Category Archives: Downgrade Trends

Contending for the Faith

Below is a video featuring an excerpt from a sermon on Jude 1-4 by Pastor Ed Moore of North Shore Baptist Church in Bayside, NYPast experience tells me that I should issue what should be an unnecessary warning: The embedded media segments of Robert Morris, Steven Furtick, Paula White and Larry Huch are not meant to be endorsements but are included for the purpose of providing examples of gross distortions of Scripture which would have been denounced by every regenerate person in their vast audiences had such heeded the biblical command to earnestly contend for The Faith (Jude 3).

Video by Steve Langella.

Full sermon available here.

Photo by Henry Hustava on Unsplash

Justin Peters Ministries issues statement concerning Brannon Howse

Justin Peters, whose gospel ministry and detailed expose of the Word of Faith movement Clouds without Water has blessed multitudes, is under attack from Brannon Howse in his ongoing crusade against heretics and compromisers (that is, anyone who dares to disagree with Brannon about anything).

Sadly, as was anticipated, Brannon has not repented of his slander of James White, and his stubborn refusal to receive correction is dividing him from sound gospel ministers (Mike Abendroth of No Compromise Radio is another minister who has been “cut loose” by Howse).

Howse would have his devoted followers believe that anyone even reluctant to stand with Worldview Weekend in defense of Howse’s assessment of the White/Qadhi dialogue is a compromiser, dupe, or coward. But Howse’s allegations have gone unchecked by the ministry. This is not surprising when one considers that, Brannon Howse answers to no one within his organization nor is he accountable before a plurality of elders in accordance with the biblical model of the local church. His “Board of Directors” consists of him and his wife, as can be seen from the screenshot below: Continue reading…

Brannon Howse’s slander and misrepresentation of James White: A discernment ministry’s lack of discernment

On June 26, 2017, I posted some commentary on the James White / Brannon Howse debacle. The following day, I decided to take it down.

Having followed both Alpha and Omega Ministries and Worldview Weekend for some time, I immediately found some of the accusations suddenly being hurled at Dr. White by Brannon Howse and WVW to be quite ludicrous. But when I saw that some unexpected battle lines were being drawn, I thought it would be wise to refrain from criticizing Worldview Weekend too harshly. Perhaps there was more to the story; perhaps Dr. White was in fact out of line in dialoguing with Yasir Qadhi.

Over the following few weeks, subsequent emails I received from WVW (dated 7/1, 7/12 and 7/25) were filled with nothing but links to articles, audio and presentations perpetuating the same irresponsible and erroneous narrative against James White. Now that Howse has dug himself so deeply into this mess he seems to be doing everything he can to defend his allegation that White is an Islamic dupe and working for the enemy (instead of simply repenting of his slander and retracting his accusations). Despite numerous attempts by various ministries to correct Howse, it is apparent that no retraction is forthcoming. It is for this reason (and because of a friend’s insistence) that I reprint my original post (with minor additions where relevant).

This is not a running commentary and I have no intention of trying to keep up with all of the new allegations by Howse, but perhaps the post may be helpful to someone: Continue reading…

Justification by faith alone and the role of repentance: Interacting with an inverted soteriology

The doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone’ has been rightly regarded as a foundational tenet of Protestantism. Having been anathematized at the Council of Trent[1], it not only continues to be the archenemy of Romish dogma but has undergone more recent attacks by professing Protestants who have given in to Federal Vision and/or the New Perspective on Paul.

But apart from these more obvious assaults on this key doctrine, it is common for even conservative evangelicals to encounter confusion when struggling to understand how the doctrine of repentance fits within the parameters of sola fide. Like many other persistent errors in American evangelicalism, much of this can be blamed on dispensationalism and its entanglement in conservative and fundamentalist churches for more than a century. At the least, many dispensationalists simply fail to understand the three-fold division of the law, despite frequently giving lip-service to it. At most, some are blatantly antinomian, considering any appeal to repentance a relic of Old Covenant, pharisaical legalism. If “the Law” collective (including the moral law which predates the Mosaic Covenant) has been abrogated under the current dispensation (as has been sometimes alleged), quite obviously there is no standard by which one’s actions can be assessed and judged needful of repentance. After all, we are reassured, the church is under the dispensation of grace. Further, we are warned, one dare not pervert grace by adding repentance as a condition for receiving it.

The problem of repentance to which I am referring can be summarized as follows: Justification is by belief alone, yet the NT also teaches the necessity of repentance. The question necessarily arises, what if someone believes the gospel but does not repent? Are they saved? Or, are they somehow “provisionally” saved but retain the potential to fall away (when their repentance is quantified and found wanting at the final Judgment)? This appears to be John Wesley’s view. Gordon Clark quotes from Wesley’s Doctrinal Summaries and notes an obvious implication:

“Q.12. Can faith be lost but through disobedience?

A. It cannot. A believer first inwardly disobeys…. Then his intercourse with God is lost, i.e., and after this [he is] like unto another man.

Q.13. How can such a man recover faith?

A. By repenting and doing the first works.

…Wesley must, if consistent, assert that a man once regenerated can nonetheless fail to arrive in Heaven and on the contrary be eternally lost in Hell.”[2]

Some have attempted to address the faith/repentance dichotomy by simply conflating repentance with belief. Indeed, repentance does refer in large part to a changing of the mind, and may even be the primary meaning in its Scriptural usage. Yet some go farther and argue that repentance and belief are purely synonymous, the terms being a mere redundancy as they are found in the NT. This “solution” ensures that sola fide is maintained and the “works” of repentance pose no threat to simple belief in the gospel.

Others have responded by stating that if ‘justification by faith alone’ is correct, then repentance is not necessary for salvation because to demand repentance in addition to faith would be adding something other to the soteriological order. Thus, the doctrine of the “carnal Christian” is born, and those few who actually do repent of their transgressions and turn from the life of the “old man” have thus attained to some higher-order Christianity, not to be expected of the average believer. These answers are hardly satisfactory in light of passages like Luke 13:3.

I have heard good men tackle this issue many times. I can remember having discussions with certain brothers where the issue seemed complicated and paradoxical, some having a zeal to maintain the Protestant doctrine but knowing that repentance was preached by Christ Himself. I personally wondered if using the word “repent” in evangelism would pervert the truth of sola fide. It took many years for me to realize that there always was a solution to this alleged faith/repentance dichotomy that both demanded repentance yet did no injustice to the purity of ‘justification by faith alone’. The biblical solution has been largely ignored because of a prior commitment to an inverted ordo salutis (order of salvation) in contemporary evangelicalism. This prior commitment to synergism is one that I was not quick to part with.

Ultimately, the whole issue hinges on what human beings allegedly need to “do” in order to be made right before a holy God. Must we simply believe the gospel, or must we believe the gospel and…? Surely something is amiss when an evangelist gives the impression that one might believe the gospel and still be lost because he hasn’t repented. If such a scenario is possible, then justification is obviously not by belief alone. And if repentance must precede conversion, how much repentance constitutes a sufficient degree of turning, seeing that sin is not completely abolished from one’s existence at the time of conversion?

Consider the following from Bob Wilkin of the Grace Evangelical Society:

“Either justification is by faith alone or it is not by faith alone. It can’t be by faith alone and not by faith alone. That is logically impossible.”[3]

Wilkin’s logic in this statement is commendable. We wish that every theologian would speak with such precision and directness instead of paradoxical pandering and linguistic lollygagging. Elsewhere, in a paper responding to Thomas Schreiner’s book on justification, Wilkin writes:

“…The expression ‘bare faith’ is synonymous with ‘faith alone.’ How can justification be by faith alone and yet not by bare faith?”[4]

We find in these statements by an opponent of Calvinism a logical consistency concerning sola fide reminiscent of a devoted Calvinist by the name of Gordon Clark.[5] Indeed, The Trinity Foundation (created principally for the purpose of keeping Clark’s work in print) has likewise taken issue with Schreiner’s book and included Brandon Adams’ criticism of Piper’s Foreword in a recent Trinity Review.

Unfortunately, however, because of Wilkin’s devotion to synergism and allegiance to anti-reformed soteriological presuppositions, he and the society he represents see repentance as essentially optional. The difference between Wilkin’s criticism of Schreiner’s book (and Piper’s waffling) and the criticism of Brandon Adams—though both are in agreement that justification is by faith alone—is that Calvinists have no need to maintain a diminished view of repentance (as Wilkin clearly does), nor do they see repentance as optional but regard it as a necessary consequence of having been born-again by the Spirit of God.

Wilkin insists that “God [has] a one-condition only requirement for entrance into His family” Of course, he is speaking of faith as that one condition. He chides Wayne Grudem, John MacArthur and John Piper for being inconsistent on this particular sola, because these men speak of the necessity of repentance. To Wilkin, such is incompatible with ‘justification by faith alone’. But in the particular quotes provided by Wilkin (Piper’s Foreword to Schreiner’s book not among them), there is no inconsistency, and I encourage the reader to assess them for himself. In contrast to Wilkin and the Grace Evangelical Society, the theology of these men demand the recognition of God’s regenerating grace as the causative agent of both faith and repentance. In other words, Grudem, MacArthur and Piper are able to speak of the necessity of repentance without violating sola fide because they are Calvinists, regarding both repentance and faith as gifts from God and knowing that God does not give one of those gifts to His children while failing to provide the other. Wilkin’s folly is in refusing to admit that the “one-condition only requirement” he speaks of is preceded by the regenerating work of God in the heart/mind of the individual. So while faith may be the only “condition” for justification, regeneration is the “condition” which must be met by God Himself prior to faith on the part of man, and that by the will of God alone (John 1:13; James 1:18).

Bob Wilkin’s error serves to illustrate why it is that if one adhere to the reformed soteriological order he is not confronted with the alleged dilemma regarding faith and repentance. The reformed “solution” is not new; it has simply been buried under centuries of synergistic strata. The NT text supports the view that there are no such “Christians” who believe the gospel yet refuse to repent. There are no carnal Christians, and there are no “believers” who obtain both justification and glorification yet are free to forego sanctification. We can say this with confidence, and it is not because Calvinists are advocating a sort of sinless-perfection. In commenting on chapter 15 of the Second London Baptist Confession, Sam Waldron notes that

“forsaking of sin is not the achievement of perfect or sinless obedience forever. It is a genuine ‘purpose and endeavor’ to this end.”[6]

Being born-again is the work of God alone, and this divine work (regeneration) precedes faith, contra Rome, Bob Wilkin, Dave Hunt, and synergists in general. If regeneration precedes faith, it also precedes repentance. Both faith and repentance are gifts of God given to His children who have been born, not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:13). Note that only the non-Calvinist who retains any regard for repentance finds himself in the aforementioned uncomfortable dichotomy because he views belief and repentance as actions one takes upon himself to do according to his own volition (not without a little help of the grace of God, of course) in order that he might be saved. So the question of what happens to a man who believes but refuses to repent is a legitimate one only for those who hold that faith precedes regeneration. How can such a person solve the problem of holding to Protestantism’s ‘justification by faith alone’ without neglecting the necessity of repentance? Since there is no consistent way to do this, men like Bob Wilkin are diligent to kick repentance entirely out of the conversion experience. Other synergists, like Wesley, have dealt with this problem by arguing for the necessity of repentance, with the possibility of losing one’s salvation, inadvertently treating ‘justification by faith alone’ not altogether differently from Trent’s repudiation of it.

Calvinism affords us the simple solution of regarding the ability to believe, repent, persevere and exhibit any other fruit of the Spirit as necessary consequences of having been regenerated by the Spirit of God. Such gifts are given to all whom God has called, “not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9). Sam Waldron, in keeping with the Second London Baptist Confession, posits that

“…all believers repent and thus are given repentance by God…. By calling repentance a grace, the Shorter Catechism makes clear that it is a gift of God. It is a plant that grows in the renewed soil of the regenerate heart (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25)”.[7]

If someone regards himself as a believer but is blatantly and perpetually unrepentant, we feel no obligation to whisk their dead dry bones up to heaven with the simple caveat that they may miss out on some “heavenly rewards”. On the authority of Scripture we can regard such a one as an unbeliever—someone who has not actually been born from above. This is why Waldron can put it so bluntly:

“Is repentance, confession, and renunciation of sin, turning from it with grief and hatred for it, your constant, even daily, experience? If you are a true Christian, it is.”[8]

“But”, the objection comes, “so-and-so does believe; how can we say he is an unbeliever?” Here we must note carefully the oft-used and abused text from the Epistle of James. Many people have used passages like 2:14 to assert that faith alone is insufficient for being made right with God. But notice that James says “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” Note that the person says he has faith, but his lack of works testify to the contrary. There is no indication in the epistle that works—even repentance—combined with an otherwise “dead faith” would have wrought justification before God. The sooner we realize this the sooner we will see no tension between Paul and James. But the point for now is that not all who say they believe the gospel actually do believe it. They may be able to articulate its propositions. They may hold an orthodox doctrine of God. But it is quite possible that they do not actually believe that Christ died for their sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. This point is deserving of much greater attention, but for now, consider this short excerpt from fellow scripturalist Sean Gerety:

“Note carefully, for Calvin the question is not between those who have faith where one person’s faith is alive and the other’s is dead, as if they both had faith, but rather between the one who believes and the other who does not.  The distinction James is drawing is between the person who possesses genuine belief and the hypocrite.  Calvin rightly understands in describing faith as alive or dead that James is using a rhetorical device as he ‘disputes against those who made a false pretense as to faith, of which they were wholly destitute.’”[9]

God does not sanctify some of His children and not others. If faith and repentance are gifts of God, then we should rightly expect that God would grant both of these gifts to all of those whom He has graciously regenerated.

It may be helpful to see how Charles Hodge carefully contrasted Jacobus Arminius’ view of repentance within the soteriological order with that of the Reformers:

“…Whether any man does thus repent and believe, or, having believed, perseveres in a holy life, depends on himself and not on God. The purpose of election, therefore, is not a purpose to save, and to that end to give faith and repentance to a definite number of individuals, but a purpose to save those who repent, believe, and persevere in faith until the end.”[10]

Obviously, in such a system, repentance, belief and perseverance must be regarded as separate and distinct conditions which may or may not be met by the individual. It is the reason why the consistent Arminian holds that salvation must be kept by the individual, with actual apostasy of the Christian a real potentiality. Dave Hunt asked essentially, What Love is This that neglects to provide the potential for justification to an amorphous mass of humanity? But we ask, what justification is this that either, 1) cannot secure the individual for eternity via the imputed righteousness of Christ unless he perseveres with a certain level of repentance, or, 2) does not lead to sanctification because repentance is only realized by higher-order Christians, and that dependent upon their own volition?

If faith precedes regeneration, as the majority of evangelicalism today maintains, then the question of where repentance fits into soteriology is an unavoidable one. Wilkin simply eliminates it from conversion altogether. It is my contention that all non-Calvinistic solutions are problematic for sola fide, another example of one way in which synergists are necessarily at peace with Rome. The best they can offer is to say that the unrepentant is probably not really saved, but they cannot place repentance within a logically coherent and consistent soteriological construct.

If, on the other hand, regeneration precedes faith the problem of where to place repentance is no problem at all. It, like faith, is a gift of God. Our Heavenly Father graciously sanctifies all whom He has justifies. He puts into the heart of His children the desire to keep His moral law, that is, a desire to repent:

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:10-12).[11]

 

[1] Canon IX:  “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”

[2] Clark, G.H., What is the Christian Life?, The Trinity Foundation, Unicoi, TN, 2012, pp. 37-38.

[3] https://faithalone.org/blog/justification-by-faith-alone-plus-repentance-and-good-works/

[4] Wilkin, R.N., The role of good works in justification: A review of chapter 16 of Thomas Schreiner’s Faith Alone—The Doctrine of Justification, Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 28(55):18, 2015.

[5] Another free grace advocate even references Clark’s Faith and Saving Faith for support in his assertion that belief has to do with being “persuaded that a proposition is true” (Biery, R.M., Belief as a cognitive phenomenon, especially in regard to salvation: An expanded discussion, Journal of the Grace Evangelical 29(56):58, 2016).

[6] Waldron, S.E., A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession (5th ed. Revised and Corrected), EP Books, Welwyn Garden City, UK, 2016, pp. 240-41.

[7] Waldron, ref. 6, p. 233 & 235-37.

[8] Waldron, ref. 6, p. 241.

[9] https://godshammer.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/faith-alive/

[10] Hodge, C., Justification by Faith Alone, in Bonar & Hodge, Not What My Hands Have Done, Trinity Foundation, Unicoi, TN, 2005, pp. 269-70.

[11] Of course, the Dispensationalists have a way around the implications of this passage having regarded it as a prophecy for a future restoration of ethnic Israel. They do not seem to see that this attaches the New Covenant to ethnic Jews in the last days and not to the church. That is to say, Dispensationalists do not regard the New Covenant as the constitution of the church. Yet, “Every New Testament use of Jeremiah 31:31-34 [including this excerpt from Hebrews 8] relates it to a present fulfillment in the Church. Conversely, there is no justification anywhere in the New Testament for seeing its fulfillment as future and millennial” (Waldron, S.E. and Barcellos, R.C., A Reformed Baptist Manifesto, RBAP, Palmdale, CA, 2004, p. 21).

Attacks on the Gospel’s exclusivity, by Mike Gendron

In light of the growing popularity of The Benedict Option and the evangelical intelligentsia’s love for compromise and anti-Protestantism, we reproduce an article from Mike Gendron’s most recent newsletter. Gendron leads Proclaiming the Gospel, a ministry geared toward the evangelism of Roman Catholics. For more information on the pervasive influence of this book by Rod Dreher, see the article by Pulpit and Pen here, the Polemics Report podcast here, and The Dividing Line podcast by James White here. For more information on contemplative prayer and Roman Catholic mysticism in general, I recommend the Lighthouse Trails Research Journal.

The greatest attacks on the Gospel today are the frequent attempts by evangelicals to make it more inclusive to everyone who has ever been baptized. Many are seeking to broaden the narrow road by embracing and promoting apostate forms of Christianity. Some undiscerning Christians have been seduced by the pope’s aggressive ecumenical agenda to reverse the Reformation and unite all professing Christians under the papacy. Part of the pope’s strategy is to look for soft targets within the evangelical church who will promote Roman Catholicism as a valid expression of Christianity.

Tragically, his strategy has been successful and is gaining a great deal of traction. Most recently, Al Mohler, Carl Truman, Russell Moore and Matt Chandler have recommended a disturbingly popular book written by Rod Dreher, who is a major promoter of Roman Catholicism, ecumenical unity, and contemplative prayer. Dreher is a former Catholic who converted to the Eastern Orthodox religion, not because of Rome’s false gospel, but because of its sexual abuse scandal. His book,  The Benedict Option , calls people of faith to emulate a sixth-century Catholic monk as an example of how to live in a collapsing culture. Almost all the heroes of The Benedict Option  are Catholic monks who lived solitary lives in a monastery while participating in the daily sacrifice of a Eucharistic Christ.

Like most proponents of ecumenism, Dreher promotes subjective spiritual experiences over the objective truths of Scripture. He said he never had a problem with praying the rosary as a Catholic, and he now encourages his readers to practice contemplative prayer and mysticism. He said “my life is shaped around liturgy that’s been in our church for 1500 years” and “on all kinds of sensual ways that embody the faith.” His Eastern Orthodox religion preaches the same works-righteousness salvation as Catholicism and other religions. We are not to affirm or receive “anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ” (2 John 9-10).

For evangelical leaders to recommend a book that applauds the heretical people and traditions of Roman Catholicism during the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is lamentable. The prevailing influence of these leaders, along with their reluctance to guard sound doctrine and reject false gospels, have left many Christians confused. They do not know if the Roman Catholic Church represents a huge mission field that needs to be evangelized or if it represents a valid expression of Christianity. They need to know that Catholicism has long been a bitter enemy of the Gospel of Christ. The apostate religion has not only condemned those who believe the Gospel, but  brutally tortured and killed hundreds of thousands of those who refused to compromise it. Evangelical leaders who are sanctioning ecumenical unity with Catholics must be lovingly confronted in their error with the truth of God’s Word.

In a troubling interview with Al Mohler, Dreher said, “the West owes an incalculable debt to those Benedictine monks.” Mohler does acknowledge there are differences between their two faiths, but he said evangelicals can learn from people of the Orthodox and Catholic faith who embrace a different gospel. The apostle Paul did not encourage Christians to learn from the Judaizers who were distorting the Gospel and leading them away from Christ (Gal. 1:6-9). Mohler says the book encourages living together in a way that is “truly Christian” yet he never defines what a true Christian is, or the Gospel that a true Christian must believe. Mohler stated, “The book is very important. I want to commend it to every thinking Christian. We ought to read this book, and we ought also to read far beyond the title.” Yet, there was a glaring omission both in the book and in the interview by Mohler and Dreher. Neither one referenced the most powerful tools Jesus Christ gave us to fight the cultural wars – His Word and His Gospel (Hebrews 4:12; Romans 1:16).

Evangelicals who endorse a book that obfuscates the lines that once separated biblical Christianity from apostate Christianity are minimizing the powerful effect of error. The accommodation of doctrinal error and falsehood will always be dangerous to the life of the Church that is called to be sanctified by the truth (John 17:17). God’s Word warns us to “be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Pet. 3:17). The critical issue in the church today is the purity of the Gospel. It is the rudder that must guide us through stormy waters that have been stirred up by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). Either we seek the approval of God by protecting the purity of the Gospel or we seek the approval of men by applauding those who peddle another gospel. There is no “option.”

As blood-bought Christians, we must contend earnestly for the faith and challenge those who embrace a false gospel. If we fail to fight the good fight of faith, we leave our own convictions and beliefs open to question. There is so much more at stake than winning cultural wars. We are also fighting the age-old war against truth waged by the powers of darkness. The truth of God’s Word is our only hope in in a world spinning out of control. We must endeavor to defend the glory and honor of our Lord Jesus Christ, the purity of His Gospel, and the sanctity of His Church.

-Mike Gendron

[Article used by permission. Link to original at Proclaiming the Gospel]

Feminizing Jesus: the continuing sissification of the Son of God

“…Effeminacy grows in the mainline churches. Rome has shown the way.”[1]

On the same day when the radical leftists and “equality” obsessed feminists chose to “take a stand” (clearly oblivious to the complicit service they provide to the state in its war against the family) on “International Women’s Day”, proving to the world once again just how baseless, twisted and inane their ideology is, I was reminded of another more dangerous and deplorable form of feminism—or effeminism—on the rise. This variety occurs within the professing church and is therefore more deceptive than anything the world has to offer. I am speaking of what may be deemed the sissification of Jesus and His glorious gospel.

When I saw the above statement (“Jesus died because He didn’t want to live without you”) posted outside of a local church, the first thing that popped into my head was the song “How do I live without you”, made famous by LeAnn Rimes. Is it not enough that our social justice warriors, televangelists and limp-wristed neologians make every effort to turn the Last Adam—the spotless Lamb of God—into a peace loving, tree-hugging effeminate hippie by way of every media outlet available (consider The Shack, for a recent example)? We may have become numb to the reality that even mainline denominations have feminized the very gospel itself.

Moreover, it is a glorification of wretched, sinful perverse man to suggest that it is me that Christ just cannot bear to live without. God does not need me. There is nothing inherently desirable about me that would cause the glorified resurrected Savior to long for my presence with Him in heaven (in fact, according to the doctrine of impassibility, there is nothing that “causes” God to do anything at all). The truth is, the triune God who reigns from everlasting to everlasting would have gotten along just fine without you or me. Yet this is the sort of “gospel” we are often presented with, and it is in just such a context that Jesus is made to look like a desperate young girl infatuated with man’s awesomeness.

I am not looking to nit-pick the particular church that posted this lame slogan. It is only one of many such “inoffensive” signs (it is only inoffensive to the unregenerate, having no conception of who God actually is) I have seen posted over the years. Another nearby sign simply asserts, “GOD LOVES YOU”, period, with no further explanation nor exhortation to repentance. Well, if God loves me then what’s the problem? If that’s the end of the story then, I suppose, “Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21).

In contrast to such man-centered sentiments, consider the biblical picture of the perfect God-Man alongside depictions of fallen-man provided in Scripture. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul lays out a more accurate assessment of the human race, you know, the one which God just couldn’t live without. According to the Bible, man is

“…filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:29—32).

Note also that the introduction to the book of Hebrews describes One wholly unlike the limp-wristed Jesus fashioned by many in our day:

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1—3).

Of course, many other relevant passages could be quoted.

In his book, The Church Effeminate, John Robbins traces the history and underlying philosophy of this feminizing trend. The tendency to neutralize the Godhead and the gospel is not a new phenomenon, and is ultimately rooted in the intentional subordination of the “mind” to the “heart” (or, the subordination of the intellect to the emotions).

Robbins explains how “the masculine Christianity of the Reformers has long been displaced by the effeminate Christianity of the moderns.”[2] While there were a number of circumstances and rising ideologies leading up to this point in church history, it is of particular interest to reference Robbins on this point:

“The revivalism of the nineteenth century, particularly the work of Charles Finney, transformed theology from Calvinism into Arminianism [more accurately pelagianism or semi-pelagianism], from the sovereignty of God to the free will of man. A God who sovereignly plans and omnipotently acts is just too masculine to endure. A God who pleads and pines is much more palatable to the modern mind.

“The death of Christ…became a way for God to affect the feelings of men, rather than to satisfy the justice of an angry God. God was a God of love, not truth, justice, or holiness. His primary characteristic became mercy, not sovereignty or justice. He had no wrath to be assuaged. The doctrine of the Atonement was transformed—from propitiation to moral influence.

“Under the process of feminization, the importance of doctrine gave way to the centrality of experience.”[3]

Considering the condition of post-Fall humankind described in Romans 1, we should not be all that surprised that a generation lacking the fear of God would descend into what we see in this nation’s current state of debasement and debauchery. To reverse this trend by fighting the “culture war” is an unbiblical and misguided effort. Where we can take immediate and effective action, however, is in contending for THE faith, which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3), and that includes standing fast against all attempts to feminize Christianity. Some ways in which we can do this may be:

  1. Taking great care to address God with reverence in prayer,
  2. Being careful to accurately represent Him in our interaction with others, remembering that in His perfections He is in need of nothing,
  3. And recalling that love is not His only attribute.

Finally, may we all be reminded of Scripture’s admonition: “Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2).

-Nick Sabato

[1] Robbins, J.W. (ed.), The Church Effeminate and Other Essays, The Trinity Foundation, Unicoi, TN, 2001, p. 234.

[2] Robbins, ref. 1, p. 237.

[3] Robbins, ref. 1, p. 268.