Archive for October, 2015

It has become fashionable among professional theologians to label opponents with a heresy. This heresy is supposed to be what the opponent really teaches, if they were consistent with their ideas.
This tactic is fine it it’s was true that the teachings essentially or by consequence, lead to the mentioned heresy then let us call a spade a spade. But that requires argument not cool shaming.
For example, if I was to call Wesleyenism Semi or full blown Pelegianism that would be unfair. Wesleyenism tends not to deny men’s total depravity or that God moves first. On the flip side, though many passionate young men who claim to be Reformed may be fatalist, this label would flatly misrepresent the position that has been held by the majority of protestant divines throughout history.
Yet labels of Gnosticism, Modernism, and many others names are leveled against those whose beliefs neither lead there nor do they live like they do. Simply because they do not embrace the opposite extremes that their name callers are trying to make the new normal. This is a smart tactic, since it would be a lot harder to deal with someone arguments. Smart not being a moral category here.
Since they do this, I find it only fair to point out what the practical outworking of their theology should be called- practical materialistic universalism. “Practical” since this new emphasis of theology would have some statements buried in the doctrine, not impacting their preaching and actions, that denies materialism or universalism.
Universalist: These men and women allow no distinction between believer and unbeliever. If such a distinct group of people as the church is acknowledged, it is seen as to existing as the servant of all mankind. The church does not exist to care for the sheep and to call as many as possible into that flock. As one former pastor said who later became open to universalism “the gospel is either good news for everybody, or it’s not good news for anybody.” God’s judgement is pretty bad news, actually.
Wait, is there not a call to care for and love all humans? Is there not some sense in which all people bear God’s image and thus deserve our service? This would assume that I am accusing universalism of anyone who wants to love both believer and unbeliever. No, what I am saying is that there is a priority on and a distinct group called believers. This is not exclusion, but a priority. We should be investing our thoughts, our money, and our time on the People of God, and if no evidence in our speech, of a priority for those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, we might as well be Universalist.
Likewise the preaching and teaching of such tend to run along themes that deal with a universal tint. Anyone claiming for even the slightest separation from the world is seen as failing in cultural engagement, and countless lessons on blessing the city and supporting human flourishing whether or not redemption is flowing through their soul are standard fare. True phrases like that God will redeem humanity are spoken in a way to give the impression that humanity and the new, redeemed humanity will have all the same members. When ethical summons are given upon the financial giving of the members, as is well and good, pushes are made not for the supporting of the Church but for the support of the community. Of course, by community they do not mean the church, but the town.
Materialists. As they have gotten into the habit of anyone who believes that there is spiritual reality as well as physical reality “Gnostics” it is only proper that they be labeled as materialists, since they, unlike those that they label, really do live as if only atoms exist. It is doubtful they would officially deny a spiritual world, but their ministries, missions, and daily concerns only see the physical as “really real.” If you think I am going too far, I ask you, does focusing one’s joy for the world to come on the new physical earth and not on the Joy of daily being in God’s presence strike you as odd? And if this is their view of the ultimate goal of salvation… simply the restored physical universe (noting that no one has ever denied the restored physical earth as part of “thy kingdom come,” yet it was not before put as the ultimate hope but a means to an end) than even their gospel proclamation is materialistic. Their encouragements for heaven are all based on material needs and joys only. These are, indeed, good. We should not return to the self-imposed life of misery and denial of the enjoyment of God through the physical means. But to react to it by making salvation purely physical is equal asinine. No further proof is needed than the way that the word “creation” is understood synonym for nature or the environment. I ask, is economics, relationships, architecture, cities, rest, and souls created things, the will, understanding, all part of what is referred to by creation in scripture, and not just the great outdoors?
I am sincerely challenging those who follow these men and women, listen to what they describe salvation as, and then lesson for what all their missional goals attend to, it is primarily if not exclusively physical. Rare is the church or zeitgeist surfing theologian, whether from Oxford, middle America, or Vatican City, who is investing as much money and time in combatting demonization as they are in bringing down world hunger. Feeding the hungry is a fine thing to care about, but does not the lack of concern for demonization alarm us?
Look, honestly I don’t have the numbers. But the kind of bare admittance that demonic influence, both in demonization and Satan’s bigger lies is a problem, while in most practical cases it receives little attention and investment, show us how materliastic they have become. The spiritual world may exist, but let us focus our efforts elsewhere. The world said “the spiritual realm, such as demonization and the lies of Satan do not exist.” So the church said, well, we still think they exist, but they are hardly worth doing anything about. But when will the Pope (and I sincerely hope one will) speak at the U.N. and tell them their refusal to recognize evil as real is inhibiting them from good policies? Keep in mind I am addressing certain leaders, including the current pope, and not those loyal preachers who see Satan as a worse threat than poor education
I do believe if cornered, these would admit to the church’s priority for the people of God and the reality of both physical and spiritual, but in the way they preach, set up ministries, and think about life daily they may as well not. Thus the qualifier “practical” which hopes that behind closed doors that they aren’t developing fine sounding arguments that would simply justify the practical outworking.