Monday, February 06, 2012

Emergents, The Elephant Room, The "Gospel" Coalition: consider the Jesus of Scripture That You Can't Ignore

"The Jesus You Can't Ignore" by John MacArthur


Men and women who lack a biblical worldview tend to think of religion as the noblest expression of the human character. Popular opinion in the world at large has generally regarded religion as something inherently admirable, honorable, and beneficial.

In reality, no other field of the humanities—philosophy, literature, the arts, or whatever—holds quite as much potential for mischief as religion. Nothing is more thoroughly evil than false religion, and the more false teachers try to cloak themselves in the robes of biblical truth, the more truly Satanic they are.

Nevertheless, benign ....looking, suavely ....religious emissaries of Satan are ordinary, not extraordinary. Redemptive history is full of them, and the Bible continually warns about such false teachers—savage wolves in sheep’s clothing, “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:13–15). Delivering his farewell speech at Ephesus, the apostle Paul told the elders of that young but already beleaguered church, “I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the f lock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29–30, emphasis added). He was warning them that false teachers would arise not only from within the church, but that they would creep unnoticed into the leadership of the church (cf. Jude 4). It undoubtedly happened in Ephesus, and it has happened again and again in every phase of church history. False teachers robe themselves in the garments of God. They want people to believe that they represent God, that they know God, that they have special insight into divine truth and wisdom, even though they are emissaries of hell itself. In 1 Timothy 4:1–3, Paul prophesied that the church of the last days would be assaulted by false teachers with a Pharisaical approach to asceticism, which they would use as a cloak for licentiousness: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”

Notice how Scripture emphatically says false teachers who like to wear a cloak of self ....righteousness and hide under the pretense of orthodoxy are evil, envoys of the devil, teachers of demonic doctrines. Again, nothing is more thoroughly diabolical than false religion, and we are warned repeatedly and explicitly not to take false teaching lightly because of its close resemblance to the truth...

Any literal shepherd tasked with feeding and leading a flock of lambs would be thought deranged if he regarded wolves as potential pets to be domesticated and amalgamated into the fold. Suppose he actively sought and tried to befriend young wolves, presuming he could teach them to mingle with his sheep—insisting against all wise counsel that his experiment might succeed, and if it does, the wolves will acquire the sheep’s gentleness and the sheep will learn things from the wolves, too. Such a shepherd would be worse than useless; he himself would pose an extreme danger to the flock.

Nearly as bad would be a shepherd whose vision is myopic. He has never seen a wolf clearly with his own eyes. He therefore believes the threat of wolves is grossly exaggerated. Even though his sheep keep disappearing or getting torn to shreds by something, he refuses to believe it is wolves that are harming his flock. He declares that he is tired of hearing shrill wolf ....warnings from others. He begins telling the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf ” to everyone who will listen. Finally concluding that other people’s “negativity” toward wolves poses a greater danger to his flock than the wolves themselves, he takes out his reed and plays a gentle tune to lull the lambs to sleep. Then, of course, there is the “hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep.” He “sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and f lees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling f lees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep” (John 10:12–13).

Self seeking hirelings, myopic shepherds, and 
wannabe wolf tamers are all too prevalent in the church today. So are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Frankly, some of the postmodern lambswool costumes aren’t even the least bit convincing. But some pastors seem to have no hesitancy about unleashing these eager wolves among their flocks. Many are like the near ....sighted shepherd in my parable—convinced that warnings about the threat of wolves are potentially more dangerous than actual wolves.

Contemporary evangelicalism in general seems to have no taste whatsoever for any kind of doctrinal friction—much less open conflict with spiritual wolves. The Evangelical Manifesto I cited in the introduction to this book clearly reflects that point of view, expressing many more words of concern about evangelical public relations than it ever does for evangelical doctrinal soundness. The document confidently asserts that “the Evangelical message, ‘good news’ by definition, is overwhelmingly positive, and always positive before it is negative.”14 That’s a considerable overstatement—especially given the fact that Paul’s systematic outline of the gospel in Romans begins with the words, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven” (Romans 1:18) and then goes on for almost three full chapters expounding on the depth and universality of human “ungodliness and unrighteousness,” which is what unleashed God’s wrath in the first place. Only after he has made the bad news inescapable does Paul introduce the gospel’s good news. He follows the very same pattern in abbreviated form in Ephesians 2:1–10.

As we are going to see, Jesus Himself was not always positive before being negative. 
Some of His longest discourses, including all of Matthew 23, were entirely negative.

The recent Evangelical Manifesto gives a nod of commendation to “those in the past for their worthy desire to be true to the fundamentals of faith,”
 but then it seems to suggest that militancy in defense of the core truths of Christianity is always to be avoided. In fact, the main reason the manifesto gives for listing “conservative fundamentalism” as one of two opposite corruptions of the true Protestant spirit (the other being “liberal revisionism”) is that certain fundamentalists have resisted the liberalizing tendency with “styles of reaction that are personally and publicly militant to the point where they are sub ....Christian.”15.....

Jesus’ compassion is certainly evident in two facts that bracket this declamation. First, Luke says that as He drew near the city and observed its full panorama for this final time, He paused and wept over it (Luke 19:41–44). And second, Matthew records a similar lament at the end of the seven woes (Matthew 23:37). So we can be absolutely certain that as Jesus delivered this diatribe, His heart was full compassion.

Yet that compassion is directed at the victims of the false teaching, not the false teachers themselves. There is no hint of sympathy, no proposal of clemency, no trace of kindness, no effort on Jesus’ part to be “nice” toward the Pharisees. Indeed, with these words Jesus formally and resoundingly pronounced their doom and then held them up publicly as a warning to others.

This is the polar opposite of any invitation to dialogue. He doesn’t say, “They’re basically good guys. They have pious intentions. They have some valid spiritual insights. Let’s have a conversation with them.” Instead, He says, “Keep your distance. Be on guard against their lifestyle and their influence. Follow them, and you are headed for the same condemnation they are.”

This approach would surely have earned Jesus an resounding outpouring of loud disapproval from today’s guardians of evangelical protocol. In fact, His approach to the Pharisees utterly debunks the cardinal points of conventional wisdom among modern and postmodern evangelicals—the neo evangelical fondness for eternal collegiality, and the Emerging infatuation with engaging all points of view in endless conversation. By today’s standards, Jesus words about the Pharisees and His treatment of them are breathtakingly severe. Let’s turn back to the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry and observe how this hostility between Him and the Pharisees began and how it developed.

I think many readers will be surprised to discover that it was Jesus who fired the first shot. And it was a shockingly powerful broadside.

End quote.

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