Unbelief has had devastating consequences on many churches today. There has been an abandonment of solid biblical teaching. This has spilled out from the seminaries to the pulpits, and now to the pews.
For example, it is disheartening to witness the rise of the so-called "Christian" gay movement. It isn't enough for them to choose their unnatural lifestyle; but they want to retain the blessings of the Church, so they fool themselves into thinking that God somehow accepts them just as they are—in their unrepentant sin. It's not that homosexuals are worse than other sinners, but when homosexuals form churches in an attempt to find justification and acceptance from God, while they continue to practice their sin, they deceive themselves. "Gay churches" remind me of the ancient pagan temples which deified adultery and made pious prostitution the act of the day. They changed the truth of God into a lie.
Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code tries to make the case that the "early Jews" practiced "ritualistic sex—In the Temple, no less"85 (emphasis in the original). Not so. In fact, God instructed the Jews to destroy the Canaanites because of their wickedness (Deuteronomy 9:4). Archaeologists have confirmed the degree of Canaanite wickedness, as seen in such things as temple prostitution.86
Strong elements of the so-called "pro-choice" movement can be found within the professing Church. So can humanistic judges, politicians, and school administrators who participate in the attack on Christ in America, under the misguided interpretation of the "separation of church and state." There are even "Christian" ministers who are members of the humanistic People for the American Way or of the American Civil Liberties Union. Of course, we are talking about liberal ministers; nonetheless, they receive their pay from the person in the pew who gives at offering time.
Then there is the "sold-out-to-the-world-spirit" crowd—the group within the professing Church that embraces every fad that comes down the pike (the latest of which is The Da Vinci Code), even when it may be diametrically opposed to Christ. During news broadcasts about some new attack on Christ, there is often featured some clergyman who is found to be a spokesman on the anti-Christian side. When the film The Last Temptation of Christ came out, the National Council of Churches spoke out in favor of it.
In recent years, some mainstream denominations have come out with committee reports on human sexuality to be considered by the church-governing body. Some of these reports read virtually like tracts written in the heyday of the Sexual Revolution—to promote sexual sin under the umbrella of misnomers like "justice love." They condone just about every sexual perversion under the sun—in the name of Christianity. You wouldn't know there had been a downside to the Sexual Revolution and that more than 50 million Americans are suffering with a sexually-transmitted disease. (While such viral infections can be controlled, they can't be cured, and they often recur.)
And then, of course, there is what the Bible teaches about human sexuality. But to many leaders of these denominations, the Scriptures would appear to be obsolete. The Bible has been thrown out and Playboy brought in.
In November of 1993, about 2,200 people gathered in Minneapolis for a church-sponsored "RE-imagining" conference. They were mostly women, with a handful of men. Almost all of the attendees worked for a church.
This "RE-imagining" conference was dedicated to re-imagining what God is like. It dedicated itself to rethinking Jesus, the community, and the Church. When a young member of our church heard just the title of the conference, he blurted out, "It's all right there in the Bible; you don't have to 'reimagine' anything"
The conference praised "Sophia, our Maker," (Sophia is the Greek word for "wisdom") while God the Father was met with derision. The atonement of Christ was denigrated by some of the speakers. For example, Delores Williams of Union Seminary said, "Jesus came for life and...atonement has to do so much with death...I don't think we need folks hanging on crosses and blood dripping and weird stuff."
Speaker Aruna Gnanadason of the World Council of Churches said, "In a global context, where violence and the use of force have become the norm, the violence that the cross symbolizes and the patriarchal image of an almighty, invincible father god needs to be challenged and reconstructed."87
This conference was funded by mainline churches. New Age ideas, lesbianism, and even goddess worship were promoted, while historic Christianity was ridiculed. Virtually all the funds for this conference came from church funds. Picture the believer in the pew donating money for the work of the Kingdom, only to have it pay for something like this. The conference climaxed with an "erotic" milk and honey celebration to Sophia (as opposed to the Lord's Supper).88 Part of the liturgy of that celebration included this prayer: "Sophia, Creator God, let your milk and honey flow...Our sweet Sophia, we are women in your image. With nectar between our thighs, we invite a lover, we birth a child; with our warm body fluids, we remind the world of its pleasure and sensations "89
Considering their degree of theological error, the "Sophists" make Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Christian Scientists look like orthodox Christians by comparison. In all of Church history, I have never read about anything that was as heretical and blasphemous as that conference was. It was the worst I have ever seen (until The Da Vinci Code came along). When someone would mention the Trinity, they would laugh. When someone would mention God the Father, they would boo. It was blasphemous to the worst degree, and it just shows you the depths to which some of the liberal denominations have plummeted.
They even held a similar conference, on a smaller scale, about a year later. It is into this form of spirituality that Dan Brown has tapped into and brought center stage in The Da Vinci Code. God is out. The goddess is in.
Fortunately, the National Council of Churches, a consortium of liberal churches (including some of those involved in the RE-imagining conference) is nothing like it was 35 or 40 years ago. They were once powerful, but now they have come close to going bankrupt. They have laid off many personnel. The same is true for many of the liberal denominations. (I heard one report that more Americans attend Calvary Chapels, part of the evangelical movement, than attend Episcopal Churches, one of the mainline denominations.) The liberal mainline denominations are all dying, and the NCC, as their cooperative agency, is going down with them.
These Sophia-worshiping activities remind me of an incident that took place the week before the well-publicized 1995 World Conference on Women, sponsored by the United Nations in Beijing, which promoted a radical, anti-family agenda. Many women, delegates from around the world, attended workshops in China the week before the conference. By far, the larger group was a coalition of feminists who stood squarely against the Bible and the Vatican on the issue of human sexuality (not to mention other areas). They claimed the Bible "teaches complete sexual freedom"—including fornication. (Whose translation are they reading?) As believers in free speech (except for the kind they don't like), they shouted down the opposition that tried to counter this lie.
Next, they gathered together for "prayer" to Mother Earth. They held hands in a circle and a delegate from Brazil said the "prayer": "Thanks to Mother Earth, for you give life. Thanks for water. People from my community decided no more crucifixion. We believe in life. We celebrate life, not the crucifixion. We are power." After that, many of them, including the late Bella Abzug, the former Congresswoman from New York, held their hands in the air and chanted, "I am power, I am power, I am power."90 Whether these women were a part of the RE-imagining group or not, they are certainly one in spirit with this movement.
There is still a Sophia Caucus within the Presbyterian Church—certainly not the branch of which I am affiliated. Worship of the goddess is one of Dan Brown's chief messages in his book. The acceptance of The Da Vinci Code reflects in part the devastation that feminism—even so-called Christian feminism—has wrought.
WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
We have seen in this chapter repeated examples of unbelief from within the Church attempting to strike away at orthodox Christianity. These forces are not as prominent as they might seem, but a hostile media often exaggerates the influence or credibility of these antiChristian church leaders. Nonetheless, how are we to understand how they can be within the Church and yet an enemy of Christ?
I think it helpful to back up for a moment and define the Church. The Church is the body of believers in whom Christ dwells (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 8:10-11). They are those redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:5). But there is a much wider definition of the Church. The professing Church consists of some two billion people who claim to be believers in Jesus Christ. Within the "visible Church" is the "invisible Church." The invisible Church is a smaller group; it consists of those who truly have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. God, and only God, knows all those who belong in the invisible Church.
This distinction between the visible and invisible Church is creatively shown by C. S. Lewis in his fiction book, The Screwtape Letters. Lewis, who has been described as "the most original Christian writer of [the twentieth] century," has written a series of imaginary letters from an uncle demon, Screwtape, to his nephew demon, Wormwood. In one of these, the older devil observes:
One of the great allies [to the demons] at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle, which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans.91 That is about how the demons would see the visible and invisible body of Christ.
We can't know (this side of Paradise) all those who truly believe; that is why we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:19, "Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: 'The Lord knows those who are His,' and, 'Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.'"
So we don't know who is truly saved, but God does. We also know that we can have assurance of our own salvation. 1 John 5:13 says, "These things I have written to you . . . that you may know that you have eternal life." If we are truly Christians, we would then strive in our hearts to obey God's Word and bear fruit for His glory, abounding in good works. That doesn't mean we don't ever fall. It does mean we repent and get up again, if we do fall.
So, although the professing Church consists of roughly two billion people, only God knows exactly who are really His. Thus, we have within the nominal Church many non-believers who are spreading their non-belief. This is reminiscent of Christ's parable of the wheat and the tares:
The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, "Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?" He said to them, "An enemy has done this." The servants said to him, "Do you want us then to go and gather them up?" But he said, "No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn .He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age (Matthew 13:24-30, 37-39).
And as the world contains the wheat and the tares, so too the visible Church contains those who are truly Christians and those who are not.
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