Taking Stock at the 500th Post

500posts

General Comments

So here I am writing the 500th post on this blog!  The first post is dated November 25, 2014 and titled “Opening Thoughts.”  My first paragraph is:

This blog will focus on my sense of sojourning through a foreign land as an orthodox, Reformed Christian.  This sense has been a longstanding one with regard to the popular culture here in the United States. I am by no means isolated from this country’s entertainment, political and business cultures.  In fact, I am an active participant in them all.  Though many aspects of these cultures are troubling, I am accustomed to dealing with the challenges and benefits that they provide.

Looking back 499 posts later I’m reasonably comfortable with my adherence to this framework.  That being the responses of an orthodox Reformed Christian to a wide variety of issues within the United States.

I am shocked by the speed that this “foreign land” has expanded over these mere four and a half years.  At the start my sense of alienation was clear but not central. Now I find myself fundamentally alienated from my Christian denomination, the culture and the political environment.  Therefore this blog has transformed from one  centered on exploration to one focused on identifying and exposing the myriad of insane ideas that are driving our civilization towards destruction.

Thus what began as an exploration focused on the PCUSA has expanded into areas such as environmentalism, philosophy, economic systems, politics, heresy, literature, abortion and anti-Semitism, among many others.  I have published three eBooks, all focused on topical issues addressed through Biblical exposition and meditation.  Most recently I have added satire as a means of communicating my concerns.

I have identified the prime driver of civilizational destruction to be Progressive ideology as practiced by both secular and religious institutions.  Therefore I have focused strongly on a critique of this ideology’s foundations, strategies and results.  Some of the major themes of this critique are:

I’ve also attempted to understand and then explain the philosophical underpinnings of the Progressive project (e.g., postmodernism, nihilism, Marxism, multiculturalism, intersectionality, pacifism, Gnosticism, identity, etc.).  My goal is to enhance our ability to counter their positions and to unmask the shocking evil that hides beneath that wafer-thin veneer of moral and intellectual posturing (many people who parrot the Progressive ideology have no idea what they are actually supporting).

Although I have expanded my scope far beyond the PCUSA, I still maintain a regular focus on this my denomination. The only way that I can maintain my Christian conscience is by a posture of opposition and rejection.  Yes, there remain many faithful pastors, elders, deacons and members in the denomination.  However, the theology and behavior of the dominant Progressive leadership has been so outrageously apostate and dishonorable that to remain silent is tantamount to support.  My voice is small, yet I will not choose silence.  So, as long as I’m in this denomination I will speak out as necessary.

I’m currently working on a new eBook provisionally titled A Denomination’s Debacle.  The book pulls together much of the PCUSA information and associated commentary from this blog with the addition of new material to fill-out the story.  It’s currently over 300 pages long, which is almost twice the length of my previous longest eBook.  It troubles me that through exclusive use of publicly available information such a substantial case for the PCUSA elite’s apostasy and corruption can be made.

the-truth-about-truth-a-nietzsche-feature-darwin-festival-version-3-638The “God is Dead” Christian Elite

Throughout this blog’s existence I have occasionally paused to discuss why our elite Christian leadership believes and behaves as it does.  Along these lines I have explored postmodern Christianity, the Social Gospel, Gnosticism and raw power politics, among others.  However, identification of a single unifying principle for this phenomena has to this point eluded me.

Perhaps the foundational principle is that these “Christian” elites agree with Nietzsche that belief in “God” as a reality upon which Western Civilization can base its religious/moral world view, “is dead.”  Let’s think through the consequences of this hypothesis.

Let’s say that you are a pastor or elder who has personally lost faith in the Christian God (or any god for that matter). And, you find that there are many others in the church who hold similar views.  So, you all find yourselves in an organization (i.e., the church) whose fundamental reason for existing has, in your opinion, vanished.  Yet the church has many remaining members and wields moral power in the civilization.  What then to do?

Well, you could work to dissolve the church by openly arguing that it has become obsolete and useless.  However, given that tens of millions still (foolishly in your opinion) believe in God’s existence you would likely fail and be expelled.  Therefore you would have to create a new organization to advance your philosophy.  That’s a very heavy lift with a small likelihood of success.  Far better to remain in the church but work for its transformation into an institution that does “social good.”

Of course, if “God is dead” and the Bible is thus null and void, how to find the social good to pursue?  The answer was found in the most aggressive, organized and presumptive human ideology supposedly pursuing the “social good,” that being what we now call Progressivism (which has its roots in Marxism, as contemporary Progressives are finally admitting).  Thus the elite Christian leadership of Mainline Denominations turned their churches from the Gospel of Jesus Christ to “the gospel of social change and justice” as defined by the secular Progressive political project.

chasmFor decades this stealth-coup was hidden behind multiple complex theological smoke screens that orthodox Christians had great difficulty penetrating.  However, with the advent of gay ordination and marriage the chasm between orthodoxy and heterodoxy became so vast that no amount of smoke could obscure it.  Thus we have seen the parting of ways where so many orthodox members and churches have exited.

Yet some orthodox members and churches have so far decided to remain.  If they do so with the clear understanding that they are missionaries to a now pagan, post-Christian denomination then perhaps they can successfully maintain their orthodox Christian identity.

However, if they pretend that they remain part of a “Christian” denomination then they will almost certainly be eventually converted and then absorbed.  This will occur because they grant legitimacy to the denomination’s dominant post-Christian ideology and thus will increasingly fall prey to its influence.  If that be their end then they have no excuse, for they have been warned and their consciences will testify against them at the time of accounting.

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The Problem of Righteousness (2)

And-those-who-are-wise-shall-shine-like-the-brightness-of-the-sky-above-and-those-who-turn-many-to-righteousness-like-the-stars-forever-and-ever.

The Lost Christian Understanding: Old Testament

I have been reading the Psalms as my daily devotional and prayer guide.  As I read the early Psalms I have encountered use to the term “righteous” that contains a confidence and certainty that shocks me.  For example this Psalm that is attributed to David:

Arise, Lord, in your anger;
rise up against the rage of my enemies.
Awake, my God; decree justice.
Let the assembled peoples gather around you,
while you sit enthroned over them on high.
Let the Lord judge the peoples.
Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness,
according to my integrity, O Most High.
Bring to an end the violence of the wicked
and make the righteous secure—
you, the righteous God
who probes minds and hearts.  Psalm 7:6-9 (NIV)

However, in a later Psalm also attributed to David we find a denial that righteousness exists in any human being.

The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
there is no one who does good.
God looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.  Psalm 53:1-3 (NIV)

The Apostle Paul quotes this Psalm in his Epistle to the Romans in a manner that removes all ambiguity as to its meaning.

As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.” Romans 3:10-12 (NIV)

How is it that David in Psalm 7 can with utter confidence pray to God as a righteous man while in Psalm 53  (and others) admit that no one, including of course him, is righteous?

The first step towards understanding is that the idea translated into English as “righteousness” is a vast, complex and deep set of ideas.  Just to provide a top-level perspective, the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible devotes almost twenty pages (of small font text) to this word!  While there is no way that I could presume to summarize all of this into a blog post, I will share a couple of paragraphs regarding righteousness as found in the Old Testament.

Rather, righteousness is in the OT the fulfillment of the demands of a relationship, whether that relationship be with men or with God.

The fulfillment of the Law does not constitute righteousness, but he who is righteous fulfills the Law because he accepts it in faith as God’s gracious guidance of him.  Neither works nor works accomplished by faith make for righteousness, but rather only faith, which is manifested in works. Faith is the fulfillment of the relationship to Yahweh and is thereby righteousness (Gen. 15:6; Has 2:4).

Righteousness in the OT, then, is the fulfillment of the demands of a relationship, whether with men or with God.  And though man’s righteousness fails, God’s endures.  He intervenes on behalf of his own, saving them from bondage, forgiving their sin, declaring them in the right before himself and all the world.  The connection with the NT message of salvation in Jesus Christ seems obvious, for “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

Given these insights, the apparent contradiction is found to be no contradiction at all.  For when David calls himself righteous he is not claiming a moral perfection that neither he or anyone else can attain.  Rather he is speaking as one of the elect who, by God’s grace alone, has been declared to be righteous.

In fact, to be declared to be righteous by God vastly increases the Psalmist’s sense of his sinfulness and thus unworthiness apart from God’s grace.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.   Psalm 51:1-6 (NIV)

So, we find in the Old Testament that righteousness is not the achievement of a moral superiority either by belief or works but rather a God-given position of right relationship through grace alone.  Of course, God’s granting of this positional righteousness does lead to a process of sanctification in which sin recedes and good works increase.

This definition of righteousness is far removed from the common contemporary Christian understanding.  It is in a completely different universe from the contemporary secular “social justice” understanding of righteousness.  The consequences of these misunderstandings are enormous and terrible.

Romans: The Case for Christ to a Hostile World (18)

DC-Gospel?Contemporary Contemplations (2)

Although the Gospel as testified by Romans is still preached from thousands of pulpits across the United States, I contend that the contemporary hostility to its message may well be similar to that of pagan Rome.  It’s not just that our secular institutions have become “paganized,” but much of what calls itself the Christian Church has followed suit.  For, having lost all faith in the actual Gospel of Jesus Christ, the leadership of some Christian denominations has cast its lot with the secular Progressive political movement in order to remain “relevant.”

This intertwining of “Christianity” and Progressivism has resulted in a general retreat from orthodox Christian theology and to a multicultural, identity-based, socialist and bureaucratic/elitist ideology that is virtually undifferentiated from that of god-less Progressivism.

I contend that, to the extent that Christian leaders have accepted this ideology, they have become willing members of the pagan priestly class described in the previous post.  That is, although they may be in the leadership of organizations that were founded as Christian, their actual purpose is to twist “Christianity” into whatever contorted form necessary to support the Progressive political goals of the day.  Their utility derives from the ability to hoodwink their parishioners into believing that “Christianity” and secular Progressivism are perfectly and always aligned.  Therefore, it is imperative that they maintain the pretense of orthodox Christianity so as to not lose their power base.

Thus, even much of what we call “Christian” in the contemporary United States is simply an extension of the secular, or pagan, power elite that despises actual Christianity.  If you have been reading this blog then you understand the reasons that I make this statement. If you have not or are not paying attention to what some denominational leadership is doing and saying, then this statement may well appear to be ridiculous.  Regardless, please understand that I have not lightly come to this sad conclusion.

As a consequence of this situation the overt and subversive hostility to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as testified to by Romans (and other Bible Books) is massive.  The simple fact is that God’s merciful saving of sinners is of no practical use for partisan Progressives.  In the first place, they are utterly unwilling to acknowledge a source of truth and power that is independent of human will.  For to do so would be an admission that human beings are not capable of organizing themselves to create an ever more perfect world.

Secondly, they absolutely reject the idea of Biblical sin as an unavoidable and uniform human condition.  They demand the right to define “sin” based on their own political positions and practical needs.  They also insist that “sin” is something that they stand above due to their carefully maintained political correctness.  Thus, it is only their political opponents who are “sinners.” And, “sin” must not be tied to anything independent of their thought and needs, like the Bible.  For, in order to manipulate other human beings into accepting their current political “talking points,” “sin” must be an ever changing concept that is under their control.

Thirdly, they absolutely despise the idea of human life based on thankfulness and joy.  For their power is based on the continual accumulation of anger, resentment and jealousy.  The misery that they cultivate is a weapon that can be easily directed at their opponents by painting them as the reason for all the world’s ills.

Finally, they reject the idea that they are answerable to God.  For they refuse to be limited by anything beyond their own wills to power.  Thus they are freed to utilize any argument, no natter how defective or dishonest; any available power, no matter how corrupt or any emotion, no matter how destructive to achieve their chosen ends.

It is into this putrid, hostile cultural environment that the Book of Romans makes its case for Christ.  Two-thousand years ago God chose for this Gospel to transform the Roman Empire from paganism to Christianity.  We simply do not know today if it is God’s providential purpose to save and redeem the West.  One-thousand years hence will we be seen as a source of hope or a warning?  Ours is not to know.  Rather, it is to be faithful to the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ here where we have been placed by God.

Amen.

Romans: The Case for Christ to a Hostile World (17)

Contemporary Contemplations (1)

It is so easy to presume that Imperisl Rome was a primitive place that is unrelated to our advanced contemporary state.  But is this true?  On the one hand, we err seriously by underestimating the level of political, military and organizational sophistication necessary to acquire and then rule a vast empire for centuries.  On the other hand we tend to vastly overestimate changes to human nature over millennia.  Thus, if we look with open minds, the differences between Imperial Rome of A.D. 56 and imperial Washington D.C. of 2018 are less than might be initially assumed.

I will here, perhaps surprisingly, focus on the topic of paganism.  How, you might ask, can I presume to compare what truly was a pagan civilization with what is now a civilization founded on Christianity?  I am not arguing that the United States was not founded upon and continues to be strongly influenced by Christianity.  However, I do contend that the elite governmental, business, educational, legal, media and other institutions in the United States have become “paganized” to the point that it must be considered to be their dominant spiritual position.  Perhaps a definition will help.  Following is the first response when “define paganism” is searched in Google.

pa·gan·ism
ˈpāɡəˌnizəm/
noun

a religion other than one of the main world religions, specifically a non-Christian or pre-Christian religion.  “converts from paganism to Christianity”

a modern religious movement incorporating beliefs or practices from outside the main world religions, especially nature worship.  “modern paganism includes a respect for mother earth”

Can there truly be any doubt that our progressive elite institutions and the people who inhabit them have come to view orthodox Christianity as a reactionary, if not wholly evil force (see also here)?  By “orthodox” I mean any  Christian organization that intentionally remains connected to the Bible as the unique authoritative source for belief and practice.  Yes, there are many practicing Christians in the United States, but they are few and far in-between (and generally very quiet) among our ruling elite.

But you might say, where are the pagan gods?  Certainly no-one in contemporary America believes in entities like those of ancient Greek and Roman religion.  Romangods-banner

On that narrow point we can agree.  However, I contend that there are entities in the contemporary United States that fill the role of pagan gods, but in an updated form.  The following summary of ancient Roman religion will assist this discussion.

The Romans, according to the orator and politician Cicero, excelled all other peoples in the unique wisdom that made them realize that everything is subordinate to the rule and direction of the gods. Yet Roman religion was based not on divine grace but instead on mutual trust (fides) between god and man. The object of Roman religion was to secure the cooperation, benevolence, and “peace” of the gods (pax deorum). The Romans believed that this divine help would make it possible for them to master the unknown forces around them that inspired awe and anxiety (religio), and thus they would be able to live successfully. Consequently, there arose a body of rules, the jus divinum (“divine law”), ordaining what had to be done or avoided.

These modern “godly” entities are the progressive institutions that have come to dominate our political, commercial, educational and media lives.

Modern-gods

Although these institutions are not personified they are made up by people who consider themselves to be elite.  The institutions appear to have a permanence that transcends the scope of individual human lives.  They also have the power to smite those who have earned their displeasure with a power that can rarely be resisted.  They operate as arbitrary and capricious sources of what is true (jus divinum) and therefore must be carefully appeased.  Only by so doing can there be peace in our society (pax deorum).  This network of progressive institutions operates within a common social and ideological framework that creates the mutual trust (fides) necessary for godly action.

The people who inhabit these institutions fill the role of priests who communicate the god’s wishes to the unwashed multitudes and who are able to influence the gods so as to ensure their cooperation and benevolence.  Thus their inclusion in these god-like institutions places them in an exalted cultural position.  And, they jealously guard their supposed superior status.

Look at what has happened when the citizens of the United States dared to elect an individual outside of the elite Progressive pagan priestly class to the Presidency.  Their religious fervor has verged on hysteria and sometimes has become overtly violent.  The pagan gods of contemporary America have been insulted!  Only by returning to fealty can peace be restored, so Resist or be outcast to eternal darkness!

Pagan-DC

Imperial Washington D.C. and its Gods

Romans: The Case for Christ to a Hostile World (16)

faith1Righteousness through Faith (3:27-31)

The Great Apostle has delivered the Gospel with clarity and completeness.  However, so persistent and powerful is the human will to pride that he once again explains our human helplessness with regard to salvation in the most specific possible manner.

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith. 28 For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. 

It is a testament to the awesome, terrible consequence of sin that throughout the Christian Church works-based theology dominates (either explicitly or implicitly) in spite of the Bible’s absolutely clear testimony to the contrary.  Let there be no doubt, many professing Christians demand their “rightful share” of the glory for their salvation.  How dare God horde all of the glory?  How dare God presume to decide whom to save?  How dare God declare us all to be dead in our sins, thus denying those of us “better persons” our higher moral status?  It is an outrage that cannot be allowed to stand!

And so, we Christians prance around pretending to have achieved a higher moral and spiritual status because of our works.  We treat God Almighty like an embarrassment.  We presume to be His judge.  And, we mock Him by imagining that His Gospel requires our modification for it to be relevant in our contemporary world.

29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Chapter 3 ends with this statement of the Gospel’s universal scope — for the Jews and the Gentiles encompasses all of humanity.  In the next thirteen chapters Paul will expand and elaborate on the themes introduced up to this point.  However, the Gospel — God’s response to human sinfulness — has been delivered to Imperial Rome.  And, in spite of its apparent pagan power, Rome will eventually bow down to Christ because God willed that it would be so.

The Apostle Paul could not have known that, almost three centuries later, this would happen.  However, he did know Christ crucified and risen.  And, on that faith he staked his life, which was likely ended by an executioner’s sword near Rome.

Rome-Christ-90%

 

Romans: The Case for Christ to a Hostile World (15)

Christ-Rome-50%

The Gospel of Jesus Christ’s Light Breaks Over the City of Rome

Righteousness through Faith (3:21-26)

Verses 21 through 25a summarize the Gospel with both brevity and comprehensiveness.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

The Apostle makes the following points:

  1. The Gospel’s power derives only from God’s righteous act,
  2. The Gospel’s power derives absolutely nothing from human obedience to the law,
  3. The Gospel is a seamless continuance of God’s purposes as revealed in what we now call the Old Testament,
  4. The Gospel’s presence in a human life is made known by the the realization of faith in Jesus Christ,
  5. That faith itself is a gift from God, not a human work,
  6. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross provides the only source of atonement for all sins of those who are saved.

This is the Gospel that transformed tens, then hundreds, then thousands then hundreds of thousands of human lives within the Roman Empire.  Christians gladly gave up family, friends, social status, economic opportunity and sometimes their lives in order to follow Christ.  They created a new culture driven by Christ’s love that transformed Roman religion and morality.  Eventually, centuries later, the Roman Empire set aside its pagan God’s and embraced Christianity.

Outside the bounds of faith in Jesus Christ this sequence of events could not have been anticipated when Paul wrote Romans .  Why would the greatest Empire in the world abandon the religion upon which it was founded?  Why would an Empire founded on the acquisition and use of raw human power be converted to a religious philosophy based on sacrificial love?

And yet, Paul, writing this Epistle under the Holy Spirit’s power makes not the slightest concession to the pagan powers that be.  He boldly preaches Christ crucified as the only source of hope for all of us lost sinners.  Yes, he will accept (just as did Jesus) that the Roman government has worldly authority.  But he rejects the pagan foundation for that authority, replacing it with God’s (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) providential purposes.

It is this Gospel that made the world new one redeemed life at a time.  This is the same Gospel that will always make the world new to those who receive it by faith.

This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.

Here I will lean on the Interpreter’s Bible exegesis.

This must mean then that God’s apparent ignoring of man’s previous sinning would have been impossible (because morally inadmissible) if it had not been for the fact that all the time the death of Christ, which was a “sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world” (past, present, future), was present in the purpose and foreknowledge of God.

Romans: The Case for Christ to a Hostile World (14)

Romans 3-10 There Is None Righteous No Not One brownNone is Righteous (Romans 3:9-20)

As was covered in the previous post, the Apostle Paul’s review of human sinfulness as the necessary prerequisite for understanding the Gospel is aligned with the Prophets, Angels, Apostles and Jesus Christ Himself.  However, it is this Apostle’s calling to deliver the blow to our pride with a power and finality that infuriates the arrogant.

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all; for I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands, no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong;
no one does good, not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave,
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

This is a description of our natural state apart from the grace of God.  When people tell you that “being true to yourself” is the sure source of morality it is the above state of being to which they condemn you.  The fact that even in communities calling themselves Christian this statement is common shows the extent of our disobedience.  Make no mistake, this lie is extremely useful to those who wish to destroy Christianity and replace it with something called “Christianity” that is its utter negation.

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The Apostle has destroyed all hope that we of our own works can be found to be righteous in God’s sight.  We are rather found to be “dead in our sins” (Ephesians 2:1).  That is, you are as unable to do anything about your state of sin as is a dead person about their state of being — nothing.

Of course, this is just a description of the darkness that has been shattered by the light of God’s amazing grace.

Romans: The Case for Christ to a Hostile World (13)

what-is-sinNone is Righteous (Romans 3:9-20)

The Great Apostle began this discussion about sin in 1:18.  So, at its end in 3:20 he has expended 64 verses (of course there were no “verses” when he wrote) on this topic.  Given that Romans’ systematic theology is a corner stone of Christian thought, we must ask ourselves why sin was the first component of Paul’s explanation of the Gospel, and, why he focused on it at such length and depth.

Perhaps the beginning of an answer can be found in John the Baptist’s proclamation preparing the way for Christ’s ministry (Luke 3:2b,3).

the word of God came to John the son of Zechari′ah in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Thus, the first statement specifically about Christ’s Gospel was about repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

When Joseph was informed about the virgin pregnancy of his betrothed, Mary, the angel said of Jesus: “For it is he that shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).  Near the end of His worldly life at the Last Supper Jesus said: “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).  And, very near the end, while dying on the cross He said: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

The Apostle Peter speaks of our sin’s place in Christ’s Gospel: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).  And, the Apostle John also:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)

It is here that I return to the Progressive Christian belief regarding sin, though now at greater length.

There are some who say that liberal/progressive churches don’t believe in sin.  That we never talk about it—or call people to confess.  I would agree that we seldom talk about it.  When I first came here I soon learned that was the “s” word that was never mentioned.  But I don’t believe for a minute it’s because we feel no guilt or shame or remorse.  In fact I observe that many people here at Southminster, take on guilt way beyond their need.  But I think we are confused about how to describe, define, talk about sin.  We know it is not as narrow as sexual behavior (as some Christians try to make it); we know it is not as simple as breaking 10 commandments, as we probably learned in Sunday School…if we went to Sunday School; because we know it has something to do with context.  We many of us, don’t believe that Jesus had to come and die for our particular sins to atone a vengeful God. We don’t really know what to teach children because we don’t want them bogged down in shame and guilt—yet we also want them to grow into adults are moral and ethical and compassionate.

This is an important and remarkable statement.  It is honest about Progressive Christianity’s rejection of sin to the point of refusal to even use the word.  It admits utter confusion about how to define and therefore think about sin.  It is only confident about what sin isn’t (i.e., not “narrow sexual behavior” or “breaking 10 commandments”).

But, eventually, the truth is blurted out.  That being we: “don’t believe that Jesus had to come and die for our particular sins to atone a vengeful God.”  The bottom line is that acknowledging the concept of sin is verboten because it relates to something terribly wrong with God Himself.  Ultimately, sin speaks to God’s sinfulness, that being His vengefulness.  Therefore these Progressive Christians will not expose their children to this awful concept so that they won’t become “bogged down in shame and guilt.”  For, there are no “particular sins” for which they or their children need God’s atonement.

And yet these Progressives call themselves Christian while openly, defiantly contradicting the teaching of Holy Scripture about sin and its place in Christ’s Gospel.  I wonder when was the last time that anyone in the Christian Church confronted them with this fact?  In all probability for many the answer is never.  For, when candidates for ministry in the PCUSA stood before the Presbytery of Chicago Assembly and denied their belief in sin they were overwhelming accepted and sent forth to “preach the gospel.”

Over ninety years ago in Mainline Denominations (including Presbyterian) the “Modernist” defeated the “Fundamentalist” camp in the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy.  The “Modernists” claimed victory as Christians who were more accurately, more completely teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The membership of these denominations therefore placed their trust in the “Modernists” to lead their churches.

These “Modernists” who now call themselves “Progressives” have been leading for over ninety years.  It is long past time to ask what fruit they have generated.

It has been my misfortune to look deeply into that which the Progressive Christian leadership of the PCUSA is saying, thinking and doing.  I strongly suspect that similar results would be obtained for most other Mainline Protestant denominations.  I will not here rehearse my charges against them (though they can be easily found in this blog’s posts).  What I will say is that it is time for a true reckoning concerning their stewardship.

Romans: The Case for Christ to a Hostile World (12)

God's-Justice-JobThe Law and God’s Justice (3:5-8)

Paul now turns to more general arguments against the logical validity of the Gospel.  The counter-argument appears to be: “If the light of God’s mercy in Christ shines all the more brightly in greater darkness, then our sin supports the Gospel by deepening that darkness.”

They may have posed this idea to Paul in very personal terms.  For, his conversion story is about God showing mercy through Christ to a man (Saul) whose life was consumed by murderous hatred of Christ’s Body.  Thus, it is the terrible darkness of Saul’s life that enabled God to show the amazing extent of His mercy.

Thus (so Paul’s detractors imagined) they could destroy the Gospel by using it to justify unrepentant, deepening sin.

But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world?

It’s of interest that Paul dispenses with this line of argument so curtly.  My view is that he is giving it all the respect that it is due.  For, it represents that type of argument against God that is so aptly described in Psalm 1.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

 

If you believe that there is no God, or that God is not our judge, then the argument is irrelevant.  However, if you believe that He is, then to say that God can’t discriminate between sin and righteousness is utterly illogical.  Thus, Paul destroys this objection with appropriate contempt and efficiency.

Paul not proceeds to a second variation of the same argument.

Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!

Certainly some must have made these arguments to Paul.  Paul’s response here is even more contemptuous than before.  For, having already sufficiently exposed its absurdity, he simply responds with disgust at their slander of God’s person and purpose.


These arguments are not relics of the past.  Rather, the heirs of this position now strut around in our assemblies, flaunting their mockery and openly scoffing at the idea of God the judge.  And, those of us who supposedly know better look away so that our comfortable lives won’t be inconvenienced by controversy.  Shame on them; shame, shame on us!

Romans: The Case for Christ to a Hostile World (11)

The Jews and the Law (3:1-4)

Although Paul has placed Jews and Gentiles on equal terms with regard to their sin, he yet maintains that God’s act in choosing them as His people did bestow special benefits and responsibilities.

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews are entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every man be false, as it is written,

“That thou mayest be justified in thy words,
and prevail when thou art judged.”

Paul’s point is that God’s purposes are not dependent on our faithfulness.  That fact cannot be used to justify or excuse our unfaithfulness.  It does, though, humble those who yet fear the Lord.  It is also a profound warning to those who presume to correct or oppose Him.