I had a brief exchange with Frank Turk, a regular contributor to Pyromaniacs the other day regarding what I perceived to be a bizarre demand that so-called bad apologists (his terminology, not mine) “join a church” and “get accountable”. Now if you’ve read my blog with any regularity you’ll know that I’m fairly convinced that the professing church is basically apostate and mostly fallen away from its first love, Jesus Christ. I believe we’re witnessing the rise of the last days Laodicean church and that there is a quiet revival taking place wherein God is calling His people out of the compromised harlot church.
Sadly, today’s compromised church is more interested in being relevant, purpose driven, emergent, seeker sensitive, fun, popular, best selling, growth oriented, and let’s face it – worldly – than it is in being faithful to the Holy Writ and adhering to the whole counsel of our King.
I’m not going to pretend that I have any special wisdom or ability to tell the sheep from the goats or the wheat from the tares – mostly because I don’t – but the Bible expressly states that in the last days there will come a great falling away – an apostasy – wherein men will gather themselves to false teachers in order to have their ears tickled. (2 Timothy 4:2-4) In my view these false teachers and their congregants who will not endure sound doctrine are clearly professing Christians. They are representatives of the professing church. The mystery of the invisible church is that it resides hidden within the professing church. The professing church by design must admit all who at least verbally claim Christ and who apparently subscribe to orthodox Biblical Christianity whether they are truly regenerate or not. Yet the Pearl of Great Price, Christ’s true church – the invisible church – is known only to God Almighty. No mortal man knows who belongs to that number. CIC Ministries well said:
We cannot be certain who make up the invisible church but the Lord knows: “Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness’” (2 Timothy 2:19). This passage shows the idea of the visible and invisible church. Those who make up the visible church (who name the name of the Lord) are instructed to abstain from wickedness. Not everyone who “names the name of the Lord” is truly regenerate. Some will say, “Lord, Lord” and He will answer, “I never knew you” (see Matthew 7:22, 23). We cannot have absolute knowledge of who truly knows the Lord, but God does. No matter how strict a local church’s membership requirements may be, there is no certainty that someone who has all the external evidences of being a Christian may join who may not truly know the Lord. Thus the invisible church is hidden in the visible one. John says this: “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us” (1John 2:19). Before they went out, they were part of the church and it was not clear then that they were not truly Christian.
Certainly the church has more than its fair share of fruit pickers whose sole purpose it seems is to weigh others in their haughty scales of good and evil works. Yet even these tireless busybodies along with their voluminous “naughty and nice lists” gleaned through their networks of backbiting and gossip – or perhaps we should say through their “prayer chains” – don’t truly know the measure of a man. This basic truth is why Christians are to show love and respect to all and witness in a spirit of bold humility that some might come to repentance and salvation via the drawing of the Holy Spirit and the shed blood of Christ Jesus to the end that the unregenerate might be miraculously born-again and reconciled with their Creator and Judge.
At any rate, let us now turn our attention back to Mr. Turk’s post. I think it’s irresponsible and certainly lacking in discernment to simply wave one’s hands about and make blanket demands that invisible church Christians simply “join a church” and “get accountable”. Mr. Turk’s enormous logical failing here is to assume that professing churches are actually good for invisible church Christians and vice versa. I pointed out this glaring defect and received the type of stern rebuke that I’ve come to expect from those who are steeped in the “vain traditions of men” mindset that is so deeply entrenched within today’s compromised professing church culture.
I’m presenting the exchange below in its entirety and will leave the reader to his own conclusions:
Coram Deo said…
After reviewing the second installment of this apologetics discourse I’m still scratching my head and thinking there’s a whole lot missing from this discussion. The false assumption – in my view – that’s been made in both installments thus far centers upon the advancement of a fallacious reasoning which assumes that – generally speaking – professing churches and their pastors are genuinely good for true “invisible church” Christians.
Considering the indisputable and heart wrenching overabundance of seeker sensitive, church growth, emergent, mainline liberal, apostate leadership within the professing church I sincerely wonder if it’s wise to simply jump up and down and wave our hands and demand that these folks (apologists, et al) simply “join a church” and “get accountable” and then walk away patting ourselves on the back. I think not.
I blogged on the first installment of this series and today’s subject expansion still doesn’t quite address what I perceive as the core problem, which is namely the preponderance of bad churches and bad leadership which are bad for their local flock.
Maybe the actual argument being advanced here is that the unchurched autodidactic folks (apologists, et al) need to join themselves with faithful churches under the spiritual authority of godly and able church leadership, in which case the argument bears at least some merit. Yet even the most faithful brick and mortar churches and the most able leadership is currently shoehorned within the unscriptural Nicolaitane construct of the modern professing church which is structurally a virtual clone of Rome – minus those evil Bishops and the Vicar of Christ of course!
Methinks the cart has come before the horse on this issue. The professing church is toxic. You can have the cleanest fish tank in the the world. You can have the most interesting plants and coral, the finest gravel and filtration, and feed the fish the finest food pellets, but if the water is toxic you’re going to have toxic fish. Simply dropping more fish into the tank isn’t going to purify the toxic water. The “tank” of the professing church is toxic.
I know these are strident comments, but there is a quiet revival currently underway and God’s own are being separated from the last days Laodicean church. May it continue to the glory of the Lord.
Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?Matthew 21:42
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of Go
d: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God
(1 Peter 4:17)
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. (Revelation 18:4)
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
11:10 AM, April 18, 2007
You may blog as you see fit and write off the call to stay faithful to a local church as you see fit.
Problematically, the local church will never improve — has no chance of ever improving — if someplace faith does not get engaged in all the ways, and in the correct priority of ways, the Bible guides us to.
Let’s assume for a second that I agree with you that the biggest problem, really, is that 98% of all churches (my statistic, not yours) are really not even substandard — they are, as it is said, “not even wrong”.
Great. So the solution to that, if I read you correctly, is to go out and do what? Certainly not join these pathetically-broken institutions, right? We should then likely start our own without any regard for a plethora of things, including the admonition to be joined with fellow believers and solve our disputes among ourselves (cf. 1 Cor 1-6), yes?
So we start with a broken, anabaptist (or worse) view of being part of the church, and then what do we do? We start up the apologetics first, yes? Because the people we will attract don’t have any meat on the bone, they don’t have any theological rigor. So what we start with is the Bible someplace — maybe the book of John, where all great apologetics really takes root, followed by the book of Romans. To do them justice, it takes us 4 years meeting twice weekly to read just those books.
In the meantime, we have started our apologetics ministry for Catholicism — because that is high on our list of reasons to join a church. Nevermind, for example, that the only Catholic church within 50 miles of our church is a small congregation of about 200 with a nun as the full-time staff member and a priest who travels in for one saturday night service and one sunday morning service (early, so he can get back to his home parish for the 11 AM service). We have to start condemning the blasphemy of the mass right now — today. We can’t have people doing penance if we are going to call ourselves ambassadors of Christ!
We find out that sending under-discipled baby Christians into a Catholic parish results in parity, meaning that for every person we can convince of the reformational case, we have one fall away because, well, Rome looks pretty good to some people who have only read the books of Romans and John — and those incompletely.
Should I go on?
Listen: your stultified view of what happens today is itself part of the problem you claim to believe is apparent. It’s the view of knuckleheads like George Barna — you can read his book Revolution if you think I’m overstating this case. What has to happen is that first, we must understand the theology of church — the ecclesiology of the Bible. Then we must conform ourselves to that.
Let me suggest something: if every church in America had one faithful family in it that was active in service, faithful to a 1 Cor 9:19-23 view of delivering the truth of God’s word, adamant about honoring their pastor who is tasked with rightly handling God’s word (“tasked” doesn’t mean “he’s got no gaps”), praying for their church and their elder(s), and then give their own “apologia” with gentleness and reverence, I’d be willing to wager that the local church would pretty quickly have more than one faithful family in it — and it would cause Godly changes in that local church.
The half-American Standard Version reading of NT ecclesiology you provide in your proof texts has far more to do with the real causes of problems in American Evangelicalism than it does with providing a corrective to the problems evident. It is far more common for mutterers like yourself to splinter local churches over less than nothing than it is for local churches to really wander into apostasy and heresy as if it was nothing.
You have taken a Campingite view of dealing with weak doctrine and weak eldership, and I find it far more objectionable than pastors who simply have been driven by their denominations and the Christian media to be weak-tongued, weak-hearted, weak-faithed cheerleaders. At least these men are trying to minister to the people they have — your view, and your approach, doesn’t even provide first aid to the injured.
However, I will offer you an olive branch: if you can demonstrate to me that a doctrinally-perfect church ever existed on this earth, or that a church with a completely-godly set of ruling elders who never err’d ever existed, I’ll concede the whole discussion. Your demands are cultic and unbiblical, and you have my clear objections to them.
1:25 PM, April 18, 2007
Coram Deo said…
I thought my examples of worldly professing churches in this thread were fairly self-explanatory, but perhaps Mr. Turk and Mr. Doulous didn’t read my blog post which spoke to the matter in a bit more detail. If there is a “perfect church” I’m unaware of its existence at any time in human history.
My point is that we’ve inherited the corrupted harlot half-sister of Rome from our Reformation forbears and all of the vain traditions of men accoutrements that accompany it. This isn’t an unsubstantiated indictment, rather it’s just the way it is.
As I mentioned over at my place, while I lament the condition of the current professing church, it’s what we’ve got and we should be obedient to the scriptural admonitions regarding our participation therein. This being said, there is certainly occasion and scriptural support for true believers to abandon those churches who espouse false doctrine and are led by wolves in sheep’s clothing. Surely it’s not being suggested here, for example, that congregants of Joyce Meyer stay put, roll up their sleeves, and just try to make a difference in her church! If this were the case then there’s little room for a reasonable argument for saved Catholics to abandon their diocese! They should just stay put in within the false Romish system of works and idolatry and try to make a difference. The argument is absurd on its face.
Furthermore it’s a laughable assertion to claim that I’m suggesting anything cultish, or that by taking a strict Biblical view of the church I’m somehow a schismatic, though these charges are eerily similar to the rhetoric employed by Rome. I’d say this is no coincidence. I for one am certainly glad the Reformers didn’t put a temporal ecclesiastic false unity and submission to Papal authority above their love and obedience to God Almighty and His Word.
It’s no surprise that much of the leadership – so called – bred by this system (the “denominational pipeline” if you will) work vigorously to defend their corrupted system. Whether this is what I’ve just witnessed in Mr. Turk’s stern reply I don’t care to guess.
Friends, the American evangelical church is very sick and I don’t think it’s a stretch to claim the patient is dying. The believer’s admonition isn’t to blindly follow the leaders of the blind, but to reprove the deeds of darkness and have no fellowship with them. When a system is worldly and of the world we (Christians) are to be separate from it. This isn’t merely an inference, it’s a basic command of scripture. But this task is difficult – if not impossible – without spiritual discernment which is probably the most desperately needed gift in the church today.
In closing I didn’t come here today to pick a fight, but t
he truth of the matter is plain for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, and simply stamping our feet and screaming “It ain’t so!” is unimpressive, unhelpful, and untrue.
So feel free to denigrate my proof texts, assign to me diabolical motivations, and engage in ad hominem to your heart’s content, because it doesn’t change the facts in the least. And the fact is that far too many are leaving churches each Sunday singing of a heaven that they’re never going to see and the responsibility for this tragedy lies directly at the feet of the weak-kneed, effeminate, impotent men-in-skirts that pass for leadership in the modern professing church.
Someday – hopefully soon – the Ancient of Days will vomit this wretched construct from His mouth. Until then let us faithfully and obediently serve the King.
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)
4:01 PM, April 18, 2007
My favorite reply from someone espousing bad ideas is, “we obey God and not men.” It’s my favorite because it is, in essence, the determination that the conversation is over.
No sense arguing with you, CD. You follow God and not men. I guess we should follow you.