EXTREMES OF CHRISTIANITY: WHICH TRULY EXPRESSES JESUS EXAMPLE?

Simple missional forms of church were normal in the first century – and are proving relevant for today. Here are some insights on the early church taken from the New Testament. 1. All NT churches met in homes, 2. There were multiple churches in each community that loved on its people, 3. All members of the church participated, 4. Church was not a building Christians went to or a denomination they belonged to. Christians were church in their community. 5. Households provided natural leadership for home churches, 6. Paul did appoint ‘overseers’ to foster these networks. These were mature believers, not given to power seeking – but encouragers, able to facilitate disciple making and the planting of new churches, 7. They were relational communities – eating, serving, sharing. Christians shared in Sabbath fellowship, Communion, Scripture reading and prayers. There is no tension over culture or ethnicity. 8. They were ‘zero dollar’ – but high cost church plants. First century believers shared faith with family, friends and neighbours, inviting them to their homes. High cost because it is a sacrifice of time and energy to share faith with family and social networks. Offerings help with rent, food for someone who has lost their job or a struggling family. Maybe to assist school expenses for a single mum or support another church start up. 9. Church structures are simple and Holy Spirit directed. No hierarchical structures, 10. Churches easily reproducible. Disciples made disciples and baptised them and in turn they made disciples. 11. They are the best environment to hand on faith.

Developed from article by Peter Rosenfeldt. Check out his website http://www.newlifechurch.com

PASTOR IN INDIA

A pastor in India who was known for long five- to six-hour prayer sessions was found beaten, tortured and hung to death from the rafters of his church, parishioners said. The murder has deeply shocked the congregation.

Morning Star News reported on Sunday that the body of pastor Gideon Periyaswamy of Maknayeem Church in southern India was found early Saturday morning. His death comes after he had complained about Hindu extremists.

Pastor Azariah Reuben, a close friend of the 43-year-old victim, said that Periyaswamy converted from Hinduism 25 years ago, and has served as pastor in Adayachery for more than 12 years, becoming known as a “prayer warrior.”

“The local Hindus were not happy with growing Christianity,” Reuben said. “They had several times tried to stop the ministry.”

PASTOR IN THE U.S.A

Kenneth Copeland’s ministry announced last Friday the acquisition of the “debt free” jet, which hit the market with a $36 million price tag in 1998. The ultra-long-range business jet can accommodate up to four crew members and 14 passengers in an executive configuration, according to Gulfstream. It is unclear how much Copeland’s ministry paid for the jet but A V Buyer says they currently have the lowest priced Gulfstream V on the market priced at just under $6 million.

“Father we thank you so and I’m asking you now sir, according to your word, bless our partners beyond measure. Yes, in the name of Jesus. For you said in 2002, ‘I’m sending you new partners who are very strong financially and they will obey me.

And I will increase your longtime partners and they will obey me,” Copeland, 81, said in a prayer of thanksgiving for the new jet.

“And you will not come short. And you will not fail. And you will not lack. And you will not come behind and you will not be diminished. Praise God,” he said of his donors.

 

CHURCH IS SOWING THE SEEDS OF ITS DESTRUCTION

The Queen’s former chaplain, Gavin Ashenden and other members of a dissident conservative  group of evangelicals wrote in a letter to the press last July: “There are now effectively two opposed expressions of Anglicanism in this country. One has capitulated to secular values, and one continues to hold the faith ‘once delivered to the saints’.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby presides over the Anglican Church.

Pope Francis meets the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Picture: AFP
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby presides over the Anglican Church. Pope Francis meets the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

On his blog, Ashenden writes strikingly that the church’s behaviour is rooted in the thinking of Carl Jung, who developed a psychology of spirituality at the heart of which lies the reconciliation of opposites.

Jung believed, writes Ashenden, that two concepts should be dealt with in this way: gender and evil. “The genders are reconciled in some kind of androgynous synthesis, and good and evil befriend each other in some form of mutually convenient accommodation.”

This is exactly what the church is now doing. Just like the gender fluidity it is so eager to embrace, it is promoting the notion that secularism and Christianity can flow in and out of each other.

The secular goal, however, is not tolerance and inclusivity at all. It is to overthrow the Christian basis of the West. It is an exercise in the doctrinaire use of power. As such, the agenda the church is embracing is resulting in the bullying and intimidation of all who transgress the doctrine of gender and sexual fluidity.

Joshua Sutcliffe, a Christian maths teacher in Oxfordshire, faces a disciplinary hearing this week on charges of “misgendering”. His crime? To tell two pupils who were working hard: “Well done, girls.”

One of the girls, however, identifies as a boy. Following a complaint by the pupil’s mother, Sutcliffe was suspended. Reportedly, he also faces claims that he breached the school’s equality policy by referring to the pupil by name rather than as “he” or “him”.

This kind of bullying is said to be occurring within the church itself; the dissident clerics have written of the “booing of traditionalists” and the “personal abuse” they suffered at the synod. As Ashenden observes, those pushing these reforms on the church threaten to change Christianity out of all recognition. “It’s hard to know what to call it,” he writes. “Some have suggested using the label MTD: ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’.”

The outcome of the church evacuating itself of meaning in this “inclusive” way is not a growing flock but empty pews.

Many think the church is an irrelevance. It is not. It is indissolubly connected with Britain’s national identity and the health of its culture. The church is, however, suffering from a kind of spiritual auto-immune disease, attacking its own protective organisms while embracing those that will destroy it. As with the church, moreover, so with the society at whose very core it lies.

As explained in my post – THREAT TO CHRISTIANITY IN THE 21st CENTURY.  Jesus told us there would be a great falling away in the church (apostasy) in the “last days”. Also, evangelical leaders of the church in the USA told us that the greatest threat to Christianity is the Christian church. Now, a “dissident group of evangelical leaders” in the UK are telling us the same story. Surely, adequate proof for even the most sceptical critic that we are in the prophesied “last days” outlined in the Scriptures.

IS THE BIBLE TOO HARD TO DEFEND? SADLY, EVANGELICAL PASTOR ANDY STANLEY THINKS SO

Evangelical pastor preaches that the Bible isn’t the foundation for the Christian faith.

Pastor Andy Stanley has a church network of over 30,000 people in the Atlanta area, and his church was rated the fastest-growing in America in 2014 and 2015.

andystanley

The Bible’s historical reliability is one of the most important considerations when it comes to whether people  will accept the Bible’s claims about Jesus—and they’re right! If the Bible is demonstrably wrong regarding its history, it is not a reliable record, and the claims the Bible makes about Jesus are so extraordinary that it requires the Bible to be a supernatural, inspired, inerrant book. This is of course what it claims to be. Creation Ministries found it necessary to counter this serious challenge to the authority of God’s Word with this excellent article by Lita Cosner and Scott Gillis.

Pastor Andy Stanley says, “If the Bible is the foundation of our faith, it’s all or nothing. Christianity becomes a ‘fragile house of cards’ religion. Christianity becomes a fragile house of cards that comes tumbling down when we discover that perhaps the walls of Jericho didn’t.”2

Stanley’s message is clear as to the ‘unnecessary reason’ youth have left the faith:

So, if you stepped away from Christianity because of something in the Bible, if you stepped away from the Christian faith because of Old Testament miracles, if you stepped away from the Christian faith because you couldn’t reconcile 6,000 years with a 4.5 billion year old earth and something you learned in biology, I want to invite you to reconsider, because the issue has never been, ‘is the Bible true?’.2 (Emphasis added)

While he hopes to persuade people to come back to church, the route he took is actually more likely to deconstruct the faith of the young people he wants so much to keep in the church. In our experience (which to be honest, is much more wide than his own—speaking in over 1000 churches of varying denominations each year), people think the Bible’s historical reliability is one of the most important considerations when it comes to whether they will accept the Bible’s claims about Jesus—and they’re right!

What most people have commented on is the third part of his sermon series. Stanley begins that message by saying:

“In Sunday School we learned the song, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

He goes on to say,

“You grew up, but your faith didn’t grow up with you. You grew up, but you outgrew your faith. Your childhood god could not stand the rigors of adulthood, the questions of adulthood.”2

The reason he thinks this is a problem is:

“If the Bible is the foundation of our faith, it’s all or nothing. Christianity becomes a ‘fragile house of cards’ religion. Christianity becomes a fragile house of cards that comes tumbling down when we discover that perhaps the walls of Jericho didn’t.”2

To call Scripture a ‘house of cards’ (and elsewhere in the same sermon he calls it a ‘fragile thread’) reveals a troubling attitude for a pastor to have towards Scripture, which Jesus and the Apostles presented as the absolute foundation for our faith. After all, if he cannot be sure about Scripture, how can he be sure about the One that Scripture is ultimately all about, and moreover, the Bible’s history that necessitated Jesus becoming our Saviour.

Too hard to defend it

One reason Stanley argues we need this change in perspective is that Scripture is too hard to defend:

“What your students have discovered, and if you read broadly you’ve discovered, it is next to impossible to defend the entire Bible. But if your Christianity hangs by the thread of proving that everything in the Bible is true, you may be able to hang onto it, but your kids and your grandkids and the next generation will not. Because this puts the Bible at the center of the debate. This puts the spotlight right on the Bible. Everything rises and falls on whether not part, but all the Bible is true. And that’s unfortunate, and as we’re going to discover today, it is absolutely unnecessary.”2

Among the things he specifically states are indefensible and not supported by evidence:

  • Israel’s Exodus from Egypt
  • The walls in Jericho fell down
  • The earth is 6,000 years old
  • The chronological information in 1, 2 Kings, 1, 2 Chronicles, and 1, 2, Samuel
  • The global flood in Noah’s day

But as apologist James White pointed out in his rebuttal to Stanley, if the Bible is wrong, Christianity is untrue.4 Jesus’ own view was that the Scriptures could not be broken (John 10:35), and the New Testament authors referred to the Old Testament’s history as the foundation for New Testament theology. If the Bible is wrong about historical events, the basis for New Testament teaching vanishes. Worse still for Stanley, if Jesus is wrong about the very Scripture Stanley says is not defensible, then how can he still encourage faith in Jesus and His (historical) resurrection?

Did the early church have the Bible?

Stanley bases his argument that Christianity does not stand or fall with the Bible by his absurd claim that, for the first several hundred years of Christianity, they didn’t have the Bible: “For the first 300 years of the existence of Christianity, the debate centered on an event, not a book.” While they may not have had all the New Testament books bound together under one cover and called it ‘the Bible’, the entire Old Testament and many of the New Testament books functioned authoritatively from the beginning of the Church and were the central source of their theology, used to settle the doctrinal controversies of that time. In fact, there are over 100 references in the New Testament to the book of Genesis, let alone many other Old Testament events. So much of our Christian doctrine, and even Jesus’ own teaching, are centered on those biblical historical events.

Astonishingly, however, Stanley suggests that Peter might have responded to historical questions about the Old Testament as follows:

“Peter would have looked at you like, ‘I’m not really sure what you’re talking about, but I followed a man for three years who spoke like no other man spoke. He was arrested and crucified and we thought, Game over, because he said too much to be a good teacher, he claimed too much about himself to be a good teacher. Game over. We’re all in hiding; a bunch of women come babbling that “The tomb is empty, the tomb is empty”. I looked into an empty tomb, and do you know what I concluded? Somebody stole the body. And a few days later I had breakfast with my risen friend on the beach. So I’m not sure about 6,000-year-old earth, I’m not sure about archaeological evidence, I’m not sure about all that. The reason I’m following Jesus is because I saw him die, and I saw him alive, and I went into the streets of Jerusalem to say, God has done something among us.”2

But this does not match up with what Peter actually said in Acts 2 (by the way, it should be noted that Stanley purposely references no actual Scripture in his first several sermons). In Peter’s sermon as recorded by Luke, he included a lengthy quote from the prophet Joel and two Psalms, because he wasn’t arguing from his personal testimony and experience, but that the history they witnessed was a fulfillment of the Scriptures. And, even when he did appeal to his own eyewitness testimony, he tied this to a confirmation of the Scriptures (2 Peter 1:16–21)—the very Scriptures Stanley argues Christianity didn’t emphasize until 300 years later.

In Part 5 of the sermon series, Stanley dedicates an entire session to the reasons people leave the faith due to injustice in the world. Although Stanley does make some pertinent points, at no time does he state the foundational, historical event of Adam’s Fall as the cause of death and suffering in the world. In a self-labeled ‘footnote’, Pastor Stanley implies that a belief in evolution does not challenge the Gospel’s big picture when he states “Francis Collins actually embraces what we would consider macro-evolution and yet he is still a conservative Christian. If you didn’t think a person could believe in evolution and be an evangelical Christian, you should read this book. If science is the reason you have walked away from faith, I highly recommend his book, The Language of God [see our review].” Francis Collins would agree with Stanley when he stated in this sermon series, “And when religion and science conflict, at the end of the day if you are an honest person, science must win.” When people compromise on the historical account of creation they are unable to effectively explain the existence of death and suffering if God created a very good world. And Francis Collins along with his former organization BioLogos actually believes that Jesus could be wrong about His statements about biblical history and the historical Adam and Eve. See It’s not Christianity!.

Just another ‘New Testament Christianity’

It is interesting to note how Stanley defends the historical reliability of the New Testament and the historical trustworthiness and early composition of the New Testament documents. But as is shown by the list of Old Testament events that he claims are indefensible, he is all too ready to give up on the historical reliability of the Old Testament, which Jesus and the New Testament authors quoted constantly in all sorts of contexts, always taking it as completely authoritative and true.

We have pointed out that you can’t have a New Testament-only Christianity, because the Christians during the time of the New Testament used the Scriptures—the Old Testament.

Will this approach bring people back to the faith?

The saddest thing about this attempt to justify Christianity apart from the Scriptures is that it won’t work. We’ve come into contact with many young people with questions, and most aren’t interested in a ‘squishy’ Christianity that takes all the ‘hard’ passages of the Bible metaphorically while only holding on to some sort of a belief in Jesus.

The answer is not to so easily abandon the authority and the inerrancy of Scripture, but rather to learn how we can know that the Bible is reliable.

Andy Stanley is obviously passionate, and we would agree that a simple “the Bible tells me so” faith will likely not sustain people when they encounter objections to the faith. But the answer is not to so easily dismiss the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, but rather learn how the evidence supports the historical account of the Bible.

Many Sundays, after hearing a creation presentation, people will come up to one of our speakers and be so excited that they realize they can trust the entire Bible! By hearing that the Bible’s history is reliable, and that there are answers to all the objections that they’ve heard, believers are more confident to share their faith.

It takes effort, but it is not too hard to defend the entire Bible; we’ve been defending Scripture from the first verse for over 30 years. That is the key to keeping young people in the church. And the effort has eternal consequences. Given the wealth of scientific and archaeological support and information that is available today to support the Bible’s history, it is a shame that Stanley did not take the time to research it, before so readily abandoning the Bible as the inerrant source for the Christian faith.