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Fools Rush In Where Monkeys Fear To Trea...

Fools Rush In Where Monkeys Fear To Tread

by Rick Shrader

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I found Trueman as an author not long ago and have thoroughly enjoyed him.  I read this delightful book on my Kindle, then I bought two hard copies and have given them both away.  Carl Trueman is an Englishman by birth and now teaches at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia.  He is typically Reformed in his theology (with an occasional confession of personal lifestyle choices which would be questionable to me) yet I enjoy him as a historian.  I mostly enjoy his conservative cultural positions and his humorous style of writing.  This book is a number of short unconnected chapters (previous articles) on various topics, especially American culture.  Now and then you read, what is becoming typical of British conservatives, comparisons of what went wrong in Great Britain to the same thing now happening in America.  Here are a few of his lines:

 “In a world devoid of truth content, claims to truth are oppressive and thus personal, hurtful, and distasteful; and the church seems, by and large, to be buying into just this kind of namby-pamby nonsense.”  “The leader who has no enemies has no honor.  For such a leader has surely never done that which is essential to leadership—made a choice.”  “The language of Facebook both reflects and encourages childishness, indeed, judging by the tantrums, spitefulness, and cowardly rants on many blogs and web pages, childishness has become something of a textually transmitted disease.”  “Finally, and perhaps most tragically of all, we see the loss of a sense of God’s holiness in church.  When prayers become the equivalent of ‘yo, how you doin’?!’ then something has gone awry.  Public prayer should lead people into the presence of God, and that should be a humbling, if not crushing experience.  When was the last time a pulpit prayer left you in awe of the God who humbles himself so that you might worship him?”  (RCS)

 

There is One God

There is One God

by Rick Shrader

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5)

This is such an age of conformity, unanimity, and ecumenical oneness that we can hardly speak of God except in all-inclusive terms.  If one were to express that he believes his God to be the only real or true God, and every other god to be false, he would be branded as narrow and hateful.  To a lesser degree, one can hardly say that his country is better than another or that his form of government is superior to another.  Surely we cannot say that our values (much less our moral standards) are better than someone else’s.  Of course, this is also why we are not allowed to criticize anyone for their actions.  We might actually be positing that there is an absolute truth to which all other notions are subordinate!  But we get to this eclectic, ecumenical quagmire by first eliminating God Himself.  If there is no God, the First Cause of everything, the One who has revealed Himself in truth and equity, then there is no final appeal to which we can judge or compare all else.

Christians in twenty-first century America are observing a unique time of change and redefinition by an atheistic, polytheistic, multi-cultural,  and perverse generation.  In this time we see Christianity under attack from almost all cultural voices, while other religions enjoy unprecedented amnesty from criticism or scrutiny.  Christianity, which teaches that the wheat and tares of belief and unbelief must grow together in this age and cannot be forcibly rooted out of society by church or government, receives the hubris and persecution by that same society.  Yet, Islam, which teaches that the tares of unbelief in their doctrine must be rooted out and even physically destroyed and at best kept as second-rate citizens, is given fawning protection and religious liberty that no other religion enjoys, even in this country of religious freedom.  Could it be that this is due to the simple threat of physical reprisal if society does not acquiesce?  No doubt.  Christianity will only preach to you of truth and peace.  Islam will attack you on the street and attempt to dismember you.  So to which will this culture bow?  It is all too obvious.  This began with my baby-boomer generation in the 60s when we threatened to burn buildings and destroy campuses if we did not get our way.  It worked.  And now that same compliant society is faced with even bigger and more savage threats.  If we didn’t have the stomach  for it then, we surely don’t now.

My objective, however, is not political but theological.  Was the apostle Paul correct in saying that there is only one God?  Our world today is insisting that Allah is the same as Jehovah, the Mormon God is the same as the Jewish God, the Watchtower God is the same as the Catholic God.  Our problem is that we have to figure out the approach that is right for us.  Some Christian apologists would even argue that all religions worship the same God but most do not know enough about Him to obtain salvation, and the Christian mission is to fill in the gaps and bring their religion up to speed.  Of course, there have always been those universalists who believe God loves all people to the extent that no one will be lost forever but that all will eventually find their way to heaven and the God they have always believed in.

The God of the Old Testament as well as the New has called all other worship of a deity idolatry.  The God of the Bible claims to be the only God.  The Bible clearly teaches that no one can come to the true God except through Jesus Christ, Who also claimed unequivocally to be God in the flesh.  The bottom line seems to be that either the universalist view is correct or the Christian view is correct, but not both.  The Christian God cannot also be the non-Christian’s God.

 

Paul’s Direct Statement

Why is Paul correct when he says that the God whom he is preaching is the only God?  Precisely because he also says, “and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Tim. 2:5-6).  Only the Christian God is able to become a Mediator between Himself and sinful humanity.  Other Gods not only do not have this capability, they thrust upon mankind the false notion that salvation is up to them, not to God.

First, we should remember that the true God has revealed Himself solely in the Christian Scriptures, the Bible.  I understand that we will need to continually reaffirm our belief in the revelation and inspiration of Scripture, and that other religions can also claim that their holy books are really the true Word of God.  But Bibliology is not my task here either.  The textual criticism of two thousand (plus) years continues to affirm the reliability and uniqueness of the Christian Scriptures.  Second, Paul says that not only is there only one God, but there is also only one Mediator Who can sufficiently stand between a holy God and sinful humanity and bring both of them together.  This Mediator is both God and man, the “God our Savior” from verse three, as well as “the man Christ Jesus” of our text.  What Paul is saying is that only a God Who can be both is the true God.  That is, only the triune God of the Christian Scripture is the true God.  There must be God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit to be the true God.  This Mediator is “Christ Jesus” the God-man.  Only a Being Who is divine could be sinless Himself and qualify as our sinless Substitute.  And only someone Who is also fully human could take the sinner’s place and die for our sins and not for His own. 

Job, in his agony over his sinful condition, cried out to a holy God, “For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.  Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both” (Job 9:32-33).  The old word “daysman” is usually noted as “umpire” or a person that is on equal footing in behalf of both sides.  Paul’s word for mediator is mesites, a middle person, a go-between.  This is the same word that the Jewish translators of the Old Testament used in their (LXX) Greek translation of Job 9:33. 

Third, this one God Whom Paul extols, could give Himself a “ransom” for all.  Christ Jesus was a ransom, an antilutron, or “payment in the place of,” a Substitute for all sinful humanity.  Peter wrote, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).   Only God is “just” and only a divine Substitute could pay the price for our sins.  Only the triune God of the Christian Scriptures is such a God.

 

Cultish Misstatements

One thing is true about the multi-cultural non-Christian gods; they are all alike in their ineptness to redeem sinful humanity.  But that is why they are all alike in their imagined reality.  They are all a figment of the sinner’s imagination because such a god does not really exist, as Paul said to the Corinthians, “For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many), but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Cor. 8:5-6).  Paul did not see the pagan gods as uneducated forms of the true God, but as they truly are—no gods at all. 

There are some good examples  today of false gods.

The Muslim Allah.  Islam teaches that God is not a father and does not have a son.  To them, the trinity is pure polytheism.  They admire Jesus as they admire Mohammad, and even admit his virgin birth.  They deny He really died on the cross, and of course deny any atonement or resurrection.  I have read the Koran, and I was left asking the question, “where is the salvation?”  There is no Savior, no atonement for sin, no Substitute in my place.  One is left to himself to try to gain Allah’s favor by his own goodness.  No wonder such a religion cannot evangelize the world with a message of love and forgiveness, but rather must seek to conquer the world by human force. 

The Mormon Adam-god. Mormon theology is as confused as Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon.  God was actually conceived as Adam who eventually became the god of this earth only, from a sexual union between Elohim and one of his many wives.  The trinity to Mormonism is tri-theistic and polytheistic.  Yet Mormonism itself is “henotheistic” i.e. one principle god among many who rule in other worlds.  Jesus was the first-begotten son of a physical union of Elohim and Mary, who then also became a god.  There is no redemption in Mormonism either.  It is a system of works both for the life here and for those who have died already.  I toured a new Mormon temple before it was dedicated and observed the three floors of progressive good works leading to the top celestial room, or the greatest glory.  There is no Mediator for the Mormon, only the hope of becoming a god himself and begetting many spirit children like God had done.

The Witnesses Jehovah.  To Jehovah’s Witnesses all other beliefs are part of pagan “Christendom” or “religionists.”  Though they say they believe the Bible, they alone have the right to interpret it and only then from their biased translation.  They insist on only one person, not three.  Jesus was created by God (thus and only God’s “Son”) and has existed in three forms.  First He was Michael the archangel, then became Christ at His birth, and lastly became the new Michael recreated by resurrection in a perfect manner.  In addition, there is no personal Holy Spirit, but only a “force” of God.  If you are faithful enough to be in the 144,000 at resurrection, you could become a perfect spirit as Jesus became at His resurrection.  Though a JW will always talk of faith in Christ, his faith must be coupled with faithfulness, and that faith is not in the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

The Catholic Mary-god.  The Catholic church is actually closer to Christian theology than what is normally called a cult.  They do profess the triune God in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  But though their theology proper is correct, their bibliology and soteriology precludes having only one Mediator between God and man, for rather than having “the man Christ Jesus” alone, they insist on having Mary, the mother of God and intercessor for the believer.  At the Council of Ephesus (431) Mary was declared to be the Mother of God (Theotokos) as well as the Mother of Christ (Christotokos).  In 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the doctrine of her immaculate conception, that Mary was free of original sin at her own conception.  In 1950, Pope Pius XII declared the doctrine of bodily assumption of Mary, that she could not see corruption in death but was resurrected bodily upon her death and ascended bodily into heaven. 

But beyond all of that, it was Bernard of Clairvaux (10th Cent) who declared that Mary was the Mediator between Christ and men, since Christ is also a Judge and men need help to be able to approach Him.  Though we may not disagree with Rome’s doctrine of the trinity, how can we believe in the one true God and His own mediation for us, and at the same time believe that there is another mediator between the man Christ Jesus and sinful men?  These contrary beliefs have come to Rome because of its belief that Tradition is equal to the Christian Scripture.  In that view, the Christian God must be defined by both sources of revelation. 

 

Practical Statements

All religions have their own hypocrites.  It would not be fair to judge any religion by those who do not follow its doctrines.  Biblical Christianity as seen in the Christian Scriptures has had as many hypocrites and heretics as any other religion.  But that is why we stress Sola Scriptura, or the Scriptures alone for our belief.  When the world judges Christianity, though this hardly ever happens, we would wish that they would judge it by what the Bible says, not always by how people try to live it. 

What many people call Christian growth is really only normal human growth.  After all, as any human being grows older, he/she becomes smarter, more experienced, more friendly, more helpful to others.  When this happens around the church we may mistakenly call it Christian growth.  It may actually be a hypocritical faith, a person only growing older, not growing in Christian graces.  At some point we will act surprised when he/she is at a total loss to express any Christian fruit, showing only the wisdom of the world rather than true Christian spirituality.

If we could observe at least one true follower of each of the world’s religions,  we may not be able to distinguish a major difference at first glance.  The Bible promises, however, that over time the believer in the true God, through the only Mediator, Jesus Christ, will show old things passing away and all things becoming new.  Yet, still the real difference between that true believer and the world’s religionists, is faith in God as the Bible describes Him through the Mediator as the Bible describes Him.  Any other faith is a faith in a false god.  It is a faith in a god that does not exist.  It will always produce a religion of human works rather than redemption through the grace of God.

 

And So . . . .

I should end this article the way Paul ended his statement to Timothy, “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity” (1 Tim. 2:7).  Paul was insistent that this Christian message of the one true God and Mediator be proclaimed to all men.  Of the three descriptions of Paul, one is unique to him and a few other men of the first century, that is that he was an apostle.  This gift from Christ was given to those men specially selected by Christ to be witnesses of His resurrection.  They were men who also wrote the Christian Scriptures under inspiration and established our foundation for the church (Eph. 2:20). 

Paul was also a preacher and a teacher, two words used to describe the ongoing offices of church leadership.  It is essential that the Christian faith be preached around the world until Jesus comes.  A preacher is a heralder (kerux) of the truth.  He does this by preaching (keruss?) and the message (kerugma) that he preaches is that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no man comes unto the Father except through Him (John 14:6).  The Word of God is the seed he sows and the field in which he sows is the world (Matthew 13:3-23).  Only some of the seed will fall into good ground.  Most of it will be unproductive.  The preacher cannot be discouraged because the world refuses the good seed of the gospel.  It is his job to sow it.

Paul also was a teacher in faith and verity (aletheia-truth!).  This faith of ours must be taught to saints and sinners alike.  Sometimes it takes a long process for the truth to sink into a sinner’s heart.  We also know it takes a life-time of study for the believer to mature in Christ.  With the Word of God, and the faithful preaching of its doctrines, and the constant teaching of its truths, we can be partners with God, Christ, the apostles, and the great saints, in proclaiming the one true God.

Jesus Thy blood and righteousness,

My beauty are, my glorious dress;

Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed

With joy shall I lift up my head.

 

Bold shall I stand in Thy great day,

For who aught to my charge shall lay?

Fully absolved through these I am,

From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

 

Lord, I believe Thy precious blood,

Which at the mercy seat of God,

Forever doth for sinners plead,

For me, e’en for my soul, was shed.

 

 

The Case for Christmas/Easter

The Case for Christmas/Easter

by Admin

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I read these two booklets to determine if they were presenting a case for the celebration of Christmas and Easter.  There are those who sometimes question whether or not we, as Christians, should participate in the commemoration of those two holidays given their somewhat pagan beginnings and their worldly celebration today.  However, that was not Strobel’s intent.  Both booklets are primarily excerpts from his book The Case for Christ, with The Case for Easter primarily extracted from “Part 3” of that book.

Each book basically assumes the celebration of Christmas and Easter and reviews portions of Strobel’s own journey to faith slanted towards the reality and proof of each event as well as the validity and veracity of the scriptural accounts surrounding those two events.  If you have read his book, The Case for Christ, then you have read the content of these two booklets and more.  While these two booklets do not contain the depth and wealth of evidence that demands a verdict (to borrow from Josh McDowell) which The Case for Christ and its companion book The Case for Faith contain, they very well could serve as an inexpensive door opener to convince an unbeliever to at least investigate the claims of Christ further.  In his conclusion to The Case for Christmas, Strobel invites the reader to “further investigate the evidence for yourself.”  And, he challenges the reader in The Case for Easter to “pursue the truth about Jesus enthusiastically and honestly,” noting further that, “there’s a lot riding on your verdict.”

 

Stand for the Truth

Stand for the Truth

by Rick Shrader

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This Sword & Trowel booklet is a 2009 reprint from a 1996 edition.  Masters calls for a Biblical separation from apostasy and from worldliness.  He uses the term “evangelical” to refer to those who are truly saved; have had an evangelical conversion experience.  He takes sharp issue with those who have called Roman Catholics ‘brethren,” specifically naming Charles Colson and J.I. Packer for their participation in the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document as well as John Stott for his participation in The Nottingham Statement, which also named all Catholics as evangelical brethren.  The bulk of the book is given to answering arguments made against Biblical separation including why Jesus ate with sinners and whether separation is judging.  I also appreciated his defense of Secondary Separation because not many today are willing to delve into that controversial area.  He gives four ways in which “non-separators” put their people in danger by not separating from brethren who walk disorderly.  You can order the booklet at:   www.TabernacleBookshop.org

 

Begging the Question

Begging the Question

by Debra Conley

My vote for the best book of the 20th Century
will probably be Thomas Sewell’s The Vision of the Anointed since among many
other poignant perceptions is the excellent explanation of Begging the Question
as a basis for argument. For those unfamiliar with the long-ago taught
principles of argumentation, Begging the Question starts with a statement
assumed to be truth that is not necessarily a truth, nor does the writer make
any attempt to verify his statement as truth. He merely makes the statement,
assumes it to be truth, and proceeds to build the rest of his arguments on that
statement. Sewell’s book is written as an excellent summary of this erroneous
practice by the liberal social consensus of our country. His premise is that
they make a statement, assume it to be true because they thought it up, said
it, or both, and then    proceed to make every other “truth”
dependent upon that first premise. This “vision” as he calls it, has so pervaded
the social left that they cannot see their own error in beginning with a false
assumption. Example: “Americans disapprove of the war.” This generalization
assumes that all Americans have given their disapproval.  Did they ask me,
or even a majority of Americans? No. Therefore, that premise is invalid and any
argument to end the war based on that statement has no validity (and is invalid
for other reasons of argumentation). The average Gallup Poll (survey) questions
fewer than 1000 of the nearly 500 million Americans. 1

Teaching requires that we establish truth as verifiable,
researchable, and valid conclusions as reproducible.  Today’s Christian is
without excuse in my estimation.  Research and study avenues abound in our
age and we have the tools for verifiable argument. Yet our literature and
speech is so glutted with fallacious reasoning and  arguments built on
assumed premises that  it is no wonder the lost world questions us. One
does not have to be a scholar to see through or understand a false premise,
Begging the Question, or other weak arguments. These were commonly taught (I
refer to the       Harvard Principles of
Argumentation and Persuasion as one of the most common texts until about 1980)
in most schools. Let us study to show ourselves approved so that we are not put
to shame.

Remember: Truth is verifiable under any scrutiny. If you
really have the truth, any research, study, or questioning will only prove you
right. If, however, the research or scrutiny calls your “truth” into question,
you should bend over backwards to get to the truth. How else will a lost world
accept our spiritual truth unless we have proven ourselves good stewards of the
truth in all arguments?

1Wiley, John, “Where America Stands,” Online
Edition, The Gallup Organization, 1997.

 

The Truth War

The Truth War

by Rick Shrader

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This new book by MacArthur does a great service to conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists alike, regardless of your various points of disagreement with its author.  MacArthur uses the book of Jude as his text and speaks out on the apostasy within the churches today.  He defines and warns of postmodernism and its latest representative, emerging worship, leaving no doubt about his belief that this phenomenon is actually false belief pretending to be Christian and that its leaders (often quoting Brian McLaren) are false teachers leading others into unbelief with them.  He defends the church’s right to defend herself against these false teachers even though today’s attitude toward defending the faith is cynical.  He points out that the biblical reason apostates do what they do is lust of the flesh.  They “turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness,” they have eyes “full of adultery.”  This self-centered approach to ministry denies “the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

Fool’s Gold

Fool’s Gold

by Rick Shrader

This book is written by a cross-section of Staff and Teachers from MacArthur’s ministries.  It contains some needed rebuttal’s to things such as Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life; John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart; and a review of The Resolve New Testament.  Other general chapters on discernment and ministry are helpful and challenging.  MacArthur does the chapter on Contemporary Worship.  I have a few disagreements with some of the chapters.  I don’t think the public invitation was born in pragmatism nor is it outdated or unscriptural; I don’t think that the “Gospel Songs”  [hymns] of the last two centuries were such a drastic step downward from great classical hymns.

 

Fool’s Gold

Fool’s Gold

by Rick Shrader

Reviewed by Dan Lucarini

When I first met Dr. Shrader for lunch in Denver, we talked about the “death of discernment” in the church and thought someone should write a book about it.  Well, someone finally did!  This book exposes the root problem that causes many Christians to fall in love with the world and to put up with weak, unbiblical preaching and teaching: a lack of Biblical discernment.  The authors lay out a convincing argument that the average Christian lacks sufficient knowledge of God’s Word due to a combination of watered-down preaching and worldly amusements, and therefore cannot rightly divide error from truth.  Several contributors from his ministry write, but MacArthur himself writes the chapter on contemporary Worship Music.  Many of us have been waiting for him to weigh in on this sensitive subject and he does not disappoint. The book also contains a much-needed critique of Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven Life, offering a firm yet gracious manner . . . . unlike the many harsh Warren critiques in circulation.  Other chapters discuss the Wild at Heart men’s ministry, the controversy over the Apostle Paul, and other contemporary issues that require discernment.  There is also a gem of a chapter titled Hills to Die On, where Dan Dumas (Exec. Pastor at Grace Community church) reminds us of the three primary faith issues for which all Christians should be ready to contend, and urges us to be cautious how we treat the secondary and tertiary issues.

 

The Obvious Lie

The Obvious Lie

by Rick Shrader

Mark Twain once said, “The secret of success is sincerity.  If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”1 He should have been living today, we would hire him to teach leadership seminars.  And it wouldn’t matter whether it was business, politics or church, the image we present has become more important than what we really are.

I call this “The Obvious Lie” because of the amazing ability we have in our day to hear and see a catchy sales pitch, know it cannot possibly be true, and yet be persuaded by it anyway.  The more fantastic the claim, the better we like it.  Does drinking your favorite beverage on a deserted island really make dancing girls appear?  No, and no one really cares.  Does it make you snow board down a snowy slope any faster?  Of course not, but that’s not the point.  The point is image, non-reality, using a product that is simply associated with those things.  So, do we really care that the commercial has lied to us?  Evidently not.

Obviously, we ought to be concerned about this state of affairs when it comes to presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ, but I am afraid we are not.  As a matter of fact, we are more than willing to use it than to fight it.  Glenn Ward, in a non-Christian book summarizing this postmodern phenomenon writes,

The increasing invasion of signs and images (in media, display, advertising and so on) into the fabric of everyday life has created a dream world of ideal lifestyles for us to fantasize about and identify with.  For example, many commercials are more concerned to attach a sense of lifestyle and experience to the product being sold than to give details about the product itself.  Because of this, we get as much satisfaction from consuming the images attached to goods as we do from whatever practical function the goods might serve.2

We have become so used to this form of communication in our lives  that we expect to be lied to.  The truthfulness of the message no longer matters. I have seen “mission statements” posted on business walls that if true, would both invade any privacy the customer had left and take three times the personnel available to see it accomplished.  I suppose we have learned that they simply want to “feel our pain” whether they can really do anything about it or not.

Lynne Cheney, who has been writing on these things for years, quoted Richard Lanham of UCLA describing what he called “The Rhetorical Man.”

Rhetorical man is an actor; his reality public, dramatic.  His sense of identity, his self, depends on the reassurance of daily histrionic reenactment …. He thinks first of winning, of mastering the rules the current game enforces.  He assumes a natural agility in changing orientations.  He hits the street already street-wise.  From birth, almost, he has dwelt not in a single value-structure but in several. He is thus committed to no single construction of the world; much rather, to prevailing in the game at hand…. Rhetorical man is trained not to discover reality but to manipulate it.  Reality is what is accepted as reality, what is useful….Rhetorical man does not ask, ‘What is real?’ He asks, ‘What is accepted as reality here and now?’  He is thus typical present-oriented.  Past and future remain as possibility only, a paradigm he may some day have to learn.3

Using the postmodern lie

I have for a long time been an advocate of the church not jumping on this band-wagon.  I cannot see that just because we are smart enough to notice what the postmodern culture is doing and accepts, that we should adopt the same technique.  One Christian writer advocates, “Give postmoderns a new experience they haven’t had before.  The experience of a new story, the ‘feel’ of a new consciousness, is the key to personal and social change. . . . Total Experience is the new watchword in postmodern worship.  New World preachers don’t ‘write sermons.’  They create total experiences.”4 It is my contention that preaching the truth to postmoderns cannot be done with the same obvious lie with which they preach to themselves.

What some seem to fail to take into account is that postmoderns believe that experience creates truth and there is no such thing as finding truth.  Facts are out, stories are in.  Narratives must be interpreted into the listener’s context, not the writer’s or speaker’s context.  Listen, for example, to two of the most prominent postmodern writers.  Jacques Derrida, in his famous Grammatology writes, “The feelings of the mind, expressing things naturally, constitute a sort of universal language which can then efface itself.  It is the stage of transparence. . . . The written signifier is always technical and representative.  It has no constitutive meaning.”5 Similarly, Jean Baudrillard says, “We are in a logic of simulation which has nothing to do with a logic of facts and an order of reasons.”6

The postmodern audience demands image, story, self-interpreting histories because it believes truth is created in this way.  The law of non-contradiction is out, the law of contradiction is in.  The differences no longer reveal error, rather they allow for  individual truth for each person.  Can we allow this misconception of what we are preaching to go on?  Can we continue to let the hearers interpret our message in such a subjective way?

Is godliness a means of gain?

I have always read the description of “men of corrupt minds, destitute of the truth” in 1 Timothy 6:5 as “supposing that gain is godliness.”  But the phrase is properly translated “who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (NKJV).  There is a key difference.  It is not that some think earning a lot of money makes one a godly person.  Rather, it is that some people actually see that putting on the air of godliness will be profitable!  We can “gain” things by being godly.  This notion, coupled with the propensity to use the lie as a working methodology, makes for a dangerous combination.

Consider the words of our Lord when He instructed the disciples on what is greatness.  “Whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister.  And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all” (Mk 10:43-44).  Isn’t it our nature to decide that, since we want to be “great,” we will have to get there by serving for a while?  Servanthood becomes a means to greatness rather than (as Jesus means) servanthood being greatness.

With the church in the midst of a consumer society, we have to ask ourselves how we intend to “build a church.”  Are we so sold out to the goal of attracting people that we will use the image of godliness to gain a crowd?  If so, then our image of godliness will end up being whatever the audience wants to interpret as godliness.  Let them be the judge.  Let them set the standard and write the definitions.  One young postmodern is quoted as saying,

It’s a pretty cool thing because there is no right or wrong when it comes to faith.  You believe what you believe, for whatever reasons seem right to you, and nobody can take that away from you.  And then, if you change your mind, that’s not an admission of failure or being wrong, but just a change of heart or maybe a sign that you’ve learned or grown up.  It’s not like math.  In spiritual matters the playing field is wide open.7

The author of the book compliments the young man for his sincerity.  As has become the common theme, the church is criticized as being Pharisaical for not accommodating the young man’s point of view and every negative trait about older people in the church is put on display.

The Sardis factor

In recent classes of Bible college or seminary students where I have spoken, I have read Revelation 3:1 and asked what it means.  The second half of that verse reads, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.”  Almost without exception the answer has been that the church at Sardis was a dying church where not much was going on.  It seems almost an impossible concept for today’s future church builders that the church may very well have been a growing, active church and yet have been spiritually dead!  John MacArthur writes,

The church at Sardis was proud of her reputation for being spiritually alive, but the Lord warned her that she was really dead and needed to repent (Rev. 3:1-2).  If she did not He would come upon her like a thief (v. 3)—just as one night enemy soldiers under Cyrus had sneaked into the seemingly impregnable acropolis at Sardis by way of an unguarded footpath. . . . Overconfidence led to carelessness, and carelessness led to defeat.8

Today, success, even in God’s church, is based on today’s method of evaluating success.  And for all of the talk of a new vision for a new age, that method is the same it has been throughout the pragmatic twentieth century—acceptance by the world rewarded by their gracious attendance.  Yet will they respond as Paul describes in 1 Cor. 14:25, “And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.”  Not just go through the motions, mind you, because he has been asked to and that’s the spiritual experience for the day.  But because his sin, in all its ugliness before a holy God, has buckled his knees and his heart and left him in total despair without a Savior!  Spurgeon wrote,

The battlefront is altered, but do not imagine that the conflict will be less severe.  The whole land reeks before the Lord, and is corrupt with sin.  If Christians do not labor to stay evil, who will do it?  He who does not cry out against the wolf cannot surely be at enmity with the lion.9

Notes:
1. Quoted by Os Guinness, Unriddling Our Times (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999) 63.
2. Glenn Ward, Postmodernism (UK: NTC, 1997) 109.
3. Quoted by Lynne Cheney, Telling The Truth ( 190.
4. Leonard Sweet, Postmodern Pilgrims (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2000) 43.
5. Jacques Derrida, Grammatology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U. Press, 1997) 11.
6. Robert Antonio and Douglas Kellner, “The Future of Social Theory”  Postmodernism & Social Inquiry (New York: The Guilford Press, 1994) 129.
7. George Barna, The Second Coming of the Church (Nashville:  Word Publishing, 1998) 75.
8. John MacArthur, First Corinthians (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984) 227.
9. Charles Spurgeon, reprinted in The Baptist Vision, Feb. 2001.

 

Truth, Evangelism & the Postmodern Mind

Truth, Evangelism & the Postmodern Mind

by Rick Shrader

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This is a 3-tape series of messages presented at Trinity International University’s May 1998 conference “Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns.” These messages are going to be part of a book coming out this year. You can buy the tapes through the Ravi Zacharias Ministries.

Two tapes are by Zacharias and one is by Carson. Both have written extensively in recent years in the fields of apologetics. It is always interesting to hear a writer’s voice and be able to put some personality with the words. This series emphasizes the importance of reaching today’s generation by trying to think as they think. This is always a difficult task when our generation thinks so opposite of God’s thoughts. Nevertheless, even Paul became this to all men. RCS