CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Another Jesus

Jun 8, 2010

That biblical Christianity is an exclusive religion clearly distinguished from other truth claims and religious expressions is clear simply from taking the words of Jesus at face value. No one reading the four Gospels without some preconceived agenda can overlook the unique and exclusive message being proclaimed there.

Jesus made it absolutely clear that he alone was the way to eternal life, and he alone was God’s appointed means of dealing with our sin and alienation from God. Yet throughout church history there have been those who have sought to water down this message, and to in fact proclaim another gospel and push another Jesus.

Indeed, this took place from the earliest times. Paul for example had to repeatedly deal with this problem. He had to time and again warn against false messages and false doctrines. In 2 Cor 11:2-4 Paul shares these concerns with the Corinthian believers:

“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.”

Here Paul warns against those who would present a different Jesus, a different spirit and a different gospel. Things are no different today. If anything, things may have gotten worse. Everywhere we turn we find those who are claiming to speak on behalf of Christ, but who are clearly proclaiming a Christ of their own devising.

That the New Testament writers took this most seriously is clear enough. Many passages can be cited here. Jesus could say, “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect – if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time” (Mark 13:21-23).

Paul did not mince his words in Gal 1:6-9: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”

Or as Peter put it, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute” (2 Peter 2:1-3).

Yet other gospels and other Christs keep being promoted by those who have jettisoned biblical Christianity. Consider The Center for Progressive Christianity, an American-based group which has clearly lost the plot big time. Simply using the term “progressive” offers a good indication of where they are going – and it is not back to the Bible.

A brief look at their website reveals the very things the NT writers warned about. It is full of trendy liberal mumbo jumbo concerning the faith, in which key essentials of Christian belief are denied. And it seems to champion all the usual leftist causes and political activism.

We read this on its homepage: “We affirm the variety and depth of human experience and the richness of each persons’ search for meaning, and we encourage the use of sound scholarship, critical inquiry, and all intellectual powers to understand the presence of God in human life.

“We are opposed to any exclusive dogma that limits the search for truth and free inquiry, and we encourage work that eases the pain, suffering and degradation inherent in many of the structures of society, as well as work that keeps central to the Christian life fair, open, peaceful, and loving treatment of all human beings.”

That kind of talk gives you a pretty good idea of where they are coming from. Indeed, any biblical Christian would hear alarm bells going off all over the place. The rejection of “exclusive dogma” is another way of saying they reject the truth claims of Jesus such as found in John 14:6 and in so many other places.

They lay out their beliefs – or lack of them – in what they call “the 8 Points”. Point Two says this: “Recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us.”

That is something straight out of the postmodernist handbook, but has absolutely nothing to do with the faith once delivered to the saints. Imagine applying this foolishness to any other sphere of life: “Well your honour, I know you and the court subscribe to the view that a red light means’ stop’, but I see things differently. I think it means ‘go’.”

I doubt that the judge will allow the red light runner to get off scot free with that sort of rubbish. There is not an array of ‘truths’ on these matters. There is only one truth. So too in the physical realm. A person may argue that the law of gravity is perhaps true for others, but not true for himself, but let him try that out as he leaps from the top of a 50-story building.

The idea that ‘you have your truth and I have mine’ fits well in a relativistic age which denies absolute truth, but it has nothing to do with Christ and the Scriptures. Indeed, absolute truth is throughout the Bible proclaimed and affirmed. Consider just a handful of passages which shamelessly affirm truth and “exclusive dogma”:

Exo 20:2,3  I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.
John 8:44  You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
John 14:6  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.
John 10:7-10  Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Of course to proclaim such exclusivist truth claims will not be eagerly received by most people today. Even many who claim to be followers of Christ tend to get squeamish about such biblical certainties. Yet we must not shy away from these truths. As Todd Miles says in his new book on religious pluralism (A God of Many Understandings? B&H, 2010),

“The church is situated at a critical stage in redemptive history. The cultural climate is such that bold, uncompromising proclamation of the gospel is looked upon as culturally insensitive, politically incorrect, morally offensive, and intellectually deficient. The world will not offer incentive or encouragement to faithful gospel proclamation. This should come as no surprise since Jesus warned that the world would hate His followers as it had hated Him (John 15:18). Therefore, the Church must be particularly diligent to safeguard her fidelity to her biblical mandate to take the gospel to the nations.”

As the days grow darker and the very notion of truth becomes increasingly mocked, the need for a strong and unswerving proclamation of truth becomes ever more imperative. We dare not resort to another Jesus or seek to proclaim a different gospel. We must preach the biblical Christ to a lost and needy world, regardless of the opposition we may face.

To fail to do so is to fail our Lord, and to renounce our heavenly commission. That we must never do.

www.tcpc.org/template/index.cfm

[1495 words]

22 Responses to Another Jesus

  • Amen – and the thousand or more portions and quotes from the gospels, dating from 100-150 years of the events described therein, are the most authentic record of any historic event in Roman or preceding history.

    If you don’t believe in the Gospel Jesus you can’t believe any history!

    Stephen White

  • Here here on your article, forgive my sarcastic humour below I thought it might encourage the readers to get a little bit more bold and agressive with the apostate Church and its apostate ministers and their legalistic ‘grace’ dogma, who knows we might win this war and usher in the second coming of Christ so that he can at least look on us with a bit of praise!

    Its great to see you simply fulfilling scriptures such as below Bill, the Gospel needs and commands (v1)everyone who names the name ‘Christian’ to do so…….out loud……..all the time……whenever there is a threat to it. Heck the homosexuals are speaking up and have a look how far its got them in our society in the last ten years theyve made phenomenal progress in changing opinions and silencing anyone who speaks even slightly contrary…………but as is usual many Churches dont learn………salt and light has been reduced to chalk and run and hide, ‘cos its not how Jesus would do it if he were here right???’

    2Ti 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
    2Ti 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
    2Ti 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
    2Ti 4:4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
    2Ti 4:5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

    ‘I charge thee’ wow what strong words..but hey..they arent relevant today and certainly no Minister should ever dare and say the same thing to their congregation right?

    ‘Preach the Word’, yep……….just the bits that our flesh wants to hear……were a little down on finance this month and I really think its satisfactory if those attending simply bear the fruit of encouragement and financial support while we do the work right…………ah……can anyone remember what we were going to do this month????? what???? oh yer thats right……were going to have another Christian conference and really fire the people up again…………(to do nothing, but ever learn and yet never come to the knowledge of the truth and start doing!)

    ‘Rebuke’ well Bill uno mate I really feel their is a spirit of bitterness in some of your articles….you just need to ‘love’ people a whole lot more, no more of this ‘rebuke’ stuff ok………by the way Bill where did you pick all this rebuke stuff up from anyway???? (I got it from the Book you havent read for years, its called the Bible), oh ok, look maybe i can point you to a much more relevant interpretat…….I mean translation.

    Jud 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
    Jud 1:4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

    ‘Contend’ uno Bill its not our fight…remember my friend the battle is the Lord’s………….ah Bill…………..Bill………..

    keep shouting my friend it’ll all be worth it if one soul gets their face in the Bible and starts spending adequate time in prayer they might get it before its to late.

    Dorian Ballard

  • “…since Jesus warned that the world would hate His followers as it had hated Him” I think one problem for us is that, being born and raised in a nominally-Christian society, the business of learning to be hated, and getting used to that reality, comes difficult, a shock, a thing we can’t easily adapt to. Future generations of Christians in our society will learn to be outsiders from the beginning, different, rebels almost; in a curious way that will help them; they’ll be “counter culture” from the start (just as the secularisers/”sexual revolutionaries” thought of themselves in the post-war decades), truly in the world but not of the world.
    John Thomas, UK

  • One thing I don’t get is why people think that one way to heaven is such a problem anyway. If there was ‘only’ one road between where you lived and worked and it took you directly there, would you complain that there were no alternatives to get you to work?

    It’s clear that those who want to talk about ‘other ways’ are simply more interested in there own plans and ideas rather than God’s perfect plan for salvation.

    That website is the domain of demons, there is no nice way to put it. All the usual roads away from the simple truth of the gospel are there, be it misrepresentations about Jesus, man’s intrinsic fallen nature, the authority of Scripture, etc.

    Here’s some choice quotes I found:

    “people like Richard Dawkins and the new atheists are promoting a user-friendly atheism that raises timely questions for religion.”
    “We progressives have been more than happy reimagining the Sacred as immanent Spirit, Life, Love, Presence, Energy, or even avoiding God-talk altogether.”
    “What he (the Dalai Lama) is challenging here is actually the Christian idea of “conversion” – the claim that there is only one truth, a claim that deprived Aboriginal people of their indigenous spirituality and forced Muslims to convert or be killed in the Crusades.”
    “The claim that Jesus offers the only access to God for all people promotes attitudes that lead to racial and ethnic divisions.”
    “We’ve begun to construct a new model of Christianity that is compatible with deep spirituality, religious pluralism, sound science, good common sense, compassion for the needs of humanity, inclusion of all people, and respect for the environment.”
    “The Bible doesn’t prescribe how marriage should or should not be defined.”
    “Now that ancient systems of belief have been dismantled by the Enlightenment and the Jesus Seminar and more recently the New Atheists, the role of Progressive Christianity is to rebuild a religious expression that is open and honest, is consistent with science and new discovery, and has enough imagination to build a vision of a more peaceful and just world.”

    And these ones in their materials for teaching kids – “The curriculum is free from dogma and creed and does not make reference to the atonement/sacrifice issue that is in classical Christianity. It treats Jesus as a teacher of a way to live a fulfilling and spiritual life. It respects and celebrates the many wisdom teachings that exist and focuses on a joyful path and finding God within all.”
    “Affirmation: The whole world is home, and we are a divine family.”
    “If we look honestly at our mistakes and listen within for guidance, we will discover our true identity as unlimited spirit.”

    Those materials include quotes from Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, and other false teachers. (Of course, Bible quotes are mixed in to make it all seem OK.) btw, the quotes above are not even remotely exhaustive, but I should not need to copy and paste any further, surely!

    I’m astonished that people can actually write such obviously twisted stuff and attempt to pass it off as representing Christ, but there it is. Jesus shed His precious blood, and these people are effectively calling Him a liar and a fraud when His mission is centered on the fact that His sacrifice was the only way to heaven.

    One thing that I have recently realized is that there is a common error between this kind of heresy and, somewhat ironically, the prosperity ‘gospel’. There is way too much concern with the current life here on earth, but precious little about the eternity that follows. When you read the Gospels you will notice that Jesus had somewhat different priorities. And from Paul, my favourite verse speaks to this error:
    2 Cor 4:16-18
    Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

    As an aside, if I may – Dorian, I appreciate your zeal, but even Peter the fisherman was able to write something that was understandable and Paul encouraged Timothy to correctly handle or rightly divide the word of truth. I found your post a little too difficult to read. One of Bill’s gifts is his ability to make tricky or complex subjects readily digestible, something I am also learning about.

    Mark Rabich

  • Thanks for these timely words Bill. I can’t think of anything of greater relevance to the professing church at the moment. Just recently a local minister told her congregation Jesus is not the only way to God. Seems to me to sum up most of the problem.
    Lindsay Smail

  • According to relativism, no proposition can be absolutely true. Therefore the proposition “there is no absolute truth” cannot be absolutely true — relativism is self-refuting.

    We are opposed to any exclusive dogma that limits the search for truth and free inquiry

    This statement is itself an exclusive dogma that limits the search for truth, because under this system, believing a proposition makes it ‘true’.

    If no-one can have or present ‘the’ truth, then why do these people expect us to waste our time listening to them, for under their system, what they’re on about can only be true for themselves?

    Michael Watts

  • Thanks Mark

    Yes, the more you explore their site, the more bizarre – and completely unChristian – it appears.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Michael

    Yes you are quite right. They are pushing the “exclusive dogma” that there are to be no exclusive dogmas! In the name of tolerance they are being quite intolerant (of other points of view). In their rush to claim all truth is relative, they make their own non-relative truth claims. They are absolutely sure there are no absolutes!

    It is one massive contradiction. But violating the basic laws of logic never seems to matter much to these folks.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Unless many stand up, speak up and war against this ‘progressive Christianity’, then some 15 or 20 years down the road there will be a new kind of Christianity so very different from that which the apostles and also the early reformers taught.
    Brain McLaren emergent teachings and Richard Foster contemplative prayer and spirituality are now already acceptable teachings even in evangelical and conservative circles. Their books are common sight in christian bookshops. It’s every christian responsibility to war against such false teachings, a different gospel.
    A good in-depth discussion on this subject can be found on http://apprising.org/
    Barry Koh

  • It is a sad thing you are saying here. I personally need more guts to say the Truth, even though I know it. There is that verse about hiding your light… I am guilty of doing that.
    🙁
    Jonathan Parsons, Melbourne

  • Well said, Bill.
    Ross McPhee

  • Thanks guys

    Check this out as an example of what I am talking about: http://beforeitsnews.com/news/74/620/Disturbing:_United_Church_of_Christ_Advancing_Islam.html

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I don’t understand the opposition to exclusive dogma either. My thought is, why be Christian if you don’t believe Christianity is the one way to salvation? Why be Hindu if you don’t believe your way is the right way? This goes with any belief system.

    One needs to believe they are following the one true path, otherwise, why bother following a path at all?

    Post-modernism has attempted to deconstruct all institutions and all dogmas except their own.

    Kendra Mallock, USA

  • Relativism is man’s excuse for not repenting of his/her sins at the foot of the cross of Christ. The ‘crossless’ gospel is the one that the heretics preach because that type of false gospel allows them to keep practicing their favorite sins (and trapped in the lie) and keeps them away from the Truth.

    Both John the Baptist and then, of course, Jesus began their ministries saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is near.” Without repentance of sin, there is no forgiveness of sin. Without forgiveness, the soul of the unforgiven person is lost. Those who think that this is a minor issue are in grave error!

    Great post, as always, Bill!

    Christine Watson, USA

  • Thanks Kendra and Christine

    Great to see some dedicated and committed Americans fighting the good fight as well. All around the world those who have not bowed the knee to Baal are standing up and making a difference. Blessings to you two and your families and your ministries.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Michael Watts’ post quoted “We are opposed to any exclusive dogma that limits the search for truth and free inquiry”. Oh, if it wasn’t so insane, it would be a humorous. It is self-refuting as Michael said and it also limits the search for truth right at the start, since it’s already assumed or even “known”, if you will, that one will never find truth. For, as soon as we find Truth, we will then come across immediate opposition. It’s a futile lifetime of searching with the necessity of simultaneously resigning one’s self to never finding any answers.
    Kendra Mallock, USA

  • “Things are no different today. If anything, things may have gotten worse. Everywhere we turn we find those who are claiming to speak on behalf of Christ, but who are clearly proclaiming a Christ of their own devising.”

    I am amazed at how clearly you speak the truth. I see this happening word for word in my workplace. It is so difficult for me….

    Jane Petridge

  • The interpretation of the meaning of the red light as being green can be a symptom of red-green colour blindness.
    I submit that mistaking evil for good, and perceiving good as evil, also stems from (often times willful) spiritual blindness. “Open our eyes, Father.”
    Daniel Shepherd

  • Thanks Daniel

    Yes quite right. As we read in Isaiah 5:20: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • As usual Bill you’ve ” nailed it”. As Christians we have a duty to know the one we claim to love and follow. How can we know Him if we don’t receive Him through His Word, where He has told us over and over again who He is, why He came in to the world and what commitment to Him entails? The enemy of man understands spiritual warfare very well and therefore has a fifth column active inside the church. You’ve clearly highlighted its efforts to subvert the Gospel and that helps us to recognise them for what they are. keep up the good work and may God bless all your efforts. Of course the enemy also has a foothold in the heart of any Christian holding on to unrepented sin and there’s where we make ourselves easy to deceive! We need to be vigilant and prayerful and stay close to Jesus.
    Anna Cook

  • Thank you so much Bill,
    Just so timely because I have just finished reading a book called “And many will come in my name”. The author talks about the new age movement using meditation as a way to tap into the devils powers. Enlightenment they call it.
    Also Christ-selfness or your inner self and about another 25 names. It made me sick to read this gibberish but at least I’m aware of this world wide scam.
    Daniel Kempton

  • A couple of years ago I read that the George Barna Christian Reseach Organisation had investigated church attendance in the USA. One of the findings was that up to 1 million christians each year are leaving the church of the organised religion and making their way to home fellowships for a more authentic expression of their faith without the interference of professional clergy.

    Were they half hearted christians? NO. Were they rebellious christians? NO. Were they those that had a gripe about the church? NO.

    Apparently, those leaving were mature believers who were forced to be part of the cheer squad for the professionals. They definitely had ministries given to them by God but were unable to function in them because they were….not ordained.

    If you want to hear a prophecy for Australia it is this. God will and is raising up a true body replete with functioning ministries that needs no temple, priest or liturgy. What you might call Gideon’s three hundred.

    Those that are satisfied with their systems will be told “Go away, I never knew you.”

    Roger Marks

Leave a Reply