Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Theology in Life and Death: It Matters

This last weekend Greg Laurie spoke at his Harvest Crusade and talked about his son's recent death. Following his son's death my question was, what kind of Gospel was going to be proclaimed, given the Arminian (man-centered) view Laurie holds to. That didn't go over too well, considering his son had just died.

But as it turns out, I wasn't the only one who brought up this issue. In a Christian Post report on the memorial service of his son, it said:

"People are going to want to come and hear what he says" in the wake of his son's death, Flory [research associate at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at USC, according to The Los Angeles Times] said. "I think there's a resonance there that he'll be able to tap into between his recent family experience and evangelical theology – 'I miss Chris, I love him, but I know where he is: in heaven.'"

As Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel mentioned at the memorial service, "Death is not a time of memories only. It's a time of questions ... questions about life, questions about death, questions about life after death."

This was my point: theology matters especially at the time of the death of a loved one. Its the time when others are most open to eternal things, so we better have biblical doctrine if we want to answer those questions. Its the darkest time a believer can face, but if he is anchored to Christ Jesus and the Truth of the Word of God, he will have peace, true peace, amidst the storms.

Sadly, the opportunity was more to promote Laurie's son more than Christ, in the weeks gearing up to the crusade.

"Christopher Laurie will also resonate in another way at the event. As Harvest's art director, Christopher had designed this year's crusade bumper stickers, posters, invitations, fliers and the Harvest Web site.

Those who attended Friday's memorial service were asked to "continue to pay tribute" by taking with them the Harvest bumper stickers.

"I don't think there's anything more that we could do that would honor Christopher and honor God by making sure people know there's an opportunity to hear the Gospel," said John Collins, an administrative pastor at Harvest. "

Elsewhere in his tribute to his son, Laurie said:

"He designed much of what we see around us in this year's Southern California Harvest campaign, including bumper stickers, posters and flyers. This is how he was serving God, by creating beautiful art that pointed people to the beautiful message of the Gospel."

"If there is one thing I'd ask people to do to pay tribute to Christopher and to serve God in this particular moment, it would be to make sure you get a Harvest Crusades bumper sticker on your car, and put up posters around Southern California.

There is a selfish reason for me asking this, for Christopher – or "Topher," as we called him – poured his life into that design. In fact, he designed my personal website, our Harvest webpage, almost all of my book covers, and so many other things. Every time I see one of those stickers on a car, I point it out to whoever is in the car with me and say, "Topher designed that!""

I thought a crusade was to proclaim Christ and Him alone.

So what happened at the crusade this past weekend? Laurie did talk about the death of his son--I guess that was hugely anticipated by many (almost seems morbid to me on one level).

It seems it was the typical Harvest Crusade message. Its good that Greg Laurie talked about trusting God with his son and not being angry with Him. I'm glad he's at peace with God's plan for that family, as hard "emotionally" as that can be. Truly we walk by faith and not by sight, holding on to His hand when things get so dark. HE is our Great Shepherd.

But what was the gospel that was proclaimed this last weekend?

Worldnetdaily reports:

Laurie told attendees they must make the decision.

"Heaven is not the default destination when you die. You have to choose it. Jesus Christ paid your way to heaven when he died on the cross for you, but you must make your own choice to follow Him," he said.

During the weekend, 11,084 people walked onto the field at Angel Stadium to make that profession of faith in Jesus Christ, officials from the crusade reported. The church's website also got 37,000 hits to the live stream for the event on Friday night alone.

John Collins, the Harvest Crusade's executive director, reported Christopher Laurie's "fingerprints" were all over the weekend's event.

This Jesus-died-for-you-but -you -must- cast -the -deciding -vote is typical, but its not biblical. This is the heart of the matter. Jesus Christ did not die for all people. He died for His elect, those whom He chose to save without thought to their actions or decisions. The reason He chose anyone is based solely in HIM and HIM alone:

Rom 9:11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad--in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls--
Rom 9:12 she was told, "The older will serve the younger."
Rom 9:13 As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
Rom 9:14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means!
Rom 9:15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."
Rom 9:16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Eph 1:4 even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will

Eph. 1: 11 In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will,

Acts 13 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were APPOINTED for eternal life believed.

Scripture says Jesus came to save "His people"; He died for His church; He died for His friends. He really did accomplish the Atonement at the Cross: He really DID redeem all those for whom the Father gave Him.

We do not decide our eternal destiny, God does. Romans 9-11 and Eph. 1-2 make this very clear. There is no neutrality toward God and sin for any person at any time, ever. We don't just as easily "choose Christ" as not to "choose" Him. We are born dead dead dead in our sins and trespasses, born HIS enemy, hostile toward Him (see Rom. 1-3; Eph. 2).

The gospel is the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Master, Sovereign Ruler, Creator, Savior, and Judge. It proclaims HIS finished work at the Cross and His resurrection from the dead. It proclaims God's wrath on the sinner and calls all men to repent from their sin and to Christ alone. It is not, however, centered on Man. We are not the center of the Gospel, Salvation, nor Scripture! Christ Jesus is!!

Christian Post reports (Harvest Crusade links to this report):

Despite what some newspapers had claimed following the departure of his son, Laurie emphasized that the headlines were not true.

He’s not dead,” Laurie assured. “He’s more alive than he’s ever been before."

“I haven’t lost my son because I know where he is,” he also stated. “ And I’ll join him one day. And all believers will join loved ones.

“When you are a believer in Christ, you’ll never die,” he proclaimed

I understand what Laurie might be trying to say, but his son did in fact die. He's no longer walking this earth. His spirit went immediately to be with the Lord if he was saved, of course. In this we rejoice. But he did die. I think both need to be said, otherwise one ends up believing the same about Mary and thus pray to her because, as the Roman Catholics justify, "she's not dead." I mean, if he's talking to 11,084 pagans (at least), one has to be accurate with the Truth.

"Laurie’s sincere and heartfelt message seemed to resonate in the hearts of the crowds more than previous years due to the deeply personal side of this year’s sermon," the Post article reported.

This bothers me. Is a message more true because of experience? If we proclaim biblical truth is it "more true" if we live it out? Or is it true no matter our experience or not? This is a strange but Post-modern notion.

Harvest Crusade has kept a tally of attendance and "decisions" made this past weekend:

Total of 109,000 came, 11,084 "decisions for Christ". Considering the whole thing was more of entertainment ("stars" such as Michael W. Smith, Crystal Lewis, Leeland, Kantias, P.O.D., Kutless performed) and an opportunity to pay tribute to a young man, I wonder what people decided.

I think these events need to be scrapped and get back to the biblical way of evangelizing, starting with the actual Gospel.


Fusion! said...

With all due respect Denise, let the man mourn. More so, did he preach a false Christ? A false God? He preached Christ as dying for people's sins. I wouldn't do the whole you have to pick heaven part, but God does use our choices and hilds us accountable to them. As stated in the London Baptist Confession. From our side we do make a real choice. From God's side he's the one running the show. I don't think there is reason to be that nitpicky about it.

Denise said...


We are to test every teaching and teacher. While I have sympathy for anyone who looses a child, that doesn't give them a free pass on what they claim is the Gospel.

I don't see a choice on "our side". Please don't quote a confession to state your position. Rather, let's stick with Scripture.

Btw, God IS that "nitpicky". A man-centered gospel is not the Gospel of Christ Jesus.

Denise said...


Jesus did not die for all sinners. This is a big problem with huge implications.