I could be wrong, but I have a feeling that if any of the Old Testament prophets – or any of the New Testament disciples for that matter – came to our churches today, in most cases they would quickly be ejected.
And I am not talking about liberal mainstream denominations, but so-called Bible-believing evangelical churches. They would be shown the door. They would be soundly rejected. They would not be welcome in most houses of worship today.
Why is this? Simple: they would be told that they are too intolerant, too unloving, too narrow, too dogmatic, too negative, too judgmental, and too ungracious. Whether it be Jeremiah or Elijah or John the Baptist or Paul, or even Jesus himself, many contemporary churches would find their messages far too confronting, challenging and convicting.
With the surrounding culture adrift in a sea of relativism, ‘tolerance,’ non-judgmentalism, and phony notions of acceptance, and churches which are far too happy to act as sponges to that culture, it is not surprising that most of these biblical characters would have a hard time being embraced today.
Indeed, one sermon from Jeremiah and that would be the last time he would be invited back to that pulpit. One strong message about repentance and fleeing the wrath to come would mean Paul would be looking for a new day job.
Imagine if Elijah were to confront modern day prophets of Baal today. Christians would be aghast. They would be shocked at his boldness, his single-mindedness, his willingness to mock and chide the false prophets, and his unbending devotion to truth and the holiness of God.
In fact, I suspect that many modern day believers would in fact side with the false prophets. “Oh Elijah,” they would whinge, “you are just so unloving and ungracious and intolerant and judgmental. Jesus would never be that way.”
Then again, if Jesus were to come on the scene today and give some of his strong words, probably many Christians would take offence at him as well. And many would certainly complain about Paul’s dogmatism, narrow-mindedness, inflexibility, and lack of inclusion.
But this is not all that surprising really. Remember how the true prophets fared in the OT? They were constantly rejected, spurned, ridiculed, mocked and derided – by God’s own people. Some were even put to death. In fact, the only well received prophets – those who would be guaranteed a return engagement – were the false prophets.
God’s people lapped up the false prophets, while they steadfastly resisted the true men of God. I really don’t think things are all that much different today. Most believers prefer not to be challenged, not to be taken out of their comfort zones, not to be told what to do, and not to be expected to submit to someone else.
Sadly, many believers have decided that they will determine what is true and false, right and wrong. Indeed, many are happy to tell God – at least indirectly – that he is simply wrong. God is just not loving enough, compassionate enough, or tolerant enough, so we will rewrite the biblical text to make it more acceptable.
We get this all the time in the emergent church movement. They seem to think they can be more gracious than God, more loving than Christ, and more compassionate than the early disciples. And they unfortunately have a huge following, especially among younger people.
But when they start rewriting Scripture and rejecting historic biblical doctrines to fit in with the times, then heresy is waiting in the wings. In fact, plenty of these folks are well and truly verging on heterodoxy and heresy.
Consider the big push underway to eliminate hell and eternal punishment from the Bible. A number of Christian leaders are now boldly and unashamedly pushing this agenda. The most recent obvious example of this is Rob Bell and his new book, Love Wins.
Here is what one Christian young person said elsewhere about the universalism controversy in the book “Love the controversy around Rob Bell.. its about time some of this stuff is confronted… look forward to reading it!”
I find this remark to be quite staggering to be honest. Here is a person claiming to be a biblical Christian, yet she gloats about seeing one of the clearest and most consistently argued for teachings in Scripture be “confronted”.
One might as well rejoice in a person challenging the doctrine of the deity of Christ, or that Jesus is the sole means of salvation. But we live in an age which exults in rebellion, challenging authority, and questioning everything. And many Christians have fully embraced this mindset.
While there is certainly a place for honest questions and thinking through things, I am afraid I see wide swathes of antinomianism and relativism sweeping through the churches. And when its leaders do the same, no wonder we are in such a mess.
One simply has to watch how Bell weasels his way around specific and direct questions in this interview. He would make any postmodernist or deconstructionist proud. It seems that in the end truth is whatever you make it to be, and the more vague, grey and wishy-washy you are, the better: http://www.dennyburk.com/martin-bashir-takes-on-rob-bell/
Before critics jump all over me, let me say that just as I have had to dish out hard-earned cash to buy, read and review Bell’s earlier works, I will probably have to do the same here. But I have read enough reviews from people I respect to suspect I will not have much more to offer.
See for example these three very incisive and helpful reviews:
As I bring this article to a close, I just came across something which gives me a bit of hope. If much of the evangelical church is going down the tubes fast – and proud of it – at least some church leaders are standing strong. Pope Benedict XVI has just come out urging the opposite of what Bell and his buddies are doing.
He told priests that they need to preach the entire gospel, even if they are uncomfortable with some aspects of it. Speaking of Paul in Acts 20, the Pope said, “This is important: the apostle does not preach Christianity ‘a la carte’, according to his own taste. He did not preach a Gospel according to his favorite theological ideas.
“He does not avoid the commitment to proclaim the whole counsel of God, even when uncomfortable, even the topics he personally does not like so much. It is our mission to proclaim the whole counsel of God in its totality and ultimate simplicity. But it is important that we teach and preach – as St. Paul says here – and really bring the whole will of God.”
Amen. Why is it that so many evangelicals, who claim to take pride in being Bible-believing Christians, are everywhere denying entire portions of Scripture to suit their postmodern tastes, while the Pope is urging us to stay true to Scripture and stay on the straight and narrow?
The church today is in an awful way. The crass rejection of the biblical doctrine of everlasting punishment is just one indication of this. The church today is in severe need of prophets. But I suspect that any true prophet of God would today simply be rejected by most believers.