Friday, November 20, 2009

Man-centered Religion -vs- The Gospel According to Jesus

"Do not love the world nor the things in the world If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." ~ 1 John 2: 15-17


According to Robert Schuller (Crystal Cathedral) who many prominent church leaders have modeled their church movements after (Purpose Driven, Seeker Sensitive, etc.)...

Man-centered theology:
(quotes from Schuller's book, "Self-Esteem: The New Reformation")

"This master plan of God is designed around the deepest needs of human beings- self dignity, self-respect, self-worth, self-esteem."

"Success is to be defined as the gift of self-esteem that God gives us as a reward for our sacrificial service in building self-esteem in others. Win or lose: If we follow God's plan as faithfully as we can, we will feel good about ourselves. This is success!"

"Once a person believes he is an "unworthy sinner", it is doubtful if he can really honestly accept the saving grace God offers in Jesus Christ."

This self-centered gospel goes completely against the Gospel according to Jesus which is really all about dying to self, taking up our cross and submitting fully to Him as our Lord and Savior. Rick Warren's book "The Purpose Driven Life" starts out with reminding us it's not about us however, the underlying theme in the book and his later teachings are somewhat void of the real Gospel message of repentance, submission and obedience. Instead, there is a strong emphasis on moralism; do this and God will make your life better.

The Biblical Gospel is Christ-centered; not man-centered. It's about turning from our sinful, self-centered way of living and submitting fully to the life transforming power that comes from God's grace.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? ~ Matthew 16:24-26

This was not an optional request directed only to Christians. This was Christ presenting the Gospel to all who sought to follow Him and be saved. Definitely not an easy message then or today. Christianity does not make sense to the unregenerate world. "Dying to self" is a tough concept to swallow in this day and age of "me, me, me". Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 1:18 that the Cross is foolishness to the lost. It simply doesn't make sense if not for the grace of God opening our eyes.

The problems we see today in the world can be traced directly back to a man-centered attitude. It started in the Garden and continues even in churches today that have watered-down the real Gospel in order to be attractive to men. It's about tolerance and being culturally relevant to the point that many churches look, sound and act just like the world.

None of this should come as a surprise...

"Dangerous times will come, for men will be lovers of themselves."
~ 2 Timothy 3: 1-2

We need to recognize that our very nature is to focus on self. It's not an easy thing even for the most mature Christian to deny self but, when we spend time in the Word and understand the fullness of God's mercy, grace and love for us while we were yet sinners, then it starts to make sense. The Cross is more than someone dying for us; its everything. Christ is all we have! It's not enough to simply believe in Him. It's not enough to say we know Him. In the end, what really matters is that He knows us. The more we elevate Him in our lives, the less we will depend on self.


Monday, November 16, 2009

The Shack: Should You Go There?

"Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son."
~ 2 John 1: 9

Let me start out by saying I have not read "The Shack" nor do I plan on it.

Sometimes, it's not necessary to read something to know that it's of no value. I don't need to read "Playboy" to know that it's pornography. I don't need to read the Koran or the Book of Mormon to know that what they teach is contradictory to God's Word. In the case of "The Shack", enough has been said and written about it to know that it's filled with heresy.

Some who've read it claim it has brought them closer to God. To that I say, "What God?" Certainly not the God of the Bible. Not with all the blatant heresy that this book delivers.

Some say it's just a fictional novel; don't take it so seriously. Ok. Fine. Then why have so many people read it to better understand God? I find it perplexing that Christians can read this book and claim it has broadened their understanding of God especially when there is so much in it that goes completely against what the Bible says about His character. Sadly, I think there are many who've read this book and don't even see the errors, heresy or mis-characterization of God, Jesus and The Trinity as a whole. Like many, they enjoyed this book because it made them feel good and it provided a (false) view of God that they want to hear & believe. The Shack is just another example of mankind creating God in his own image to suit his emotional desires.

"For the time will come when men 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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." ~ 2 Timothy 4: 3-4

There are several major issues with The Shack that every reader needs to be aware of; especially those Christians who see nothing wrong with it...

1) Unbiblical view of the nature of God, Christ & the Trinity

2) Unbiblical view of Sin and substitutionary attonement

3) Unbiblical view of Salvation

4) Rejection of traditional Christianity, Scripture and the role of the Church

5) Characterizing God through experience -vs- Scripture

6) False view of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ

7) Heretical view of the Father suffering

8) Promotion of Universalism

9) Wrong view of Faith and Reason

10) Eliminates Knowledge of God

Below, are a few links to some excellent reviews on "The Shack". Whether you've read it and liked it or, you're curious about it, I would highly recommend reading these reviews. To fully understand this book as well as the reviews, compare what it says against Scripture.

"The Shack"- Tim Challies book review

"The Shack"- Helpful or Heretical? A review by Geisler & Roach

"The Shack"- review by William Paul Young

Author of The Shack, Denies the Penal Substitutionary Atonement

In summary, this is not a book for those seeking to find out who the true God is nor, is it a book for the Christian hoping to deepen their relationship with God. If you want to know who God is; if you want to grow deeper in your relationship with Him or, if you're searching for answers, there is only one book that covers it all without confusion, distortion or sugar-coating: The Bible.

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness." ~ 2 Timothy 3: 16