Pastor Daniel Lacaria
In our Men’s Bible study this morning, discussion found us examining theistic evolution and also briefly noting how in the earlier 1900s, numerous Protestant denominations denied the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture through the route of theological liberalism [e. g. denying the Virgin Birth, denying the Creation account, denying the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, denying the bodily resurrection, denying numerous miracles, denying objective meaning in Scripture]. We then discussed the individual’s responsibility for himself (cf. Heb. 9:27) and his family (cf. Josh. 24) before God and also the role of institutions, such as the Church (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15), as located in denominational structures. From the springboard of inspiration, inerrancy, and heretical doctrines, and how they impact us as individuals and institutions, let us examine certain things below.
There are many ways that both individuals, like Paul Young, author of The Shack, and many ways that institutions can and do lead people astray, like the grouping of certain Presbyterian churches which came to comprise the PCUSA denomination. Conversely, there are many ways individuals lead people aright, like Moses, Joseph, Paul, Peter, and Jesus Christ and in which institutions lead people aright, such as the EFCA, PCA, and SBC.
Something both the individual Young and the PCUSA institution share is leading people astray through a denial of the authority, inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility, and objective meaning of Scripture. This is why it is easy, for example, for Paul Young to deny the substitutionary atonement of Christ and for the PCUSA to ordain homosexual clergy. Doctrinal and moral decay always go hand in hand (cf. 2 Pet. and Jude). Young, being an individual who has written a book, has garnered trans-denominational influence across both theologically liberal and conservative churches. He has slickly repackaged much of liberal Protestant theology, circa late 1800s and early 1900s, then sprinkled in some new jazz, and then sold it to conservatives. The PCUSA in 2011, being an institution, sinned and also gained institutional boldness to sin from following examples of earlier departures from orthodoxy over the same issues by the Episcopalian Church from 2003-2009, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 2009 (ELCA). All together and simultaneously, they’ve led all of their individual members astray, because institutions are made up of individuals and families. And these doctrinal declensions and immoral morals would not have occurred without the denial of inspiration and authority of Scripture from the generations of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers circa the early 1900s. “Hath God indeed said?” was the question Satan posed to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1).
As to the individual example, The Shack has sold over 20 million copies, and the movie adaptation is now in theaters. But yet, in Paul Young’s newly released book, Lies We Believe About God, he says of the classical, received doctrine of the blood atonement of Christ made as a substitutionary sacrifice on a cross unto God for us:
Who originated the Cross? If God did, then we worship a cosmic abuser, who in Divine Wisdom created a means to torture human beings in the most painful and abhorrent manner. Frankly, it is often this very cruel and monstrous god that the atheist refuses to acknowledge or grant credibility in any sense. And rightly so. Better no god at all, than this one. . . . And how would we religious people interpret this sacrifice? We would declare that it was God who killed Jesus, slaughtering Him as a necessary appeasement for His bloodthirsty need for justice. (see larger article here)
Contrary to the Holy Scripture in Acts 2:22-24 (which we spoke of in our Phil. 1:12-18 sermon on the portion about Divine Concurrence) and numerous other places in the Bible, Young denies the very reason for Christ’s coming into the world to die for our sins as a substitute, in our place, by the predetermined plan of God. He tells you, quite frankly, this is not his God. In fact, he goes further by purposefully writing “god” in the lower-case. And not only is he plainly telling you the Bible’s God is not his God, but that he’d rather be an atheist and have no god at all than the Biblical God. Simply put, the god of The Shack is not Yahweh, the Triune God of Israel, despite all of the Bibley language Young employs. Satan knew Scripture, and knew how to twist it (cf. Matt. 4:1-11).
As to the institutional example, the PCUSA openly and notoriously changed the language of their centuries old doctrinal statement, and ignored the millennia old Word of God, by restructuring through majority vote to allow homosexual ordination:
The new provision reaffirms the long-held right and responsibility of ordaining bodies (local church sessions for deacons and elders or presbyteries for ministers) to determine the suitability of each candidate for ordination. The effect of the new language also opens up the possibility that persons in same-gender relationships can be considered for ordination. (see larger article from the denomination’s website here)
According to the same article linked to, this is what the PCUSA means to be a valid application of submitting “ joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.” And just in case we missed it, they restated it: “persons in a same-gender relationship may be considered for ordination and/or installation as deacons, elders, and ministers of the Word and Sacrament within the PC(USA).”
Presbyterian J. Gresham Machen spoke like a megaphone in 1923 to fight liberal theology in his denomination and his seminary, Princeton. The book, well worth reading, is titled Christianity and Liberalism. And in this he means theological liberalism, not political liberalism per se. He said that the problem with men like Young and institutions like the PCUSA is that they use Biblical language but purposefully confuse and equivocate the meaning of words, and then redefine the meaning of doctrine and morals in the Christian faith as they play fast and loose with language (cf. 1 Tim. 6:3-5). Ultimately, Machen rightly said that what they practice is not Christianity, but in fact it is a different religion altogether that merely redefines and appropriates traditional Christian language. Apologist Francis Schaeffer, also a conservative Presbyterian, followed up on this truth about the destruction of language and meaning for the purposes of doctrinal and moral manipulation, and also social manipulation, in his How Should We Then Live?
This is serious stuff; the soul-destroying, God-blaspheming kind of heresy Paul warned about arising from within the Church, and he warned the Ephesian church of this, especially the elders in charge of the care of souls: “Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears (Acts 20:31).” Why did he warn them? Quite naturally, for the sake of the elect, the true Christians and ones chosen by God to become Christians under the apostolic ministry, for which Paul suffered and endured hardship that he may nourish them (2 Tim. 2:8-10). But even more primarily and foremost, because God is worthy of this kind of clear-minded, doctrine embracing, doctrine defending kind of love: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).”And why? Because to love the Lord and Savior in sincerity and truth cannot be separated from receiving and obeying His doctrine: “If you love Me, keep My commandments (John 14:15; cf. Deut. 11:13; 1 John 3:24; 5:1-5).” To say one loves God but hates doctrine betrays something much deeper than one realizes, for to be born again naturally leads to loving God for Himself in His Triune splendor, and keeping God’s doctrine, and a deep love for God’s Word (Psa. 119).
And not only the elders, but the laity, all the non-elders, have a sacred responsibility to “see that you do not refuse Him who speaks,” for you shall surely not escape if you turn away from the sound words of Him who speaks from heaven (Heb. 12:25). If you ignore the received revelation from God in Scripture to go after a privatized God as an idol and attempt to reshape theology as a private matter (cf. 2 Tim. 2:2 “among many witnesses,” there is no private Christian doctrine), or if you go after another’s idol worked up in some woodsy Shack, or you embrace doctrinal and moral heresy in the name of love and tolerance a la’ the PCUSA—you place yourself at variance with the God Who has spoken (cf. Heb. 12:25-29). To be more tolerant of sin than God is, and to be more loving and large-hearted than God, leaves one a madman or, as Young said above, one who will eventually think “better no god at all, than this [Biblical] god.” Remember, as to Young, there was no Bible in The Shack that Mackenzie walked to, only destructive doctrines from “loving” lips and spiritual entities masquerading as the Trinity, cooked up in one man’s mind to communicate formal liberal theology through the medium of informal fiction. Remember, as to the PCUSA, God will not sanction sexual immorality which He forbid in Scripture, and He does not accept the redefinition of healthy love. The Word has been long written down, and He has clearly spoken. God has indeed said.
Remember, dear ones, the beloved Peter who was crucified for his Lord spoke that “we did not follow cunningly devised fables,” because “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation [or origin], . . . but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:16, 20-21).” Remember, holy ones unto the Lord, the embattled Paul who was beheaded for his Lord, who spoke to Timothy in his last letter, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they [professing Christians among the laity and false teachers arising from within] will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers, and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables (2 Tim. 4:2-4).”
Remember that each man, woman, and child must face the Lord one day and has individual responsibility before the face of God. Remember Joshua, who firmly charged Israel’s families to turn from its false gods: “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD (Josh. 24:14)!” Remember the received doctrine of the true Church, that pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim. 3:15), that institution that faithfully preserves and passes on apostolic doctrine (Acts 2:42-47; 2 Tim. 2:2) which was received from God Himself (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Remember this Gospel, and all its parts, was received from the mouth of God and ministered by apostolic men chosen of God (Gal. 1:1-2) to establish the Church on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with the Chief Cornerstone being Christ (Eph. 2:20). Remember, the apostle Paul: “But if even we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed (Gal. 1:8-9).”
When it comes to New York Times bestselling author Paul Young’s cunningly devised fable The Shack, then “reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness (1 Tim. 4:7).” With his new best-selling package of theological garbage Lies We Believe About God, we must “shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness (2 Tim. 2:16).” Paul sums up this redefinition of words, denial of inspiration, equivocations on the meaning of words, and attacks on objective knowledge and meaning by both individuals and institutions:
“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourselves (1 Tim. 6:3-5).”