Sunday, August 27, 2017

Separation with the Gospel as an Essential: Imagination of and about Jesus Dipping Below a Saving Quality

Have you ever assessed the massive difference in quality of professing Christianity between you and either that of almost all of evangelicalism and even of much of fundamentalism and wondered how they could all be considered to be actual Christianity?  There is a gigantic qualitative dissimilarity between our church and every evangelical church in our area.  We do not allow much of what they do in our church.  Many today call these differences non-essential, that we actually agree with these evangelicals on what’s important, so that the variation between us doesn’t matter.  They would even say that we’re wrong for judging them, that we should just accept them, despite the differences.

One of the key arguments for accepting evangelicals and fundamentalists who differ is one that says churches or professing believers should separate only on gospel oriented teachings.  It is expressed by the notion that the gospel is the essential basis of unity among Christians, so that agreement on the gospel should be enough to bring professing Christians together, even if they differ on many other doctrines and practices.  I don’t agree with this position, but for the sake of argument, I want to say that it is true.  Again, I don’t think it is, but let’s say that it is.  Let’s make just the gospel the basis of fellowship between believers and churches, what you will hear me call minimization or reductionism.

Even without purposes of argumentation, I want to get along with everyone.  Everyone should desire to get along with everyone. God wants reconciliation with everyone. I want it.  I do want to get along with all the evangelicals and fundamentalists, let alone with everyone else in the world.  I so much want to get along with all of them, that for the purpose of argumentation, I’m going to consider the standard, not my own, of getting along based on only the gospel – only the gospel.  Nothing else.  Only the gospel.  I am going to try to get along with all of them on their terms.  Will that still work for me, for anyone?

With this standard, it would seem that, to start, everyone would need to agree on what required components of the gospel are.  That alone is going to begin to truncate the group, but I don’t even want to do that, so I’m again going to simplify by saying that the gospel is “to believe in Jesus Christ.”  For the sake of argument, what will unify evangelicals and fundamentalists with me and others is faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.  With that being the case, to get along I would need unity on what faith or belief is and then Who Jesus Christ is.

Many evangelicals and fundamentalists are messed up on what faith or belief is.  To believe, it has to be belief.  Belief isn’t belief when it isn’t belief.  It must rise to the level of belief to be belief.  Let’s say belief was a glancing thought about Jesus.  I’m being extreme there on purpose.  However, that’s short of saving faith, and, therefore, short of the gospel. I would have to divide on that shortfall of saving faith as part of this essential that the gospel is supposed to be.  What it does establish is that someone can fall short of saving faith in a gospel perverting manner.  There are other further and better iterations of faith than a “glancing thought about Jesus” that also fall short of being saving faith, that pervert the gospel.  I estimate that those alone separate our church and me from most of evangelicalism and fundamentalism today.

I can hear in my head the protestation of evangelicals and fundamentalists, who don’t either want to be questioned on whether their faith is legitimate or not.  I would like to talk about that more, but the point of this post is the second simple component of the gospel, and that is Who is Jesus Christ.  You will hear me say often that I could believe in Jesus Christ, but if he is a jar of peanut butter, then he isn’t Jesus Christ. If he isn’t Jesus Christ, then the person believing in him isn’t saved.  That also perverts the gospel.  That brings me back to my initial thought of this post, that is, the vast differences in the Christianity of evangelicalism from ours.

I am contending that a vast majority and then most of fundamentalism do not imagine a right or true Jesus.  I’m saying their Jesus isn’t Jesus.  They have formulated a Jesus in their imagination who conforms to what and who they want him to be.  Their Jesus wants rock and rap music for worship.  Ours doesn’t.  Can those be the same person?

I’ve been to the doors of many, many evangelicals, who come with tiny shorts or skin tight pants or a revealing blouse, cleavage showing, and if I ask them if they believe in Jesus, what do you think their answer is?  They say, yes. They say they believe in Jesus.  Their Jesus, their grace, their belief, and their God is very fine with all that.

Most of you know that a vast majority of evangelicalism and much of fundamentalism has already slid further than what I’m describing.  Their Jesus is fine with all this.  They believe in that Jesus, the one who is fine with all this. That’s the Jesus they believe in.  Is this a case of mistaken identity?  I’m saying it is.  I’m saying that don’t know Jesus, because their Jesus clashes with the scriptural one.  The one in their imagination is different than the Bible, and it is the One in the Bible Who must be believed in for them to be saved.

There is only one Jesus.  The one Jesus is the only one also to be believed in, so that a person could be saved.  When Jesus has been reduced in people’s minds to a goodymeister, someone akin to a boyfriend, a therapist, a buddy, or a thrill provider, he isn’t Jesus anymore. He’s been reduced to someone less than Jesus in the imagination, one who Satan would gladly have someone imagine, another Jesus, not the one of the Bible.

I understand how that people would be fine with a Jesus who conforms to want they want in their imagination.  I understand how that people would be fine with a Jesus who will conform to their desires and whims.  I understand how that people would be fine with a Jesus who accepts worship of their taste or feelings.  I understand how that a church could get bigger and better attendance from forming a Jesus in the imagination that looks like someone people see in the mirror.

In 2 Corinthians 11, changing Jesus into another Jesus is presented as a way that the gospel is perverted.  A major reason that a large majority of evangelical and most fundamentalist churches are different than ours is because they have a different gospel.  Their gospel is different in that they have an unbiblical Jesus formed in their imaginations.  Jesus is real and there is only one of Him, but the one we believe and worship is in our imagination.  If He is not the right one, then we are not saved.  The gospel has been corrupted in a salvific way.  It is a gospel issue that separates our church from theirs.

If we are only separating over the gospel, the wrong Jesus is enough to separate.  That alone separates our church from most churches. We are not going to agree that we are all worshiping the same Jesus, just because people say we are.  God knows that we aren’t.

You may think that you are bigger or more loving because you show more acceptation of varied imaginations of who Jesus is.  You may think that you are affording more people access to heaven by increasing the acceptable possible imaginations of Jesus.  In the end, when they profess that they knew Him, when they didn’t, they’ll find out too late that you weren’t helping them or anyone else.  They’ll know you actually hated them in the worst way possible.  You got a lot of credit for your toleration, while damning their souls.

I’ve found that people in general are far more picky about what people think of them than what they think about Jesus. They have a very high standard for people’s assessments of themselves. It’s not good enough for people to think whatever they want as it relates to what people are saying about themselves.  On Jesus, they are different.  They don’t care as much.  He can be a much larger range of possibilities and still be adequately him.  They are fine with him being more like they want him to be, while accepting only what they expect people to think of themselves.

If a false gospel damns men’s souls, which it does, we should at least separate over a false gospel.  I don’t think it’s enough to separate over, but I would agree that the gospel at least should divide.  If the gospel is what brings us together, then the Jesus at least needs to be the same Jesus.  If he isn’t, then we’re just playing games with this idea that the gospel is what brings us together.  I’m saying that almost all evangelicalism and most of fundamentalism is playing games.


Tyler Robbins said...

Are you referring to (1) the misconception that Jesus is a cosmic butler who exists to serve and affirm people the way they already are, or (2) a denial of the orthodox facts about who Jesus is and what He has done for us, or (3) both?

I agree that many churches , fundamental and evangelical, play games with Jesus. He becomes an affirming chimera, ready to be deployed to support any argument for liberty and non-judgmentalism. Many of these people haven't read Psalm 2, 110 or the latter chapters of Revelation. An angel is going to call the birds of the air to come and feast on the dead bodies of all who oppose the real Christ and His real Gospel, when He returns. This is a sobering fact. We should live in light of that.

I just finished reading an interesting book entitled "The Old Testament is Dying." The author, Brent Strawn, used a linguistic analogy to explain the sad shape the OT is in. He mentioned that, as a language dies, speakers become less and less fluent, until eventually they only speak a pigeonized form of it that is, in effect, another language - or far removed from the original. He said this is where most Christians are at with the OT; they retain some familiar stories and moral principles, but they can't "speak the language" at all, because they don't know it. They haven't read it. This is why the destruction of the nations in the Promised Land are such an embarrassment to them, along with the NT conception of hell as eternal, conscious torment.

I think we see the same problem, to a lesser extent, with the NT. People have pigeonized the Bible, and are ignorant of its entire contents. This is why Jesus is all love, and no judgment. They don't have the "complete language," they have a fragment of it. They're not fluent in God's Word; they're broken speakers. This is why their "Jesus" is often not the real Jesus, and their "Gospel," too.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I essentially agree with everything that you wrote in your comment. I am writing about "both" as the answer of your first paragraph, but putting an emphasis on (1) of the three. Sometimes people have all the right statements that make up orthodox Christology and still have the wrong Christ, and this factor contributes more than the doctrinal statement. Jesus is the Lascivious Jesus or the Buddy Jesus, an unrecognizable Jesus. Their imaginations are formed according to their own lust, and Jesus conforms to their imagination rather than Jesus conforming their imagination. This is the root of their apostasy.

I agree with the next two paragraphs, and they do relate to what I've written above too. People can't listen to linear thought. It's the Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death.

Thanks for the comment.

Tyler Robbins said...

Take a look at the outrage from the "progressive Christian left" about the recent Nashville Statement. These people are genuinely outraged. But, they're only outraged because they're not really Christians at all.

One more plug for the book I mentioned earlier, "the Old Testament is Dying." The author mentioned that as languages die, they become "pigeonized" and the speakers become increasingly less able to carry on intelligent conversation in the mother tongue. You see this with, for example, immigrant children and grandchildren of people who came to America from abroad. They might speak "some" of the mother language, but it becomes increasingly simple, and eventually it may die out in the family.

The author used another linguistic analogy to explain the increasingly biblical illiteracy among professing "Christians." He mentioned that, eventually, a pigeonized language can morph, transform and grow into a completely different language a "creole." It retains some vocabulary and familiarity with the original mother tongue, but it is now completely different. It shrunk to "baby talk" (e.g. "pigeon"), then it grew and expanded in a completely different direction, but retained some vague and basic elements of the pigeon is was derived from.

This, the author declared, is how prosperity gospel preachers, and militant atheists read the Bible. They retain some "common vocabulary," but it's meaning has completely changed. It isn't the same language at all, even though they use some of the same words.

This is what we see in contemporary Western "Christianity," to some extent. This is why Jesus is a chimera people can make in their own image. This is why "progressive Christianity" can shriek in terror and be genuinely outraged about a biblical stand for human sexuality and identity (e.g. the Nashville Statement). It's because these people are often not Christians at all, despite their vocabulary or their appeals to biblical texts. They actually don't know the Bible, and cannot "speak it" fluently. This is obvious by their speech, and their desperate attempts to find biblical warrant for their positions.

the solution, of course, is to actually preach and teach the Bible in a systematic, deep and meaningful way to Christians - and encourage them to actually read and comprehend all the Bible. This is how to retain a "language" (i.e. Christianity) before it dies.

Long post (my apologies), but I thought it helped explain your points about the false Jesus' running around today.