Liberalism: No Such Thing as Sin

I recently heard somebody talking about “liberalism” as it relates to Christians and churches. ?? In so doing, I was reminded of how one reformer described liberalism–only a few decades ago in the early 1920s. J. Gresham Machen (founder of Westminster Theological Seminary) wrote of the stark contrast between true Christianity and modern liberalism:

Christianity differs from liberalism, then, in the first place, in its conception of God. ??But it also differs in its conception of man.Modern liberalism has lost all sense of the gulf that separates the creature from the Creator; its doctrine of man follows naturally from its doctrine of God. ??But it is not only the creature limitations of mankind which are denied. ??Even more important are is another difference. ??According to the Bible, man is a sinner under the just condemnation of God; according to modern liberalism, there is really no such thing as sin. ??At the very root of the modern liberal movement is the loss of the consciousness of sin.The consciousness of sin was formerly the startingpoint of all preaching; but today it is gone. Characteristic of the modern age, above all else, is a supreme confidence in human goodness; the religious literature of the day is redolent of that confidence. ??Get beneath the rough exterior of men, we are told, we shall discover enough self-sacrifice to found upon it the hope of society; the world’s evil, it is said, can be overcome with the world’s good; no help is needed from outside the world.

Some 86 years later, it still seems that there is nothing new under the sun: liberalism is still prevalent outside the church as it is inside so-called churches. ??Some Christians today still refuse to call sin “sin”, but maybe just an “inadvertent mistake” or “unfortunate happening”. ??Let the words above remind us all–Christians and unbelievers alike–to come to Jesus and run after him by faith and repentance. ??Every person without the Spirit to convict us of sin and convince us of Grace is hopeless: without hope, without God, without Jesus Christ and His atoning blood to forgive us of our sin and to enable us to walk circumspectly according to His Word.

J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,??1923), 63-64 (emphasis mine).

Liberalism: No Such Thing as Sin

I recently heard somebody talking about “liberalism” as it relates to Christians and churches.   In so doing, I was reminded of how one reformer described liberalism–only a few decades ago in the early 1920s. J. Gresham Machen (founder of Westminster Theological Seminary) wrote of the stark contrast between true Christianity and modern liberalism:

Christianity differs from liberalism, then, in the first place, in its conception of God.  But it also differs in its conception of man.

Modern liberalism has lost all sense of the gulf that separates the creature from the Creator; its doctrine of man follows naturally from its doctrine of God.  But it is not only the creature limitations of mankind which are denied.  Even more important are is another difference.  According to the Bible, man is a sinner under the just condemnation of God; according to modern liberalism, there is really no such thing as sin.  At the very root of the modern liberal movement is the loss of the consciousness of sin.

The consciousness of sin was formerly the startingpoint of all preaching; but today it is gone. Characteristic of the modern age, above all else, is a supreme confidence in human goodness; the religious literature of the day is redolent of that confidence.  Get beneath the rough exterior of men, we are told, we shall discover enough self-sacrifice to found upon it the hope of society; the world’s evil, it is said, can be overcome with the world’s good; no help is needed from outside the world.

Some 86 years later, it still seems that there is nothing new under the sun: liberalism is still prevalent outside the church as it is inside so-called churches.  Some Christians today still refuse to call sin “sin”, but maybe just an “inadvertent mistake” or “unfortunate happening”.  Let the words above remind us all–Christians and unbelievers alike–to come to Jesus and run after him by faith and repentance.  Every person without the Spirit to convict us of sin and convince us of Grace is hopeless: without hope, without God, without Jesus Christ and His atoning blood to forgive us of our sin and to enable us to walk circumspectly according to His Word.

J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism
 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1923), 63-64 (emphasis mine).

Are you living out Religion or the Gospel?

RELIGION:?? I obey-therefore I???m accepted.

THE GOSPEL:?? I???m accepted-therefore I obey.-RELIGION:?? Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.

THE GOSPEL:?? Motivation is based on grateful joy.-RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God.

THE GOSPEL:?? I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him.-RELIGION:?? When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job???s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.

THE GOSPEL:?? When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.-RELIGION:?? When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ???good person???.?? Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.

THE GOSPEL:?? When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ???good person.????? My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God???s love for me in Christ.?? I can take criticism.-RELIGION:?? My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need.?? My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.

THE GOSPEL:?? My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration.?? My main purpose is fellowship with Him.-RELIGION:?? My self-view swings between two poles.?? If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people.?? If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure and inadequate.?? I???m not confident.?? I feel like a failure.

THE GOSPEL:?? My self-view is not based on a view of my self as a moral achiever.?? In Christ I am ???simul iustus et peccator??????simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ.?? I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time.?? Neither swaggering nor sniveling.-RELIGION:?? My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work.?? Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral.?? I disdain and feel superior to ???the other.???

THE GOSPEL:?? My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me.?? I am saved by sheer grace.?? So I can???t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me.?? Only by grace I am what I am.?? I???ve no inner need to win arguments.-RELIGION:?? Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols.?? It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc.?? I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I may say I believe about God.

THE GOSPEL:?? I have many good things in my life???family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc.?? But none of these good things are ultimate things to me.?? None of them are things I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

Adapted from sermons by Tim Keller.?? HT: Tullian Tchividjian.

Are you a Non-Christian?

In an article by Robert M. Bowman Jr. on Mormonism, he begins the article with an insightful overview of Christianity through the lens of a 5-ring delineation of churches that are included in the religion of Christianity. What is noteworthy is who is included in the 5th ring, which is generally regarded as technically not Christian in terms of the validity/soundness of their expression of Christian faith:

Christianity includes an incredible diversity of belief and practice. (The numbers I use here are extremely rough approximations for sake of getting the big picture.) (1) About a billion people???about half of all Christianity???are found in the Catholic Church. (2) About a quarter of a billion people belong to one of the Orthodox or Eastern churches (which includes Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, etc., and also the Coptics and other groups). (3) Nearly a third of a billion people are associated with some conservative Protestant church or movement, either evangelical Protestant or Pentecostal. (4) Another quarter of a billion people belong to mainline, mostly moderate to liberal, Protestant denominations.(5) This leaves roughly a quarter of a billion people whose forms of Christianity do not fit into any of the aforementioned categories. Within this none-of-the-above category is a wildly diverse assortment of religious communities. If each major type of Christianity represented in this fifth category were its own species, it would look like the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine or an assemblage of delegates to a parliamentary meeting of the United Federation of Planets (take your pick!). It includes (deep breath) Adventism, British-Israelite groups, Christian Science, the Family, Jehovah???s Witnesses, Latter-day Saints, Messianic Judaism, Metropolitan Community Churches, New Thought, Oneness Pentecostalism, Rosicrucianism, the Sacred Name movement, Swedenborgianism, the Unification Church, Unitarian Universalism, The Way International, and many, many others.

Read Bowman’s entire article here.

With One Voice – to the Glory of God, part 1 of 2

I’ve been jotting down a good number of notes for this book review / summary, so it looks like this will be a two-part series.

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I recently read With One Voice: Singleness, Dating & Marriage to the Glory of God by Alex Chediak (with Marni Chediak), seeking a biblical perspective on singleness and dating that does not follow directly with theological dating frameworks of Joshua Harris or Cloud/Townsend. I first came across Chediak’s book last year when I found my way onto his website and found reviews and a good summary of it. I suppose I have been planning on reading it soon, but the plethora of books on Christian dating eclipsed this less popular work by a less popular writer.As I have previously mentioned, Alex Chediak was an apprentice at The Bethlehem Institute under Pastors John Piper and Tom Steller. The Bethlehem Institute is the seminary-level training program of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN. Alex is currently an Associate Professor of Engineering at California Baptist University, so it seems that he is pursuing his ministry and calling in a non-vocational role while earning a living as a professor of a non-theological subject.What drew me to buy this book was first because of Chediak’s credentials as an apprentice under Piper, and further, the book’s endorsements made it very reputable (the endorsement at the top of the front cover is from none other than Al Mohler!). With all this in mind, I was hoping that this would bring a new perspective to the topic of singleness and courtship from a biblical (and likely a Reformed Baptist) perspective.When the book arrived, I was somewhat disappointed at its large font size which basically averages to about 6 words per line in its overt Verdana-like font type. Add to that, the title page font and the number and titles at the beginning of each chapter are in a weird looking thin, faded font that made it look really out of place. In short, the design of the body of this book did not match its simple and attractive cover, and this short 150-page book should really be even shorter consider its use of a large, modern font. I certainly was hoping for a longer explanation of Chediak’s insights into relationships between Christians, but I felt somewhat shafted for what I paid for it. Continue reading

Mormonism going Mainstream?

The question for this week at “On Faith,” the joint project of The Washington Post and Newsweek magazine, is this: After 175 years of existence, is Mormonism entering the mainstream of American religious life or are people still suspicious of it?Southern Seminary president, Dr. Albert Mohler responds:

Mormonism holds that God is an exalted man, with a physical body. Christianity teaches that God is Spirit. Mormonism denies the historic Christian understandings of the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, and the doctrine of salvation. Christianity promises salvation through Christ’s atonement and the sinner’s justification by faith. Mormonism promises deification. Christianity calls for personal faith in Jesus Christ. Mormonism calls for obedience to its own teachings as the path to exaltation. Mormonism replaces belief in the sole authority of the Bible with other writings, including the Book of Mormon. This list is only a brief summary of the vast chasm that separates Christianity from Mormonism. Put simply, Mormonism is not just another form of Christianity. It is a rejection of historic Christianity.That is a theological summary, but there is a sociological dimension as well. From that perspective, Mormonism can certainly claim to have achieved a comfort level in contemporary American culture — especially in what might be called “Middle America.” Most Americans would feel quite comfortable with Mormon neighbors. The Mormon effort to identify with American culture has been stunningly successful, and the movement’s idealization and inculcation of family values has won it the admiration of millions of Americans — including many evangelical Christians. The convergence of Mormon and evangelical Christian concerns on a host of cultural, moral, and political issues is no accident. The preservation and conservation of the family is a prime concern of both groups.

That’s one short and sweet refresher on what Mormonism is 🙂 It’s definitely not a new kind of Christianity…Continue reading Mohler’s article here.

Humbled by a Mention

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Dear friend and fellow Jaffray member, Catherine Ngai, has published a blog post on “inspire, dream, love” on her Facedown blog.For some reason, she has a brief mention about me in the 3rd group of people in her post.I am humbled by the mere mention — thanks Catherine! I only wish we could all encourage each other more often and make it a regular habit to build up the body of Christ.

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.Romans 12:9-13, ESV