regrettably common today, a relinquishing of the theologically indefensible identification of Britain and Christianity, and a commitment to Christ-likeness in thought, word and deed.
Christian young people are more likely than non-Christians to be tolerant of difference in religion. What about the rest of us?
Will our church leaders send a loud, dear message that not just the flowers of evil but their roots have no place among us?
Jonathan Langley is a bit out of touch with Christian history (Christian terrorism, July 29). Christian terrorism started in the fourth century AD when Christians slaughtered more fellow Christians with whom they disagreed than the Romans had done in the previous three centuries.
The siege of Munster came during a notable example in Anabaptist history which, however, had as one outcome the founding of the Mennonites.
For a more modern example. read The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple who argues that it was the example of Christian terrorists during the Indian Mutiny (who slaughtered fellow Christians as well as Muslims and Hindus) that first inspired Islamic terrorists.
To which I responded
I do not wish to dispute the killings by so called Christians that ****** details in his letter, headed "Christian Terrorism", but I do dispute that Muslims had to wait for these events before being inspired to acts of terrorism.
"And slay them wherever you come across them, and expel them from where they expelled you", Sura "The Cow" v185,
"Fight you therefore against the friends of Satan; ..." Sura "Women" v78,
"Therefore take not to yourselves friends of them ...... if they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them." Sura "Women" v 90
"How many a city we have destroyed!" Sura "The Battlements" v 4,
"O believers, fight the unbelievers who are near you and let them find in you a harshness;" Sura "Repentance" v125.
The "them" and the "friends of satan" referred to is us Christians; "They are unbelievers who say, 'God is the Messiah, Mary's son." Sura "The Table" v75,
All these teachings and more date from AD610 to 632 and have been in the canon of the Qur'an since AD 652 - Quotes are from the translation by Arthur J Arburry.
and, in reply to earlier correspondence on tolerance
I was puzzled at Brian Phipps' letter on religious tolerance (July 29): while all right-
thinking people agree with tolerating - ie making peaceful room for - religious views that we do not share, there is a world of difference between that (which surely displays one aspect of Jesus' agape love towards those who, sadly, are trapped in the vice-like grip of one of the many religions) and the follow-on stated in Mr Phipps' letter, `Hinduism, Islam etc are partial revelations through prophets in preparation for the full revelation in Christ'.
Do we really believe that God gives partial revelations to some people and full revelations to
others? Would that be good? Would that be righteous? Would that be holy? Where in the
Bible is there any hint that God would continue to send `prophets' after the time of Jesus, who
as he hung upon the cross declared 'It is finished!'?
The idea suggested by Mr Phipps, is sadly one that is gaining steady ground in a church that has become disconnected from scripture.
What, we must ask, was so deficient in the blood of the lamb, that God felt it necessary to send yet more `prophets' who spoke, taught, and acted in ways at total variance with the earlier `revelation' of Jesus? Sadly, multi-faith theology permeates more and more thinking in society and this is now infiltrating the church itself.
My own book The Empty Promise of Godism looks at the multi-faith agenda and why it is increasingly popular and mainstream. Baptist Times readers may want to download the book from the Glory to Glory Publications' website free of charge, if they are looking for a biblical response to multi-faithism.
Our Lord who titled himself `the Way, the Truth and the Life', has simply not provided the degree of religious latitude that many seem to think is implied by the agape love we are to display to our neighbours. Baptists, with other Christians, will soon have to make a clear choice in a secular society determined that all religious `revelations' are of God, and that Christian people must act ccordingly.
This letter clearly refers to an ongoing discussion within the community of Baptist Times readers, if not Baptists in general.
It suggests to me that some Baptists are hard at work constructing a nice cosy world that will not confront any disagreement with Islam or anything else threatening, and then get really angry about anybody who rocks the boat.
Thus people who disturb this dream world can be branded Christian Fundamentalists and smeared by likening them to Anders Breivik.
There also appears to be a move to construct a myth of Christian Terrorism to establish moral equivalence with Muslim terrorism and thus dialogue with Muslims without being judgmental about their terrorism. This is ludicrous. The acts referred to are from religious wars; regrettable but not acts comparable in strategy or scale to present day Islamist terror.
The secular world noticed that Muslims who go back to the Fundamentals of the Qur'an carry out acts of extreme violence and then decided that it worked well to suggest the same of Christians who pursue the fundamentals of the Bible. That might be expected of the non-Christian world but that is much less disappointing than finding it among Baptists.
This trend explains the animosity towards Christian Zionism that has been discussed elsewhere. It is better to join the Muslims in bashing
Israel than risk disharmony by sticking to the Bible and contradicting Islam's claims that their prophet is God's last word; not Jesus!
Christians should love and respect (and pray for) other human beings who may be Muslims or whatever; I have no problem with that. But affirming the religion of Mohhamed, Bhudda or any other prophet who came after Jesus is just not an option that Jesus left open to his followers.
Signs of multi-faithism are worrying because syncretism is not the same thing as respect for others of a different faith. A wise man advised that one should, "Respect the other man's faith in the same way as you respect his opinion that his wife is beautiful and his kids are smart."
There are big issues of Unbelief in the Church.
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Geri Ungurean - March 27, 2015 - (extracts)
"'I Don't Know' is the required confession needed to be granted admission to the path of enlightenment and to The Way of Knowing." - DE Paulk
People have always tried to increase the number of church members. Well, there is a new trend, and they are packing in people like never before! Here is the catch: They advertise that ALL beliefs are welcome. You just have to believe in something. They are calling themselves "Radically Inclusive" churches. They even have a slogan: BYOG. That stands for "Bring your own god."
One such church that has gotten quite a bit of attention lately is led by D.E. Paulk. The son of Earl Paulk, he was once considered to be the "heir apparent" at one of the largest mega-churches in America. But these days he leads worship at a church that recognizes "all gods and prophets, including Mohammed".
The Spirit and Truth Sanctuary, founded in 2012, welcomes everyone from Wiccans to atheists, Hindus to Muslims, recognizing all gods and prophets, including Mohammed.
'All you have left is who you are. The games are gone… If there was anything I wanted to say I thought would be unacceptable to the church, now is the time to say it.'
'Christ cannot be, and will not be, restricted to Christianity'.
There is "no hell except what one creates with one's own actions"
Today, the church is a rarity on many levels: interfaith, interracial, a mosaic of people deep in the Bible Belt where many churches remain segregated. The church has gay couples, college students, agnostics, some Muslims and even a Wiccan priest. Pictures of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi adorn the walls.
A stained glass window looming over the pulpit captures the spirit of the church. It's a design that contains a Christian cross, ringed by symbols from Judaism, Islam and Hinduism. In the middle is a dove, which symbolizes the spirit of peace that binds them all together.
"All Truth flows to us from One Divine River. From that One River many wells form and are fed. We might call these wells religions, cultures or philosophies. All wells sustained by the One River contain beauty and truth. However, we make a grave mistake when we declare any particular well as being the One River."
Here is how a CNN reporter described a service at the Sanctuary:
The service then started to feel like a Pentecostal tent-revival but with an unusual twist. A group of singers took to the stage and opened with a hypnotic Tibetan Buddhist chant that evoked the spirit of compassion: "Om Mani Padme Hum." The chant segued into "Shanti, Shanti Om," a Hindu prayer for peace. Then as the chanting grew louder, the drums and bass kicked in as the singers switched to a Muslim chant about the sovereignty of God: "La ilaha, Il Allah."
This person really summed it up clearly for us:
"After years of spiritual reflection and inquiry, I am at a place where I don't want to feel guilty, hypocritical, judgmental, closed-minded or arrogant. So, where do I stand now — 30 years after "finding God," questioning my faith, committing sins, seeking hazardous adventure and trying to love life and people to the best of my ability? I am a "seeker." A constant seeker within this world, among people and, of course, for spiritual enlightenment of all kind. Because if I did possess the truth — the "final answer" — I am convinced I would spend the rest of my years missing out on the enrichment and surprise of seeking it." source
Remember "Seeker Sensitive churches?" Well, there you go. That slippery slope has finally hit the bottom!!