The train wreck of Christendom Part 1

OFF THE RAILS

If you have a moment, stop and take a long look at the noisy, bustling, cluttered landscape of modern Christendom* and ask yourself, “How much of this is pleasing to Christ?”

As a younger believer I used to ask myself that question quite often. I was never sure of the answer, or if I should even ask the question in the first place, so I never voiced it to those I knew. Besides, who was I to question whether the Lord was working in and through everyone who named His Name? Who was I to doubt? Who was I to judge?

I know I’m not the first to ask that question. Thoughtful believers will ask it. Secular unbelievers, observing closely those who claim to follow Christ, have long asked it, too. Even if the motivation behind their question isn’t sincere (it usually isn’t), the question itself is.

So IS all this pleasing to Christ?

After some years of pondering, my answer is, “Since Christ is neither blind nor an idiot, no, He is not pleased. No way.”

Sir Robert Anderson asked the question a century ago in a series of excellent, insightful, pull-no-punches books which gazed without blinking at various aspects of the unmitigated disaster that is Christendom. As timely as his books were in his day, they’re even more timely now and I cannot recommend them enough.

Anderson – who today would be branded an ultradispensationalist and summarily condemned, dismissed and ignored by the majority of evangelicals and fundamentalists – describes how Christendom came to be in the state of utter confusion and blindness of his pwm day. Not that that was a recent development; Anderson recognized that Christendom had been in that very condition for nigh on 2,000 years and explains how it came about.

I mention Anderson because the situation hasn’t improved one bit since his day. The knowledge of the Mystery and the preaching of Christ accordingly has been recovered and promoted since his day, that is true. But for Christendom itself the situation has gotten progressively worse. In the past century, Christendom has become increasingly self-satisfied in its traditions and self-innoculated against sound doctrine. This resulted in a spiritual deafness; a near-absolute incapacity and intolerance for reasoned, Bible-based self-examination. It has also fostered a peculiar, outraged indignity whenever the need for such correction is even suggested (the reaction of charismatics to any questioning of modern glossolalia, for instance).

In a recent issue of The Berean Call newsletter, T.A. McMahon observed:

“In the third chapter of Second Timothy, Paul speaks prophetically, identifying some of the characteristics that we need to urgently heed concerning the end-times deception: ‘This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous…lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof….never able to come to the knowledge of the truth….[A]s Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth’ (2 Tm 3:1-8).”

While he does not see the gravest warning Paul issued in his later letters – that the revelation of the Mystery would be virtually lost to the Body of Christ (the root cause of the Church’s problems) – McMahon rightly lists some of the more popular symptoms of decay infecting not only Christendom but the Church that finds itself temporarily trapped within Christendom:

“Let’s consider these things in light of what is taking place in evangelical churches today. Humanistic psychology, with its emphasis on self-love and its brood of other selfisms, has become an accepted and promoted doctrine among pastoral counselors and ‘Christian’ psychologists. Prosperity evangelists have turned covetousness into God’s foremost commandment for millions of professing Christians. Seeker-friendly churches are working at filling their pews with lovers of pleasure while discouraging (and in many cases dismissing) lovers of God. Purpose-driven churches are marketing formulas of godliness in place of the power and leading of the Holy Spirit. The growing adulteration of God’s Holy Scriptures in the form of subjective paraphrase and visual ‘translations’ is creating both a resistance to the truth and an anemia regarding spiritual discernment. Finally, regarding the ingredients of apostasy, the magicians ‘wowed’ those crowding Pharoah’s court with their pagan showmanship, mystical presence, and counterfeit signs and wonders (Ex 7:11,12). So, too, are we seeing entertainment, experientialism, and contemplative (Catholic) mysticism seducing multitudes of churches that formerly majored in preaching, teaching, and sound doctrine.”

For all these reasons and more, the situation has grown to be not only humanly impossible to correct, but it’s nearly impossible to convince even true Christians of how bad it really is. Thus the times are arguably more perilous now than at any time in the past 2,000 years. For in modern Christendom, RELIGION – the worst thing man ever invented – has been finely calibrated in every respect. From the reverence of (and growing taste for) the most patently absurd superstitions and pomp to the subtlest misapplications, twistings and outright denials of Scripture, this corrupt and all-corrupting system has gained an awesomely powerful, tradition-enforced lock upon the minds and souls of billions. Its influence is so pervasive and universal it stands as far above question as the Bible itself. More so, truth be told.

Things could certainly be worse, and will no doubt get worse before it’s all over. But when one looks at the the tactics Christendom once used to gain slaves (the fear of Hell after death or the threat of persecution and torture before it) the about-face is nothing short of ingenious. Forced and enforced religious observance, the “outward conformity of coerced belief and profession,” are pretty much a thing of the past as far as Christendom is concerned. Instead, just the opposite has become the order of the day here in the West.

Today, the (one would think) obvious bait of the user-friendly God and His man-centered, shiny-happy, mass-marketed doctrines is astonishing in its hook-line-sinker effectiveness. The sheer brilliance of this deceptiveness is both impressive and depressing; many otherwise intelligent people are sucked in by it; many skeptics see the sham for what it is and, as a result, want nothing to do with Christ because of those who think they belong to Him. Everyone loses.

From a scriptural and eternal viewpoint – the only viewpoint that really matters – Christendom has been and continues to be the greatest force for evil on the face of this planet.

So getting back to my original question. The reason I don’t puzzle over it anymore is because the answer is obvious but only came with further growth in the Word. Of course Christ is displeased by all this wickedness. After all, He is the One who does not author confusion within the Church which is His Body, so He cannot possibly be pleased by any of this. Blame whoever you like, just don’t blame Him.

Now, with that viewpoint in mind, look again out over the werckage-strewn landscape of the so-called Christian world. Are there truly saved believers scattered here and there within it? Of course there are, some probably in the most unlikely places – such is grace! But they’re in the numerical minority as has always been and always will be the case.

The biggest danger posed by Christendom, however, is not that true Christians are so few within Christendom. Again, that’s nothing new. Rather, the primary problem is that false Christians – committed, convinced, devoutly religious but dead in sin unbelievers – are in the majority of what the world assumes to be Christianity. This may seem like an pointless distinction but it is not. Remember, in this world there really is power in numbers and majorities tend to rule; note the slide our own society is taking toward mob-rule socialism. Christendom is no different; whatever labels individuals within it may wear, Christendom is primarily a system of, by, and for unbelievers WHO DO NOT KNOW THEY ARE UNBELIEVERS. What the secular world actually fears when it looks at Christendom – thought it cannot know this – is not the tiny minority of true, regenerated believers trapped within it but the devout, deceived unbelievers that make up the vast majority. That’s the core of the problem: Christendom has been both supremely self-righteous in its service to Christ while being utterly without Christ and His Gospel. Nothing could be more dangerous.

At this point the article you’re reading will become uncomfortable for many Bible-only Christians to read. For at the mention of “religious unbelievers” the minds of most professing sola Scripturists will instantly race to images of popes, priests and door-knocking Jehovah’s Witnesses – those folks “out there.” True enough; but my mind comes first to the denominations, movements and groupings within protestantism; those who by virtue of being closest to the Truth have the least excuse for not knowing it. I speak of groups which claim to be Bible only but which are just as false to Christ and His gospel of grace as the church of Rome or Joseph Smith ever was.

Test it for yourself: simply look at what a church or denomination says one must do to be saved. If they preach anything beyond simple trust in Christ’s sacrifice for one’s own lawbreaking sin – without human effort of any kind to obtain, maintain or prove one’s salvation – then they’re preaching a different gospel from that given by Christ to Paul.

The gospels preached in many protestant churches are false and have not saved anyone who believed them. If you think that’s too harsh a statement, I back it up with this: some form of Judaic lawkeeping is the primary means of becoming or staying right with God, or proving one is right with God (same thing). Their primary example for this, they believe, is Christ according to the Gospels…Christ “according to the flesh,” (2 Cor 5:16), an aspect of Him that Paul said we cannot know. But of what they ARE expected to know – Christ according to the revelation of the mystery (Rom 16:25; Eph 3:9) – easily 99% of Christendom knows nothing.

It is sad but biblically justifiable and necessary to call such folks unbelievers because God does not grade on a curve. When it comes to the Gospel, to miss by a centimeter is to miss by a mile. Any protestant church that says works, at some point and to some degree, help determine one’s eternal standing with God is a false church. Yet how many protestants have been led to believe exactly that? How many of our so-called denominational brethren are convinced – though they’d never put it in these terms – that their own religious self-effort supplements the sheer, unmerited, supposedly all-sufficient grace of God in saving them? Ten Commandments, anyone? I’ve met dozens of protestants from all camps who believe exactly that. As such they are true members of Christendom but are not Christian according to the Bible definition of that term. They are, rather, just as much part of the problem as those they’d witness to as lost.

Is there anything one can do about it? Anything apart from separating from it, leaving the hardened traditionalists to reap what they sow? I’ve asked myself that for years and the only answer I can come up with is “No, nothing can be done.” I’ve been written off by three close Christian brothers (I believe at least two of them are saved, and hope the third one is) who would not tolerate my questioning of their traditional viewpoints…I know now that coming to see the Mystery often has that effect.

Commenting on 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, Rollin Wilson once observed,

“If Satan and his ministers can feign themselves in the vestments of righteousness, it is no marvel that they can also fake the area of service. We so often attribute to God that energy which folk expend on behalf of ‘the church’… Satan well knows the two go together, so he fakes them both…The sad part is many who have been so used by Satan are not conscious of being his puppet.”

I am harder than I used to be but I am not hardened; I have not withdrawn and shrunk into impotent cynicism. Outreach to others is always called for and I don’t want to be seen as diminishing or disputing that fact.

But God Himself can’t help someone who not only doesn’t believe he needs help but is insulted at the very suggestion. As we know, that is usually the response of a religious person. People – Christians included – change only when they see a need for change and choose to act upon what they see. So I keep trying. The results I leave with Him.

This 2,000 year old trainwreck continues to fly off its tracks, taking billions with it, including many we otherwise might not consider as lost. When will it finally stop? Only when Christ returns, not before. But that’s not news; it was written down milennia ago. As has been said often in grace circles, our job is not to stop the wreck – that’s impossible. Our job is to try to save people from it. May God grant us the strength – and the guts – to do so!

Continued in Part II: Social/Political Ecumenism

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* By “Christendom” I mean “all of professing Christianity.” With so many contradictory paths to God within Christendom, no honest person can deny that Christendom must be composed of both the truly saved (those who Paul says are “in Christ”) and the merely religious (those who think they know Christ but whom He does not know). Each, naturally, will have his or her own standards to determine who is true and who is false. But as former Roman Catholic Mike Gendron points out,

“[N]o one can see a person’s heart, [so] it is impossible to know with absolute certainty WHO is a Christian. However, we can know with certainty WHAT is a Christian. From the Bible we know a Christian…is one who has received eternal life, the complete forgiveness of sins and a right standing before God by forsaking all efforts to save himself and by transferring his trust to the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9, Col. 2:13)…A Christian is one who is motivated to obey God’s commands by His love for God, not to merit salvation. He endeavors to live according to God’s will, to do the things pleasing to God and to avoid the things that God hates (Titus 2:11-14).”

I believe this definition reflects Paul’s teachings. So given our understanding of what the majority of professing Christians believe they must do to be saved (or stay saved), we can only conclude that the vast majority of Christendom’s inhabitants are Christian in name only…that is, they’re still lost (i.e., dead in sin and just a hearbeat away from eternal condemnation).

http://www.ourchurch.com/member/e/ephesians3_9/index.php?p=1_27_Part-I-Off-the-Rails

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