When New Testament words are presumed to have post New Testament meanings based on post New Testament assumptions, traditions and agendas, is it any wonder that the Church has lost its New Testament power, form and function?
Non sequiturs¹ Jesus never said …
(But are implicit among those who jettison scripture to create a postmodern² Jesus of their own perception):
“It’s about relationship …
So forget obedience.”
“All scripture points to me …
So your own perceptions of me trump any scripture that offends you.”
“I am the living word …
So you no longer need to submit to the authority and discipline of my written word.”
“‘Be holy as I am holy’…
Now means ‘I am postmodern as you are postmodern’.”
Martin Luther is credited with saying “in essentials, unity”.
In applying that sagely advice, over the years I have developed two essential prerequisites for all other essentials. They have served me well, and tend to weed out over 90% of the frauds, fakes and flakes that plague God’s church (don’t ya love ’em!).
We either seek to redefine Jesus, or we let Him redefine us and our world – on His terms, in His way, through His Word.
Really, this is the major fork in the road.
This is a burning question for the organic church community – as well as other reform movements.
Do we embrace a fabricated Jesus, or the authentic Jesus?
A friend posted this meme on Facebook, and it was too funny – and disturbingly perceptive – to pass up.
So, after all the sound and fury, where are we left?
This morning, in response to my series on “Is the Holy Spirit a Liar?”, Christopher Kirk publicly called me a liar on his blog – after telling me I am not allowed to respond on his blog.
This crosses the line from a vigorous and needed debate on the important issue of scripture’s status and authority, into personal attack with no opportunity to directly respond.
More fundamentally, though, Christopher Kirk has now borne false witness – against himself.
Yesterday, I posted a debate I had on Facebook with those who claim that their personal “revelation” and “inspiration” can trump scripture, and that scripture is not the Word of God.
In that debate, Christopher Kirk, a longtime “organic” voice and blogger, finally made clear what he and many of the “old guard” in the organic/simple church community believe: “The bible is NOT the Word of God” and “God can tell you to go directly against scripture“.
The fellowships I’m part of are organic/simple churches. We are not big or flashy, but daily we see the transforming power of God as He works through everyone in dynamic functional community and open, participatory meetings.
Unlike the organic church “old guard”, we are growing, multiplying, and seeing folks move forth in authentic spiritual power. Many are coming to Christ, and their lives and whole communities are being transformed.
Why? Because we fully embrace a vibrant relationship with the Living Word, while submitting to the discipline and authority of His written Word.
On April 1st, I posted a statement on Facebook (what a wild and wooly place!) in opposition to some postings by Christopher Kirk in his blog, notesfromthebridge.
In his blog, Chris creates a dichotomy between scripture and “living by the Spirit” – as though what the Holy Spirit says in the Bible can’t be trusted, or lacks validity, absent some additional deeper, personal revelation.
In his blogs, he also claims the right to personal revelation and inspiration which contradicts and is more authoritative than the Bible.
Along those lines, his blogs suggest that we cut out significant parts of the Bible because he disagrees with their content (including most of Paul’s epistles); say that the Bible is not the Word of God; and repeatedly attack the plenary authority of scripture (“plenary” means we must submit our own contrary opinions to the authority of scripture).
As Christopher Kirk confirms below in his own words, “the bible is NOT the Word of God” (it’s interesting that those who hold this position never seem to esteem the Bible enough to capitalize it) and “God can tell you to go directly against scripture“.
The Seven Great Lies in the Church Today, by Steve Hill
Amen and amen. I stand shoulder to shoulder with Steve Hill on this important article.
If you’ve read Crossroad Junction for very long, you’ve seen me also tackle most of these same, out-0f-balance issues. I’m glad to see others raising identical warnings, now to a broader audience, regarding:
- Overemphasis of Prosperity
- Exaggerated View of Grace
- Deification of Man (or, as I put it, creating Jesus in our own image)
- Challenging the Authority of the Word
- Rejecting Hell
- Universal Reconciliation
Really, folks, it’s kind of simple: He defines what is ultimately true, real and right, not us.
He’s God. We’re not. Get over it!
This is another timely and important blog by Miguel Labrador.
As he points out, the “Christ is All” crowd has a fractured view of Jesus and scripture.
As I’ve discussed in my own blogs, those who follow existential authors like Frank Viola and his fellow itinerant “workers” like Milt Rodriguez, Jamal Jivanjee and Jon Zens, often create a Jesus in their own image based on their own sensibilities.
They then elevate their very postmodern Jesus over His own written word of scripture, under the mantra that “Christ is All” – such that Christ (or at least their perception of Him) trumps scripture.
As a result, they sever the Living Word from His written Word.
When called out, they make feeble assurances that they have a “high view” of scripture and think it is “inspired”, while nonetheless rejecting its plenary authority.
In fact, they follow the existential “theology” of Karl Barth, which elevates our own perceptions of Christ as higher revelation than God’s own chosen revelation of scripture. The result has been a pattern of anemic churches, introspective faith, weird doctrines and practices, manipulative and at times exploitive “leadership”, and self-referential “truth”.
In essence, they eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – by choosing their own subjective perceptions of Christ and His Church over His sovereign authority to objectively define what, in fact, is true, real and right.
Fortunately, more and more are looking behind the curtain and seeing what’s what.
I look forward to Miguel’s new series on keeping the Messenger integrated with His message – and us in sync with both!
The low view of God in the Old Testament, found among those touting a so-called “Christocentric hermeneutic”, comes from too high a view of themselves.
They often take personal offense at how God dealt with humanity in the Old Testament – including His sometimes fierce display of holiness and punishment of sin and rebellion.
So they make God in the Old Testament an aberration. They substitute their own perceptions of Christ – rooted in their post-modern sensibilities – for the totality of scripture, and make their resulting “Christology” higher revelation than God’s own external Word of scripture.
They have joined Adam and Eve in choosing the moral autonomy of deciding for themselves what is right and wrong, and have the further hubris of then imposing it on God Himself.
Be wary of modern day pied pipers of existential theology, who say things like “Christ is All” but deny all of Christ in order to promote their own limited view of Christ.
What is meant by the “plenary authority of scripture”?
It means that we must submit everything we think, perceive or feel – even about Christ Himself – to His external, written Word of scripture.
Here, in a single simple quote, is the best explanation I’ve found.
Miguel Labrador has posted another thought provoking blog, entitled Theology Precedes Practice, Vice Versa, or Something Else?
In it, he states: “orthodoxy (theology) & orthopraxy (practice) are ‘simultaneous.’” I think he’s right, in the sense that we must seek to keep both in balance – our walk must match our talk, and our talk must match our walk.
Sometimes, however, the Lord allows one or the other – our doctrine or our practice – to be challenged in ways that force us to then adjust the other.
Regardless, it is important to keep them in sync, as much as possible, and not let one get too far ahead of the other.
Leading up to Tuesday’s elections here in the United States, I often used this blog and Facebook to urge Christians to vote. (See Does Jesus Want You to Vote?)
When I did, I always got heated push back – mainly from other Christians who oppose Biblical civic engagement.
Generally, they think God is only interested our personal relationships with Him, or that He is solely focused on the Church.
Jesus Loves Me
(An existential version of that favorite childhood song.
I encourage you to have some fun by singing along as you read it.)
Jesus loves me, this I know,
Postmodern grace has made it so.
With His Spirit in my heart,
External truth now has no part.
Did Jesus tell me?
Oh, how can I know?
I feel Jesus told me,
I hope that makes it so.
The Bible says that I must go,
Proclaim His Word – oh no no no!
Now existential I’ve become,
‘Cause His commands just leave me numb
My sense of Jesus is true light,
I do not worry what is right.
With my sensibilities,
I do not need moralities.
The Bible’s NOT the Word of God.
My own perceptions earn my nod!
The Jesus I have come to see,
Surprisingly looks just like me.
I only want the Living Word,
The Bible seems just too absurd.
Now I perceive reality,
The way I want it all to be.
It is a sign of desperation: Those who indefensibly deny the plenary authority of scripture as the written Word of God inevitably proclaim – when all their other arguments fail – that you are making the Bible your god or elevating the Bible to the level of divinity.
Lately, I’ve been hearing this more and more from those who believe their personal narrative and perceptions about Jesus are more authoritative and higher revelation than His written Word.
They proclaim “Christ is All”, but their “all” ignores much of who Christ has revealed Himself to be in scripture. (See The Problem with “All”.)
I do not worship scripture or elevate scripture to the “level of divinity”. I do elevate it to the level of divine authority, because it is the external Word of God Himself – and thus supersedes all subjective claims of personal or private revelation.
Our nation’s continuing moral and economic decline, and the growing malaise of our increasingly dysfunctional churches, has caused a renewed focus on intercessory prayer.
But intercession without transformational repentance – which Biblically involves changing the way we act by changing the way we think – is seldom effective.
While desperately seeking to touch the heart of God through intercession, few seem willing to do the concurrent hard work of understanding the mind of God. The challenges facing our nation, and our churches, require both.
Don’t confuse God’s love and grace with His delight.
You can have the former, which is unmerited, but still miss the latter, which comes from doing His will and obeying His commands.
Wherever he went, the Apostle Paul always sparked either revival or riot.
Does our age, and our culture, deserve any less?
Let’s boldly smash our boxes of insular spirituality and cultural lethargy by confidently proclaiming that Jesus is Lord of all.
Let’s reject narcissist Christianity by allowing Jesus in me to be more than about me – and my sensibilities.
Let’s stop foisting our own grace, gifts, callings and motivations on God’s people as normative for all.
Let’s embrace the diversity of His grace, gifts, callings and motivations in the context of true ekklesia – local authentic community where Jesus in us is expressed through us as His multifaceted and participatory Body.
Let’s stop saying everything is about my relationship with Jesus while discounting his Kingship – including His commands and His precepts.
Let’s stop saying I only do what I hear Jesus subjectively tell me, while denying the power and authority of what He also says in His written Word.
Let’s stop proclaiming “Christ is all” while minimizing all that Christ has given for knowing more of Him – including not only His presence in us, but also the plenary authority of Scripture to guide us in sound doctrine, balanced community that affirms objective standards, holy lives that please Him, engaging our culture, and wise counsel from mature believers who model His precepts.
Let’s reject gnostic tendencies that seek to separate the spiritual and the material world of our everyday existence by denying the authority and relevance of Christ – and His body – regarding all of creation.
Let’s stop discounting those who went before us, and their creeds and experiences, by humbly learning what they have to teach us despite the reality that we all have flaws.
Let’s affirm God’s continual sovereign advance through history and reject the spirit of our age and its myopic, isolationist pessimism.
Let’s be discerning about self-proclaimed apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers or other itinerant ministries – and their writings – when they are not themselves presently rooted in, accountable to, coming from, or even able to demonstrate a history of integration into actual, functional, local ekklesia.
Let’s reject the voices of those who try to separate the centrality of Christ from the Great Commission, mission and discipleship.
Let’s unleash God’s people to be fruitful at all stages of their growth, as Christ enables, and stop burdening them with the bondage of our preconceived preconditions of “root before fruit”.
Let’s start embracing balance and maturity – as together we become His disciples through functional, participatory ekklesia that reflects the life of Christ but is also rooted in the authority of His written Word.
Let’s be mighty men and women of God, who once again spark revival or riot as we proclaim the fulness of Christ as merciful Savior, gracious Lord, sovereign King and ultimate Judge to a desperate world.
As such, may we be life-transforming, culture-changing ekklesia once again – the visible Body of Christ which doesn’t merely say come, but goes forth into all the world.
I wrote and posted this on the morning of my birthday, when I officially became a “senior citizen”. It summarizes a lifetime of experience serving the King of Kings. May it be both a present and a challenge to my passion: the wonderful, multifaceted, participatory Body of Christ.