Sunday, May 08, 2005

Analyzing Tom and the Generic Evangelical movement...

In my own experience, there are many "evangelicals" - I like to call them Generic Evangelicals or GEers- who make it a point to avoid any man's teaching on scripture - not Luther, not Calvin, etc. They are the ones who will tell you, "Just give me Jesus." They will become upset when you try to discuss doctrine; in fact, they don't know what the word doctrine means, although they assume it means man's teachings. They only accept their own definition of being born-again (a big buzz word to GE's)and it must include that the person CHOSE, amazingly while still in their own sin and contrary to scripture, to accept Jesus to save themselves from their sins and hell. They then believe they are on the path to achieve holiness in this lifetime, permanantly saved and personally charged with witnessing to the rest of the world. (It is at this point that they put on their car a bumper sticker that says, "I'm not perfect; just forgiven.")

Not surprisingly, this particular group often doesn't last long in the GE world. I once heard an estimate of 5 years, before leaving for a more traditional church or leaving Christianity altogether. This is the group that I left and this is the group I have a heart for, yet I feel woefully ill-equipped to debate them. This group does NOT include many deeper thinking evangelicals, who rightly abhore the GE movement (you know who you are, my friends).

I think Tom might be one of these people. Here's my evidence:

"Maybe, if your thought (because of your love for God's Word) was to identify yourself with Christ rather than a denomination you would understand the uproar."

"This nation is in crisis because the church has turned its head away from sin. If Jesus's own will not call sin sin, who will."

"I have assumed you have placed your faith in Christ to save you from your sin. I am sorry for having assumed that. All need to repent from their sin and trust in the Risen Christ as their savior if they want to realize eternal life with Christ. Once a person does that the Holy Spirit comes to reside in him or her and testifies to the truth of God's Word."

"My prayer ... is that the Mighty God of all will speak into the hearts of all I have encountered here-those who are trusting in Christ’s righteousness alone for their salvation, that He will call them to seek fellowship with others who believe the same-to those trusting only partly in Christ’s work, that He will reveal that to them-to those who are excusing sin, in their life, or other’s lives, that he will show them there is no excuse."

By those statements, Tom was "witnessing" to us and really did not listen to what others were saying. He finally got fed up and gave us warning that God will reject us because we don't believe what he does. I imagine he thought he was shaking the dust off his sandals.

This has been my problem with the GE movement. They proclaim that denominations don't matter - "All that matters is Jesus" - but then they attack Christians who point out scripture that doesn't fit with the GE dogma. In fact, they only accept other denominations when a person can point to the day when they prayed the sinner's prayer and asked Jesus to come into their hearts. The person gets more brownie points if they also one day gave the Holy Spirit authority to jump in, too. (as if!) This is my book idea, but a book idea to a 44 year old mother of teenagers is like talking about spending a year traveling in least that how it seems to me. (and so the blog...) This topic has been written about extensively by D.G. Hart, but he writes as a Presbyterian. In fact, he writes that it is irritating to him that he is considered an evangelical:

"So why is it, then, that evangelicalism has become so elastic as to include believers whose beliefs and practices are at odds with the low-church, revivalistic form of piety produced and distributed by numerous successful parachurch officials?...If my denomination is not a member of the NAE, if I do not give to Billy Graham, if I do not read Christianity Today for edification, and if I refuse to put an ichthys medallion on my car, why I am considered an evangelical? Do these scholars, parachurch officials and pundits know something I don't? Can they actually see into my heart?"

So my book idea actually is the opposite of Hart's question:

If, as an evangelical, scripture convicts my heart that I became born-again the day I was baptized and that I can be strengthened and receive forgiveness of sins by taking Christ's body and blood in Holy Communion, then why am I suddenly very out of the club?

Not that I care, because even though I knew it went against what I had been taught, I also could clearly see which group was truly following scripture. However, it remains an issue that doesn't go away in today's Christian world. So, should I care? Should a book be written about this? Can you imagine the blasts from the GE community if such a book were written? Maybe there are other souls to focus on, but I still seem to care about those lost in the lies of the GE movement.


Anonymous said...

Try Craig Parton's book, "The Defense Never Rests". It chronicles his personal journey out of American Evangelicalism into Confessional Lutheranism. It may just be the book you're thinking about and you may not even have to write it yourself...
God's Blessings, elaine p.

TKls2myhrt said...

Elaine P.,

Thanks for the tip. Actually, that is the first book I bought when I joined our confessional Lutheran church. I've got a big collection of links to Craig Parton articles below. I hope to hear him in person this summer at a worship conference in St. Peter, Minnesota. I had hoped he would be at Trego this summer, but I do have a recording of his talk there last year (or the year before). But I am excited about hearing Gene Veith in person!

TKls2myhrt said...

Back on Bunnie's blog, I commented using most of this same post. JSG provide a great response, so I have brought it over here (because I want to save his comments). He rightly comments that being kicked out of the GE club is a good thing and, of course, he is right:


I argue is that this is not a club to which we WANT to belong if we want to belong to the visible church. We are the true circumcision, who worship God by the Spirit and put no confidence in the flesh. Phillipians 3:10.

Consider Walther in reference to "evangelical" conceptions of the Gospel:

[T]he faulty practice under review is based on three awful errors:

In the first place, the sects neither believe nor teach a real and complete reconciliation of man with God because they regard our heavenly Father as being a God very hard to deal with, whose heart must be softened by passionate cries and bitter tears. That amounts to a denial of Jesus Christ, who has long ago turned the heart of God to men by reconciling the entire world with Him. God does nothing by halves. In Christ he loves all sinners without exception. The sins of every sinner are canceled. Every debt has been liquidated. There is no longer anything that a poor sinner has to fear when he approached his heavenly father, with whom he has been reconciled by Christ.

[P]eople imagine that, after Christ has done his share, man must still do his, and man is nor reconciled to God until both efforts meet. The sects picture reconciliation as consisting in this, that the Savior made God WILLING to save men, provided men would be willing on their part to be reconciled. But that is the reverse of the Gospel. God is reconciled. Accordingly the apostle Paul calls on us: "Be ye reconciled to God." That means: Since God has been reconciled to you by Jesus Christ, grasp the hand which the Father in heaven holds out to you.

Moreover the apostle declares: "Since one died for all, therefore all have died". II Corinthians 5:14. That means: If Christ died for the sins of all men, that is tantamount to all men's dying and making satisfaction for their sins. Therefore nothing at all is required on the part of man to reconcile God; He is already reconciled. Righteousness lies ready; it must not be first achieved by man. If man were to attempt to do so, that would be an awful crime, a battle against grace and against the reconciliation and perfect redemption accomplished by the Son of God.

In the second place, the sects teach false doctrine concerning the Gospel. Thet regard it as nothing else than as instruction for man, teaching him what he must do to secure the grace of God, while in reality the Gosepl is God's proclamation to men:"You are redeemed from your sins; you are reconciled to God; your sins are forgiven".

No sectarian preacher dare make this frank statement. If one of them, for instance, Spurgeon, does do it in some of his sermons, it is a Lutheran element in the teaching of the sects and an exception to the rule. Moreover, he is being severely criticized for it.

In the third place, the sects teach false doctrine concerning faith. They regard it as a quality in man by which he is improved. For that reason they consider faith such an extraordinarily important and salutary matter.

Law & Gospel, CPH, pp. 133-4.

The true church is invisible, and it surely includes many people dispersed in these so called "If you, then God" Gospel preaching churches and in the manifold parachurch mouthpieces of this bastard Gospel in every permutation thereof. However, as my Pastor just reminded us today, the visible marks of the true church are the pure preaching of the Gospel and adminstration of the sacraments in accordance with God's word. We are never going to serve Christ by aligning ourselves with "thoughtful" evangelicals who have a "high" view of the baptism, and yet who nevertheless deny that God is working by these objective means to convey forgiveness and the Holy Spirit to sinners.

It doesn't matter if that we admit/confess in principle that Christ has secured grace for "the world" through "faith"; if in the next breath we deny or obfuscate the simple proposition in any one of the multifarious and contradictory ways by which reformed theology embrambles grace.


I have to admit that I haven't read much of Walther yet and I should. That doesn't have much to do with the fact that I belong to an ELS church; it's just a reflection of my newness to confessional Lutheran practices.

Joel, I hope you don't mind I brought your comments over here!


CPA said...

Walther is SUCH a smoking guy. He KNOWS. You really should read his Law and Gospel book. It will really be a great blessing to you I'm sure. (It's too bad he rubs some people like Josh S the wrong way.)

Jaylynne said...

Theresa, Harold Senkbeil has written a very similar book to the one you'd like to write: Sanctification: Christ in Action. He does a comparative analysis of one of Chuck Swindoll's "GE" book over against Lutheran doctrine. It was a course book in a doctrine class I took through a school in the LC-MS Concordia University system and it's excellent.

Good post, by the way.