Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Problems With "WWJD?" - A Thoughtful Look at a Christian Movement

Pastor Robert W. Glenn of Redeemer Bible Church in Minnetonka, MN has written a thoughtful critique of the very popular Christian movement WWJD?  WWJD? is a movement that began in the 1990s among evangelical Christians as an exhortation to Christians that they should act and live in a manner that demonstrates the love of Christ. Obviously, the desire among those who started this movement was for the Lord's name to be glorified by Christians heeding this exhortation to live mindfully and biblically in a lost and spiritually dark world. The movement manifested itself in all manner of items that bore the letters "WWJD?" (t-shirts, coffee mugs, plagues, bumper stickers, bracelets, etc.). So what on earth could be wrong with that? Well, I'm glad you asked. Pastor Robert Glenn's article below lays out a number of very thoughtful reasons why this movement is not just a harmless fad.

 The Problems With "WWJD?" - A Thoughtful Look at a Christian Movement 

The fad may be over, but that doesn't mean the spirit of WWJD? isn't still alive and kicking. It is. And although it may sound pretty harmless, even helpful, I would suggest that the WWJD? mentality is more sinister than it may at first appear. Here are seven reasons:

1.  It can turn Christianity into moralism. Now you might think, “Wait a second! God himself tells us to imitate Jesus in passages like 1 John 2:6.  How, then, can asking, 'What would Jesus do?'  turn Christianity into moralism?” Answer: because the question doesn't assume our undeserved acceptance through the gospel. In other words, if it is not clear to me that my call to ask “What would Jesus do?” is only Christian in light of what Jesus has already done, then my default mode will be to see the imitation of Christ as the means to God’s acceptance rather than a response to the truth that I am already accepted solely on the basis of what Jesus has already done for me on the cross.

2.  It can feed our self-righteousness...because we measure and define ourselves and justify our existence by how well we imitate Jesus. This is self-righteousness – whatever you look to in life to justify your existence apart from Jesus' righteousness. So don’t turn self-righteousness into a caricature of itself, like how so many Pharisees are depicted in the movies and thereby get yourself off the hook. Self-righteousness is looking to anything other than Jesus’ righteousness as the justification for your existence. And by reducing the Christian faith to imitating Jesus, you will look to your practice of Christian morality to justify your existence rather than Jesus’ absolute moral perfection given to you as a gift of sheer grace. And when you do that, you move decidedly away from the Christian gospel.

3.  It can engender “Christian Bipolar.” If you embrace WWJD? as a summary of the gospel, then when you’ve had a “good” day, you’ll feel accepted by the Lord, and when you’ve had a “bad” day, you’ll feel rejected by him. Your sense of assurance will vary by the circumstances of your life, which makes for a very volatile relationship with God - something the heavenly father does not want for you.

4.  It can breed feelings of insecurity and superiority. On the one hand, if your conscience is at all sensitive, you’ll come to realize that the idea of a good day or a bad day is a mirage; instead, you’ll have good minutes and bad minutes, which eventually will all turn into complete badness because you’ll always be able to find some way in which you did not love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength or your neighbor as yourself! And so you'll feel defeated and hopeless. On the other hand, if you're not so sensitive, and find that you are doing what Jesus did, you’ll tend to be very self-congratulatory and superior to people who just can’t seem to get with the program.

5.  It can enflame a sense of entitlement with God. Your "success" at doing what Jesus did can lead you to conclude that God owes you something: “What’s all this obedience for if God is still not going to give me a husband?”; “What’s the point of all my WWJD? if God doesn't rescue me from the financial trouble I’m in?” From here, you’ll find yourself very angry with God…and then you’ll rip your bracelet from your wrist and throw it in the garbage and say, “I’m done with ‘What would Jesus do?’! Now I’m gonna play a new game, ‘What would I do?'! And what I would do is have some fun for a change!"

6.  It can turn Christianity into a (sub-) culture: Wear this, do this, don’t do that…etc.  If you have the bracelet and wear the T-shirt, you are a Christian. And because we tend to identify Christians by what they say no to or what they wear or what magnet is on their car or whether or not they go to church regularly, we will stop preaching the gospel to an important group of people who desperately need it – people who think they're Christians because of what they wear, but in reality are not Christians at all!

7.  It can give people a false sense of assurance. “Since I prayed 'the prayer' and wear the WWJD? bracelet, then I must be a Christian. Who would wear something to call attention to his Christianity if he weren't really a Christian?" Answer: religious hypocrites.

Here's the problem: because WWJD? is a slogan, it tends to function as a distillation or reduction of Christianity, and as such, it does a very poor job.  If you were to sum up the Christian faith, it would not be, “What would Jesus do?” It would be: "What has Jesus done?" This, then, would drive our obedience and passion for being like Jesus. Considering what he's done for me, considering how much love he has shown me, how can I now do what I now know grieves and displeases him?  In other words, his love for me creates a proper sense of obligation – you feel compelled to live for someone who did so much for you.

Robert W Glenn
Redeemer Bible Church, Minnetonka, MN

photo credit: via photopin cc

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Book That Connects The Dots

I grew up in a very liberal church that was known for its generosity, its large food bank, and its many social programs to help the community. Our church was in a beautiful old building that was on the historic register. Our church was also one of the few buildings left standing after Sherman's famous march through Atlanta, and had long been rumored to have served as a makeshift hospital during the civil war. When our church undertook the task of renovating this building, blood stains were discovered in the hardwoods beneath the carpet that was pulled up, giving credence to this legend, and adding to the mystique and historic charm of this lovely building.

But - was the gospel ever preached? After all, that is the primary function of a church, to speak life-giving truth to the lost and to disciple the saved.

I honestly can't say that I ever heard the gospel: that there was a sovereign creator God who had made me, and who owned me, and against whom I had sinned by breaking his moral laws. That I had no righteousness of my own with which to approach this holy God. That I was doomed and damned without supernatural intervention of some sort. But, that God, being rich in mercy and loving-kindness, had intervened, and had made a way for sinful man to be made right with him. That he sent his Son, who lived a perfect life, never sinning in thought, word or deed, and who, because of this, was able to offer up his life as a ransom for many. I broke God's laws, and Jesus paid my fine in his life's blood so that I could be released from the rightful condemnation of the law.

Now obviously, having never heard the gospel, it stands to reason that I could not possibly have been saved. Seems so simple when you look at it like that, but what a profound deception that was! You see, because our family was faithful in church-going and participating in its many charities and food drives, we all simply assumed that we knew what the gospel was....and thus, assumed that we were all bound for heaven. My goodness, that's frightening just to contemplate. If any of us in our family had died during those church-going years, we most certainly would have been like those who ended up outside the gates of heaven pleading for entry - and astounded at being denied!
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' (Matthew 7:21-23)
I think if anyone in my family at that time had been asked to articulate what the gospel was, we might have been able to get a few points right - after all, some of that jargon was floating around us - we were in a church after all, not a coven! There were Bibles around (though we never studied them) and we sang beautiful old hymns that often set forth the message of salvation in just a few short verses (but these rich doctrines were never discussed or examined).

Rather, I think we would have said something along the lines of, you've got to do your best, be a good person, be moral, and help others. I look back now and think, how could we have thought this was the gospel? And yet, we did.

When God finally opened my eyes, many years later, I remember being so shocked by the idea that I could have faithfully attended something which identified itself as a "church"......and which never preached the gospel.

A book I read early in my walk as a Christian helped me connect the dots on why I had never been saved ("Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God") and also, what exactly the gospel message was. This book was called Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, written by John Cross. I affectionately call this book "Systematic Theology For Dummies." It goes from Genesis to Revelation and very clearly lays out God's plan of salvation, and how he unfolded it, in somewhat of a remedial fashion. It's an amazing book, almost deceptive in its simplicity, and I highly recommend it to anyone trying to put the pieces together on who God is and what the gospel is. It would also be a great book to give to unbelievers. I really can't recommend this book enough. I still pick it up from time to time and read through sections of it, and it continues to amaze me.

There is also a children's version of this book called The Lamb which my own children love, and which very clearly puts forth God's plan of salvation in a way that is easy for a child to understand.

 Additional Resources 

"Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

Monday, April 4, 2011

"Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

Posted by Christine Pack

As we approach Easter, I'm going to take this opportunity to recommend a very special children's book entitled The Lamb, which our family absolutely loves. I found this book as a new Christian, and even though it is specifically written for children, it was very helpful even for me in that it presents the profound truths of the gospel message in a very straightforward way. (And may I also note that any children's book that presents the Old Testament sacrificial system in a way that is understandable to children has got to at least be worth the price of admission.) The Lamb is a hardbound book and is recommended for ages 4 and up. Included in the price is an accompanying CD that presents the same message as in the book. From the publisher's website:
"Starting in Creation, God's caring nature is highlighted. Then, the problem of sin and its consequence is introduced when Adam and Eve disobey God. As the story progresses, the children learn that instead of being punished for their sin, people could bring a lamb as their substitute. 
The kids are left in suspense, waiting for the climax (Easter Sunday), just as the people waited hundreds of years for the Saviour to come. 
Easter morning, all of the story comes together as the final two chapters of The Lamb are covered. Students are introduced to Jesus, and they begin to realize that he is the Lamb of God. As the final dramatic events of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection unfold, the kids see the salvation message become clear."
GoodSeed International, the company which publishes this book, also offers a "grown up"version of The Lamb which is titled The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus. I would also like to point out that the reading of these books does not require any knowledge of the Bible whatsoever on the part of the reader. For this reason, both of these books are wonderful tools for evangelizing anyone outside of the Christian faith tradition, as no prior understanding of Jesus, God, sin, hell, judgment, etc. is required.

I simply can't recommend these two books enough. I have given both many times as gifts to friends and family members.

Sample from The Lamb:

 Additional Resources 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Answers in Genesis Kicked Out of Homeschooling Conferences

Posted by Christine Pack

Answers in Genesis, an excellent ministry devoted to biblical truth, was recently kicked out of two homeschool conventions over the issue of young earth/old earth. This "uninviting" happened when Ken Ham, President of Answers in Genesis, wrote and talked about his concerns regarding another of the scheduled speakers at a homeschool conference at which Ken Ham had also been invited to speak. Apparently, this didn't sit well with the organizer of the homeschooling conventions, Brennan Dean (Great Homeschool Conventions). The speaker in question was Dr. Peter Enns, one of the co-founders of The Biologos Foundation. From the moment they burst onto the scene, Biologos has generated controversy due to their tendency to allegorize what ought not to be allegorized as well as their firm stance on evolution (in their view, a literal six day creation is scientifically untenable).

Dr. Enns will undoubtedly promote the beliefs of the Biologos Foundation while at these conventions, and Ken Ham, in good conscience, felt he could not speak at these conferences without alerting the homeschooling families to the dangers of the Biologos homeschool curriculum, which advance their liberal and allegorical views of Scripture. From Ken Ham's online article about this:
"Because Dr. Enns of BioLogos was speaking at Mr. Dean’s conventions to promote a Bible curriculum to homeschoolers, which we consider very dangerous to the spiritual upbringing of kids, we wanted to make sure that people knew what he believed.
Ken Ham did mention Peter Enns by name in one of his five talks at an earlier South Carolina convention in Greenville organized by Mr. Dean. Ken showed two video clips of Dr. Enns, done in the context of showing how some modern Christian speakers are compromising God’s Word in Genesis. Ken did say that Dr. Enns was also speaking at the conference and had connections to another convention speaker, Susan Wise Bauer. In another talk about a common Christian viewpoint that compromises Genesis, Ken briefly mentioned that one of the speakers at this convention took that view."
And also Dr. Peter Ennis from the Biologos website:
"In my last post I suggested that the Adam story could be viewed symbolically as a story of Israel’s beginnings, not as the story of humanity from ground zero. 
But some might ask, “Why go through all this trouble? Why not just take it literally? The Bible says Adam was the first man. That’s the end of it.” 
It’s not that simple, and if it were, people wouldn’t be talking it about it so much. First of all, reading the Adam story symbolically rather than as a literal description of history is not a whim, and it is certainly not driven by a desire to undermine the Bible. Rather, as we have seen, the Bible itself invites a symbolic reading by using cosmic battle imagery and by drawing parallels between Adam and Israel (to name two factors)."
As I have written before, allegory is a very slippery slope. I grew up faithfully attending a church that was very liberal, and taught much of the Bible as allegory. We loved our church and were involved in many activities: choir, Sunday school, youth group, food drives, retreats, etc., etc. But as I said, it was a very liberal church, and by that I mean, I can't say that I ever heard a clear gospel message in all the years that we attended.  The Bible was sort of viewed as the message given to us by God about how to live Godly lives, with Jesus of course as the primary example.  I remember hearing the story of Adam and Eve as a child in Sunday school, but being told, "Of course, this didn't literally happen since we know that the earth is millions of years old."  Obviously, we were told, God was speaking in metaphorical terms here.  "Adam" as a representative figure of mankind, and "Eve" as as representative figure for womankind.  But there was never a literal "Adam" and a literal "Eve!"

Along with this, we were taught that Jesus didn't really perform all the miracles accredited to him by the gospel accounts.  One class in particular stands out in my mind: a teacher earnestly laboring to help us see that Jesus couldn't have possibly fed 5,000 people with just one small meal.  What really happened, he explained to us, was that Jesus brought the little boy with the five loaves of bread and two fishes before the crowd, and the people, being moved by seeing such generosity of spirit in a child, were shamed into pulling out their own secret stashes and sharing.  As for myself, I'm convinced that this was how the teaching of Jesus-as-a-great-moral-example became so deeply entrenched in liberal circles. Liberal theologians have long bent the knee to the false "god" of science (the earth is millions of years old, miracles aren't possible, etc.), and in doing so, have had to find a way to explain the "miracles" of Jesus in human terms.  So they came up with, among other things, a generous little boy and "secret stashes."

This, of course, is only one example of the dangers of allegorizing Scripture. So in the interest of thinking this through, my question is this: once you start allegorizing Scripture, where do you stop? At the Virgin Birth? at the Miracles? at the Inerrancy of Scripture? at the Resurrection?

Brothers and sisters, political and cultural things are fine to mobilize over, but this issue of allegorizing the clear teaching of Scripture is at the very heart of today's spiritual battle. Calls and letters from homeschooling families might be a good thing here.

(Read the entire article from Ken Ham/Answers in Genesis here)

 Additional Resources 

Crosstalk Interview With Ken Ham

Ken Ham Gives Interview About Why He Was Kicked Out of TWO Homeschool Conferences

Posted by Christine Pack

Crosstalk America radio program had Ken Ham as their featured guest on today's program. Ken Ham is the CEO and founder of the evangelical ministry Answers in Genesis, a ministry that is devoted to protecting the doctrinal purity of the book of Genesis. He is also the director of the very excellent Creation Museum, located in Petersburg, Kentucky.

Ken Ham came on the show today to discuss why he was "un-invited" to speak at two large homeschool conventions at which he had been scheduled to speak, one near Cincinnati and the other near Philadelphia. Ken Ham explains that his dismissal came after he spoke out against the false teachings of another speaker, Dr. Peter Enns, one of the founders of an organization known as The BioLogos Foundation. Dr. Enns, who was a previous presenter and author of a homeschool curriculum that teaches spiritual error, was kicked out of Westminster Theological Seminary in 2005 for writing a book where he denied Scriptural Inerrancy (also known as Sola Scriptura, one of the fundamental Reformation principles).

This issue parallels a new book Ken Ham has coming out in mid-April titled Already Compromised. This book takes a look at the shocking state of Christian higher education.

The show can be listened to in its entirety here.

As a side note......I absolutely love the work they're doing over there at Answers in Genesis.  They have some of the best and brightest scientific minds of today on staff, and they are literally turning on its ear the argument that anyone who believes in Young Earth Creation simply can't be very well educated.  You can say a lot of things about the geologists, biologists, archaeologists, geophysicists, chemists, etc. who support the work being done at Answers in Genesis, but you certainly cannot say that they are not well educated.

 Additional Resources 

Answers in Genesis Kicked Out of TWO Homeschooling Conferences

Who Says The 'Begats' Are Boring?

The Creation Museum

Answers in Genesis

Grace To You Weighs in on Biologos

A List of Today's Scientists Who Support Six Day Creation

Propitiation? What's That?

"He is the propitiation for our sins." (I John 2:2)

"The Bible uses a strange word to describe what Christ did for us when he drank the cup of God's wrath in our place: propitiation.

What does propitiation mean? I believe that the word exhausted forcefully captures the essence of Jesus' work of propitiation. Jesus exhausted the wrath of God. He bore the full, unmitigated brunt of it. God's wrath against sin was unleashed in all its fury on his beloved Son. He held nothing back.

Isaiah foretold this: "We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities" (Isaiah 53:4-5). These words describe the pouring out of God's wrath on his Son. During those awful hours when Jesus hung on the cross, the cup of God's wrath was turned upside down. Christ exhausted God's wrath. For all who trust in him, there is nothing more in the cup. It is empty.

At the end of those terrible hours Jesus cried out, "It is finished" (John 19:30; see also Mark 15:37). This was not a cry of relief, but one of triumph. He had accomplished what he came to do, to save his people from the wrath of God. And he did this by consuming it in his own person.

That's why Paul could write of our being "saved from God's wrath through him" and say that "God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:9, NIV; 1 Thessalonians 5:9, NIV). All who trust in Jesus need never fear the possibility of experiencing the wrath of God. It was exhausted on his Son as he stood in our place, bearing the guilt of our sin."

- Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day By Day

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Who Exactly Has Got Some 'Splainin' To Do?

Rob Bell, megachurch pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church (an ironically named church if ever there was one), was recently interviewed about his controversial new book "Love Wins" and had this to say:
"So that means if I'm a Christian, I have to consign all Buddhists to hell?.....Is God like that? Is that the kind of God Jesus talked about? That view has a lot of answering to do. It has a lot of answering to do."
Rob Bell, Creator of Nooma videos
Pastor of an enormous church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and wildly popular among churchgoing youth, Bell has been dubbed "a rock star in the church world" by Time Magazine, and has influenced millions with his Nooma videos and his bestselling book "Velvet Elvis."  But in the quote above, as well as in his newly released book, Bell is revealing more and more of his backwards, man-centered theology in which God answers to man.

Bell's view, which he develops at length in the newly released "Love Wins," is what is known as "Christian Universalism."  Christian Universalism is the belief that God's love is his primary attribute, and that because of this, God MUST save all people eventually in the end. Christian Universalists believe that Christ on the Cross constituted the "mechanism" (Bell's word) that will enable ALL people to end up in heaven eventually.
“Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” (Job 38:2-3)
But as any discerning Christian can see from Bell's statement above, the problem with Bell's theology is that he has it all wrong who, exactly, has the power. Do Christians have the power to consign anyone to hell, as he implies? No, in fact, Christians are actually so burdened with the realization that many are headed for hell that they act in obedience to Scripture that commands them to:
"Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." (Mark 16:15)
We also know from Scripture that the power to bring ultimate judgment belongs to God and God alone:
"And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)
In closing, let me point out that Rob Bell was not as straightforward about his views when he first burst onto the Christian scene 20 years ago. And due to his quick wit and approachable teaching style, he rapidly became extremely popular among churchgoing youth. But let me go on the record here in stating that Rob Bell is a dangerous heretic who has unmasked himself in his latest book. We now know where he stands. I therefore urge all parents reading this post to make sure they are taking an active role in safeguarding their kids against Bell's false teaching. We must heed the exhortation from Scripture not to simply hand the instruction of our children over to others but to actively take responsibility, as parents, in biblically guiding, teaching and discipling our own children:
"These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." (Deut 6:6-9)

photo credit: xxxCurtisxxx via photopin cc

 Additional Resources