Answering the False Shepherds
There is nothing new about false teachings, heresy, and apostasy in the churches. They have been occurring for two millennia now. Jesus himself warned about this often. He made it clear that ravenous wolves would tear about the flocks, and false shepherds would cause great damage.
Both Testaments warn repeatedly of such matters. They are found all over the prophetic writings, and elsewhere. Given that I have just finished Isaiah and started Jeremiah in my daily reading, simply offering a few warnings found there will do for a start.
Isaiah 30:9-11 This is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!
Jer. 5:31 The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?
Jer. 14:14-15 Then the LORD said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds. Therefore this is what the LORD says about the prophets who are prophesying in my name: I did not send them, yet they are saying, ‘No sword or famine will touch this land.’ Those same prophets will perish by sword and famine.
Jer, 23:1-2 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings.” says the Lord.
Jesus also had much to say along these lines. Consider just a few verses from Matthew 24: “Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many’” (vv. 4-5). “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (vv. 10-11).
So we should not be surprised to see plenty of false teaching in the churches, and a falling away from biblical truth. We see it happening throughout our churches today. A clear example of this concerns the issue of homosexuality. Sadly, many church leaders have thrown away biblical truth here and embraced the world’s agenda instead.
The homosexual activists of course love it that so many church leaders are stumbling over themselves to promote their cause for them. And it is all going nicely according to plan. Earlier strategy manuals by the activists specifically mentioned how the churches must be neutralised if their agenda is to succeed.
And that is now happening big-time. The activists – and the father of lies behind them – have managed to dupe and deceive many believers and their leaders into embracing the entire radical cause of the militant homosexualists. We have seen this for a few decades now at least.
Another example of this was on proud display in today’s Melbourne Age. It seems twenty gullible and undiscerning church leaders have hopped on the same-sex marriage bandwagon, and think it is all just peachy-keen; something Jesus would be very proud of in fact.
The piece begins this way: “Twenty faith leaders have signed a letter urging people to declare their support for same-sex marriage to two federal parliamentary inquiries on the issue. The move follows six Victorian Catholic bishops writing to their parishioners to tell them that allowing gay couples to marry would be a ‘grave mistake’ and would undermine the institution of marriage.”
You can read the entire depressing article for yourself. While nothing new, the attempt to justify this by these leaders is just frightening. The inability to engage in clear thinking, moral reasoning, and faithfully adhere to the biblical text is mind-boggling really.
Consider one of the remarks made in defence of all this. It is appalling that anyone claiming to be a long-standing minister of the gospel could even make such a morally, mentally and biblically vacuous statement. Here is the argument for SSM:
“How can I, a heterosexual who’s been very happily married for 50 years, tell anyone else they don’t have the right to form a loving, committed, lifelong union and enjoy the fruits of marriage as I have done? Marriage is not a club to be restricted to some. Like the Gospel, it is a blessing to be shared.”
Actually it is very easy to tell others why – so let me explain. The institution of marriage, like every other social good, is not an open-ended pool which anyone can just jump into. There are obvious limits and requirements. All social institutions operate this way.
The simple truth is, I cannot get married, nor can this mixed-up minister. That is because we are both already married. Thus we are now ineligible for marriage. Marriage is open to anyone provided they meet at least three universal criteria: they are of the right gender, of the right age, and are not too close as family members.
Thus a man and a woman are required; children cannot marry; nor can close relatives. Meet those three simple qualifications, and anyone can marry. It is that simple. There is no discrimination or inequality going on here at all. How any intelligent person and church leader to boot cannot see such simple realities is beyond me.
Sorry, but marriage very well is a club which is restricted to some. Why is that so hard to understand? And why is all reason, logic and moral discernment being thrown out of the window here? More importantly, why are these leaders trampling underfoot the Word of God in order to push radical secular agendas?
Marriage may be a gift but it is clearly not for everyone. So comparing it to the gospel is both disingenuous and misleading. That Jesus died for all people is one thing. But marriage is clearly not for all. Indeed, Jesus himself and many of the disciples were not married.
The way these theological revisionists are carrying on, one would think everyone must get married to be a complete person. This is clearly nonsense. Singleness is a gift of God just as much is a married heterosexual relationship. Go back and read about this in 1 Corinthians 7 if need be.
To argue that destroying God’s institution of heterosexual marriage is somehow on a par with people hearing or partaking in the gospel is just ridiculous. This shows just how far the revisionists will go to try to make their case. They are obviously quite desperate to have to engage in such foolishness.
And we need to look at the nature of the gospel a bit more closely as well. It goes without saying that these wayward pastors and leaders have embraced theological liberalism big time. Many of them would undoubtedly embrace the heresy of universalism, the idea that in the end everyone will get saved anyway.
But no one reading the New Testament can hold to such a perverted view. Everywhere we are informed that while the gospel is open to all, it is restricted to those who meet the God-ordained criteria. Repentance, turning from sin, and faith are among the entrance requirements.
In that sense the church is of course not an open club. While anyone can attend a church and hear the gospel proclaimed, not everyone is part of the company of the redeemed, the Body of Christ. Jesus more than anyone made this crystal clear. Consider just a few of his words from the gospels:
Mark 1:14-15 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.
John 5:24 I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.
So the family of God, like the institution of marriage, is very much a closed club in one sense. Not everyone belongs to it, nor wants to. We either do things the way God has ordained, or we miss out. It is that simple. Both of these great goods are clearly bounded membership clubs.
Obviously these revisionists have no biblical grounds whatsoever to stand on here, so they will twist and pervert both Scripture and logic to push their radical and misguided agendas. As so-called church leaders they really should know better. They really do have a lot to answer for in this area.
Those wishing to take this further are advised to grab a copy of my new book in which I go into far more detail on all these matters. I carefully examine both the social science data as well as the biblical material. The book can be found in various places, including:
21 Replies to “Answering the False Shepherds”
They want to talk about exclusion?
Prof. John Milbank: [13 March 2012]
These blind guides need to understand what the above means. They’ve signed their name to a proposal for the exclusion of all men and women from the institution of marriage. And for Christians It:
This would be an injustice of unimaginable proportions and the ‘Infamous 20′ let themselves be recruited and in Jesus’ name! They have put themselves and their flock in enormous spiritual danger, Jesus’ most bitter denunciations were reserved for people such as these.
Yes quite Martin. These guys certainly are blind guides. They are destroying the church around them as they foolishly reject God’s word and side with the marriage-wrecking activists.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Martin, I understand where you are coming from, but just as politicians are not able to outlaw the law of gravity, just because they might feel like making a law to that effect, likewise they cannot outlaw marriage, because God has ordained it for this world. So I think Christians can continue to marry according to the Law of God, and be at peace, even if the law of the land has become utterly corrupt.
Ursula, we agree laws that are against the natural law are in fact no laws. In the US, proposed government mandated insurance coverage forcing Catholic employers to pay for contraception and abortifacients unites all who value religious liberty in opposition. In Australia the government has forced us to fund child murder for decades! It’s true it is arguable how far conscientious objection to participating in government mandated pseudogamy should go.
But be aware what further retreat means. If principled restriction of marriage to heterosexuals is considered arbitrary prejudice and pseudogamy is legally established, those who don’t hold to the beliefs that ground these new government erotic entitlements will be made enduring targets of litigation and legal sanction, they will be considered in the light of the law to be bigoted akin to racists, and our children will be raised in a society that treats their parent’s faith as uncivil and hateful. This is indisputably the stripping of Christ and his public respectability, the crucifixion follows swiftly after this.
There should have been complete and total civil disobedience when abortion laws, let alone their mandatory subsidy, was introduced in Australia. Now we face the virtual criminalisation of Christianity, there is no place to retreat to after this. When law as a moral teacher and shaper of institutions (e.g. education, government employment) eventually creates social conditions intolerant of Christian presence a terrible choice is forced upon us – God or country. When government erodes the ability of millions upon millions of Australians to recognise government as our own, when it erodes our ability to morally adhere to our political system further loyalty to that system is called into question.
John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae: when human dignity is disregarded, “democracy, contradicting its own principles, effectively moves towards a form of totalitarianism.” And political philosopher Rob George: “People of good will – of whatever religious faith – who are prepared to consider seriously the Pope’s teaching in Evangelium Vitae cannot now avoid asking themselves, soberly and unblinkingly, whether our regime is becoming the democratic ‘tyrant state’ about which he warns.”
We make our stand here and refuse to participate any further with the schemes of the totalitarian political class, who slate the Christian church and conscience for destruction.
Martin. I believe you misunderstand SSM proposals.
Yes, governments (I refer only to the UK here) are seeking through SSM to re-define traditional marriage.
But no, they are not thereby removing any right to marry from heterosexuals, rather they are extending the concept to homosexuals.
Indeed, in the UK proposals government has affirmed that it will not seek to coerce churches into SSM ceremonies, and even that such SSM would be illegal.
In other words, government is seeking to change the CIVIL, not the “religious” definition of marriage (I know that we would not accept the distinction as particularly meaningful!)
I do not think it is accurate therefore to say that “marriage as traditionally defined no longer exists”
As Ursula rightly says: (even) “politicians are unable to outlaw the law of gravity……..Christians can continue to marry according to the law of God,”
What then should be the response by Christian leaders and churches to this new situation? I believe the church(s) must continue to affirm its present doctrine of Christian marriage, but more sharply defined and publicly declared as specifically Christian Marriage – with the reiteration that as such it is unique, always and exclusively heterosexual, a lifelong union, and indissoluable except on the biblical grounds for adultery.
The church too must state with the utmost clarity that it has no authority to mandate any other form of marriage, notwithstanding any State redefinition.
We know that there are sound theological reasons for such a distinctive Christian approach, and not least that human marriage is a shadow of the reality of the union between Christ and his bride, the church (a heterosexual notion in and of itself).
Such a clearly defined policy on the part of the church is in effect rendering unto God that which is His (Christian heterosexual marriage), and unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s (Civil marriage, however defined).
As John Stott so rightly put it: “The marriage bond is more than a human contract – it is a divine yoke”.
Graham Wood, UK
What is it with these folk? They claim to be God’s appointed leaders, and presumably think He created male and female, but obviously somewhere they think that He did not know what He was doing when He created all the magnificently complex and uniquely complimentary biological systems that give us the only way to reproduce ourselves.
Do they not realise how defiantly and rebelliously they are telling God His creation is something they know more about that Him – all the while as their own bodies testify against them?
The error of their position could almost not be more profound. Wolf! Wolf!
Graham. In your first sentence you assume a genderless erotic partnership is the same in essence as marriage – an ‘extension of the concept’ – but I vigorously dissent in the same way I’d dissent from government extending the concept male to include female. If a law stated that men were women then we’d have some toilet and prison problems. This is the point. Of course men remain men but the law would do great violence to the fabric of society and for one would take away – abolish – fatherhood legally, politically and soon would vitiate, through education and other state impositions the ability for men and women to fulfil their distinctive masculine and feminine natures. This would be a profoundly wicked law. So too marriage abolition – men and women would no longer be allowed access to it. Eve Tushnet (same sex attracted defender of marriage) on how the deprivation plays out: http://www.staycatholic.com/what_homosexuals_want.htm
Christians understand the fullness of marriage through revelation, just as we know now the full meaning of the human person after the Incarnation. Murder was still murder prior to our knowledge that it is a child of God we were killing. Same with marriage, it a conjugal biologically rooted foundational institution, its abolition by government fiat is still an immense evil even as Christians know it as a sacrament and willed by God Himself and therefore a direct insult to Him and thwarting of His plan for creation.
Hi Martin. You wrote: “Graham. In your first sentence you assume a genderless erotic partnership is the same in essence as marriage – an ‘extension of the concept’ – but I vigorously dissent …..”
I cannot see how you read that into my first sentence!
It is governments (UK at least) which is making the absurd claim that SSM has parity with normal marriage – not me!
I concur therefore with your “vigorous dissent” and share it.
However, and as I posted, I’m more interested in what should be the Christian response. Surely an opportunity to bear witness to the true nature of marriage?.
Incidentally it is also an opportunity for the collective church to say unequivocally to the secular authority in effect – the State has no jurisdiction within the Christian church to define the latter’s doctrine of marriage which must remain under the Headship of Jesus Christ, and, as you say, the revelation given to us in Scripture.
Graham Wood, UK
Martin, you suggest there should have been civil disobedience when abortion and public funding for it were provided, and I think you imply that we should engage in civil disobedience now if “gay marriage” is legalised.
But what would any of them look like? I have no part, direct or indirect, in any abortion: of course, if it was mandatory that I contribute in some way, I wouldn’t. But if some woman I’ve got no relationship to gets an abortion, there’s no law I could disobey. (I do not hereby justify abortion, as though it could be done.)
And how can I not pay taxes? I can’t control what it’s spent on. I suppose the taxes Jesus commanded the Jews pay contributed to pagan worship and the upkeep of emperor’s household—who kept both male and female um, partners—and other sinful practices. This is substantially different from paying a specific levy for an unjustifiable practice: it’s just general taxation. (I do not hereby justify public funding for abortion.)
These are things that must be attacked head on, with words. “Civil disobedience” can’t be contrived; the idea reminds me of the ancient Christian heretics who would destroy pagan statues or rob travellers to contrive a “martyrdom” for themselves.
I don’t doubt gay marriage will lead to prosecution of Christians, but that’s because gay marriage is an attempt to legislate an ideology.
@Graham, it seems like your arguing that if a nation enslaves a class of citizens and treats them as if sub-human that doesn’t thereby mean their essential humanity is changed. Agreed. Yet still their freedom is abolished. With ssm – men and women would no longer be free to enter into marriage under the laws of the land – it would no longer exist.
It is all well and good to say ‘let us witness to human dignity even though we are subjugated’ or ‘let us live as if marriage still existed even though asserting its public meaning is now illegal’. Pacifism is fine as long as you are prepared to be subjugated, prepared for children to be taught conjugal marriage no longer esteemed, the language, habits and customs eroded, its supports denuded to make way for 2,3,4 members of erotic groups and the tax and welfare accruing to them etc etc. Society forever ordered away from helping to unite and reconcile the sexes as a great common good for the purpose of raising children capable of ordered liberty. As a slave state is ordered away from the equal dignity of its members. Read Tushnet again – this is the evil we’re talking about – the great lie that marriage no longer exists – the totalitarian destruction of a great natural good, and therefore opportunity for human flourishing. The rendering of all marriages to the status of essentially so-called ‘gay marriage’.
Your response has me puzzled, this would be one of the greatest injustices in human history, our first instinct should be outrage not preparations for capitulation and the adoption of a slave mentality. Those under Communism fought for their freedom. For the sake of our nation and all the children who would be deprived of what we were given as an inheritance to steward we have to be of one mind. In the UK 70% don’t want marriage abolished Christians have a duty to speak for the silent majority, and witness to our hunger and thirst for justice as Jesus taught.
@Felix: Alasdair MacIntyre ‘After Virtue’ (one of the great moral philosophers of the 20thC)
“A crucial point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we have reached that turning-point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time, however, the Barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament.”
Living under one of the most evil regimes in human history – built as it is on the corpses of millions of babies violently destroyed in abortion, we should be well advanced in our seperation from this polity, materially and spiritually.
Thanks Bill for the article, and Martin and Graham for your thoughtful comments. Christian teachers who confess Jesus Christ’s Lordship have a solemn duty to uphold the teaching of Scripture on marriage – as between a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others. The leaders teaching otherwise have not helped! Rowland Croucher is often helpful in his insights – but not here! Not at all.
Helping our people to make a wise contribution to society, law and culture is a more difficult task. So thanks for your contributions.
In some countries Churches of true believers go underground, because of Government restrictions.
Marriage of true Christians believers can do the same.
A Christian Couple, man, woman joined together by God not Government for our Citizenship is in Heaven. Jesus said His Kingdom was not of this world, otherwise his followers would fight. It always amazes me how far some respected christian leaders can stray from the truth.
Martin. I don’t accept your premise “that if a nation (actually I think you mean the current government here) enslaves a class of citizens and treats them as if sub-human, that doesn’t thereby mean their essential humanity is changed.”
Nonsense! Not even a fully totalitarian government is capable of “changing” essential human nature.
Take for example the amazing records of how inmates and survivors of the Nazi death camps demonstrated the very best of human virtues – love, loyalty to truth, compassion for others etc in spite of every attempt to deliberately and systematically erase these out of existence. Likewise in other similar regimes in history.
Re SSM. I can only repeat I think you are factually wrong. The government is indeed degrading real marriage here by seeking to redefine it in Civil law. But it is not abolishing it – much less for Christians! Indeed that would be impossible for the God mandated concept of marriage is a given, culturally, socially, and actually for countless people world-wide, so your assertion that it will “cease to exist” in those countries where SSM is legalised cannot be the case.
In any event the government cannot assert its will within the Christian church, or with her doctrine of marriage – it simply has no jurisdiction in that realm.
To illustrate, read again the story of Daniel 6:1-10.
Or in the NT the similar scenario in Acts 5 where the Apostles simply appealed to the higher law and revealed will of God to the oppressing authorities and continued as before.
Of course Christians do not approve of our government extending their concept of “marriage” to homosexuals, and will oppose it, in principle on behalf of both Christian and non Christians alike for “real” marriage is a universally recognised and practised reality.
Thus by no means do Christians “shore up” as you put it, the “Roman imperium”. On the contrary we are duty bound to oppose it in obedience to the clearly revealed will of God, and to reject the concept outright, notwithstanding any change decreed by the government to the civil law – as some 366,000 have already demonstrated by signing the Coalition for Marriage petition already in the UK.
You say: “With ssm – men and women would no longer be free to enter into marriage under the laws of the land – it would no longer exist.”.
I suggest this is not the case – marriage in the traditional sense is impossible to destroy and is not subject to the whims of a passing secular ideology or political administration.
Graham Wood, UK
It is so sickening Bill, but where is the outcry from those who are supposed to lead and warn the body of Christ? This morning now our internet is back on (our quota only lasts about 3 weeks) I listened to this compilation of speakers on the fear of God some from the last generation and could not stop weeping from the conviction of it. Wilkerson, Katz, Ravenhill, Poonen, etc.
If I cast my mind back 20 years it is unbelievable what some are now accepting. Every decision we make establishes something one way or another and twenty years down the track we are apostate and don’t even know it, our churches have become a megametre wide and as picometer deep and yet we think we are at the cutting edge of what God is doing. Wilkerson, Ravenhill and Katz have gone and we ignored what they were saying.
Yes exactly right Rob – I am with you.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Graham the sentence of mine you quoted agreed with you.
I was explicit “an unjust law is no law”.
Clearly we’re talking about legally abolished. The state is powerfully malignant these days but I don’t think God feels threatened by pathetic attempts to usurp him. 🙂 I’m not saying God is abolished, I’m saying government attempts to abolish Him. hehe
The Christians in Bill’s article say ssm is just, we know it takes away legal recognition of marriage for everyone, and their children in perpetuity – it orders society away from a great natural good, a source of independence and moral autonomy apart from the state – the first government – Canberra though has the idea that it is the first government and will brook no rivals.
Marriage is first a natural institution, it is the first Grace, the first revelation, a natural revelation – special revelation reveals more of what is in its super-natural dimension. SSM laws are the attempt to wipe out this first grace, general revelation – nature.
On this see CS Lewis’ ‘The Abolition of Man’
Today (4/4/12) in the Advertiser newspaper (Adelaide) we have a fairly prominent article showing a Baptist Pastor and a (female) Rabbi stating that they believe in SSM. The Pastor is going against the belief of his denomination (Baptist) and states that Jesus did not say anything regarding homosexuality – of course, he has obviously forgotten that Jesus said “A man shall leave his Father and his Mother and take a wife and the two shall become one”. Of course Jesus did not condone SSM and anyone who reads their Bible could tell us this. As far as the Rabbi is concerned, she obviously does not have a clue of what God taught the Children of Israel. This is all so sad.
Yes I deal with all this foolish and unbiblical thinking in my new book. Jesus also said nothing about rape or pollution. So does that mean he fully affirms these things? They are simply scraping the bottom of the barrel as they reject the clear teaching of Scripture. I would hate to be them when they stand before their judge one day, and are asked to give an account of their deliberate disobedience and deception.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Rowland Croucher at a teaching session in Tennant Creek, NT, some years ago said, to the best of my memory, words along the lines of: “The dilemma the Church faces is the correct balance between love and law. Libertine love gives licence to tolerating any sin within the church. Loveless law denies the Spirit of Grace and Mercy that Jesus exemplified.”
He said this at a time when the Uniting Church almost split on the issue of the church Synod wanting to endorse homosexuality, but not wanting to lose the social justice ‘capital’ of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ministers who almost unanimously declared they would leave the Uniting Church if they did endorse homosexuality in the church.
The loveless legalism of some of the Pentecostals was held up as the other extreme, like the Scribes, Pharisees and Saducees of the Gospels.
I agree that love and law need balance, but they must be balanced on the just and true scales determined by the Bible, not the winds of PC doctrine, Fabian Socialists, Greens, errant ministers, MSM, SSM advocates, etc.
Yes quite right Michael.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
While we have apostate church leaders selling their souls to be trendy men-pleasers, we even have atheists who can think much more clearly on this issue. Consider the piece by Brendan O’Neill today. He says in part:
?”Underlying the gay-marriage debate is a relativistic reluctance to distinguish between different kinds of relationships. Gay love is fundamentally a relationship between two people. Traditional marriage is not. It is a union between a man and a woman that very often, through its creation and nurturing of a new generation, binds that man and woman to a great many others, to a community. It is an institution, not a partnership. Collapsing together every human relationship under a mushy and meaningless redefinition of “marriage” benefits no one. Except the political elites, who are so desperate to advertise their modernising zeal they will ride roughshod over people’s identities if they think it will help them.”
Amen Brendan. See the whole article here:
If only some of our so-called Christian leaders could think clearly and not push these demonic agendas.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch