Even some leading Catholic sources believe this to be obvious. As noted earlier, discussions related to the pope being either Antichrist or the False Prophet aren’t hard to find, especially in literature provided through Defender Publishing and SkyWatch TV. However, in case you haven’t yet had a chance to check out some of the astonishing trails and links Thomas Horn recently blew the whistle on in his “Defender Virtual Conference” presentation (STREAMING FOR 90 DAYS NOW!), here’s a short excerpt that, by now in this series, may not surprise you:
Both Catholics and Protestant evangelicals see the current pope, Francis, echoing a prophesied role in pushing…the system that Antichrist will employ. And, in fact, several Catholic Defenders of the faith—including the largest Catholic news agencies in the world, CAN and EWTN News, as well as several of Rome’s leading theologians like Archbishop Carlo Vigano—have recently stated publicly that Francis is this man from the book of Revelation and Daniel, even writing letters to then President Trump to warn him….
But for mystic Catholics, it’s much more than that. Many of them believe in the Prophecy of the Popes, which predicted nine hundred years ago that one hundred and twelve pontiffs, from the day that Saint Malachy had his divine vision in Rome and forward. One hundred and twelve popes would arrive, with the last one ruling over the Vatican when the Church and the world enter the Great Tribulation period, according to that prophecy. Well, Pope Francis, as you may know, is, or appears to be, pope number one hundred and twelve.… [Pope Francis’] namesake, the man that he chose to name himself after, Francis of Assisi, actually predicted that the final pope would be a deceiver….
Now, think about that for a minute, folks. Given that both recent popes and their closest advisors at the Vatican have considered whether Pope Francis is the last pope, Petrus Romanus, and that the reality “gives them the shivers” and is perceived by them as a “wake-up call,” is it any wonder that conservative scholars within the Catholic Church have taken this increasingly careful view of Pope Francis and the subsequent question of whether Pope Francis is the False Prophet from the book of Revelation? Is it the reason canon lawyers and theologians for the Vatican hosted a conference in Paris a while back to discuss how to depose a heretical pope?…
A respected Italian monsignor and a former consultor to the Vatican’s congregation for the doctrine of the faith—a man by the name of Monsignor Monsignor Nicola Bux has even gone on record as saying, Pope Francis needs to stop the “confusion and apostasy” he is sowing among priests and bishops, and he needs to do this by “correcting” his “ambiguous and erroneous words and acts.” Perhaps even more so than any others, influential Catholic Television Network director Jose Galat. He publicly claimed not long ago that Pope Francis is, in fact, the “False Prophet,” who, he says, is “paving the way for Antichrist.”…
There was an inquiry not long ago in which the Vatican launched an investigation into a Catholic group of exorcists known as the Herald, who, [the investigation] said, after “having discussions with Satan, have determined that Pope Francis is ‘the devil’s man.’”[i]
When the secular world looks for a religious leader to rise up and solve all the problems of humanity, many will look to the pope, since his position has been historically associated with theocratic authority since the formation of the Roman Church hierarchy. Meanwhile, Western Protestants—who are right now scoffing at Rome for her current and future immorality and loose positions on idolatry—will be sitting there, patting themselves on the back for being theologically enlightened, ready to rise, willing to stand for something and make a change…except that it won’t, because it’s a cult.
Chapter 10: Protestant Babylon
The pope isn’t the only leader currently preparing our land and churches for a satanic covenant of End-Times proportions, and Catholics aren’t the only Christians who need to open their eyes to the present-day apostasy. Protestants often stand proudly puffed up, slinging their own version of anathema condemnations at the “Catholic Church’s spiritual failings,” citing such reasons as the worship of Mary, indulgences, sin-booth confession sessions using priests as mediators, discouragement of individual Bible study, dictatorialism in the history of the hierarchy/papacy, and so on. These authors are not insensitive to any of these complaints, and we agree that these topics are extremely concerning. But before Protestants can congratulate themselves on being masters of the universe, we, also, are contributing to the formation of a currently leaderless cult that will be too vulnerable to recognize Antichrist for what he is when he shows up to lead. There are so many examples of how we’re getting it wrong that it’s difficult to know where to start. But, because readers may assume that some of what’s about to be discussed is “heresy in some other denomination and therefore someone else’s problem,” it’s crucial to remember:
- The most convincing and deceptive cult of all is one with members who “look like” and “act like” regular, everyday people who follow Christ.
- Following Christ requires believing what the Bible says of Him, as well as strictly adhering to a list of tenets.
- The members of the Western Church “look like”/“act like” regular, everyday people who follow Christ (with certain exceptions we will soon discuss), but…
- The Western Church has forsaken both the key doctrines of Christ and central Christian tenets. Therefore:
- The Western Church is the most convincing and deceptive cult of all.
As we’ve said, central tenets apply across the board. Both the Catholic Church with all its sects and the Protestant Church with all its denominations are bound to them, and this numbered list applies to both. However, due to the fragmented denominations in Protestantism that tend to represent seemingly countless variations of doctrine, assigning “cult” as a label for the whole of the Protestant Body is a more enigmatic and complicated process.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW VIDEOS
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Deeds vs. Creeds
When ruminating about the disease of the Protestant Church, truly “being” followers of Christ and not just “looking like” followers of Christ is by far the most important consideration, since any other position is a cultic counterfeit.
The creed of the Church says, “I follow Christ.”
The deeds of the Church say, “I don’t follow His tenets or believe what the Word says about Him.”
For instance: The Christian statistics research group, Barna Group, in its definition of the term “biblical worldview,” identifies six universal nonnegotiables within Christianity as a belief system, based on interdenominational tracking of central Christian tenets compiled since 1995. These essentials, which apply to all Protestant denominations, are:
- “[A]bsolute moral truth exists.”
- The Bible is wholly reliable and accurate.
- Satan is a real being, not merely a symbol of sin.
- Simply being a good person does not send one to heaven.
- Jesus came to earth and was sinless.
- “God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.”[ii]
These authors (and everyone in the SkyWatch TV and Defender Publishing circle) concur with every item on this list. Though we would likely add several things, we certainly wouldn’t take anything away from these rudimentary, fundamental components of Christian belief. However, Barna reports, only a staggering 17 percent of practicing Christians in the US have a “biblical worldview” based upon belief in these six things.[iii]
That may come as a shock (it certainly did to us!), but it’s a plausible statistic when we really dig to see what today’s Western Christians actually believe: One study reports that 45 percent of American Christians admit that “certainty about [Christ] is impossible,” and only 34 percent believe He is “involved in their life,”[iv] whereas another study states that 46 percent of born-again Christians believe that Jesus sinned while He was on earth.[v] One report shows that only 41 percent of self-identified US Christian adults in the Baby Boomer generation consider Scripture to be “totally accurate in all of its teachings,” and this staggeringly low number only jumps to 43 percent for the same category of believers in the Millennials, Gen-X, and “Elders” generations.[vi] Between 1993 and 2018, Christians declined from 89 percent to 64 percent in their belief that witnessing to the lost is a duty of their faith,[vii] whereas 47 percent of Millennial-aged, practicing Christians actually think evangelism is morally wrong, as it may pressure someone to change faiths![viii] These authors don’t know what’s worse: the fact that so many Christians don’t think the Great Commission is their responsibility—or the fact that, out of 1,004 regular Christian church attenders in the US who were asked about the Great Commission in 2017, 25 percent couldn’t remember what it was and 51 percent had never even heard the term in their lives![ix] This means at least 76 percent of Christians are ineffective in spreading the Gospel. Maybe the numbers would be more impressive if we knew how to pray with people, but as it currently stands, only 2 percent of praying Americans do so with another person present.[x]
As of October 2020, the latest large-scale research and statistics report reflects that 58 percent of evangelicals have “demoted the Holy Spirit to symbolic status,” denying His role as a true Person of the Trinity. A lie is no longer a sin, according to 40 percent, so long as “it advances personal interests or protects one’s reputation,” and premarital sex is agreeable to half of all evangelicals. Salvation can be earned by doing good, 48 percent say. Abortion is morally acceptable to 34 percent, which makes sense when 44 percent don’t think the Bible’s teaching on the subject is clear and 40 percent don’t believe human life is even sacred. This is probably why 39 percent don’t respect anyone who holds to a different faith (which is ironic, since the entire faith system being described here isn’t orthodoxically any religion). Pentecostals/charismatics aren’t any more impressive, however: 69 percent reject absolute moral truth; 54 percent disagree that human life is sacred; 50 percent claim the Bible is ambiguous about abortion; and 45 percent are not born again! But of all groups, mainline Protestants take the lead for syncretizing their Christianity with the secularized culture of the West: 63 percent say God is not the provider of truth and the Bible cannot be trusted to fully represent God-given principles; a shocking 81 percent believe that people can be their own moral compass because humans are essentially good; only 33 percent make it a habit to confess sins and seek forgiveness from God, and a meager 13 percent read their Bibles regularly. The summary provided by the study states: “Sixty percent (60%) of mainline Protestants’ beliefs directly conflict with biblical teaching.”[xi]
When our creeds don’t match our deeds, that’s called “hypocrisy.” Keep that in mind.
It’s not all about what data the veteran research group Barna collects, though.
Ligonier Ministries conducts up-to-date surveys about the state of the Church, and researchers there have dedicated themselves to reporting every two years about how Protestant churchgoers in the West feel regarding the central doctrines of Christianity. The most recent survey, conducted in partnership with LifeWay Research, was released in September of 2020. The findings were appalling. Thousands of people of all faiths, as well as atheists and those with undisclosed or undecided positions, weighed in. In total, 48 percent agreed that the Bible was merely one of our world’s historic “sacred writings” that record “ancient myths,” but that it does not contain any truth, and 52 percent denied the divinity of Christ. This is sad for the public, surely, but far, far worse were the numbers reported specifically about the belief of evangelical Christians in the West, which start off bad and only get worse:
- 26 percent think that church ministries cannot be effective to the world unless their worship services are “entertaining.”
- 39 percent agree that “material blessings” are a guaranteed reward of faith (that evil prosperity gospel of recent decades is still clinging on…).
- 46 percent take a relaxed position on sin, agreeing that people are generally “good by nature.”
- 65 percent believe that Jesus is a being whom God created (as opposed to belief in the Incarnation of God, the Word made flesh, aka the way through which salvation is even possible—cf. John 1:1, 8:58; Romans 9:5; Hebrews 1:1–4).
- 30 percent agree with the statement that “Jesus was a great teacher, but was not God” (an outright denial of Christ’s divinity).
- 18 percent answered that the Holy Spirit can tell a Christian to do something that the Bible expressly forbids (folks, 18 percent may look like a small and encouraging number, but remember that it represents almost one-fifth of all evangelicals, which is alarmingly high considering how blasphemous it is to suggest that the Spirit of God would lead us in the opposite direction of His own Word!).
And, finally, the most demoralizing statistic of all is that:
- 42 percent (almost half!) of all evangelicals embrace the blatantly syncretistic/idolatrous heresy that “God accepts the worship of all religions.”[xii]
President and CEO of Ligonier Ministries, Chris Larson, is correct in his rebuke when he writes, “People inside the church need clear Bible teaching just as much as those outside the church.”[xiii] Elsewhere, the ministry’s chief academic officer, Stephen Nichols, who also sits as president of Reformation Bible College, offered his opinion after seeing the crushing blow of the survey: “As the culture around us increasingly abandons its moral compass, professing evangelicals are sadly drifting away from God’s absolute standard in Scripture.… This is a time for Christians to study Scripture diligently.”[xiv]
No, Stephen, that time was yesterday. Today, we are late, and the injury our tardiness has caused the Body is a festering maggot pool.
Take a moment to look at what train-wreck statement this single study makes about what we believe as the people of God: Theologically speaking, the denial of Christ’s divinity is a return to Arianism, the belief that Jesus was “created by God,” which naturally denies that He “is” God. This heresy mostly died out in the fourth century after the Council of Constantinople in 381 when the Cappadocian Fathers—Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianus, and Gregory of Nyssa—brilliantly silenced Arius’ otherwise baseless “theology.” According to this survey, Arianism is now the position of 65 percent of all evangelicals! Meanwhile, the number of people who accept within their heart that Christ’s work on the cross was for “entertaining” worship or “material blessings” makes these authors gag. Even the age-old “they mean well” retort cannot be offered here. There is simply no excuse to mix any part of our Savior’s salvation mission with pop culture. On the other hand, almost half of us believe that people are generally good by nature—so, meh…who needs saving, anyway? We can just save ourselves. Or maybe that Holy Spirit—who apparently tells us to carry out acts that contradict His own Word—can lead us to that other world religion He also accepts. Maybe that religion will have a messiah in it that can help us out—since a third of us don’t even believe Jesus is God at all!
This is the summation of our “Christianity,” guys. It’s what one journalist calls “self-constructed, Build-A-Bear, buffet-style belief…[that] the Westernized, New-Agey offsprings of Eastern pantheisms” can feel comfortable with.[xv] And maybe this is why, when Christians experience doubt crises in their faith in God, a “pastor or spiritual leader” is only the person they would think to seek help from a mere 18 percent of the time.[xvi]
Without true fruit, the Church is just a social club. What were once corporate goals of holiness, godliness, sanctification, and seeking the presence of God have been replaced with greatly rehearsed entertainment and production spectacles. Some of these places of “worship” have gone so far that (in our opinion), if Jesus were to appear in these buildings, He would overturn tables and clear them out: “And [He] said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13). These authors wonder what Jesus would think of some of the churches that—after paying inflated salaries to ministers and staff, covering administrative expenses, installing flashy facility upgrades and amenities (such as espresso stands and gift shops), and establishing ostentatious “worship concert” services—delegate less than 5 percent of their massive, megachurch budget to the kind of charitable endeavors Jesus championed (feeding the poor, caring for widows and orphans, etc.).[xvii]
Astonishingly, the respected, check-before-you-donate organization, Charity Navigator, in their “Financial Efficiency Performance Metrics” analysis, states that seven of every ten charities they appraise (the majority of which are secular) give three quarters “at least” of all their accumulating monies on those they set out to benefit. In a slightly less impressive statistic, every nine out of ten will redirect “at least 65%” of all income to helping the needy in the area of their conviction.
You with us so far? This means that only one out of ten listed charities in this country outside the Church would perform abysmally enough to donate less than 65 percent of their budget on the programs they designed to provide others some form of relief.
Charity Navigator goes on to say: “We believe that those spending less than a third of their budget [that’s 33.3 percent in total] on program expenses are simply not living up to their missions. Charities demonstrating such gross inefficiency receive 0 points and a 0-star rating.”[xviii]
Let’s revisit this breakdown:
- The foundation of today’s North American Church claims—by the nature of the commands of our Chief, Jesus Christ—that charity is at the center of all we do. We exist to “be more like Jesus,” who advocated relief work and humanitarian goals more than any other religious figure in world history, and to do this very work He would want us to do in His name. Therefore, both verbally and because of our affiliation, we promise the world to prioritize charity over any other entity or organization.
- Only one out of every ten non-church-affiliated charities in our country would dare spend less than 65 percent of their budget to achieve their relief, assistance, or humanitarian goals. Anything less than that would place them in the minority of embarrassingly unsuccessful organizations and would utterly destroy any chance they had at a reputation of reliably handling any donor’s money. But the real dagger in this picture are the charities that have the audacity to give less than 33.3 percent of their budget to their beneficiaries. Tsk-tsk. They get a zero-star Their promises to the world are basically worthless.
- North American churches are frequently guilty of giving around, even less than, 5 percent.
Do a little math. That’s more than just mortifying. It’s flat-out disgraceful that some of our wealthiest churches (what the world expects to be “Jesus Christ’s Relief Organizations”) can’t be counted on for much, if anything, when it comes to helping the poor. We show how much we care about the destitute and the sick by rigging confetti cannons and fire-retardant curtains to our stages for the weekly worship-service productions. These authors honestly believe that the Lord will someday require an answer about who would have used that same money to put food on tables overseas.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW VIDEOS
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Yet not only are churches failing miserably in their compassion for the needy, like Christ commissioned. Theologically, there also seems to be a lack of conviction, as ministers everywhere now preach self-help and self-improvement rather than the fundamental (yet world-changing) doctrines of the apostles. Churches are more concerned with branding and advertisement than teaching Scripture and making disciples. The corporate attitude rings: “As long as our attendance is up and our offerings are good, that must mean God approves of this ministry, our feel-good sermons, and our fog-machine worship productions. Teaching a profound, theologically sound message is nice, but it would go over the heads of our congregation, so let’s leave that to the seminaries. Sin is complicated. Our job here is only to let the people know that Jesus came so that we can experience love and joy more fully and life more abundantly.”
Initially, this approach to ministry doesn’t sound too offensive, but when it becomes a nationwide pattern for all Western churches (and it’s our opinion that it has), the study of salvation and of Christ is polluted with the underlying—yet far-reaching and culturally influential—concept that Jesus came to fluff our pillows and bolster our bank accounts when we behave ourselves. It’s another era of the prosperity gospel all over again, just waiting to be given its own label when “Progressive Christianity” gets old.
And what happens when theologically sound biblical teaching evaporates from the Church?
We land at a day when only 17 percent of Christians have a “biblical worldview.”
And what happens then?
Stuff like this happens: In September of 2019, the United Presbyterian Church of Binghamton in Binghamton, New York, moved its communion table aside and erected the idol of the Slavic god, Svetovid, in its place during the celebrated Luma Festival. Known for being the pagan god of the four cardinal directions—as well as the god of fertility, war, and, of all things, divination (a form of witchcraft directly prohibited multiple times in the Bible)—Svetovid had no business being allowed in a Christian church to begin with, but to boot Christ’s “do this in remembrance of me” sacrament tools out of the way to make the god a focus in the house of the Lord Jesus is blasphemous beyond comprehension. The leadership of this congregation knew very well that some of the people drawn in from the streets merely to see the colorful light display wouldn’t have sufficient education or background to know just how anti-Christian it is to bring a pagan idol into God’s holy place. Many likely assumed that Svetovid was part of some “Christian pantheon,” or that this spectacle was just “how Christians do church,” which is an outrageously disgraceful misrepresentation of and assault against our core doctrines and creeds.
Later, when a bold journalist had the leadership of the church cornered with a theologically sound argument for why God would forbid such a thing to occur in His house,[xix] their retort was profoundly progressive and laden with New Ageism. The response was lengthy, wordy, and wove unbiblical rhetoric around an argument based on (at best) human reasoning and logic; but, to boil it down, their conclusion was that either: a) Svetovid isn’t sacred or related to God’s grace in any way, which makes the idol only a secular and artistic (as opposed to spiritual) concern; or b) Svetovid is sacred, in which case he is so as under the grace of God, who bestows upon mankind the capability of creating such works of beauty in the first place.[xx] At no point was the journalist’s scriptural challenge countered by the church leadership’s scriptural rebuttal. Much to the contrary, the people in charge of raising that idol in God’s house didn’t quote one verse—not one!—to justify the act. (The only verse they did quote was entirely unrelated to idolatry.)
Guess who all reacted to this? Other than the journalist, a few people posted on their social media. Within two or three days from the initial story outbreak, nobody cared. We are “used to” this kind of “Christianity.”
So used to it, in fact, that nobody cared a few years back when that whole “pole-dancing for Jesus” trend gained ground for a spell. Because nobody explains context of Scripture in Church anymore, we have women using Psalm 149:3—“Let them praise his name in the dance…[and] with the timbrel and harp”—as “biblical approval” for “our temples [bodies]” to “spin without sin” using “moves once meant for strippers.” When ABC News covered the story in an article called “Hallelujah! Christians Pole Dance for Jesus in Texas,” it was reported that the strip-tease-for-Jesus routine is an “opportunity” for dancers “to worship God and practice their faith. The students dance to contemporary Christian music.” A portion of the discussion introduced the idea that married couples within the Church could be brought closer together with this kind of excitement, though nobody pointed out the obvious side effect—that a group of people from the same church getting together to pole dance could lead to countless marital problems as well. Consulting a pastoral leader near a Christian pole-dancing studio as to whether he thought it was a good idea, he responded in the negative (thank the Lord, a church leader with brains!), saying that, regardless of whether clothes came off, the dance, itself, was associated with scandalous things. He suggested the women do yoga instead (ughhhh, so close, then he blew it…). On the other hand, this pastor saw a positive: If people could be drawn into Christianity by seeing these women dance on poles, that would be good. (Because, ya know, “pole-dance-ianity” is kinda what Jesus wants us to pull the lost into, right? [By the way, the answer to that is a hearty no, just so we’re clear, though it’s pathetic that has to be clarified.]) This particular article listed other mainstream churches throughout the US where Christ’s followers could experience similar praise and worship through “sexy workout classes,” including belly dancing at a Presbyterian church in Virginia.[xxi]
Weirdly, once the craze (translation: “crazy”) took root with women, as one story reports, men began to trickle in: “What was once seen as sleazy practice is now gaining steam as a way for some women—and men, too—to get closer to God.” Videos of both men and women being sexy for their Savior were uploaded online where anyone can access them. One proud male dancer, who later became an instructor of the art, boasts: “I am a very deeply spiritual follower of Christ.”[xxii]
When gathering a bunch of women to simulate a stripping event as a form of praise and worship isn’t enough, bringing in the men to join them is the natural next step. These authors hope some Christian marriage out there was inadvertently and fortuitously blessed, because this foolhardy drivel is more a recipe for a scourge of overnight infidelities to sweep through congregations. (As a byproduct of this activity, newly single, financially strapped women are then equipped with vocational training for a career in exotic dance, courtesy of their local church!) That is, of course, apart from how blasphemous this “exercise” is to begin with.
These authors wonder: How many of these men and women know about the associations between today’s stripper pole and the ancient rituals to the Canaanite goddess of fertility and erotic love? Asherah—mother of Baal, wife and sister of El—was worshiped by pagans in the Old Testament; her presence in a community was marked with tree groves. In and around the trees were idols of Baal as well as tall, wooden “Asherah pole” idols, which God declared throughout the Old Testament must be burned or torn down (see Deuteronomy 12:3; 16:21; Judges 6:25, 28, 30; 2 Kings 18:4). Scholars acknowledge that these idols represented the female body at some point upon its engraving, but they were often also phallic in nature and shape, rendering an idol that celebrated all forms of deviant consummation. Do Christians who “spin without sin” know that today’s “dance” takes Asherah worship to the next level with a living, breathing body upon the pole of a pagan goddess of sex? Are they aware that this “exercise” was the prostitutes’ launching pad for demonic, orgiastic ecstasy-worship in the groves of God’s sworn enemies?
These Christians are just lost…and how can the lost lead souls to salvation?
Is it any wonder that the lost see us the way they do? Are we seriously still confused about why the media depicts us as a bunch of hypocritical, bungling clowns? When research organizations like the Barna Group report that one out of three young adults reject Christianity because of hypocrisy they see in the Church, and about 50 percent of them “still feel the Church cannot answer their questions…[because of] flaws or gaps in [our] teachings,”[xxiii] do we feel any responsibility at all to react? Are we surprised when we hear about the mass exodus the Church of the West is facing today, or the literal doubling of the number of people identifying as atheists in the last decade (as the Pew Research Center reports[xxiv])? Is there any shock value to the fact that 32 percent of American Christians left their churches and didn’t return when the pandemic forced religious gatherings to close the doors for a month?[xxv]
It’s shocking from every angle, and it only mounts. Earlier we looked at statistics that showed how far away from core Christian doctrines that Western Christians have wandered, but by further reflecting on “deeds vs. creeds,” the scandalous behavior we’re engaging in, the idolatry we’re tolerating, we have been building to a climax. It’s not just about whether every Christian believes in total biblical inerrancy or whether some allow abortion to be morally acceptable under some circumstances. Even as recently as September 22, 2020, according to the American Worldview Inventory conducted through the Culture Research Center at Arizona Christian University, only 6 percent of all adults and 2 percent of all Millennials hold a truly biblical worldview accountable to the most basic essentials of Christian doctrine—such as the inerrancy of Scripture, the necessity of prayer and worship, the belief that Satan is real, or the acknowledgment that sin exists and it is bad. Nevertheless, this study indicates that 61 percent of Millennials identify as Christians.[xxvi]
This automatically introduces the logical question (and we ask with genuine respect): What are you, if you identify as Christian but don’t believe in anything Christianity teaches about the reality of sin and the need to be cleansed of it through a Savior described in a Bible you also don’t trust to be true in the first place?
Technically, this has been answered before, over a century ago, by world-renowned New Testament scholar and Princeton Theological Seminary professor, J. Gresham Machen. All of the “Christianity” we see in the West today is nothing more than veiled liberalism—and by using “liberalism” here, we are referring not to the similar-sounding label in politics, but to school of thought under the same name within theological study. The application of liberal conviction, as defined under the umbrella of liberalism as a theology, found its roots in the rationalism of the Enlightenment era, which recognized humanity’s ability to reason as the new empirical authority over the words of the Bible. If something defied reason, as it was defined by each individual, it simply “wasn’t true.” Liberalists (though they were not called that at the time) approached Scripture with a postmodernist, “What’s true to me?” application and either disregarded everything else or chalked the rest of the Word of God up to allegorical suggestion, rendering Christianity into a mere subjective experience. More simply put, liberalism is what happens when people call themselves “Christian” but “interpret away” the bits of the Bible they’re uncomfortable with. Today, we hear it called “progressive Christianity,” but before it got cute, it was acknowledged as a slap in the face of God and strengthened such false teachings as antinomianism (the idea that God’s grace outweighs our responsibility to live righteously; the opposite of legalism).
Machen’s writing, which was a shameless throat punch to liberalism, demanded that those who championed human reasoning use their own capabilities of logic to question the senselessness of their Christianity. By introducing new liberties to theology that contradicted basic essentials of Scripture, they repackaged their religion into an illogical, irrational box with more limitations on its own claims to reason than Christianity had prior. He wasn’t shy in his attack against the logic (or lack thereof) of only accepting what parts of a religion gives a person happy feelings. In his Christianity and Liberalism, after devoting several pages to exposing the inconsistency and absurdity of the logic liberalists so championed, Machen summarized how this approach to Jesus always leads back to the black hole of unfulfillment: “Religion cannot be made joyful simply by looking on the bright side of God. For a one-sided God is not a real God, and it is the real God alone who can satisfy the longing of the soul.… Seek joy alone, then, seek joy at any cost, and you will not find it.”[xxvii]
Though he wasn’t the only theologian who has skillfully and convincingly criticized the ludicrousness of liberalism (which he occasionally referred to as the alternative “modernism”), there is a reason these authors chose to highlight Machen’s work at this point in this book. He called the kettle black in a way his contemporaries hadn’t: While other scholars were attempting to entertain the massively popular liberalism shift long enough to sort out which new “theologies” were reliable and which weren’t, Machen recognized the whole of liberalism as a completely different religion altogether: “[L]iberalism not only is a different religion from Christianity but belongs in a totally different class of religions.”[xxviii]
If Machen were around to lend his thoughts to the mess we’re in now, his golden response to the kind of postmodern evangelicals reporting their beliefs to the Ligonier Ministries survey just discussed would likely be disregarded as an overly conservative voice from the minority. Nevertheless, for the Remnant Church who cares, his historical genius lingers on the page forever…or until it’s outlawed by the global system we’re helping to form and ends up in the “propaganda burn piles” the chaos in the West is currently reserving for our Bibles. For now, we still have gems like this:
In trying to remove from Christianity everything that could possibly be objected to…in trying to bribe off the enemy by those concessions which the enemy most desires, the apologist has really abandoned what he started out to defend. Here as in many other departments of life it appears that the things that are sometimes thought to be hardest to defend are also the things that are most worth defending.[xxix]
Bottom line: A “picked apart” and “partially true” Christianity is not Christianity. It is a completely “different religion” from Christianity. It is—once again—a cult, regardless of how “normal” it looks on the outside.
Sometimes it becomes a bigger concern than whether one church removes Jesus to hail Svetovid for a weekend, or whether a group of tragically misled Christians worship provocatively. And sometimes it’s not “normal looking” from any angle at all. More often than we would like to admit, colossal movements spread over regions of the world that affect all Christians in a negative way.
UP NEXT: When Progressivism Meets Emotionalism
[i] Thomas Horn, “Visions, Chaos, and the Coming of Antichrist,” 1:03:19–1:11:25; 1:27:47–1:29:48, Stand 2020 Defender Conference, presentation 4 on DVD Conference Collection released September, 2020. Available here: https://www.skywatchtvstore.com/products/stand-2020-defender-conference-dvd-6-disc-box-set?_pos=1&_sid=a8e8c4ebd&_ss=r.
[ii] “Competing Worldviews Influence Today’s Christians,” May 9, 2017, Barna, last accessed October 29, 2020, https://www.barna.com/research/competing-worldviews-influence-todays-christians/.
[iv] “American Worldview Inventory 2020—At a Glance…Release #3: Perceptions of God,” April 21, 2020, Cultural Research Center, Arizona Christian University, last accessed October 29, 2020, https://www.arizonachristian.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/CRC-AWVI-2020-Release-03_Perceptions-of-God.pdf.
[v] “How We Got Here: Spiritual and Political Profiles of America,” May 23, 2017, Barna, last accessed October 29, 2020, https://www.barna.com/research/got-spiritual-political-profiles-america/.
[vi] “A Snapshot of Faith Practice Across Age Groups,” July 23, 2019, Barna, last accessed October 29, 2020, https://www.barna.com/research/faithview-on-faith-practice/.
[vii] “Sharing Faith Is Increasingly Optional to Christians,” May 15, 2018, Barna, last accessed October 29, 2020, https://www.barna.com/research/sharing-faith-increasingly-optional-christians/.
[viii] “Almost Half of Practicing Christian Millennials Say Evangelism Is Wrong,” February 5, 2019, Barna, last accessed October 29, 2020, https://www.barna.com/research/millennials-oppose-evangelism/.
[ix] “51% of Churchgoers Don’t Know of the Great Commission,” March 27, 2018, Barna, last accessed October 29, 2020, https://www.barna.com/research/half-churchgoers-not-heard-great-commission/.
[x] Silent and Solo: How Americans Pray,” August 15, 2017, Barna, last accessed October 29, 2020, https://www.barna.com/research/silent-solo-americans-pray/.
[xi] “American Worldview Inventory 2020—At a Glance…Release #11: Churches and Worldview,” October 6, 2020, Cultural Research Center, Arizona Christian University, last accessed November 4, 2020, https://www.arizonachristian.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/CRC_AWVI2020_Release11_Digital_04_20201006.pdf.
[xii] “The State of Theology,” a survey conducted by Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research in March of 2020, findings released September 8, last accessed October 29, 2020, https://thestateoftheology.com/. Note that not all of these statistics are covered on the “Key Findings” tab. One wishing to observe the list in its entirety must click on the “Data Explorer” tab at the top right of the main study page.
[xiv] Nichols, Stephen, as quoted in: Michael Foust, “‘Drifting Away’ from Scripture: 30 Percent of Evangelicals Say Jesus was Not God, Poll Shows,” August 27, 2020, Christian Headlines, last accessed October 29, 2020, https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/michael-foust/drifting-away-from-scripture-30-percent-of-evangelicals-say-jesus-was-not-god-poll-shows.html.
[xv] Stonestreet, John and Shane Morris, “Self-Constructed, Build-a-Bear, Buffet-Style Christianity Is No Christianity At All,” September 14, 2020, Breakpoint, last accessed October 29, 2020, https://www.breakpoint.org/self-constructed-build-a-bear-buffet-style-christianity-is-no-christianity-at-all/.
[xvi] “Two-Thirds of Christians Face Doubt,” July 25, 2017, Barna, last accessed October 29, 2020, https://www.barna.com/research/two-thirds-christians-face-doubt/.
[xvii] “2013 Church Budget Allocations, Learning Priorities, and Quarterly Financial Trends,” Evangelical Christian Credit Union (ECCU), https://www.eccu.org/resources/advisorypanel/2013/surveyreports20; preserved by The Wayback Machine Internet Archive, last accessed September 27, 2019, http://web.archive.org/web/20141019033209/https://www.eccu.org/resources/advisorypanel/2013/surveyreports20.
[xviii] “Financial Score Conversions and Tables,” Charity Navigator, last accessed September 27, 2019, https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=48; emphasis added.
[xix] Aden, Josiah, “New York Presbyterian Church Hosts Pagan Deity,” September 12, 2019, Juicy Ecumenism, last accessed January 10, 2020, https://juicyecumenism.com/2019/09/12/binghamton-presbyterian-sviatovid/.
[xx] Kimberly Chastain, in an untitled, public response to Josiah Aden’s article over the United Presbyterian Church of Binghamton Facebook account on September 13, 2019, at 5:38 in the evening. Last accessed October 10, 2019, https://www.facebook.com/UPCBinghamton/posts/1387642211411481.
[xxi] Sherisse Pham, “Hallelujah! Christians Pole Dance for Jesus in Texas,” March 22, 2011, ABC News, last accessed October 30, 2020, https://abcnews.go.com/US/hallelujah-christians-pole-dance-jesus-texas/story?id=13194891.
[xxii] “‘Pole Dancing for Jesus’ Taking Off Among Churchgoing Women—and Men” September 15, 2011, Daily Mail, last accessed October 30, 2020, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2037915/Pole-Dancing-Jesus-taking-churchgoing-women–MEN.html.
[xxiv] “In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace,” Pew Research Center, last accessed October 29, 2020, https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace/.
[xxv] “State of the Church: One in Three Practicing Christians Has Stopped Attending Church During COVID-19,” July 8, 2020, Barna, last accessed October 29, 2020, https://www.barna.com/research/new-sunday-morning-part-2/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Barna+Roundup%3A+One+in+Three+Practicing+Christians+Has+Stopped+Attending+Church+During+COVID-19&utm_campaign=BU_07-08-20_Roundup.
[xxvi] “American Worldview Inventory 2020—At a Glance…Release #10: Worldview in the Millennial Generation,” September 22, 2020, Cultural Research Center, Arizona Christian University, last accessed October 29, 2020, https://www.arizonachristian.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/CRC_AWVI2020_Release10_Digital_01_20200922.pdf.
[xxvii] Machen, J. Gresham, Christianity and Liberalism (New Edition; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; 2009), 113.
[xxviii] Ibid., 6.