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When Elijah Comes To Town

Mar 16, 2011

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: 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:
www.christianpost.com/news/god-is-still-holy-and-what-you-learned-in-sunday-school-is-still-true-a-review-of-love-wins-49407/
www.dennyburk.com/revising-hell-into-the-heterodox-mainstream/
www.challies.com/book-reviews/love-wins-a-review-of-rob-bells-new-book

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.

www.lifesitenews.com/news/preach-on-uncomfortable-subjects-pope-tells-priests?utm_source=LifeSiteNews.com+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=fe543dba45-LifeSiteNews_com_Intl_Headlines03_15_2011&utm_medium=email

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37 Responses to When Elijah Comes To Town

  • Hmm, where do we fit the counter-balance of forgiveness into this, Bill?

    I have just finished re-reading “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” by Phillip Yancey. How do we do the “both-and” to reconcile these two seeming opposites?

    I once heard Christians described as the “shock-absorbers” of society. They could absorb the shocks of life instead of just bouncing them on to the next person with equal force, and thus possibly shattering their life.

    [Sorry – running off to Bible Study of Colossians (nearly wrote “Collisions”)]

    John Angelico

  • Thanks John

    As I say constantly in my articles, we must teach and affirm the whole counsel of God. We must affirm who God is in his totality. The problem is, in much of today’s church there is no balance: it is all about sentimental, mushy and unbiblical ideas such as acceptance, tolerance, inclusion and simply getting along. We have completely emasculated God, denied his holiness, justice and righteousness, and turned him into a sickly sweet grandmother who likes everything, accepts everyone, and gets upset at nothing. We have de-God-ed God in other words, and if we are really concerned about balance, we must again faithfully proclaim all of God’s counsel, not just those bits which make us feel good. And the answer is certainly not to veer into heresy, denying basic biblical doctrines, somehow thinking we are more forgiving and compassionate than God is.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I wonder if “40 days of love” is in a similar vein to some of this (“Love Wins” etc.)? Have you looked at it Bill?

    Nathan Keen

  • Thanks Nathan

    No I am not aware of it, so I will have to check it out first before I can comment.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Great blog post Bill.

    We know from scripture that because of the increase of wickedness the love of many will grow cold. Too often the church allows itself to be changed by the world, rather than changing the world. A continuing love for God, his word and the people of our world are essential.

    We also know that two witnesses, prophets like Elijah will come (see the book of Revelation). I wonder if this were to happen soon (I don’t know when it’ll happen, but I know it will happen) how many people who call themselves Christians would celebrate the death of those prophets?

    One also can consider the story Jesus told about a rich (financially) man and a poor (financially) man called Lazarus. The rich man was a religious man and probably believed he was a good Jew following God’s law, but he had rejected God’s word. He did not love his neighbour. Abraham informs the rich man that if his family had rejected the messengers (Moses and the Prophets) that God had already sent then even if someone were to rise from the dead they wouldn’t heed the message.

    Matt Vinay

  • Yes quite right Matt. You raise some good points there.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • “One strong message about repentance and fleeing the wrath to come would mean Paul would be looking for a new day job.”

    I thought he was a tentmaker so he wasn’t reliant on the whims of his audience in the first place?

    Alison Keen

  • Thanks Alison

    Yes quite so. I was just trying to throw in a bit of humour there, indicating that his preaching jobs would quickly shrivel up.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Alison, if Paul was around today (at least, in Britain/Europe) he would be fined/jailed, and everyone would be banned from buying tents from him, because he’d refuse to make one specifically for a gay couple, and that would render him homophobic and un-employable.
    John Thomas, UK

  • Thanks John

    Yes you nailed it!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I just wonder if a preacher whose wage isn’t derived from the church or congregation, would preach a less wishy washy message.
    Seems today its more about getting bums on seats, rather than a message of salvation.

    I am still going through JC Ryle’s book on holiness. Some tough stuff right there. Seems I have a lot to learn.

    I like one of his quotes though, Whats is the most important thing you have? Answer: your soul. He certainly pushed that line throughout his writings. I think if we had the same thought of what is important, maybe we would be less caught up with other things.

    Jeffrey Carl

  • Well said, Bill. I get more and more concerned each time I review some of the material floating around Koorong or Word.

    I often find myself checking my “judgementalism” when i critque the stances and thelogical positions and practices of my fellow believers. I also have to remember that if you’re committed to being biblical in this day and age, you will be called a bigot and a fundamentalist. The church does need prophets, and you are one of them at the moment, Bill.

    Simon Kennedy

  • Excellent.
    Graeme Cumming

  • Hi Bill,

    As a Catholic I often observe the difficulties my church has in maintaining faith discipline, even though it has a rigid authority structure and dogma. It therefore doesn’t surprise me that evangelicals are not united in their beliefs. Are there recognised authorities or an organisation to inform evangelicals about what to believe? It can’t rely on scripture since people interpret the Bible in many different ways. So who decides what evangelicals should believe, and how are pastors held accountable? I’m genuinely curious.

    Don Phillips, Brisbane

  • Thanks Don

    You in part answer your own question when you admit that in spite of “a rigid authority structure and dogma” there is still plenty of division, disagreement, difficulties and dissent in the Catholic Church. So in one sense, the Catholic world is just as plagued with all the same infighting, sectarianism, doctrinal disputes and factionalism as the Protestant world is. So I don’t really accept your premise.

    As to the question of religious authority – which is what you are really asking – this is one of the areas where there are big disagreements between Protestants and Catholics. Very briefly stated, we rely on Scripture alone (although allowing for the proper use of tradition, reason, etc.) while you tend to treat equally as authoritative church tradition, papal pronouncement, and the teaching magisterium.

    But we would argue that everyone, even the Pope (whether or not speaking ex cathedra) and the magisterium, are all fallen, finite and fallible. So everyone, not just Protestants, has problems in interpretation. We all (fallible as we are, but promised divine help into truth by the Holy Spirit – eg., John 14:26) must struggle with faithfully interpreting the inerrant and authoritative Word of God. His Word is perfect, but we are not, so we all must stay on our knees as we ask God to guide us as we study and apply his Word.

    However this is not at all the place to go into a deep discussion of these matters, which to do proper justice to, would require at least a book length discussion. And it is not the main topic at hand here anyway. So please no more comments on this particular topic. If I write an article on this, then that will be the place for the debate to begin. (Also, see my next comment).

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks guys

    Two Protestant commentators have written in, expressing their strong displeasure that I even dared to mention the Pope. The implication seems to be that for me to do so means I have either renounced the faith (or at least the Protestant faith) or I am somehow bowing to Rome, etc. Of course simply to recognise when someone has spoken correctly about a certain matter does not mean that one embraces everything else they have ever said.

    But I have had to say this before so I guess I will have to say it again: No one reading this site can doubt for a moment that I am a committed Protestant evangelical. I of course have many areas of strong theological disagreement with my Catholic friends. And I am well aware of those differences, having taught theology for over three decades now.

    While I am clearly a Protestant and have many theological differences with Catholics, I also have many Catholic friends, brothers, associates and fans of this site. I try not to unnecessarily alienate them. In the same way, I try not to allow Catholic attacks on Protestants to be printed here either.

    At the very least, I see Catholics as co-belligerents in the greater culture wars that we fight. There are some real enemies out there that we need to collectively engage. On a number of different fronts I am happy to work together with a wide variety of people. That does not of course mean that I fully agree with them or am bowing down to them, or am selling my soul.

    If all this is not to the liking of others, fine, they can go elsewhere and do their thing. The truth is, there have been many comments here which I have not printed from both sides. I will not stand by and allow people to use my site to bash Catholics, just as I will not allow this site to be used by those who want to bash Protestants. If that is your thing, do it elsewhere, but not here.

    That is why I have not allowed these two comments on here. If these two bothers can show some Christian grace and accept what I am trying to do here, that would be wonderful. If instead they now consider me to be a heretic to be renounced far and wide, well, that is up to them. I can’t stop them from doing this elsewhere, but I can at least seek to keep control over my own website.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Brilliant article Bill, You have nailed this one!

    Unfortunately some churches apply biblical principles just to suit their own desires, like Paul said in 1 Tim 4: 3 “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear”.

    Today scripture can be placed out of its historical context and some churches base their teaching on human traditions and worldly beliefs rather than focusing on Christ. Unfortunately we live in a culture where godly values and morals cease to exist. For example, gay marriages, euthanasia and abortions have become more prevalent and acceptable in today’s western culture and sadly; it has polluted the minds of many Christian believers (As noted many times in your previous articles). If Apostle Paul were here physically amongst us today he would probably display similar concerns to the church, just like he did in Ephesus.

    Apostle Paul reiterated time and again, over the concerns of false teachings. In 2. Tim. 4:2 Paul specifically commanded Timothy to preach the word. Paul was not only warning Timothy, he was also warning his readers, telling us to be discerning, most importantly to stick closely to sound doctrine and to disciplined leadership, and above all trust in God. We as Christians need to clothe ourselves with God’s word, His love and show love, compassion, humility and obedience to God. Paul’s teachings are integral to our daily lives. Just like you said Bill, if Jesus or any of the Apostles, or prophets were to walk into our churches today would our churches accept their teachings?

    Panage Kontos

  • Thanks Bill. I have no disagreement with your comments, but I’m still struggling to understand where the core beliefs that define an evangelical originated or are documented, and how common agreement is maintained.

    From my observations and reading, evangelical beliefs are more or less uniform across various ministries, and I am puzzled about how agreement is reached. Christians of all denominations study the Bible but don’t necessarily arrive at the same core beliefs or the same theology.

    Don Phillips

  • Thanks again Don

    As to “where the core beliefs” come from, they come from the same place as with Catholics: first and foremost Scripture, then the early Christian creeds. Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians can all affirm the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and so on. I take that as a good place for common ground. Beyond that however divergences occur of course.

    One would like to think that when Protestants do concur with one another, it is because they adhere to Scripture, and because they are led by the Holy Spirit. But there will always be disagreements on various matters, and both Catholics and Protestants have to draw the line somewhere as to where orthodoxy begins and finishes.

    Of course on some of the important theological matters there is a big divide between the two groups. And as I said, because we are all finite and fallible, there will never be 100% agreement on anything. Nor should there be necessarily. As Augustine put it: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

    But these are just the briefest of responses to what is a much more complex and nuanced discussion.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,

    Sorry if this discussion is moving off the central topic, but I believe it is related. I well understand that all Christians believe the same basic creeds, but my question is what differentiates an evangelical from other Protestants, and how is unanimity of opinion maintained in the absence of any obvious authority structure? Or does your article imply that there is disagreement amongst evangelicals as to what the term means in relation to doctrine?

    Don Phillips

  • Thanks again Don

    Yes we are belabouring this. The short answer is every church grouping has to deal with splits, divisions, disagreements and dissent. Catholics have as much as anyone else. Having a rigid hierarchy at top has not prevented this.

    So yes evangelicals can and do disagree as well. But it is not all anarchy as you seem to think. Any worthwhile Protestant church or denomination will have in place various church discipline mechanisms, so if an individual or a church goes off the rails, they can be disciplined and/or booted out. So it is not a theological free-for-all by any means. Some Protestant denominations are much more structured and formal than others, but all usually have in place means by which doctrinal heterodoxy and moral misbehaviour can be dealt with.

    As to how evangelicals differ from some other Protestants, there are various groups along the theological spectrum. Many mainstream Protestant denominations are very liberal theologically, and have abandoned many distinctives of the Christian faith, such as a high view of Scripture, the miraculous, the full deity of Christ and so on. Evangelicals are on the conservative side of the spectrum, with a very high view of Scripture and basic biblical doctrines, along with various Reformation ditinctives.

    They are also, as the name implies, very keen to share their faith. They believe it is imperative that all believers actively evangelise, that is, tell others of their lost condition and how they need to find redemption in the finished work of Christ, by repentance and faith, etc.

    In many ways it is the same in the Catholic Church, in terms of differing places along the spectrum. Thus there are liberals and conservatives, there are those who take their faith seriously and those who do not, those who are nominal and those who are active, those who accept authority and those who reject it, and so on.

    And a key feature of evangelicalism is the need to have a vital, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Being born again in other words, and having a personal daily walk with Christ. Not just a formal, wooden, or ritualistic faith, but a living, dynamic, personal relationship with the living God through Christ by means of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • This is amusing and relevant: If Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians was Published in Christianity Today. This parodies the reaction of many WFJs (Wimps for Jesus) to Paul’s harsh style if it were a modern Christian document.
    Jonathan Sarfati, US

  • Thanks Bill et al.
    Perhaps I can have my two bob’s worth on this one:
    All sectors of Christianity, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox, affirm the ancient creeds – Apostles’, Nicene, Athanasian. They all accept the decrees of at least the first four ecumenical councils (Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon).
    The main difference is authority: both Protestants and Orthodoxy reject the primacy of the Bishop of Rome (Pope), and certainly reject papal infallibility as defined by the First Vatican Council.
    However, for Romans Catholics tradition is of co-ordinate authority with Scripture, and the Church is above Scripture. For Orthodox tradition is the main authority (that is why Russian Orthodoxy got into such a bind over the reforms of the Patriarch Nikon in the 1660s). For traditional, orthodox Protestants the sole authority is Scripture – sola Scriptura!
    Thereafter the main differences are over the doctrine of salvation (the atonement, justification, grace alone, assurance and perseverance), and the church (definition, visible and invisible, structure and order, worship practices, sacraments and so on).
    On eschatology there would be no real differences, although both Rome and Orthodoxy would reject strongly the widespread adherence to Dispensationalism in much of conservative Protestantism (particularly in America), and I for one would there agree with Rome, much as I oppose Rome in many other areas. I need to point out that Orthodoxy, like Protestantism, rejects such dogmas as Purgatory and (I think) the intercession of saints.
    The theologian Karl Barth once commented that the difference between Protestants and Rome revolves around the little word “and”; that for Rome it is Scripture AND tradition; Jesus AND Mary; faith AND works; Christ’s mediation AND the mediation of the priest; and so on. For Protestants ot is Scripture, Christ, faith, grace – ALONE!
    Murray R. Adamthwaite

  • Hi Don,
    I hope I can assist. In the years following the Reformation, or birth of what we call the Protestant church, they were faced with the very question you asked. As a means to clarifying the detals of what they believed and what that means a number of conferences were held in the following decades or even centuries. Some of these conferences resulted in published conclusions which have been held by various Protestant denominations as the underlying theology they maintain. These include the Canons of Dort, Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession and Westminster Catechism, even the Baptist Confession would be included here.
    Although these creeds are out of favour with many of the modern church ‘Deeds not Creeds’ folk, they do remain detailed and structured appraisals of what they believe.
    This has resulted in much of the uniform beliefs of many protestant denominations and many of those considered ‘Evangelical’ today.
    Jeremy Peet

  • Thanks, Bill, Murray, Jeremy for your comments. I recognise that I seem to be belabouring this, but that is because I’m having trouble communicating my difficulty with the definition.

    Murray, you have elegantly defined the key differences between Catholics and Protestants in your last para, but not all Protestants are evangelicals. I even know of Catholics and Anglicans who call themselves evangelicals, so confusion reigns. (My Anglican friends claim they are not Protestants, but they think the Sydney variety might be. Go figure.)

    But so far, we seem to have:
    – socially and politically conservative
    – actively promoting the faith
    – born again (whatever that means)
    – belief that the Bible is inerrant and should be read literally

    But if were to consider myself an evangelical, how would I know my views are well-based? How would I know if a particular pastor is sticking to the correct worldview? Do evangelicals even go to regular churches, and how do they identify those that hold the line?

    Bill, If I might be so bold, perhaps you might consider a future article which clarifies this for visitors like me who find the issue very confusing, coming as I do from from an authoritarian denomination.

    Don Phillips

  • Excellent article Bill. I just wanted to add my encouragement to everything you do.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Thanks again Don

    Two quick replies.
    First, as to your 4-fold list, no, you do not quite get it right.
    -I meant theologically conservative, not socially and politically conservative. While they both tend to go together, they need not.
    -Yes, the active promotion of the faith.
    -Given how important this is to the teaching of Jesus (read John 3), we all had better find out what it means and pronto! If we are not born again we are not part of his Kingdom. We are all born into this physical world, but we can only be born into his spiritual kingdom by repentance and faith in the finished work of Christ.
    -All evangelicals have a very high view of Scripture, but that does not necessarily entail a belief in inerrancy, although it mostly does. And elsewhere I have unpacked what it means to say we read the Bible literally: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/12/02/should-we-read-the-bible-literally/

    Second, I have done what you asked, and penned a short piece on what is an evangelical. See here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/03/19/what-is-evangelicalism/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Many thanks indeed Ewan. I apprecite your kind and encouraging words.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Don.
    Just a couple of points for clarification:
    yes, the type of Protestantism I have described is Reformation and post-Reformation Protestantism, not the liberal “Protestantism” of the C20th and at present. That has departed far from its original Biblical moorings
    As to Anglicanism it is of three main varieties:
    1. Evangelical, deriving from the Edwardian Reformation and Elizabethan settlement of the C16th, and also that which emerged from the Evangelical Revival of the C18th. The emphasis of this stream is on the 39 Articles. The main centre of this in Australia is the Diocese of Sydney.
    2. Anglo-Catholic, a very dominant stream which is essentially Catholicism minus the Pope – ritualistic, adopts many Catholic practices, and emphasizes tradition rather than the Bible.
    3. Liberal. This is the old broad-church party, whose origins go back to Archbishop Laud in the time of Charles I. Laud was in part an Anglo-Catholic, but also Arminian in the consistent sense that regeneration was by baptism (and could be destroyed), conversion was by free will, and Divine providence was resistible and mutable. Broad churchmen in the C19th embraced the higher critical theories coming from Germany and became liberal. Their views now also dominate the Anglican communion.
    William Pitt the Younger once commented in a speech to Parliament, contrasting the Established Church to the Dissenting ministers, that “We (in the Establishment) have a Calvinistic creed, a Popish liturgy, and Arminian clergy.” For him that comprehensive smorgasbord was the glory of Anglicanism.
    Murray R. Adamthwaite

  • Shoot, Murray, I was gonna reflect on Anglicanism and you did it so well that I don’t have much to add — except that one can find an overlap between evangelical and Anglo-Catholic strains in the Anglican church. However, there is currently a movement among some of the latter (or at least among what would be called traditionalist — i.e. non-liberal — today) to move under the authority of Rome (and the primacy of the Pope) as long as some distinctives can be maintained. In fact, the Vatican has made a provision for the transfer of Anglican clergy with wives intact). I for one wish they would remain separate even if Anglicanism formally splits over the current hot issues.
    Without having taken time to read Bill’s previous article yet, I would reflect that, as a human-defined (cluster of) concept(s), the meaning of ‘evangelicalism’ could change over time. This of course could be a good or bad thing depending on what the changes are. I’m definitely not for totally redefining terms to suit our own agendas though — since in this context, these commonly held concepts are part of the structure by which reasonable order, consistency, and continuity are kept. Even saying you’re *not* an evangelical (or whatever) doesn’t mean much if you or others don’t know what that means.
    And finally — more belaboring perhaps, but we can all observe the human tendency in all groups to elevate tradition — especially on a more local scale — to a position higher than is beneficial.
    Gavin Hogan

  • What does the country you’re born in have to do with being a citizen of heaven? What does denominationalism have to do with following Jesus? Nothing. The Word is written on our hearts & we have the Bible, and the work of the early church. The rest is addition and leads us away from the Cross.
    Garth Penglase

  • ….& the most important factor in living our lives, the Holy Spirit to assist us in revealing Jesus to us in our daily lives.
    Garth Penglase

  • Great article Bill. God is love & God is truth. I am more than a little tired of revisionist theology that I hear constantly over (in my case, Pentecostal) pulpits.
    Garth Penglase

  • Thanks guys

    I see that someone else has written about Paul getting the same treatment today, given his very intolerant and unloving Epistle to the Galatians: http://sacredsandwich.com/archives/2781

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Sorry, I see Jonathan above has already linked to this. I just looked at it minutes ago and it is a great piece.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • In the same vein, this interview with Paul is pretty good too: http://socialhazard.wordpress.com/2008/12/18/gods-wonderful-plan-for-your-life/
    Garth Penglase

  • Hi Bill, I suspect if Jesus came into our midst today, even with all our knowledge, we would be just as much dumbfounded as those at the beginning.

    When you think about it the way He first came was a defiance of everything man thought about God. It was bizarre and in fact it was a judgment on everything men thought of God and in the end only those who humbled themselves enough to consider were able to receive the revelation of who this was.
    Would we who are alive today fare any better as He defies and offends our senses, I wonder would we bow down and confess Jesus is Lord or would we end up rising up along with the crowd and end up crucifying Him because this could not possibly be the living God?

    I suspect strongly in the near future we will be tested to the utmost over this very thing in a way that will sneak up on us and catch us off guard because it will defy all our neat categories. Most likely in regard to our expectations for His chosen people.
    Rob Withall

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