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When considering the aforementioned “Hallelujah! Christians Pole Dance for Jesus in Texas,” 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,”[i] 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[ii])? 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?[iii]

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. As of 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.[iv]

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.”[v]

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 project. 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.”[vi]

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.[vii]

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.

When Progressivism Meets Emotionalism

Perhaps the most glaring example is some of the witchcraft and occultism that had global attention during a well-known revival that drew multiple millions of people all over the world in the 1990s and dramatically and permanently changed the landscape of Sunday morning worship practices in the West. Because there was actually some calculable good that came from this revival—and because several of those who perpetuated the more negative aspects of it have since repented of their involvement—we will sensitively refer to this period in time as the “Charisma Revival.” (As a quick disclaimer: These authors have studied the Charisma Revival throughout the years, and we want to be clear that the Lord certainly met many seekers at those altars. The movement was popular enough that readers may recognize which revival we’re writing about. If readers of this article were among those who attended and had a real encounter with God, we are not questioning the authenticity of your experience; we merely want to look at some of the questionable origins and goings-on of the movements that began in the area at that time.)

Some may wonder why, when so much of the discussion about Protestantism has taken place across all denominations, we’re about to look back at a movement that was primarily Pentecostal/Charismatic. There are three reasons:

  1. Demographically, if we don’t count Catholicism, with approximately 584 million members, Pentecostals and Charismatics make up the largest population of Christianity not just in the West, but around the globe, accounting for 26.7 percent of the world’s Christian population (8.5 percent of the human population).[viii] Since the Catholic Church represents 50.1 percent of the Christian population of the world, that makes the remaining 26.7 percent of Pentecostals and Charismatics an enormous part of the Body. As a result, though not all readers are Pentecostal or Charismatic, many likely are, which makes the warnings from this movement invaluable.
  2. The Charisma Revival, regardless of denominations, stands as a great example of what can happen when the Church forsakes her True Love (Jesus) and goes in her own direction to feed emotional phenomena. The correct teachings from the Word end, worship gets insane, the lost remain lost, God’s heart breaks, and Christians lose patience waiting for their religious identity to iron itself out, so they eventually give up and leave the Church. Everyone loses.
  3. Long-term damage inflicted upon the reputation of and theological trends within the Church can take eons to sort out. In this way, the Charisma Revival affected all Protestant denominations. It was such a grand-scale Western movement that egg was thrown on the faces of other traditional Christian faiths that were not involved, putting believers from all over the West in the uncomfortable position of answering for why their religion appeared absurd.

Lessons from the era of hype… Lessons learned the hard way.

This moment was marked by a resurgence of the “hellfire and brimstone”-style sermons similar to those of Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in the mid 1700s, but this time, the messages were reprimands for not being “fired up like the folks at those Charisma Revival churches.” These charges were often followed by the obligatory “get fired up” exhortation to which the congregants dutifully responded by demonstrating their (imitated) excitement…all for the sake of appearance. There was a lot of religious propagandizing to support the idea that this was the one, the only, and the last golden age of revival—that “God wouldn’t wait on the lazy ones,” and He would “work miracles” through those willing to “punch Satan in the face” and “reclaim our territory.” But because the Holy Spirit wasn’t truly behind all this “pulpiteering,” no real fruit was produced. True followers of God were worshiping one day, then they blinked and found themselves in a cult the next; the lost had little reason to think that cult had any legitimate answers about how to be saved.

Right from the beginning, despite some very real demonstrations of God, something just “felt off” about the Charisma Revival. Stories from that congregation involved deeply unsettling “manifestations of God,” even though there was almost never any scriptural foundation for those goings-on. This didn’t seem to bother most Church leadership, though. Many people traveled to the churches that were right in the thick of it, having been instructed by their pastors to go see what’s going on and “bring the revival back with them,” as if they had been sent to pick up a loaf of bread. (One of these authors heard that very “bring it back” command in two different churches and by two different leaders. It was like they were suggesting that their ministry staff could just fling a revival in their backpack and feed it crackers on the plane.) In our opinions, these were pastors’ efforts to try to “fix” the apathy of their home congregations because they weren’t willing to do the work it would take to see a true revival of interest in following Christ.

UP NEXT: Heresy Upon Heresy

If you would like more information on the topics covered in this article series, see the book Dark Covenant by Donna Howell and Allie Anderson, available below:



[i] “The Connected Generation” 2020 survey report conducted by the Barna Group and World Vision, “Key Findings,” last accessed October 29, 2020,

[ii] “In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace,” Pew Research Center, last accessed October 29, 2020,

[iii] “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,

[iv] “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,

[v] Machen, J. Gresham, Christianity and Liberalism (New Edition; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; 2009), 113.

[vi] Ibid., 6.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] “Global Christianity—A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population,” December 19, 2011, Pew Research Center, last accessed October 29, 2020,

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