Isms Which Corrupt the Realm of Evangelical Christianity
Jeremiah 2:12-13 says: “Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
What are these broken cisterns that can hold no water which the evangelical churches in America have hewn out? Any church which promotes doctrine opposing the Lordship of Christ and/or misrepresenting the Lordship of Christ cannot rightfully be considered a faithful Christian church that is truly salt and light to the world. I am not accusing everyone who promotes any of these things that I am about to talk about as being a deliberate liar, yet they have at least accepted the enemy’s influence and they are not representing Christianity faithfully through teaching and/or involvement with these things which are about to be critiqued and exposed.
A large percentage of churches, especially those influenced by 20th century Pentecostalism (i.e. the Azusa Street Movement), and the Purpose Driven and Seeker Sensitive church movements, practice a man-centered emotionalism where the church services themselves are hype-driven productions calculated to put those in the audience on an emotional roller coaster as much, or more than, secular concerts and political rallies attempt to do. Experience and feelings are worshiped practically, though Christ and the Holy Spirit are invoked, and these experiences are attributed to them. This describes most megachurches and many of the most influential churches out there, as well as much of what is seen on the allegedly Christian television networks. Many of the teachers in these environments preach a health and wealth gospel appealing to man’s desires for financial security, bodily comfort, and hopes to actually live their best life now (one of the most popular ones, Joel Osteen, actually wrote a book called “Your Best Life Now”). Even those who think they have received something truly edifying while in such environments need to get away from them quickly lest they be turned from the Lord due to the many falsehoods, and the overall ungodly atmosphere, that the concepts which reign in these environments foster.
Otherwise, even the evangelical churches not corrupted much in these ways often still have foundational problems. Here are some key examples.
Dispensationalism: This theology is prevalent in many Baptist and non-denominational churches, though not limited to these of course. Dispensationalism overreaches regarding the distinction between the Old Covenant which God made with Israel and the New Covenant which God made with the New Testament church. It discounts that the earliest Christians were Jews who operated on the foundation stones of the Jewish Scriptures. It doesn’t take into account that the New Covenant was also made with the house of Israel. There is thus not a separate covenant for Israel as a nation now. Rather, gentiles who believe in Christ have been grafted into the house of Israel; while Jews who reject Christ as their Messiah are cut off from the New Covenant with the house of Israel (Romans chapter 11 so beautifully and clearly illustrates this). This shows how the New Covenant God made with Israel is also the Covenant which He made with the New Testament church. The greatest significance of this error is that Jesus and the Apostles referenced the moral principles of the Law of God given in the Law of Moses as Christian righteousness, based upon the eternal moral law of God. Jesus and the Apostles also illustrated salvation by grace through faith using Old Testament examples and people. A great evil of Dispensationalism then is that it does not provide a faithful reference for righteous living since it removes the force of the moral principles of the Law of God as a definite reference for this. It also gives a potential distinction between saving faith in Christ and practical obedience to Christ which involves faithful living before Him, while the Bible does not make such a distinction. Genuine saving faith in Christ is obedient to Him for who He is (the Lord and Savior- the Passover Lamb must be totally eaten for the Passover blood to deliver from God’s judgment). The evil concept that Jesus can be your Savior while not really being honored and followed as Lord is fostered by Dispensational heresy. Closely connected here is OSAS (once saved, always saved doctrine or unconditional eternal security) which the Bible repeatedly teaches contrary to. OSAS is a logical outcome of Dispensationalism. Dispensational theology involves a lot of clever gymnastics which it employs to deny the concept that one can be in Christ for a time yet fall away through disobedience (which stems from unbelief). Dispensationalism was popularized through the Scofield Reference Bible which came out in the early twentieth century.
Calvinism (basically, Reformation theology): Calvinists can sound really good, and like these other theologies and concepts being rebuked, people can get genuinely converted to Christ through their preaching in spite of their error. Yet at the core of Calvinism is something called Monergism. Monergism is the concept that spiritual regeneration (and genuine spiritual maintenance and growth too) is exclusively the work of God. Does that sound spiritual and holy? It is not true; and no Calvinist really believes in it anyways. It is a rabbit hole that leads into dark, dark places where, if logically traveled to, makes God out to be the author of sin and essentially leaves God to blame for all spiritual failures. If every right response of faith is 100 percent the work of God, then logically all spiritual failure can be blamed on God. But even as the Calvinist attacks you for (allegedly) glorifying man and the other accusations he has learned to hurl when his evil doctrine is exposed, he is betraying his own theology. Taken logically, no one could believe in Calvinism unless God essentially forced them to. And opposition then to Calvinism would be happening by God’s own design too. Label Calvinism then for what it essentially concludes: It makes God out to be the author of evil, it absolves man of responsibility, it justifies both the devil and rebellious mankind in their sins, it makes God out to be a villain by sending them to hell, and it makes God out to be a respecter of persons who unconditionally chooses to save some but not others. Calvinism also appeals to people who want to believe they are special to God above others, and it appeals to man’s desire to feel safe from God’s wrath without cooperating and striving according to God’s instructions (not out of line with them- Calvinists tend to put all striving in the same category). A Calvinist may preach one or several messages without expressing their real beliefs, but those beliefs will come out soon enough. And even if they somehow do not, that is dishonest on the Calvinist preacher’s part and the preaching will have significant Calvinist influence since Calvinist assumptions will at least be implicit in what they say and conclusions will be stated based upon their Calvinist mindset.
Marcionism: This is common in the plain groups (i.e. Mennonite, Amish, Hutterite, etc). These groups can sound better than Dispensationalist groups in talking about real repentance towards God and the obedient nature of real faith in Christ. Yet they are influenced by a heresy which goes back to at least the 2nd century AD to a man named Marcion. Marcion taught that the God of the Old Testament is a different god than the God of the New Testament. Marcion had to eliminate large portions of the Bible to even sound convincing to some about this, but those influenced by Marcionism now, at least those who don’t blatantly claim to be Marcionites, arrive at Marcion’s conclusions without blatantly saying that the God of the Old Testament is not the Father of Jesus Christ. They do this by claiming that Jesus taught a higher or better law than what God taught through Moses in the Old Testament. This is not the same as claiming that Christ basically fulfilled the ceremonial Law of Moses and caused the ceremonial law to cease to be binding upon Christians (which we will get to in more detail soon). No, they claim that Christ taught a higher morality than the Law of Moses taught by interpreting Jesus’ words in the Gospels apart from the context of upholding the Law of Moses, while Jesus actually intended them to be taken in that very context (Matthew 5:17-20, Matthew 7:12, Matthew 15:1-20, etc. prove). Like the Dispensationalists then, but perhaps even more so, due to how they actually sometimes believe utterly contrary to the Law of Moses’ precepts, those influenced by Marcionism lose the faithful reference to Christian righteousness established by the Law of Moses. This practically means that they teach unrighteous things like pacifism as the Christian standard when Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels on non-resistance were actually a clarification and a vindication of Moses’ Law. Jesus proved that the Law of Moses itself forbids vengeance on a personal level. When Jesus said to turn the other cheek, He was not saying to not have a gun, to not shoot the guy who is trying to kill you, to not be a soldier or a law enforcement officer, to not protect your home from intruders, to not support appropriate judicial punishment for convicted criminals, or anything like that. These are rather Pacifist concepts which badly misrepresent the righteous vengeance in God by denying the aspects of that vengeance which He has delegated to man and which reflect His own moral character (see especially Romans chapter 13). Such things are very wicked. And that is just one example of the practical effect of evil influence from Marcionite heresy. Plain groups often are also filled with superstition and unrighteous traditions rooted entirely in their culture and not the Bible.
Judaizing: As a spurious overreaction to Marcionism perhaps, many now try to be Jews outwardly, not accounting that God through His Apostles released gentile Christians from the Jewish ceremonies and Jewish ritualistic customs through the council of the Apostles in Acts chapter 15. He later released the Jewish Christians from the same by the practical means of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70. The Temple has never been rebuilt. Judaism cannot be practiced faithfully without this and without the Levitical Priesthood (which can’t be established even if the Temple were to be rebuilt because of the destruction of the Jewish genealogical records). The Apostle Paul warned in the Book of Galatians about the follies involved in practicing Judaism after God has told you not to do so anymore. He also warned against practicing ritualism in any form (we should do the rituals required in God’s present covenant arrangement, but practicing rituals in their God-ordained place according to God’s instructions is not ritualism). Continuing in Judaism now, as well as practicing any form of ritualism, is fleshly and a statement that one values ritual above the practical obedience and righteousness involved in a living faith in Christ. Judaizers today thus spend most of their time talking about rituals and calendars and minutiae related to such things. They don’t talk much about matters related to the heart before God and the practical everyday outworking of righteousness before God associated with a true heart of faith. And the Judaizers (often), like the Pentecostals and Dispensationalists as well (many of them), justify and support the unbelieving Jews and the nation of modern Israel, as if they are more righteous than other unbelievers. According to Revelation 11:8, Israel in its rejection of Christ is Egypt and Sodom spiritually by God’s estimation.
Pentecostalism (churches influenced by the Azusa Street Movement): Though rebuked before in a very general way, I’ll also note in relation to these churches that if Biblical tongues were a heavenly, angelic language, then they would not cease- even in eternity. But 1 Corinthians 13:8 makes it clear that tongues will indeed cease. This proves that Biblical tongues are the languages of men on earth. The verses in 1 Corinthians 14 which might seem to say otherwise (when taken out of context) are actually a reference to someone in a congregation who speaks a different language than everyone else there praying, speaking, or singing out loud in his own language. In that case the speaker is edified, but the rest of the congregation is not edified- because they don’t speak his language. That is one potential instance where the genuine spiritual gift of tongues might have a place if God were to give a person such a gift. This is proven well by the summary of spiritual gifts, and their relation to love, which the Apostle Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 14:12: “Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.” Every instance of the gift of tongues from God being exercised in the Bible involved the speaking of a language on earth, which could be verified as such by those who spoke that language naturally. Likewise, the gift of interpreting tongues from God would involve translating a language of earth into another language of earth- all of which could be verified by natural speakers of the same languages. So, what is all this babbling in unintelligible tongues among many in churches now and in private prayers? It is deluding evidence that wrongly convinces people that they must have Christ’s Holy Spirit and/or (at best) a massive waste of time!
1 Peter 4:17-18 says: “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
It is right then to rebuke churches which contain environments, and which promote ungodly concepts, that are stumbling-blocks to His people and threaten to spiritually destroy them, preventing them from offering to the Lord an offering in righteousness. Whether we’re talking about denominations labeled as Christian, or churches labeled as non-denominational Christian churches, there are several more common problems among modern churches which misrepresent Christianity in addition (and often closely related to or inseparable from) what has already been mentioned.
Antinomianism, Easy-Believe-ism, and Unconditional Eternal Security: Antinomianism is the concept that Jesus Christ has released Christians from having to keep the moral Law of God. Anyone who believes that God’s grace in Jesus Christ relieves them of their duty to do what is right in God’s eyes, in accordance with His eternal moral Law, is surely an antinomian. Antinomianism is the prevailing concept in evangelical Christianity today, as well as in the realm of professing Christianity overall. It is closely related to, and impossible to practically separate from, the concepts of easy-believe-ism and unconditional eternal security. Easy-believe-ism is the concept that Christ can be received apart from a total break from sin in one’s heart, apart from restitution for one’s unlawful deeds, apart from deeds which overall demonstrate genuine repentance from sin, and continued obedience to Christ’s Word. Unconditional eternal security is also known as OSAS (one saved, always saved). OSAS teaches that someone who has received Christ can never ultimately fall away from Him unto damnation. It is obvious that easy-believe-ism teachers who don’t teach the necessity of repentance from sin and the necessity of deeds worthy of repentance from sin, in order to receive Christ, would also teach unconditional eternal security. Yet some people, contrary to logic, teach unconditional eternal security while also claiming to teach the necessity of repentance from sin and deeds worthy of repentance in order to receive Christ. Logically and practically though, antinomianism, easy-believe-ism, and unconditional eternal security doctrine are inseparable due to how well they correspond with each other and due to how inconsistent and illogical it is to separate them in any way.
Applying these things to a real life illustration: Zaccheus understanding the need to make restitution to those whom he had defrauded and give half of his goods to the poor to tear his heart from the love of money and do the good which he had neglected for so long, in order to receive Jesus unto salvation, is a rebuke which exposes antinomianism and easy-believe-ism as the devilish lies which they are. The unconditional eternal security teachers are also rebuked by this fact and proven to be in league with the antinomians and easy-believe-ism teachers. Zaccheus had to break from his sin to receive Jesus and demonstrate this break by his deeds. It is evident and obvious that if Zaccheus turned back to sin, he’d be denying Jesus and he’d no longer be a partaker of Jesus’ grace.
Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”
None of this changed the slightest bit after the cross, as the Apostle Paul testified of the Gospel which he preached, as he was testifying before King Agrippa, in Acts 26:19-20: “Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.”
Lack of Preaching on God’s Wrath and the Fire of Hell: The God of the Bible sent a flood which killed everyone on earth besides eight people who were righteous before Him, He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone, and He has done many other terrifying acts as examples to preview and warn us of the severe eternal judgment which He will bring to those who are transgressors in His sight. God is holy, God is wrathful, God is a consuming fire- but few churches want to spend much time dealing with this. They know preaching God as He is, a Great King who ought to be feared, will not be good for business.
Church as a Business: Though the Bible teaches that there is a rightful place for church leaders to be recompensed financially for their labor, church is not supposed to be a business which one plans to make a career out of and use as a means of financial security and material comfort. The fact that most church leaders see church as a business is proven by how they do not faithfully teach and enforce even the Bible truth that they know. That is not even considering their lack of openness to correction and more light concerning what faithful Christianity entails in God’s eyes. They know such would cause them to lose membership and thus lose income, which is of course essential for a business. Jesus Christ gave a great display of His anger in His public ministry when He cast the moneychangers and merchants out of the Temple of God. These are the spiritual ancestors of Christendom’s clergy class today.
Yoking with the Roman Catholic Church: The harlot church which was, and still is, the chief product of the compromise between Christian churches and Pagan society is not called out as being such. It is rather often emulated in its compromise to a significant degree. Quite often it is justified and involved in interdenominational fellowship of some kind. The current Pope is a manifestation of the blasphemy, deceit, and fornication with the darkness of this world which his office has always represented; and which his church as a whole has represented since at least the 4th century AD.
Jezebel Spirit: Often the Bible’s prohibitions against women spiritually leading and teaching men in the church are blatantly disobeyed. Even more often, the Bible truth that the wife ought to be subject to her husband is mocked while men who try to instill reasonable rules and order in their homes are labeled as harsh and unloving. Women lecture men in and out of church, flaunt their bodies in immodest clothing, wear make-up, and are feared by male church leaders if they should think about preaching on how wrong any of this is in God’s eyes from the straightforward instructions of Scripture. Men who do their duty and appropriately exercise their God-given strength in any form are labeled as harsh, unloving, un-christlike, and are lumped in the same category with men who are truly abusive. No preacher can be faithful to God’s Word without addressing the sins of women. The Bible has a lot to say about sins which are commonly practiced by women. Yet Scriptures which deal with such are often not touched, or at least not handled thoroughly and honestly, by most modern churches. Where have society and churches most practically strayed from Biblical teachings? Quite possibly in areas which pertain to women. Pastors don’t normally teach, much less do they enforce Biblical commands on modest dress and forbidding displays of vanity in fashion. They don’t want an outcry from the Jezebels. So instead of dealing with their unpleasant anger, and the likely next step of having to cast the ones that won’t change out of the church, they back down and stay silent while the Jezebels get their way.
Fake Long Hair Hippie jesus: Even though many acknowledge that the image whereby Jesus is commonly portrayed in modern times must be false for obvious reasons, the modern churches seem to be the slowest to get this. That must have something to do with how the soft, effeminate man with long hair is much more compatible with the above points than a holy, masculine 1st century Jewish man with short hair. The modern jesus is an idol and a counterfeit of the real Jesus. We are warned in Scripture to be aware of fake jesuses and not to bear with them (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). Having a salvation that is real, and no counterfeit, comes only by believing in and obediently following the true Jesus of the Bible who is “the true God, and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20b) We are commanded in the Bible not to make a likeness (image) of God according to man’s corrupt understanding. That is idolatry. Since Jesus Christ is God who came in the flesh (John 1:1-5, 14), any “guesses” at how He would have looked which go beyond what is said in the Bible, are idolatry. The media’s typical depiction of Jesus is influenced by how Pagan gods were typically portrayed in art, along with attempts throughout history to make “jesus” popular to the masses. The media’s typical depiction is certainly not significantly influenced by the Word of God nor permitted by the Word of God. The glory of Jesus Christ’s character and His awesome authority as the King of mankind cannot be adequately represented by any actor or any artist. Scrap the “media jesus” from your mind completely. It is a shallow, cheap, pathetic counterfeit of the real Jesus.
Any and all of these things mislead multitudes, misrepresent the true grace of God in Jesus Christ, are stumbling blocks to God’s people, often lead people into counterfeit Christianity, and mislead people in general regarding the nature of true Christianity. Avoiding these errors in modern Christendom is crucial in order to follow authentic Bible believing and obeying Christianity. And it should be said here that to be irreligious is to attain an outcome which the errors and counterfeits in religion promote since to not follow the true and authentic contributes to the problem and harms oneself, whether that happens through following religious error or in being irreligious.
I surely didn’t talk about much with the depth and detail that I could have- without being nitpicky nor overly harsh nor treating things as a bigger deal than they really are.
Aaron’s email is: [email protected]