Friday, July 13, 2012

Apostasy, Compromise, and its many Justifications

Why do Christians compromise? Why do Christian institutions fall away from the faith at such an alarming rate? Our Ivy League universities had all started as Bible Colleges. They have not only turned from their roots, but are now proactively attempting to root out any vestige of these roots.

Apostates will answer that education caused them to question the faith and ultimately reject the faith of their youth. However, there seems to be better answers.

In John’s Revelation, he was instructed by the Spirit to pen letters to seven churches revealing their spiritual status. The first five churches were given mixed reviews. The sixth church, the Church of Philadelphia, was only commended, although it was deemed “weak.” They “have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Rev. 3:8).

The seventh church, the Church of Laodicea, had received the worst evaluation:

·        “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Rev. 3:15-17)

This was a church which had compromised. As a result, it was “neither cold nor hot.” Why had they compromised? They had ceased to value God and His wisdom. Instead, they were content with their own! After all, they were convinced that “'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” When we are convinced that we “do not need a thing,” we no longer feel any urgency to seek God and cry out for His wisdom and His Word.

The fifth church, the Church of Sardis, is a close runner-up to Laodicea. Before men, “they had a reputation of being alive” (Rev. 3:1). However, according to God’s assessment, they were “dead.” He counseled them to “wake up” from their deadness and self-satisfaction. They had become blinded by their “reputation” and the esteem of men and had grown insensitive to the opinion of God.

Success is a dangerous thing. It breeds arrogance and blindness to our real spiritual condition and neediness before our God. It is this neediness that is actually our strength:

·        But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

I think that we can apply these truths to the compromise that encircles the church. Let me cite the example of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), whose motto has been “Cooperation without Compromise.” The NAE recently held a conference in which they promoted the use of birth control for church people having sex outside of marriage.

The 400 evangelical attendees were asked “Do you believe churches should advocate contraception for their 20-somethings?” Astonishingly, “almost two-thirds voted yes.”

We might wonder how it is that an evangelical’s are encouraging sinful behavior. Marvin Olasky of World Magazine had the same question, and so he asked one of the participants – Messiah College Professor Jenell Paris:

·        She said churches should both “lift up the ideal of premarital chastity and support people who do otherwise…If that sounds like a compromise, it is, kind of. But consider the word compromise…If you want to be alone and be right, go ahead…but to promise or agree to work with another, that’s compromise. It’s not that bad. The bigger picture, though, is a renewed theology of sex in the church.” (July 14, 2012)

Evidently, Messiah College is also willing to embrace a “renewed theology of sex” in favor of the Word of God in support of “people who do otherwise” and don’t abstain. However, it has always been Church’s contention that the best way to love and support others was to lead them to the counsel of our all-wise God.

Why has Paris abandoned the counsel of Scripture? I think that she gives us a hint: “If you want to remain alone and be right, go ahead.” It seems that acceptance of her peers and the prevailing culture trumps everything else. However, compromisers generally justify their compromise in terms of pragmatism – what brings positive results. Olasky reports that the NAE President Leith Anderson had cited a 2010 NAE board resolution:

·        “The Church is understandably reluctant to recommend contraception for unmarried sexual partners, given that it can’t condone extramarital sex. However, it is even more tragic when unmarried individuals compound one sin by conceiving and then destroying the precious gift of life.” (11)

Anderson justifies the NAE’s decision to promote conception education within churches in hope of reducing unwanted pregnancies. However, such reasoning represents the triumph of human pragmatic reasoning over principle, God’s principle! It also suggests that the NAE knows better than the Word of God.

In addition to this, if the NAE wants to be consistent with their pragmatic approach, the church should also be instructing pedophiles and adulterers to use condoms, heroin addicts to use clean needles or methadone, and any sinner to do their sin safely. This, of course, is absurd.

In contrast, Martin Luther explained that it was God’s Word that brought change, not force or pragmatic interventions:

·        I simply taught, preached, and wrote God; otherwise I did nothing...The Word did it all!”

Sadly, the “rich” church has largely lost faith in the transformative power of the Word, and correspondingly has grown in faith in its own devices.  And we justify this apostasy in many ways. Paris explains:

·        “It’s fine to have ideals, and to proclaim them with perfect phrases in perfectly planned church services.” Reality, she opined, demands contraceptive compromise, and “compromise can be sacred, even purifying us of our illusions of controlling others through well-intended religious influence.” (10)

Evidently, Paris feels that her influence doesn’t represent “control,” while the influence of the church is somehow illegitimate. In rejecting the religion of the Bible, it seems that she has adopted a substitute sacredness. Surprisingly, we are told that “compromise can be sacred.” Perhaps hypocrisy and unfaithfulness can also be sacred! Nevertheless, the NAE states that its mission “is to honor God by connecting and representing evangelical Christians.” No hypocrisy there!

Ironically, if we are truly pragmatic and concerned about abortions, it seems that we should preach abstinence alone. Olasky reports that,

·        Birth control pills have an 8 percent failure rate during their first year of use, and many women who use them for years become pregnant, sooner or later. (88)

It is interesting that our 2,000 year-old Bible still makes excellent pragmatic sense. This once again raises the question, “Why has the church so quickly compromised?” Sometimes, it might mean that the church has been bought or seduced. Olasky advises us to take a look at the “money trail.” The NAE had been awarded a one million dollar grant from a secular group wanting the church to promote contraception. Olasky suggests,

·        A combination of financial need and crown-pleasing ideology may have contributed to the NAE’s mixed message in regard to one of the Bible’s clearest statements. (88)

Sadly, once we harden our heart to allow one compromise, we then have to adjust of theology to rationalize the compromise. Consequently, such adjustments produce absurdities like, “compromise can be sacred, even purifying us of our illusions.”

I don’t think that our compromising professors are led by reason or evidence. It seems that we are largely motivated by baser considerations. However, our tragic condition should provoke prayer and confession before our merciful God.

Even against the apostate Church of Laodicea, the Spirit didn’t pronounce a final condemnation. Instead, He counseled:

·        Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:19-20)

Let us therefore pray that the church would hear His voice, and that the Lord would revive His church.


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