Edited by John R. Houk
By Chelsen Vicari
Intro posted March 16, 2017
I found an awesome article at CharismaMag.com warning of the dangers of “Progressive” Christianity particularly among those ministries that describe themselves as Evangelical. In essence, the warning is the Progressive Evangelicals are diluting Christian Morality with feel-good secular sensualism and calling it in effect contemporary morality that fits the times we live in.
Here is the Biblical warning that I believe is a good introduction to the Charisma article by Chelsen Vicari:
Matthew 24: 23-26, 37-39; 2 Peter 2: 1-5, 9-10, 12-16 (NKJV):
23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.
26 “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.
37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
2 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does[a] not slumber.
Doom of False Teachers
4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;
9 then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries,
Depravity of False Teachers
12 But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, 13 and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. 15 They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, ***following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet. (Editor’s bold text)
*** Blog Editor it is important to recognize what the sin of Balaam is:
Nevertheless I have a few things against you, for you have there those who hold to the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication… (Rev 2:14)
By the end of the fourth ‘parable’ of Balaam, both he and Balak the king were fully aware of God’s purposes for Israel. The utter impossibility of using any kind of divination against Israel was now obvious to the badly shaken king and to the seer also – whose eyes God had opened.
But Balak and Balaam each worshipped their own gods. Balak’s god had already proven impotent, unable to stop the Israelite advance, nor to even allow them to be cursed. Balaam’s gods were money, prestige and position. He would not defect from them even in the face of the power of the God of Israel!
It would be a long trip home for Balaam, this time he would not be accompanied by the Arab nobles who had crossed the four hundred mile desert twice previously to court him. There would be lots of time to think though. But there would be no reward, no honor nor prestige for him, he had failed to successfully overcome Genesis 12:3, he simply couldn’t curse Israel. The God of Israel could not be induced to turn against them.
Balak and Balaam met again apparently, and organized a Pagan festival at Baal Peor, that is “Lord of the Opening”, within range of the encamped children of Israel. Paganism was and is a sensual affair – altars to Baal were set up, choice offerings of beef were set upon the grills, sensual music was conducted and the wives, daughters and virgins of Midian and Moab were presented as sacred prostitutes to any and all who were drawn to the party.
And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people did eat and bowed down. And Israel joined herself to Baal Peor, and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. (Numbers 25:1-3)
To the ones who left the camp of Israel, following the siren sound of the pagan music, the festival to Baal could be rationalized as just a sensual experience and nothing more. The aroma of the choice steaks cooking on the altars of Baal, the pleasures of the wine and women of Midian was all just a little relief from the monotony of a lifetime in the desert eating manna. We don’t really believe in Baal, we just need to blow off a little steam.
But to God these experiences represented so much more. ISRAEL HAS JOINED HERSELF TO BAAL PEOR, she has yoked herself to an alien god, she has played the harlot! So it is today that too often even a confessing Christian can also rationalize that compromise with fornication, pornography, worldliness and false religion are meaningless when it isn’t. Perhaps a similar soul killing plague is broken out among us also, and we just don’t realize it!
When a plague broke out in the camp of Israel, it almost looked as though Balaam’s teaching would obtain the intended result. God had not turned against Israel, but by Balaam’s counsel, Israel had turned against God, and would now pay the price of judgment against them.
Enticing teaching of the Left is the very moral dilution that explains the general destruction of the Christian foundations that have made America that one time shining light on a hill. America’s beacon of righteousness is diminished and we can look at the Secular Humanist agenda that has been filtered down from Left Wing Activist Courts, the Democratic Party and most recently former President Barack Hussein Obama.
AND NOW, Chelsen Vicari’s waring on the effects of Progressive Christianity.
Here’s How the New Christian Left Is Twisting the Gospel
March 15, 2017 12:00 PM
Peek behind the curtain of some “progressive” or “hip” evangelical churches, past the savvy technology and secular music, and you will find more than just a contemporary worship service. You’ll find faith leaders encouraging young evangelicals to trade in their Christian convictions for a gospel filled with compromise. They’re slowly attempting to give evangelicalism an “update”—and the change is not for the good.
It’s painful for me to admit, but we can no longer rest carefree in our evangelical identity—because it is changing. No doubt you have seen the headlines declaring that evangelicalism is doomed because evangelical kids are leaving the faith. It is no secret that there is an expanding gulf between traditional Christian teachings and contemporary moral values. But the sad truth is that the ideological gulf between America’s evangelical grown-ups and their kids, aka the millennials, seems to be widening too.
Somehow the blame for this chasm is being heaped on traditional churches. They are accused of having too many rules as well as being homophobic and bigoted. Yes, we’ve heard those false claims from popular culture in its desperate attempt to keep Christianity imprisoned within the sanctuary walls. But now popular culture is being aided by Christ-professing bedfellows whose message to “coexist,” “tolerate” and “keep out of it” is more marketable to the rising generation of evangelicals.
The seasoned Christian soldiers are noticing these distortions of the gospel. But for young evangelicals, the spiritual haze is harder to wade through. Desperate for acceptance in a fallen world, many young evangelicals (and some older ones) choose not to take Christ out of the chapel, and so they are unwittingly killing the church’s public witness. In this uphill cultural battle, mired by scare tactics and fear, three types of evangelical Christians are emerging:
- Couch-potato Christians:These Christians adapt to the culture by staying silent on the tough culture-and-faith discussions. Typically, this group will downplay God’s absolute truths by promoting the illusion that neutrality was Jesus’ preferred method of evangelism.
- Cafeteria-style Christians:This group picks and chooses which Scripture passages to live by, opting for the ones that best seem to jive with culture. Typically, they focus solely on the “nice” parts of the gospel while simultaneously and intentionally minimizing sin, hell, repentance and transformation.
- Convictional Christians:In the face of the culture’s harsh admonitions, these evangelicals refuse to be silent. Mimicking Jesus, they compassionately talk about love and grace while also sharing with their neighbors the need to recognize and turn from sin.
I know about these three types of Christians because at one time or another, I have fallen into each of these three categories. My parents will tell you that even though I was raised in church, I morphed into a full-fledged feminist, told my parents they were ignorant for not endorsing homosexuality and bought into the distorted social justice rhetoric that confuses caring for the poor with advancing socialist or big government systems and demonizing the United States for its free-market system.
I’m not ashamed to share my story because my experiences and those of my fellow bold evangelicals are a testimony of God’s awesome, transforming power. Being countercultural for Christ isn’t easy. What does the Great Commission say? Jesus commanded us to go, “teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20a).
Where Did We Go Wrong?
I see so many parents scratching their heads trying to figure out where they went wrong with young evangelicals. Following the instructions of Proverbs 22:6—”Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”—many evangelical parents took their children to church and prayed with them every night before bed. Yet the values those children now hold dear do not reflect the traditional teachings of Jesus.
To be perfectly clear, I want to let you know up front that this isn’t a parenting how-to guide that, if followed, will lead your loved ones to salvation. Instead, what I can offer you is a glimpse into the world of a 20-something who sees thousands of young evangelicals being spiritually and emotionally targeted on Christian university campuses, in college ministries and at churches nationwide by a growing liberal movement cloaked in Christianity.
Research tells us evangelicals are drifting further away from the orthodox truths their parents and grandparents held dear.
Our churches have rarely—if ever—faced the exodus we are seeing today. This will have a direct effect on the spiritual and moral values that will shape the nation in the coming years. That is why it is urgent that concerned Christians start acting now before the situation gets worse.
The Collision of Faith and Culture
Faith and culture will continue to collide in America. The culture wars, the growth of family, the success of missions, the prosperity of our great nation—the future rests on millennial evangelicals’ worldview. And that is cause for concern, because something has gone wrong with young evangelicals’ theology.
The millennial generation’s susceptibility to “feel-good” doctrine is playing a big part in America’s moral decline. Millennials’ religious practices depend largely on how the actions make us and others feel, whether the activities are biblical or not. For example, we only attend churches that leave us feeling good about our lifestyle choices, even if those choices conflict with God’s clear commandments. We dismiss old hymns that focus on God’s transforming salvation, love and mercy and opt for “Jesus is your boyfriend” songs. Or we contribute to nonprofits that exploit and misuse terms such as justice, oppressed and inequality because tweaking the language makes us feel more neutral, less confrontational.
Popular liberal evangelical writers and preachers tell young evangelicals that if they accept abortion and same-sex marriage, then the media, academia and Hollywood will finally accept Christians. Out of fear of being falsely dubbed “intolerant” or “uncompassionate,” many young Christians are buying into theological falsehoods. Instead of standing up as a voice for the innocent unborn or marriage as God intended, millennials are forgoing the authority of Scripture and embracing a couch potato, cafeteria-style Christianity, all in the name of tolerance.
This contemporary mindset is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian whose Christian convictions put him at odds with the Nazis and cost him his life, called “cheap grace.” In his book The Cost of Discipleship Bonhoeffer wrote: “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Right now, cheap grace theology is proliferating around evangelical Bible colleges, seminaries and Christian ministries.
Christian Doctrine Hijacked
It is not that millennial evangelicals were not taken to church by their parents. It is that their training has been hijacked by ineffective and sometimes intentionally distorted doctrine.
As constant and pervasive as the attacks on Christianity are at public universities, it is important to remember that millennials’ worldviews do not start taking shape after they move out of their parents’ houses. Their understanding of Jesus’ teachings and cultural convictions begins to form while they are still at home and under the influence of their local church.
What I hope and pray evangelical parents and leaders come to realize is that the church has been too trusting. In our jam-packed lifestyles, parents have treated Sunday school as they do softball or ballet class—drop off the kids for an hour, then pick them up and hope they learned something.
Early on in my Sunday school teaching days, my co-teacher and I followed the curriculum pretty narrowly, the exception being that my co-teacher had an outstanding knowledge of biblical history that he imparted to the kids.
We taught all about Jesus’ birth, resurrection and saving grace. Thinking the fluffy kids ministry curriculum covered all of the necessary bases, I felt confident these kids had a firm grasp on their Christian worldview. Boy, was I wrong!
One day my co-teacher and I decided to play “True or False.” We casually went down a list of worldview questions with our class, sure that our little evangelicals would nail every question correctly.
No. 1: Jesus is God. “True.” Great job.
No. 2: Jesus sinned. “False.” Bingo!
No. 3: Jesus is one of many ways to heaven. “True.” What?!
Shocked is the only way to describe how I felt. Hadn’t they been listening to us? When I asked who taught them that, one girl said, “Coexist.” Yes, these young evangelicals had been listening to their Sunday school teachers and their parents, but they had also been listening to their public school teachers, TV celebrities and rock stars.
Youth ministers, volunteer leaders and pastors also have to start preparing these kids to deal with the very real hostility that faces young evangelicals.
If we never talk about abortion in church, how can we expect the rising evangelical girl to calmly explain the option of adoption to her frightened best friend who just admitted she is pregnant?
What will surprise you is how much young evangelicals actually crave honest discussions about abortion, sexuality, sexual exploitation, feminism and radical Islam. My friend and Evangelical Action adviser Richmond Trotter has two non-negotiable topics when addressing youth: creation and life. Having volunteered in church youth ministry since 1996, Richmond is not afraid to have serious discussions about what Scripture says about abortion, evolution and homosexuality. Make no mistake: The trend away from biblical truth is not concentrated in the hipster city limits. It is unfolding in the crevices of America’s plains, hills, mountains and swamplands. All across this nation, “old-fashioned” conservative evangelicalism is being traded in for a bright and shiny, mediocre Christianity.
If America’s evangelicals disengage from the public square and fail to engage the rising generation of Christian leaders, then we risk losing our public voice, then our religious liberty, then liberty altogether.
What Happened to the Religious Right?
The last several decades witnessed tremendous evangelical influence in the United States. Leaders such as Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Paige and Dorothy Patterson, James Dobson and James and Betty Robison made a bold impact on America’s families, churches and government. Now that those few leaders are aging or retiring, or have died, there are very few traditional evangelical leaders left holding the torch, and even fewer candidates to whom they can pass it.
But religious convictions in America are not on the verge of disappearance just yet. There is still hope. In the book God Is Alive and Well: The Future of Religion in America, Gallup Inc. Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport opines: “Christianity will prevail in the U.S. America will remain very much a Christian nation in the decades ahead, albeit less so than in the past because of an increase in Americans who don’t have a religious identity.”
Heed the Warning Signs
Evangelicals and culture warriors in the U.S. do not have to look far to discover what happens when Christian denominations give up on their traditional convictions and teachings. All we have to do is look at the dwindling memberships of mainline Protestant denominations.
In order to safeguard the trajectory of young evangelicals, we must uphold the authoritative Word of God. It is imperative that those in a position to influence millennials have transparent and honest discussions about the culture wars in which evangelical youth are already engaging. Otherwise they will be silent and accepting in the face of persecution and false doctrine.
The importance of arming the next generation of evangelicals cannot be overstated. If we continue to follow the example of mainline Protestants, evangelicalism will have a gloomy future. We must offer sorely needed leadership, but before we can do that, we need to know exactly whom and what we are up against.
Chelsen Vicari serves as the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s evangelical program director. Prior to joining the IRD, she worked for Concerned Women for America. She holds a bachelor of science in political science and history and a master’s degree in international politics. Her articles on evangelicalism and public policy have appeared in TheBlaze, The Christian Post and RealClearReligion. She recently wrote her first book, Distortion, from which this article is excerpted.
In her book Distortion: How the Christian Left Is Twisting the Gospel and Damaging the Faith, Chelsen Vicari reveals the disturbing truths behind liberal teachings. Using her own experience, Vicari shows how the deception impacts Christianity and the church. This book can be found wherever Christian books are sold or at amazon.com or christianbook.com.
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