Promises and Secrets

Promises and SecretsPromises and Secrets

A website for those not afraid to examine their beliefs, compare them to the real world, and make sure they fit.



Christianity without Christ?

VIEWPOINT



While "Christless Christianity" sounds like a contradiction in terms, it is a actually a very good description of the New "Christianity" claimed by many (most?) churches today who claim to preach "Jesus Christ and Him cru cified".

FACT



The claimed purpose of the churches of today is to preach "Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor 2:1-2
1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

).


BLUE VIEWPOINT



The Christ of today's evangelical churches bears little resemblance to the Christ of the Bible.

"Come on, my pastor preaches Christ!"

Oh, these churches describe the good, forgiving, gentle Christ of the gospels on His first visit to the earth. However, this is only part of the Son of God. The Bible clearly describes Christ as judge (Psalm 110:6
6 He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.

, Isaiah 11:3-4
3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
    or decide by what he hears with his ears
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
    with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
    with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

, John 5:22
22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,

, John 5:27
27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

, John 5:30
30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

, John 8:16
16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.

, John 8:26
26 I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.

, John 9:39
9 Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."

, Acts 17:31
31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.

, Romans 2:16
16 This will take place on the day when God judges people's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

, 2 Tim 4:1
1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:

, 2 Tim 4:8
8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

, Rev 19:11
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war.

), and mighty ruler and conqueror (Isaiah 11:3-4
3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
    or decide by what he hears with his ears
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
    with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
    with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

, Rev 19:15-16
15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

            KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

), concepts that are left out of most sermons and discussions. These speak of His future return in power and glory. Unfortunately, that makes people nervous, so the pastors don't speak of it (2 Tim 4:3
3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

) in order to keep people in the pews.

There are even some passages that state that Jesus does not judge (Luke 12:14
14 Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?"

, John 3:17
17 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

, John 8:15
15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one.

, John 12:47-48
47 "If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day."

), but to read these as referring to other than His first time on the earth would be to create contradictions. The Bible does not contradict itself, but bad interpretations do. So, the pastors seem to be leaving them alone as well.

Real world example

So, this Judge identity of Christ is missing from the modern church teachings. What kind of judging do people think He will do as Judge of the world? No one seems to want to describe Christ the way the Bible says. Think of it this way. If you know a man who always acts kind, thoughtful, works hard at his job, then that is who you will think of when his name is mentioned. However, if he beats his wife and children at home, expects to be waited on hand and foot at home, and never spends any of his paycheck for anyone but himself, that is who the family will think of when they hear his name mentioned.

When the family goes to a company picnic, and they have a conversation with someone from work about the nature of the man, how do you think that will turn out? Each side of the conversation will only have half of the story and the other half will be totally contrary to the revealed nature of the man that each knows. Neither side is wrong, but neither side knows the real man.

Happening in the churches weekly

This is similar to the way many churches present Jesus Christ. The difference is that there is a source that describes the whole Jesus, but only half of Him is presented to the congregations. The other half is kept secret because, in general, people do not want to think that they will be judged by anyone - even Jesus. So, the real Jesus is not preached, but how often do you hear anyone study enough to speak up about that? That's the origin of the name of this page. The Christ that is the real Christ of the Bible is not the one presented in the churches. So if the real Christ is not presented to the congregation, their Christianity is based on a fictional Christ, therefore Christless.

Some background

Actually, the name and concept for this article came from a book by Michael Horton called Christless Christianity, published in 2008. Often, when you see a book with a title that grabs your attention, it goes off on some tangent. This one stays right on the promised topic and tells it like it is. If you are not afraid of some self-examination regarding what you believe, take a look at this book. If you have a favorite hero TV preacher, you might be surprised at what he/she is really selling you. If nothing else, you should start watching closer when you hear a "peaches and cream" sermon from your own pastor.

Need some examples? Here are the three comments on the back of the book jacket:

"Horton confronts modern evangelicalism in terms reminiscent of J. Gresham Machen's challenge to liberalism in the 1920's. Both authors spotlight flaws that do more than distort Christian faith: they reject it. Horton's brush is broad - expect loud lamentation from the evangelical camp - but the picture he paints is largely accurate. His argument is convincing: therapeutic moralism has, in fact, found a home among evangelicals."

Parker T. Williamson, editor emeritus and senior correspondent,
The Presbyterian Layman


"Christless Christianity makes an important contribution in defense of the centrality of Christ to vibrant Christian life and witness. Horton has ably helped us see the train wreck that is so much of popular Christianity. While others are legitimately concerned with errors originating in the academy, errors that excite the intellectual but few average pew sitters are even aware of, Horton turns his sharp mind to exposing the mass production of a kinder happier legalism that robs the average Christian of the liberating joy of knowing the Jesus whose work is finished and never improved. A more importand and timely volume could not have been written."

Thabiti M. Anyabwile, senior pastor, First Baptist Church
of Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands


"Christless Christianity" establishes Michael Horton as the outstanding protagonist for classical Protestant orthodoxy. His wide-ranging and carefully researched examples show how our churches and megachurches have pandered to the culture with Gnostic, Pelagian, moralistic, and self-help heresies bereft of the saving action of Jesus Christ. He leaves us with a profound trust and a sure confidence in our biblical faith. What could be more important?"

Episcopal Bishop C. FitzSimons Allison

Under the spotlight

Notice that these comments are made by members of different churches, all of whom are the target of some of the comments made by Horton in his book. They can see the truth of what he says, and realize that he loudly proclaims that truth.

The book also contains a foreword by William Willimon, Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. In his foreword, he makes the following statement, among others:

This is a tough book, but well written, fast paced, and wonderfully grounded in classical Reformation Christianity. Our poor old, compromised, accomodating church is here subjected to withering theological critique. Here the roots of our current theological malaise are exposed and we see the wrong turns we took when we began taking ourselves more seriously than God."

How hard is it to stray?

Some examples of the author's approach from the book include a paragraph from the first page on chapter 1:

It is easy to become distracted from Christ as the only hope for sinners. Where everything is measured by our happiness rather than by God's holiness, the sense of our being sinners becomes secondary, if not offensive. If we are good people who have lost our way but with the proper instruction and motivation can become a better person, we need only a life coach, not a savior.

On the very next page, he continues:

I think that the church in America today is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful, and perhaps even well-liked that it mirrors the world itself. Aside from the packaging, there is nothing that cannot be found in most churches today that could not be satisfied by any number of secular programs and self-help groups.

"But, my pastor is smart..."

Dr. Horton (yes, he too has a Ph.D.) discusses the difference between the desires of the current generations and those of the older ones. The new generation is looking for something different than the stricter message preached in their parent's day. However new and different the packaging of the "new, emergent gospel", it still focuses on the self-improvement and "better me" aspects of our lives, and it could easily be taught just as well by Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura, and Oprah, without even mentioning Christ. The author gives examples of programs from different church denominations as well as dearly-loved but very off-Christ-based televangelist messages.

The book is a fascinating read if you are willing to open your eyes to see what is really being passed on to today's churches. Oh, he recognizes that Christ is there, in the background, but more often than not He is just a Hype-Coach to get you stirred up to be active in the church, but doing nothing more than is done in the world by other "good people". The message of our sinful nature in comparison to God is minimized, if not overlooked altogether. Dr. Horton does say that we have not yet reached all the way to "Christless" Christianity, but we are well on the way if we do not examine our concepts and methods of sharing the true gospel rather than the toned-down, softer, gentler message of today.

Not just coming out of nowhere

For a little history on this subject, Frand Viola and George Barna wrote a book published in 2002 and again in 2008 called "Pagan Christianity?". The preface by Frank Viola starts with some history:

WHEN THE LORD JESUS WALKED THIS EARTH, His chief opposition came from the two leading religious parties of the day: the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

The Pharisees added to the Scriptures. They obeyed the law of God as it was interpreted and applied by the scribes, the experts in the Law who lived pious and disciplined lives. As the official interpreters of God's Word, the Pharisees were endowed with the power of creating tradition. They tacked on to the Word of God reams of human laws that were passed on to subsequent generations. This body of time-honored customs, often called "the traditions of the elders," came to be viewed as being on equal par with Holy Writ.

The error of the Sadducees moved in the opposite direction. They subtracted whole segments of Scripture - deeming only the law of Moses worthy to be observed. (The Sadducees denied the existence of spirits, angels, the soul, the afterlife, and the resurrection.)

No wonder that when the Lord Jesus entered the drama of human history, His authority was arduously challenged (see Mark 11:28). He did not fit into the religious mold of either camp. As a result, Jesus was viewed with suspicion by both the Pharisee and Sadducee parties. It did not take long for this suspicion to turn to hostility. And both the Pharisees and Sadducees took steps to put the Son of God to death.

History is repeating itself today. Contemporary Christianity has fallen into the errors of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

First, contemporary Christianity is guilty of the error of the Pharisees. That is, it has added a raft of humanly devised traditions that have suppressed the living, breathing, functional headship of Jesus Christ in His church.

Second, in the tradition of the Sadducees, the great bulk of first century practices have been removed from the Christian landscape. Thankfully, such practices are presently being restored on a small scale by those daring souls who have taken the terrifying step of leaving the safe camp of institutional Christianity.

They were comfortable with their way back then

So, when we start to imitate the Pharisees and the Sadducees, we take the message of Christ out of the teachings of the Word of God. When we do that, we make it Christless. Once again, when people read this, they nod their heads solemnly and walk away thinking it applies to all the other churches, but certainly not theirs. But, until you do some research, you will never understand just how easily most churches have fallen into this trap - yes, likely even yours.

"Whoa, he was there?"

Just in case you start thinking this is just a few oddballs who think this way, there was a conference in 2010 called Christless Christianity: 2010 West Coast Conference. A series of lectures was given on the topic by such names as Michael Horton, Peter Jones, John MacArthur, and R.C. Sproul. In case you missed it, John MacArthur was part of the group that "analyzes this problem and provides solutions to help the church put Christ back at the center." Google reports that:

John Fullerton MacArthur Jr. is an American pastor and author known for his internationally syndicated Christian teaching radio program Grace to You. He has been the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, since February 9, 1969.

Some are trying to fix it

The subject of the Integrity page on this site is about how Mr. MacArthur appears to be falling into the same trap. Thirteen years before this conference he wrote a book called The Power of Integrity which says all the right things, but even he and his church do not follow his own words. See the Integrity page for some examples right out of his book. However, at least attending the Christless Christianity conference shows that he is aware of the problem and is actively working on it.

You can find out more about this conference at Ligonier Ministries. This anemic Christianity is fast becoming an epidemic where unknowing pastors are misguiding millions of Christians, often while not aware that there even is a problem. It is encouraging to see that some are willing to examine the issue, and at least try to fix it, while many others deny that it even exists.

Looking ahead...

The real danger is that, if this apostasy continues, when the Antichrist arrives on the scene, how hard will it be for him to convince people to follow him if they are already half-way there? Don't think so? In conversations with Christians it becomes very apparent that very few of them think that there are any rules to guide and keep us within the will of God. That is removing the chunks of Scripture that are there to do that very thing.

Others are adding miscellaneous rules of our own making to show what a good job we are doing, rather than focus on the only One who could even make a Gift of Salvation available to all. The message of the gospel includes the fact that, as Judge, He will also enforce the few important rules of how not to lose that salvation, while many feel that we need do nothing to even show that we get the message. If people and pastors today are removing chunks of the Word of God like the Sadducees and adding extra chores like the Pharisees, how will we tell the difference between following the Antichrist (who will convince many that he is God) and following the one true God? Few use what the Bible actually says in order to get the real Message. Many will be in for a real surprise on that Day when Christ returns.

Make excuses or learn the truth

Wow, listen to that - people are already making excuses to justify themselves and their pastors. Based on what? The knee-jerk reaction of people today, as we found out Thanksgiving day in 2018, is to immediately defend your non-biblical views with opinions rather than facts. You can't take the strength of the Word, remove half the message of Christ to weaken it, add some sweetness and light to make it comfortable, and then stand behind it. Think about it. When you don't have the real Christ in Christianity, it becomes Christless, even if people still call it Christianity.

Disagree? Find an error? Contact us at glenjjr@gmail.com and give us your view.

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