It seems that within a short amount of time–say, within the past six months–I have been seeing quite a lot of heresy floating around. And some of it is from some quite well-known and (formerly) well-respected people. That’s not to say that the heresy has been new among them, but that I’ve just been learning about it. At the same time, we’ve been seeing apostasy from at least two well-known Christian leaders–one a long-time author/speaker, and the other a well-known singer/songwriter.
Let me tackle the issue of the apostasy first, and then in a following post (and maybe more) I’ll discuss the issue of heresy and tie them both together.
The apostasy–that is a turning away from the faith–from author/speaker Joshua Harris, came as a bit of a suprise, but then again, not really. I suppose after he turned the tables on his own writing, it doesn’t seem that surprising anymore.
Then, there was the more recent turning from Hillsong worship leader Marty Sampson, who has revealed that he is “losing his faith,” but has not completely gone under. Let’s pray that he doesn’t.
Sure, there are questions that we all wrestle with. There are things about God’s wrath in both the Old Testament and the Judgment Seat yet to come; as well as the hellish ‘place of the dead’ that souls are facing now, that we wrestle with. We have to trust in God’s perfect judgement and grace. There’s ‘the problem of evil’ by which some say God is a moral monster; and why some may question the Bible’s ethical standards, as if our own is better (and many who are atheists say it is). Then there are the supposed Bible ‘contradictions.’
I have no problem with pondering any of these questions. Like I said, we all ask them of ourselves. And besides, these questions are all thrown at us by friends, family members, even aquaintances and college professors. But it’s how and where we find the answers to these questions that makes all the difference. Do we seek out the answers or do we just stew these questions through our own minds, driving ourselves nutty because we can’t come up with the answers ourselves? If we leave it up to ourselves, then surely, the answer will lead us down the road to either atheism, agnosticism or at-best, progressive Christianity.
The answers to these questions can be found through well-reasoned, well-researched, time-tested, scholarly sources. They can be traced into, out of and all throughout The Bible in every which way; as well as extra-Biblical, historically-documented resources, plus continual scientific discovery.
So why are people going astray? Even abandoning traditional Christianity for a progressive Christianity? Like I said, many people are left to wander through these issues on their own. Or, they seek secular resources rather than religious; or they seek some hip new religious (so-called Christian) guru rather than tracking the time-honored, traditional, well-respected, academic studies on the subject.
Another answer is that none of these things mentioned above are being addressed by many churches around the country or by pastors and teachers on Christian radio and TV. Yet, there are plenty of sources people can go to in order to find these answers. I’ll admit, sometimes it can be daunting. Scrolling through Google or Amazon and picking through stuff isn’t always easy, and we don’t always have the time to read or listen to the plethora of podcasts and blogs (such as this one) that will tackle these issues. Not every town has a Christian bookstore anymore, or even a really good all-around secular bookstore where an entire section of shelves is dedicated to books on Apologetics (the study of tackling these important issues); and a lot of libraries don’t carry many titles on this subject, either.
The answer, therefore, is for us leaders to start tackling these issues, and speaking the truth in love. We need to do so in our churches, in our books, in our music, and on the airwaves.
This post is for the church as much as it is for those struggling. The Church, the greater Body of Christ, and its mission for 21st Century Western culture, has to address the issues that people are truly asking. I know, it’s easy to turn a sermon into a lecture when talking about hard-hitting issues and apologetics. But we have to set aside our cozy “dream-filled destiny/self-improvement” sermons, our entertainment-driven worship and our lackluster radio lyrics. We need to dig deeper into God’s truth when we preach, and even when we worship.
And speaking of worship, I can’t help but wonder just how Marty Sampson is wrestling with his faith as much as he is. The reason why I wonder, is because Sampson is a worship leader. Now, I might be assuming too much, since I have never been to a Hillsong worship service, but wouldn’t you assume that if he is leading worship, then he leading people into The Presence? And if he is leading people into The Presence, then he is experiencing that himsef? The very warming, welcoming, peaceful presence of God in their midst? Wouldn’t a worship leader be worshipping?
I don’t know about you, but I have been to some worship services where there is only a slight hint of God’s presence–His sweet, soft, peaceful presence–but it’s enough to convince me that God is more wonderful and loving than anything or anyone else on this earth. I have also been to worship services where there is quite a bit more than ‘just a hint’ of God’s presence. It’s as if we’ve been heavily blanketed with a mix of power and peace, and all of our problems melt away “in the light of His glory and grace.”
On a few occaisions, I have been to worship services where the power of God was so strong, it was frightening. It was even hard to enter the room. And to get close to the altar (where the musicians played) felt almost too overwhelming to stand.
And then, there were times when I didn’t feel anything. Sure people were worshipping, the band was playing their hearts out with all the latest guitar effects and background tracks filtered in; not to mention the colored lights and video and whatnot. But that was about it. Is that all it was for Marty? Just being on stage? Just doing what he was hired to do musically?
And I can’t help but wonder what Harris’ faith was like. What was his teaching like? How could someone pastor, yet not know–not have the assurance of The Holy Spirit within them? Have they not tasted also, of the divine? Have they not felt the presence? Has God not spoken to him? Has he not filled his mind and soul with the Word on a regular basis–at the very least for sermon prep? And what was his seminary teaching like? Did it not equip him with ample reason (apologia) to believe? Was his Christianity not a relationship of his own?
I’ve been pastoring a small Baptist church for a year now. What it has taught me is that preaching God’s truth is a tremendous responisibility, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. To preach is to teach strictly the scripture. The Bible is our ‘manual’ so-to-speak, in which to teach from. We don’t teach anywhere except from the Bible. And to teach effectively and accurately, we need to dig in–in and out and through. And when we do, ‘It’ reveals to us even more of its power and truth. It is truly
a the His Living Word.
And even though I’m not as keen on the style of standing and ‘turning to page so-and-so’ with the old hymns as I am to the free-style method of modern worship, I have to admit, it is refreshing to have time-tested, deep theological teaching and truly poetic, heartfelt lyrics in the old hymns as opposed to the repetitive and sometimes shallow worship songs of more recent years. Same goes for the shallow songs on Christian radio–but that’s another post altogether.
What I want to encourage you today is to not let your Christianity become shallow. Go ahead and ask all the questions you want. But make sure you’re finding the right answers from the right resources. Doing so will only strengthen your faith. Worship and seek a true relationship with God. Rekindle your ‘first love,’ and through true worship you will find out what it means to truly and healthily fear The Almighty. Don’t fall for the World’s–or even your own–apologetic.
Which leads me to my next point: heresy. I’ll tackle that in my next blog post.
Jeremiah 29:13 New International Version (NIV)
“13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”