In my first post this week, I began explaining why Christians are perverting the gospel or allowing it to be perverted. Almost all the reasons I gave were theological. Everything is theological, because this is God’s world, so everything relates to God, but there are more practical reasons why this occurs as well, that still relate to theology.
EASIER, SO BETTER?
Men design “plans of salvation” that will be to varying degrees more acceptable to someone. These fall short of a biblical gospel, but men think people will grasp them easier and more likely accede to their requirements. Just praying a prayer is very easy to grasp and requires nothing, except perhaps a small amount of mental assent to certain propositions.
I mentioned that everything was theological still. Turning the gospel into repeating a prayer corrupts the gospel, so that is theological. The adherents to this method would call it “simple,” even aping the title of the classic Ford Porter tract, “God’s Simple Plan of Salvation.” The plan of salvation isn’t too hard to understand, but scripture doesn’t call it “simple,” so that's theological too. It isn’t simple in the sense that they mean it. Praying a prayer is simple, but that’s also not what the gospel is. Chapters 1-11 of the book of Hebrews are the plan of salvation. Chapters 1-5 of Romans are the plan of salvation. Those two sections aren’t “simple” like is explained by those who simplify to the extent that it isn’t the gospel any more.
A few thoughts buttress the concept of simplicity as a necessary quality of gospel presentation. One, if you love people, you want people to be saved, and so you do what it takes for that to occur. According to this line of thought, you're more loving if you make it simple, because more people accept it when it's simple. People who make it "hard" don't love as much. Two, if it is more than simple, then it isn't gracious, so it isn't grace. When you make it hard, difficulty speaks of work. If a person has to work, then it isn't grace. Both of these are answered in a similar way. Love and grace are both what the Bible says they are. If they're not hard, it's because God is working and enabling. It's not loving, however, if it isn't actual salvation, and God's grace doesn't purvey something short of the truth. Salvation is impossible for a human being, so everyone needs grace to be saved. It's easy insofar that the yoke is Jesus' yoke and the burden is Jesus' burden to carry.
FAITHLESS WORK OF "EVANGELISM"
The Bible is a big book and a lot of it talks about salvation. All those multiple books and chapters in scripture written about salvation weren't written so that we could ignore most of them, and then reduce the plan of salvation to a very few verses for the most part taken out of their context to use in a pitch. So-called believers though may not participate in evangelism if they've got to know too much. With that as a valid excuse to some, to bring more massive involvement to produce more professions, the method is streamlined and simplified. That's been done and then passed along as a legitimate method. In scripture though, we don't see formulaic evangelism that might enable even an unbeliever to "win someone," because that requires little to no faith.
Scripture shows putting on the armor of God and the skillful use of the sword of the Lord, which is the Word of God (Eph 6:10-18). It reveals the stronghold in someone's mind assessed and then pulled or cast down into submission to the Lord (2 Cor 10:3-5). The evangelistic sermons in the Bible from Jesus and the Apostles aren't formulaic. They don't contain various "plans of salvation," and neither are they some neat cookie cutter technique.
The plan of salvation or the gospel has been modified by preachers and churches to allow for faithless people to succeed in ministry. You don't have to know the Bible. You don't have to put in much time at the moment of contact. Short time equals many professions. The factors of knowledge and time and unsuccessfulness hover out there to rebuff potential workers. A way has been shaped to counter all those negatives and turn them into positives. Many new workers are realized. If you start with weak professions, you need a faithless program to succeed.
False teachers distort the gospel in many different ways. They arrive at false conclusions from hermeneutical contortions of the text. Jesus uses a fishing analogy. In every case, He uses the net in His illustration. Since Jesus uses fishing on different occasions as a picture of evangelism, they conclude the need for different "lures," pointing to line-fishing with the use of bait.
Lure and bait aren't part of the metaphor. Line-fishing isn't part of Jesus' parable. There is no lure and there is no bait. If there were a lure, the lure is the gospel itself. Whether someone is saved or not is whether he receives the gospel, not whether we can lure him into the gospel through some means other than the gospel. The gospel itself is the threshold. Nothing is better than the gospel that could lure someone to the gospel. Using a lure or bait diminishes the gospel itself.
This example isn't the only type of faulty exegesis one might hear or read that distorts the gospel. I provide this one as a sample alone. This one among others should be rejected.
UNWILLINGNESS TO JUDGE
Men wouldn't get away with hermeneutical contortions so much if other men judged them as error. Judging false doctrine has become out of fashion somehow. Men often get away with the false teaching, because other men let them get by with it. There are many possible reasons for this. Each of the following paragraphs of this section will give some of those reasons. They are really excuses, but they are treated like reasons.
We live in an era of toleration. You may not be judged for error, but you will be judged for being unloving if you judge someone's error, so men are more afraid of an appraisal of unloving than one of error. This goes along with mass uncertainty. You are proud if you judge people because "you think you know it all." It would be better to admit your own uncertainty and then go ahead and accept a lot of what other people think and say. While you are busy judging people, people are going to hell, some would say.
When you criticize others for a wrong belief or practice, they aren't going to like that. You can't afford to have too many people who don't like you. They will also think you don't like them, and should you be known for not liking people? You might like them, but they'll think you don't. You'll lose your influence. You won't be recognized as an important person.
When you criticize people, it causes conflict. Conflict is a distraction. Overall, the conflict will cause stress on everyone, including yourself. As people get older, you'll see them ease up often, even in their parenting, because they're tired of fighting. You waste a lot of energy fighting, and criticism will cause fighting.
If you treat people nicely, they'll want to change. They won't think you're nice if you criticize, and so they won't change. To open up opportunities to change, you've got to become less critical. Then people will want to listen when you stay positive.
Autonomy relates to judgment. In my experience, I've noticed that if you do judge others from other churches, they often pull the autonomy card on you. They claim you are trying to govern them when you judge them. You don't have authority over them. I've written on this recently. God and the Bible have authority over everyone. I can say they're wrong and I can separate from them. That isn't governing them in any way. It is judging them. If you think the autonomy of the church means you can't judge doctrine and practice of those outside of one's church, then you don't know what you are talking about. I'm judging that.
People get judged (ironically) when they judge. People will judge you for being too judgmental. God wants us to judge and to reject false doctrine and practice, especially a false gospel (Gal 1:6-9). It is a very serious matter. You can be attempting to live peaceably with all men and still speak out against a false gospel and not fellowship with one. You should.
If you separate from someone over the gospel, you aren't in unity with that person. That might be interpreted by some to oppose unity. However, scripture teaches that you should not be in unity with someone who preaches another gospel. You should not be indifferent to a false gospel. The way to preserve the gospel, so it isn't messed up, is to point out the false gospel and separate from it. You can only have biblical unity based upon the truth. If you don't separate from a false gospel, you are disobedient to biblical teaching on separation. The one who disobeys the truth is the one who causes disunity, not someone who separates over it.
When you accommodate a false gospel, just so you won't have to separate, that's just fake unity. I compare it to the unity people might have at a family reunion, where subject matter of conversations must be limited to the weather. Anything else is beyond the line. That isn't unity. It's more like a ceasefire.
I understand a desire not to separate. We should do everything we can to help someone come to the truth. The last resort is separation. However, you should not just ignore it. You should care enough about doctrine and practice to know whether someone has this wrong. Staying ignorant is not how you should practice. You are not respecting God and His Word when you remain ignorant in these matters, thinking perhaps that ignorance excuses you. You will also harm yourself and others with your ignorance. I'm talking about real harm, not the fake harm of hurt feelings.